“Liberal elites are not stupid. We have a tendency to underestimate the enemy, but they do not run the show without reason. If they do not want you to read old books (and they do not), then they have good reason for this” – Mike, the editor-in-chief of Imperium Press, ‘Colonize Your Bookshelf, Part I’
The British utilitarian philosopher and notable liberal, John Stuart Mill, once remarked: “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are Conservatives”.
Whatever veracity Mill’s statement may have once had with regard to an Anglo-Conservatism, which had been cut off from its Filmerian roots, it is undoubtedly true that its congruence with reality is now increasingly tenuous.
Contributing to the precariousness of this narrative has been the efflorescence of rightist publishing houses in recent years. This, in turn, has invigorated the theoretical and meta-political discourse on the right.
Imperium Press, along with a number of other illiberal publishing houses, is at the fore of the proliferation of texts, both old and new, which are pertinent to rightist ideology. Since its initial re-publishing of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ in 2019, Imperium Press has set out to reappropriate classic rightist and Western works from liberalism’s moralising thraldom, which inevitably neuters, misinterprets, and distorts the aforementioned.
Imperium Press’ mission statement is a testament to their commitment to this goal of re-taking our ideological corpus from our enemies: “Works in the history of right-wing thought are rarely ever available in editions that place them where they belong: outside of the liberal worldview. Imperium Press’ mission is to rectify this sorry situation.”.
Based on the description given thus far, the aesthetic of their website, and even their name, one could mis-attribute the revival and re-interpretation of the classics, along with certain archaic rightist tomes, as the sole aim of Imperium Press.
However, this would be to eschew the important works by contemporaneous authors that Imperium Press has published heretofore. The release of books such as ‘American Extremist’ by Josh Neal and ‘Nemesis’ by C. A. Bond has cemented Imperium Press’ position at the cutting edge of the right’s intellectual evolution.
The following is an interview I conducted with the editor-in-chief of Imperium Press, Mike.
Interview with the Editor-in-Chief of Imperium Press
UF: It is readily apparent that Imperium Press, as a publishing house, draws inspiration from antiquity – the works it has published, its aesthetic, and even its name stands as a testament to this. As the foremost Classicist publishing house on the right, what is the relevance of the classics to the contemporary right, as well as to Europeans and their diaspora across the globe?
IP: For the mainstream right, very little I’m sorry to say. But for the illiberal right—which is where all the intellectual energy is—the classics are really at the heart of it all. The liberal sees diversity across time, unity across space; the traditionalist unity across time, diversity across space.
I want you to cast your eye over the modern political landscape. Look at all the books, articles, and documentaries from the past 20 years. Even the reactionary ones. Gottfried’s After Liberalism. Moldbug’s Open Letter. Anton’s Flight 93 Election. K-Flex’s Buck Breaking. Can any of them hold a candle to the Mnesterophonia? Are any of them even remotely as relevant? Here we have Odysseus—war hero, king, pater patriae, emblem of all high culture and sovereign legitimacy—washed up on the Ithacan shore. Well into middle age, he hasn’t seen his wife since she was a young woman. He’s been to hell and back (literally). Defied gods. Had sex. Lost all his men. Barely escaped an opioid epidemic. Missed his son’s entire life. Had more sex. He’s even turned down immortality. All he wants is to get back to his home, see his hearthfire, sacrifice a few hecatombs of oxen to the ancestors, and get on with his life. Now he’s there—finally! And what does he find? What greets him on his triumphant return? A mob of suitors. A gaggle of debauched, unwelcome ingrates eating through his store, despoiling his slave girls, choking themselves in a glut of sense gratification, and rutting like bitches in heat—with his chaste wife, if they had their way.
Is the sum and substance of the West today better summarized in the pages of the Telegraph? Would (could?) Darren Grimes have framed it thus? 2,700 years ago, a blind, illiterate bard knew more about our contemporary situation (or the perennial struggle of culture vs. barbarism) than the most hardboiled contemporary political observer. This is what the classics ought to mean to us today.
Now, the classics aren’t a πᾰνᾰ́κεια. Boris Johnson, for all his mastery of Attic pronomial forms, seems not to have digested the full weight of Homer in the terms just now laid out. So, it seems that there’s more to the story than just reading Homer whole and unframed. That’s where Imperium Press comes in.
UF: One of the most notable releases so far this year for Imperium Press has been Josh Neal’s ‘American Extremist’. Neal’s work offers a psychological analysis of political extremism. What demarcates Neal’s work from that of, for instance, Wilhelm Reich’s (which I have discussed elsewhere), is its idiosyncrasy in the field of psychology: namely, Neal’s rightist convictions – we’re a long way from Kansas!
