New Culture, New Right, by Michael O’Meara


New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe
by Michael O’Meara
224 pages, 1st Books, $13

With New Culture, New Right, Michael O’Meara undertakes an exhaustive survey of the post-war conservative renewal. Every concept that will become a talking point is mentioned here, and analyzed without excessive self-interested criticism. The book is dense, detailed and technically accurate, which means it is not for everyone, but for any person seriously considering the New Right as an option, this is essential reading.

This fiery little volume, weighing in at just over 200 pages, has quickly become one my favorite go-to books about the New Right. It is academic (mostly) in style, but more importantly, it is a walk through history by way of its thinkers, point-by-point showing us the evolution of the ideas that are incorporated into the New Right. This is not propaganda or leisure reading; it’s a history of politics through philosophy.

Through a complete study of the different facets of the New Right and related movements, including the difference between its US, UK and European variants, O’Meara triangulates on a central point that is too often forgotten: this movement is a revolt against what liberalism has wreaked from 1789 to the present day, and its key struggle is finding an anti-liberal viewpoint that is also popularly selectable, and its greatest self-contradiction is its tendency to adopt liberal ideas.

Academics will recognize in this book the kind of political study through historical events that qualifies a great secondary source, meaning that after you’re done perusing the Churchill speeches and Stalin bodycounts, you turn to a book like this to figure out what it all meant.

If you want “The War Nerd” or Paul Krugman for educated adults, this is the source to which you will most likely turn; it is reminiscent of the detailed historical analyses of R. Palmer or Alexis de Toqueville, in that it traces history as a progression of ideas evolving in response to their environment.

Unlike the works of Guillaume Faye or Tomislav Sunic, this book does not take a particular position, but instead reports on the birth of the New Right and its ideas, including credible options and contrarian opinions. Through this method, an aggregate forms in the mind of the reader which shows not only the details of the New Right, but where it fits as a transition between periods of history.

O’Meara is superb in his concise insights into the underlying meanings of the terms we find bandied about, a process he creates by anchoring these terms to their structural significance in the construction of nations from political methods. Often in the course of a few sentences, he clarifies what has been vague for decades, and in doing so, smooths out a concrete foundation on which other ideas can build.

He writes in the chapter “Metapolitics”:

Like other politicians of the “corrupt, cosmopolitan oligarchy” (Le Pen), Gisgard d’Estaing assumed that economics was primary, where culture was a mere accounterment — sign, perhaps, of finesse — but nothing more consequential.

Benoist, by contrast, reversed the relationship. It is not the political economy that determines a society’s ideology (that is, the meaning-bearing way a people culturally understands itself), but ideology that dictates its politics. As postmodernists would emphasize, culture is not power per se, but its sheathe. How things are perceived, symbolized, and evolutioned influence how society’s agenda is set and how power is wield. If the anti-liberal forces were ever to regain control of the state, they would, Benoist concluded, first have to change the culture. (43)

This concept shows up in other books on the New Right, but never quite gets explained as being as pivotal as it is. O’Meara coaxes it from the limelight into its rightful place and shows how essential this difference between the New Right and other political factions is, and then launches into a short chapter that skillfully analyzes the symbols in use by the anti-liberal movement and explains their relevance to the overall theory of that movement.

One unique factor of this book is that it integrates the writings of European philosophers and political philosophers beyond Nietzsche, Evola and a handful of right-wing thinkers; it is a broad-spectrum survey that attempts to incorporate the learning of the path and show the New Right as one of its culminating options, the other being a Fukuyama-styled globalist, multicultural, consumerist liberal democracy.

Approaching the topic from the philosophical perspective enables this book to go deeper into the topic than politics will allow, finding the relevance of symbols apart from their use as slogans or responses to the immediate political situation, and instead showing us the evolution of ideas over time as producing the current conflict out of the necessity of moving past an obstructed past.

By doing so, O’Meara takes us past a reactionary longing for nationalism and instead shows us a conflict between civilization types: (a) the civilization led by its economy and (b) the civilization grounded in the organic, biocultural and tradition. Here he explores the issue of nationalism in its most lucid form to date:

As argued in all the above chapters, the single most consequential force assailing these significations, and hence compromising the integrity of European being, is liberalism, which conceives of man in the way modern science conceives of inert matter. On the basis of its simplistic reductions, the European is rendered into a quantitative abstraction, undifferentiated from the rest of humanity.

