Artists as Intellectuals?

In a society like ours, of consumption, opulent for the few, whose god is the market, the image has replaced the concept. We stopped reading to look, even when we rarely see one.

And so artists, actors, singers, announcers and TV hosts have replaced intellectuals.

This replacement comes from a deeper one; when intellectuals, especially after the French Revolution, came to replace philosophers. It is true that philosophers continued to exist, but the general tone of these last two centuries marks their public disappearance.

Progressivism, that infantile disease of social democracy, is characterized by assuming the vanguard as a method and not as a struggle, as was the case with the old socialism. The old newspaper La Vanguardia still exists in Barcelona.

The vanguard as a method means that for the progressive it is necessary to be, against all odds, always on the crest of the wave. Always ahead; in the vanguard of ideas, fashions, uses, customs and attitudes.

The progressive man always places himself in the temporal ecstasy of the future, neither the present, much less the past, has any significance for him, and if it does, it is always in function of the future. He is not interested in the ethos of the historical Nation, and even goes against this historical-cultural character. And this is so, because the progressive is his own project. He is always installed in the future because he has adopted the avant-garde as his method. No one and nothing can be in front of him, otherwise he would cease to be progressive. This explains why the progressive cannot give himself a project of country or nation because it would be placed in front of him, which implies and creates a contradiction.

And as no one can give what he does not have, the progressive cannot give himself nor give us a political project because he himself is his political project.

The progressive man, being the one who says yes to every novelty that is proposed to him, finds in artists his intellectuals. Today, in our consumer society where images have replaced concepts, we find that artists are, in the end, those who translate concepts into images. And the formation of the progressive consists in that, in a succession of truncated images of reality. The homo festivus, the emblematic figure of progressivism, of which thinkers such as Philippe Murray or Agulló speak, finds in the artist his ideologist.

The artist frees him both from the effort of reading (a habit that is irremissibly lost) and from the concrete world. The progressive does not want to know but only to be informed. He is greedy for novelties. And the world is “his world” and he lives in the glass bell of the old neighborhood stores where the flies (the people and their problems) cannot enter.

Porteño progressives live in Puerto Madero, not in Parque Patricios.

The tactic of the progressive governments is to transform the people into “the public;” that is, into a consuming public, with which the people cease to be the main political agent of any community, to cede that protagonism to the mass media, as ideologists of the masses, and to the artists, as ideologists of their own elites.

This is a mechanism that works at two levels: a) in the mass media, hundreds of journalists and broadcasters, those loquacious cultural illiterates, according to Paul Feyerabend’s (1924-1994) apt expression, tell us what we should do and how we should think. They are the messengers of Heidegger’s “anonymous one” that through the dictator “is,” says, thinks, works, dresses, eats, plunges us into improper existence; b) through artists as translators of concepts into images in theaters and cinemas and for a more restricted public with greater purchasing power: for those who are satisfied with the system.

The artist fulfills his ideological function within progressivism because he sings the infinite themes of vindication: gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, adoption of children by homosexuals, consumption of marijuana and cocaine, the fight against imperialism, the defense of indigenism, immigrants, the reduction of sentences for criminals, a nod to marginality and a long etcetera. But he never sings about the insecurity in the streets, prostitution, the sale of children, pedophile tourism, the lack of employment, the increasing murder and robbery of people, gambling for money, etc. No, that is not what Mastroiani’s film talks about. In short, he does not see the sufferings of society but its joys.

The artist as an actor represents all those plays where political correctness is represented. And in this sense, as Vittorio Messori says, in the first place is to denigrate the Church, to criticize the social order, the bourgeois virtues of moderation, modesty, thrift, cleanliness, fidelity, diligence, reasonableness, making the apology of their opposites.

There is no actor who does not rend his clothes talking about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, although no one represents the Christian or gypsy women in those same concentration camps.

Thus, if they represent Heidegger as a Nazi and Stalin as a master of humanity. The Pope always as an executioner and the nuns as perverts, but the moneylenders as needy and the pimps as liberators. No more depictions of the Merchant of Venice, nor of Martel’s La Bolsa. The conductor who dares to touch Wagner is excommunicated by the thought police of Jewish aesthetics in classical music.

In the local order, if they represent Martin Fierro, they remove the payada and duel with Moreno. General Belgrano is portrayed as a doctor. Perón as a bourgeois and Evita as a revolutionary. Even when the emblematic figure of every actor is Che Guevara.

All the theatrical hermeneutics is penetrated by psychoanalysis tinged by the logic of Freud and his hundreds of disciples. Logic that is resolved in the rescue of the “other” but to transform him into “the same,” because in the heart of this logic “the other,” like Jehovah for Abraham, is lived as a threat; and that is why in the supposed rescue I have to transform him into “the same.”

The artist is educated in difference; we see it in his outlandish clothing and behavior. He thinks and looks different but his product ends up being one more element for the homogenizing cohesion of all differences and otherness. He is one more agent of cultural globalization.

The pluralism preached and represented ends up in the apology of the sweet totalitarianism of the social democracies that reduce our identity to that of all equally.

Finally, the political mechanism that is at the base of this dissolution of the other, as the distinct, the different, is consensus. In it functions the simulacrum of the Kantian “as if.” Thus, I lend an ear to the other but I do not listen to him. A delayed negation of the other is produced, because, in the end, I seek to bridge the differences by reducing him to “the same.”
This is the ultimate reason why we have been proposing for years the theory of dissent, which is born of the real and effective acceptance of the principle of difference, and has the requirement of being able to live in that difference. And this is the reason why it is necessary to practice metapolitics: a discipline that involves the need to identify ideological diversity in the area of world, regional or national politics, trying to turn this diversity into a concept of political understanding, according to the wise opinion of the political scientist Giacomo Marramao.

Dissent should be the first step in making genuine public policy and metapolitics the philosophical and axiological content of the political agent.

Alberto Buela is an Argentinian philosopher and professor at National Technological University and the University of Barcelona. He is the author of many books and articles. His website is here.

Featured: The Serenade, by Jacob Jordaens; painted ca. 1640-1645.

The Archimedean Point: The Political and the Legal Sphere

The distinction between “political” and “legal” is particularly difficult because the scope, purpose, and assumptions of one and the other are the same, or similar, or, at least in part, coincident.

If, for example, one asks “what is the purpose of politics?” the prevailing answer is the “common good,” understood as security (and protection) from (internal and external) threats, as (internal) concord, and as well-being. If one asks the same question for the law, the prevailing answer will be to justly and surely regulate social relations; which coincides, in part, with the “common good” understood as concord in the community, given the need for rules on the one hand, and for them to be shared and accepted (predominantly) by the members on the other.

If, likewise, we start from the ambit, while the “social” character of politics is taken for granted, that of the law, it has given some problems: this does not detract from the fact that for a legal norm or command to exist there must always be a society, though of only two people. A norm that, like the moral norm, is only internal and has the individual and God (or conscience) as subjects, is not juridical. Further, it is juridical only if it is concretely enforceable (and violable); and—at least to some extent—enforced.

Which leads to the other problem of the effectiveness of the law, which necessitates the use of coercion, that is, force, itself a (typical) means of politics. And thus, it could go on for a long time.

On the other hand, there are the differences and irreducibility of one to the other.

An example for the enduring relevance (and rightly so) of an essential difference is the one made by Max Weber about the different attitude of the politician and the official: “To take a stand, to be passionate—ira et stadium—is the politician’s element, and above all the element of the political leader. His conduct is subject to quite a different, indeed, exactly the opposite, principle of responsibility from that of the civil servant. The honor of the civil servant is vested in his ability to execute conscientiously the order of the superior authorities, exactly as if the order agreed with his own conviction. This holds even if the order appears wrong to him and if, despite the civil servant’s remonstrances, the authority insists on the order. Without this moral discipline and self-denial, in the highest sense, the whole apparatus would fall to pieces. The honor of the political leader, of the leading statesman, however, lies precisely in an exclusive personal responsibility for what he does, a responsibility he cannot and must not reject or transfer. It is in the nature of officials of high moral standing to be poor politicians, and above all, in the political sense of the word, to be irresponsible politicians. In this sense, they are politicians of low moral standing…”

In this passage the distinction is formulated between the political attitude and function (which is to give commands) and that of the official (of the bureaucracy) which is to execute them. That being said, in order to understand and demarcate the different spheres of the political and the legal, it is necessary to identify the points of contact, as well as the differences between them.

As for those, the first is given by the character and social sphere in which they are necessarily carried out. As mentioned, the rule ubi societas ibi ius applies, as does the specular ubi ius ibi societas. The assumption of the sociality of the legal, as well as the political, is evident. As has been written, even on Robinson Crusoe’s island, the law came into being only with the presence of Friday: before that it would have been absurd. For politics (and the political) no one, to our knowledge, has ever questioned the presupposition of the social rapport (relation), since politics is always the activity of human groups.

Another common character is that of the preservation of society; a given also, for the most part, taken for granted for politics, somewhat less so for the “legal.” In reality if the law carries within itself, more prominently than politics, the idea of justice (with the extreme consequence, expressed in the saying, fiat justitia pereat mundus) it is also true that for a legal command (norm) to be (mostly) enforceable (hence effective) it is necessary for it to be shared, at least in prevalence, in society: a certain degree of concord must support it. More generally, it must be remembered how one of the prevailing conceptions of the law is that it is a social technique: a good “technique” must achieve the specific and assigned purpose of preserving society. Only commands on which a large proportion of associates agree are likely to be executed with a minimum of force and a maximum of consensus. And the same argument, mutatis mutandis, applies to welfare: the “good” technique must achieve goals of “good” (i.e., effective and positive) management.

As for the points of difference, the main one is the autonomous character of the political, which is contrasted with the heteronomous character of the legal. It is necessary to clarify these concepts, and the relationship between the autonomy of the political and the heteronomy of the legal.

First, the autonomy of politics (and the political) should be understood not only in the traditional sense, as independence from moral (and legal) precepts, but also in the literal sense, of that which gives goals, rules, to itself; that is, in the positive sense, before the negative sense, of possibility/ability of before freedom from. Valid for politics (and the political) is Spinoza’s consideration that the limits and rules to be observed by the state are those of nature and not of civil laws, and that being autonomous consists for man in being “able to reject all violence, to demand in his own judgment compensation for the harm he has suffered, and, in a word, to live at his own pleasure (Political Treatise, II.9);” and for states, being “together are to be considered as a man in the state of nature” (Political Treatise, VII, 22.), the situation is the same. Hence the character of politics is to be autonomous, in the sense of giving law: either to subjects, (in and with) peace, or, to (possible) enemies in (and with) war. The connection that the Roman spirit had identified between hostis and auctoritas and expressed in the Twelve Tables—adversus hostem aeterna auctoritas—can be explained thus.

Thus, character of politics (and the politician) is not to recognize laws (commands) other than those that (the community) chooses to give itself; if one obeys the commands of others, it means one is in a pathological situation. Like that of a protected state versus the protecting power.

Conversely, the “juridical” is unthinkable except within a framework of heteronomy: Autonomous is, in man, or can be, the conscience (moral or religious); but the command, the juridical norm, never. The most that can be done to increase the degree of “autonomy” is to participate in the formation of public norms (commands), as advocated by Hobbes and Rousseau. But even in a democracy as close to the “ideal type” of democracy as possible, the subject who commands (i.e., the assembly of citizens) is distinct from the “commanded”—thus as Hobbes wrote—there “passeth no covenant, between the sovereign and any subject” (De corpore politico, XXI, 2).

Thus, if autonomy is connoted by the political—understood as an attribute of collective unity (obviously not of the individual)—heteronomy is of the legal.

In this sense Kant’s principle that “the sovereign has only rights against his subjects and no duites (that he can be coerced to fulfill), (The Metaphysics and Morals, p. 95),” fully expresses both the heteronomy of the juridical and the autonomy of the political, obviously in relation to the modern state. Having only rights and no duties means both being able to give commands (laws) and (in an emergency) not having to comply with any (not even those autonomously assumed). Moreover, that coactive in parentheses indicates precisely legal obligation and duty, i.e., enforceable by resorting to force (that the sovereign has duties of other kinds—not legal—is conceivable and argued, with reason, by many). Thus, on the one hand the law, even that produced by private autonomy, rests in every case on a political decision and will (even to allow and support autonomy; that is, it is a rare example of heteronomous autonomy); on the other hand, the political, that is, the essential character of sovereign power is to be free from all legal conditioning and limitations.

The “heteronomous” character of the law, with regard to legal decision, also results from the structure of the same, which is based on the authorization/application of commands (norms) that have already been decided (elsewhere); so that a measure or judgment can be reviewed and qualified as valid (or invalid) on the basis of a check of conformity with respect to the norm or commands that support them. This is so whether these have normative content (as is, for the most part, the case in the modern state) or consist of mere commands (i.e., lacking generality and/or abstractness). A policy decision is, conversely, not reviewable with respect to a norm. While a ruling is good (valid) if the Judge has correctly applied existing law, the policy measure is good insofar as it is congruous in resolving a situation, at the limit breaking the law, including constitutional norms. While the above saying, fiat justitia pereat mundus (meaning by justitia the applicable law) applies to the Judge, the other salus populi suprema lex applies to politics (Hobbes writes that law, duty and profit of the Sovereign “are one and the same thing, contained in the sentence, Salus populi suprema lex,” De corpore politico, XXVIII, p. 177). And the salvation of the state is not properly a matter of the law, let alone of norms.

