Western Culture

Aristotle: The Biopolitics of the Citizen-State, Part 4

Law versus Decadence

Like Plato (left), Aristotle hoped that an inspired lawgiver could establish an enduring good government.

A last concern of Aristotle’s which is of great relevance to our time is the prevention of decadence. For Aristotle, the good of the city is reflected in the virtue of the citizens. The citizens are educated and trained in virtue by adherence to the city’s largely-unchanging basic law, set in place by an inspired lawgiver. The question becomes: how can the law ensure that virtue is maintained in perpetuity?

There are no easy answers. Nations tend to be victims of their own successes. As Aristotle notes: “People are easily spoiled; and it is not all who can stand prosperity” (1308b10). He speaks at length on how Sparta’s morals were corrupted after that martial city defeated Athens and achieved hegemony in Greece as a result of the Peloponnesian War. According to Aristotle, adherence to Lycurgus’ law did not survive material wealth and the empowerment of women.

The Greeks were less prone to excessive individualism than the modern West has been, but they often ceded to the siren song of egalitarianism. Aristotle reports that many Greeks believed that if men were equal in some respect, such as being freeborn, they must be equal overall and certainly equally entitled to rule. Many took equality as a goal, leading them to seek to both make the citizens equal and to indiscriminately extend citizenship: “some thinkers [hold] that liberty is chiefly to be found in democracy and that the same goes for equality, this condition is most fully realized when all share, as far as possible, on the same terms in the constitution” (1291b30).

While Aristotle is indeed more ‘bourgeois’ than Plato, he too is contemptuous of egalitarian excesses, which manifest themselves in democratic extremism and selfish individualism. Aristotle, like Plato, argues at length that right equality or justice means that equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally (1287a1). And again, for him, justice means the interests of the community:

What is “right” should be understood as what is “equally right”; and what is “equally right” is what is for the benefit of the whole city and for the common good of its citizens. The citizen is, in general, one who shares in the civic life of ruling and being ruled in turn. (1283b27)

Aristotle notes that some democracies are so extreme that they actually undermine the existence of their own state, and hence do not survive as long as a moderate democracy. He writes with great eloquence on that “false conception of liberty” which has so often seduced our people:

In democracies of the type which is regarded as being peculiarly democratic the policy followed is the very reverse of their real interest. The reason for this is a false conception of liberty. There are two features which are generally held to define democracy. One of them is the sovereignty of the majority; the other is the liberty of individuals. Justice is assumed to consist in equality and equality in regarding the will of the masses as sovereign; liberty is assumed to consist in “doing what one likes.” The result of such a view is that, in these extreme democracies, each individual lives as he likes — or as Euripides says,

For any end he chances to desire.

This is a mean conception [of liberty]. To live by the rule of the constitution ought not to be regarded as slavery, but rather as salvation. (1310A12)

Is this not a very concise summation of the ills of modern liberalism? I would argue that the West was already severely infected by the 1930s, before metastasizing to an absurd degree from the 1960s onwards. Thus today, liberals express desire only for ‘equality’ and ‘solidarity,’ all the while destroying the very foundations for these ends through multiculturalism and open-borders, these being zealously imposed with disastrous short-sightedness. Read more

Aristotle: The Biopolitics of the Citizen-State, Part 3

Population Policies and Eugenics

The Spartan sage Lycurgus instituted Greece’s most ambitious population policies.

True to his communitarian foundations, Aristotle argues that population policies — notably concerning immigration, naturalization, and reproduction — are a fundamental element of statecraft and ought to be determined by what serves the interests of the society as a whole. Aristotle observes very lucidly: “The prime factor necessary, in the equipment of a city, is the human material; and this involves us in considering the quality, as well as quantity” (1325b33). The city is defined not by mere geography, but above all by the population. Therefore: “To determine the size of a city — to settle how large it can properly be, and whether it ought to consist of the members of several races — is a duty incumbent on the statesman” (1276a24). The statesman then has a duty to decide who is fit to be a citizen and to ensure the biological reproduction and quality of the citizens, thus perpetuating the city.

In line with Aristotle’s imagined foundation of the city as an extended family, the Greeks typically granted citizenship according to rules of descent. Aristotle observes: “For practical purposes, it is usual to define a citizen as one ‘born of citizen parents on both sides,’ and not on the father’s or mother’s side only; but sometimes this requirement is carried still farther back, to the length of two, three, or more stages of ancestry” (1275b22). Aristotle also defines a city in part by the possibility of intermarriage among its members. Naturalized citizens are clearly considered exceptional, Aristotle deeming them citizens “in some special sense” (1274b38).

