Twitter cuts (#52)

Responding to this (Outsideness) twitter-stream:
The transcendental self is not the empirical person, Kant argues, though confusion of the two is a reliable anthropological fact. … ‘Sovereignty’ demands disciplined critique on exactly these lines. Monarchical theater is (exactly) a naive image of ‘the sovereign’. … Moldbug is clear that the ‘monarch’ (state CEO) is an agent of sovereignty, and not the sovereign ‘himself’. … The LARPing loved by romantic reaction, and derided by the Left, dwells entirely within this rigorously identifiable philosophical error. … Sovereignty is no less a profound philosophical enigma than the transcendental self, the prompt for an exploration of vast difficulty. … “We know what a sovereign looks like.” — It is scarcely possible to imagine a delusion of greater absurdity.

Something of greater articulacy is clearly called for, but the kernel would be unchanged. ‘Sovereignty’ is the translation of the transcendental into the realm of political philosophy. This is why, even for atheists, the Idea of Divine Right sovereign legitimacy is a superior point of departure than mere charismatic leadership.

March 8, 2016admin 33 Comments »
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33 Responses to this entry

  • Twitter cuts (#52) | Neoreactive Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 4:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • James James Says:

    I don’t think sovereignty is a helpful concept. It’s an abstraction which doesn’t seem to refer to anything. Say not sovereignty; say what you mean.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    The conceptualization of Sovereignty in social science is exactly analogous to the conceptualization of Forces in physics: it’s an abstraction of interaction. Whether they refer to anything tangible is missing the point. Yes, one could describe physics and society based on the outcomes of the forces, but holy shit, you’d be missing the forest for the trees. That kind of deliberate evasion is what Cathedral priests get paid salary for at the Ivy’s.

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    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    Not Sovereign = Slave perhaps? Non-owner of property.

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    SVErshov Reply:

    limitation of sovereign as a consept related to the fact that soveregn contains some inherited linearity, in case if we are going to see it as source of all causality flowing from it. in dynamic systems sovereign can be replaced by concept of interraction, as sovereign can be derived from interractions.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 4:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    The king is the role of the king, which is the divine one; he physically is an instance of what is produced by natural order to fill that role.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 4:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    I may be thick, but why doesn’t the standard libertarian “the gang with the biggest guns in town” definition of sovereignty suffice? Or maybe “stationary bandits protect you from roving ones”. The rest, from divine right to charisma or democratic process, is largely advertising to the people in order to convince them the gang is legitimate, i.e. that they some how *owe* obedience to it, because voluntary obedience yields better results than always having to coerce every penny of tax income. Why not assume it is nothing more than just advertising? Putting it differently, what priors suggest there is something more than this at all?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Empirical neuroscience has increasingly confirmed the Kantian insight as to the radical unreliability of the empirical ego (or image of the self). It would surely be surprising if political structures were any simpler than neuro-psychological ones.

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    I suppose the Buddha sorted that ego thing out like 2500 years ago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha, but the big question is not if sovereignty is simple, but if it is a thing at all, as opposed to the simple null hypothesis, namely that power is just power, might, and sovereignty is just a handy myth to justify it and thus cut down on enforcement costs.

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    (That is a major reason why I came with this “dividual” idea, we really are not literally indivisible which the term “individual” suggests, and it matters for all sorts of reasons. The whole concept of autonomy needs to be reinterpreted: if a person can have multiple, conflicting wills, which volition deserves to be respected as “autonomous” by external actors?)

    admin Reply:

    Power cannot just be power, unless that means force (which it doesn’t).

    spandrell Reply:

    The question of course is who in the gang has sovereignty. That’s a hard question, as it changes all the time.

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    Alrenous Reply:

    Locally, sovereignty is split into geographically overlapping jurisdictions. E.g. someone has the power to implement or block nationalized health insurance, but this person can’t throttle immigration. There’s someone who can deploy soldiers to foreign lands but they can’t deploy them domestically, and so on. The formality is grey. Officially they do (frequently) work for the relevant agencies, but also they’re supposed to have superiors who can overrule them, and they don’t.

