Bryce Laliberte’s ‘What is Neoreaction?’

Bryce Laliberte, the former prolific blogger of AnarchoPapist and Unterrorist, as well as former regular columnist at Social Matter, may have left his philosophical pursuits behind, but the contributions he made to the radical right were varied and of a high quality.

His first and only published work was ‘What is Neoreaction?’ or (its long-form title) ‘Ideology, Social-Historic Evolution, and the Phenomena of Civilization’. Book reviews and overviews will not be a regular thing from me, but when I read a text that deals with Reactionary philosophy and political theory, I’ll try to write a small piece on it, as I did for Julius Evola’s ‘Revolt Against the Modern World’.

The first thing to consider about this book, is that it is short and to the point, which stands in contrast to the works of someone like Evola, or, to relate it to the ‘NeoReactionary’ movement, Mencius Moldbug. Split up into chapters that tackle different questions concerning the nature of civilization, why it is on a decline path, and how things could be better, the book is not hard to access.

Some have said that Laliberte’s book is really only for the initiated, that it doesn’t do a good job of living up to its grand title because, even though it warns that the uninitiated will struggle in the first few pages, some of the concepts are not introduced smoothly. I disagree, perhaps owing to this book following my reading of the very convoluted style of Evola. Laliberte’s work, though a little confusing in some areas, is not hard to decipher. I’ll be honest and say I’m not great on knowing my memeplexes from my occult motivations, but the author here has produced content that can be understood with minimal time put in for processing the ideas.

I couldn’t really address this book without addressing NeoReaction itself, and so I will. The movement, during its relatively short history up until now, has been poorly defined and its adherents have had a lot of trouble summing up exactly what the school of thought is. Laliberte treads carefully here and rather than try to give a doctrinal summation of NeoReaction’s tenets, he opts for a conciliatory approach that definitely links back to Spandrell’s Trike. Towards the end of the book, he notes that there have been ‘other reactions’ in the past, but seems to imply NeoReaction is actually a new ideology. This goes against the narrative some have pursued, that NeoReaction is in fact just a meta-ideology or a new angle of critical thought against Modernity, a take that I frankly am more partial to as someone who exists outside of the halls of NeoReaction. In any case, Laliberte does a good job of putting common Reactionary critique to paper, as well as introducing arguments that are peculiar to the NeoReactionary blogosphere, indeed arguments that he himself has helped to forge and refine.

Bryce Laliberte

The book explains two concepts particularly well, and those are Societal Entropy and Time Preference. Understanding these ideas is central to how NeoReactionaries give their critique of Modernity, and so are essential to the book itself. The chapter that outlines how Patriarchy is a safeguard of necessary low-time preferences is masterfully written, and may actually be my favorite section. However, the chapter that is titled ‘Tradition and the Return of Christendom’ is also of high interest to me as an uncompromisingly religious Reactionary. In it, Laliberte gives a good defense of religion’s role in society although perhaps using too secular a language for my tastes, but it is understandable when one takes account of the audience. This doesn’t stop Laliberte from being bold however.

“Religious worldviews, unlike secular worldviews, provide cohesive moral injunctions for a people to follow, founded in static texts and traditions. The secular view provides no basis for the development of a tradition, as it admits no necessary group charged with ritualizing power relations. Ritual is a Schelling point which secularism must deny.”

To have a NeoReactionary text dismissing the secular worldview as inferior in no uncertain terms, is definitely a welcome declaration of boldness. Laliberte, being a Catholic, correctly dismisses the notion of a secular state.

It also came as a surprise to see Laliberte essentially endorse Prophetic Catastrophism, or at least appear to give a nod to this particular ascendancy theory.

“I must confess the potential to save the system from its decline is dubious, at least not without it being a compromise that would only serve to extend the decline and, by extension, the time at which recovery would occur. A sooner collapse may be preferable on the grounds that rebuilding with less mis-allocated capital and a less comprehensively indoctrinated population is easier. A later collapse may be preferable in that it would allow us more comfort within which to perform our reactionary analyses in preparing for taking the future following the decline.”

To sum up, I recommend Laliberte’s book not just for those who bear the title of NeoReactionary, but for all on the radical right in general, for at base it is a good summation of how NeoReaction has approached Modernity with a critical eye, and the arguments against which it has cultivated. While some authors within this sphere of right wing thought are perhaps unwittingly hostile to the more traditional modes of Reaction, Laliberte’s work flows nicely within the stream of prior and alternative material that we can analyze and adapt upon. Its brief nature is also refreshing and its inaccessibility has been overstated to a great extent in my opinion. One criticism that has already been noted by others, is the low amount of references to other works, contained within. This isn’t necessarily detrimental to the overall aims of the book, but it certainly might have added more vibrancy to see Laliberte drawing from several pools of knowledge that have preceded him.

Come back soon, Bryce.

and so it was

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