Review: “What is Neoreaction?”

What is Neoreaction: Ideology, Social-Historical Evolution, and the Phenomena of Civilization by Bryce Laliberte

“History since Christ is the history of Catholicism.”

With this opening statement Bryce Laliberte, the AnarchoPapist, lays down a challenge. He tells you, explicitly, that he is imposing a narrative, that all narratives are imposed.

This extensive essay (really, a short book, but Laliberte says “essay” and I’ll follow) is an interesting mix of traditional forms. For hundreds of years after the invention of printing “pamphlets” were a very popular medium with which to disseminate ideas, smaller in format and relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute compared to full-length books, and frequently pseudonymously published when they contained unorthodox, dissident ideas.

“What is Neoreacation?” is a modern-day pamphlet, published on Amazon and yes, relatively inexpensive. The author has chosen to make it, as he writes, “somewhere between a treatise and a manifesto” but in my opinion it does not suffer by not being “one thing or another”: It’s not a just a list of doctrines or a 23-point party program, or a summary of the personalities and trends in Neoreaction so far. What Laliberte has attempted here is an exposition of the ideology of Neoreaction and, just as importantly, the occult motivation identified with it. At the same time he compares and contrasts it with modernism and its occult motivation.

He succeeds.

A word on terminology; Laliberte does a very good job of explaining what he means when using possibly unfamiliar or obscure terms. The read is not easy, though. The author has no fear in using technical language and socio-psychological terms that may not be familiar to the reader. That is why the dictionary was invented. Indeed, since this a Kindle publication, every word can be looked up with a touch. If Laliberte uses the word somewhat differently than the dictionary indicates, that is the sign of something that will stretch the mind a bit from its comfort zone, which is all the better.

For many years this reviewer worked in positions where his skill at reading large quantities of information and digesting them into concise one-page summaries earned his bread and cheese. “What is Neoreaction?”:

Neoreaction is an ideology, not a political philosophy. This important point is often misunderstood by those with a merely surface familiarity and is driven home here with gusto. Its raison d’etre is to guide us toward a society or civilization that is compatible with human flourishing.

The original Reaction was to the excesses of the French Revolution. In some respects, all “progressivism” through today stems from the same Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité that was being reacted to shortly after 1789. However, as Laliberte points out “progressivists of the 21st century are decidedly distinct form their forebears.” Indeed, the rot on our “elite” college campuses and the fear of the personal and economic consequences of speaking out about race, feminism or homosexuality were unknown to earlier opponents of “progress.” Thus, Neoreaction.

What is also Neo is the use of evolutionary theory and biopolitics in support of the Neoreactionary ideology. The author argues that progressive society succeeds in the short run by draining the intellectual and physical resources of itself in order to impose its unnatural egalitarianism. While it may be old news to the well-read, modern conservatives are merely another species of progressive, as anyone with eyes to see would conclude when looking at, say, the U.S. Congress or the British Tories of today.

Ultimately, Laliberte’s big idea is that Neoreaction is an ideology that provides the framework, or the foundation as it were, of a healthy society. It does not prescribe detailed social arrangements, for the optimum of these may vary between populations; what’s best for Singapore may not be for Salt Lake City. It does not prescribe how may branches of government there shall be, or whether there should be a “government” in the classical sense at all. These are the details that are argued and discussed on Neoreactionary blogs and fora daily. Laliberte has laid some steady cornerstones here, as it were.

The implementation of these ideas, as noted on this blog on multiple occasions, is a different discussion. Laliberte seems to agree with me that a reform of the current liberal democratic paradigm with a girding of (neo)reaction is highly unlikely. The levels of debt and dissatisfaction, the fragility of so much of the world’s food and energy infrastructures, lead me believe that some sort of “collapse” is inevitable. It won’t necessarily be a spectacular end-of-the-world in flames event; the “collapse” of the Soviet Union in 1990-91 is a reasonable estimate. Hopefully, not many more people will die on the altar of Progress, after the 100 million killed in the 20th century.

In any event, “What is Neoreaction” provides a basis for the rebuilding in whatever form it takes. If you’re interested in a world more suited to humans, I highly recommend it.

Buy it here.

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