Are We Right? (Part II)
This is the second part of a three-part article. Go to Part I.
We have explored the question of how to clearly define ‘the Right’, and found that the macro-historical pattern identified by Bertrand de Jouvenel provides us with the best rule of thumb. In de Jouvenel’s narrative, Power (the governing authority) is shown to expand itself by allying with the lowest classes of people so as to subvert the social order, which is defended by traditional authorities such as the aristocracy. If the governing authority wins this struggle, the outcome is a levelled or inverted social landscape dominated by an unconstrained Power; if the aristocrats win it, they establish a strong social order overseen by a constrained Power, whose legitimacy depends on its role as a guardian and symbol of this order.
In light of this, it is a simple matter to define the Right as that which upholds the social order, and the Left as that which subverts it in the interests of Power. The fact that the social order is strongest at the beginning of a civilisation, and Power strongest during its decadent twilight, accounts for the theories of cyclical unfolding and decline that prevail on the Right and contrast with the Leftist ideas of “progress”. But as there are many intermediate positions on the arc of the cycle, the question of whether a given political cause can be seen as ‘Rightist’ or ‘Leftist’ depends on historical perspective: for example, monarchical absolutism was ‘to the Right’ of the democratic revolution, but was itself established by a movement ‘to the Left’ from the aristocratic feudal order.
It follows that, in order to identify the True Right in the present day, we must first identify the current form attained by Power and its alliance with the low. However, while de Jouvenel’s historical theory has furnished us with the paints and canvas, this picture can only be drawn from more contemporary observations. On Power was published in 1945, and refers mostly to events well before that time; de Jouvenel, writing from Switzerland in the chaos of World War II, wisely refrained from too much speculation on future developments.
There is another problem with de Jouvenel’s treatment of Power. Although he is clear enough on the essentials of this word – it denotes the central governing authority, its origins are found in prehistoric sacred ritual, and its expansion is motivated by the “will to dominate” – throughout most of his book he refers to it as an abstraction. This is, of course, deliberate: the reader is meant to turn his mind from the deceptive play of Power’s forms, and focus it on the unchanging essence. But who, exactly, represents and exerts this Power?
In earlier times dominated by the social order, the king and his immediate entourage were the only human embodiments of Power, and they could accomplish little without the cooperation of intermediate authorities like the nobility and ecclesiastics. But as the movement towards absolute monarchy took shape, state functions were increasingly carried out by a new elite of clerks and jurists, who has been raised up from nothing precisely so as to be dependent on the king. But when they met with resistance, according to de Jouvenel, they did not hesitate to break Power out of the last of its feudal chains by dispensing with the monarchy:
In this way the men who should have served the state, finding themselves discarded, turned Jacobin. In the cold shades of a parliamentary opposition, which, if it had been accepted, would have transformed the absolute monarchy into a limited one, a plebeian elite champed at the bit; had it been admitted to office, it would have extended ever further the centralizing power of the throne. So much was it part of its nature to serve the royal authority that it was to ensure its continuance even when there was no king.
Once monarchy falls to democracy, then, it is this new elite that embodies Power – and, by conflating its own will with that of the people, steers the state to unprecedented expansions and extractions. De Jouvenel refers to it as a statocracy, and reminds us that its common interest in expanding Power runs through all the institutions staffed by it. This is why “separation of powers”, i.e. splitting up in perception what is united in will, is nothing more than an elaborate cup-and-ball trick.
Contrast this with de Jouvenel’s use of the term aristocracy, which comprises all independent and dominant social authorities whether noble, religious or bourgeois. The difference between statocrat and aristocrat is simply this: the one stems from Power and has an interest in expanding it, while the other stems from the social order and has an interest in defending it. As long as it is based in social forces outside of Power, and is not synonymous with the lowest orders that are Power’s natural ally, any class might theoretically become an ‘aristocratic’ bulwark of the social order. Throughout de Jouvenel’s narrative, however, it is the traditional blood nobility that stands strongest against Power; the capitalist class, which symbolises pure liberty in the eyes of most conservatives and libertarians, actually plays a more ambiguous role.
