One of the most striking things I have ever heard uttered in American politics in my life was Hillary Clinton’s now-infamous recent characterization of the White working-class partisans of Donald Trump- a figure, for the time being, firmly established in the public consciousness as the voice through which the White working class speaks- as a “basket of deplorables” who are “irredeemable”, and moreover “are not America”. It is symptomatic that the leader of one of the two historic governing parties of that country, who as a Presidential candidate aspires to embody the unity of the body politic, should in the very course of attempting to convince others of her fitness for that role try to rhetorically dismember the corporate body of society, to proclaim that one of that body’s own organs- once by standard rhetorical convention exalted in political speech as the very “backbone of society”- is so much irredeemable social refuse deserving not only to be cast out of the social body, but regarded as as an anti-national element (“they are not America”).
The sentiment cannot be dismissed as mere partisan rhetoric. Some months before Mrs. Clinton coined new words to describe her loathing for blue-collar Whites, Kevin D. Williamson, a prominent Libertarian and arch-enemy of the nominally Left-leaning Clinton, was much more direct: going further than even Herbert Spencer, he opined that this class not only deserves to be kicked out of society, but to altogether perish as well to the extent that it forms a community. (He allowed for the possibility that individual members of this class could be regarded as rehabilitated and allowed to live- if they abandoned their ancestral communities and created economic opportunities for themselves elsewhere on a strictly individual basis).
Without wanting to lapse into alarmist dudgeon here, an appraisal of the nature and history of the modern State strongly suggests that, when a given social group is identified by elite political and ideological functionaries as an irredeemable anti-national element- viz. objectively dangerous to the State- a social process has already been set into motion that may not end well for that group, and that working-class Whites would do well to continue to cling to their guns, as the acting President of the USA has depicted them as doing.
In any case, this all goes far beyond the normal friction that obtains in any internally-differentiated social organism. Contra a certain romantic image that often haunts anti-atomistic social thought, such an entity is not altogether harmonious and conflict-free and by nature cannot be. Any individual has to learn to give his loyalty to the primary social units in which he finds himself (family, caste, locale, etc.) before he can give them to the higher-level aggregates (State, Nation, Church) of the primary social units. It is thus perfectly normal and, within limits, healthy for social classes to look after their own interests first, and even exalt themselves over one another.
The upper classes, then, can be expected to sneer down their blue noses at the Great Unwashed at least a little bit. But it’s quite another thing for those classes- in any society tasked with the duty of care of the social whole- to propose that the plebs should collectively be regarded as altogether beyond the pale. In the West right now, elites are not only doing exactly that, but as though to add insult to injury seek in one and the same stroke to incorporate hordes of various migrants, who are often there illegally, and in any case exhaustively foreign (by birth, race, language, nationality, culture, and religion), as valued members of society while reducing the indigenous organic working class to the status of illegal aliens at best- and enemy nationals at worst- in their own country.
Is this an exaggeration? Consider how, in official (“respectable”) political discourse right now, good form dictates some instance of the following answer to any objection the White working class raises against any of the indignities it faces: They’re just White men who are bitter because they’ve lost their “privilege” to the historical march of social justice. (Significantly, there are no White working-class women or children in the imagined world of official discourse). This rhetoric dates back to the French Revolution, when “privilege” designated the personal rights enjoyed exclusively by the great Feudal landlords in France and elsewhere in Europe prior to the complete restructuring of the legal system through the codes of public law that abolished Feudal customs and replaced them with individual rights for all citizens.
No such privileges ever existed in the presently-constituted USA, and haven’t existed in Europe for quite some time- and if they did, they wouldn’t accrue to the Third Estate in any case. “Privilege”, then, must have acquired a new signification somewhere down the line. An important clue here is the historic shift in the signification of the term, “franchise”- which originally denoted Feudal privilege in the precise form of the personal jurisdiction of a feudal lord, and later, in the Modern era, exclusively came to mean the individual right of any citizen to representation in the State. In this light, and on an appraisal of how the term, “privilege”, is used, the meaning becomes clear: “privilege” denotes the sum total of individual rights that accrue to all, and political representation in the State which can legitimately be sought out by all, when those rights are exercised, and that representation sought out or actually obtained, by the White working class (“White men”), either individually or collectively.
