Some time during the past ten years, the tendencies to religious enthusiasm that had always been present in the Left all of a sudden broke out as though into a fever. “Political correctness”, a phenomenon hitherto more or less endemic to the University, where it was the preoccupation of a tiny elite of deconstructionist literary critics and the like, became a veritable pandemic of holiness. Out of nowhere, seemingly every half-literate middlebrow with an Internet connection and a social-media account was virtuously and authoritatively exhorting others against the evils of racism, bullying, “homophobia”, and something they always pronounced like “mahsawdgenny”. It wasn’t always clear just what exactly these epithets were supposed to mean, but their incantation soon came to define middle-class respectability in much the same way public religious observance once did; mutatis mutandis, anybody expressing incorrect thoughts and opinions was liable to be stigmatized as though an apostate or heretic from an established public religion. 

All this was accompanied by a sort of triumphalist gloating on the part of the political Left, the likes of which would embarrass the most obnoxious sort of sports fan, combined with something very much like Chiliastic millennialism, but with a remarkable twist. This discourse did not merely prophesy that a  thousand-year Kingdom was at hand; it triumphantly proclaimed that the new Kingdom had already arrived. An ostensible Satanic cabal of White heterosexual men had finally been stripped of their unearned “privilege”, and their tyrannical reign overthrown. Non-Whites, upper-class White women, Mohammedans, and assorted homosexuals and cross-dressing castrati were to triumphantly ascend to the spiritual aristocracy of this immanentized Divine Kingdom; and everybody else branded as “deplorables” and condemned to a temporal Hell of structural employment, drug abuse, and poverty. (Wealthy White males were evidently to be spared by some kind of unspecified special dispensation, but this is a digression).

At the same time, a quiet transformation was taking place on the political Right. At first in a subaltern underground, the dominant ideology was losing its grip in an unprecedented way even as that grip seemed to be tightening around everyone’s throats in a likewise unprecedented way. A so-called “conservatism” consisting of an iteration of the hegemonic Leftist programme and worldview somewhat tempered by civic prudence, which had reliably dominated everything on the Right since the 1950s, all of sudden became deeply unfashionable. For the first time since the 1950s, the Right not only did not drift further to the Left, but abruptly broke to the Right. So far Right, in fact, that- for perhaps the first time in Anglo-American history- it was able to break free of the laissez-faire Liberalism in which all authentically Rightist thought had hitherto been contained in a sort of ideological quarantine, and thence establish ideologically self-sufficient philosophies under the broad sign of the “alt-Right”.

The new underground intelligentsia of the Right found an ally in a White working class under dire existential threat of being reduced to pariah status and ultimately, headed for obliteration by social attrition much as the Indians before them (i.e. demographic overwhelming, cultural annihilation, economic marginalization, social disorganization, and all the attending pathology). They were not yet prepared to go there; the elitist ambitions of the Left were met with a populist insurrection that took the Left unawares, culminating in unexpected, almost-preposterous victories in the form of Brexit in the U.K. and the election of Trump in the USA. The triumphalism of the Left was premature; its pride went before its fall. The “arc of history” has not yet bent to its terminal point after all. The Left had hoped that its religion stood in the same place in 2016 as Christianity in 360 or Islam in 1453- but the hope was vain. The Left’s religion has failed.

Much the same can be said of the Left’s triumphalist boasts as folk wisdom says of braggarts in general. The taunting and bragging, the doubling-down on insufficiently Leftist speech and so on, all along was really pointing not to an impending “Leftist singularity”, but to the profoundly insecure power of the Left. I shall say that this insecurity of power, in turn, stems from the chronic social and institutional disorganization of the religious side of life in Modern society- a state of affairs that Left worked very hard to bring about, and from whose effects the Left itself is not exempt.

*****

The folly of attempting to install Leftism as a substitute for religion is that Leftism, by design, is an instrument for the destruction of religion. The whole Leftist project, in essence, is an attempt to bring down the Ecclesiastical power and so do away with the historic chief rival and obstacle to the totalitarian State; a war against the Church waged in the name of the State by private actors who are not themselves members of the State, but see in the State apparatus a mighty tool for prosecuting their own pet projects and agendas, and thus do whatever they can to advance State power in the hope of one day seizing it for themselves.

These private actors are, above all, secular doctors and literati- philosophes- or people with intellectual or other sophisticate status pretensions (e.g. journalists, urban bohemians and libertines, semi-literate bourgeois goodwives acting above their class, etc.) and/or actual structural points of contact with the academic world (students, artists, accredited professionals, etc.). It follows that the appearance of the modern Left is historically coeval with the increasing institutional differentiation of education from the other functions administered by the Church (in which process the expropriation of education by the State was decisive), the corresponding increasing importance of academic disciplines other than theology (at first, and significantly for present purposes, law) and the corresponding increase of general literacy outside the ranks of the formal clergy.

This secular intelligentsia and its coterie of wannabes and hangers-on, then, was birthed in the erstwhile institutional milieu of the old Brahmin or priestly caste, by a process of social speciation from the latter caste, and bears the marks of its pedigree all over it. Like priests, the secular literati are released from immediately productive forms of work in order to specialize in the use of language, above all as it pertains to the norms, rules, and laws of human conduct; in that capacity, they likewise claim a privileged and exclusive charism to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, and therefore likewise and naturally believe themselves rightfully paramount over the other estates of society- above all, the men of commerce and finance (Vaisya), whom they despise as rapacious, venal, and corrupt.

That having been said, the secular ensemble of radical profs, student activists, “socially conscious” artistic and media producers, “public interest” lawyers, social movement organizations, know-it-all technocrats and social engineers, crusading scolds, and so on that we know as “the Left”does not simply amount to a secular re-branding of the old priesthood. Secularization has been accompanied by speciation here.Taxonomically, there are obvious family resemblances between the old Brahminate and the Left- but also special characteristics that are far from merely accidental.

