Friday, August 05, 2005

Ideology and Destiny

One needn't hate the peasants to admit that they have no particular meaningful place in the modern world. Peasants are a waste of space and resources. There are too many of them, they make themselves even more abundant, they scratch out a living like locusts, and when they aren't having more of themselves, they're either killing each other or starving to death. Without the safety net of Modernity to keep them from extinction we'd long ago have been rid of them, to their benefit as well as ours.

Or maybe it's us. Maybe it's the Modernist Revolutionary who owns the blame. If not for Modernity the peasants would still be living in hovels with small families of sick and dying babies, and that would be that, the way it has been throughout most of Human history. We keep the peasants alive by foreign aid and advanced medicine, through sanitation and industry, we raise their expectations and lower their miserable hopes. We don't take them all in, and we don't kill them all off. What to do?

Modernity is a problem, for the West as well as for the rest of the world, i.e. the peasants. The Chinese are gradually ridding themselves of their surplus peasants, and India too in its inimitable fashion. But the West is creating peasants in its midsts: the West is creating neo-serfs and dhimmis of its own native populations, and it's importing serf and peasants from abroad to thicken the stew.

What is going on?

Modernity isn't appealing to all in the West. The fascists of the first half of the 20th century didn't spring whole-grown from the sacred and native soil of their respective nations. Far from it, they were nurtered and tended for hundreds of years before they exploded into being as the Nazis, the Iron Guards, the Ustache, and c. In fact, the fascists were there all along, pre-dating any ideologies they might have spouted in group-hatefests and pogroms. It was only when Modernity arose in France and the industrial states that the obvious difference became clear to them and allowed them to be what they were all along, but this time consciously: Fascists!

The Titans of fascism didn't go away quietly when they were defeated militarily as nations in uniform. They stayed, and they stayed the same. There are more of them nows than before, and they have spread and deepened their consciousness as fascists around the globe. We haven't won our war against them. Beaten, they are not defeated. They arose again. They walk among us. Often, they are us.

The following excerpt comes from www.jihadwatch, from a blog by Steven Vincent, killed yesterday in Iraq. Vincent writes of covering a meeting with a US. military man in charge of giving American aid to Iraqis. He says he tries to give out money to businesses run by women. Vincent's translator asks him questions anyone with sense would ask, and the military man, a decent guy from the account here, is surprized and concerned. Worse, he makes statements we'll highlight to point out the fascism inherent in the West:

Layla, however, flashed a tight, cynical smile. "How do you know," she began, "that the religious parties haven't put a woman's name on a company letterhead to win a bid? Maybe you are just funneling money to extremists posing as contractors." Pause. The Captain looked confused. "Religious parties? Extremists?"
Oh boy. Maa salaama Gary Cooper, as Layla and I gave our man a quick tutorial about the militant Shiites who have transformed once free-wheeling Basra into something resembling Savonarola's Florence. The Captain seemed taken aback, having, as most Westerners--especially the troops stationed here--little idea of what goes on in the city. "I'll have to take this into consideration..." scratching his head, "I certainly hope none of these contracts are going to the wrong people." Not for the first time, I felt I was living in a Graham Greene novel, this about about a U.S. soldier--call it The Naive American--who finds what works so well in Power Point presentations has unpredictable results when applied to realities of Iraq. Or is that the story of our whole attempt to liberate this nation?
Collecting himself, "But should we really get involved in choosing one political group over another?" the Captain countered. "I mean, I've always believed that we shouldn't project American values onto other cultures--that we should let them be. Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?" Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?"
And there it was, the familiar Cultural-Values-Are-Relative argument, surprising though it was to hear it from a military man. But that, too, I realized, was part of American Naiveté: the belief, evidently filtering down from ivy-league academia to Main Street, U.S.A., that our values are no better (and usually worse) than those of foreign nations; that we have no right to judge "the Other;" and that imposing our way of life on the world is the sure path to the bleak morality of Empire (cue the Darth Vader theme).
But Layla would have none of it. "No, believe me!" she exclaimed, sitting forward on her stool. "These religious parties are wrong! Look at them, their corruption, their incompetence, their stupidity! Look at the way they treat women! How can you say you cannot judge them? Why shouldn't your apply your own cultural values?"
It was a moment I wish every muddle-headed college kid and Western-civilization-hating leftist could have witnessed: an Air Force Captain quoting chapter and verse from the new American Gospel of Multiculturalism, only to have a flesh and blood representative of "the Other" declare that he was incorrect, that discriminations and judgment between cultures are possible--necessary--especially when it comes to the absolutely unacceptable way Middle Eastern Arabs treat women. And though Layla would not have pushed the point this far, I couldn't resist. "You know, Captain," I said, "sometimes American values are just--better."

Look at the captain above: "I have always believed...." Well, sir, perhaps it's time to stop believing and to start thinking about that which you have always believed. Honestly, where does one find these ideas one has always believed? He gets his idiot ideas from the matrix of culture. But what, dear reader, is the patrix?

Below we include a fine essay on totalitarianism, an absolute delight to read. there are some problems, of course, but rather than barge in we'll leave it to our good readers' judgements to come to their own conclusions about the connections of logic and support for premises that might be weak or missing. Over-all, it is a fine piece of work, in our opinions here.

Following this essay we include a response by Stygius to a writer, Athena, on an essay by Walter R. Newell. We end this piece with Newell's essay itself.




Methodology, Ideology and
Self-fulfilling Prophecy


The concept of fundamentalism is the very nucleus of the problem of national culture in the post-totalitarian stage of the development of society. Its definition is connected with such concepts as collective solipsism1 (the phenomenon of a solely self-oriented consciousness, i.e., of collective selfishness) and the closed society. There are two levels of explication of these phenomena: psychological and sociological. On the first, we can explore its psychic origins as well as its deepest psychic inspirations. On the second, we can explain fundamentalism as a sociological phenomenon, exploring sociocultural origins, nature and functions. From a psychological point of view, fundamentalism is an attitude towards full self-founding as well as towards full self-fulfillment. It should be noted that it is necessary to distinguish between tendencies towards any kind of autonomy (personal or collective, political or cultural) on the one hand, and tendencies towards fundamentalism as an exaggerated, even absolutized, self-founding and self-fulfillment, on the other. At this point, autonomy represents and expresses openness, whereas fundamentalism, on the contrary, represents personal as well as collective forms of cloture. The differences between autonomy and fundamentalism are so evident, particularly on psychological grounds, that it is not really necessary to prove it in more explicit terms.

