Nydrwracu wants us to think harder, which has to be a good thing (right?). So what are the basic questions of neoreaction? This is too important to rush, so I’m inclined to go meta (which reliably slows things down).

First meta point: If this is going to work, it has to be far more rigorously honed. That means a maximum of three basic problems each, with the objective of amalgamation into a list of 10, at most. The process of compression should do a lot of the preparatory work. Add Nydrwracu’s original  11 to Bryce Laliberte’s entirely different 10 ( in the comments, same link), and the result is already a sprawling mess that isn’t going anywhere. Neither list is remarkable for its tautness, as I hope both proposers would admit. “The 119 basic problems of neoreaction” isn’t going to sharpen anybody up.

Anyway, here are mine:

(1) The Odysseus Problem (or political knot theory): Can a model of distributed power be rigorously formulated? I am not remotely convinced that this question has yet been answered, and I refuse to get excited about monarchs until it has.

(2) Does a rigorous theory of degenerative ratchets capture the basic practical problem of neoreaction? If it does, a domain of investigation is determined at a high-level of abstraction. If it doesn’t, where do we look for degenerative ratchet counter-engineering (wherever it is, I’ll be spending a lot of time there).

(3) What does the ‘neo-‘ in ‘neoreaction’ signify? This is a timely question, because I’m noticing a lot of people edging into it, and the topics it excavates are huge. My own take on this: Anyone who thinks that Modernity, Capitalism, and Progress are simply bad things to have happened should drop the ‘neo-‘ prefix immediately. After that, anybody who lacks conviction about needing it should think about doing the same. Sheer reaction is OK, isn’t it? Fashion isn’t a good reason for anything.

James Goulding also had an extremely interesting set of basic questions (I’m worried they’re lost somewhere on this blog). Turning them up would also contribute seriously to moving this forward.

ADDED: Konkvistador tracks down the ghosts of Goulding’s research agenda questions.

The commentary on this thread has already been so scorchingly excellent that it’s actually quite intimidating. (I’m blaming a brain-fogging head cold for not diving in more productively so far.)

October 22, 2013admin 48 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Cosmos , Neoreaction


48 Responses to this entry

  • Konkvistador Says:

    Michael wrote on this question back in July:

    He quotes and discusses and critiques the questions James Golding brought up, the original post unfortunately seems to have been deleted.


    admin Reply:

    Thanks. I’ll update.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 4:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • nydwracu Says:

    Our questions are directed at different ends. That consensus history is wrong, or at least deeply flawed, is clear; refining the historical picture has great value both for drawing conclusions and as, well, propaganda. Historical questions have the advantage of being easily answerable and having low enough IQ and time requirements that they can be resolved by just throwing people at them. Philosophical questions are far more difficult and time-consuming… and they require more historical data, both comparative and within our specific civilization.

    Also, Scott Alexander’s anti-reactionary FAQ provides the strongest argument against reaction I’ve seen so far: that no conspiracy, distributed or otherwise, exists, and therefore that most progressive initiatives were inevitable given technological advancement. To counter this, we need a much better picture of the distributed conspiracies; and that’s a lot easier to get from the time periods I’m trying to throw people at than from current times.


    M. Anissimov Reply:

    Which time period?


    nydwracu Reply:

    New Deal era.

    And before, but I don’t know enough about it to ask questions yet.


    spandrell Reply:

    Yes, Exeter Hall is product of our imaginations.

    And Lincoln mechanized cotton picking.


    Rasputin's Severed Penis Reply:

    “Also, Scott Alexander’s anti-reactionary FAQ provides the strongest argument against reaction I’ve seen so far: that no conspiracy, distributed or otherwise, exists, and therefore that most progressive initiatives were inevitable given technological advancement.”

    Agree strongly with this, as well as the statements that precede and follow it. Reading SA’s FAQ I got a strong and uncomfortable sense of something which I had been conscious of for a while: That Neoreaction provides an essential and frequently brilliant critique of progressivism, but has itself been relatively free of serious critique in turn. I believe SA’s critique is very useful for at least two reasons i) it has ‘tipped the progressives hand’ by providing such a wide ranging attack on NR, and if the DE community is disposed to develop and present comprehensive counter arguments / positions to these points it emerge stronger and more resilient to future attacks, which as it continues to gather momentum are inevitable. ii) It will force the NR to focus its objectives, as per this thread, rather than going meta and pontificating about Trichotomous divinities – fascinating as these may be – i.e. is God one in three persons, or three in one?


    Rasputin's Severed Penis Reply:

    I have been re-immersing myself in Moldbug’s early comments threads recently, and some of them really are every bit as essential as the posts themselves. The following reply from him to Some Objections to Ultracalvinism is a case in point, and strongly relates to the mechanics of the Cathedral / Polygon – When did we abandon this term? I remember James Goulding insisting we should stick to this tem as it denotes the whole structure, not just the propaganda / indoctrination / Ministry of Truth arm – and counters the argument that no conspiracy, distributed or otherwise, exists, and therefore that most progressive initiatives were inevitable given technological advancement…

    “Basically, it’s my belief that the essential adaptive cause of these tendencies is the feedback loop between information and security. In a society where this loop is not interrupted, all belief systems will adaptively specialize themselves to capture the state, thus promoting themselves and discouraging their competitors.

    We can distinguish two phases of this disease, the aggressive phase and the maintenance phase. We are in the latter now with ultracalvinism.

    The decentralized Polygon model is really state-of-the-art when it comes to maintenance, because it is full of functional overlaps and small competitions. Any institution that flags in its zeal will swiftly be attacked by the others – as universities, for example, attack the IMF and World Bank, even though these are core Polygon members with an impeccable blue history.

    In fact, we can even see the whole red-blue divide as an exaggerated case of this conflict – the US military, despite occasional appearances, is not in fact a continuation of the Confederacy. It too has its ancient blue roots.