As a new species of religious functionary, the Left is anatomically ill-formed and physiologically unsound, and pathologically so. It is a functional equivalent to the Church that isn’t quite up to the task; at once enough like the priesthood to try to fill the latter’s shoes, and enough unlike it to fail comically. The Progressive religion-surrogate shares, with traditional religion, eschatological hope for the eventual redemption of Man and a life in which there is no longer any discrepancy between essence and existence, ought and is, right and fact. Where it departs is in thinking that this state of affairs must be brought about in this life and under Man’s own power, with the omnipotent temporal State standing in for the omnipotence of a God dead of atheism and materialism. The Utopian State, by definition, can attain to God-like singular omnipotence only if the social field is utterly leveled, everybody reduced to equality, and all rival and self-sufficient institutional powers obliterated; it follows that the religious goal of salvation cannot be realized unless religion itself is abolished first.

This contradiction leaves the Left in an inescapable and self-defeating paradox. Its tactics, of necessity, are overwhelmingly and self-consciously negative and destructive, critical and revolutionary, in character. Any attempt to institute Leftist dogma as a surrogate religion is thus doomed to end up in much the same place as somebody who sets out to build a new house with only the wrecking-balls, sledgehammers, and dynamite he used to demolish the old house at his disposal- tools that are all exactly as impotent to build up as they are powerful to tear down, and when deployed as instruments of order succeed only in introducing chaos (which, after all, is exactly what they’re supposed to do). The Left, then, when in a priestly mood finds itself in the unenviable and ironic position of trying to exercise a form of social authority it did everything in its power to subvert and undermine, of having chopped into firewood the very cathedra on which it needs to sit.

*****

In any society, religion is the chief mechanism of social integration, the grand unifying principle that, encompassing every particular under compulsory membership and universal jurisdiction, speaks authoritatively with one voice for the whole society. What that voice pronounces has the character of transcendent and objective truth insofar as it is binding on each and every particular. This ultimate transcendent truth is the apex mechanism of social solidarity and order in that it is the guarantor of the legitimacy of every other such mechanism: the Sovereignty of the State, the laws and customs that define appropriate relations between individuals and assign them reciprocal rights and obligations accordingly, etc.

Religion, then, is to society as operating system to computer. It follows that any civilization naturally has a “theocratic” character, and that by Nature the priests, the Brahmins, are the paramount caste. N.B. a society can only pretend to do away with religion and theocracy. “Secularism” is a Modernist conceit and disingenuous Utopian fantasy. Religion is absolutely indispensable to the orderly functioning of society; where secularism is imposed, society always either successfully resists the imposition or finds some functionally-equivalent surrogate. If the surrogate turns out to be functionally inadequate, then social pathology and disorder of greater or lesser severity is introduced.

To substantially alter or destroy the religious mechanism, and its univocal unifying truth, then, is to substantially alter or destroy the whole social order united beneath it. Hence, from the Reformation onward, the enemies of the traditional order, the nascent Left, sought to sow discord and rupture the unity of the Christian faithful; to level the Ecclesiastical hierarchy and proclaim every believer his own priest; to splinter the Church into factions, and factions of factions, which refuse the jurisdiction of the parent organization, and moreover entreat the State, in the name of “tolerance” and the liberty of “conscience”, to altogether strip religion of its compulsory character and deem it a “private” matter of no public significance.

Thus the erstwhile authoritative truth of Christian religion, over time, fragments into a congeries of idiosyncratic personal opinions, viz. subjective non-truths valid for nobody save those who on a purely voluntary basis choose to hold them; the inevitable eventual result is that participation declines and the organizational solidity of religion crumbles accordingly.

The Left, of course, has always held ambitions of stepping into this void and filling it by proclaiming a religion of Humanity. It has not, however, succeeded in realizing this dream or come close, since it has destroyed the sociological conditions of its ever doing so. The Left desperately wishes to be able to authoritatively pontificate ex cathedra– but, thanks to its own successful, termite-like efforts to eat away at the foundations of religious life, wants for a pontiff, a chair, and a cathedral. What today is called “the Cathedral” is nothing more than a congeries of private actors who happen to share the same set of private opinions, the sum total of which does not amount to public doctrinal truth- since they have no formal institutional unity, no formal hierarchy and leadership, and are entirely lacking in formal public jurisdiction and authority. Even the Universities, who actually enjoy quasi-ecclesiastical corporate standing at law, are nonetheless strictly voluntary associations that can neither compel membership nor belief.

Nor can “the Cathedral” get the State to compel belief for them- since, in the USA, from the outset the State was Constitutionally committed to the principles of non-interference and freedom of conscience by the Left in its struggles against the established religions of the day, leaving today’s Left with only narrowly limited and occasional instruments- an abortion or discrimination ruling here, a gun-control law there- with which to impose its dogma on others. And the adversarial political culture that goes hand-in-hand with divided Sovereign power at the level of the State guarantees that roughly half of the electorate at any given time will bitterly oppose any such measures as a matter of principle, thus defeating their purpose. (We will return to this below). “The Cathedral” is little more than a ghost of established religion, in a sense more than merely figurative: just like a ghost, it wants for a solid body in which it can be incarnated and gain substantive material existence.

*****

Much the same set of considerations goes for the Cathedral’s functionaries, the secular literati and the semi-literate “social-justice warriors”. These sorts claim a privileged ability, on the basis of educational attainment and/or intrinsic personal qualities (viz. real or imaginary experience of social degradation and victimization), to authoritatively distinguish right from wrong, and thus to direct State and society to their final eschatological end and make the rules for everyone in the meanwhile. In this respect, they claim the status of sacred people exercising a religious function, and so, like the Brahminate or First Estate of traditional society, comprise a spiritual elite.

