Senex / Puer

Senex                 -           Puer
Tyhrric               -           Odinic
Innovate             -           Endure
Novel                 -           Traditional
Achievement      -           Limits
Aspire                -           Accept
Dynamic            -           Static

The parallels between the domestic cults among the [Indo-European] branches suggest that ancestor worship was originary, and ancestor worship is usually tied to a place, especially a barrow or tomb.

In historical times, IEs were loath to move, and the only ones who would were the lower status individuals. The noble classes stayed put, it was generally the junior familial branches who went off to found colonies. Seasonal cattle rustling is one thing, but leaving your homeland wasn't something you did for fun and adventure—you did it because of hard necessity.

This fits much better with the Odinic/Tyrrhic conception than the Faustian, where the Odinic is the side of the young Koryos, the explosive warband of youths who were at once esoteric, initiatic, and utterly realist, Dumezil's magician-king. They weren't idealistic adventurers, they were a hard-headed warrior band who filled an important role in their society.

The complement, the Tyrrhic, is the venerable, exoteric state cult, the picture of traditionalism. When Dave says that "space is gay", he is expressing the Tyrrhic. A lot of you prefer the Odinic—the Aryan encompasses both.

If you want an Aryan sentiment along the same lines, look no further than Homer. After the Trojan War, Odysseus is thrust into adventure after adventure. He defies gods, courts a princess, and is even offered immortality by a goddess. He wants none of that though—the one thing he wants is to see his hearth again. He wants to get back to his wife, his family, the seat of his ancestors. Odysseus would have understood very well what Dave is getting at, and this too is Aryan.

[Mike from Imperium Press]

The Odinic Romulus is a very different figure than the Tyrrhic Numa.

Romulus is the founder who brings the sacred fire and has an element of wildness and barbarism about him. He is somewhat beyond the pale, being a fratricide, and being eventually killed by the senate who represents what is venerable and ancient. He is a dark, violent, revolutionary, uncanny figure.

You are not meant to emulate him—a civilization of Romuluses could not work—you are meant to respect him, maybe even fear him a little. He is a wartime king.

Note also that Romulus, while not the moral exemplar, is “senior”, even if he represents youth, speed, frenzy—the child the father of the man. He has “firstness”, he is the founder, and his will necessarily prevails; Numa’s job is to carry out and interpret that will.

[Imperium Press]
‘The Odinic vs. the Tyrrhic’, Imperium Press, Substack

But inquiry into the interpersonal relationships of neurotics reveals a lack of maturity, a failure to progress beyond a childish preoccupation with being worse than, or better than, others; an inability to love and be lovable; a failure to achieve that relationship of whole person to whole person which is the outward sign of an inward integration.

[Anthony Storr]
The Integrity of the Personality, p.167

Related posts:

Free Space

Free                             -        Connected
Context independent   -        Context dependent
Present-at-hand           -        Ready-to-hand
Conscious                    -        Unconscious
Abstract                       -        Concrete
State                             -        Process
Rational                       -        Non-rational
Fact                              -        Opinion
Is                                  -        Ought

The 'free' or 'neutral' space of modernity is nothing other than the vacuum left by tradition, in which competing interests engage in an on-going civil war.

It is Quigley's 'middle path', a latent space in which approximations emerge but are never allowed to crystallise into final answers.

Truth in Native science is of a very different order. Truths are not value-free but depend upon tradition and social and spiritual sanctions.

Dreams and visions are systems of validation. Truth is contained within origin and migration stories, songs and ceremonies. And the source of truth is found in nature and in the direct experience of individuals through dreams and visions; conversations with rocks, trees, and animals; and patient observation of the world around them.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.264


With the present-at-hand one has (in contrast to "ready-to-hand") an attitude like that of a scientist or theorist, of merely looking at or observing something. 

In seeing an entity as present-at-hand, the beholder is concerned only with the bare facts of a thing or a concept, as they are present and in order to theorize about it. This way of seeing is disinterested in the concern it may hold for Dasein, its history or usefulness. This attitude is often described as existing in neutral space without any particular mood or subjectivity. However, for Heidegger, it is not completely disinterested or neutral. It has a mood, and is part of the metaphysics of presence that tends to level all things down. Through his writings, Heidegger sets out to accomplish the Destruktion (see above) of this metaphysics of presence.

Present-at-hand is not the way things in the world are usually encountered, and it is only revealed as a deficient or secondary mode, e.g., when a hammer breaks it loses its usefulness and appears as merely there, present-at-hand. When a thing is revealed as present-at-hand, it stands apart from any useful set of equipment but soon loses this mode of being present-at-hand and becomes something, for example, that must be repaired or replaced.

Heidegger, who in Being and Time claimed that the theoretical attitude of pure presence is parasitical upon a more originary involvement with the world in concepts such as the ready-to-hand and being-with.

'Heideggerian terminology' and 'Metaphysics of presence', Wikipedia

The realm of number, the crystalline mathematic of Apollonian purity, was invented early on by western man as a refuge from the soggy emotionalism and bristling disorder of woman and nature.

Women who excel in mathematics do so in a system devised by men for the mastery of nature. Number is the most imposing and least creaturely of pacifiers, man’s yearning hope for objectivity. It is to number that he —and now she—withdraws to escape from the chthonian mire of love, hate, and family romance.

Emotion is chaos. Every benign emotion has a flip side of negativity. Thus the flight from emotion to number is another crucial strategy of the Apollonian west in its long struggle with Dionysus.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.18

It is in this capacity of the self to evade any necessary identification with any particular contingent state of affairs that some modern philosophers, both analytical and existentialist, have seen the essence of moral agency.

To be a moral agent is, on this view, precisely to be able to stand back from any and every situation in which one is involved, from any and every characteristic that one may possess, and to pass judgment on it from a purely universal and abstract point of view that is totally detached from all social particularity.

Anyone and everyone can thus be a moral agent, since it is in the self and not in social roles or practices that moral agency has to be located.

This democratized self which has no necessary social content and no necessary social identity can then be anything, can assume any role or take any point of view, because it is in and for itself nothing.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.36-7

For liberal individualism a community is simply an arena in which individuals each pursue their own self-chosen conception of the good life, and political institutions exist to provide that degree of order which makes such self-determined activity possible.

Government and law are, or ought to be, neutral between rival conceptions of the good life for man, and hence, although it is the task of government to promote law-abidingness, it is on the liberal view no part of the legitimate function of government to inculcate anyone moral outlook.

By contrast, on the particular ancient and medieval view which I have sketched political community not only requires the exercise of the virtues for its own sustenance, but it is one of the tasks of parental authority to make children grow up so as to be virtuous adults.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.227

In the conceptual melange of moral thought and practice today fragments from the tradition - virtue concepts for the most part - are still found alongside characteristically modern and individualist concepts such as those of rights or utility.

[...] the need to enter into public debate enforces participation in the cultural melange in the search for a common stock of concepts and norms which all may employ and to which all may appeal.

Moral philosophy, as it is dominantly understood, reflects the debates and disagreements of the culture so faithfully that its controversies turn out to be unsettlable in just the way that the political and moral debates themselves are.

