A request for me to review Maurice Muret’s The Greatness of Elites could not have come at a more opportune time. I have been thinking a lot about the treacherous character of our ruling class and the possibility of envisioning a new elite capable of leading us out of our ethnocidal trajectory. The masses on their own can’t reverse it, and neither can isolated and powerless dissidents who are educated but have no financial power and no political network within the upper classes.
In Russia a small group of Marxists managed to persuade a wide proportion of the Russian-Jewish educated classes to join them, with considerable influence inside the universities and across the middle and educated classes and professions. This is not the case today in the West. The most we have are some mainstream conservatives who agree with the fundamentals of the left. Dissidents have very little intellectual capital. Educated Whites, school teachers, university professors, doctors, scientists, lawyers, the middle classes, are almost invariably liberal. There are strong chances for populist political movements, but as crucially important as populists are in challenging the worst excesses of liberalism, populism wants a return to an earlier version of liberalism, say, the 1990s version, and even if they take power, all the institutions and the deep state, will remain controlled by the left and the globalist capitalist rulers. Every peasant revolt in history has been suppressed without support from above. Peasants and Parisian shopkeepers and artisans played an important role in the French Revolution of 1789, but it was the “Third Estate” nurtured by the Enlightenment, combined with the power of the bourgeoisie, with its growing wealth, that made the revolution in law and political structures possible. The Trucker Convoy was defeated in Canada without even the support of the Conservative Party, little or untrustworthy support from the mainstream media and the educated professional groups.
These questions have made me think about the nature of the ruling classes at other periods in Western history. There is a strong inclination against elites even among dissidents, rooted in the democratic impulse of Whites, their inclination for equality, despite their statements to the contrary. Nevertheless, in comparison to today’s elites, we can point to various points in American history when the elites were worthy of great admiration. It has been argued by Tom Cutterham in Gentlemen Revolutionaries: Power and Justice in the New American Republic (2017) that the American Revolution was led by men who set themselves above the ordinary, common man—by the merchants, lawyers, planters, and landowners who comprised the independent republic’s elite. Status, “not ideology or equal rights,” motivated these men who emphasized hierarchy and obedience in the 1780s. It can’t be denied, however, that the ideology these men proposed, natural rights liberalism, was about equality, and that their ideal was about the pursuit of private comfort, happiness, pleasure, and riches.
Maurice Muret’s The Greatness of Elites, originally published in 1939, and now published by Arktos, offers only five examples of elites deserving the highest admiration, and Americans are not included. Alexander Jacob, who translated this book with an introduction, deserves much praise for bringing Muret’s book to our attention. I had never heard of Muret. That’s how efficient liberalism has been suppressing the most educated men proposing ideas that question liberal democratic politics. Jacob is the translator of a number of similarly neglected authors and books, including The Future of the Intelligentsia & For a French Awakening by Charles Maurras, The Significance of the German Revolution by Edgar Julius Jung, and several of his translation have appeared in The Occidental Observer and The Occidental Quarterly. He has also written a number of important books about Richard Wagner, Indo-European mythology, Henry More, and, indeed, an essay-book entitled, Nobilitas: A Study of European Aristocratic Philosophy from Ancient Greece to the Early Twentieth Century (2001). This study praises in particular the aristocratic philosophy and “racialistic elitism” of Germany in the nineteenth to early twentieth century.
Muret’s greatest elites in history, however, exclude the Germans. His choice of the best five elites may surprise you:
- The “handsome and good” Athenian citizen of the age of Pericles, fifth century BC.
- The “realistic, practical and virile” Roman citizen during the long Republican period.
- The Renaissance “humanist” courtier with his pride and “liberated personality”.
- The cordial, pleasant, conversationalist French “gentilhomme” during the age of Louis XIV.
- The “snobbish” British gentleman of the Victorian age with his fine house, honest occupations, respect for the laws, piety, and love of manly sports.
These elites were capable of moulding society in their own image. Muret believes that without elites there can’t be great periods in history. Democracy and equality of rights are bound to destroy the capacity of elites to mould their nations in their own image, for they imply liberation of the “naturally perverse instincts” of the masses and the creation of tyrannies based on appeals to these instincts by populist demagogues.