    Nonetheless, this system is clearly in the downward slope of its lifecycle, as we see emerging cultural traits that are clearly maladaptive for the entire system, but advance the interests of its components or of individuals.

    Antinomianism is an excellent example. For individuals, pushing the antinomian envelope is a success strategy, for the same reason a Silicon Valley bigshot might wear shorts to a board meeting – it’s a way of proving you can. To be very crude, it puts your dick on the table.

    Universities tolerate and even encourage antinomianism (a) to be competitive with ones that don’t, and (b) because the quasiviolent energy displayed by antinomian “activists” is a nice power source.

    But obviously, for the survival of the entire system, this is very much a senescent tendency, and it has been mirrored in many other declining societies, for example of course Athens.”

    The next comment down on the thread is a very well reasoned account of the genesis of progressivism in religion, which SA’s comparatively blunt analysis entirely misses.

    “Obviously, as someone who was not raised a Christian, I will always see Christianity a little differently from those who were.

    But I don’t disagree at all with your description of the Protestant genesis. And I certainly do not see religion as a collection of rituals, native folk dances, etc – if, as I contend, the theological details are relatively irrelevant, mere customs are surely more so.

    Rather, I see religions (and idealisms) as patterns of thinking. These patterns tend to be relatively conserved, which is why we can name and classify them.

    But, again, we should be very careful about classifying belief systems using the taxonomy they choose for themselves. There is a reason why so many common names for these prototype kernels originated as terms of abuse hurled by their enemies. Not that we should trust said enemies, either.

    So, yes: Luther’s realization was that Catholic Christianity as practiced had gotten completely out of whack with the scriptures. But I think there’s slightly more to it than that.

    Christianity is a fascinating and impressive belief system in many ways, and perhaps one of the neatest things about it is that, historically, it is really two belief systems in one.

    Christianity, to me, is half Roman state religion, half communal ecstatic fraternity. I find the Anglican terms high church and low church useful in describing these phenomena, even outside the bounds of Anglicanism proper.

    (There are certainly high-church and low-church Lutherans, for example! I was at quite a high-church Lutheran wedding just the other day; I practically expected the minister to break into German. Or even Latin.)

    Elements of both these strains can be found in every Christian tradition, not least because (a) no one has found a way to live without government, despite all efforts; and (b) so much of the emotional appeal of Christianity is in the fictive-kinship idea that all men (or, depending on your theology, all Christians) are brothers.

    Another, slightly harsher, way to put this is that the New Testament includes a complete and tested blueprint for a revolutionary communist cult. Small wonder the medieval Church kept it under wraps!

    Lutheranism was not a communist cult. It succeeded more because it provided a way for local bigwigs to break away from Rome. But Calvinism came much closer, and the heritage is clear. Are we really to believe that Marx, on his own, invented the idea that all men are brothers, despite living in a society dominated by a religion whose creed taught exactly that?

    So as for the beliefs of your average Lutheran versus the World Council of Churches – there is obviously a very clear high-church, low-church spread.

    But, as the Russians say, the fish rots from the head down. Lutheranism is not intrinsically low-church, but it does not intrinsically preclude a low-church interpretation, either. And when Lutheran countries (Sweden!) are captured by low churchmen, who enjoy an obvious democratic advantage, the change over time can be dramatic.

    The WCC matters not because it itself is somehow powerful, as if it were the Vatican, but because its views reflect the views of those in power.

    And power propagates itself – as the Russians say, the fish rots from the head down. The opinions of followers are lagging indicators, the opinions of leaders are leading indicators. It matters less where Lutheranism came from, than where it’s going, and the trend of syncretism with the Puritan elite strikes me as pretty clear.

    This is the information-security feedback loop again. My view, again, is that democracy is both the cause and the result of this low-church avalanche. Whether vicious or virtuous, it’s a circle of causation.

    Essentially, in a republican form of government, power is won by having as many clients as possible – just as true for Hillary Clinton as it was for Caesar. And low-church Christianity is designed almost perfectly for building these kinds of patronage networks.

    This is what the young people carrying clipboards for the environment are doing on my streetcorner. They are soldiers in an integrated religious and political war. Like all soldiers, our modern-day “activists” hope to gain power and status by rising in the ranks.

    As long as this power structure is effective, Lutheranism and all other Christian sects – even Catholicism itself – will be ready, willing and able to evolve into it. If Faramir refuses the ring, there is always a Boromir who will accept it. What Acton meant when he said that power corrupts was that it seduces, and boy does it.

    The problem is not Christianity. The problem is that if there is a vacuum of power, Christianity will evolve into its communist-cult form and try to seize it. This can only be cured, in my opinion, by eliminating the vacuum of power.

    I like the word “ultracalvinism” because it traces the evolutionary roots of our present Establishment, and it vigorously denies their claim to be “moderate.” However, it is not a term designed to convince people who already hold this belief system.

    Low-church believers, being the same people who don’t think of the EPA as “the government,” have a very hard time seeing that (a) it is in fact their strain of Christianity which has the strongest associations with tyranny, and (b) diluting the theological content of Christianity, in favor of “secular” fraternity, brotherhood, and other God’s-kingdom-on-Earth issues, makes it not milder but stronger. As Ernest Renan put it, “never trust a German when he tells you he’s an atheist.”

    PS sorry for quoting in full!!


    Toddy Cat Reply:

    I wish I had a dollar for everything that Progressives like Alexander touted as “inevitable” that never happened.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 5:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • Orlandu84 Says:


    “What does the ‘neo-’ in ‘neoreaction’ signify?”

    Of the above questions, I find this one to be the most important at present. Since I am a follower of Philip Bobbitt, I will attempt an answer based on his perspective of modern political history and theory. In short, the “neo” recognizes and signifies that we cannot go back. Unlike traditionalists who wish to restore the old order, neoreactionaries appreciate that history happened. The conditions that allowed the old/ancient order to exist are no longer present in the world. The world has been changed and so neo-reaction sees itself as part of the “new” or “neo” of the contemporary world.