Both autonomy as well as heteronomy can be analyzed on various levels of theoretical knowledge: from divine autonomy to human heteronomy (in theology and religious experience), from the autonomy of substance to the heteronomy of accidents, from the autonomy of the transcendent to the heteronomy of immanence (metaphysics), from the autonomy of human thought and consciousness to the heteronomy of the whole non-human world (the rationalistic tradition of the Western philosophical thought: Descartes, Berkeley, Fichte and their methodological solipsisms), from the autonomy of the human world to the heteronomy of the surroundings (contemporary social sciences and so-called "cultural sciences", i.e., the humanities), from the autonomy of intellectual activity to the heteronomy of the "low" psychic world (contemporary psychology), etc.

Autonomy, as principle, idea, purpose and, at the same time, the nucleus of the social order, is a great part of the overall historical process of human emancipation towards positive freedom (freedom for, rather than freedom from, or negative freedom) and self-fulfillment. But an autonomy which as noted above exaggerates momentous purposes as well as the means to realize them (especially self-founding and self-fulfillment) is dangerous for it can turn quite easily into fundamentalism. That is to say, exaggerated and absolutised autonomy can destroy its primary principle and primary idea.

It is not easy to make a strict distinction between the psychological and sociological approaches to fundamentalism. In both cases, fundamentalism is the same dangerous tendency towards autarchy. That is to say, fundamentalism is always the same wasted effort, hopeless and doomed to failure, while at the same time being the most pretentious project both of self-founding and of self-fulfillment. It can concern individuals, religious communities, whole nations or national cultures, and even states. In other words, it can embrace almost everything: human beings and ideas as well as economic, political, and cultural systems.

The essence of any kind of fundamentalism is very simple: by its nature it is a purely ideological phenomenon, where ideology means a closed system of views, values and ideals. Ideology always functions as a closed value system prevailing over reality. Generally speaking, it means nothing but the domination of principle over fact, of idea over reality, of word over thought, i.e., the domination of language over thought and meaning. Ideology is a state of consciousness in which value either prevails over, or is separated from, meaning. So ideology is total separation of ideas from reality, and, at the same time, separation of language from thinking, that is, from free and critical thought.

Ideology is consciousness separated from reality. It is small wonder, then, that the synonym of ideology is logocracy--the supreme power of language or the domination by word. Therefore, ideology always points toward closing society and, particularly, to closing consciousness. Both mean an attitude of collective solipsism, which is why the phenomenon of fundamentalism is integral to the closed consciousness and society. From a sociological point of view, this is not simply a state of mind, for that would be a purely psychological approach, rather, it is an active force that creates a social consciousness.

Fundamentalism is a many-sided sociocultural phenomenon. Undoubtedly it has its own rich historical context. Every Weltanschauung or world view of a great historical epoch can be defined and described as an historical form of a cultural fundamentalism. For example, the cosmocentricism of Ancient Greek- Roman civilization is nothing else but Ancient cosmocentric fundamentalism; the theocentrism of the Middle Ages is a theocentric fundamentalism; and the anthropocentricism of the New Age is Modern anthropocentric fundamentalism.2

Thus, the tendency towards fundamentalism is the inner possibility of every culture and of every historical epoch. For this reason, almost every culture and almost every historical epoch seems to be a closed and even monadical entity in Leibniz's sense of a world of monads. It goes without saying that fundamentalism can be divided into economic, political, national, religious, etc., fundamentalisms. Indeed, every kind of totalitarian regime is, more or less, based on a political fundamentalism, i.e., on the exaggeration and absolutization of political ends as well as of political means. But here I shall turn to another kind of fundamentalism, namely, particular cultural fundamentalism.


Cultural fundamentalism has two main sources: ideological and theoretical. The first was elaborated by German Romanticism whose emphasis upon both the nature and the development of culture was built upon the national idea as well as upon the innermost national beginnings of culture. It would be no exaggeration to say that the idea of history was transformed into the idea of culture by the Romantic movement, particularly in Germany. But there were others such as the famous French nationalist and Romantic thinker, J. Michelet, who was deeply influenced by G. Vico's Principi di una Scienza Nuova d'intorno alla commune natura delle nazioni. The idea of history was transfigured into the idea of nation and its historically unique self-fulfillment, i.e., into the idea of national culture. Vico's and Herder's theoretical works constitute a transition from the idea of world history or of universal history to the idea of national history or the history of national cultures.

Two main sources of cultural fundamentalism were distinguished above: ideological and theoretical. It is not easy to make a strict distinction between these two aspects, but it is important to strive for some clarification on this point. The first source of cultural fundamentalism has been pointed out: the second is connected, or should be, with the so-called morphology of culture, that is, with the organic growth and development of culture. This was elaborated by the German theorists of culture, Leo Frobenius and Oswald Spengler. From the methodological point of view, it was nothing less than an acknowledgment of the autonomy of the cultural dimension. In other words, it is the acknowledgment that culture is a self-organizing and self-fulfilling superorganism or supersystem.

C. Kluckhohn notes:

The danger in the construal of culture as an emergent level evidently lies in the consequent tendency to reify or hypostasize culture, to view it as a distinctive substance or actual superorganism, and then to assume that it moves through autonomous, immanent forces. Spengler certainly believed this; so did Frobenius, at least at times; and Kroeber has been flatly charged with the same errors by Boas, Benedict, and Bidney, besides incurring opposition to the concept of the superorganic from Sapir and Goldenweiser.3

It is necessary to note that Romantic thinkers and nationalists, despite the undoubted close theoretical "relationship" between the Romantic philosophical heritage and Spengler's brilliant work Der Untergang des Abendlandes, are not real forerunners of Spengler and his concept of culture. First, Spengler was greatly influenced by: (a) Goethe's phenomenology and especially by his well-known morphological method, (b) Nietzsche's idea of the life-cycle of every culture, and the idea of the eternal return, and (c) Frobenius' idea of the nucleus of cultural forms. This mysterious nucleus, which is deeply hidden from other cultures, is the real source of the uniqueness of every culture. Frobenius called this nucleus of culture paideuma, while Spengler called it the soul of culture.

