Tuesday, May 09, 2017

On Reading THE REACTIONARY MIND

1. On reading "The Reactionary Mind" by Corby Robin.
One interesting thought has to do with the "private life of power". The fear of extending rights to the masses is rooted in the realization that this would upset the personal relationships of power which exist in the family and elsewhere. And this is why political arguments can be so hostile - you are touching a personal nerve of power. Or as Corby puts it "Behind the riot in the street...is the maid talking back to her mistress, the worker disobeying her boss. The Right tried to keep democracy out of both both public and private, fearing one would lead to the other. Or as De Bonald (reactionary thinker) said " to keep the state out of the hands of the people... keep the family out of the hands of the women and children." (This also helps explain the misogyny and emphasis on authoritarian child rearing on the Right)

2. Reactionary Snowflakes – the Inventors of Victimhood (from The Reactionary Mind Corby Robin)

"Far from being an invention of the politically correct, victimhood has been a talking point of the right since Burke decried the mobs treatment of Marie Antionette" The right speaks of loss, ie the loss of skin privilege and male authority etc. p. 58
"All conservatism begins with loss, as Andrew Sullivan rightly notes, which makes conservatism... the party of losers" P. 59 "What is truly bizarre about conservatism; a ruling class resting its claim to power upon its sense of victimhood." P98 "Conservatives thrive on a world filled with mysterious evil and unfathomable hatred where good is always on the defensive." P. 173 MY COMMENT – this helps explain the obsession with communists under the bed, conspiracy theories and relates to its victimhood complex. It also shows the correctness of Lakoff's view that the difference between left and right is value based.

"Making privilege palatable to the masses is a permanent project... but each generation must tailor that project to fit the contour of the times... p100 Social hierarchies persist because everyone but the lowest "enjoys the opportunity to rule and be ruled in turn... each person dominates someone below him in exchange for submitting to someone above..." p225. COMMENT – this helps explain the persistence among the lower classes of racism and misogyny, not to mention the contempt by so many lower class people of welfare victim and the homeless – but there is an essential sado-masochism to this relationship. (Bullied from above, bully those below)


The Right, Ape of the Left (from The Reactionary Mind by Corby Robin)

(paraphrase) Reaction is forced in two directions 1. critique of the old regime 2. absorption of ideas from the left. The Old Regime is criticized for being soft, not its essential hierarchical and authoritarian ideas. P 43
The reactionary starts from this principle. "that some are fit to rule others and then recalibrates that principle in light of democratic change...p 18 "No conservative opposes change as such, or defends order as such. [They] ...defend particular orders, hierarchical... on the assumption... that hierarchy is order." p. 24 Recently David Horowitz (far-right demagogue) urged rightists "to use the language of the left... on behalf of their own agendas. Reactionary populism is "to harness the energy of the mass in order to restore the power of the elites." p.55 There is also a "dialectical synergy of left and right, the progress of the former spurs on the innovation of the latter."

MY COMMENT – Thus, by using and absorbing ideas of the left, a kind of right-wing populism and use of left ideas has been part of reaction from the beginning. We see this with the "King and Country" mobs in the 1790s in opposition to English Radicalism, and the slave owners paeans to "liberty". The right, in time, accepted parliamentary democracy, but began to use it to its own ends. Italy at the time of WW1 had a powerful syndicalist movement – Fascism declared itself "national syndicalist" and adopted the color black of the anarchists. Social democracy was popular in Germany so the fascists there called themselves "National Socialists" and adopted the color red. In the 1960s there was White Power, fascist ape of Black Power. While basic democratic rights such as freedom of speech, press and assembly were always regarded by the far right as examples of modernist decadence, today's fascists pretend to be the guardians of such freedoms and smother their verbiage with the language of rights and identity politics. But the end is always the same – maintaining authoritarian hierarchy, domination and exploitation.

3. Maintaining the Authoritarian Hierarchy (from The Reactionary Mind by Corby Robin)

With the Reactionary, who is a product of Modernity – power is not so much inherited as with feudalism – at least in theory - but is the product of struggle and conflict. The "natural proving ground of superiority" "Liberty as conquest" according to W. G. Sumner (reactionary liberal writer) Burke saw the need for "painful stimulation" for growth to exist. Violence and struggle were needed or as Robin states, "War is life, peace is death." for the reactionary. There is a definite fear of "softness". The true life consisted of competition and conflict or as Burke stated "Curiosity leads to weariness, pleasure to indifference, enjoyment to torpor."

The Right actually believes that the best rule (in the "natural" authoritarian hierarchy) and that real democracy means the destruction of civilization. This allows for the unlikely alliance of the "libertarian" who wishes untrammeled control of their work force with the traditionalist who sees the patriarchs heavy hand in the family. In more recent times, we have an article in the National Review August 24 1957, entitled "The South Must Prevail" which says, "The central question... is whether the White community of the South is entitled to take such measures as necessary to prevail... The sobering answer is Yes. - The White community is so entitled because... it is the advanced race."

COMMENT – What we see is the Right's fundamentally negative view of humanity. But paradoxically they think that the best way to deal with humanity's flawed nature is to put a minority of other flawed creatures in change of them. We also see with the emphasis on struggle and competition in Burke, the precursor of the later Right's doctrine of Social Darwinism. We see how the notion of "the best succeeding" leads implicitly to racism. But that is not all;

Examine the Right's fundamental attributes – authoritarian hierarchy, victimhood, Social Darwinism, racism, sexism, fear of "softness", the absorption of left languagewhat you find is that these are the same essential ingredients that make up fascism. We on the left are sneered at for seeing fascists in every conservative, but at least as far as the reactionary right goes, I don't think we are always that wrong given what we see in THE REACTIONARY MIND.

Mind you there is one omission in the book. and that is the kind of conservatives I grew up with – the "Red Tories" . These were pragmatists who were not against reform, nor the extension of democratic rights. Then the Catholic social doctrine that encouraged the formation of cooperatives and trade unions. Many of these people would become socialists or Liberation Theologists in the 1960s.
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