“Under democratic ideology runs the current of fascism which overflows at the surface. But beneath that runs a countercurrent. Beware lest that countercurrent overflow! Beware lest you bestow upon it power by trying to close it off completely!” – Vilfredo Pareto’s warning to Mussolini’s nascent government.
The Right’s Mercurial Attitude Toward Lockdown
“When it comes to vaccination, if an individual refuses, there is a potential impact on all of society.” – Dermot Cox
In the national zeitgeist, the Right is most commonly associated with an opposition to hegemonic attitudes – disseminated by NPHET and perpetuated by our resident sycophants who gladly subject themselves to the thrall of ‘expertise’ – regarding lockdown.
There is a great deal of truth to this. The Right has certainly been at the forefront of demonstrations in opposition to undue lockdown restrictions. However, it must be remembered that many on the Right were initially quite concerned about the virus, and thus advocated strict measures to curtail its pervasiveness.
There is an ideological aspect to the divergent attitudes on the Right toward lockdown. Those in favour contended that opposition to lockdown is symptomatic of an implicit liberal undercurrent which perniciously permeates contemporary rightist discourse.
They aptly note that arguments against lockdown are typically formulated in terms of consent, liberty, and one’s right to personal autonomy – ostensibly anti-statist principles which are cardinal to Classical Liberalism. The true Right, as should be obvious to all at this point, is inimical to Classical Liberalism. James Burnham put it best, “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide”.
Individualism, which is at the heart of Classical Liberalism, is a solvent that dissolves all prior bonds of Nation, Parish, and Family – and the duties which attend belonging to such groupings. If one’s autonomy is sovereign, it follows that the kinship group to which one belongs has no eminence over it – consequently, all historical, blood-based, and ancestral groupings are subjected to the capricious will of individuals, who can freely enter or disregard them. It is not hyperbolic to assert that Liberalism is simply tepid Anarchism.
However, despite the necessity of a rightist critique of Liberalism, those that premise their support for lockdown on illiberal grounds have found themselves forced to side with the regime, against their ideological peers.
It is contended that this has occurred owing to a conceptual pathology that plagues the Right – namely, binary thinking. The following illustrates how this binary thinking occurs: one notices that the principle of individualism, championed by the illiterates and Thatcher simps in Fine Gael, is the foundational principle which undergirds degeneracy, such as Abortion – female bodily autonomy is fundamentally an individualistic idea. Consequently, this person becomes a hyper-statist because individualism is the seeming antithesis of statism.
However, the facile State-Individual dichotomy is an erroneous and ahistorical conceptualisation of man’s relationship with authority. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to reject this dichotomy, and more importantly, to introduce a third position regarding man’s relationship with authority – a position which is anti-statist and anti-individualist.
Locke vs Filmer
“We think this error of the economists proceeded from their adopting Locke’s theory of the social contract. We believe no heresy in moral science has been more pregnant of mischief than this theory of Locke. It lies at the bottom of all moral speculations, and if false, must infect with falsehood all theories built on it.” – George Fitzhugh, ‘Sociology for the South’
17th century Britain gave birth to an efflorescence of political theory, producing figures such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Robert Filmer. The conventional whig (linear progressive) account of this period posits that the forces of reaction, parochialism, and myopia – represented by the vestiges of archaic feudalism, such as the monarchy and aristocracy – was trounced by the Enlightenment’s arsenal: progress, Capitalism, democracy, and individualism.
A corollary of this victory ostensibly occurred in the domain of political theory with the advent of John Locke’s first of his ‘Two Treatises of Government’. With this text, Locke purported to refute the arguments which Robert Filmer, an apologist for monarchical absolutism, had outlined in ‘Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings’.
It is Filmer, rather than Hobbes, who represented the British right in the 17th century. Curtis Yarvin succinctly explicates the nature of the British political spectrum during this epoch: “The conventional intellectual history of the 17th century in England has Locke on the left and Hobbes on the right. Here at UR, we have Filmer on the right and Hobbes on the left. Locke? Dig him up and hang him, like Cromwell”.
The disagreement between Locke and Filmer is the generative point, ideologically speaking, of the divide between the Whig (represented by Locke) and Tory (represented by Filmer) camps. Toryism, in its Filmerian sense, persisted until after the Jacobite uprising of the mid-18th century; thereafter, Filmer’s influence waned and eventually his relevance to the British Right completely dissipated.