In keeping with its Revolutionary pedigree, this discourse decries “privilege” as an injustice, and extols its abolition by the inexorable march of Reason and Progress across history. But what it actually proposes is a Bizarro-world inversion of 1789 et alia. The Enlightenment sought an en bloc alliance of the bourgeoisie and the lower classes against elites to replace what it saw as an irrational, irregular, unjust, and obsolete jumble of Feudal customs with a rigorously coherent written legal code extending the “Rights of Man” to every citizen, given force by a Sovereign authority in the form of a truly national assembly in which all social classes and all citizens are represented politically. The new wannabe-Lumières propose to keep this juridico-political arrangement intact, but, through an en bloc alliance between the elite and the bourgeois- assisted by some sans-culottes in the form of the dregs and beasts of the Black community, and of course the hordes of legal and illegal migrants- single out and strip the White working class of the rights and representation that legitimately accrue to all.
In order to grasp the meaning and significance of this class war from above, we need to go beyond the Marxian concept of class to the much deeper phenomenon of caste, as the bedrock social division of any Indo-European civilization past or present. Moldbug was on to something perhaps greater than he intended when he famously proposed that certain dynamics of contemporary American society could be profitably redescribed through ancient Hindu terminology. Caste not only provides a fresh perspective on current events, but in some cases, the only truly adequate one.
Analyzed in light of caste, the true bottom-line comes into view, as follows. It is well-known that, in modern society, politics takes over the place and function of religion as the privileged centre of social integration and thus as the dominant force that bears upon every aspect of life. Just as pre-Modern society found its all-encompassing unity in e.g. the “mystical body of Christ”, so Modern society finds its own unity in the “artificial person” of Hobbes’ political Leviathan, which aggregates a mass of isolate individual atoms into a single social organism. The State is co-extensive with society and defines its boundaries, just as religion once was.
The society in which religion is the dominant force always sets a certain bar of purity where its rites and rituals are concerned, and accordingly banishes from the ritual community individuals, and whole categories of individuals, deemed indelibly polluted, degraded, and corrupt, such that their very presence in the midst of public worship would be contaminating to the point of desecrating the proceedings. This vile condition typically accrues by, variously, work deemed unclean and debased, contracting certain types of disease, eating foods prohibited by dietary rules, miscegenation, infamous dereliction of morals or social duty, or ritual performance and utterance that is inexcusably incompetent or derelict.
The effort, in present American society, to banish an entire subset of the citizenry from the political community is clearly analogous to the older form of ritual exclusion. In this light, there can no longer be any doubt concerning the meaning of phrases like “basket of deplorables” in elite political discourse, with its image of a garbage bin filled with White people (cf. “White trash”) who fully deserve to have been discarded there: the elite is attempting to debase the White working class to the status of an untouchable caste, a new chandala for the secular 21st century milieu.
Intuitively, it would appear that the cause lies in working-class involvement with industrial, construction, or agricultural labour increasingly further and further removed from the horizon of upper or even middle-class experience, and in the process come to be thought of by the latter classes as indelibly dirty and degrading. This is only partially true; the elite does not propose that other socially tenuous castes e.g. lower-class Blacks or Latinos deserve to be completely kicked out of society for doing those and other still more menial forms of work (the very opposite is true, to say the very least). Thus the Marxian hypothesis that predicts an exact correspondence between one’s place in the labour process and social status doesn’t exactly pan out here.
It is rather to ritual itself- more accurately, its secular and political functional equivalent- that we have to look. Mrs. Clinton made that absolutely clear; the White working-class deplorables, and their political speaker, Donald Trump, are deplorable because they either out of ignorance or willfully break with good ritual form and decorum as defined by the protocols of what is known in popular parlance, and with exact sociological precision, as political correctness.
