The End of Radicalism

In the middle of the 19th century, European politics was about the role of the monarchy, nationalism, democracy, capitalism and the emerging political consciousness of urban working classes. The latter is where communism found its opening. In America, politics was about slavery, sectionalism, the territories and protectionism. Monarchism was obviously not of any interest to Americans, but neither was communism. It is a good reminder that politics is always local to both time and place.

It does not always feel that way though. If you were a Frenchman in 1970, the big debates were about the same stuff as they were in the 1940’s. Sure, the Algerian question was a hot topic in the Fourth Republic and not so much in the Fifth Republic, but the ideological landscape was the same. Similarly, US politics settled into a center-left consensus after World War II and remained so throughout the Cold War. The topics changed from decade to decade, but the ideological landscape did not change very much.

I picked these two periods for a reason. The Revolutions of 1848, or the Springtime of Nations, was a time when old ideological frameworks were collapsing and new ones were emerging. The remaining feudal arrangements were being toppled in favor of nationalist arrangements.The post-war period a century later was a time when the new arrangements, the Pax Americana, were settling in across the West. The point being is that all epics have a start and a finish, with the former beginning in the latter.

It is generally assumed that we are living in an age where the old order is under pressure and new challengers are rising up to offer an alternative to the status quo. Is this just the the Pax Americana unraveling as the United States staggers along into decline as the world’s remaining super power? Are we seeing the emergence of a post-liberal consensus built around supra-national organizations controlled by global elites? If so, is the nationalist reaction just a rearguard action? Or is this the end of the liberal era entirely?

One thing seems clear and that is American Progressivism is dead as an ongoing ideological movement. The managerial class still uses the language and tactics of the Left, but they are fully committed to global capitalism. Hillary Clinton is the face of the Left and she is wholly owned by Wall Street. Her embrace of open borders cuts what is left of the cord linking Progressives with the labor movements out of which they grew in the prior century. A liberal from the 60’s, looking at the current Left, would be horrified.

The remaining radicals on the Left are just posers. These are the people who embrace things like structural racism, gender identity, sexism, climate change, and economic inequality. Guys like Ta-Nehisi Coates are just ornaments for managerial class types to decorate their cultural institutions. Since most of what these people say and write is nonsense, they can be indulged. Again, a Hillary Clinton can be seen with a copy of a Piketty book, on her way to give a speech at Goldman Sachs.

Similarly, the European Left is a dead man walking. The British Labour Party now looks like a comedy skit from Monty Python. The Lib-Dems have collapsed entirely. The two main British parties are the SNP and the Tories, both embrace technocracy. It is a similar story on the Continent as the the main stream parties, both Left and Right slowly fuse together in defense of Europe against the rise of nationalist parties. As in America, the European Left is married to global finance and managerial authoritarianism.

What the 19th century made clear is that constitutional monarchy was just a transition phase, from aristocratic rule to liberal rule. Something similar may be true about social democracy. The Left has always dreamed of one-world global socialism. Communism was always intended to obliterate national borders. Socialism, in its various national manifestations, may simply have been a transitional phase. Once the nations of the West are ruled by like minded technocrats, the next logical step is merger.

Alternatively, this could be the end phase of the radicalism born in the French Revolution. The rise of traditionalist, reactionaries and nationalists all over the West could be a classical liberal reaction to the restoration of a new aristocratic system of rule. Instead of a ruling elite selected by magic blood, the restored aristocracy will be a mandarin system based on the acquisition of credentials, only attainable by the sons and daughters of the managerial elite. Instead of inherited titles, they have legacy admissions to elite colleges.

This is all idle speculation, of course, but like the people of the mid-19th century, in the midst of the revolts, we are witnessing a great transition away from the old system to something new. The Left that has been a feature of the West, the cornerstone of the ruling consensus, is going away. Socialist economics are dead. Communism is a museum piece. National liberation, a staple of post-colonial radical politics in the last century, has been thrown down the memory hole. All that’s left of radicalism is nostalgia.

47 thoughts on “The End of Radicalism

  1. This post makes a common mistake. Let’s start with Marx. He was always wrong.The world is not about governments legitimizing parasites. The world is not about workers and oppressive capital. It is about the never ending human quest for self-actualization, which is only possible in a free society, versus oppressive, overarching totalitarianism in any form.

    Fascism is only a form of socialism / communism, which is only a form of totalitarianism. The easy test of any government is does it end up rewarding parasites, or does it seek to minimize them through culture and law?