The ancient Greeks were obsessed with their ancestry and lineage, following aristocratic and hereditarian assumptions. Aristotle says that “good birth, for a people and a state, is to be indigenous or ancient and to have distinguished founders with many descendants distinguished in matters that excite envy” (Rhetoric, 1.5).[8] Following the widespread Greek assumptions that both nature and nurture mattered, he writes that “it is likely that good sons will come from good fathers and that the appropriately raised will be of the appropriate sort” (Rhetoric, 1.9). Aristotle furthermore lists shared blood as one of the forms of friendship, an eminently adaptive view: “The species of friendship are companionship, intimacy, consanguinity, and so on” (Rhetoric, 2.4). Read more

Aristotle: The Biopolitics of the Citizen-State, Part 2

The ekklesiasterion, or assembly meeting place, of Messene, where civic debates were held

Aristotle’s Republic of Virtue

From these biopolitical premises, Aristotle wholeheartedly agreed with the communitarian ethos which the Greeks took for granted. As the philosopher explains: “the goodness of every part must be considered with reference to the goodness of the whole” (1260b8) and “a whole is never intended by nature to be inferior to a part” (1288a15). Indeed, Aristotle’s definition of a community-centered notion of justice may well be incomprehensible to many moderns: “The good in the sphere of politics is justice; and justice consists in what tends to promote the common interest” (1282b14). How many political discussions today — whether about abortion, gay marriage, immigration, economic policy, or whatever — refer to the common good rather than to solipsistic arguments about individual or sectoral ‘rights’ and ‘fairness’?

Aristotle is decidedly more ‘bourgeois’ and less spiritual than Plato. He has far less to say about the role of religion in the good society, this being practically an afterthought. He seems to hope for, at best, a stable and moderate regime, one respecting the interests of both rich and poor, founded upon an enlightened citizenry composed of independent landowners and responsible citizen-soldiers. But Aristotle also had an elevated notion of what politics should be about. In his own time, he contradicted those who believed that the state exists only as a kind of contract between individuals, meant only to guarantee their security or to enable them to chase after coin.

For Aristotle, man fulfills his nature as a rational being through philosophical contemplation and active citizenship. But only a minority have the intellectual gifts necessary to do this, and furthermore, as a practical matter, the work of servile subalterns is necessary to secure the necessary leisure to pursue philosophy and politics. Hence, Aristotle notoriously endorses a doctrine of natural slavery: barbarians and the morally defective are incapable of freedom and hence are only fit to be slaves of better men, thus enabling the latter to fulfill our human potential. Natural slaves are those who, either as individuals or as entire peoples, are so poorly endowed in reason that they may only participate in it as the servants of superior men. Aristotle observes: “what difference, one may ask, is there between some men and the beasts?” (1281b15). The recognition of inequality, enabling the creation of a just community and hierarchy, is no less central to Aristotle’s ethics and politics than those of Plato. Read more

When is the final decadence coming? From Sallust and Juvenal to the present (Part 1)

What follows below is the translation of my speech/paper delivered in the French language at the conference organized by Résistance Helvétique, Geneva, March 9, 2019.

*   *  *

The Ancients, that is, our Greco-German-Gallo-Slavo-Illyro-Roman ancestors, were well aware of hereditary causes of decadence, although they attributed to this notion different names. The idea of decadence, let alone its reality, has always been present, although its current denomination came first into the French language by the eighteenth century in the writings of Montesquieu.[1] Later on, toward the end of the nineteenth century, the so-called “decadent” poets in France were a favorite and highly praised genre in traditionalist literary circles, labelled today in a somewhat derogatory way as “far-right circles.” Subsequently, these so-called decadent poets and writers started to exert a considerable influence on many right-wing rebels despite their own often unbridled, transracial, alcoholic and narcotized manners, or simply put, despite their decadent lifestyles.[2]

Although less common than in France, the term “Dekadenz” was also common in the prose of reactionary and revolutionary conservative writers in Germany by the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century. Like their counterparts in France, these writers had become terrified over the climate of moral decay and capitalist anomie in the cultural and political life of their country. It should be pointed out, however, that the German word “Dekadenz,” which is of French origin, has a different meaning in the German language, a language which prefers tapping into its own lexical treasure trove and where signifiers often yield different meanings. A good German conceptual equivalent of the French word “décadence” would be a very unique German term “Entartung”, a term translated into French and English by a heavy-handed term “degeneracy,” which, because of its biological connotations, does not always match with the original meaning of the German word “Entartung.”