Initially, the capitalist aristocracy grows up in the shadow of the absolutist state, and frequently aids the monarch against the nobility. Later on, its parent turns on it and “chases it with an appetite worthy of old Saturn”: capitalist pretensions to rule territory and subjects are swiftly quashed, but the battle to despoil the money-barons is carried on only half-heartedly, because they are able to buy off the political class. Although de Jouvenel makes the error, common for his time, of predicting a total requisition of capitalist wealth by state socialism, his scattered observations on the nature of the capitalist class are more prescient.
Referring to the precedent of patrician Rome, he says that it is in times when aristocratic rights become justifications for huge disparities in wealth that the lower orders begin to call upon Power to redress the balance. While many nobilities have descended into excessive luxury, one would guess at this process moving much faster in the case of a class defined by wealth-accumulation, and be proven right by the immense modern demand for welfarism caused by the obscenity of capitalist wealth. Moreover, he remarks that the capitalist class of his own time is following the path of all degenerate and unfit aristocracies, by seeking security and benefits from Power instead of freedom from its control.
Thus, if we look closely enough, we see that de Jouvenel has left us with a few basic outlines for our picture of the present situation. On the one hand, we find an ever-expanding ‘statocracy’ that has practically finished off all traditional constraints on its power. On the other, we find a capitalist money-aristocracy whose ability and willingness to resist Power are both seriously compromised.
The Managerial Revolution: The Rise of a Pseudo-Aristocracy of Power
The full efflorescence of these tendencies in the modern day is described in exhaustive detail by the American paleoconservative writer Samuel Francis, whose work Leviathan and Its Enemies revises and updates James Burnham’s theory of the managerial revolution.
As we have seen, de Jouvenel contends that the separation of governing powers cannot act as a brake upon Power, because the ruling statocracy (which he occasionally calls a “managing elite”) has a common interest that transcends the splitting up of its functions. The managerial revolution described by Francis can be understood as the process by which this governing elite metastasises into a dominant social class in its own right, and expands not only within the state but also in the formerly private realms of business and mass communication. In managerial society, the idea that the private sector and media can restrain the central government is no less an illusion than the separation of governing powers; these institutions all fall under the control of the same managerial elite, which in many ways represents the statocracy writ large.
Managerialism, according to Francis, emerged as a result of the “revolution of mass and scale” in the 19th century. An unprecedented growth in population and urban concentration overwhelmed traditional forms of social organisation, and the development of new technologies and management techniques pointed the way to mass organisations as a means of containing and disciplining the new mass society. The movement towards mass organisations, and thus to managerial control, took place in three major institutions: the governing authority, the business corporation, and the media (“organisations of culture and communication”).
The movement towards managerialism by the state, which responded to the growth of slums, poverty, disease, unemployment and so on, marched under the banners of various forms of progressivism. One early political formula for managerial interests was Marxism, which led to the creation of totalitarian societies run by internally-directed violence and coercion; another was National Socialism, which directed the managerial will-to-power outward into imperialist expansion. In 1941, when James Burnham was writing his work The Managerial Revolution, he assumed that these ‘hard managerial’ regimes would also come to power in the West, and the fact that things turned out differently served as an excellent pretext for burying his theory. As Francis says with hindsight, the West actually experienced a transition to ‘soft managerialism’ within the political forms of the bourgeois order. Its objectives included the massive expansion of the state through welfarism and the centralisation of power, through which bourgeois-dominated intermediaries like local governments were reduced to irrelevance.
At the same time, a parallel movement took place in the economy, again caused by the revolution of mass and scale. As existing firms expanded far beyond the capacity of individual capitalist owners to oversee them, and vast new enterprises demanded the sale of stock to shareholders in order to raise the necessary capital, the day-to-day running of businesses came to depend on a class of managers and technical experts. As a result, in the modern corporation, ownership is separated from control – and managerial control grows more complete as shareholder ownership is diffused more widely, to the point at which no individual or cohesive group can act as a force of restraint. (In politics, there exists a similar incentive for the managing elite to extend the voting franchise and create all sorts of disparate interest groups, in order to emancipate themselves from specific responsibilities – just think how constrained they would be if elections hung solely on the votes of property-owners, whites, or male heads of households!)
