fragments of an attempted writing.
Any book review that ends with the paragraph:

Maybe I’m being a little too hard on liberals. After all, a liberal is fundamentally a more “decent” person than a conservative. And there’s something to be said for decency. But good manners, sympathy for the powerless, and a congenial disposition are useless in beating back conservatism after its gone hegemonic–and who could possibly deny that it has? Maybe that’s the most frightening lesson from Robin’s book, and what makes it all so hard for liberals to take: that the fight is over, the battle is lost, and the bastards won. And if we wanna do something about it, and it’s starting to look like maybe we do, we might have to summon up some of that dangerous radical fire that’s propelled every worthwhile step we’ve taken towards a more civil and egalitarian society. worth a read.

Corey Robin has been kind enough to send me a free copy of his book so I will be reviewing it here in coming weeks.


  1. There was an interesting article a two or three weeks ago in the New York Times about how the American elite is becoming more diverse, but more narrow. It is becoming more diverse in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation and the like, yet the nation is becoming less egalitarian than ever, making it more difficult to become a member of the elite. What I find fascinating is how few people question the propriety of what remains of the traditional WASPy elites, but hyperventilate at the sight of this new multiracial elite, as seen by "race realist" Steven Sailor's fears of a "mulatto conspiracy."

    However, an elite is still an elite, and their primary concern is to retain power. Of course Obama, Pelosi, etc. have no interest in revolutionizing the system. Why would they when they reap the benefits of the status quo? The only way progress of any sort happens is when radicals push the envelope. Eventually, the radical position becomes the dominant position, and the individuals who were once considered so dangerous are either co-opted by the elites or forgotten (e.g., the Civil Rights Movement).

    The dearth of a real American left means that there's The US never had a traditional landed aristocracy, although the Southern planters liked to pretend otherwise. The choice in the US was always between different versions of liberalism, not an ancien regime vs a modern state, as was the case in Europe. Consequently, American conservatism must, by definition, be radical, as it has no real "tradition" to conserve.

  2. The funniest part of this is the idea that conservatism is ascendent. Not by any sane definition of the term, but maybe by the definition where anything less than a Marxist worker's state is conservative. In America especially, "conservatism" is arguing about which incarnations of liberalism to keep. Even moderately right–wing figures such as Pat Buchanan are barely allowed in polite discourse, anymore.

  3. Pat Buchanan is moderately rightwing? As for discourse, I thought he was a regular on Faux News.

    I think it is fair to say that liberals have been winning on the identity politics front, which conservative elites have been more than happy to sacrifice for near total victory for class power. Even with Obamacare, the bill's relatively minor demands on insurance companies could not get passed without being completely privatized, billions in dollars of giveaways, specifically targeting union health plans for special taxation, and so on. Compare that to Social Security or Medicare. There's no way in hell they could be created today.

    Of course everything is about what form of liberalism to keep. Liberalism is the new Ancien Regime. That's why you can have traditionalists talking about Ron Paul like he is God's anointed with a straight face, not seeing the clear contradiction between Christian tradition and rightwing liberalism.

  4. Ari,

    Is a sane definition of the term one which rejects anything more that goes beyond two standard deviations of the mean left of fascism, or absolute monarchism, or somesuch?

    With regard to vulgar electoral politics in both America and Europe there has been a notable rightward shift for a generation. Where is this disputed outside of the fever swamps of American conservatism? And Americans are somewhat idiosyncratic among conservatives in the world as American conservatives will ride the conservative-as-victim bit forever, because here in America conservatism depends upon religious conservatives who are mobilized by the conservative-as-victim narrative.

    Lets look at actual policy points and not the rhetoric. The Democratic Party used to be center-left. As a Party it went center-right (on all but identity politics issues) sometime in the 90s, and now it is a center-right party that is decisively to the right of most center-right political parties in Europe, Australia, and most of the Western Hemisphere. Dems today, despite their very moderate class war type language, are not demanding an increase in entitlement programs (broadly speaking - when they do it is relatively minor, as with the current jobs Bill, or mixed with a shitload of privatization, as with Obamacare), but rather they argue for not cutting as much in the way of entitlement programs as the Repubs would. Most Dems today seem to be willing to entertain cuts to Medicare and SS, which would have been unheard of not that long ago.