It follows that our society cannot hope to achieve moral consensus. Marx was fundamentally right in seeing conflict and not consensus at the heart of modern social structure.

It is not just that we live too much by a variety and multiplicity of fragmented concepts; it is that these are used at one and the same time to express rival and incompatible social ideals and policies and to furnish us with a pluralist political rhetoric whose function is to conceal the depth of our conflicts.

What this brings out is that modern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus. And it is not. Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means [...]

The truth on this matter was set out by Adam Ferguson: 'We are not to expect that the laws of any country are to be framed as so many lessons of morality ... Laws, whether civil or political, are expedients of policy to adjust the pretensions of parties, and to secure the peace of society [...] 

The nature of any society therefore is not to be deciphered from its laws alone, but from those understood as an index of its conflicts. What our laws show is the extent and degree to which conflict has to be suppressed.

In any society where government does not express or represent the moral community of the citizens, but is instead a set of institutional arrangements for imposing a bureaucratized unity on a society which lacks genuine moral consensus, the nature of political obligation becomes systematically unclear.

[...] the tradition of the virtues is at variance with central features of the modern economic order and more especially its individualism, its acquisitiveness and its elevation of the values of the market to a central social place. It now becomes clear that it also involves a rejection of the modern political order.

Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.292-5

John Rawls is an extension of Parsons’ and Bellah’s liberation theology, if somewhat secularized.

His famous “original position”—where one is asked what world he would want if he had no idea where or to whom or with what qualities he would be born—is simply the logical conclusion of Locke’s blank slate, where man is utterly shorn of all background and context, freed from the “accident” of birth, as though it’s an accident that you are your father’s son.

This “accident” is theologically significant. In separating the self from the particularities of birth, Rawls simply continues the separation of body from soul begun millennia ago, but in secularized form.

[Imperium Press]
'Communism a Fortiori: A Response to BAP’s GNC', Imperium Press, Substack

It’s worth finding out what we can about the likely effectiveness of a given policy proposal before we drift off into battles guided only by our personal opinion and biases, expressing our opinions about other opinions.

Opinion-based battles rather than fact-based ones: That’s the direction in which I fear this country is headed.

[James A. Thomson]
Colorado ACLU Speech, 1 October 2005

The Outlook of the West is that broad middle way about which the fads and foibles of the West oscillate.

It is what is implied by what the West says it believes, not at one moment but over the long succession of moments that form the history of the West. From that succession of moments it is clear that the West believes in diversity rather than in uniformity, in pluralism rather than in monism or dualism, in inclusion rather than exclusion, in liberty rather than in authority, in truth rather than in power, in conversion rather than in annihilation, in the individual rather than in the organization, in reconciliation rather than in triumph, in heterogeneity rather than in homogeneity, in relativisms rather than in absolutes, and in approximations rather than in final answers.

The West believes that man and the universe are both complex and that the apparently discordant parts of each can be put into a reasonably workable arrangement with a little good will, patience, and experimentation. In man the West sees body, emotions, and reason as all equally real and necessary, and is prepared to entertain discussion about their relative inter-relationships but is not prepared to listen for long to any intolerant insistence that any one of these has a final answer.

The West has no faith in final answers today. It believes that all answers are unfinal because everything is imperfect, although possibly getting better and thus advancing toward a perfection the West is prepared to admit may be present in some remote and almost unattainable future.

Similarly in the universe, the West is prepared to recognize that there are material aspects, less material aspects, immaterial aspects, and spiritual aspects, although it is not prepared to admit that anyone yet has a final answer on the relationships of these. Similarly the West is prepared to admit that society and groups are necessary, while the individual is important, but it is not prepared to admit that either can stand alone or be made the ultimate value to the sacrifice of the other.

Where rationalists insist on polarizing the continua of human experience into antithetical pairs of opposing categories, the West has constantly rejected the implied need for rejection of one or the other, by embracing “Both.”

[...] In fact a correct definition of the Christian tradition might well be expressed in that one word “Both.” Throughout its long history, controversy over religion in Western society has been based on a disturbance of the arrangement or balance within that “Both.”

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The Future in Perspective,’ p.778

[…] it is an irreducible part of the human condition for humans to be limited, so that they can never know anything about the nature of humanity. To ask a question about human substance, or the teleology of humanity’s power, leads to debates as meaningless as “whether the best Relish were to be found in Apples, Plumbs, or Nuts.”

In the place of human nature, Locke leaves us with an unknowable “X." This awareness of ignorance provides the low but solid ground on which the American Founding takes place. The human “X” may have certain wants and preferences, but nobody is in an authoritative position from which to challenge those desires.

And so, in a somewhat paradoxical manner, the unknowability of “X” leads to classic liberalism and the very strong assertion of the different rights that belong to that unknowable “X”: the freedom of religion, for we cannot ever know what people are truly thinking in the temple of their minds; the freedom of speech, for we cannot irrefutably criticize the way people express themselves; the right to property and commerce, for we cannot second-guess what people will do with the things they possess.

[…] the general principle of the unknowability of the human “X” would encourage a gradual expansion, over time, of the field of human freedom.

[Peter Thiel]
‘The Straussian Moment’

Related posts:


Separate      -           Connected
Future         -           Past
New            -           Old
Open           -           Closed

As with some later feminist criticisms of Freud, Horney attempted to retrieve female sexuality, and by extension a valid form of feminine existence, by appealing to a genuinely independent nature and holding culture culpable for women's subordinate status.

Beauvoir's misgivings about Freud's account of femininity stem from two sources, a feminist suspicion that women, in psychoanalytic discourse, are understood on the basis of a masculine model, and an existentialist conviction that human beings are self-defining, choosing themselves through their own actions. Following her existentialist convictions, Beauvoir insists that even when women abdicate their freedom, they do so as agents responsible for their own destinies, not merely as passive victims following a developmentally determined fate.

Following her feminist convictions, Beauvoir recognizes that women's choices may be constrained by powerful social and bodily forces, but insists that women nonetheless bear ultimate responsibility for realizing their own possibilities by emancipating themselves.

Nonetheless, Beauvoir's dispute with Freud appears to be less about whether constraint is part of our being in the world, and more about where that constraint is located: psychoanalysis locates constraint internally, in the constitution of the psyche itself, not only in the situations of social life, whereas Beauvoir locates it externally, in the cultural forces that impact even the most intimate sense of our own agency.

Beauvoir thus claims that her own interpretations of women's femininity will disclose women in their liberty, oriented freely by the future and not simply explained by a past. She thereby ratifies the promise of existentialism for feminism.

Irigaray seeks to create a representation for women that would not be a designation of what she is, defining her by and holding her to some concrete essence, but would allow her to exist on her own terms and speak for herself.

The erasure of sexual difference enables a metaphysics of substance in which sexual identity is a matter of fixed and pre-determined being, of underlying essences or common properties, rather than a form of becoming and self-generation.

[Emily Zakin]
‘Psychoanalytic Feminism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The long pregnancy of the human female and the protracted childhood of her infant, who is not self-sustaining for seven years or more, have produced the agon of psychological dependency that burdens the male for a lifetime.

