Sunday 14 November 2010

Nationalism today: a nationalism of the tradesman, not of the clerks


Leaving aside the question of whether or not it would be beneficial, is it likely that resurgent secular nationalism can unify the right and could reverse the cultural suicide of PC?

Because that seems to be an assumption among many of the US based conservative commentators, and an aspiration of rightist commentators from other countries.

But I will argue that a secular nationalism would nowadays have a strongly different character from most secular nationalisms of the past. 

A modern nationalism might perhaps save the nation (probably at the cost of fracturing it into smaller nations) - but it would not save the national culture.


When nationalism was an effective political force, it was a movement which was already there, it did not need much encouragement.

In most counties - perhaps all of them - nationalism originated with the ruling elites - often the lower ranks of the elites (i.e. the most numerous ranks): people like school teacher and lower administrators, also journalists and artists.

In other words, past successful nationalisms were led by a high-cultural elite: it was a nationalism of clerks. 

In other words, past effective nationalisms originated with exactly those groups which are nowadays the most politically correct, least nationalistic, most in favour of multi-culturalism.

Any modern nationalism would therefore need to be very different from past nationalisms.


The apparent exception of National Socialism is deceptive: German nationalism was a nineteenth century phenomenon, driven by the upper classes. At most the Nazis (who were lower class intellectuals, outside of the normal German elite of aristocrats and Professors) - hijacked this already-existing powerful nationalism: certainly they did not create it. And the Nazis did not so much promote German culture as destroy German High Culture - leaving behind only a much simplified and selective populist folk culture.


Of course new things can happen - and we are, after all, in an unprecedented situation: i.e. the new experience of deliberate, strategic, sustained, cultural and biological suicide by the intellectual elites, taking their nations and cultures with them.

Perhaps such a novel situation will inevitably lead to new and unforseen types of political response? - perhaps including a nationalism which is opposed by the exact groups which (in previous nationalisms) supported it?


In line with this, what does seem to be resurgent in the West (to some extent - maybe limited) is a lower class, populist nationalism.

What we are seeing is a nationalism led by the skilled working class rather than the teachers, lower civil servants and writers - we are seeing a nationalism of tradesman rather than clerks.


(And perhaps tradesman-led nationalism may be much bigger and more powerful than it seems, because it lacks a voice and the hostility of the communications personnel will naturally minimize and misrepresent it. Or maybe it is much smaller than it seems? - because the hatred and fear of the clerks towards the tradesmen leads to the clerks to perceive the threat of new nationalisms as bigger than it really is.)


To be successful, such a nationalism of the tradesmen would, surely, need to be be anti-intellectual and anti-upper class- would seek to replace the effete, irrelevant, decadent clerks with sensible skilled workers?


In such a society, warrior virtues would presumably predominate - courage, strength, loyalty, perhaps common-sense and concrete effectiveness; and there would consequently be few high status, ruling positions for intellectuals, high-artists and abstract thinkers.

In a tradesman-led nationalism, intellectuals would, rather, be allocated subordinate status as servants and functionaries.

(Recall that the bulk of intellectuals - clerks and teachers - in many past civilizations were often slaves, eunuchs and celibates.)

In sum, I do not think it likely that nationalism will again become powerful in modern societies, because the traditionally nationalist clerks are now anti-nationalist; the only possibility is a nationalism of the tradesmen.

But if I am wrong, and nationalism does again become powerful, it would have to be a new kind of nationalism. A new nationalism of the skilled working class: a nationalism of the tradesmen.

And (to mobilize support and maintain cohesion) any effective nationalism of the tradesmen would surely be openly and explicitly anti-intellectual and anti-upper class - which means that it would be 'anti-culture'.


More exactly, under a nationalism of the upper working class/ lower middle class, the complex upper middle class 'high culture' would be radically simplified and selected-from to generate (or regenerate) a popular folk culture which is suitable for the tradesman class  - that is, a class who are only secondarily concerned with culture, who do not regard high culture as a primary matter bound up with their personal identity, status and livelihood.

Rather, the lower class leaders are likely to regard high culture with hostility, based on the suspicion (often accurate) that it is a tool for forcing the tradesmen class into subordinate status and for elevating the status of the clerks.


(Note: I have been talking here of secular nationalisms. There are other social possibilities for religious societies that I have not mentioned above.)


a Finn said...