Taking the Puritan hypothesis seriously, however, means recognizing the distinction between different types of spiritual elite. The Puritan, and his latter-day, wholly-secular legatees, and the Brahmin are not members of the same sociological species with only accidental historical particularities to differentiate them. Far from it:

  • The religion of the Brahmin is corporatist; it represents the unifying principle of a hierarchical system of differentiated, asymmetric and interdependent social units (families, guilds, castes and classes, etc.) organized into a solidary living body by the Divine, as the abstract corporeal body of the Divine (e.g. the “mystical body of Christ”). This religion, then, is aristocratic and holistic. The Brahmin caste represents the lead organ of this human body writ large (according to Aryan tradition, God created the priesthood from His head, the nobility from His heart, and the peasantry from His feet); as such, it is tasked with the direction, care, and maintenance of the whole body, and the well-being and harmonious mutual functioning of all its constituent organs, each in their well-defined rightful place.
  • The religion of the Puritan is overwhelmingly individualistic. Human hierarchies and collectivities organized under authority, far from representing the social embodiment of God, are so many man-made social constructs and conventions whose legitimacy disappears before the Divine, before whose power all individuals stand equal in their common subordination. To the Brahmin, human society is sacred; to the Puritan, it is profane, at best a contrivance for physical security in this life, at worst, an insult to the sovereignty of God and an obstacle to the execution of His will.
  • The Brahmin is a spiritual elite in the broadest sense of a general conservator and caretaker of the whole social order; the Puritan, in the narrowest sense of a sort of self-appointed Divine prosecutor. The Brahmin is an authority figure, in the comprehensive sense of a pastor. But the Puritan, unlike the Brahmin, is not formally appointed by virtue of his social station to assume a duty of supervening oversight and care over society. On the contrary: he appoints himself to act as a vigilante enforcer of right against society. The care of society isn’t his job and means nothing to him. He would, if anything, gladly cause society to be destroyed altogether, if that’s what he thought it would take for God’s will to be enforced. And that’s exactly what he actually thought. Hence the infamous factionalism, dissent, and separatism vis-a-vis the established Church, the theory and practice of popular sovereignty culminating in full-blown insurrection and regicide, the Leveler-type tendencies, and above all, the ferocious anti-clericalism and support for the universal priesthood in word and deed, all characteristic of the experience of dissenting Protestantism in Anglo history.

Today the signification of “Puritan” approximates that of “authoritarian”, but this is an abuse of language. The Puritan, while an almost psychotically punctilious and ruthless rule enforcer, is the opposite of an authority figure: a spiritual outlaw and renegade, a born leveler and enemy of all social orders of rank, an antinomian and anarchist, a sower of discord and force for social disorganization. All of this is hardly the stuff of which secure and stable authority is made. Authority represents the organized whole over the part, the universal over the particular. Puritanism, born of faction and separatism, does the exact opposite. It is, in fact, the historic germ form of the abovementioned secularizing particularism that erodes the universal authority and public truth of religion and finally dissolves its solidity into a gaseous cloud of idiosyncratic personal tastes and opinions held by isolated and disorganized private individuals. Once again, this sort of thing is powerful to tear down existing authority structures- but to build new ones, not so much.

A few centuries worth of this, and the latter-day legatees of the Puritans- the secular Left- end up with a religion dilapidated and disorganized to the point of non-being: a ghost Church with no flock, no rites or services, no pastor, and nobody capable of authoritatively settling matters of doctrine, judging disputes, or otherwise compelling anybody to do anything. Their social disorganization approximates the absolute.

There are, to be sure, a few de facto dedicated positions of authority for them to occupy: professorships in the social sciences and humanities, “human rights” tribunals in Canada (which have official censorship and other powers, and may be considered a secular descendant of Church courts), and HR/diversity officers in both the University and the business sector. The bulk of SJWs, though, are so many mere busybodies and back-seat drivers; isolate and atomized private citizens invested with no formal authority whatsoever, who represent nobody and authoritatively speak for nobody, and are socially no better than the rest of their fellow private citizens under the very regime of legal equality the Puritan and Leftist traditions helped to secure. The various SMOs and advocacy groups have no formal corporate authority over the constituencies they take it upon themselves to speak for comparable to that of, say, a professional college or even a labour union, and don’t seem interested in acquiring it; the likes of Black Lives Matter don’t even have an internal leadership structure.

The SJWs claim a priestly authority to discriminate right from wrong and exhort others accordingly; but that is where the similarity between SJW and Brahmin ends. The average SJW wears no vestments, administers no rites or sacraments, has no congregation, and cannot discipline or excommunicate. Unlike real priests, these self-appointed impostors have no formal vocation or consecrated socio-legal status, are not socially entitled to any special personal deference, and their moral judgments have no public weight. (The State has a monopoly on that; the rest is so much private opinion).

The various holy harridans and sacred scolds, to be sure, excel at getting their way in public settings and in convincing decision-makers to bend to their will- but this is not because others are obliged to defer to them. They get their way the same way difficult people in general do: they hector, harass, complain, threaten, cajole, whine, and manipulate until the opposition is too exasperated to continue and gives them what they want in order to be rid of them. They may also resort to a strategy, found in many cultures and historical periods, whereby people, in order to get what they want, publicly and dramatically feign grievous injury in order to draw sympathetic attention to their plight and get redress for the putative wrongs done them. Either way, though, if the opposition stands firm and refuses to yield, and judicial bodies decline to intervene, then the SJW is completely impotent.

