Political action has been getting very bad press from some quarters on the dissident Right as of late. We are told that any attempt to secure reform through mass mobilization can be no more than “demotism”, something that is at once contemptible in its democratic connotations and, moreover, intrinsically and hopelessly ineffectual as a strategy for the Right. This position holds, after Moldbug, that the great activist successes of the Left in the 20th c. amounted to little more than a ritualistic public promulgation of policy choices that had already been made at the heights of the apparatuses of power (bureaucracy, university, courts, etc.) long before the “activists” got there; and the petitions, marches, sit-ins, and so on supposed by Liberal myth to have comprised a spontaneous and heroic popular “struggle” against a putative elite Oppressor on the wrong side of history actually a post festum “victory dance” whose chief function was to demonstrate that the social norms ostensibly being broken had, in fact, already lapsed into nullity and desuetude, and the authority behind them long since quietly deposed.
The Left, according to this point of view, has an absolute and unbreakable hegemonic grip on all the institutional centres of power, which it holds by virtue of a more general social hegemony over the very elite classes and castes from which the functionaries of those institutions (judges, politicians, professors, CEOs, etc.) are typically recruited to begin with, so that the concepts, “social elite” and “Leftist”, become effectively interchangeable. (This social hegemony over the governing classes is exercised through the medium of ideology, most importantly through Leftist control of the University- above all, those of the Ivy League, attendance at which continues to be indispensable for entry into positions at the summits of State and social power- and a fortiori over the contents of the curriculum that elites-in-training must master and learn to repeat in order to convincingly act the part of “educated” people deemed fit to hold elite positions later on).
All of this ostensibly leaves the Right, and the working classes more generally, without elite leadership and concomitantly without advocates or other representation in the apparatuses of power, rendering it at once debilitatingly disorganized and dangerously vulnerable. Absent capable elite leadership, Rightist efforts at mass self-mobilization will inevitably assume the form of hopelessly naive “folk activism”, e.g. street protests carried out without first securing support from well-placed players up above, and so doomed to be simply ignored by decision-makers where not actually met with the full force of State repression; or alternately- and much worse- “revolutionary” activity that can only assume one form or another of outright terrorism. In any case, socially rudderless activism of whatever sort is likely to be met with lethargic indifference from the very demos it hopes to inspire and mobilize, since by nature plebs do not lead, and in their intrinsic insouciance and helplessness are altogether useless as agents of change.
The Moldbuggians (“NRx”) accordingly advocate a strategic withdrawal from public life under the rubric of “passivism” and “becoming worthy”. The focus of activism is to shift away from the spectator-sport antics of modern politics, and towards the ground floor of life at the level of the private sphere, where it can, quietly and without attracting the attention of the apparatuses of control, go to work on building moral character individually (through self-improvement) and reconstructing the foundations of civic and community life collectively (above all, through the revival of fraternal associations). The first of the two prongs of the strategy is designed to produce a pool of men of the Right truly fit to ascend to power (cf. the concept of “virtue” as it figured in the Machiavellian tradition of reflection on Statesmanship) when the opportunity presents itself; the second, to secure the baseline sociological wherewithal needed to build a new social order after the present, Leftist-dominated order fatally exceeds the limits of its own sustainability and falls away.
There is much in all of this that is permanently valid and very valuable, especially the programme of “becoming worthy”; as a whole, the NRx position betokens a theoretical nuance and sophistication almost without precedent in the ranks of the Right, which hitherto has tended in its analyses to resolve all questions into projection of military force on the exterior and party ticket and economic bottom-line on the interior, with an almost autistic disregard for the sociological side of things (which it has traditionally disdained as mere trivia unworthy of the attention of Statesmen); and the overall case is, intuitively, so strongly plausible that no sensible person could have seriously doubted any of it only a year ago.
But a year is a long time in the chaotic and fast-paced world of Modern society; and in the past year, the long-simmering pot of popular outrage against elites, having had the heat under it cranked up suddenly by the unprecedentedly feckless, destructive, irrational, and arrogant recent antics and provocations carried out by those same elites, has begun to boil over. What seemed unthinkable a year ago has not only become thinkable, but doable, and for that matter already done. First Donald Trump sauntered onto the political scene as though from nowhere, appointed himself champion of the plebs, and with their support, smashed the entire machinery of the GOP establishment in just a few months. Then a doddering, half-senile old Communist, Bernie Sanders, came admirably close to doing the same thing to the Dems, also in the name of the plebs, and thwarted only by the class-disorganizing effects of Feminist ideology. And, last week, the people of England rose up and snatched their national sovereignty from the monstrous jaws of the EU hippopotamus in a way few on this side of the ocean saw coming or took seriously.
These events do not, of course, altogether discredit the Moldbuggian/NRx position- but they do indicate a need for certain of its assumptions to be reviewed, revised, and qualified.