Man justifiably fears being devoured by woman, who is nature’s proxy [...] Masculinity must fight off effeminacy day by day. Woman and nature stand ever ready to reduce the male to boy and infant.

The chthonian superflux of emotion is a male problem. A man must do battle with that enormity, which resides in woman and nature. He can attain selfhood only by beating back the daemonic cloud that would swallow him up: mother-love, which we may just as well call mother-hate.

He must transform himself into an independent being, that is, a being free of her. If he does not, he will simply fall back into her. Reunion with the mother is a siren call haunting our imagination. Once there was bliss, and now there is struggle.

The male genital metaphor is concentration and projection. Nature gives concentration to man to help him overcome his fear. Man approaches woman in bursts of spasmodic concentration. This gives him the delusion of temporary control of the archetypal mysteries that brought him forth. It gives him the courage to return.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.9-10, 18-19, 27

Related posts:

Shallow Feminism / Deep Feminism

Shallow      -           Deep

I’ve recently been trying to tease out a fundamental division within the broad church of feminism, between what I’ll call ‘deep feminism’ and ‘shallow feminism.’ Both appear to be in conflict with what they call ‘patriarchy’ (or ‘the Patriarchy’), but upon closer examination it seems to me that only deep feminism wishes to ‘smash the patriarchy’, whereas shallow feminism wishes only to change its internal structure.

To deep feminism, ‘patriarchy’ can be broadly understood as an overemphasis on structure. Deep feminism is influenced by thinkers like Derrida and Lacan, who point out that while certain structures might seem ‘real’, every structure is in fact lacking, and so ‘unreal’. In Lacan’s work, femininity can be understood as that which works against structures and masculinity, conversely, as faith in structures - or as Lacan would put it, a belief in ‘presence’ (i.e. a belief that objects really are solid). ‘Patriarchy’ occurs when we take structures too seriously and deny their inherent inconsistency. It is a denial/retreat from absence, into presence; from weakness, into strength.

Shallow feminism takes for granted the necessity and ‘reality’ of structures, and concerns itself instead with their internal ordering. To shallow feminism, ‘patriarchy’ is apparent not so much in our epistemological understanding of ‘structures’, rather, in the way in which structures are ordered so that certain groups are favoured over others.

Beneath our structures lies what Lacan calls ‘the Real’ (and what I’ve referred to in the past as ‘the Sea', which is, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy admits, "tricky to encapsulate and evades being pinned down through succinct definitions.” The Real can be understood as the negative space between our categories and definitions, and is analogous to the waveform of quantum physics - a state of possibility that precedes, or undergirds a ‘collapse’ into form. To Lacan, the Real is akin the state of nature, and it is our use of language - the tool with which we conceptualise and compartmentalise experience - that separates us from this primordial domain. ‘Real’ is how we could describe our ‘animal’ existence in the Garden of Eden, with our use of language (i.e. symbolism/structures) precipitating our fall from the Real.

I like to envisage the Real as a sea - as something liquid, in motion - upon which we float, safe within our various vessels. Within the bowels of something as substantial as a cruise liner we may even forget that we’re at sea at all, but those paying close attention can still feel the slight motion of the waves beneath (a stray iceberg helps to provide a more vivid reminder). The sea is a constant threat to our safely anchored structures.

We can distinguish our two forms of feminism by their attitude towards the Real. Deep feminism seeks an exposure to the Real, whereas shallow feminism wants to be protected from it; and it is in this sense that we can say that shallow feminism wants to preserve the shell of ‘patriarchy’, which acts as a protection from the anxiety-provoking complexity of the Real. A confrontation with the Real - a plunge into cold, dark water - is, after all, more than most people can take. It’s a niche activity, and most aren't well suited to it. Those that seek the real tend to have a relatively unique constitution, and proclivities - artists, philosophers, poets, mystics. For the uninitiated, exposure to the Real can result in nihilism - in fact, ‘over-exposure to the Real’ (or ‘over-exposure to complexity’) could serve as a good definition for nihilism.

Todd McGowan suggests that ‘feminism is the recognition that nothing lies beneath, and the subsequent embrace of the nothing-beneath.’ But embracing the nothing-beneath is a tall order, and a risky one at that. An artist may eschew rules, boundaries, order, and convention, but most people can’t afford to.

And perhaps this is what our deep/shallow division comes down to: deep feminism is the preserve of the esoteric, the initiated; and shallow feminism the preserve of the exoteric and profane.

Mystics like Lacan may seek an exposure to the Real, and a radical reevaluation of the notion of ‘structure’ itself, but most feminists take for granted the necessity of some form of ‘patriarchy’ and seek rather an equal footing within it, or a shake-up of the established order.

While Lacan is criticized for constituting sexual difference on the basis of the phallic function and subjectivity on the basis of paternal authority, what the Lacanian project does provide for feminism is not the idea of a malleable culture, susceptible to human mastery, as distinct from a fixed nature that escapes it, but the more disconcerting idea that human mastery, of ourselves, of others, of nature and culture, is itself illusory.

Rather than the promise of a rational progress toward greater and greater equality, respect for individual difference, and universality, Lacan's insights, like Freud's, point toward the precariousness of identity and social bonds and to the instability of the drives that attach us to one another.

In addition to the distinctiveness of his method, focus, and insight, this willingness to grapple with the limits of self-mastery is one reason why Lacan has been taken as an innovative and amenable resource for some feminist theorists. In exposing the inadequacies of social or empirical accounts of sexual difference, identity, and the power relations built upon them, Lacan confronts the fundamental structures at the root of empirical socio-historical circumstances.

[Emily Zakin]
‘Psychoanalytic Feminism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[…] for Irigaray, both Beauvoir and Freud fail to address sexual difference insofar as they retain a singular notion of masculine subjectivity, Freud because he presumes the libido is always masculine, and Beauvoir because she reckons the aim of women's emancipation as equality with men (for instance by concluding the Second Sex with a call to brotherhood and seeming, arguably, to be calling for women to assimilate to masculine norms of selfhood). 

Irigaray rejects the project of equality, since ‘equality’ can only ever mean equality to men, and proposes instead doubling the notion of subjectivity in line with the subject's own self-division.

Irigaray also challenges the Lacanian idea of the law of the father and the phallic signifier, pillorying the way in which natural birth has been assigned to maternity while cultural birth is assigned to paternity, equating the woman-mother with body and the man-father with language and law, and relegating the bodily process of parturition (maternity) to mute nature while valorizing the symbolic process of legitimation (paternity) as constitutive of civilization.

Irigaray's affirmation of sexual difference does not mean affirming the feminine traits that have been ascribed to women, since these are actually, in her view, the traits of sexual indifference, defined only with reference to men. Sexual difference has yet to appear and it is her task to bring it into being.

Unlike Irigaray, who wants to retrieve the pre-Oedipal period in order to reclaim feminine genealogies, Kristeva wants only to redescribe it in order to reassess its import for individuation and creative self-transformation. She takes infantile matricide (separation from the mother) to be a necessary condition of subjectivity and not a remnant of patriarchal violence.

Where Irigaray aims to introduce sexual difference into the social contract and the domain of law and rights, Kristeva proposes that we introduce self-discord.

