The Culture Of Manipulation
The magnum opus of the late Sam Francis, Leviathan And Its Enemies, significantly expanded and improved upon James Burnham’s theory of the managerial revolution. One way in which Francis built upon the original framework of Burnham was to make a distinction between soft managerialism, the consent-manufacturing type practiced in Western ‘liberal democracies’, and hard managerialism, the coercive type practiced in the authoritarian states of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. This aspect of Francis’s theory deserves attention, I think, because it makes an important correction to Burnham that itself requires fuller clarification.
The managerial revolution is made possible by the ‘revolution of mass and scale’ in all modern societies, which overwhelms traditional social structures and necessitates new forms of mass-based organisation. According to Francis, however, while the managerial elites in the West took power from a bourgeoisie that had replaced a previous aristocracy, those who spearheaded managerial revolutions in Germany and Russia directly took over from ‘prescriptive’ aristocratic-monarchical elites. This led to a divergence of two types of managerialism: the Western one in which the bourgeois ethos was turned to hedonism and manipulation, and the Nazi-Communist one in which the emphasis was placed on discipline and nationalist enthusiasm.
Perhaps we can fault Francis for taking the standard conservative view of Fascism and Communism, in which both are seen as essentially similar forms of ‘totalitarianism’. According to Robert O. Paxton, Fascism – even in the form of Nazism – was unlike Soviet Communism in that it did not attempt to destroy the social order, that constellation of non-government interests and authorities breaking up the flow of command from central Power. Instead of levelling this order as the Communists had done in Russia, Fascists superimposed upon it an extra-legal ‘prerogative state’ that persecuted small minorities in the interests of national purification, but which ruled most of society with a far lighter hand. As regards the destruction of the social landscape and its replacement by a vast apparatus of central control, it is the Soviet and Western managerial regimes that ought to be lumped together, although they converge on this end by the very different means of coercion and manipulation respectively.
However, there is nothing wrong with the distinction between soft and hard managerialism as far as it pertains to the psychology and culture of the elite. This side of things, neglected by Burnham, was treated at length by Francis in Leviathan And Its Enemies. He sought to use Vilfredo Pareto’s concept of ‘residues’ (instincts or sentiments) to understand the psychological traits of the Western managerial elite:
“The two classes of residues that Pareto emphasised are what he called Class I, the ‘instinct for combinations’, and Class II, the instinct for ‘group persistence’ or ‘the persistence of aggregates’. These two kinds of residues give rise to distinctive behavioural and mental patterns that appear to conform to the types that are predominant in the two types of managerial elite and in prescriptive and bourgeois elites as well, although it is probable that the bourgeois elite displayed a mixture of the two classes…
“In social and economic realms, persons with a high degree of Class I residues ‘are in general…adventurous souls, hungry for novelty in the economic as well as in the social field, and not at all alarmed at change, expecting as they do to take advantage of it’. … Class I residues have very significant manifestations in the political behaviour of the individuals in whom they prevail and in the elites that such individuals form. These persons tend to be averse to the use of force and to rely on various forms of intelligence and cunning (deception, persuasion, manipulation) in the pursuit and retention of power…
“If Class I residues tend to promote innovative behaviour, those of Class II generally tend to encourage a conservative mentality. Persons in whom Class II residues are dominant form enduring relationships with and attachments to other individuals, family, community, place, class, and nation. …. Elites in which Class II residues are concentrated tend to rely on force rather than on intelligence and cunning.”
To use Pareto’s phrase, we can sum this up as a psychological difference between ‘foxes’ and ‘lions’. According to Francis, the modern Western managerial elite recruits its members almost entirely from the Class I ‘foxes’, to the exclusion of the Class II ‘lions’ who can find places for themselves only in a few institutions such as the military. He saw the soft-managerial elite in the West as an unique force in history, a dominant class that is more interested in manipulating endless change than in guaranteeing social stability.
Although there are plenty of psychological theories rivalling those of Pareto (some of which are cited by Francis and shown to produce similar conclusions), it is hard to deny that the Western managerial elite shows an overwhelming preference for manipulation as a means of exerting its power. This is becoming increasingly obvious even to the general public, as the elite visibly descends into a state of anger and paranoia – having belatedly discovered the extent to which the internet has eaten away at its ability to manipulate voting behaviour and manufacture consent for the subversion of foreign states. We on the True Right, for our part, have long experienced the sharp end of various manipulative techniques designed to repress us while preserving the illusion of ‘liberal democracy’. Some of these are quite rudimentary (allowing ‘antifa’ mobs to embroil us in violence and then punishing us for defending ourselves), while others are considerably sophisticated (using the media to anoint as ‘leaders’ the individuals on our side who poison our standing among the people).
