Friday 16 September 2016

What do I think about the Alt-Right? It is just another Leftism pursuing a subtype of mortal utility

I summarised my views three years ago, at a time when the Alt-Right was being called Neoreaction:

In a nutshell, there is no such thing as 'The Right': there is only Religion (or Religious systems) or The Left.

(i.e. The Right is an incoherent concept.)

A nation is either run with a religion as the bottom line; and politics, economics, law, the military and police, education, science, health the media etc - all other human activities - being ideally and ultimately subordinated to that goal. Religion is the organising principle...

Or else a nation is run on Leftist lines with 'mortal utility' as the bottom line - that is to say: the utilitarianism of mortal life is the Leftist goal; under the assumption that nothing else exists, or matters.

In sum: A nation can be run on Religious lines (as all nations were in the past, and many still are); or else it can be Leftist - which means it pursues mortal utility

And that is The Left, in its various guises - communist, National Socialist, socialist, fascist, New Left/ Political Correctness, Democrat, Conservative, Republican, Libertarian, and all the flavours of Alt-Right/ Neo-conservative/ Neocameralist/ Dark Enlightenment or whatever.

What makes something The Left is that what is ultimately aimed-at is human psychology - e.g. maximising economic 'utility' during mortal life; and its proxy-measures such as subjective happiness, reported or inferred human flourishing, well-being, self-esteem; or proxy objective measures such as wealth/ income/ consumption. Or the inverse goal/s of minimizing pain, suffering, violence, humiliation...

Even if military glory, national pride, or racial supremacy is being pursued - these are merely version of mortal utility and therefore types of Leftism - based on a different theory about who most matters and what counts as maximum utility. 

In other words all the Leftisms are types of utilitarianism in some kind of groupish abstraction - universalism, humankind, the nation, state, class, region, a sex or race, or some other unit.

The disagreements on the Left, the differences between the secular Leftisms listed above - which may be very bitter - are merely concerned with the identity of the group for which utility is to be maximised, and how best to maximise utility - that is all.

Since the only way of not being Left, is to be Religious: then we are each faced with the a choice of a Religion - with different views of what (other than mortal utility) we ought to be aiming-at. And there are, of course, huge differences in this respect between religions, and even within religions.

If you do not accept The Left, and reject its ideology; then you must put a religious goal into the place of utility.

Step back from politics - cease having it as a central interest and concern in your life. Because from where we are now, there can be no genuine improvement in politics. Better politics can only come on the other side of a spiritual revival: a revival both personal and civilisational. 

Therefore, unless you already are religious, you need to embark on a spiritual quest to find your religion.


Anonymous said...


Alt-right is liberalism/leftism with the seating chart reshuffled.

But putting different groups of human beings in the 'free and equal new man', 'harmless pets', and 'subhumans in search of a Final Solution' sections does not represent a fundamental change of metaphysical/religious view. Heck, it doesn't even represent a fundamental change in the metaphysics of political authority.

Chent said...

Nicolas Gomez Davila, the reactionary Catholic thinker put it that way:

"There are only two religions( the religion of God and the religion of man) and an infinity of theologies"

Hoyos said...

Racial Marxists really.

Leftism Revisited makes what may be the most compelling case.

pyrrhus said...

The Alt-Right as I know it is a belief that nations can only survive with a dominant ethnicity (because a nation is people, not government institutions), and that western civilization can only survive with a strong majority of white europeans, with a dominant religion of Christianity. I don't recognize the other concepts being discussed here, and no one I knew in American Alt-Right circles is espousing them.....

Bruce Charlton said...

@pyrrhus - I've never been a part of the secular Alt-Right; but I read Moldbug's blog and corresponded with Curtis Yarvin from when just after it began and before I was a Christian (you can see some comments from me); and I (with Jim Kalb) was even an early contributor to the online Alternative Right magazine back in (I think) 2010 when it was iitially attempting to include Religious Reactionaries.

My point is that I am familiar with this matter - and I am making a substantinve philosophical point that does not depend on topical partisanship and which is also defended in Thought Prison, my book of 2011.

There just is no conceptual space for there to be a coherent secular 'Right'; the only valid 'reactionary' is religious - all others are merely partial-leftisms because they are all variants of mortal/ this-worldly utilitarianism.

Andrew E. said...

It's unknown as yet whether Alt-Right will achieve a Christian or pagan focus or not. It may happen at some point. The alt-right is still sorting itself out.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Andrew - I write in hope of inducing repentence. I think the problem is that the Alt-Right doesn't (yet?) even understand the issue, which suggests they do not appreciate the spiritual gravity of our situation - their focus is on hedonic issues (power, money, law and order, efficiency etc) and the deepest levels of the human condition are secondary - taken for granted or usually ignored. This won't do.

Peter said...

