Nemesis: The Jouvenelian vs. The Liberal Model Of Human Orders
by C.A. Bond
Imperium Press, 186 pages, $16
When living on the Right, one either indulges in the symbol-slinging of mass culture or ventures into where the Right really lives, which is in systematic analysis of the human condition and its needs through academic, literary, psychological, and philosophical study.
Nemesis: The Jouvenelian vs. The Liberal Model Of Human Orders comes to us from the academic tradition, although what we might call “underground academia,” since it references material misunderstood and ignored by most of mainstream academia.
It analyzes postwar liberal democracy through the lens of Bertrand de Jouvenel, who in his classic On Power describes something much like Crowdism, or how human societies inevitably degrade to a centralized lowest common denominator order through social processes, without outside intervention.
Power, in the sense de Jouvenel sees it, inevitably accrues toward centralization as part of the decay process of humanity society. He sees it as having three parts: (1) a shared center of attention, more like the “cultural wave” or “metapolitics” of the Alt-Right and New Right, respectively; (2) institutions, both public and private; and (3) the periphery, which consists of the individuals governed by the system.
When a society starts out, power moves from a state of unity — where monarchs, aristocrats (his term for lesser aristocracy), and people all exhibit, understand, and seek a certain type of social order — to one where power can be independently leveraged, meaning that the periphery and institutions are manipulated by a new center which is a concept of power detached from civilization taken as a whole with unity of purpose, ideal, and behavior.
The centralization process divides society into those for it and those against it, with some of this mapping to ideological lines:
The origins of this conception, rather pertinently for our model, date to the seating arrangements of the French National Assembly following the French Revolution. The various factions within the assembly self-sorted, so that on left side of the assembly sat the republicans, the forces of centralization (consciously or not) who advocated widespread change and social leveling, and on the right sat the monarchists, the forces of decentralization who sought to maintain the patterns of existence that obtained before the Revolution. From the Jouvenelian angle, this split was simply a recognition of the relation between the forces of centralization and the equality and individualism which they espoused—an equality and individualism which, it must be remembered, was directed at the intermediary centers of the pow-er structure. That they were centralizing has, in modernity, been completely obscured. It is this central confusion which has rendered attempts to explain phenomena so problematic, and we can see this in detail when we attend to the structures of the relative political wings. (113)
The point of this in turn is that the division of power from a shared entity, and its replacement with a centralized or control-oriented focus more on keeping the group together than on achieving any goals outside of the group, allows institutions to manipulate the periphery as a means of changing the center, or the political culture and narrative which keeps people thinking they are in a functional civilization:
These various positions permit a sort of modularity in the Jouvenelian dynamic, in that, depending on the circumstances, the elites within society can, and will, ally with different peripheral groups at different times; the manner in which the broad left wing has developed over history is a testament to this. The purpose of centralizing elites aligning with peripheral groups is that the positions taken by these groups represent various attacks on the extant intermediary power structures, and as such, represent valuable resources in the process of centralization. (114)
Centralization occurs through the development of leverage over the population, which then allows institutions or leaders to use society as a means-to-the-end of their own power:
We can see this relative weakness of the early kings when we look at the nature of kingship under Phillip Augustus, who reigned as the King of France between 1180 and 1223. As Jouvenel takes pains to point out, Phillip Augustus had no regular system of taxation, no standing army of any kind, no governmental officials, and little wealth beyond his own estates. This was a comparable state of affairs to other contemporary monarchs in Europe. Now, compare this to Louis XIV who reigned as the King of France between 1638 and 1715. Louis XIV had a widespread permanent taxation system, a standing army of around 200,000 men, a police force answerable to his court, and a specialized governmental apparatus. (8)
Not surprisingly, much of this involves money:
By introducing its own coinage, or by fostering the use of foreign coinage introduced by others, the primary Power could now forgo traditional forms of interaction with the power structure, and could, instead, hire individuals and develop new institutions based on this new system of coinage. (79)
Development of these external control apparatuses, through separating function from goal, allows society to degenerate, just as in any committee people quickly stop talking about forward-thinking goals and focus instead on what the room can agree on so that everyone can go home. When the ancients talk about societies becoming “exhausted,” it is this that they reference; people no longer possess the moral, intellectual, and spiritual energy — a reflection of the amount of existential doubt that they feel, and of the futility of dealing with a sprawling, bloated, and increasingly individualistic society — to focus on getting details right in terms of accuracy in reality, focusing instead on building consensus and maintaining unity. In this sense, they transition from an outlook based in goals, and instead look toward regulating methods, with the supposition that those methods will then exclude “bad” goals and leave only “good” goals, which corresponds to the basic causal error of assuming that “if A, then B” also implies “if B, then A.” Goals represent causes, and methods are effects, since one must have a purpose to an action in order to undertake a goal; when effects are used as goals (“effect-effect reasoning”) then goals and their referent, reality itself, become forgotten.
This corresponds to Plato’s notion of gold and silver races:
For when your guardians are ignorant of the law of births, and unite bride and bridegroom out of season, the children will not be goodly or fortunate. And though only the best of them will be appointed by their predecessors, still they will be unworthy to hold their fathers’ places, and when they come into power as guardians, they will soon be found to fall in taking care of us, the Muses, first by under-valuing music; which neglect will soon extend to gymnastic; and hence the young men of your State will be less cultivated. In the succeeding generation rulers will be appointed who have lost the guardian power of testing the metal of your different races, which, like Hesiod’s, are of gold and silver and brass and iron. And so iron will be mingled with silver, and brass with gold, and hence there will arise dissimilarity and inequality and irregularity, which always and in all places are causes of hatred and war. This the Muses affirm to be the stock from which discord has sprung, wherever arising; and this is their answer to us.