Like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke based his political theory upon a ‘state of nature’. According to this account, man emerges from a pre-societal condition into society through a ‘social contract’, which rescinds some or all of man’s rights in exchange for the security of society. Although both are typically juxtaposed owing to their differences concerning man’s nature – Hobbes is famous for his pessimism – their differences are nevertheless only one of degree, rather than substance.
Patrick Deneen points out in Why Liberalism Failed that “Hobbes and Locke both — for all their differences — begin by conceiving natural humans not as parts of wholes but as wholes apart. We are by nature ‘free and independent’, naturally ungoverned and even nonrelational”.
The consequence of this individualistic anthropology is that the state is a necessary evil – ancillary to the human individual’s existence, consent, and rationality. Despite his belief in monarchy, Hobbes would agree with Locke that “it is individuals, free and equal by nature, [who] bring into existence a… state [through consent]”.
The theories of Hobbes and Locke are classic examples of ‘anarchistic ontologies’. The term was coined by the brilliant contemporary political theorist and researcher, C.A. Bond. In his essay ‘Absolutist and Anarchistic Ontology’, Bond defines an anarchist ontology as “an intellectual system which takes the individual as anterior to society and which rejects the formative and definitive role of authority”.
Dispatching with the theoretical basis of Locke and Hobbes’ systems is child’s play. A humorous refutation is provided by the French theorist of Power conflict, Bertrand de Jouvenel, who famously said of the social contract theorists, “[they are] childless men who must have forgotten their own childhood”.
That is to say, the notion of a pre-societal individual is an absurdity. For men are not born anew, like spontaneous atoms that then proceed to enter into relations with others. Rather, man is always a product of a linguistic, historic, structural, ethnic, and familial context – a context which no man’s arbitrary will ever chose. Man is not born free, he is born an infant – helpless and beholden to authority, whether that be the state, his family, or a tribal power.
The contemporary rightist publisher, Imperium Press, succinctly and aptly explicates the human individual’s relationship with sociality: “Man is not to society as the tree is to the forest. Man is to society as the limb is to the body—posterior, derivative, embedded, an outgrowth and result, not a building block. He and society are congenital”.
Consequently, any system which erects its conceptual edifice upon a Lockean-individualistic foundation is destined to find itself liable of fomenting folly, fallacy, and confusion before a court composed of its clear-sighted contemporaries and discerning future generations. The tyranny of the deductive-individualist method of the Classical School of Economics is a testament to this; its antidote is Friedrich List’s historical approach.
In Patriarcha, Sir Robert Filmer eruditely admonishes the bearers of liberation ideology: “the meanest of the multitude, who magnify liberty as if the height of human felicity were only to be found in it, never remembering that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of Adam.”
Although his scathing critique is welcome, the contemporary Right would do well to avoid an uncritical embrace of Filmer as the progenitor of our worldview — the rationale for this view will become transparent in the following sections.
War and Power
“War is not necessarily, has not always been, what we see it today.” — Bertrand de Jouvenel, ‘On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth’
In his oft-quoted ‘Concept of the Political’, the German Jurist Carl Schmitt identifies war as the highest stage of the Political (in his peculiar sense of the term). Inseparable from this perennial phenomenon is the capacity to wage it. And when we speak of capacity, a corollary comes to mind: Power.
It is fitting, then, that Bertrand de Jouvenel devotes the first chapter of his magnum opus – which concerns the history of Power’s growth – to documenting the incremental accrual of the capacity to wage war by the central power, irrespective of its outward form. In fact, de Jouvenel relishes in reminding the reader that “the principle of conscription was founded in a democratic time”.
While war may be a permanent fact, the capacity to wage it by a monarch or democratic government fluctuates – among other factors, opposition from domestic power, such as the church or nobility, poses a serious encumbrance to the military aspirations of the central power.
Examining the extent of the monarchy’s capacity to wage war during the 11th and 12th centuries, de Jouvenel notes that “the armies were very small and the campaigns very short”. A testament to the monarchy’s limited ability to project military power during this juncture was the Crusade of Aragon undertaken by Philip III. De Jouvenel states: “even as late as the end of the thirteenth century, the hundred and fifty-three days which the ‘Crusade of Aragon’ lasted made it seem to contemporaries a tremendous undertaking”.
It was a time when the monarchy’s success hinged upon the good-will of the intermediate powers of church and nobility. Sourcing funds and men was a prominent concern. Monarchs relied upon their vassals to supply troops, but the latter was only obliged to do so for 40 days. For funding, the monarch had to ask the church or assemblies of the populace for assistance. Without direct taxation and a permanent army, the monarchy’s power was circumscribed.