Second, culture in Spengler's theory is not national, but is always a transnational or overnational phenomenon. Thus, there is an evident difference between the fundamentalism of the national culture, which has been protected by the Romantic movement, and the fundamentalism of transnational culture. As the idea of transnational culture leads towards acknowledgment of world history, the famous expression of Hegel, Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht, undoubtedly is valid for Spengler. According to him, world history is the eternal configuration and transfiguration of majestic, tragic and mortal cultures, whereas transnational culture is a monadic Weltgeschichte. A. Kroeber notes:

In spite of the formal dichotomy of the words (culture and civilization), Spengler's basic concept with which his philosophy operates consistently is that of culture. The monadic entities he is forever attempting to characterize and compare are the Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Arabic, Magian, Classic, and Occidental cultures, as an anthropologist would conceive and call them. . . . Spengler's theory concerns culture in at once the most inclusive and exclusive sense, and nothing else. He sees culture manifesting itself in a series almost of theophanies, of wholly distinct, uncaused and unexplainable realizations, each with an immanent quality and predestined career and destiny ( Schicksal).4

Why did Spengler, who was so greatly influenced by German Romanticism, neglect the substance of national culture as a subject of philosophical discourse? It could be answered easily that Spengler was greatly influenced by a Romantic Weltanschauung theoretical thinking and philosophical reflection, rather than by a Romantic ideology or value orientation. On this point it would be interesting to compare Spengler with another outstanding representative of so-called historical-cultural monadology, Arnold Joseph Toynbee. According to Toynbee, civilization is a transnational or overnational unit of history. The starting point in Toynbee's philosophy of history, A Study of History, is his contention that the proper unit of historical study must be a civilization, rather than the traditional unit, the nation-state.

The concepts of the organic growth of culture, the morphology of culture, and historical-cultural monadology (Frobenius, Spengler, Toynbee) represent cultural fundamentalism as panculturalism and panhistoricism, or radical historicism. These concepts depend upon the acknowledgment of an autonomy of the cultural level or dimension. Hence, cultural fundamentalism and the fundamentalism of national culture are not the same thing, but differ by nature.


Despite this difference, almost every representative of morphological and monadological standpoints was criticized seriously by liberal philosophers for negating the importance of free will in history, as well as for negating the rational moral responsibility of human beings. Their strongest critic, Karl R. Popper, in his The Poverty of Historicism, made a creative attempt to show all the possible errors and dangers of historicism, i.e., of historical and cultural fundamentalism. He was quite sure that Spengler's and Toynbee's over-all thoughts were most dangerous steps towards creating the closed consciousness and the closed society.5 Both Spengler and Toynbee have been accused of creating an overarching view and of historical determinism, i.e., a teleologic vision of history, an exaggeration of the historical aspect of human experience, and the absolutization of inexorable historical laws. Both were charged with a tendency towards pure ideology as well as with "inspiring totalitarianism" by Popper, who believed that the sin of historicism leads to forms of human serfdom.

It would seem that Popper is not absolutely correct. Theory in itself can never inspire a totalitarian regime or a totalitarian way of thinking. As, the phenomenon of both closed consciousness and closed society,totalitarianism needs an affirmative ideology, but not theory. On the contrary, theory as theoretical discourse is the most dangerous thing for any totalitarian regime, for the essence of theoretical discourse is always openness. Doubt and the verification of facts and statements are the most important parts--even, I would say, the very nucleus of critical theoretical thought. Moreover, free and autonomous philosophical discourse, or pure theoretical thought in general, can destroy any kind of ideology from outside as well as from within. For this reason ideology is never afraid of another ideology, but only of both reality itself and critical theoretical thought.

In short, ideology as a closed and unverified system has only two real enemies: open consciousness and open reality, that is, the open society. Closure is the essence of ideology. Thus closedness as the main attitude towards reality, and ideological affirmations which are blind and deaf to the truth, though possibly really eloquent, are the real roots of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is based not on real philosophy and real science, but, on the one hand, on an ideological affirmation of the existing social order, and, on the other hand, on the rejection of natural and inevitable differences, variety and, finally, openness.

My argument then is quite different. From this point of view Popper's accusations concerning Vico, Spengler, Toynbee, etc., seem due to some misunderstanding. Philosophy is not responsible for all social evils; it is ideology not philosophy which is the spiritus movens of totalitarian regimes. Totalitarianism is caused basically by the breakdown of the economy or by the decline and fall of the entire society with its economic and political structures, as well as entire huge empires. Such regimes emerge as responses to the challenge of crises, that is to say, as "a strong social order" following "disorder and confusion". They are a child of the archaic phenomenon which could be termed the great illusion, namely, a naive belief in the happiness of the whole society which, allegedly, can be reach by the elimination of any form of social conflict.

The great illusion always means escape from "the dangers and evils of freedom", that is, from the complicated real world to the realm of consciousness. Here the most dangerous and fatal substitution takes place: instead of reality we have pure imagination; instead of fact we have value; instead of thing we have image; instead of real world we have artificial world; and finally, instead of theory, which is open towards reality, we have only ideology, which is closed.

This is the road of utopian thought, or, to use the title of Hayek's famous book, the road to serfdom. The road of utopian consciousness means the road to hell, which is always based on high intentions. This is the road of Plato, More, Campanella, Rousseau and Marx. Not only social utopias and entire so-called social mythologies, but even architectural and aesthetic utopias bring the rejection and destruction of reality before the utopian dream comes true. Blake's poetry would be a particularly clear instance of this phenomenon (the divine city, the heavenly city of the divine imagination, Golgonooza, the skull-city; and the city of Satan which is nothing but Blake's living reality, that is, the real city which came out of the British Industrial Revolution).6

Myth can destroy history; image can destroy reality; value can destroy truth. To put the utopian project into life means to destroy inevitably the reality already existing. From this point of view, references to "inexorable historical laws" as well as to "inexorably doomed epochs and civilizations" mean nothing. For in this case we have historicism as real destruction of history, not historicism as real protection of both the idea of history and history itself, i.e., not historicism in Popper's sense.

