QL is officially entering hibernation. Regularly-scheduled defenses of all that is just and holy will resume in mid-2018.
As many of you know, I do my absolute best to avoid learning about current events. (The gossip who tells tales cannot keep faith; shun therefore the society of blabber-mouths and busybodies.) But somehow it came to my notice that there was a “right-wing” (eh) protest in a Northeastern city last week. It seems that about twenty or thirty right-wing demonstrators showed up, whom the police vigilantly cordoned off from the rest of the population to protect them from ten thousand or more counter-protestors.
I don’t know what the reactionary consensus is, but I say this is excellent news. While in general I disapprove strongly of attrition, if it only takes twenty right-wingers who are willing to have their faces photographed for future harassment and disemployment to pin down ten thousand left-wingers, we should be encouraging appropriate allies to hold rallies is every city in the country, as frequently as possible. You can’t turn out ten thousand (let alone forty thousand or more) lazy leftists every single weekend for months at a time. They just get bored. The media audiences will get bored, so the journalists will get bored, so the attention-whores will get bored.
The only problem, of course, is that most cities prefer not to set up a heavily-defended 100-yard perimeter around “problematic” speakers. And that sets up an entirely different cost-benefit dynamic.
Oh, and speaking of current events: my wife tells me that Bannon is out. That seems like a bad sign, but the main thing I’ve learned about American politics in the last two years is that Donald Trump is much sharper than I am. When he replaced Lewandowski with Manafort, I was concerned that he was selling out his unconventional advisors in order to be received into the bosom of the GOP establishment. In retrospect, it seems that testing different lieutenants’ abilities and shuffling them around to maintain a maximally efficient organization is just what Trump does; he doesn’t see the world through the lens of Brahmin-kabuki so he doesn’t bundle personnel decisions with symbolic statements about his policy intentions.
I do fear that Trump, for all his excellent instincts, relies on his advisers for his ideals, and that he could eventually org-chart himself into a real dilemma. But he also seems far too aware of the value of branding (or, to put it in the vocabulary of a gentler age: the value of good faith and strong character) to abandon the electorate he has carved out for himself. I will continue to wait so that I may judge on the basis of results rather than relying on my own (inferior) political instincts. (By the way, all signs are that the purge of the regulatory bureaucracy is proceeding at lightning speed.)
It may be helpful to clarify what we mean by the crypto-calvinist hypothesis in terms of what we stand to learn by verifying or falsifying it. Let me throw out a few examples.
The negative form of the crypto-calvinist hypothesis (i.e.: progressivism is not what it claims to be, an innocent set of entirely secular moral principles which reasonable people just naturally “intuit”) suggests certain important traits with respect to which progressivism remains the same as, differs from, or inverts its parent-tradition. (For example: at some point progressivism started claiming not to be a religion; the functional significance of this mutation is that it allow progressives greater access to the secular state; at this point it suppresses or transfigures its non-religious doctrines to make this claim plausible.) The only way to substantiate these suggestions is to verify the hypothesis, and it can only be verified in one of its positive forms.
Once the main mutation has taken place (i.e., one progressivism relabels itself as secular), what process governs the suppression of the other manifestly-religious themes? Why are some themes preserved fanatically and others forgotten entirely? This would not only shed light on the past and future doctrinal gyrations of different strains of progressivism, but would also deepen our understanding of the way progressivism distorts and perverts Christian ethical principles. (It’s one thing to recognize that it does pervert them, and another to understand how and why.)
If progressivism has weapons and defenses which are especially effective against Christians, because it has evolved to compete against other denominations of Christianity: which denominations? If the general origins of the ideology truly explain its special hostility to Christians, its precise origins should go further.
If progressivism is a mutant sect, is it a common mutation, or has it only arisen once? I.e., is there a large reservoir of non-progressive sects which can, with a critical change, go poz? (If so, is the reservoir Calvinist sects? All Christian sects?) If progressivism can spontaneously emerge out of indigenous ideologies without any previous proselytization by progs or any other “precursor form”, then clearly cladistic analysis doesn’t get to the root of what it is (much less how to contain it).
