Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Leftism of Mencius Moldbug

* clear from his first and foundational (and, I believe, unrepented?) statement of 2007:

The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence...

The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable. 


At that time MM was available for e-mail discussions, and - as I recall, I've lost the e-mails - I took him to task over this; as being a project which was obviously Leftist in aim, but having different methods: in other words; the same end, but different means. 

But if I didn't say so then (when I was a libertarian secular pro-democracy kind of person) I certainly would do so now: This is a Leftist project!

However, I now recognize that all secular projects are Leftist, inevitably, since they are merely species of utilitarianism - different variants on how to enhance the pleasure of various people or groups, or diminish their suffering (e.g. by eliminating violence).

In other words, these are hedonic projects in which the pleasure-pain axis is the bottom line - indeed, how could they be anything else? since religion is ruled out as the goal of socio-political organization


If it wasn't obvious then, it is obvious now - since Moldbug's concepts and terminology have become a typical Leftist talking shop (about of the kind familiar to those such as myself who steeped themselves in the world of quasi-Marxist small magazines of the 1970s to 90s) - I mean animated conversations about precise definitions, tactics, and purity. 

The underlying idea is that if the ideological structure can be got right, then reality will crystallize around it in the desired form. 

These conversations are interminable since the basic underlying ideas are incoherent except at an extreme level of abstraction - but they are not without effect; as the phenomenon of Political Correctness shows. 

Those obscure and obsessive Marxist nutters wrangling about the 'isms' in the small magazines of the 1970s to 90s are now the intellectual lunatics in charge of that asylum which is 21st century public discourse. 


So I would not characterize the Moldbug acolytes as nonentities who are wasting their time on trivialities - it is perfectly possible that these ideas could catch on and spread, and that some of these advocates could become successful and influential. 

I merely want to make the point that this is Leftist would-be careerism, in one of its purest and most characteristic guises.


I mention this because MM himself, and some of his followers, seem to suppose that they are engaged in a reactionary project - or even that they are aiming at restoring some previous historical phase of human political organization.

But all previous phases of human political organization were religious - and Moldbug's ideas are not preceded by a religious Great Awakening, and so amount to wanting past social organization but minus its single most importantly motivating and cohering factor.

Pick and mix politics of preference - wanting what you want and not what you don't: and convincing yourself you can have it. 

Which is, if I may say so, a typical Leftist trick!