Utopia comes out as the double-faced Roman god of origin and time, Janus: one the one hand, it is undoubtedly a protector of the idea of history (this is evident, particularly, in the reverse or retrospective utopias of Romanticism); on the other hand, nevertheless, it is undoubtedly a predator upon the idea of history because its history transfigures itself into pre-history with a view towards majestic futurist utopian projects. According to Marx, for instance, real history still awaits human kind. The past as well as the present belong to the overture of history, that is, to pre-history; they manifest the evident tendency towards antihistoricism in utopian consciousness.

Utopian consciousness is ever balancing between myth and history. This happens for the very simple reason that utopian consciousness is the phenomenon of permanent contradiction between myth and history, between imagination and reality, between value and truth. The final result is absolutely clear, for the first part of these oppositions has a quite evident advantage and always overcomes the second: myth prevails over history, imagination over reality, and value over truth.

In this way any utopia moves from theory into self-fulfilling prophecy, from theory to ideology, from the open consciousness to a closed one, and, finally, from an open society to a closed one. Thus, the totalitarian utopia becomes the fatal link in the chain of manifestations of the great illusion. It emerges as the most radical mode of escape from the "dangers and evils of freedom". Totalitarianism itself, as the logical consequence of totalitarian utopia, is a child of the great illusion, namely, the naive belief in the happiness of the whole society which allegedly can be reached by the elimination of any form of social conflict. Besides, the great illusion means the exaggeration, even the absolutization, of a strong external order and means. Totalitarianism is born by absolute negation of the self-organizing individual and the self-organizing society.

Spengler and Toynbee believed that culture can express itself in the eternal configuration and transfiguration of majestic historical forms. They both believed that culture as a self-organizing system can express itself on the road of historical self-founding and self-fulfillment. Their position, then, is the same negation of free will, of rational moral responsibility on the part of human beings, and of the self-organizing individual. But this is nothing but a coincidentia oppositorum, and from this point of view Popper is quite right in his strong criticism of historicism and its major representatives.

Yet I disagree with Popper's identification of methodology with ideology. True, culture in itself is only a metaphor, which can never become a self-organizing system; true, culture has no aims, it has no fights or conflicts--only men, real flesh and blood human beings are both active forces of history and self-organizing individuals: a self-organizing society is nothing other than the totality of self-organizing human beings. But it should be noted that the methodological historico-cultural fundamentalisms of Spengler and Toynbee are purely theoretical, not ideological, phenomena. It goes without saying that fundamentalism can exist as a pure ideological phenomenon; the emphasis in my analysis is placed upon such ideological phenomenon as ethnocultural fundamentalism.

Ethnocultural fundamentalism (especially its ideological consequences) is much more dangerous than methological historico-cultural fundamentalism, or, in Popper's terms, historicism. First, ethnocultural or national fundamentalism leads in the end to a decline of pure and abstract cultural principles in ideological practice. But, on the contrary, the historic-cultural fundamentalism, that is, the so-called historic-cultural monadology of Vico, Frobenius, Spengler and Toynbee, can be a pure methodological experiment or methodological innovation and nothing more. Second, ethnocultural fundamentalism, as a form of collective solipsism, often comes dangerously close to messianism. The best evidences are the instances of ethnocultural fundamentalism in the post-totalitarian stages of social development.



The post-totalitarian society is a closed society with deep belief in its own openness. It is a closed society with democratic slogans and an authoritarian way of thinking. It is an historical freak or centaur with an authoritarian sociopolitical body and a democratic self-consciousness--the society of ideology par excellence. Post-totalitarian society is the historical field of the cruel struggle between the present and the past; it is the phenomenon of ideological revenge caused, basically, by the breakdown of the economy. Strong, even aggressive ideology usually follows upon the collapse of the economy and misery, which generates the need for ideological efforts to find a successful image of an enemy. Allegedly, the existence of a "guileful enemy" enables one to explain all kinds of social evil and misery. For this reason, the post-totalitarian society is fighting permanently against its own past; it becomes a field of ideological superstition.

Ethnocultural fundamentalism is the most appropriate form of ideology for the post-totalitarian society. It happens not only because of the total sociocultural emancipation of the post-totalitarian country. On the one hand, the post-totalitarian society collides with the totalitarian heritage inevitably generating a culture in crisis, the complete breakdown of the economy, a schism in the body social (Toynbee's term), the loss of inner solidarity on the part of the civil society, the loss of common sense as the meaning of the common being, etc. On the other hand, the post-totalitarian stage means a real flowering of all kinds of collectivism: the collective will (almost in the sense of Rousseau's volont� g�n�rale), collective thinking and collective, but unfortunately not common, sense.

All this places an evident priority on collectivism over individualism and it would be no exaggeration to say that the revival of socialism, "enriched" by the national idea, is quite possible; indeed, it is a matter of fact. This strange revival appears to be a logical consequence of contemporary national collectivism. This revival of socialism with the national idea is caused by the �tatisme or statism of the post-totalitarian society. It is interesting to note that the brilliant passage from G. Russell's Collections and Recollections concerning the contradiction between the old Manchesterism and the new socialism sounds so eloquent and timely. It defines the situation of contemporary society as precisely as if it were written specially to describe our post-communist society:

The old Manchesterism had limited the functions of the State to the preservation of life and property (especially property) and the enforcement of contracts. The new Socialism, on the other hand, regarding the State, with Burke, as "the Nation in its collective and corporate character" [italics mine, L.D.], saw in it the one sovereign agent for all moral, material, and social reforms. The state is omnipotent where the individual is powerless; and in the new Socialism it was bound to concern itself with the health and housing, the food and raiment, the culture, and even the amusements of those who were least able to help themselves.7

It should be noted that ethnoculturalism or ethnocentricism, as well as ethnostatism or national statism, can quite easily be reduced to ethnocracy, government by a particular race or a particular nation. And it is not difficult to explain the roots of this danger. The nation acquires a new historico-cultural quality in the post-totalitarian society: it becomes the nation as the collective hero and, at the same time, the nation as protagonist of history. The many-sided sociodynamics of cultural change can be reduced to the "majestic historical process of national emancipation". Rigorous and authentic theories of culture and history disappear; ethnocultural and ethnohistorical theories replace them. Ideology as logocracy transforms into ethnologocracy, that is, into the combination of ethnocracy and logocracy.

