Author Archives: Ancien Regime

The Banality of Gender Construction

That gender is a social construction is a banality.

What else could any cultural distinction or category be? What is the entirety of language with its myriad distinctions if not a social construction?

The question is, what does the claim that a distinction or norm is socially constructed give you? It certainly doesn’t–as feminists and gender queers assume–authorize wilful and arbitrary emendations of the constructed concept . That assumption itself rests on a semantic conflation of construction with legislation.

Cultural constructions, like organisms, develop through adaptation not legislation. They are heuristics that have survived the test of time. As with all heuristics, they offer a means to successfully navigate the world without having to understand it. They do not admit to rational or philosophical explanation or validation. Their only validation is that they work. And more importantly, they work over a long, long period of time, beyond the span of a single generation. When they stop working, the culture that makes use of them either adapts by coming up with new heuristics or vanishes.

The gender binary and the distinctions associated with it have been around for a long time and will likely be around a lot while longer. Longevity has “naturalized” them, but this is not to be sniffed at because the naturalization of norms testifies to their success. What ought to be questioned is the knee-jerk compulsion to question the validity of every inherited cultural given.

Gender is “problematic” for us because technology has rapidly transformed its beneficiaries into artificial mutations that can only survive in a techno bubble. This has rendered us extremely fragile but rather than acknowledge this fragility and its potentially dire implications for our survival, we prefer to imagine that we have gained the god-like power to alter ourselves and our environment at will and to whatever extent we please.

Needless to say, this is foolhardy, but then modernity is a succession of foolhardy experiments with catastrophic unintended consequences. Which, apparently, does not deter us from embarking on new ones.

The disruption of gender roles has already had the effect in the industrialized countries of effectively sterilizing the population. So we already know where this experiment is headed. Its logical outcome is extinction. This means that In time, gender confusion will have proved to be a self-limiting pathology.


Freak Show

I understand where the alt right’s obsession with genetics comes from. It is, at least in part, an attempt to give scientific validation to the concept of a natural order. The problem is that the idea of a natural order must be axiomatic, an article of faith. Turning to science for the validation of an ancient cultural axiom subordinates it to an empiricism that is both alien and hostile to ancient wisdom. Even if such a validation were possible, it would be more harmful than useful for it would implicitly affirm the privileged position that modernity assigns to science as a source of knowledge.

Scientific validation is not only a weak and always provisional form of validation but also, as far as traditional concepts are involved always an implicit invalidation. Traditional concepts rely on tradition and revelation as their authority. They belong to a different cultural ecology than empiricism and its stunted rationalism, and any attempt to render them empirical fatally jeopordizes them. To use Nassim Taleb’s terminology, traditional concepts are heuristic not empirical. They achieve validation by their effects. Medieval Christianity gave us Chartres. Postmodernism gives us Daniel Libeskind.

Science cannot be the final arbiter of truths that can only be effective if they are absolute.

In the modern world, it is impossible to affirm the legitimacy of tradition without questioning the legitimacy of science. The two cannot coexist.

When dealing with false philosophies that appear philosophically impregnable because of modern credulity to impertinent sophistry, Joseph De Maistre showed the way. Consider not the theory but its consequences. Deconstruction and its correlate, social contructivism (the belief that traditional norms are mere social constructions that can be violated and amended at will), are disproved by the freakishness they produce. Feminism is disproved by its uglifying effect on women. The belief that gender is a construction is disproved by the abject ridiculousness of men passing themselves as women and vice versa.

The aesthetic consequences of an idea are the most rigorous test of its validity.

What is latent in an idea, covered up by appeals to sentiment and resentment, is exposed by its realization. An idea whose products are disfigured, malformed, freakish, monstrous, weak, shrill, cacophonous, graceless, poisonous, ugly is a bad idea irrespective of the high-minded bullshit it comes wrapped in. Good ideas are recognized by their beautiful, ennobling effects. If you want to get the measure of the wisdom of any civilization or any period within a civilization, examine its artifacts. It is what a civilization leaves behind when it can no longer speak except through its residue that justifies or condemns it.

If the idea of a natural order is not axiomatic, if it is not an unquestionable cultural given, it is nothing. The fragmentary scientific validation of some longstanding cultural belief always comes too late and counts for very little.

What science–or more accurately, modern science–has killed, it cannot revive.

Tradition cannot cede authority to short-sighted empiricism without nullifying itself. This is fundamental.

