An exchange I once had with a gentleman of the Left concluded in his derision of my social thought as a “general celebration of domination”. This same individual was a self-described revolutionary Marxist whose own doctrine explicitly holds that the final liberation of Man from “domination” at the hands of his fellows will have to be preceded by an all-out class war to be followed by a dictatorship that, to start, will by unvarnished force dispossess the losers of that war of everything they have- but I’ll leave that aside for now. Probably every man of the Right has had to endure some variation of this derision, which has been a standing rhetorical slur on all thought deemed insufficiently Left since at least the age of Enlightenment.

According to this rhetoric, everyone who supports the traditional male-headed family must be some sort of closet Mohammedan who wants to reduce women and children to slavery; everyone who acknowledges social hierarchy of any sort must be an “elitist” who despises the common people and likewise wants to see them enslaved and exploited; everyone who avows the indispensability of authority in ordering human relations must be some kind of “Fascist” who wants to abolish liberty and crush the individual under a State jackboot; and everyone who notices differences within the human species must advocate the physical extermination of everybody different from himself. And it goes without saying that everyone who acknowledges God as the final Sovereign authority, as a matter of definition, not only endorses all the other forms of “domination”, but cravenly and rather masochistically wants to be dominated himself, and thus relieved of the existential burden of “thinking for one’s self”.

Speaking for myself against all this, I’ll say, respectively: with Aristotle, that anyone who confounds a wife or a kid with a slave hasn’t thought about it very hard; that the good of the people is the supreme end of temporal law; that the State exists for Man, not the other way around; that difference isn’t a crime, and nobody deserves to be annhilated just because they exist; and that I fear God not as a pretext to avoid thinking, but precisely because I’ve been at it long enough to have gradually come to realize, after countless generations of human forebears wiser than I, just what ultimate purpose rational thinking serves to begin with.

The Left is correct to reject “domination”, considered as avarice and exploitation, unjust initiation of violence, pointlessly overbearing, micro-managing petty tyranny in the home and in the polity, vainglorious scorn and cruelty towards one’s fellow beings, and the falsely abject abandonment of the exercise of the human faculty of Reason. Power, exercised for its own sake, is vicious and disordered. Power, turned away from its own proper ends- which lie outside of the exercise of power itself- is at the same time turned away from its own Nature in an ironically self-defeating way. It cannot even properly be called “power” in that case, but remains at the level of mere coercion that has either not yet ascended to the ontological status of power or has degenerated from it. Coercion pure and simple does not have the full complement of properties it would need to distinguish itself from assault, robbery, murder, and so on. Coercion that fails to organize and exercise itself according to the Natural purpose of power, and so fails to realize itself as such, is thus universally and rightly despised as something on a par with mere street-punk level criminality- which, among its other defects, is contemptible for its weakness relative to the superior strength that, by definition, inheres in true power.

Power, then, is disordered and depraved when exercised as an end in itself- but it is not intrinsically disordered and depraved. A central error of the congenitally superficial and sophomoric Leftist and Modernist tradition of social theory and philosophy is to fail to make this distinction, and the corresponding distinction between pure domination and power; it slurs together oppression and hierarchy, wantonness and Sovereign prerogative, wholly selfish will and law, and indeed, criminality and authority.  This failure, in turn, happens because the Modernist tradition either refuses to think in properly teleological terms or is altogether unable to.

A proper teleology holds that human desire must be willed into conformity with ends given in the Nature of things as discerned by Reason; Leftism holds that Reason is nothing than both the mental by-product and instrument or handmaiden (“ideology”) of ends given in human desire itself. With specific reference to power, a proper teleology sees the will to power as that which is destined by Nature to find expression in authority, as a component of the latter, and functionally subordinate to the ends of authority- which, in turn, is subsumed by the wider ends of society (the need for law, order, organization, etc.). Leftism inverts this conception; it holds that the will to power finds expression as authority, and that authority is nothing more than the vehicle deployed by the will to power for its own ends- namely, domination for domination’s sake.

