From The Awl: The Darkness Before the Right
Neoreaction — aka NRx or the Dark Enlightenment — combines all of the awful things you always suspected about libertarianism with odds and ends from PUA culture, Victorian Social Darwinism, and an only semi-ironic attachment to absolutism. Insofar as neoreactionaries have a political project, it’s to dissolve the United States into competing authoritarian seasteads on the model of Singapore; they’re nebbish Nazis with Bitcoin wallets, and they’re practically begging to be shoved in a locker.
As is often the case, this essay included, many pundits who write about NRx write like NRx hasn’t evolved beyond 2013-2014. There is actually very little libertarianism, ‘PUA culture,’ or ‘Victorian Social Darwinism’ in recent NRx writings. HBD doesn’t go beyond gender differences, some discussion of Islam, and scant discussion about IQ. NRx, in recent years, has distanced itself from what it calls ‘IQ-ism‘. To some extent, I actually wish NRx was more like MacDougald’s description of it. NRx also seldom talks about capitalism, or at least not in a positive light. Land’s ‘authoritarian capitalism’ seems like an outlier.
Park MacDougald’s essay may as well be titled, ‘A review of an obscure philosophy that is at best only tangentially related to NRx and seldom discussed anymore.’
Land would prefer to simply abolish democracy and appoint a national CEO. This capitalist Leviathan would be, at a bare minimum, capable of rational long-term planning and aligning individual incentive structures with social well-being (CEO-as-Tiger-Mom).
On a related note, I discuss the idea of giving politicians ‘options’ in the S&P 500, similar to employee stock options, as a financial incentive to encourage ‘good policy’.
…Land peppers his essay with quotes from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and resurgent cultural hero Alexander Hamilton to drive home the point that our Constitution is built on a similar fear of the people (a point often made on the left), and his analysis owes much to mainstream political scientists like Mancur Olson and Jim Buchanan…
That’s also similar to stuff I wrote, where I argue that perhaps turning back the dial to only the 1900’s or so, rather than the pre-enlightenment, may be better and more feasible. The founding fathers, if transported to today, would probably be considered ‘right-wing radicals’ by the left. The founding fathers, to their genius, created a republic instead of a direct democracy, but even the limits of that are being tested by post-ww2 liberalism.
Land, like early Moldbug, seems kinda like a right-wing, non-theist, utilitarian technocrat, with some sci-fi, obscurantism, and other stuff thrown in. He doesn’t strike me as being particularly traditionalist, nationalistic, or religious. He’s kinda like the Alan Greenspan of NRx. (“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”) He’s definitely very smart…far out, way out there.
French nihilists, Land never really abandoned his vision of capitalism’s end-game. If other neoreactionaries are concerned with order or the preservation of the white race, Land still sees capitalism as an inhuman machine sucking us into a dystopian future — and his project is to prevent us from dismantling it.
Another problem with this critique is that is encompasses very little of the totality of Land’s blog. Land seldom talks about capitalism or accelerationism. Like Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution, most of Land’s posts are ‘tidbits’ and excerpts, making it hard to glean a specific ideology from them unless you have already read his huge manifesto or his most important posts. Aso, NRx of today bears very little resemblance to pre-2015 NRx, and most of the ‘techno-commercialism’ stuff has been phased out in favor of nationalism, traditionalism, and religion.
The Valley is famous for its impatience with formal politics. Rarely, however, is this as bluntly articulated as in Peter Thiel’s 2009 statement — gleefully cited by Land — that he “no longer believe[s] that freedom and democracy are compatible.” This is an incredible statement from someone in his position, and extremely telling. Even if Thiel is the only Valley titan brave or stupid enough to venture that opinion in public, one can be sure that many more privately agree. Anti-democracy, however, doesn’t need to be this explicit to be effective. Valley oligarchs don’t need to be convinced that democracy is the root of all evil, they just need to think that our existing democratic institutions are illegitimate or just not sufficiently optimized. Uber, in its campaign against New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio, was successfully able to argue that they were the true bearers of popular will against a government beholden to special interests and incapable of delivering service. Uber can give the people what they want, faster and better than the state. If there needs to be a vote, customers can do it with their wallets.
I agree with this incrementalist approach, though technology and markets, of phasing out America’s obsoleted, politically correct, sclerotic democratic institutions. Also agree with Thiel’s criticism of democracy. But as of 2014 or so, techno-commercialism has fallen out of favor with NRx, because capitalists like Thiel, while opposing democracy, support free markets, which butts heads with nationalist/traditionalist interests. Capitalism is too focused on ‘individualism’, the acquisition of personal wealth and status, ignoring the role of tradition, family, religion, and greater society. Also, in the wake of mass Islamic immigration into Europe, rape, and Islamic terror, patience has worn thin for immigration and free-trade, and could be a factor for why ‘techno-commercialism’ has fallen out of favor, as I explain in HRx vs. NRx:
… the trichotomy has become a dichotomy, as I wrote back in 2015. The establishment of the Hestia Society in early 2015 seems to have put the kibosh on the techno-faction. But also geopolitical events are playing a role, too, such as Trump, immigration, rape-fugees, and Islamic terrorism in France and California, putting race and nationalism on the forefront and pushing capitalism and commercialism to the periphery, whereas in 2013-2014 NRx was more focused on techno-monarchist secession, not immigration and nationalism. In fact, many of the earliest NRx thinkers were involved in the Silicon Valley techno-subculture, and since immigration plays an important role Silicon Valley tech economy, it’s expected that as the tides turn against immigration, techno-commercialism fall out of favor. Maybe the ‘old’ NRx was too self-centered, too enamored with technology and wealth and not about community.
Pre-2015 NRx was more focused on futurism, transhumanism, capitalism and libertarianism, Silicon Valley secession and other weird ideas.
2015-present NRx is more about traditionalism, nationalism, Catholicism, ‘current events’, and mainstream political issues (like Trump, immigration, Islam, etc.).
Land is an elitist, more loyal to IQ than ethnicity, and with a marked contempt for the “inarticulate proles”…
It’s entirely possible that reaction never does become a popular movement — a new economic boom, for one, would do a lot to soothe the disaffection on which it feeds — yet if it were to grow, the proposed alliance of convenience between the tech elite and an intransigent white identity politics begins to look a lot like the Nazi coalition of German industrialists and a downwardly-mobile middle class.
It’s very easy to get this wrong, but NRx is not a ‘movement’ as how one would normally define a political movement. Its goal is not to recruit members for the sake of membership and public office. It’s more like a ‘think tank‘, composed of elitists, intended to subvert the liberal establishment. Techno-commercialists (the very few that still remain) and nationalists will go their separate ways, but find common ground in opposition of liberalism and egalitarianism. I also explore the concept of there being ‘two cathedrals’ – a liberal one and a technological one, the latter being preferable to the former. ‘Inevitablism‘ favors technology and capitalists, with economic trends and the forever-rising stock market as evidence of this, so may as well learn to enter their good graces as allies (the enemy of my enemy is my friend) against SJW-liberalism (the first cathedral) than resist.