I finished reading Alexander Dugin’s book The Fourth Political Theory. I have written about Dugin a bit before, but I thought I would dump some extended quotes from the book into this post.
Dugin is a Russian political theorist/philosopher/troublemaker and this book sketches his hazy theory. He names Liberalism, Fascism and Communism as the (failed) theories one, two and three. The Fourth Political Theory generally resists definition in a positive direction, and can only be approached via negativa, by what it is not. He writes:
The Fourth Political Theory is the amalgamation of a common project and arises from a common impulse to everything that was discarded, toppled, and humiliated during the course of constructing ‘the society of the spectacle’ (constructing postmodernity). ‘The stone that the builders -rejected has become the cornerstone’. The philosopher Alexander Sekatsky rightly pointed out the significance of ‘marginalia’ in the formation of a new philosophical age, suggesting the term ‘metaphysics of debris’ as a metaphor.
Dugin’s writing seems to have much in common with many postmodern texts, and yet he is keen to reject postmodernity and the liberal order entirely. Dugin wants to draw what is good from all previous political theories and reject elements that were bad. He praises pre-modern traditions, but does not seek the dominance of one or the other system of thought, but rather wants to see all these various cultures flourish at the expense of Western liberalism and the postmodern evacuation of meaning. He wants to reach back past the rationalism of late modernity and into the symbolic, ritualistic core of the monotheistic religions. He writes:
Not only the highest supra-mental symbols of faith can be taken on board once again as a new shield, but so can those irrational aspects of cults, rites, and legends that have perplexed theologians in earlier ages. If we reject the idea of progress that is inherent in modernity (which as we have seen, has ended), then all that is ancient gains value and credibility for us simply by virtue of the fact that it is ancient. ‘Ancient’ means good, and the more ancient — the better.
He does sound many postmodern notes however, such as:
Societies can be compared, but we cannot state that any one of them is objectively better than the others. Such an assessment is always subjective, and any attempt to raise a subjective assessment to the status of a theory is racism. This type of an attempt is unscientific and inhumane. The differences between societies in any sense can, in no shape or form, imply the superiority of one over the other.
Many call Dugin (and Vladimir Putin) fascists, but this is a bit facile. Dugin explicitly rejects the race-based dogma of fascism:
The appalling consequences of this ideology (fascism) are too well known to dwell upon them. However, it was this original definition of a historical subject that was at the heart of the Nazis’ criminal practices.
The definition of a historical subject is the fundamental basis for political ideology in general, and defines its structure. Therefore, in this matter, the Fourth Political Theory may act in the most radical way by rejecting all of these constructions as candidates for a historical subject. The historical subject is neither an individual, nor class, nor the state, nor race. This is the anthropological and the historical axiom of the Fourth Political Theory.
If we begin with fascism and National Socialism, then here we must definitively reject all forms of racism. Racism is what caused the collapse of National Socialism in the historical, geopolitical, and theoretical sense. This was not only a historical, but also a philosophical collapse. Racism is based on the belief in the innate objective superiority of one human race over another. It was racism, and not some other aspect of National Socialism, that brought about such consequences, leading to immeasurable suffering on both sides, as well as the collapse of Germany and the Axis powers, not to mention the destruction of the entire ideological project of the Third Way. The criminal practice of wiping out entire ethnic groups (Jews, gypsies, and Slavs) based on race was precisely rooted in their racial theory — this is what angers and shocks us about Nazism to this day.
Dugin believes that the narrative of progress and enlightenment in the West is a myth, one that needs to be deconstructed. He writes:
Émile Durkheim, Pitirim Sorokin, and Georges Gurvitch, the greatest sociologists of the Twentieth century, in essence the classicists of sociological thought, argued that social progress does not exist, in contrast to the Nineteenth-century sociologists, such as Auguste Comte or Herbert Spencer. Progress is not an objective social phenomenon, but rather, an artificial concept, a kind of scientifically formulated myth.
Dugin pushes back against this myth of progress, again stressing a search for alternatives in more ancient traditions:
The Fourth Political Theory must take a step toward the formulation of a coherent critique of the monotonic process. It must develop an alternative model of a conservative future, a conservative tomorrow, based on the principles of vitality, roots, constants, and eternity.
While most of us assume that there is no going “backwards” towards feudalism or any other outmoded organization of society, Dugin says this is not the case:
Societies can be variously built and transformed. The experience of the 1990s is quite demonstrative of this: people in the Soviet Union were sure that socialism would proceed from capitalism, not vice versa. But in the 1990s they saw the opposite: capitalism following socialism. It is quite possible that Russia could yet see feudalism, or even a slave-owning society, or perhaps a Communist or primordial society emerge after that. Those who laugh at this are the captives of the modern and its hypnosis. Having acknowledged the reversibility of political and historical time, we have arrived at a new pluralist point-of-view for political science, and we have reached the advanced perspective necessary for ideological construction.