The same thesis was espoused by Thomasius and Kant regarding the distinction between the law and morality. For the former, all law consists of external and not internal commands; Kant then argues that “The pure agreement and disagreement of an action with the law, he says, without regard to the motive of the action itself, is called legality (conformity to the law) while when the idea of duty, derived from the law, is at the same time motive of the action one has morality (moral doctrine). Duties imposed by legal legislation can only be external duties, because this legislation does not require that the idea of duty, which is wholly internal, be in itself a determining motive of the agent’s will, and since it needs motives appropriate to its laws, it can only admit external motives. Moral legislation, on the other hand, although it erects internal actions to duties as well, does not exclude external actions for this reason, but refers in general to everything that is duty.” Hence it follows that “to the right is thus immediately connected, according to the principle of contradiction, the power to compel the one who undermines it,” and “a narrow right can therefore only be called that which is completely external;” whereby “it right rests solely on the principle of the possibility of an external compulsion which may consist with the freedom of everyone according to general laws.”

From this it follows that the rules (laws) of politics, that is, those against which the appropriateness of political behavior (and political institutions) is assessed, have as a common feature precisely that of not being juridical; that is, of not being able to appreciate (and coerce) those behaviors with respect to rules of law (particularly positive law, or to, depending on the meaning one gives to the latter, natural law). One may or may not agree with Hobbes’ view that “natural law is, to define it, a dictate of right reason as to what is to be done or not done in order to preserve, as long as possible, life and limbs,” from which it follows that the relevant behaviors are true or false, and not like those, evaluated from the legal aspect (as well as the rules) lawful or unlawful, valid or invalid; or that of Spinoza, according to whom the state must observe only the rules, not of civil law, but of natural law; but it is certain that on the “effected” plane, this appears to be true.
On the other hand, if one starts precisely from the “presuppositions” of the political, as defined by Freund, it is not clear how the choice between peace and war could be formulated in terms and on the basis of legal presuppositions (preventive and general), nor whether an action should be commanded and by whom, or whether an activity should be public or private.

The first, moreover, does not depend (except partially) on one’s own will, because choosing to be an enemy of a given political unit is another unit’s decision; as for the other two assumptions to claim to codify what must be public or who must be obeyed (including the form of state) is to want to plaster history. Even if in the Enlightenment and among the revolutionaries of 1789 the conception of the legislature (and of the law, including constitutional law) destined to last was widespread, nevertheless the conviction that one generation cannot bind (eternally) future ones was equally widespread; and, on the other hand, saving them from the “legal” drift was the concept of constituent power which, in any case, stands above (and before) the Constitution itself, by the same amendable, even integrally.

The other presupposition of “legal” is, according to Freund, the relationship between permitted and forbidden. Like that between social and individual it is not exclusive to the law but common to many other areas of human activity, especially morality. However, it is the condition of (thinkability and) existence of a command, since commanding something presupposes the freedom to choose and thus the prohibition of something else. Neither in a society in which everything is permitted, nor in one in which impossible things are commanded (ad impossibilia nemo tenetur) is an executable command (in general) conceivable, and therefore neither is a legal rule. Certainly, a society whose Grundnorm consists in “everything is permitted” is conceivable, but this, as well as never seen in history, would not need the law, understood as an apparatus of coercion (hence institution), since it would not be possible to compel anything. Such a society, without institutions and prohibitions, is ultimately the exact representation of the Hobbesian state of nature.

It follows from the above that the essential character of the rules of politics is precisely that they are not legal, that is, susceptible to external command and coercion. It could be argued that politics has no rules (laws); but this consideration is not supportable. In fact, politics has the rules it wants to observe (this is the first face of the autonomy of the politician); the other consists of those rules that determine its end (the Hobbesian salus rei publicae suprema lex); or the “technical” rules for the protection of the community and the exercise of power. Philosophy and political thought have elaborated many of them. From the one (De Benoist) of reducing the number of enemies, which has had the most varied formulations and expressions throughout history (from the Roman divide-and-rule to the “never war on two fronts” of the Germanic HQ of the last century). Machiavelli, but also Hobbes and Spinoza have indicated several—whose common (prevailing) connotation is to depend on the purpose of political activity. That is, on the protection of communal existence and the order it ensures, to which they are instrumental as means to the end.

The other character of the “political” and its rules is to be “superordinate” to the “legal” (and its norms). This is not only because of sovereignty—a key concept because it is the junction point between politics and the law—and which has (also) the function of guaranteeing/protecting order through the exercise/discipline of coercion; and not only because the purpose of politics, in the case of emergency (and sometimes not only in that) prevails over that of the law (justice, or rather equity), so that, as Jhering wrote “force will sacrifice law to save life,” i.e., according to Santi Romano, necessity is the source of law; but also because in following legal (or, in a different respect, moral) rules rather than those of “reason of state,” a community prepares, as Machiavelli wrote for The Prince “more quickly ruin than its preservation.”

If, for example, the Western powers had militarily come to the aid of Finland, which was attacked in 1939 by the Soviet Union (as demanded by much of the public), they would have had international law on their side (the Geneva Protocol of 1924 condemned war of aggression, and the war on Finland was such) but would have made a very bad political choice—both because, in addition to the war with Hitler, they would have found themselves in another one with Stalin, and because they would have consolidated the recent (and tenuous) alliance between their enemies. Quoting Odilon Barrot, since sometimes la legalité nous tue, in order not to die one must “break” or “derogate” from legality.

On the other hand, it is precisely the positive law, with its large casuistry of derogations and exceptions to constitutional and ordinary law that demonstrates the character and structure of this relationship: constitutional ruptures, states of exception, states of necessity, derogations and extenuating circumstances to criminal legislation.

Hence, Santi Romano correctly held, in the passage quoted above, that even in case it is forbidden to make use of exceptional powers, necessity legitimizes the violation of existing right (or rather law).

In other words, in every order (that is viable) there is a “general clause” (even if unwritten, even if prohibited) by virtue of which the protection of (collective) existence prevails over legality. Coinciding, according to Santi Romano, the concept of institution with that of order, this clause is juridical, because it is constitutive-conservative of collective existence. Together with sovereignty—and from an objective standpoint—it is the connecting point between the end of the political and the purpose of the law. It follows from this that the political institution (in modernity, and par excellence, the state) has the task of bringing together the demands of politics and law, sein and sollen. Precisely in institutionalist (legal) thought, and in the concept of institution, this is felt most sharply; according to Hauriou “power is a free energy of the will that takes on the enterprise of governing a human group through the creation of order and law.” Thus, in the beginning, there is power; this creates order through institution; power (and government) in fact is thus transformed into power (and government) in the law. The relationship between power, order through the law (i.e., the institution) and coutumier consent means that the institution must take into account both power and consent and order, and thus the “two” poles, political and legal.

The relationship of “superordination” or “decisiveness” between politics and the law, and of the prevalence-precedence of the former over the latter, to which Hauriou’s thesis on power and order has brought us closer, is particularly evident in the moment of foundation (or re-foundation) of the institution, and, in particular, of the institution-state.

Santi Romano has been very attentive to this, both in his early and later writings; the same problem is, however, usually neglected by jurists, partly with the extenuating circumstance that the jurist interprets the law that is, and does not investigate the genetic moment of the institution. But the very latter shows the essence and modes of the relationship: Sieyès’s theory of constituent power comforts him (and is its clearest expression). Sieyès bases it on three distinguishing features of such power: the first negative, of being freed from all forms, “une nation est indèpendente de toute forme.” In contrast to constituted powers, which are bound by legality (“il n’est legal qu’autant qu’il est fidèle aux lois qui lui ont été imposées“), the national will (i.e., constituent power) “au contraire n’a besoin que de sa réalité pour être toujours lègale, elle est l’origine de toute lègalité.”

The nation is not subject to a constitution, and cannot (nor should) be; not only is it independent of all forms, but it needs no legal justification (support). In it, reality and legality coincide: the latter is the development-emanation of the former. Lastly, “De quelque manière qu’une nation veuille, il suffit qu’elle veuille: toutes les formes sont bonnes, et sa volonté est toujours la loi supreme;” whereby it is it that determines (and institutes) the form(s) in which the institution will be organized and articulated. The politician thus does not have a given form, but is the creator of (his own) form. The fact that this form(s) is viable (i.e., effective, capable of causing command to be exercised with success and consensus) is due to the degree to which it is accepted by the consociates, which is expressed in essentially political (and “factual”) categories (and concepts), such as authority and legitimacy. Thus the “political” and the political will (both of the “creator” of the order and of the governed) is the Archimedean point of the (state) legal order: by taking away, modifying, or replacing that, it changes this; whereas the reverse is not true; for the change of one, or several (even most) norms, nor that of institutions, changes the constitution (understood in the Schmittian sense of fundamental decisions about the modes and forms of political existence), much less constituent power.

In this regard, it should be recalled how many jurists have noted that there are original and derivative institutions. The former are “those in which a legal order is embodied which is not posited by other institutions and which is therefore, as to its source, independent. Conversely, there are derived institutions, whose order is, that is, established by another institution, which thus asserts, in this respect, its superiority over the first, which thus remains subordinate to it;” just as the state has, according to Rudolf Smend, the character that “its functioning is not maintained by an engine or judge external to its structure, is not supported by a heteronomous cause or guarantee, but is integrated, through objective legislativeness with respect to value, exclusively in a system of integration gravitating on itself.” whereby “in a sense quite different from the constitution of an association, the written constitution of a state can therefore only stimulate and limit that constitutional life which gravitates on itself and which cannot be guaranteed heteronomously.” In sum, the political (and original) character of the state institution means that it is the political—and sovereign—power inherent in it that guarantees unity, stability and enforcement of law; for others, it is a power external to the institution (i.e., mostly another institution), precisely because it lacks sovereignty.

One could with a bold comparison, adapt to the law Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, for which there are points that the system cannot decide or prove independently. Conversely, the political, as Sieyès wrote in the passage quoted above, has no need for legitimacy or to conform to a legal norm or procedure.

The point of junction (and friction) between the juridical and the political is provided by public law, by which is meant what—in other Romance languages, as well as in Italian in Romagnosi’s time—is also called “political law.” In its higher branches, but sometimes also in its lower ones, several points of junction (and conflict) between the needs of politics and legal principles and institutions can be discerned.

The very positive law (positive rights) of modern states concurs in proving how the political (and politics) are irreducible to the juridical; in particular, if one understands this essentially as a rule, as a norm applicable exactly by a judge or official. The forms of this irreducibility are various. We recall the main ones:

1) First, there is no need to have law in order to create law. This is implicit in Sieyès’ assertion that the Nation, by the mere fact of its existence is all that it wants to be; that is, that it needs no legal legitimation. This, as well as by others, is taken up (and in a sense, expanded) in the well-known thesis of Santi Romano, whereby even without legislative authorization for the use of “exceptional and extraordinary powers, these may be assumed and exercised by virtue of necessity. As is customary, indeed all the more so given its greater energy, necessity is an autonomous source of the law, superior to the law.”

2) Even without wishing to recall the protective-conservative function of political authority, which is particularly clear and evident in the ” state of exception,” not even in relationships and situations not connoted by emergency, but, in a sense, normal, the scope of the “political” coincides with the “normative.” In fact, particularly relevant acts are removed from judicial review, even in liberal democracies, where control is, conversely and usually, penetrating and general. Thus, in Italian law, political acts; in French law, actes de gouvernement are not appealable before the judge. In this regard, it has been argued that “political activity cannot be defined solely as a free activity, but a free activity because it is political,” and that acts expressing the function of government are “institutionally subtracted from any judicial review. They are subtracted by nature, not because there is Article 31 T.U. on the Council of State.”

Even in the presence of Article 113 of the Italian Constitution (which prescribes the general reviewability of administrative acts), the category of political acts has “survived” the Republican Constitution; hence, the argument that such acts are not justiciable by “nature” is reinforced.

3) Representative powers (and sometimes not only those) are immune from criminal jurisdiction. The first modern European constitution, that is, the French constitution of 1791, already provided for this (Title III, ch. I, art. 3) prescribing that courts could not interfere in the exercise of legislative power or suspend the implementation of laws: similar prescriptions, and those on the immunity of parliamentarians (of heads of state and ministers) from arrests and trials were carried over into practically all subsequent European constitutions, of first liberal and (later) democratic-liberal states; as were the exceptions to ordinary powers and forms in the case of political trials.

The decisive argument for explaining immunities (and exceptions) for certain “supreme” organs of the state is the one expounded, in the wake of a tradition of thought about (or of) the state going back to Bodin and Hobbes, by Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, in a 1933 essay. In fact, he wrote: “That among the organs whereby the State manifests its will and implements it, there is one that towers above all others, superiorem non recognoscens, and that precisely because it cannot admit a superior (for then supreme power would be transported to this other), it must be removed from all jurisdiction and becomes, for that very reason, inviolable and unaccountable, is well known” (italics are ours).

The above brief excursus I hope has served to clarify of what is political and what is legal. The interpenetration of which—in the constituted forms—creates multiple types of interaction and relations, of which positive law is the testimony; and from which the distinctive criteria are recorded.

The fact remains that the law is by nature heteronomous, and form and procedure are essential (and “given” to it; whereas the political is autonomous, is morpho-poietic, and (ultimately) does not need to observe legal procedures or legitimations to impose its will.

When one tries to forget—or belittle—such characters, there are two reasons: either one tries to use the law as a support in a political battle ( as, for example, the Leninist use of legality), cloaking oneself in the “added value” of the law, aimed—as an extra weapon—against the enemy; or one confuses legality and legitimacy, forms and procedures, subordination and coordination, being and ought-to-be, command and obedience, public and private, in a chaos, which the lack of a visible and recognized (“public”) Archimedean point makes enduring (as much as harmful). Which may be the ideological form of a polycratic moderatism, in which the moderation of words covers the particularized ends of an (irresolute and) tendentially anarchic congeries of private powers, though not always in object, mentality and function.