Was there a concern, prior to its publishing, that Neal’s text could potentially devolve into a polemic vis-à-vis the left, veiled in psychological jargon? Furthermore, do you consider objectivity and value-neutrality in the context of a scholarly area of study to be outside man’s grasp or, rather, something which we can apprehend?
IP: Josh has been a friend to Imperium Press from the beginning and we’re great admirers of his. So, when we got word that he was working on the book we knew it would be the opposite of Adorno et al: sober, even-handed, and genuinely interested in truth. And we were right—American Extremist is one of the most intellectually honest surveys of the modern psyche that you will ever read. But he’s up to something radical here that goes beyond just taking his subject matter seriously, which would be radical enough today. He’s recasting the whole notion of extremism.
If I asked you to picture for me a “liberal extremist”, I might as well be asking you to picture a 4-sided triangle. But looked at with some historical distance, liberalism is the most extreme ideology that has ever existed. American society (and, indeed, the whole Anglosphere) is an engine for the production of extremism because our civilizational imperatives demand extremity. In psychologically profiling both the left- and right-extremist, Neal shows how the Guardians, the Twitters, and the Oxfords of the world share this profile. So, we should not be surprised that these core civic institutions radicalize people—Neal’s book is a variation on the theme that it’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society, but with a diagnosis of, and prescriptions for, the sickness. If this view were to gain even minority support among the intelligentsia, it could change the whole game overnight and give us a real weapon with which to challenge our centuries-long leftward sprint.
Neal is even-handed, but he is no centrist. He clearly has a view, and the fact that he criticizes both left and right does not mean he takes the view from nowhere. Such a view is based on the facile idea that the abstract individual can reason from self-evident, culture-independent premises without deluding himself. Everyone I have ever met has started from somewhere, and that somewhere was, ultimately, not of his choosing. It’s one thing to treat your subject with charity—it’s quite another to think you’ve found a neutral point of view. Such thinking is the picture of extremity, and deeply un-conservative.
UF: Although it was not the first book that Imperium Press released, C. A. Bond’s Jouvenel-inspired work ‘Nemesis’ was certainly the text that cemented Imperium Press’ place as a publisher. It also, undoubtedly, is one of the most impressive rightist books that has been released this century.
C. A. Bond contends that power conflict occurs in the following manner: the high allies with the low vis-à-vis the middle. Through this pact, the low is “liberated” from the petty tyranny of intermediate powers – the high is similarly liberated, though not from the middle’s tyranny, but rather from its restriction on the central power’s overreach.
To what extent does Bond’s theory explain the contemporary phenomenon of “wokeness” – in its broad political, social, and intellectual sense? If it does, to what extent can we rely on Bond’s theory to trace its origins – and if not fully, what other factors are at play, in your view?
IP: Wokeness is a Jouvenelian phenomenon. But then, so was its earlier incarnation, the civil rights movement. Bond spends a whole chapter in the book demonstrating that MLK and BLM were astroturfed phenomena directed from the top-down. This is a matter of public record. If you just read the Open Society US Programs Board Meetings, it’s all in there, that the US government sought the support of “private”, “non”-government organizations to implement woke initiatives that it couldn’t because of safeguards against government overreach.
And this is the lesson of Nemesis, that this process is very old—it’s just how power works. Official power (e.g. government—the “high”) deputizes unofficial power (e.g. church, nobility, corporative bodies—the “middle”) to rule the people (the “low”), but the high always fears the middle as a challenge to its sovereignty. The king doesn’t fear the people; he fears his barons. So, the high weaponizes the low to disempower the middle, the middle comprising all those localist structures traditional conservatives love. The king says to the peasant, “what has this privileged baron ever done for you? All he does is put his boot on your neck. You need me to put him in his place.” You could transpose that perfectly onto wokeness. And so, “high-low vs. middle” is an algorithm for power centralization, eating all those local, intermediary structures. The main way this is achieved is by pretending there’s a distinction to be made between public and private, which is exactly the scenario with the Open Society Foundations. Well-meaning people, generally the ones with healthy, pro-social instincts, fight under the assumption that there’s some sphere of influence into which official power does not penetrate—the “private”. And so, they lose, because they fight according to rules that aren’t real and the other side doesn’t abide by. Bond’s account is indispensable for mounting a serious resistance to anarcho-tyranny.
