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340. The power of the great (X)

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

A fairly common view expressed on the right is that the right is opposed to “-isms”, to ideology. The right has common sense, instinct, and words spoken from the heart—it works upwards from the bottom to form an emergent order—whereas the left has some complex abstract scheme that it wants to impose from above that defies common sense. Ideology is taken to be a complex abstract scheme, whereas as the right presents itself as working in the true tradition of science—it tests iteratively and does not attempt to impose a view from above as one logically consistent piece, a piece whose integrity is maintained by asserting logic and reason against observation.

You can find this view expressed by people as varied as Oakeshott, Orwell, Scruton, and Hitchens. Religion and tradition are then opposed to ideology as time-tested and reality-adjusted approaches to life, whereas an ideology is seen as a religion in formation—and suffers from the early fanaticism and cultishness that dogs any new religion.

However, it is worth considering that there was a man, a man who went by the name “Lenin”, who also said that he firmly opposed “-isms” and ideology; he was for the observed and demonstrated truth; the truth found in Marxism, naturally. The “ideology model” is Marxist in origin. Marx borrowed the term ideology from a liberal critic of 1789—Tracy—a man who wanted to speak out against mob rule and defend private property and liberty. Napoleon took the term “ideology” and used it to abuse his opponents and Marx then borrowed Napoleon’s sense of the word, as an abusive term, and put his own stamp on it; so even now we live in Marx’s concept of ideology, even when people on the right use it. To be called an ideologue or an ideologist is a term of abuse; and yet it was conceived as a term for people who opposed mob rule.

Left and right agree that the mob is deluded. Marx thinks that they have been bewitched by ideology, and so have false consciousness and do not understand their true interests; beliefs, such as religions, emerge from the current arrangement of the means of production to justify and facilitate that arrangement. People who see through the ideology—the elite—have a scientific, in the Hegelian sense, understanding of reality. So the left contains an elitist element to it—reality is elitist—and they are in the elite because they are not ideologues. Indeed, Marx described the originator of “ideology”, Tracy, in typically abusive vein as a “fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire”. So successful has Marx been that even conservatives see themselves as engaged in a struggle against ideology, an attempt to liberate the masses from ideology and bring them into a singular truth.

For Nietzsche, the mob is deluded but we have no guarantee that we can lead them to a singular truth; actually there is no singular truth, only useful truths. For the Marxist—the contemporary thinker—the mob will inevitably see “the truth”; false consciousness will fall away, thanks to science or common sense. For the Nietzschean, the mob’s iterative swirl of delusions and truths has no simple direction; we can stand outside the mob—as in Yarvin’s clear pill—and launch critiques, but the swirl of ideas, of memes in competition, follows curious directions.

Today, people worship transsexuals and in a decade all that could be quite forgotten and instead we might worship Big Chungus, a giant floppy-eared rabbit. There will never be a moment when “the scales fall from their eyes”, all ideas—even Marxism—have some purchase on reality, if they did not they would not be able to mobilise people; and their evolution, driven by those with power, seeks survival and propagation, not truth as such. In short, to think that we have common sense and science whereas our opponents have ideology is itself a Marxist meme, itself a delusion—a useful one for those who want to inflame the mob.


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