Posted on “Bronze Age Revival” Telegram channel September 10, 2021
I will write longer on this somewhere soon maybe but there is problem in certain kinds of “elite theory” spergery. Neoreaction of all kinds supports “elite theory.” This comes in part from work of Mosca and Pareto, as well as Carl Schmitt and some others, claim that all societies are led by elites, including democratic societies. It is this last point that is “special”: no one would deny premodern societies are all elite-led, but this is seen to be bad, and the progressive pretense is that democratic societies don’t have elites, but at most a kind of power-sharing between offices that individuals can occupy at different times in their lives and so on.
In a degenerated way this could be understood by analogy to ancient republican formula, “to take turns in ruling and being ruled.” But aside from obvious point that modern mass democracy has next to nothing in common with ancient and medieval or Renaissance civic republicanism, “elite theorist” often point out that it isn’t even just a question of scale or the denatured character of modern “participation” through representation (which e.g., Rousseau considers illegitimate from a democratic and classical republican point of view for good reasons); but that very idea of a democratic form of rule is mistaken, that the people as such can never decide.
You may read Mosca or other “elite theorists” for detailed exposition of this view, but I always found Carl Schmitt’s condensed formulas attractive: a people is an “organic” but not a “decisionist” unity. A people exists but can never actually exert a decision as a people, and so democracy ultimately means that elites of various kinds will decide: whether representative or parliamentary elites, which ultimately make decisions based on backroom dealings, and not on the popular will; and which devolve into city machine politics, distribution of goods and favors to clients and factions, in other words the state stops being able to make political decisions on behalf of the whole and ends up being a redistribution mechanism to be captured now by this party, now by that. Or he gives examples of “democratic dictatorship”: the Jacobins were an “educational dictatorship,” which claims that because of vestiges of anti-democratic clerical rule and traditions, the vestiges of local potentates and other pre-democratic intermediary institutions and so on, that all of these prevent proper democracy from being practiced.
Giving vote to French or Ugandan peasant who is subject to local priest or crazed water priestess and so on is meaningless, they will just vote what the priest commands. Even without the priest, their minds are “predemocratic” and so democracy can’t be fulfilled until the people are educated to overcome superstition and prejudice. And so an “educational dictatorship” must be established that “temporarily” suspends democracy in the name of democracy. This is immediately recognizable as a common and maybe the dominant leftoid type. Then there is another kind of democratic dictatorship, Caesaristic democracy.
Here all power is vested in one man who can effect popular will in a direct and unmediated way, to popular acclamation, where a parliamentary system remains frozen in talk and indecision. Is also important to add: Caesaristic democracy ends up being the protection of the people against the Jacobin or leftoid-style “educational dictatorship,” which moderate parliamentary elites are unable usually to successfully oppose. Fascism in Europe was obviously a type of Caesaristic democracy, and it had success not only because of the indecision of parliamentary elites, but specifically because of the threat of a new and especially aggressive kind of apocalyptic “educational dictatorship,” Marxism-Leninismm which liberalism has always been unable to oppose.
At heart of all this kind of analysis is that the people never actually rules, but only different types of elites. In all this I think the neoreactionaries are right, but where they’re often wrong is many times they forget that the kinds of elites possible in mass democracies are very different from predemocratic elites. And also that mass democracy is an established fact and can’t be ideologically or practically reversed for the foreseeable future. To give just one example, many conservatives, both retarded and smart, for example Ross Douthat conservatard but other smart ones who unfortunately follow him & co., make mistaken argument: “right now an elite rules anyway, but it denies it’s an elite.
This means that it exerts rule and decision that elites always did, but takes no responsibility for consequences, pretending it is democratic. Furthermore this elite is not properly educated to be an elite, so it makes many mistakes. Wouldn’t it be better to just admit we have an elite, to give it the privileges of an elite, but also the duties and most important the education such an elite needs, practical and historical education to rule.” This would be a great thing, but is a mistake. It’s a weird argument based on misunderstanding of the situation because the only people such an argument would appeal to are conservatives or right wingers, who agree with much of it already. It would NEVER appeal to anyone on the left, who are for a few reasons to be described another time, unable to let go of their democratic pretensions. In fact they’re smart not to let go of these pretensions.