On this basis, the Leftist tradition creates an entire corpus of social theory according to which all social life in its vertically-organized internal asymmetry,  and by extension all human institutions past and present, amount to so many pure expressions of the will to power, that is to say, so many organized forms of lawless violence, despotism, exploitation, cruelty, et cetera,  no matter that- indeed, especially when- they bear the honoured names of “religion”, “patriarchy”, “Sovereignty”, “law”, or “morality”. The characterization is reasonable enough, given the unreasonable premise that the will to power is its own first and final cause, as opposed to a motive force or efficient cause implicated in a more comprehensive purpose. Here there is no possibility of drawing a meaningful distinction between legitimate power and pure domination, considered as illegitimate coercion; rather, the conclusion drawn is that all power and authority is illegitimate, and by extension, dehumanization and disordereven, and indeed especially, when it is a force for order.

Having concluded that every human society hitherto represents, at once, an expression of human Nature and a disorder of that same Nature, the Leftist tradition draws its characteristic genre-defining corollaries.

  • The incorrupt and wholesome form of human Nature is radically incompatible with, and opposed to, the social state of Man. Since the incorrupt logically precedes the corrupt in time, it follows that the existence of society was preceded by an original human state of innocence in which isolated individuals lived independently of one another, e.g. the “state of Nature”as it figures in the thought of Rousseau.
  • Since society, and the social units and networks hierarchically ordered under authority that comprise its stuff, is unnatural, it follows from an ontological point of view that society is so much mere man-made artifice, and thus from a deontological  point of view that all individuals are by Nature equal in rights.
  • The putative historic moment that individuals first came into contact with one another was the moment humanity went south. Their will to power, dormant in the non-social state- which is analogous to the pre-lapsarian state of e.g. Christian religious tradition- comes into play once they start interacting, leading them to try to dominate and destroy one another.
  • The State, at first extolled as the privileged instrument for restraining the destructive will to power in Man, is itself denounced, first (by Liberalism) as the expression of the will to power of the monarchical despot, and later as the instrument of the will to power of social classes: a tool by means of which the rich exploit and oppress the poor (according to the Socialists), or by which elite State functionaries exploit and oppress everybody (according to the Libertarians).
  • Political critique is subsequently generalized to the entire social body, e.g. the principle of both despotism and class-based political exploitation is discovered in microcosm in the patriarchal family; hence feminism, and by extension, the LGBT movement (since the will to power, according to feminism, is endemic to masculinity and heterosexuality, it follows that a gay male or transwoman is analogous to the redeemed man of Christian eschatology, and a lesbian immaculate to begin with).
  • In all of this, Christianity is denounced as an “ideology” whose function is to provide a high-sounding justification for oppressive and exploitive forms of domination, and to retard “progressive” political critique of all the forms of human hierarchy and authority, and of the solidary human ties they entail. Hence secularism and atheism.

The idea of Utopia, as the Leftist vision of the good life, takes shape accordingly. We have seen that, for Leftism, the original human state of innocence was wholly asocial. On the other hand, the Leftist characteristically wants to have his social cake and eat it too- the life of a hermit or mountain-man being a bit too austere for his urban and rather exquisite sensibilities- so the next-best thing is to do away with society and replace it with a collective: a set of individuals as independent and isolated from one another as they would be in Rousseau’s “state of Nature”, but on an individual basis all completely devoted to a common goal or programme (e.g. Communism).

All hierarchy, by extension all social distinctions of class, sex, or race, and all solidary social organs- above all, the family and the Church- are to be abolished in favour of complete equality; and the destruction of the family is to be consummated by the institution of polymorphous sexual perversity (“free love”). Each individual, while totally independent of every other, is to be made completely dependent upon, and utterly helpless before, the collective; mutual helplessness is the only mechanism of social solidarity Leftist thought can tolerate. Accordingly, each individual is to be forbidden private property- and above all, the possession of arms. 