This is good so far as it goes, but surely there is more. The alt right has attitudes and emotions that are anti Christian - pride, arrogance, anger, hate, aggression, etc. The entire "feel" of the movement is so anti Christian it's absurd.

It's possible to imagine a secular political movement that didn't place religion at the center, but that limited things like pride and anger and aggression.

It's possible to imagine a "leftist" political movement better than the current real left, but the alt right is not it.

A Christian might support some alt right policies, as I do, but to vote for candidates who promote all the anti Christian values, like pride, self-glorying, competetiveness, striving for superiority, aggression, anger, a fighting over a peacemaking spirit - would be such a betrayal of Christian principles as to be ridiculous.

The alt right have the values of primitve pagans, not the refined moral values of sophisticated pagans like Plato and Aristotle, altho even they fall far short of Christian values (see Aristotle's 'great souled' man with its anti Christian celebration of pride) but something more like Homeric Bronze Age pagans.

All that being said, your central point that Christians shouldn't be concerned with politics seems valid to me - but then I am always surprised that u seem to hope for and place such value on mass social revivals, as if the Kingdom of God is to be found anywhere other than inside you, always available.

Misanthropist said...

The problem is that most of what passes for 'the Right', especially the mainstream right but most of the Alt-Right, is essentially controlled/false opposition to the Left. It is there to create some illusion of choice and dissent without changing any fundamentals.

A lot of debates nowadays seem to boil down to a false choice between the know nothing pseudo intellectual left and the know nothing populist right (the latter usually typified by the lowbrow tabloid press, talkback radio and the like). The argument on issues such as opposing Brexit could largely be summed up as: 'don't vote to throw out the know nothing pseudo intellectual left, as you will get the know nothing populist right running everything. The opinionated man at the pub will be calling the shots! Scary'.

Of course, the problem with the know nothing populist right is that they are unable to articulate what is really wrong with the prevailing cultural Marxism and pseudo-egalitarianism that has a death grip on the culture, academia, education etc. They end up simply reinforcing the left's comfortable narcissistic delusion that anyone who disagrees with them is an ill-informed, backward, moron. They also tend to be simplistic slogan chanters, that provide a useful distraction from the sloganeering of the left. They are the ultimate 'useful idiots' in many ways.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Peter " I am always surprised that u seem to hope for and place such value on mass social revivals, as if the Kingdom of God is to be found anywhere other than inside you, always available. "

Of course I agree, but my baseline is that this is the most evil time in world history - from the perseptive of salvation; and that therefore the chances of salvation for the individual is being significantly damaged - which is why a 'social' revival is necessary.

Nathan Wright said...


I see clear signs of the Christian assimilation to modernity in your words. Pride is a sin in traditional Christian thought, but anger? Aggression? Those aren't Christian sins, but modern secular ones. Biblical wisdom says there's a time for hate, killing, and war. Secular leftism -- elevating as it does the purely physical utilitarian calculation -- says that those things are always forbidden.

A thousand years ago Christian military orders were waging wars against Muslim invaders. They were a part of the Christian-oriented society that could accommodate all walks of life. Now Christians are confined to a ghetto, which is allowed to exist only so far as it stays within the boundaries set for it by the anti-Christian secular states. Part of this is the emasculation of the church, which in turn tends to drive away men or distort the masculine side of their spiritual nature. I will grant the critiques of the Alt-Right (although there is a more Christian-oriented minority within it), but are you willing to acknowledge deep problems with the church as it exists today? I think these problems need to be addressed if there the church is to assist a spiritual revival.

I'm not saying I have the answers, but when I see John Lennon's "Imagine" being presented as the true Christianity, alarms start going off.

Bruce Charlton said...


Your point is reasonable, but not really what I thought Peter was complaining of - clearly if a movement in primarily and up-front motivated by a cluster of emotions such as "pride, arrogance, anger, hate, aggression" then that IS indeed antiChristian.

It is not so much that these motives are universally and forever prohibited under all circumstances, and they can be picked apart (so that pride is always bad, hate mostly bad, but anger may well be good) -- but clearly they would (if it is true that they are dominant) pretty much refute a claimed Christian motivation.

However, the Alt-right do not claim a Christian motivation - they are mostly apparently not Christian, and those who are Christian are not drawing their politics from their faith: the Alt-Right just is a *political* movement, appealing to normal secular, materialistic, wordly motivations of a utilitarian type. There is no reason to expect the Alt-Right to be distinctively Christian in its emotional or motivational tone; and it is not.

Oldvannes said...

The Alt Right is a first and necessary step; it is not the Omega.

War requires crass adolescent bravado and crudities. We loose the war, we loose all.

Andrew E. said...

