The New Reactionaries

Charlie Stross dives down the rabbit-hold of fringe politics to find New Reactionaries and other, stranger sects:

This we come full-circle. The Trotskyites of old have donned the Armani suits of libertarian and neoliberal think-tank mavens. And the libertarians have begun to search for a purer pre-modern framework with which to defend themselves against the searing vision of the radiant future. Welcome to the century of the Trotskyite monarchists, the revolutionary reactionaries, and the fringe politics of the paradoxical! I hope you brought popcorn: it’s going to be nothing if not entertaining.

I’m not totally convinced by Stross’ suggestion that new reactionary Mencius Moldbug is a great writer despite his unpleasant belief system. What I’ve seen suggest he’s more of a pompous windbag who’s deeply in love with the sound of his own voice. The way he takes saloon-bar bigotry and sprinkles it with classical references to make it look profound reminds me far too much of the late Enoch Powell.

As for the former trots turned libertoids, the way some leftists go so far to the left they go off the edge and reappear on the right is a well-known phenomenom; witness how many neocons on both sides of the Atlantic were former Trotskyites, or the way Tony Blair’s home secretary John Reid turned from a Stalinist to a right-wing thug.

It’s often said that politics is circular or horseshoe-shaped in the way the hard left and hard right frequently have more in common with each other than with pragmatic moderates. I’ve even semi-seriously suggested than AD&D alignments explain politics more effectively that “left” and “right”.

But perhaps the real divide is between pragmatists and utopians? This explains why, when a utopian ideology is found wanting, many of those who abandon it don’t become pragmatic moderates, but find another utopianism to cling to.

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2 Responses to The New Reactionaries

  1. PaulE says:

    I recall this doing the rounds a few years back (link to actual site on wiki article for anyone who wants to try the test questions)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_compass

  2. Poindexter says:

    You’re on to something in the last paragraph. Far Left and Far Right can switch, but they tend to retain some characteristics in the flip. Globalists will still be globalists, universalists won’t suddenly become localists, radicals will stay radical and not become pragmatic, and the intolerant, judgmental, impositional, and authoritarian will all tend to stay those ways. Also, those who see the world in materialist/economic terms will also tend to stick to that piece of their worldview.

    What you might not expect as a result of this fact, however, is that one can become a Right-wing liberal, or a Left-wing conservative. The latter I am just supposing for the sake of symmetry; I don’t actually have evidence of it, but I am familiar with the Right-wing liberal, if only because I am one.

    I was a left-of-center liberal for much of my life, and a firebrand one (paradoxically, a fiery moderate) from 1997-2006 or so. I began a political conversion in about 2010, but retained my adherence to moderation that kept me from joining the ranks of the Far Left previously. A Right-wing liberal, to me, is one who eschews the materialists’ aspirations and priorities — does not forsake the religious, cultural, and ethnic for the material/economic — but does not give up on the ideal of freedom of personal and artistic expression as paramount for a (Western) society’s well-being.

    It is, perhaps, a rejection of Trotskyist world domination, but it also rejects the root of such thought in Europe: Christian humanism, universalism, and proselytisation.

    Perhaps it’s a crooked line through a muddled plane of sociopolitical dots, clumps, and empty spaces, but I perceive some way forward, and around, the many and sundry seemingly intractable hangups in our current political climate.

    Keep on the lookout for the Right-wing liberal in the future. I doubt it will become a major political phenomenon any time soon, but hopefully at least a blip on the radar here and there.

    PS I often use AD&D alignments to make sense of real world moral and political positioning. Sometimes it’s an invaluable model.

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