Thursday, July 26, 2012

Obama and the Authoritarian Enlightenment

As mentioned at the top of yesterday's post, man's existence is a search for order. Throughout most of history, and in most civilizations, this order was (and is) imposed from on high.

While these orders may have initially emerged spontaneously, they eventually become crystalized around things other than the engendering truth(s) they are supposed to reflect. Voegelin's entire corpus is the residue of his search for order -- as is the Knowa's Arkive and Seer's Catalogue of soiled bobservations.

At issue in the current presidential campaign is two fundamentally different orders, one that relies on liberty, individual initiative, self-mastery, and the spontaneous order of the free market; the other of which champions an order imposed upon us by the state, which consists of elites who have a special insight into the order of things, and who do not trust the individual to arrive at this order on his own.

This dialectic has been present throughout history, the reason being that it is present in each human subject. For just as society is man writ large, man is a micro-society. There are various ways to describe this tension in man, but it essentially comes down to individualism <---> socialism, which I would suggest is ultimately rooted in male <---> female (or, more abstractly, contained <---> container).

For example, when people speak of a "nanny state," they are intuiting and expressing a genuine truth about the deep order of things.

Due to a semantic confusion introduced over the past several decades, there has been a reversal of what the words "liberal" and "conservative" signify. As a result, it is conservatives who are champions of change and progress (especially via the free market), liberals who wish to resist change by imposing a static, top-down order on the rest of us.

Let me provide a historical example. As mentioned a couple of days ago, I'm reading this history of Prussia, and last night was learning about the revolutionary movements of the mid-19th century.

Among other things, what these liberals -- radicals -- were demanding was a fixed constitution, freedom of expression, and a political order rooted in common language and values, rather than one imposed by a distant state.

Furthermore, "liberals argued that industrialization and mechanization were the cure for, not the cause of, the social crisis, and called for the removal of government regulations that hindered investment and obstructed economic growth."

"Conservatives," on the other hand, were what we now call leftists: they -- ironically, along with the Marxists (or left Hegelians) -- argued "that the responsibility for arresting the polarization of society must lie with the state as the custodian of the general interest."

Some were proponents -- sound familiar? -- of authoritarian enlightenment, and "favoured the use of illiberal means to achieve progressive ends."

From the peculiar psyche of Hegel came the argument that the state "was an organism possessing will, rationality and purpose. Its destiny -- like that of any living thing -- was to change, grow and progressively develop. The state was 'the power of reason actualising itself as will'; it was a transcendent domain in which the alienated, competitive 'particular interests' of civil society merged into coherence and identity."

Most people don't know this, but when Hegel died of cholera in 1831, he was working on a book with broader appeal, called You Didn't Build That!

Hegel was the first assoul to suggest that "the state had a quasi-divine purpose; it was 'God's march through the world'... by which the multitude of subjects who constituted civil society was redeemed into universality." The state is "the highest expression of the ethical substance of a people, the unfolding of a transcendent and rational order..."

Now, just subtract "God," and you have the modern left. Or, more precisely, imbue the Dear Leader with divine-like properties.

What did Evan Thomas say? "I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God."

Newsweek was almost right: we're all Hegelians now.

For Obama is not some America-loving cretin, like Reagan: rather, he is all about "‘we're above that now.’ We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial. We stand for something.... He's going to bring all different sides together.... He's the teacher. He is going to say, ‘now, children, stop fighting and quarreling with each other.’ And he has a kind of a moral authority that he -- he can -- he can do that."

And so he has.

I've suddenly been called away to work. The end


mushroom said...

Oddly enough those who share Hegel's view of government as having a kind of personhood get upset when it is suggested that corporations -- organizations of people -- should have freedom of expression. The state really, really does not like competition.

Any entity that can thwart the state must be subjugated, sublimated or eliminated. Who knew states could be as neurotic or psychotic as individuals.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This dialectic has been present throughout history, the reason being that the dialectic is present in each human subject. For just as society is man writ large, man is a micro-society. There are various ways to describe this tension in man, but it essentially comes down to individualism <---> socialism, which I would suggest is ultimately rooted in male <---> female (or, more abstractly, contained <---> container)."