An authentic traditionalist has to be willing to accept that tradfition is indefensible. This has no bearing on its legitimacy. Tradition is indefensible because it is the distillation of a knowledge acquired practically through harrowing and heroic encounters with the worst and best that life has to offer. Tradition is indefensible because it is not modern and, therefore, alien to the modern prejudice that equates legitimacy with understanding. The wisdom of tradition, its legitimacy, reveals itself today negatively, via the dismal consequences of what has replaced it.

In the same way that tradition is rationally indefensible, modernity and its abominations are rationally irrefutable. Genetics will never disprove the pernicious doctrine of social construction because that doctrine is itself part and parcel of the scientific ethos. After all, it is science itself that allows the surgical and pharmacological alteration of gender and, beyond that, the artificialization of the human organism at the cellular level.

Science cannot validate the natural order because it is science’s mutational power, its toxicity, that has made us unnatural.

It is our own unnaturalness that expresses itself in deconstruction. Deconstruction manifests what has already occurred, the undoing, the ruination of foundational cultural precepts, but it manifests this undoing as wilful reenactment and in this way affords us the delusion of voluntaristic cultural agency. We deconstruct gender because gender was already ruined by the exigencies of industrialization and the invention of automation and wage labor. We deconstruct patriarchal authority because patriarchal authority acquiesced long ago to the overwhelming power of ungendered capital.

Conservatism today has nothing left to conserve.

Modernity cannot be refuted. It can only be allowed to perish. Indeed, is modernity anything but a perishing? Is it anything but a civilizational supernova that comes after a civilization has exhausted its vitality? Most of what we take as the causes of cultural decline are actually its effects. It is our diminishment that modernity signifies, our inability to endure the heroic demands of the ancient wisdom.

Belief in the natural order demanded a fatalism, a stoicism, an islam, an amor fati that at some point became insupportable to modern minds. The recourse to genetics to restore the authority of nature reproduces the error it tries to correct. Faith in the natural order demands instead conviction in modernity’s evanescence.

The freak menagerie assembled by modernity is not an indication of a “transhuman’ future. Rather, it is an indication that modernity has no future.

Wake-Up Call

The significance of the current wave of populist agitation is that the working class is beginning to wake up to the fact that progressivism is its enemy.

In Spiked, Fred Furedi gets to the heart of the matter:

The best way to view the current populist moment is as a delayed response to the top-down cultural revolution that occurred in the Seventies. In that decade, new attitudes towards marriage, family life, relations between the sexes, the role of the nation and the meaning of citizenship came to be codified in many Western societies. By the beginning of the Eighties, new forms of cultural authority had been established by the political elites.

This so-called cultural turn is often attributed to the influence of ‘Cultural Marxists’ burrowing away in universities. But this analysis overlooks something important – that the cultural turn took place right under the noses of Thatcher and Reagan. It was in their era that the new post-Sixties cultural values were institutionalised by Anglo-American cultural elites.

In retrospect, it seems clear that the anti-traditional cultural turn that occurred under the watch of the Thatcher / Reagan political order was an attempt by Western political elites to establish a new foundation to their authority. Most strikingly, the emergent cultural oligarchy perceived themselves as mediators and gatekeepers in a globalised world where public life is impacted on by issues and problems that supposedly transcend the nation state and national control.

They devoted much energy to de-nationalising public life, and delegitimising the attitudes and values held by citizens. This was the era when the dogma that there is no alternative to globalisation really took hold. The belittlement of sovereignty – both national sovereignty and popular sovereignty – was a central task of the new cultural establishment. In a very short period of time, many people found that their long-held belief in the values of community, nation and family was being dismissed as outdated, irrelevant and even prejudiced.

We witnessed the pathologisation of customary attitudes towards family, community and human relationships. And the end result has been the crystallisation of a powerful sense of cultural insecurity in European societies. Over the past two or three decades, significant sections of European societies have been dispossessed of the values they lived by and which made great sense to them. Many of them felt silenced and defensive about voicing their concerns. They felt unable to raise their reservations about multiculturalism, diversity, immigration and the sacralisation of identity politics. In comparison to the younger generations – who are often influenced by the cosmopolitan ethos that is dominant in their schools and universities – older citizens felt culturally insecure and sometimes helpless. Those who lived outside the culturally privileged, globalist urban neighbourhoods felt very strongly that their way of life was despised and scorned by the new cultural elites. They felt like strangers in their own homes.