The self-fulfilling prophecy created by a past-oriented, that is, archaist social consciousness is the only theory of culture and history of post-totalitarian society. From this it follows that the post-totalitarian consciousness is, undoubtedly, a past-oriented phenomenon, though it believes deeply that it is most fundamentally oriented towards the future. It is based on the permanent historical remembrance of the Golden Age of the Nation, on the one hand, while, on the other hand, being based on the consideration that the past is still alive and even more real than the present.

F. Braudel's model of the historical explanation of the human world (that the present explains the past, while the past explains the present) does not work in the circumstances of post-totalitarian reality. The post-totalitarian model is quite different: the past prevails over the present and strictly commands the present. The present post-totalitarian reality emerges as a time of troubles: misery, misfortunes and "guileful enemies" surround the "healthy forces" of the society. The past, on the contrary, appears as the time of pride and dignity, that is to say, the time of national self-foundation and national self-fulfillment: heroes, majestic battles, noble knights, wealthy and wise kings, victories and conquests. So the conflict between the past and the present results in the full domination of utopian consciousness. Instead of the present we have worship of the past and rejection of the present. Small wonder then that the post-totalitarian epoch is a time of reversal, or retrospective utopias.

The reversal utopia comes into the world together with post-totalitarian consciousness as a desperate effort to restore the lost values of freedom, human integrity, honesty, dignity and courage. This kind of utopia is a search into the past for lost human values. That is why the search for values in the past is the most exciting phenomenon in contemporary culture. In other words, the reversal utopia comes into the world as a self-fulfilling prophecy and, at the same time, as the forgotten language of forgotten values. In this context ethnocultural fundamentalism is nothing but the imperfect and naive historical response of the post-totalitarian society to the challenge of the Great Loss: the loss of freedom, prosperity, democracy, rule of the law, cultural heritage, cultural continuity, etc., caused basically by totalitarian serfdom.

In conclusion it should be noted that no ideology or social mythology can substitute successfully for reality itself. Even the well-formed, high-level, qualified consciousness cannot substitute for the "low" reality. Belief in this substitution is, I suppose, the most dangerous ideological superstition of the present; its deepest roots are both fear and hate towards openness, risk and democracy. The future shock of the post-totalitarian society is, first of all, the freedom shock and openness shock. From this standpoint, post-totalitarian society is a society lost at the crossroads between the open and closed society. There is no other way to overcome this condition then to enter the open society.

The tragedy is that it cannot function as a self-organizing system. It is not the semi-mystic bodies of history (paideuma, cultures as monadal entities, divine nations, and so on), but only real populations, real flesh and blood human beings who can be self-organizing systems. For this reason the self-organizing population of cities and states must not exaggerate any form of social goal. Exaggeration of the goal is connected closely with priority of consciousness over reality. In the end, this exaggeration is most dangerous for the open society as a self-organizing system.

Klaipeda University


1. Solipsism (metaphysics) is a theory that one can have knowledge only of the self; at the same time, it is belief that all reality is subjective or that the self can know more than its own states.

2. S. Barnet, in a brilliant introduction to C. Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, devoted to analysis of cultural change in the Renaissance, noted:

One can see the Renaissance as the period in which man's thinking took a bad turn and entered upon the course it still pursues. In this view, unappeasable curiosity catastrophically banished intuition and faith. Etienne Gilson in Les id�es et les lettres puts it thus: "The difference between the Renaissance and the Middle Ages was not a difference by addition but by subtraction. The renaissance...was not the Middle Ages plus man, but the Middle Ages minus God, and the tragedy is that in losing God the Renaissance was losing man himself (I, x-xi).

3. A.L. Kroeber and C. Kluckhorn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (New York: Vintage Books, 1952), pp. 290-201.

4. Kroeber and Kluckhohn, pp. 48-49.

5. Karl R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979).

6. In his masterpiece "Open Your Human Gates", Blake writes: "For every human heart has gates of brass and bars of adamant / Which few dare unbar, because dread Og and Anak guard the gates / Terrific: and each mortal brain is wall'd and moated round / Within, and Og and Anak watch here: here is the Seat / of Satan in its Webs: for in brain and heart and loins / Gates open behind Satan's Seat to the City of Golgonooza, / Which is the spiritual fourfold London in the loins of Albion".

7. G. Russell, Collections and Recollections (London: Thomas Nelson, 1909).
We have hundreds of readers each week, and we ask that if you have comments on the essay above that you try to include them in the comments section below. But first we take ourselves now to a reply to an essay by Athena. We feel that the connection is obvious between the essays here and we won't interfere in the reader's judgements of the texts.

Fanaticism & Philosophy: The Origins of Islamofascism
Athena, who writes the blog Terrorism Unveiled, has a July 12 post called "Islam and Socialism." It discusses this very interesting November 2001 Weekly Standard essay by Richard Newell called, Postmodern Jihad: What Osama bin Laden learned from the Left . In it he argues that European postmodernist philosophy has as much to do with al-Qaeda terrorism as with any interpretation of Islam. The intersection of Western philosophy and the ideology of modern Islamic terror fascinates me, although I think Newell's piece fails to get at the heart of it. See this Amazon List for a series of books that provide some background.