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    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 4:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Erebus Says:

    “The People is somewhat that is one, having one will, and to whom one action
    may be attributed; none of these can properly be said of a Multitude. The
    People rules in all Governments, for even in Monarchies the People
    Commands; for the People wills by the will of one man; but the Multitude are
    Citizens, that is to say, Subjects. […] And in a Monarchy, the Subjects are the
    Multitude, and (however it seeme a Paradox) the King is the People.”
    –Hobbes. (Italics from original.)

    Sovereignty belongs to the land and to its people. The monarch is the ultimate representative of both — is tied by blood to the first and greatest men of the land, and thus to the land itself. What’s more, the monarch is the only living symbol of a nation’s historical continuity, cultural unity and ethnic identity. Divine Right aside, the monarch is a totem and avatar of uncommon power.

    Thus in Shakespeare Kings are often referred to by the names of their lands. King John is England. The King of Norway, simply called “Old Norway,” is Norway.

    Thus also the “royal we.”

    …..Or so the theory goes. As things turned out — in China and throughout Europe — the highest echelons of the aristocracy became rather foreign to the lands they ruled. Only Japan can boast an ancient and unbroken chain of succession, and this fact did a lot to drive the Emperor-cults of the 19th and early 20th centuries: The Emperor was revered as the personification of the entire nation, the unifier of the Japanese Pantheon, etc.

    In any case, Moldbug’s formulation has nothing to do with blood and soil & everything to do with simple pragmatism. With no monarch and no aristocracy, sovereignty defaults back to the volk. If they are wise enough to implement decent government, then they’ll get a monarch or a state CEO, who shall rule with one voice in the name of the land and the volk. If they are idiots and choose democracy, so much the worse for them.

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    >With no monarch and no aristocracy, sovereignty defaults back to the volk.

    I seriously don’t understand this idealism. Is there even such a thing as sovereignty in the empirical sense? If you live in 1600 and the king just disappears, two things can happen. A war of all against all, or the elites act quickly and find one. In the second case practical sovereignty is at the elites. Who convey it at a king. But in no circumstances can the folk execute and practice something even remotely similar as sovereignty.

    Again please understand sov as empirical term, not a philosophical one. Empirically it is almost nonexistent therefore not clear if philosophically useful.

    It is fairly easy to demonstrable that every sovereignty is rooted aristocrats/oligarchs so basically a fairly small number of elites who may pretend they do it in the name of the people, or they may convey it on a king. The idea is simply that too many people cannot cooperate well, and too few people, such as one, the king, is not powerful alone. So there is an ideal size of intragroup coordination. Let’s make a Dumbarian assumption and put that around 150. Or roughly around a few hundred. That’s the idea of Parliamentarism. Two hundred top nobles with their household troops can always defeat a king. And if needed, they can pretend to be the representatives of the people.

    Pragmatically, empirically, if sovereignty means anything at all, if it says anything about who is actually most likely to execute power, it is probably Dumbar-numbered oligarchies. The king or the people are mostly figureheads.

    [Reply]

    Erebus Reply:

    Let’s accept that the word “sovereignty” denotes rulership over a nation.

    Let’s then note that “a nation” can be defined as “a grouping of people who are ethnically related and share a culture and territory.” Thus a society without a shared culture is no nation.

    It is then necessary to note that the land itself is not of prime importance. Nations can be defeated and simply vanish from this Earth, as the Mycenaeans among countless others were defeated. Nations can also be subsumed by stronger cultures, as has happened many times throughout history, perhaps most notably and regularly in China, with the Manchurians and other conquerors having merged into the Han Chinese cultural mainstream.

