Interview With Reactionary Future Part 1.

 

RF5

(Artwork from Reactionary Future.)

Introduction.

The following is the first of a two-part interview with Reactionary Future (also known as “Chris B” or just “RF”).

Reactionary Future has, over the last two years, produced a substantive and wide-ranging body of work that covers political theory, ethics, history and Moldbuggian reaction. On the last point, he is somewhat notorious because he pulls no punches when it comes to criticising others. He has, in addition, made extensive use of the work of Bertrand de Jouvenel, Robert Filmer, Alasdair MacIntyre and many others throughout his writings.

While we have our disagreements over his and Adam’s  recent renovation of absolutism, there is no denying that RF has produced one of the most – if not the most – distinctive, powerful, clear and consistent reactionary vision on offer since Moldbug. Indeed, his Patron Theory of Politics is a superb piece of work that ought to be canonical reading for any neoreactionary.

RF was kind enough to agree to the following, written interview, and we would like to thank him for his participation and patience. The interview is approximately twenty pages in length and could easily have been longer. We have decided to cut the interview into two parts, with the second part coming in the next week or so.

Reactionary Future’s original blog is here, his new blog is here, his journal can be accessed here and his Reddit page, where he and Adam can be engaged, is here.

RF1

(Artwork from Reactionary Future.)

Part 1:

1: Introduction to Reactionary Future.

2: Political Development and Moldbuggian Influences.

3: The Reactionary Future Blog.

4: Betrand de Jouvenel and Imperium in Imperio.

5: Alasdair MacIntyre and Modern Moral Philosophy.

 

Part 2:

6: Philosophy of History and Empiricism, Darwinism and Determinism.

7: Disagreements and Confusions.

8: Christianity, Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation.

9: The Patron Theory of Politics.

10: Neo-absolutism.

11: The Future for Reactionary Future and Other Final Questions.

 

RF8

(Artwork from Reactionary Future.)

Part 1.

 

1: Introduction to Reactionary Future.

IE:

Are you American?

RF:

British.

IE:

What is your main area of focus?

RF:

I have no focus. I swing between epistemology, philosophy in general, anthropology, political theory, history, and everything else. I suppose you could say the central focal point of this is working from the de Jouvenelian discovery of the repetition of the high-low dynamic and the ramifications of this.

From accepting this dynamic as correct, I have concluded that first principles can only be based on a given observation which corresponds to a Thomistic understanding of first principles (as opposed to a modern one,) these being that liberal anthropology is radically delusional – resulting in the pursuit of one which corresponds to de Jouvenel, that society must correspond to a model in which there is always a central point (which is something it appears Filmer was onto,) that culture is a result of selection by power, and a number of other conclusions which happily others are exploring in more depth than I can (such as yourself.)

Some of these points are actually obscenely simple, and it is quite breath-taking at times to consider how far away from simple logic our political system has taken us. Take for example the claim of power’s selection of culture. This seems to be difficult for some people to swallow, yet it is quite simple and obvious. In any given territory, whoever is determining the laws is determining the barrier of the possible. That cuts off acceptable culture right there. Further to this, it is demonstrable that anarchistic theory, be it Franciscan theology, Protestant theology (basically the same,) free trade, human rights, liberalism in general, Salafi Islam, and so on, are promoted by power centers. There are countless books detailing the phenomena where the writers just note the trend but can’t draw out the conclusions. It is just too counterintuitive to understand that strong power centers happily promote anti-authority ideas because it simply does not harm them, but really harms their competitors. It’s comparable to large companies happily accepting legislation which is burdensome to smaller companies in their market. It’s a little poison which kills their enemies, but leaves them OK, and relatively stronger.

IE:

What do you mean by Thomistic first principles?

