Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Counter-Enlightenment Leftism

We of the Western world do not live in a world like the rest, like most people today, and like those for the past 5,000 years before us. Our time, our circumstances, our lives are so revolutionary, becoming moreso daily, that each year our lives are more different from the year before than they have been from century to century in centuries past. The good of it, not simply the change for the sake of recognizing change, is the fact of progress, not merely material but social and psychological, becomes clear in the 18th century, during the period of the Enlightenment, a European phenomenon. The Enlightenment is under attack by the fascist world of Islam. More: Modernity is under attack by the enemies of the Enlightenment, not merely from primitives outside the world of Western modernity but worse, from our own intellectual classes, our very own Left-wing dhimmis allied with the old-guard fascists of the Counter-Enlightenment, the anti-democratic, the anti-women's rights, the anti-rationalists, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-everything they can think of if it resmebles other than the world of divinely appointed kings, corrupt bishops, and efficient executioners. Our Left is in league with our Right, and the two are fighting a rear-guard action to destroy Modernity, the values of the Enlightenment, the very course of progress. We modern, progressive, Enlightenment revolutionaries, we are under attack by the losers of Human history, and they are winning.

Who are we fighting and what do they want? Not just Moslems who want to impose their idiot shari'a tribal customs on the world, we are fighting the traitors of the West, the dhimmis of the Left. The West fascist Right is so absurd that it barely merits criticism, but the Left is powerful; in fact, being the leaders of the social discourse that originates in the Enlightenment itself, we have no other choice than to use the language of the Left to discuss the Left's hatred of Modernity and the Enlightenment.

Our modernity is a legacy of the Industrial Revolution, but not that alone. Industrialization alone has occured in numerous places without the socio-political advances and benefits the West achieved in its French and American Revolutions, i.e. material progress with human progress, industry in conjunction with Enlightenment philosophies. But these advances are not assumed by all to be of benefit to all. Right from the beginning of the era of Enlightenment the reactionary privilege of feudalism has fought with all there force against the masses in struggle for Modernity as we make it by the day. Below, Bronner discusses some of the history and critique of the forces of reaction, Left and Right. Our problem is with the Left philobarbarism of counter-revolutionary dhimmitude, less so with the forces of Right reaction.

Our first problems arise from Horkheimer and Adorno's Left critique of Modernism in light of post-industrial alienation in terms of concentration camps as the final out-come of capitalism, a look at Modernism as having run its natural course right to the gates of Auschwitz; but more importantly the Left's reactionary stance is inherent in its communitarianism and agrarian entrenchment, forgetting Horkheimer and Adorno as irrelevant to our purposes: starting from reaction per se, rather than from a position of Enlightenment Reason, the Left is only able to deepen the hole it's in, adding nothing to the discourse but more of the same, which is, unfortunately, agreeable to the modern masses. Bronner critiques both stances in excerpts below from his essay:

Interpreting the Enlightenment: Metaphysics, Critique, and Politics

Stephen Eric Bronner

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, amid the intellectual retrenchment consonant with the unending “war against terror,” the Enlightenment legacy has become—more than ever before—a contested terrain. Western “values,” [t]he best of them—political liberty, social justice, and cosmopolitanism—are rooted in the Enlightenment, and they retain their radical character.

Enlightenment values are still not hegemonic or establishmentarian. Authoritarianism is still rampant, most inhabitants of the world still suffer under the strictures of traditionalism, and earn less than $2 per day. The Enlightenment was always a movement of protest against the exercise of arbitrary power, the force of custom and ingrained prejudices, and the justification of social misery. Its spirit was the expression of a bourgeois class on the rise against the hegemonic feudal values of the established society and its political ideals are still subordinate to those of traditionalism and authoritarianism in most of the world. There should be no mistake: though the philosophes were responding primarily to the world associated with “throne and altar,” the ideals of these thinkers remain relevant for even for nations without a feudal past like the United States. Western nations still carry the scars of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and class inequality.