    On foreign policy, the argument in the public square centers around two conservative positions. The usual liberal internationalist and moderately interventionist but not neo-con position is decidedly in third place in public debate regarding America's place in the world.

    On immigration very few even 10 years ago would have guessed how right-wing the debate would turn, with the best liberals can do being to fight what is going on in Arizona and Alabama right now.

    On economics the liberals have effectively given up the ghost. Obama (the actual policy Obama, and not the rhetoric Obama) is, on economic policy matters, to the right of just about every president since Coolidge. Reagan was more comfortable with taxing the rich and defending unions than Obama has been, rhetoric notwithstanding. And the Repubs are now a party where the politician who direct Repub economic policy actually run campaigns touting their devotion to Ayn Rand - and that in a state that used to be considered a liberal bastion. That would have been unheard of a generation ago. A significant percentage of the white working and middle classes in America have been brainwashed by Limbaugh and Beck and Palin, such that class among white is no longer a consistent determining factor with regard to economic policy convictions, broadly speaking. That there has been a drastic rightward shift in economic postures by working class whites in America in the last generation is beyond reasonable dispute.

  5. - cont'd -

    NPR has had to shift dramatically rightward to stay alive. I don’t know what annoys me more – the glib liberal NPR of the 90s, or the kissing right-wing ass NPR of today.

    Colleges and universities have seen an overall shift rightward as business departments have become such an important means of securing income for those institutions. Sure, the humanities and social sciences remain solidly liberal. At the same time, conservatives has succeeded in changing the culture of arts funding nationwide, and humanities and social science programs in a lot of places are in funding crises. We may see a rightward shift in those areas in the next few years as well. In the 70s there were at least a dozen economics departments that were overtly Marxist. Today, by a stretch of the term, there may be two. I'll leave commentary on the state of law schools to Gabriel, but one thing is for certain - conservative legal think tanks and institutes and societies have had a considerable impact on policy discussions in the last 20 years and have gained a serious amount of clout. The ACLU has any number of conservative counterparts anymore.
    Social conservatives have lost and are losing the identity politics battles, but only by inches, not by feet. Both the social liberal, economic conservatives in the Dems and the social conservative, economic conservatives in the Repubs need for identity politics to be a central part of American political debate because this keeps working and middle class people from turning leftward on economic issues. Culturally, America seems to be more and more accepting of homosexuality and alternatives to the (modern notion of) the nuclear family. American society seems more and more muddled on the issue of abortion (and I for once agree with Franky Schaeffer with regard to why this happened - Roe v. Wade was a decidedly wrong way to go about it, and resulted in America approaching abortion in a manner decidedly different from Western Europe, which is unfortunate).

    But I suppose none of that has to do with what you consider a sane definition of conservative.

    I don't know how we might even approach a disagreement here. My take on the "pure" forms of conservatism (paleos, monarchists, traditionalist Christians holding some "traditional" worldview, etc., etc.) is akin to my take on anti-modernism. Anti-modernism is a modern phenomenon. It manifests all sorts of decidedly modern qualities and is not “ontologically” or historically akin to actual pre-modern states of living or pre-modern philosophies. I view conservative projects in much the same light. Modern monarchists are not actually monarchists in the ancient sense, in the same way that modern pagans are nothing akin to ancient pagans. Even within modernity this logic applies. The KKK member shares far less than he thinks with the Southern Divine writing in, say, 1848.
    Thus, I don’t know what measure you use to measure what is conservative and where the parameters of conservatism are, but I think it very safe to say that by the standards of actually existing conservatism today and actually existing conservatism in living memory, American conservatism is decidedly ascendant. If one’s measure includes slaveowning societies in the 1820s, or premodern monarchies, or the way in which the skin-jobs rule the toasters in Cylon governance, then I suppose we may view conservatism as not really ascendant by whatever degree of distance we compute from today to our chosen measure points.

