War and Democracy, by Paul Gottfried


War and Democracy
by Paul Gottfried
170 pages, Arktos, $21

paul_gottfried-war_and_democracyWe have always been fighting the Revolution. This is the thesis, in a more complex form, of Paul Gottfried’s War and Democracy, a collection of essays centered on the instability of modern liberal democracy after the “end of history,” and how it has launched us into an unending series of wars for ideological objectives. In exploring that, Gottfried also uncovers the neurotic and confused nature of modern existence.

In doing so, he targets neoconservatism, which could be described as the greatest threat to right-wing beliefs since it incorporates surface characteristics of conservatism but mates it to a fundamentally liberal mission, namely the spreading of liberal democracy in the notion that it is “progress” and will eliminate wars, liberate people and generally bring our species to a more Utopian existence.

Gottfried picks his targets from the abundant myths and confusions of a modern time. He tackles anti-German feelings in “Germany’s War Wounds,” then picks apart the complex relationship between Jews, Israel and liberalism in two essays, and hits topics as diverse as middle east uprisings and cultural decay in between. A consistent thread runs through all of his pieces: criticism of that which, not making logical sense as a continuous thought, has been amalgamated under an aesthetic notion and tied together as Ideology.

The style of these short essays is crisp and yet curving and cynical. Gottfried attacks the insanity directly by revealing its logical contradictions and then extrudes the argument into a question of consequences. What arises from these disaster policies and broken or malformed assumptions? Perhaps this book’s most powerful psychological effect is that it always hints at a truth suspended beneath the surface of reality, and the need to look not at what’s on our desks in terms of politics, but what its presence among those in power will create.

In the ’70s and ’80s, the American left swarmed with despisers of the U.S., which was then engaged in a global struggle against the Soviets and their proxies. The Right by default became America-boosters, in whose ranks coexisted both traditional anti-Communists and neo-Jacobins. But it was the neo-Jacobins who by the end of the Cold War were able to define the moral substance of the struggle against the Soviets, as a global democratic crusade tied to a particular state representing a political creed. Unlike other nation states, neo-Jacobin America is ethnically and racially pluralistic but imagined to rest on a universally applicable proposition, that everyone should be viewed as equal and be empowered to enjoy human rights. (79)

Obviously I disagree with Gottfried on this point in that even his own history shows the origins of internationalism in the French Revolution. Liberalism gradually infiltrates by a method not described here, and when it takes over, even conservatives parrot it and use it as their justification for war. Further, our use of this creed goes back to the first world war (“the war to end all wars”) and the second world war (“the war to liberate Europe”) if not to any of the post-French Revolution European wars by which Napoleon and others tried to fight monarchy and implement equality.

Neoconservatism is a liberal disease and, while Gottfried illustrates this, I think he’s off-base regarding the blame for a single country, and by doing so, is lunging after the wrong target. However, you will not find a more eloquent or fully descriptive description of why the neoconservative crusade for global liberal democracy is a historical artifact elevated to religious status. He is even more insightful as he decimates the fundamental myths and legends of this new religion, specifically in razor-edged essays like “Wrong Revolution” and “Bourgeois Radical,” both of which have a whiff of the same type of socially critical eye that Tom Wolfe wields to great effect.

One thing Gottfried does that is unique in his field is to associate democracy with an inevitable projection into consumerism. While that might seem to contradict his thesis above, where the incorporation of liberal democracy into patriotism and capitalism under the guise of universal human rights is sui generis to the Americans, it explains more of why this “easy” belief system is so pervasive and destructive, and yet invisible to most people because of their unstated assumption that it is morally superior and progressive:

The current version of democracy benefits from consumer capitalism inasmuch as public administration needs the financial resources and consumer goods produced by the market to maintain social control. Consumer societies also serve the goal of democratic socialization — that is, the creation of “democratic,” as opposed to “authoritarian,” personalities — by encouraging a materialistic way of life. As Daniel Bell argues in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, other things being equal, democratic-capitalist societies work against pre-modern institutions and values. (114)

For those of us on the New Right, Gottfried is a vivid and adamant link between criticism of liberalism and criticism of the capitalist-democratic state religion which has become the primary agent of liberalism. When the Soviet Union failed, Marxists stopped fighting directly, but used instead a divide and conquer technique based on hybridizing existing beliefs with their own, and thus promulgating their own DNA amongst that of the enemy.