Finally, it is sometimes freely admitted, at others implicit, that the implementation of all of this would require the installation of a fiercely totalitarian State brazenly unhampered by individual rights, due process of law, and other forms of “bourgeois legality”- but it is also believed that this State, over time, will “wither away” (Marx) and the coordination of human activities spontaneously supplied by infallible, automatic, and wholly impersonal mechanisms conceived in terms of a misplaced and bastardized appropriation of the “invisible hand” of laissez-faire economics.

Utopia, considered sociologically, strongly resembles a barracks, and its inmates, slaves (i.e. slaves are typically forbidden property, arms, and families of their own, totally dependent on others for for their livelihood, liable to be seen as interchangeable for purposes of sexual gratification without respect to gender, etc.). It is thus with utmost sociological precision that Nietzsche famously characterized this sort of thinking as a “slave morality”. Slavery, anywhere we find we find it, either forbids men from forming families altogether, or places severe restrictions on the rights of the father over his household, his wife and children- since, after Aristotle, a patriarchal head of household also husbands over human and/or animal servants, and so logically cannot possibly be one himself.

Patriarchy, our Feminists correctly point out, is the building-block of traditional society and all Rightist thought properly so-called. Patriarchy is masculine strength- virtù- that has ascended to the status of law-giving power- that is, to its own maturity and completion- and realized the purpose for which  it was intended by Nature. We see it in its most elemental and everyday form in every man who marries a woman and starts a household and a family. Here the virtù with which he has been endowed by Nature is put to use to its proper function in supplying, for the household and its members, protection, material care, organization, discipline, and moral and religious instruction.

These functions, however, do not just automatically discharge themselves.Virtù is not the self-executing “fixed-action pattern” found in non-rational animals; knowledge of its own true Nature is nowhere self-sufficiently given within it. It is rather potential, raw material that must be processed and put to work. A man becomes head of a household once he perceives his paternal duties in moral precept taught him by religion and by his own father, and then by will puts his virtù in the fulfillment of those duties. This union of strength and morality in the care and government of a household is properly called authority; the commands issued  to subordinates in the exercise of that authority, law. Authority and law, in turn, add up to Sovereignty.

Nietzsche trenchantly observes that “slave morality” resents and despises Sovereignty with vehemence, and that Modern women are at elevated risk for this sort of thinking. It isn’t a coincidence that Feminism- and its apotheosis, the cult of abortion- occupies the most exalted place in our societies, dominated as they are by Leftist slave morality from top to bottom. Feminism directly takes a battering-ram to the patriarchal pillar of well-ordered society; it encourages wives to not only defy their husbands, but to destroy the household altogether by quitting her husband, taking away or, preferably, murdering their child in the process (with the full blessing, and the terrible weight, of the totalitarian State behind her), and ideally, at least according to the old-school radical Feminist tradition, taking up lesbianism in a separatist Utopian commune.

The specific deformation or pathology involved in this sort of classically Leftist and Feminist revolt against patriarchy, and Sovereignty more generally, can be thought of in terms of an effort to decompose power by detaching morality from it and turning morality against it. Hence all the declamations against Power- exactly as pious as they are studiously impotent– and the Utopian dream of a collective in which Power has made been made to disappear (save for that of the totalitarian State that makes it all possible).

The Modernist war against patriarchy, however, need not always assume the form of a feminist exaltation of the pious impotence of the feminine. It can also assume a masculinist (for lack of a better word) form that exalts the brute physical strength and raw, immature virtù of young men who have yet to assume the status of patriarchs in their own right. Nietzsche and co. like to think of this as a “master morality”, but this is a conceit and an imprecision. Both feminism and masculinism are a form of the Nietzschean “slave revolt in morality” in that they extol the proper virtues of various subordinate members of the patriarchal household over the patriarch himself.  Feminism exalts the woman, who can never ascend to the status of law-giving authority; masculinism, the youth, who is not yet fit to do so, because his virtù is immature.

