Manifesto for a European Renaissance by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier


Manifesto for a European Renaissance
by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier
47 pages, Arktos, $9

The problem with ideas is that we recognize what we know, but the unknown takes a long time to understand. Believing that quantity over quality will help us, we often demand “facts” and “examples” as a knee-jerk response to hide our confusion.

With the New Right, little is known. The name is not even “official,” having been bestowed on the group — a ragtag band of fiercely independent, mostly French, writers — by journalists. They are not a political movement, but a cultural one. And so they are rarely understood.

Even more baffling is that a fairly large degree of confusion exists within the people who make up the New Right, and their fans, to the extent that an outsider might be correctly puzzled. To clarify much of this, Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier unleash a pure manifesto.

Like all good manifestos, this is not an attempt to “prove” something to you by linear logic. It is an explanation of a thought-system in which all the parts relate to one another, so there’s no point doing anything but reading it all and seeing if it seems like a reasonable solution even if in a fuzzy, hazy and poetic way.

The answer is that it does, but nothing in life is perfect (including perfection: a dead ideal) and so there are some glitches in the reasoning, perhaps. Perhaps. What is clear is that there are no glitches in the writing, which features not only the erudite pens of the authors but the steely-eyed detail-conscious and systematic editing of John Morgan and the windswept minimalistic layout art of Daniel Friberg.

de Benoist and Champetier make a good case for this belief because they’ve purged the extremism from the right, incorporated a lot of familiar leftist rhetoric, and explained it all in a goal-oriented non-reactionary manner.

Where they go too far is incorporating the leftist attitudes too clearly. These are attitudes that are standards of behavior, but can easily distract from the actual goal, which must also exist. They have admirably avoided the usual pitfalls and rage of the right, describing instead of what they don’t like, what they do like.

Their essential theory is that the modern West is heading for oblivion because it has replaced culture with commerce, and thanks to the consumer nature of modern democracy, few are speaking out because it’s unprofitable and they could end up social rejects. The solution, the authors claim, is something called “metapolitics,” which is basically a cultural wave achieving Nietzsche’s re-evaluation of all values, and thus indirectly influencing politics.

In their view, our tendency to rely on “ideological” constructs instead of naturalistic knowledge and culture has led us away from reality and into a world composed of human symbols and desires.

The destruction of the life-world for the benefit of instrumental reason, (economic) growth, and material development have resulted in an unprecedented impoverishment of the spirit, and the generalization of anxiety related to living in an always uncertain present, in a world deprived both of the past and the future. Thus, modernity has given birth to the most empty civilization mankind has ever known: the language of advertising has become the paradigm of all social discourse; the primacy of money has imposed the omnipresence of commodities; man has been transformed into an object of exchange in a context of mean hedonism; technology has ensnared the life-world in a network of rationalism — a world replete with delinquency, violence, and incivility, in which man is at war with himself and against all, i.e., an unreal world of drugs, virtual reality and media-hyped sports, in which the countryside is abandoned for unlivable suburbs and monstrous megalopolises, and where the solitary individual merges into an anonymous and hostile crowd, while traditional social, political, cultural or religious mediations become increasingly uncertain and undifferentiated. (13)

To my mind, this lengthy paragraph encompasses the essential message of the New Right: the modern world is hell, and we made it so by relying on the tools that justified good-sounding options like “freedom” and “equality,” but like all good intentions, these have opened a pathway to the abyss.

Their point is well-taken that it’s impossible to oppose any of this if you take each point separately. You have to connect the dots, and then oppose the whole thing. As they point out elsewhere, the 20th century is a graveyard of ideologies who tried to be anti-modern but were too infested with its assumptions, and thus dragged themselves into the same oblivion as that which they were fighting against.

Some of those assumptions live on in this text, particularly its adoption of social subsidies and open discourse as goals in themselves. There’s also a hint of the idea of a unified Europe including Eurasia which makes historians queasy, much in the same way Ron Paul’s idealistic isolationism hit many people’s unreasonableness filter. These are small glitches, things that will in the future be worked out as more of these situations unravel to reveal their core.

What makes this book compelling is that it targets the whole of modernity as a single thing, and shows us the beginnings of a new language for discussing politics, in which values like culture, nature and existential experience have a voice. That in itself is a profound change, a re-ordering of civilization itself on par with the deep ecology movement’s manifesto in that it asks us first and foremost to re-order our values, and lets the inevitable unfold from that.