At its most ambitious, I would a historical vindication (or refutation) of the crypto-calvinist hypothesis to aim at bringing Moldbug’s historical speculations in line with the rest of the formalist analysis of contemporary politics. Very roughly (and unfairly; but not that unfairly, because if you can’t write concisely you everyone who tries to paraphrase you to butcher your views), Moldbug says that progs are crazy because they’re actually one of them crazy evangelical cults, and that progs are accelerating ever-leftward because progs are crazy. But the conception of “crazy” which fleshes out “Cthulhu always swims left” is very different from the conception of “crazy” which fleshes out “How Dawkins got pwned”. Not inconsistent, just different. The better we can align our understanding of the Left’s genesis with our understanding of its structure, the better we’ll understand that structure and its consequences (e.g., leftward-acceleration, anarcho-tyranny).
Ultimately, “The left did it” is just one of three basic explanatory frames the right uses. We’re realists in three ways:
- About ideology and political dynamics;
- About humanity (especially race and gender);
- About who rules.
Problem: each frame is so powerful in its primary domain of application that it is plausible to propose explanations outside that domain. Thus many troubling symptoms of social decay are triple-“explained” by leftism, genes, and you-know-who. The crypto-calvinist hypothesis is a working hypothesis within one theory about the nature of leftism. The best hope for a General Theory of Poz is to get that broader theory about the left so completely crisp, so clearly delineated that we can distinguish between where it works well, where it works poorly, and where it doesn’t work at all. (That’s when we can start to distinguish between cases where one explanatory frame explains what the other two can’t, cases where two or three together each explain part of the total outcome, and cases where two frames jointly cause one and the same outcome.)
I’ll discuss this last point (about causation and explanation) in greater depth some other time. Likely next year. I worked up a draft last winter but ultimately decided the point was a little prissy. If the prospects for moving forward with a comparative analysis of these three frameworks are dim (they are very dim), then what is there to do but nag at the idiots who overuse each of the frames? But I don’t want to nag, and not just for the sake of appearances.
(I love our idiots. I think they’re great people. Getting them to hide their simplified view of the world would serve no positive purpose. When there is no time-sensitive decision to be made, you typically want idiots to say whatever pops into their heads; that way everyone knows who the idiots are, and if they have any opinions that are genuinely counterproductive you know it well in advance. No human community is without idiots, and while you can teach them to keep silent on certain topics and train them to parrot the party line on others, there’s no cure for idiocy, just a trade-off between carefree idiocy and veiled idiocy. But try to make sure that you’re exposed to multiple varieties of idiot so that you don’t lose perspective.)
Anyway, I will most likely not be coming back to this broader sociological point until next year; but this has been excerpted from a longer discussion of what people mean (or, might possibly mean) by “Puritanism” when we talk about leftists. The point I would urge you to take away from this is not necessarily that we need to answer these questions, or even that it will ever be possible to answer them, but that when you’re making a claim about the origins of an enemy’s ideology (or an ally’s), unless the claim is entirely pejorative in nature your sense of why those origins matter should be tied to what you would understand better about the ideology if you could document its origins exhaustively.
By a strange serendipity, I happened to be cleaning out a huge stack of papers I printed out several years ago (and had never read) shortly after writing the Puritans and Progs draft, and discovered one on the historical relationship of the Arian heterodoxies which Erasmus inspired. It was eerie to discover a paper on this exact subject, waiting for me in a stack I had forgotten. I read it as soon as I could, and I suppose now I should relay my findings.
I should start with the two details I feel a slight reluctance to discuss… reluctance, because each detail will appeal to one discrete audience which will never stop repeating it. But I can’t omit them, because they may be relevant to an odd little fact I touched on in the draft. A huge number of the Arians and Socians were of Spanish or Italian origins; and not only in Spain and Italy proper, but across Europe and especially in Eastern Europe. Why, you ask?
- Conversos. Spain had an enormous number of half-digested Jews, many of whom sought refuge from the Spanish Inquisition by emigrating to other Mediterranean trading-posts, mostly in Italy. So Spain and Italy had unknown numbers of cryptos spreading subversive ideas in this period, plus thousands more who re-judaized after reaching Italy. Most of the Socinian theologians who emerged from Italy came from patrician families, but the heresiarch Michael Servetus was likely a converso, and the Spanish Erasmian Juan de Valdès certainly was. It was apparently Valdès’ Dialogue on Christian Doctrine that led his disciples Bernardino Ochino and Fausto Sozzini to reject the Trinity.