    One of Robin’s central points is that conservatism in modernity is as radical and morphing a social phenomena as leftist and revolutionary social phenomena has been. The difference, from what I can gather not having yet read Robin’s book, has to do with the conception and function of the elite within conservatism. I thought Robin’s recent blogpost made some good concise points in that regard:

  6. Lotar:

    Actually, Fox would probably never allow Buchanan as a regular commentator. MSNBC uses him as one, probably because they see him as too extreme to be threatening to the message.


    No, the difference between left & right is about anthropology, not systems simpliciter or historical contigencies like revolution & reaction. The left's anthropology is more or less clear; it is an anthropology of egalitarianism (that ultimately, in my opinion, leads to an anthropology of homogenization…). The right's anthropology is more chaotic, but every variation admits of the core fact that human beings have differing aptitudes, including (and perhaps especially) in the realms of self–determination and governance. The reason the left has such a hard time organizing on the populist level anymore is because the ideological victory has been more or less achieved. Reactionary forces are more populist now because people are afraid of losing more than they had bargained for, but they still can't express what's going on, except in the terms of the left.

    I think the anthropological "key" helps sort out a lot of confusing cases.

    Leftism is essentially a denial of human variation. Buchanan represents about as much as you can dissent about the egalitarian line and still be allowed in mainstream media at all. (A lot of this is probably due to his polite manner.) Buchanan does not even dissent that much, but does so on an issue that is ruled out from major political contests in this country (in a realistic fashion): immigration. I called Buchanan "moderate" in part to be inflammatory, but also very seriously.

    In America, the right has primarily taken a sort of Nietzsche–lite, libertarian form, from the good (Mencken) to the bad (Rand) ends of that spectrum. The later Kirk/Buckley form of romantic rightism couldn't hold up under the lack of a true tradition in America and the implosion of the old quasi–gentry, the WASP elite. Robin's basic thesis that the right is essentially about nostalgia for lost power works very well for Buckley, but it doesn't for people who are talking about powers they've never experienced at all, or want whole new "revolutionary" right–wing orders.

    The essentially left-wing nature of American "conservatism" is actually encapsulated very well in Buckley's "standing athwart history" line. All yelling "STOP!" does is simply ossify a certain level of left–wing ideology, which is impossible. Whatever controls are in place—cultural or legal—will ultimately wear down; leftism works itself in catastrophically or gradually, but it works all the same. The essentially elitist structure of the US Constitution and legal system have served as the great check on a society that ideologically went in for leftist anthropology quite some time ago. I've mentioned this before, but I think Woods's Empire of Liberty has an excellent account of how the French Revolution was "fought" on American soil.

    I'm not very interested in what you call "pure" forms of the right, because most are insane. The crowned heads of Europe long ago gave up their rights to rule and handing them back to them out of respect for historical fact alone is just a mad romanticism, not politics.

  7. Ari,

    Your take on conservatism seems to fit in precisely with Robin’s description of the ethos and character of conservatism in modernity. And from what I have read it seems that he, apparently, does deal specifically with the question of conservatives who lost a prior state of elite control, and those that haven’t, and the role of nostalgia. I’ll report back after I have read the book.

    Given your take on conservativism, assuming I follow you correctly, I still don’t see how conservatism is not ascendant. Turning now to rhetoric/”philosophy” in the last 15 years or so there has been a notable turn in the conservative movement with regard to its use of egalitarian constructs. Sure, the HR department at a company owned by the Kochs is still going to stress that it doesn’t discriminate against women in hiring, etc., but the overall tone and tactic of the conservative movement has shifted. There used to be a lot more stress in conservative circles, both political and intellectual, on the “parents know best how to raise their children” and the “the American people know best how to spend their money” rhetorical routes – which suggests something quite egalitarian and was an effective conservative populist anti-elitist construct. But in recent years, while that rhetoric and notion may still be present, it has decidedly been passed by the “get the fuck off John Galt’s back” rhetoric/tactic – now the conservatives sell to the general public that they must protect the interests of “job creators” – those economic elite who really know what is going on, have the genius/skill to pull the rest of society to its greatest potential, and so forth.

    As for your conception of leftism, that dog don’t hunt. It seems an analysis of leftism crudely constructed to suit some broader interpretive framework.