It is natural, normal, and within limits, healthy for the virtù of single young men to find expression in various disorderly ways. After all, it has yet to be completed and assume its final form as law-giving authority, and so by definition lacks the capacity to order itself. Young men talk a lot of trash amongst themselves, get into fights, take stupid risks in order to impress girls and each other, and generally cause trouble. They are dumbasses, and by Nature are supposed to be. The ignorance, unruliness, and want of self-government they conspicuously display is a boon to society in that it proves, to them and everybody else, that they are fit for action only under authority, and ought to willingly receive instruction and allow themselves to be bossed around by senior men they could easily overwhelm physically, but who are wiser than them. In particular, their enthusiasm for violence, organized under due direction of their rightful superiors, supplies the bulk of any society’s military defense.

A variant of Modernist thought, however, confounds this youthful stage of male psycho-social development, and its corresponding characteristic mentality, with manhood in general. This muscular modernism can found in, variously, the misanthropic and nihilistic Nietzschean philosophies of elitist individualism, related extreme forms of Libertarianism and Anarchism, Social Darwinism by whatever brand-name, militaristic Nazi and neo-Nazi (14-88) thought, and the transgressive, trash-talking “chan” tendency on the alt-Right. Standard-model Leftism-Feminism sets morality over, and against, power; in these philosophies, power is turned against, and set above, morality. Once again, there is no distinction between legitimate power and pure domination- but this time, the “will to dominate” is something to be celebrated, not reviled.

These ideologies all set themselves up in fierce opposition to standard-model Socialism; but close inspection reveals that they share, with their bitterest enemy, a common core of structural constants that mark both as so many variable expressions of the Modernist thought-scheme. The masculinist variants emerge out of a bug in the Modernist code, namely an unresolvable tension between its individualism and its collectivism.

Collectivism is inherently unstable in that it is premised on the most extreme hyper-individualism, and promises the absolute “liberation” of the individual- and then turns around and demands total, Borg-like subordination of the individual to the collective. The day the rugged-individualist type on the Left finally learns that the cause he has championed plans on going much further in restricting his rights- at first exalted, but now condemned as so many pernicious and obsolete vestiges of racism, sexism, whatever- than the putatively “oppressive” social order it taught him to despise can be a bitterly disillusioning one. Additionally, it is likely that this man, as an individualist attracted to contrarian politics, had already set himself apart in his own mind from the broad majority of “sheeple” to whom he felt superior (with or without justification).

Having already made himself unpopular to a greater or lesser extent by thinking this way, he becomes even more so once he either abandons and/or is expelled from the ranks of the Left- a movement that, just like its Puritan cognate in the field of religion, always styles itself as minoritarian, a tiny Elect set apart by Grace from the unregenerate majority. Being kicked out of the movement doesn’t induce him to abandon this crypto-Calvinist conceit, though. On the contrary: it is intensified to the second power, and as a matter of psychological adjustment must be if he is to get through the process of being shunned and, for at least a time, socially isolated with his self-regard intact. He now has a hyper-minoritarian and hyper-elitist attitude, which manifests itself in his worldview, for as long as the Modernist thought-scheme has not been abandoned, in the following typical way:

  • The Modernist thought-scheme admits of no social distinctions other than the isolated individual on the one hand and the collective, as the mass of isolated individuals taken together (the “People”, “Public”, “Nation”, etc.) on the other. There is accordingly no way that it can accommodate the upper-caste pretensions our disaffected gentleman has, since it recognizes no caste distinctions. The only way he can find himself in this scheme, and set himself above those he implicitly views as Shudra (“sheeple”), is in terms of a radical exaltation of the individual over the collective in an (itself inherently unstable, as we shall see) inversion of Leftist collectivism. This is very congenial to the rugged individualist, who recognizes himself much more readily in the heroic image of a lone wolf standing against Society than as a member of an organic caste of society.
  • Thus the individualistic elements of the Modernist scheme- which hold that Man in original and pure form is asocial- are emphasized at the expense of its collectivistic elements. Since the collective itself is nothing more than the set of generic individuals, the end result is an elitism that looks down with contempt on the human race in general, not just inferiors. This means the inherent egalitarianism of the Modernist scheme has been preserved intact throughout the “elitist” inversion of its valuations- something that aggravates misanthropic thinking greatly inasmuch as it leads to judging the poor “sheeple” according to a standard they cannot possibly live up to, and sneering down at them accordingly.
  • Since there are no formally-definable rank-orders of superiors or inferiors in this Modernist scheme, there is no way that duties of care owed to inferiors by superiors- e.g. of a father over his family, lord over vassal, pastor over the whole community- are even conceivable here. It follows that, for misanthropic elitism, power can mean nothing other than pure lawless violence, coercion, and domination exercised by individuals who happen to be stronger than the others- which latter, as mere victims or losers, deserve to be conquered but seemingly never defended. As with standard-model Leftism, the distinction between legitimate power and pure domination is meaningless.

It is really nonsense and an abuse of language to speak of “elitism” here, since the reverse-Utopia of diverse Nietzschean LARP fantasies of conquest, bloodshed, and domination, just like its Socialist/Feminist opposite, has radically done away with all organic social hierarchy in spite of itself. In its place is a fantasy-themed re-branding of the old juridical image of the Hobbesian state of Nature, with the valuation changed from negative to positive- and the Hobbesian state of Nature is certainly no hierarchy, but a contest between peers and equals that never resolves into the formation of a Natural hierarchy and cannot (as Hobbes himself- a way more rigorous thinker than Nietzsche- took great care to point out). It is meaningless to speak of “hierarchy” in a competitive environment, for no superior condescends to fight or otherwise compete with an inferior, who in turn is in no position to legitimately offer a challenge.

These misanthropic and (sometimes avowedly) Satanic fantasies seriously misconstrue both the idea and the actuality of Sovereign power. War, subjugation, ruthlessness, will- these are all certainly necessary, but not sufficient conditions of Sovereignty. In every age, race, and civilization of Man, Sovereign largesse and grandeur have additionally been defined in terms of benevolence, mercy, charity, generosity, and above all, justice- the latter something that inheres in the very idea of rule. The formula, “might makes right”, is logically inadequate. One might as well say that “engines make cars”, while neglecting that a car also has a chassis, wheels, steering and brake mechanisms, etc. without which it cannot possibly function as a car or even be conceived as such. And, in the same way that an engine must be added to the other components that make up a complete car in order to realize the purpose for which it was made- failing which it is no more than a waste of metal and labour- the “will to power” must become more than a willingness and readiness to find itself some victims.

Anything else is retarded, in the strict sense of arrested development. It is philosophical juvenalia that is either stunted at- or has regressed to- the stage of the puerile. The 14/88-type idea that a society should, or possibly could be, organized according to the principle that the strong should devour the weak, that by extension the State should indiscriminately and mercilessly exterminate e.g. simpletons, minorities, and all sorts of people, etc. is obviously a gang mentality, the spontaneous (and, to be perfectly clear, proper) expression of the raw, immature, and lawlessly exuberant virtù of a bunch of single young guys with no truly adult responsibilities or authority, who have a lot to prove to themselves and others, and who are oriented towards physically fighting other groups of young guys just like them.

In its highest form, this mentality, with its youthful carriers, is organized, disciplined, and deployed under authority so as to serve the purpose of supplying the defense of the nation. When duly completed in this way, the gang mentality ascends to the level of martial honour, the virtù of the Kshatriya caste- something that no society can or should do without. But, absent this process of transformation and completion that cannot take place outside of a formalized and well-regulated militia that directs youthful aggression to its proper social purpose, the gang mentality is something men are either expected to grow out of or degenerate into so many criminals whose natural home is jail.