Following the Hundred Years’ War, the central power’s war-making capabilities grew tremendously. Jouvenel states: “Only at the war’s end, when sacrifice had become second nature, was it possible to establish a levy permanently… for the purpose of maintaining an army on a permanent footing”. The monarchy would “no longer go a-begging from popular assemblies in times of crisis: it was henceforward permanently endowed”.
The sheer growth of monarchical power is jarring when quantified. Charles VII had 12,000 men-at-arms during the 15th century. While the manpower of the French King would’ve impressed his 11th century counterparts, it’s miniscule when juxtaposed with the manpower that the absolute monarchs possessed – for instance, Louis XVI had 180,000 men-at-arms.
With the growth of the central power’s ability to wage war, the power of intermediate bodies – the church and the nobility – to restrain it concomitantly lessened. Gone were the days when the monarch relied upon the noble granting him men for his campaigns – the former now had a standing army. Monarchical centralisation of power ensured that an event akin to Henry IV being “brought to the point of grovelling for repentance from [Pope] Gregory” would never occur again.
Conservatism: An Aristocratic Revolt Against Absolutism?
“With a bat we’ll heal,
We’ll pierce the speculator,
Through his heart.
On top we’ll re-establish,
The Aristocrat” – Peste Noire, ‘Le dernier putsch’
Whence the genesis of Left and Right? As per the denizens of Reddit Ireland, – comprised of aging rugger buggers (emphasis on ‘bugger’), men who harbour an unhealthy fixation with “girls” from Bangkok, and pathetic-types who really, really care about #LeoTheLeak – I was recently informed that the dichotomy has its roots in the National Assembly during the Revolutionary period in late 18th century France.
According to this narrative: the Right is represented by the monarchy, aristocracy, church, and faithful peasantry; the Left’s standard bearers are the liberal intelligentsia, the burgeoning urban poor, masonry, and the ascendent bourgeoisie.
However, as the Burkean’s eminent Aspiring-Slavemonger-of-UCD-Art-Hoes, I am morally impelled to adopt an ersatz approach. Hence, in order to trace the roots of the Left-Right dichotomy, I turn to an important text by an obscure Greek Marxist, Panagiotis Kondylis – namely, his ‘Conservatism as a Historical Phenomenon’.
In line with standard theories regarding conservatism, Kondylis recognises that “supporters of the philosophy stubbornly defended the rights of the old society”. However, its original opponent, according to Kondylis, was not the liberal intelligentsia. Rather, “Kondylis maintains that the ideology had already taken shape in the sixteenth century, when an anti-absolutist conservatism arose”.
Aptly recognising the erroneous nature of a narrative which purports that the monarchy and aristocracy were natural allies, Kondylis states: “the feudal right of resistance and ‘tyrannicide’, the uprising and rebellion of aristocrats against the throne, in accordance with the example of the Fronde, and dictatorship, constitute, as we shall see, historically documented and indeed typical forms of conservative activism”.
Such actions were not taken in the name of liberal individualism or an antinomian hatred of authority. Paul Gottfried explicates a more accurate picture of the Aristocratic camp’s motivation: “At that time the Aristocracy made the defence of the community dependant on their privileges and in this way took a stand against the State and the doctrine of sovereignty”.
The aforementioned Fronde – a series of wars which occurred in mid-17th century France –highlights the mutually antagonistic interests of the monarchical and aristocratic sides. Against the centralising aspirations of the French Monarchy, the aristocracy unsuccessfully defended their ancient liberties and privileges. The centralisation which occurred throughout the absolutist epoch was naturally inimical to the diffusion of power that one encounters in the feudal period.
Tyranny and Freedom
“The passion for absolutism is, inevitably, in conspiracy with the passion for equality” – Bertrand de Jouvenel, ‘On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth’
The treatment of the aristocracy and monarchy as reactionary allies, perennially aligned against ‘people power’, is tenuous due to its sheer a-historicity. Illustrative of this is the admiration for Oriental Despotism by Quesnay, the foremost theorist among the Physiocratic ranks (laissez-faire opponents of French Mercantilism) – the term ‘Enlightened Absolutism’ exists for a reason.
