Whiteness studies

Paul Gottfried makes some interesting points in a thinkpiece on white nationalists over at Takimag. His basic argument:

The rising generation cares even less than its parents about holding on to an inherited civilization. Most of my students in Western civ courses have only the vaguest idea of the figures in the Bible (including Jesus) and their knowledge of modern history is usually confined to such inanities as “Hitler was a bad man because he was intolerant.”

That being the case, the advantage of the white nationalist Right under present circumstances is that “it promotes a sense of belonging and elitism that does not depend on sustaining past traditions” that no longer exist.

The basic problem with the approach, of course, is that “whiteness” doesn’t have much to say about what life is about, so it can’t serve as the basis of social order. That’s why the extreme nationalists and racists of the last century relied so much on theatrics and on an ideology of infinite struggle for infinite dominion that made no sense and could only end in catastrophe. As Gottfried puts it in connection with the present situation:

The materials that white nationalists bring into play seem inadequate for any serious war for civilization. The most they may land up producing is a fiercely defended critical perspective. And while that perspective can be directed against leftist and neoconservative assumptions, it is not likely to carry our society toward a new vision of order.

In addition to that point, which I agree with, and which suggests a welcome concern with visions of order, he makes another point that in the past he’s emphasized in a variety of ways:

The majority in a multicultural society is encouraging others to trash its heritage and to practice discrimination against the majority. What is wrong … is not oppression by others but the glorification of self-destructive behavior.

I think here he’s taking too seriously the idea of the majority as an actor that deliberates and makes decisions that are attributable to the people in general. In fact, the active part of the “majority” that’s doing the encouraging is our ruling class of experts, managers, and functionaries, the heritage they want trashed is not their heritage of social rationalization but the competing incompatible heritage of classical antiquity, Jerusalem, the European middle ages, and normal life in general, and the “majority” targeted for discrimination is not experts, managers, and functionaries but normal white men, who are not as such our dominant class. (White male managers and experts are powerful because they are managers and experts, not because they are white males.)

“Public opinion” shouldn’t be understood as if it were a direct outcome of whatever the views the individuals making up the public happen to be, with the way the views are aggregated a secondary matter. In a mass society of 300,000,000 people dominated by huge institutions and by specialists there’s not much practical reason for any particular individual to put serious thought into political and social issues. It makes more sense for each to go with the flow, as the flow is represented to him by a system of public discussion and information dominated by expertise, large institutions, and money. If he comes up with a view at odds with the official view, people will call him names, he’ll have to come up with his own Theory of Everything to defend it, and nobody will understand him anyway. Why bother? And if you’re going to go along anyway, why not reduce friction and tell yourself it’s all for the best?

Modern society has a remarkable ability to separate man from his fellows and from his own identity and heritage, so that the only available principles of order and functioning are the ones formally laid down. That’s one reason modern society is able to combine tyranny with a manner of functioning that is usually comparatively nonviolent. Even when it turns to atrocity the atrocities are bureaucratic and orderly, with people standing quietly in line waiting to be murdered.

Modern inclusivist society represents that atomizing tendency on steroids. The tendency enables it to destroy whole peoples in a gentle and orderly manner. Under such circumstances, does it really make sense to represent that society and what it does as the people’s own choice? How can a disconnected aggregate like the present American people think or make choices? To my mind, rather than blaming the victim it makes more sense to investigate how accepted views are defined and propagated, what contrary impulses there are that might be the basis of something better, and how to disrupt what’s being propagated and give rationality and public presence to more hopeful principles now suppressed.

8 thoughts on “Whiteness studies”

  1. On the other hand . . .

    The basic problem with the approach, of course, is that “whiteness” doesn’t have much to say about what life is about, so it can’t serve as the basis of social order.

    I made a similar objection in a follow-up TakiMag post. But in his response Mr. Taylor pointed out that it was never his intent to offer up a complete approach to civilizational renewal. And although he doesn’t say so, I can see the argument that realism about race, and loyalty to one’s own race, is a crucial feature of a healthy society, but that the society obviously needs other things like those you mention. It may be unfair to group people who include race realism in their nuanced picture of reality, as Mr. Taylor appears to, with more vulgar racist types we’re familiar with from the last century of history.

    • What’s the basic point and what’s the nuance?
      I agree that the existence of particular peoples with their own histories and loyalties is part of the health of human society, and ancestry is usually part of what constitutes a particular people. So antiracism—the view that if you place any positive value at all on common ancestry, culture and historical background you’re a bad person—is certainly misconceived and destructuve.

      Still, it seems to me these things need to be seen as part of a larger scheme. And I can’t help but think that if white nationalists saw things that way most of them would refer to themselves by the name of the larger scheme rather than as white nationalists. I’m sure each has his own views, regardless of what he calls himself. Still, based on what contacts I’ve had Gottfried’s description sounded mostly accurate.

      • Bruce
        You state the case for blood-ties rather mildly. I think that real societies are held together by stronger sentiments than your rejection of the anti-racist rejection of “any positive value at all on common ancestry, culture and historical background.” If you’re right and the conservative movement’s been pulverized, what do we have to lose by stating our case more directly the way Taylor does?

        • Naturally societies are held
          Naturally societies are held together by something stronger than a rejection of a rejection. And also by things that are more complex and more integrated with general human concerns than race considered as simple biological fact.

          I don’t understand the argument “we’re in big trouble anyway, so what do we have to lose by X.” On that line of argument X could be anything at all. It still has to be shown why X is going to get farther with people than something else.

          • All this talk of biological
            All this talk of biological imperatives as a basis for conservatism doesn’t excite me either.

            I suppose I was imagining one objection to Taylor’s approach, that it does more harm than good.

            Is someone like Taylor is putting the cart before the horse or is what he says is an important part of overturning liberalism?

            Tying rejection of liberalism to existence might get farther with people (at least within the timeline that we need to reach people). Or maybe it won’t get far with the people that matter. I don’t know.

  2. I’m probably missing your main point but …..
    What seems to drive a lot of their thinking is a sense of urgency resulting from the (compressed) time-scale involved. In a generation or two, it’ll be permanent. Do you think we’ll be able to re-establish traditionalism on such a timescale? Paul’s expressed his scepticism of your (our) ability to raise armies of traditionalists period, let alone in short order.

    Your “destroy whole peoples” and “victim” descriptions aren’t a lot different than Buchanan’s “Death of” and other WN-speak. If that sort of rhetoric is accurate and appropriate (and I think it is), it’s not hard to see why people think this is so big. Cultural issues may be more important, but they’re not so much public policy whereas destroying whole peoples is.

    How can we defend our legitimate interests when we can’t even say who we are or have to say it with mocking quotes?

    I do agree with the point you’re making in the last 2/3 of this post and I think it’s an important one.

    • You have to start at the beginning
      White nationalists aren’t going to be able to get anything that responds to their concerns unless general ways of thinking change. It’s not as if white nationalism is some kind of module that can be plugged into present ways of thought leaving other things unchanged. So it seems to me that even from their point of view the cultural struggle—what’s good, what’s bad, what’s reasonable, what’s crazy, what man is, what’s the point of it all—should come first, even as a strictly pragmatic matter.

  3. The extreme nationalists and
    The extreme nationalists and racists of the last century were worshiping Wille zur Macht. Taylor’s pleading for will to live. There’s a huge difference.


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