All posts filed under: Culture

The Rise of Post-Liberal Man

Ancient philosophers did not analyse political systems in terms of individual rights, distribution of powers, and legitimacy. Instead, they focused upon the kind of citizen that a specific regime-type produces, the virtues it inculcates, and the values it promotes. In the Republic, Plato speaks of “Democratic Man,” “Aristocratic Man,” and “Timocratic Man.” The very word “regime” is an English translation of politeia, a term that Plato uses to convey both a system of government and the way of life of a political community. On this view, far from a matter of procedure, politics becomes a way to shape the hearts, minds, and souls of citizens. In this sense, the ancient city-state constitutes a tutelary community that enshrines a definition of the good life, a pantheon of heroes, and a panoply of virtues. For centuries, this type of regime-analysis dominated political thought. From Polybius to Montesquieu, theorists would treat the political sphere as a nexus of laws and institutions, but also customs, habits, manners, and—most importantly—ways of life. This kind of regime-analysis disappeared with the rise …

The Faith of Systemic Racism

We hear constantly about the systemic racism coursing through America. Everything, we’re told, is shot through with hate. It does not matter if no white person ever has actually thought a hateful thought. The structure, or system, these innocents inhabit and profit from was designed by those who hated with abandon; the hate is baked into the edifice and walls and rooftops. It constitutes an architecture of oppression, and the persistence of that architecture amounts to an indictment of its beneficiaries. They’re fools or, more likely, willing participants who go to inordinate lengths to camouflage their complicity—Dean Armitage of Get Out declaring he would have voted for Barack Obama a third time while living on a latter-day plantation.  Of course, if a system is nefarious, it must be blown up, and the bricks and rubble must be redistributed to the politically favored, and anyone who opposes that—anyone who does not loudly and enthusiastically embrace the new dogma—must be a tool of white subjugation. This is the not so hermetic logic of most every blue-chip multinational, …

On Victimhood and Culture—A Reply to Aaron Hanna

It was a pleasure to read Aaron Hanna’s recent essay, “The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought.” It is magnificently reasoned, informed, and fair. Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell have rarely been engaged so constructively. The Right can be too deferential and fails to subject their work to proper scrutiny, while the Left either pretends they don’t exist or dismisses them out of hand. I am, predictably, inclined towards the views of both writers, but have always considered them too often revered or despised, rather than truly considered. Hanna raises important questions and, notwithstanding my profound admiration for both Steele and Sowell (Steele was my inspiration and is the reason I am writing this response rather than a linguistics article right now), neither has been especially eager to respond to his respective critics. They have their stories and they stick to them, and both have been around too long to engage much in social media, which has a way of making a race writer get down to specifics. Nevertheless, I do question two of Hanna’s criticisms. …

In Praise of the Novelization—Pop Fiction’s Least Reputable Genre

This month brings us the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. No, not the film. That came out in 2019. But now HarperCollins is publishing a novelization, written by Tarantino himself, and based on the earlier film. This particular type of fiction—the bastard offspring of the film treatment and the legitimate novel—is probably pop fiction’s least reputable genre, which no doubt is why it appeals to Tarantino. When HarperCollins announced the project last fall, Tarantino issued a statement saying: To this day I have a tremendous amount of affection for the genre. So as a movie-novelization aficionado, I’m proud to announce Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as my contribution to this often marginalized, yet beloved sub-genre in literature. I’m also thrilled to further explore my characters and their world in a literary endeavor that can (hopefully) sit alongside its cinematic counterpart. Movie novelizations have been around since filmdom’s silent era and are still a fairly common sight on the paperback spinner racks of chain bookstores and airport gift shops. The …

Mate Selection for Modernity

“All things in nature occur mathematically.” ~ Rene Descartes Dating and the process of mate selection have changed. The rise of hook-up culture, proliferation of dating apps, and ever-increasing age of first marriage are evidence of this. This current situation can be summarized along four parameters: Increasing female achievement. Growing variability in male status and competence. An evolutionary desire among females to marry up. The globalization of the sexual marketplace and resultant collapse of local status hierarchies. Together, these conditions have created pronounced imbalances in the modern sexual marketplace. Put plainly, an increasing cohort of successful women are chasing a shrinking number of high-value, commitment-averse men. At a cursory level, much of this can be explained by sex ratios and partner availability. However, the underlying structure of modern mate selection is fundamentally mathematical. For us to truly understand the causes and consequences of the modern sexual marketplace, a bit of math is required. Chads, dads, and hypergamy Hypergamy is an evolved sexual strategy where individuals mate with and/or marry those most capable of providing long …