    The most important related consideration to the above postulation is that the scale and form of violence and commerce have shifted in a manner that makes corporate structures obsolete. Now that the market can be accessed by anyone through the internet, the need for a structure above the individual (the corporation or state) to facilitate an agent’s activities on the market diminishes on a slow but inevitable line of descent. As individuals learn to care for themselves by themselves, the state/corporation recedes to the background. This shifting and declining world is the world of “degenerative ratchets.”

    Lastly, the Odysseus Problem can have no answer at present due to the new/restored order of the world. For an accurate model of distributed power cannot be created because models cannot predict individual agents’ actions. Whereas such modeling might have been possible in the era of corporations, the era of the neo has too many increasingly powerful individuals who change their plans spontaneously and suddenly.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Yes, and yes again. I would lump many reactionaries in with leftists as utopians–they have an ideal world that they insist will work because they want it to work, and they wish away how to get there from here.


    Scharlach Reply:

    I move that we stop lumping X flavor of neoreaction in with X flavor of progressivism. We need to recognize that curious similarities arise at incongruous joints, but that their existence signifies nothing terribly significant except the fact that everyone exists in the same global political ecology that has limited expressions.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    As you like, but this is something I did before I became aware of neo-reaction and is something I will continue to do privately because I believe it is icorrect.

    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 7:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • Grotto Says:

    To self-aggrandizingly quote myself on what the “neo-” in neoreaction constitutes:

    “The difference between neoreactionaries and reactionaries is that the intellectual foundations of neoreaction are throughly modern, grounded in science, rather than argument from authority or tradition. Research into genetics, human behavior, psychology, economics, sociology, and other fields continue to re-affirm the enduring wisdom of ancient traditions, and the folly of our current path. Neoreaction also benefits from the last two centuries of philosophical tradition, and the same weapons used by liberals to dismember traditional institutions can be turned against them, to dissect and analyze them.”

    Neoreaction, therefore, is best understood as a reexamination of modernity, given the faulty blank-slate humanist assumptions that our current political and social systems are built upon. From this reexamination, questions about the nature of sovereignty, governance, the leftward-ratchet, and the existence of the Cathedral begin to arise. This reexamination generally reveals new validations and new justifications for traditional beliefs and practices, which we then advocate and champion, not out of historical romanticism (which would be merely reactionary), but out of a logical, scientifically-based pragmatism (neoreactionary).

    As I see it, there are two main cornerstones to neoreaction:

    1. The objective material reality of the observable world. The question of human biodiversity, both in gender and race, is an objective, scientific one, no matter how much the sociologists and pseudo-scientists attempt to obfuscate the subject. There are testable, falsifiable conclusions, and even if it is successfully suppressed in the West, the less-sensitive East will soldier on. Science is invalidating basic assumptions of the current political order.

    2. A “Continental” examination of the Cathedral. The biggest breakthrough in neoreaction was the Cathedral, because it gave a name to the otherwise dubiously defined and hydra-headed enemy. Now the enemy could be examined, its internal power structures analyzed, its goals and motives revealed. (Why is merely a name so important? Because our language has been intentionally structured to make discussion of the non-Cathedral-approved topics impossible. Words like “liberal”, “multicultural”, “democracy”, and “capitalism” have been so overloaded with contradictory meanings that conveying precise ideas has become impossible. We must invent a new lexicon, just as the Game/PUA blogs have invented theirs.)

    Neoreaction, then, attempts to formulate a new political theory based on our new understanding of world. But these are derived conclusions, and subject to debate. Different people, armed with the same understanding of the world, can come to radically different conclusions about what the ideal system might be. We entertain many different and contradictory approaches, such as a sovereign corporation of stockholder-citizens, or monarchies, or some feudal system with free-exit. But these various proposals are not the core of neoreaction. The core of neoreaction is a critique of the current system.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 7:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    Here are the debates I see constantly recurring on y’alls blogs. And not dead-horse beating debates–they continue to inform and instruct.

    1. Democracy vs. Republic vs. Monarchy. Can many modern ills be cured simply by going for another, better (?) form of government? If our culture and our politics are both corrupt, which way does the causal arrow mostly run?

    2. What is the mechanism of the Leftward ratchet? Closely related, when did the Left “start” and what defines it?

    3. Is reaction theoretically possible as a solution, or is the way in not the way out, so some kind of post-left politics must be conceived?

    And, of course, the big one–so what? Once you take the red pill and see that our culture has a number of very screwed up notions, what to do about it? (these discussions haven’t proved so fruitful, because no one has any idea).

    My own personal areas of thought that would fit within a neo-reactionary rubric are (a) what are or at least were the general benefits and strengths of the Leftist program historically–I suspect that in this group we tend to underrate Leftism historically seeing it in its modern, exhausted form, which means that we can’t properly understand how it got so strong or how to topple it–and (b) accepting or even “following” reality (conceived as Nature or Nature’s God) as a transcendental unifying basis for the real Right.


    Thales Reply:

    And, of course, the big one–so what? Once you take the red pill and see that our culture has a number of very screwed up notions, what to do about it? (these discussions haven’t proved so fruitful, because no one has any idea).