Industrial capitalism has been gradually overtaken by a financial capitalism whose goal is to realize maximum returns in the short run, all to the detriment of the condition of national economies and of the long-term interest of the people…The ubiquity of capital allows the financial markets to control politics. (42)

If a revolt against the modern world needs a mission statement, this short book provides an excellent starting point. Detractors will mention the lack of figures, charts and details, but the advantage of this format is that the whole idea can be understood at once.

We have binary choices every day in life. We can stick with inertia, or make a choice for something different. With Manifesto for a European Renaissance, de Benoist and Champetier make a good cause for a choice not just of lesser evils, but to throw out the concept that choosing any form of evil is legitimate at all.

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22 Responses to “Manifesto for a European Renaissance by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier”

  1. EvilBuzzard says:

    This is great. It is also why the Left hasn’t been more successful to date in the US. A book like this seems to accomplish two things.

    1) It addresses the problem of Leftism intelligently. Vote against Obama for fundamentally wrecking the mechanisms of your culture to survive and perpetuate. Then you don’t really have to care if he he has a hidden Kenyawn Birf Surtificate the *proves* he’s a Sekrit Moslem.

    2) It offers a postive alternative. You can make jobs, families, communities and the rest. You don’t have to have government make them for you. It sells empowerment. Once money is again reduced to its proper role as a tool by which you participate in economic life, you become the decider. The Left always loses once decision are powered down to the individual level.

    • ferret says:

      “Once money is again reduced to its proper role as a tool by which you participate in economic life, you become the decider.”

      That is, no capital, no capitalism. Then what? Participate in what type of economic life? Or no economy at all?

      • 1349 says:

        Imagine a large successful business. Is it capitalist or socialist inside of itself?

        • ferret says:

          Capitalist or socialist – depends on who owns the means of production. If it is a huge single business, it will be most likely a state capitalism, similar to the Soviet one, I would say, the least efficient type of capitalism. It is hard to imagine a working socialism: people have capitalist consciosness that is not going to change – no reasons or conditions exist.

          • 1349 says:

            Seems like i must clarify what i meant, but i’m lazy. =)

            If it is a huge single business, it will be most likely a state capitalism similar to the Soviet one, I would say, the least efficient type of capitalism.

            Imagine a successful enterprise, i asked. I mean a creative one (industrial, agricultural, IT…) in the first place. What kind of “economic relations” are there among its participants, on the inside? (Forget about the outside relations of the enterprise for now.)

            people have capitalist consciosness

            People have a consciousness directed to giving birth, playing (like gods) and overcoming (like those less than gods).

            • ferret says:

              It was my fault. We are having this windy Sandy right now. It is distracting, and the pressure on my barometer reads 715mm.

              From the inside it would be a kind of hierarchy, maybe (constitutional?) monarchy as a form of government. It is possible to talk about anarchy, democracy, etc., but not about capitalism or socialism in this case: these two are for the system.

              It is impossible to talk about economic relations since from the inside the employees are not selling their time and qualifications, but rather are belonging to this enterprise and following the rules and commands from the above.

              About the consciousness: these overcoming people are doing it in a certain way, depending on the system. In slavery they are working under the stimulus (goad, prock) and have a slave consciousness.

              In capitalism this overcoming goes with the dream to start buying somebody’s work and re-sell it for profit; these overcoming people buy stock for this purpose and therefore have a capitalist consciousness. Even if they are proles.

              • In capitalism this overcoming goes with the dream to start buying somebody’s work and re-sell it for profit; these overcoming people buy stock for this purpose and therefore have a capitalist consciousness. Even if they are proles.

                This seems to me to be the problem of usury and stock markets and other proxies for wealth. They may be necessary, but we should carefully consider their impact on our consciousness.

              • 1349 says:

                It is impossible to talk about economic relations since from the inside the employees are not selling their time and qualifications

                Maybe it’s because monarchy is quite incompatible with measuring life by ecomony and with the “economy is our destiny” attitude?

                In slavery they are working under the stimulus and have a slave consciousness.

                That’s a marxist-defined point of view.
                I don’t quite believe there is some “slave conscience”. I don’t believe the “stimulus” was the only, or even the main, reason why slaves worked. Marxist/leftist logic has long ago come to the predictable conclusion that a diligent student or, say, an allegiant soldier, are “slaves” and have “slave conscience”.
                If there’s a master that will help me grow and give birth to the best things i can, i agree to be a slave.

                • crow says:

                  That used to be the whole point of the Christian church. Flocks and sheep, etc.
                  Willing submission.
                  Its passing leaves a monstrous gap in the human experience.

                  • 1349 says:

                    Willing submission is necessary in the process of studying/teaching virtually any discipline, as well as in any religion, i guess.