RF:

I have written only briefly on this, and it is something I picked up from MacIntyre. Here is a brief post on it.    Here is another. The best overall introduction is from MacIntyre himself in his lecture First Principles, Final Ends and Contemporary Philosophical Issues where he dismisses the epistemological first principles of modern philosophy. The key example is Descartes and his “cogito ergo sum.” These first principles were supposed to be 1)  understandable by any rational person and 2) provide a basis for all further claims to knowledge.  If you look at political theory, the whole thing is built on a similar structure with the state of nature argument. Hell, if you read the declaration of independence what does it say? It says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

That is about as a pure an example of modern philosophy informing actual practice that you can get. The authors say that we have these first principles of “all men are created equal” and “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and then proceed to claim that the resultant political theory and structures are to be built on this basis. OK, but how are they accounting for these first principles? Where do they come from? They are plugging directly into revealed religion to function as the overall first principle. This is something that both Locke and Filmer were doing as well in their respective works. The arguments from biblical exegesis can be seen as a precursor (a saner one relatively speaking) of the subsequent philosophical parlour tricks of Descartes and co. No one is arguing from given experience here, they are all arguing from this bizarre absolute first principles that arise from a total contextlessness.

In contrast, MacIntyre points out that St Thomas divides first principles into two categories. The first is a set of principles which are evident to language speakers, but which don’t furnish us with the potential to extrapolate substantive conclusions. The example he provides is “every whole is greater than its parts,” but note that as a language speaker you are provided with a thought system and structure within which to comprehend this, so they are less impressive than they first appear. The second set are only conceivable within a system embodying an arche/ principium, but it is these which provide us with substantial means of developing further knowledge. This second set would be the first principles embodied in a science which are only evident to those initiated into that science. They have to have knowledge of what the first principles mean.

Taking MacIntyre on board, I have tried to understand what Jouvenel means in this regard, and this has meant considering Jouvenel in light of the second set of Thomistic first principles. Jouvenel provides us with a phenomenon (high-low) and from this we can engage in theoretical investigation to develop a series of first principles which furnish us with knowledge of human governance that make sense within the overall theoretical framework. So the patron theory of politics is self-evident within the framework for example but it would be incomprehensible outside of it.

This is all part and parcel of the rejection of the modern philosophical project which as far as I am concerned is a product of power conflict. The whole Enlightenment project is rather absurd.

IE:

Can you give us three books that would be useful to read that touches on the “power over culture” thesis?

RF:

As for books supporting power over culture I would recommend as introductory: Cavanaugh’s Myth of Religious Violence, Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual, and Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. None of these authors would probably agree with me, yet all of them wrote histories that frankly detail the role of conflict in the creation of cultural phenomena – liberalism, liberalism and the individual, and radical Islam respectively. It is clear from these accounts, which are well researched and clear, that structure and conflict preceded the relevant cultural developments and gave/ give them life.

IE:

Your work has touched on a number of issues, but perhaps the most important piece of work is your Patron Theory of Politics. We will come to this and related issues in more detail later, but can you briefly tell us what it is and why it matters?

RF:

Patron Theory of Politics is an understanding of society which works from the very simple observation that no successful rebellion ever occurs without a patron within the existing power structure. It really ejects all anarchistic conceptions of society that currently form the basis of all political theories. It’s a total rejection of all political thought of the modern period. It gives us a serious and powerful means of observing political dynamics and producing political strategy.

(Further Reading: summary.)

 

2: Political Development and Moldbuggian Influences.

IE:

Let’s talk a little about your intellectual development. Have you always considered yourself a reactionary or as right-wing? If not, why not and what changed? How did you discover Unqualified Reservations and what was the first article you read? Clearly, you have read Moldbug’s work from end to end, but can you describe your initial emotions and thoughts as you started to go deeper into it?  

RF:

I started as a libertarian really. My first serious interest was in relation to the UK exiting the EU and UKIP’s general success. But when I began thinking through the issues it all jarred. I could see UKIP leaders having to agree to absurd claims and premises based on the press beating them around the head and I could see how it was all working in a general sense. I also got really confused with the roll out of gay marriage and the aggressive promotion of gender issues and simply decided to research the whole thing. I started with the issue of gender mainstreaming and followed the trail. I started to come across EU documents describing this policy and talking about pushing it though the media, education, government, and it seemed obvious to me that this was all totally top down, but everyone was acting as if it was bottom up. I recall discussing this with someone on a message board somewhere, and they mentioned it looked similar to the Cathedral someone called “Mencius Moldbug” was writing about, and it went from there (no idea what the first article was.)

