Tag Archives: NRx

Legitimacy, Power, and Culture

We’ve heard it said, culture is downstream of power, or is power downstream of culture? Which controls the levers to the other?

As I’ve said before, power (the ability to force your will) comes from authority (the ability to command), which comes from legitimacy (people’s beliefs in your right to command).

The power/culture discussion is always off because it misses the underlying link between the two: legitimacy.

Power can do whatever it wants within its dominion. That’s the inherent nature of power. If you can not do what you want, you, definitionally, do not have power. The limits of power exist where you can no longer accomplish your will.

Someone with power over culture can change the culture to be whatever he desires. If multiple people have power over culture, the culture will be changed to wherever the limits of their power meet. Power creates, destroys, and changes culture.

Note: Culture is always, to at least some degree, organic, so power over culture is always widely distributed. No one ever has absolute power over culture.

But, power creates culture only insofar at it has authority. Culture is organic and of men. If men do not obey, there is no power and culture can not created, destroyed, or changed. Culture is only changed insofar as men allow it to be changed.

Men only allow culture to be changed, in so far as they think the change and the power causing the change are legitimate.

This is where culture influences power. Legitimacy comes from culture. If the culture holds to the Divine Right determines power men will obey power with Divine Right. If culture holds to patriarchy determines power, men will obey fathers. If the culture holds to popular will, they will obey democratically elected politicians.

Power is downstream of legitimacy, which is downstream of culture, which is downstream of power.

By changing culture, power can change what men view as legitimate, changing legitimacy, authority, and, ultimately, where power lays.

This is how power destroys itself. It changes the culture that made itself legitimate, which then changes what legitimizes power, changing the basis of authority, changing the power itself. Power changing culture undermines itself.

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Culture change is slow and difficult, so changing the method of legitimacy is slow and difficult. It is easier to destroy legitimacy than to create. Culture change is also unpredictable. When you destroy culture, what replaces it may not always be what you expected or hoped.

This is why revolutions are so turbulent and unstable and often end in a strong man: one can destroy the legitimacy of the present order, but creating a new order viewed as legitimate is time-consuming and difficult. When you destroy a culture and legitimacy, it is hard to predict what form legitimacy will take, hence revolutions often destroying their instigators.

In a legitimacy vacuum, the simplest form of legitimacy to create is martial: men naturally respect strength and strength is relatively simple to demostrate. A strong-man short-circuits the legitimacy-creation process by focusing the creation of legitimacy among a group of armed men through his strength. Once he obtains enough power through this specific legitimacy, he kills those who oppose him until they obey. He is then free to influence culture until another strong-man overthrows him or until he creates a more sustainable legitimacy.

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Power flows from legitimacy. Culture creates legitimacy. Power influences culture.

In a stable system culture will reinforce legitimacy which will reinforce power, which will in turn reinforce the culture. For example, the church supports supports divine right, which legitimizes the monarch, who in turn supports the church.

In an unstable system, power destroys culture (or its own legitimacy) and/or culture undermines power’s legitimacy. For example, enlightnment ideas and culture undercut divine right, the monarch mismanages power squandering legitimacy, and then revolution occurs.

Accept Power

A lot of the criticism of passivism comes from Step 2: Accept Power. Critics correctly point out that accepting power is a vague, almost magical, “something happens” that is undefined. Like Anti-Dem, I’m also highly skeptical we’ll convert the current elites in any significant number, but we don’t need to.

Accepting power is what we must do, and it is necessarily vague because I’m not a wizard, nor is anyone else in NRx. We can make predictions and educated guesses of what might happen in the future, but nobody really knows how any restoration will come about because there is no real model for how this happens.

Society moves by the combination of large, underlying, occult economic, demographic, and social forces, the occasional great man, and pure random chance, a combination that makes a joke of any planning for specifics.

The restoration will be a black swan event: an unpredictable event of highly improbable circumstances.

From the direction of the large, occult forces, we can discern that Western society is degrading before our eyes, but how this disintegration will play out is unknowable. All that is knowable is that institutional legitimacy, social bonds, and social trust are plummeting and a society without them is not a society that can maintain itself. Barring some major, unexpected occurrence at some unforeseeable point in the future, the illusion that is America will shatter and things will disintegrate in some way.

And that is all we can know. You can’t make specific plans because we don’t know what the situation will be. That’s why we do passivism. We build up our support, legitimacy, and strength, so that we are ready when opportunity presents itself.

Did Gorbachev and East German officials think the Berlin Wall would fall and the USSR would collapse because one official misunderstood a note? No. No one had any idea that the communist world would collapse so quickly and what stupid little event would set it off, even though everybody knew the USSR was decaying, hence Gorbachev’s earlier reforms.

After the collapse of the USSR, Harvard, USG, and their many imperial tools were on hand to economically rape Russia and install an American order under Yeltsin. There will be no outside force to install order, even rapacious order, after the US collapses. So somebody internally will need to restore order. That will be whoever has best positioned itself to respond to the black swan.

