If you were trying to reduce the main points of the Dissident Right with a few bullet points, it would be:
- The people in charge have dangerous fantasies about the future of society and the nature of man
- The mass media is just propaganda for those fantasies and can never be taken at face value
- Race is real, ethnicity is real and evolution is real. In the main, humans prefer to live with their own kind. Diversity leads to conflict.
There is a more to it, but those are the three main items that come up over and over among writers in the Dissident Right. The people in charge, of course, dispute these and consider them to be ignorant, paranoid and immoral. Question the browning of America and you’re a dumb racist. Notice that mass media often looks like a coordinated public relations campaign and you’re branded as a paranoid. Of course, anyone mentioning the realities of race and sex is the branded a Nazi or white supremacist.
A useful summary, because pithy summaries of positions from the inside are almost always a helpful addition to understanding and debate. One of the ways, for example, you can tell that much academic writing about “neoliberalism” is worthless is the lack of forensic analysis of what alleged neoliberals write.
Pithy summaries tend not to be the places for nuance. But what I found useful in Zman’s summary is it pinpointed for me why I read a lot of “dissident right” stuff but do not identify with it.
I read a lot of it in part because they often are willing to consider facts and concerns which conflict with the progressivist piety display politics that dominate so much of the media and elsewhere (and help provide strong coordinating effects). Also because I do think said politics include some dangerous fantasies about the future of society and human nature. And because I do think that ethnicity is real and evolution is real.
Against social constructionism
Continuing with points of agreement, evolutionary psychology tends to have not nearly enough history or comparative anthropology in it (see a useful discussion here), but social constructionist viewpoints (which have been widely adopted in much of the humanities and social sciences) are both false and toxic. False because there are inherent structures which cannot be wished away by human will and action. Such as an inherited cognitive architecture, as famously put by biologist E.O.Wilson (pdf):
What I like to say is that Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species. Why doesn’t it work in humans? Because we have reproductive independence, and we get maximum Darwinian fitness by looking after our own survival and having our own offspring.
(Often paraphrased as “wonderful idea, wrong species”.)
This inherited cognitive architecture (a result of the biology required in order to have big brains so anything can be socially constructed in the first place) extends to differences in the distribution of cognitive traits between men and women, differences which are actually larger in prosperous, developed societies (pdf), likely because less social constraint means underlying biological differences are more directly manifested.
Another structural constraint is the limitations on knowledge, as discussed by economist-philosopher Friedrich Hayek in The Use of Knowledge in Society and by historical anthropologist James C. Scott in Seeing Like A State. Which, combined with the incentive issues, generates the economic calculation problem.
Social constructionist views tends to be toxic because they have a powerful tendency towards manichaean views of human society and action. If social structures are fully plastic to human action, then all bad outcomes are the result of human action (typically, someone else’s human action) and could be eliminated by correct human action.
So, the evils and problems of the world gets analysed in terms of malign human action and are deemed to be soluble by unified human action. Hence the tendency to talk as if all the problems of the world as are the result of malign human action-and-feeling (racism, sexism, etc) which require unified action to eliminate, including the convergence of all forms of social action towards proper social harmony. Hence there is no part of human society that should be outside the convergence towards harmony, or the elimination of alienation, or whatever the end goal is that will, as the saying goes, immanentize the eschaton.
If one wants to know where the contemporary drive to find “sin” in everything (sinful jokes, sinful games, sinful shirts, sinful words, sinful statues, sinful opinions, etc) comes from, the widespread adoption of social constructionist ideas is a key element. Particularly coming out of feminism, which has become a central driver of progressivism; hence the shift from talking of sexism to talking of misogyny: criticising men is feminism, criticising women is misogyny.
For those interested in historical patterns, the first great success of the women’s movement (women’s suffrage) was, in the US, followed by their next great success, Prohibition, the war against the (mostly male) demon drink (see an amusing essay here). In our time, the massive expansion in opportunities for women in recent decades (essentially, since the pill [pdf]) has been followed by the campaign against the (very male) demon domination (and who, unlike the demon drink, also has a race and a sexuality). As was the case with the war against the demon drink, the “cure” for the demon domination is proving to be much worse than the actual extent of the problem in Western societies.