In his work Nemesis: The Jouvenelian vs. the Liberal Model of Human Orders, C.A. Bond outlines the raison d’être which undergirds Quesnay’s support for Monarchical absolutism: “The creation of such an order was supposed to allow the existence of a laissez faire economic realm, within which a quasi-natural order under the benevolent guidance of this despotic centralised monarchy could flourish unencumbered by the aristocracy and the Church”.
The revelatory nature of this quote cannot be overstated. As previously mentioned, the human individual, when conceived of in atomistic terms, is an abstraction. Rather than entering into society of its own volitional will, the human individual emerges as an infant into a world littered by power relations and concentric group identities.
How can this individual hope to assert its “natural right” to engage in free trade, usury, and sodomy if it is “oppressed” by the circumscribing rules of intermediate power-centres, such as the church and the nobility. Well, the aforementioned endeavours will continue to be curtailed by strictures of intermediate power without the assistance of a greater power.
It is at this point that the alliance between the state and the individual becomes transparent. Both have a mutual interest in weakening the intermediate power. The state (whether in its democratic or monarchical) form stands to gain from an increase in its power; it is no longer limited by the nobility’s ancient rights and privileges.
The individual, through its pact with the state, has been liberated from the petty-tyranny of intermediate power; without comprehending that it has walked straight into the clutches of a greater, self-effacing power – the very power which ensured its liberation from petty-tyrants: the state.
This alliance of high and low was encapsulated best by the Venetian commoner, Bertuccio Ixarello, in a statement made in his alliance proposal to the Doge, Marino Faliero, against the Venetian Oligarchy. Ixarello states: “Let us join forces to destroy this aristocratic authority which thus perpetuates the abasement of my people and limits so narrowly your power”.
This alliance between high and low continues today. Social Democratic theorists view the state as serving a redemptive role in the social order, liberating individuals from the “thrall” of reactionary social mores and native ethno-religious identity.
For the Swedish political scientist and advocate of social democracy, Bo Rothstein, the “state is held up as a positive institution because of its mission to individuals, whom it liberates from an archaic past and assists toward self-actualization”. His ideological peer, Leif Lewin, is in agreement with Rothstein: “State authorities ought so to change society as to make it possible for the many to experience the feeling of freedom”.
The very act of asserting a right, if one does not already have the means to do so, implies that another can enforce it. In Paradox and Power, Adam Katz states: “If there are to be rights, they must be enforced, by some agency large enough to enforce them without hindrance. The state, naturally. The more rights we discover, acknowledge, and demand enforcement of, the more powerful and unhindered the state must be”.
It is clear that modernity’s framing of the individual and the state as antagonists ignores the alliance between both throughout history. Moreover, this alliance was not accidental. Rather, they were impelled to form a pact vis-à-vis the power of extant intermediate powers, which limited the state and “oppressed” the individual.
Johannes Althusius: Defender of the Intermediary
“The stage was set for centuries to come: monopoly of law, transparency of the social space to political power, total centralization of the exercise of power… The sovereign sun suffers neither from local power, nor from sharing law with neighbouring territorial regimes, nor from autonomous and spontaneous social organizations; and whether this sun becomes an absolute monarchy or a democratic republic changes nothing of this monistic concept of sovereignty and its central place in political theory.” – Antoine Winckler
In the foregoing sections, it has been established that the growth of the state has mirrored the decline of intermediate power. Further, it’s clear that the political antagonism between the Liberalism of Locke and the Absolutism of Filmer was a smokescreen, concealing the frequent pincer move enacted against intermediate power by the aforementioned so-called “enemies”.
It is therefore surprising that the right uncritically embraces figures in the Absolutist tradition, such as Filmer and Schmitt, as its ideological forebears. Paul Gottfried is right to differentiate Schmitt from others in the rightist tradition: “Because of his decisionism and the concepts of time and history it is based on… Schmitt’s thought is very different from conservatism”.
This is not to say that the works of Schmitt and Filmer should be disregarded. Schmitt’s critique of humanitarianism is brilliant. As is Filmer’s identification of the doctrine of popular sovereignty as a conceptual mirage used by the papacy to subvert its monarchical enemy. Nevertheless, the doctrine of absolute sovereignty – at the heart of both thinkers’ systems – is pernicious.
For Kondylis, “conservatism is to be understood as a vision that defend societas civilis, whereby law is strongly anchored within a natural and divine order of being. The advent of the notion of sovereignty inevitably disrupts this order”. To understand sovereignty’s punctuating impact on Western political discourse, we must examine the thought of the man who popularised the concept.
