“What distinguishes the Right and the Left is your fundamental question about privilege and hierarchy…All the rest is commentary.” a) In response to an insurgent challenge, conservatives b) defend personal forms of rule, rule as domination, where you have higher beings governing lower beings.
See Karl Mannheim, “On Conservatism.” Conservatism is not the defense of hierarchies per se. It’s when a hierarchal regime gets challenged, conservative action intellectuals encounter a crisis of legitimation, and go back to reformulate a new defense of the ruling system of power.
- Its inherently reactionary nature
- Its penchant for extremism and radicalism
- Its affinity with violence
- Its elitism (anti-democracy)
- Its populism (masking the Right’s profoundly anti-democratic commitment, mobilizing shock troops in the street)
Anti-democracy and Right populism are fused in variants of this claim: Fealty to elite interests are the only real way that hoi poloi individuals can realize their interests. Trickle down TINA.
Robin : “The most successful form of right wing populism–and I trace this to the slaveholders in the United States, I think they pioneered this–You offer a significant mass constituency the opportunity to play the part of the little king. It happens in the family. It happens in the workplace.” In Adams’ Discourses on Davila he says (and Rousseau makes a similar claim) that “the way hierarchy works is, people are always willing to submit to someone above them, but on one very important condition: That they are able dominate someone below them. You can put up with all manner of inequalities just so long as you’re not the one on the bottom rung” (Robin 2011). Experimental economists call this the Last Place Aversion.
You can go to the Liberty Fund, which publishes all works of the right, from the 16th century Burke onward, to study the works of conservative John Caldwell Calhoun (“The Marx of the Master Class”). Calhoun wrote the American conservative strategic vision: The local is the sphere where you cultivate the Little Kings.
The slaveholder logic has become our society’s anti-choice abortion politics (Every nonelite man and woman gets to be the little king of all women’s bodies and lives.), as well as employers’ absolute discretion over employees in workplace. In return, the patriarchal and small business bondservants support the despotic class and their high-inequality regime.
In addition to the activation of Last Place Aversion, the Right appeals to non-elites because the Right is attendant to issues of loss–loss of forms of power. Robin concedes that loss is partly a tactical instrument for the Right. Forms of power come with their own cultures, morays and folkways. The loss of these specific cultures, morays and folkways are felt as pain to non-elites as well as elites.
Burke and Hobbes argued that hand-in-hand with the death of an inegalitarian order came the tragic death of beloved identity–beautiful culture, morays and folkways. It is worth looking back at the historical record and asking: Can the Left not also be attendant to loss in emancipatory reform and revolution?
The Enlightenment created a theory of victimology. Rousseau (“The Homer of the Loser”) is recognized as the first victimology philosopher. (TBD)
People react angrily when you try to analyze the Right. (This begs analysis.)
“The point here is not that ideological superstructure is crassly bolted onto the base of self-interest but that it is just not serious to try to locate the substance, much less vitality, of conservatism, or any other ideology, in metaphysical disagreement alone. If anything, metaphysical views often get forged in the heat of real battles. It is only when certain philosophical premises are challenged in a serious, even dangerous way, that they must self-consciously defend themselves” (Alex Gourevitch).
Robin predicts the demise of the contemporary Right. There’s a reason there’s no ideas in the Right, they’re on autopilot, because the Right is a reaction, and there’s no effective, intellectual, insurgent Left. Today for example, the antidemocratic Supreme Court is operating overtime as a conservative last-resort enforcer, spewing out constitutional interpretations permitting capitalist class corporate political domination and limitless police powers, as well as forbidding welfare state institutions.
The Right can also get a certain amount of mileage from the afterglow of the Left. The global anti-union and austerity campaigns (often decried by liberals as irrational) can be seen as such reactionary ideological putsches in decline. I think they can be fruitfully viewed as basic capitalist primitive accumulation. Isn’t primitive accumulation–sacking, raping, pillaging–the baseline conservative state?
I think that what the Austrians (the White Emigres) did was to recognize the left-dependency problem of reactionary politics. The Austrians sold and engineered a Right culture in the Anglo world, which was fertile for such a culture, that is explicitly alive to the importance of maintaining Right ideological momentum (Desai 1994: 42).
How they do it is very opportunistic. They continuously manufacture a “left”–They use anyone outside materially-fundamental networks, from liberals to conservatives, as their “left” wing to passionately react against. This reactionary opportunism maintains momentum, builds hegemony, and pushes the Right ever rightward. But ultimately I do think that this strategy is political disequilibrium business; it can devolve into incoherency and crisis. It could produce a lefty coalition bloc, as seems to be the case now with OWS, that could reinvigorate the Left.