Some time ago, Greg Johnson at Counter-Currents wrote about women and someone brought up Jane Austen. Six years later, this provoked Leftist celebrity-academia to sperg out and get schooled by AltRight.
With that backstory out of the way, we can look at the actual appeal of Jane Austen, and then expand upon it. Luckily, you have a credible guide; I wrote extensively on Jane Austen while entrenched in academia, before realizing that academia was just as much a lie as the private sector and bailing out of both as much as possible. And so, there are some expansions that can be argued as well.
Austen writes books that many still consider “women’s novels” for their topic matter, which is fine as long as you think that Apocalypse Now was a war film and Repo Man was a film about cars, or that Naked Lunch was really about heroin, for that matter. Setting is not content; a good novel is like a virus, with an outer shell of setting and characters, and a payload of philosophy and detailed observation of life.
As revealed in one of our recent Austen reviews, her thinking as a writer extends beyond the concerns of her characters to human questions of morality, existential fulfillment and even civilization itself. She may write through the lens of women’s issues, but Austen belongs on the shelf with Nietzsche, Houellebecq and CÃ©line.
Naturally, the Establishment is resisting the idea that Austen could be Alt Right, which tells you right away that some similarity between the two can be found, because otherwise they would not bother getting the hive-mind in a buzz about this issue. As Hannibal Bateman writes:
From The Times article â€œJane Austen Has Alt-Right Fans? Heavens to Darcy!â€:
But it has prompted the most sustained chatter among Austen scholars, a more reliably liberal bunch who, like Ms. Wright, emphatically reject white nationalist readings of her novels.
â€œNo one who reads Jane Austenâ€™s words with any attention and reflection can possibly be alt-right,â€ Elaine Bander, a retired professor and a former officer of the Jane Austen Society of North America, said in an email.
…Of course Jane Austen comes out of a White world. This is why the commentary on the original Counter Currents article were so relevant. Because Jane Austen as a European writer speaks to peculiar conditions of European man, the same way Langston Hughes and Chaim Potok speak to their respective black and Jewish readers. All of Austenâ€™s work takes place in a world where European identity, and in particular, regency English countryside identity, were presupposed.
Austen not only touches on, but by arguing for certain attitudes within them, endorses some of the most taboo institutions to Leftists, including caste systems, eugenics and aristocracy. In the Austen world, people are either good or bad, and those that behave according to the psychology of Leftism are parasitic and threatening.
Click here for an imaging of what Jane Austen might have looked like. Just two centuries ago, and already so much is forgotten. But her vision lives on because it remains relevant for any sane and thinking person in this time, as well.
For example, her classic Pride And Prejudice melds eugenic theory with an intensely realistic morality. All of the bad men are slightly effete, harmless-looking and parasitic; all of the good ones are elitist, good-natured and generous. The self-deluding characters end up with other self-deluders and make themselves miserable, and realists find each other and escape.
In her book Emma, Austen describes the Leftist mentality as similar to a lonely over-disciplined child playing in a doll house. The people and consequences are not real, only symbolic, and this manifests in a profound and damaging loneliness. In the background, civilization chortles on, oblivious to these deeper issues, as if Austen is reminding us that most of humanity is inert.
For this reason, it is both a mistake to argue that Jane Austen is an Alt Right writer as it is to argue that her work does not contain some ideas which overlap with the Alt Right. She writes about a white world of a different era, in which social rank (caste distinctions) and personal qualities are more important than commerce. Her world is appalled by European foreigners, much less non-whites, whose presence she would find as awkward as she finds the concept of slavery.
In other words, like most literary superstars, Jane Austen was that odd mixture of intense Realism and a passionate sense that the idea is greater than the material, or Germanic-style Idealism. In her books, characters are practical, but also live for spirit and a strong sense of doing what is right not only by themselves, but by principle itself.