It is because of this intersection that I prefer the term, coined by Christopher Hitchens, islamofascism , rather than islamism. It was Hitchens who first started to draw the linkage between Islamic fundamentalism and fascism in the wake of September 11. While many think of it solely as a perjorative, I think it is more precise in a descriptive sense. It isn't just drawing a parallel or analogy between Islamic fundamentalism and European fascism, saying that bin Laden's ideology is like fascism. Instead, it appropriately indicates the European origins of the nihilistic totalitarianism espoused by bin Laden. The debt is direct if anything, "islamofascism" doesn't tar all of Islam, but I think rather shows how far astray these terrorists are from it, as well as points to the modernistic nature of Islam in a way obscured by the descriptive, "fundamentalist." Trying to draw the distinction between Islam and islamism is, however, probably too nuanced to succeed in differentiating terrorist fanatics from evolutions in mainstream Islam. It is for those reasons I prefer and use the word islamofascism to indicate the terrorist ideology exemplified by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

As for Newell's conjugation of postmodernism and islamofascism; he argues that beginning with unapologetic Nazi Martin Heidegger, and through successors like Maoist Sartre and his protégé racist Franz Fanon, the same icons of leftist postmodernism inspired Islamic movements like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (upon whose "Neglected Duty" bin Laden relied for inspiration) and Khomeini's Shi'a revolution in Iran.

However, his loosely reasoned chain of links is simplistic and insufficient, and misunderstands the relationship of islamofascism to European philosophy. The intent is clearly an attack on leftist ideology, as Athena rightly points out. That this was such a priority for Newell only two months after the attacks (Newell's piece is from Nov. '01) is kind of sad. Instead of direct links between select philosophers and terrorist ideology {x, then y, then z}, the relationship between European continental philosophy is both broader and deeper, and relies on important, often disregarded or misunderstood themes that came out of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. The same ones behind the rise of European fascism. The same Enlightenment that gave us human rights, rational knowledge, liberté, égalité, et la fraternité also gave us absolutism, nihilism, intolerance, colonialism, bureaucracy, and ultimately totalitarianism.

The philosopher to start with, I think, would be Fichte and his understanding of human authenticity, although many would argue that we could go back to Descartes' original cogito ergo sum to understand the modern individual's alienation from the world. Fichte took Cartesian individuality in radically new directions. Fichte's romantic idealism had a particular, absolutist understanding of the rational individual. Freedom is understood as synonymous with an uninhibited exercise of will and reason. The self, in order to be autonomous, is distinct from any external limitation on reason or volition (will). Reason is truth. Nothing legitimately exists beyond it. The rational self is absolute; in Fichte's words, the absolute I. Thus, one's internal world is a unified whole, rationality accepting no inconsistency. Externally, freedom and reason exist in constant tension with anything that is "other." Morality is totally subordinate to this. We can easily see in this the seeds of a totalitarian psychology. Whether exhibited through an individual, a state apparatus, or by some other unified entity, the dynamic that evolves is internal homogeneity, and external conflict and rejection. Annihilation, as this restrictive and sense of rationality envelopes reason, and ultimately inhibits reason-ability. Rationality becomes the unquestioned religion of the West.

It was no accident that the introduction of the word nihilism into modern philosophy was in response to and a critique of Fichtean idealism. We can see in the evolution of wildly different strands of Continental political philosophy this strain of absolutist rationality: anarchism, Leninism, fascism, industrial economics, Marxism, nihilism, scientism, bureaucratic rationalism, Jacobinism, and nationalism and its offshoot colonialism. All of these movements and trends were revolutionary in nature, obsessive, cosmological and totalitarian in their understanding (epistemology), and appealed to rationality—rejecting superstition and myth—for justification. These movements, often bloody, radical, extremist, and ultimately irrational, found their ultimate expression—their logical end—in the bloody totalitarianism of total war, eugenics, and the Final Solution in the twentieth century.

Therefore, in pointing to twentieth century philosophers like Foucault, Sartre and Heidegger, Newell ignores the vast evolution in the restrictive understanding of rationality and authenticity that evolved over the late eighteenth and nineteenth century in Europe. The collision of religious belief with absolutist rationalism not only inspired a revolt against reason (and science), embodied by Christian fundamentalist movements of the late nineteenth century, but required fundamentalism to take up the same absolutism in order to both counter its detractors and acceptably explain itself. Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God effectively explores this paradoxical collision.

The European ideologies that early islamofascists like Qutb took with them from Europe was not merely a particular postmodern Marxism, but rather the entire rationalist epistemology of enlightenment. The incredible book, A Fury for God , does an effective job of getting into the development of Qutb's ideology.

It is this same tension between internal and external, this same restrictive and totalitarian understanding of human authenticity, this obsession with power that informed the development of Islamic fundamentalism as anti-colonial movements, and informs Osama bin Laden's radical and totalitarian ideology. What's different is the structure and symbolism that denote authenticity. The islamofascist ideology is a direct descendant of nineteenth century changes in Europe and Egypt. The re-emergence of the Wahabbist school that developed in Saudi Arabia, relying on ninth century Hanbalism (now Saudi Arabia's state religion), took a marginal, ignored school of thought and synthesized it with the radicalism of European modernity. The willingness of al-Qaeda to take even that to its political and aesthetic extremes reinforces even more its totalitarian heritage. Therefore, this is not merely about taking the world back to the eighth century, but a very modernistic understanding of the self and the world, and a very modernistic reaction to modernity. Athena's argument that bin Laden's viewpoint is "traditional" is only half the story, ignoring both the complex history of Islamic traditions and explanations of why like Ahmad bin Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab suddenly became important to modern Muslim militants like Qutb.

Al-Qaeda's peculiar nihilism is evident in its death cult; in its group narcissism. (The difference from Qutb, who actually wrote on Islam and social justice issues, is distinct.) Herein lies its explicit fascism. While it clearly, and violently, adopts the totalitarian's understanding of authenticity, it doesn't seem devoted to any particular tangible, concrete understanding of a purified world. Instead, it is through zealous aesthetic acts, and an aesthetic, anti-materialist understanding of the self and external world that it derives its authenticity. Authenticity is achieved through violence; self-affirmation comes through a peculiarly self-destructive annihilation. This is as close as it comes to what Newell means by postmodernism, yet the relationship is only somewhat analogous, and indirect. Also, framing the argument, as Athena appears to, as concerning whether socialism's economic doctrines play a role misrepresents the ideological relationships that contribute to islamofascism.

