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Comment on Aleksandr Dugin's illiberalism and Fourth Political Theory

The following is an excerpt of a private email exchange that I am sharing with permission. The identity of my correspondent shall remain a secret.

For the purposes of this publication, I am editing my original message by adding links to other writings I have published.


Wondering about the future, (post)modernity, liberalism, and where we’re heading…

I’d like to spend more time reading, but I’m not even sure where to start. I feel I should be reading more from the people who seem to see the world in the opposite way I see it for one.

For instance:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Political_Theory

In general, your intent to study counterpoints to your views is a fruitful approach because it prevents you from developing tunnel vision. I think intellectual curiosity (open-mindedness) is better than ideological purity or consistency with one’s own views. We ultimately want to understand how things stand, not vindicate ourselves in our little bubble.

To the salient point of the link: I have not read the book though am aware of its themes. I also just read this entry to refresh my memory: http://www.4pt.su/en/content/liberalism-20.

I think there are interesting points there and some valid criticism against the status quo. (More about the “status quo” below).

My main concern with Dugin’s world-view is that we are not really moving in the direction of truly community-based social structures and organic societies. We still have the mega-structures of the nation-state, the [ecumenical and in principle globalist] Church, big armies, big business, … In short, gigantism.

What Dugin refers to as “liberalism 2.0” is indeed totalitarian in spirit and thus not liberal at all (I agree that it is anti-Hayek, yet liberalism is self-contradicting [Read: On the contradiction of non-interventionism]). Though I think it still has elements which are worth salvaging, such as the reality of many genders. I mean, even from a science perspective, there are cases where the man/woman distinction is not clear. Furthermore, is the man/woman a purely biological construct without concern for subjectivity and thus psychology? I believe not: we need a holistic view. More so once we factor in cultural associations on gender and concomitant roles.

It is not bad per se to preserve culture and social integrity. Pretending that the “modern way” is necessarily superior to “tradition” is nothing but self-righteous prejudice, rooted in the baseless belief in an inexorable “progress” towards some tacit moral enlightenment [Read: Notes on Science and Scientism]. Tradition has the benefit of aeons of experimentation, where societies have learnt through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. Dismissing it all on a whimsy is irresponsible as it will most likely discard valuable insights and/or practices.

There is, however, a fine line between “preserving” or “respecting” tradition and “deifying” it. We don’t want to exalt “the society” or “the culture” to the status of an ostensibly omnipotent judge that always knows better what people are and how they feel. Such a judge cannot exist and this sort of exaltation is but an opinion that hides behind the superficial objectivity of a presumed authority: the deified tradition.

Culture does not give us an authoritative source of wisdom. People still made mistakes back then and values passed on to us may well be flawed. Though filtering them is no mean task. It must be done carefully with an open mind. This all-or-nothing tendency we witness nowadays is the same sort of dogmatism that brought all sorts of misery to this worlds.

There needs to be a balance.

As for the dichotomy between individualism and collectivism, I think it is false. These are two scopes of a singular reality. We have the micro scale of the single person and the macro scale of the person in relation to other persons, the structures those create, and the impersonal magnitudes they establish. Think of language, for example. One who has dogmatic faith in individualism cannot understand language as an, at first, interpersonal phenomenon, and then as an intersubjective one. “Intersubjective” is more general, in that the “subject” is not an individual or an actual living entity, such as in intergenerational matters. Language is like a living organism that continuously changes: it is intergenerational and interpersonal (i.e. the macro scale).

The micro and macro scopes are analytical constructs, not separate standalone realities.

Finally, a few words about the “status quo”. I think there is too much emphasis on ideologies, such as “liberalism 2.0”, and not enough talk about the practical problems of the concentration of power in few hands [Read: On platformarchs, the demi-state, and deplatforming]. In every country (and on a global scale) we have, for example, all TV channels, radios, newspapers, being owned by a handful of economic elites. Same for social media and tech in general. And the same for every other industry. These elites are the “platformarchs”, as I call them: the rulers of the platforms upon which all economic activity is established and unfolds.

The platformarchs don’t need a specific ideology to rationalise and consolidate their holdings. There were platformarchs in other regimes, such as the East India Company: a prime example of capitalism (i.e. state intervention in favour of capital owners, here in the form of exclusive privileges that established a symbiotic relationship between private interests and the then imperialist state apparatus). Platformarchs will use “liberalism 2.0” for as long as it serves their agenda, but they will have no problem to switch to something else, if need be.

I feel that the emphasis on ideologies obscures these phenomena, as it abstracts practical matters of power politics into all-inclusive ideological stereotypes that seem to have a life of their own (e.g. how Dugin uses “feminism” in the linked article as some actually meaningless bugaboo, for it misrepresents a diverse set of views as a homogeneous corpus of thought). Combined with the latent gigantism I alluded to, I wonder if in Dugin’s ideological order we are actually setting up an antipode to the status quo or merely refashioning it. I sense it is the latter though, again, I have not read the book.