- Thots. Isabella Sforza was left a widow when her husband’s uncle, the famous Ludovico Sforza, usurped the Duchy of Milan. She returned home and set about trying to collect a clique of glittering and impressive figures in her court, as any bored noblewomen would: her collection included Bernardino Ochino.
- She gave her daughter Bona Sforza (a “well-educated” young woman… of course) in marriage to Sigismund (Jagiellon) of Poland. Naturally, Bona took an Erasmian confessor with her to Poland, the start of what was to become a pipeline of heresies and heretics from Italy to the Polish court of Bona Sforza.
- Bona’s daughter Isabella Jagiellon married John Zápolya, Warden of Transylvania, Count of the Székelys, and King of Hungary. (Caveat: Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was pretender to the same crown.) John Zápolya died in 1540, leaving twenty-one year-old Isabella to act as regent for their infant son, John II Sigismund Zápolya. Bona Sforza immediately sent her daughter one of her Italian humanist heretics, Giorgio Biandrata, from Poland to Hungary to advise the young queen and tutor her son. Biandrata extended the pipeline from Poland to Transylvania; and it was Biandrata who ultimately invited the infamous Fausto Sozzini into the principality.
There you have it. The first factor seems to go a long way towards explaining the disproportionate interest among Italians in two niche topics: kabbala and denying the divinity of Christ. The second factor ensnares almost all of the most important Socian theologians, which makes it difficult for us to be certain that they would have gone to Eastern Europe in the first place had they not possessed such influence over the Sforza girls.
Now lets try a more abstract approach to the overarching question, which regions of Europe nurtured the strangest sects during the Reformation?
1. Areas of great religious diversity were already used to various forms of religious coexistence. Even if central authorities wished to police orthodoxy, they had greater difficulty policing insular minorities, and one minority would protect others to resist the principle of official interference. Authorities took conciliatory attitudes towards internal schisms among Christians to maintain public unity against hostile outsiders. Where they successfully suppressed disbelief, this meant taking supposedly-converted infidels into the Christian Church, with unpredictable effects on public order.
a. Spain had only finished the Reconquista in 1491. At that time the Iberian Peninsula had a large population of Jews and Muslims. Castile had adopted its policy of forced conversion exactly 100 years earlier, leading to predictable difficulties with (a) the obstinate minority which refused to convert and (b) the questionable orthodoxy of the conversos. The unification of the peninsula under Christian rule allowed for a fuller imposition of the forced-conversion policy and the expulsion of the remainder of the population. Suspicious neighbors also sporadically expelled conversos on a smaller, regional scale; and given these trying circumstances, many conversos emigrated on their own initiative. But pause and ask, expelled from Spain, emigrated from Spain, yes, but: from Spain to… where? Answer: anywhere Mediterranean commercial ties might lead them, i.e. all over Southern Europe, and especially to the great Italian seaports (but also to Navarre and Holland). When the Reformation arrived, there were thousands of conversos and marranos sprinkled strategically throughout Southern Europe.
b. Eastern Europe had long been the borderlands between the Western Church (including the Western Glagolitic Church), the Eastern Church (in its Greek, Bulgarian, and Slavonic varieties), and the Ottoman Empire. Besides these major populations, the region was strewn with pockets of Jews and even little patches of Muslims and Armenians. (And the adherents of the Western Church in Eastern Europe were a diverse lot themselves: Hungarians, Germans, Romanians, and various flavors of Slav, intricately mixed together.) Nor is that all! Bohemia and its neighbors had been the theater of the Hussite Wars, which had only barely been concluded when the Reformation proper broke out; and old memories die hard.