*****

In any case, the Left is hamstrung by the ever-increasing particularism bequeathed it by the intrinsically minoritarian and separatist Puritan tradition. For Brahmin and Kshatriya, rules are to be made, and power exercised, for the conservation and good of the whole social body. Hence their power is legitimate and monarchical. For the Puritan and Leftist, public power is to be seized with the aim of exercising it exclusively for the benefit of a faction: the faithful of the One True Church in the Puritan’s day, in ours, a particular caste or caste fraction or coalition of such particulars (e.g. women, gays, minorities, favoured economic sectors and cronies of the Party) against the others (heterosexual White men). This power, then, is usurpation and despotism (Marx’s revolutionary “dictatorship of the proletariat” is the most blatant example). Politics becomes a Hobbesian war of the organs of the social body against one another, an adversarial contest not coincidentally similar to civil litigation (law, as one of the first secular fields of study, made possible the rise of the secular literati, and to this day the Left is over-represented in the field), a zero-sum sportsball game in which the object is to utterly vanquish the opposition and take home all the spoils. For the inherently corporatist Brahmin this would be inconceivable, tantamount to dismembering and mutilating the body of God.

In any case, the prosecution of politics as a zero-sum adversarial contest, as a sportsball game, has a disadvantage the American Left is presently being made to face: you wins some and you loses some. The Left at once has enough Puritan in it to go out and try to pick fights in the most possibly confrontational and provocative manner, and enough Brahmin to expect others to just deferentially lower their eyes in response. The Left is rather like the mythical Lady Godiva in this respect. Godiva, however, as an aristocrat with secure authority, was able to cause Peeping Tom’s eyes to be put out for his insolence- something the Left, which has no more authority than any other private citizen, can’t do. A blow struck against an equal is likely to be met with response in kind; a sportsball game has two teams. As we noted above, provocations in the form of efforts by the Left to make the rules for the whole country at the expense of the values and traditions of those deemed atavistic and unregenerate, and out of pure spite, have the effect of provoking vehement opposition where none existed before. Exempli gratia:

  • the now-defunct universal gun registry in Canada, enacted at the behest of feminist SJWs to explicitly symbolize a triumphant ascendancy of feminist and Leftist values over traditional masculinity- and which promptly generated an atypically vehement backlash, in a country that hitherto accepted all sorts of stringent gun controls without complaint, that eventually contributed to unseating the Liberal Party and keeping it out of office for almost ten years. (The present Liberal government, to date, has accordingly and wisely rejected calls from the far Left to revive the registry).
  • Gamergate, in which yet another finger-wagging Canadian virago unwittingly contributed her fair share to swelling the ranks of the alt-Right by provoking a bunch of gamers ordinarily uninterested in politics into suddenly becoming a lot more interested.
  • The “basket of deplorables”, which as the tip of a vast iceberg of particularist contempt for the White working class galvanized a particularist politics of the Right in the form of a race and class-conscious populism united behind President Trump.

These sorts of antics both reflect and self-aggravate the severely insecure authority of would-be elites who fail to grasp that taking an adversarial posture vis-a-vis a putative inferior necessarily has the effect of raising the inferior to their level and lowering themselves to his (a contest is fought inter pares; one does not fight an inferior!) and so unintentionally, and with comic irony, forfeit the superlative caste status they claim in the very adversarial process by which they try to claim it. When the Left wins these contests, they win only the status of first among equals in their opponent’s own league, as opposed to an exclusive and superior league of their own, which is what they crave- and when they lose, the loss is devastatingly humiliating. (The emotional trauma displayed by Clinton’s supporters in the wake of her electoral defeat is no mere affectation). Caste pretensions and equality just don’t mix.

*****

A self-appointed moral crusader and rule-enforcer, who has no formal authority, who speaks for nobody, and who has the same status at law as everybody else, can nonetheless cut an impressive and convincing figure to the extent that he can exhort and hector the others in the name of some transcendence that everybody recognizes: God, Revelation, right Reason, and so on. For a long time the Left was, in fact, able to informally exercise this most elementary of priestly functions and, notwithstanding the abovementioned limitations, do so successfully enough of the time to dominate public life. But the secular Left ultimately outsmarted itself with the culture of skepticism, atheism, and irrationalism it devised and deployed in order to bring down the old, established religions. In this historic endeavour, the Left did an almost-admirably thorough job of eroding every possible form of transcendence in which religious truth-claims could be grounded:

  • In the name of Reason, it derided the idea of God as so much superstition: a laughably obsolete vestige of primitive pre-rational cognition yet unacquainted with “scientific” method; a ruse invented by priests to keep the people ignorant and hold back the force of progress; a crutch leaned on by those too weak-minded to think for themselves. Intuition of the Divine is explained away, in the crassest of reductionist and positivistic terms, as nothing more than a hallucination or other illusory epiphenomenon of unconscious neural processes and pathologies.
  • Having subverted the authority of Revelation, the Left then turned against Reason itself in an attempt to also do away with rationalistic transcendence grounded in the irresistible force exercised by the laws of logic on the human mind. On the basis of a misunderstood historicism, it argued that no two cultures or historical periods can agree on questions of method- and therefore there is no such thing as objective truth. On the basis of a misunderstood sociological relativism, it argued that different societies have different normative standards- and therefore all moral precepts are man-made “social constructs” with no universally-valid contents. It rejects the Rationalist conception of an eternal order of immutable forms in favour of a radical nominalism in which “man makes his essence” in perfect freedom. And, on the basis of the Marxist critique of “ideology”, it argued that the very idea of objective Reason is no more than a pretext to justify the oppression of women and people of colour by white heterosexual males.
  • With the postmodern turn on the Left towards avowed particularism in the form of identity politics and the like, the Left forfeits even secular-political transcendence in the form of the old Liberal civic Nationalist tradition- the “American civil religion”– with its ideal of the State as a genuinely public power impartially administered in the name of the “public good” without regard or preference to particulars, all of whom stand equal before, and inclusively united in, the State, through which the whole Nation speaks with one voice, and which can therefore plausibly take on the function of public religion.