Teodoro Katte Klitsche de la Grange is an attorney in Rome and is the editor of the well-regarded and influential law journal Behemoth.

Featured: Study for Divine Law, by Violet Oakley; painted ca. 1917.

1968 and 1989: The Two Fundamental Dates of Turbo-Capitalism

Capitalism dialectically overcomes the antagonistic demands of the proletariat (class struggle, spirit of splitting, partisan organizations, revolutionary passion); and it does so by anesthetizing its consciousness in a consumerist sense, but also by “economizing” the conflict (since the 1970s, the proletariat fights for higher wages and not for overcoming the mode of production, thus metabolizing the ideology of capital as an ineluctable horizon). Simultaneously, capitalism overcomes the bourgeois “unhappy consciousness.” In fact, this also represents, no less than the vindicatory and potentially revolutionary antagonism of the proletariat, a contradiction within capitalism; and this above all, if we consider that the bourgeoisie: a) presents its own universalist vocation which can lead it—as in the case of Marx—to contest the historical capitalist world in which it is still the dominant class; and b) has a non-marketable valuational and ethical sphere and, therefore, ultimately incompatible with the processes of omni-mercantilization proper to absolute capitalism.

The bourgeoisie is, consequently, incompatible with absolute capitalism, just as the latter is, by its essence, irreconcilable with the bourgeois class, both on the immaterial plane (unhappy consciousness) and on the material plane (properties of the middle classes). In reality, turbo-capital presupposes the happy unconsciousness of the resilient, post-bourgeois and post-proletarian consumers, and the destruction of the material bases of the very existence of the bourgeois middle class by the work of the auri sacra fames of cosmopolitan finance and its cynical managers. The bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in their dialectical conflictuality, had developed within the framework of eticity in the Hegelian sense; that is, in the real and symbolic space of the solid and solidary “roots” of community life, linked to the family and the school, to the trade union and the sovereign national State.

By making the world of life precarious, mobilizing, uprooting and completely commercializing it, absolute-totalitarian capitalism provokes the “dejectification,” the annihilation of the sittlich element. It deconstructs any residual community other than the intrinsically anti-communitarian one of the ephemeral do ut des of the market. It neutralizes the family and the unions, the school and the sovereign national state. And it produces the open space of the world reduced to a market and inhabited only by uprooted and homologated consumers, without proletarian antagonistic consciousness and without bourgeois unhappy consciousness.

The post-traditional society, according to Giddens’ expression, becomes a deregulated market, in whose borderless spaces social classes dissolve in the false interclassism of “homologated consumers,” who have as many rights as they can buy. The 1968 ideology—confusing the struggle against the bourgeoisie with the struggle against capitalism—acts as a symbolic order of reference for the new absolute-totalitarian capitalism, itself 1968-ist in its struggle against any legacy of bourgeois ethical life and in its anarcho-deregulating essence. For this reason, as Michéa suggests, since 1968, the Left has been transformed into “a simple political machine destined to culturally legitimize, in the name of progress and modernization, all the forward escapades of liberal civilization.”

With 1968 came the divorce between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. The latter, from ascetic and disciplinary (i.e., bourgeois), became permissive and transgressive (i.e., post-bourgeois), along the inclined plane that leads from the rebel to the narcissist and from the revolution to the new age. The formal subsumption of the adversarial couple under capital is verified: Right and Left advance more and more towards the horizon of capital, mutually accepted as natural-eternal destiny. De-anticized and precarious, society becomes a simple consumer society, a planetary “system of needs” (Hegel) and an unlimited “commercial society” (Adam Smith); a cosmopolitan market populated no longer by citizens of nation states and by fathers and mothers, but only by competitors; competitors who, in the absence of any community spirit, relate only on the basis of the principles theorized by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations—the omni-lateral dependence of necessity and acquisitive egoism—in relation to the brewer, the butcher and the baker. Following the Hegel of Elements of the Philosophy of Right, a society stripped of the elements of “eticity” (Sittlichkeit) decays into a mere and competitive “system of needs” (System der Bedürfnisse); that is, a simple place of mercantile exchange, governed by the “unsociable sociability” of conflictual atoms that relate only to compete and exchange goods, according to what Alain Caillé has called the axiomatique de l’intérêt.

On the side of intellectual production, the “unhappy consciousness” has dissolved. And, in place of the dialectical class of the bourgeoisie, a global class has taken over that is no longer bourgeois but ultra-capitalist, inclined to frivolously accept the “polytheism of values” and consumerist lifestyles within the “iron cage” of the idolatrous monotheism of the market. It is what, in Historia y conciencia del precariado, we have called the new post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist “financial aristocracy;” it is, in short, a class that, bearer of postmodern happy unconsciousness, lives in a parasitic and usurocratic manner, exploiting the slave labor of the dominated class.

For its part, the dominated class (so far not “per se”) coincides with the aforementioned precariat, dynamic fusion of the old bourgeois middle class and the old proletarian working class. The dissolution of the alliance between the unhappy bourgeois consciousness and the struggles for the recognition of menial labor is dialectically reversed in the passive acceptance of the capitalist world frame as irreversible horizon, making its own the “sad passion” of resilience. The planetarized market society of capitalism absolutus no longer knows any social resistance (it lacks a class that contradicts its project), nor political opposition (Right, Left and Center share the same ultra-capitalist vision of the world), nor philosophical delegitimization (with rare exceptions, intellectuals, devoid of “unhappy consciousness,” are today “organic”—in the Gramscian sense—to the system in force, to its relativistic nihilism and its competitive individualism).

The proletariat was dominated but not subdued. In fact, it had its own conceptual maps, largely coinciding with those of the Left in its various historical figures, capable of unmasking class domination and proposing paths of emancipation that would lead to making the cosmos transcend capitalist morphology. On the contrary, the precariat (national-popular servant) is both dominated and subjugated. And it is so to the extent that, in addition to suffering material domination (id est, exploitation and its economic-political organization), it also endures the immaterial and ideological, guided by the same maps provided by the dominant plutocratic groups. In them, the figure of the conflict—now only apparent—between Right and Left plays a role of primary importance. In short, if in dialectical capitalism the Right was theoretically the part of the master and the Left was primarily that of the servant; in turbo-capitalism Right and Left are equally the parts through which the dominion of the master is legitimized. The servant is now represented neither politically nor culturally; i.e., he is dominated in politics and culture as well as in economics.

According to the maps of domination outlined above, “progress” is the name that the pedagogues of the new mental order of culmination of power relations assign to everything that favors the dominant pole. On the contrary, “return” (or “regression”) is the infamous qualification with which the order of the dominant discourse delegitimizes any figure of the limit or, even simply, of non-alignment with respect to the omni- enveloping advance of the commodity form and the reification of the world of life.
According to what we have explained in Minima mercatalia and in Glebalizzazione, 1968 and 1989 mark, successively, two nodal stages of the evolutionary dialectic of capitalism in its transit from the dialectical phase to the absolute. It is from 1960 onwards that we witness the mise en forme of the diverse but equally expressive processes of the Zeitgeist of the new spirit of capitalism: (a) of the eclipse of the unhappy bourgeois consciousness; (b) of the neutralization of the anti-capitalist utopia of the proletariat, now “economicized;” and (c ) of the new anti-bourgeois and ultra-capitalist physiognomy of a new Left which, abandoning Marx and Lenin, has gradually become a “radical mass party” and accepting the reasons of the new order of power relations, which has finally ended up reabsorbing it. The hodierna speculative phase is ultra-capitalist precisely because it is anti-bourgeois first (1968) and post-bourgeois later (1989).

Beyond the irreducible prismatic heterogeneity of the events that have characterized 1968 on a planetary scale, we believe—following in the wake of Preve and of what we have examined in more detail in Minima mercatalia and in Il futuro è nostro—that it is possible to identify a common expressive function. Illusorily hailed as a revolutionary process of opposition to the capitalist structure, 1968 asks to be interpreted, in a diametrically opposed way, as the foundational myth of post-bourgeois and post-proletarian absolute-totalitarian capitalism; and more precisely as the decisive transit point from the dialectical to the speculative phase. The latter is characterized by the eclipse of the two instances (as well as of their alliance) of the anti-capitalist struggle of the servant and of the unhappy conscience of the bourgeoisie and, as a whole, by the substitution of the patriarchal and authoritarian dialectical capitalism for citizen-subjects, by the current turbo-capitalism of the new liberal-libertarian power for consumers with total deregulation (the gauchiste capitalism of the “forbidden to forbid” and of the plus ultra). Exemplum sui generis of the “color revolution,” 1968 was a decisive moment of emancipation not from capitalism, but for capitalism. This was aimed at overcoming the oppositional dichotomy between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and certainly not in the direction of the “sun of the future” of a post-capitalist society governed by relations between equally free individuals, but in the direction of an individualistic liberalization of consumption and customs; and this in the framework of a new capitalism no longer inhabited by bourgeois and proletarians, with their “eticity,” with their non-marketable values and their possible emancipatory anti-capitalism, but only by post-identitarian and Robinsonian consumers, colonized by a commodity form that has now become the new raison du monde.

Since the 1960s, the Left fought against the foundations of modern bourgeois civilization, without realizing that this battle was the same one waged by the new capitalism and its aspiration for the creation of a post-bourgeois space for the unlimited free circulation of commodities, of marketized persons and of the deregulated flows of liquid-financial capital: the struggle against the bourgeois world not only did not coincide with the struggle against capitalism, but finally ended up being identified with the struggle for capitalism itself or, rectius, for its definitive empowerment through the overcoming of the contradictions inherent to the dialectical phase and, therefore, for the transition to the new post-bourgeois and post-proletarian turbo-capitalism, beyond Right and Left.

With 1989, the movement of “naturalization” of capital could be considered complete (capitalismus sive natura): capitalism becomes “speculative,” as humanity sees itself reflected in the speculum of the totalitarian world of commodities. And so it is, more and more, induced to conceive it as the only possible world, in a total desertification of the imaginary. Capitalism then comes to correspond to its own “concept” (Begriff) after having gone through and overcome its own being-other-of-itself with the antithetical-dialectical phase.

As we tried to show in detail in Glebalizzazione, the annus horribilis of 1989 coincided with the epochal date of the imposition of capitalismus sive natura, that is, of economic fanaticism and planetary classism ideologically hypostasized in inescapable destiny or in nature already forever given, neither criticizable nor transformable: there is no alternative. It is the moment of the definitive dissolution of the bourgeoisie-proletariat and Right-Left dichotomies, according to the dynamics initiated in 1968 and culminated in 1989. The subsumption of the Left under capital, which with 1968 was formal and coexisted with fragments of a Left not yet integrated, was transformed into a real subsumption as of 1989, when the Left was completely reabsorbed within the horizon of meaning of capitalism and its progressive neoliberalism. It lives it as a natural and eternal horizon, producing an endless series of anthropological profiles worthy of the “last man” described by Nietzsche and classifiable under the headings of “disenchantment,” “repentance” and “conversion.”

Along with bourgeois culture, the very contradictory presence of the Soviet Union marked a limit for capital. And, as such, it had to be overcome. The Soviet Union and the Weltdualismus it made possible (cuius regio, eius oeconomia) constituted, in fact, a real and symbolic frontier for the market economy: they signaled that this was not the only possible world, nor the only one that really existed. On the other hand, the famous “thirty glorious years” of the West, from 1945 to 1975, with almost full employment and relative prosperity, from which even the less well-off classes benefited in part, were not the gift of a still munificent capitalism with a human face. Rather, they were the necessary effect of the pressure exerted by the reality beyond the Berlin Wall, an alternative model of social justice and existence. The communism implanted behind the “Curtain” was the very image of a possible alternative, or also of the real existence of the Left—albeit in a place other than the West—and the possibility of thinking and being otherwise. With 1989, the total subsumption of the Right and the Left under capital was consummated: both, from that moment on, integrally metabolized capitalism as an ineluctable destiny and the “struggle” between the two parties was fought, from then on, in the form of competition to become worthy of implementing the mere management—sometimes to the Right, sometimes to the Left—of the reforms decided by the global class and by the mercantilist order.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Vademecum of the Beginner Realist

Etienne Gilson (1884-1978) published this essay in 1935, in which outlines the importance of realism to counteract the excesses of idealism. The translation is by Philip Trower and appeared in Methodical Realism (1990).

The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to,; the third is to realize that those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If one then asks oneself why, one’s conversion to realism is all but complete.

Most people who say and think they are idealists would like, if they could, not to be, but believe that is impossible. They are told they will never get outside their thought and that a something beyond thought is unthinkable. If they listen to this objection and look for an answer to it, they are lost from the start, because all idealist objections to the realist position are formulated in idealist terms. So it is hardly surprising that the idealist always wins. His questions invariably imply an idealist solution to problems. The realist, therefore, when invited to take part in discussion on what is not his own ground, should first of all accustom himself to saying No, and not imagine himself in difficulties because he is unable to answer questions which are in fact insoluble, but which for him do not arise.

We must begin by distrusting the term ‘thought”; for the greatest difference between the realist and the idealist is that the idealist thinks, whereas the realist knows. For the realist, thinking simply means organizing knowledge or reflecting on its content. It would never occur to him to make though the starting point of his reflections, because for him a thought is only possible where there is first of all knowledge. The idealist, however, because he goes from thought to things, cannot know whether what he starts from corresponds with an object or not. When, therefore, he asks the realist how, starting from thought, one can rejoin the object, the latter should instantly reply that it is impossible, and also that this is the principal reason for not being an idealist. Since realism starts with knowledge, that is, with an act of the intellect which consists essentially in grasping an object, for the realist the question does not present an insoluble problem, but a pseudo-problem, which is something quite different.

