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jeudi, 19 septembre 2019

The Breakdown of Order in Late Mass Democracy

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The Breakdown of Order in Late Mass Democracy

By John Derbyshire

Ex: http://www.hlmenckenclub.org

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here, and thanks to Paul  for what already looks like another very successful conference.

First somewhat of an apology. The title of my talk is misleading. I have the heart and soul of a freelance journalist, and we don’t bother much with titles. Titles to articles in newspapers and magazines were traditionally supplied by subeditors—the people responsible for headlines and photo captions. Where titles are concerned, a freelancer has to take his chances with the subs.

That’s not precisely what happened here. What actually happened was, Paul asked me if I’d join a panel on anarcho-tyranny. I said I’d be delighted. Paul asked if there was any particular subtopic I wanted to focus on. I said: “Nah, just give me a topic and I’ll run with it.” Paul then listed my topic as: “The Breakdown of Order in Late Mass Democracy.”

I tell you this to make it plain that I don’t, from long habit, take titles very seriously; and this is not Paul’s fault.

So I can now tell you that, after pondering the title Paul has supplied me with, I don’t in fact think there will be a breakdown of order in what—yes, I do agree—we can rightly call “late mass democracy.”

Not only do I think there will not be a breakdown of order, I fear the opposite thing: an intensification of order.  Let me explain that.

I think the distinguishing characteristic of late mass democracy is the elites getting their mojo back.  After a Century of the Common Man, elites are now saying to themselves, in the current popular idiom: “We’ve got this.”

To explain what I mean, let me take a brief historico-literary detour.*

When I was getting my secondary education back in England in the early 1960s, a common exercise for sixth formers—that is, high school juniors and seniors—was to read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and then to read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and to write an essay declaring, with supporting arguments, which of the two books you thought the actual future would more closely resemble.

BNW-AH.jpgBoth these books presented the reader with a dystopia—a dark view of humanity’s future.  The two dystopias were radically different, though.

In Orwell’s vision, as I’m sure is well known, the human spirit had been tamed by terror. A ruling elite, divided into an Inner Party and an Outer Party, maintained itself by fear.  Outer Party members, who did the administrative grunt work, were kept under constant vigilance by the Thought Police. Dissidents were hauled away to be tortured and killed. A great sullen mass of proles, with no political rights, were kept pacified by a coarse kind of popular culture and frequent spasms of war fever, and were also under watch by the Thought Police, so that potential troublemakers could be quickly identified and eliminated.

Huxley’s dystopia was altogether different.  Huxley’s planet is unified and at peace. Its affairs are managed by ten regional Controllers. Marriage, childbirth, and family life have been abolished, along with all kinds of suffering — even such minor kinds as disappointment and frustration. Also gone are the nation-state, war, religion, ethnicity, and all profound art and literature. Disease has been banished. Old age has been banished too, very nearly: Citizens are healthy, vigorous, and attractive until about age 60, when they decline quickly to death. Everyone lives in a state of contented hedonism, assisted by regular doses of soma, a freely available narcotic with no side- or after-effects. Sex is promiscuous and recreational, with universal free access to contraception and abortion.

The necessary work of Huxley’s society is carried out via a system of castes, with bright and capable Alphas at the top, then betas, gammas, deltas, down to dimwitted Epsilons at the bottom. Caste is determined in the Hatcheries, where good-quality eggs and sperm are mated to produce Alphas. Inferior zygotes are assigned to the lower castes and cloned. The production of well-adjusted citizens is completed in Conditioning units.

All this is accomplished so successfully that society is well-nigh self-regulating. The Controllers, though in theory they’re possessed of despotic powers, in fact have very little to do.

When I got this assignment around age 17, I pondered the matter and came down on the side of Huxley as having given us a more probable picture of the future. I can’t honestly remember my arguments, but I suspect my choice was mainly esthetic.  Orwell’s vision was plainly horrible. It even smelled bad: remember how Winston Smith’s apartment building stank of boiled cabbage? Huxley’s world, on the other hand, didn’t sound bad at all. Universal peace; no more diseases; pop a harmless pill if you’re unhappy; guilt-free recreational sex; what’s not to like? When you read Brave New World, you know there’s something badly wrong with it; but it’s surprisingly difficult to say what, exactly, that is.  Speaking as a bookish intellectual, I would say that what’s wrong is the stasis, the end of any quest for knowledge, for deeper understanding of the world.