The effect of all this is that, where the old-school, Bible-thumping moral crusader at least had cultural, if not institutional-legal, authority, and could compensate for his lack of personal power vicariously by invoking the Logos, the secular Left no longer even has that much going for it. Its positions are so many assertions with neither supernatural authority nor rational proof to back them up; they have neither the terrible swift sword of Divine vengeance nor the inescapable iron laws of thought to give them force. Nor can it appeal to transcendentally inclusive civic notions like patriotism, “equality before the law”, and so on, which it rejects as a matter of openly and aggressively particularistic principle, to the point of being outraged by the idea that e.g. “all lives matter”, that the Nation has a right to exist as such, etc.

The net result is that nobody- including the Left itself– seems able to define just why it is exactly that e.g. unisex bathrooms, affirmative action, late-term abortion on demand, etc. are such urgent moral imperatives. All of these positions, to be sure, once had formal grounding in fairly rigorous theories of “social justice” and so on- but these theories have, by and large, fallen into desuetude with the recent de-intellectualization of the Left and the increasing preponderance, in its ranks, of low-end middlebrow and aggressively Philistine SJWs who read nothing but social media and vulgar anti-intellectualist rags like Jezebel. Any attempt to engage this sort in rational debate is rewarded with a torrent of ad-hominations, non-sequiturs, feigned trauma, and a soupçon of platitudes of critical race or gender theory altogether garbled into outright nonsense in the course of transmission down the broken-telephone chain from their originators to third-tier adjuncts in area-studies departments to undergraduates and finally, social media.

In a highly literate and rationalistic society, this sort of thing can only go so far. The unlettered tub-thumper of old could always fall back on the pure Gospel and the immediate intuition of God in the conversion experience, against which any rationalistic argument is so much man-made sophistry- but the Jezebel-reading feminist SJW who deems the right to abortion to stand above rational scrutiny while simultaneously deriding faith and revealed truth at every turn finds herself with her back to the wall and an abyss in front of her.

The only way out of the dilemma is to make an opportunistic exception to irrationalism and appeal to the cultural authority of science and “expert” knowledge. But the Left’s historic efforts to demolish clerical authority are proving to have been too punctiliously thorough for its own good here. The postmodern culture of skepticism, and the egalitarian erosion of social hierarchy more generally, has resulted in a situation where secular “expert” authorities- technocrats, professors, “scientists”, and even physicians, to say nothing of journalists- are no longer taken at their word by the public they way they used to be.

This crisis of credibility is aggravated by the increasing tendency of these expert functionaries to abandon the professional authority upon which their former credibility was predicated in the first place, namely their independence and autonomy vis-a-vis external political and economic interests and agendas, consecrated by professional norms of objectivity and impartiality that endowed them with quasi-priestly authority insofar as those norms embodied a priestly universalism that excluded particularistic bias. The increasing tendency has been for these professionals to reinvent themselves as rent-seeking activists or industry spokesmen, and in those capacities, finally as so many copywriters and shills, and in an ever-more blatant and shameless way. In tandem with this phenomenon, and against it, there has been the rise of scientifically-literate amateur debunkers who take it upon themselves to hold official science to the scrutiny peer-review fails to supply. The legions of rent-seeking racketeers behind the climate-change religion are presently being made to learn the hard way, by the efforts of these debunkers, the fatal flaw of trying to establish a religion on “scientific” findings, and on State policy measures based on them:

  • “Scientific” claims, which concern the transient flux of temporal phenomena and not the eternal and immutable, unlike the fundamental articles of a religion are inherently subject to empirical falsification.
  • Secular public policy, the opposite of religion, is subject to change at the will and pleasure of the public administration at any given time, and as the State deems circumstance to warrant. The modern State most assuredly does not claim to be the custodian of eternity and the sacred. On the contrary: its power is avowedly wholly temporal and profane, and anyone who looks to the police power (of all things!) to enshrine the sacred and perdurable is liable to be suddenly and very sorely disappointed.

 

*****

Religion properly so-called is most unlike the modern policy-making State and the latter’s ideological cognate, the “progressive” worldview of the Left. Religion is a force for conservation and continuity, for the maintenance of the equilibrium of a social order that maps on to the eternal body of God and the immutable order of the cosmos outside all time; hence the all-important role of ritual and the practices of memory that ensure that things are done today as in the past, with the memory of the past always on the horizon of consciousness and venerated in the present, and the opprobrium to the discontinuity of innovation.

The progressive worldview inverts religion. Religion attempts to slow down time; it strives to make the temporal world approximate the eternal, extra-temporal order as closely as possible. The progressive worldview does the exact opposite: it draws a radical dissymmetry between the temporal and the eternal, between a totally depraved and absolutely corrupt present and the Utopia of perfection that awaits at the end of historical time, and accordingly strives to accelerate time, the better to hasten Man’s arrival to the immanentized Eschaton. The rate of acceleration down the road of History to its end is slowed down by obstacles in the form of the existing social order- which, far from being something sacred that bears the shape of the Divine, is so much Man-made darkness, ignorance, oppression, and corruption to be bulldozed out of the way. Tradition and all the achievements of the ancestors are to be discarded and swept aside, notwithstanding that- or indeed, especially to the very extent that- those things were hallowed as sacred; for there can be nothing sacred in the absolutely depraved and corrupt temporal order. From the start, then, progressive Modernity was iconoclastic, making a veritable cult of disruption, innovation, discontinuity, and irreverence, which are extolled as the highest forms of ethical action and human freedom. In the famous words of Marx:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors” […] It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm […] All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.