Every time the idealist calls on us to reply to the questions raised by thought, one can be sure that he is speaking in terms of the Mind. For him, Mind is what thinks, just as for us the intellect is what knows. One should therefore, in so far as one can, have as little as possible to do with the term. This is not always easy, because it has a legitimate meaning, but we are living at a time when it has become absolutely necessary to retranslate into realist language all the terms which idealism has borrowed form us and corrupted. An idealist term is generally a realist term denoting one of the spiritual antecedents to knowledge, now considered as generating its own content.

The knowledge the realist is talking about is the lived and experienced unity of an intellect with an apprehended reality. This is why a realist philosophy has to do with the thing itself that is apprehended, and without which there would be no knowledge. Idealist philosophers, on the other hand, since they start from thought, quickly reach the point of choosing science or philosophy as their object. When an idealist genuinely thinks as an idealist, he perfectly embodies the essence of a “professor of philosophy”; whereas the realist, when he genuinely thinks as a realist, conforms himself to the authentic essence of a philosopher; for a philosopher talks about things, while a professor of philosophy talks about philosophy.

Just as we do not have to go from thought to things (knowing that the enterprise is impossible), neither do we have to ask ourselves whether something beyond thought is thinkable. A something beyond thought may well be unthinkable, but it is certain that all knowledge implies a something beyond thought. The fact that this something-beyond-thought is given us by knowledge only in thought, does not prevent it being a something beyond. But the idealist always confuses “being which is given in thought” with “being which is given by thought.” For anyone who starts from knowledge, a something beyond thought is so obviously thinkable that this is the only kind of thought for which there can be a beyond.

The realist is committing an error of the same kind if he asks himself how, starting from the self, he can prove the existence of a non-self. For the idealist, who starts from the self, this is the normal and, indeed, the only possible way of putting the question. The realist should be doubly distrustful; first, because he does not start from the self; secondly, because for him the world is not a non-self (which is a nothing), but an in-itself. A thing-in-itself can be given through an act of knowledge. A non-self is what reality is reduced to by the idealist, and can neither be grasped by knowledge nor proved by thought.

Equally, one should not let oneself be troubled by the classic idealist objection to the possibility of reaching a thing-in-itself, and above all to having true knowledge about it. You define true knowledge, the idealist says, as an adequate copy of reality. But how can you know that the copy reproduces the thing as it is in itself, seeing that the thing is only given to you in thought. The objection has no meaning except for idealism, which posits thought before being, and finding itself no longer able to compare the former with the latter, wonders how anyone else can. The realist, on the contrary, does not have to ask himself whether things do or do not conform to his knowledge of them, because for him knowledge consists in his assimilating his knowledge to things. In a system where the bringing of the intellect into accord with the things, which the judgment formulates, presupposes the concrete and lived accord of the intellect with its objects, it would be absurd to expect knowledge to guarantee a conformity without which it would not even exist.

We must always remember that the impossibilities in which idealism tries to entangle realism are the inventions of idealism. When it challenges us to compare the thing known with the thing in itself, it merely manifests the internal sickness which consumes it. For the realist there is no “noumenon” as the realist understands the term. Since knowledge presupposes the presence to the intellect of the thing itself, there is no reason to assume, behind the thing in thought, the presence of a mysterious and unknowable duplicate, which would be the thing of the thing in thought. Knowing is not apprehending a thing as it is in thought, but, in and thought, apprehending the thing as it is.

To be able to conclude that we must necessarily go from thought to things, and cannot proceed otherwise, it is not enough to assert that everything is given in thought. The fact is, we do proceed otherwise. The awakening of the intelligence coincides with the apprehension of things, which, as soon as they are perceived, are classified according to their most evident similarities. This fact, which has nothing to do with any theory, is something that theory has to take account of. Realism does precisely that, and in this respect is following common sense. That is why every form of realism is a philosophy of common sense.

It does not follow from this that common sense is a philosophy; but all sound philosophy presupposes common sense and trusts it, granted of course that, whenever necessary, appeal will be made from ill-informed to better-informed common sense. This is how science goes about things; science is not a critique of common sense but of the successive approximations to reality made by common sense. The history of science and philosophy witness to the fact that common sense, thanks to the methodical use it makes of its resources, is quite capable of invention. We should, therefore, ask it to keep criticizing its conclusions, which means asking it to remain itself, not to renounce itself.

The word “invention,” like many others, has been contaminated by idealism. To invent means to find , not to create . The inventor resembles the creator only in the practical order, and especially in the production of artifacts, whether utilitarian or artistic. Like the scientist, the philosopher only invents by finding, by discovering what up to that point had been hidden. The activity of his intelligence, therefore, consists exclusively in the exercise of his speculative powers in regard to reality. If it creates anything, what it creates is never an object, but a way of explaining the object from within that object.

This is also why the realist never expects his knowledge to engender an object without which his knowledge would not exist. Like the idealist, he uses his power of reflection, but keeping it within the limits of a reality given from without. Therefore the starting point of his reflections has to be being, which in effect is for us the beginning of knowledge: res sunt . If we go deeper into the nature of the object given us, we direct ourselves towards one of the sciences, which will be completed by a metaphysical of nature. If we go deeper into the conditions under which the object is given us, we shall be turning towards a psychology, which will reach completion in a metaphysics of knowledge. The two methods are not only compatible, they are complementary, because they rest on the primitive unity of the subject and object in the act of knowledge, and any complete philosophy implies an awareness of their unity.

There is nothing, therefore, to stop the realist going, by way of reflective analysis, from the object as given in knowledge to the intellect and the knowing subject. Quite the contrary, this is the only way he has of assuring himself of the existence and nature of the knowing subject. Res sunt, ergo cognosco, ergo sum res cognoscens [Things exist, therefore I know, therefore I am a knowing subject]. What distinguishes the realist from the idealist is not that one refuses to undertake this analysis whereas the other is willing to, but that the realist refuses to take the final term of his analysis for a principle generating the thing being analyzed. Because the analysis of knowledge leads us to the conclusion “I think,” it does not follow that this “I think” is the first principle of knowledge. Because every representation is, in fact, a thought, it does not follow that it is only a thought, or that an “I think” conditions all my representations.

Idealism derives its whole strength from the consistency with which it develops the consequences of its initial error. One is, therefore, mistaken in trying to refute it by accusing it of not being logical enough. On the contrary, it is a doctrine which lives by logic, and only by logic, because in it the order and connection of ideas replaces the order and connection between things. The fatal leap (saltus mortalis ) which catapults the doctrine into its consequences precedes the doctrine. Idealism can justify everything with its method except idealism itself, for the cause of idealism is not of idealist stamp; it does not even have anything to do with the theory of knowledge; it belongs to the moral order.

Preceding any philosophical attempt to explain knowledge is the fact, not only of knowledge itself, but of men’s burning desire to understand. If reason is too often content with summary and incomplete explanations, if it sometimes does violence to the facts by distorting them or passing them over in silence when they are inconvenient, it is precisely because its passion to understand is stronger than its desire to know, or because the means of acquiring knowledge at its disposal are not powerful enough to satisfy it. The realist is just as much exposed to these temptations as the idealist, and yields to them just as frequently. The difference is that he yields to them against his principles, whereas the idealist makes it a principle that he can lawfully yield to them. Realism, therefore, starts with an acknowledgement by the intellect that it will remain dependent on a reality which causes its knowledge. Idealism owes its origin to the impatience of a reason which wants to reduce reality to knowledge so as to be sure that its knowledge lets none of reality escape.

The reason idealism has so often been in alliance with mathematics is that this science, whose object is quantity, extends its jurisdiction over the whole of material nature, in so far as material nature has to do with quantity. But while idealism may imagine that the triumphs of mathematics in some way justify it, those triumphs owe nothing to idealism, they are in no way bound up with it, and they justify it all the less, seeing that the most mathematically oriented physics conducts all its calculations within the ambit of the experimental facts which those calculations interpret. Someone discovers a new fact and what happens? After vain attempts to make it assimilable, all mathematical physics will reform itself so as to be able to assimilate it. The idealist is rarely a scientist, more rarely still a research scientist in a laboratory, and yet it is the laboratory that provides the material which tomorrow’s mathematical physics will have to explain.

The realist, therefore, does not have to be afraid that the idealist may represent him as opposed to scientific thought, since every scientist, even if philosophically he thins himself an idealist, in his capacity as a scientist thinks as a realist. A scientist never begins by defining the method of the science he is about to initiate. Indeed, the surest way of recognizing false sciences is by the fact that they make the method come first. The method, however, should derive from the science, not the science from the method. That is why no realist has ever written a Discourse on the Method. He cannot know how things are known before he knows them, nor discover how to know each order of things except in knowing it.

The most dangerous of all the different methods is the “reflective method”; the realist is content with “reflection.” When reflection becomes a method, it is no longer just an intelligently directed reflection, which it should be, but a reflection which substitutes itself for reality in that its principles and system become those of reality itself. When the “reflective method” remains faithful to its essence, it always assumes that the final term of its reflection is at the same time the first principle of our knowledge; as a natural consequence of this it follows that the last step in the analysis must contain virtually the whole of what is being analyzed; and, finally that whatever cannot be discovered in the end point of the reflection, either does not exist, or can legitimately be treated as not existing. This is how people are led into excluding from knowledge, and even from reality, what is necessary for the very existence of knowledge.

There is a second way of recognizing the false sciences generated by idealism; in starting from what they call thought, they are compelled to define truth as a special case of error. Taine did a great service for good sense when he defined sensation as a true hallucination, because he showed, as a result, where logic necessarily lands idealism. Sensation becomes what a hallucination is when this hallucination is not one. So we must not let ourselves be impressed by the famous “errors of the senses,” nor startled by the tremendous business idealists make about them. Idealists are people for whom the normal can only be a particular instance of the pathological. When Descartes states triumphantly that even a madman cannot deny his first principle “I think, therefore I am”, he helps us enormously to see what happens to reason when reduced to this first principle.

We must, therefore, regard the arguments about dreams, illusions, and madness, borrowed by idealists from skeptics, as errors of the same kind. The fact that there are visual illusions chiefly proves that all our visual perceptions are not illusions. A man who is dreaming feels no different from a man who is awake, but anyone who is awake knows that he is altogether different from someone who is dreaming; he also knows it is because he has had sensations, that he afterwards has what are called hallucinations, just as he knows he would never dream about anything if he had not been awake first. The fact that certain madmen deny the existence of the outside world, or even (with all due respect to Descartes) their own, is no grounds for considering the certainty of our own existence as a special case of “true delirium.” The idealist only finds these illusions so upsetting because he does not know how to prove they are illusions. The realist has no reason to be upset by them, since for him they really are illusions.

Certain idealists say that our theory of knowledge puts us in the position of claiming to be infallible. We should not take this objection seriously. We are simply philosophers for whom truth is normal and error abnormal; this does not mean it is any easier for us to reach the truth than it is to achieve and conserve perfect health. The realist differs from the idealist, not in being unable to make mistakes, but principally in that, when he does make mistakes, the cause of the error is not a thought which h as been unfaithful to itself, but an act of knowledge which has been unfaithful to its object. But above all, the realist only makes mistakes when he is unfaithful to his principles, whereas the idealist is in the right only in so far as he is unfaithful to his.

When we say that all knowledge consists in grasping the thing as it is, we are by no means saying that the intellect infallibly so grasps it, but that only when it does grasp it as it is will there be knowledge. Still less do we mean that knowledge exhausts the content of its object in a single act. What knowledge grasps in the object is something real, but reality is inexhaustible, and even if the intellect had discerned all its details, it would still be confronted by the mystery of its very existence. The person who believed he could grasp the whole of reality infallibly and at one fell swoop, was the idealist Descartes. Pascal, the realist, clearly recognized how naïve was the claim of philosophers that they could “comprehend the principles of things, and from there – with a presumption as infinite as their object – go on to knowing everything.” The virtue proper to the realists is modesty about his knowledge, and even if he does not practice it, he is committed to it by his calling.

A third way of recognizing the false sciences which idealism generates is by the fact that they feel it necessary to “ground” their objects. That is because they are not sure their objects exist. For the realist, whose thought is concerned with being, the Good, the True and the Beautiful are in the fullest sense real, since they are simply being itself as desired, known and admired. But as soon as thought substitutes itself for knowledge, these transcendentals begin to float in the air without knowing where to perch themselves. This is why idealism spends its time “grounding” morality, knowledge and art, as though the way men should act were not written in the nature of man, the manner of knowing in the very structure of our intellect, and the arts in the practical activity of the artist himself. The realist never has to ground anything, but he has to discover the foundations of his operations, and it is always in the nature of things that he finds them: operatio sequitur esse .

So we must carefully avoid all speculation about “values,” because values are simply and solely transcendentals that have cut adrift from being and are trying to take its place. “The grounding of values” is the idealist’s obsession; for the realist it is meaningless.

The most painful thing for a man of our times is not to be taken for a “critical spirit.” Nevertheless, the realist should resign himself to not being one, because the critical Spirit is the cutting edge of idealism, and in this capacity it has the characteristics not of a principle or doctrine but of zeal for a cause. The critical spirit expresses, in effect, a determination to submit facts to whatever treatment is necessary so that nothing in them remains refractory to the mind. To achieve this, there is only one policy; everywhere the point of view of the observer must be substituted for that of the thing observed. The discrediting of reality will be pursued, if necessary, to its most extreme consequences, and the harder reality resists, the more determined the idealist will be to disregard it. The realist, on the other hand, should always recognize that the object is what causes knowledge and should treat it with the greatest respect.