    Bull: …I’m tired, Thales. I tired of this war. I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of these blogs, being an outsider,
    reading the same goddamn goop everyday. But most of all, I’m tired of that jack-off and all his bullshit….
    Thales: You gave them Moldbug!
    Bull: He lied to us, Thales. He tricked us! (to Moldbug) If you’da told us the truth before reading those fucking long-ass essays, we woulda told you to shove that red pill right up your ass!
    Thales: That’s not true, Bull, he set us free.
    Bull: Free?! You call this free? All I do now is read Carlyle and Kipling. If I had to choose between that and the Cathedral . . . I’d choose the Cathedral.
    Thales: The Cathedral isn’t real!
    Bull: Oh, I disagree, Thales — I think the Cathedral can be more real than this world…


    Lesser Bull Reply:


    You have entertained me.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 7:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • Grotto Says:

    It seems to me that we may be getting ahead of ourselves trying to formulate a grand-unified theory of neoreaction. It is unnecessary. We should be on the offensive, continuing to pound away at the existing, very real, liberal order, rather than establishing intellectual defenses of theoretical neoreactionary governments that only exist in our imaginations. Arguments over the merits of a modern absolute monarch cannot be tested, and you’ll be drawn into a futile battle of I-think-this vs. you-think-that, with no prize in the end. Keep the arguments grounded in the current liberal order, which does exist, whose effects are real, and whose claims can be tested and falsified. And if you win the argument, there are immediate, actionable effects.

    Don’t get drawn in to Scott Alexander’s challenge. He is an interesting character, and I hope to write a post about him when I start my own blog some day. But he is an indicator of the strength of the neoreactionary argument, not its weakness.

    His basic approach in the exhaustive FAQ was to find the maximal, least-defensible positions of Moldbug and to attack those positions, namely, the the clone-of-Charles-II business. Having declared victory over the restoration of absolute monarchy, he declared victory over neoreaction, hastily skipping over the massive contradictions in his own self-declared San Francisco free-thinking secular-humanist worldview. But that’s the advantage of the offense – the opponent is too busy patching up the cracks you’re pointing out in his castle wall to even notice the massive holes in yours.

    Scott Alexander also uses a term I’ve never heard before – “steelmanning” – to describe his previous neoreactionary summary. I was very impressed with that summary, and he passed the ideological Turing test with that piece, in my opinion. I wondered how he could manage to overthrow his own very well-stated argument for neoreaction. The answer, as we found out, is that he couldn’t. To rationalize this, he makes the absurd argument that his own genius actually improved on neoreactionary arguments, and that rather than debate himslf, he would refocus his arguments on what “neoreactionaries actually believe” – and then proceeded to bravely ridicule Moldbug’s resurrected monarch.

    This little drama shows the fundamental strength of the neoreactionary critique of the liberal world order. He cannot defend the liberal world order against our critiques, but he can only give a weak counter-offensive against the idea of a restored English monarchy (which, arguably, is an intellectual over-extension on our part.)

    The best thing to do is to continue the offensive. We are the vanguard, stacking out the new extreme, the new frontier, that then pulls the spineless center rightward. Even by Scott Alexander’s own admission, he finds much to learn from neoreaction, and his own “moderate” position has been shifted significantly rightward since his engagement with neoreaction. This should be our desired effect. As we stake out new intellectual positions on the right, we make them safe for colonization by others. Stay on the offensive.


    VXXC Reply:

    I was too weak to defend, so I attacked. – Robert E. Lee.

    Had Lee been put in charge at the outset…


    James A. Donald Reply:

    Not impressed with the anti reactionary FAQ.

    Seen it all before. Reactionary says everything is going to hell. Scot cites the Cathedral official truth showing everything is getting better.

    Reactionary says progressives did bad things in the past and will do bad things in the future. Scot cites the Cathedral official history that all bad things were the result of reactionaries, and anyone who did bad things was a reactionary.

    Reactionary says that the current laws on sex and reproduction violate human nature. Scott says that human nature is politically correct, and if it is not, people must be punished until it is.


    VXXC Reply:

    It’s impressive that he engaged us in debate in a post that he took a month to prepare.

    It was also folly for his cause to engage.

    For want of a better word – Progress.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 7:41 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    Some of the conspiracies are easy to find.

    On education, this was linked at Isegoria’s recently. Lots of padding, sadly, but the point is the Prussian education system was deliberately implemented. This video is independent verification of what John Taylor Gatto has told me, as far as I’m aware.

    Second, the Soviet Conspiracies. (I have a full set of these, if they’re not showing up in related videos for you.) The fascinating thing is that the KGB had these intricate and ground-level plans for what would happen sociologically – and verified them in multiple countries. Soviet sociology was light-years beyond the postmodern hellhole the West is pleased to call sociology. I believe this is independently verified by ESR, though I’m only going to dredge up links on request.

    And of course the recent mortgage crisis. The rulers wanted hispanics to get houses, and hispanics got houses. Sure, they got bit by unintended consequences, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that rulers are thoughtless like everyone else.

    The idea that the conspiracies don’t exist is to assume that the rulers aren’t actually in charge (rulers don’t) or that they are in charge but transparent. I find both to be laughably absurd.


    Neener Reply:

    I’m not really into the whole neoreaction thing (I’m here for Nick’s posts on cosmic horror and other high weirdness), but you should check out Anatoliy Golitsyn’s works if you haven’t already. He was a KGB defector and wrote a book New Lies for Old, which outlines a long-term deception plan by the communists.

    From wiki:

    In his book Wedge – The Secret War between the FBI and CIA (Knopf, 1994), Mark Riebling stated that of 194 predictions made in New Lies For Old, 139 had been fulfilled by 1993, 9 seemed ‘clearly wrong’, and the other 46 were ‘not soon falsifiable’.

    Golitsyn’s book — whether it is right or wrong — is still one of my favorite high-octane paranoia fuel works (the others being Levenda’s Sinister Forces trilogy, which any reactionary Catholics browsing here should really read; Dreyfuss’s Devil’s Game; Scott’s Deep Politics and the Death of JFK; and Vallée’s Messengers of Deception).


    Alrenous Reply:

    Sounds interesting, thanks.


    Scharlach Reply:

    Great recommendations. They all look fascinating. I echo Alrenous’s thanks.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 8:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:

    “(3) What does the ‘neo-’ in ‘neoreaction’ signify? This is a timely question, because I’m noticing a lot of people edging into it, and the topics it excavates are huge. My own take on this: Anyone who thinks that Modernity, Capitalism, and Progress are simply bad things to have happened should drop the ‘neo-’ prefix immediately. After that, anybody who lacks conviction about needing it should think about doing the same. Sheer reaction is OK, isn’t it? Fashion isn’t a good reason for anything.”

