Saturday, 26 October 2013

"What does the ‘neo-’ in ‘neoreaction’ signify?"

This is a question asked at:

To which there is a short and very simple answer: 

The 'neo-' in neoreaction signifies 'not-'. 


If there ever was any serious doubt; every passing month shows more and more clearly that the neoreactionary, secular-right, alt-right, dark enlightenment movement are just a type of Leftism.

You can actually track the corruption of neoreaction, happening before your very eyes; in the going-down-the-tubes attitudes, style, focus and behaviour of individual bloggers. 

(If it looks like Leftism, talks like Leftism, and in general behaves like Leftism - that it is Leftism - not least because the rare Western non-Leftists stand-out from modernity like a beacon, or a sore-thumb.) 


Neoreactionaries dislike many aspects of mainstream Leftism, but not so much as they dislike religion.


That the only real-life reactionary societies have been and are religious - and if reactionaries were serious about being reactionary they would simply choose their religion.


Instead they prefer the cut-and-thrust, snark-and-sarcasm of (characteristically Leftist) speculation on how, somehow, it might be possible to construct a sustainable non-religious reactionary society of a kind that never was seen (but which includes all they stuff they like best, and not the stuff they hate: no need for hard choices here!).


But why are neoreactionaries they so hostile to religion?

There are many possible reasons for being personally non-religious, as I know from recent personal experience (especially a reluctance to abandon your preferred freedoms derived from the Leftist sexual revolution); but the answer (if you cannot yet be religious) is to become a religious seeker.

It is hard to rationalise or even excuse anti-religiousness in anyone who wants their self-defined 'reaction' to be serious, or to be taken-seriously.

However, whichever anti-religious reason applies in each particular instance, the conclusion remains the same: neoreactionaries are more serious about their anti-religion than about their pro-reaction - hence the 'neo-'.

See also:  


But what about the cadre of supposedly-religious neoreactionaries? What indeed... What do they hope to get from this unequal alliance? Could be they are simply mistaken in their assumption of a possible synergy between tough-minded- this-worldly hedonism on the one hand; and religion on the other. Or it could be they are led astray by the daily excitements and distractions, the status fun and games, the guilty pleasures of swearing and salaciousness - and the opportunities and inducements to hatred and hard-line-ism 'in a good cause'?



Bonald said...

Hi Bruce,

What a coincidence. I've just finished writing a post on the Orthosphere about neoreactionaries, then decided to web surf for a few minutes, and this was the first thing I came across.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bonald - What provoked this post is my observation of that old favourite of mine (and 'Proph's') which is Things-coming-to-a-point

What has happened is that the internet based secular Right has, by now, been confronted by Christianity in very clear ways; so that if they did not know what Christianity was before, then they do now - and they have rejected it (or else they hoping or planning to use Christianity as a means to some other end such - as patriarchy or manosphere-promiscuity or nationalism or racialism or economic efficiency of whatever).

But, the 'point' is that they are now in the position of having knowingly rejected Christianity - which is what is making them worse, and worse; and harder and harder.

So that there are quite a few bloggers and commenters who I used to read with pleasure and profit - who now preside over an internet environment that is just sordid and depressing. These 'neoreactionaries' have now, it seems, made their choice, taken their path - and are now striding off down it.

Thus, as things continue to unfold, it gets easier to see *which side* people are on; fewer and fewer people are in the middle - more and more people have *decided*.

Luqman said...

This is one of your best posts I think Dr. Charlton. Neoreaction is contradictory. Some of it purports to like everything that comes out of religion (mostly Christianity), but at the same time imagines these can exist without religion because they personally have found a way to escape its evil clutches.

So in the end their position is as much an attack on meaning itself as Leftism is. I look forward to reading Bonalds take as well.

asdf said...

The other day people were just slamming neo- in front of every other word and I very much got the impression of "try hard" coolness about it all.

Many reactionaries are just nerds who desperately want to think they are smart and figured it all out on their lonesome with their big giant brains. Strangely enough whatever they figure out tends to be whatever arrangement of society would be best for them.