Indirect route:

TSP deserves praise for these linked articles:

But I would add that liberalism is not something that was created by the reformation ideas themselves. Reformation produced many kinds of thoughts and the question is: why were certain ideas selected and others rejected. The same liberal processes were happening in Catholic France too; Physiocrats and the population regulation with the help of statistics and often indirect, fairly unnoticeable measures, targeting mostly selected masses of people and their naturally occurring tendencies. In the Middle Ages there were clearly liberal, almost atheistic thinkers, like Abelard, who believed that "Human intelligence is all and leaves nothing to the faith". Other examples of liberalism in one form or another are numerous in different eras, countries and continents. Babylon, Assyria, China about 2000 years ago, Egypt in the times Marcus Aurelius and Cleopatra, etc.

Liberal ideas become selected or they are invented as needed by the rulers and managers in certain stages of development and growth of cities, commerce flows, division of labor, relative complexity in technology, large complex bureaucratic organizational structures, relative production advantages, etc. Liberalism is ultimately a product of power.

So the question is how to create an advanced society without the destructive side effects of liberalism? National state is just another centrally planned collectivist form of power, and it will degenerate towards liberalism, the default direction of all large complex organizations.

Rupert said...

The one thing I'm unclear on in your post is the wobbling between the tradesmen and what really seems to be a description of rule by the warrior caste.

If you mean we go from merchant-worker rule (our current situation) to worker-warrior and then transition to warrior rule, I think that's right.

In terms of caste theory it supposedly follows that the exploitation by (and subsequent decline of) the merchant caste leads to rule by warriors.

Tradesmen may run things for a short time, but never for long - their interests are usurped by the warriors in short order.

In regards to rule by the warrior caste, due to the overwhelming power of destructive technology it's unclear how the warriors can rule again when there is such a high risk of destroying everything. Perhaps they must cause (perhaps unintentionally) a kind of new dark ages that makes warrior culture possible without risking total annihilation?

I look forward to an articulation of the possibilities for religious societies. The caste theory doesn't point in the direction of making the religious caste dominant at this time in history, but we do seem to live in unusual times.

xlbrl said...

As you say, new things (and unanticipated things) can happen in unprecedented times. What we may not be anticipating is the way through these times being far easier than we think. Since we are ruled by a suicide class, removing them from all respectability may have positive effects that surprise us by their ease. It is nearly impossible to live in a chronic condition and know what it is like to live without it.

There is an intellectual class which is opposed to the one which rules us. The fact that it is small is what recommends it; you have detailed those things which attract a larger class, as did Hayek.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Finn

I think the other great driver of liberalism is prosperity, particularly the creation of a middle class. Rome itself grew more tolerant as it grew wealthier and decadence seems the usual mechanism by which large empires implode.

As a society gets wealthier it requires a large pool of middle managers (simply by necessity) to keep it running, this means of course that they as a group gain more effective if not political power. Being technocrats, they are probably very skilled at a particular task but aren't that intelligent when it comes to subjects out of their area of expertise. Sloppy thinking combined with political power ensures demise.

Liberalism is not per se a bad thing, provided it is not a society's overriding imperative. Whilst the West had religion it put limits on the practice of tolerance by default. When religion died all limits were off.

What destroys countries is political power wrested in the hands of those unfit to govern.

a Finn said...

"Rome itself grew more tolerant as it grew wealthier ..."

- True, and international, it's residents, travelers and visitors. Many races, religions, ethnicities and cultures, and thus the great potential for flash mob violence. To regulate this, rulers unimaginatively mostly use tolerance policies. Of course the most important question is if the unlimited internationalism is reasonable in the first place (Think about the downfall of Rome).

E.g. Marcus Tullius Cicero in De Legibus writes here and there almost in the spirit of modern PC.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ a Finn

Oops. Bad English.

What destroys countries is political power wrested in the hands of those unfit to govern.

Should be

What destroys countries is political power placed into the hands of those unfit to govern.


gunslingergregi said...

'''''''Catholic France too; Physiocrats and the population regulation with the help of statistics and often indirect, fairly unnoticeable measures, targeting mostly selected masses of people and their naturally occurring tendencies. '''''''''

Yea that is the insidious part of the deal.
People are directly tageted but not directly targeted. Plausible deniability.
Yea it is interesting that the ones who do the actual work are getting paid less than the massive structure that the work they do supports.
Interesting thoughts.
Although when there is a shortage of people who actually get the shit done it becomes a major issue pretty quick and is noticed pretty quick.
Think about how many jobs are actually needed at all.
The thing about the tradesman that is funny though is they on average get paid less than a lot of other people even though what they do if not done would bring things to a halt immediatly.
If it is going to be tradesman though you should realize that mexicans are taking over those type of jobs and actively kicking out other groups. So 2 mechanics will start at bottom and next thing you know the whole place is mexican employees. Or in factories or other places. So they probably will be one tool that actually can go against the liberals eh
Considering what are the libs elite gonna say when it is minorities demanding more rights for there hard work. he he he
Interesting stuff.