    The sovereign represents the the totality of a nation’s culture, first and foremost. Second, the sovereign represents the continuity of the nation through time. If there is a King, then the sovereign becomes the individual representative of the people and the land, in the person of the king, under the institution of the crown or the throne. If there is no King, or if the land is physically conquered by another nation, then the culture of the volk is sovereign — and, as the history of China demonstrates, it is capable of defending itself, prolonging its existence, and defeating foreign influence. (The Mandate of Heaven may shift, but the essential cultural traits of the nation have changed very little throughout the ages. In this sense, if in no other, the Han people have always been sovereign. One sees this in England, to a lesser extent, with the perseverance of Anglo-Saxon culture under foreign rule; the Hanoverians and Normans became wholly English.)

    If the King is dead, the aristocracy thoroughly routed, the spirit of the volk defeated — only then is the nation dead, or becomes, at best, an empty vessel.

    My position is that “sovereignty” is more than a political term which denotes simple rulership in empirical terms. It is something which cannot be separated from the culture and continuity of nations over time. And this must be rooted not only in an elite, but also in the people of the nation.

    I’d add that the historical aristocrats of Europe — much unlike our current elites — were largely of the volk, the indigenous people of the land, and they typically identified with their land completely. This bears repeating: The elites of 1600 A.D. were the people. When we speak of those “elites” — those aristocrats — it must be noted that they were truly “elite” in the first and oldest meaning of the word, and that they cannot be separated from the lands they inhabited, from their people, and from their culture. (A few historical exceptions aside.)

    [Reply]

    Cichlimbar Reply:

    Switzerland should collapse any minute now. (You’re still not even beginning to engage biological realism.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 5:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • August Hurtel Says:

    The divine right, in practice, raised up the bureaucratic class and destroyed the noble class. Thus, as an idea it is not good. It is preferable for the monarch’s rights to be based on the same rights as everyone else in society: property rights. A difference in degree, but not in kind. As divine as the property right of the local farmer, which may be very divine indeed.

    In practice, the royal family is a pointer to the divine as both role model and biological target. Much preferable for young women to dream (and their parents to scheme) of marrying into a better family, than the perversity that is going on now.

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    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 6:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Uriel Alexis Says:

    the sovereign as the “spirit” of the socius? the full body without organs?

    i dunno, reading mainline early 20th century anthropology (esp. that influenced by the likes of Durkheim), you get the feeling that society is indeed “self-governing”, in the sense that ultimately the rulers and power holders are mere instruments for the adaptations and volition deemed necessary by a collective intelligence.

    some biological/ecological evidence (although it may hurt some sensibilities):
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B98Qdzsez5oHVmxLSVVPcy1ySlk

    [Reply]

    Cichlimbar Reply:

    Boehm’s choice to lean on group selection for some of his arguments is unfortunate, because it opens up the book to out of hand dismissals.

    [Reply]

    Uriel Alexis Reply:

    how does that work?

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 8:03 pm Reply | Quote
  • Anomaly UK Says:

    Sovereignty can in some circumstances be diffuse and murky and difficult to trace, and in others simple and straightforward and obvious to everyone. The idea of formalism is that it the latter circumstances are a more pleasant environment for all concerned than the former.

    Locating sovereignty, and explaining why it is where it is are two different problems. The most reasonable basis for recognising a sovereign’s sovereignty is that it is already recognised, but for the sovereign to reach the height of that stable self-reinforcing position requires scaffolding (possibly temporary) of some alternative construction.

    [Reply]

    Uriel Alexis Reply:

    I’m new around here, so it may sound obnoxious, but it doesn’t seem very obvious to me that a clealy defined sovereign is *always better* than a murky one. indefintely divided sovereignty may be a better scenario under certain circumstances.

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    This dispute is quite old.

    Confucius:

    “Wisdom begins with the rectification of names.”

    Laozi:

    “The best rulers are those people don’t even know exist.”

    [Reply]

    frank Reply:

    Formalising reduces local entropy and aligns agents’ interests by introducing skin in the game. It is also a prerequisite to fungible sovereignty.

