Published April 15, 2015
I recently had a conversation with SoapJackal: “Large corporations are like elephants full of intestinal parasites, very few folks actually do the work. I imagine that the reason, or at least one reason, for [cultural] jargon is to hide that truth.” This isn’t an uncommon opinion to hold, it permeates much our culture in many ways. Making fun of the supposed emptiness of corporate culture, of mission statements and values and jargon was the basis for much of our popular culture during the 1990s for example.
I disagree however, organizational culture is essential. Large corporations dedicate significant resources to the development of their internal cultures and consultants and academics churn out a seemingly endless stream of books and materials dedicated to the art of creating and maintaining an effective business culture. The culture of an corporation can matter a lot, it can affect how that company is assessed, evaluated and valued by analysts and the market and is a major tool that competing firms use to distinguish themselves and their business practices from one another.
One of the core insights of Neoreaction is that things don’t happen by accident, that is, traditions, practices, technologies, values, and institutions don’t exist as they do as the result of random chance of coincidence. Neoreaction upholds an organic, holistic approach to anthropology and historicism. If some institution, belief, or method of social organization is dominant within a society, there’s nothing arbitrary about that. Nature, defined in the broadest sense possible, presents man with problems. Problems of organization and allocation. These problems are presented to us for solution, and various historical and anthropological phenomenon, like churches, universities, corporations, states, traditions, gender roles etc represent, not arbitrary impositions, but the most effective solutions to the problems that nature has presented us with thus far.
In this sense civilization is a mechanism for generating solutions. Neoreactionaries reject the notion, for example, that the state is an arbitrary imposition or in some way antithetical to freedom. There is a good reason to have states, and the state, as a corporation, is a product of competitive, historical conditioning by evolutionary market forces. Under the period of modernity changing conditions necessitated innovation in governance, and this process yielded three potential solutions: Democracy, Communism, and Fascism. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries these three solutions competed with each other for dominance across a number of different domains: economically, politically, culturally, through warfare, through philosophical justifications and criticisms leveled by each one against the others etc. Eventually, towards the end of the 20th century, a modified form of Democracy (Neoliberalism) emerged as the dominant, and victorious solution.
Marxists, Leftists, and Progressives are fundamentally idealist, meaning that they don’t believe that there is a nature independent from our thoughts and culture. They believe that our institutions, values, and traditions are completely arbitrary and serve no functional purpose with regards to nature. Consequently they believe that the moral legitimacy of these things is to be found, intellectually, within the pure realm of ideas, rather than historically, in their functionality as solutions to the problems presented to Man by nature. A Marxist, or a Neoliberal Social Democrat believes that the justification for their solution is moral, that their solution represents a society where freedom, justice, equality etc are maximized. Neoreaction takes a different approach, rejecting that any solution to the problem of governance can ever be theoretically optimal. Neoreaction holds that there is no end of history. Neoreaction sees history as a never-ending succession of conditions, and believes that the rightness of any political or economic system is not ideal, but functional. As conditions therefore change, so must we forever innovate and adapt. As the conditions of modernity give way to the conditions of post-modernity, the solutions of the 19th and 20th centuries become obsolete, and we must therefore remain eternally flexible.
The point is, nothing happens purely by accident, and to return to my previous train of thought, the necessity of developing a functional organization culture is no different. If culture was not a source of competitive advantage for corporations, would we really expect to see such effort and so many resources poured into developing it? As empty and vapid as corporate culture seems it undoubtedly serves some fundamental purpose.
Institutional culture serves a variety of real purposes. Any corporation, or non-profit, or university generally has a larger goal that it wishes to achieve. The goal of a corporation is not, contrary to popular belief, to make money. If you look at any tech, or IT company their goal is never simply to make a lot of money, the stated and accepted goal within such organizations is always to facilitate communication or commerce between clients or users. Money is what they get for accomplishing that goal.