The German word “Entartung,” whose etymology and meaning were originally politically neutral, refers to a process of “de-naturalization,” a process not exclusively linked to biological degeneration. This unique German word, due to its frequent use during the period of the National Socialist rule in Germany, underwent a negative semantic shift in the wake of World War II and following the Allied anti-German propaganda, to the point that it is no longer in use in the realm of culture and politics in contemporary Germany.[3]

In ex-Communist Eastern Europe, during the Cold War, the term decadence was almost non-existent. Instead, the communist commissars blasted Western capitalist mores with a revolutionary and all-purpose term that soon became a derogatory buzzword in the communist vernacular: “bourgeois.” In summary, one can conclude that the most avid users of the term “decadence,” as well as its most ardent critics, have been writers classified as right-wingers or authors on the far right.

Three essential questions need to be raised. When does decadence start to manifest itself, what are its origins, and how does it end? A host of premodern and postmodern writers, from JB Bossuet to Emile Cioran, each in his own way and each resorting to his own mode of literary expression, have provided us with apocalyptic accounts of decadence seen as steering us now toward the end-times of the European world.

Despite this, it seems that Europe is still alive and kicking despite a series of decadences it has encountered over its history, starting with the decadence in ancient Rome all the way to serial decadences in modern times. With one big exception. In view of the large-scale racial replacement of European peoples by the masses of non-European peoples, the old European world seems to be now preordained not to a transient decadence, but rather to a terminal decadence. Read more

Review: of Richard Storey’s The Uniqueness of Western Law

The Uniqueness of Western Law: A Reactionary Manifesto
Richard Storey
Arktos, 2019

With Washington Summit taking a hiatus and Counter-Currents more or less capitulating in the face of a rapid sequence of Amazon bans, Arktos has emerged as one of the most prolific and stable of the Alt-Right’s publishing brands. Some of this success and stability may be due to the brand’s ability to secure translations of works by familiar names like Alain de Benoist and Julius Evola, as well as bring forward work from new, innovative, and fresh young thinkers like Richard Houck. But I think another, and possibly more important, element contributing to the brand’s ongoing growth and development is consistency — consistency in leadership, editorial standards, production values, and manuscript selection. Over the last couple of years, as a voracious reader of content on numerous topics from multiple sources, I’ve come to appreciate the consistency offered by Arktos in all of these areas. I recently acquired a number of their new titles covering a range of subjects, some of which I expected to agree with wholeheartedly, and others that I thought might challenge me or broaden my understanding in certain areas. Of these, Richard Storey’s self-described “Reactionary Manifesto” fell somewhere in the middle of these expectations. Marketed as “an original interpretation of libertarian theory,” the book was guaranteed to pique my curiosity.

I am not a libertarian, nor have I ever embraced any such political identity or affiliation. My thinking regarding the broader trajectory of libertarian thinking is absolutely in line with that laid out by my TOO/TOQ colleague Brenton Sanderson in his landmark essay “Free to Lose: Jews, Whites & Libertarianism” (TOQ, vol. 11, no., 3; Fall, 2011) For Sanderson, the Jewish intellectual origins of economic libertarianism are explained by the fact that

free markets advance the interests of Jews through imposing an impersonal economic discipline on non-Jews through which their ethnocentricity and anti-Semitic prejudice can be circumvented. … Jews have indeed prospered under the conditions of free market capitalism among often hostile majority European-derived populations. … Jews, even in the freest of markets, are notorious for developing and using ethnic monopolies. … Accordingly, the free-market libertarian agenda, when promoted in the context of a society that is multi-racial, and where some racial groups exceed Whites in the degree of their ethnocentricity, may not promote the group evolutionary interests of Whites in enhancing their access to resources and reproductive success.

Sanderson continues:

It seems evident from the foregoing that the only time that Whites will be acting in their own evolutionary self-interest in embracing the free-market libertarian agenda will be when they either live in a racially homogeneous society where their group interests are not imperiled by the utility-maximizing behavior of individuals; or in a multi-racial society where competing racial groups do not exceed Whites in their ethnocentrism, or exceed Whites in their ethnocentrism but lack the native endowment of intellect to capitalize on this by effectively employing altruistic group strategies in competition with individualistic Whites. … It would seem that libertarian ideas are particularly hazardous to the collective interests of White people because we are naturally attracted to them. As MacDonald notes, our evolutionary history makes us prone to individualism in the first place. You then get a negative feedback loop where libertarian ideology intensifies this innate individualism to encourage ever greater individualism among Whites, and an ever greater aversion to manifestations of White ethnocentrism. Thus, where the spirit of free market libertarian individualism reigns, Whites willingly maximize their individual self-interest at the expense of the group evolutionary interests of the White community — with disastrous long-term consequences.