    Liberté, égalité, fraternité didn’t mean that all peasants were equally good farmers, or that all doctors were equally good at surgery, or that all of humanity, given equal opportunity, could be equally good at the piano. The project of “the left” (especially as it is contrasted with liberalism) has never been to eradicate differences among humans, including differences of skill. Marx devotes many hundreds of pages arguing how capitalism eradicates differences and potentials for differences (including differences in skill and ability), and whatever one thinks of the correctness or incorrectness of the alternatives he proposes (and the ones he infers), it is clear that he was motivated in part by the desire to see alternatives to the manner in which capitalism limits the productive and creative potential of most people in capitalist systems. Yes, in some instances, particularly in traditional proletariat jobs, it was a tactic and it was expedient to operate in a manner that effected a reduction in differences in performance. This can still in some respects be seen in contemporary unions. It is best for most workers in particular settings/industries if we keep levels of production within certain broadly achievable parameters. But this is occurring in a context wherein the left (correctly) acknowledges the fact that most instances of excelling performance would not be rewarded anyway, or would not be rewarded proportionately. It is in the better interest of the vast majority of workers to consolidate the parameters of performance in order to gain more social power than it is to act as if there were a functioning meritocracy when there is not. Further, among wage slaves the building of solidarity sometimes requires a de-accentuation of differences in performance, etc. Though even here there is not an eradication of standards so as to accept anyone and everyone. Go take the test required to become an apprentice in the Ironworkers union sometime.

  8. - cont'd -

    Indeed, one would expect education under “leftist” governments to be much different if your take on leftism is correct. Post 1968 in France, after which there were many educational reforms, there was an even greater systemic control on rewarding superior performance than prior to the 1968 leftist political triumphs, and even greater separation of superior and inferior students. In the U.S.S.R., in Cuba, in China, and in any number of other socialist countries there has been seen a stringent meritocracy in education. I suppose one could think that this was not “genuine,” that it was done for utilitarian reasons and not for ideological ones, but I think that manifestly false. The “leftist project” is not to make people with IQs of 80 into cardiologists, it is to give each child a relatively equal shot at becoming that cardiologist, so that the kid with the IQ of 130 who grows up (or would have grown up) in less than desirable conditions has the least possible social and material stuff interfering with his potential. There is also, among leftists, a sense that those with greater skill have an obligation towards those with lesser skills, but such a posture is not unique to leftists, one finds similar postures among monarchists, aristocrats, some industrialists, etc.

    Of course, in anglo settings you do find some educational adventures in which liberals have made kids with IQs of 130 sit in classrooms with kids with mental deficiencies. Though I don’t agree with his unschooling philosophy as much as I used to, I still tend to agree with John Taylor Gatto that the reasons for this idiosyncratic approach to education have much more to do with corporatism and the desire to produce a society that is 80+% corporate pawn than it actually stems from leftist educational theory.

    With regard to the obligations of those with greater skill and greater intelligence, there is also a different posture with regard to their status. At the heart of modern conservatism there is the notion of a pronounced elite that is “better” ( ), and this tends to take a moral property, or to take on a quality that is akin to a notion of divine right (even if the divine is replaced with social darwinianism or somesuch). The left on the other hand tends to view the 130 IQ as contrasted with the 80 IQ by way of mere material conditions. Some material conditions can be altered, and should be, others cannot be, or cannot effectively be altered. There is not, generally, the imputation of innate “ontological” inferiority (or an inferiority of “ought” with regard to entitlement) among those with less fortunate material circumstances on the part of leftists, as there generally is among conservatives (with caveats, fetuses and a white upper class grandpa after a stroke for instance). And there is, generally, an emphasis among leftists regarding the shared humanity of those with varying material conditions. There is, generally, among leftists an emphasis/optimism regarding the human potential for cooperation among those with differences, and this contrasts to conservative notions of competing interests that are fundamentally irreconcilable (all modern conservative elitisms rest on the notion that there is some material “other” (blacks, women, poor, low IQed, etc) which is different from “us” in a manner that is irreducible and cannot be effectively brought into the bounds of solidarity or a cooperation of mutual allegiance). But this does not result in the stark lust for homogeneity that you suggest.