[Emily Zakin]
‘Psychoanalytic Feminism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Irigaray wants a stake in civilisation, but a deeper critique would question the inherent 'patriarchal' assumptions that give rise to civilisation in the first place. 

In wanting to introduce 'sexual difference', which has yet to appear in history, Irigaray seems to chase the impossible, an ill-formed fantasy.

Many women who now demand equality with men in the professions are not struggling to overcome the tyranny of the patriarchal order. On the contrary, they are, in their long, regressive, unredeemed identification with matter, struggling to compete with men in the largely unconscious service of the dark side of the Great Mother.

In this crucial respect, their behavior is far more regressive than their active rebellion would suggest. They are becoming the victims of the Great Maw in ways that release her particular fury.

While men are as unconsciously victimized as women, this chapter is directed specifically to women who are now finding themselves enslaved to the Great Mother and are coming to realize that the way out offered by the more radical elements of the feminist movement only leads them deeper into her clutches.

[Marion Woodman]
‘The Emergence of the Feminine’, Betwixt and Between, p.204

Contemporary feminists, recognising the trap into which they might fall, i.e. becoming the enemy they sought to overthrow, have taken a positive approach […] For such women the matriarchy that exists at the core of our technological culture is yet another demonic parody of femininity. The unconscious mother is, for them, no role mode.

They take no satisfaction in the state of nervous collapse to which Yves St. Laurent is annually reduced in his round-the-clock struggle to keep them clothed. It gives them no satisfaction that men willingly sacrifice their manhood to them even as they sacrificed their testicles to Great Mother Astarte. They are not gratified to see themselves in Vogue parading like so many queens.

These women recognize that it is the negative mother who rules in Becky, that her son Becko is probably gay, and that it is not only his manhood that is being destroyed but their womanhood as well.

[Marion Woodman]
‘The Emergence of the Feminine’, Betwixt and Between, p.206

Mothers who have no time for Being themselves need to hear the whisper of an inner voice that erupts as they drop off the children, run to the supermarket, and dash to their exercise class: "If this is life, it's not worth it."

However beautiful these woman may be, if they are obsessed by achieving and excelling, their center will become an empty hole and their instinctual femininity may unconsciously fall into despair. Worse yet, they may pass this despair onto their children, who may unconsciously pick up their mother's emptiness and sense of death.

Any analyst working with an addicted patient is working within a shamanistic initiation rite, attempting to bring new life out of the bones, smashing the rigid stereotype in order to release the individual woman who can say Yes to life and herself as a feminine being.

[Marion Woodman]
‘The Emergence of the Feminine’, Betwixt and Between, p.210-11

The capitalist distribution network, a complex chain of factory, transport, warehouse, and retail outlet, is one of the greatest male accomplishments in the history of culture. It is a lightning-quick Apollonian circuit of male bonding.

One of feminism’s irritating reflexes is its fashionable disdain for “patriarchal society,” to which nothing good is ever attributed. But it is patriarchal society that has freed me as a woman. It is capitalism that has given me the leisure to sit at this desk writing this book.

Let us stop being small-minded about men and freely acknowledge what treasures their obsessiveness has poured into culture.

If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts. A contemporary woman clapping on a hard hat merely enters a conceptual system invented by men. Capitalism is an art form, an Apollonian fabrication to rival nature.

It is hypocritical for feminists and intellectuals to enjoy the pleasures and conveniences of capitalism while sneering at it. Even Thoreau’s Walden was just a two-year experiment. Everyone born into capitalism has incurred a debt to it. Give Caesar his due.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.37-8

Related posts:


Optimism      -           Hope
Utopian         -           Tragic
Inflation        -           Deflation
Puer               -           Senex
Fragile           -           Resilient

I think we’re in the grip of what I call the ‘Optimiser’ mindset, which can be understood as a form of problem-solving fundamentalism. 

The Optimiser thinks that every problem is convergent, and that really there are no such things as divergent problems (a belief that goes hand in hand with a malleable view of human nature). To the Optimiser, there is a fix for everything - if it can be solved, it will be solved; and if it can’t, then we’re working on a solution! The Optimiser is obsessive and zealous, and can’t just let things be. ‘Bad’ things are unacceptable and must be remedied: bacteria sanitised, odours eliminated, pain killed, sadness medicated, anger purged, violence quelled, risks minimised, wildness domesticated, darkness illuminated, and death defeated. It is fear of death lies at the bottom of the Optimiser mindset.

Nietzsche viewed tragedy as a humbling reminder that, in the words of Alexander Nehamas, “ultimately we are not different from the rest of nature, that we are part and parcel of it, and belong totally to it,” a realisation that he described as “indestructibly powerful and pleasurable.” The Optimiser views tragedy as a regrettable mistake and holds inquiries to make sure that it never happens again. Beneath this is the desire to negate tragedy by making everything completely safe, so that none of us have to suffer pain or loss, or be reminded that we are merely “part of nature.” As a result, the Optimiser seeks total control in as many domains as possible.

If every problem is convergent, it follows that there must always be a ‘best practice solution’ or optimal choice in any given situation. ‘Freedom’, then, is simply the ability to make the wrong choice, to err. The idea that, as Alicia Juarrero puts it, “all phenomena must be ultimately subsumable under a covering law” is redolent of the kind of deterministic thinking that Nietzsche criticised in Christianity; a one-size-fits-all approach that squeezes the “novelty and creativity” out of life. The idea that there is ‘one true path’ is the myth that underwrites the Optimiser mindset.

The world of the machines in The Matrix is the ab absurdum of such determinism. The human element has been more or less removed and highly optimised machines have inherited the Earth, programmed to take the right path every time. As we become more efficient we become more machine-like and conversely as we become less efficient we become more human-like. What makes us human, then, is our errors - indeed, we can define humanity as ‘that which errs.’ Our tech allows us to transcend error and become optimal - maximally efficient - which means a remoulding of the lumpen specimen to a more ‘universally preferable’ standard. The more problems we solve, the more machine-like and determined we become.

'The Problem with Problem Solving', Metaxy, Substack

Heroic pessimism, Sorel argued, had nothing in common with the bitter disillusionment experienced by those who blindly trust in the future only to stumble against unexpected obstacles to the march of progress.

The pessimist understood that “our natural weakness” obstructed the path of social justice. The optimist, “maddened by the unexpected resistance that his plans encounter," sought to assure the “happiness of future generations by butchering the egoists of the present.”

Humanitarians condemned violence on principle but resorted to a particularly brutal and vindictive form of violence when their plans went awry.

Pessimism rested on a love of life and a willingness to part with it. It expressed an awareness of the "grandeur and beauty of the world,” including man's own powers of invention, together with a recognition of the limits of those powers.

What Sorel called pessimism was close to what Carlyle, Emerson, and James called wonder—an affirmation of life in the teeth of its limits. Sorel understood that the modern mood is one of revolt, born of the growing impatience with limits that stubbornly persist in spite of all the celebrated advances in science, technology, and organized benevolence.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.308

From the wrong side of the tracks, the dominant culture looked quite different from the way it looked from the inside.