Hi Bob! By socialism, I presume you mean all it's forms, ie fascism, communism, etc.?

Thomas Sowell wrote an outstanding article a few weeks back saying, essentially, that Obama has been using fascist tactics rather than pur socialist tactics to do what he wants.

However, I think Obama will use any tactic to get what he wants. If socialism works better in some cases he would use that.

Fascism seems to work better for him because he can set up a "private" owner (GM) as a scapegoat, so if things go wrong he can blame the scapegoat and if things go well (which is always temporary in these schemes) he can take the credit.

The same would hold true for Obamascare.

I can see where this would work on an individual level as well.
It's not too difficult to blame a scapegoat for our own failings (some people, such as the OWSers make a career of it).

Certainly this could be done under socialism or communism, but it's easier to blame an outside scapegoat (private owners) than a State scapegoat (which would reflect to some extent on the President/Individual).

Of course, on an individual level one could easily disconnect from any association that reflects badly on one's self, even if it IS onbe's self that's the problem.

In the real world, Obama's executive orders will only reflect on him.
Although mhe and many of his supporters will refuse to see it.

In any event, I think it's clear even to the squishies that Obama is bad news.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good point, Mushroom.
In fact, those on the left don't even see corporations and businesses as people.

To them they are all evil entities motivated only by greed (although most of them don't believe in evil, per se).

Van Harvey said...

"Most people don't know this, but when Hegel died of cholera in 1831, he was working on a book with broader appeal, called You Didn't Build That!"


Luckily, this is a work computer, somebody else paid for that.

River Cocytus said...


Listened to some of the Jonathan Bowden stuff.

1. His mastery and understanding of history and politics is impressive.

2. The neopagan stuff and his religious views are in my view, destructive.

The final point is that, at least for the Christian, the only 'volk' there can be is the Church. It is itself the people of God and the fatherland.

It is funny (perhaps) that Orthodoxy is often perceived as pagan or eastern (in the sense of eastern religion); this is not due to it being some admixture or syncretism but because of the modern perception of Christianity and the nature of mass culture.

He also falls off the horse when he simply sees the spiritual as only symbolic and emotional and a means to a end - civilizationally - and thus robs any of it of its true power, which simply is, truth.

I think he is very correct about the 'primal' force of the Far Right and how it is feared. I think however he got absorbed into the 'demonic' himself -- too much. We cannot go beyond the role of supposed villain - scapegoat if you will - into true villain. We must be willing to be someone's enemy, but we cannot become the Enemy.

Also he validly made a point about the mind/body fracture in our existence.

ge said...

[thanks RC for reply...& GB for this digressin']
i like his in awe of his reading-learning-pop culture knowledge etc, even came across a mention of Bat Knight & Dark Man...Dream debate: him vs Hitchens.

james wilson said...

It is a mistake to think it a coincidence that Obama's last theme was the title of Hegel's unfinished opus. Obama's writers know their history very well, limited and constricted as it is to 250 years of cunning dialectic and propaganda. They are usually pretty good at it.


Van Harvey said...

Obama, as I'm getting ready to break the breaking news in a bit, yet again, believes in the same idiocies, and for the same reasons that Wilson first proposed these administrative idiocies, back in 1886. (Stunning, I know):

"That political philosophy took this direction was of course no accident, no chance preference or perverse whim of political philosophers. The philosophy of any time is, as Hegel says, "nothing but the spirit of that time expressed in abstract thought"; and political philosophy, like philosophy of every other kind, has only held up the mirror to contemporary affairs. The trouble in early times was almost altogether about the constitution of government; and consequently that was what engrossed men’s thoughts. There was little or no trouble about administration,-at least little that was heeded by administrators. "

Those silly Founders were consumed with what was eternally True, because they never had to administer under what was true!

Don't you know how tough it is to do what you want to do while always having to look over your shoulder and see if anyone is paying attention to your violating what is eternally true?

That's stressful! That's the sort of stress that makes a guy have to go play golf or go on vacation! All the time!

I tell ya what... every good proRegressive knows, that what works best, is what is true, for the moment, and ♫ ♪ ♬ then the moments gone... dust in the wind... ♬ ♪ ♫

And in the end we're all dead. Some of us with more prestige than others. And that's important.