But not only the right is distorting them. These values have also come under assault from important intellectual representatives of the left: anarchists, communitarians, postmodernists, half-hearted liberals, and authoritarian socialists. Intellectual and political disorientation has been the result. Ideas long associated with reactionary movements—the privileging of experience over reason, national or ethnic identity over internationalism and cosmopolitanism, the community over the individual, custom over innovation, myth over science—have entered the thinking of the American left. Its partisans have thus become increasingly unclear about the tradition into which they fit and the purposes their politics should serve. The collapse of intellectual coherence on the left reflects the collapse of a purposeful politics from the left. Reconstructing such a politics depends upon appropriating the Enlightenment to meet new conditions.

Conservatives have, ironically, been more clear-sighted. In the past, they deplored the “nihilism” of the Enlightenment: its devastating assault on communal life, religious faith, social privilege, and traditional authority. Conservatives, and those even further to the right, consistently rejected Enlightenment concerns with individualism, dissent, secularism, reform, and the primacy of critical reflection. This differentiated them from the left.

Our problem today is that the Left has adopted to itself the stance of the traditional reactionary Right. The Left alliance with the forces of Islam, for example, is destroying the ground of Enlightenment by implementing Stalinist codes of public socio-political attitudes and behaviours, for example in rigid "Newspeak" in reference to Islam, privilging it at the expense of the rights of the majority of Modernity in the West, and especially by identifying fascist Islamic Force as superior to Modernity. Today, the Left privileges reactionary discourse against Enlightenment values.

The defense of western civilization by conservative intellectuals is, unsurprisingly, mixed with anti-Enlightenment and anti-modern prejudices. Discussion of the Enlightenment has nonetheless become skewed to the right; the radical moment has dropped out. It is no longer treated as the razor that divides “left” and right.” If there is any legitimacy to claims concerning the increasing irrelevance of fundamental political distinctions, indeed, here lies the historical source.

With its emphasis upon autonomy, tolerance, and reason—no less than its attack upon received traditions, popular prejudices, and religious superstitions—the Enlightenment was generally recognized as the foundation for any kind of progressive politics.

What's the problem?

[Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer] turned the accepted notion of progress upside down. The scientific method of the Enlightenment, according to the authors, may have originally intended to serve the ideals of human liberation in an assault upon religious dogma. Yet the power of scientific reason ultimately wound up being directed not merely against the gods, but all metaphysical ideas—including conscience and freedom—as well. “Knowledge” became divorced from “information,” norms from facts, and the scientific method, increasingly freed from any commitment to liberation, transformed nature into an object of domination, and itself into a whore employed by the highest bidder.

That thesis is evidence that from the beginning the German post-war Left has turned directly from opposition to Nazi fascism to what in our day is cheer-leading for dhimmi fascism.

Everything thereby became subject to the calculation of costs and benefits. Instrumental rationality was thus seen as stripping the supposedly “autonomous” individual, envisioned by the philosophes, of both the means and the will to resist manipulation by totalitarian movements. Enlightenment now received two connotations: its historical epoch was grounded in an anthropological understanding of civilization that, from the first, projected the opposite of progress. This gave the book its power: Horkheimer and Adorno offered not simply the critique of some prior historical moment in time, but of all human development. This made it possible to identify enlightenment not with progress, as the philistine bourgeois might like to believe, but rather—unwittingly—with barbarism, Auschwitz, and what is still often called “the totally administered society.”

[Historically,]we need to consider the actual movements with which enlightenment ideals, as against competing ideals, were connected. Highlighting the assault undertaken by the philosophes against the old feudal order and the international battle that was fought—from 1789 until 1939 and into the present-- between liberal and socialist forces imbued with the Enlightenment heritage and those forces of religious reaction, conservative prejudice, and fascist irrationalism whose inspiration derived from what Isaiah Berlin initially termed the “Counter-Enlightenment,” therefore becomes crucial. Without a sense of this battle, or what I elsewhere termed the “great divide” of modern political life, any discussion of the Enlightenment will necessarily take a purely academic form.

The philosophes had their most profound impact on the Left: Locke and Kant influenced all manner of liberals, socialists, and anarchists. Enlightenment philosophers would inspire generations of those languishing under the weight of despotism and dogma. The extent to which their political contribution is forgotten is the extent to which the contemporary left will constantly find itself intellectually reinventing the wheel.

