The formulation of this concept was a building-block moment for NRx, but the trend in its usage has been dismally regressive. Apparently devised as a tool for the analysis of social identities, it is increasingly invoked as a rallying-cry for neo–tribalism. From the perspective of Outside in, it will soon become entirely toxic unless it is dramatically clarified.
Nydwracu initially employs the word ‘thede’ to designate the substance of group identity, “a superindividual grouping that its constituent individuals feel affiliation with and (therefore?) positive estimates of.” Thedes are multiple, overlapping, sometimes concentric, and honed by antagonistic in-group/out-group determinations. They are seen as following from the understanding that “Man is a social animal.” Ideological arguments disguise thede conflicts. At this level of abstraction, there is little to find objectionable.
In his essay on Natural Law, Jim writes:
Man is a rational animal, a social animal, a property owning animal, and a maker of things. He is social in the way that wolves and penguins are social, not social in the way that bees are social. The kind of society that is right for bees, a totalitarian society, is not right for people. In the language of sociobiology, humans are social, but not eusocial. Natural law follows from the nature of men, from the kind of animal that we are. We have the right to life, liberty and property, the right to defend ourselves against those who would rob, enslave, or kill us, because of the kind of animal that we are.
Occupying a band of group integration between ants and tigers, humans have intermediate sociality. Even the tightest mode of human social organization is loose relative to an ant colony, and even the loosest is tight relative to a solitary feline. In human societies, neither collectivity nor individuality is ever absolute, and — even though these ‘poles’ are commonly exaggerated for polemical purposes — they realistically apply only to a range of group integrations (which is both narrow and significantly differentiated). To say that “man is a social animal” does not mean that collectivity is the fundamental human truth, any more than the opposite. It means that man is a creature of the middle (and the middle has a span).
Insofar as a thede corresponds to a unit of autonomous, reproducible social organization, it is a far narrower concept than the one Nydwracu outlines. A thede is an ethnicity if it describes a real — rather than merely conventional — unit of human population. This is, of course, to exclude a great variety of identity dimensions, including sex, sexual orientation, age, interests, star signs … as well as some of those Nydwracu mentions (musical subcultures and philosophical schools). Generalization of ‘thedes’ to include all self-conscious human groupings risks diffusion into frivolous subjectivism (and subsequent re-appropriation for alternative purposes).
If the analysis of thedes begins with the recognition that man is a social animal, it is a grave error to immediately expand the scope of the concept to groups such as women, lesbians, dog-lovers, and black metal fans, since none of these correspond to biologically-relevant social groupings. If this is the way the notion is to be developed, this blog takes the first off-ramp into more biorealist territory. There are quite enough of such ‘thedes’ to be found already in university literature and grievance studies departments. ‘Thedism’ of this kind is simply intersectionality with a slight right-wing skew. It has no cladistic function, unless as degenerate metaphor.
As a reliable heuristic, only those groupings which are plausible subjects of secessionist autonomization should be considered thedes. Any group that could not imaginably be any kind of micro-nation has only intra-thedish identity. More darkly, a thede — ‘properly’ speaking — is necessarily a potential object of genocide. (To argue this way is to depart radically from the usage Nydwracu recommends. It is not an attempt to wrest control of the word, but only to explain why it seems so basically impaired. This post will be the last time it is mangled here.)
Rigorization of thede analysis in the direction of real ethnicities would also require the abandonment of attempts to assimilate classes to thedes, although class identities can mask thedes, and operate as their proxies. Between New England and Appalachia there is a (real) thede difference between ethnic populations, encrusted with supplementary class characteristics. Used strictly in this way, the idea of a thede does theoretical work, and uncovers something. It exposes the subterranean ethnic war disguised by class stratification. When merely used to classify generic social identities, on the other hand, it thickens the fog, pandering to the social constructivist mentality. Tribes and classes cannot be absorbed into a single super-concept without fatal loss of meaning. It is impossible to belong to a class in anything like the same sense that one can belong to an (ethnic) thede, unless class is a cover. Class stratification is primarily intra-thedish and trans-thedish. It is the way a population is organized, not a population itself.
Religious difference, in contrast, are typically thedish. By far the most important example, for the internal dissensions of NRx, and for the Occident in general, is the split between Catholic and Reformed (Protestant) Christianity. There are real (autonomously reproducible) Catholic and Protestant populations, and thus true thedes. Either could be wholly exterminated without the disappearance of the other. Furthermore, the way in which ‘thedishness’ is comprehended varies systematically between them. On strictly technical grounds, it is tempting to counter-pose high-integrity to low-integrity social arrangements, but that is to give away too much ammunition for free. (This is to depart into a different discussion, but one that is already overdue. (Alongside other obvious references, Nydwracu points to this))
Ethnicities correspond to real populations, and to cladistic structures. ‘Thedes’ as presently formulated do not. Ironically, this denotational haziness (super-generality) of the thede concept lends itself to usages guided by extremely concrete connotations, with a distinctive Blut und Boden flavor. Usage of the word ‘identity’ (at least, on the right) has exactly the same characteristics. This blog is done with the ‘thede’ concept unless its meaning is drastically tidied up.
Note: Where this post wanted to go, when it set off, was closer to the ‘dogs vs cats’ debate, or this:
Yeah there is a huge disconnect between the idea of seasteading as a platform for experimenting with various forms of governance and the reality that the vast majority of people interested in pursuing it are orthodox libertarians who see some kind of anarcho capitalist libertarianism as the inevitable winner in a ‘fair fight’ between political systems. I really think that a belief in libertarianism is linked to a distinctive and relatively rare neurological type, and therefore will never convince the vast majority of people who tend towards a more altruistic and collectivized morality.
It is at least conceivable that neuro-atypical hyper-individualists could establish a micro-nation (or be exterminated). They could therefore lay claim to thedish identity, although in a strict sense — that no one wants to use.
ADDED: Since this is my last opportunity to borrow ‘thede’ to mean something with substantial real content (i.e. an autonomous, self-reproducing social unit), it’s worth enumerating some possible thedes, to give a sense of its extension: tribes, ethnic groups (concentrically-ordered), cities, seasteads, space colonies … “What is your thede?” translates as “Who are your people?” — “Stamp collectors” shouldn’t be considered a serious answer.
ADDED: Terminological tidying from Nydwracu —
I should separate @Outsideness' redefinition of 'thede' (autonomous, self-reproducing social unit) into a new word. Ideas?
— Wesley Morganston (@nydwracu) October 26, 2014
— Wesley Morganston (@nydwracu) October 26, 2014
‘Phyle’ is good.
ADDED: Valuable consolidation (and criticism) at Nydwracu’s place.