In his New Culture, New Right – a survey of the thought of the leading theorists of the European New Right (GRECE) – Michael O’Meara states that the concept of sovereignty “received its key formulation in Jean Bodin’s Les Six Livres de la République. Foreshadowing later liberal thinkers, Bodin was hostile to “those traditional intermediary bodies standing between the governed and the government”.
It should be noted that not all contemporary monarchists are devotees of Jean Bodin and his conception of sovereignty. For instance, the “amateur archivist of legitimist thought”, Nigel Carlsbad, tirelessly laments “the confusions wrought by the demon Bodin”.
For Bodin, intermediate bodies compromised the power of the monarch. “He thus advocated a form of sovereignty that would be ‘one and indivisible’, with the state’s subjects uniformly subordinate to the king”. Alain de Benoist notes that Bodin’s subject, the sovereign king, has “no rival in the political and social order” – without a restraining intermediate order, the populace is subject to the ruler’s caprice.
Furthermore, there is an implicit egalitarian current in Bodin’s thought. “The Bodinian concept also contained the seed of egalitarianism, for it presupposed a homogenized political society whose subjects were “equally” subordinate to their sovereign”. Likewise, liberty, equality and tyranny go hand in hand in their opposition to intermediate hierarchies.
Against the Bodinian conception of sovereignty, the European New Right “contraposes the theoretical legacy of Johannes Althusius”. Carl Joachim Friedrich praised Althusius as “the most profound political thinker between Bodin and Hobbes”. Alain de Benoist laments that in “most history textbooks published after 1945, Althusius’ name is marked only by its absence”.
In his magnum opus Politica, Althusius conceived of a federal political order, within which “diverse communities were to be integrated into a larger political entity on the basis of their distinctions”. Power is to be vested in communal bodies and intermediate powers, “delegating to the federation only those powers that could not be effectively exercised within their own realm”. Such entities range “from guilds and corporations to towns and provinces” – this list is by no means exhaustive.
Rather than being its sole possessor, the King “derives his sovereignty from all the various bodies comprising the federation”. This allows the bodies of the social order to act as repositories of power within their remit. The principle of subsidiarity is prominent in Althusius’ work.
O’Meara argues that this element of Althusius’ thought is pertinent to contemporary rightists: “subsidiarity returned authority to the family, the community, and the region, restoring those autonomous intermediary bodies (Burke’s ‘little platoons’) that once constituted the principal sources of European freedom”.
Due to his rejection of Bodinian sovereignty, it is tempting to view Althusius as a theorist who foreshadowed Liberal thinkers such as Locke. However, this would be mistaken. Althusius owes a debt to Aristotle’s conception of man as a social animal. On this basis, “Althusius rejects the idea that individuals are self-sufficient or have rights derived from an abstract nature”.
Benoist discerns that “Althusius returned to ancient and medieval traditions, according to which man is a social being who derives his proper nature within an ordained world”. The very tradition which was overcome by the rise of the state and the individual. A similar viewpoint to that of Althusius is expressed in the works of the Catholic theorist and object of Filmer’s ire, Francisco Suarez.
Irrespective of whatever merits his system of federalism may or may not possess, Althusius’ true contribution to political thought, as well as the contemporary Right, is his affirmation of the rights of historical, concrete communities, rather than atomised individuals or tyrannical sovereigns, as the basis of the social order.
Anti-lockdown rhetoric contains frequent appeals to our inalienable rights as individuals, seemingly ignorant of the fact that individual rights are contingent upon the very actor which has taken them away: the state.
The historical record vindicates the contention that the only force able to defy the leviathan’s overreach are intermediate powers. Unlike the human individual, such bodies are capable of asserting their own rights-claims, without appealing to a higher temporal power for assistance.
However, in the contemporary world we are bereft of such social bodies. If they exist at all, they persist in a vestigial and hollow form, incapable of pushing back against the state’s excesses. We have inherited a helpless individual and a state which, despite its democratic and progressive pretensions, has secured for itself a monopoly on violence. Perpetual lockdowns are the fruit of our liberation from petty tyranny.
I hope this essay has assisted in revising our conception of widely-accepted dichotomies in political discourse. Furthermore, I naively hope, despite my pessimism, that it has explicated a way forward toward conceptualising a new Ireland, grounded upon the anti-individualist and anti-statist ideas of Johannes Althusius – who, if he were Irish, would base our nation upon the following substantive forms: Nationality, Parish, and Family.