At the same time, the libertarians can offer insights here, too. Wokeness makes perfect rational sense within the logic of the market—so-called “woke capital”. If you can institute a culture of customary or even mandatory diversity hiring, the big players stand to win. Different peoples have different talent bell curve distributions—some wider, some narrower. Forgive the American sport reference, but imagine a law that says each baseball team has to field 10% minor league draft picks in its starting lineup. Except you’ve got 10,000 Mom & Pop teams and one Walmart team who can afford to snap up the first 50 rounds of draft picks. If you’re Walmart, you’re going to lobby to increase that law to 20%, 30%, as high as you can. Diversity hiring is what economists call a “barrier to entry”, and the big players love those.
UF: Moldbug, in his overview of the 17th century political spectrum, once stated regarding the British “thinker” John Locke: “Locke? Dig him up and hang him, like Cromwell”. Do you agree? And if so, can you elaborate on Locke’s (intellectual) crimes?
IP: I mean, yes and no. Locke is unimpressive, but that’s why I don’t hate him. I can at least bristle at Marx because unlike Locke, Marx is interesting. Locke isn’t egregiously, offensively wrong, just void of any deep insight where he’s at all original. Popular sovereignty was defended better by Bellarmine a century earlier, and much better by Aquinas four centuries earlier. Speaking of Aquinas, the scholastic maxim nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu has roots in the Greek Peripatetics, so Locke’s empiricism is something like 2,000 years late to the party. And where he is somewhat original, as in the state of nature argument, we get the anthropological equivalent of a flat earther. He’s just giving us a deus ex machina—totally unserious, totally unsupported, effectively a piece of mythology shoehorned into an account of political legitimacy. Not worthy of attention.
And this is what Locke’s contemporaries thought of him, too. Martyn P. Thompson wrote an excellent paper, The Reception of Locke’s Two Treatises of Government 1690–1705, pointing out the silence that he faced on publishing his magnum opus. Nobody cared because there wasn’t much to care about. Until a century later, of course, when a power centre was looking for post hoc justifications for what it wanted to do as a matter of political exigency. Finally, we found something Locke was good for. He certainly wasn’t good for rebutting Robert Filmer—at one point Locke (First Treatise, ch. VI, S57) starts yelling that if Filmer’s patria potestas were taken for a model of sovereignty, people might start eating babies. These are not the sentiments of a serious thinker, but a social justice warrior. So maybe Moldbug was right about what to do with him after all. Our edition of Filmer’s Patriarcha due out this year will set the record straight on Locke vs. Filmer.
UF: Having recently bought a copy of Thomas Carlyle’s ‘The Present Time’ from Imperium Press, it struck me how much more articulate writers from previous centuries were when compared with the contemporary denizens who arrogantly attribute the label “writer” to themselves.
In light of an increasingly transhuman world (as exemplified by mass and incessant social media usage), in which man’s Being is more and more synonymous with the machine, is there a future for great writers? Does the modern world, that soil of barren dopamine and semi-illiteracy, have a vestige of fertility left to produce a man of Carlyle’s calibre, prose-wise?
IP: The Carlylean style is unlikely to return because we are now illiterate, and that’s maybe not such a bad thing—take it from a book publisher. The Victorian era represents the high-water mark of a certain style of prose now considered “purple” because reading is hard, and we don’t like subordinate clauses very much anymore. I love this style, and Carlyle is a master of it, one of the few who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Melville, but it does stand in an interesting relation to us (or we to it), one that is historically conditioned.
It seems clear that the latter half of the 19th century was the intellectual peak of Western civilization. From 1850–1950 we went from burning whale oil to splitting the atom, and part of this efflorescence manifested literary and creative terms. You can see the same relation of complexity and polish between then and now as you can between classical and ecclesiastical Greek. When a civilization is tottering, reading your forefathers gives the same effect as for the apes encountering the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But for the Greeks of a millennium earlier encountering Homer, reading (or hearing) your forefathers gives the effect of an illiterate, rough-hewn steppe chieftain exhorting you to drive your spear through that farmer’s eye socket for glory and maybe some cattle into the bargain. I love Carlyle, spent days looking up his obscure references, coinages, and puns for the glossary of terms in our edition of him, but for my money I’d take the chieftain. Melville vs. McCarthy is an almost impossible choice, but in the end, I’m going with the guy who eschews punctuation and writes things like “men from lands so far and queer that standing over them where they lie bleeding in the mud he feels mankind vindicated.”
UF: The notion that implicit liberal assumptions form the basis of contemporary mainstream conservatism is a common talking point on the right – to the point of being cliché. Nevertheless, despite being a tired take, there is a great deal of truth to this. If you were tasked with recommending certain key illiberal rightists texts to awaken the average conservative, which ones would you choose as an introduction to our worldview?