2. Wherever the temporal power of the Western Church was greatest, suspicion of its hierarchy was deepest.
a. Venice, for example, was traditionally on the front line of any attempt to expand the Papal States up the peninsula; so the Venetians were traditionally skeptical both of theoretical apologies for papal power and of specific demands for jurisdiction. And what do you know: in 1550 humanist theologians held a synod in Venice and issued the ruling that Jesus was a human being. Vincenza, a satellite of Venice, likewise hosted a heterodox group of “Brethren”.
b. Today we associate Prussia with Protestantism, but at the beginning of the Renaissance the Teutonic Knights were likely the single most significant temporal manifestation of the power of the Western Church, greater even than the frequently-humbled Papal States. The Polish nobility made it a habit to evade demands that would only empower their Teutonic enemies. — And since the Hussite wars, the emperor too seemed to become a political instrument of the pope; even entirely orthodox princes were reluctant to help defend a principle of papal supremacy whose enforcement seemed to amount to Hapsburg supremacy.
3. Corruption breeds contempt. The irreligion and hedonism of the popes and cardinals of the Renaissance is legendary; but flat-out corruption among the Western clergy was allegedly greatest in Eastern Europe.
Since many readers following the recent crypto-calvinism discussion are likely new to QL, I thought that before writing anything new I would do well to introduce them to my older hypotheses on religion and cladistics.
- On shifting factions in the English Civil War (skip to central section, Theology ≠ Ecclesiology); do not jump to assumptions about the constellation of positions a given tradition holds, as these positions likely have only a historical and political coherence rather than a logical coherence. On this point see also:
- Phylogeny of the English Church, tendencies in the Anglican Church from Henry VIII to the Hanoverian Succession
- The New England Puritans, who branched off from the motherland before the Royalist/Roundhead dispute acquired its characteristic form. I draw the lesson that the zealous should not design a society which will founder if future generations exhibit less zealotry than the founders.
- Relevance to the cladistic analysis of Calvinism summarized in one paragraph here.
- Addition: Originally I was under the impression that the main trend towards heterodox theology in New England was imposed on Boston as a London export only after it began to flourish among the English. Further research suggests migrations directly from Transylvania, Hungary, and Poland to New England during the Counter-Reformation are not as improbable as I had thought.
- Healthy religions are integrated into communal life in a way that makes “toleration,” as a true alternative to capitulation to heresy, incoherent or question-begging.
- Religion and Informal Power – with special attention to the use of doctrine as signals of confessional alignment, and the protection of allied confessions as credible signals of commitment.
- This is a special, religious case of the accretion of informal powers begun here (and simplified earlier this week in Revolts and Riots)
- The analysis of informal power as it pertains to liturgical functions, specifically, was the topic of the non-historical sections of the English Civil War post (and the follow-up); and I consider the same point from a more abstract point of view (i.e., the truth of publicly shared ideals) in Leeches, Lies, and Purity Spirals
- Pre-Christian: the irritating conflation of Judaeans and Judaism. See also:
- Conceptual rather than historical points:
The people never matter and the oppressed masses never matter. What we always have is some quite small powerful conspiratorial group, which has a great deal of power but lacks legitimacy, moving against legitimate and traditional power, and invoking the masses as mascots.
I don’t disagree with Jim’s contention that one of the main long-term drivers of the political collapse of ancien régime states was the replacement of feudal magnates by civil servants. I’ve gone into that in some detail here and here. But just as there is an unavoidable tradeoff between the risks of entrusting high office to aristocrats and the disease of bureaucracy, so too there is an unavoidable tradeoff in military affairs between mercenaries and militia.
The basic question is simple. If a garrison is ordered by its officers to shoot into a mob of unarmed commoners, will they? If they definitely will, they are reliable and “good soldiers”, but they’re ultimately loyal to their officers. If they sometimes won’t, the locals will probably think of them as “patriots” but they’re like dry twigs, waiting for a spark.
If soldiers are perfectly happy to gun down unarmed rascals, they’re probably happy to mistreat them in other ways… especially where there is the prospect of plunder or pleasure. And if they’re happy to harm their country men under orders, they probably don’t need much of an excuse to harm them without orders either, so long as there is no chance of getting disciplined.
Now, generally they will get disciplined, because officers like to lead well-oiled fighting machines and nothing wears down a machine faster than a descent into petty crime and rape-orgies. But officers also know the value of rewarding their subordinates for a job well done, so, historically speaking, they are not averse to intense, targeted pillaging, either as a bribe before a difficult undertaking or as a reward after a hard-fought success.