Most neoreactionaries seem to think that "neo" stands for "new". "We can't go backwards!" they cry. "If Christianity was correct it would have won." "We have to move forward."

Channeling Lewis:
“[M]an has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false," but as "academic" or "practical," "outworn" or "contemporary," "conventional" or "ruthless." Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.”

There is also an intense fascination with the idea that this or that technological breakthrough will be the solution that defeats whoever it is that is holding them down. Bitcoins, 3D printing, whatever the fad of the day is. All of it building up to some "technological singularity" that they seem to treat like the second coming of Christ. I find the faith in technological solutions to human problems very much in line with the Soviet, Nazi, or Old Left ideas.

Again, the constant believe in "the future" and living in some imaginary world where this or that technology reminds me of Lewis again:

“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time--for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”

Indeed, the only parts of neoreaction are the present or past:

1) Describing problems in the current day (even if I disagree with the solutions).

2) Talking about ideas and books from the past. For instance, my favorite posts are reviews of old books are source material.

What an average neoreactionary wants is to keep on doing what he's doing, but for the world to change around him in a favorable way. Favorable to everyone if it doesn't cost him anything, but most importantly favorable to him if it comes right down to it.

david Stanley said...

It's all so inconvenient. I have just discovered the dark enlightenment and now everyone seems to have "seen through" it. Just as I was feeling rather pleased with myself too! I suppose I will have to start associating with those embarrassing Christians again rather than patronising them. ...

SMERSH said...

"That the only real-life reactionary societies have been and are religious - and if reactionaries were serious about being reactionary they would simply choose their religion."

I'd love to pick a religion and run with it, but the better religions are no longer being practiced in a reactionary manner. You can't convert to Catholicism circa 1000 A.D., otherwise I would.

There is one major religion that is currently being practiced in a very reactionary manner (you know the one I mean), but it has other aspects that are, shall we say, problematic.

So that puts the reactionary who is currently without a religion in a very strange position.

Should I convert to Catholicism then immediately declare that the Pope is wrong and that Vatican II is wrong and start agitating for massive reforms to Catholicism? Why convert to a religion that you want to see massively changed? Why convert to a religion that you see as horribly corrupted in its modern form?

So you can debate theology instead of politics? The theological arguments seem even more difficult to resolve conclusively than the political arguments.

Or should I convert to Catholicism and take the current version of it seriously and become far, far more leftist than I am now?

I wish it was as simple as picking a religion and running with it.

Mangan said...

I can't say that I find neoreactionaries at all hostile to religion. It's a core tenet of reaction that most people always have been and always will be religious.

Be that as it may, I just want to comment on your assertion that neoreactionaries "reject" religion, or Christianity. There's just no way that one can decide to accept or reject religious belief - one has to be *convinced*. There's an element of force in belief, that one's intellect is forced to believe (or not) regardless of what one's will desires. So in that sense I reject the notion that one can, with the will, reject religion. One can intellectually reject it, that's all.

stephen c said...

I believe the Dark Enlightenment is Neither. (Speaking as a fan of those visual artists who are able to deploy both light and darkness for positive and creative effects).
Also, Mr Stanley, that was some of the best sarcasm I have ever read...

imnobody said...

This is another take on the same issue. The guy is Catholic and claims to be neoreactionary

asdf said...

"I also think that many consider “reactionary” to be an explicitly religious label, whereas the neoreaction is explicitly not religious"

Your right Bruce.

Sad, of all reactionaries I liked Foseti the most. Still he has a long life to turn around.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SME - I certainly agree that being a reactionary (i.e. religious reactionary) is not simple nowadays - that has been the main topic of this blog for several years. Nonetheless if someone believes Christianity is true - chooses Christianity - then that is what they have to do, as best they can - then see what happens. We are not 'picking winners' here.

@Mangan - The point of this post is that in an era like this one, not to choose Christianity (i.e. not to *support* Christianity as the *primary* choice) is - over time, and sometimes quickly, to be swept into the opposite camp: to join 'the enemy'.