    Reactionaries want to return to a previous status quo in a society. Originally, this was the Ancien Regime but it could be something else. For example, the era of classical liberalism and the founding of the U.S.

    But after a certain point the idea of a return to a previous state of affairs becomes a highly problematic idea. In the early days following a revolutionary change it may be possible to go backwards, but as time moves on it becomes more difficult. Technology and demographics have changed and so a return to previous social forms would have all sorts of new implications that were not present in the original version. Also, there is no guarantee that the prior state of affairs would be stable; certain degenerative trends are probably baked into the cake.

    Neo-reactionaries recognize the impossibility of going backwards, but at the same time they recognize that the Right was correct about some key issues (and on others the left was just very, very wrong). As a consequence, neo-reactionaries agree that we’ve progressed down the wrong track.

    Since we can’t go backwards and we can’t go forward down the wrong track, neo-reactionaries see the need to move sideways onto a new track, one that takes into account certain key facts and ideas that were missed by the progressives.

    Neo-reactionaries aren’t reactionary, so why are they called Neo-reactionaries? Because Neo-reactionaries are inspired by the Dark Enlightenment and the Dark Enlightenment is reactionary (in the sense that it tells us that historical reactionaries were often correct in their critiques of progressivism). We can’t return to a previous social forms, but we can learn from their mistakes and successes (and the rashness of historical progressive movements).

    Different strands of neo-reaction emphasize different aspects of the Dark Enlightenment, leading to different conclusions about exactly which track we need to move sideways onto. They don’t all even agree what exactly the Dark Enlightenment tells us, that might be something worth looking into.

    But if we’re still using the categories established in the visual trichotomy, I don’t think capitalism has much to do with the broad definition of a neo-reactionary. It is apparently a core principle of techno-commercialism but the other two branches may well end up favoring mixed economies.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 8:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    Some of Goulding’s basic questions / contributions to OI (decontextualised):

    “*How do legal incentives manufacture the Zeitgeist?
    *How exactly is law produced?
    *What does an Exit-based society look like?
    *Massive research on Nick Szabo’s P2P law idea. Is there a way in which distributed law-creation could be made to resemble catallaxy?

    *The law seems to be gradually decaying, and perhaps that is due to loss of the Exit-abundant conditions in which memetic selection caused good common law to proliferate. Facilitation of ex ante legal competition, jurisdictional diversity and Exit—and not highly specific, rationally constructed designs like Neocameralism—may be the long-term, game-changing innovation that reactionaries (and the like) should push for, since this would cause production of law more closely to resemble catallaxy and thereby reverse its decay.

    Or as David Friedman puts it, government doesn’t make cars so why should it make law? His idealistic solution probably wouldn’t work, but the idea points in a useful direction.

    *Two amongst many problems, then, are how to make (controlled) alignment of law-creation with quasi-catallactic processes a way for young, intelligent people to gain status, and something that we can reason about confidently.

    *The “Spandrellian trichotomy”, mellifluous though the term may be, is a false trichotomy, because the 3 sets are not mutually exclusive, and in fact the whole point of the discussion is that certain properties are shared by ethno-nationalists, theonomists and techno-capitalists.

    One core of Reaction, upon which we all agree, is that liberal democracy richly deserves the Machiavellian analyses that Moldbug has conducted. Two further cores, which I hope will gain acceptance, are Exit and P2P law.

    *The latter point is dissonant with the Moldbuggian creed of “formalism”, i.e. the idea that power relations should be accurately recorded in law and officially recognised political structures. The darkest enlightenment perspective is that formalism is a chimera, because in the act of recording and enshrining existing power relations one transforms them, perhaps in radical ways.

    However, there is a balance to be struck. We want, e.g., a meaningful constitution, whose language is interpreted in a fairly straightforward, literal sense. A step towards this might be recognition of the fact that our existing constitution is not very meaningful. We would, however, prefer “What does the constitution say about X?” to continue to act as a Schelling fence, which cannot be dismissed on the formalist grounds that judges do, in fact, have power to interpret this document in fantastic ways. It seems to me that the more dishonest the polity and crude the system of law, the more dangerous become steps towards formalism.

    *1. Tech entrepreneurs as a political force. It seems to me that, following SOPA, they are a legitimately independent power base and they know it. is not really about money, or creating positive externalities, but an attempt to accumulate more power, economic and otherwise. To the extent that they succeed and continue, without being assimilated by the Cathedral, they will be defenders of freedom. The Internet, and the Cathedral’s imperfect control of it, can be held responsible for this unusual, countervailing phenomenon.

    2. Lack of enthusiasm and power. I interpret the over-excitement about Bitcoin, across a wide political spectrum, as due to an unprincipled desire for power, i.e. in anticipation of the destruction of the existing economic and political system. If a movement or new set of ideas did offer young people a taste of enhanced power, I believe they would eagerly take the opportunity. I think the only progressive position in which they idealistically and reflexively believe, to the extent that it would discourage them from shifting en masse to a viable new movement, is (the sinister kind of) anti-racism. The Cathedral’s strength today is not in its capacity to inspire, but its ability to set high barriers for akrasia, undermine rival status-communities and intimidate without quite appearing to be oppressive. These could all perhaps be conquered by the innovation of a bootstrapping, distributed legal system, combined with piercing analyses of our existing polity and its flaws. (Now we just need to design it…)

    3. Information. It seems to me that principled anti-market positions are an increasingly fruitless avenue for elite power. Accurate micro-economic theory is so ingrained, down to a fairly low level amongst the population, that if any organised group tried to increase its power by denying the centrality of markets to human affairs, a competing splinter of the elite would easily garner overwhelming coercive support. Truth is less central to politics than most people like to imagine, but eventually, with repeated and clear exposition it does diffuse into enough human minds that many kinds of malign political strategies are rendered infeasible.
    What we lack is a good theory of coercive game theory. The ideas about Schelling points that you expound are not well understood, and consider the immense diversity of belief amongst mainstream political theorists and each popular blogospheric iconoclast—they don’t even agree on how to reduce basic concepts such as “law”, “government” and “sovereignty”. The reasons for this are two-fold: firstly, catallaxy is simpler than politics; secondly, state-funded researchers are especially discouraged from conducting accurate political analyses.