Everybody with any point of contact with the professional and academic world, to say nothing of politics, already knows that the jargon that fills mission statements, the contents of HR-led diversity training and other workplace re-education, the recycled banalities of public addresses, the clichés of op-ed writing, and the academic “theories” that provide the apparent intellectual foundation for all those things, amount to so much secularized ritual cant to be recited on a pro forma basis when social circumstance calls for it. Whoever tries to decipher this stuff on a rational basis wastes his time- for, as with any ritual utterance, the correct recitation of signifiers is what counts, not the concepts signified. The sort of critical race or feminist “theories” produced by social-science and area-studies departments today, and the various forms of obligatory professional and political speech derived from them, are often ridiculed for being impenetrable or altogether nonsensical, but this ridicule naïvely misses the point. These discourses, it is true, don’t make any sense from a logico-empirical point of view- but they aren’t really supposed to. Their jargon is meant to be memorized and publicly recited by rote, not to illuminate.
In most societies, public ritual and its exactitudes do not concern the labouring castes, who on an a priori basis are deemed incompetent to perform it, and are quite content to leave this area to the priestly and other superior castes. In the West, this sociological default setting began to change, over the course of the past several centuries, with:
- the rise of Protestantism, in which each worshiper takes an active part in the proceedings on a more or less equal footing as part of the universal priesthood, and is held to the same, exactingly high, standard of conduct
- the rise of mandatory universal and standardized education
- finally, the rise of democratic notions of citizenship, according to which each citizen has both the legal right and ethical obligation to stay abreast of public affairs, to vote according to his conscience and interest, and above all, to speak freely on all subjects (“civic participation”).
The “democratic” ideal of a mass of standardized citizens collectively making decisions on an individualistic and egalitarian basis is, of course, a Utopian fancy that has not been realized anywhere and will not be. Our societies continue to be vertically organized according to a caste hierarchy, and the governing castes continue to define the standards of public protocol, decorum, and good form. What democratic ideology does succeed at doing, though, is seriously undermining the social authority of the governing castes on the one hand, and on the other hand conscripting working-class participation in affairs in which their input may clash dramatically with the expected standards set by the higher castes.
The net result with respect to political correctness is as follows. Where the right to pronounce sacred words, and the corresponding obligation to hold one’s conduct to the highest standards of moral and ritual purity, would by civilizational default be jealously reserved to the highest castes, today each citizen is expected to do his part to Celebrate Diversity, Ban Bossy, be an LGBT Ally, and so on like that. This means mastering, and then publicly repeating, words like “systemic racism”, “misogyny”, “White privilege”, etc.
The working class, as a group, sometimes runs into problems with this sort of thing, which is foreign to the overall working-class horizon of lived experience and likely to be rejected by a greater or lesser number of its members accordingly.
The typical early-adulthood bourgeois experience starts with attending University. There the student learns the correct cant from the source, and is rewarded for repeating it. He then goes on to take a white-collar job, where the exact measurement of his productive output is difficult or altogether impossible, and where in any case proven mastery of this or that form of correct ritual jargon will be a criterion of his fitness for assuming a management role. Once again, he is rewarded for repeating, in the presence of superiors, cant he need not actually understand, and which likely has no precise denotation in any case.
The working-class experience is different. The blue-collar youth is much more likely to enter the workforce immediately, or following completion of vocational training. In any case, whatever technical terminology he learns does have a precise technical denotation that must be understood in order to carry out practical operations whose success or failure will have productive consequences immediately and transparently known to everybody in the work process. (N.B. much the same set of considerations can also go for University-educated STEM personnel, especially engineers- who, to the extent that this is the case, really comprise part of the working-class, notwithstanding that both the salaries and social prestige attached to these positions are often very high).
The bourgeois youth acquires, both by training and experience, a “postmodern” worldview in which there is no objective reality worth worrying about, and pleasing superiors in positions of power- which means telling them the things they want to hear- is what really counts. Use of language, for him, is thus primarily a matter of social, i.e. ritual and magical, efficacy. His working-class counterpart, who bears the weight of objective reality on his shoulders the live-long day as though Atlas, primarily uses language that has a direct connection to material reality, exerts its effects by direct action on material reality as opposed to acting on social reality from a distance, and thus has mechanical as opposed to magical efficacy. This individual naturally regards the postmodern attitude with scorn, those who use magical language as untrustworthy charlatans, those who are socially but not mechanically efficacious as effeminate, and ritual cant with skepticism, if not open derision.