Respecting the object of knowledge means, above all, a refusal to reduce it to something which complies with the rules of a type of knowledge arbitrarily chosen by ourselves. Introspection, for instance, does not allow us to reduce psychology to the level of an exact science. This, however, is not a reason for condemning introspection, for it seems probably that, the object of psychology being what it is, psychology ought not to be an exact science, not at least if it is to remain faithful to its object. Human psychology, such as a dog knows it, ought to be at least as conclusive as our science of nature; just as our science of nature is about as penetrating as human psychology as known by a dog. The psychology of behavior is therefore very wise to adapt the dog’s outlook on man, because as soon as consciousness makes its appearance, it reveals so much to us that the infinite gulf between a science of consciousness and consciousness itself leaps to the eye. If our organism were self-conscious, who knows whether biology and physics would still be possible?

The realist must, therefore, always insist, against the idealist, that for every order of reality there is a corresponding way of approaching and explaining it. He will then find that, having refused to embark on a critique preliminary to knowledge, he is free – much freer than the idealist – to embark on a critique of the different branches of knowledge by measuring them against their object; for the “critical spirit” criticizes everything except itself, whereas the realist, because he is not a “critical spirit,” is continuously self-critical. The realist will never believe that a psychology which in order to understand consciousness better starts by placing itself outside consciousness, will give him the equivalent of consciousness; nor will he believe with Durkheim, that the real savages are those found in books, or that social life consists essentially of prohibitions with sanctions attached, as though the only society we had to explain were the one described in Leviticus. Nor will he imagine that historical criticism is in a better position than the witness it invokes to determine what happened to them or discern the exact meaning of what they themselves said. That is why realism, in subordinating knowledge to its objects places the intelligence in the most favorable position for making discoveries. For if it is true that things did not always happen exactly as their witnesses supposed, the relative errors they may have made are a trifling matter compared to those our imaginations will embroil us in if we start reconstructing facts, feelings and ideas we never experienced, according to our own notions of what seems probable.

Such is the liberty of the realist. We can only choose between deferring to the facts and so being free in thought, or being free with the facts and the slave of thought. So let us turn to the things themselves which knowledge apprehends, and to the relationship between the different branches of knowledge and the things which they apprehend, so that, conforming itself ever more closely to them, philosophy can progress once more.

It is this spirit, too, that we should read the great philosophers who have preceded us on the realist path. “It is not in Montaigne,” wrote Pascal, “but in myself that I find everything I see within.” And we can equally say here; “it is not in St. Thomas or Aristotle, but in things, that the true realist sees everything he sees.” So he will not hesitate to make use of these masters, whom he regards solely as guides towards reality itself. And if the idealist reproached him, as one of them has just had the kindness to do, with “decking himself out in hand-me-downs taken for truths,” he will have his answer ready: much better to deck oneself out in truths which others have handed down, as the realist, when necessary, is willing to do, rather than, like the idealist, refuse to do so and go naked.

Featured: October, by Jules Bastien-Lepage; painted in 1878.

Nowhere Fast. Democracy and Identity in the Twenty First Century

The latest book by Brian Bolger has just been published. Nowhere Fast. Democracy and Identity in the Twenty First Century is a close and thorough analysis of the structural and cultural decline of western democracies, particularly the UK. The book examines the economic crisis of globalization, the emergence of a new “knowledge class,” and the phenomenon of populism. We are happy to bring you an excerpt from it.

Please consider supporting this worthy work by purchasing a copy and spreading the word.

There seemed to be an inevitability in the talk of globalisation and the ‘end of history’ which ushered in the twenty first century.  This emanated from the post World War 2 era of New Deals and free trade, and of a dollar hegemony supposedly built on a dichotomy of liberalism and democracy. There was a broad consensus amongst academics and liberals, combined with a myopic belief in the progressive benefits of technology, that a brave new world consensus was forming and that war and discontent was ebbing away like the tide from an old broken Empire. 

Economists tend to measure globalisation in ‘Trade in Goods’ and FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) flows across borders. Yet this is like sailing a passenger ship in the North Atlantic with ‘Icebergs’ disabled from the navigation system. There are Icebergs floating around… and lots of them. ‘Trade Openness’ (calculated as Exports plus Imports as a % of GDP) grew steadily from 1945 onward. It reached its peak in approximately 2005 and has since begun to tumble.  There is now a trend to onshoring with the dual impacts of Covid and Ukraine. There are declining rates of return on investments  and the problems of geopolitical uncertainty. The world, effectively, is splintering into blocs (Grossraums, ‘great spaces’) and the result is chauvinistic assertion manifested in military conflicts. But the reasons for the collapse of interrelated economies goes deeper. It is not purely economic. There is an underlying shift in what Carl Schmitt called the ‘Nomos of the Earth’.

Whilst the twentieth century may have been one of globalisation and trade, it was also one of a ‘total mobilisation’ of resources and human resources for a system of capital accumulation – which heaps excessive demands on international relations. 

In political philosophy it often takes a period of nuanced reflection to assess the real ‘telos’ or ‘nomos’ of what occurred before or what is transpiring. At first Colonialism appears as a philanthropic and mercantile escapade. The ‘nation state’ appears to be the solution to the Holy Roman Empire and the despots of monarchical Europe. Democracy appeared to be the solution to the woes of the nineteenth century. However,  when the dialectic unfolds, we are left with the real ‘Nomos’ (law, ‘lex’ in Latin or ‘right to the land’). The ‘Nomos of the Earth’ was the concept which Schmitt outlined which, having begun with the discovery of the ‘New World,’ the Americas  replaced the ‘Old World’ of Europe and Asia. The ‘nomos’ is the real title to land, to a culture, and it is beyond International Law. In this however came the ambivalent nature of US policies of interventionism and isolationism. Establishing an American ‘Grosssraum’, as in the Monroe Doctrine, becomes problematic. The maritime Empire of the British was another ‘Grosssraum’. The nation state, however, works in contradistinction to this reality. It only works out in an international system of agreed law, of equal liberal nation states. When this breaks down, we have the polarisation of ‘Grossraums’ and the casualties of diminutive nation states. So ‘nomos’ means the real original title to land and when conflicts arise, it is usually a consequence of this disputed title, as in the Ukraine or Israel, or in Taiwan.

From the Middle Ages there developed a code of civil and ecclesiastical law to regulate conflicts of Church, Republic and Prince. The Holy Roman Empire acted as a type of ‘Katechon’ or protector against the antichrist. It was therefore more of a guiding ethos, or telos regarding Empire, an ideology even. The ascendancy of nation states in the nineteenth century sees the demise of the ‘Katechon’ or ethos. As in Washington’s final address the emblem of the modern era becomes ‘As little politics as possible, as much trade as possible’. So, nation states become largely conduits for trade, for globalised trade. Such a myriad of conflicting interests, mostly economic, has resulted in a ‘forgetting’ or rational/technical society without an underlying ethos. Now civilisational states, such as Russia’s ‘Holy Rus’, Chinese ‘Tianxia’, or Islamic states see themselves as unified (however corrupt). The American ‘Grossraum’ on the other hand, consists of liberal contradictions, the weakness of representative government, a confusion of foreign policy and an anarchic domestic world of anomie. Yet the liberal elites act as though they hold some higher moral ‘progressive’ framework. Hegel had said that there was no real American ‘state’, that it lacks a commonality of culture. 

It is not in effect a process of deglobalisation which is occurring, but the fundamental dissolution of the de facto independence of nation states and its replacement with regional Grossraums, akin to Empire. The current dying pains of economic globalism are ringing around the world.  Notions of International Law break down when its implementation is unequal and sporadic or when the civilisational states and empires resent encroachment. Schmitt envisaged, presciently, a world, not of globalisation, but one of differentiated ‘Grossraums’. He contrasted fixed ‘culture’ states such as Germany with flighty mercantile sea empires such as Great Britain. Land based realms, close to the soil, to nature are more stable. Again, there is a contrast between Kantian notions of universal international states based on a system of International Law and its opposite in civilisational Eurasian states who emphasise local and particular cultures. The Westphalian   world, which ushered in the modern notion of nation states is under threat.  The problem for modern nation states is that the sovereign no longer is able to wield the ‘exception’, to secure the safety of the state. This is due to the decadent form of liberalism which runs amok inside nation states. The absolutely sovereign Hobbesian state is in abeyance. The liberal state, based on economy, rationalism and progressive universality is unable to defend itself. The Katechon is under threat, not ostensibly from warring civilisational states, but from inside. 

The liberal and Marxist world envisaged an unfolding progress to a Utopian end of history schema and its naivete is now visible. It is more akin to Hegel’s development of spirit but one rooted in nature and culture. The liberal world must accept the particularity of cultures and their equal jurisdiction; there is no universal human rights, no good and evil. Man has moved from land to sea to air, to space. Yet we need to return to the land and a ‘jus gentium’ (law of nations) based on natural law rather than positive law which protects peoples rather than land borders. This, in itself, involves a sea change to real democratic participation in the polis and a move away from nationalism to community. In the middle ages there was a recognition of an authority that existed, be it the Emperor or the Pope,  and an informal common law. There were no wars between states, only competition between nobles. They largely concerned the pushing out of terrain rather than defending ‘borders’. We are now encompassed by borderlands and all its ensuing strife and war. Modern globalisation only concerns matter rather than spirit. Competition between modern states is delineated by a type of economic piracy. We have a version of maritime colonialism dressed up as globalisation. It is merely the naming which has changed. 

This international sea like empire is rootless. It imagines ownership of titles rather than ownership of culture. It is extractive rather than productive or creative. It provokes ‘ressentiment’ from the poor and disenfranchised. It creates borders and division because it has no underlying theology. The theoretical underpinning of the Chinese’Tianxia’ (all under heaven) of a cultural Chinese empire is its, according to the Chinese, opposite. In this argument the empire must understand the relevant cultures it ascribes to. It is not one off dominion but understanding, however far-fetched that might seem with the present Chinese incumbents. 

War has an economy of its own. When the underlying ‘telos’ to nation states is economic only, then this permeates all aspects of life. It is like a plague of sorts jumping from one realm to another: it invades healthcare, education, and war.  So, war has become Keynesian in an era of diminishing capital rate of returns ( r>g).  Capital follows a pattern of osmosis- seeking any host. Stocks in defence industries are booming. There seems to be no limits on technology and capital. War is not incidental to the modern era – it is a fundamental part of the ‘wealth of nations’. An International Court of Justice should be based on fundamental natural law, not allied to political institutions and particular states. Multicultural states are unrooted and their capital elites unmoored. There is in essence a dysfunctional quality to modern occidental states. Economy must be subservient to theology and telos.

Much of modern and late modern conceptions of Democracy and Identity are general, universal assumptions about how scientific research is done. Scientists and liberal philosophers start from the premise of how things ‘should’ be, not about what they, in fact, are. Our quest, then, is to find this dominion and how ‘Being,’ as an ontological concept, is not objective or fixed, but phenomenological, that is it is local and particular, in flux all the time. This conception nullifies any universalist attempts to ‘categorise’ or objectify other cultures. It therefore renders invalid much of the liberal assumptions on universal law, democracy, human rights and identity.

The map of the dominion, I believe, can be travelled in four domains, that of Political Economy, the ‘Polis’ (Democracy), Elites and Identity, although they all share common terrain. We follow Clifford Geertz in ‘believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun. I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.’ Therefore, I approach these subjects from the position of phenomenological description and hermeneutics to give access to meaning. Since Plato, philosophers have established forms, or categories, noumena or Gods, as a framework of usurping nature. These ‘systems’ have imprisoned culture in artificial reason or metaphysics, divorced from nature, from the reality of good and evil. By analysing a ‘forgetting’ of the underlying assumptions of morality (and how they have been overtaken by reason), democracy and identity can be removed from obscurity, from a hermeneutical hiding since the Enlightenment.

Abel Bonnard’s Aristocratic Friendship

An immortal figure, except for his political career, Abel Bonnard (1883–1968)  was a member of the Académie française and one of the most popular writers of the interwar period, prompting Céline to call him “one of the finest French minds”. His prolific output includes poetry, travelogues, novels, biographies and a section in the tradition of the French moralists of the Classical Age, including his essay L’Amitié (Friendship), published in 1928.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle devotes two chapters to the polysemic meaning of friendship. Philoi thus goes beyond the simply “friendly” concept we are familiar with, to mean sociability and reciprocal affection. It covers the relationships that animals, lovers (as Tristan sings to Isolde at the home of Marie de France: “Bele amie, si est de nus:/ Ne vus sans mei, no je sanz vus“), various family members. Aristotle not only explains these different relationships, but also distinguishes, as Cicero and Montaigne would later do, three types of friendship, which are different in nature and not simply in degree: the first, the most vulgar, is that based on interest and therefore usefulness; next comes that which is akin to pleasant companionship, but which is only the image of true friendship; the third, which relates to the good and enables the fulfillment of virtue between good men.

True friendship, which, unlike the accidental character of “familiar relations formed by some circumstance or utility” (Montaigne), is immutable and can only be born among virtuous men, “friends by virtue of a certain good and a certain resemblance” (Aristotle). This friendship is that of the absolute choice of a being in whom we recognize our similarity in terms of virtue, which is just as beneficial, whether it emanates from us or from another man of value, the friend being for Aristotle “another self.”