He sees social decline as a loss of their focus on virtue, which is replaced with advantage to the self alone, in parallel to the rise of tyranny:
When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways: the iron and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses and gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, not wanting money but having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and maintainers, whom they had formerly protected in the condition of freemen, and made of them subjects and servants; and they themselves were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them.
In de Jouvenel, this decline occurs once leaders realize that effect-effect thinking does not work in reality, but it does work on a Crowd, which means that if these leaders focus on controlling the crowd, they can use it as a means-to-the-end of the continued power of the leaders, a mentality called tyranny or control.
This mentality parallels Captain Ahab saying “Ye are not other men, but my arms and my legs; and so obey me” or even the One Ring in Tolkien, itself based on similar rings in Plato and the Nibelungenlied. An external object becomes the method of external control, instead of bringing society into line with virtue as the gold and silver races have in their sociological youth.
In this way, centralizing power including democracy “grows” from the seed of decay started by a separation of method from goal:
From this history, it seems obvious that democracy was not a rationally discovered concept, but was, instead, a cultural production of centralizing Power, just as the actions of Solon, Peisistratus, and Cleisthenes clearly were. (77)
This allows a takeover by the institutions of the periphery and through it, a change in the center, which is the type of “fundamental transformation” or “social engineering” that modern people may be familiar with:
We live in an era of ever greater levels of individualization, where developments are such as to constitute appeals to group identities (as seen in identity politics, which still represents groups of individuals); the underlying principle remains the same, in that they are all primarily directed at intermediary institutions, and, by default, call for the expansion of centralized Power. (45)
Unlike most thinkers, de Jouvenel notes that this arises from individualism, or the “me first” of individuals who no longer feel bonded to the shared work toward a goal that defines a thriving civilization. Civilizations decay once they succeed at what we might call Level One of the Civilization Game, which consists of driving back the beasts, taming agriculture, and creating institutions — even informal ones like medical knowledge — which enable them to be independent. At this point, civilization needs to pick a new goal to bond people together, but the inevitable human tendency (representing entropy) is to instead choose to bond people together by forcing them to adopt certain methods, an approach that we might call social control.
Crowdism, in this view, is an elemental force like erosion which happens when society loses sight of its transcendent or intangible goals and focuses on the short-term, material/tangible, and control-oriented instead. A society of this nature loses its internal structure, formed of the interaction between customs and people which result in the promotion of all individuals to appropriate roles where they can further the civilizational goal, and it centralizes instead to avoid falling apart. In this way, we see that civilization succumbs to a “tragedy of the commons,” where the commons is the Jouvenelian center: continuity from past to future, culture, genetics, values, aesthetics, spiritual knowledge, and behavior. Centralization occurs through lack of any goal except power itself, and results in tyranny; much like the Soviet system, it first makes people so obedient to external control that they lose the ability to be autonomous, and as such, to trust what they know of reality and act on it, so the society becomes progressively deluded until it self-destructs.
In addition, this decay likes to be egalitarian because it constantly seeks to defend itself against the loss of social goodwill by pretending that it is impersonal, or applied equally to all, instead of being for the benefit of those who seek individualism paradoxically within society, a state often called “anarchy with grocery stores”:
The need of the elite to convince themselves that they are not really acting as the directors of this process has a psychologically strong pull on them, which can be seen in elite preference for theories of history of the Whiggish, Hegelian, or Marxist varieties. Such systems of thought provide a framework within which the actions of the elite can be reformulated in impersonal terms that provide a supposedly neutral point of rational agreement; the purpose of this being that their otherwise clearly conflict-driven actions become something other than resentment-fueled attacks against other centers of power. The result is that the elite take on the mantle of the cause in a profound sense, and identify themselves as the underdog in a great struggle against an oppressive and evil superior force, despite being themselves in possession of superior re-sources. This oppressing force is, of course, identified as the much maligned right wing of the power structure, or, as we can describe it in Jouvenelian terms, the subsidiary structures of authority in the process of being undermined by the primary Power center. (121-22)
The good news for those of us who are still conscious among the Remnant in the long decline of modernity comes from the knowledge that while everyone else is focusing on being the institution that leverages the periphery, the cost of effect-effect/means-over-ends reasoning is that the center remains ignored and can be redefined:
Where, then, is the international centralizing Power in our modern order? The answer is that while there is such a center, it is not conscious. While many of these concepts have been developed in such a way that they presuppose a center of Power at the international level, this center has not been formally occupied, and instead merely exists in potentiality. (149)
C.A. Bond brings us an intriguing tome in Nemesis: The Jouvenelian vs. The Liberal Model Of Human Orders in that it both explains de Jouvenel in a modern context and unites that modern concept to examples throughout history and philosophy, tying together a lot of related concepts and condensing vocabulary so that de Jouvenel leaves the world of pure theory and enters the possibility of applied theory.
Written in an academic style which allows Bond to make use of discursive explanations to make connections to the larger containers, such as control, in which de Jouvenel identifies parts, this book thrusts the reader into the type of mature discussion about the nature of power and civilization we need to have if humanity wants to escape from its current doldrums, brought on by near-universal emulation of Western society which is in hard decline.
Even for those who may dislike de Jouvenel or have no experience of him, Nemesis: The Jouvenelian vs. The Liberal Model Of Human Orders provides a quick and thorough introduction to the underlying issues that any discussion of these topics must have. While it is a challenging read perhaps, it offers more than enough to keep any mind focused, and plenty of unresolved but clearly stated issues for creativity to explore.