We are an avid fan of the political theory that Chris has his colleges has propounded.
Chris commands a clear, crisp, coherent foundation for thinking about history, politics and statecraft. What we also admire about the theory is that it is almost entirely free of moralising cant and romantic delusions. Commander Chris has seen an opportunity and has advanced his armies against the weak point of his competition with bloody determination.
Yet, we have some disagreements (we assume) over the eventual structure of the state (which we will cover much later).
Recently, however, Chris conducted a raid against one of our flanks.
If he come in any further he will find a wall of squares arrayed against him. In the meantime, we are going to retaliate with some artillery fire.
To begin with, it would have been fruitful for Chris to have asked himself why deception, lying and propaganda is central to the practice of politics.
Secondly, he has underestimated – or has not acknowledged – Nietzsche’s insights into lying.
Thirdly, he has misrepresented our position with respect to Nietzsche’s ethics.
Let’s take the third claim first (though we will say more below).
Firstly, neocameralism is not reaction or neoreaction. Neocameralism is much narrower than neoreaction.
Neocameralism is a system of government. Neoreaction is a political and social critique; at its best it can provide a systematic historical, philosophical and political explanation for the madness we see every day – the foundations of which Chris has set-down.
STEEL-cameralism is not based on Nietzsche’s philosophy; indeed, it is not even Bonapartist. We study Napoleon for insight, inspiration and to grasp the reason for his failure. We study Nietzsche – who was a Napoleonic philosopher – because Napoleon was Nietzsche’s model – his “Jesus” as Frederick the Great was for Carlyle and Carlyle was for the Grand Master.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Why is deception fundamental to politics? Here is what we wrote:
The contradiction becomes sharper when one combines and considers the Clausewitzian dictum that “War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means” with Sun Tzu’s claim that “all warfare is based on deception.”
We trust that explaining and justifying deception in war will not be necessary; however, let’s answer why commitment to truth as a principle in politics is not only a contingent virtue but is something that is often an impediment to political success. Essential reading to grasp how politics is really done is James Burnham’s Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom (Part VII: Politics and Truth) a book the Grand Master sees as the “pons asinorum” of political thought.
War, however, as this military manual helpfully defines it, has three essential elements; beyond violence, there is friction and uncertainty. For the Grand Master, recall that he thinks that violence is a product of friction and uncertainty.
What do we mean (here) by uncertainty?
Firstly, we can mean uncertainty of who is in command. We can also mean uncertainty over who owns what or who has a right to X. Finally, there is uncertainty over how some actor Y will respond to action Z.
Chris would agree we assume
What do we mean by friction? By friction (in our special sense), we mean that, again, a commander’s orders are met with resistance and or often purposefully sabotaged and subverted.
Friction can also mean that an actor’s legal or formal right to something is frustrated or subverted by other actors or institutions.
Finally, friction may result because an actor refrains from ordering or performing what they would prefer to do, or have a moral, legal or political obligation to do because of the uncertainty surrounding other actors because they may retaliate in either a formal or informal way.
Chris would also agree with this analysis, we assume.
Chris would agree because it falls right out of his analysis of unsecure power. The central or centralising power cannot take direct, formal action so it must then engage in subversion (which is necessarily deceptive) or resort to a political formula in general, or propaganda in particular, to both mask its real intentions and manipulate others.
Carlyle either does not understand this or does not care for it.
Either way, this is a flaw in the man’s realism which Napoleon and Nietzsche are, whatever their other flaws, without
“he could not invoke the principle of Legitimacy as the basis of his power. Few men have been so profoundly conscious as he was that authority deprived of this foundation is precarious and fragile, and open to attack. (M).
The “fragility” of his authority would have gnawed at Napoleon because he understood that without secure authority, France would slide back into anarchy once more. Napoleon further believes, as recounted by Metternich, that political authority has no firmer foundation than authority derived from God because the marriage of God and political authority move it “beyond the attacks of men.”
He was also much impressed with the idea of deriving the origin of supreme authority from the Divinity. He said to me one day at Compiegne, shortly after his marriage with the Archduchess, ‘ I see that the Empress, in writing to her father, addresses her letter to His Sacred and Imperial Majesty. Is this title customary with you?’ I told him that it was, from the tradition of the old German Empire, which bore the title of the Holy Empire, and because it was also attached to the Apostolic crown of Hungary. Napoleon then replied, in a grave tone :—’ It is a fine custom, and a good expression. Power comes from God, and it is that alone which places it beyond the attacks of men. Hence I shall adopt the title some day.(M)
As we saw in part 1 religion for Napoleon was “strategic”, “useful” and thus necessary.