The Purposeless Society

Humans are wired to think in terms of purposeful social agents and their objectives, and to tell themselves stories. In every culture, there are myths that tell its members who they are and how they relate to one another, that help to structure life and give it order. The idea that there is a crisis facing the West is by no means unique to conservatives. Classical liberals and technocrats lament the rise of populism and the loss of faith in their policy prescriptions, while progressives claim that the societies in which they live are built on foundations of violence, and must therefore be destroyed and remade. Conservatives place the genesis of the problem further back. Where others see systems and structures that must be dismantled or that are under attack, conservatives believe that the dismantling has already occurred and that we are now suffering the consequences. The destruction of traditional social structures with their strictures and obligations divides the world into two groups. The first experience it as a liberation of the individual, and use …

The Artist and the Censor

Only proponents of the concept of art for art’s sake always can be depended on to oppose the censorship of art. The most robust argument against censorship lies not in appeals to Enlightenment values, which are subject to time, but in art itself. Those who believe art never requires external justification—which is to say, those who recognize art’s autonomy, whom I term “aesthetes”—understand best that art can never be weaponized effectively for or against a particular cause, and therefore never warrant censorship, because art has a life of its own. Censors, and would-be censors, are part of the larger class of utilitarians who today are widely ensconced in the academy, the media, and arts and culture venues. You will know utilitarians by their mistaking of art for political activity, for community-building, for therapy. Art should produce results in the present, they contend—results for society and for the self. An ascendent belief among utilitarians, expressed by some and held more or less consciously by others, is that righteous art can stamp its righteousness on audiences, who …

Cancelling Comedians While the World Burns—A Review

Review of Cancelling Comedians While the World Burns: A Critique of the Contemporary Left by Ben Burgis. Zero Books, 136 pages (May 2021). In 2013, British philosopher and cultural critic Mark Fisher found himself exhausted and losing interest in politics after spending too much time in the “miserable, dispiriting zone” of left-wing Twitter. Leftist politics, he wrote, had become a “vampires’ castle” the sinister denizens of which were driven not by thirst for the blood of the living but “a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd” [emphasis in the original]. The vampires are supported by the institutions of capital, which found them useful for disrupting working-class solidarity. In Cancelling Comedians While the World Burns: A Critique of the Contemporary Left, Ben Burgis—a democratic socialist, occasional Quillette contributor, and the author of Give Them an Argument—follows Fisher into (or out of) the vampires’ castle, and quotes his essay frequently. Over 136 pages, …

Masochistic Nationalism—A Review

A review of Masochistic Nationalism: Multicultural Self-Hatred and the Infatuation with the Exotic by Göran Adamson. Routledge, 138 pages (March 2021). In his 1945 essay, “Notes on Nationalism,” George Orwell contrasted “positive nationalism”—pride in one’s country—with the “negative” and “transferred” nationalisms displayed by supporters of the Soviet Union—the denigration of one’s country and the embrace of another. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their merits, but according to who performed them. “Within the intelligentsia,” he wrote, “a derisive and mildly hostile attitude towards Britain is more or less compulsory, but it is an unfaked emotion in many cases.” In his new book, Swedish academic Göran Adamson calls this combination of negative and transferred nationalisms “masochistic nationalism,” a term he then uses to analyse developments in modern Western Europe. Masochistic nationalism is defined as unjustifiable hostility to one’s own nation infused with a sense of pleasure and grandeur, combined with loyalty to another nation (or other nations) which are said to offer a more positive example of what nationalism ought to be. Adamson identifies …

Identity and the Self in ‘Hamlet’

“Who’s there?” These are the two words that begin Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It is primarily this question, and not “To be or not to be?” with which Hamlet wrestles throughout the play. The two words are spoken from one soldier to another; Elsinore’s castle guards are on the midnight shift, and on the face of it, the words simply set the stage for the time and place. (Shakespeare’s theatre had limited technology for special effects and set pieces, so atmosphere had to be invoked entirely with words.) But on another level, one that Shakespeare clearly intended, the question is an existential one, as is the more confounding response of the other watchman: “Nay, answer me. Stand, and unfold yourself.” This call-and-response poses a number of questions. Who are other people? How can we know that what others reveal to us is the real them? How do I “unfold” myself to others? Who am I, under my “folds”? Am I what I show others? Something deep within? Is my identity a series of socially constructed layers? Or …