The European New Right: a better way (to attack Christianity)

Kieth Preston at Alternative Right:

The European New Right clearly has much to offer to ordinary conservatives looking for ideas of infinitely greater substance than what is typically found on talk radio, FOX News, or the subcultures of American right-wing populsim. But the philosophy of the ENR might well prove to be the bridge that also helps many disaffected leftists to eventually find their way to the alternative right. The thinkers of the ENR have developed a critique of globalization, imperialism, and Americanization every bit as thorough and radical as that offered by neo-Marxists like Immanuel Wallerstein, indeed even more so. Likewise, the ENR possesses a critique of consumerism, recognition of ecological issues, anticlericalism and critique Christianity that avoids the shrill bigotry of the “new atheists” that at times resembles but is more substantive than that offered by the Left. The ENR emphasis on the sovereignty and self-preservation of all peoples might even appeal to non-white nationalist, separatist, or autonomist movements.

Writers of the ENR have also advanced an intelligent and sincere but measured social and cultural conservatism that lacks the “homosexual-atheist-abortionist-under-every-bed” hysteria of the American right-wing. ENR thought upholds masculine and feminine identities without sinking into crass misogyny, and De Benoist has even controversially called for solidarity with Third World nationalism against US imperialism in a way that resembles a rightist version of Chomsky, and advocated a federated European “empire” of autonomous ethnic, cultural, and national identities that is reminiscient of the Holy Roman Empire (which, as Voltaire said, was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire). Meanwhile, the ENR-sympathetic Telos journal has postulated a critique of the modern liberal-managerial “new class” that greatly resembles Bakunin’s early critique of Marxism.

European neo-pagan intellectuals are more thoughtful than Fox News.  I don’t doubt it, but is that really the fair comparison to make?  Is it really necessary to jettison the faith of our fathers to have something of “infinitely greater substance” than Fox News or talk radio?  Do we really need the heathen to defend traditional morality without being “misogynist” or “hysterical”?

Coincidentally, the last author to post on Alternative Right before Preston was Mark Hackard.  I would suggest to Preston that if he’s really interested in what kind of minds the religion of our civilization produces, Hackard would be an excellent place to start.  Amid the supposed intellectual wasteland of Christianity, he might also give a hearing to Jim Kalb, Laura Wood, Edward Feser, Bruce Charlton, Jerry Salyer, Allan Carlson, David Bentley Hart, and R. R. Reno.  Other names could easily be added here, even without leaving the category of internet writers.  And I would recommend conservative Christians over conservative pretend-pagans not because they’re Christians, but because their political theories are intellectually superior to Alain de Benoist’s bleatings for tolerance and irrationalist hatred of doctrine.  We Christians have shown how submission to universal goodness and truth can organically coexist with loyalty to a particular people and tradition.  The European New Right really should check us out.

11 Responses

  1. Mark Hackard is one of the few writers on Alternative Right that make it worthwhile. (Gottfried is another.)

    Have you read James Kalb’s latest post (a republished 2005 essay)?

  2. I hardly ever read Alternative Right, but I suspect that some of the writers over there think of themselves as carrying on the “Conservative Revolution” from the Weimar Republic. That’s why they’ve run articles on people Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger. I’ve only read a little bit of Jünger, Thomas Mann’s Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (Mann wasn’t originally in favor of the republic), and some secondary literature about them. In any event, the impression I get is that these writers were trying to formulate a reason for their conservatism without relying on Christianity. They didn’t really attack Christianity, or at least not too vehemently, unlike, say, Nietzsche (whom they all read); instead, they simply seemed to assume that Christianity wasn’t true and wouldn’t advance their project.

  3. Agree with Degolwulf. AR really seemed promising a year ago. I’m waiting for James O’Meara to be offered a column at this point.

  4. I’m not about to cheer on neo-Paganism, and don’t think the cited item is the best piece Preston has posted at Alternative Right; but I do think he has a point. The literature of the American Right often seems to consist of little more than grumpy complaints about liberal degeneracy and bubbling neo-con effusions about the benefits of democracy and free markets. If a lefty intellectual asked you to recommend a serious right-wing book (without a sneer [which is very hard to imagine, I know]), what would you recommend? More to the point, if you were going to give a young American a book by an right-wing American author, and didn’t wish to fill him with despair, or to feed his natural avarice, which book would you choose? If we cannot capture the imaginations of tomorrow’s meritocracy, the game is over. The lessons to learn from the European New Right are these, I think. The American Right needs a literature that describes an attractive future. The attractions of this future must be spiritual as well as material. This literature must be sufficiently theoretical (i.e. hard to understand) that future meritocrats think there is something meritorious in having read and understood it.

    Young people like to think of themselves as idealists, and as members of a minority that is on its way to being a majority. Too often, I think, the literature of the American Right makes us appear, either as grubby materialists, or as a majority well on its way to being a minority.

    The fascination with Nietzsche is certainly a little repellant to Christians, but if the Left can assimilate that nasty little beast, perhaps we can as well. To begin we might observe that Nietzsche confused Christian compassion with a love of mediocrity. We actually share Nietzsche’s admiration for excellence and greatness, although we most admire excellence in other aspects of life. Also, we share with him a conviction that life is serious, an endeavor in which it is possible to fail. Obviously we’ll have to part with him on the proposition that the will to domination is at the heart of the cosmos.

  5. Books: Kirk, Burke, Weaver, Solzhenitsyn, Voegelin, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Burnham, Dostoyevsky, Chesterton, Belloc.

    If you mean current authors, you have a point, it’s thin gruel.

  6. Continental Op: I’ve read something by each of them, and think you’re right to suggest they all are timeless. And we on the Right must prefer timelessness to neoterism (a word I learned from Kirk). But young people see themselves as daring and new, and so tend to identify with whatever they perceive to be daring and new. Maybe we should copy the Left and recycle ideas–essentially plagiarize Voegelin, say, in a modern paraphrase. All leftist literature comes down to a series of riffs on the Doctrine of Oppression. We need to retell our story, of the Doctrine of Transcendent Order.

  7. Oh, yes: one new book I would recommend is Andreas Kinneging, “The Geography of Good and Evil” (ISI, 2009).

  8. If you read through the comments thread that follows my post on the ENR, you’ll notice that I qualify my position a bit regarding Christianity, though I’m sure not to your satisfaction.

  9. Good to know. Thanks for telling me.

  10. Carl Schmitt was a faithful Catholic.

  11. As I made clear, I’m no expert in this area. But, with regards to Schmitt, I’ve only ever read enough about him to feel nervous about him, e.g., the statement he made to Josef Pieper “Wer bonum commune sagt, der lügt!” Not exactly a Christian idea.

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