The trend of mass organisation and managerial control is towards expansion, centralisation, and homogenisation. Nowhere have the consequences of this been more important than in the sphere of culture and communications, where the mass media continues to call itself the “free press” despite most of its outlets churning out the same propaganda in favour of managerial interests. The mass media’s war on internet news and commentary reflects a deep fear of losing the power to manipulate a relatively free population; and that this fear is quite justified seems obvious from upheavals like the Brexit vote and Trump election, in which huge masses of people experienced a ‘Truman moment’, discovering that their democratic will was only respected or actualised by the elite as long as they voted according to central direction. The managerial response will be to try to restrict the internet, and failing that, to curtail popular freedoms that are now in serious danger of being used.
The ‘soft’ managerial elites in Western governments, corporations and media are linked together, not just by the revolving door of appointments between these institutions, but also by a common psychology and set of interests. In contrast to the bourgeois ethic of frugality and self-reliance, they promote hedonism and liberation of desires, which serve to break the control of traditional social structures over the individual. They are not interested in bourgeois laissez-faire attitudes, but in social engineering and meliorism, which justify the extension of managerial techniques across ever-wider swathes of society. They are not interested in stability, but in promoting and manipulating social change, which usually gives them more opportunities to expand managerial power. And they are increasingly alienated from the nation, which is eroded and dissolved into irrelevance, while the managerial elite itself becomes an “autonomous global force”.
Because their own power comes from control, not ownership, the managerial elites in the corporations do not share the bourgeois devotion to private property. Nor do they show any fundamental opposition to government regulation of business. Being themselves bureaucrats by another name, they could hardly inherit the bourgeois contempt for excess bureaucracy, and they exist at one remove from the single-minded pursuit of profit that is the primary concern of shareholders. Moreover, while the bourgeois ethos respected and favoured industry, the historical ally of the managerial elite has always been finance-capitalism: this force helps to separate ownership from control by buying up bourgeois firms and appointing managers, and promotes the “dematerialising” of private property into abstract electronic money that is more easily alienated and expended.
This aspect of the managerial revolution is important because it exposes – once again! – the utter stupidity of mainstream conservatives, who have not bothered to take note of any of the above, and imagine that they can restore the bourgeois ethos in a mass society by outsourcing functions of “the state” to “the market”. Indeed, one important role of the conservative client-ruler racket is to convert popular anti-managerialism into pro-managerial useful idiocy – although the corporate managerial elites, for their part, no longer bother to mask their affiliation with the “social justice” agenda of the state.
James Meek’s Private Island gives a first-hand account of neo-liberal privatisations, invariably supported by conservatives, in my own home country of Britain. Natural monopolies such as railways, water and electricity are selected for privatisation, and vast sums of public money are paid to corporations in order to smooth this process. The promised improvements in efficiency and customer service, and the end of bureaucratic incompetence, fail to materialise; which should be obvious, if only because there is no “free-market competition” to speak of when it comes to catching a train. But of course the self-enrichment of the managers and exploitation of the employees become much more socially acceptable; restrictions designed for government (like freedom of information) no longer apply; and the vestiges of accountability vanish into thin air as foreign companies buy up the shares. Other than the removal of these constraints on the managers, what exactly is the difference from direct state control?
Now, invaluable for our purposes as it may be, Francis’s magnum opus is limited in two respects. Firstly, it concentrates exclusively on the transition from bourgeois to managerial society, which it views solely in terms of class dominance (and not in terms of Power); secondly, while prescient in many ways, it was written in the mid-1990s at a time when many developments were still in embryo. To get a true grip on the present situation, we must reach beyond Francis’s work in two directions: back into the historical theory of de Jouvenel, and forward into contemporary observations, which often help us to tie up loose ends in Francis’s work that were not treated at length by him.
First of all: why should the managerial elite be any different in essence from previous dominant social classes, like the blood nobility and bourgeoisie, which were described by de Jouvenel as ‘aristocracies’ and set up in opposition to the central Power? Francis evidently had an inkling that the managerial class is, indeed, very different: for one thing, he notes that it seeks to expand its own membership, while older aristocracies sought to restrict theirs. He also says that it is perhaps the first dominant class in history to promote (manipulable) disorder over social stability.