That's what the 'coming to a point, argument is about - the extreme difficulty/ impossibility of remaining uncommitted, and also the extreme difficult/ impossibility of having a lukewarm but secondary approval of Christianity in a world where the dominant powers are strategically destroying it by multiple means (propaganda, subversion, misrepresentation, infiltration, coercion etc).

THIS POST is about the matter of choosing sides in a polarizing world, and about what the sides really are. I am not, here, talking about Christianity as a personal faith.

My point is that the sides are the Reactionary Right (which includes several religions, including some Christians - a minority of Christians in the West, but a majority in the Global South)...

And on the other side is everybody else - New Left, Liberals, Libertarian, secular Conservatives, neo-Conservatives and the neoreactionary movement.

In choosing sides the first step is to choose religion against secularism; the send step is to choose which religion. *Then* things get complicated - but those quite simply are the choices.

asdf said...


On Friday I had a conversation with someone who had belonged to the Legionaries of Christ. They were a Catholic order whose founder ended up being really involved sexual abuse. He had been a very active member in this group before it got banned. Yet he still keeps the faith (one he converted to against his parents wishes and with little support).

While I'm sure he would love for the church to be a pure and effective organization, he worships God and not the church, and most follow him regardless of what's going on with the church down here. The guy goes through a lot of trouble to keep the faith, even as he gets sent all over the world with the navy and access to priests and mass is in short supply.

This seems right to me, because if you take religion even 0.1% seriously that's what you have to do. It's like the old debates about Jesus as a "great moral teacher." The guy claimed to be the Son of God, with so many other supernatural claims. Either he was a total nut or it was all true. If you believe his story is true then the idea of half hearted religion is obviously crazy. And if its false its equally crazy, but from the other end.

heaviside said...

The real reactionary doesn't just want to turn the clock back a century, or a millennium, but to the time before time itself, where the First Mover resides in hyperuranion. The real reactionary exists against time, for the eternal.

Bruce Charlton said...

@h - Interesting perspective,and true for a certain type of mystic - but this presupposes a specific metaphyical view of reality.

(Which I don't share - I believe time is as it seems - linear and sequential. I can't prove this, any more than you can prove your different view - these are metaphysical *assumptions* upon which much else depends.)

asdf said...

Apparently, being a neoreactionary means hating everyone and worshiping the philosophy that gave us WWII.

Bruce Charlton said...

@asdf - I believe Fascism of a National Socialist type is the attractor for the secular Right because it is anti-Communist, secular, and (sometimes) able to mobilize motivation via a combination of Nationalism and Hatred. I regard it as an attractor because Fascism is (I think) the only way, the only possibility, of making the secular Right (a bunch of chatting intellectuals) into a politically effective movement, capable of winning - therefore the secular Right will be drawn towards Fascism over time. I say this in a scientific and observational spirit, not because Fascism is the *worst* thing: Fascism is bad, but the worst thing is Communism.

Bryce Laliberte said...

If only society were as simple as "Convince everyone to be religious." Convincing everyone is a very difficult thing to do, especially when all the material conditions are working against you. The question of how society shall be ordered is underdetermined by religion; though religion is an essential element, it is insufficient. After all, many are, even most were, Protestant in this society, so if the solution is just "be religious," then that was already down pat, yet we're in this mess. You could say bad things about Protestantism if you wished, and by all means I would join you in that, but there is more to be done than "be religious." The progressivists have that exact element down.

So in what essential way is neoreaction anti-religious? Because it isn't gnostic? Because it accepts that there are such things as truths about how society works? Because it isn't religiously utopian? What, exactly, is the contradiction?

Bruce Charlton said...

@BL - Who said anything was simple?

Religion is necessary - it is not sufficient.

Beyond that - choose your religion.

But it has to be patriarchal in structure, it has to be traditional in morality.

Puzzle Pirate said...

" I believe Fascism of a National Socialist type is the attractor for the secular Right because it is anti-Communist, secular, and (sometimes) able to mobilize motivation via a combination of Nationalism and Hatred."

Fascism is an advanced form of authoritarian democracy, and neoreactionaries do not support democracy. Therefor we cannot be fascists. QED