Athena also errs in thinking that the West is somehow culpable because of these intellectual relationships, or at least in thinking that that is part of the argument being advanced. Hardly. It would be fatuous to blame Fichte for September 11, for instance, or to think that bin Laden can't be responsible since Foucault once said x. That's not the point. Ideofact has it right when in saying:

I'm not persuaded that Qutb speaks for Islam, but if Athena is right, and I'm wrong, and the Islamism of Qutb is demanded by Islam, then we have a much bigger problem on our hands. But my own reading and experience suggests that Qutbism is an aberration; tracing its intellectual roots (and finding that some of them come from outside of Islam) is not an act of appeasement, but rather a worthwhile endeavor in the context of the broader war that was joined on September 11.

Below is the essay under discussion immediatley above. Once agian, we feel that the thesis is clear and that we have nothing to contribute by commenting as yet.

Postmodern Jihad
What Osama bin Laden learned from the Left.
by Waller R. Newell
11/26/2001, Volume 007, Issue 11

Just as Heidegger wanted the German people to return to a foggy, medieval, blood-and-soil collectivism purged of the corruptions of modernity, and just as Pol Pot wanted Cambodia to return to the Year Zero, so does Osama dream of returning his world to the imagined purity of seventh-century Islam. And just as Fanon argued that revolution can never accomplish its goals through negotiation or peaceful reform, so does Osama regard terror as good in itself, a therapeutic act, quite apart from any concrete aim. The willingness to kill is proof of one's purity.

According to journalist Robert Worth, writing in the New York Times on the intellectual roots of Islamic terror, bin Laden is poorly educated in Islamic theology. A wealthy playboy in his youth, he fell under the influence of radical Arab intellectuals of the 1960s who blended calls for Marxist revolution with calls for a pure Islamic state.

Many of these men were imprisoned and executed for their attacks on Arab regimes; Sayyid Qutb, for example, a major figure in the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, was executed in Egypt in 1965. But their ideas lived on. Qutb's intellectual progeny included Fathi Yakan, who likened the coming Islamic revolution to the French and Russian revolutions, Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian activist killed in a car bombing in 1989, and Safar Al-Hawali, a Saudi fundamentalist frequently jailed by the Saudi government. As such men dreamed of a pure Islamic state, European revolutionary ideology was seldom far from their minds. Wrote Fathi Yakan, "The groundwork for

the French Revolution was laid by Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu; the Communist Revolution realized plans set by Marx, Engels and Lenin....The same holds true for us as well."

The influence of Qutb's "Signposts on the Road" (1964) is clearly traceable in pronouncements by Islamic Jihad, the group that would justify its assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 as a step toward ending American domination of Egypt and ushering in a pure Islamic order. In the 1990s, Islamic Jihad would merge with al Qaeda, and Osama's "Declaration of War Against America" in turn would show an obvious debt to the Islamic Jihad manifesto "The Neglected Duty."

It can be argued, then, that the birthplace of Osama's brand of terrorism was Paris 1968, when, amid the student riots and radical teach-ins, the influence of Sartre, Fanon, and the new postmodernist Marxist champions of the "people's destiny" was at its peak. By the mid '70s, according to Claire Sterling's "The Terror Network," "practically every terrorist and guerrilla force to speak of It can be argued, then, that the birthplace of Osama's brand of terrorism was Paris 1968, when, amid the student riots and radical teach-ins, the influence of Sartre, Fanon, and the new postmodernist Marxist champions of the "people's destiny" was at its peak. By the mid '70s, according to Claire Sterling's "The Terror Network," "practically every terrorist and guerrilla force to speak of was represented in Paris. . . . The Palestinians especially were there in force." This was the heyday of Yasser Arafat's terrorist organization Al Fatah, whose 1968 tract "The Revolution and Violence" has been called "a selective precis of 'The Wretched of the Earth.'"

While Al Fatah occasionally still used the old-fashioned Leninist language of class struggle, the increasingly radical groups that succeeded it perfected the melding of Islamism and Third World socialism. Their tracts blended Heidegger and Fanon with calls to revive a strict Islamic social order. "We declare," says the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah in its "Open Letter to the Downtrodden in Lebanon and the World" (1985), "that we are a nation that fears only God" and will not accept "humiliation from America and its allies and the Zionist entity that has usurped the sacred Islamic land." The aim of violent struggle is "giving all our people the opportunity to determine their fate." But that fate must follow the prescribed course: "We do not hide our commitment to the rule of Islam, . . . which alone guarantees justice and dignity for all and prevents any new imperialist attempt to infiltrate our country. . . . This Islamic resistance must . . . with God's help receive from all Muslims in all parts of the world utter support."

These 1980s calls to revolution could have been uttered last week by Osama bin Laden. Indeed, the chief doctrinal difference between the radicals of several decades ago and Osama only confirms the influence of postmodernist socialism on the latter: Whereas Qutb and other early Islamists looked mainly inward, concentrating on revolution in Muslim countries, Osama directs his struggle primarily outward, against American hegemony. While for the early revolutionaries, toppling their own tainted regimes was the principal path to the purified Islamic state, for Osama, the chief goal is bringing America to its knees.

THE RELATIONSHIP between postmodernist European leftism and Islamic radicalism is a two-way street: Not only have Islamists drawn on the legacy of the European Left, but European Marxists have taken heart from Islamic terrorists who seemed close to achieving the longed-for revolution against American hegemony. Consider Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, two leading avatars of postmodernism. Foucault was sent by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera to observe the Iranian revolution and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Like Sartre, who had rhapsodized over the Algerian revolution, Foucault was enthralled, pronouncing Khomeini "a kind of mystic saint." The Frenchman welcomed "Islamic government" as a new form of "political spirituality" that could inspire Western radicals to combat capitalist hegemony.

Heavily influenced by Heidegger and Sartre, Foucault was typical of postmodernist socialists in having neither concrete political aims nor the slightest interest in tangible economic grievances as motives for revolution. To him, the appeal of revolution was aesthetic and voyeuristic: "a violence, an intensity, an utterly remarkable passion." For Foucault as for Fanon, Hezbollah, and the rest down to Osama, the purpose of violence is not to relieve poverty or adjust borders. Violence is an end in itself. Foucault exalts it as "the craving, the taste, the capacity, the possibility of an absolute sacrifice." In this, he is at one with Osama's followers, who claim to love death while the Americans "love Coca-Cola."