Needless to say, analysing all human and social ills in terms of malign will and bad feelings is toxic to open debate, or even elementary civility. Given that Stalinism was intensely social constructionist, and that, especially in France, there was not much temporal gap between adhering to Stalinism and jumping into postmodernism and post-structuralism, it is not surprising that we are seeing a revival of Stalinist rhetorical constructs, such as hate speech and massive over-use of the “Fascist!” label, and of neo-Lysenkoist biological denialism.
As an aside, while I disagree on a couple of points (patriarchy is not in the interest of every man, for example, particularly not in its polygynous form) what the authors of this analysis call their biosocial theory is an analytical approach I heartily agree with.
But about that race thing
Where I fail to get on board with the dissident right is the race thing. Yes, race is real in a (fuzzy boundary) sense, it is just not real in the sense they mean. That is, race does not usefully aggregate causal factors together, it is not a causal unit. Ethnicity does: ethnicity reaches back deep into our evolutionary history. Ethnicity was how we scaled up beyond foraging bands. Judges 12, the story of shibboleth, is an ethnic cues story. We are the cultural species, so of course ethnicity matters.
From the C18th onwards, race was basically constructed within Western thought as a meta-ethnicity. The analytical trouble with that is, doing that takes us further away from actual causal factors. To the extent that white means anything analytically useful it means of European origin: referring to civilisational and ethnic traits, not racial ones. And, even there, it often makes a major difference which Europeans. To put it another way, even if the US was “lily-white”, it would be unavoidably diverse, and unavoidably ethnically diverse.
Terms such as white and black abstract away from people’s cultural and civilisational heritage. In the hands of the fighters against the demon domination, that is often the point, as it helps with the malign-feelings-and-will social constructionist shtick. But no-one who takes the heritage of Western civilisation seriously should play that game for a moment.
Nor, even in the US context, is the term black any better than white. Do you mean recent African immigrants, who tend to be well-educated, have intact families and do well in the US? Do you mean Afro-Caribbean immigrants, who achieved their freedom from slavery a generation earlier and whose ancestors live and voted in polities where they were fully integrated into local politics? Or do you mean Ebonic-Americans, the descendants of slaves whose ancestors went through the oppressions of Jim Crow? Because they are quite different groups. And the last are very much an ethnic group, an American nation, and can only be understood through the prism of ethnicity, not race.
Diversity: it depends
As for the problems of diversity, they are not generic or automatic. I seriously doubt that the importing of highly educated East Asians or South Asians is any threat to the fabric of American society. Nor are the various minority strains of Islam (Ismailis, Ibadis, Alevis, Ahmadis) likely to be a problem. Their permanent minority status means that aspiring to domination (see below) is suicidal, and has long since been adapted out of their varieties of Islam.
Hispanics in the US are a little more complex, but mainly because of the consequences of illegal immigration in creating black markets in labour and of blocking voter control over migration policy. Have effective border control plus explicit selection and the problem largely goes away. How am I so confident? Because Australia and Canada manage much higher rates of immigration than the US with far less social and political angst. (Though Australian states continuing to restrict land supply to drive up tax revenue while failing to provide adequate infrastructure, leading to mounting congestion issues, is putting that under some pressure.)
Hispanic migration in the US is, by the way, not a crime problem. Indeed, a plausible interpretation of urban progressive support for Hispanic migration, legal or otherwise, is not only because it provides cheap labour, but because if Hispanics replace Ebonic-Americans in an urban area, the crime rate plummets.
The serious problems with diversity in the US largely comes down to two things: Ebonic-American crime and mainstream Sunni Islam. (Twelver Shia Islam also, but that is a somewhat more complex story as much of the difficulty with that diaspora is the Iranian regime using it as a base for its violence.)
