Jules Barni and the comedy of the republican freeholder ethic

[This elucidates previous ideas I’ve been discussing, but states them in a much more direct manner. It also gave me the opportunity to introduce a few ultra-royalists that I will be revisiting later, and it’s my first attempt at comparative analysis via feudal law, something that I will be doing more of in the future.]

We will be looking at the story of a Kantian. It isn’t Donald Trump, though I am eagerly anticipating how he will complete the system. By all indications, The Donald seems like a fan of Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation, so perhaps a synthesis of the Ego and the Gesellschaft will be the key. One can only speculate.

The Kantian in question is Jules Barni, long-time traveler in left-wing causes during the Second Empire and Third Republic, having published in Jules Simon’s liberal newspapers, and having been a member of the League of Peace and Freedom, a pacifist organization joined by such luminaries as Garibaldi and Bakunin. Following his own idol Kant, himself a theoretician of republicanism and internationalism in Perpetual Peace (1795), Barni was to become a prime philosopher of modern liberal (as opposed to classical) republicanism, though largely unknown in the Anglosphere.

Writing in 1795, one of Kant’s Preliminary Articles for peace consisted of opposition to dynastic inheritance, justified thusly: “For a state is not a property (patrimonium), as may be the ground on which its people are settled. It is a society of human beings over whom no one but itself has the right to rule and to dispose. Like the trunk of a tree, it has its own roots, and to graft it on to another state is to do away with its existence as a moral person, and to make of it a thing. Hence it is in contradiction to the idea of the original contract without which no right over a people is thinkable. Everyone knows to what danger the bias in favour of these modes of acquisition has brought Europe (in other parts of the world it has never been known). The custom of marriage between states, as if they were individuals, has survived even up to the most recent times, and is regarded partly as a new kind of industry by which ascendency may be acquired through family alliances, without any expenditure of strength; partly as a device for territorial expansion. Moreover, the hiring out of the troops of one state to another to fight against an enemy not at war with their native country is to be reckoned in this connection; for the subjects are in this way used and abused at will as personal property.”

Putting aside the question as to why a “moral person” cannot morally contract himself, Barni’s Manuel républicain (1872) was a pivotal work in entrenching the revolution that Kant envisioned and which impassioned many men into carrying it out. It is an excellent statement of political modernity, and it ought to be reckoned with. We will be sampling the two most important chapters, Principles and Mores (of the republicans).

Now, we are going to do a little thought experiment here. We will take a contemporary legal treatise on Anglo-Norman feudal tenures and toy around with it as an analytical framework by which to elucidate the practical substance of Barni’s claims. Thomas de Littleton’s Tenures (circa 1480) is a good choice as any, a true classic.

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Constant, Remusat and the Tensions Between Ancient and Modern Liberties

Freedom! What word has caused more acrimony? Our great modern liberals, owing their lineage from cameralist blowhards on to German Kathedersozialisten who then cross-pollinated with American institutionalists (Friedrich S. List, widely credited as the founder of economic nationalism, was actually influenced by an early ideologue of the American System and of Northern manufacturing interests, Daniel Raymond), are ever clamoring for greater positive liberties. They fancy themselves as builders of an inclusive polis, complete with its patron deities of Science and Reason. A polis where behavioral norms are set completely uninhibited as if from a De Sade novel, and where no problem cannot be solved by social insurance programs legitimated through popular plebiscite and executed by technicians and clerks.

Against this stand the dwindling numbers of Manchesterites, espousing the negative conception of freedom from interference. To a large degree, this is an aristocratic idea: the nobleman jealously guarding his seignioral rights from regalian prerogative on top, and thus developing an ethic of independence. The ideal here is the rzeczpospolita szlachecka, a constitutionally limited commonwealth consisting of allodial property-holders having free conscience and owing little to the taxman, its ultimate dream being sinecure through absentee rent-extraction. Except this vision was transplanted to the burghers.

The Manchesterites would find out that the capitalists are natural-born Ghibellines, since strictly speaking, they have no status in terms of formal peerage. Their status is determined by wealth, and wealth can always (selectively) be maximized, if in an illusory manner, by the coalition-building powers of the exchequer and by lavish public works projects to serve as subsidized foundations of their own enterprises.