  9. - cont'd -

    When leftists do effect a homogeneity, it seems to have some relation to an establishment of an elite that corresponds to modern conservative notions of the elite. In the USSR and in China, the elite function(ed) in a manner similar to the elite in conservative social constructs. It seems natural that so many Trotskyites would become neo-conservatives in recent American history because the hyper-vanguardism of most Trotskyite sects corresponds neatly to the elitism of neo-conservatives. But the difference between leftist and conservative elitisms is that conservative elitisms fit the overall projects of the given conservative schools of thought , whereas leftists must bend over backwards to explain away their elitisms (whether hyper-vanguardism, etc.) because these so obviously conflict with the stated overall projects.

    With regard to – “The right's anthropology is more chaotic, but every variation admits of the core fact that human beings have differing aptitudes, including (and perhaps especially) in the realms of self–determination and governance” - I think that what we see is not a grand meta victory of the left over this, but a series of victories in which prior right-wing dogmas regarding parameters of aptitudes have been shown, one by one, to be utter bullshit. Slaves and the poor were said to have intrinsically low aptitudes, women were said to have intrinsically low aptitudes, blacks were said to have intrinsically low aptitudes, and so forth, and these right-wing aptitude parameter dogmas have been through and through disproven, and rather decisively so, the occasional fever swamp variances notwithstanding, and assuming one isn’t a firm believer in Herrnstein and Murray. It seems that one of Robin’s insights is that in the history of the modern right the character of what constitutes the elite – who is necessarily in and who is necessarily out – changes over time. What remains relatively constant is the relation of the movement to the elite and the manner in which it socially constructs the function and place of the elite.

    I suppose the last domain for the right to pronounce an elite on the basis of aptitude is in the realm of variances in IQ, which you seem to suggest in your recent post/reply on Hegel over at your blog (which I do intend to get back to). Here, aside from repeating what I say above regarding the how the left generally approaches these variances, which I believe to be at odds with your portrayal, I would say that given the track record of the right on defining the parameters of aptitude variance and then acting on the perceived parameters once they are dogmatized there is a natural tendency among most people to distrust the right when it morphs its parameters of the elite. The right in the last 20 years has been very effective at overcoming this tendency.

    I disagree with the notion that the reason the left is dead is that it effectively won its primary battles and thus has no fights anymore. This seems to me a Fukayaman perspective (even if not directly derivative of Fuk) and I think as we come out of the end of history and enter into increased social instabilities which increase the number of materially unstable persons inequalities and exploitations will be more socially manifest and there will be the “usual” late modern social responses. This isn’t to say that the left will arise or somesuch, that remains to be seen. I think the death of the left in the West has been the result of the greatest triumph of conservatism in the history of modernity, which came about because of a number of technological, social, economic, and material factors, not least of which was bribing much of the working classes in the West with the most efficient-in-human-history-to-date easy credit and cheap goods (Marx parses this technique 150 years ago, but never envisioned the efficiency with which it would someday be enacted) , which works great until the bill comes due.

  10. "Leftism is essentially a denial of human variation."

    I don't know, sometimes it would be nice if someone who acknowledges he is inferior fesses up and admits he has the right to be treated like shit. Most douchebags who go on and on about how human beings are unequal usually do it under the assumption that they are the superior ones who have to suffer the imbecility of the unwashed masses. How about some Mexican who fesses up that Mexico is a hell-hole because Mexicans are a bunch of lazy Indians and not because of imperialism, or a member of the 99% who think the 1% are the man, or something like this:

    Instead, we get a bunch of wannabe apologists for capitalism who ride oligarchic dick out of the hope that they will be picked up by a think tank. Word of advice: the 1% are not reading this blog.

  11. On that note - the best sign I have seen at Occupy protests thus far is the one that says "You are not John Galt. And you never will be."

  12. I have to laugh at the idea that conservatism is now 'hegemonic'. Here, I'll laugh some more: AHAHAHAHAHAHAH AH AAHAHAHAAHAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHH AHAH HAHAHA

    It used to be that leftists claimed neo-liberalism as their sworn, oppressive enemy. Now the problem is just too many Republicans.

  13. Do your fellow conservatives a favor and look into the actual meaning of words in their context before opening you mouth and making a total ass out of yourself.

