Book review: the Fourth Political Theory

The Fourth Political Theory
by Alexander Dugin, 2012

I’ve said that rejecting the Enlightenment is only the beginning of thought.  Everything modernity ruled out is back on the table.  Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin agrees, and he comes, not to deliver a political theory that escapes the confines of modernist thinking, but at least to herald the arrival of such a theory.  As such, this book reads more like a proposal or white paper than a dissertation or research report.  Nevertheless, the coming political paradigm already has some definite features in Dugin’s mind, and some of those features he is able to communicate clearly despite burdening himself with Heideggerian gobbledygook.

The previous three “political theories” in Dugin’s counting are liberalism, communism, and fascism.  Liberalism has defeated fascism and communism, so thoroughly that liberalism no longer functions as a consciously chosen ideology but as a social given.  Liberalism’s victory was not a matter of chance, but a logical outworking of Western civilization.  Nevertheless, because we are free, it can be fought, and it will be the task of the fourth theory to vanquish liberalism.

Each of the first three “theories” is composed of multiple parts interpreted in light of each other to form its own “hermeneutical circle”.  Break the circle, reject the evil, modernist pieces, and the remaining parts are morally neutral or good and can become ingredients in the fourth theory.  For instance, Marxism’s materialism was bad, but its social concern and its drawing on eschatological myth is good.  Fascism’s anti-individualism and ethnic consciousness were good, but its racism, the idea of one group being superior to another, was bad.

Dugin then points out that, in fact, liberalism is also racist, because it posits the superiority of Western culture to others, and progressivism is racist because it posits the superiority of the present to the past.  I think this stretches the definition of “racist” too far to be rhetorically convincing, but it illustrates Dugin’s key strategy:  taking criticisms of white Christendom invented by the post-modern Left and turning them against liberalism and the American globalist order.  Thus, he uncritically accepts the claims of structuralist anthropologists that non-civilized cultures are just as sophisticated, legitimate, etc as civilized ones.  At times, Dugin alludes to Traditionalist lines of thought, that pre-modern cultures share, at least esoterically, an apprehension of a common great spiritual truth.  Most of the time, though, the position seems to be straight cultural relativism.  Every culture is as good as every other–this asserted but not argued–so all the others must band together for a multipolar world or else succumb to American unipolar tyranny.  As a practical matter, I like this.  It’s at a theoretical level, the one at which Dugin works, that his cultural egalitarianism is too sweeping; it is subject to obvious philosophical objections.

There is also the danger that these postmodernist weapons he wishes to use against the West retain too much of their evil origins to serve the traditionalist cause.  Thus, in his discussion of gender, Dugin attacks liberalism for perpetuating patriarchy by maintaining the masculine gender role but forcing women to conform to it.  There is a valid insight there, but it’s bought at too high a price when Dugin first grants the premise that patriarchy is bad (what’s more, for very stupid post-modernist reasons:  that the male role is implicitly white hence racist; that even though patriarchy predates modernity, it is to be condemned for catching modernist cooties).  Thus, the fourth political theory must be based on adrogynism and endorse childishness and “voluntary insanity” because they constitute rebellion against the male role.  If that’s the best the fourth theory can do, we’re better off sticking with liberalism.

If I were to predict the features of an ideology to challenge and defeat liberalism, I wouldn’t base it on anti-white anthropology or continental philosophy.  At best, these work as rhetorical opening attacks, because it’s an attack not coming from the direction liberalism expects.  What follows must be based on something more truthful and rigorous.

9 Responses

  1. Racism might be a stretch, but ‘era-ism’ would be a viable charge against the progressives.

  2. Having read you on Dugin, Mark Hackard on Dugin (he wrote me a detailed e-mail about him) – and watched a few YouTube vids on the man – I am not impressed enough to bother looking any further.

    He may have a valuable role in modern Russia, but I don’t feel we in the West have anything much to learn from him: our spiritual situation is different (and, overall, considerably worse.

    In Russia there has been a massive Christian revival, including/ especially among the elites – and there is credible reason for optimism for an explicitly Christian state over a reasonable timescale (although the odds are probably still against it – it is not *all that* unlikely to happen).

  3. Yeah, I was kind of disappointed.

  4. I get just a bit of a feeling here that Dugin is a half baked James Kalb.

  5. To expand on your point about his cultural relativism, Dugin has somewhere said that cannibalism is a valid practice given that it is an essential element of certain tribal societies. Disturbing…

  6. Dugin then points out that, in fact, liberalism is also racist, because it posits the superiority of Western culture to others, and progressivism is racist because it posits the superiority of the present to the past.

    As someone who has never heard of Old Man Dugin’s son, or his book, I feel free to say that I think the word he should have chose is chauvinist.

  7. And another HTML tag suffers under my cool indifference.

  8. He’s a very interesting thinker. I have picked up his book ‘Last War of the World Island’ which is more about geopolitics than theory, but haven’t yet had a chance to read it.

    Dugin is someone who, when he is right, he is very right, but when he is wrong, he goes into weird territory that tries to transcend common argumentation just for the sake of transcending it. The problem is, his true opinions are very hard to pin down because he plays various sides against the Liberal Western order. This can be easily explained by his own political role and a kind of Machiavelli pragmatism, but this then bleeds into the theory and renders elements untenable or just plain nonsensical.

    I would like to read this for myself and do a thorough analysis, taking what works, defusing what doesn’t. Then we can get to the core of the value that his works actually have to Reaction. It’s the same with many writers of this bent, past and present.

  9. […] just cultural ephemera.  As Alexander Dugin emphasizes, when one drops the dogma of Progress, everything is back on table.  It doesn’t matter […]

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