When I look at the trends of our own time, it seems to me that my 1962 judgment was correct, however accidentally.  Of course, Huxley’s vision was only very approximately predictive. He got a lot of things wrong. We don’t need a caste of dimwitted Epsilons to do the industrial work, we can have robots do it.

BNW-2-AHux.jpgMore glaringly, he did not foresee the great explosion in the populations of hopeless people seeking to escape chaotic nations—the crowds we have seen on our TV screens this past few weeks heading up through Mexico; with, looming up behind them, the prospect of—what is the latest UN projection? Four billion, is it?—desperate Africans by the end of this century.

Still, if the civilized world can find some way to deal with those issues, or can just fence itself off from them, the trendlines for our society are Huxleyan.  Soma, the universal tranquillizer, is not yet with us, but with a couple more cycles of pharmacological advance, it likely will be. An alpha class of genetically superior humans could arise quite naturally and commercially from techniques of embryo selection already available. Something like it is anyway emerging naturally, from assortative mating among our meritocratic elites.  As has often been noted: doctors used to marry nurses and lawyers used to marry their secretaries. Now doctors marry doctors and lawyers marry lawyers. Huxley’s feelies—entertainment fed in through all the senses—are not far from the Virtual Reality gadgets already on the market.

As for social disorder: well, Pat Buchanan—who turned eighty yesterday, by the way: Happy Birthday, Pat!—reminded us in a column just last month how very disorderly the USA, and the rest of the civilized world, was fifty years ago. The Weathermen and the Black Panthers; the Symbionese Liberation Army—remember them? The Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang; political assassinations; the 1968 Democratic Convention; Kent State and Cornell; …

Antifa put up a good show; and yes, I certainly agree that they illustrate the principle of anarcho-tyranny very well, controlling the streets while leftist politicians stand down the police forces. As a force for generalized disorder, though, they are not impressive. Antifa would run like chickens from a whiff of grapeshot.

The overall trend of our societies is Huxleyan.  It is the trend Steven Pinker has famously described in his book Better Angels: towards a pacified, tranquillized, hedonistic caste society.

Here in the USA the trend lines can actually be traced some way back.

In every organized society there is a tension between order and liberty. We Americans love our liberty, of course; but my love of liberty stops well short of loving your liberty to break my leg or pick my pocket. There needs to be social order.

albionseed.jpegOur own conception of social order is a fermented brew whose original ingredients were sketched out by David Hackett Fischer in his 1989 classic Albion’s Seed. Fischer described how the four main stocks of British settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries each contributed an ingredient to the national culture, and in particular to our notions of social order.

  • The Puritans of New England, drawn heavily from England’s literate artisan classes, had a conception of social order Fischer defines thus: “A condition where everything was put in its proper place and held there by force if necessary … a condition of organic unity.”  Crime stats tell the story. Further quote from Fischer: “Crimes against property were more common than crimes against persons. But crimes against order were the most common of all.” [My italics.]  The examples Fischer gives are: violations of the sabbath, blasphemy, sexual offenses, idleness, lying, domestic disorder, or drunkenness.

  • The “distressed cavaliers” and rustic, illiterate English peasants and house servants who populated Virginia and the Tidewater South had a much less egalitarian, much more hierarchical notion of social order, with county sheriffs appointed in the name of the Crown, not elected constables as in New England.  There was much more interpersonal violence here; but the violence too was hierarchical. Fischer: “It was often used by superiors against inferiors, and sometimes by equals against one another, but rarely by people of subordinate status against those above them.” Crimes of violence were more common than property crimes.

  • The Quakers of the Delaware Valley based social order on tolerance, forbearance, and the Golden Rule.  Quote from Fischer: “There were no crimes of conscience in the Quaker colonies before 1755.” Social order meant social peace. Criminal penalties were generally lighter than in the other colonies; but, says Fischer: “They punished very harshly acts of disorder in which one citizen intruded upon the peace of another … Penalties for crimes of sexual violence against women were exceptionally severe.”