    Any government striving to legitimize parasites will inevitably end up with totalitarian overlords, stagnation and collapse. The reason is simple. The bureaucracy and inefficiency becomes brittle, unadaptive and ultimately financially unviable.

    Progressives like Obama are cool with world government not because it will be a form of capitalism, but because it will not. It will be social democracy writ large; a total loss of the concept of value, with a totalitarian ruling class. We will all get much poorer and live as third worlders with cell phones. But it will all collapse long before that. It’s happening now.

    Freedom orientations on the other hand, are complex networks which are adaptive, innovative and able to survive. Free markets based on property rights are complex networks. But our economics does not sufficiently understand free markets yet. Even our understanding of management theory is horrifically bureaucratic and too hierarchical and inefficient.

    If we truly cared about human advancement, like any complex organism, we would intentionally split countries and large bureaucratic corporations into smaller pieces in order to avoid the sclerosis they engender and the power they wield. Even if it was more inefficient we would do it to preserve the culture and society which best nurtures human choice and advancement and innovation.

    Good website:) Keep thinking. It is a pleasure to read.

  2. What comes next_? VERY interesting discussion. Supposing that Progressiveism was an attempt at priestly rule under their new/old religion: What happens in history when priestly rule collapses under accumulated errors created by the elemental mistake that really smart humans can attain the power and status of God Almighty_?

    Answer: Barbarian take-over or (slightly more hopefully given who the barbarians are these days) warlord rule establishing a new dynasty via defeating said barbarians after a period of chaos in which many peasants die. Better stock up even though that won’t be enough if you have the ‘bad luck’ to be in the path.

    • Someday this shall all be one line in a book.
      The Olympians must cast down the Titans, that they might take their place.
      Ours may be, “the Green Vine strangled the Eagle”

    • Wait a minute. I thought that if priests could marry real live women, then they wouldn’t be doing all of that weird stuff any more.

      • hahaha, everyone knows priests don’t like women! funny, since they dress like women? go figure 😛

  3. In the progressive imagination all his thoughts are new and life began with his arrival. He believes himself to be the cure for the recurring plague infecting humanity. He has no idea that he is the plague. Tocqueville–

    “The unity, the universality, the omnipotence of society’s power, and the uniformity of its rules represent the outstanding feature of all the political systems invented in our day. They recur at the heart of the strangest utopias. The human mind still pursues these images even in its dreams. If the brilliant talkers and writers of that time were to return to life, I do not believe that gas, or steam, or chloroform, or the electric telegraph, would so much astonish them as the dulness of modern society, and the mediocrity of modern books.”

  4. World governments, whether led by the Church or by the Political Elite, have always failed, every time. They cannot control people at the local level, though a lot of butchery and burning neighborhoods to the ground goes on in the process (see the Middle East for a current example).

    But people are so easily fooled. They root for the Rebels at a Star Wars movie and then go vote for Darth Vader at the next election. At times, I believe the entire “socialization” process of our culture is a conscious effort to “dumb down” everyone, so that they will support whatever stupid thing that gets fed to them. In the meantime, sites such as this one allow some of us to realize that we are not alone in our scepticism of what we are fed on a daily basis. Of course, posting on these sites also helps TPTB build their lists for use later on. We live in strange times.

    • ” They root for the Rebels at a Star Wars movie and then go vote for Darth Vader at the next election. ”

      Brilliant line, Dutch. Two thumbs up!

  5. Terrific book on the revolutions of 1848, appropriately titled 1848:

    In 1848 liberals died on the barricades for the cause of obtaining a written constitution to limit the power of the Monarchy. Ironic that less than 100 years later liberals in America started their concerted efforts to destroy the American constitution. The worm turns . . .

    Reverting to an older post, yesterday I had the ill fortune to catch David French interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the harassment he received from the nasty alt-right people on the Internet. French just can’t seem to resist climbing in bed with the left. Listen to both interviews if you can stomach them. French’s interview is a perfectly sickening combination of moral preening, virtue signaling, and smug altruism. Apparently he was just an ordinary Joe who was minding his own business and when he decided he would not support Trump for President the alt-right launched a vicious, unprovoked attack against him, his wife, and his African-American daughter. Did you know he had an African-American daughter? He mentioned it once or twice in the interview.

    You’re going to have a ball with this one, Zman.

    • ”I had the ill fortune to catch David French interviewed by Terry Gross”
      When the time comes for the dictionary entry for ‘cuckservative’ just insert his photo. I recommend the one with the pet African in the ‘backpack’ carrier.