This impulse to transgression and profanation of the holy is obviously incompatible with the institutional stability of religion- and the effort on the part of the Left to establish, in the wake of traditional faith destroyed by the progressive worldview, a surrogate national religion based on the progressive imperative as its fundamental article is rather like an arsonist trying to put out the fire he started with the gasoline he used to start it. Any attempt this religion makes to set somebody or something aside as sacred necessarily contains an open invitation- indeed, an ethical command– for somebody to come along and try to desecrate it; any attempt to establish public piety, an open invitation to mocking impiety; and any attempt to set a rule or boundary, an open invitation to transgress it.

Hence the rise of the alt-Right, which plays exactly the same impious and subversive role vis-a-vis this Leftist religion as the Marxists, modern artists, sexual libertines, atheists, and deconstructionists of the old Left did vis-a-vis Christianity. The Leftist Pandora, it seems, is unable to simply close the box of evils she opened against religion the minute she decides to start one of her own. The Left, of course, never for a second understood the cult of free speech, independent thought, withering social criticism, transgression of all taboo, and the sovereign authority of individual conscience that it preaches when in opposition as anything other than tactical weaponry to be decommissioned the second the Left attains to power, or intended any of it to apply to anybody other than the the Left itself. But it was historically forced to preach that cult as a universal faith, and the values of freedom of expression and so on as perdurable and inviolable Rights of Man.

As luck would have it, the right to criticize social superiors, flaunt rules of public decorum, and insolently mock all public pieties proved irrevocably popular with the plebs, with youth and the working classes, since it legitimates and indeed, consecrates populist rebellion against elites. This consecrated rebellion, since it is every bit as much an expression of the Leftist religious imperative to transgressive “creative destruction” as anything the Left itself ever did, cannot but assume the status of sacred desecration, pious impiety, observant lassitude, and reverent blasphemy against that very religion– all as insurmountable as it is absurd in that whatever formal censure is brought to bear against the holy mutiny sanctifies it even further. The Left, then, outsmarted itself in devising a social technology so ingeniously and diabolically effective that, once set into motion, it cannot be disabled or defeated- even by its inventor. Dr. Frankenstein: meet your monster.

*****

Some concluding remarks. None of the foregoing should be understood as some kind of triumphalist proclamation of a final and fatal self-defeat of the Left. On the contrary. Morbidity is not interchangeable with mortality, and self-defeat does not imply suicide. Leftism is a failed religion- but its failure is not yet absolute. If anything, the Left will weather its present crisis bloodied but unbowed, notwithstanding that the more unhinged and megalomaniacal of its recent ambitions have been immediately thwarted. And partisan rotations of government will happen again for as long as divided power, and the culture-mentality that birthed and sustains it, persist. In the long run, the nation will continue to move Leftwards, even though it will haltingly slog as opposed to effortlessly coast there.

Leftist social thought will no longer enjoy the monolithic uncontested hegemony it has enjoyed for many years; the Overton window, having widened, will probably continue to widen, or at least not narrow. It is likely that the nascent intelligentsia of the new hard Right will continue to thrive and grow outside of the institutional orbit of the increasingly dilapidated and pathological University system, at the eventual expense of a (yet to be established) quantum of the social prestige and influence of the latter, and for the first time in modern history break the monopoly of the Leftist spectrum of thought over the world of belles lettres. The Left will, however, for the foreseeable near future maintain its lock over the University and the other organized ideological apparatuses- which, while increasingly decrepit, will not become altogether impotent until social disorganization becomes absolute and State and society finally collapse.

In light of the last point, and as paradoxical as it may seem, from a sociological point of view the cracks in the Leftist edifice aren’t a sign that things are getting better, but rather if anything that they’re going to get much worse before they get better. The failure of the Leftist religion-surrogate is a failure of social control at the most basic level, indeed, of the very possibility of effective social control. A society that loses its ability to hold thought, belief, and sentiment within limits of variation deemed acceptable to its elites is on the road to becoming completely ungovernable.

Both the ascendancy of the Left over the traditional order and its failure to to supply functionally adequate substitutes for traditional institutions point to a set of long-standing and underlying pathogenic social processes the Trump administration will be quite powerless (and in any case, will not even seriously try) to ameliorate:

  • An internally-divided and depersonalized, but morbidly bloated and totalitarian public power rules the whole national territory with no limiting case in the form of self-sufficiently independent authority and jurisdiction on the part of the Church and the family. Legal obedience has replaced the moral sense in Man, and utility-maximizing rational economic action as allowed by law taken the place of ethical self-government, viz. liberty. The State accordingly domineers private life in all its aspects. Institutional capture of the State apparatus, in turn, becomes the supreme prize for all sorts of actors with ends other than the public interest in view.
  • Women are deemed morally superior to men, divorce is permitted, and wives quit, and children are taken from, the household; everybody becomes totally independent of the family bond, and totally dependent on the pseudopaternalist State. Public obligation is owed to juridical abstractions and not actual people (“the rule of law not men”), and society reduced to a theoretical fiction. Individuals become sociopathically callous towards one another, to the point of cheering violence and murder in the news, although at once far too effete and pusillanimous to dish it out personally.
  • A vast and centuries-long project of social leveling, homogenization, and standardization that attempts to obliterate the different types and Natures of Man and force-fit the farmer, the warrior, and the priest into a single social mould, that of the middle-of-the-road bourgeois.  Exaltation of the mediocre, the pedestrian, and the Philistine against the exceptional as classically described by Nietzsche.
  • Materialist monism that recognizes no reality other than the temporal, that finds Man’s last end in bodily health and economic prosperity in this life, and sees the spiritual life and highest values of Man as a by-product of unconscious physiological processes and/or the physical properties of the physical environment. Redemption is recast in terms of public-health and economic-growth targets, and modern medicine and the police power of the State attributed with salvific efficacy.

All of this defines the very contours of the totalizing power of the modern State, and is thus anterior to any particular partisan ideology of which it comprises the substrate. What we know as “the Left” is a symptom, not an etiological first cause.