  • And then there were the Scotch-Irish of the back-country, drawn from the half-civilized border lands where England meets Scotland, and from those same border folks’ Protestant settlements in Northern Ireland. These people had the least structured notion of social order among all the colonists. Fischer: “The prevailing principle was lex talionis, the rule of retaliation. It held that a good man must seek to do right in the world, but when wrong was done to him he must punish the wrongdoer himself by an act of retribution that restored order and justice in the world … A North Carolina proverb declared that ‘every man should be sheriff on his own hearth.’” That didn’t leave much for government to do. This was a very individualistic culture. Property crimes were punished much more severely than crimes of violence. One 18th-century court gave the following sentences: for hog stealing, death by hanging; for the rape of an 11-year-old girl, one shilling fine.

Overlaid on these original order traditions were the political arrangements thrashed out by the founders of our republic. Just to remind you, in very brief: Anti-Federalists favored localism and democracy modeled on the classical age, as updated by Locke and Montesquieu—a loose collection of self-governing cantons with minimal central control. Federalists argued for a stronger central government as better suited for defense and financial stability. Out of these arguments emerged our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Constitution was supposed to have settled this question: Could a republic of the classical democratic or aristocratic type, as somewhat modernized by recent thinkers, be scaled up to continental size, given that the only pre-modern unitary states of that size had been despotic empires?

You can make a case that the answer was “No” for the first hundred years or so of the U.S.A.; that the Civil War, whatever its proximate cause, showed the fundamental instability of the 1789 model; but that the model was then rescued, from the late 19th century on, by technology—particularly by mass communication, mass transportation, and mass education.

And thus we arrived at mass democracy: and not only us, but much of the rest of the world. And of course I am over-simplifying: the relevant developments have roots back in the 16th century, with printing and the Reformation—what the Third Duke of Norfolk dismissed with disgust as “this new learning.”

But we arrived at mass democracy, and the 20th century was the Century of the Common Man.  We still had elites, of course; but under mass democracy—or, in the context of my title, early mass democracy—the elites had to pretend to be just lucky commoners.  They had to practice the common touch.

The transformation is easier to see in cultures that came later to the party.  Japanese elites used to wear fantastically elaborate uniforms. Palace flunkies used to stain their teeth black to distinguish themselves from the common herd.  Now Japan’s elites strive to look just like middle-class salarymen. Or perhaps you’ve seen that juxtaposition of two photographs of female undergraduates at an Egyptian university, one taken in 1950 where they are in Western frocks and blouses, a westernized elite, the other much more recent with them all in burkas like peasant women.

Now, in the 21st century, the elites are making a comeback.  They’ve had a bellyful of this Common Man stuff.  How to do it, though? The traditional hierarchy of rank and genealogy—the pattern of order that shaped Europe and the old Tidewater South—is long gone. The violent egalitarianism of the Scotch-Irish has been corralled off into a few localities none of us ever need visit: inner-city ghettos and remote mountain villages.  The totalitarian order of the big old 20th-century despotic utopias proved a bust, though it lingers on in a few hell-holes like North Korea.

What system of order is appropriate to an age of unbounded material plenty, ample leisure, an internet panopticon, and rapid growth of understanding in the human sciences and biotechnology?  I think the goodthinking consensual model of Puritan Massachusetts set the model; except that, with sophisticated conditioning, a free ration of soma, and endless hedonistic distractions, there’ll be no need to burn witches or hang Quakers.

If we can just find some way to manage, or contain, those swelling tides of the hopeless heading for our borders, we shall reach the Brave New World at last.

mardi, 18 novembre 2014

On Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order

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Cohesive Societies Check State Power:
On Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order

By Jack Donovan

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com


The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution [2]
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

FukuyamaOrder-219x300.jpgThere’s so much meat in Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order that someone could teach a college class on it, and someone should. It’s an expansive study of different political systems that attempts to develop a general theory of political development, and explain why different societies have formed different kinds of states — or none at all. The author also offers some explanations for why state-building efforts in the developing world have produced mixed results.

Fukuyama intended The Origins of Political Order to build on his mentor Samuel Huntington’s Political Order in Changing Societies, but it would be just as comfortable on a shelf beside Spengler’s Decline of the West or something like Toynbee’s A Study of History. It’s engagingly written and lacks the kind of obsessive moralizing or contemporary political obsessions that would make it tedious. Fukuyama does have the academic’s habit of giving us more than we need — probably to ward off academic critics. The Origins of Political Order has also been recently followed by second volume, Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy [3].