The Limbic Capitalist Western Elite
So what exactly are the attributes that Muret found in these elites? Let’s start by saying that the current Western ruling classes are devoid of all the attributes the above elites had. They are simultaneously agents of the imperatives of capitalist global accumulation and ideological advocates of immigration replacement and transexualism. The other day Conrad Black, a wealthy businessman, penned an article allaying fears about the rise of China claiming that the US is the greatest nation in history and that it will resume its advance in the next administration, without displaying any worries about the decomposition of American education, the systematic looting and killings by Blacks, the widespread drug addiction, the spread of uninhabitable cities, and the migrant invasion into the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Vdare has just presented evidence showing “that some 145,695 white people—including 35,000 women—have been killed by blacks in the last 53 years”! Conrad Black, a member of the Western elite, is most likely benefitting from this state of affairs. The Pew Research Center reported in 2020 that “income growth was the most rapid for the top 5%” of Americans between 1971 and 2019, which coincided, I might add, with the intensification of mass immigration. On the other hand, the share of American adults who live in middle-income households decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019.
Condemning the “capitalist ruling elite” is not popular in conservative and even dissident circles, which prefer blaming leftist professors, journalists, and antifa. Samuel Francis, James Burham, and Paul Gottfried have written about the “therapeutic managerial” elite of the US with its concern with government intervention in favor of welfare, regulation of citizens’ private lives, and enforced political correctness. Lately the term “anarcho-tyranny” introduced by Francis in the 1990s has been the subject of discussion after Tucker Carlson used it. The observation is that Western governments don’t mind allowing criminals to break the law, even if this creates a climate of fear, for what the elite really cares about is regulating the thoughts and lives of law-abiding citizens, imposing stricter limits on gun ownership, enacting hate speech laws, and forcing diversity and rainbow flags.
My disagreement with this view is that it is still caught up with the notion that we have a socialistic/welfare state and a ruling class that is “therapeutic” while ignoring the reality of capitalist ownership and globalism. The elites in charge not only control governments; they are extremely wealthy individuals controlling vast amounts of resources in finance, media, drugs and AI robotics. These individuals welcome welfare therapy, political correctness, and diversity hiring in the lower managerial positions as long as the imperatives of capitalist accumulation are obeyed. This is no longer, as Francis observed, a capitalist class rooted in towns and nations, family oriented, and church-going, but a rootless internationalist class. Perhaps we can call Western elites “limbic capitalists” dedicated to making citizens addicted to consumption by producing “health-demoting products that stimulate habitual consumption and pleasure for maximum profit”. This elite accesses consumers “routinely through everyday digital devices and social media platforms…designed to generate, analyse and apply vast amounts of personalised data in an effort to tune flows of online content to capture users’ time and attention, and influence their moods, emotions and desires in order to increase profits”.
This limbic capitalist elite knows that social media is “central to young people’s socialising, identities, leisure practices and engagement in civic life.” During Covid lockdowns the elite saw large increases in users and traffic, realizing more than ever how it can control totally the minds of consumers by intensifying marketing online and driving online purchases and deliveries of products with limbic appeal that can turn consumers into gambling addicts, sex addicts, internet addicts, and food addicts, completely trapped within the logic of capitalist accumulation. Of course, there is more to the economy than limbic products, but limbic capitalists are the most capable of moulding the minds of Westerners, and thus the ones with “ruling class” power.
Individualism of Western Elites
I believe the only way to escape from the controls of this limbic capitalist elite is through the creation of a new traditionalist elite that makes the collective freedom of European citizens, their heritage, culture, and customs, a priority over the individual rights of private citizens. The difficulty is that the elites of the West have not been commonly traditionalist in the manner of elites in non-Western nations. This becomes apparent in the way Muret defines his five best elites. First, it should be said that for Muret the biggest threat, at the time he was writing, was the rise to political influence of the masses. He believes the Great War, and the formation of powerful socialist states, was a “great victory of the masses over the elites” across the West, with the Soviet Revolution constituting the highest expression of the hegemony of the masses. He feared that Bolshevism would bring down “the Western fortress founded on the rights of the individual … whose essential merit consists in the production, through the centuries, of certain types of eminent individuals”.