So reduced, he is subject to laws that isolate and decontextualize him, limit his motivation to material self-interest, relate him to other individuals through faceless contractual arrangements, and, most damagingly, lock him into a mono-directional temporality at at odds with his world-open nature. Then, as the instrumentalist dictates of this condition override deeply rooted meanings, life is made barren and new anxieties arise to haunt it.

With postmodernity, this process attains nihilistic proportion, as historically formed peoples are transformed into consumerist tribes and identity is reduced to an array of vacuous lifestyle choices that threatens to extinguish the last vestiges of their ancient heritage. By severing Europeans from all that makes them a distinct people, liberalism has created the worst possible world for them.

As Jose Ortega y Gasset describes it: “Europeans do not know how to live unless they are engaged in some great enterprise. When this is lacking, they grow petty and feeble and their souls disintegrate.” (208-9)

The author intelligently summarizes not just what points are relevant to the New Right, but why not in the context of political dogma, but in the question of the philosophy of the individuals that make up a society and thus make that a pleasant or miserable place to be.

Not all is perfection. For a start, this book needs an editor to go through and find the spelling mistakes and typos that mar several chapters. Further, sometimes O’Meara speaks too much in the language of his specific audience at the expense of the wider academic field; among the right, “negro basketball player” and “‘anti-racist’ organizations (most dominated by Zionists)” may be considered sensible, but for him to use those terms in such a vividly factual book seems to me wrong not on a moral level, but an informational one; he simply hasn’t explained, nor revealed the history for this verbiage or why it is relevant. Ideally, O’Meara will expand on this volume with an explanation of where Zionists, who are like right-wing anti-liberal Jewish nationalists, and descriptive terms for the African races fit into this picture. Clearly he can do it and would reveal a good deal about how we should visualize our relationship to those groups.

O’Meara sensibly summarizes the views of the New Right, then tacks on a final chapter where he covers honest critics — not those who hope to refute, but those who hope through pointed questioning to force evolution — of the New Right, and injects some of his own thinking through questions as well. This allows the reader to make up his or her own mind, and because the buildup of ideas has been so diligent, requires relatively few words to make itself clear.

If Guillaume Faye’s Archeofuturism is the call to arms for the New Right, and writings by Sunic, Benoist, Evola and Guenon its cornerstones, New Culture, New Right is its textbook — clear writing for those who wish to understand this movement on a structural level as it emerges from history. For many of us, it has become a favorite reference because it traces these ideas to their roots and in doing so, makes them come alive.

14 Comments

  1. John Parker says:

    Enjoyed this book very much. He, Faye and Sunic are doing great work building upon the New Right movement in Europe begun by GRECE and other French intellectuals, the fruition being the rise of New Right political movements in Europe.

  2. Duane says:

    Thanks for the review, Mr. Stevens. This is a book I’ll be referencing throughout my lifetime.

    Since we’re on the subject of economics, how do feel about the following books for financial and world market theory?

    Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises

    The Origin of Financial Crises: Central Banks, Credit Bubbles, and the Efficient Market Fallacy

    Technical Analysis: The Complete Resource for Financial Market Technicians

    What other books would you suggest along with or in lieu of these?

  3. [...] “Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman“, “Accountability“, “New Culture, New Right, by Michael O’Meara“, “Conspicuous Consumption“, “Sacred Cow: Culpability“, “Split [...]

  4. David Hamilton says:

    Conservative Ideas

    I would respectfully offer a caution. I am not sure we should intellectualise our movement because intellectualism is essentially anti-Conservative – Conservatives cherish the numinous things in life, inherited faith, culture, art, not rationalising and isolating ideas and concepts out of context: it is two essentially different ways of thinking.
    The Conservative outlook is empirical not rational; they appeal to the world around us rather than derive a view of reality from the dominant ideology. By assessing these results they derive a new Conservative view of events that becomes our worldview. That is an essential difference from ideological thinking. You could read Enoch Powell and Patrick J.Buchanan to see this attitude at work.
    Conservatism grows out of the people not ideas: it eschews first principles and ideological underpinning for the natural emotions people feel for kin and their close ones. It starts with the hope that ones children will de better at school or in sport than the children’s of ones neighbours and realatives. It does not imply hatred of the others but the bonds between kin. These are strongest at home and weakwn as they expand outward through, community, nation and race but stronger than those with outsoders or different ethnic groups.
    The terms used should be concrete: Man, Woman, Boy and Girl, not person. It should avoid vague or meaningless terms like person or humanity because they remove substance and defining difference which is false and is leading to persecution of those with different views. Like Joseph de Maistre and Edmund burke we see that to describe one as an “English”, “American”, man or woman, gives us an insight into them which “person” or “humanity” obliterates.
    Rights should be linked to obligations and responsibilities not distributed by the state(or Western elites) and accrue to “English” men and women and other respective nationals who inherit from their ancestors, not universals given to all by supra-national elites as with the UN and EU.