While clearly an advocate of modern liberal democracies — or what people call modern liberal democracies — Fukuyama is no chauvinist in this regard and does not present political development as a linear, inevitable path to the revelation of modern, liberal democracy. Rather, he sees modern political systems as having three main features — state formation, rule of law, and accountability — that may or may not be present in many reasonably successful political orders. He argues repeatedly that while China formed the first true state, the Chinese have never had true rule of law or downward accountability.

Fukuyama begins by looking at pre-state societies and addressing what he calls the “Hobbesian fallacy” — something I also touched on in The Way of Men. Humans have always lived in groups. We were not “primordially individualistic” creatures who evolved alone in a brutish world and then entered into society as the result of rational calculation at some later date — trading freedom for safety. We’ve always been social animals, and our pre-human ancestors were, too. Yet this idea of primordial individualism “underpins the understanding of rights contained in the American Declaration of Independence and thus of the democratic political community that springs from it.” To truly understand human political behavior, it’s important to correct mistaken notions about human nature and how the most basic political orders form.

The most basic human society, according to Fukuyama, is the “band.” A band society is a small collection of nuclear families, typically exogamous and patrilocal, meaning that, as with chimpanzees, females tend to marry outside the band and males tend to remain with their fathers, brothers, and cousins. This band — or perhaps, “gang” — is the default social order for humans, and the exogamous arrangement with women increases genetic diversity, encourages intergroup contact and trade, and even allows groups of men to resolve intergroup conflicts by simply trading women.

Band-level societies are also fairly egalitarian, and do a lot of sharing. Fukuyama adds that, “many of the moral rules in this type of society are not directed at individuals who steal each other’s property but rather against those who refuse to share food or other necessities.”

Leadership in this kind of society is not inherited — it is earned both through a combination of demonstrating strength, earning trust, and building a coalition of supporters. You can strong-arm a small group for a while, but sooner or later, someone’s gonna cut you down. A betrayal of trust or a stronger contender can elevate a new “alpha,” or “big man,” so decision-making in a band-level society tends to be consensus-based.

The natural tendency to return to band-level thinking is the basis for the phenomenon Fukuyama calls “patrimonialism,” defined as the preference for one’s kin or “friends.” The human tendency toward patrimonialism is fundamental to Fukuyama’s theory of political order, because he pits it against the kinds of systems that are purely meritocratic or impersonal, as modern states say they attempt to be. In a patrimonial society, “we” are more equal than “them,” and this results in the accumulation of wealth and power into fewer hands, as well as all sorts of favoritism and unearned privileges. In a modern state that is functioning more or less as it’s supposed to, everyone has to play by the same rules.

The majority of The Origins of Political Order is devoted to exploring the complicated ways in which elements of modern states developed to check patrimonialism, and how those checks can decay as circumstances change. As I mentioned, he covers a lot of ground — too much to cover here — so I’ll simply recommend the book and focus on a relevant point.

Fukuyama doesn’t say it in so many words, but modern, socially constructed identity groups seem able to replace kin-based groups in terms of inspiring this kind of favoritism. A member of the “party” or “union” or “community” is preferred over a pure outsider. Ideology has many features of religion, and religion is one of the factors that Fukuyama believes separates the tribal society from the band-level society. Religion and ideology create a broader understanding of family — of who is “us” and who is “them.”

In the final pages of The Origins of Political Order, Fukuyama concludes that the doctrine of universal recognition makes liberal democracies attractive because it is a throwback to the shared participation and shared decision-making common to early tribal and band-level societies. “Once the principle of equal respect or dignity is articulated,” he writes, “it is hard to prevent human beings from demanding it for themselves.”

However, he follows this evident truth by stating that, “successful liberal democracy requires both a state that is strong, unified, and able to enforce laws on its own territory, and a society that is strong and cohesive and able to impose accountability on the state.” This also seems reasonably true, but the idea of a “cohesive” society conflicts with the “diversity is strength” mantras of First World governments, global corporations, and globalist organizations like the United Nations. The cohesive societies with shared backgrounds, religious beliefs, and values that created liberal democracies have in recent history been consistently undermined by attempts by elites to import and integrate foreign groups and ideologies into their states — Muslims in Europe being a particularly corrosive example.

The promise of “intratribal” egalitarianism to everyone everywhere, and anyone anywhere, has in practice created opportunities for the development of what Fukuyama would have to characterize as the kinds of interest groups that engage in zero-sum rent-seeking.