Muret, who is a Frenchman by ethnicity, does not like the Fascist elites of Italy and the Third Reich, accusing them of “collectivism, statism, socialism”. The Third Reich was “deprived of personality and regimented”. Is Muret a liberal individualist? No, he is an aristocratic individualist who rejects equal individual rights. What’s the difference between aristocratic individualism and democratic individualism? One of the great difficulties in understanding the West is that this civilization always had room for the expression of personality even when, as was the case in Rome and Athens, individuals were persons only as members of a civic collective. For ancient Athenians, “freedom” was understood to mean the right of the free citizen to participate in the political deliberations of city affairs. And while the Athenians did contrast their ability to engage in critical discussions with the “despotism of Asia”, they lacked the modern idea of freedom as the right of the individual to be left alone to choose his own goals.
It is true that Aristotle valued a contemplative philosophical life, but he did not think that individuals could be worthy of admiration in their private pursuits. There is more, however, to Muret’s conception of an aristocratic personality beyond political membership, and this is why he praises as one of the best elites in history the Athenian over the Spartan aristocracy. In the latter, members of the elite lacked a “free personality” in their complete subsumption under a militaristic collectivist state. There is something else to the “free personality” of the Athenians. We will see that it has to do with their overall “humanist ideal”, which is about striving to express the highest abilities in art, philosophy, literary creations, not just in military and political affairs.
Muret recognizes that, at the beginning of the 1900s, the German nation “was still one of the most cultivated and civilised of Europe.” “It counted in all fields scholars of a remarkable competence and a scrupulous conscience”. But he objects to the “mass regime” that was soon installed in Germany before 1914, and during the Third Reich, which was “deprived of personality and regimented”. The rest of Europe had been falling as well to the “rising tide of the masses” since the Great War of 1914. Bolshevism sanctified the “divine right of the masses”, and the spread of socialism in the West threatens to do the same. But while collectivism and statism are reaching a peak under socialist nations, regimes without aristocratic personalities, without devotion to humanism, have been the norm throughout the nonwestern world. What is new about Western post-Enlightenment times, which led to the eventual rise of socialistic states, with the exception of England, is that the masses had started to become an actual reality with industrialization and, what is worse, a reality that was juridically “gloried” in the French Revolution of 1789 with its proclamation of the Rights of Man.
Didn’t the French Rights of Man sanctify the right of individuals to be free, the right to choose their own governments, freedom of religious and political expression against an oppressive state? Here’s the cardinal difference between aristocratic and democratic individualism. The masses are simply not capable of having a free personality, of making their own decisions. In societies with universal suffrage, the opinions of the masses are taken to be true and forced upon the rest of the population. But are the masses really in control in a democratic society? While Muret’s prose is very literary and pleasant, as translated by Jacob, his arguments are not analytically presented, as I am arguing in this review; but he has a quotation from the Soviet paper Pravda which is very revealing: “The new man is not formed of himself. It is the Party that directs the entire process of social remoulding and of the re-education of the masses”.
Hasn’t this happened in the liberal West today with the relentless advertisement of companies in combination with a therapeutic and multicultural state deciding for everyone what the accepted values are? The mass man can’t mould himself, so a state dedicated to the masses is in charge of moulding everyone alike in their “free choices”, abolishing the possibility for free aristocratic personalities.
Of course, it is more complicated than this, since in a liberal society each individual lifestyle (as long as it does not infringe on the same right of others) is accorded equal moral dignity. There is no elite to mould the society according to humanist ideals; instead, the administrators of contemporary Western states shape individuals into pursuing their own lifestyle without setting up standards—except the standard that anyone who questions progressive free choice will not be tolerated, which means that traditional aristocratic values will not be tolerated as common values for the society. The aristocracy Muret has in mind co-existed for centuries during the modern era with the bourgeoisie, and for a long time with a Christian religion that cherished ancient humanism, in “respect for tradition, the cult of the family, the spirit of order, prudence and economy”. These values are not tolerated in a mass demos controlled by progressive administrators and businesses seeking to encourage everyone to pursue their own lifestyle.