Is neoreaction a form of postmodernity?
May 24, 2014 § 202 Comments
The modern world is pervasively characterized by the nothing-buttery I broadly call positivism.
Scientism (scientific positivism) proposes that RealTrue[tm] knowledge is nothing but what can be verified using scientific methods: other kinds of knowledge may exist, but they are inferior and in practice can be dismissed as irrelevant. Liberalism (a particular kind of political positivism, though not the only kind) proposes that legitimate authority is nothing but what promotes and protects freedom and equal rights: other kinds of “authority” may exist in a non-normative sense, but they (contra reality) have no teeth, and indeed must be made to have no teeth. Behaviorism proposes to reduce the human experience to nothing but observable behaviors. Nominalism proposes that there are no meaningful universals or essences, so language is nothing but the arbitrary use of arbitrary names, and what words mean is exhaustively characterized by analyzing their function in communities: meaning is verified by (and is nothing but) linguistic usage.
Whenever we see claims that the meaning of something is nothing but what is revealed by some verification procedure or functional manifestation, we should suspect that positivism is in play.
There is a broad perception that postmodernism is the opposite of scientistic positivism, since the scientistic view is frequently seen as in conflict with the postmodern view. Notice though that this is quite similar to the false perception that right-liberalism is the opposite of left-liberalism, rather than both being instances of the same kind of thing. Notice also that unprincipled exceptions are the rule here: no sane human being can function in general as a nothing-buttery positivist; so the ‘tools’ of positivism are deployed selectively, and exceptions abound as long as we take care not to permit the exceptions to challenge the dogma. (In general we need to be very suspicious of ‘one drop’ justifications of things: if ‘one drop’ of truth represented by ‘moderation‘ and unprincipled exceptions constitutes defense of an idea then the fact that the Nazis cared for their own children justifies Nazism).
Finally, notice that different kinds of modern ideologues are always (falsely) accusing their own close cousins of insincerity with respect to fundamental principles: this is precisely because, although they actually are committed to the same fundamental principles, they have adopted different baskets of unprincipled exceptions. If you want to know what people sincerely think, you just have to listen to what they say and watch what they do. Yes, people lie; but in general, conspiracies that involve more than a few people are not sustainable and we can know what most people really do think just by asking them.
Now postmodernism isn’t all that different from the positivism it supposedly despises, just as progressive leftism isn’t all that different from the classical liberalism (or even the national socialism) it supposedly despises. If meaning is nothing but how language functions in a community (ahem) then meaning disappears, and all we are left with is a power struggle of arbitrary “narratives”.
Postmodernism isn’t a rejection of modernity; it is an agree-and-amplify.
I am not familiar enough with neoreaction to be able to say whether it is or is not intrinsically postmodern. But I am starting to get the impression that even if it isn’t intrinsically postmodern, it is certainly deeply infected by postmodernity.
Appropriate to recent discussions of racism (see here and here), I’ll leave you with an example of how a political reactionary can be against liberal propaganda and at the same time can avoid going down the postmodern language-power-narrative-propaganda rat hole (assuming he actually wants to avoid that, as opposed to seeing it as a virtue). It is for example possible to generally oppose the use of the term racism without the self-immolation involved in contending that “racism” is an anti-concept and that thinking of black people as the moral equivalent of pets isn’t racist.
I myself have been contending for years that folks really should avoid using the term “rights” as much as possible because of the function that the word tends to perform in liberal society. I could I suppose have further claimed – and perhaps built an historical argument – that because of its etymology, the term “rights” has generally been used more as liberal propaganda than for anything else. But I don’t bother to do that because the etymology and social function do not destroy the concept of rights: they do not reduce “rights” to nothing but an anti-concept.
“Rights” really do mean something: rights refer to a kind of discriminating authority, and if I made the postmodern move of pretending that the term means nothing at all, or is nothing but its behavioral function in society – if I denied that “rights” have an essence – it would become impossible to understand, let alone criticize, liberalism.
Nominalism intellectually castrates the nominalist, and to the extent neoreaction is postmodern it has already been neutered by modernity as a force for the good, the true, and the beautiful.
I suggested at one point that the “noble lie” of zero group differences is powerful because modern people viscerally understand that it is the only thing that stands between the modern liberal free and equal superman and the nazi. The propagation of the ideas that torture and racism are anti-concepts seem to support my view.