However, if Aristotle’s whole question of friendship is to be placed within the broader framework of a reflection on the Good, this notion may sound barbaric to modern ears. Indeed, the history of philosophy since Antiquity has witnessed a gradual shift away from the idea of a transcendent Good, independent of man and objective, gradually giving way to the notion of freedom. For Hegel, the spirit becomes aware of its own nature through history, and by becoming conscious, by moving from the in-itself to the for-itself, humanity gradually liberates itself: “To make the external world everywhere conform to the concept of freedom once recognized, such is the task of the new times,” were the last words he uttered in his very last lecture. The cardinal value of our time has thus become Freedom, i.e., man’s ability to be an active subject in history, to do good as well as evil, to have “within himself the possibility of both the absolute something and the absolute nothing” (Weininger, Sexe et caractère, 1903).

Abel Bonnard takes note of this change and now understands that the men who can lay claim to friendship are those who are similar in terms of freedom rather than virtue; he writes in Les Modérés: “Those who have really done something must be noble; they cannot be pure.” The author strives to defend an aristocratic conception of humanity, in which only a few great souls can be differentiated, “a small number of beings without any relation to all the rest, noble, superior or charming” (L’Amitié). In this world, where men are abstractly reputed to be free and equal, Abel Bonnard is quick to remind us that an elite does exist, a community of equals among the unequal, of men running the gauntlet with Rimbaldian “free liberty,” i.e., taking it violently in hand. Nobility of soul requires us to be absolutely modern, to act out this passage from Happiness to Freedom: “But why regret an eternal sun, if we are committed to the discovery of divine clarity—far from the people who die in the seasons” (Rimbaud). All men are now free, but only a few know how to make themselves worthy, and those who are worthy can earn that august passion that is friendship. At the exact opposite end of the spectrum are the literal and botanical antipodes, the clumsy onlookers, embarrassed by silly qualities of psychological characterization. As welders of trivialities, they rely on adventitious elements such as occupation, “passions” and habits to compose their relational circles, all of which have nothing to do with a man’s deeper character.

Only true friendship can exist today between men who are fundamentally free, explains Bonnard, between what we will call distinguished men, both by their eminently superior character and by their delicate manners and refined tastes. The character of such men is complex and requires several common traits.

An “intimate richness” must pre-exist friendship between “spirits of the same rank,” for how can one extend oneself into the world without first having delved into oneself, without having plumbed the depths of one’s solitude? Men in the crucible of experience have acquired an autonomy that is the first impulse of freedom, since to be free is to be able to begin to make sovereign decisions about one’s life. It is because a man has differentiated himself from the masses that he can have an original vocation in the world, and it is in this that he can be a regular friend, with whom we can finally find a spirit to our measure that can exalt us, reminding us of Theognis’ words in his Sentences, “Nobility of soul is learned from noble souls.” In this sense, Bonnard sees in leisure the possibility of “completing ourselves” and gaining in subtlety so as to be able to communicate something to our fellow man: without deep inner work, without distinction, without introspective impulse, without radical originality, speech is reduced to impudent chatter. The friend has something of himself to offer, his otherness; and this is where man can begin, Bonnard tells us, echoing Otto Weininger a few years earlier: “Male friendship is a trade based on the sharing of the same idea or the same ideal; in other words of something that unites them without ceasing to belong to each of them in particular.” That said, the beginning of friendship in Bonnard’s work is not essentially a matter of ideas, but takes place well upstream of the “commerce of intelligences.” Beyond mutual sympathy, the two friends must have a similarity of nobility and grandeur, of instincts and tastes: they must be able to sense in each other the nobility of the race. The original potential of friendships thus comes primarily from compatible characters.

Perhaps this is what the quest of our lives here on earth is all about: to find worthy company with men who, among other eminent qualities, share the most incoercible: a taste for the absolute. In Aurélien, Aragon writes unforgettable pages on this taste for the absolute that embraces Berenice, plunging her into a vertigo that “is accompanied by a certain exaltation, which we will recognize at first, and which, always exerting itself at the sharp point, at the center of destruction, risks making unwary eyes mistake the taste for the absolute for the taste for unhappiness.” But above all, those who are pierced by the absolute are in search of “the embodiment of their dreams, [of] living proof of greatness, nobility, the infinite in the finite,” and escape the vicissitudes of the centuries. Distinguished men with a taste for the absolute are the shooting stars of this world: they are men unaffected by the turmoil of the centuries, atemporal men, pilgrims of the Absolute with an imperishable character; these are the monads we must try to grasp if we are to enliven humanity. Let us become demiurges, spewing the lukewarm and the apocryphal whites; let us find the men of our race, with whom we share the same burning fire; let us rummage through the apparent mire without reluctance to “look in the scum for someone rare and exquisite.” Happiness, a backward clown, drags its feet and begs, but what does it matter to us as long as there are still works to freely aspire to.

As we have just seen, the distinguished man, polished by the centuries, is above all a profoundly unique man, but not a lonely one. It is because he has understood the limits of his own monadic finitude that the distinguished man seeks to confront other souls, for “as soon as a man reaches a certain inner richness, he feels that what he has done does not express his whole nature” (L’Amitié); and so he must confront reality. As Simone Weil teaches us in the lines devoted to friendship in Formes de l’amour implicite de Dieu (Forms of God’s Implicit Love), this reality, the place where we encounter exteriority, is synonymous with the materialization of contradictions. “Friendship is a supernatural harmony, a union of opposites,” she tells us, namely “the preservation of the faculty of free consent in oneself and in the other,” leading to equality. To project himself into the world, man must be differentiated, freely disposing of himself. He must be both a stranger to himself and an inhabitant of the world, enriching himself without being distorted by it. Abel Bonnard sprinkles his short essay on friendship with aphorisms and ties these contradictions together laconically: “Friends are loners together,” which should be read with Simone Weil in mind: “There is friendship only where distance is preserved and respected.” As Aristotle was fond of reminding us, man is a sociable being, and so he cannot do without a vital attachment to that other himself: friendship takes on its full meaning when we live together.

For Aristotle, living is initially assimilated to feeling and thinking, but this world of potentiality must be embodied: “Power is conceived by reference to action, and it is in action that the essential lies” (Nicomachean Ethics). Friendship in power must be actualized, that is, man must manifest his inner life through action, by committing his own freedom to the world. Friends are above all men who are ready to compromise themselves, and it is by giving themselves to the world that they can give life to their sensibility and learn: “When someone enchants us with his rich and profound experience, it is not the case to demand from him a spotless neatness. If he had wanted to keep it, he would not have learned so much. The most virtuous follow the straight path, which is, by definition, the one that passes through the fewest places. The purest cannot also be the richest” (L’Amitié).

Friendship between sovereign men unfolds both in space and in time, i.e., within a historical framework. Aristotle places friendship precisely within a communitarian and political reflection (“the deliberate choice of life in common is friendship; the end of the state being therefore the good life, all this exists only for this end”, Politics) on the different types of government, which he structures in a ternary fashion (kingship, aristocracy and republic, with their degenerate forms respectively: tyranny, oligarchy and democracy). The types of friendship differ according to the political regime, with those allowing the most friendship obviously being preferable. Contrary to Aristotle, who suggests that, among decadent forms, democracy is the one that best allows for friendship in that it brings together a priori more equal subjects, and to Derrida, who fantasizes about a future democratic promise in Politiques de l’amitié, Bonnard realizes that democratic egalitarianism does not allow for friendship because it does not understand the differentiation of beings: “In a world without elites, there are no more friendships.” In addition to the egalitarian fad that disregards any qualitative differences between individuals, democracy has given rise to “friendships” based on self-interest.

We find eloquent illustrations of these utilitarian friendships in Barrès’ Romans de l’Énergie Nationale, which depicts the various financial and parliamentary compromises of democracies, and which undoubtedly influenced Bonnard. Thus, in Les Déracinés, an impossible understanding is born, a heartbreak between the seven young men who, freshly landed in Paris, meet in front of Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides to seal their destiny: “Destiny, duty, culture; these are the three terms in which Sturel, Saint-Phlin, Rœmerspacher were to sum themselves up. Suret-Lefort, for his part, was thinking of appearances; Racadot and Mouchefrin, of pleasure; Renaudin, of food.” In fact, since “all individuality poses as the enemy of the spirit of community” (Weininger), any true friendship in a democratic regime has to be transgressive: it has to be completely at odds with the established bourgeois order, with the cozy little nest in which it is easy to let oneself snooze comfortably in the middle of winter. Let us go even further: if friendship is automatically corrupted in a democratic regime, as Bonnard argues in Les Modérés, it is precisely because it is the only democracy worth having, being a “differentiated egalitarian social order,” being that of men free and equal in nobility, who, by their height, strike down the bleating voters. In his Éloge de l’ignorance, Bonnard castigates republican, universalist, egalitarian and scientistic (and therefore reasoning and aspermatic) education, which produces a “sinister dearth of men.” Against this, Bonnard aspires to a Nietzschean cultural revolution, which aims to bring passion, instinct and action to the fore rather than cold reason and pure intellectualism, for man is made to “poetically sublimate and transfigure the world and its secrets, not to elucidate them.”

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche stresses the “fundamental antagonistic relationship” between man and woman. This book was bound to exert some influence on Bonnard’s contradicter, who is adamant about the impossibility of women’s access to friendship. For him, the empire of friendship is unconquerable for them, because the planes of abstraction and conceptualization belong to the male mental universe. Clearly, women’s intelligence does not play a comparative role to that of men; rather, it is used quite differently: women (to be understood here, as with Weininger, as the absolute feminine principle and not as empirical women) are immersed in the world and its intrigues, and do not, unlike men, attempt to abstract themselves from it using their intellectual faculties. The friendship that can be attributed to women between themselves is also a deception and stops at the stage of pleasant companionship, since women do not walk on the crest of ideas and cannot get rid of the specter that love constitutes for them. “Friendship” for women, even when it is a matter of masked rivalry, can only take on, ironically, the finery of intimacy, the discovery of its exposure and sexualization: “Women reduce the other to his sexuality… What interests a woman in a human being is first and foremost his love affairs” (Weininger). This permanent cult of the present, this impossibility of historicization, this subjection to love, is what women lack in order to build a friendship, requiring temporalization, constancy and projection. For Schopenhauer, women are much more frontally in the present than men, “the being of instantaneity, of immediacy,” and “all that is present, visible and immediate, exercises over them an empire against which neither abstractions, nor established maxims, nor energetic resolutions, nor any consideration of the past or the future, of what is distant or absent, can prevail” (Essai sur les femmes).

Friendship between men and women is also a chimera, as this same friend explains, since friendships between the sexes can only be the cover-ups for love, its bastard forms: they “are nothing, or they are the contained, attenuated, weakened, unconscious or, by themselves, modest and quiet expression of a loving feeling.” In this sense, friendship can only be a subtle declension, half-confessed and avowable, which has more to do with pleasant Aristotelian companionship mixed with a fine amorous projection, as is particularly clear with the case of “men who, under the name of friends, are only former suitors, reduced to modesty.” These friendships, while necessary to the flow of a life that occasionally includes moments of entertainment, cannot touch the “deep life,” enriching friends with a consequent contribution. True friendship does not consist in the shameless unveiling of oneself, nor can it accommodate the shenanigans of lies. Worse still, such habitual friendships can provide support for a man’s self-love, as if he were donning “the gaudy garb of the young leading man,” and for the woman, whose power of seduction is always to be tested, among her friends whom she would consciously or unconsciously assimilate to a flock of courtiers. Yet friendship cannot be a place for equivocation: “love has at least that in itself, that one is forced to prove oneself, instead of these so-called friendships being affections without expense.” Bonnard, gathering his thoughts, synthesizes as follows: “Those of our friends whom we love best are perhaps only women we could have loved. By the subtlest of artifices, we delude ourselves into believing that we escape with her from the eternal intrigue of the sexes.”

If friendship between men hovers far above love, friendship between men and women can never fully detach itself from it; in detumescence, it becomes a bastard form of it, while beyond it, an amplification of friendship between a man and a woman can only transmute into love. It is precisely in the bosom of love that friendship between a man and a woman can be fully tasted; so it is no coincidence that, after the developments we have just attempted, Aristotle equates friendship between husband and wife with the aristocratic regime. It is a tribute to love to find friendship in it, for it is a great pity, Bonnard teaches us, that most lovers love each other in order to escape the idea of friendship, and worse still, that most lovers love each other without friendship. Throughout Les Poneys sauvages, Déon portrays “friendly lovers” following a set course: Georges, a traveling journalist, and Sarah, a wandering Jewess, masculine woman, inveterate seductress, delirious soul, eternally elusive. Tenderness is often taken for granted between the lovers, but supreme love cannot do without a deep friendship, woven like a nearby reclining bed around them: “After embracing as if to perish together… after having given each other everything, they were charmed to be able to say everything to each other.” If the human is found at the juncture of man and woman, perhaps the androgynous alone can be resurrected in love, like Tristan finding Isolde, or René and Florence uniting to perfection in Toledo in Comme le temps passe.

Love or friendship, both presuppose an impossible perfect unity, which remains the prerogative of the divine. Bonnard’s conclusion, “true poetry, on the contrary, is to always increase ourselves, without ever being sufficient, and to sink into ourselves without excluding ourselves from the Universe,” echoes Simone Weil’s lines on friendship: “Pure friendship is an image of the original and perfect friendship which is that of the Trinity and which is the very essence of God. It is impossible for two human beings to be one, and yet scrupulously respect the distance that separates them, if God is not present in each of them. The meeting point of parallels is infinity.”

Théo Delestrade writes from France. This articles appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.