We can make the dilemma sharper for those who stand with Carlyle (on the issue of truth and politics) with the following scenario: suppose a Ruler had to choose between anarchy and deception; should he tell the truth and let the country fall into anarchy, or should he deceive in order to maintain order?
The challenge for Chris, and for anyone else, is to try to imagine what they would do if they were in Napoleon’s position or a similar position.
The point of realising the necessity of deception (and cunning) as a political virtue is that it is a virtue in war and war is a product, in part, of uncertainty. Yet, as we pointed out, the Grand Master’s project, as is the case with Chris, is to design a political system which removes the need for deception. This system is neocameralism.
This is what we wrote:
Firstly, the Grand Master could reply that deception is perfectly acceptable in a war between states; what he objects to, both ethically and pragmatically, is the use of propaganda and deceit in controlling the public as a general principle in war and in peace. The Grand Master’s neocameralism is a system of government that removes the need for any manipulation of public opinion.
Formalism’s formula, therefore, is that it does not have any “formula”.
To make it even simpler we can say that:
The formula of formalism is that lies are unnecessary because power is secure.
Now, what are we to make of Nietzsche’s claim that the person capable of successful deception is likely to be of a “higher sort” – more intelligent, more creative etc?
As with many things that Nietzsche says, his thoughts on lying contain a powerful insight that forces you to look at the world in a new way.
The insight, which we will simplify, is that successful lying requires intelligence; not only must the liar know the difference between real and fake (which requires powers of distinction or discernment) but also the ability to keep track of one’s lies (which requires memory). Crucially, to lie successfully requires the ability to understand the mind of other people, to see things as they see it, to think and feel as they do, to imagine their potential reactions and “counter-moves” – to grasp all this but lie and get away with it anyway.
Nevertheless, Nietzsche’s insight is much deeper, and much darker.
The ability to lie, confuse, outwit, manipulate and cheat are virtues of war and just as war made the state, war made man.
As Nietzsche thinks, it is in war where all of man’s intellectual and moral energies find their fullest and greatest potential. Jack Donovan’s “tactical virtues” of strength, courage, honour and mastery are warrior virtues. Prudence and temperance are also warrior virtues.
The Stoic, Epictetus, often referred to life as a “wrestling match”; the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, said that “life is warfare and a visit to a strange land…..the only thing that can escort us on our way is philosophy.”
The United States Military even teach Stoicism to its men and women, and some men – such as Jim Stockdale – used Stoicism to survive being a prisoner of war.
War, also, made America. Born from a war of independence; enlarged via war with its southern neighbour; strengthened through a horrific civil war; becoming a global behemoth by the Second World War; growing stronger, smarter and deadlier with the Cold War and now settling down for constant struggle and competition in the war with Islam and the “Great Power” rivalry with Russia and China.
For America, think of all the technology, employment, wealth and social purpose that war created. Of course, this is one of the very things that Jouvenel mentions as causing the centralising state, but there you are.
Finally, Carlyle’s full sincerity on the principle of truth, politics, power and war is doubtful.
Carlyle, which was a contrarian position in his own day, considered the Prophet Muhammad to be “sincere” and not an “imposter”. Carlyle writes:
Our current hypothesis about Mahomet, that he was a scheming Impostor, a Falsehood incarnate, that his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity, begins really to be now untenable to any one. The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only. When Pococke inquired of Grotius, Where the proof was of that story of the pigeon, trained to pick peas from Mahomet’s ear, and pass for an angel dictating to him? Grotius answered that there was no proof! It is really time to dismiss all that. The word this man spoke has been the life-guidance now of a hundred and eighty millions of men these twelve hundred years. These hundred and eighty millions were made by God as well as we. A greater number of God’s creatures believe in Mahomet’s word at this hour, than in any other word whatever. Are we to suppose that it was a miserable piece of spiritual legerdemain, this which so many creatures of the Almighty have lived by and died by? I, for my part, cannot form any such supposition. I will believe most things sooner than that. One would be entirely at a loss what to think of this world at all, if quackery so grew and were sanctioned here.
