Standpoint v. egalitarianism

“From the beginning, conservatism has appealed to and relied upon outsiders. Maistre was from Savoy, Burke from Ireland, Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in Nevis and rumored to be part black. Disraeli was a Jew, as are many of the neoconservatives who helped transform the Republican Party from a cocktail party in Darien into the party of Scalia, d’Souza, Gonzalez, and Yoo…Conservatism has not only depended upon outsiders; it also has seen itself as the voice of the outsider…the conservative has served as the tribune for the displaced, his movement a conveyance of their grievances.

Far from being an invention of the politically correct, victimhood has been a talking point of the Right ever since Burke decried the mob’s treatment of Marie Antoinette. The conservative, to be sure, speaks for a special type of victim: one who has lost something of value, as opposed to the wretched of the Earth, whose chief complaint is that they never had anything to lose. His constituency is the contingently dispossessed, rather than the preternaturally oppressed. Far from diminishing his appeal, this brand of victimhood endows the conservative complaint with a more universal significance. It connects his disinheritance to an experience we all share–namely, loss–and threads the strands of that experience into an ideology promising that loss, or at least some portion of it, can be made whole.”

C. Robin 2011: 57-58.

Explicitly countering conservative claims to a God’s-eye outsider standpoint, here are the 11 rules (Jantelagen) Scandinavian anti-rules egalitarianism boils down– to in the conservative view forwarded by the Danish-Norwegian author Axel Sandemose:

Don’t think you’re anything special.
Don’t think you’re as good as us.
Don’t think you’re smarter than us.
Don’t convince yourself that you’re better than us.
Don’t think you know more than us.
Don’t think you are more important than us.
Don’t think you are good at anything.
Don’t laugh at us.
Don’t think anyone cares about you.
Don’t think you can teach us anything.
Don’t think that there aren’t a few things we know about you.

Jante Law however is not another Tallest Poppy fable. What idealist, conservative-liberal Anglo commentators continuously, tendentiously misread about Jante Law/Janteloven/Jantelagen is how the narrative functions in historical-materialist, egaliberte societies. Jante Law is not an outsider’s critique of how mean blondes are to Genius Boys. Janteloven is a Scandinavian story. It functions to remind egalibertarians that responsible, informed judgment in relation to continuous social specification of the collective project is central to maintaining egalitarianism and egaliberte in a changing world–a world partly changed by human agency and strategy. For the Leo Strausses and Carl Schmitts, the Edmund Burkes and Ghengis Khans you will always have with you. It reminds Scandinavians that they have to pick an error type, as we all would if we were democrats.

In liberal-conservative societies, we also pick an error type, and that error type is that we let Genius Boys have their way with us, we systematically affirm “Boys will be Boys.” Affirmation feels good, doesn’t it. All hail the New Elon Musk, same as the old Jeff Bezos. So much nicer than that mean old discrimination and judgment–and who among us is fit to judge?

The difference is, because we have “renounced democracy” and chosen inegalitarian “Excellence” “for all time,” as Burke observed in 1790, we have excused ourselves from being responsible for collectively choosing the error type (as well as the collective project); we have always already deferred that judgement to our Lords–they among us are exclusively fit to judge. The bountiful Anglo-American capacity to sneer righteously at egalibertarians’ ongoing exercise of democratic responsibility, as a complex, non-automated, weighing and conditional judgment process that looks mean, refusing, frigid when viewed as a frozen moment in time (as we view things from within our idealist tradition), is a symptom of the social world we have built–with its handful of sacred Ubermensch and billions of expendable servants. We are not as free and we are not as innovative as the egalibertarians, but our baby innocence is preserved. That and 25 cents will get you an Afterlife in Heaven.


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