      • Only if French is holding a framed photo of Eric Erickson. Then, I’m totally on board. Or, printouts of his wife’s social media accounts, fawning over black men.

  6. Without strong nationalism, the big countries will devolve into city states. That’s what’s next, not globalism.

    • London, NYC, Los Angeles are already almost city-states, international cities disconnected from the rest of the country experience, if anything these city-states are gonna be the capital cities of the New Global Order.

      • Bloomberg used to say he was in charge of the eighth largest army in the world: the NYPD. NYC already functions like a city state; I’ve long wondered why there’s no active secession/partition movement in New York state. Upstate and downstate are deeply, fundamentally different places.

  7. There are two forces at work which will dominate all others in Europe: the demographic death spiral of “traditional” Europeans and the ascent of Islam due to Muslim migration.

  8. Z-man, Douthat is plagiarizing you hardcore over at the NYT today. Which is to say he’s taking your premises about managerialism and conservatism and building his own mangled conclusions on top. Pretty entertaining.

    • Douthat is such a doughy little cuck – really, if you just put a hipster beard on the Pillsbury dough boy. And has anyone ever actually seen him and Matty Yglesias in the same room together?

      Is this the piece you’re talking about? I read it yesterday and it’s laugh out loud ridiculous.

      Pudgy Ross would have you seriously believe that if only the beltway boys over at NR and WS had somehow found it in their hearts to take Trump and the people he represents seriously, then, by their gracious wisdom and guiding hand they could have purged the movement of its embarrassing excesses and built an “intellectually serious populism” (Ross’ exact phrase).

      What Ross is really worried about is that he’s been tossed into the dustbin of history, and his cozy little doghouse on the outskirts of the establishment – which he worked hard for all these years by being a nice, housebroken pet and begging for table scraps – is going away.

      No more biscuits for you, Ross. Bad dog.

  9. The model for the coming mandarin rule is organized crime. A global Mafia will run everything. Instead of The Five Families, it will be The Fifty Families. We will live by their leave. Politics and the rule of law will be a sham. The “presidents” of various countries will be puppets on strings, starting with Hilary.

    • I see the same thing. The Family, nested mafias- we are seeing the natural expression of the deepest social instinct.

      ‘Ideology’ is monkey barking. Social signaling.
      Self programming. Our sound signals show the jockeying for position as we leap from branch to branch, trying for a higher branch.

      The supposed ‘truths’ are irrelevant; what is universal are the emotions we respond with.
      Do I hear the familiar hoots and calls of many allies- or am I surrounded by those stranger monkeys from that other tree?

      Humans organize the same style group structures with the same social mechanisms, everywhere, everywhen, with remarkable consistency.

      This holds the promise of predictability- and zman has just asked the most fascinating of questions: what comes next? Who will be in the top of the Tree?

  10. Fascism is the coming thing. Not as in “Hillary / Trump is going to win the election, ha ha!” I mean the real thing. National Socialism. We’re living a soft form of it now — ask any “conservative,” True(tm) or otherwise, what his plans are to phase out Social Security. The fact is, living like ghetto/trailer trash is very appealing for the **majority** of our population; only the externals are different for the so-called middle class (except for the fact that the drug dealing/taking is being done at Starbucks and not on the corner, what’s the difference between urban SWPLs’ beloved Swedish universal college and childcare, and ghetto gibs? Both groups want to live like retired hunter-gatherers). So strap on the armbands. We proles get gibs, the Managerial Class gets to keep on keepin’ on in the Outer Party, and constant low-level bush wars or the threat thereof are good to keep everyone’s mind off the creeping police state. What’s not to love?

    • We already have fascism. Social democracy is just fascism stripped of the martial aspects. It’s why the people in charge are always calling for unity and inclusiveness. The question is whether global fascism is a real thing that can hold up under challenge.

      • I don’t mean “global fascism,” though. I mean **national** socialism. As in, take Bernie Sanders’ platform, pledge to add wall on every border to it, and 90% of Americans would vote for it. Pledge to end all aid to Israel immediately and you’re up to 92%. Pledge to end all foreign aid entirely and you’re at 95%. Add Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation and protective tariffs and you’ve got just about everybody. Socialism for Americans, Islamism or whatever barbarity they choose for everyone else. It’s not like Wall St. hasn’t worked hand-in-glove with national socialists before…

      • Like most other systems, it probably can – for a while, then something else will replace it. No political system is eternal.

