I began writing this today and got so far into it that I’m unable to resist publishing what I have so far. At the same time though I need to take a break for now, but I’ll attempt to finish this soon. I just wanted to put up what I have for now to build off of later.
To define something is to limit it, as an idea is never positive in nature, but rather negative. For anything to achieve actuality necessitates limitation, and this requires us to reduce an unlimited number of possibilities continuously until only one remains. When this has been accomplished you have arrived at a definition, but it is very much in our nature to be quite precious about our ideas, and, consequently, it is often the case that we feel ourselves to be doing the ideas we are most attached to no small measure of harm when we undertake such limitation of them in order to see them achieve some meaningful degree of positive expression.
This, undoubtedly, presents a problem for those who engage in discourse regarding certain issues of a large and complex scope. We see this everywhere, and truth be told the problem is quite ubiquitous and very much a result of the natural tension at work within us between our Understanding on the one hand, and our Reason on the other.
When it comes to the issue of the Idea of any given thing, the Concept of it, everyone, experts, scholars, and laymen alike, will all likely possesses a unique understanding. What is Feminism? Marxism? Liberalism? Socialism? Classicism? Conservatism? Romanticism? There is no consensus here to guide us towards the correct understanding of any of these Concepts. Even those individuals, to whose minds we may trace the inception of such Concepts, leave us with only words regarding their true meaning and proper comprehension, words that are, of course, very much open to wide range of possible and equally valid interpretations.
It is however, regardless, from time to time expedient for the adherents of certain concepts to all the same attempt explication of the Ideas which they hold dear, for otherwise they would never attain any reality at all, and would forever remain only vague intuitions with minimal influence or power over the world in which live or the history in which we participate.
Therefore, to that end, I will here make my own contribution to the general efforts made by my fellow Neoreactionaries to provide some clarifying analysis of the idea we have struggled to take up.
It is the opinion of some that this is an inherently foolhardy exercise. For a cultural, political, or intellectual movement, like Neoreaction is, to spend its time primarily in arguments and dissections of itself is to forgo the opportunity to go about realizing realizing that movement in the world around us. I would argue, to the contrary, that this procedure is what movements primarily entail.
The History of Intellectual Movements Considered Generally:
In order to aid us in our understanding of Neoreaction, and perhaps provide us with some clarity as to the exact nature of our task, it might perhaps be useful for us to, if only briefly, take a step back and consider the general manner in which intellectual movements may be seen to develop.
Intellectual movements are not eternal in nature, for any intellectual movement to exist at all it must possess some point of origin, for otherwise it would not be. There are moments in history where, in a seemingly spontaneous way, these movements are observed to simply spring up in quite rapid fashion with neither warning nor precedent. It is not uncommon for some of the most influential movements in the history of ideas to simply appear, as if out of thin air, in the course of only a decade or two. Suddenly something that had never existed before unfolds into being before our eyes and explodes unto the world stage to be aggressively developed and proliferated across all arenas of thought and life in which mankind is engaged.
How precisely this happens can seem altogether quite mysterious to the historical observer, and I do not mean to say that the genesis of intellectual movements is completely spontaneous in nature. No, that is never the case, as it is also a truth well known to us that everything comes from something, and that nothing can be which does not follow from what already is. Still, it often appears to us this way.
An idea may be thought of as a relationship, a relationship of materials, or matter. Intellectuals are, first and foremost, collectors of things, or material, of matter. They go out into the world and gather for themselves a treasure trove of little jewels, of ideas, observations, experiences, and this task necessarily precedes the genesis of any new, or novel conception.
This is how the idea around which any intellectual movement is first originated, it is not birthed in relation to nothing, but always, out of necessity, begins life slowly, through the assemblage and relation by intellectuals of bits and pieces of thought taken from many, sometimes contradictory sources.
An idea like Socialism, or Marxism, came into being through the interconnection and interrelation of other ideas and developments in the history of thought which had been unfolding for quite some time. Here, in a certain time and place, several gems of thought were drawn more and more intimately together by the spirit of the age into a constellation of influences. The utopian political sentiments of French Revolutionaries, the metaphysics of Hegelian Idealism, contemporary developments in the theory of political economy, traditional Christian apocalyptic mysticism, these influences, which were not related in any inherent way, were associated with one another increasingly until, at long last, the mind seized upon the association itself as a unique object for reflection and analysis.
This is the birth of an idea.
What causes these, sometimes, very disparate elements to become so closely associated with one another? Nature abhors a vacuum, and it is usually the case that the individual thinkers who give rise to the intellectual development of some idea, do so out of perceived necessity relating to their unique historical and social condition. This may manifest as a general feeling of malaise or dissatisfaction towards contemporary circumstances surely, but I would identify this feeling with the, perhaps unconscious, perception of these individuals, of the existence of an unfilled niche within the society or culture which they inhabit.