Alas, such theories are very lamentable. If we would attain to knowledge of anything in God’s true Creation, let us disbelieve them wholly! They are the product of an Age of Scepticism: they indicate the saddest spiritual paralysis, and mere death-life of the souls of men: more godless theory, I think, was never promulgated in this Earth. A false man found a religion? Why, a false man cannot build a brick house! If he do not know and follow truly the properties of mortar, burnt clay and what else be works in, it is no house that he makes, but a rubbish-heap. It will not stand for twelve centuries, to lodge a hundred and eighty millions; it will fall straightway. A man must conform himself to Nature’s laws, be verily in communion with Nature and the truth of things, or Nature will answer him, No, not at all! Speciosities are specious—ah me!—a Cagliostro, many Cagliostros, prominent world-leaders, do prosper by their quackery, for a day. It is like a forged bank-note; they get it passed out of their worthless hands: others, not they, have to smart for it. Nature bursts up in fire-flames, French Revolutions and such like, proclaiming with terrible veracity that forged notes are forged.
But of a Great Man especially, of him I will venture to assert that it is incredible he should have been other than true. It seems to me the primary foundation of him, and of all that can lie in him, this. No Mirabeau, Napoleon, Burns, Cromwell, no man adequate to do anything, but is first of all in right earnest about it; what I call a sincere man. I should say sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic. (Bold mine.)
Well…..Muhammad may have been heroic, and he certainly was a conquer, but he was far from being someone who would not use theatricality and pretence when it served his interests. The whole controversy of Salman’s Rushdie’s the Satanic Verses speaks to the very core of this issue – which is why it became a controversy because Rushdie gored a holy cow right in its soft underbelly.
Napoleon, needless to say, read the Quran and studied Muhammad’s life when he prepared to invade Egypt and had this to say about his time there:
In Egypt I found myself freed from the obstacles of an irksome civilisation. I was full of dreams. I saw myself founding a religion, marching into Asia, riding an elephant, a turban on my head and in my hand a new Koran that I would have composed to suit my needs. In my undertaking I would have combined the experience of two worlds, exploiting for my own benefit the theatre of all history, attacking the power of England in India… (Bold mine.)
Quoted in Napoleon. Frank McLynn. Chapter 9, Page 582 Epub edition.
How refreshingly sincere Napoleon is compared to the cant (and it is cant) that Carlyle says about Muhammad.
The essential element here is that power, ruling and political mastery all require a sense of showmanship, theatricality, exaggeration and yes, deception. Again, as Napoleon said to Metternich, Paris was an “opera.”
Augustus, as he was dying, said: “If I have played my part well, clap your hands, and dismiss me with applause from the stage.”
Let’s turn now to Nietzsche’s ethics. We said:
As such, a good formalist cannot but reject Nietzsche’s “master morality” – or at least dilute it; yet, there is much in neoreaction (and STEEL-cameralism) that is not only consistent with Nietzsche’s ethos but exists in harmony with it.
MacIntyre’s After Virtue is, indeed, a masterpiece. Yet, though Chris acknowledges that Nietzsche did see many things with great clarity and that he deserves “great credit” he also says that:
There is no serious basis for Nietzsche’s ethics or any of his philosophy. As much as Nietzsche rails against modern ethics as derived from the Enlightenment, he is still one of them.
I don’t see any value in Nietszche, in fact I see him as yet another of those thinkers who are false escapes.
It is hard to give a thinker “great credit” but then also think that you don’t “see any value” in him.
Furthermore, Chris writes:
MacIntyre is also right that the concept of the Overman is not really suitable for serious philosophical discussion, and neither is the master/ slave morality scheme.
MacIntyre well may be right concerning Aristotle v Nietzsche; indeed, his claim that the “heroic virtues” of the ancient world were practised by men who were born into a pre-set social role could well be the decisive argument against Nietzsche’s illogical but energising claim that one must “create oneself.”
However, the difference is in modern man’s “self-consciousness”, his existential angst, his awareness that the old forms have decayed or are now merely “semblances”; if you come to realise that modern social and political life is a pretence it seems plausible that one legitimate option would be to embrace the “opera” and become a “player.”
As for the claim that there exists “no basis” for Nietzsche’s philosophy, this is refuted by the fact of Napoleon Bonaparte himself. Napoleon, Don Dombosky argues, is for Nietzsche the key that unlocks his politics (and I add his ethics). Through Napoleon, Nietzsche ethics and politics are united in one Napoleon Bonaparte – one of the most “productive men who ever lived” according to Goethe.
Napoleon, like Muhammad, is proof-positive that Great Men do exist and that Great Men are capable of making history.
And, what is “Master Morality” if not the full logical extension of Carlyle’s belief that some men must govern, rule, command?
Nietzsche is the philosopher that one must confront.
Here is MacIntyre is a crucial passage:
For it is in his relentlessly serious pursuit of the problem, not in his frivolous solutions that Nietzsche’s greatness lies, the greatness that makes him the moral philosopher if the only alternatives to Nietzsche’s moral philosophy turn out to be those formulated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment and their successors.” After Virtue. Chapter 9. Nietzsche or Aristotle. (Bold mine.)