Those for whom words and ideas are generally much more than social utilities empty of substantive contents, but have serious practical implications, are also that much more likely to think the practical implications of politically-correct cant all the way through, and to ask certain critical questions: What would happen to society if polymorphous perversity became the rule? Why are all White people evil, or all straight men “misogynist”, because some of them are? Am I not in a certain existential danger for being a straight White male, now that all of us are collectively impugned? Meanwhile, none of this even occurs to the postmodern mindset- after all, the practical nuts-and-bolts of things are somebody else’s job to worry about.
Last but not least, the working-class guy is more likely, especially if from a geographical area in which industry/resource-extraction and/or agriculture is prevalent in the economy, and/or from a small community with relatively high social cohesion, to already have traditional values, regularly attend church, and so on, and so find the ultra-Leftist content of PC cant to be utterly odious and depraved from a moral point of view to begin with.
The potential for fairly serious social friction in all this is obvious. In the more traditional form of society, it would be mitigated through practices of subsidiarity that would keep the class carriers of the two radically-incompatible mentalities separated into hierarchical but relatively highly autonomous social spaces. For example, and leaving aside the more purely cognitive difference between the postmodern and mechanical mindsets, well into living memory it would go without saying that there is a different standard of conduct among workmen on the shop floor than governs mixed company at polite blue-nose salons and soirées- one altogether unknown to women of any class and which no socially-superior man would dream of interfering with (by traditional thinking, a superior disgraces himself if he meddles in the internal social affairs of inferiors too often, which affairs he ought to disdain to notice).
Modern democracy, however, is by nature totalitarian, and totalitarian to the very extent that it is democratic; the modern democratic ideal, from the start, proposes a single standard of conduct that emanates from a unitary “national” authority and governs, from top to bottom, every aspect of the life and doings of homogeneous model citizens who are exactly alike in every respect (something already clearly evident in the infancy of the American republic). The ideal of an entirely homogeneous citizenry is, of course, a sociological impossibility. By definition, such a society would be FUBAR, completely incapable of functioning in most every crucial way; the moment the democratic Eschaton was reached would at once be the moment analogous to biological death in the life-course of an individual.
But an enormous homogenizing effort- engraved in the nature of the modern democratic State and sociologically guaranteed to advance over time for as long as this State can go on existing- has nonetheless already succeeded in, so to say, tearing down the walls that once separated organically segmented social spaces and mixing everybody together like so many barnyard animals into a vast promiscuous jumble, a stinking commons in which all the interdependent but socially incompatible types of Man war for supremacy over the whole field of social space instead of tending their proper business in their own proper spaces according to their own proper norms and rules.
A major vector of this homogenizing and de-differentiating effort has been the introduction of politically-correct ritual decorum in the shop and even in the military, and other work environments hitherto exempt. 1789 is played out all over again in microcosm as the traditional unwritten customs that govern the affairs of men are abolished by written legal codes imposed from on high, and drafted under advisement of various latter-day lumières in the form of lawyers, HR personnel with social-science and area-studies degrees, corporate suits with MBAs, and crusading SJW “consultants”, under either political pressure or positive obligation from the State itself.
These miniature civil codes proclaim not the Rights of Man, but the establishment of a Safe Working Environment for Women, LGBTQ, and People of Colour- and if there are no such people there, they will have to be brought in, the better to expedite the abolition of “privilege”, viz. cause some White working men to become unemployed and/or unemployable, and disrupt the Sexist, Racist and Transphobic “culture” of the workplace to the greatest extent possible.