In any case, the gang mentality cannot supply the foundations of a general philosophy of Sovereignty, since at very best it represents the values of a particular caste- the bulk of whose ranks, moreover, as common soldiers are by the Nature of things destined to take Sovereign orders, not to give them, and thus cannot possibly be fit to order themselves, let alone society. The military indiscipline in early-20th c. Germany that, when it encountered Nietzschean and Social Darwinist thought, found formal expression in the catastrophically pathological National Socialist doctrine that led the State there to exhaustively complete ruin, is a very instructive example.     

The likes of National Socialism, Social Darwinism, the Nietzschean oxymoron of “aristocratic individualism”, etc. only superficially appear Right-wing, or at best are denatured mutilations of Rightist thought. They are masculinist, but not wholesomely patriarchal. They are, in fact, as radically anti-patriarchal as anything a Socialist or Feminist ever came up with. It is suggestive that the architects of post-Marxist thought on the present Left held Nietzsche in the highest esteem- for the dream of Nietzsche, no less than Marx, was one of patricidal usurpation. Their common tendency to aggressive atheism, by itself, is a tell-tale giant red flag here, both because atheism must lead to treason petty and high, and because both Marx and Nietzsche agree that Christianity does nothing but fetter the mental and physical forces of Man.   

Since a gang is an association of peers, a brotherhood, any philosophical expression of its mentality must tend towards egalitarianism. Finally, since a gang demands absolute loyalty and individual sacrifice to the brotherhood,  Nietzschean “aristocratic individualism”in actual practice ironically defaults right back into the collectivism it vehemently rejected. It is in a barracks (sometimes literally, in this case: the army, or prison) with a bunch of single (it is symptomatic that neither Nietzsche nor Hitler married), propertyless, and servile inmates that we find ourselves once again. The slave morality, moving in a circular arc through the “master morality”, returns to its point of origin and completes the circle, from slavery to slavery.

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15 thoughts on “Might against Right: False Modernist Conceptions of Power and Sovereignty as pure “Domination”

  1. Absolutely excellent. Your writing really is a notch above the rest.

    Perhaps this is obvious, but it seems that the rise and fall of these different “systems” largely correspond to the civilizational cycle. Masculinist during social disorder, patriarchist during stability, feminist during decadence. Modernity is unique in that the cycle has sped up so much that a very large crash lurks on the horizon. Yet, that might be the only way to slow it down.

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  2. Thanks Testis. Re: the civilizational cycle: I think that the sort of decadence that gives rise to feminism is something really new on the human historical record. Lots of human history seems to observe a cycle in which patrician stability is punctuated by various plebeian rebellions and disorders (some of which are institutionalized as customs, of which e.g. trick-or-treat on Halloween is a vestige) following which everything goes back to normal. But I’ve never heard of anything quite like ideological feminism as we know it right now in any other civilization and find the very idea hard to imagine. In any case, you’re right- a very large crash looms, I’ll add, not just on the horizon, but seemingly around the corner.

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    1. I was thinking “feminist” in a general sense of passivity, crying about oppression, focus on the appetites, and so on. Of course, the modern form takes this to the extreme. But we can see similar inclinations throughout the fall of empires. Rome with its marriage and prostitution problems, the shift to vulgarism and laxity in Athens, a degenerate aristocracy before the French Revolution, etc.

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  3. I really want to wrap my mind around the concept so I sincerely ask, who is more “patriarchal” in your view: the Mohammedan with four wives and a busload of children, or the Christian who is limited to one wife educated to high standing in the arts of domesticity and civilization?

    The Mohammedan certainly aspires to rule over the young men in the arts of war while mastering the telos of his law and faith (there always seems to be a paucity of older suicide bombers despite the presumably deeper understanding of the sacrament of Jihad among the elders). The successful polygamist is certainly near the top of his caste but his is a status into which he can raise only a minority of his boys. The rest must be cast out, used up in war, made victims of pederasty; and is that patriarchal? As for the girls, if they are to be traded among the elite men of one’s caste, there remains here too a limit to how much they may be educated into the higher arts of one’s “civilization”. One’s “patriarchy”, if that’s what it is, must remain relatively rough and undeveloped.