It is incontrovertibly true that plebeian masses cannot under their own power act as collective authors of substantial social change; after all, they are by nature and usage fitted for action only under authority. The Leftist mythology of The People writ large making its own history in self-organized mass “struggles” is just that; a fanciful narrative designed to tell a certain ideology what it wants to hear about how the world works, while masking how it actually does work. At the same time, one does not arrive at an adequate understanding of how things actually work here simply by standing the mythical narrative on its head. The image of history as a series of revolutions from above and nothing else can be no more than a salon-level witty riposte to the myth of “people power”, something that sounds audaciously clever to the room at a cocktail party, but as serious analysis fails to transcend the common conspiracy theory- which agrees that the true subject of history is an elite minoritarian cabal invisible except to itself and to an even smaller elect that is not part of the cabal, but has somehow been made able to see it where the unenlightened masses cannot (Moldbug’s blatant allusions to The Matrix make the strictly extra-scientific nature of this imagery as clear as it possibly could be).
To grasp the reality behind these two false conceptions, we must think of society the way the Ancients did: as an organic totality analogous to the human body, in which elites stand in the same relation to plebs as the body’s head to its limbs. Without a head, limbs flail about aimlessly, or fail to move at all; without limbs, the head is altogether paralyzed and impotent to act on its designs. In other words: an elite that doesn’t represent anybody is no more a social force than a class without elite representation.While this is true for any society, it is all the more so in a modern mass democracy where, for better or worse, nothing of moment happens without the assent of the mass in the form of public opinion and/or a popular election.
It also follows, from the organic and corporate character of any society, that any truly substantial historical movement to either Left or Right will to at least some extent be a movement of the social body as a whole, not something entirely localized in this or that particular anatomical structure of the body politic. The Leftist/Rightist distinction does not operate according to a logic of mutually-exclusive complementary distribution across the classes. Social classes are not hermetically-sealed entities that are ideologically completely homogeneous on the inside and heterogeneous with respect to each other, since class divisions are divisions within one and the same society unified by a common language, culture, polity, economy, and historical memory. Again, this is especially the case in late modern societies, in which homogenizing mass communication pervades everything, the State continues to pursue its historically aggressive policies of cultural standardization of its population (the multi-cult notwithstanding), and local community and peer-group controls over the individual break down and leave the latter increasingly free to take up any class position he likes online and off. The correlation between class membership and political parti pris loosens accordingly and continues to loosen.
The upshot is that the problem of leadership organically solves itself to the extent that any broad popular turn to the Right will concomitantly see the same turn take place within one or more fractions of the elite. For example, the anti-globalist, anti-free trade, and pro-working-class cause is presently taken up not just by the structurally impoverished (ex) proletariat of deindustrializing areas, but also by the fractions of the population of students, intellectuals, and University-educated technical/professional classes who spearhead the dissident new Right. The latter has, on a samizdat basis, already taken effective custody of what is living in philosophy and the social sciences even as the corresponding official disciplines have become terminally moribund and decrepit, while a more purely creative branch of the movement devotes itself to media/publicity productions in the form of memes, troll raids, and the like. This, in turn, has the effect of signaling the existence of a certain demand, which just like any other creates its own supply in the form of capable political leaders both able to perceive an opportunity in the signals and willing to move in to exploit it.
Both Trump and the organizers of the Leave campaign were born of this organic play of supply and demand, this marketplace where complementary parts of a social whole- those who need to be led and can follow, and those who can lead and need to be followed- by conforming to their proper natures find one another, all without waiting a few decades or a few centuries on the intervention of any secret brotherhood operating wholly beneath the threshold of public visibility. And supply wouldn’t have risen to the occasion had demand not advertised itself through visible above-ground action of various sorts, both practical and theoretical (N.B. flagship NRx blogs such as Social Matter now, and rather ironically, reach millions of people between them; they both reflect and shape popular political opinion to a much greater extent than their authors seem to think, and accordingly fall within the sphere of political action).
This isn’t to say that there’s anything at all wrong with encouraging people to look in the mirror and ask hard questions of themselves- especially if they’re planning to become family men and/or otherwise assume responsible positions- or of encouraging the revival of the convivial associations, the Maennerbunden. On the contrary; these are among the very best ideas I’ve heard in my entire life, period; they have too much to commend them for me to address here. The point is that they are properly thought of, first and foremost, as sociological interventions. In this respect, it is suggestive that the most lucid formulations of passivism admit that the programme need not actually inculcate any particular political dogma in its participants in order to succeed- since if it reboots the well-ordered family, the peer group, and the community, then it succeeds by definition, regardless of what anyone does or doesn’t think about formalizing the State apparatus or whatnot.
But a clear demarcation between sociological and political interventions ought to be drawn. If, as the passivists correctly point out, traditional politics are useless against the ongoing corrosion of character and the decay of civil society, then, mutatis mutandis, sociological interventions are no substitute for political action. This is an especially urgent point at a time when it seems likely that the next US Presidential election will be the last one- and that if the Left wins it and formalizes the State before the Right does, a combination of official crackdowns on the institutions of civil society (above all, Christian religion- to say nothing of the parallel institutions the Passivists hope to build), unmitigated open-door immigration, and a descending spiral-staircase of serial economic crisis, with all the attending pathogenic and sociolytic effects, will seriously hamper the prospects for, or even destroy the very conditions of possibility of, the sociological intervention. The two classes of intervention should be thought of as inseparably complementary, albeit distinct and mutually irreducible, aspects of a holistic general strategy.