Claiming that her philosophy fits into the Alt Right world is thus both true and not the whole story. As The Chronicle writes:
On the popular blog of the alt-right publisher Counter-Currents, the world of Austenâ€™s novels is extolled as a prototype for the â€œracial dictatorshipâ€ of tomorrow. One commenter wrote, â€œIf, after the ethnostate is created, we revert back to an Austen-like world, we males ought to endure severe sacrifices as well. â€¦ If traditional marriage Ã la P&P [Pride and Prejudice] is going to be imposed, again, in an ethnostate, we must behave like gentlemen.â€
In Jane Austen, the only reason the ethnostate works at all is the presence of an aristocracy. Austen’s work is intensely elitist, and she recognizes that most people are horrible and most human events are in fact failures. For example, witness this classic voicing by Elizabeth Bennet that expresses elitism and aristocracy at the same time:
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.
Most things are garbage; most people are confused. The few who rise above merit attention, and this theme runs through Emma and Pride And Prejudice as well as other Austen works. In a foreshadowing of modern literature, most of her characters end up self-destructing or slotted into dead-end existences, while the few good ones struggle and then finally find a path of meaning for themselves.
This elitism is the core of hierarchy. When sorting out a human group, it makes sense to place the best above the rest, not just by external traits (wealth, power, status, popularity) but by internal traits (honor, intelligence, wisdom, pathos). Much of Austen’s work consists of filtering out the internal traits from the external image presented by characters, including slimy ones.
For those of us in the present day, this becomes essential because under democracy, everything is political. In Austen’s world we can see a comradeship of the gifted in which the political is recognized as a front, and the internal traits and motivations of individuals determine their quality and thus their relevance to that world. Austen may be as anti-democratic as she is insightful.
Her characters are — unlike modern “literary” protagonistas — not uncomfortable with their roles. Women want to get married and have families; men want to be men; proles want to prole, and elites are concerned with the abstract issues that are relevant to leadership. Each thing has its place, and the only remaining task is to sort them all by hierarchy.
That type of comfort only occurs in a strict hierarchy of both leadership and social status, demonstrated in her time by aristocracy and caste. Every person has a place, or zone of comfortable operation, paired to his or her characteristics. Scullery maids are not expected to be ladies, nor are footmen expected to be gentlemen. But all are accepted as they are and even seen through a kindly filter.
One reason that Austen remains popular is that she shows us a time before the neurotic existence occasioned by modernity, which has its roots in the removal of this leadership and hierarchy and their replacement with egalitarian mob rule. In Jane Austen’s time, being accurate in speech was still more important than flattering others, and discerning inner traits was permissible. Neither is true today.
This leads us to another uncomfortable recognition: the white world of Jane Austen could not exist without its other aspects such as aristocracy. The world she describes will never emerge from equality and democracy. It is an entirely different direction that we could have at any moment, were we willing to surrender our pretense of equality.
Aristocracy in turn could not exist without her elitism, or recognition that inner traits exist and are important, and that we need those with the best inner traits on top because if decisions are left up to lesser people, crisis and horror result. It is this realization, which reverses the logical framework for both the French Revolution and The Enlightenment,™ that really scares the Left.
If we read Austen as honest and alert people, we encounter a vision of human existence which directly refutes Leftism while simultaneously adopting and disciplining the emotional responses behind it, much as Elizabeth Bennet learns to discipline her emotions in Pride And Prejudice. While that vision includes the ethnostate, it is not limited to it.
That in turn normalizes the ethnostate as a concept. Instead of being a radical idea, it is an ingredient in the most sensible recipe for happiness; it is not chosen for its symbolic meaning or personal value, but because it works, like every other idea demonstrated positively in an Austen novel.
Her insight is to show us that the reason these policies work at the national level is because they work at the personal level. The question of civilization is not institutions, but individuals, and individuals follow the same framework and so can be predicted. Is Austen Alt Right? Perhaps neither yes nor no, but she attacks modernity the same way the Alt Right does, and we should heed her wisdom.