Its concern for creativity and self-expression looked self-indulgent. Its concern for the quality of human life seemed to imply a belief that life has to be carefully hoarded and preserved, protected from danger and risk, prolonged as long as possible. Its permissive style of child rearing and marital negotiation conveyed weakness more than sympathetic understanding, a desire to avoid confrontations that might release angry emotions.

Its eagerness to criticize everything seemed to bespeak a refusal to accept any constraints on human freedom, an attitude doubly objectionable in those who enjoyed so much freedom to begin with. The habit of criticism, from a lower-middle-class point of view, appeared to invite people to be endlessly demanding of life, to expect more of life than anyone had a right to expect.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.493

Electroshock owes its efficacy to paralyzing and annihilating the contents of the psyche. Its essential trait is negativity.

In contrast, neoliberal psychopolitics is dominated by positivity

Instead of working with negative threats, it works with positive stimuli. Instead of administering 'bitter medicine', it enlists Liking. It flatters the psyche instead of shaking it and paralyzing it with shocks.

Neoliberal psychopolitics seduces the soul; it preempts it in lieu of opposing it. It carefully protocols desires, needs and wishes instead of 'depatterning' them. By means of calculated prognoses, it anticipates actions - and acts ahead of them instead of cancelling them out.

Neoliberal psychopolitics is SmartPolitics: it seeks to please and fulfil, not to repress.

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.36


Liberalism pleases and 'fulfils' in superficial ways - quick fixes, CBT, etc. Real fulfilment would mean a slowing or damming of the Flow. And so everything becomes superficial; surface; spectacle; simulacrum.

Neoliberal psychopolitics is always coming up with more refined forms of exploitation. Countless self- management workshops, motivational retreats and seminars on personality or mental training promise boundless self-optimization and heightened efficiency.

They are steered by neoliberal techniques of domination, which aim to capitalize not just on working time but on the person him- or herself: all the attention the individual commands and, indeed, his or her very life. Neoliberalism has discovered integral human being as the object of exploitation.

The neoliberal imperative of self-optimization serves only to promote perfect functioning within the system.

Inhibitions, points of weakness and mistakes are to be therapeutically eliminated in order to enhance efficiency and performance. In turn, everything is made comparable and measurable and subjected to the logic of the market. It is not concern for the good life that drives self-optimization. Rather, self-optimization follows from systemic constraints - from the logic of quantifying success on the market.

The neoliberal regime is in the course of inaugurating the age of exhaustion. Today, the psyche itself is being exploited. Accordingly, psychic maladies such as depression and burnout define our times.

In contemporary American self-help literature, the magic word is healing. The term refers to self-optimization that is supposed to therapeutically eliminate any and all functional weakness or mental obstacle in the name of efficiency and performance. Yet perpetual self-optimization, which coincides point-for-point with the optimization of the system, is proving destructive. It is leading to mental collapse.

Self-optimization, it turns out, amounts to total self-exploitation.

The neoliberal ideology of self-optimization displays religious - indeed, fanatical - traits. It entails a new form of subjectivation. Endlessly working at self-improvement resembles the self-examination and self-monitoring of Protestantism, which represents a technology of subjectivation and domination in its own right. Now, instead of searching out sins, one hunts down negative thoughts. The ego grapples with itself as an enemy.

Today, even fundamentalist preachers act like managers and motivational trainers, proclaiming the new Gospel of limitless achievement and optimization.

It is impossible to subordinate human personhood to the dictates of positivity entirely. Without negativity, life degrades into 'something dead'. Indeed, negativity is what keeps life alive. Pain is constitutive for experience.

Life that consists wholly of positive emotions and the sensation of 'flow" is not human at all. The human soul owes its defining tautness and depth precisely to negativity

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.29-32

The imperative of boundless optimisation even manages to exploit pain. Thus, the famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins has written:

When you set a goal, you’ve committed to CANI (Constant, Never-Ending Improvement)! You’ve acknowledged the need that all human beings have for constant, never-ending improvement. There is a power in the pressure of dissatisfaction, in the tension of temporary discomfort. This is the kind of pain you want in your life.

Now, the only pain that is tolerated is pain that can be exploited for the purposes of optimization.

Neoliberal psychopolitics, with the consciousness industry it promotes, is destroying the human soul, which is anything but a machine of positivity. The neoliberal subject is running aground on the imperative of self-optimization, that is, on the compulsion always to achieve more and more.

[Byung-Chul Han]
Psychopolitics, p.31-2

The ego-libido rules over the performing subject. The better it performs, the more ego it gains. Freud, we know, associated the ego-libido with the death drive.

The narcissistic subject of performance breaks apart because of a fatal accumulation of ego-libido. It exploits itself voluntarily and passionately until it breaks down. It optimizes itself to death. Its failing is called depression or burnout.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.14

To a society that declares bare life sacred, this ritual appears as pure madness, as a theatre of cruelty […] It is diametrically opposed to our form of life, which is dominated by work and production […] The totalization of production desecrates life.

A society obsessed with production does not have any access to strong play, to death as an intensity of life.

Strong play, whose principle is sovereignty, does not fit into the society of production, which aims at utility, performance and efficiency, and which declares bare life, survival, the continuation of a healthy life, to be an absolute value. Strong play suspends the economy of work and production. Death is not a loss, not a failure, but an expression of the utmost vitality, force and desire.

The society of production is dominated by the fear of death.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.50

The forms of standardisation, conformism, democratic levelling, frantic overproduction, the more or less arrogant and explicit cult of the expert (‘brain trust’), and the petty materialism of Americanism can only clear the road for the final phase, which is represented in the same direction by the Communist ideal of the mass man.

The distinctive trait of Americanism is that the attack on quality and personality is not accomplished by means of the brutal coercion of a Marxist dictatorship and the care of the state, but takes place almost spontaneously, by means of a civilisation that does not recognise ideals higher than wealth, consumption, profit, and unchecked economic growth — an exaggeration and reductio ad absurdum of what Europe herself has chosen.

This is what the same motives have created there or are in the process of creating. On both sides we see the same primitivism, mechanical reductionism, and brutality. In a certain sense Americanism is for us more dangerous than Communism, because it is essentially a kind of Trojan horse.

Things are different when the same evil acts in a subtler manner and the transformations take place insensibly on the level of custom and a general worldview, as is the case with Americanism.

[Julius Evola]
‘Orientations’, V

Related posts:


[…] The Authoritarian Personality, by defining prejudice as a "social disease," substituted a medical for a political idiom and relegated a broad range of controversial issues to the clinic - to "scientific" study as opposed to philosophical and political debate.

This procedure had the effect of making it unnecessary to discuss moral and political questions on their merits.

Thus "resistance to social change," "traditionalism," and the absence of the ability or disposition "actively to criticize existing authority” became pathological by definition. The tendency to see political issues "in moral rather than sociological terms” fell under the same suspicion. A perception of the world as a jungle, a belief in strict sex roles, a "rigid” sexual morality, a “punitive" and "moralistic" style of child rearing, and a "rigid adherence to existing cultural norms" identified the authoritarian "syndrome" and could therefore be dismissed without arguing the pros and cons of these positions or considering the possibility that many people, for example, may have had good reason to hold a "conception of a threatening and dangerous environment” or to reject a middle-class conception of easygoing parental discipline.

