“Hither flock all the crowd whom love has wrecked
Of intellectuals without intellect
And sexless folk whose sexes intersect….” – Roy Campbell, ‘The Georgiads’
“G’way, ye wife swapping sodomites.” – Úna Bean Mhic Mhathúna
The mere mention of Dr. E Michael Jones’ name suffices to spur consternation among compatriots and critics alike. A single, inescapable fact slices through the white noise of hysteria and ideologically motivated perjury: his learnedness. Much to his enemies’ chagrin, Jones is an able navigator of a multiplicity of disciplines, ranging from economics to philosophy – a rarity in an era assailed by haughty dilettantes.
Dr. Jones’ landmark debut arrived in 1993; the aptly titled: ‘Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalised Sexual Misbehaviour’. This inaugural work substantively and stylistically adumbrates Jones’ later additions to his corpus, despite, at times, its ideational inchoateness relative to more mature tomes like ‘Barren Metal’.
The explication and appraisal of the abstract in Jones’ work are interspersed with a dissection of the biographical. Minutia derived from the lives of theoretical standard bearers is accorded considerable weight. Like his later books, page after page of ‘Degenerate Moderns’ is reserved by Jones to protractedly recount the iniquity and deviance of his subjects.
Unlike the prideful Pharisee in the Gospel of Luke, Dr. Jones does not lambast his subjects for the sake of self-aggrandisement; he has a more definite aim in mind – namely, the vindication of the book’s central thesis: that the personal, especially the sexual, is the political, to borrow (and subvert) the calling card of the ‘68ers.
“It is the curse of this age to have to prove on its own pulse and in the degrading minutiae of the biographies of its prominenti the lessons that the Catholic Church in her wisdom (which was once the collective wisdom of the West) knew all along” – Dr. E Michael Jones, ‘Degenerate Moderns’
Innovation, Conceptual Jiu-Jitsu, and Deviance
“It is perhaps worth noting here, in parenthesis, how similar this Marxist-Kabbalistic method is to psychoanalysis. In listening to the speech of the analysand, the analyst must search its most casual crevices for significance, suspending any pre-judgements of ‘centrality’ and ‘contingency’. But the other face of this dogged, wide-eyed attention to detail is an immense scepticism, a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ that refuses the self-identity of the discourse it examines and reads into it the most scandalously implausible meanings.” – Terry Eagleton, ‘Walter Benjamin, or, Towards a Revolutionary Criticism’
Marxism, Freudianism, Positivism, Fascism, Austrian Economics – conceptual produce nourished in a juncture typified by technological advance at an unprecedented velocity; the era of the megalopolis, littered with colossus-like skyscrapers, clustered imposingly, akin to a hive infection.
An epoch infused with alienation to such a degree that its temporal denizens – ‘test-subjects’ is perhaps a more fitting designation – perpetuate, nay, fetishise their disjunctive relationship to the external world, that realm wherein all are mogged by an omni-ambience of anomie and ennui, emotions easily susceptible to aestheticization – exemplified by phenomena as diverse as ‘Post Punk’ and Hong Kong Neo-Noir (see: ‘Fallen Angels’).
Dr. E Michael Jones (Philadelphia), Karl Marx (London, Paris et al.), and Sigmund Freud (Vienna) are natives to this landscape. Is it any wonder that scepticism pervades their systems?
A mistrust of outward motives. A remorseless ‘geist of incredulity, guts and skewers ostensible virtue and outward piety – a mirage for interests of the pocket and belly or something more subaltern and sensual.
Whereas Marx and Freud bellowed in favour of the liquefaction of hitherto forms via the metastasizing of modernity’s insidious essence, Jones, a witness to the slaughter of his city by civil rights diktat, adorned the Janus-faced mask of both critic and civilizational griever.
Dr. Jones, an apologist for the ethnically Irish and confessionally Catholic community of his nascence, is simultaneously a vociferous exponent of his own particular formulation of modernity’s discursive quintessence – namely, the hermeneutic of suspicion. A genus of argument encompassing Nietzsche’s genealogical method, Marx’s critique of ideology (hinges on Marx’s economism, an artefact of his system shattered by the Bernstein affair), and Freudian psychoanalysis.
One of the finest polemic tools in the oh-so-modern theoretician’s arsenal, – all theoretical endeavour is polemic; history, philosophy et cetera is bunk in lieu of the enemy – a hermeneutic of suspicion allows one to eschew a head-on critique, Viz. the adjudication of a position’s correspondence to the truth, its position relative to a normative standard of some kind, and so on; its merits, in other words.