Working class rage now intuitively turns against the means that have been used to castrate and subjugate it: “progressive” assaults on family, “patriarchy,” masculinity, heterosexuality, rootedness. The working class is finally waking up to the fact that since the ’60s the left has been a shell occupied by an alien force. This “New” left retained the old left’s claim to represent the working class but its actual efforts were all directed at a single-minded effort to emasculate and prostrate the working class.

What actually happened in the ’60s under the banner of cultural revolution was the replacement of a senescent elite by its spoiled children. The snake shed its skin. It was a renovation of the elite. As it always does, one faction of the bourgeoisie had appropriated revolutionary rhetoric to mount an assault on another faction. But once this new “progressive” faction was installed in power (in the media and culture industries and in an expanded governmental bureaucracy now bloated with functionaries promoting “diversity”), it proved to be even more virulently elitist than the old elite since what it demanded in the name of fostering “tolerance” and “diversity” was working class submission to the wholesale inversion of working class norms. The working class was expected to disown the masculine virtues that had both inspired and sustained its militancy under the harshest of conditions. The refuge of family life was taken away from it through a relentless devaluation of fatherhood and the forced conscription of women into working “careers.” Men and women were coerced and encouraged to isolate themselves from each other and turn to homosexuality.

All of this was done to destroy what had held the working class together as a class, its class consciousness. It was an attempt to pulverize the working class and render its atomized constituents into docile, zombified consumers voracious for commodified versions of things that had once been communitarian possessions: self-regard, mutual support, the security of home life, familial continuity. All of this, the progressives poisoned at the root in the name of empowering women, perverts, and the formerly colonized (who became a steady source of cheap labor).

For some 50 years, these anti-working class “progressives” even managed to coerce the working class to vote them into power by means of a cleverly rigged political duopoly that reduced options to bad and worse.

The populist insurrections that we see today are the result of bad and worse becoming indistinguishable. In the United States, for instance, the Democrats are now the most jingoistic of the two parties. Their contempt for the working class was made overt by Hillary Clinton’s summary denunciation of those indifferent or opposed to her coronation as deplorables. Their elitism is flaunted by their open alliance with the most pampered and privileged sectors of society (Silicon Valley billionaires, Wall Street financiers, the media and entertainment aristocracies.)

Necessarily, class struggle has become a struggle against progressivism and its cultural abominations. Underneath a disintegrating disguise, the working class is beginning to glimpse the alien monster that possesses the left.

White Self-Hatred?

Why is white self-hatred fashionable?

I would suggest that it has something to do with a striving after what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “distinction.”

The basic concept is not hard to understand. Elites are motivated to find ways to distinguish themselves from the common run of humanity. They do this by means of a variety of affectations and rationalizations, the common underlying element of which is the assertion of the elite’s inherent specialness, reflected in its elevated intelligence, discernment, refinement. Without this faith in its uncommonness, the elite would be susceptible to the intolerable suspicion that its position is purely contingent.

To support faith in its inherent superiority, the elite makes a point of embracing ideas and tastes that are flagrantly uncommon. In the arts, for instance, the elite patronizes just those artists and designers whose work is inscrutable and even repugnant to everybody else. Thus the modern phenomenon of the avant-garde. But, elite snobbery expresses itself in moral as well as aesthetic taste.

Just as the elite patronizes the artistic avant-garde, it also supports what at any given moment pass for avant-garde attitudes, preferences, and lifestyles. Some of the attitudes the elite patronizes may even have an anti-elitist cast to them. But this is of little import. The elite is immune to cognitive dissonance because it regards whatever avant-garde notions it adopts as no more than fashion accessories advertising superior taste. This habit of treating ideas as mere signifiers of elevated status reflects the elite’s belief in the invulnerability of its position. It is also an effective way to devalue and undermine the sometimes radical ideas the elite affects to embrace. It reduces ideas, ideologies, philosophies to mere trends, easily embraced because easily discarded.

(Most of the time, the elite is quite correct to treat ideas as of little consequence. It is only occasionally, through a combination of fortuitous circumstances, that ideas prove momentous. The foolish high-born women who promoted the spread of Enlightenment ideas in their salons did not foresee the French revolution that would put these ideas to deadly effect.)

The same elite that supported Marcel Duchamp nominating a urinal to the status of art in 1917 today supports a man nominating himself to be a woman and vice versa.

The more perverse the idea, the more its potential for signifying the elite’s extraordinary refinement. The uncommon are perpetually at war with the common. This is the logic that underlies the elite’s embrace of “progressive” ideas. Progressivism is the intellectual expression of elite snobbery.