This can be a headache for the sovereign. The smaller headache is that, in addition to having officers to keep the troops disciplined, he needs some way to keep the officers disciplined, lest they extract goods and services from the population they protect (a line of business which the sovereign must guard jealously). And again, there is a trade-off between two options: either the officers behave because they have colonels who keep them in line, or they behave because they would never dream of hurting their innocent neighbors anyway.
You can see the ugly principal-agent problem this is setting up. Bottom line is, you can protect a state with armies filled with recruits who don’t give two shits about their neighbors. You can also protect it with foreign mercenaries. Heck, you can even invite in a whole nation of Goths to bulk up your legions: worked for Marcian, didn’t it? But ultimately the only reason these troops can keep order is that they do whatever their officers tell them to. And sometimes their officers tell them to rebel; so they rebel (yes, “whatever” means whatever); and there is a lot of slaughter.
Anticipating this problem, many sovereigns prefer soldiers who are, to some degree, loyal to their side, not to their officers. Sure, they’ll obey the officer so long as they perceive his orders to be motivated by loyalty, discipline, and honor, but they melt away when he tries to use them as pawns in a personal power struggle. (Or frag him.)
Getting a soldier to think of his countrymen as friends and foreigners as foes is complicated. Lots of different techniques. Bottom line is, it solves the revolt problem but now you care about how big the angry mobs are. A little angry mob, okay, no problem. They’re not going to want to get too close to the bayonets. A big angry mob… well, you’ll have to cross your fingers and hope the regiment follows its orders. This time.
Earlier this summer I wrote a quick summary of TQ’s essay Three Types of Societies, and then delved a little deeper into the inner logic of his model. The intention was that after we got a firm grasp of the model, we would give it a good hard shake, but long-time QL aficionados know that intentions are merely the ruses to which the noûs resorts in its never-ending quest for autonomy.
Ambiguity and Identity
The distinction between TQ’s two models, the diachronic demographic-branching model and the synchronic functional-specialization model, allows us to tease apart major ambiguities in TQ’s analysis of his three societies and three forms of government. On the one hand, TQ seems to equivocate between socio-cultural phase transitions, borders, and levels of density. On the other hand, the examples he uses to illustrate his theory conflate ethnea, nations, and races into a generic concept of “clade” or “parent population”.
By phase transition I mean a boundary which divides a population into two groups which have settled on different equilibrium-solutions to a coordination problem; in short, two groups which are homogenous in different ways. Considered in the abstract, if you divide any sort of cultural system (a language, the conventions of body language and gesture, food, dress, hobbies…) into a large but finite repertoire of action-reaction pairs, and assume that everyone will personally prefer to respond in the way that the majority of their neighbors do and will prefer to interact with people who respond the same way they do, then over time most people will be completely surrounded by a network of people who act the same way they do, but where two expanding neighborhoods of local consensus meet, there will be a boundary characterized by low interaction-density and a sudden transition from homogenous adherence to one system to homogenous adherence to the other system.
This is the sort of boundary that would grow up spontaneously within a large, initially uniform population descended from the same parent stock. Random variations accumulate in the language and culture of the dispersed population over time; by chance, certain variants will spread, creating a continuum of differences as one travels from one side of the population to the other; but as the differences grow steeper and local dialects or subcultures start to systematically change to fit the innovations into a consistent pattern, the continuum will start to break into discrete pockets of linguistic conformity which crystallize around emerging standard dialects.
As I have said before, culture works like a language. Networks of individuals attempting to conform their own actions and reactions to those of their neighbors would form phase transitions similar to the transitions between dialects and between languages. (When I previously described TQ’s model in terms of interacting “nodes” or “pockets”, it was this relationship between interaction-networks and polarization into distinct communities that I was gesturing towards.)
Now, a border is in the context of TQ’s argument not just any sort of boundary or demarcation line but specifically the line which separates one autonomous jurisdictional unit from its neighbors (i.e., its rivals). These borders, established by war and struggle, are at any given historical moment defended jealously, but they are subject to arbitrary future readjustment as the result of further wars to come. A fortiori, the enemy could at any moment cross the nominal border in force, so the borderlands are where the de jure power of the state is most exposed to refutation by the de facto power of hostile arms.