Social entropy in the US will not be reversed little by little, there is no internal or external power centre or force that can push an incremental reverse, such as the socialist media and the Soviet regime which supported the long march of American communists and liberalization. The introduction of mass propoganda through TV and radio and the introduction of mass education were singular historical events which the communsists took advantage of and we didn’t. We will have not have these advantages which allowed the left to win. The internet doesn’t present us the same opportunity due to its distributed nature and its already completed infiltration by progs.

If entropy is reversed, it will be reversed in one big reset, this will happen when the Cathedral’s legitimacy and authority disappears. What will trigger that and what the circumstances on the ground will be, is unknowable.

Then best strategy in this case is to build: build a power base, build legitimacy, and build authority so that when the black swan occurs, we are ready to move and have a set alternative to chaos. The great man will be whoever finds the right timing and uses what has been built to restore order.

I already quoted this, but I’ll do so again:

Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
Sun Tzu

Those committing activism are seeking fights now and looking for victories afterwards. They wish to squander resources where they can not and will not win.

Passivism is about seeking victory through building and preserving resources and taking battle after victory has been achieved. That is why it is called accepting power. If we become worthy, ie: if we build our power bases, legitimacy, and authority to the extent necessary, then when the time comes, there will be nothing to do but for the great man to accept what is rightfully his. Lord Monck will walk into London unopposed and restore the king to his rightful place.

Alternatively, the more resources we squander now and the less we build, the greater the fight and the lesser the odds of victory will be when the black swan flies.

Activism

In the comments to my recent article on passivism, I’ve been accused of not defining activism, even though I did.

Activism is democratic politics. It is action by the people for the people to influence the people’s laws. Activism is necessarily leftist because it assumes the people should be involved in politics and in the power of the people to change politics, which are both inherently leftist concepts. In an ordered, right-wing society, the people do not engage in politics (at least, until society becomes disordered and the people throw a revolution), so there is no activism. Activism should be avoided for this reason alone.

Yuray has defined activism as well:

Per Google the definition of activism is “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.”

Activism is participation in the official political process, which the Brahmins at Google have found fit to define as “campaigning to bring about political or social change.” Passivism is not “doing nothing,” it is non-participation in the official political process.

Activism is people power. It is a part of democracy in which the people take political action, generally against the authorities or those perceived to be in power.

Democracy is inherently leftist. People power is inherently leftist. Activism is inherently leftist. There is no such thing as right-wing activism.

If you are trying to influence the people or democratic power structures you are not acting right-wing. You are acting like a liberal and are engaging in liberal democracy on liberal terms on the liberal battlefield. You are completely pwned and accepting your enemies’ frame.

The term for this is folk activism, which Moldbug borrowed from Friedman, while altering the meaning. Folk activists commit ostensibly right-wing activism. I say ostensibly, because even though folk activists may be pursuing nominally right-wing ends, they are legitimizing liberal and democratic values and the system that represents these values.

Some commented that writing and speech are activism, but they are not. Political writing and speech are only activism when it stirs (or is at least meant to stir) the people to action. Political philosophy is not activism. By calling political writing and speech activist you are accusing Plato, Confucius, or Hobbes of being activists, which is patently absurd.

Neither is building the mannerbund, institutions, groups, or families. These activities are generally non-political. Where they are political, they are only activist insofar as they participate in liberal democratic activities.

Activism is not synonymous with action. Activism is democratic action against (perceived) authority. Some action is activist, but much action is not. The right needs to avoid activism, as it further legitimizes liberal democracy, which is antithetical to right order, tradition, and right authority.

If you want to take action, then take right-wing action. Write anti-democratic political tracts that delegitimatize liberalism. Build order in your communities. Build institutions and/or gain power in them. Gain legitimacy and authority through action.

You’ll notice these right-wing actions are exactly what passivism encourages.

The Neoreactionary Bargain

I’ve explained the theoretical core of neoreaction and made an introduction to neoreaction. But what it the ultimate goal of neoreaction?

Neoreaction was originally an intellectual exercise, a discussion of ideas. Because of this it had no real goal beyond theorizing. Since Hestia formalized and privatized neoreaction, it has gone beyond a discussion and become an enterprise, or perhaps a conspiracy (movement is far too demotist). An enterprise has and needs a goal, otherwise it is not an enterprise, just a social group.

Moldbug wrote a general idea of the final goal of neoreaction in his Open Letter, but that’s a lot of words. Social Matter published a practical list of what France should do, which can be generalized to an end goal for neoreaction.

The end goal of neoreaction is formalized, privatized government. The Open Letter and Letter to France outline the steps a country’s elites should take to do this.

But how is neoreaction to achieve this?

The current social order is slowly(?) collapsing. The money’s run out, inflation and cheap debt are reaching the limits of their ability to mask insolvency, the natives are growing increasingly restless, low-level guerilla war is rising, and our culture and cohesion are breaking down. What can not last forever, won’t. Eventually this social order will be replaced.