    The process of civilization is indistinguishable from an ever increasing formalism in property (both primary and secondary) relations (a transition to trustless contracts being the current stage). Exporting local entropy requires ever increasing levels of precision in the perception of boundaries (delineation of inside from the outside and vice versa), which means an inexorable evolutionary arms race of formalism: whoever gets to evolve vision first (Cambrian period), wipes out the competition; whoever gets to evolve a navigation engine (brain) first, gets to be the super predator du jour; whichever culture formalizes knowledge first, gets to dominate others.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Yes (on all points).

    Uriel Alexis Reply:

    @frank (but also others)

    okay, for sure organizing *equals* exportation of entropy, and exportation demands boundaries to be defined. it’s not clear, however, that organization is something desirable. so here is point 1: why organization?

    i agree that civilization is indistinguishable from increasing formalism, but even assuming that organization is desirable, it is not clear that civilized organization is any better than, say, savage organization. point 2: why civ?

    my original point may have been somewhat unclear because of my wording. what i meant is something along these lines: is it always better to have a stable (continuous and therefore clearly defined) sovereign than having a unstable (e.g. dynamically adaptive and thus not always very clearly defined) one?

    eventually i would also like to understand if the whole talk of sovereignty still revolves around territorial units (i.e. defined in geographical space).

    frank Reply:

    (1) Entropy exportation is life; hence it’s an immanent value: a death wish cannot be maintained for long.

    (2) Civilization is intelligence optimization; it’s an immanent value (core XS argument).

    A non-XS variation (although it is reducible to the XS argument — but not vice versa) of “civilization as a value” proposition is the following argument:

    (i) We are only able to philosophize on morality and values because we have written language (a formalization of knowledge).
    (ii) Written language only exists because of civilization.
    (iii) Therefore, those values that are incompatible with civilization cannot exist in the abstract realm for long.

    This is the explicit version of Hestia’s “the only morality is civilization” maxim.

    I’m not sure I understand what “stable sovereign” is. “Continuous therefore clearly defined” doesn’t make sense to me. Continuity and well-definition are two distinct things in my mind. The point of making sovereignty, i.e. primary property, formal is the same as making secondary property formal: that is to reduce friction.

    Uriel Alexis Reply:

    fair enough.

    on (1) i would only add that there’s a third option to life protection and a death wish: indifference. but i still have to work out what that’s supposed to mean. eventually i get back to it.

    on (2) i would have to understand exactly how civilization is intelligence optimization. i far more identify civilization with the rationally centrally planned life people ’round here call the Cathedral. a civilization without macroeconomics doesn’t sound much like a civilization. i don’t know if i’m mixing things up though. but certainly “morality” doesn’t sound something very important to capital (except insofar as it’s its limitation).

    maybe i’m not being too rigorous with terminology and i also gotta catch up with Moldbug (i’ve got here through Land’s old stuff), but a hereditary line of kings (or some such process of sovereign determination repeatedly done over time) seems much more defined than a leadership based merely on who goes ahead in the hunt (or some such process of sovereign determination that doesn’t have any sort of further specifics or repetition). not sure if i find reduction of friction something interesting (i’m a still a libertarian anarchist after all, still believe that messy sounds less authoritarian than organized).

    SVErshov Reply:

    @Uriel Alexis that is why they caĺl it political philosophy. you can have well defined and useful concept and at the end of the day nobody have an idea what you really think.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 8th, 2016 at 8:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • 4candles Says:

    Moldbug and the Sovereign Individual (this and the previous post). OK (I is slow!)

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    I recall MM being a pretty big Juenger fan, so that may point to something.

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    Posted on March 9th, 2016 at 12:32 am Reply | Quote
  • Frog Do Says:

    General acceptance of “LARPing” as a bad thing in the discourse seems to be strange to me. Seems to be a weird framing, as though there was some true self being masked, when it’s masks all the way down.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 9th, 2016 at 6:36 am Reply | Quote

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