The problem with Moldbug is that he goes through a transition. It’s a working out of what is going on that is messy and full of rough drafts, misdirection, wrong conclusions, contradictions, but if you realize he is really working through the implications of Jouvenel at core, then it all makes a lot of sense. You can see where he drops things which don’t match, and picks up things which do. The real breakthrough for me was reading Jouvenel in detail and being able to follow along with his reasoning.

IE:

You have a very clear and consistent vision and a coherently formed sense of what is of value from Moldbug; did your views form quickly or slowly? (What we mean is your views on Imperium in Imperio, primary property, de Jouvenel etc.)

RF:

Slowly. Without reading Jouvenel in detail and being clear on what Jouvenel is talking about, Moldbug just isn’t clear. Even then, actually getting to grips with the ramifications is difficult. I mean, culture being the mindless result of power conflicts? You would think such a monumental fuck up would be picked up by someone. The implications are astonishing.

IE:

What are the three most important things to learn from Moldbug? What do you think he got wrong?

RF:

Jouvenel. A Corporate conception of property derived from the medieval period. Non-modern sovereignty.

I think the biggest error is narrowing in on the Sov Corp posts and ignoring they are deeply flawed and (and this is what really gets me) an attempt at reasoning out a government structure based on removing Imperium in Imperio. He actually says as much in the posts. All other misunderstandings tend to be lacking in intellectual interest really. I think Moldbug should go back and write a coherent political theory and work it all into a coherent book. There is too much, and I doubt anyone else will go through it in depth again.

IE:

Can you explain what you mean by “Corporate conception of property derived from the medieval period”? Which should people read?

RF:

This one is a little difficult to explain, but a lot of it is covered excellently in this paper from American Affairs. I have covered it somewhat here.

It’s a huge subject. Basically, property is a social relationship linked to delegation. Liberalism has placed it as a non-social possession that a person simply has. Of course this has the finger prints of power all over it.

IE:

What is your favourite article?

RF:

Best article is probably ‘Adore the River of Meat’

RF9

(Artwork from Reactionary Future.)

3: Reactionary Future Blog.

IE:

Your first blog, Reactionary Future, has a tremendous amount of work. Was there a plan? Did you have a clear set of goals when you wrote? How much research and pre-planning did you do?

RF:

No real pre-planning. Just a series of thoughts that had been developing in my mind that were outrageous and that I needed to hammer out. There was plenty of research in that I had been reading a lot before which was all coming together at once into the realization of the role of power on culture, its role as a selector and driver of culture. I remember one of my first “aha!” moments was recalling something which had bugged me for a long time. Long ago, I had read Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander and been puzzled by Alexander turning on his own army by incorporating Persian units and encouraging marriage between his troops and local elite’s daughters (including his own marriage to Roxana and his general adoption of Persian customs.) Then it hit me like a bolt. The whole thing is explainable by Jouvenel. Those in positions of power are always faced with the same pressures and dynamics. Social structure repeats. (Here is an interesting paper covering this in some detail. The process is replicated everywhere.)

IE:

What did you want to accomplish with the blog Reactionary Future?

RF:

I basically concluded that Jouvenel was correct, that Moldbug had worked through it correctly in my opinion, and that I had to ignore everyone else’s opinions and just tear out any brakes and follow the logic to wherever. This included turning on British empiricism which is a shambolic joke, calling out culture as being a caste off of the political structure as well as other pretty severe turns which only a very small number of people I talk to could comprehend. Reactionary Future was an attempt to keep a public communication going for this and to see what other areas could be mined. It worked.

As you no doubt know, writing for a public blog, even if no one reads it, is a motivator to try and present your arguments in a strong a way as possible. Luckily some extremely intelligent people have read it, and it has kept alive a significant thread of thinking. It also motivated me to widen my reading and this led me to some exceptional thinkers like MacIntyre, and great books that share a deep affinity with Jouvenel.