In terms of analysis, this simply can’t be improved upon. Sanderson’s essay serves as a devastating critique of libertarianism from the standpoint of White ethnic interests, and it has been, and remains, very influential on my thinking about the topic. Thus, even before I opened Richard Storey’s text, I thought that its success would be determined to a large extent by the manner in which it addressed the core issues of ethnic interests and how it grappled with the fact Whites seem uniquely susceptible to individualistic and atomizing ideologies. The fact that Storey is known to frame his thinking in an outwardly Catholic fashion also raised possible doubts as to its potential for wider appeal. Fortunately, this short but remarkably efficient volume rose to the challenge. Read more

A Conversation with Ricardo Duchesne, Part 3 of 3

Go to Part 1.
Go to Part 2.

Grégoire Canlorbe: It is not uncommon to claim the self-assertive longing for “prestige,” “respect,” and “fame” is fully intelligible within the framework of the selfish-gene theory, according to which the individual is biologically designed to propagate his genes—and therefore, to pursue personal survival, reproduction, and kin solidarity. Despite the Indo-European warlord’s disdain for his own biological survival, and despite his heroism being recognized and praised by people who are not necessarily related to him genetically, do you still subscribe to the universal relevance of the selfish-gene framework?

Ricardo Duchesne: In Uniqueness I contrasted the aristocratic obsession with honor and respect to the universal instinct for survival, giving the impression that Indo-Europeans were somehow standing above the evolutionary pressures that all groups face in maximizing their chances for reproduction and survival. Kevin MacDonald correctly clarified, in his long review, that “prestige and honor among one’s fellows is in fact typically linked with material possessions and reproductive success. Like other psychological traits related to aggression and risk-taking, the pursuit of social prestige by heroic acts is a high risk/high reward behavior, where evidently the rewards sufficiently outweighed the risks over a prolonged period of evolutionary time.”[1]

Darwinian selective pressures are always at work. But this should not be taken to mean that human culture does not have its own internal dynamics, and that all our beliefs and behaviors are explainable in Darwinian terms. Evolutionary psychologists (not MacDonald) can be quite presumptuous in their fundamentalist belief that they can instruct sociologists, philosophers, and members of the humanities, about human nature and the ultimate origins and biological foundations of our cultural practices. They like to emphasize the cultural patterns, institutions, customs, and beliefs that occur universally across many cultures, as a demonstration that humans will only engage in cultural practices that are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations.

It is worth noticing, however, that the examples of cultural universals they offer — such as the universal presence of athletic sports, dancing, music, housing, funeral rites, language, greetings, courtship, calendars, division of labor, status differentiation, tool-making — are examples of basic cultural practices performed by everyday humans. They represent the lowest cultural denominator. They can’t account for the superlative achievements of Europeans in music, the fact that classical music is singularly European, in evolutionary terms. They can’t account for the fact that almost all the greatest thinkers are European, the architectural styles, the invention of sports, etc. Their inclination, rather, is to trivialize high culture and high achievements that are not easily fitted into an evolutionary scheme.

Why did Europe produce almost all the great scientists in history? Steven Pinker is not interested in these questions but concentrates on the universal traits of the human mind as “a neural computer, fitted by natural selection with combinatorial algorithms for causal and probabilistic reasoning about plants, animals, objects and people.”[2] How do we explain Europe’s superlative achievements in the arts? Pinker’s angle is that “the value of art is largely unrelated to aesthetics: a priceless masterpiece becomes worthless if found to be a forgery; soup cans and comic strips become high art when the art world says they are, and then command conspicuously wasteful prices.”[3]

They know that natural selection can only play a foundational role in understanding human culture and that “human culture itself,” in the words of another Darwinian hardliner, Daniel Dennett, “is a more fecund generator of brilliant innovations” than genetic endowment. This is why they came up with the concept of memes, which they think “can do justice to the humanities and sciences at the same time” by providing an explanation of cultural changes in terms of “new selective pressures” created by culture itself. They acknowledge that culture has evolved through cultural selection transmitted “perceptually, not genetically”[4]