    1. Christopher Thorpe says:

      David Hamilton,

      You are right to say that conservatism is a natural tendency among people, but I cannot agree with your implication that we should not use our intellect in defense of conservatism (and racialism, Folkism, etc.). We need intellectuals in order to provide us with sound foundations; it is precisely because many of us do not have sound philosophical foundations that Liberals often beat right-wingers in arguments. This why the work of people like O’Meara is extremely valuable; it leads people in the right direction instead of letting them be fooled by characters who do not put much thought into the foolishness they espouse. This is why I feel that your “caution” is without any good basis.

  5. David Hamilton says:

    Duane,

    I have always rated P.T.Baur and Ezra Mishan. Baur, destroyed the liberal arguments for overseas aid, Mishan the arguments for Economic Growth and that immigration boosts the economy.

    http://aidwatchers.com/2009/11/p-t-bauer-development-prophet/

    http://www.thephora.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-5625.html

    http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1504/article_1327_printer.shtml

    1. Duane says:

      These are very helpful. Thanks

  6. Geoff davies says:

    These are numinous things and how they are expressed.

    http://sarahmaidofalbion.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-is-art.html

  7. David Hamilton says:

    I note the quotation from Jose Ortega y Gasset: “Europeans do not know how to live unless they are engaged in some great enterprise. When this is lacking, they grow petty and feeble and their souls disintegrate.” (208-9)

    The Conservative would enjoy going for a drink in an ordinary pub which is “being” as opposed to “becoming.” It is contentment in one’s culture and community not a constant striving to adopt a role created for us by progressives. We are social beings and it is the everyday pleasures in our communities in which we belong, that give us happiness. This respect for our everyday life leads to our duty to our families and responsibility for them, not to outsiders as the elites advocate.

    The word Progressive encapsulates the intellectual movement from the Enlightenment that led to the orthodoxy of the current elite. It has some common dogmas – like change being better than conservation and the belief that we are progressing to a utopian future – The Brotherhood of Man, a classless society etc It originated with the Enlightenment idea of Progress which is related to the classical liberal belief in the “perfectibility of man” and a supposed God-like ability to transcend nature including their own human nature.

    We are not evolving to a pre-ordained end, but a wholesome culture does improve people and thus the community whereas contemporary art and popular culture is destroying our higher artistic traditions and is a part of our contemporary descent into decadence. This regression will be made worse with the peak oil crisis which Progressives view this as just a potential hiccup in inevitable progress or “historicism.”

    Evolution is not continual progress, it is adaptation, but progressives conflate the two. In fact, what evolutionary pressure there is on humanity is not inevitably leading to the androgenous world of the feminists; the classless society of Marxists or the raceless world of the multi-racialists – all types of progressive teleology which try to try to ignore substance: the material world and the differences in human bodies.

    1. Evolution is not continual progress, it is adaptation, but progressives conflate the two.

      Great comment, as a whole, but I’d like to zero in on this part: evolution and progress are opposites. Evolution is the process of getting better at being what one is; progress is the process of deciding on an ideal and forcing oneself into that role. Consequently, progressives hate evolutionists and evolutionists think progressives are a bit off.

  8. [...] surveying ENR thought have also appeared. One of these is by Tomislav Sunic and the other is by Michael O’Meara. If you are a college student and you want to shock and offend your politically correct professors [...]

  9. [...] surveying ENR thought have also appeared. One of these is by Tomislav Sunic and the other is by Michael O’Meara. If you are a college student and you want to shock and offend your politically correct professors [...]

  10. […] onder de schuilnaam Michael O’Meara , heeft de nieuwste loot van dit ‘nieuw rechts’ in Europa in een boek in kaart gebracht. Van dezelfde Michael O’Meara verscheen dit jaar ook een boek over de Franse […]

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