    There is a lot of low-hanging fruit in this area that the Internet should allow us to pick, and I think that this knowledge, as in the case of broadly free-market micro-economics, could eventually cut off some of the worst excesses of malign politics.

    Consider the positive feedback of just one change: disgust for state education.

    *And even then, Alexander doesn’t mention Moldbug’s really laudable motive to propound Neocameralism, which is that if public opinion did not strongly influence political power, it would be less necessary for rulers to elect a new people. He also elides Moldbug’s penchant for “formalism”, which positions Neocameralism as merely a structured recognition of the central state’s already overwhelming power.

    *1. Interventions. The Cathedral enacts a number of interventions that supposedly correct market failures or encourage morally correct behaviour, but are actually Machiavellian. The minimum wage is designed to funnel young people through the Cathedral’s educational organs, but the ingenuous Austrians aren’t hip to the scheme.

    2. Macroeconomics. This is the theory of fiscal and monetary policy, i.e. how central banks supposedly manage the economy in the public interest. If one believes the highly convincing Austrian business cycle theory, then this is all fraudulent, because the central banking apparatus causes almost the entire problem.
    However, as recent discussions here have hinted, given the existence of this Rube Goldberg stealth tax machine, Krugman, Bernanke et al do seem to have legitimate knowledge that Austrians lack, and that is why their predictions are more accurate. After all, central banks engage in extremely complex game theoretic interactions with each other, and with the entrepreneurs who try to predict their behaviour.
    This is not to say that Keynesianism is true and the Austrian business cycle theory is false. By way of analogy, Genghis Khan was a military expert and Stalin knew a thing or two about politics.

    3. Mathematics. The Austrians are not keen on it. See the first excerpt from Hazlitt’s The Failure of the “New Economics” here to see why, or check out this post from Fabian Tassano. Mathematics, like uncontrolled experimentation, facilitates sophism. Nick Szabo, yet again, nails it, although this particular paper isn’t on economics.
    In academic papers, apart from sophism I also find that mathematics is used when the authors need to publish but have little to say.

    4. Ordinal utility. Rothbard says,
    The numbers by which ends are ranked on value scales are ordinal, not cardinal, numbers. Ordinal numbers are only ranked; they cannot be subject to the processes of measurement. Thus, in the above example, all we can say is that going to a concert is valued more than playing bridge, and either of these is valued more than watching the game. We cannot say that going to a concert is valued “twice as much” as watching the game; the numbers two and four cannot be subject to processes of addition, multiplication, etc.
    Other economic schools treat humans as having cardinal utility functions. This isn’t terribly important, but not unrelated to the Austrian skepticism of mathematical economics.

    5. Laissez-faire microeconomics. Although Austrians are correct about many government interventions, their total lack of regard for coercive game theory can cause problems.
    Firstly, if (as is often the case) the state is actually heavily entangled with catallactic processes, to assume away its existence can be arbitrarily unrealistic. Liberalisation schemes in the Third World have failed badly due to anomalously low labour and capital mobility, which is caused by a lack of faith in the permanence of such changes.

    Secondly, Edward Luttwak founded the study of “geoeconomics”, and, e.g., Sanjaya Baru says,
    Both China and Germany have deployed exchange rate policy as a means to enhance their geo-economic power. China’s consistent under-valuation of the Yuan has been widely viewed as a mercantilist intervention. However, few have commented on Germany’s rigid stance on the Euro which has clearly hurt some European economies, just as China’s currency policy has hurt its Asian neighbours, while allowing Germany to remain globally competitive. Implicit in China’s and Germany’s exchange rate policy is a ‘beggar-my-neighbour’ strategy that has helped both countries generate high current account surplus, while shifting the burden of adjustment to neighbouring economies.
    Whether or not this is true, if it were true one wouldn’t hear so from the Austrians.

    Thirdly, in developing countries, legal systems have to develop in tandem with the economy. A Robinson Crusoe economy doesn’t spontaneously generate the laws that would e.g. defend a stock market from predation. The East Asian tiger economies industrialised sucessfully, and are considered to have used a fairly dirigiste “export promotion” strategy. Development may have been in spite of this industrial policy; however, consider that if new domestic industries are encouraged to compete in global markets, the nascent legal and bureaucratic structure can obtain relatively accurate and immediate feedback on its performance, which might not be true if trade was primarily internal.

    Again, such “structuralist” theories may well be untrue, but I find that Austrians are particularly likely to dismiss them without due reflection.”


    admin Reply:

    This is an absolute classic comment. (It’s quite overwhelming — definitely among the most important contributions to understanding the implications of neoreactionary ideas for economic analysis, and thus libertarianism, that I have ever seen.)


    Rasputin's Severed Penis Reply:

    Yes – even taken entirely out of context, concentrated down and Megamixed badly by me, the clarity of Goulding’s thought is quite astonishing. And considering that all these questions and observations all arose out of comments made across disparate posts, the coherence of his analysis and vision is stunning. Have you had any engagement with him since he ceased commenting here? Re-engaging people like Goulding and Federico (any chance of a link to his – admittedly dormant – blog in your sidebar?) would be highly conducive to pushing the analysis of these questions forward.