The source of such niches is represent historical exigencies, brought about by the transformation of political, cultural, institutional, economic and social conditions. The world changes, populations grow, civilizations decline, institutions and customs become obsolete, new technologies upend established practices, peoples enter into declines or new-found states of influence, in short, the world changes ever rapidly around us and it is often the case the intellectually we are slow to adapt when redundancies or inadequacies arise in the constitution of our social institutions.
It becomes then necessary, having felt within ourselves that something is lacking about the world, to go about providing some means of filling the gap which we have, with our dissatisfaction perceived. The first step in doing this is always the collection of the material out of which something new and useful might eventually be fashioned.
There are few rules governing how this is to be done. Before the collector lies the entire world of ideas to draw from, and it does not matter if what material he assimilates for himself is ancient or modern, scientific or artistic, religious or secular, he possesses great freedom in selecting things that appeal to his intellectual tastes and preferences and he is guided only by his intuition regarding the potential usefulness of what he ultimately selects in accomplishing his aims. All ideas are at once related, and at the same time diverse and distinguished from one another in this or that particular, and for the intellectual collector of material the potential contradictions inherent in what he collects do not concern him, as he is, at the end of the day, primarily concerned in how things are similar than how they are different. The intersection of everything which he eventually assembles is the idea he is to give birth to.
The one rule which I would insist upon here as governing the intellectual collector is that of taste, which is a sense developed through research, consideration and experience. If you were to suddenly find yourself in possession of a grant, and were charged by some individual or institution to assemble for it a collection of paintings in a particular style or genre, in order to do so well would require you to develop taste for whatever it was you were being tasked with collecting. You would want to select those pieces that were most exemplary. If you were, for example, assembling a collection of paintings for an exhibit on 18th century British portraiture, you would want to select those paintings that most purely exemplified the stylistic conventions of this particular school of art.
Taste is essential, and one must survey all the materials which are available, and conduct inquiries in the historical and intellectual circumstances underlying the production of those materials to develop an appreciation for what is most characteristic. You would not want your collection to be, at the end of the day, a hodgepodge, an ill-informed and poorly considered mass of paintings chosen based on poorly defined and understood criteria. You would not want to present to the world a mess, but a cohesive whole. You would want, through the presentation of many individual parts, to suggest to the imagination and understanding of the viewer the whole to which those parts may be thought of to all belong. This requires tasteful curation of each individual object selected so that, when reflecting on the suggested negative relationship between those elements displayed, the clearest and most vivid impression of the idea which you’re out to represent to the viewer takes shape in his mind’s eye.
This is no mean feet, to be sure, but that a certain taste is required of the intellectual collector as he goes about his business laying out the foundation for his idea can not be denied. For a movement like Neoreaction, which has not completely progressed beyond this initial stage fabrication, taste must prevail.
The material the intellectual collector procures for himself will ultimately service him in a great number of potential ways. They will offer him insight as to the precise nature and source of the niche he is out to fill. They will critique those institutions and practices which are no longer adequate to provide for that niche. They will legitimize his efforts to innovate by giving definite shape to the nature of the problem which he believes to be confronting society, or culture, or art.
Generally the process I am describing here in the abstract is not one carried out by the lone individual, but is rather often best thought of as a collaborative task carried out by a group of individuals of different backgrounds and insights. They are typically united only by a shared perception that something is lacking in the world around them or that there is a failure point present within society that is not being adequately acknowledged or addressed. They go about collecting materials from their own spheres and backgrounds which they then share with one another through some medium of communication like letter writing or even social media, though this latter medium, being totally new, has not yet succeeded in facilitating this process anywhere so far as we are presently aware.
It is around this time, when there is a growing convergence in the materials, that something may be said to be ‘in the air,’ as the expression goes. A critical mass has begun to be hit, where suddenly the mind turns from the materials, or parts being assembled, to the abstract, negative relationship between those parts, and in so doing, turns what was before only an intuition into finally its own object of contemplation. Here the Ur-Movement we are considering develops into self-awareness, and it is usually at this stage that some enterprising individual comes along and provides a name for this newly originated idea as material gathering gives way to direct reflection upon idea hand.
At this juncture those thinkers most concerned with an idea turn their attentions and efforts towards the explicit analysis and explication of the object of their movement, as that is what every such idea may be properly understood as, the object around which all the efforts of the members of any movement may be seen to gravitate. This point in the history of every movement represents the beginning of theory.
The intellects of a group of individuals, having begun to apprehend the existence of some new idea, out there, in the air, write, so as to define that idea in as comprehensible and systematic manner as possible. That idea, in the purest possible sense, is the bundling of every way in which that idea may ultimately manifest in every particular context. When any of the writers or thinkers who attempt to define their chosen idea take up their pen to do so, they are, as was pointed out above, limiting that idea down into a given context and showing the reader how it is their idea looks when considered in its particular relation to that context.