IP: You’re right to point out the truth in this cliché. In fact, this is one of my pet peeves: the attitude of “I tire of this take”—the quest for newer, hotter takes has been a disaster for humanity. Clichés are always cliché for a reason, and what’s more, a cliché that everyone got tired of is probably justified simply because a revolutionary age found it convenient to forget.
There are several “gateway” texts that come to mind right away. Jouvenel’s On Power is one because it undermines the notion of popular sovereignty from within the liberal frame. He tries to recover it, but the damage is done. Another is Ortega y Gassett’s Revolt of the Masses. Here’s another liberal, but one who nonetheless makes the case for elitism of the sort that characterized liberalism in its golden age. I read it when I was a committed libertarian but wasn’t ready for it. Speaking of libertarians, you have Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans Hermann Hoppe. Here we have something remarkable, a thoroughly principled libertarian ends up defending monarchy, a forerunner to Thiel’s pronouncement that democracy is incompatible with freedom. If you’re not a libertarian you could try Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Liberty or Equality, which makes a related case from a traditional conservative perspective. But these only get you part of the way. Once you’re ready to dip your toe in the Rubicon and try out something a bit dangerous, there are a few entry points. I think the most compact one is the article written by Alain de Benoist on Ferdinand Tönnies’ Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, a short exposition of the virtues of the organic, corporative society over and above the free, individualist one. From there things branch out quite a lot. If Enlightenment rationalism seems to you unimpeachable, Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue reserves a word for the other side, one of the most explosive texts in 20th century moral philosophy, and the chaser for that is Isaiah Berlin’s Three Critics of the Enlightenment. For something a bit more contemporary, I’ll recommend something we put out last year—Jonathan Bowden’s Why I Am Not a Liberal, an interview with the English firebrand where he takes questions and outlines his illiberal worldview. You can download the e-book for free from our website, along with e-books for all our titles.
UF: One of the interesting aspects of your edition of Fustel de Coulanges’ book, ‘The Ancient City’, was Coulanges’ emphasis on the power of the patriarchal head of the family. For much of Roman history, for instance, the father had the license, by virtue of his position as head priest of the familial cult, to execute or sell into slavery any other member of the family – certainly in line with some of Filmer’s views concerning Patriarchal sovereignty.
When juxtaposed to the contemporary world, in which the government is able to prohibit its subjects from leaving their designated 5k remit for fear of spreading Covid, it is obvious that the accrual of immense power by governments is a recent phenomenon – one which likely goes hand-in-hand with the decline of intermediate power.
Do you foresee this centralisation continuing? And if not, how will/can it be staved off?
IP: It will continue until it can’t, and then we’ll be in for a world of hurt. You weren’t expecting a whitepill here, were you?
Centralization is something like a historical law, and “high-low vs. middle” is the mechanism. At least, in times of historical normality it is. Occasionally the middle gets hold of the low and the tables turn—we call these “revolutions”. We’re overdue for one, and it’s still possible. But the imperatives at the heart of Western civilization, especially since WWII, demand the erasure of all distinction and difference. The Nuremberg trials in effect guaranteed the death of the discrete nation-state. The Civil Rights Act (and similar legislation outside the US) effectively codified into law biological inessentialism.
The square peg of universalist inessentialism can only be hammered into the round hole of human nature by the force of hyper-centralization—a form of complexity. Joseph Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies is helpful here. The takeaway is that systems scale downward in complexity very poorly but increases in complexity yield diminishing returns. So, you reach a point where the system can’t grow and therefore can’t solve new problems, and eventually it’s forced to downgrade in complexity, which is like the coldest shower you can imagine. In this state of rapid decay, peoples live and die on localist social structures like the clan, folkish religion, feudalism, etc. So, as far as I’m concerned this is not a blackpill at all but potentially quite the opposite. We didn’t think the party could go on forever, did we? The paleoconservative will get his subsidiarity back sooner or later—he will say, with Nietzsche, “finally the horizon seems clear again […] the sea, our sea, lies open again; maybe there has never been such an ‘open sea’.” But it won’t be an open sea so much as a living nightmare if we don’t cultivate the clan etc. right now, which is, in any case, the only way to mount a serious defence against liberalism. This is why Fustel de Coulanges’ vision of the primitive Aryan paterfamilias, presiding like a little monarch over his clan, is so powerful and so necessary today.
UF: The co-host of the ‘ImperiumCast’ podcast, Joel Davis, whose ideological background is reactionary (albeit with a sprinkle of Deleuze added in) from what I can tell, seems to have taken a more positive attitude toward Nationalism in recent months. This shift among reactionary-types is mirrored by an increased interest in reactionary power theory by nationalists – see, for instance, Keith Woods’ video on the aforementioned book ‘Nemesis’.