In America, the triumph of this doctrine of absolute inclusiveness has created a social environment in which identity groups actually end up vilifying any kind of overall cohesiveness, homogeneity or social order. Instead of promoting a cohesive society that mobilizes to check the power of the state, Americans have broken themselves out into racial and sexual identity groups — including the 51% minority group known as “women” — that are increasingly focused on using power to secure rents, privileges, “affirmative actions,” hard quotas, soft quotas, special protections, and impunities from both the state and private businesses. And while — unlike [4] in Europe [5] — freedoms of speech and press remain more or less intact in the US, these racial and sexual identity groups are successfully using social media, traditional media, predatory legal challenges, and economic leverage (by harassing companies who hire even the most benign, milquetoast dissenters and questioners) to silence any discussion or criticism of their ideas or collective behaviors.

These social actors, along with the trade unions, business groups, student organizations, nongovernmental organizations and religious organizations that Fukuyama identifies, have created an increasingly stagnant, inflexible system that is failing to respond efficiently or effectively to new challenges. While he sees much to like about liberal democracy, he admits that, “If the institution fails to adapt, the society will face crisis or collapse, and may be forced to adopt another one. This is no less true of a liberal democracy than of a nondemocratic political system.”

Fukuyama doesn’t directly address the problem of social fragmentation in his conclusion to The Origins of Political Order, but it if a cohesive, mobilized society is required to impose accountability on the state, then it seems to follow that a fragmented society of rent and privilege-seeking special interest groups will be unable to impose that accountability effectively — and Americans will be left with a powerful, authoritarian bureaucracy accountable only to interest groups and the wealthy stakeholders who fund them.

Every so often I see this smug little infographic [6] about the superiority of public education in Nordic countries, and the failings of the American system. In the early chapters of The Origins of Political Order, Fukuyama calls the problem of modern state-building “getting to Denmark,” because, “for people in developed countries, ‘Denmark’ is a mythical place that is known to have good political and economic institutions: it is stable, democratic, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and has extremely low levels of political corruption.”

In addition to the unique factors Fukuyama identifies that made the development of European states possible, it also seems likely that the relative size and homogenous composition of these nations contributed to their mythical perfection. Denmark is less than one quarter of the size of the state of Oregon where I live, and Fukuyama points out early in the book that even the American Founding Fathers were aware that classical republicanism “did not scale well.” The democratic ideals of early Greece and Rome were developed by homogenous societies. In the case of Rome, expansion and growth eventually gave way to Caesarism, and the Greek city-states were eventually conquered by monarchies.

Part of the magic of Denmark is that it is small, and it was created by the Danes, for the Danes. Danish magic may only last as long as those things remain true, and there is clearly trouble in Denmark. Over half of the convicted rapists in Denmark are immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or Somalia [7]. Many Danes are concerned [8] that their culture is being subverted by Muslim influence. Danish birth rates are so low (1.7) that the government recently sponsored a “Do it for Denmark [9]” ad campaign. Denmark without Danish culture and the Danish people will not be the Denmark that everyone else in the West is “trying to get to,” and it seems likely that their political order will decay.

 

 


 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

 

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/11/the-origins-of-political-order/

 

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/FukuyamaOrder.jpg

[2] The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374533229/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0374533229&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=IX6KEZWALWOURG3Y

[3] Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374227357/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0374227357&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=C2E3VUHP33OFZLC2

[4] unlike: http://reason.com/archives/2014/11/08/britain-poised-to-silence-extremist-spee

[5] Europe: http://www.friatider.se/nya-lagen-nu-lattare-atala-svenskar2-for-att-forolampa-invandrare-och-myndighetesrepresentanter

[6] smug little infographic: http://owsposters.tumblr.com/post/25869010098/silhouette-man-wonders-wtf-is-wrong-with

[7] Over half of the convicted rapists in Denmark are immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or Somalia: http://www.amren.com/news/2012/07/rape-jihad-in-denmark-more-than-half-of-all-convicted-rapists-have-immigrant-backgrounds/

[8] are concerned: http://cphpost.dk/news/danes-we-are-too-tolerant-of-muslims.7324.html

[9] Do it for Denmark: http://rt.com/news/denmark-low-birthrate-sex-425/