If you have been wondering what ties together most dissidents from this time who, like myself and Gottfried and many others, feel the West has become Rome II and is falling in the same way, look no further than War and Democracy. If you are an alt.fan.unabomber devotee who thinks industrial society has trashed us, a paleoconservative who feels even Reagan had a bit of the Red in him, or just a modern moderate who wonders how civilization can have become so crass and meaningless, this book introduces the basics and gives you a strong push in other directions you’ll want to explore.

18 Comments

  1. EvilBuzzard says:

    He seems deluded enough to believe something good came out of The French Revolution. If he’s lucky, he will not have to ever live through anything like the event he celebrates.

    1. He seems deluded enough to believe something good came out of The French Revolution.

      I don’t think he’s yet given up on many of the paleoconservative beliefs that got solidified post-1789, but he does not seem favorable to the great democracy and equality crusade, nor would I mark him as a proponent of multiculturalism.

      However, your point applies in a broader sense to us all: 1789 runs deep, and we must exorcize all of it in order to be able to think again, and when that happens our path will be clear.

  2. Lisa Colorado says:

    …that which, not making logical sense as a continuous thought, has been amalgamated under an aesthetic notion and tied together as Ideology…

    That’s what’s happening, isn’t it.

    1. crow says:

      That sentence utterly baffled me into being unable to fathom it.
      If it is, indeed, what is happening, it’s no wonder I am unable to figure it out.

    2. Ideology isn’t about clear thoughts that are based in reality. If it was, it wouldn’t need constant explaining.

    3. …that which, not making logical sense as a continuous thought, has been amalgamated under an aesthetic notion and tied together as Ideology…

      Yes, that’s the process of liberalism. It’s not logical thought, but the negation of logic in a form of thought based in the individual. All the liberal wants is a lack of accountability and an endorsement for freaky behavior so that the consequences of his actions can never be measured and found wanting.

      1. Lisa Colorado says:

        Well, this also happens in churches, such as the one I grew up in. You were not to think your own thoughts about it and just accept it. But that was church, and that was for children.

        1. You were not to think your own thoughts about it and just accept it.

          This is the nature of dogma, which is often defensive. The church can be infected by Crowdism also. It seems to me that any religion should be self-evident from material reality, since material and the divine are from the same informational/organizational root, but many do not see it this way and prefer dualism instead. For any further commentary, I must defer to our Religion Editor, crow.

  3. NotTheDude says:

    So sick of the silly ‘Such and such Day’ occasions that we seem to have so many of. Trying to make us all care about the same thing at the same time by guilt tripping everyone into thinking that by not wearing a poppy or stopping for a few meaningless minutes to pretend to think about the Holocaust means that we don’t think about it and want it to happen again. All joining in with hate and fear of the unpopular, be it either good or bad seems to be our goal now. It’s a quagmire of the mind to doesn’t lead forward. They always want an excuse to justify selfish, comfortable behaviours and actions. ‘But without Consumerism, we wouldn’t have such a strong economy’ etc. They can shove this mind clutter up somewhere that hurts. Lol.

    1. Either celebrate the holiday, or you want to kill babies. It’s that simple, comrade citizen!

    2. 1349 says:

      ‘But without Consumerism, we wouldn’t have such a strong economy’

      “The current version of democracy benefits from consumer capitalism inasmuch as public administration needs the financial resources and consumer goods produced by the market to maintain social control.”

      Maybe such attitude of the elite is connected with the view of a state as a project, of people as stupid chaotic raw material which must be manipulated, controlled and utilized (most of them probably even having no soul). This, in turn, must reflect a view of the word as god’s project, as opposed to god’s play or god’s dream.
      Medieval states seem to be not of the “project” type.

  4. Bring Forest Johnson back, he’s more interesting.

  5. Elijah says:

    “…democratic-capitalist societies work against pre-modern institutions and values.”