Do you interpret this as mere intellectual curiosity by both sides or is it emblematic of a deeper ideological synthesis and convergence between both camps?
IP: There’s a line of thought in our circles that says that nationalism was a product of the French Revolution and overcoded older, more organic, pre-modern social structures. This view is most strongly embodied in Aidan Maclear’s excellent article simply titled Nationalism. There’s a great truth to this view so far as it goes, which is to say that romantic nationalism of the 19th century was indeed the bayonet that gutted the old feudal values of blood and soil. But history isn’t a supersessionist, linear progression (this view is itself liberal), nor even a dialectic, but a cycle. Things are born, die, and are born again, sometimes stillborn—but nothing ever truly dies. The romantic era, and the nationalism it produced, was the imperfect reincarnation of something truly archaic, something still in the process of gestation, really, and its birth pangs have now begun in the axial shift from left/right to globalist/nationalist. Something older even than the feudal order, which was admittedly beautiful, with its Great Chain reaching unto the godhead, marked by distinction at the local level, but at a deeper level a unified, universal whole encompassing, in principle, all humanity. We are witnessing the rebirth of what it replaced—the natio.
This is the primitive family in all its discreteness, in all its localism, the true embodiment of blood and soil, maintaining its boundaries, whether conceptual, political, or religious. And we are back to Coulanges’ Aryan household again. The natio was a series of concentric circles beginning with the family maintaining its hearthfire and venerating its own ancestors, not wishing to share their tutelary power; scaling up to the extended family, venerating a common ancestor; thence to the tribe, held together by the cult of a yet more remote ancestor; culminating in the natio, a people gathered about the prytaneum at the centre of the heroic state cult, the ultimate centripetal force welding together a discrete people in its corporative totality, extending no further and not wishing to extend any further. This is the ur-nationalism, this is Benoist’s gemeinschaft in all its youth and strength, and it is this that all nationalists who prize the nation uber alles ultimately strive for. So yes, there is a marriage between nationalism and reaction—but only if nationalism is properly conceived and only if reaction is going all the way back and not just to where the cancer was at its first stage.
UF: With the release of Bronze Age Pervert’s highly successful ‘Bronze Age Mindset’, a number of establishment conservative-types, as well as socialite 30-year-old NYC leftist podcasters, have expressed interest in the book and its youthful following.
As a publisher, do you fear that established forces will attempt to co-opt and appropriate rightist texts in an effort to dilute them of their radical content, and consequently assimilate diluted rightist theoretical tendencies within the system’s remit of acceptable discourse?
IP: Yes, that’s certainly happening, and will only worsen. In fact, this has been going on for a very long time and we as a publisher, and we as a movement are… fashionably late. Liberalism has been quarantining, sanitizing, and “contextualizing” rightist texts from the very beginning, and we’re like a coma patient waking up after 275 years only to find that we’re not in Brandenburg-Prussia anymore. Imperium Press was started in order to reclaim our canon from hostile forces that willingly ignore, misread, and distort it, foreclosing on any possibility of thinking outside liberal categories even when you read someone as subversive as a Hamann or a Maistre. This has been done with the giants of the past, and it will be done with the men of today.
But if we go down, we’ll go down swinging. This is what some of our best authors have done, and you’ll see more of it as time goes on. In a sense, BAP has reclaimed Nietzsche for /ourguys/, wrenching him from the skinny fists of a Foucault and placing him where he belongs—on the vitalist right. But we can do better—we can put the shoe on the other foot. We can claim the more substantial left and liberal thinkers for ourselves because we have the truth on our side. C. A. Bond has done this with Jouvenel, who is now effectively an enemy of liberalism. Dennis Bouvard, in his Anthropomorphics, has done this with the Generative Anthropology of liberal Eric Gans. And Josh Neal has put Freud, perennial bludgeon of the right, to use in dismantling liberal extremism, that oxymoron that seems less so with every passing social “justice” riot. We at Imperium Press are at the centre of this repurposing of the anti-traditional tradition, and we’re just getting started.
UF: Thus far, Imperium Press has released a number of books this year. What can we expect for the rest of 2021, books-wise?
IP: We started out the year with an ambitious release schedule, and the latter half of the year will see that come to fruition. Some of the major releases you’ll see are Filmer’s Patriarcha, volume I of Joseph de Maistre’s Major Works, a collection of 150 folktales going back to the Bronze age titled Folktales in the Indo-European Tradition, and a surprise release, a work of fiction by a dissident right heavyweight. If all goes to plan, you’ll see these plus many more before the year is out.
UF: Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to do this interview – any final words?
IP: Follow us at www.imperiumpress.org/follow-us