Transition from Modernity: A Review of Alexander Dugin’s “The Fourth Political Theory” (Part 1 of 2)

Siryako Akda

Due to the complexity of the The Fourth Political Theory and the wide array of ideas presented therein, I considered it prudent to divide my review into two parts. The first part will deal with Dugin’s political and geopolitical theories, while the second part will deal with the more abstract aspects of his thoughts.

Discussing Alexander Dugin’s latest book, The Fourth Political Theory is in many ways a difficult task, mainly because the book itself is extremely abstract, and also because it attempts to address various complex issues simultaneously. So I think it’s best to start my review by stating that I have read many of Dugin’s translated articles and have watched many of his videos online, many of which are too arcane for my intellectual faculties.

Despite these difficulties, however, Dr. Dugin’s lectures and pieces are always illuminating and interesting to ponder. So when I finally got a hold of one of his books, I already had a good idea of what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed. The book contained plenty of inspiring ideas, many of which possess a semi-mystical quality to them. I had to read certain paragraphs 5 to 18 times on certain passages just to get a good idea of what he’s trying to convey.

So having said that, it’s worth remembering that Dugin’s ideas are not suitable for everyone, since his writings need to be approached using an almost esoteric mindset. One could even say that Dugin is an elitist in this sense, since he attacks the modern and post-modern worlds on a very abstract level, often without any reference to realpolitik or deference for the pragmatic political concerns that politicians care about. In other words, the target audience of the 4th Political Theory are counter-elites, those who are eager to have an alternative system to the one that currently exists.

Worried about mass immigration, gay marriage, and oligarchs destroying your country? Dugin considers these things symptoms, rather than causes. Concerned about policy, economic development, U.S.-Russia relations, the upcoming Sochi Olympics? These are short term concerns.

perf5.500x8.500.inddAccording to Dugin, Liberalism as well as its trajectory, Postmodernity, are the things that we should be really worried about. The system, not the problems that it causes, should be our primary target, and the system, Dugin says, is centered around the Western World, and the United States in general. This assertion will very likely turn off many Western readers, especially since Dugin can – at times – sound like a stereotypical Western leftist, but despite such impressions, it would be a mistake to consider him as the Russian version of Noam Chomsky.

For one thing, Dugin criticizes the Western World from the point of view of tradition and authenticity, as opposed to liberal egalitarian mores. Therefore, one should refrain from attacking Dugin’s ideas based solely on his attitudes towards the Western World in general. For Dugin, Western civilization is not evil in itself, but evil in its role, which is to say that it is the nexus of the global order.

Aside from such abstractions, not to mention constant references to Dasein, Dugin also focuses much of his theories on the global and international level. This is ideal for foreign affairs and international relations types, but it does have the drawback of making the theory somewhat abstract on a domestic level. For those whose main concerns are focused on what’s happening in their backyards, the 4PT can seem too distant and nebulous, perhaps even full of BS.

However, Dugin’s appeal for a global struggle against Unipolarity and global liberalism also offers context for those who are concerned on about domestic and local issues. It frames the struggle of all peoples in the twentieth century as various pieces of a much larger and overarching civilizational conflict.

Because of this point of view, Dugin, like Pan-Secessionists and National Anarchists, also seeks an alliance of disparate radical groups to create a unified front against what he considers the American Empire. Whether he will succeed in this outreach is still a matter of debate, but for Dugin, this attempt at forming tactical alliances is more than just a pragmatic decision, it’s an attempt to create new battle lines and new forms of being.

What is the 4th Political Theory?

Well, for starters, Dugin provides an open ended assertion of the matter by stating what the 4PT is not, which is to say that it is a theory which opposes the first three political theories of modernity. Dugin claims that the time of Liberalism, Communism and Fascism are over, and that now, the possibility of something new is emerging as we transition from the Modern World into the Post-Modern world.

For Dugin, the first three political theories are rooted in Modernity. Even Fascism which sought to recreate organic communities, in the context of Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, is rooted in the ideals of modernity. Dugin considers Atheism, Materialism, Cosmopolitanism and Racism as various competing and contradictory facets of Modernity, but nevertheless parts of it. As such, Dugin’s 4th Political Theory is a theory of Post-Modernity, but it is also a Post-Modern theory of authenticity.

The important difference with the 4PT is that it is dynamic vis-a-vis the other political theories. It is an attempt to break away from the modern Western eschatology, which he considers as an imposition upon the rest of humanity. Both Multipolarity and Dasein serve one purpose and that is to help humanity break away from the logocentric Western global system, which exists today.

For Dugin, the end of modernity also marked the end of the first three political theories, and the 4th Political Theory is a theory that seeks to transcend both modernity and post-modernity, which is why he is insistent on using Dasein as his subject. To his credit though, and unlike the demagogues of the past, Dugin does not claim that the 4th Political Theory is inevitable. He states that this is only possible through choice and struggle.