He says that the United States sees itself as the pinnacle of civilization, the logical end-point and culmination of the liberal tradition. The USA seeks to impose this order on the rest of the world:
History is considered to be a univocal and monotone process of technological and social progress, the path of the growing liberation of individuals from all kinds of collective identities. Tradition and conservatism are thus regarded as obstacles to freedom and should be rejected. The USA is in the vanguard of this historical progress, and has the right, obligation, and historical mission to move history further and further along this path. The historical existence of the US coincides with the course of human history. So, ‘American’ means ‘universal’. The other cultures either have an American future or no future at all.
What is this liberalism to which Dugin and the Fourth Political Theory are so opposed to? He defines liberalism as follows:
• The understanding of the individual as the measure of all things;
• Belief in the sacred character of private property;
• The assertion of the equality of opportunity as the moral law of society;
• Belief in the ‘contractual’ basis of all sociopolitical institutions, including governmental;
• The abolition of any governmental, religious and social authorities who lay claim to ‘the common truth’;
• The separation of powers and the making of social systems of control over any government institution whatsoever;
• The creation of a civil society without races, peoples and religions in place of traditional governments;
• The dominance of market relations over other forms of politics (the thesis: ‘economics is fate’);
• Certainty that the historical path of Western peoples and countries is a universal model of development and progress for the entire world, which must, in an imperative order, be taken as the standard and pattern.
The United States has propagated this liberalism to the world because it sees it as the only valid philosophical program for all nations. And in the course of time, this philosophy has morphed into a post-modern formula, which Dugin defines as:
• The measure of things becomes not the individual, but the post-individual, ‘the dividual’, accidentally playing an ironic combination of parts of people (his organs, his clones, his simulacra — all the way up to cyborgs and mutants);
• Private property is idolised, ‘transcendentalised’, and transforms from that which a man owns to that which owns the man;
• Equality of opportunity turns into equality of the contemplation of opportunities (the society of the spectacle — Guy Debord);
• Belief in the contractual character of all political and social institutions grows into an equalisation of the real and the virtual, and the world becomes a technical model;
• All forms of non-individual authorities disappear altogether, and any individual is free to think about the world howsoever he sees fit (the crisis of common rationality);
• The principle of the separation of powers transforms into the idea of a constant electronic referendum (a sort of electronic parliament), where each Internet user continually ‘votes’ on any decision by giving his opinion in any number of forums, which in turn cedes power to each individual citizen (each becoming, in effect, his own branch of government);
• ‘Civil society’ completely displaces government and converts into a global, cosmopolitan melting pot;
• From the thesis ‘economy is destiny’ it takes up the thesis ‘the numerical code — that is destiny’, so far as work, money, the market, production, consumption — everything becomes virtual.
Dugin advocates a global crusade against this philosophy, essentially against the United States:
Only tearing it out by its roots can defeat this evil, and I do not exclude that such a victory will necessitate erasing from the face of the Earth those spiritual and physical halos from which arose the global heresy, which insists that ‘man is the measure of all things’. Only a global crusade against the US, the West, globalisation, and their political-ideological expression, liberalism, is capable of becoming an adequate response.
The elaboration of the ideology of this Crusader campaign, undoubtedly, is a matter for Russia not to pursue alone, but together with all the world powers, who, in one way or another, oppose ‘the American century’. Nevertheless, in any case this ideology must begin with the recognition of the fatal role of liberalism, which has characterised the path of the West from the moment when it rejected the values of God and Tradition.
He calls for Muslims, Christians and anyone else who values tradition against liberalism to join in this Crusade:
Spiritually, globalisation is the creation of a grand parody, the kingdom of the Antichrist. And the United States is the centre of its expansion. American values pretend to be ‘universal’ ones. In reality, it is a new form of ideological aggression against the multiplicity of cultures and traditions still existing in the rest of the world. I am resolutely against Western values which are essentially modernist and postmodernist, and which are promulgated by the United States by force of arms or by obtrusion (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and perhaps soon, Syria and Iran) .
Therefore, all traditionalists should be against the West and globalisation, as well as against the imperialist politics of the United States. It is the only logical and consequent position. So traditionalists and partisans of traditional principles and values should oppose the West and defend the Rest, if the Rest show signs of the conservation of Tradition, whether in part or in its entirety.
There can be and there really exist people, in the West and even in the United States of America itself, who do not agree with the present state of affairs and do not approve of modernity and postmodernity. They are the defenders of the spiritual traditions of the pre-modern West. They should be with us in our common struggle. They should take part in our revolt against the modern and postmodern worlds. We would fight together against the common enemy.
Does any of this matter? Well,Dugin appears to be influential with the new government of Greece, he has wielded influence in the Russian government and its invasion of the Ukraine, and he seeks allies in Europe and the United States, so it does behoove citizens of the West to pay attention to what he says. Some of his diagnosis of the ills of our nation and time are correct, but I fear that his solution to the problem will only be bloodshed and misery. It would be wise to approach his thought and his connections more systematically, and I hope that is occurring elsewhere.