    I think that this could be further facilitated by an exclusive ‘members only’ messaging board, populated by people such as Goulding, Federico, Vladimir and yourself, amongst others, that other people could read but not comment on directly (they could however comment to respective participants blogs, such as here) in order to maintain maximum analytic focus and stave off digression / entropy. I know Goulding has rejected the Neoreactionary moniker and Vladimir has expressed serious concern over it as well, so perhaps something more neutral could be chosen to facilitate discussion – along the lines of Gnon – and get over that initial hurdle to engagement. Some form of patronage would also probably be a big help to initially attract people to write / think there. But consistently high calibre contributors (perhaps mainly people who have maintained a widely respected blog of their own for several years – Foseti, Jim, etc – hell maybe even Szabo and Moldbug could be drawn in from time to time) would probably be the main draw. Perhaps we don’t need ‘another’ space for discussion, and blogs like More Right seem to have certainly failed in their ambition to provide a central hub, but I think given the right functionality, engineering and incentive structure something like this could potentially be an asset, to prevent things dissipating before they have a chance to crystallise ad cohere. Much as collecting together and compiling Goulding’s questions from the darker corners of this blog reminds us how urgent and compelling they are and point to multiple paths forward.


    admin Reply:

    My understanding is that Goulding is Federico.
    More Right shoots itself in the foot by not allowing comments, so ‘hub’ schemes go straight out of the window.
    The blog ecology out here is still in ferment, so (almost) anything is possible, but the herding cats phenomenon won’t go away. The kind of people you’re hoping to rope together (and I share your slant) are, unfortunately, also the most prickly individualists, with a horror of being subsumed into anything unworthily dim — and that means anything that is taking shape beyond its exquisite configuration within the sphere of their own intelligence. Handle’s place perhaps has the best chance of hooking them at the moment, but the dynamic that spins them back out into the void is quite automatic, so I’d be (happily) surprised if the attraction lasts.

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    I emailed James a month or so back, because I’d really missed his thought-provoking posts. I won’t c and p his reply, it would be a little rude. However, what I got from it was that he’d a) fallen out of love with the blogsphere b) he was broadening his study topics anyway c) he felt if there was a way of progressing with such research, he was yet to finalise how he/others would go about it.

    Konkvistador Reply:

    “blogs like More Right seem to have certainly failed in their ambition to provide a central hub”

    I don’t think we where aiming to become the hub of reaction, rather we wanted a space for exploring certain questions.

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    ‘Production of law more closely resembling catallaxy’….. Ooooo. This is really an exciting topic. It’s something I want to address in my PHD, I’m just not learned enough in law or economics (at the moment) to really attack it. From a techno-commercialist perspective i.e. one that is looking to reach the next techno-economic paradigm ASAP, is there any way law facilitates catallaxy without being pretty darn flexible and revision-enabled? Given the fluid nature of financial capital (being a big player in the success of productive capital when it comes to fuding for entrepeneurial incentives, innovation, and even face-value production) potential changes in the nature of techno capital are always around the corner. Progressive meddling or not.

    Carlota Perez argues that a K-Wave is more than just a cycle wholly reliant on internal factors, but constitutes a battleground of social and institutional factors that, at first, side with the standard paradigm, until, eventually, give way to the new one(and I take her to me institutional covers aspects of law). Is the problem here the delay/shacking between the two states? If so we’re back at political intervention/mismanagement/democracy etc.. Would a cabal of economic analysts, with sympathy for the realities of creative destruction (and its nuances), with sustained knowledge on law and its optimum relation to the – quite frankly – dizzying transitions and discontinuities of tecno-capital, be needed? How would such people infiltrate state-power? Perhaps, like in China, where the party has a lot of engineers, lawyers etc. in high places; an emphasis on polymaths like Szabo would be advised! Ok Mark, get your head out of the clouds – but still – how to get from here to there, grr, flummoxed.


    admin Reply:

    If you haven’t yet read the ‘Spontaneous Order’ piece in my Resources list, I cannot recommend it too strongly.


    Mark Warburton Reply:

    Funnily enough I was about to read the Hayek section this evening. Is the whole thing worth reading?

    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 11:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner Says:

    ESR wrote on the Soviet Conspiracy in two posts that come to mind: Suicidalism Gramscian Damage

    There are also good videos from KGB defector Bezmenov talking about the strategy of social demoralization in Youtube videos.

    Regarding the law, one issue that neoreactionaries might want to increasingly address is that the whole problem with current legal frameworks and constitutionalism is that is is far too easy to reinterpret out of existence the rules set in place by previous generations. Laws, and social contracts, and constiutions are all grounded in 17th century ideas and metaphors that are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Foseti observes that it is the regulators who interpret the laws for the most part, and Obama has goosed the gas petal on Imperial Executive branch. It’s a model that is reaching it’s expiration date.

    We are seeing this as Obamacare flounders. 2,000 pages of law and 10,000 pages of administrative rulings had to get codified in software code to make the exchanges work. It’s not a glitch – it is a mass of unresolvable contradictions and overflow errors that happen when you try to compute it.

    Lessig got lots of mileage out of his “code as law” idea. Perhaps Neoreactionaries should explore how the opposite could be achieved: “Law as code”. If “law” has to properly compute against it’s basic rule set, it opens up the potential for setting up mechanisms in *code* that could keep the basic operating system of a neoreactionary legal system running on rails.

    I once came across a reform idea that fixed the Gerrymandering problem in a sensible and permanent fashion: after every census, the number of representatives is adjusted if necessary, and then different groups can submit congressional district maps for evaluation. The trick is that the evaluation criteria is algorithmic: the map with the smallest total number of convex polygons. You can rejigger a bit, but basically the primary solutions are inevitably normal looking contiguous congressional districts. There is only so much outsmarting of the rules of geometry that is possible. Thus, code can become law.


    Alrenous Reply:

    The basic idea behind smart contracts is that many kinds of contractual clauses (such as collateral, bonding, delineation of property rights, etc.) can be embedded in the hardware and software we deal with, in such a way as to make breach of contract expensive (if desired, sometimes prohibitively so) for the breacher.

    Thanks for dredging up the ESR links. I have a link to Bezmenov above.