The largely white elite’s embrace of anti-white rhetoric is to be understood as part and parcel of the elite’s affectation of moral superiority. Naturally, the elite does not feel that hatred of “white privilege” pits it against itself because part of the elite’s affectation is that the mere profession of progressive ideas places the professor above the common herd toward whom progressive invective is directed. The bad people, the deplorables, are always located among the low, uncomprehending, bestial masses. The common theme of progressive ideas is the lamentable backwardness of the common people.

This would explain why today, progressivism is so profoundly at odds with populism.  And why the vilification of white privilege is the ultimate expression of white privilege.

Dolls

I don’t see how sex dolls can ever replace women. I say this because I don’t see how a doll, even a perfect android doll, could ever give the satisfaction of conquest. It’s precisely because sex is always an expression and affirmation of power that copulating with dolls can never be an adequate substitute for bedding a live woman. A woman’s surrender, or at least the adequate illusion of it, is fundamental to male enjoyment. This is, of course, why heterosexuality is so problematic for feminists hysterics.

Custom Built

Marx’s early insights into the shoggothic power of capital were remarkably prescient.

Money, then, appears as this distorting power both against the individual and against the bonds of society, etc., which claim to be entities in themselves. It transforms fidelity into infidelity, love into hate, hate into love, virtue into vice, vice into virtue, servant into master, master into servant, idiocy into intelligence, and intelligence into idiocy.

Since money, as the existing and active concept of value, confounds and confuses all things, it is the general confounding and confusing of all things – the world upside-down – the confounding and confusing of all natural and human qualities.

He who can buy bravery is brave, though he be a coward. As money is not exchanged for any one specific quality, for any one specific thing, or for any particular human essential power, but for the entire objective world of man and nature, from the standpoint of its possessor it therefore serves to exchange every quality for every other, even contradictory, quality and object: it is the fraternisation of impossibilities. It makes contradictions embrace.

Today, the money-enabled “fraternisation of impossibilities” challenges even the division of the sexes. This is supposed to be a progressive thing, which tells us something about progressives. They are capital’s useful idiots.

The current mania is to dismiss gender as a social construction.

The claim is trivial.

All distinctions whatsoever are ultimately social constructions but only begin to appear as such when societies are falling apart. The minute a culture becomes deferential,  apprehends itself as merely a culture, its tenets and tastes as merely prejudices, it is dead.

Deconstruction is the labor of maggots.

The transgender fad reveals how rampant consumerism has managed to transform every cultural given into a consumer choice. Sex used to be the ultimate given, an irrevocable anatomical contingency. Now it is a commodity.

What progressives call progress is this relentless commodification of every aspect of existence. Everything that was at hand, default, natural, is made unnatural, subject to customization, available as paid option.

Those who would free us from the last vestiges of patriarchy are delivering us into the maw of the corporate Borg.

Removed from the patriarchal context in which it was once dignified, the body becomes a desubjectified machine whose parts can be altered at will. Transgenderism is but the logical expression of this desacralization of the body at the behest of the capitalist drive to reduce all of nature to product.

The Tyranny of Enjoyment

DOLMANCE: . . . What is it one desires when taking one’s pleasure? that everything around us be occupied with nothing but ourselves, think of naught but of us, care for us only. If the objects we employ know pleasure too, you can be very sure they are less concerned for us than they are for themselves, and lo! our own pleasure consequently disturbed. There is not a living man who does not wish to play the despot when he is stiff: it seems to him his joy is less when others appear to have as much as he; by an impulse of pride, very natural at this juncture, he would like to be the only one in the world capable of experiencing what he feels: the idea of seeing another enjoy as he enjoys reduces him to a kind of equality with that other, which impairs the unspeakable charm despotism causes him to feel. ‘Tis false as well to say there is pleasure in affording pleasure to others; that is to serve them, and the man who is erect is far from desiring to be useful to anyone. On the contrary, by causing them hurt he experiences all the charms a nervous personality relishes in putting its strength to use; ’tis then he dominates, is a tyrant; and what a difference is there for the amour-propre! Think not that it is silent during such episodes.

