The recently deceased John Dewey was applauded by the American press as the most representative figure of American civilisation. This is quite right. His theories are entirely representative of the vision of man and life which is the premise of Americanism and its ‘democracy’.
The essence of such theories is this: that everyone can become what he wants to, within the limits of the technological means at his disposal. Equally, a person is not what he is from his true nature and there is no real difference between people, only differences in qualifications. According to this theory anyone can be anyone he wants to be if he knows how to train himself.
This is obviously the case with the ‘self-made man’; in a society which has lost all sense of tradition the notion of personal aggrandisement will extend into every aspect of human existence, reinforcing the egalitarian doctrine of pure democracy. If the basis of such ideas is accepted, then all natural diversity has to be abandoned. Each person can presume to possess the potential of everyone else and the terms ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ lose their meaning; every notion of distance and respect loses meaning; all life-styles are open to all. To all organic conceptions of life Americans oppose a mechanistic conception. In a society which has ‘started from scratch’, everything has the characteristic of being fabricated. In American society appearances are masks not faces. At the same time, proponents of the American way of life are hostile to personality.
The Americans’ ‘open-mindedness’, which is sometimes cited in their favour, is the other side of their interior formlessness. The same goes for their ‘individualism’. Individualism and personality are not the same: the one belongs to the formless world of quantity, the other to the world of quality and hierarchy. The Americans are the living refutation of the Cartesian axiom, “I think, therefore I am”: Americans do not think, yet they are. The American ‘mind’, puerile and primitive, lacks characteristic form and is therefore open to every kind of standardisation.
In a superior civilisation, as, for example, that of the Indo-Aryans, the being who is without a characteristic form or caste (in the original meaning of the word), not even that of servant or shudra, would emerge as a pariah. In this respect America is a society of pariahs. There is a role for pariahs. It is to be subjected to beings whose form and internal laws are precisely defined. Instead the modern pariahs seek to become dominant themselves and to exercise their dominion over all the world.
There is a popular notion about the United States that it is a ‘young nation’ with a ‘great future before it’. Apparent American defects are then described as the ‘faults of youth’ or ‘growing pains’. It is not difficult to see that the myth of ‘progress’ plays a large part in this judgement. According to the idea that everything new is good, America has a privileged role to play among civilised nations. In the First World War the United States intervened in the role of ‘the civilised world’ par excellence. The ‘most evolved’ nation had not only a right but a duty to interfere in the destinies of other peoples.
The structure of history is, however, cyclical not evolutionary. It is far from being the case that the most recent civilisations are necessarily ‘superior’. They may be, in fact, senile and decadent. There is a necessary correspondence between the most advanced stages of a historical cycle and the most primitive. America is the final stage of modern Europe. Guenon called the United States ‘the far West’, in the novel sense that the United States represents the reductio ad absurdum of the negative and the most senile aspects of Western civilisation. What in Europe exist in diluted form are magnified and concentrated in the United States whereby they are revealed as the symptoms of disintegration and cultural and human regression. The American mentality can only be interpreted as an example of regression, which shows itself in the mental atrophy towards all higher interests and incomprehension of higher sensibility. The American mind has limited horizons, one conscribed to e! veryth ing which is immediate and simplistic, with the inevitable consequence that everything is made banal, basic and levelled down until it is deprived of all spiritual life. Life itself in American terms is entirely mechanistic. The sense of ‘I’ in America belongs entirely to the physical level of existence. The typical American neither has spiritual dilemmas nor complications: he is a ‘natural’ joiner and conformist.
The primitive American mind can only superficially be compared to a young mind. The American mind is a feature of the regressive society to which I have already referred.
The much-vaunted sex appeal of American women is drawn from films, reviews and pin-ups, and is in large print fictitious. A recent medical survey in the United States showed that 75 per cent of young American women are without strong sexual feeling and instead of satisfying their libido they seek pleasure narcissistically in exhibitionism, vanity and the cult of fitness and health in a sterile sense. American girls have ‘no hang-ups about sex’; they are ‘easy going’ for the man who sees the whole sexual process as something in isolation thereby making it uninteresting and matter-of-fact, which, at such a level, it is meant to be. Thus, after she has been taken to the cinema or a dance, it is something like American good manners for the girl to let herself be kissed – this doesn’t mean anything. American women are characteristically frigid and materialistic. The man who ‘has his way’ with an American girl is under a material obligation to her. The woman has granted a materia! l favour. In cases of divorce American law overwhelmingly favours the woman. American women will divorce readily enough when they see a better bargain. It is frequently the case in America that a woman will be married to one man but already ‘engaged’ to a future husband, the man she plans to marry after a profitable divorce.