The element of mystery here vanishes when we choose to see the managerial elite as an expansion of de Jouvenel’s statocracy – or, in other words, as a pseudo-aristocracy of Power. While managerialism has long existed in the absolutist and post-absolutist state, embodied by clerks and jurists who clearly presaged today’s managers and intellectuals, this governing elite was necessarily limited in size and could not expand into a dominant class. When private enterprise and mass communications were also taken over by governing elites – who were soon integrated with their state counterparts by way of psychological affinities, homogenous elite education, and the revolving door of high-level appointments – this impasse was surmounted, and the social role of an ‘aristocracy’ could finally be usurped by the representatives of Power. This accounts for the unprecedented scale of top-down social subversion being carried out in the present day.
Having brought the ‘high’ element of the age-old de Jouvenelian alliance into the light of the present day, we need not search very hard for the ‘low’ element. Surely it is principally represented by the non-white hordes flooding into the countries of the West, and being molded by official anti-white ideology into a massive battering ram against the social structure of the nation. The managerial promotion of non-white immigration, and tolerance of the resulting disorder, did not go unnoticed by Francis. But he would surely have ascribed more to malice, and less to instinctual ‘soft’ managerial tendencies, had he foreseen the future scale and severity of this problem or been privy to the sheer callousness and evil of the managerial class in promoting it. In light of modern anti-whitism and mass immigration as well as the atmosphere of terror that has been created around them, Francis’s distinction between soft and hard managerialism begins to break down, as the Western managerial elite increasingly reveals itself as a “state against its people”.
In connection with this, and in light of Francis’s remarks on alienation and transnationalism, a shift of identity appears to be taking place in the managerial elite: they no longer even consider themselves part of the same polity as the common people. The blood nobility in many European kingdoms considered themselves possessed of a special ancestry, which often contrasted with that of the general population: thus the French nobility thought of themselves as Franks (as opposed to Gauls), and the Polish nobility traced their bloodlines back to the Sarmatians. Echoing this, but also inverting it, the pseudo-aristocracy of Power acquires a deracinated and abstract pseudo-identity: its members come to envisage themselves as global citizens or ‘Cosmopolitans’. This has the effect of psychologically liberating them from any traces of loyalty to the peoples of the West, and justifying the widest possible expansion of the Power that they represent.
Simultaneously, the managerial elite seeks to mobilise the female population in order to overthrow the family unit, the smallest molecule of patriarchal social order. First women must rebel against husbands and fathers, who as traditional sources of authority are subjected to the kind of suspicion previously reserved for cads or rapists; second, they must “liberate” themselves by subjecting their labour to managerial exploitation, imposed through the mechanisms of corporate profit and state tax. The divorce racket aimed at breaking up families and introducing state interference, expertly documented by Stephen Baskerville in his book Taken Into Custody, echoes the long-forgotten efforts of absolutist monarchs to stick their noses into aristocratic jurisdictions: Power is biting down on the stem, having long since lopped off the flower. Contrary to the lamentations of stupid conservatives, none of this represents a “war of the sexes”; rather, it is a war between a ruling minority and a ruled majority of men, in which the former make extensive use of the selfishness and myopic folly of women.
Finally, in the notoriously unjust “social justice” movement, we see an important milestone passed in Power’s usurpation of the aristocratic role. No longer content with promoting the dissolution of the social order, it now seeks to actively invert it, and sets itself up in consummate shamelessness as guardian and guarantor. Hierarchy, in a sense, is on its way back: the descendants of those who were happy to submit themselves to Power, so that they should not have to doff their caps to noblemen or capitalists, are now compelled to rediscover the lost art of paying their respects to superiors. But while aristocracy or “rule of the best” may have often degenerated into something unworthy of its name, a social hierarchy chosen by Power can only be a kakistocracy or “rule of the worst”.
I would attempt to describe and explain this phenomenon myself, but the neoreactionary author ‘Spandrell’ has already written the definitive piece on the subject. Selectively quoted as follows (but by all means go and read his original post):
Any country has a ruling class. What I call “loyalty” you could also call asabiya; the coherence of the ruling class as such. Their ability to stick with each other and gang up, keeping the structure of rule stable. …. [A]ny organization wants to fight entropy and ensure its stability and reproduction. Liberalism historically has shown itself incapable of that.