Rather than suffering a discursive knockout, the opponent’s legs are swept from under him, dialectically speaking, by the assertion that his argument rests upon effaced interests, or some variety of bizarro sexual pathology (see: Óglách László Molnárfi).
The very enunciation of the position is cast as pathological, an object worthy equally of derision and inquiry. To illustrate: Benthamite legal positivism is the expression of rising mercantile interests, per Marx; for Freud, – the following corresponds to the purview of Freudians, rather than Freud, who was, in my humble estimation, ultimately a repressive thinker – Bentham’s dispassionate demarcation between morality and law is indictable, the product of dearth of vitality, itself the fruit of sexually repressive Protestantism. See how it works?
For Dr. Jones, sexual immorality undergirds significant conceptual and scholarly “advances” over the preceding century. He avers:
“The most insidious corruption brought about by sexual sin, however, is the corruption of the mind. One moves all too easily from sexual sins, which are probably the most common to mankind, to intellectual sins, which are the most pernicious.”
The main thrust of ‘Degenerate Moderns’ is the contention that:
“[M]odernity was rationalized sexual misbehavior. All the intellectual and cultural breakthroughs of modernity were in some way or other linked to the sexual desires their progenitors knew to be illicit but which they chose, nonetheless. Their theories were ultimately rationalizations of the choices they knew to be wrong.
In the first chapter, concerning Margaret Mead’s influential ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’, Jones attributes the cultural relativist thesis advanced therein to Mead’s preponderance for extra-nuptial flagrante. Mead’s sociological “discoveries” were eviscerated by Derek Freeman decades later.
Whereas Freeman attributes the shortcoming of Mead’s opus to the jestful hi-jinks of the Samoan locals, Dr. Johns eschews a simplistic explanation befitting of Occam, and instead argues that Mead’s theory was the transliteration of her guilty conscious into the form of a sociological theory; a theory whose germination owed equally to the transvaluation, ethically speaking, of her guilt into an implicit policy proposal for the American Protestant polis of her time.
For Jones, Mead’s point was put forth in order to rationalise her serial adultery; evincing the commonality of extra-patriarchal and extra-nuptial sexuality among savages afforded Mead considerable moral cache vis-à-vis bourgeois and religious ethics that stressed self-restraint and chastity as normatively desirable.
The third and best chapter is devoted to detailing the life of Anthony Blunt, a homo pinko spy, and the broader Cambridge libertine milieu, with special attention paid to its most infamous fruit (get it), the Bloomsbury group. Dr. Jones’ riposte reaches its apex in his rumination regarding John Meynard Keynes’ economic theories – ideas which are, per Jones’ analysis, derivative of the infertile homosexuality of Lord (‘Lady’ is a more fitting designation) Keynes:
In an age of crushing government deficits, the economics that mortgages the future to pay for present consumption may bespeak a vision that is radically flawed. That this vision is characteristically homosexual is now coming to be better appreciated… deficit economics bespeaks a radically ‘childless’ vision, one in which present pleasures are fostered over building for future generations.”
The heterodox economist, Joseph Schumpeter, concurs:
“He was childless and his philosophy of life was essentially a short-run philosophy”
Himmelfarb’s assessment of Keynesianism is more damning:
“There is a discernible connection between the Bloomsbury ethos, which puts a premium on immediate and present satisfactions and Keynesian economics, which is based entirely on shortrun and precludes any long-term judgements. Keynes’ famous remark, ‘In the long run we are all dead’, also has an obvious connection with his homosexuality’.”
Keynes’ letter to a friend in 1903 intimates the interconnectedness between his economic worldview and his sexuality:
I hate all priests and protectionists… Free Trade and free thought! Down with pontiffs and tariffs.”
Ultimately, “there is something deeply satisfying, if… neurotic, about projecting one’s guilt onto the world at large”.
Demarcating the Personal and the Political – a Thomistic Purview.
“The lechers were being caught with their pants down, and the claim that all they were involved in was striking a blow for personal freedom was not getting the response that it used to.” – Dr. E. Michael Jones, ‘Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalised Sexual Misbehaviour’
The sexual revolution’s implication for biographers is understated. Inadvertently, the return of Dionysian eros to the fore of Western culture resulted in the expansion of their work’s remit. No longer ensconced by the encumbering chains of bourgeois respectability, the biographer, like the licentious libertine of the 60s, had entered novel pastures, albeit in scholarly, rather than sexual, terms.
Robert Skidelsky’s three-volume biography of John Maynord Keynes, – wherein Lord Keynes’ homosexuality is afforded centre stage, in contradistinction to earlier biographical efforts – embodies the then-novel trend of exploring the sexuality of one’s subject; a tendency buttressed by the sexual revolution that had occurred a decade prior.