Featured: Peter Darnell Muilman, Charles Crokatt and William Keable in a Landscape, by Thomas Gainsborough; painted ca. 1750.

Why Does Capitalism Now Prefer the Left?

The old bourgeois capitalism, in the dialectical phase, preferred the culture of the Right, with its nationalism, its disciplinary authoritarianism, its patriarchy, its alliance with the altar and its values, at that time functional to the reproduction of the mode of production.

Today, the post-bourgeois turbo-capital of globalization, of the free market and free desire, in the absolute-totalitarian phase, prefers the culture of the Left, with its celebration of anthropological deregulation and of the unlimited openness of the imaginary and of real borders, with its dogmatics of the de-sovereignization of the States and the falsely rebellious deconstruction of the old bourgeois norms. Therein lies—in Preve’s words—the “profound affinity between leftist culture and the fact of globalization.”

Right-wing capitalism, of nationalism, discipline, patriarchy, religion and compulsory military service, gives way to the new leftist capitalism—that is, to progressive neoliberalism—of cosmopolitanism, consumerist permissiveness, post-family individualism and ERASMUS as the new “compulsory military service” for the education of the new generations in the values of precariousness and nomadism, of openness and deregulated enjoyment.

The order of the hegemonic discourse managed by the heralds of the culture of the champagne-Left, on the one hand, celebrates globalization as a natural and intrinsically good reality. On the other hand, with a symmetrical movement, it delegitimizes as dangerous ethnic and religious, nationalist and regressive reactions; everything that in various ways calls it into question. However, as Preve has suggested, it would be enough to “gesturally reorient” the gaze to gain a different perspective, from below and for those from below. Instead of “globalization,” we should speak of American-centric capitalist imperialism without borders. And instead of ethnic and religious, nationalist and regressive reactions, we should speak of legitimate national and cultural resistance to the falsely humanitarian violence of capitalist globalization of misery and homologation.

It is what Nancy Fraser has called “progressive neoliberalism,” synthesizing well the honeymoon between the class fanaticism of the market economy and the liberal-libertarian instances of the “artistic critique” of the new Left referent in struggle against any figure of tradition and limit, of community and identity, of people and transcendence. The 1960s substitution of the Marxian revolutionary, who fights against capital, for the Nietzschean hooligan rebel, who transvalues the old bourgeois values, provokes this inclined plane that leads to the paradoxical present condition: “the right to reefer” and the “surrogate womb” are conceived by the neo-Left as more important and emancipatory than any act of transformation of the world, or of taking a stand against the neoliberal exploitation of labor, colonial exterminations and imperialist wars hypocritically presented as “peace missions.”

Herein lies the deception of “civil rights,” a noble title used entirely improperly by progressive neoliberalism to: a) divert attention from the social issue and labor rights; and b) lead the Left and the dominated classes to the assumption of neoliberal points of view, for which the only struggles worth fighting are those for the individualistic liberalization of customs and consumption (we repeat, “civil rights” liberal Newspeak calls them), along with the necessary export, by missile, of those rights to areas of the planet not yet subsumed under the free market and its progressive neoliberalism.

Particularly in philosophy, the relativistic and anti-metaphysical nihilism of postmodernist “weak thought” is presented idealiter as the pinnacle of anti-conformism, when in reality it is the ideal Weltanschauung to justify the foundationless society of the liberal-nihilistic globalization of the relativistic fundamentalism of the commodity form. The individualistic liberalization of lifestyles is based on the philosophy of postmodern relativism, thanks to which values and “the immutable”—to say it with Emanuele Severino—are dissolved, and everything becomes “relative,” that is, in exclusive relation to the desires of consumption of the desiring subject.

Nihilistic relativism and anti-veritative utilitarianism are the ideal forma mentis for the liberal-market cosmos, since they imply that all representations can be equally useful, as long as they do not conflict with the market and, in this way, favor it. The postmodernist Left finds its clearest expression in the philosophical work of Richard Rorty—convinced that leftist thought is based on the “ironic” deconstruction of absolutes and metaphysical foundations—and in the apparently very different thought of Slavoj Žižek, a bizarre example of “postmodern Marxism” that, in addition to transforming Marx and Hegel into trash phenomena, ends up delegitimizing resistance to Atlanticist globalization as totalitarian and terrorist.

Gianni Vattimo’s “weak thought” itself, regardless of its ultimate objectives in an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sense—otherwise in contradiction with its basic philosophical presuppositions—owes its success not least to its high degree of compatibility with the new liquid and post-metaphysical structure of capitalism. Theorizing the “weakening” of the fundamental metaphysical and truthful structures, Vattimo outlined, back in the 1980s of the “short century,” the new ideological frame of reference of absolute-totalitarian commercialism, effectively confirming Jameson’s thesis about the nature of postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism.

Turbo-capitalist society is no longer based on supposed transcendent truths (Christian religion) or on correspondence with human nature (Greek philosophy). It is based, on the contrary, solely on the verification of the correct capitalist reproduction actually given. For this reason, the turbo-capitalism of the global market society expresses itself economically in utilitarianism and philosophically in relativistic nihilism. As foreshadowed by Preve and as we ourselves emphasized in Difendere chi siamo (2020), the turbo-capitalist society needs homines vacui and post-identitarians, consumers without identity and without critical spirit. And it is the leftism of sinistrash that zealously produces the ideal anthropological profile for capitalist globalization, the postmodern and “open-minded” homo neoliberalis, that is, “empty” of all content and ready to receive whatever the production system wants from time to time to “fill” it with.

In fact, post-metaphysical turbo-capitalism knows no moral, religious or anthropological limits to oppose to the integral advent of exchange value as the only accepted value: the ideal subject of turbo-capitalism—homo neoliberalis—is, then, the left-wing individual, engaged in rainbow battles for the whims of consumption and disinterested in social battles for work and against imperialism; in a word, he is the post-bourgeois, post-proletarian and ultra-capitalist Nietzschean Superman, bearer of an unlimited will of consumerist power, economically right-wing, culturally left-wing and politically center-wing. It is, to stay in the lexicon of philosophy, the realization of the “protagoric man,” whose subject—understood as a desiring individual is—πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον—”measure of all things.” Thus, politics itself becomes, for the new Left, a struggle against all the limits that in various ways hinder the realization of the subjective desires of that protagoric man.

Moreover, the Left oriented individual is the ideal subject of turbo-capital, since tendentially—let us think mainly of the generation of 1968ers—he is a figure disappointed by the proletarian and communist “illusions.” And, eo ipso, he provides a depressive psychological basis in the name of “disenchantment” (Entzauberung); almost as if he were an ideal “figure” of the Phenomenology of Spirit, historicist disenchantment; that is to say, the loss of faith in the advent of the redeemed society is dialectically invested in the acceptance—depressive or euphoric—of the planetary reification of the neoliberal order. The post-modern can rightly be understood as the fundamental figure of the rationalization of disenchantment and reconciliation with the nihilism of capital elevated to the only possible world, with the addition of the definitive decline of belief in emancipatory “grand narratives.”

For this reason, the liberal new Left also presents itself as a “postmodern Left,” the guardian of relativistic nihilism and the disenchantment of the end of faith in the great narratives of overcoming capitalism: the “strong thought,” veritative and still radically metaphysical of Hegel and Marx, is abandoned by the new Left in favor of the “weak thought” of a Nietzsche reinterpreted in a postmodern key as a sulphurous “hammerer” of values and of the very idea of truth, and as a theorist of the Superman with an unlimited consumerist will to power.

As for relativistic nihilism, which the neo-Nietzschean Left celebrates as “emancipatory” with respect to the metaphysical and veritative pretensions of the Absolutes, this is precisely the foundation of capitalist disempowerment, which turns everything relative to the nihil of the commodity form and, neutralizing the very idea of truth, annihilates the basis of the critique of falsehood and of the insurrection against injustice. Nihilism does not lead to the emancipation of the multiplicity of lifestyles, as Vattimo believes, but rather leads to the disenchanted acceptance of the steel cage of techno-capitalism, within which differences proliferate in the very act with which they are reduced to articulations of the commodity form. From this point of view, Foucault also tends to be “normalized” and assimilated by the neo-Left, which has elevated him to the category of postmodern critic of the inevitable nexus between truth and authoritarian power. And, thus, they make liberation coincide with the abandonment of any pretension to truth.

As for disenchantment, it coincides with the profile of the “last man” thematized by Nietzsche. Der lezte Mensch, “the last man,” becomes aware of the “death of God” and the impossibility of the redemption in which he had also believed, and reconciles himself with meaninglessness, judging it as an irredeemable destiny. This anthropological and cultural profile finds timely confirmation in the existential adventure of the “generation of 1968” and of Lyotard himself, the theorist of the Postmodern Condition. He lost his original faith in socialism (he was a militant of the Marxist group Socialisme ou Barbarie) and reconverted to capitalist nihilism, lived as an inescapable steel cage but with consented spaces of individual freedom (in a rigorously alienated and marketized form, ça va sans dire). For all these reasons, postmodernism remains a philosophy of the rationalization of disenchantment and, at the same time, of the conversion to the acceptance of techno-capitalist nihilism understood as an emancipatory opportunity.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Cut with the Kitchen Knife, collage by Hannah Höch (1889-1978); created in 1919.

Neoliberal Globalization: A New Religious Faith

Using Gramsci’s syntax, ideology exists when “a given class succeeds in presenting and having the conditions of its existence and of its class development accepted as a universal principle, as a conception of the world, as a religion.”

The culmination outlined by Gramsci is entirely relevant if reference is made to the ideology of globalization as a nature that has always been given, irreversible and physiological (globalismus sive natura). In the framework of the post-1989 New World Order and what has been defined as “the great chessboard,” it is presented to all intents and purposes as a “universal principle,” because it is indistinctly accepted in all latitudes of the planet (it is what we could call the globalization of the concept of globalization) and, at the same time, it is also embraced by the pole of the dominated, who should oppose it with the utmost firmness. It is presented as an unquestionable and universally valid truth, which only asks to be ratified and accepted according to the modality of an adaequatio that is both cognitive and political.

Globalization shows itself then, as a “conception of the world;” that is, as an articulated and all-embracing system, because it has been structured in the form of a unitary and systematic perspective, centered on denationalizing cosmopolitanism and on the elimination of all material and immaterial limitations to the free circulation of commodities and marketized persons, to the flows of liquid financial capital and to the infinite extension of the competitive interests of the dominant classes.

Finally, it takes the form of a “religion,” because it is increasingly experienced as an unquestionable faith and largely situated beyond the principles of rational Socratic discussion: whoever does not unthinkingly and with fideistic credentials accept the new globalized order will be immediately ostracized, silenced and stigmatized by the language police and the gendarmes of thought as a heretic or as an infidel, dangerously threatening the stability of the mundialist catechesis and its main articles of faith (free movement, integral openness of all material and immaterial reality, borderless competitiveness, etc. ). Globalization thus coincides with the new idolatrous monotheism of the global market, typical of an era that has ceased to believe in God, but not in capital.

In general terms, globalization is nothing other than the theory that describes, reflects and, in turn, prescribes and glorifies the post-Westphalian class-based New World Order, which emerged and stabilized after 1989 and—to take up Lasch’s formula—was ideologically elevated to the rank of true and only heaven. Such is the world entirely subsumed under capital and under the American-centric imperialism of liberalized private capital markets, with collateral export of free market democracy and free desire, and of the anthropology of homo cosmopoliticus.

The symbolic power of the concept of globalization is so invasive that it literally makes it impossible for anyone who dares to question the concept to gain access to public discourse. It is, in this sense, more akin to a religion of obligatory creed than to a theory subject to free discussion and hermeneutics embedded in dialogical reason.

Through categories that have become cornerstones of the capitalist neo-language, any attempt to curb the invasiveness of the market and to challenge the absolute domination of the globalized and American-centric economy is demonized as “totalitarianism,” “fascism,” “Stalinism,” or even “rojipardismo” (red-fascism), the diabolical synthesis of all three. Liberal fundamentalism and globalist free-market totalitarianism also evidence their inability to admit, even ex hypothesi, the theoretical possibility of alternative modes of existence and production.

Any idea of a possible control of the economy and of an eventual regulation of the market and of the open society (with built-in financial despotism) would lead unfailingly, according to the title of a well-known study by Hayek, towards “The Road to Serfdom.” Hayek states it without euphemism: “socialism means slavery.”

Obviously, the theorem of von Hayek and his acolytes does not take into account the fact that totalitarianism is not only the result of political planning, but can also be the consequence of a private competitive action of political rules. In the present Europe, by the way, the danger is not to be identified with nationalism and the return of traditional totalitarianisms, but rather with Hayekian market liberalism and the invisible violence of the subtle club of depoliticized economics.

It is therefore imperative to decolonize the imaginary of current hegemonic conceptions of globalization and try to redefine its contents in an alternative way. To this end, it is necessary to re-understand Marxian social relations as mobile and conflictive, where the gaze flooded with ideology only registers things that are inert and aseptic, rigid and immutable.

In other words, it is necessary to deconstruct the hegemonic image of globalization, showing its non-neutral but class-based character.

When analyzed from the perspective of the globalist ruling classes, globalization may indeed appear enthusiastic and very worthy of praise and empowerment.

For example, Amartya Sen celebrates it most insistently for its greater efficiency in the international division of labor, for the fall in production costs, for the exponential increase in productivity and—to a decidedly more questionable extent—for the reduction of poverty and the general improvement in living and working conditions.

Suffice it to recall, at a first glance at the new millennium, that Europe has 20 million unemployed, 50 million poor and 5 million homeless; and all this while, in the last twenty years in the same Europe, total income has risen by between 50 and 70 percent.