The higher castes have just enough social authority to be able to impose the new uniform ritual cant, decorum, and purity standards on the lower- but not nearly enough to ensure passive acquiescence to the imposition. First of all, any attempt to impose a one-size-fits-all standard on everybody, as we have seen, presumes democratic equality and is always carried out in its name. The higher castes, to be sure, exercise a priestly authority in all this, but cannot actually proclaim it openly or legitimate it unproblematically- not least of all because there is no longer a formal priest caste. On the contrary: HR personnel, diversity consultants, and people like that don’t even have a professional college that the State recognizes. The various actors involved in the imposition of PC are legally no better than the workers, and under “democratic” values are entitled to no special social deference outside due subordination in the workplace.
The effort to force all speech and conduct to conform to an exacting standard of PC ritual purity also runs into problems with the very “democratic” values that motivate the effort to begin with in that, by definition and design, it severely curtails or altogether abolishes freedom of speech and/or association as guaranteed by the basic law of the State. The elite, of course, understands these rights as privileged instruments exclusively reserved for deployment by elites in the war against traditional society, religion, and morals. But the democratic form of juridico-political organization cannot legally formalize these rights as anything other than universal Rights of Man, since it sets itself up in radical opposition to personal privilege. Moreover, these rights are especially beloved by the common people, who have adopted them as part of the set of popular rights claimed by any plebeian caste as a non-negotiable condition of willing social subordination.
Finally, in American society elites are powerless to stop populist insurrections from acquiring the sanctity associated with such sacred phrases as Town-Hall Democracy, Civic Engagement, Standing Up for the Little Guy, and even the Revolutionary Spirit- no matter that elites have a very, very different idea of what those phrases mean. Such insurrections also acquire the ironic sanctity associated, in modern democracy, with transgression of public piety, orthodoxy, and ritual purity. Once again, elites understand transgression as though State-monopolized weaponry reserved for waging war against tradition and society, and strictly forbidden to civilians- but the State itself cannot help but extend the right to bear this weaponry to all citizens.
Hence the eruption amongst the ranks of the workers, joined by rebellious students and some disaffected intellectuals, of the arch-iconoclastic and antinomian alt-Right, which has set out to break every taboo in the book, to mock every piety, defile every sanctity, desecrate all that is “sacred”, speak incorrectly and with intentional grotesque poor form, to the extent humanly possible, and reject democratic and Modernist orthodoxy altogether and revive heretical and long-condemned doctrines such as Reaction. The revolt against the new ritualism soon found a public figurehead in Donald Trump, who quickly won legions of supporters precisely by dispensing with rote ritualistic platitudes read from teleprompters in conventional political address and talking to the people in a spontaneous free-form manner.
In a certain sense, then, Mrs. Clinton et al. are right to condemn all this as so many antics of a “basket of deplorables” attempting to place themselves beyond the pale of the ritually pure and the sacred- or, more accurately, would be were their conception of the sacred not itself a truly deplorable travesty of all that really is sacred. PC is a self-conscious inversion or transvaluation of what every human heart knows to be sacred, pure, and good; it celebrates tyranny in the State and lawlessness in the street, war and strife amongst nations, unrestrained avarice and greed in commerce, sophistry and fraud in the centres of higher learning, Talmudism and pettifoggery in the courts of justice, mutilation and outright annihilation of the body, intoxication and disorganization of the mind, atheism and materialism in the soul, exhaustively polymorphous perversity (and ironic anorgasmic frigidity) in sexual relations, leveling and promiscuous mixing of every estate and race of Man, and the sociolytic dissolution of natural human ties of kin and kith, and of society more generally. Its true rite is the Satanic Black Mass; its proper cathedral, the tower of Babel.
To be ritually defiled with respect to this foul parody of religion is that proverbial state of cleanliness which is next to Godliness; it is to abjure ritual ablution in a vessel full of filth. To deviate from its plastic rites is to find real religion; to utter its cant incorrectly is to pronounce the truth; to seek out what it condemns and bans as error is to rediscover real learning; and to be condemned as a “deplorable” and shunned by its acolytes is an unintended consideration of dignity. After all, under a general transvaluation and inversion of moral values, logically chandala must be an honourable standing.