  11. Made this comment elsewhere this morning, but it works for this piece as well:

    Come what may in the election, my hope is that Trump is the harbinger of the creation of a new political party along the lines of the Populists of yore. The Republican Party as a legitimate opposition has ceased to exist already, so if there is to be any opposition to control of legal tender by a private banking cabal, to unfettered immigration, to globalist excess, to excessive centralization and federal control, to a Supreme Court that has become a super-legislature, to a squandering of taxpayer funds that shouldn’t be pried from the public in the first place, to government-subsidized organizations that promote perversion, to affirmative action displacement of freedom of choice and merit….

    Time for a new politics, people. Trump is the first sign of it; he is the actual “Republican in name only” who brought populism under the Repub tent and thus captured much of its political machine. Win or lose, one hopes he doesn’t surrender and applies his wealth to the creation of a new party. One hopes he wins, but win, lose or draw, he has an opportunity to carve out a place in history while the Rod Drehers of the world will be consigned to its dustbin.

    • Can’t keep honest capitalism with an income tax.
      Wouldn’t need things like loss carry-forward (I use it, a lot), crony debt leverage, or Fed Reserve ‘planning’ if government were a disinterested observer and measurement, not performance, were the goal.

      The fantasy finally took over when FDR decided to include government spending as a part of GDP to hide the disastrous nosedive of WWII costs to the economy.

      • Would the Grange be an appropriate populist model? A national bourgesoie power base of the latter 1800s

  12. Still slowly working my way through Arendt. She notes that prior to the French Revolution the word “revolution” implied a return to an older, more traditional way of doing things. A going back. The Copernican Revolution meant the cycle of the planets, not some new thing. When Lametrie (?) told Louis about the Bastille, Louis said it was a revolt, Lametrie replied no it’s a revolution. He had in mind that things would go back to the way things had been prior to the king’s great grandfather when provincial parlements would have to approve whatever the king proposed, not that there would be anything new. Everyone was expecting a constitutional monarchy. For them this was one of the English revolutions under an enlightened monarch. This guy knew the history and wouldn’t lose his head like Charles did.
    As for the radicalism of the French Revolution, one usually thinks of The Terror. Far from being some left wing grass roots movement, it was a calculated move by the Jacobins in control of the Committee for Public Safety to eliminate other contenders for power on both the left and right. The first people executed were the far left Hebertists. Many people don’t realize this but Robert Mugabe did the same thing in Rhodesia. It was his guys who Skype give away the locations of other contenders for leadership to the Rhodesian Army so they could be killed if they weren’t placing the car bombs themselves. After he took power, most of those he had murdered were former allies. But this is the kind of thing we hear about when we hear of royal usurpers or read Macbeth, right? Yes. What that means is that there is nothing new about the left, they just dress up their treachery in the language of ideology, and everything’s all right. Idealism just got defenestrated.
    Just last night I picked up a book that’s been sitting on my desk for a month, Political Elites by an Englishman, Geraint Parry. Mainly about the theory of managerial elitism in government. Begins with Mosca and Pareto, who thought a bourgeois managerial elite was inevitable. Maybe they were right. We certainly have them. All over the world. The questions for the future for us and for those yet unborn are whether they are necessary, if they are how can we control them vs them controlling us; if they are not necessary, how we rid ourselves of them, and finally, if we rid ourselves of them, what will we have when they are gone? Will it be the classless so with dreamed of by Marx? Remember, Marx did not consider himself a socialist, or an egalitarian. Food for thought.

    • I have no idea where that “Skype” thing came from in my comment. “would” is the word I typed. Also, he murderd, not had murdered. He killed many many of his own after getting power.

  13. My view of this is that mainstream political parties in the West and other places have been forced to adopt Neoliberal economics, especially after the 80s, the Bill Clinton “thir way” non-sense and so on.

    The death of the EU would be a mortal blow to globalism, my dream is that after the end of the EU and NATO Belgium is split between France and Netherlands, the country only exist because Napoleon lost Waterloo and became home of globalist institutions that diminished continental European powers.

  14. The globalist currents of today look a lot like neo-feudalism. Medieval upper class based their legitimacy in a God given right. Our upper class base their legitimacy in extreme wealth gained by skimming government contracts and financial manipulations.

    • Years ago I saw what I regarded as a profound statement:

      “In 1776 the United States overthrew Aristocratic rule. Ever since the Aristocrats have been working to reestablish control.”

      Communism always was a form of Monarchy/Aristocracy. They just lied about it.

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