The number of contexts which it is possible for the thinker to explore is likely infinite, and these contexts include other ideas of both a general and a specific nature. When we look at the philosophy of history, let’s say, through the lens of our idea, what is the result? Or, what if we were to consider, more specifically, some particular aspect of Greco-Roman civilization in relation to our idea? Obviously there is no shortage of subject matter to define our idea in context of. The early, or foundational practitioners of any movement paint in broader strokes and might look at the idea which their efforts revolve around in its relation to things more generally, to the idea of history, or culture, or art, or religion, or freedom in the most general and theoretical way. Building on this, later thinkers will oftentimes concern themselves with more particular explorations of how their idea reflects, not on history generally, but on a specific period or facet of history, not on art generally, but on a specific work of art or literature, not on society generally, but on this or that specific legal practice or institutional convention.
The work of definition yields what is known as a Canon, of thought and writing, and here we switch again back to the mode of the collector, as it is the case that as the body of works attempting to define an idea swells, so it becomes necessary for adherents of a movement to attempt to curate out of this mass a collection of works in whose relationship the essence of a movement is to be sought out by later readers.
And so we arrive at the three stages of development through which intellectual movements may be seen everywhere to pass:
- The Collection of materials whose relationship describes an unfilled niche.
- The Apprehension of your idea as being the second-order occupation of that niche.
- The Curation of those materials which are produced in order to fill that niche into a canon.
It must be here clarified, before we continue any further however that these three moments are not discrete eras, but are simultaneously ongoing throughout the entire lifespan of a particular movement. Though, to be sure, it is often the case that the lifecycle of a movement is marked by a progression through various stages in which one of these impulses may be seen to predominate.
On Neoreaction Specifically:
It can be quite frustrating to be asked, in a straight ahead way, “What is Neoreaction?” And surely we have all been asked this question at some point in our ‘careers’ as would-be internet intellectuals and political theorists. When you tell someone, a family member or friend, that you blog, or that you’re active on twitter, they tend to be understandably curious as to what it is exactly that you’re up to. The question then inevitably arises as to what this “Neoreaction” is, and explaining it to people is a perilous and unenviable task, especially considering the fact that no one within the movement agrees on seemingly anything. It is only prudent that many of us are hesitant to reveal outright some of our associations and contributions to Neoreaction and the Alternate Right, as it is quite likely that such a revelation would reflect poorly on us with those we’re closest to in our everyday lives. For many of us the fact that we associate with every manner of right wing scum is not something we’re eager to volunteer.
Still, despite this, those of us active within this community feel some attraction or affinity to this idea which we have hit upon: “Neoreaction” And though few of us agree as to what it means, and very often come into direct conflict with one another over this fact, we persist in our attachment to Neoreaction for some reason all the same.
This is to be attributed to the perception of a niche, as was discussed during the previous section. It is a dissatisfaction shared by us that when we turn our attention to the world in which live, we feel as if there is something amiss, or perhaps something missing. This perception is not unique to Neoreactionaries, but has inspired other contemporary movements as well, such as Occupy Wall Street. That some members of that failed movement, like Justine Tunney, have gravitated over to Neoreaction should really come as no surprise.
Neoreaction, despite being ideologically quite different from a movement like Occupy Wall Street, is certainly a competitor to it, and besides these two there undoubtedly many more distinct contemporaneous efforts to identity and fill the niche which we have all perceived. The fact that Occupy Wall Street failed is a sign that it did not properly diagnose or apprehend the size and shape of the niche that was present and attempted to shove a round peg into a square hole so to speak. Neoreaction will be successful, or, more successful, if, any only if, it does a better job of this than its competitors so as to emerge as the most adaptive response to this development of history.
What is this development though? For those taking their understanding from the tradition of Leftist thought it couldn’t be more obvious: The present represents late stage capitalism, the moment immediately preceding the revolution.
This conception is hopelessly undercut however by the notion of Dark Futurology, it appears, at once to the observer, that ‘global capitalism’ is collapsing and is about to give way to something else. At the same time though there is also a pervasive sense that this collapse will simply continue on indefinitely, perhaps eternally, and when people consider the current progress of technology, it becomes quite frightening to them at the all the ways it will likely have to get worse before the eventual collapse finally occurs. More economic crashes and depressions, a even larger and more pervasive surveillance state etc. That we will all be genetically engineered within the span of ten years to be ideal, unthinking wage slaves to our corporate autocrats seems all but guaranteed.
And so the niche remains unfilled, as to revolt against the inevitable material progress of historical development seems a futile and eternally hopeless prospect…