    No wonder Christianity has been reinterpreted as a subset of materialistic leftism. Where once charity meant to orient the world towards truth and beauty, it now means to “make sure even the dumbest people can buy plastic shit imported from China that they don’t need.”

    1. How else will they know they are “free”?

  6. Lisa Colorado says:

    I took a dive into the pool of Michael Tsarion work. This blog and that stuff both suggest that mass consensus, confusion, psychophobia and apathy are very useful to some level of humanoid beings. If they can just present it in a pleasant, smiling way we will think it’s nice, and go for it.

    The control agents at various levels comply with it for different reasons. At the lowest levels, the masses go along with it to try and feel better about the controls put on them. At the next level up, people are paid to train it into others. Above that, people make money selling things that substitute for freedom. Over them are the politicians whose egos feel salved by the vindication of people voting for them. But they are beneath those who get to control corporations that bundle money and opportunity to those they like. And who’s above them?

    Are all of these controls illusions? When will it be tested? It can’t be tested until all of the flailing attempts to hit at the shadows are given up, when somebody knows better. Some people try to mass up and fight it but they’re like my dog chasing light spots on the walls. Do I have the intelligence of a dog compared to that of the controllers? If so, what’s the best answer? Well, I’m not a dog, so it’s best to continue searching. Also, as a human being one of my best qualities is being able to propel objects. Maybe I could work on that on a psychological level.

    1. This fellow?

      http://taroscopes.com/highwindowsarticles/innerzodiac.html

      Are all of these controls illusions?

      Control is generally an illusion except when it is in service to realism. Then it directly reflects the competence of the person in power. Most fear this, since they’re incompetent, so they make unreality-based control, which is usually destructive and always an illusion.

  7. Meow Mix says:

    I’ve always enjoyed reading Gottfried, especially because he always points out the absurd. Libs love to play the ‘America is sooooooooo far rightwing today’-card, yet Gottfried points out the startling fact that most Americans today hold views on social issues that are to the left of the old communist east (think of the blatantly homophobic propaganda journals the Bolsheviks and Maoists written in defense of ‘traditional’ gender roles and contempt for immigrants and minorities).

    He has some interesting ideas for sure, but I question his methods. During a video conference he stated that he was ideologically paleoconservative, yet tactically libertarian. His contention was that what we call modern liberalism isn’t liberalism at all since it has little in common with classical liberal ideals, but has evolved into a pure technocratic system concerned merely with using the state to subsidize various interest groups. In other words, traditional liberalism and conservativism both declined at the end of the cold war. His only solution is to scale back the state, since it is an instrument of the modern liberals (we could compare them to the Soviet ‘nomenklatura’). The problem I have is that I don’t think this is a feasible tactic as small government-libertarianism seems to be an increasingly unpopular notion in the age of big government. The Neocons, at least, recognized the reality of that and tried to adapt conservativism to a modern liberal state (whether they were successful is besides the point.)

    My ideal strategy, as I’ve stated in the past, is straight from the Deleuze handbook: don’t react to your enemy, infiltrate your enemy and build on it from within. In other words, just like the rightwing was able to colonize libertarianism and the neocons were at least able to get there foot in the door of the liberal state, there is always the possibility of the right reversing the gains of the left by using their own ideals and programs against them. For instance, I think it was Keith Preston who did an interesting article in which he talked of how the liberal sexual revolution had overturned Christian notions of sexual prudence but that the rightwing should not be too concerned since pagan europe was hardly squeemish about ‘perversion’. The critique then doesn’t turn on sexual promiscuity per say, but strikes at the shallowness of the liberal notion of sexual revolution (they didn’t go far enough, basically). This is just one example of the type of unusual thinking I’m considering here. More later.

    1. His contention was that what we call modern liberalism isn’t liberalism at all since it has little in common with classical liberal ideals, but has evolved into a pure technocratic system concerned merely with using the state to subsidize various interest groups.

      I had trouble with this as well, although I think he’s trying to package his ideas into easily digestible form since that’s a major challenge since his ideas are not simplistic like the modern norm. When you’re teaching something that requires an above average interpretive ability, you’re already the underdog, so keep it as simple as possible.

      In my view, the modern technocratic system is where liberal materialism was always heading. It can go no other way.

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