If a faction decided to openly follow this advice of the DC integralists and other Reformicon conservatives, you would just be recreating the William F Buckley thing. I call it a thing because it’s just this vague program where you think if you have a coterie that apes old WASP patrician forms and gets educated in the right books and ideas, that you will be creating a replacement “aristocracy” that will be able to inherit “power” from the left by offering competent governance.
This will never work: again this has been the program of conservatism for the last few decades, and the explicit program of the Straussian faction, which has never achieved anything but to cater to the narcissistic affectations of certain people; and most of all, it has only provided a foil to the left: a stodgy, stuffed shirt with “aristocratic” pretensions that inhabits the role of the left’s old enemy: the ancien regime, the bureuacracy of absolutist monarchy. It’s aristocratic pretense without aristocratic presence; even when maybe a few individuals of this faction may become well-educated and competent and such, overall they will just be providing the foil the left needs, this image of a sinister cabal of “elite” fancyboys who openly disdain democracy and talk about the reestablishment of predemocratic ways and so on. Again, this has been “intellectual conservatism” for the last few decades in America.
“Elite theory” misunderstood in the Douthat & co. way just reestablishes the Buckley faggotry with half-digested arguments of Mosca, Schmitt, and others. I say half-digested because they miss one crucial simple thing: while it’s true that democracies too are led by elites, the reason democracies are as such dysfunctional and degenerated forms of government is because they ABSOLUTELY CAN’T SUSTAIN and have no place for a kind of aristocracy or old-style genuine elite. Yes democracies will have an “elite”: they replace people trained in statesmanship, military rule, various kinds of virtu from birth, with…demagogues, meaning orators. People who can cater to the passions of the people in one way or another. When women can vote, this is much intensified (you all know funny factoid that women voted HItlor into power). This is what a democratic “elite” is, and it’s irreversible.
If you try to reestablish some kind of nondemocratic government openly, you will quickly find yourself outflanked by those who can claim the banner of voice of the people. One of my other favorite factoids: the hardcore samurai old guard, who revolted against the Meiji Restoration because it was too modern and too democratic, after their failure at armed revolt became…a People’s Party. They realized very quickly what democracy was, and what they needed to do. The Genyosha or Ocean Society was their secret “aristocratic club”/mafia, but their public face was not what would be seen always by the democracy as a “stodgy” old “elite”…no, their public face was Populist, demagogic, and so forth.
And they did this actually rather sincerely, because they realized an alliance with the people was possible, that the people could be a vehicle for their grand plans and ambitions. They realized their future power actually lay with accessing the people directly and that the entire “middle” of the Japanese system, meaning not the middle class, but the bureaucracy, the new institutions, that these were their enemies. It’s a strange kind of situation: in a modern mass democracy, the “elite” image, which is really an elite-wannabe image, is inhabited by parvenus, snobs, people who want to put on a performance and feel a certain way (see again William F Buckley and everyone who follows him; see NRO, etc.). By contrast, the real aristocracy, like the Dark Ocean Society, they become Populists, because they understand what the actual meaning of “democratic elite” is.
In mass democracy of our age, the establishment is also “demagogic,” in that it seeks to play to the passions of the people by providing them with material rewards. Insofar as things go well with the economy (which they have nothing to do with), such “technocratic” (lol) elites can take credit for the plenty, but when things go even slightly bad, true demagogic artists, who can appeal to passions well beyond the material, these can easily outflank the whole parliamentary-institutional redistribution technocrats. That’s a question of tactics that, again, I may discuss in more detail another time. But I meant this semi-long post to say, yes, all societies are ruled by elites, but “elite theorists” go much too far in our day, they forget that a) mass democracy irreversible and b) “elite” possible in mass democracy is very different from other kinds. It very much matters who can mobilize the people, and who can mobilize the most vital passions of the people…this, again, is why Trump scares the establishment like nothing else. That he didn’t pull the trigger is a quirk; that he EASILY wiped them out is a fact they can’t forget, which is leading them now to all these overreaching overreactions and the current chaos worldwide.