The Enlightenment privileged a critical reflection on society, its traditions, its ideologies, and its institutions. Its spirit was opposed from the beginning, both in terms of style and content, by the type of fanaticism evidenced yesterday by secular totalitarians and today by religious fundamentalists. Just as there is a spirit of the Enlightenment, there is a phenomenology of the anti-Enlightenment.

Understanding the current clash between secularism and religious fundamentalism in the present, no less than the most profound political conflicts of the past, calls for first recognizing that the “Counter-Enlightenment” was not some “dialectical” response to the success of the Enlightenment but an immediate response, born of fear and loathing, against everything associated with its spirit. [My emphasis.]

The Enlightenment is not a trans-historical anthropological dynamic, or a disembodied set of epistemological propositions, but rather a composite of views unified by similar political ideals and social aims. [Which seems to prove exactly what Bronner says it doesn't.]

Again: the political spirit of the Enlightenment crystallized around the principles connected with fostering the accountability of institutions, reciprocity under the law, and a commitment to experiment with social reform. Not in imperialism, or racism, or the manipulation of liberty, but in these ideals lies the basis of Enlightenment universalism. Democracy remains an empty word without it. Enlightenment universalism protects rather than threatens the exercise of subjectivity. It presumes to render institutions accountable, a fundamental principle of democracy, and thereby create the preconditions for expanding individual freedom.

It [Left critique,] should instead be to reinvigorate the present, salvage the Enlightenment legacy, and contest those who would institutionally freeze its radicalism and strip away its protest character. Such an undertaking is important, moreover, since their efforts have been remarkably successful. Enlightenment thinking is seen by many as the inherently western ideology of the bourgeois gentleman....

The idea of reclaiming the Enlightenment views its subject less as a dead historical artifact than as the necessary precondition for developing any form of progressive politics in the present. Understanding the Enlightenment, in this way, calls for opposing current fashions and conceits. Despite the existence of superb classic studies on the Enlightenment, the general trend of scholarship has tended to insist upon eliminating its unifying cosmopolitan spirit—its ethos—in favor of treating diverse national, religious, gender, generational, and regional “enlightenments.” There is indeed always a danger of reifying the “Enlightenment” and ignoring the unique and particular moments of its expression. Nevertheless, what unified them made the cumulative impact of individual thinkers and national intellectual trends far greater than the sum of the parts.

Extraordinary was the way in which the philosophes evidenced a common resistance to parochial beliefs and the arrogance of power. By simply deconstructing the “Enlightenment,” the forest gets lost for the trees. Radical tendencies within it like anti-imperialism thus often come to be seen either as historical anomalies or as simple interests of this or that thinker. It also becomes easy to forget that even before 1789, the anti-philosophes of the Counter-Enlightenment were busy “reconciling and uniting their enemies well beyond their extreme differences, attributing to them common aims and common ends. Tautology aside, there is much truth to the claim that the Counter-Enlightenment invented the Enlightenment.”

If there was no “Enlightenment,” but only discrete forms of intellectual activity falling loosely under its rubric, why should the political enemies of this international trend have been the same? These representatives of church and tradition—who so vigorously opposed democracy and equality, revolution and reform, cosmopolitanism and internationalism, skepticism and science—formed a “Counter-Enlightenment International” even before the French Revolution.

Even the most anticipatory form of philosophy retains residues, reactionary assumptions, and prejudices, from its historical context. Some figures of the Enlightenment look better than others with references to the stupidities of their time. Usually ignored is the question concerning what it was reasonable to expect from these intellectuals in their own historical context. [M]any supposedly progressive historical interrogations of the past actually wind up tossing the historical context by the wayside.

Confronting such biases in progressive terms is furthermore possible only from the standpoint of the Enlightenment with its liberal and socialist inheritance. Forgotten is that the former can be held to their own ethical standards of progress while the latter cannot because they rejected those standards in the first place.

