No. 5: Our Marx, Same as Ever
June 9, 2014
A ‘movement’ of thought about the constitution and necessary structure of a society and the objective institution of the state governing it, represents a movement in the sense that it manifests itself as an impulse working within a society which seeks to ‘move’ the physical reality of that society closer to what it conceives of as morally necessary, in idea.
A ‘movement’ then is a vector, with the ‘future’ of society being determined through the addition of the various vectors acting upon it, the result of such addition being generally called ‘history’.
“Neoreaction is a system of empirical analysis which assesses social technology according to the criteria of order and human flourishing and political institutions according to the neocameralist model of the state.”
This is the definition given of Neoreaction in a recent article by Ash Milton on his blog entitled “Our Marx, Only better,” and I believe it’s one Neoreactionaries would do well to carefully consider before adopting, as it carries with it certain baggage I think Reaction should be hesitant to burden itself with.
Under this conception Neoreaction is a particular lens of analysis, through which “social technologies” are to be observed and scrutinized, The Cathedral being how society appears when viewed through the medium of Neoreactionary analysis, and herein lies the danger, as to what extent is knowledge of society actually possible? That is to say, what ultimate claim to objectivity does any appearance of society really possess over any other?
We may view a star through a number of different lenses, it appears to us through each way of seeing in a particular way, we may, for instance, view it through the lens of our seeing, and see how it appears along the visual spectrum of light. We may, alternatively, consider the same star through other, equally objective lenses, observing how it appears to us as X-Rays, or Infrared, or Gamma Radiation.
In conceptual terms analytical lenses through which we’re to view society are the same way, an infinite number of such lenses is possible, and society will appear to the observer a different way when viewed through every one of them. These appearances represent only aspects of the object under observation, and we must always remain mindful of that fact, no matter how seductively superior our favorite lens may at any point appear.
Let us recall that Society is, for Kant, the First Idea of Pure Reason, the Psychological Idea, which Fichte terms “Absolute Subjectivity,” and Schiller refers to as “Universal Man”. The fundamental error Milton and Marx both make in their approach to the study of Society is their shared tendency to hypostatize what is, as Kant proves, only a purely regulative or conditional idea of Man’s Reason, and not, as they would have it be, an object of possible experience for which any sort of theoretical cognition is ultimately possible.
The First Idea of Pure Reason belongs to the categorical syllogism, which as you’re likely already aware, the is a mode of deductive reasoning in the vein of:
- 1.) All Men are Mortal
- 2.) Socrates is a Man
- 3.) Therefore, Socrates is Mortal.
The idea here is that because some category, or set C (Socrates) is fully distributed or contained in category B (Man), and because B is then fully distributed or contained in a further set A (Mortal), it follows out of logical necessity that C, in turn, is also fully distributed in A as well.
Kant derives the Psychological Idea of Pure Reason as the ultimate or absolute category of the categorical syllogism, that is, the category in which all other categories possible, as predicates, are fully distributed. But Kant ascribes this idea only purely regulative status:
“Now we appear to have this substance in the consciousness of ourselves (in the thinking subject), and indeed in an immediate intuition; for all the predicates of an internal sense refer to the ego, as a subject, and I cannot conceive myself as the predicate of any other subject. Hence completeness in the reference of the given concepts as predicates to a subject — not merely an idea, but an object — that is, the absolute subject itself, seems to be given in experience. But this expectation is disappointed. For the ego is not a concept, but only the indication of the object of the internal sense, so far we cognize it by means of no further predicate. Consequently, it cannot be itself a predicate of any other thing; but just as little can it be a determinate concept of an absolute subject, but is, as in all other cases, only the reference of the internal phenomena to their unknown subject.”
— Immanuel Kant, “Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics”
Consequently every appearance of society we might observe using different analytical lenses is but one predicate of the idea of society.
The Cathedral then stands alongside of “Capitalism,” “Patriarchy,” and “The Imperialistic West,” among infinitely many other such appearances, as only that, an apparitional predicate of Absolute Subjectivity.
What I find troubling is how quick some Neoreactionaries here seem to be accepting the validity of Social Science, as Society is not, and absolutely cannot ever be an object of genuine scientific enquiry. Neoreaction should, before adopting wholeheartedly the Neo-Sociological conception being advanced by some, ask itself the more fundamental question of whether or not the scientific validity of Sociology in general is to be conceded or questioned.
Milton, in his article, conceives of Neocameralism as the particular form assumed by Neoreactionary analysis when such analysis is conducted in the sphere of politics specifically, meaning it is to be understood as an aspect of Neoreaction, or the way in which Neoreaction appears when oriented towards political institutions as opposed to what Milton calls Social Technologies.
This is where me and Milton part company I think, as by social technologies we mean value systems, religious practices, cultural institutions etc. This is the sort of materialism Kant rightly criticized Herder for, in which “metaphysical concepts are snuck in through backdoor of natural science.” The issue here is this: Neoreactionary Sociology would judge aesthetic traditions according to its criteria of “order and human flourishing,”
“If a particular institution such as the family or the Church is conducive to order and to human flourishing, the neoreactionary finds themselves advised to maintain the institution and strengthen its resiliency.”
Such criteria are merely ones of physical or natural necessity though. To judge a state or a manner of governing a people according to these criteria of “order and human flourishing,” is to forgo any moral evaluation, to answer the question “What form of government is best?” in terms of the adaptive fitness of different approaches of governance to achieve the submission and ascent of its citizens by means of the high degree of institutional stability they’re capable of achieving. Again, we’re applying physical criteria here in consideration of the immediate, natural need humanity experiences to be governed.
We should be weary though in judging culture according to the same criteria though, as though culture exists objectively as the collective production of physical objects (novels, movies, songs etc), taste provides its own criterion of judgement, that of beauty. Those cultural traditions which hold beauty in the highest esteem tend to be those most conducive to “order and human flourishing,” as it so happens, but this “order and human flourishing” is only symptomatic of a highly refined aesthetic culture. “Order and human flourishing” is simply how beauty appears from a purely physical perspective, and so to mistake such things as the highest level to which artistic culture can aspire is to gravely transgress upon the freedom of the aesthetic realm and limit the pursuit of the beautiful to a superficial imitation of empty artistic manners.
This, in general, is why the narrow-minded conception of tradition upheld by certain Reactionaries is so toxic, because such people do not possess the individual moral development necessary for the genuine appreciation of beauty. Consequently, they’re unable to grasp the essential nature of aesthetic culture, what it is that makes cultural objects pleasurable or unpleasurable to us, and instead, judge prejudicially the merits of works of art based on superficial factors such as a nation, language, religion, or time period of origin. They then comically ape those artistic mannerisms native to the time period or particular people they view as imitable in the vain hope that such empty imitation, rather than the pursuit of the beautiful for its own sake, will bring about the resurrection of other dead institutions.