Neoreaction, alternatively called the Dark Enlightenment, is a disparate intellectual movement centered on some blogs that advocate a package of wholesale reforms to society. These reforms include, but certainly aren’t limited to, a return to traditional gender roles, monarchism, and typically a more libertarian-oriented economic system. There is a rough consensus on what is wrong with society and on what kind of societies there should be, but it would be an oversimplification to pretend each thinker is as deeply invested in each of these potential reforms.
The question of what brings neoreactionaries together, here and now, is a live question within the movement. No definite consensus has yet been formed, but many postulate neoreaction as a kind of libertarian heresy: think libertarianism scrubbed clean of democratic sentiment. Mencius Moldbug, a popular blogger writing since 2007, is a central figure, whose critique of progressive society has provided a framework within which neoreactionary thought has developed.
The first thing a neoreactionary does is jettison all egalitarian pretenses. One might find this surprisingly easy; nature has no concern for equality. Humankind did not evolve in order to reach a classless utopia void of strife and conflict. If anything, humanity exemplifies every brutality of nature in the most subtle of fashions, and frequently the stability of a society is not merely compatible with, but may depend upon, what modernists have deigned to call “oppression.” But to the neoreactionary, this obfuscates the issue. If you destabilize society, you threaten all potential for human flourishing. In that light, learning how to endure is more important than rising up.
The point here is less to justify inequality but ask, since inequality is the way of nature, how might that inequality be made to work for us? Don’t work against human nature, seek to capture it in service of the project of civilization.
It is inevitable, given that frame, that racial segregation and integration are evaluated very differently that mainstream society. Where multiculturalism and diversity are held to be the noblest end, they are viewed by neoreactionaries with, if not suspicion, skepticism. It is an open question as to whether these norms are always or ever sustainable.
The cult of integration disrupts identities that are treasured by those being integrated. For example, one may not praise ‘white identity’ without being charged with racism, whereas Hispanic and black identities are officially promoted as unalloyed goods. It shouldn’t be surprising that this disparity leads to attempts at recovering mere white identity without the modern form of White Man’s Burden; a self-flagellating, excusatory existence.
Every insistence that white identity necessarily poses a threat to other racial groups would be identified as rank racism were it raised about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Simply trade “white” for any historically marginalized racial group, and it becomes easy to see that within modern anti-racist circles lurks the last acceptable form of racism. A National Policy Institute convention that attracts barely 100 participants is simultaneously played up as a meeting of “white supremacists” and ridiculed by Salon; imagine the consequences for a blogger who gave a National Council of La Raza conference similar treatment.
This explains the outlook of people like Jason Kuznicki, who lodges objections against Nick Land, author of the Dark Enlightenment, by identifying a disinterested defense of ethno-nationalism with white nationalism. Land, whose writing style and emphasis might best be described as Lovecraft goes postmodern, certainly leaves himself open to interpretation where he revels in the themes of darkness and psychological horror. In one sense, then, it isn’t surprising that Kuznicki could be led to identify “dark neo-reaction,” a term none of the neoreactionaries have seen fit to use, with white nationalism. I can only assume Land delights in that misreading, as little as I know him.
It would be a mistake to identify neoreaction with white nationalism, or any kind of nationalism, at this point. Neoreaction is less intent on forwarding a cohesive political movement as it is concerned with cultivating an ideological basis for successful reforms of society. So far as neoreactionaries are concerned, a plurality of political philosophies is not only to be expected, it is indicative of a strong theoretical grounding in opposition to the present political conceits which define Western politics at home and abroad.
It isn’t unexpected that any defense of ethno-nationalism immediately conjures up images of boogeymen like the KKK, given our cultural aversion to race-talk — or Frantz Fanon or Meir Kahane, for that matter. But it’s worth understanding what its proponents mean by the term.
Ethno-nationalism acknowledges that different ethnicities are different. Whether because of cultural norms or biologically innate differences, if groups of people with distinct ancestries weren’t different in even moderately significant ways, there would be no point to ethno-nationalism. Different ethnicities tend to think differently and they tend to form different values. Ethno-nationalism does not mean favoring of one skin color over another; ethnicities are not better or worse, just different. The differences don’t even need to be very large, as you can consider how people often have difficulty with people who are very like themselves.
We can tell these differences are meaningful because people prefer to associate with others like them. The level of segregation which exists presently, the neoreactionary suggests, is partially explainable by historical factors including oppression, but it is at least partially explainable by groups liking to associate with each other. Very simply, if I’m white, I’m going to find it easier to empathize with the thinking of other whites. The more different another person is from me ethnically, the more difficult it is for me to model what they’re really thinking, and vice versa. This means that people of the same or similar ethnic groups will more likely associate within their own group than with those outside their own group. It doesn’t need to be because they harbor any particular resentment toward other groups, but only because they find it easier to get along with people similar to themselves.
In my book What is Neoreaction? I distinguish between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, based on the degree of ethnic integration. Small towns, for example tend to be more racially uniform, while cities are more racially diverse. The former is more nationalistic while the latter is more cosmopolitan. Each of these arrangements is simply different, with different advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of nationalism is that it is easier to form associations, while the advantage of cosmopolitanism is that one is exposed to a more diverse cultural milieu. The point is not that one is intrinsically better; if you like the city life (indeed, I’m highly cosmopolitan and love the city), good for you. If you like the small town life, good for you. Either way, an individual shouldn’t be forced to live in a more nationalist or cosmopolitan arrangement than he would like. Even if we no longer really have freedom of association in America, that is the idea of it.
Inasmuch as neoreaction favors smaller states formed along whatever coherent societal arrangements are possible (e.g. ethnic solidarity is just one such example of coherent societal arrangement; think of the Czechs and Slovaks), we will almost always defend the right to secede. If Silicon Valley wants to exit and start their own society, by all means they should do so. If Scotland wants to secede from the UK, absolutely allow them to. If Texas no longer desires to be a part of the Union, let them leave. Same goes for Northern Colorado or Western Maryland. Discussions about white nationalists should be understood within the context of ethno-nationalism, rather than racial supremacism. Granted, racial supremacists may be ethno-nationalists, but ethno-nationalists are not logically racial supremacists.
Wanting to be left alone to establish a separate identity, along ethnic lines or any others, without the intervention of cosmopolitan do-gooders doesn’t make you racist. It just makes you not cosmopolitan. Isn’t that why we stopped believing colonialism is a good thing? The neoreactionary just applies that logic one step further and says coercive integration — socioeconomic, racial, or any other kind — is simply domestic colonialism.