The Authoritarian Personality revealed more about the enlightened prejudices of the professional classes than about authoritarian prejudices among the common people.

The authors found evidence of "authoritarian submission” in an affirmative answer to the proposition that "science has its place, but there are many important things that can never possibly be understood by the human mind." They saw "authoritarian aggression" in the belief that "an insult to our honor must always be punished" or that “if people would talk less and work more, everybody would be better off.” They detected "anti-intraception" in the view that "nowadays more and more people are prying into matters that should remain personal and private."

By identifying the “liberal personality" as the antithesis of the authoritarian personality, they equated mental health with an approved political position.

They defended liberalism not on the grounds that liberal policies served the ends of justice and freedom but on the grounds that other positions had their roots in personal pathology. They enlarged the definition of liberalism to include a critical attitude toward all forms of authority, faith in science, relaxed and nonpunitive child-rearing practices, and flexible conceptions of sex roles. This expansive, largely cultural definition of liberalism made it easy to interpret adherence to liberalism as a "psychological matter."

The replacement of moral and political argument by reckless psychologizing not only enabled Adorno and his collaborators to dismiss unacceptable opinions on medical grounds; it led them to set up an impossible standard of political health-one that only members of a self-constituted cultural vanguard could consistently meet. In order to establish their emotional "autonomy," the subjects of their research had to hold the right opinions and also to hold them deeply and spontaneously. They had to show a professorial capacity for “critical analysis.” It was not enough to have liberal ideas; one had to have a liberal personality.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.452-4

Generalizations about the “role of personality in the formation of social beliefs," in the words of Herbert McClosky, served to put objectionable beliefs beyond the pale of political debate and to justify the contention that educated elites were the best guardians of democracy.

Drawing on Eric Hoffer's study of the "true believer" as well as on The Authoritarian Personality, McClosky traced political conservatism to "psychological rigidity." A belief in man's wickedness, in the need for strong social controls, and in the stabilizing influence of the family and the church derived from unhealthy "psychological impulses," "projections of aggressive personality tendencies."

As "doctrinal expressions of a personality pattern," such ideas did not have to be discussed on their merits.

They appealed to the wrong sort of people, suspect on socioeconomic as well as on psychological grounds: "the uninformed, the poorly educated, ... the less intelligent, ... the more backward and frightened elements of the population." The “articulate and informed classes," on the other hand, were “preponderantly liberal in their outlook" and accordingly constituted the major repositories of the public conscience." They alone, it appeared, were capable of "reasoning out and forming attitudes on complex social questions” in a "purely disinterested way and of rising above the “ideological babble of poorly informed and discordant opinions.”


Workers believed that "big business is running this country," Robert Lane noted. Instead of asking himself whether there was any truth in this perception, Lane explained it as the product of a "cabalistic” mentality or "usurpation complex." Subject to "whim and impulse," workers adopted conspiracy theories as a "counterweight to the chaotic forces of drift and change welling up in anarchic fashion within themselves.”

Lane's Political Ideology, widely regarded as the leading study of political alienation, reduced working-class discontent to personal pathology. Lane wondered why workers did not see the President or Congress as running things," instead of attributing so much power to big business. The explanation, he decided, was that people with an underdeveloped "ego or self" demanded an image of "absolute power” that was “clearly hard to find in Congress or the President." Only a handful of Lane's subjects, "free of cabalist thinking," realistically perceived power as "generally shared and limited" and respected "legitimate power as superior to and containing ... the power of private groups."

As in The Authoritarian Personality, liberal ideology in this case, the dogma that political power in the United States was distributed so evenly among a plurality of interest groups that none achieved overweening influence - furnished the standard of mental health.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.463-4

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Victim Status

In the early days of the civil rights movement, King had resisted the temptation to define black people simply as victims of white oppression. Instead he tried to encourage initiative, self-reliance, and responsibility. 

He understood that people who thought of themselves as victims either remained helplessly passive or became vindictive and self-righteous.

His later attempt to organize a national alliance of "disadvantaged" groups, however, forced him to rely on just this kind of morally flawed appeal, since a common feeling of marginality was the only thing that could hold such an alliance together.

As victims of racism, exploitation, and neglect, King now argued, outcast groups had a right to "compensatory treatment." In his earlier account of direct action in Montgomery, he tried to assure whites that "the Negro, once a helpless child, has now grown up politically, culturally, and economically" and that "all he seeks is justice, for both himself and the white man." The Negro, King said, "understands and forgives and is ready to forget the past."

Ten years later, he went out of his way to remind people that blacks had suffered a special history of discrimination that set them apart from white immigrants. "When white immigrants arrived in the United States in the late nineteenth century, a beneficent government gave them free land and credit to build a useful, independent life.” Blacks, on the other hand, experienced nothing but prejudice and persecution.

Their history of oppression, as King explored its implications, appeared to justify a double standard of political morality. Black rioters, he admitted, had engaged in "incontestable and deplorable” crimes, but those crimes were "derivative," "born of the greater crimes of the white society."

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.406

Related posts:
Dependent / Independent

The Aristocratic Ideal

Sorel believed that the bourgeoisie, having derived its moral ideas from eighteenth-century absolutism and from the decadent aristocracy fostered by absolutism, was now attempting to instill this ethic of irresponsibility into the workers, seducing them with the promise of endless leisure and abundance.

He argued, in effect, that the aristocracy of the old regime, with its cultivation of the "art of living,” had anticipated the modern cult of consumption. Aristocrats had traded their power for the brilliant, feverish delights of the Sun King's court. Without civic functions, they determined at least “to enjoy their wealth with relish"; they "no longer wanted to hear of the prudence long imposed on their fathers." The assumption that improvement had become automatic and irresistible relieved them of the need to provide for times to come. “Why worry about the fate of new generations, which are destined to have a fate that is automatically superior to ours?”

Aristocrats tried to avoid their obligations not only to the future but to the poor; this escape from responsibility, according to Sorel, was the dominant theme in eighteenth-century aristocratic culture. 

“At the dawn of modern times, anyone who held any authority aspired to liberate himself from the responsibilities that archaic conventions, customs, and Christian morality had, until then, imposed on the masters for the benefit of the weak.”

The idea of progress furnished the theoretical justification for the abrogation of reciprocal obligations, the foundation of aristocratic morality in its heroic phase, before enlightened aristocrats were corrupted by easy living.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.307

The second position, advanced by Thorstein Veblen, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Dewey, Randolph Bourne, Lewis Mumford, Van Wyck Brooks, and Waldo Frank, among others, rested on a very different idea of both culture and democracy.

These writers distrusted the missionary impulse they detected in the progressives' program of cultural uplift. Instead of popularizing leisure-class values, they advocated a new set of values based on the dignity of labor.

Their program derived from William Morris rather than from Arnold. They did not necessarily share Morris's enthusiasm for handicraft production, but they followed him in making a revival of craftsmanship the prerequisite of a democratic culture. In his influential essay "The Art and Craft of the Machine" (1901), Wright tried to show that craftsmanship could be reconciled with machine production.