“Our” American Media
Americanisation in Europe is widespread and evident. In Italy it is a phenomenon which is rapidly developing in these post-war years and is considered by most people, if not enthusiastically, at least as something natural. Some time ago I wrote that of the two great dangers confronting Europe – Americanism and Communism – the first is the more insidious. Communism cannot be a danger other than in the brutal and catastrophic form of a direct seizure of power by communists. On the other hand Americanisation gains ground by a process of gradual infiltration, effecting modifications of mentalities and customs which seem inoffensive in themselves but which end in a fundamental perversion and degradation against which it is impossible to fight other than within oneself.
It is precisely with respect to such internal opposition that most Italians seem weak. Forgetting their own cultural inheritance they readily turn to the United States as something akin to the parent guide of the world. Whoever wants to be modern has to measure himself according to the American standard. It is pitiable to witness a European country so debase itself. Veneration for America has nothing to do with a cultured interest in the way other people live. On the contrary, servility towards the United States leads one to think that there is no other way of life worth considering on the same level as the American one.
Our radio service is Americanised. Without any criterion of superior and inferior it just follows the fashionable themes of the moment and markets what is considered ‘acceptable’ – acceptable, that is, to the most Americanised section of the public, which is to say the most degenerate. The rest of us are dragged along in its wake. Even the style of presentation on radio has become Americanised. “Who, after listening to an American radio programme, can suppress a shudder when he considers that the only way of escaping communism is by becoming Americanised?” Those are not the words of an outsider but of an American sociologist, James Burnham, professor at the University of Princeton. Such a judgement from an American should make Italian radio programmers blush for shame.
The consequence of the ‘do your own thing’ democracy is the intoxication of the greater part of the population which is not capable of discriminating for itself, which, when not guided by a power and an ideal, all too easily loses sense of its own identity.
The Industrial Order in America
In his classic study of capitalism Werner Sombart summarised the late capitalist phase in the adage Fiat producto, pareat homo. In its extreme form capitalism is a system in which a man’s value is estimated solely in terms of the production of merchandise and the invention of the means of production. Socialist doctrines grew out of a reaction to the lack of human consideration in this system.
A new phase has begun in the United States where there has been an upsurge of interest in so-called labor relations. In appearance it would seem to signify an improvement: in reality this is a deleterious phenomenon. The entrepreneurs and employers have come to realise the importance of the ‘human factor’ in a productive economy, and that it is a mistake to ignore the individual involved in industry: his motives, his feelings, his working day life. Thus, a whole school of study of human relations in industry has grown up, based on behaviourism. Studies like Human Relations in Industry by B. Gardner and G. Moore have supplied a minute analysis of the behaviour of employees and their motivations with the precise aim of defining the best means to obviate all factors that can hinder the maximisation of production. Some studies certainly don’t come from the shop floor but from the management, abetted by specialists from various colleges. The sociological investigations go as far! as analysing the employee’s social ambience. This kind of study has a practical purpose: the ma intenance of the psychological contentment of the employee is as important as the physical. In cases in which a worker is tied to a monotonous job which doesn’t demand a great deal of concentration, the studies will draw attention to the ‘danger’ that his mind may tend to wander in a way that may eventually reflect badly on his attitude towards the job.
The private lives of employees are not forgotten – hence the increase in so-called personnel counselling. Specialists are called in to dispel anxiety, psychological disturbances and non-adaptation ‘complexes’, even to the point of giving advice in relation to the most personal matters. A frankly psycho-analytic technique and one much used is to make the subject ‘talk freely’ and put the results obtainable by this ‘catharsis’ into relief.
None of this is concerned with the spiritual betterment of human beings or any real human problems, such as a European would understand them in this “age of economics”. On the other side of the Iron Curtain man is treated as a beast of burden and his obedience is maintained by terror and famine. In the United States man is also seen as just a factor of labour and consumption, and no aspect of his interior life is neglected and every factor of his existence is drawn to the same end. In the ‘Land of the Free’, through every medium, man is told he has reached a degree of happiness hitherto undreamed of. He forgets who he is, where he came from, and basks in the present.
American “Democracy” in Industry
There is a significant and growing discrepancy in the United States between the shibboleths of the prevailing political ideology and the effective economic structures of the nation. A large part of studies of the subject is played by the ‘morphology of business’. Studies corroborate the impression that American business is a long way from the type of organisation which corresponds to the democratic ideal of U.S. propaganda. American businesses have a ‘pyramid’ structure. They constitute at the top an articulate hierarchy. The big businesses are run in the same way as government ministries and are organised along similar lines. They have co-ordinating and controlling bodies which separate the business leaders from the mass of employees. Rather than becoming more flexible in a social sense the “managerial elite” (Burnham) is becoming more autocratic than ever – something not unrelated to American foreign policy.