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30 thoughts on “Leftism, The Religion that Failed: A Study in Insecure Power and Social Disorganization

  1. The serious flaw with this article is that religion is every bit as modern as secularism. The etymology is clear on this. The word religion entered as word for someone entering a monastery in the 1200s and latter morphed into what we have now. Earlier incarnations such as religio don’t correspond at all. The idea of religion as you put forward is a modern one, and was born with secularism. Other cultures had this concept imposed on them as well with the arrival of secularism (the modern state) Hinduism, Buddhism etc. were invented in the 19th century.

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    1. Glad to hear from you, I love your blog and read it regularly. I’d answer that the political origin of the concept, “religion”, does not by itself disqualify it as a legitimate category of analysis; pretty much the whole kit and caboodle of modern social science emerged in a conceptual space established as an artifact of modern politics.

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    2. @RF
      Why should the first or second result of the query “religion etymology” returned by Google be considered so relevant?
      When reading St. Augustine (+430), http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/august.html
      I can see that De civitate Dei (I fortunately own a bilingual edition; Latin+my Slavic mother tongue) is full of occurrences of “religio” which would normally be translated as “religion”, and which is not equal to “cultus” (cult, worshiping) and “fides” (faith). Of course, there is
      no “religio” without public “cultus”, and avoiding or mocking the “cultus”, the public expression of “religio” means a disrespect for the system, which raises a legitimate concert of Power structures running the system.
      Augustine also frequently uses the adjective “religiosus”, which I would translate meaning “pious”, “having faith” or “taking one’s religion.
      English is not the only language in the world, so let us not over-estimate . In my own mother tongue “religio” is normally translated as “faith” (also there is a single word for faith and creed as well as the single correspondent verb for believe and trust); there is a slavicized word for “religion” which has the appropriate Slavic suffix, but this word does not occur before 20th century. A word that exist since 16th or 17th century can be literally translated as “faithconfession”, i.e. “confession of faith”.
      Nouns religio, cultus, fides and verbs credo, confiteor… all related. But aI do not see a fundamental discrepancy between “religio”+”cultus” + other set of corresponding words applied by Augustine and the term “religion” used by DS, as an amalgamation of “faith”, “belief”, “worship”, “worship in public”, “confess” etc.

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      1. I agree with pretty much everything Cavanaugh and Nongbri have to say in that review. But it strikes me that Cavanaugh slips into what I like to call misplaced historicism, a.k.a. social constructionism. The concept of religion historically emerged as an effect of the relegation of the Church to the “private” sphere by the State; the Ancients understood religion differently; and it follows, for Cavanaugh, that:

        we should treat [religion] not as a thing we encounter out in the world, but as a category we use to construct the world in different ways

        The nominalism at work here is cut from one and the same cloth as the argument that e.g. there’s no such thing as race, since the idea of “race” is a historically variable and shifting social construct (which is true, but there’s more to it than that). To be sure, it is of supreme importance in our history that “religion” was increasingly stripped of its public authority and kicked downstairs into a “private” sphere created concomitantly with the public power of the modern State. But I don’t see how it would improve our understanding to get rid of the word, “religion”, nor for that matter how the facts of the matter could be described in the abstract without using the term.

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      2. @RF
        Thank you for the link. When speaking of “religion” I usually mean it (particularly when talking to people with reactionary inclinations) in the sense of “religio”, not in the sense of its reduction of which Cavanaugh speaks (and which indeed is seems to be the primary understanding in mainstream talk or in “I am spiritual but not religious person” gibberish). Yet, English is not my mother tongue and in my mother tongue “religion” would indeed have this reductionist meaning.
        Cavanaugh warns that “religio” of the Romans may be related more to “cultus” than to “faith”, which is to be expected after the encounter of polytheist Roman myths with philosophy. Yet, when Augustine uses “religio” related to Christianity, then it encompasses both “cultus” and faith/metaphysics/worldview.
        I still believe that DS used the term “religion” in its non-reductionist sense, meaning an entire mindset and worldview, a set of metaphysical/theological axioms expressed in a formal “confession of faith”, which, of course, are always accompanied with a public cultus.

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    1. They can try to shun you personally and convince others to. I don’t mean to underestimate the gravity of this sort of thing, which is very unpleasant at least and can mess up careers and lives at worst. But it still lacks the authority that a formal excommunication has in times and places where everybody is obliged to participate in religion. One person deciding to shun another is a mere difference of subjective opinion; a religious official who speaks for the Divine and the whole community lays down the absolute truth and the law when he does it. Formal excommunication and anathemization also used to entail, in addition to being shunned, loss of legal rights and sometimes exile or capital punishment. Last but not least, the Left can’t even threaten anybody with eternal damnation, or perpetual disgrace in the form of e.g. refusing to give you a proper burial, since it teaches the people that there is nothing beyond death worth worrying about.

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  2. Great article. Glad I finally got to it.

    Riffing a bit here, Leftist authority is non-authority because it undermines the very notion of authority. If hierarchy and attending authority is a natural part of society, it is presumably a part of even rebellion based authority systems like Progism. This condition is witnessed in every cooperative collective or consensus committee where natural leaders rise to the top and effectively create and control the consensus.

    Of course this is really just an exercise of power and not any real natural authority as we would see it.. Still this power is given the stamp of authority due to its association with ‘theory’ and ‘ analysis’, and so is revered in society.

    In traditional societies, power was exercised under natural authority, but this does not mean that all power exercised was the best course. This is obviously true or you or I or anyone else would not need to be theorizing about this stuff. Nor does it mean that the authoritative power was necessarily just or true in any way. If we turn it into power for its own sake we might as well fast forward to Nietzsche, and forget about tradition.