Phase transitions polarize and differentiate communities. Borders circumscribe the territories states claim. Density of settlement, on the other hand, establishes continuous gradients rather than discrete boundaries, and thus does not distinguish particular, well-defined regions from one another. One way to frame the difference is that density is a comparative concept rather than a classificatory one.
What, you might ask, is the problem with all this? Obviously all three of these features of ethnogeography can coexist (and do, in the real world). But if we try to use them to define a typology of ethnonational identity, then the problem is not whether they can coexist, but which of these features is meant to provide the typology.
Density gradients, to start us off, are continuous (barring accidents of geography); therefore a theory which makes social type a function of population density should be at least provisionally committed to a continuum of social types.
Now, this concession would not be not fatal to TQ’s typology, but it would compel us to interpret his three types (core, marcher, and settler) as illustrative points along a smooth, continuous transition between social types, with marginally less dense regions being marginally more “settler-ish”. And prima facie it would seem to imply that the marchers are in some sense intermediate between the settlers and the core population, whereas I took TQ to be proposing a triangular opposition between three distinct types of society with their own strengths, weaknesses, and social equilibria.
(The continuity of population density doesn’t pose as much of a problem for TQ’s political corollary, the monarchy-aristocracy-democracy typology. Debates over whether these three regimes are qualitatively distinct or perhaps just a result of progressive extension of the franchise are as old as Aristotle, so I will not take sides; clearly the latter position is defensible and plausible. But unless we take high levels of political mobilization as a social norm, this is irrelevant to social identity and ethnogenesis, which is what is at issue.)
Phase transitions and political borders do not pose the same problem, but they have others, including the fact that they are not identical to each other. Political borders are much easier to change than cultural patterns, for one thing. You adjust one with quill and ink, and you adjust the other with machetes.
Borders are also much more absolute (for the very same reason sovereignty is absolute); cultural polarization prevents continuity or smooth transitions, but even if they are ultimately granular these phase transitions do take place along a scale, a scale within which any coherent cultural “pocket” can always polarize into two or more fragments. The delineated nodes of cultural interaction can thus be nested inside one another, whereas independent states cannot… unless the concepts of political sovereignty and autonomous jurisdiction are watered down so much as to be meaningless. If we want to frame neighboring states whose cultural affinity makes them natural allies and neighboring provinces which feud violently over cultural tensions as steps in a nested scale of political hierarchy,
A final point: a phase transition is a way of thinking about identity which is intrinsically grounded in a hypothesis about the process by which distinct identities form. A border, on the other hand, can mark off two populations without making any assumptions about the formation of their characteristic identities — or about the direction of the causal arrow (if any) connecting the establishment of a population’s identity and the establishment of its encircling borders.
Levels of Explanation
Persia, TQ suggests, was a marcher-population without a core, besieged on all sides. Spain was a marcher-state, facing of against the Moors; England was a marcher-state, facing off against… the Welsh, perhaps?
I don’t mean to belittle the difficulty of eternal vigilance against the Wendish Menace. But we are clearly using very different ideas of “the border” here. Spain has a border with the Moors but not with the Franks (with whom the Hapsburgs warred constantly); but conversely Aragon, which shared in the mercantile flourishing of Occitan and Lombardy, is too scarred by the siege of Granada to be a proper “core”. If the Spanish do not have a “border” with the French, in the strict sense, then presumably this is because the “marches” are found at the civilizational border. But in that case even if the Welsh, the Saxons, the Normans and the Scots had some friendly squabbles (what are a few invasions between brothers in Christ?) they are safely in the sheltered core of the Christian world.
Or — if the existence of a “marcher” culture and a militarily salient borderlands did exist both in Iberia and in Britain, but for different reasons and in different contexts — then the explanation of this situation does not lie in any particular kind of border per se, but in the specific diplomatic and demographic situation that makes some borders “militarily salient”, and others not.
Thus the the question of whether we are talking about the identities of ethnea, nations, or races starts to become important. Of course, part of the whole underlying rationale of TQ’s model was to illustrate that clades can possess both unity and internal diversity. So he is polemically committed to the position that distinct nested identities are emerging multiple cladistic levels simultaneously.