Dewey thought of his educational reforms - the clearest expression of this prewar speculation about the democratization of culture - as another method of bringing about a rehabilitation of labor. Like Veblen, Dewey deplored the "cultured" contempt for honest labor - a legacy, as he saw it, from the aristocratic past.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.346

Britain was regarded as divided into two groups the “classes” and the “masses.”

The “classes” were the ones who had leisure. This meant that they had property and income. On this basis, they did not need to work for a living; they obtained an education in a separate and expensive system; they married within their own class; they had a distinctive accent; and, above all, they had a distinctive attitude.

This attitude was based on the training provided in the special educational system of the “classes.” It might be summed up in the statement that “methods are more important than goals” except that this group regarded the methods and manners in which they acted as goals or closely related to goals.

This educational system was based on three great negatives, not easily understood by Americans. These were (a) education must not be vocational - that is, aimed at assisting one to make living; (b) education is not aimed directly at creating or training the intelligence; and (c) education is not aimed at finding the “Truth.”

On its positive side, the system of education of the “classes” displayed its real nature on the school level rather than on the university level. It aimed at developing a moral outlook, a respect for traditions, qualities of leadership and cooperation, and above all, perhaps, that ability for cooperation in competition summed up in the English idea of “sport” and “playing the game.”

Because of the restricted numbers of the upper class in Britain, these attitudes applied chiefly to one another, and did not necessarily apply to foreigners or even to the masses. They applied to people who “belonged,” and not to all human beings.

The chief element in the old attitude which both groups failed to grasp was the one which we have attempted to describe as emphasis on methods rather than on goals.

In government, as in tennis or cricket, the old attitude desired to win but desired to win within the rules, and this last feeling was so strong as to lead a casual observer to believe that they lacked a desire to win. In parliamentary life this appeared as a diffidence to the possession of high office or to the achievement of any specific item of legislation. If these could not be obtained within the existing rules, they were gracefully abandoned.

This was not an attitude which either the new business leaders of the Conservative Party or the working-class leaders of the Labour Party could accept. Their goals were for them of such immediate concrete value to their own interests that they could not regard with equanimity loss of office or defeat of their legislative program. It was this new attitude which made possible at one and the same time the great increase in party discipline and the willingness to cut corners where possible in interpreting the constitutional conventions.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, p.293-4

Related posts:

The Rise of the Managers

Simple          -            Complex

The aspiration to value-neutrality often hides a claim to manipulative power. Beneath bureaucratic forms and lofty idealism are often to be found Nietzschean premises.

As “good determinists,” liberals knew that history always marches forward. “The human race never turns back to an old order.” 

The best hope lay in an orderly “transition to that which Dewey and Beard have called a ‘technological-rationalist society.’” even if the “more valid equality” it promised meant the “inevitable sacrifice” of individual liberties.

“There is something ponderously fatal about such a transition,” Josephson mused, “but if it results in order, enthusiasm, harmony, we will be content with our sacrifice.”

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.363

"The public interest in a problem," Lippmann argued, "is limited to this: that there shall be rules. ...The public is interested in law, not in the laws; in the method of law, not in the substance." Questions of substance should be left to experts, whose access to scientific knowledge immunized them against the emotional "symbols" and "stereotypes" that dominated public debate.

Lippmann […] rejected the "mystical fallacy of democracy" and the "usual appeal to education as the remedy for the incompetence of democracy." Democratic theory presupposed an "omnicompetent citizen," a "jack of all trades" who could be found only in a "simple self-contained community." In the "wide and unpredictable environment" of the modern world, the old ideal of citizenship was obsolete.

In a complex industrial society, government had to be carried on by officials who were expected to "conceive a common interest." In their attempt to stretch their minds beyond the limits of immediate experience," these officials would be guided either by public opinion or by expert knowledge. There was no escape from this choice.

Public opinion was unreliable, according to Lippmann, because it could be united only by an appeal to slogans and “symbolic pictures.” In a society ruled by public opinion, government became the art of "manipulation" - the "manufacture of consent." "Where all news comes at second-hand, where all the testimony is uncertain, men cease to respond to truths, and respond simply to opinions. The environment in which they act is not the realities themselves, but the pseudo-environment of reports, rumors, and guesses. ... Everything is on the plane of assertion and propaganda."

At best, public debate was a disagreeable necessity - not the very essence of democracy, as Brownson or Bourne would have argued, but its "primary defect," which arose only because "exact knowledge," unfortunately, was in limited supply. Ideally public debate would not take place at all; decisions would be based on scientific "standards of measurement" alone. Science cut through "entangling stereotypes and slogans," the "threads of memory and emotion" that kept the "responsible administrator" tied up in knots.

Like Edmund Burke, Lippmann distrusted memory as an important source of conflict and disagreement. He proposed to counter its influence, however, not with custom but with “organized intelligence."

An earlier theory of democracy had considered ordinary citizens at least competent to manage their own affairs, if not consistently capable of self-denial and sacrifice. Their opinions were held to command respect, as Lippman saw it, because the business of government did not greatly exceed their experience. But it was “not possible to assume that a world, carried on by division of labor and distribution of authority, can be governed by universal opinions in the whole population.”

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.366

The "practical comfort of the moment" outweighed the "great moral issues of the future.” The question of how to provide practical comfort" was a technical question, not something that could be settled by an appeal to first principles. It was a question for "experts," not for "orators.”

As a lawyer, Arnold might have been expected to recognize the intractability of conflicting interests and to doubt the possibility of making politics an exact science. His faith in expertise, however, exceeded even that of many social scientists.

He measured intellectual progress precisely by the absence of debate. 

Doctors, he argued, no longer engaged in pointless controversies about the rival claims of homeopathic and allopathic schools of medicine. The medical profession had been "taken over by men of skill rather than men of principle," with the result that there was "little left in medicine for thinking men to debate.”

Whereas medical learning had become "technical rather than philosophical,” however, economic and legal learning remained “predominantly philosophical” - a sure sign of cultural lag.

He too dismissed as "irrational" the notion that "the cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy." "Public argument never convinces the other side," he wrote; its only function was to rally the true believers. The "noise of competing theories" drowned out the voice of the expert. To submit social questions to the "feeble judgment of the common herd" was the height of folly.

Arnold did not have to engage in this kind of self-deception, since he held no brief for democracy in the first place. Insofar as the idea of democracy had any substance, it was simply another name for “humanitarian imperialism,” in his view. It meant the universalisation of material well-being, engineered by “fact-minded persons” and “competent diagnosticians.”

A democratic regime, to be sure, had to “carry its people along with it emotionally”; but that did not imply that the people should take an active part in governing themselves. As long as the governing classes grasped the nature and importance of political symbolism, they could satisfy the public demand for inspiring slogans and “ceremonials” without allowing public “ritual” to interfere with production and distribution.

When the public came to value “practical results” more highly than “preconceived principles,” a “competent, practical, opportunistic governing class” would find it possible to get on with the serious work of making people comfortable, without having to inspire and amuse them as well.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.432, 434-6

[…] from ancient Rome to medieval England, there were bureaucracies also in the pre-modern world.

