I was directed by commenter Chris to give this essay by Rodney Blackhirst a look, and it warrants a little more dissection than I felt could be provided in a simple response. The essay is available in full here.
Blackhirst begins the essay by pointing out the lack of commentary surrounding capitalism in the writings of self-described Traditionalists and those who promote Tradition. While I think he has a point here, it is incorrect to compare something like capitalism to that which finds our scorn as our own antithesis, Progressivism. Capitalism is a method of economy, whereas Progressivism is something of an occult motivator, exercising a consciousness beyond mere utility and outlook. I agree with him in the following descriptor he takes from Hooker:
“[Capitalism] is more than just a body of social practices easily applied across geographical and historical distances, it is also a “way of thinking”, and as a way of thinking does not necessarily apply to earlier European origins of capitalism or to capitalism as practiced in other cultures.”
We can actually tease apart something as large as the capitalist method of economy and ideas of free markets. A free market would seem to imply only a minimum amount of regulation by the sovereign political power over the means of production, standing thus in a very raw sense, the opposition to socialist or communist modes of governance. However, Blackhirst is urging us to see capitalism as being more far-reaching to entail not only the absence of sovereign regulation upon markets, but also regulation of custom and culture. He notes that this capitalism in practice (I think it is analogous to what I have referred to as ‘consumer capitalism’, or that in which firms have to power to manipulate virtually any other power present in the society to their direct financial advantage, whether this means control or dismissal) stands in direct opposition to non-sovereign structures within a nation that might somehow hinder profits.
“What this view of labor amounts to, in short, is a regime of anti-craft wage-slavery. In a regime which “divides productive labor into its smallest components” the very idea, not to mention the nobility, of the craftsman is atomized and the very notion that work can constitute a karma yoga disappears altogether.”
“Most notably, of course, many traditional cultures -including medieval Christendom – prohibit or curtail usury, but more importantly traditional patters of work and ownership – from worker’s guilds and initiatory vocations to the provision of “Commons” and the institution of taxes like the Islamic zakat – operated against destructive accumulations of capital.”
According to Blackhirst, these just restrictions resulted in a technological retardation of traditional societies, but I think this betrays a Modern historiography. Certainly there have been low points of technological sophistication in at least the European context, however we forget that the ‘age of myth’ or the Golden Age is replete with accounts of mysteriously advanced technology, such as the tales of Atlantis, so long as we synthesize our crude concept of technology with manipulatable spiritual powers. This should always be kept in mind.
It is correct to say the Modern era has seen an economy divorced from other concerns and certainly in which it resides over almost everything else, holding society in reverence of king money. Slowly but surely, as other sources of value have decayed, man has been left with only two objects of power, the occult motivation of Liberalism which serves as his new doctrinal handbook, and the extremely functional appeal to his avarice created by our economic systems. The Reactionary sees no problem with wealth inequality, which reflects differences of aptitude, however the people at large will be prone to complaints of wealth inequality if their entire world is centered around capital, that which they may be unsuccessful at accumulating. Marx himself said that communism could never have gotten its start had capitalism not done away with the older system, which was able to effectively distract from common economic hardship.
After laying all this groundwork, the author heads into familiar territory with a laudatory affirmation of guild systems, making this excellent observation:
“It was also important for “negative” reasons, namely to “restrict” or “restrain” the child from an early age before they developed diverse interests and skills. It concentrated them to a single craft. This is a vital mechanism in vocational societies. It is how, in particular, crafts and trades are passed on from generation to generation in one family. Only a residue remains of this in a capitalist order […] we find a residue of it in the hobby realms of sport and music where we admit – or some of us still do – that, for example, it is quite proper for parents (and/or school) to restrict a student to the violin from an early age rather than let them dabble with different instruments, mastering none.”
Foolishly I myself had never actually drawn this parallel, but it perfectly illustrates our subconscious acknowledgement that man’s organic path is to be directed down one particular channel within which he becomes completely at ease, rather than being told he can “be anything he wants to be”, which has of course been the American way, in theory. Blackhirst finishes by hypothesizing a Biblical reference to the capitalist age from 1 Kings.
So what is the verdict here, and what can we draw from this piece?
I have talked about economics before here, but to come to some kind of solid Reactionary conclusion on the matter, I have now devised some key points from my own ruminating on this essay and others:
1) Capitalism as a system goes beyond the mere free market (markets have been “free” for most of human history as sovereigns typically lacked the breadth of reach to regulate them effectively). Capitalism can instead be seen as an attitude beyond market law. It is the first economic attitude in fact, to idolize capital as the ‘base’ of society from which all other things spring as outcroppings. Socialism makes the same assumption, but has a different utopian vision for which capital must be harnessed by the sovereign “proletariat”.
2) A Traditional understanding will see capital as only one of many interests within society. It does not supersede other interests and remains ideologically benign. Its products that interact with our perceptions and ideas will of course be regulated by a religious authority, while its labor to produce will be regulated by a system of cultural normativity. These are, discounting standard taxation by the sovereign for the maintenance of the state and the prohibition of usury, the main influencing agents on the market itself. Otherwise, innovation is rewarded and stagnation remains a suicidal proposition so long as others can innovate. Usual market forces are in play.
3) I am not totally sold on conservation as an ideological point, but this article shifted me slightly and maybe opened my eyes to a bias I have held in light of left wing environmentalism and the global warming hoax. It was one of the disagreements I had with popular ‘green-right’ blog, Amerika. We may have a gulf between our views on religion (it promotes Nihilism), but perhaps Brett Stevens has a real point with regards to the plundering of resources that must sustain not only our present, but our lineage’s future. The right should look at ecological issues far more closely.
4) We say that politics should be subservient to culture and spirituality, that the intrigue of the sovereign government never be allowed to hold the nation hostage to fanciful dreams of fundamental transformation, and this correctly views politics as that which is “moved”, not that which “moves”. Economics should occupy a similar space. If the greatest accumulation of capital is our goal, we may justify the genocide of our people and the importation of cheap foreigners to work our factories. This can never be allowed to enter the mind of any industrialist. Pareto optimization must be biased towards the wellbeing of greater things than the pocketbook.
Do not forget though, this is as applied to the Reactionary State, and says nothing about the present situation. As of now, it appears that more capitalism is beneficial to our end-game. Socialism, for all its economic failings, can add longevity to social orders and lend popular legitimacy to the ruling class, as it has done in Scandinavia. More exploitation, more depressed wages, more lobbying and special interests, more desolation of local industry in favor of outsourcing, through this the Modernist paradigm will be found supremely lacking far sooner. For people to accept the rule of Modernity’s antithesis, Modernity itself must be discredited. The reign of quantity makes one rich to a point, then slowly makes them miserable. Misery loves authority.
(Merry Christmas to those using the Gregorian Calender. May peace and the guidance of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you and your family. I am using the Julian Calender, so will have a Christmas related post on January 7th hopefully.)