This is the end of yet another American illusion. America: the ‘land of opportunity’, where every possibility is there for the person who can grasp it, a land where anyone can rise from rags to riches. At first there was the ‘open frontier’ for all to ride out across. That closed and the new ‘open frontier’ was the sky, the limitless potential of industry and commerce. As Gardner, Moore and many others have shown, this too is no longer limitless, and the opportunities are thinning out. Given the ever increasing specialisation of labour in the productive process and the increasing emphasis on ‘qualifications’, what used to seem obvious to Americans – that their children would ‘go further’ than they would – is for many people no longer obvious at all. Thus it is that in the so-called political democracy of the United States, the force and the power in the land, that is to say the industry and the economy, are becoming ever more self-evidently undemocratic. The problem then is! : should reality be made to fit ideology or vice-versa? Until recently the overwhelming demand has been for the former course of action; the cry goes out for a return to the ‘real America’ of unfettered enterprise and the individual free of central government control. Nevertheless, there are also those who would prefer to limit democracy in order to adapt political theory to commercial reality. If the mask of American ‘democracy’ were thereby removed, it would become clear to what extent ‘democracy’ in America (and elsewhere) is only the instrument of an oligarchy which pursues a method of ‘indirect action’, assuring the possibility of abuse and deception on a large scale of those many who accept a hierarchical system because they think it is justly such. This dilemma of ‘democracy’ in the United States may one day give place to some interesting developments.
Comments of New Dawn staff
In 1945 Julius Evola’s “Civilta Americana” was published. Evola’s critique was an attack on the American way of life. Aside from a few passages in Rivolta contro il mondo moderno it contained all the important aspects of his analysis of American society. For some time out of print, “Civilta” Americana was reprinted in the early eighties by the Julius Evola Foundation (Corso Vittorio Emanuele 197 – Rome) and published with an unsigned preface (included below). It has been edited and abridged.
We can only imagine what Evola would write if he were alive today to see the putrification of modern American society.
This essay on America was written at a time when the United States was seen as the leading nation of the world and the model of civilisation. After the Second World War history seemed to have invested the future of humanity in the doctrines and values of Russia and America. On the one side was the Soviet Union, the pure incarnation of the proletarian ideal; on the other side the United States, offering the most out-and-out bourgeois ideology the world had yet seen. These two ideals were shown to the world as two opposed and irreconcilable models of existence, of two global alternatives in terms of ideology, social organisation and culture; but in an article published in 1929 and in Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (Revolt against the modern world), Evola had already put in relief the analogy between the two systems. Over and above the obvious differences of race, of mentality and temperament, and of historical background, there was a perceptible correspondence betwe! en the two kinds of system: the meaninglessness of life centred on the economic and productive sphere of existence; the tendency towards the mechanisation and depersonalisation of every human activity; the collectivisation of large masses of individuals enervated by the rhythms of a frenetic, restless society; the negation of any notion of transcendence (in the one case by means of a dull, state-imposed atheism; in the other case through reducing the religious perspective to a banal, moralistic facade); the formless and soulless character of the arts; the utilisation of all intellectual resources for the purpose of encouraging a solely external and quantitative growth. Between two supposedly opposed systems Evola maintained that there existed only one essential distinction to be made: this relates exclusively to the nature of political power within the two systems and therefore to their mode of procedure in pursuing what is in fact a programme common to both. The bureaucratic Sovi! et dictatorship imposes a mortifying and grey view of life by means of brash propaganda and the adoption of brutal means of administration which attack every conceivable human right including armed repression of popular dissent. In the ‘democratic’ and capitalist United States the same ends are obtained by a fatalistic notion of the ‘inevitable’ development of society which is realised at the moment that man is severed from all links with a deeper spiritual reality and becomes absorbed into an anaemic unidimensional vision of existence. In that sense the American model of existence can be argued to be more insidious than the Marxist one.
Evola charges American society with creating a totally vacuous kind of human being, whose terms of reference are exclusively related to personal enrichment, whether financial or ‘psychological’; one incapable of autonomous choice, an abject conformist; someone who has been made crass and incapable by a materially easy life which is without idealist impulse. Far from being the acme of human progress, American society is in fact at the most advanced stage of disintegration of modern civilisation. It is so because in America regression is taking place at every social level and is neither contained by any solid barrier nor challenged by any significant resistance: it is a spontaneous and natural development which is now permeating the whole of the Western world.
Anyone today who considers American society disinterestedly is struck by the impression of a society gone mad, in which the germs of disintegration which Evola pointed to have multiplied and the disease has broken out visibly, defacing a social fabric which was already deteriorating. According to official statistics more than one fifth of the population of the United States has been involved with drugs. Organised delinquent hooliganism is still on the increase and has come to dominate large areas of some cities; every kind of sexual aberration is being advocated along with an unbridled sexual grossness; there is increasing violence and sadism in the cities, particularly among the young; pseudo-religious sects proliferate, dragging their disciples into a psychological slum world. These phenomena are only the most obviously disquieting symptoms of an accelerating decline towards the total disintegration of human personality.
According to traditionalist doctrine as espoused by Evola, American society, in fact, is on an irreversible course to extinction.
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