With industrialisation and the emergence of mass society, however, the bureaucratic apparatus has expanded to the point that a quantitative difference has become a qualitative one. In their scale, complexity, and their power, modern bureaucracies are like nothing the world has ever seen before, and they cause states to behave in new and incomprehensible ways.

Above all, power has been steadily diffused downwards, through the ranks of countless even mid-level functionaries, and government policies are subject to enormous inertia.

Those who doubt this, should look at the military. This is one sector of the bureaucracy, which for operational reasons has tried to avoid the unmanageable diffusion of powers and prerogatives. They have gone to extreme lengths to establish clear lines of command, ensure obedience to orders, and avoid excessive consensus-based decision making.

Without this overt command discipline, it is impossible for any single person to direct bureaucratic structures, or for the bureaucrats themselves to shift strategies, absorb new information, or take up fresh initiatives quickly.

The one thing I want to convey here, more than anything else, is the complexity and extent of modern western governments. These are unbelievably elaborate systems, and they are not easily controlled or understood by individuals or confined groups.

‘Stupid and Evil in Equal Measure: II - Mass containment as conspiracy and as emergent phenomenon’ and 'Spontaneous Order in Complex Systems', eugyppius: a plague chronicle

The civil servant has as his nineteenth-century counterpart and opposite the social reformer: Saint Simonians, Comtians, utilitarians, English ameliorists such as Charles Booth, the early Fabian socialists. Their characteristic lament is: if only government could learn to be scientific!

[...] in his insistence that the rationality of adjusting means to ends in the most economical and efficient way is the central task of the bureaucrat and that therefore the appropriate mode of justification of his activity by the bureaucrat lies in the appeal to his (or later her) ability to deploy a body of scientific and above all social scientific knowledge, organized in terms of and understood as comprising a set of universal lawlike generalizations, Weber provided the key to much of the modern age.

The manager's claim to moral neutrality, which is itself an important part of the way the manager presents himself and functions in the social and moral world, is thus parallel to the claims to moral neutrality made by many physical scientists.

So we can now see in bare skeletal outline a progress first from the Enlightenment's ideal for a social science to the aspirations of social reformers, next from the aspirations of social reformers to the ideals of practice and justification of civil servants and managers, then from the practices of management to the theoretical codification of these practices and of the norms governing them by sociologists and organization theorists and finally from the employment of the textbooks written by those theorists in schools of management and business schools to the theoretically informed managerial practice of the contemporary technocratic expert.

But in every case the rise of managerial expertise would have to be the same central theme, and such expertise, as we have already seen, has two sides to it: there is the aspiration to value neutrality and the claim to manipulative power.

Both of these, we can now perceive, derive from the history of the way in which the realm of fact and the realm of value were distinguished by the philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Twentieth-century social life turns out in key part to be the concrete and dramatic re-enactment of eighteenth-century philosophy.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.92, 100-1

[...] Nietzsche's prophetic irrationalism - irrationalism because Nietzsche's problems remain unsolved and his solutions defy reason - remains immanent in the Weberian managerial forms of our culture.

Whenever those immersed in the bureaucratic culture of the age try to think their way through to the moral foundations of what they are and what they do, they will discover suppressed Nietzschean premises.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.133

RAND’s rational choice is an argument that denies the obvious - cooperation, self-sacrifice, and abnegation do exist, people do love each other and don’t always think of themselves first, elections are won fairly and agreed to by all contestants, elected officials do act on the public interest, marriages and institutions do last.

Rational choice has given birth to a world shaped by decisions made in the dark, outside the realm of public debate - justified by false objectivity (change the parameters if you don’t like the results) and biased scientific bases that denigrate collective responsibility (much like the corporate battle cry of “it’s all for the shareholders,” discarding as demote previous social commitments of companies to employees, government, and community).

Moreover, deliberately or not, rational choice theory has become a handy rhetorical weapon for groups whose political and financial aims are to reconstruct the social system of the United States - returning the country to pre-New Deal days, while making billions in the process. These changes have resulted in a society where, for instance, the top 5 percent of the population controls 60 percent of the wealth and where corporate executive pay is 400 times greater than that of the average worker.

The final irony of rational choice theory is that it is not rational. It fails to comprehend the world as it is (in academic terms, it is normative but not empirical), positing a make-believe structure where only one kind of rationality is extant.

[Alex Abella]
Soldiers of Reason, p.308-9

The real essence of industrialism was to be found in the application of nonhuman energy, such as that from coal, oil, or waterpower, to production. This process increased man’s ability to make goods, and did so to an amazing degree.

But mass production could exist only if it were followed by mass consumption and rising standards of living. Moreover, it must lead, in the long run, to a decreasing demand for hand labor and an increasing demand for highly trained technicians who are managers rather than laborers.

And, in the longer run, this process would give rise to a productive system of such a high level of technical complexity that it could no longer be run by the owners but would have to be run by technically trained managers.

[...] The ultimate nature of that new system of economic and social life is not yet clear, but we might call it the “pluralist economy,” and characterize its social structure as one which provides prestige, rewards, and power to managerial groups of experts whose contributions to the system are derived from their expertise and “know-how.”

These managers and experts, who clearly are a minority in any society, are recruited from the society as a whole, can be selected only by a process of “careers open to talent” on a trial-and-error basis, and require freedom of assembly, discussion, and decision in order to produce the innovations needed for the future success, or even the survival, of the system in which they function.

Thus the pluralist economy and the managerial society, from the early 1940’s, have forced the growth of a new kind of economic organization which will be totally unlike the four types of pre-1939 (American laissez faire, Stalinist Communism, authoritarian Fascism, and underdeveloped areas).

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, p.241, 348

Regardless of the outcome of the situation, it is increasingly clear that, in the twentieth century, the expert will replace the industrial tycoon in control of the democratic voter in control of the political system.

This is because planning will inevitably replace laissez faire in the relationships between the two systems. This planning may not be single or unified, but it will be planning, in which the main framework and operational forces of the system will be established and limited by the experts on the economic system even as he will replace the governmental side; then the experts within the big units on the economic side will do their planning within these established limitations.

Hopefully, the elements of choice and freedom may survive for the ordinary individual in that he may be free to make a choice between two opposing political groups (even if these groups have little policy choice within the parameters of policy established by the experts) and he may have the choice to switch his economic support from one large unit to another.

But, in general, his freedom and choice will be controlled within very narrow alternatives by the fact that he will be numbered from birth and followed, as a number, through his educational training, his required military or other public service, his tax contributions, his health and medical requirements, and his final retirement and death benefits.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The New Age,’ p.548

Both the Soviet system and the free market are experiments in economic rationalism.

Free marketeers tell us that the unprecedented productivity of a rational economic system will remove the causes of social conflict and war. Soviet Marxists used to assure us that socialist planning would make scarcity a thing of the past. Both tell us that rising productivity will of itself solve most social problems, both exalt economic growth over all other goals and values.

Like the Bolsheviks, the shock troops of the free market are resolutely hostile to any tradition that stands in the way of what they view as economic progress. If their goals demand the sacrifice of a few cultures on the way, it is a price which free marketeers do not shrink from paying.

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.141

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