All corporations and institutions are made up of many competing individual interests however. Everyone working for a corporation has their own reasons for being there. Sometimes these reasons are financial, some people want wealth, most people just want a job that allots them some modicum of financial security and stability. Other times the reasons are egoistic or personal, where people want to have power, influence and control and seek to use the institution to which they belong as a platform for acquiring that. Still other times the reasons might be moral, as many people working for non-profits and NGOs derive moral satisfaction from being a part of some institution they believe is changing the world for the better.
What is remarkable about the phenomena of institutions is that they allow both to be achieved simultaneously. That’s why we have institutions. Here nature has presented us with a problem of mass coordination and action. How can hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of individuals, all with divergent individual interests all collaborate to achieve a single purpose or goal of changing the world, making people’s lives better, or ruling a people or nation? It seems impossible, but institutions allow it happen.
Institutional culture is really the mechanism of mitigation between these divergent individual interests and the goals or ambitions a mass organization sets for itself at the highest level. It creates a framework in which people can negotiate, collaborate, achieve, advance and be recruited and retained by the organization over time. If a corporation has a defective or ineffective culture you might see a managerial exodus when things reach a breaking point and the top talent within that organization no longer feels as if its able to achieve their individual ambitions. Companies with a better culture will poach all the talented managers and leaders of a cultural inept competitor and that firm will enter into a cultural crisis when it begins to bleed talent.
This brings me the point of this article, when viewed from this vantage point, what is the current state of Neoreactionary culture?
It’s difficult to really define what Neoreaction’s ‘goal’ is, compared to a political party, or an NGO, or a university or corporation, this in fact has been a major point of contention since Neoreaction began really. I would say however that the goal, in a broad sense, emptied of intellectual or ideological content, is to produce theoretical, rhetorical, and artistic writings in order to influence. Neoreaction is a printing press which generates material that it hopes, over time, will subvert and ultimately dominate political and social thought in the Western, or at least Anglo world.
Neoreaction is not a political party, and does not seek to rule, that is one feature of Neoreaction which should not be ignored in any assessment of it.
In order to achieve its goal Neoreaction must recruit and retain talent: marginalized or unestablished writers and intellectuals seeking to make a name for themselves in the wider world. It must use both quantity and quality as well. It needs people to churn out rhetoric or polemics of a middling but easily consumable quality, as well as people to write books and well-reasoned theoretical pieces articulating and developing Neoreactionary ideas.
The internal culture of Neoreaction must facilitate this. This is really where Bryce and I part ways, with regards to the relationship between the part and the whole, the individual and the organization. If individual members of a society or institution lack a cultural framework through which to achieve their own desired ends they will fail to be recruited by that society or institution and will almost certainly not be retained by it over time. Without self-interested individuals working within the culture of your society or institution there is no hope of accomplishing your top-level institutional ambitions, as your machine will eventually be completely emptied of cogs.
This is where Neoreaction, in my opinion, has failed, and perhaps this “society is alive, individualism must be stamped out” idea is to blame.
Retention of talent in Neoreaction is a serious problem. There has been a great deal of controversy recently over people like Hurlock and Bryce leaving. Beyond people directly leaving however there is also the (perhaps more serious) problem of Neoreactionary exhaustion. Many bloggers and contributors to Neoreaction stop producing content and material the longer they engage with culture. This is a serious downfall of Neoreactionary culture. Neoreaction must produce, and must reward production, both in terms of volume and quality of content created. If bloggers feel as if their writing isn’t having the sort impact or recognition that they would like, they become disincentivized to produce.
People enter into Neoreaction because they want to be recognized, because they want to have their writings and ideas disseminated and because they want to advance their own personal careers and brands. In my experience though Neoreaction is deeply opposed to allowing people to do this.
Culture is important, from a functional perspective, and right now, the state of Neoreactionary culture is quite dire. If anything this is problem the single most important issue the community should be working on right now and as I consider the issue more I’ll try to share my thoughts and analysis whenever possible in hopes of solving this problem.