The Multipolar Ideal

Dugin’s solution to the problem of Modernity and Post-Modernity, both of which he also associates with Unipolarity, is the Multipolar Theory. This theory, along with his theories on Dasein, the Radical Self and the Ontological dilemma of Postmodernity, plays a prominent role in the 4th Political Theory. In formulating the Multipolar Theory, Dugin draws heavily upon the Eurasian tradition, submitting the idea that the world should have several centers of power, each of which will be independent from the others.

Each pole in the possible multipolar world will represent a civilization, and Dugin refers to “civilization” in a political sense. He refers to civilization, albeit loosely, as something dynamic that offers new forms and possibilities. This is in contrast to modernity and post-modernity which seeks to encapsulate the human subject into a virtual bubble and an “endless end of history.”

Aside from opposing global homogenization, Multipolarity is also an attempt at preserving differentiation and authenticity by protecting each civilization from the imposition of other civilizations. Elimination of oppression and global hegemony is just one part of the goal of Multipolarity, however. Aside from Dugin’s hostility to Pax Americana, he considers liberal Post-Modernity as a threat to the human race, and marks the coming of age of the Post-Human.

All this talk about civilizations and poles seem to me like a reworking of the Eurasianist model, which sees Russian/Eurasian civilization as separate and different from Western Civilization. This will no doubt cause a certain degree of irritation among white nationalist types who consider all White countries to be part of Western Civilization, despite geopolitical and historical concerns, but for Dugin, it is essential to recreate what is organic, rather than what is racial, and for Dugin and other Eurasianists, like Lev Gumilev and Konstantin Leontyev, Russia has always had a separate experience from their Indo-Aryan kin in Western Europe.

Regardless of what one may think about Dugin’s desire to revive Eurasianism or his slavophile perspective on certain issues, one should not ignore the larger picture, which is the need for a dynamic and relevant alternative to the existing geopolitical dispensation. This alternative, however, must be rooted in what is authentic. In this sense, the multipolar ideal presents one such alternative among a whole host of other possible options.

Additional Thoughts on the 4th Political Theory

Although the premise of the 4th Political Theory is relatively easy to understand, the ideas associated with it do present certain problems. For starters, Multipolarity seems to be based on a scaled up version of the non-aggression principle. This is something I really don’t agree with, since human history has been defined more by the balance of terror rather than non-aggression per se. And even though Dugin does not rule out the possibility of conflict among civilizations, I remain very skeptical of the feasibility of a Multipolarity that is exclusively based on non-aggression simply because human beings have had a long history of wanting to impose themselves on their neighbors.

In my view, Multipolarity can only work if it creates a synthesis of the non-aggression principle as well as the Balance of Terror, and even then any success may be far from stable. So even though I believe that the multipolar ideal is possible, I think that the concept will require a lot more work before it can be developed into a practical geopolitical framework, or at least made compatible with the inherently violent nature of human beings.

Feasibility issues aside, another flaw with Multipolarity is that it assumes that the vast majority of the world wants it. In this, Dugin makes the assumption that modernity is the result of American Hegemony when the truth is less flattering. Modernity exists because certain segments of the world’s population want it to exist. They get something out of it, and that is why this will likely continue to exist even without the aid of the present American State.

In discussing the issue of contemporary materialist culture, Dugin uses the allegory of a “washing machine” on page 85 (Conservatism and Postmodernity) to represent this trend. Disappointingly however, Dugin hasn’t elaborated on the issue of the global economy (i.e. the washing machine), and simply states that it can be easily overcome. He states that:

“The Western liberal model says: You want to oppose us? Please, you have the right; but, look: you will not want to give your washing machine back, right? The washing machine is the absolute argument of the supporters of progress. After all, every one wants a washing machine – Black people, native peoples, conservatives and orthodox…”

He then goes on to say:

“If one thinks about the metaphysics of the washing machine, to what extent it is coupled with the real values of a philosophical system, one will be able to come to the conclusion that in general, human life is possible, and perhaps even has the potential to be entirely happy, without the washing machine.”

The washing machine, of course, represents the idea of material progress. However, this dismissive handling of the economic issue is problematic, I think, because the greatest power of the Modern world and the Postmodern world to a certain degree is largely economic in nature, expressed largely by global demand and a sort of bastardized collective will to power.

Regardless of what we may think of the global political dispensation, it runs on money. From economic development to mass immigration, to environmental exploitation to political stability, money is what makes the modern world go round; and it is this desire for material wealth that drives people to support the establishment. For material wealth is not just about hookers and blow, it’s also about medicine, education and clean water.