  14. Owen,

    At some point, any political typology is going to be unfair because it's too complex a phenomenon to be exhaustive. I do not even bother to think of politics outside of the European tradition (broadly speaking) when building typologies, because drawing in other cultures makes everything break down rather rapidly. (I am reminded of Cardinal Newman's incorrect, but understandable, suggestion in the "Development" that perhaps the "Asiastics" are governed by custom alone.)

    I find it really telling that you bring up '68 in France, because the whole phenomenon of the Sixties, especially in its individualist mode, is I think very poorly understood. There's some inkling of what's going on in the National Review and related haunts when they try to turn Nazism into a left–wing phenomenon by bringing up the (real) ideological connections between various modes of Sixties radicalism and proto–National Socialism, not understanding that there was good reason to wonder for some time what the "essential" nature of the various movements at the time would turn out to be. In France in '68, sure, it's a revolt largely cloaked in left–wing language, but it's also openly against the Stalinism of the French Communists, seeking to liberate the left from itself to some degree. Because the left cannot exist in purity (I don't think the right can, either, by the way), it is always in need of these injections of right–wing order to sustain itself. (Let's say, the irony of the most anti–police Occupy protest in Oakland being also the one to have the most formalized security force.)

    (On a related note: I am somewhat sympathetic to the radical hypothesis that, after the death of Stalin, the USSR was actually the right–wing counterpoint to the US.)

    You may take issue with this, because you can (obviously) argue that persons differ in skill, but that difference is often interpreted in moral terms. Take, for example, the horror that you can induce in members of the educational elite that intelligence is largely hereditary. This violates the belief that their native faculties are something earned; when I have argued that one of the problems with modern financial instruments is that they have made the economy out of cognitive reach of even the above–average, a common retort is "so what?"* And not in a social Darwinist sort of why, but in a morally justified one. And even if an aristocracy of labor arises, it only reinforces the truth of the aristocracy and the lie of communism. Nearly every enthusiastic revolutionary dreams himself a big man after the fight is won…

    (*One thing I found disappointing about the movie version of Moneyball is that it misses this whole plot of new devices and the threat they create to a lower–IQ traditional cadre. The movie makes it seem simply petty, whereas the reality also has to do with an inability to understand the new instruments, even though they are rather "simple", mathematically speaking. In the book, Michael Lewis explicitly compares sabermetrics with the creation of modern derivatives trading.)

  15. John Derbyshire's review of Robin's book in The American Conservative draws out this quote: "Inequality and hierarchy are not natural phenomena but human creations." (I can think of many "human creations" that are also "natural phenomena", so I'm not entirely in disagreement with the second part of that statement.) I cannot think of any version of leftism that does not, at its core, have this as its vital force. This idea's animating quality is perhaps clearest in ideologies where left and right exist as uneasy bedfellows, such as libertarianism. Even among the Randroids, you can see a left/right schism along this line.

    I have been giving thought to Robin's formulation of the old idea that the right is animated in large part by the mystical power of violence. I think his assertion that, for the left, violence is only utilitarian is rather funny (especially when thinking of men like Robespierre…), or would, if the implications weren't disturbing. (You can't separate the romantic from the business when it comes to violence.) I think there is some truth to the idea, when you narrow "the right" down to specifically its more recent counter–revolutionary elements like the fascists. (In fact, for all the talk of the neoconservative glorification of war, the rhetoric sounds far more like leftist revolutionary rhetoric than it sounds like rightist counter–revolutionary, but that's really too subjective to be of much use…)

    The point where this all comes together for me is that one reason the elite in this country cannot function as a national elite is because of its essentially leftist anthropology. It cannot imagine that its station is hierarchical. It does not understand the needs for preservation, because the elite has always needed less stability. It actually has no desire to rule or learn the arts of ruling, the manipulation of bureaucracy both corporate and government being enough to sate it. It does not even realize that order is necessary. And so, in the end, it cannot even recognize what it does to itself—the OWS protest in particular among the Occupations in having plenty scions of the "1%" among it. (I recently heard a comedian do a bit about how it's harder to tell who is poor nowadays, because everyone's "stuff" is more alike. It's true. Wealth is represented more in lifestyle now. I think that's a big part of the reason some people I know have been shocked when they realized their parents's incomes put them in the top 1-3% of Americans growing up.)