Movements often show their weakness by the way in which they, whether consciously or unconsciously, appropriate the thinking of their adversaries. This is particularly true of the contemporary left. Enough “liberals” now suggest that liberal regimes must rest on a homogeneous national community with shared cultural values; others influenced by postmodern ideology view universal concepts as complicit with domination and as a threat to their particular identities; “western” ideas no less than the philosophies generating them are strenuously contested by self-styled radical anti-imperialists whose “nonwestern” beliefs are associated with indigenous religious traditions and romanticized visions of an organic society.

Democratic society was initially understood as an experiment that developed hand in hand with the liberation of the critical spirit. That various philosophes harbored such beliefs is irrefutable; that the Enlightenment ethos is reducible to them, however, is unsustainable.

Reason is not the enemy of experience. Nothing is more foolish than to confuse a reactionary pseudo-universalism with the genuinely democratic universalism that underpins the liberal rule of law, the constraint of arbitrary power, and the free exercise of subjectivity.

Just as the philosophes saw science not merely as an ordering device but as a self-critical method that could be used in the fight for liberation from outdated prejudices and dogmas, their view of aesthetics called upon individuals to expand the realm of their experience.

For the sake of brevity we truncated a nicely reasoned and well-written essay that one might well enjoy reading in its entirety. Bronner points out that the history of the Enlightenment is coherent and valuable to the Left, though the Left is today fascistic in itslef and conflated with fascist Islam after its abandonment of Enlightenment principles and precepts. Thanks in part to Horkheimer and Adorno, thanks to the endless struggle of Counter Enlightenment privilege, thanks to the basic lack of historical understanding of the average Leftist, thanks to the French post-modernist Nazi collabvorators who've destroyed the Enlightenment project within the West as a higher Human achievement that they simply cannot reconcile with their innate fascist authoritarian hierarchies and reactionary irrationalisms, their relativistic attacks on reasoned and universal morality and progress, today we stand with a Left entirely corrupted by fascism, working hand-in-glove with fascist Islam and its own self-imposed dhimmitude.

What do we do? What is to be done?

We must clearly understand our enemies, the fascist dhimmi Left in support of fascist Islam for the sake of the reactionary programme of destroying Modernism and the Enlightenment. Once we know what fascism is, then we can begin to identify its proponents, see what it is that we take for granted, and compare our informed opinions with the reality of the Left doctrine of philobarbarism and fascist collusion with Islam. We will continue this project in coming posts. We wiull see what is to be done, and we will organize to combat the fascist threat to Modernity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dhimmitude: the Islamic system of governing populations conquered by jihad wars, encompassing all of the demographic, ethnic, and religious aspects of the political system. The word "dhimmitude" as a historical concept, was coined by Bat Ye'or in 1983 to describe the legal and social conditions of Jews and Christians subjected to Islamic rule. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning "protected". Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma) to Muslim domination. Islamic conquests expanded over vast territories in Africa, Europe and Asia, for over a millennium (638-1683). The Muslim empire incorporated numerous varied peoples which had their own religion, culture, language and civilization. For centuries, these indigenous, pre-Islamic peoples constituted the great majority of the population of the Islamic lands. Although these populations differed, they were ruled by the same type of laws, based on the shari'a.

This similarity, which includes also regional variations, has created a uniform civilization developed throughout the centuries by all non-Muslim indigenous people, who were vanquished by a jihad-war and governed by shari'a law. It is this civilization which is called dhimmitude. It is characterized by the different strategies developed by each dhimmi group to survive as non-Muslim entity in their Islamized countries. Dhimmitude is not exclusively concerned with Muslim history and civilization. Rather it investigates the history of those non-Muslim peoples conquered and colonized by jihad.

Dhimmitude encompasses the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims at the theological, social, political and economical levels. It also incorporates the relationship between the numerous ethno-religious dhimmi groups and the type of mentality that they have developed out of their particular historical condition which lasted for centuries, even in some Muslim countries, till today.

Dhimmitude is an entire integrated system, based on Islamic theology. It cannot be judged from the circumstantial position of any one community, at a given time and in a given place. Dhimmitude must be appraised according to its laws and customs, irrespectively of circumstances and political contingencies.