 

4: Betrand de Jouvenel and Imperium in Imperio.

IE:

Let’s focus more on Jouvenel, as he clearly matters to your work. Can you tell us what Jouvenel’s explanation for the growth of the state is and why Jouvenel matters?

RF:

Trying to explain in as simple a way as possible, de Jouvenel’s explanation is that the growth of the state is accomplished by a centralizing power center engaging with the low in a given situation as a means to attack intermediate power centers. A power center manned by people that feel threatened by these intermediate power centers is going to engage the low in society in more extreme ways.

In the medieval period the monarchs, apparently following the cue of the Papacy according to Siedentop, began a process of institution building which was manned by commoners – lawyers, bankers and the like, as a means to undermine intermediate power centers such as the local lords. This is a clear example of the high (king) employing the low (commoners) to undermine the middle (lords.) The Kings are always in a fight against the aristocracy, it’s not a monolithic block. Another tactic was the creation of a class of subjects, or “freemen.” Removing the feudal ties by every means possible was done under the call of freedom. The central power then expanded to directly connect with all, without intermediaries.

This dynamic is not constrained to Western Europe, but is a constant of human political/ social organisation. It is present everywhere you look. India seems to be undergoing a similar thing as we speak. Their removal of cash and introduction of a nationwide integrated biometric system to increase their tax base is very Jouvenelian.

IE:

How would you respond to the claim that while what you stated above is correct, it is still missing a vital piece of the puzzle? Does Jouvenel not point out, time and again, that the King’s use of proxies is an instrumental means to acquire the necessary men, money and material for war-making? Thus, would you agree with the claim, ascribed to Charles Tilly, that “war made the state and the state made war”?

RF:

I would disagree. The centralising Power made the state and the centralising Power was surely not operating for war only, but for societal good of which being effective at war would have been a sub category. War is a means not an ends, and I don’t say that as a moral claim, but as an empirical one. If you follow the thinking of those in power, they don’t have war specifically as the goal, but I see where your argument lies, and I agree that war has been a huge driver.

 IE:

What is Imperium in Imperio and why is it a problem?

RF:

Imperium in Imperio is a conceptual absurdity on a par with nominalism. It can be rendered incoherent very simply. The sovereign cannot be bound. If he is bound then whoever is doing the binding is the sovereign. (Note, law cannot bind, law is a tool, not an agent.) Unfortunately, all our politics (and I do mean all) is based on this solecism. The result is chronic unsecure government which has to develop evermore deranged lies to cover that it is government.

IE:

So, rejecting this error requires absolute and indivisible power and authority to be placed into the hands of either one man or one, coherent group. The sovereign then makes the ultimate decisions concerning policy and personnel regarding war, diplomacy, law and order and taxes. Is this correct?

Moldbug’s and your work is (to virtually everyone else) paradoxical and counter-intuitive because the claim is once power is secure, good governance will, almost necessarily, occur. For instance, this is the tag of our site: a ruler only becomes a tyrant when they do not have enough power. So, tyranny results not from strength but from weakness. Would you agree with this?

Finally, rejecting the error, in the final analysis, boils down to the simple claim that states should be structured like all other structures (military, private corporations and even football teams) The one difference, however, is that, as you claim, the state (or the sovereign) has a primary property right unlike these other institutions, agree?

RF:

I’m not sure I could put it more succinctly. The only issue is that those placed in a position of secure power must be aware of the situation or they may attempt to divide power out of error.

 

5: Alasdair Macintyre and Modern Moral Philosophy.

IE:

You have made a number of references to the philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre; can you tell us why MacIntyre matters and what the connection is with his work and with the explanation that Jouvenel provides?

RF:

This is a very big question and a lot of this rides on the role of de Jouvenel in providing a mechanism of social/cultural change which directly links with the narrative of ethical collapse presented by MacIntyre. MacIntyre pretty much sees that the cultural developments in ethics have been disastrous and that our current dialogue is an incoherent pile of nonsense, something he agrees heavily with Nietzsche on. To get to this point he had to engage in a form of historical excavation of the development of language in relation to ethics which led him to pretty much call out our society as a complete mess without any internal logic to it. What this allowed him to do was to trace the outlines of power conflict without the benefit of Jouvenel’s model, which when placed into MacIntyre’s investigation provides the missing history he was looking for.