Socialism works not only because it promises higher status to a lot of people. Socialism is catnip because it promises status to people who, deep down, know they shouldn’t have it. … In Communist countries pedigree was very important. You couldn’t get far in the party if you had any little kulak, noble or landowner ancestry. Only peasants and workers were trusted. Why? Because only peasants and workers could be trusted to be loyal. Rich people, or people with the inborn traits which lead to being rich, will always have status in any natural society. …. People of peasant stock though, they came from the dredges of society. They know very well that all they have was given to them by the party. And so they will be loyal to the death, because they know it, if the Communist regime falls, their status will fall as fast as a hammer in a well.
The point again is, that you can’t run a tight, cohesive ruling class with white men. They don’t need to be loyal. They’ll do ok anyway. A much easier way to run an obedient, loyal party is to recruit everyone else. Women. Blacks. Gays. Muslims. Transexuals. Pedophiles. Those people may be very high performers individually, but in a natural society ruled by its core of high performers, i.e. a white patriarchy, they wouldn’t have very high status. So if you promise them high status for being loyal to you; you bet they’re gonna join your team. They have much to gain, little to lose. The Coalition of the Fringes, Sailer calls it. It’s worse than that really. It’s the coalition of everyone who would lose status the better society were run. It’s the coalition of the bad. Literal Kakistocracy. (emphasis added)
Power selects those who are loyal to Power, and this principle works in opposition to that by which notables emerge from the social order – surely this is the truth contained in age-old popular stereotypes of the venal courtier and the scheming imperial eunuch. The smart and talented men raised up into the higher echelons of Power must be Machiavellians, prepared to undermine the social order for their own purposes (i.e. they must have the psychology of those whom Spandrell, in another essential piece, describes as “psychopathic status maximisers”). Among those who fulfill the lower role of carrying out Power’s will into society, the dregs of the social order are preferred, and they tend to repay their patrons with a fanatical loyalty. This alliance of sociopathy and natural inferiority constitutes a strictly objective definition of the term kakistocracy.
(Incidentally, this is why it is completely useless to try to fight “social justice” agitation by pointing out its lack of logical grounding. The frenzied compulsion of so-called “SJWs” to critically assault every nook and cranny of the social order, and thus invite managerialism into them so as to redress supposed injustices, represents above all a demonstration of loyalty to Power – and while it might be fun to expose the pitiful reasoning behind all this criticism, the fact is that loyalty only looks more respectable when reduced to the scantiest logical clothing. Unsurprisingly, the “strategy” of countering SJWs with logic is the only one in the conservative arsenal.)
The only wrong implication made by Spandrell in the quoted piece is that Power in the modern West is “getting things done”, in the spectacular manner of Stalin’s Soviet Union or present-day China. Compared to the achievements of those eras of Western history dominated by the nobility and bourgeoisie, nothing much is getting done at present – except the endless perpetuation of a parasitic and socially-destructive system, and its bribing of the people with their own money. (That said, we do seem to have achieved the Trotskyite ideal of “permanent revolution”, so there’s that!)
It is difficult to find historical analogies that might shed light on our present state of development. The most obvious point of reference would be the late, slow-rotting Roman Empire, in which the elite were defined as honestiores with access to Power, and the general population was increasingly crushed and impoverished by the exactions of the state. But nothing from the past comes close to parallelling the phenomenon of mass society, the extent of managerialism made possible by it, and thus the magnitude attained to by modern social subversion. It is notable that Francis considered the advent of mass society to pose an impassable barrier to any attempt to directly restore traditional social forms; and the question of how, in light of this, a True Right can exist in the present day will be the subject of the final part of this essay.
Let us close this part of our discussion by recalling once again the concept of decadence as understood by the Right: the shimmering, illusory reflection of the mountain peak in the black and stagnant pool, the senile old age that makes a mockery of the naïvety of infanthood. In the age of managerialism and progressivism, the modern West has fallen under the control of a degenerate parody of traditional aristocracy – one that can never fulfil the true aristocratic functions of limiting the state and upholding the social order, because it is wholly dependent on and synonymous with Power.