This confirms, in a way that is difficult to refute, the class character of globalization and the progress it generates. From the perspective of the dominated (and thus seen “from below”), it is identified with the very concrete hell of the new technocapitalist power relation, which was consolidated on a planetary scale after 1989 with the intensification of exploitation and commodification, of classism and imperialism.

To this hermeneutic duplicity, which presides over the duplicity of classes in the very fractured post-1989 context, returns the endless debate that has interested and continues to interest the two foci of this frontal contraposition: on the one hand, the apologists of globalization; and on the other, those engaged in the elaboration of the cahier de doléances du mondialisme.

The former (who as a whole can be called “globalists,” despite the kaleidoscopic plurality of their positions), extol the virtues of making the world a market. On the contrary, the latter (who only partially coincide with those whom the public debate has baptized with the name of “sovereigntists”), emphasize the contradictions and the eminently regressive character with respect to the previous framework centered on national sovereignties.

In short, and without delving into the intricacies of a debate that is practically unmanageable because of the quantity of content and diversity of approaches, the panegyrists of globalism insist on how globalization extends the industrial revolution, progress and the conquests of the West to the entire world; or, in other words, how it “universalizes” the achievements of a humanity somehow understood as “superior” and, therefore, entitled to organize the “single file” of linear development of all the peoples of the planet.

Even the most soberly skeptical authors on the axiological value of globalization, such as Stiglitz, seem to suffer from a magnetic and ultimately unjustified attraction to the work of turning the world into a market. In the view of Stiglitz and his reformist optimism, this process, which at the same time also “planetarizes” capitalist inequality and misery, deserves not to be abandoned because of the developments and changes to which it might give rise.

Diego Fusaro is professor of History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Playing Chess. Cafe “Dominic,” St. Petersburg, by Hugo Karlovich Bakmanson; painted in 1909.

Libertarian Autobiographies: Moving Toward Freedom in Today’s World

The following is an amended excerpt from Libertarian Autobiographies: Moving Toward Freedom in Today’s World, co-edited by Jo Ann Cavallo and Walter E. Block. The book gives voice to 80 libertarians from around the world who share their hopes, fears, expectations and achievements, in their efforts to acheive a freer world. Please consider supporting the work of Professors Cavallo and Block and purchase a copy of this inspiring work.

It is our fervent belief that libertarianism is the last best hope for humankind with regard to economics, liberty, justice, prosperity, peace, and thus even survival (pardon us for hyper-ventilating, but we maintain this is indeed the case). This belief of ours is predicated upon the crucial importance of the non-aggression principle (NAP): proper law should allow all people to engage in whichever acts they prefer, with the one exception being any behavior that violates this precept or any threat thereof. Thus, murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, fraud, and similar evil actions should be prohibited, and virtually everything else should be legally permitted.

But why assemble a collection of autobiographies penned by libertarians? Why not, instead, offer a collection of scholarly articles demonstrating the benefits of liberty? Many of the contributors to this volume have published just that sort of work on numerous occasions. Why not do so one more time? Although people may gain an understanding of this philosophy via rational argument, it cannot be denied that autobiographies, too, are important for the promotion of liberty. The personal touch may reach some people not approachable via any other means. Additionally, we all want to know the libertarian stories of people such as those who appear on these pages. Indeed, we find that libertarians have the most interesting stories to share because they often embrace this philosophy as the result of intense encounters with foundational texts or life-changing experiences.

One of the big “problems” we have with some of the best-known libertarians throughout history—such as John Locke, Lord Acton, Ludwig von Mises, Isabel Paterson, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, and Murray Rothbard—is that they never wrote an autobiography. Of course, if they had, alternative costs being what they are, they would likely not have been able to write other precious publications of theirs. But what about libertarians alive today? Would they be willing to share their stories? We already have the example of two volumes of libertarian autobiographies: Why Liberty: Personal Journeys Toward Peace & Freedom (Cobden Press), with 54 autobiographies edited by Marc Guttman, and I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (Mises Institute), with 82 autobiographies edited by one of the co-editors of this present volume, Walter Block (available as a free pdf at Both volumes were published over a decade ago, however, in 2010. We wanted to learn more about the lives of contemporary libertarians not covered in these two volumes and of others who have emerged since the time of these publications.

We therefore reached out to a number of influential scholars, activists, professors, journalists, and cultural icons who have worked toward a freer society across the globe, inviting them to write a brief autobiography for this collection. We asked them to articulate, for example, what their lives and thoughts were before they embraced libertarianism; which people, texts, or events most influenced their intellectual formation; what experiences, challenges, tribulations, and achievements they have had as participants or leaders in this movement; and how this philosophy has affected their personal or professional lives.

A volume of autobiographies on the part of libertarians immediately raises the question of precisely what constitutes this political economic philosophy. In our “big-tent” view, it comprises several strands. They all have something in common, such as an appreciation for individual liberty, private property rights, the rule of law, and free enterprise, but there are also discernible differences. That is why if you get ten libertarians in a room and ask them a question, you’ll likely get eleven (or more!) different responses. In this volume, we invited libertarians across the political-philosophical spectrum, including (1) anarcho-capitalism; (2) minimal government libertarianism, or minarchism; (3) constitutionalism; (4) classical liberalism; (5) thick libertarianism. The contributors to this volume range over the five main viewpoints mentioned above, and also fill in the gaps between them. Their essays express different perspectives on many issues even while articulating the same core principles. In fact, it is our desire that their very differences of opinion on some matters will invite readers to think for themselves. What we have sought to present is a sampling of the myriad individual journeys toward libertarianism, however defined.

Although the majority of contributors to the volume live in the United States, we are grateful to the libertarians from around the world who accepted our invitation to share their stories. This volume thus includes voices from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.

It is the hope and expectation of the editors that by bringing together a range of contemporary voices from outside the dominant left–right paradigm, this volume will contribute to the viewpoint diversity that is crucially needed in today’s public discourse. Moreover, these personal and intellectual journeys not only offer compelling insights into their individual authors and the state of the world in our lifetime, but may also serve as an inspiration for the next generation who will feel called upon to make our society a freer one.

Religions and Wisdoms are the First Guarantee of Freedom and Peace

A former student at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, Henri Hude was Professor of Philosophy at the French Saint-Cyr Military Academy. (Saint-Cyr). His latest book, A Philosophy of War, is a call for religions to take a philosophical and spiritual leap forward in building peace for the world of tomorrow.

[This interview was conducted by Omnes Magazine, through whose kind generosity we are able to bring you this English version].

Omnes Magazine (OM): Faced with the risk of total war, can we sum up your approach in your latest book, A Philosophy of War, by saying that religions are the solution, not the problem, to achieving universal peace?

Henri Hude (HH): Total war requires the use of all available means. Today, it would lead to the destruction of the human race, thanks to technical progress. The terrifying possibility of such destruction gives rise to the project of eliminating war as a condition for the survival of humankind. But war is a duel between several powers. So, to eliminate war radically, there is the need to institute a single World Power, a universal Leviathan, endowed with unlimited power.

Henri Hude.

But plurality can always be reborn: through secession, revolution, mafias, terrorism and so on. To make the world safe, there is the call to destroy all powers other than that of the Leviathan. Not only must we put an end to the plurality of political and social powers, but we must also destroy all other powers: spiritual, intellectual and moral. We are far beyond a simple project of universal imperialism. It is about supermen dominating subhumans. This Orwellian-Nazi project is so monstrous that it has a paradoxical consequence. The universal Leviathan becomes common enemy number 1 of all nations, religions and wisdoms. Previously, these were often at war or in tension. Now, thanks to the Leviathan, they are allies, friends, perhaps. The Leviathan is incapable of guaranteeing peace, but his monstrosity, now forever a permanent possibility, guarantees the lasting alliance of former enemies. Religions and wisdoms are the primary guarantee of freedom and peace. This is another world.

OM: The Holy See’s diplomacy seeks to establish a solid dialogue with Islam in order to build “bridges.” In recent history, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran worked to this end by visiting Saudi Arabia, a first for a Holy See diplomat of such rank. In 2019, the emblematic meeting between Pope Francis and Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, the most important Sunni institution in the Middle East, also marked a further step in this rapprochement (not to mention the successive trip to Bahrain). Do you think this diplomatic policy is a step in the right direction?

HH: I think so, because it is part of this logic of peace through an anti-Leviathan alliance. For who is the Leviathan? Certainly, to become the Leviathan is forever the temptation of every power in this world. The Leviathan is therefore first and foremost a fundamental concept of political science. But it also has a terrible application in the political and cultural choices made by Western elites, especially Anglo-Saxon ones. The Woke is a machine for manufacturing sub-humans. Democracy is transformed into plutocracy, freedom of the press into propaganda, the economy into a casino, the liberal state into a police state, and so on. Such imperialism is both odious and dysfunctional. It has no chance of success, except in the old, more controlled Western countries—and even then… The Pope is right to prepare for the future.

As far as Muslims in particular are concerned, the Leviathan’s strategy is to push the most violent and sectarian everywhere, who are its useful idiots, or its stipendiary agents, in order to divide and rule. Muslim religious leaders, who are as intelligent as the Pope, know this very well. Political leaders know it, too. See how they are taking advantage of NATO’s failures in Ukraine to take their freedom from the Leviathan. It is not at all a question of creating a single syncretic religion, because cheap relativism is the first principle of the sub-human culture that the Leviathan wants to inject into everyone in order to dominate everything dictatorially. It is all about finding a modus vivendi. It is about friendship and friendly conversation between people who are sincerely seeking God, not pseudo “interfaith dialogue” between modernist, relativist clerics or intellectual laymen, guilt-ridden to the hilt by the Leviathan.

OM: In the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, do the links between the Patriarch of Moscow and the authorities, or similar links in Ukraine and internal religions, make it almost impossible for religions to join forces to build peace?

HH: If you want to criticize others, you have to start by putting your own house in order. We might ask ourselves, for example, if we French Catholics do not have an ambiguous relationship with political power. In the face of Woke dogmatism, the canonization of the culture of death, invasive authoritarianism, servility to the Leviathan, the march to world war, we remain as if KO standing. Manipulated and/or careerist, we sometimes wade into guilt, asking forgiveness for existing in the public sphere.

If the Woke culture were to be universally imposed, it would be the loss of all souls and the end of all decent civilization. Resistance to the imposition of Woke culture can be a just cause of war. That is what the whole world thinks, except the West, and that is why Western soft power is evaporating so fast. This is without prejudice to the justice due to Ukraine and charity among Catholics.

OM: Is violence inherent to Islam?

HH: I would like to ask you, is cowardice inherent to Christianity? Christ said he had not come to bring peace on earth, but division. He also said that he spewed out the lukewarm. In many a Sunday sermon, there would be nothing to change if we replaced the word “God” with “Teddy Bear.”

In his book, Ecumenical Jihad, Peter Kreeft (pp. 41-42) writes: “…it took a Muslim student in my class at Boston College to berate the Catholics for taking down their crucifixes. ‘We don’t have images of that man, as you do,’ he said, ‘but if we did, we would never take them down, even if someone tried to force us to. We revere that man, and we would die for his honor. But you are so ashamed of him that you take him down from your walls. You are more afraid of what his enemies might think if you kept your crucifixes up than of what he might think if you took them down. So I think we are better Christians than you are.’”

We call blushing for Christ respect for freedom. We believe we have opened up to the world, when in fact we have abdicated all evangelical freedom. We believe we are superior to our elders, when all we are doing is participating in this lamentable evolution, which Solzhenitsyn called the “decline of courage.” To be a Christian, you must first not be a sub-human. And in order not to be sub-human, you have to be capable of resisting the Leviathan. If need be, by spilling his blood. Bismarck put thirty bishops in prison, and in the end had to abandon the Kulturkampf.

OM: Ten years ago, Pope Francis said: “True Islam and a proper interpretation of the Koran are opposed to all violence.” This phrase continues to provoke debate and divide Islamologists and theologians. What did Francis mean?

HH: I do not know what the Pope meant. The expressions “true Islam” and “proper interpretation” pose formidable problems, so the phrase can take on very different meanings. In the absence of precision, there is no way of knowing. The philosopher Rémi Brague, who knows the subject admirably, has just written a book entitled, Sur l’Islam, in which he displays a truly confounding erudition. He believes he must interpret the sentence as if the Pope were speaking as a historian of ideas. He proves that, if this were the case, this assertion would be wrong. But I do not think the Pope is speaking as a historian of ideas. (In any case, these are subjects to which the Petrine charism of infallibility does not apply).

OM: Should we understand the Pope’s statement as primarily political, confronting Muslim authorities with their contradictions and responsibilities, and inviting them to join him in building a world of peace?

HH: The Pope is no more Machiavellian than he is ignorant. In truth, we need to distinguish between force and violence. Violence is the illegitimate use of force. All the great religions and wisdoms are opposed to all violence, but none is opposed to all use of force. Every society has the right to self-defense. If the use of armed force were morally forbidden to any society in all circumstances, it would be morally obligatory to endure any aggression, by anyone, for any purpose. In other words, it would be morally obligatory to obey even those perverts who would destroy every moral principle. Societies therefore have a right, and sometimes a duty, to self-defense, armed if necessary. Some abusers understand no language but force. So, you draw a red line on the ground in front of them. “This line means that I would rather risk my life and suffer than undergo what you want to impose on me. If, therefore, you transgress this line, you will have to risk your life and suffer.” If you are incapable of this behavior, you are good for slavery.

Featured: The Return of the Crusader, by Karl Friedrich Lessing; painted in 1835.