Richard Dawkins defines the term meme “to refer to the ways of doing and making things that spread through cultures.” Dennett realizes that many selected memes have not enhanced human fitness, and that in fact “many of our most cherished memes are demonstrably fitness-reducing in the biological sense,” such as postponing procreation to get a very expensive college education. Once we meet our survival needs, humans “think there are more important things in life than out-reproducing their conspecifics.”  “We are the only species that has discovered other things to die for (and to kill for): freedom, democracy, truth, communism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and many other meme complexes (memes made up of memes).”[5] We are the only species that articulates reasons to account for why we do things and the only species that attempts to persuade others why those reasons are good, often in the name of goals that cannot be accounted for in straightforward evolutionary terms. They have also argued that human cultural activity has changed the environments they respond to, creating “cognitive niches” or “cultural niches” with very different selective pressures. Pinker believes that humans evolved sufficient genetic capacities to be able to select the best memes and discard culturally inefficient or dysfunctional memes. Read more

A Conversation with Ricardo Duchesne, Part 2 of 3

Grégoire Canlorbe: Western civilization, originating from the Indo-European heroic ethos, turned out to be both the most creative and Faustian civilization and the most war-ridden and war-dominated one. Islamic civilization has been equally militaristic and expansionist; yet it quickly became frozen and hostile towards innovation and individual genius—despite the fact that praising Muhammad’s heroic lifetime has permeated Islamic societies to this day. How do you explain this duality?

Ricardo Duchesne: Almost all cultures have been expansionist, if not warlike, in one form or another. This universal trait does not make a people Faustian. Even highly expansionist peoples such as the Assyrians, Aztecs, Huns, Turks, or Mongols, were not Faustian. Oswald Spengler was aware that medieval and modern Europeans were not uniquely militaristic and imperialistic. Spengler spoke of the “morphological relationship that inwardly binds together the expression-forms of all branches of Culture.” For him, such things as Rococo art, differential calculus, the Crusades and the Spanish conquest of the Americas, were all expressions of the same soul. He saw something Faustian about all the great men of Europe, both in reality and in fiction: in Hamlet, Richard III, Gauss, Newton, Nicolas Cusanus, Don Quixote, Goethe’s Werther, Gregory VII, Michelangelo, Paracelsus, Dante, Descartes, Don Juan, Bach, Wagner’s Parsifal, Haydn, Leibniz’s Monads, Giordano Bruno, Frederick the Great, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. For Spengler, Christianity, too, became a thoroughly Faustian moral ethic. “It was not Christianity that transformed Faustian man, but Faustian man who transformed Christianity —and he not only made it a new religion but also gave it a new moral direction”: will-to-power in ethics. This “Faustian-Christian morale” produced the incredible variety of personalities we witness in Europe, such as Luther, Loyola, Pascal, St. Theresa, “giant-men like Henry the Lion and Gregory VII, … the men of the Renaissance, of the struggle of the two Roses, of the Huguenot Wars, the Spanish Conquistadores, … Napoleon, Bismarck, Rhodes.”

By contrast, other than the Islamic efflorescence between 700 and 1200, which consisted primarily in commentaries on Aristotle, preserving some contributions from Persia and the Greco-Roman world, the Islamic world barely produced any truly creative personalities. Spengler attributed this to the “the Magian Soul” of Arabic-Muslim culture; in Islam “the civil and the ecclesiastical are identical.” This identification means that the world of man is subordinate to the dictates of Islam, everyone is essentially a believer or a non-believer, a member of the “We” of Islam or an outcast standing alone. There is no “I” in Islam, no room for personalities to affirm their “self-asserting egos” as we find in Christianity. Faustian Christianity “presupposes the strong and free will that can overcome itself.”

It is difficult to sum up this contrast, but perhaps this passage may do for this interview: “Whereas the Faustian man is an ‘I’ that in the last resort draws its own conclusions about the Infinite, … the Magian man, with his spiritual kind of being, is only a part of a pneumatic ‘We’ that, descending from above, is one and the same in all believers. As body and soul he belongs not to himself alone, but something else, something alien and higher, dwells in him, making him with all his glimpses and convictions just a member of a consensus which, as the emanation of God, excludes error, but excludes also all possibility of the self-asserting Ego. Truth is for him something other than for us. All our epistemological methods, resting upon the individual judgment, are for him madness and infatuation, and its scientific results a work of the Evil One, who has confused and deceived the spirit as to its true dispositions and purposes.”[1]

Once we understand the “morphological” unity of culture, we can see that Islam has not been “equally militaristic and expansionist.” There is a beautiful creativity in European expansionism that is lacking in all other cultures. Europeans were far more expansive, and successfully so: by 1800 they controlled 35% of the land surface of the globe, increasing this control to 85% by 1914. Almost every single military innovation in weapons, strategy, and organization, from ancient Greek times to the present, was European. There is no comparison. Read more