  16. Reading Jefferson just now, I realized my last paragraph might seem to suggest I think the "natural aristocracy" is coterminous with the current elite, it just doesn't function. Not so.

  17. I am not sure why "higher IQ" means for some the necessary creation of a new aristocracy, when in reality the ruling class, especially in the ancien regime where "real hierarchy" thrived, was dumb as shit. A real hierarchical order has nothing to do with ability, guile, or intelligence, but blood. I reign over you because my father did, and his father did, and his father did, and so on. The bourgeois ideal of the "equality of all men" was established to abolish this order, and one can no more bring it back than once can bring back powdered wigs and the wide use of the harpsichord.

    Of course, one should also ask Ariston whether he feels he has a "high IQ", and if this means that he feels that he should lord over the rest of the herd. And if that is the case, is he writing from an office of a think tank that pays him a six figure salary, or is he commenting between playing with derivatives in an elite stock exchange office, or is he a tenured professor of physics at an Ivy League school, and so on? If none of this is the case, why doesn't he just shut his ignorant trap?

  18. Ari,

    when I have argued that one of the problems with modern financial instruments is that they have made the economy out of cognitive reach of even the above–average, a common retort is "so what?"*

    I've heard at least a dozen at length interviews with high level brokers and dudes in finance in since the recession and in each case they struck me as not being all that bright. At the last Ortho parish I hung out at before I gave up the glow-in-the-dark-seeking ghost, a petit-bourgeois hangout if there ever was one, there was this analyst who the bankers and former CFO at the parish said was quite gifted, but having had multiple conversations with the guy in person and via email, he struck me as a complete dipshit. I have a cousin who works on the Chicago Stock Exchange as a broker, and as far as my 11 first cousins go, I wouldn't tank that guy in the top half in terms of brains. He is very good looking though, and was a star athlete in his rural Ohio high school and into college. I'm not saying that there isn't a meritocratic element to that game, but I have a lot of trouble figuring out what exactly the merit is, because I'm not so sure it has primarily to do with brains. I suppose concentrated ambition and ruthlessness is a form of intelligence, maybe.

    The point where this all comes together for me is that one reason the elite in this country cannot function as a national elite is because of its essentially leftist anthropology. It cannot imagine that its station is hierarchical. It does not understand the needs for preservation, because the elite has always needed less stability. It actually has no desire to rule or learn the arts of ruling, the manipulation of bureaucracy both corporate and government being enough to sate it. It does not even realize that order is necessary.

    At first reading this strikes me as a specious and desperate attempt to drub reality with an incredibly strained interpretation so as to preserve the functional coherency of ideological commitments. At second glance I wonder whether the “no desire to rule or learn the arts of ruleing” could not have been said of the elite most of the time – indeed, it has been said, often by conservatives in modernity complaining about the incompetency of their own elite. Take the English monarchy – for most of modernity it has been proving that it is incompetent, unfit to rule, and intent on following the paradigm vis-à-vis formal power that was perhaps best embodied during the Walpole vs. George I & II years. But it remains an elite, and it occasionally shows enough resourcefulness to keep itself in the elite. It is not leftist anthropology within the English aristocracy which has whittled away at its power (at least not until the last 100 or so years). At third glance it gives me chills to think what it is you mean by “the arts of ruling” and what sort of rule you would like to see from an elite. If Robin is correct, the right throughout modernity (which is to say, the right for as long as the right has existed), has depended upon instability and the mimesis of revolutionary rhetoric and tactics. But I’ll defend his notion, or not, after I read his book.

  19. - cont'd -

    There are any number of radical groups and thinkers who would view cold way dynamics in such a way that might be similar to what you suggest – the USA/USSR = left/right assumption doesn’t work so well for someone who believes that the USSR was state capitalist.