His significance is that he outlined and attacked exactly those elements of culture that define modernity that Jouvenel’s model implies were caused by power conflict. Ethics, science, politics, property theories. His accuracy is unnerving at times.

IE:

MacIntyre’s three key books, we assume, are: After Virtue; Whose Justice? Which Rationality? and Dependent Rational Animals.  Beyond the connection to Jouvenel, what does MacIntyre offer in terms of thinking about ethics in today’s society? 

RF:

I would add a History of Ethics as well. He basically rejects all current ethical positions and has called human rights a sham. His ethical insight is that ethics are a matter of narrative and not abstract absolutes. What is right to do is determined by place, time, history, culture, and a 1001 other considerations which are always a social. Often what is right to be done necessitates seeking advice from others. In contrast we get stupid shit like the trolley problem which doesn’t deserve consideration.

Further to this, ethics are a matter of human agents being functional. The word good (which he has followed through its changes in history) meant a functional object met its purpose and was therefore good as a functional object. So a watch can be determined to be good based on how well it worked as a watch. This was the same for people when it was accepted people had functions. Now liberalism has liberated the individual from all function we now no longer have genders effectively. Good now has no meaning.

What MacIntyre seems to understand, and what he hints at strongly in A History of Ethics is that ethics are linked to political structure. Consider where ethics enters this bizarre collapse into nonsense – it is always in societies that have been atomized. He makes note of such developments as Stoicism following this trend, but doesn’t develop it in detail. This is unfortunate, as de Jouvenel has a lot to add to this. Kant and the other founders of modern ethics developed in very specific societies subject to very specific social changes as a result of power.

Does this have anything to say about America? Yeah. MacIntyre has practically already said it. Burn the electoral system down.

IE:

In one of your posts, you drew the distinction, following MacIntyre, between ethics of excellence and ethics of cooperation. You downplay the value of the latter, but would you not consider that this kind of ethics – which would involve rules and consequences – not have some value; indeed, would it not be necessary both internally for a state but also between states? That is to say, do we not need an “ethics between strangers”?

RF:

Well, I would disagree with this entire question on many different angles. I would concede that on the issue of international relations and the question of statecraft MacIntyre is none-existent. He doesn’t even approach it. This is a huge weakness for him. But, I would reject an ethics based on rules and consequences for the simple reason that it makes no sense.

IE:

Ok, let’s move the issue around because questions of morality and law often get conflated. Assuming your conception of ethics, can you tell us what consequences this has for law? What changes, if any, would you make with the legal system as it currently is in Western countries?

RF:

Formalization. Common law, for instance, is just a fraud. It all derives from the sovereign, and it is all a tool of governance. It is not spontaneously derived. Burke has a lot to answer for this.

 

Part 2 will follow shortly.

RF3

(Artwork from Reactionary Future.)

12 thoughts on “Interview With Reactionary Future Part 1.

  1. “a ruler only becomes a tyrant when they do not have enough power”

    Who has the guts to sign up for that program? No one in the Current Year.

    Like

    1. It is a semi-serious joke/claim. It originated with critique on Moldbug by Vogelin review and we pinched it. The joke is that any criticism of state dysfunction or tyranny can be countered with the claim to “centralize power all the more.”

      More problems = more power. More power less problems.

      Like

      1. >More power less problems.

        Did that ever happen? Historically we have witnessed a positive feedback loop of increasing and expanding power, that is power causing problems in order to increase and expand.

        Like

      2. It was a semi-serious, flippant claim. More power = less problems for problem 1 but that power if faced with some threat or need can then create problem 2 which leads to more power.

        Creeping totalitarianism.

        However, the model of Nrx is that you start with near or absolute power to begin with and, or so the claim goes, the above problems do not obtain.

        Liked by 1 person

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