What will it be replaced by?

One option is a slow limping decline/dark age. Another is simple collapse and anarchy, possibly an on-going low-level civil war. Another possibility, particularly in Europe, is Islam. A fourth possibility is a leftist singularity. The most likely possibility is a right-wing surge of the native population and the violent expulsion of the elites and invaders.

You’ll notice that all of these are bloody. Neoreaction wants to avoid this. To do so, we are building an ideological and, eventually, structural basis for a leader* to arise and implement the neoreactionary agenda by making a bargain with the elites.

The neoreactionary bargain to the elites will essentially be this:

Your regime will fall. It can fall to the leftist chaos, Islamic invaders, or right-wing populists, but it will fall. Any of those three groups will happily and ruthlessly exterminate you and your families, probably after torture, reeducation, work camps, rape, and/or enslavement. The leader knows that violent revolutions of any type tends to end poorly for the country and he also would like to avoid death camps and mass executions if possible. So he will make a deal.

If you willingly divest power to the leader, he will restore orderly government. He will expel the Islamic invaders, halt the leftist singularity, and placate the right-wing populists. Current higher elites will be allowed to keep some of your wealth (and your lives) as long as you obey the new order; lower elites and officials hostile to the new order will be retired on a modest, livable stipend and not be further harassed as long as you remain private. Some of the most criminal of the elites will have to meet final justice but it will be served cleanly and measuredly, there will be no torture, no camps, and families will be spared and treated well.

You can give power to the leader, who will formalize and privatize government, or you can try your odds with chekists, Islamic militants, and right-wing death squads?

This is the neoreactionary bargain to the elites: surrender power to a leader to formalize government and be treated well, or be exterminated by one of the populist groups.

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Honestly, as one of the most prol of the neoreactionaries, the less charitable parts of me wouldn’t mind seeing our criminal elites meet right-wing death squads. I’d probably feel some primal satisfaction upon hearing of the fire-bombing of Yale and Harvard, the torching of the Federal Reserve with everyone in it, the decimation of Washington, and the staff of NYT and Gawker going for helicopter rides.

But Christian charity compels me towards mercy, so I hope they take the bargain.

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* I think it unlikely me, or anyone else currently in neoreaction, would be this leader. We’re mostly thinkers, writers, and policy wonks, not leaders of men. I know for sure I am not the leading type. Someone within our ranks might become worthy, but it is far more likely that a friendly elite from outside neoreaction and within the current power structure will use the framework we establish as the basis for claiming power.

What is Neoreaction?

There seems to be confusion as to what neoreaction actually is. Most outsiders focus on monarchy and technology, most other alt-righters focus on it not being their particular brand of right-wing thought. I’ve written an introduction to neoreaction on Reaction Times, but it was a simple description made in relatable terms and doesn’t get to the core of it.

Keldory got the right idea on twitter:

The core of neoreaction is the two interrelated ideas of formalism and neocameralism.

Formalism is the essentialist notion that the symbolic and the real should align, particularly when it relates to power. The mythic, factual, and social truths of power should be the same. He who rules in name should rule in fact, and he who has power should hold an office and title truthfully indicating his power.

Neocameralism flows from formalism. It is the truth that the state is simply a group of people working towards a common goal, it is a corporation. The only difference between it and other corporations are sovereignty and territoriality. Sovereignty is the right to force obedience through violence, while territoriality applies this sovereignty to a particular geographic area.

Formalism and neocamericalism are neoreaction, everything else flows from these two ideas. Combined these ideas give the neoreactionary position: that the state should acknowledge that it is a corporation sovereign with ownership over its particular territory and the residents therein and that it should openly wield and delegate its power as an owner.

Notice how these ideas are rather abstract and lacking in any concrete prescriptions or goals. This is what confuses outsiders and this is why neoreaction can seem somewhat schizophrenic at times. People tend to judge ideologies on their goals and prescriptions, while neoreaction’s only real prescription is ‘make real power and theoretical power converge and wield them openly’, which is a rather vague.

Because of the abstract nature of core neoreactionary ideas, neoreactionaries can mold these ideas into very distinct ideologies. For example, Nick Land and Nick Steves both derive very different prescriptions from neoreactionary axioms.

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Some clarifications:

One form of neocameralism which was mentioned by Moldbug, the joint-stock corporation government, has been the focus of people criticizing neocameralism. It’s probably unworkable, but the cryptographic joint-stock government is not the core of neocameralism, rather it is one possible prescription derived from it. Sometimes, due to it being included in the original patchwork posts, the two are conflated.

As well, the word corporation can confuse people. Colloquially people generally use ‘corporation’ to refer to large, for-profit organizations, and corporation automatically brings to mind McDonald’s or Monsanto. Corporation in this case is used in its more proper definition: a group of individuals recognized by law as having an independent existence apart from any particular individual. The state being a corporation does not necessitate it being for-profit, impersonal, large, etc. For example, your local church and community clubs are corporations.