Social liberalism and Manchesterism are the inevitable perversions of two archetypes that French liberal Benjamin Constant would respectively draw between liberty of the ancients and liberty of the moderns, himself an avowed champion of the latter.

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Aristocratic liberalism: a brief tour of an extinct tradition

Can one be a liberal who hates the people? Liberalism and democracy are generally taken to be two inseparable sides of the same coin, but as any socialist will tell you, it need not be so. Indeed, it was not always so. Is there not some conflict between a contractual view of a bounded state where governors reciprocally guarantee certain rights to citizens, and a view of a General Will perpetually demolishing fences that the forces of “free expression” and ballot-box anarchy deem unworthy of standing? It seems there is. Of course, any aberration from democracy in a liberal state seems to be quickly corrected, either in the direction of more popular participation with disastrous results (First Spanish Republic, First Portuguese Republic, First Austrian Republic, etc.) or that of more popular participation with careful bureaucratic safeguards (most modern liberal democracies).

Still, the rule of law differing from the rule of the rabble, we will be looking at the dead transitory tendency that was aristocratic liberalism, which flourished during the period from the Bourbon Restoration to the July Monarchy (1814-1848) in France, but with a precedent in the conservative Monarchiens faction during the early stages of the French Revolution (1789-1791), who advocated for constitutional monarchy.

The essence of this aristocratic liberalism is a belief in constitutionalism, representative institutions and civil liberties, but a rejection of what we call “political freedom.” A nonpartisan monarch stands inviolable and infallible, but does not legislate directly, only through his ministers. A bicameral legislature votes on and enacts laws, but they are sanctioned and promulgated solely by the person of the king. Freedom of religion and equality before the law are guaranteed. However, political participation is strictly limited by census suffrage, restrictions on the press and restrictions on political assembly. These are, by and large, the principles of the Charter of 1814 which opened the Bourbon Restoration. The conception of liberty is one based on property, not on voice.

The aristocratic liberals were the epitome of bourgeois values. The term “bourgeois” has, of course, become one of opprobrium. The left associates it with reactionary capitalist robber barons extracting surplus value from powerless wage workers, whereas the right uses it as something of a synonym for an urban bohemian type with progressive convictions and a liberal-arts major, what is today often called a SWPL.

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Mencius Moldbug, 10 years later: a critical retrospective

[Also on Thermidor.]

Who would have thought that some kid, a civil service brat and the grandson of dues-paying members of the CPUSA, who came of age on Usenet discussing SunOS Unix login semantics and apparently submitting text files for cDc’s ezine [who are somehow still kicking around], would become an infamous blogger widely credited as the one who kickstarted a tendency in political thought called “neoreaction”?

April 22nd, 2007 was Moldbug’s debut on 2Blowhards.com, publishing his formalist manifesto, to be republished as the first article on Unqualified Reservations a day later. Having ostensibly secured himself a reasonable amount of discretionary income in the dot-com boom, he took a sabbatical to read some books, old and new.

The product of UR was a series of lengthy blog posts with long-winded digressions, liberal use of quotations and extended commentaries on books written before 1922 offering perspectives that are unsettling to children of (very) late modernity. Between this were frequent spats with other bloggers (something Moldbug would come back to do again after Scott Aaronson urged action against Trump’s Executive Order 13769). See, e.g., his exchanges with Liberal Biorealist: [1][2].

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American anti-communism: infested by pinkos (1956)

[I’ll be away during Easter break and for a while after. Except for a draft I have ready and set to be published next week that isn’t directly related to the legitimist mission that this blog has set for itself, my hands are empty for the time being.

Until then, here’s a quick dose of your beloved 1950s Amerikwa that many people want to go back to.]

So I was digging through old texts on American diplomacy when I stumbled upon some documents and minutes of a 1956 meeting of the House Un-American Activities Committee, that dreaded and vile scourge of McCarthyism, entitled: The communist conspiracy: strategy and tactics of world communism.