The explication of the private sexual lives of the biographer’s subject is a natural corollary of libertinism in the sexual field. Yet, there were those who sought to uphold sexual hedonism, whilst simultaneously voicing their venomous and vociferous opposition to biographers whose object was to excavate the seedier facets of their chosen subject – a precarious, conspicuously inconsistent, and ultimately untenable position.
For all the havoc caused by the sexual revolution, the explosion of intrusive biographies is its silver lining. Bereft of them, an astute analyst of cultural decay like Jones would lack the requisite evidence to substantiate the interrelationship between sinfulness and ideological production.
Half a decade prior to ‘Degenerate Moderns’, fellow Catholic Paul Johnson set out to tackle the archetypal modern intellectual. Who were the men behind the manifold theories that characterise the modern world’s theoretical dimension? Starting from an avowedly rightist perspective, Johnson’s work was ineluctably destined to be skewered by the reading public for its caustic disposition toward ideological standard bearers, ranging from Rousseau to Marx.
The literati and intellectuals of the Marxist and continental-inspired left delivered their predictable response. A more thought-provoking retort stemmed from the liberal camp; they objected on grounds of Johnson’s alleged ad hominem. Puzzlingly, many conservatives, even of a hard right allegiance (Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran were outspoken), voiced the view that Johnson had recklessly designed to stray into a non-intellectual arena, in which personal insults, rather than an evaluation of his opponent’s argumentative merits, held currency.
The following extract from Freud’s biographer Peter Gay (lol) voices the liberal approach to intellectual history, a position that sharply demarcates between the text and the author when appraising the former:
“[W]e are entitled to make moral judgments about the character and conduct of historical figures. But I insist that the greatness or failure of their work, the validity of their ideas, however deeply influenced by their personal history, are nevertheless independent of it.”
Jones’ project militates against the essence of Gay’s statement. For Jones, liberals were “anxious to preserve the climate of values established by modernity” – drawing the link between a perverse theorist and their perverse pet theory was not conducive to this end. Rather than paraphrase, the following adduced extract aptly summarises Jones’ disagreement with the liberal position, one which seeks to create a disjunction between the individual and his intellectual produce:
“[T]he intellectual life is a function of the moral life of the thinker. In order to apprehend truth, which is the goal of the intellectual life, one must live a moral life. One can produce an intellectual product, but to the extent that one prescinds from living the moral life, that product will be more a function of internal desire—wish fulfilment, if you will—than external reality. This is true of any intellectual field and any deeply held desire. In the intellectual life, one either conforms desire to truth or truth to desire.”
Thus, intellectual contrivances, if Jones’ account corresponds to reality, should possess, upon closer analysis, a mirror-like quality, reflecting the sins of their progenitors; theories, in contrast, that are created in the pursual of the truth in a disinterested and impartial manner, would lack this reflective quality. The sheer number of sinful theorists is indicative of the veracity of Jones’ thesis.
Returning to Freud:
“[U]nderstanding the Oedipus Complex has everything to do whether Freud had an affair with his sister-in-law. The Oedipus Complex is Freud’s compulsion and his guilt projected onto humanity as a whole. There is something deeply satisfying, if ultimately neurotic, about projecting one’s guilt onto the world at large.”
There is a methodological problem that prevents the universalisation of Jones’ method. Contrasting to the ostensibly value non-specificity of Marx and Nietzsche’s hermeneutics, Jones’ identification of ‘sin’ as central to his critical system prevents its universal adoption. This is not a problem for Jones or anyone who shares his pre-suppositions, as much as it is for secular, and to a lesser extent non-Catholic, readers of ‘Degenerate Moderns’.
However, for Catholics, Jones’ deconstructive method is invaluable polemically and analytically. Unsurprisingly, critiques of this vein have long been the provenance of Catholic intellectuals. In ‘The Silence of St. Thomas’, Josef Pieper states:
“[W]e have lost the awareness of the close bond that links the knowledge of truth to the condition of purity. Thomas says that unchastity’s first-born daughter is blindness of the spirit… an impure selfishly corrupted will to pleasure destroys both resoluteness of spirit and the ability of the psyche to listen in silent attention to the language of reality”.
This review was by no means exhaustive. If you want the spark notes synopsis don’t read The Burkean.
I depart with another man’s words. Please reflect; ‘til next time folks:
“The leaders of men,
Born out of your frustration.
The leaders of men,
Just a strange infatuation.” – Warsaw, ‘The Leaders of Men’
Ulick my balls L.O.L
Jones is brilliant, but erratic, and the sheer area over which he ranges means he can’t drill as deeply as maybe we would like to see.