    As for the Christian, to civilize all his children requires he invest more in fewer, including the girls; it is to invest in a culture of striving in which wives and even spinsters are going to play a big role in civilizing and match making. Even if many norms of patriarchy are upheld, if sovereignty remains clear, there will be an acknowledgement of women’s secondary power in some spheres which, given the mimetic and rivalrous nature of humanity, will at times qualify male authority, leaving the trap door somewhat open. Furthermore, the civilized necessity for a strict law of monogamy encourages a greater dependence on the fraternal over the patriarchal, as we might well see that your way of opposing the two makes sense only when we compare strictly the young and old. But in Western civiilzation there has always been a great emphasis on the fraternity of patriarchs or patriarchs-in-the-making (e.g. the knighthood); and despite good intentions, of some perhaps, this has been to erode the authority of the biological and extended family at the expense of the imagined family of church, nation, lodge, etc. And it is through institutions associated with these imagined communities that the feminist and the compromised patriarch come to assert herself, e.g. your unmarried Hitlers.

    After the crash, as you predict, will a restoration of patriarchy require something of a new, post-Judeo-Christian, focus for male transcendence?

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    1. -Definitely agree that the Mohammedan-type way of doing patriarchy, if I understand it correctly, seems to be pretty poor form, something that’s properly called barbaric, especially with respect to the attitude towards children you mention. A brother of mine spent a number of years in an Islamic country and has some pretty illuminating anecdotes about this subject; among other things it seems that a lot of these polygamists aren’t especially provident to say the very least. Hopefully he’ll get around to commenting about this here.

      -I’m hoping that, post-crash, people will spontaneously find their way back to sensible family arrangements and relations between the sexes- which were still the norm in the West well into living memory- without the need for an altogether and truly new focus of transcendence.

      -You wrote that:

      [I]n Western civilization there has always been a great emphasis on the fraternity of patriarchs or patriarchs-in-the-making (e.g. the knighthood); and despite good intentions, of some perhaps, this has been to erode the authority of the biological and extended family.

      I understand the fraternity of patriarchs to be the definition of aristocracy (or, in democracies, “civil society”). I might be missing something here, but I’m not seeing how aristocracy could possibly erode the authority of the biological and extended family, which the principle of aristocracy presumes (every aristocrat is a Sovereign in his own right, which is a right over a household whose core is a biological family).

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      1. Well the Western norm is that we live in nuclear families, not extended ones. We are somewhat more likely to bond with non kin in civil society than we are to invest ourselves in (let alone be ruled by) uncles or cousins. The development of the nuclear family has a long history, but it is tied in good part to the church’s struggle to gain loyalties at the relative expense of the family. So priests were made officially celibate (even the aristocratic ones), cousin marriage was restricted, all sorts of “fraternal” associations were created into which energies were invested, all making it more likely that estates (in whole or part) would be inherited by the church. Western religion does have a problem with patriarchs who would set themselves up as clannish Big Men indulging in forms of insular reciprocity that are not mediated by a larger society of interdependent nuclear families. Contrast an Arab “aristocrat” or prince, focussed on his clan, with a Western one focussed on court or high society.

        Similarly, modern nationalism and civil society have demanded and received huge sacrifices from men that have come, presumably, at the opportunity cost of families (not that there aren’t also rewards associated with being members of the “extended family” of the nation). I would say that while the fraternity of patriarchs is indeed rooted in family leadership, these roots can be forgotten as the aristocratic brotherhood serves as a model for all the disciplines and associations of civil society. We live in a culture where everyone aspires to be an aristocrat in his or her own little domain/club, an imperative that seemingly encourages forgetting, inasmuch as we no longer presume an “aristocrat” must be the head of a family. Give the vote/membership to everyone who can play a part. Thus we have lots of unmarried, childless professionals.