We are introduced to the hearing thusly:

Among the duties of the Internal Security Subcommittee, pursuant to Senate Resolution 366 of the 81st Congress, is the duty to make a continuing investigation of the extent, nature, and effects of subversive activities in the United States, its Territories and possessions, including, but not limited to, espionage, sabotage, and infiltration by persons who are or may be under the domination of the foreign government or organizations controlling the world Communist movement or any other movement seeking to overthrow the Government of the United States by force and violence.

It is abundantly clear from the numerous projects which the Internal Security Subcommittee has completed pertaining to the Communist conspiracy in the United States, that this conspiracy here is only one tentacle of a worldwide octopus which has as its principal target the United States of America.

If we are adequately to appraise the operation of the Communist conspiracy in this Nation it is essential that we keep abreast of the world strategy and tactics of international communism. Accordingly, I have appointed a task force of the Internal Security Subcommittee, consisting of myself as chairman with Senators Herman Welker and Pat McCarran as members, for the purpose of maintaining a continuing study and investigation of the strategy and tactics of world communism.

The hearing today is the first in a series of hearings on this general subject matter which has many facets, each of which we shall explore as we receive the testimony of a number of witnesses who will be scheduled over the course of the next several months.

Now, before HUAC introduces its exhibits, we get an introduction consisting of, among other things, a summary by none other than AFL-CIO President George Meany on the grave nature of the threat America is facing, and the ways that one can stop communist imperialism.

I have to caution you, this is extremely counterrevolutionary material here. Even hardened High Tories will find it a tad too much to stomach.

Having warned you:

That is why the Communist parties are not political parties in the democratic sense of the word. They are only national sectors of a Russian-directed world body. The military weight and material resources of the Soviet state are the base, the heart and head of Communist activities everywhere. This brute force is combined with a phony religious fanaticism. The Soviet state and its foreign branches constitute a godless church-state. This godless church-state fights on all fronts, in all walks of life, and with any and all means. Its central aim is the extension of the present Moscow-Peking Empire to include the entire world.

[…]

Too many in the free world fail to see the real nature of Communism as the mortal foe of everything that we hold dear, of every moral and spiritual value. Too many in the free world are still prisoners of the illusion that Communism is, historically speaking, a progressive system — extreme liberalism temporarily making bad mistakes. Actually, Communism represents darkest reaction. It is an anti-social system in which there are embedded some of the worst features of savagery, slavery, feudalism and life-sapping exploitation manifested in the industrial revolution of early-day capitalism.

[…]

Not until we of the free world can give rebirth to a vibrant moral attitude, to a burning indignation against such frightful bestialities, can the freedom-loving people be sufficiently stirred to gather the moral strength for resisting and defeating the totally anti-moral dogmas and deeds of Communism at home and abroad. Yes, this means above all a moral struggle against Communism.

[…]

Communism is the very opposite of liberalism. Communism is the deadliest enemy of liberalism. Liberals should be the most consistent and energetic fighters against Communism. Liberals must also be on guard against developing a certain type of McCarthyism of their own. They must shun like a plague the role of being anti-anti-Communist. Only by refusing to be thus entrapped can liberals shed every vestige of subconscious and conscious regard for Communism as a movement with which they have something in common.

Much more regard must be shown by the democracies for principles — for the principles of human rights and human freedom. We must never sacrifice principles to expediency. This means being rigid in support of our principles.

Freedom-loving, all-American anti-Bolshevism: it’s worse than the John Birchers thought. The dark forces of Communist reaction bringing “feudalism” and “life-sapping exploitation manifested in the industrial revolution of early-day capitalism” are certainly out of the way, however. Now we have a benevolent feudalism and a managerialism so beautiful it would reduce the old cameralists like Justi, Pfeiffer and Sonnenfels to tears. Or perhaps indignant rage at how the Kammern no longer have any coherent income-expenditure flows to speak of.

[X-Post: Thermidor] Sociobiology as the Freudianism of the Right

[Published here on Thermidor.]

[This one is going to rustle some jimmies. I intended to write comments on the various applications of HBD I see in political thought much later down the road. However, in the aftermath of the Syrian missile strike ordered by the Trump administration and the ensuing disillusionment, the magazine’s editor was in the mood for some controversy. So I came up with this.]

