Monday, 20 January 2014

Mark Hackard has a blog!


I have previously opined that Mark Hackard is the deepest 'modern' socio-political commentator that I know of:

And, just today, I have discovered that a few months ago he set-up a Russian (and Orthodox) focused blog called Soul of the East; which archives some of his best work - and is a venue for new pieces including his translations of some outstanding but unfamiliar Russian thinkers.


I have just begun reading through the newer material, and was struck by this translation from Ivan Ilyin:

We shall first examine the mechanistic view.

It sees in man first and foremost the instinctive individual with its “desires” and “needs”: every person wishes to work less, enjoy himself more and relax; procreate and accumulate; maintain his irresponsible opinions and express them without hindrance; to find the like-minded and associate with them wherever they may be; to depend upon no-one and wield as much power and influence as possible.

After all, men are born “equal”, and hence each of them must be provided equal rights for the assertion of their desires and needs: these are the inalienable rights of liberty which cannot abide restriction. Therefore every person should have an equal voice in affairs of state.

For so many people there will be so many equal voices. Whatever a man may fancy is to be affirmed, and let there be no interference in this. Allow like-minded men of all nations to unite freely; let the votes be counted; the majority will decide… 


As to the quality of the desires, plans and undertakings of all these men of one mind, and especially the motives and intentions of voters, no-one may concern himself. All of this is protected by inviolable “freedom”, equality and the secret vote.

Every citizen as such is considered already reasonable, enlightened, well-intentioned and loyal, incorruptible and honorable; each man is given the opportunity to discover his “valor” and veil all his designs and schemes with words about “the common good”. 

Until he is caught, this man is not a thief; until taken red-handed, he demands complete respect. He who has not been implicated at the scene of a crime (for example, treason, foreign espionage, conspiracy, bribes, waste, fraud, call-girl rings, counterfeiting) – is considered a political “gentleman” independent of his profession and a full citizen.


Most important are liberty, equality and vote-counting. The state is a mechanical equilibrium of private (personal and group) agendas; the state is built as a compromise of centrifugal forces, played out in the performances of political actors. And politics should move according to the results of mutual distrust and competing intrigues.


Unfortunately this view (as much as I know) is nowhere expressed in such a frank and precise form. It is not a doctrine; it is simply an unspoken political dogma, rooted in the world and taken as the self-evident essence of democracy. All men are formally free; all men are formally equal and contend with each other for power, for the sake of their own interests, yet under the pretense of a common benefit.



The Continental Op said...

Thank you for pointing this out; I was just searching for Hackard a couple of weeks ago, and came up empty.

I look forward to Hackard's comments on Dugin and his Fourth Political Theory.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

I am unfavourably impressed by this author’s insistence that secret vote and vote-counting are particularly evil. That our democracies are mobocracies is not due to voting being a sin in itself. And I do not see that monarchy or theocracy are better than another form of government if the monarch or “theocrats” and their servants are not fundamentally good, just, and courageous persons. Things go bad in any sort of contract between men only because men prefer vice to virtue and want and do evil things, while being ridiculously self-righteous about it.

I like best your slogan “repent and convert,” that leaves the details to the devil and goes to the heart of the problem.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SDR - I agree with the author on the evils of voting

George said...

Democracy is an inversion of God's order, a part of the modern tendency towards chaos. Even Americans should not be proud of Democracy - our for of nation was never intended as such. At least the republic form attempted to preserve power among those who should be interested in the welfare of their children and inheritance. Now we are at a level of total selfish short-term interests only.

jgress said...

His commentary on contemporary political events strikes me as fairly undigested Putinist propaganda (only the US seems to be driven by sinister motives masked in principled language, while Putin is merely defending his country), but his translation of earlier Russian writers is indeed invaluable.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jgress - The fascinating thing about following Russian politics (which I don't much) is how honest it is compared with US or British or European politics.

In foreign affairs, Russia seems pretty straightforwardly to pursue Russian best interests, by their own lights - and says so. In domestic affairs Putin seems to have a reasonably clear idea of what he is trying to do, and says so.

Russia all seems relatively straightforward! - which is mostly a measure of the extremity of our own corruption.

jgress said...

I don't think Putin's government is that honest. I think they, like our own government, tell a certain audience what it wants to hear. Obama is obviously not interested in appealing to social conservatives like ourselves, so it's easy for us to hate him. But Putin is very interested in the social conservative audience, so, for example, he passes laws against "gay propaganda", and then social conservatives go all ga-ga and conveniently forget that Russian public life is still thoroughly corrupt and dishonest and that Russia still suffers sky-high rates of abortion, divorce, alcoholism, drug use etc.

"Put not your trust in princes": I think this goes for any government today. The days of truly Christian rulers are long past.

Bruce Charlton said...

@jgress - Corruption is neither here nor there in this context - but if you can't perceive the gulf in honesty between Putin and OHB then that is a defect!