        Would we be talking about a crisis of sovereignty (and fertility) today if civil society, in large part, hadn’t somehow forgotten its roots in the family?

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      2. @John
        Are you sure a patriarch really rules a harem of four wives, each with 10 children of her own? Or is it more an internal competition between the wives, each of them helped by a set of eunuchs, sons-in-law or powerful courtiers. Why did King Solomon succeed King David? Of course, some of the sons managed start a rebellion too early, eliminating themselves in the process. Among the remaining ones, Solomon was the favorite son of his mother, who was the favorite wife of David. And she was aligned with Nathan, one of the top courtiers, while measures were taken to kill other top courtiers such as Joab.
        Likewise, Suleiman the Magnificent was succeeded by Selim II, the favorite son of his favorite wife Hurem, who made the aging ruler suspicious of his designated heir Mustapha, whose mother was the most senior wife. Again, Hurem was aligned with her son-in-law, the grand vizier, Rustem-pasha.

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      3. I think that in most any patriarchal system, no matter how formally rigorous, women exercise informal indirect power and authority in their own right, especially in the ruling classes. I think this is why Aristotle characterizes the authority of husband over wife as republican as opposed to monarchical or despotic.

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      4. @DS
        Certainly, and therefore having one woman conspire in favor of her son (and herself) against the other woman and the son of the latter results in bloodshed. The problem of poligamy is not a woman exercising power, but a woman trying to eliminate the competition. The manners of harem are sly, treacherous and opposite to masculinity.

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  4. Some may call it barbaric and in a sense it is. Yet, not all Mahometan societies are alike and I was in one for about eight years (West Africa). This was not at all in semblance to the Western stereotypical hellhole such as Iraq or the Stans. To characterize it correctly, dysfunctional comes to mind.

    The State governance is standard French in character along with optional Sharia for those so inclined, in the civil domain of family law. And it was in the family, or patriarchal, aspect that the dysfunction was manifest. In the bush villages, one would keep his four wives at bay in the same yard and there was the busload of filthy urchins wearing rags, with the survivors destined for more of the same. I made a rough mental average of twenty or so, attempting to live on a few dollars per day.

    What was truly bizarre were the actions of those who more properly could be considered the elite or one percent. They were more educated, sometimes abroad, yet did exactly the same but on a more grandiose level. The status of having “made it” was having the four wives but each in a different city and at great expense. Had the resources been concentrated on one, the standard of life could have been very good (I was senior management and thus knew exactly their salaries). Instead, these men made a circuit, frequent enough to pay the bills, and each one lived in a squalid hovel, with the same urchins in rags but the father figure was absent, only popping up one weekend a month. Very subpar.

    Perhaps this dysfunctional and failed patriarchy was responsible for the national pastime: Cheating each other. Treachery as sport in day to day life. The spectacle of the devout, following Friday prayer, secreting themselves in the bushes at the Chinese bar, to imbibe freely and partake the delights of young working ladies. Given this, it was remarkable that violence was rare in the society. Needless to say that the government was completely corrupt. I called that a twisted form of “direct democracy” – later, as an independent businessman, many rules were bent or made for me by means of the consideration contained in the gift envelope.

    I am most happy to take specific questions on this.

    – Alchemist

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    1. Ah, so you finally got around to commenting here, couldn’t have been more timely. The modern bourgeois family form of the West is a vast improvement on the traditional model insofar as, if and when people get around to having kids, they zealously dote on them instead of leaving them to be raised by servants or, in the case you described, neglecting them. Another disadvantage, which you mention, is that the more traditionally-minded patriarchs tended to practice adultery as a form of competitive sport, no matter constant religious exhortations against it, and did so undeterred by the possibility of getting shot in a duel or, under e.g. Sharia law, publicly executed.

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