But unfortunately for the internal consistency of his model, his typology of these identities depends on assumptions about boundary-effects which emphasize the special properties of the territory a population occupies and dynamics which occur at the borders between these territories. Specifically, he assumes that the boundary between the area a population controls is categorically different from the internal boundaries between its subregions and subpopulations. (Otherwise, the external boundary would explain the distinction between the marchers and the core, and then the internal boundary would in turn require another set of marcher-lords to guard the boundary between the marches and the core: an infinite regress.)
So TQ has an inconvenient problem. He wants to defend the analogy between the nested levels of clades (in light of his third way between race and culture); he wants to illustrate the “unity with internal diversity” concept with a three-way contrast which makes use of a disanalogy between a populations external border and its internal borders; and he wants to substantiate this contrast by citing historical populations whose “borders” appear at multiple levels, higher and lower. But the “internal borders” of a race are the same as the “external borders” of a nation, so he is using the same types of boundaries to make contradictory claims about how the disanalogy functions in different examples.
It’s a circle that cannot be squared.
One final topic: regimes. TQ quite rightly notes that while some reactionaries seem to fetishize absolute monarchy, monarchy was never universal and is probably not appropriate to all population-types. But I would like to quibble on a few points.
LARPer Jacobitism is a problem only as LARPer political philosophy. As a dramatic performance showering praise on the divine right of kings in general and the Wittelsbach boys in particular, it has an important function.
Monarchy is as important a bogeyman (a fnord) in progressive political ideology as the Holocaust is in their cultural ideology. It is a pseudo-reductio, a stick with which to beat cringing conservatives. (“They may take our freedoms, but at least we’ll still have The Federalist Papers!”) “But couldn’t you use the same argument to defend monarchy?” is just one step up from drivel like “But couldn’t you use the same argument to defend Hitler?” To which the only proper response is: Huh, wow, I guess you’re right: looks like we’re going to need a lot of pesticide…
If you don’t like the rhetorical strategy, leave it to people who relish it. There’s nothing wrong with monarchy, in principle (here TQ and I agree, of course). The only way to get it through thick shitlib skulls that we despise their fnord is to ostentatiously emphasize that yes, monarchy is definitely on the table and we’ll be keeping it strictly Salic this time around. Some people thrill to the sight of ermine more than others, but I doubt that even Nigel holds that all government must be monarchic.
The LARPy Jacobitism has a few other related rhetorical functions as well. It allows reactionaries to preempt a dull slippery-slope argument against traditionalism. (“If you’re willing to turn the clock back to YEAR_(t-50), why aren’t you willing to go back to YEAR_(t-100)? Huh?”) It allows us to broadcast our principled opposition to principled opposition to hereditary privilege. The unitary nature of one-man rule nicely illustrates the reactionary critique of government by blob, and of anarchotyranny.
And, most important of all, it allows us to defend absolutism, in the specific (but inessential) form of royal absolutism.
This would be the only point where I might have a true disagreement with TQ on political regimes. He takes the viability (and in some contexts, superiority) of aristocracy and democracy as alternatives to monarchy to be tantamount to the viability of limited, mixed, or balanced government to absolutism. But monarchy-aristocracy-democracy describes a spectrum of regimes which vary with respect to the number of men who have a share in sovereignty. This spectrum has no necessary connection to the question of absolute or limited government.
A properly functioning democracy is an absolute democracy. A properly functioning aristocracy is an absolute aristocracy. You can “limit” the excesses of the forms by choosing an ambiguous form (e.g., one which could be described either as an unusually strict democracy or as an incredibly broad aristocracy) but not by setting up multiple competing bodies, none of which possess final authority.
The idea that only monarchies can be absolutist is a silly prog fantasy based on meaningless prog preoccupations. This is why maybe we should stop being prissy about calling ourselves formalists and go back to Hobbes; Hobbes makes the distinction between sovereignty and regime pretty damn clear.
(Moldbug is clear too, but it’s buried in the middle of multiple 10,000 word essays laced with recursive tangents on Victorian pamphlet literature.)
There is a great deal more to say about the core-marcher-settler typology, but I will leave off here, having already said a great deal more than most people would want to read. The most important subject remaining in TQ’s essay which I have not yet discussed is his overarching “ethnonationalist” strategy for mobilizing the right. But, as I mentioned above, I do not think this strategy actually fits naturally with the trifunctional typology, so it will be better to save that topic for a separate discussion.