                    “Thou must obey some one,
                    and for a long time;
                    otherwise thou wilt come to grief,
                    and lose all respect for thyself ”—
                    this seems to me to be
                    the moral imperative of nature

                    Whose words?

                    • crow says:

                      Whose words? I have no idea.
                      But sound sense, for sure.
                      It seems obvious, but modernity renders it abusive, controlling, and probably illegal.

      • EvilBuzzard says:

        No. That is you put money and the economic system in its proper perspective. You perform a job and have a career and pursue a set of investments to achieve a set of goals you lay out. The job, areer, invests et al. don’t become your primary goals.

        • ferret says:

          Will be a competition there?

        • That is you put money and the economic system in its proper perspective. You perform a job and have a career and pursue a set of investments to achieve a set of goals you lay out. The job, areer, invests et al. don’t become your primary goals.

          This is to my mind the real promise of conservatism: instead of rejecting money outright, we incorporate it into our society as a method, not a goal.

          The problem with Socialism and Communism (less moderate shades of leftism, otherwise not different at all) is that they are still focused on money, specifically income redistribution, as the goal.

          Culture, personal growth, and reverent transcendent spirituality should be the goals of a healthy civilization, with money as yet another means to that end.

    • Vote against Obama for fundamentally wrecking the mechanisms of your culture to survive and perpetuate.

      Exactly. The problem with Obama is that he’s a leftist, and leftism destroys cultures. The means by which it destroys them doesn’t matter, because its basic approach (reality is optional, fantasy is reality) will find a way to make any method into a destructive weapon.

      Liberalism is like a suicidal drunk. Hand him the car keys, and he goes and crashes into a bush of orphans. Hand him a cigarette, and he burns down your house. Let him near a blender, and he “somehow” shorts out your electrical grid.

      Vote for anything outside of liberalism, and then have a chat with that person so that they know you want a fair (but not level) playing field, and a government that does not interfere with socially conservative lifestyles..

      • ferret says:

        “The problem with Socialism and Communism (less moderate shades of leftism, otherwise not different at all) is that they are still focused on money, specifically income redistribution, as the goal.”

        Perhaps it’s better to say, “The problem with Liberalism is that it is still focused on money,…” – because communism is a moneyless society without income and its redistribution.

  2. ChevalierdeJohnstone says:

    Before I spend money, in what way does this proposed solution differ from Rerum Novarum?

    • About the Rerum Novarum:

      It supported the rights of labor to form unions, rejected communism and unrestricted capitalism, whilst affirming the right to private property.

      I don’t recall any mention of unions, but as a traditionalist, I could never support those.

      Also as a thinking person, I could never support unions: they have done nothing but destroy settled industries, install organized crime, and create the epidemic of offshoring that currently blights our industry. Unions are a bad method. American industry learned from the failures of the auto industry and now, the instant a union starts sniffing around, they either fight it or move offshore. I am not even convinced of the need for unions, except to protect sub-par workers, which is a sociopathic goal in the first place. Regulation can be massively destructive, and plans like minimum wage, unions and heavily rule-based regulatory mechanisms tend to raise labor costs without reward, causing less employment or less full-time employment.

      As you can see in the article above, however, there are numerous other parts of the New Right that are not mentioned in the Rerum Novarum. My guess is that you’ll see an underlying leftist bias in the Rerum Novarum, and more of a surface one in the New Right.The New Right is not without its failings, primary among them being its inability to fully detach from some modern liberal notions (socialism) and replace them with traditional notions (sponsorship, caste), but it is not a worker-centric view — it’s a middle-class-centric view.

  3. Lisa Colorado says:

    Manifesto is an eye-catching word. I like it for describing a cultural shift that would benefit people, not so much for imagining an economic system and eradicating a culture in the process, as with Marx.

    • ferret says:

      “not so much for imagining an economic system”

      What if we try to make a cultural shift in a cannibal tribe, would it be enough to teach them to hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand? If they will continue eating the same food even without cooking it, this cultural shift will be only temporary; everything will return back to the old etiquette.

      Is it possible to stop thinking about profit while living in the economic system that has the profit as the main condition of its existence?

    • I like it for describing a cultural shift that would benefit people, not so much for imagining an economic system and eradicating a culture in the process, as with Marx.

      This describes why conservatives refer to leftism as an ideology, and rightism as an organic or natural outgrowth of common sense and personal moral development.

      It’s more accurate to say that leftism is an external ideology, meaning that it substitutes growth outside of the individual for individual needs, and thus gives the individual an easier path to feeling successful.

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