Derrida, meanwhile, reacted to the collapse of the Soviet Union by calling for a "new international." Whereas the old international was made up of the economically oppressed, the new one would be a grab bag of the culturally alienated, "the dispossessed and the marginalized": students, feminists, environmentalists, gays, aboriginals, all uniting to combat American-led globalization. Islamic fundamentalists were obvious candidates for inclusion.

And so it is that in the latest leftist potboiler, "Empire," Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri depict the American-dominated global order as today's version of the bourgeoisie. Rising up against it is Derrida's "new international." Hardt and Negri identify Islamist terrorism as a spearhead of "the postmodern revolution" against "the new imperial order." Why? Because of "its refusal of modernity as a weapon of Euro-American hegemony."

"Empire" is currently flavor of the month among American postmodernists. It is almost eerily appropriate that the book should be the joint production of an actual terrorist, currently in jail, and a professor of literature at Duke, the university that led postmodernism's conquest of American academia. In professorial hands, postmodernism is reduced to a parlor game in which we "deconstruct" great works of the past and impose our own meaning on them without regard for the authors' intentions or the truth or falsity of our interpretations. This has damaged liberal education in America. Still, it doesn't kill people--unlike the deadly postmodernism out there in the world. Heirs to Heidegger and his leftist devotees, the terrorists don't limit themselves to deconstructing texts. They want to deconstruct the West, through acts like those we witnessed on September 11.

What the terrorists have in common with our armchair nihilists is a belief in the primacy of the radical will, unrestrained by traditional moral teachings such as the requirements of prudence, fairness, and reason. The terrorists seek to put this belief into action, shattering tradition through acts of violent revolutionary resolve. That is how al Qaeda can ignore mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of noncombatants, and slaughter innocents in the name of creating a new world, the latest in a long line of grimly punitive collectivist utopias.

Waller R. Newell is professor of political science and philosophy at Carleton University in Ottawa.

November 26, 2001 - Volume 7, Number 11

We began this entry by suggesting that the peasantry is redundant and worthless in the modern world, of no benefit to themselves or to the general teleos of Humanity. But we also ask if it's possible that we are at fault for allowing this problem to develop. Modernity is a problem, one we in the West do not come to terms with on an unsentimental basis; and therefore millions of people die needlessly, perhaps because we don't feed them well enough, that we steal the oil they sit on, or whatever. The problem remains unaddressed, and the problem is the project of Modernity, the Revolutions of Modernity, whether we should stop and revert to primitivism, surrender to fascism, die out as a culture and a species, or whether we should go forward, as it were, progress toward the teleos of Humanity, the universal triumph of Modernity, the anti-fascism of Humanity as path-maker. We argue that though we have beaten our gross Titanic forebearers we have not castrated them and cast them out for good. This internal Human contraditicion cannot continue as it is. Someone has to die out. "But we have always least as of the last time we thought about anything back in highschool civics class...." It won't do. We have never always believed.

When Hitler died in his bunker, when Germany surrendered and was over-run by the Soviets, when the Three powers divided Germany and Russia took the rest, the fascists didn't suddenly become enlightened and remorseful. They took centuries to grow into what they were, and they are with us today as surely as they were in the 1940s. What Hitler and the fascist movements of Europe failed to do by force the fascists of the world now do by stealth.

Our struggle against fascism didn't end in Berlin in 1945. Our struggle against totalitarianism didn't end in Berlin in 1989. Our struggle against fascism will last as long as men last. Our struggle today isn't really about the grubby little devil in the sands of Arabia. If we want the oil they sit on, we will go to them, kill them, and take that oil. Our fight isn't about this or that wrong or slight or whatever. Our struggle is for or against Modernity. In that struggle we have many enemies among our own, those who are fascists themelves, those who didn't dry up and blow away in '45 or '89 or yesterday. No, we have them in our midsts telling us "we always believed...."

It's our position that the fascists weren't destroyed at all in 1945, but that they simply changed tactics in their continuing war against the revolutions of Modernity. We see the fascists of the Left as the immediate inheritors of the Nazi legacy. We are betrayed by the intellectuals of the West. We are redundant. We are worthless in the eyes of the fascist intellectuals. We take up space, we use up resources, we mar the Romantic scenery with our low being. We are too many in the places where there should only be chickens and range-grazing cattle and wild animals and fascists.

Our matrix of Modernity is going soft and sour. We have to ask what is the patrix? We have to examine what we've always believed. We are becoming peasants in the West.

Some of our collegues here are suggesting that perhaps we've included enough for one entry, and that you are ready for a break from this. Well, we have always believed that there's lots more where this came from.


Anonymous said...

I think you are speaking of post-modernity, which rejects the best that modernity has too offer, calling it no better than antiquity, sometimes worse. It is so interesting that we are called to question on how we treat our women, and then we are allowed no moral ground to stand on when we see how they treat their women in other countries. Pseudo-feminists, who are really fascists, can rant on about imaginary wrongs against women, arguing in sociological terms that are way over our heads, way over even women's heads, while ignoring the wrongs that go on over there, which are in your face and obvious to anyone who has any decency in his bone. For some of these creeps, it is a grave social injustice to be born with a vagina and have to give live birth. Yes, modernity does have something good to offer; I am using it to post this message. Postmodernity is nothing but return to the folly of the ages.

Dag said...

Thanks for your comment. I didn't realize till this review of the post, Nov. 2010, that it is so long. If indeed you read the whole of it I hope it was worth the effort and not simply a matter of ploughing through for its own sake.

Now, all these years later, I realise that the effort I put into this blog is far less than in previous years, as this post shows in comparison. However, the effort pays off, as it were, in that the original intention, that of finding a route through my thesis, is fulfilled, and I am now in the midst of typing from long-hand notes, five volumes of the A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, the point of this blog in the first place.

It is thanks to comments along the way that I am able now to add to the store of knowledge this effort, fellow writers and thinkers commenting and critiquing as this progressed.

So, thank you, anon.

Regards, Dag.