The act of enjoyment is a passion which, I confess, subordinates all others to it, but which simultaneously unites them. This desire to dominate at this moment is so powerful in Nature that one notices it even in animals. See whether those in captivity procreate as do those others that are free and wild; the camel carries the matter further still: he will engender no more if he does not suppose himself alone: surprise him and, consequently, show him a master, and he will fly, will instantly separate himself from his companion. Had it not been Nature’s intent that man possess this feeling of superiority, she would not have created him stronger than the beings she destines to belong to him at those moments. The debility to which Nature condemned woman incontestably proves that her design is for man, who then more than ever enjoys. his strength, to exercise it in all the violent forms that suit him best, by means of tortures, if he be so inclined, or worse. Would pleasure’s climax be a kind of fury were it not the intention of this mother of humankind that behavior during copulation be the same as behavior in anger? What well-made man, in a word, what man endowed with vigorous organs does not desire, in one fashion or in another, to molest his partner during his enjoyment of her? I know perfectly well that whole armies of idiots, who are never conscious of their sensations, will have much trouble understanding the systems I am establishing; but what do I care for these fools? ‘Tis not to them I am speaking; soft-headed women-worshipers, I leave them prostrate at their insolent Dulcineas’ feet, there let them wait for the sighs that will make them happy and, basely the slaves of the sex they ought to dominate, I abandon them to the vile delights of wearing the chains wherewith Nature has given them the right to overwhelm others!

Dialogue the Fifth, Philosophy in the Bedroom in Sade, Richard Seaver, and Austryn Wainhouse. Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings. 1st paperback ed. New York: Grove Press, 1966, 344-45.

Onanism

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913

In considering the question of abstinence, far too little distinction is made between two forms of it, namely, abstention from any kind of sexual activity at all, and abstention from heterosexual intercourse. Many who are proud of maintaining abstinence successfully have only been able to achieve it with the help of masturbation and other similar means of satisfaction, which are connected with the auto-erotic sexual activities of early childhood. But this very connection makes these substitutive measures of sexual satisfaction by no means harmless; they predispose to the numerous forms of neurosis and psychosis, which are conditional on a regression of the sexual life to its infantile form. Nor does masturbation at all correspond to the ideal demands of civilized sexual morality, and it therefore drives young people into the same conflicts with the ideals of education which they design to escape by abstinence. Further, the character is undermined in more ways than one by this indulgence; first, because it shows the way to attain important aims in an otiose manner, instead of by energetic effort, in line with the view that the attitude to sex is the prototype of the attitude to life; and secondly, because in the phantasies accompanying this gratification the sexual object is exalted to a degree which is seldom to be reproduced in reality. A witty writer, K. Kraus in the Vienna Fackel, has, as it were, expressed this truth paradoxically in the cynical saying: “Coitus is merely an unsatisfactory substitute for onanism!”

Freud, Sigmund. “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness” (1908)

Scientific Fiction

I happened to come across a short article by Henri Poincaré regarding the evolution of laws. You surely haven’t read it as it is out of print, something only bibliophiles can find. Émile Boutroux, who was a philosopher, raised the question whether it was unthinkable that laws themselves evolve. Poincaré, who was a mathematician, got all up in arms at the idea of such evolution, since what a scientist is seeking is precisely a law insofar as it does not evolve. It is exceedingly rare for a philosopher to be more intelligent than a mathematician, but here a philosopher just so happened to raise an important question. Why, in fact, wouldn’t laws evolve when we conceive of the world as having evolved? Poincaré inflexibly maintains that the defining characteristic of a law is that, when it is Sunday, we can know not only what will happen on Monday and Tuesday, but in addition what happened on Saturday and Friday. But it is not at all clear to me why the real would not allow for a law that changes.

Lacan, Jacques, and Bruce Fink. The Triumph of Religion: Preceded by Discourse to Catholics. English edition. Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity, 2013, 81

Paranoia

The projection outwards of internal perceptions is a primitive mechanism, to which, for instance, our sense perceptions are subject, and which therefore normally plays a very large part in determining the form taken by our external world. Under conditions whose nature has not yet been sufficiently established, internal perceptions of emotional and intellective processes can be projected outwards in the same way as sense perceptions; they are thus employed for building up the external world, though they should by rights remain part of the internal world. This may have some genetic connection with the fact that the function of attention was originally directed not towards the internal world but towards the stimuli that stream in from the external world, and that that function’s only information upon endo-psychic processes was received from feelings of pleasure and unpleasure. It was not until a language of abstract thought had been developed, that is to say, not until the sensory residues of verbal representation had been linked to the internal processes, that the latter themselves gradually became capable of being perceived.

Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989, 81