[I’ll be back with your regularly scheduled royalism next time.]

In the aftermath of the UNESCO statement on race in 1950, the triumph of post-war social democracy and its attempt to instill guilt over crimes of various regimes generally characterized as “fascist,” the subject of race was to be made an indefinite taboo that lasts to the present.

This would come at a very awkward time. Just as race had been declared as nothing but an indefensible social construct, advances in population, behavioral and molecular genetics were being made that would fine tune the definition and precision of race to degrees greatly surpassing the older schools of physical anthropology. As a result, we are caught in the rather paradoxical situation that we are penalized the most when talking about race at just the same time that we know the most about it. Quite begrudgingly and usually unacknowledged to the public, race remains an acceptable research avenue in pretty much only two mainstream areas: forensic and biomedical sciences.

These circumstances, along with the pronounced demographic crises emerging from population migrations, declining fertility, and a general malaise in the relations between the sexes, have made the race question a prominent fixture of right-wing thought, indeed increasingly becoming the very foundation.

On one hand, this is not surprising. Indifferentism defeated Christendom, nationalism defeated legitimism, Lockean liberalism wiped out the idea of the virtuous prince and made his existence inherently tyrannical, Jacobinism rooted out the chartered liberties and fueros of the old regime, and mercantilist welfarism has crowded out the informal institutions of self-help. Alienated and atomized men without spirituality who have to live in a dysfunctional state around other ethnicities—this is a natural target demographic for these ideas to leave an impact.

On the other hand, it is nevertheless quite astonishing how thoroughly the race question (a specific take on it, too) has been made the ultimate theory of society and of history of the modern far-right, subordinating all other concerns as being a mere “superstructure” to the “base” of genetics. Today’s alt-right essentially consists of a synthesis of revolutionary ethnonationalism with sociobiological materialism. True, these were the animating ideas of an older white nationalism, also. But today’s right is seeing a determinist racialism incrementally growing into a consensus position. Around this racialism, a sort of clownish archetype of what “European civilization” is supposed to be has formed around it, an archetype I have difficulty describing except as a Greco-Roman-Nietzschean composite.

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Gobineau, the Royalist

[UPDATE: Now also on Thermidor.]

Just about everyone has heard of, if not actually read, Joseph-Arthur, comte de Gobineau, the racial theorist.

However, we will not be looking much at his racialism, although we will ultimately have to draw some observations on it near the end. Instead, this article is about the lesser known side of Count Gobineau – the intransigent royalist, Bourbon legitimist and conservative pessimist. Although his background and his historiographic debt to the elitist theories of Henri de Boulainvilliers are frequently acknowledged, it goes deeper than that. It is not possible to understand his infamous Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines (so horribly butchered by its American Southern translators) without knowing his background as a man of ancien regime temperament trapped in “le stupide XIXe siecle,” as Leon Daudet was to memorably describe it later.

It is a curious thing that Gobineau is overwhelmingly remembered purely for his Essai. In his lifetime, he was an intellectual with a diverse repertoire – serving in many diplomatic posts, writing novels, travelogues, gaining authority as an Orientalist and admirer of East and Central Asian civilizations [which is one of the reasons why judging Gobineau’s views by his Essai alone is highly misleading] and mingling with major figures of the day. He was one of the first men to recognize the literary genius of Honore de Balzac at a time when most of his contemporaries overlooked him. In addition, despite his disdain for the principles of the Revolutions of 1848, he may have actually inadvertently contributed to them in his capacity as a French minister to Greece, by being a capable defender of the liberal nationalist statesman Ioannis Kapodistrias, a man who was distrusted both by Klemens von Metternich and Friedrich von Gentz, two of the primary architects of the conservative order established in the Congress of Vienna.

A complex figure, indeed.

We will focus on a posthumous ouevre of Gobineau’s, La troisième république française et ce qu’elle vaut [What the French Third Republic is Worth] (1907), compiled from his manuscripts by Ludwig Schemann, a German enthusiast of his, a racial theorist who translated Gobineau’s Essai into German, and a man who inhabited volkisch circles.

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