The counter-argument against MacIntyre is the following three points:
1: Aristotle’s world no longer exists; thus, there is no pre-arranged societal wide framework of tradition that takes and develops “untutored human nature” to a “human nature” with the virtues.
2: Nietzsche’s “problem” – as formulated by Dombosky – is the creation of a political order contrary to the “humanitarian” philosophy of the French Revolution. An order that was brought into existence by Napoleon and this political problem and the problem of Napoleon’s personality is the key to understanding Nietzsche’s political thought.
Just like Jouvenel’s political history is the key to understanding MacIntyre moral history, it is Napoleon and the regime Napoleon created (“Aristocratic Radicalism”) that makes everything Nietzsche says about his own positive ethics coherent.
Dombosky writes in his Introduction the following statement of purpose:
The main goal of this study is to establish a definitive and comprehensively demonstrated link between Aristocratic Radicalism, a term that encapsulates Friedrich Nietzsche’s political thought, and Bonapartism, the political ideology associated with the regimes of Napoleon I and Napoleon III.
I will demonstrate that Nietzsche’s “problem” was not, however, simply a problem inviting an explanation of Napoleon’s personality that would uncover the Goethean insight that “the higher and the terrible man necessarily belong together” but that it was also about how to summon and regenerate a structural, political moment in the history of European culture, since Nietzsche evokes Napoleon as an exemplar intended to capture his politics of the future that involves the construction of durable, imperial institutions.
For Nietzsche, Napoleon is the “philosopher-legislator” who is the model for a new “ruling caste” that will stand “in opposition to the crisis presented by the social question and the steady advance of international socialism. Through invoking Napoleon in the context of this crisis Nietzsche is proposing a theory of leadership and a political solution to combat the ideological forces that produced the Paris Commune; in Nietzsche’s mind a minuscule event compared to what was on the horizon.
Napoleon, the model:
Napoleon is the model for the Nietzschean philosopher-legislator who knows how to command; not only in terms of his Renaissance Virtù or his martial ethos but also in terms of his political institutions and, I think most importantly, his dissimulative techniques of power. Nietzsche admired Napoleon because of the psychological control he was able to exert over the masses and social and political classes and institutions hostile to his rule. (Bold mine.)
Nietzsche on Napoleon: a Dionysian Conspiracy. Don Dombosky. Pages 1-2.
When MacIntyre dismisses Nietzsche’s “Overman” without argument because it is “childish” MacIntyre was completely unaware of Nietzsche’s interest in Napoleon or Napoleon’s achievements and their meaning for Nietzsche. (It is also possible that MacIntyre does not want, for understandable reasons, to fully take on Nietzsche.)
In short, MacIntyre has a misinformed and an incomplete understanding of Nietzsche. (This book really should be read.) MacIntyre, like most scholars, assumes that Nietzsche had no political philosophy – something Dombosky refutes. (Thus, this makes Nietzsche even more dangerous.)
3: Consequently, given the current disorder, order can only be designed and implemented by one man (and with loyal men with guns and gold) who through an act of intelligence, will and artistry creates a new order where a virtuous life for the rest is possible. Nietzsche is right in that a time of self and social re-creation is necessary – we must become worthy after all.
Nietzsche has not been refuted, though he has not triumphed.
As for Napoleon, focus less for a moment on his exile, and turn your attention to the years 1800 to 1805 and ask if you think there is not something worth studying here?
What virtues should a ruler have in general? What virtues does a restorationist leader need to have?
Does it not appear likely that by 1800 a king could not claim to be divine, and would be met with laughter if he did? Carlyle thinks that a Great Man must be divine, but Napoleon could not have possibly claimed that – though he came as close as he could.
In closing, we say that Napoleon was sincere. He was sincere in both freely acknowledging his own insincerity -and did so without cant or apology.
Napoleon was sincere compared to the “children” of Paris with their “opera”; Napoleon, then, perhaps, is our first post-modern leader because Napoleon wore a mask while simultaneously drawing attention to the fact of his own performance.
The contrast between Napoleon and Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao could not have been more different in this regard. While those men were humourless bores who took themselves far too seriously, Napoleon was able to call attention (especially with the likes of Metternich) to how ridiculous his lies were and how “childish” the society was that required him to perform in this way.
The fact that the French lapped it all up says more about France (and the masses in general) than it does about Napoleon (much the same can be said about Donald Trump).