In a way, this is the source of Pax Americana’s authority. The consumer goods which flow around the world is the raison d’etre of the entire global order for in an attenuated way, such goods represent the rights of the liberated individual to become like Americans (i.e. economically secure in the context of the modern world). If our modern world is indeed based on consumption and materialism then these things are manifested in the things that we desire and consume. Man as a consumer cannot be separated from the depoliticized Post-Human in Dugin’s analysis. Therefore, it is wrong for Dugin to casually dismiss the economic issue by stating that it is something that man can walk away from. We cannot just walk away from such things, at least not without a struggle and a working alternative.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous article, large sections of what may be called the Third World support greater global economic development (i.e. globalization). Why do they want this? Well, it’s because they want Dugin’s “washing machine.” They want to be as rich as the white people that they often accuse of greed and materialism. Greed and luxury, not oppression and tyranny, are the power keys of the Globalized Post-Modern World.

This presents a difficult position for the 4th Political Theory because it fails to offer a tangible myth other than an escape from Postmodernity, American Hegemony, and Consumer Culture. For Dugin and for counter-elites, such things are important, but these are not the kind of things that will let you raise an army, nor is it the type of thing that will endear you to the global masses, who are currently inured to Facebook and porn.

Another flaw that I consider in Dugin’s political thinking is his cultural relativism. Just as I don’t believe in equality between individuals, so too do I doubt equality between different groups of individuals (i.e. nations and civilizations). Although it is true that there can be no universal, objective standard to define which civilizations and cultures are the best and which ones belong in the trash heap, it’s also worth pointing out that hierarchy will always exist wherever political relationships exist, and even in Dugin’s multipolar world, there will still be foreign relations, and these foreign relations require a certain degree of comparison and exchange.

When one culture meets another culture, it is inevitable that they will begin comparing notes and accomplishments. Although the outcome of such comparisons are always open to further discussion, such comparisons ultimately lead to hierarchies and a certain degree of competition. Dugin claims that this is a form of “intellectual violence,” and therefore immoral. However, human beings are violent creatures, and therefore, this comparison and imposition is consistent with the nature of man.

Therefore, appealing to a form of cultural relativism, where everyone is good and special in their own way, will not eliminate the conflict of civilizations, nor will it stop people from comparing their wealth, heritage and power with each other. The best that we can hope for is to limit such rivalries and comparisons, and to increase each pole’s adaptability vis-a-vis the other poles. This is because, even if the various poles of the world can refrain from attacking each other in the quest of creating another unipolar world order, there is still the question of creating several poles/civilizations which are more or less on a par with each other.

I have serious reservations about this, because I believe that, at this time, the creation of the multipolar world requires the recreation of traditional civilizations, but each with a new, adaptive, and dynamic essence, and I believe that this is a very difficult thing to do. Such civilizations need to diverge from what has been done in past one or two centuries, and they also need to diverge from each other. This is the only way they can achieve authentic differentiation.

It may be possible to develop a Multipolar World in the next two or three generations, but I just don’t see it happening within the 21st century. Don’t forget that what caused the Modern World to triumph was that it rendered other civilizations obsolete. Dugin and many traditionalists will, of course, argue against my claims, but a quick look at how much the world is trying to look and be like America (on a material and economic level) implies that civilizations copy those that they deem superior, even if it’s on a material level.

One of the reasons why Western Civilization has had to contend with issues of superiority and inferiority vis-a-vis the rest of the world is that other nations seek to imitate Western ways and mores. From medicine, science and technology to republican government, human rights and egalitarianism, the Non-Western World has sought to imitate Western civilization even as it condemns the latter for its unfairness, colonialism and exploitation.

Therefore, for Multipolarity to work, new civilizations and new systems of being need to constructed and created, as opposed to being drawn from the past, or simply borrowed from others. The new poles need to be both original and authentic, as well as strong vis-a-vis their neighbors. I find it improbable that all of the nascent poles in the multipolar world will be capable of achieving such goals. Therefore, the transition from the unipolar world to the multipolar one will create winners and losers, and as such, this situation will create a certain degree of inequality among the various poles.

Finally, Multipolarity asks an implicit question: What happens to each pole? Dugin does not respond to this, but from what I read it is implied that they can do whatever they want. Unlike modern Liberalism which requires all countries to become democratic, egalitarian and connected to the global economy, Dugin’s Multipolarity has very little to say on domestic issues, and indeed makes it a point not to say anything about it, since that would be hegemonic.

This is possibly the greatest feature of the the 4th Political Theory. It is an attempt at creating something new and authentic as the world transitions into the unknown waters of Postmodernity. It is for this reason that one should make the effort of reading Dugin’s 4th Political Theory. If nothing else, it is an attempt to articulate real change and authenticity in a world that is increasingly becoming inauthentic.

Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that if this ideal is achieved then what happens in the large civilizational spaces is rather dependent on the unique conditions which exist within each one. What this means ultimately is that the 4th Political Theory will have to be reinterpreted locally, which I suspect is something that Dugin wants, because doing so would be consistent with the goal of restoring and recreating the authenticity of differentiation. This, I suspect, is the main reason why he formulates the primacy of Dasein in Geopolitics.

The Fourth Political Theory can be purchased from Arktos Publishing.