After Fr. Seraphim Rose converted to Orthodoxy he intended to write the definitive account explaining and chronicling the decline of the West and Christianity from the standard perspective of historical study. When it eventually dawned on him that the true problem was of a different (spiritual) nature that couldn't be captured in a tome, he abandoned the project for other more effective pursuits. The same could happen to (parts of) the alt-right.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Oldvannes - My point is that the Alt-Left is actually fighting On The Wrong Side in the war - which is in truth a spiritual war - *that* is the depth of the problem we are in.

Peter said...

@Nathan wright -

The Sermon on the Mount literally and clearly contradicts everything you say.

For Christians, hate is never permitted, ever, for any reason. Aggression is never permitted, ever, for any reason. You must turn the other cheeck, always.

You do not fight evil with evil - you respond to evil with love. Returning evil for evil is the old Mosaic law that had been superseded, and merely brings more evil into the world over the long run.

To do this, you must give up on any worldly hopes. Evil people will of course 'win' in worldly terms, but that is why being a Christian means turning your back on the 'world'.

Being a Christian is radical and difficult and does in fact involve surrendering the 'world', watching as evil people 'win' frequently in worldly terms while you are completely forbidden from opposing them using their own tactics - and certainly not hate, aggression, and killing!

Christianity is not supposed to 'accommodate all walks of life' - it presents you with a radical choice, the World, or God and love, and bliss.

Christianity is radical and extreme and not 'practical' - we are not even supposed to think about how to get food and clothing in the future, the much vaunted 'future time orientation' is expressly forbidden! - and can never be the basis of a reasonable, practical society that wages war and accumulates wealth.

A Christian society would bear no resemblance to anything we have seen in history - it would be closer to hunter gatherer anarchy, if anything.

That is why I don't think it's bad that Christians are a minority who live in a ghetto - in reality it always was so and probably always will be so, even during so called Christian times.

The 'World' will always hate, persecute, and marginalize true Christians, even during so called Christian times.

As for modern churches, of course I see much to criticize, but probably from a pov you do not share.

It strikes me that you are less a Christian than a "virtuous high pagan" in the mold of Aristotle.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Peter - I don't agree with your mode of argument - I suspect that you are taking scripture a sentence at a time and interpreting each sentence as a law or rule.

The fact that Prudence is one of the virtues is a clue that this is not correct - nor indeed possible - because both virtues and sins contradict each other.

Christianity is not, ultimately, a series of laws and instructions, but something simple and whole - something a child or a simple minded person can do as well as one whol is instructed and knowledgeable. I'm not intenting to summarise it - because any summary is partial, biased and misleading - it is something only known in the heart and in relationship with God and not communicable reliably.

So I would not agree that Nathan is not a Christian! We must accept that Christianity is about trying, failing, repenting, trying again - the only people who aren't Christian are those who are not trying and/ or not repenting - Of course there are plenty of those! - but probably not Nathan! (On the evidence we have here.)

Peter said...

Well, I agree with you that Christianity should be simple enough for a child to understand, and that it isn't primarily about rules and regulations. Rules merely build up the will, and the ego, when the point is to kill the ego. Christian precepts - meekness, humility, lowlinness - are about suspensions of will, not active, willful pursuit, a transformation of character through surrender of will to God, not an exercise in ego reinforcing will power.Self cannot overcome Self - surrender to God, can.

And prudence seems a Greek virtue, and a worldly one. Turning the other cheek, and loving your enemies are not prudent. Indeed, Christianity seems like 'foolishness' to the worldly wise Greeks, and you yourself surely grasp something of this in the Way of the Fool.

However all this is perhaps a digression - you are right that I should not say Nathan isn't a Christian. It is not for me to judge, it is between him and God. I spoke harshly and critically.

All I can say is, God is love - and I regret that Nathan thinks hate, aggression, and killing are acceptable in some circumstances. I think by thinking this way he is separating himself from the Divinity, and I can only pray he learns to think differently.

To not resist evil, to love your enemies - this is radical stuff, and should not merely be reinterpret in a worldly way that makes us comfortable.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Peter - My understanding of 'Prudence' is that it is (positively) a recognition of the need for balance among the virtues; and (negatively) a recognition that any virtue pursued without proper regard for the others becomes a vice.

Wrt to hate, aggression and killing - I would discriminate. I think hatred usually comes under 'resentment' which is forbidden t Christians and must be repented; aggression I am not sure about - it is not a very objective matter; killing is, I would say, obviously NOT forbidden to Christians.

At least I see nothing to suggest that killing is forbidden in the Gospels, and (I know this is not conclusive, but it is significant) a prohibition on Christians killing is very recent in the history of the faith - probably emerging in the late 1700s in England among Quakers and some others of that ilk.

Of course, some specific individual Christians seem to be traditionally prohibited from killing - such as priests and monks; but almost all of the Christians I most respect and look-up-to regard capital punishment as the just and proper punishment for some crimes - and I agree; I also would say (again with most of the best Christians) that pacifism is a serious error, and there are circumstances when war is just and necessary.