    On the Robin stuff it is hard to discuss these things without having read the book. In every instance you and Gabriel have offered a take of an assertion by Robin, or the exchange between Robin and AmCon ROCOR golden boy, I have had the exact opposite impression. For instance, I thought Robin handed Larison his ass in their exchange. But there you go. I think I understand what Robin is getting at with his take on elitism and the right but I need to read his book before I attempt to defend it. A lot of this gets into time wasting tit for tat. You and Gabriel have expressed that Robin focusing on Burke is not a representative focus, but apparently in the book Burke is one of many figures dealt with and receives no inordinate attention. And Robin is a writer writing in English about conservatism. How can a writer writing in English about conservatism not include Burke?

    the OWS protest in particular among the Occupations in having plenty scions of the "1%" among it. This is not quite right in emphasis. The first analysis done of OWS protests ( ) , while crude, has results which are consistent with the vast majority of accounts of the observed demographics there. The vast majority of those there are not 1%ers, that is a right-wing mythology. Is there a disproportionately high number of upper class hipsters compared to the nation as a whole? Yes, of course. But there is probably a lower percentage of hipsters than what is found on Manhattan as a whole. And it is important to keep in mind that OWS is not just the occupiers, it has attracted a number of folks to direct actions (marches, etc.) and in those events there seems to be an even lower percentage of hipsters, with a heavy presence from labor and the unemployed.
    I suspect a number of your friends have parents in the top 3% Ari, your writing sometimes suggests as much. When my parents moved me from Appalachia to suburban Detroit at age 17, I encountered a slew of children of top 3%ers who had very little idea their parents’ wealth relative to the rest of the nation, or the world – their world was what they saw for the most part on TV and in movies, it was a normal American life to them. Hell, a majority of the kids I went to school with there had never set foot in the city of Detroit, even though they lived 12 miles away from the city line. At the same time they still had a self-consciousness of being elite, of expecting to get into the best universities and having substantial wealth. These are not unusual human contradictions – to appeal to your being “normal” and like everybody else even though very wealthy, but at the same time revealing your true colors when you interact with people from the bottom 50% (whether kind or cruel to “lesser”, these kids could never hide their innate elitism).

    “Nearly every enthusiastic revolutionary dreams himself a big man after the fight is won…”

    Oh good god. And this insight is gleaned from what experience?

    I think I’ll just forget about the rest after that….


    Ari and Venny are men of the people. Both worked in grocery stores in their youth. And Venny was once in a students against sweatshops group. Both have encountered “leftists” in academic settings. Thus their knowledge of radical thought and ethos, and even motivation it seems, is inexhaustible.

  20. "(On a related note: I am somewhat sympathetic to the radical hypothesis that, after the death of Stalin, the USSR was actually the right–wing counterpoint to the US.)"

    A Yockey fan, eh?

  21. Baudy,

    I don't think the argument here can really be concluded or continued in its present form (the differences are really to great to make much headway at this level of the discussion—I had actually written a longer reply to Owen the other day, but Blogger ate it and I decided that may have been for the best), but I thought I'd at least respond to your Yockey comment (accusation?—I'm not sure).

    Yockey is one of those extremist, half–insane men who, through his complete lack respect for normal opinion, manages to be compelling at intervals, but I wouldn't call myself a "fan". For example, likely only an antisemite was going to notice what the purge of Jews from the upper–levels of Soviet Communism might have implied. (And from what little I've ever seen translated from Solzhenitsyn's Two Hundred Years Together, I wonder if he wasn't of the same persuasion.)

    However, I didn't come to this thesis from Yockey, but rather from the history of neoconservatism. Already in the 1940s there were Trotskyites claiming the US was the global leftist force, not the Soviet Union, and one of the funniest things about many ex–communist accounts of their "conversions" is how little many of them changed ideologically. Rather, the subject of their loyalty changed, because taking marching orders from Moscow became less attractive, and from Foggy Bottom and the CIA, more so. I only came across Yockey more recently, due to my interest in the sordid history of traditionalism, finding that Evola had praised Imperium.

    In fact, Yockey and Evola form a good basis for another suspicion that I have, that fascism is not only a right–wing socialism, but an antisemitic one (Italian fascism makes this part of my claim weaker, but in its postwar forms it has largely embraced antisemitism). When I say that I have sympathy to the thesis that the USSR had become the right–wing counterpart to the US, that isn't sympathy with the USSR (like Yockey, who fantasized about the Soviets smashing the USA), which by this sort of definition had become fascist.


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