    The question becomes, what is the underlying weakness of Prog power? As power, linguistic power fundamentally, linguistic power ultimately backed by social and economic ostracization, and ultimately by state violence. We may say this power is not authoritative in a traditional sense. But if this trad authority were truly baked into the reality of social organization why would it fail? And if it failed due to social disruption, why wouldn’t it correct itself?

    Again, what is the weakness of Prog power? Lack of will to power? That is because its method of acquiring power was social destruction, and so it has built into it a fundamental self-doubt and so can never earn the status of a well grounded authority. And if Progs were able to find this will to power, such as O’Brien in 1984, who seems to care nothing for authority but only the raw execution of power as power and founded on nothing more than power, what would stop them from more securely establishing hegemony?

    If we are to resist this, will we be able to simply wait for this Prog order to collapse under its own folly? Do we trust our commitment to natural law and order sufficiently to believe their metaphysical victory over this mongrelized order we suffer under? Or will our descendants wonder, if indeed they still can, why we didn’t act when we had a chance?

    But now I posit transgression to Nrx discipline. I am but a sinner though, in need of redemption.

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    1. You sure have a knack for asking hard questions there, William. (That’s alright- I like hard questions!)

      “We may say this power is not authoritative in a traditional sense. But if this trad authority were truly baked into the reality of social organization why would it fail?”

      I think that to the extent that trad authority is truly baked into the reality of social organization, then it is still at least quietly running in the background in some form or other for as long as society remains viable.

      I think that historically Prog power, at least in the form of Anglo-American Liberalism, succeeded because it did not immediately take all its precepts to their logical conclusion and did not make good on all its antinomian boasts right out of the box. For example, once the Puritans got to America, they suddenly and famously forgot all about dissent and freedom of conscience and all that, returned to the authoritarian views of Calvin, and founded a rigorously well-ordered theocracy. Later on, in the Enlightenment, the American Founding Fathers, although often not religious themselves, were self-consciously aware that the secular order they were erecting would be unsustainable unless buttressed by traditional religion, and did not give in to the idea, fashionable in Enlightened salons of the day, of doing away with it altogether. In Canada, there once was actually a law requiring people to show up for worship at the Church of their choice every week. And in both the USA and Canada, notwithstanding ideas like “equality before the law” traditional face-to-face social hierarchies operated as before at the level of everyday life and continued to do so for a long, long time (especially in Canada). The traditional, patriarchal family, too, was exalted along with religion as a pillar of Liberalism. And the school taught the virtues of obedience to authority, as opposed to merely demanding it in the course of teaching kids the exact opposite, as is the case right now.

      I think that it was under this compromise arrangement that Prog power, shored up by enduring vestiges of its opposite, saw its glory days, in which the USA and Canada became the world’s most prosperous nations, and the USA the most powerful. Now this power is busily sawing off the branch on which it historically sat. We’ll see what happens.

      “If we are to resist this, will we be able to simply wait for this Prog order to collapse under its own folly? Do we trust our commitment to natural law and order sufficiently to believe their metaphysical victory over this mongrelized order we suffer under? Or will our descendants wonder, if indeed they still can, why we didn’t act when we had a chance?”

      I can’t speak for NRx, but I think Karl Marx answers this question plausibly: successful resistance comes about when a given social order is already in the course of collapsing, as both a symptom and efficient cause of its general collapse, but not before then. Hence the emphasis strategists like Lenin placed on a having a correct analysis of the situation at any given time, on being able to identify the exact circumstances under which resistance will actually precipitate a collapse instead of just fizzling out or otherwise failing.

      I personally don’t think we’re there yet, but only at an embryonic stage where it’s just started to become possible for people to think non-Prog thoughts and communicate them to others. Again, we’ll see what happens.

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  3. Given the central role of religion as the opposite form of the Left in your analysis, here are some maxims of Sean Fielding’s to consider as your ideas evolve:

    1. Religion are distillations of the deepest beliefs and habits of particular peoples, particular ethnic groups.

    2. All religions experience schisms and unions that reflect ethnic schisms and unions.

    3. Over time, all peoples get the religions they deserve.

    4. Leftism is therefore also a religion. It is the religion of modern universalist Whites – those Whites with the least clannish natures, amplified and manipulated by Jewry and Judaism and seeking its suicide in the non-Leftist, non-universalist brown global lumpenproletariat. It is Shakerism writ huge, but with quite altered personal morality.

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    1. I certainly agree with all this, but a religion, in order to maintain the effective grip on thought and action it needs to maintain itself with stability, also needs to have a definite institutional embodiment through which the deepest beliefs of a particular people are formalized and transmitted, and their habits sustained. It needs to be able to compel membership, fix doctrine for everybody, administer discipline in the face of deviance, and conduct rituals that are carried out the same way every time they are performed, and so help maintain the continuity of the beliefs and habits of the people. Leftism ends up forfeiting most or all of that- with one result that the ideal of national suicide is starting to become rather unpopular, and there’s basically nothing the Left can effectively do about it. Considered as religion, Leftism is seriously defective and dilapidated.

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  4. Thanks Aristocles. I also think some of the more intelligent and moderate people on the Left are starting to get the idea, and show signs of wanting to step back from the holiness spiral into insanity that we’ve seen in the past few years. It’s going to be very interesting to see to what, if any, extent, the Left is still capable of self-correction.

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  5. Without going into so much detail as above, we previously wrote about atheistic totalitarian regimes not wanting the competition for people’s loyalties that organized religion presents. As well, atheistic totalitarian regimes do not want anyone to be able to appeal to a higher moral authority and condemn the State’s actions (murderous under Stalin and Mao). The State takes the place of God in totalitarian regimes.

    You are quite right about the Left taking on some of the characteristics of religion. Leftists possess a dogmatic ideology that cannot be questioned and those on the Left can be and many are quite fanatical.

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