The Idea of Neoreaction
To translate ‘neoreaction’ into ‘the new reaction’ is in no way objectionable. It is new, and open to novelty. Apprehended historically, it dates back no more than a few years. The writings of Mencius Moldbug have been a critical catalyst.
Neoreaction is also a species of reactionary political analysis, inheriting a deep suspicion of ‘progress’ in its ideological usage. It accepts that the dominant sociopolitical order of the world has ‘progressed’ solely on the condition that such advance, or relentless forward movement, is entirely stripped of moral endorsement, and is in fact bound to a primary association with worsening. The model is that of a progressive disease.
The ‘neo-‘ of neoreaction is more than just a chronological marker, however. It introduces a distinctive idea, or abstract topic: that of a degenerative ratchet.
The impulse to back out of something is already reactionary, but it is the combination of a critique of progress with a recognition that simple reversal is impossible that initiates neoreaction. In this respect, neoreaction is a specific discovery of the arrow of time, within the field of political philosophy. It learns, and then teaches, that the way to get out cannot be the way we got in.
Wherever progressivism takes hold, a degenerative ratchet is set to work. It is unthinkable that any society could back out of the expansive franchise, the welfare state, macroeconomic policy-making, massively-extended regulatory bureaucracy, coercive-egalitarian secular religion, or entrenched globalist intervention. Each of these (inter-related) things are essentially irreversible. They give modern history a gradient. Given any two historical ‘snap-shots’, one can tell immediately which is earlier and which later, by simply observing the extent to which any of these social factors have progressed. Leviathan does not shrink.
Within the theory of complex systems, certain phase transitions exhibit comparable properties. Network effects can lock-in changes, which are then irreversible. The adoption and consolidation of the Qwerty keyboard exemplifies this pattern. Technological businesses commonly make lock-in central to their strategies, and if they succeed, they cannot then die in the same way they matured.
When neoreaction identifies a degenerative ratchet — such as the (Jim Donald) Left Singularity — it necessarily poses the problem of a novel end. The process goes wrong consistently, and irreversibly. To repeat the Neoreactionary Idea as a mantra: the way out cannot be the way in.
A degenerative ratchet can only progress, until it cannot go on, and it stops. What happens next is something else — its Outside. Moldbug calls it a reboot. History can tell us to expect it, but not what we are to expect.