    Stirner Reply:

    Good to see that Szabo is doing yeomans work in trying to transfer law into code.

    I would also mention that Burnham’s Suicide of the West is essential reading. He diagnosed the trajectory of the Cathedral quite well over half a century ago.


    Posted on October 23rd, 2013 at 12:12 am Reply | Quote
  • James A. Donald Says:

    I don’t see the Odysseus problem. Power is always distributed, bandits are never stationary, we are always in anarcho capitalism, we are never out of a state of nature. There is no Ring of Fnargl. Government, like fiat money, is an illusion that everyone pretends is real for fear of what would be revealed should someone touch the illusion.


    admin Reply:

    Generally I’m in agreement with your position on this, but:
    (1) It’s notably failing to gather traction among the monarchist-dominated mainstream of NR.
    (2) It leaves me unsure whether you think constitutions have any actual or potential value.
    (3) Whilst agreeing (fully) that government is ultimately a structure of delusion — or perhaps of ritual, it has the resilient order of a complex game, which (again) is where constitutional formalization and tradition come in.


    Posted on October 23rd, 2013 at 2:24 am Reply | Quote
  • Matt Olver Says:

    What does the ‘neo-’ in ‘neoreaction’ signify?

    To me it signifies a level of prescience, or foreknowledge of future events. This is where I see neoreaction as being primarily a philosophical engagement with political philosophy, futurism, techno-commercialism, and capitalism among other important topics. I see it as being a challenge to liberal progressivism and the destruction it has cast throughout Western Civilization. It is essentially meta-reaction. A step beyond reaction. Reactionaries tend to be dutifully dis-attached from local or state political engagement–if they are engaged [myself included]–they are realizing the futility yet press on realistically. Reactionaries carry on contributing their end of the bargain academically or through the form of blogs, but may not have a level of prescience that a neoreactionary has who is willing to see a means to and end. A means to an end — in the same way this is essentially what neoconservatism is to conservatism, however destructive it may be — remapping the Middle East. Neoreactionaries are much more peacefully engaged in debate rather than brute force muggings of the Neocon type. What is the end? Peter Thiel ocean colonization? Space colonization? The questions have yet to be fully hammered out.


    Posted on October 23rd, 2013 at 2:42 am Reply | Quote
  • Matt Olver Says:

    My basic questions:

    (1) Currently on the table: The political model question and The Odysseus Problem. Questions of order and complexity in the political sphere. Economic order is a part of this.

    (2) What are the reactosphere’s positions on secession, nullification, state’s rights? Is a true libertarian position needed to be taken on and engaged with? What is an ideal model of economic order? Are we heading toward inevitable absolute disaster?:

    (3) Abstraction and action, filling-in the gaps, and breaking beyond the celled network of the reactionaries. Should we be thinking of and preparing for this? Things are at a level of abstraction at the moment. As more outsiders notice the abstractions it will inevitably reach mainstream at some level at some point in time. The Cathedral will be on the critical end of reactionary arguments. Strengthening arguments will only help.


    admin Reply:

    Great stuff. The secession question is especially crucial because it has such an important role as a point of convergence. Coalition elements with highly divergent social ideals can still cooperate effectively, so long as they know a wide variety of possibilities can be pursued simultaneously beyond the cusp.


    Posted on October 23rd, 2013 at 3:32 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    “My understanding is that Goulding is Federico.” – Well that makes sense. All the overlaps of interest but no direct interactions – I shouldn’t have taken at face value his parting pledge not to start another blog!

    I wonder if Arts Council England would provide funding for an online Neoreactionary hub…? The E&D section of the application could prove challenging.


    Posted on October 23rd, 2013 at 11:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hypothetical Nixon | Handle's Haus Says:

    […] No?  Huh.  Nydwracu says, […]

    Posted on October 25th, 2013 at 12:47 am Reply | Quote
  • pseudo-chrysostom Says:

    >Odysseus Problem

    the law giver transcends the law by necessity, an expression of him, but not the totality of him. elsewise, it is rather a repetition of law internalised from elsewhere (feedback/validation), or rationalization of an impulse written into its own design, law set by some previous architect (ie, solipsism).

    consider, to calculate for instance the trajectory of the moon under relativity is (relatively) trivial. but how to obtain a knowledge of the moons future states in actual fact? certainly this would inevitably have to involve also anything beings might possibly do to it (perhaps the secret nsdap moon base is discovered as is nuked by the cathedral before the second coming).

    as we know, information gained from analysis changes outcomes (to the constant consternation of neo-classical econs), and with every passing instant the context of the game also changes. in a sense, we could say that changes to the universe change the rules of the universe. could we not also say that this too is following a more fundamental principle? perhaps, but as noted, to ‘calculate’ the universe would mean being fully transcendent, divine. hence i dare say, in no society is there ever an absolute sovereign, but ever is there also sovereignty and hierarchy. and hence, we again see trust as the prior to living, to trust rulers, subjects, and all variations thereof, to operate beyond the pale, as they inevitably will.

    so, why bother with systems at all then? a system is useful because it can be used, how to say, naively. consider money, that ever useful shorthand demonstration for the transcendent nature of value. certainly we could perhaps speak of a quantitative framework of say, dollars (ie, what action will definitely result in more dollars). but obviously this framework is also subject to revision, (and indeed, is under constant revision). adepts (autists) at such systematic approaches to value (or anything, really) are functioning essentially as meaty difference engines, cogs in some more transcendent leaders machine (not that theres anything necessarily wrong with that). the solipsist does not (cannot) understand the tradition the same way as the brahmins they follow, but without the tradition, they (ie, society), are undone.

    and so in conclusion, worry not about achieving or enforcing universal and absolute principles, for if they are indeed universal and absolute, they are already the case, and with us in every case.


    Posted on October 28th, 2013 at 1:10 pm Reply | Quote
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    Posted on October 30th, 2013 at 5:01 am Reply | Quote
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