Oldvannes said...

I agree with your characterization of this as a spiritual war but vociferously disagree with your tactics.

In the John Wayne movie, The Searchers, the final scene makes my point.

The girl has been rescued, order and the good have been restored at a steep cost. All enter the home (symbolic of true righteous civilization restored), except for Wayne.

To win he had to destroy the bonds to the sacred within himself, to become as brutal as the savage to defeat the savage. He had become what he fought against to defeat it. He had lost the bonds to the sacred and had become damned,something outside of civilized. Thus he remains alone, outside of the home. The fate of a sin-eater.

In this spiritual war where some of us, maybe many of us, will have to become sin-eater.

Not all but many on the Alt right will play this role.

pyrrhus said...

Moldbug is NeoReaction, not Alt-Right, and while the two groups may be allies, they are just not the same thing....NeoReaction tends to be Monarchist or oligarchical, for example, while Alt-Right is focused on restoring the nation....

Bruce Charlton said...

@O - That's an unusual argument. But it doesn't apply for the Christian - because of the infinite power of repentance.

Of course, at a psychological level (duing mortal incarnate life), people may become corrupted and 'brutalised' by experience, and this may not be heal-able - but at the spiritual level healing is there fore the asking, always.

Anonymous said...

I went looking for Biblical references to 'hate' echoing in my memory, and found the striking example of Psalm 45:7 (Masoretic; 44:8 Septuagint & Vulgate), "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness" (KJV), "Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem" [Vulgate: Douay-Rheims: "Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity") which Psalm reappears with this verse as emphatically Messianic in the Epistle to the Hebrews 1:9 (where KJV has "hast [...] hated iniquity" with D-R, and the Greek for what is the object of hate is 'anomia').

Presumably the Imitation of Christ includes this hatred of 'anomia'/'iniquity'/'wickedness', however that works in practice.

Presumably another Messianic reference is not unrelated to that question of practice: The Apocalypse/Book of Revelation to St. John, 19:11, "in righteousness He doth judge and make war" (KJV), "cum justitia judicat et pugnat" [Vulgate: D-R: "with justice doth He judge and fight"; the greek verb being 'polemei'] - again, however that works. Pace Pope Francis, we worship a God of God, Very God of Very God, Perfect God and Perfect Man 'of war'.

The possible 'stickiness' of practice comes, for example, in Ransom's fight with the Unman as Lewis imagines it in Perelandra - a fight against the demonic in Weston's body and in its way, for Weston - !

David Llewellyn Dodds

Jack said...

Your post explains why the Right / Conservatism is broken, floundering, and always self-defeating. Leftism has a stronger foundation due to its roots in Utilitarianism, and thus the Right is relegated to the minor role of ameliorating or stifling the errancies, inadequacies, and immoral effluences of the Left. In that sense, the Right enables Leftism to perpetuate and thrive. Without the Right holding everything together, Leftism would fester and fail. This is evident when we observe how many Leftist cities are collapsing because too many Right wingers have exited the state. All this depends on a predominant tenor of Utilitarianism in the culture in which the Left and Right play complementary roles in propping up the house of cards.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jack - Your para encapsulates what I was trying to say.

One of the cleverest things the enemy has done, is never to name itself. The ideology shared by all the leadership class and major social institutions does not have a name. This makes it difficult to critique.

Or maybe it is because fish don't name the sea in which they all swim? So, people can't detach themselves sufficiently from this "utilitarian/ this-worldly" ideology to recognize that it IS an ideology?

And yet, in the past, most (or all) societies were religious, and lived by an utterly different set of assumptions.

Jack said...

Individualism has fractured utilitarianism such that everyone views life on their own personal terms, and everything else is filtered through that lens. Even history, philosophy, politics, and science are all adapted, bent, and tailored towards individual and group interests. Thus, there is no overriding ideology, except post-truth relativism, self-actualization, "See to it yourself" and "Do what thou wilt". This world view applies to the leadership class and the proletariat alike, but the leadership class has the finances, influence, and power to lead and shape the masses to their wishes. Less powerful individuals are thus focused on creature comforts and making the most of whatever they might have, according to whatever standards they happen to hold.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jack - Individualism is just a fact of modern consciousness and our social conditions; and everyone who rejects it (e.g. to embrace some particular church, or external code/ laws) inevitably does so from an individual act or discernment and commitment.

Not everyone acknowledges or admits this - but it is true.

For me, what I call Romantic Christianity is the honesty to admit this fact of the primacy of individual discernment and responsibility, and the consequences.

What we need to do is distinguish the fact of individualism in consciousness, from the evil ideologies such as post-truth relativism etc etc.