Power has always had a strong hand in guiding the flow of culture. If a society is politically dominated by, let us say, an aristocracy, then aristocratic values will also tend to dominate the minds of most people at the lower levels of the social hierarchy. In the same way, we should expect to see a preference for intelligent manipulation – along with a loathing for the martial and disciplined values represented by previous elites – percolating down from the soft-managerial class to saturate the lower reaches of Western society. And we should expect to see this reflection of subjective elite psychology presented to the rest of society as objectively ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘moral’, and so on, and taken for granted by most people as such.
This is indeed what we see in the modern West, from top to bottom. To hold other countries as colonial territory is sinful, but to foment subversion and revolution all over the world is moral, despite the fact that no colonial government could have inflicted the sort of devastation seen across present-day Libya and Syria. For courts to punish criminal offenders by flogging is considered barbaric, so they must be confined in concrete boxes for years on end in the company of the vilest degenerates, at massive taxpayer expense. In the family, female dominance (generally based on manipulation) is alone considered legitimate, while male dominance (generally based on force) is considered perverse – and this bias is only reinforced, not contradicted as it should be, by the ongoing campaign to equate passive aggression with physical violence in the domestic sphere. A creeping barrage of propaganda and legislation is working to strip parents of the right to physically discipline their own children – forcing them to rely upon manipulative psychological and verbal tactics, which may actually do more harm than smacking them, but are undoubtedly far more ‘civilised’.
This cultural preference for manipulation feeds into the ideological doctrine of ‘managerial humanism’, which is paraphrased by Francis as follows: “the belief that all men can (or should or will) be governed in their social, economic, and political relationships by the science of management, the science of operating and directing mass organisations”. The ‘progressive’ crusade to destroy cultural traditions inherited from prescriptive and bourgeois elites, while also tying the hand of straightforward coercion in a mass of complicated rules, accomplishes a vital first step: it reduces the majority of people outside the managerial elite, who have both a lower average IQ and a higher concentration of Class II residues, to a state of helplessness and uncertainty. Once the machinery of social relations has been more or less paralysed, those who possess managerial qualifications can ‘come to the rescue’ – providing keys to the locks constructed and fastened in place by the dominant managerial ideology.
As Francis notes, manipulation at its most effective can only ameliorate social problems temporarily, without ever resolving them for good. This may at first glance appear to be a weakness of soft-managerialism, and in one sense it is; a Soviet-style regime would, for example, make short work of dissident media like this website and the wider online archipelago to which it belongs. However, considering that the expansion of managerial power is justified in terms of the need to manage social problems, the ruling elite has a vested interest in endlessly perpetuating these problems and manipulating them for its own benefit. The British government has managed Islamic terrorism to the point at which it is worse than ever, but has succeeded in awarding itself plenty of new powers in the process – many of which have come in handy against native British dissidents. No wonder politicians erupt in moralistic screeching when asked why they do not simply solve the problem by expelling the socially-dangerous Islamic elements.
The True Right – which is mostly composed of Class II-dominant individuals excluded from power by the elite – has typically approached the culture of manipulation in two ways. The first of these is the standard conservative attitude: the West has gone soft, our leaders are decadents who lack the stomach for hard measures, and they will sooner or later get mugged by reality and return to the rude virtues of coercive discipline. This view may do wonders for the self-esteem of the conservative ‘lions’, but it leads them to woefully underestimate the progressive ‘foxes’ by whom their every serious bid for power has been successfully neutered. It also leaves the soft-managerial elite in possession of the moral high ground; no compliment could ring sweeter for them than an accusation of excessive gentleness from those whom they have taken pains to characterise as violent barbarians.
The second attitude, which tends to be found in edgier circles (and is particularly common among anti-Semites), consists in exaggerating the effectiveness of manipulation to ridiculous heights. The enemy is always two hundred 4D chess moves ahead, he has every sociopolitical force and counter-force in his pocket, and you are almost certainly one of his legions of shills. Paradoxically, the omnicompetence of the enemy must lead us to reject any attempt to improve on Rockwellian neo-Nazism as a strategy of resistance – after all, the enemy will only end up successfully convincing everyone that we are Nazis, so why not just go ahead and act like it? Evidently this is just a crude excuse for dysfunctional people on the Right to continue indulging their crankish obsessions and whoring themselves to the enemy media ad infinitum.
By taking the work of Francis as our starting-point, we can safely steer clear of both of these unhelpful tendencies. We should criticise managerial manipulation in a way that gives full weight to its highly successful strivings for power, and strips it of moral supremacy by exposing the hypocrisy of its claims to rest on higher principles than violence. At the same time, we must remain cognizant of the weaknesses and fault lines in the soft-managerial power structure, if only so that we may exploit them at the right time. According to Francis, these weaknesses include the inability of the elite to use coercive force consistently and effectively, and its creation of a natural opposition by over-selecting for Class I residues and locking Class II types out of power.