Due to progressivist piety displays, it is very difficult have any sort of public conversation about the realities of Ebonic-American crime (that, for example, African-Americans are about 13% of the US population and generate about half its homicides), even though such crime has been a major element in urban dynamics in the US for decades. The dissident right will at least talk about it, if often not in a very analytically useful way.
The problem with mainstream Islam is simple: mainstream Islam is a religion of domination (men over women, believers over non-believers) and the problems generated by Islam and Muslims around the world are overwhelmingly rooted in that. It is why the difficulties with mainstream Islam are orders of magnitude greater than those with Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc. But progressivist piety display makes it almost impossible to have any sort of public conversation about the difficulties that mainstream Islam being a religion of domination generates. And so back again to why I read the dissident right.
Steep status hierarchies
The irony is, that Ebonic-American crime and the problems with mainstream Islam likely have overlapping causes. In both cases, as is normal in human societies, the crime and violence problem is overwhelmingly concentrated in young males.
Poverty has less to do with crime than is often thought, but income inequality has quite a lot (pdf). Moreover, if one thinks in terms of status or dominance hierarchies (which are connected to income inequality but not limited to it) the patterns begin to make more sense. (Effectiveness of police and criminal justice systems make a major difference–see the New York success–but I am ignoring that for the moment.)
Confront young males with a steep (i.e. hard to climb) dominance/status hierarchy and violent behaviour becomes far more likely as it shifts the threshold where aggression turns into violence. This is a major generator of violence in polygynous societies, for example, where elite male acquisition of extra wives and concubines massively reduce the prospects of young, low status males for sex and marriage. Islam’s preferred solution was to export the problem, as ghazis fighting the infidel, degrading infidel border regions and taking infidel women. Hence Islamic martyrdom is dying while killing infidels and promises houris in Paradise.
The contemporary polygyny of the Arab oil-rich states, reducing the number of marriageable women in other Arab societies (i.e. importing extra wives and exporting any resultant violence problem, a different way of exporting the problem), likely has rather more to do with endemic instability in the Middle East than the Israel-Palestine conflict, which has dwindled to a tedious border dispute. But, thanks to the Christian sanctification of Roman marriage patterns, European cultures have been monogamous for over a millennia (or, in the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean littoral, for over two millennia), so even considering that the dynamics of polygyny might matter does not occur to most Western folk, while “blame the Jews” is practically programmed in.
Alas, the notion that Muslim men should be able to sexually exploit infidel women is a religious-cultural script that continues to be regularly activated: such as in the “grooming gangs” of Britain where the British state has racked up decades of failure because progressivist multiculturalism and anti-racist pieties were much more important than protecting thousands of indigenous British girls and some Sikh girls from rape, abuse and systematic enslavement for the purposes of prostitution. Even when the issue began to be broached, much of the media, led by the BBC, continued to talk “Asian gangs”, thereby slandering Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs to avoid identifying that those convicted are at least 90% Muslim, though recent reporting is a bit more informative. (In the Netherlands, such human trafficking, also primarily of underage girls, is known as the loverboy phenomenon, with the perpetrators tending to be Moroccans, rather than Pakistanis; though in both the UK and Netherlands Muslim men of a variety of ethnic backgrounds have been convicted.)
Continuing on the status/hierarchy issue, it is not hard to see that the post-slavery history of young Ebonic-American male violence might have something to do with the very steep status hierarchies they have faced in US society. Nor that significantly lower average IQ as social rewards to education and cognitive capacity have increased might sharpen that effective steepness of status/dominance hierarchies even though overt, and particularly institutional, racism were massively declining. With the male status-seeking of gangs and the income opportunities of black market narcotics (and the inherent violence of [pdf] black markets) adding to the mix.
Similarly, young Muslim men, raised as “golden sons” in Muslim families within the culture of a religion of dominance (men over women, believers over non-believers) might confront the gap between that and how status hierarchies in Western societies actually work and become potential ticking time-bombs.
But to even consider these possibilities involves committing a plethora of thought crimes against progressivist pieties. So, back to reading the dissent right but not identifying with them.
[Cross-posted from Thinking Out Aloud.]