Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Francis on Chambers.

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

According to Paul Gottfried, Sam Francis was equivocal on the relationship of Christianity and Western Civilisation, and apparently he had grown lukewarm in his faith, so I was surprised to see Francis include Chambers in his narrow group of thinkers. Quite frankly, I bought the his book, Beautiful Losers,  simply to see what he would say about Chambers, whom this blog has championed before.  Francis, though clearly under the influence of Burnham's positivism, is perhaps one of the few understood the importance of Chambers thinking and the importance of his "witness" in the Alger Hiss, trial and of the seismic changes that took place in Conservatism as result.

The trial, and Chambers victory against nearly insurmountable odds of the managerial establishment, re-orientated Conservatism towards a more religious understanding of itself; gave birth to the McCarthy movement, which even though flawed, was the first example of populism against the managerial state; launched the career of Richard Nixon, helped expunge the Rockefeller republicans from the party in the Goldwater campaign and was hugely influential on the populism of Ronald Reagan.

His legacy lives on. Quite frankly, it's a surprise that he is so neglected given mark on history. Francis is to be commended for both recognising his importance and for keeping his memory alive. Still, reading Francis I was more of the impression that he "intuited" Chambers greatness rather than fully intellectually appreciating his significance.

Chambers, like Burnham, was an ex communist who eventually repudiated its ideals, and both men shared a common outlook which separated them from the "conservative tradition". Whereas Burhnam belonged to tradition of Machiavelli,  Chambers intellectual lineage belonged more to the tradition of Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn.
Burnham's modernism alienated those traditionalist conservatives who were aware of it. Their minds tend to center on the more ethereal regions of religion, ethics, metaphysics, and aesthetics, rather than on the sociological analysis of political conflict and the geo-politics of global struggle, and they are not attracted to and are often repelled by a worldview that centers on conflict, power, and human irrationality. Whittaker Chambers, whose own mind reflected a tension between modernism and antimodern elements and who ex-pressed deep admiration for Burnham, nevertheless criticized him for his "prudent, practical thinking." "The Fire Bird," wrote Chambers, "is glimpsed living or not at all. In other words, realists have a way of missing truth, which is not invariably realistic." The "Fire Bird" refers to the classical myth of the phoenix, a bird composed of fire that, since it was consumed by flames as it flew through the air, left no body. Its existence therefore could not be proved empirically, by finding its body; it had to be seen alive or not at all. Chambers's meaning is that Burnham's worldview demanded empirical proof for things that by their nature could not be proved but were nevertheless known to be true by those who had seen—or felt or intuited—them. 
Chambers recognised that Burnham's vision was limited by his positivism and that he had missed what the real fight of the 20th Century was all about, the battle between atheism and religion. Religion, Chambers recognised, motivated men for the sacrifices and struggles that were needed to sustain a culture, and a better arranged atheism did not provide any such protection, whilst Atheism collapsed eventually into Hedonism. And Chambers, staring about him in the glory days of 1950's America could see that the the atheistic managerial state was slowly strangling, and excluding, the motive principle that had sustained the West. Seeing beyond the gloss to the underlying substance Chambers wrote:
there is a strong family resemblance between the Communist state and the welfare state. The ends each has in view have much in common. But the methods proposed for reaching them radically differ. Each is, in fact, in direct competition with the other, since each offers itself as an alternative solution for the crisis of the 20th Century; and Fabian Britain has at last supplanted Soviet Russia in the eyes of political liberals when they look abroad. Nevertheless, that family resemblance is nerve-wearing, since all the minds that note it are not equally discriminating, especially in a nation that has only just become conscious of Communism and still rejects socialism. So, at every move against Communism, liberal views come unglued, and liberal voices go shrill, fearing that, by design or error, the move may be against themselves. 
The beast could morph and Chambers was adept at recognising it's manifestations.

Cambers was contemptuous of liberalism and saw it as another morphed form of managerial atheism. Attempts to reconcile liberalism to conservatism misunderstood the nature of it and Chambers despaired the lack this awareness and the stupidity of many conservatives. Francis writes:
Yet if Chambers rejected twentieth-century liberalism, he was not much more sympathetic to the conservatives of the 1950s. He declined to attach himself in any way to Joe McCarthy, less perhaps from dislike of the man than a belief that McCarthy would eventually taint his witness. He was not comfortable at National Review and found preposterous the quaint dogmas of classical liberalism dressed up as conservatism. In a letter to Buckley in 1957, he called the free-market economist Ludwig von Mises "a goose," and Frank Meyer's self-appointment as the ideological gatekeeper of the American Right seems first to have amused, then bored, him. The ideas of Meyer and Russell Kirk struck Chambers as "chiefly an irrelevant buzz." Of Kirk's The Conservative Mind he asked, "if you were a marine in a landing boat, would you wade up the seabeach at Tarawa for that conservative position? And neither would I!" Only with Buckley himself and James Burnham did he seem to share anything like a common outlook, and at last he resigned from National Review, acknowledging to Buckley and himself that he was not a conservative in any serious sense but "a man of the Right."
What exactly Chambers meant by this term is far from clear, but he contrasted it with "conservatism" and seems to have identified it with a defense of capitalism. "I am a man of the Right because I mean to uphold capitalism in its American version. But I claim that capitalism is not, and by its essential nature cannot conceivably be, conservative." Yet despite his identification with capitalism, almost nowhere did Chambers offer an explicit defense of it, and in both his letters to Buckley and in a National Review piece of 1958 on federal farm policy, he was perfectly conscious of the contradiction between capitalism and conservatism and the link between capitalism and the advance of socialism. Like most conservatives and like his neighbors in rural Maryland, Chambers saw the freedom I and independence of farmers threatened by federal regulation of agriculture. But he also believed such controls were "inescapable." 
I think its important here to understand what Chambers means by "Man of the Right" which I don't think Francis appreciated. It's more a negative definition than a positive one. Chambers intrinsically opposed to the atheistic vision which was the hallmark of liberalism, but he was also opposed to the rag tag bunch of anti-Liberalists and traditionalist who were "Right" merely by being opposed to the left.  Many of whom who hopeless aesthetes or nostalgics and other "right-materialists" who who saw man simply as an economic unit, or racial entity.

His evisceration of Ayn Rand singlehandedly threw her out of the conservative fold: A better managerialism is not what he was about. And the point that Chambers was trying to make by this statement is that it is possible to be anti-Left and to still be evil or stupid, which he though many conservatives were.
Nor has the author, apparently, brooded on the degree to which, in a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left first surprisingly resemble, then, in action, tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purpose, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. The embarrassing similarities between Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin’s brand of Communism are familiar. For the world, as seen in materialist view from the Right, scarcely differs from the same world seen in materialist view from the Left. The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?
Like Burnham, Chambers shared much of his historical determinism, which in turn imparted upon him a spenglerian gloom. It also alienated him from Traditionalists who failed to recognise that late 19th Century was transformative in the scheme of human relations. Chambers' experiences in the Hiss Case lead him to the conclusion that he was on the "losing side", and much like a 19th Century physician, he could diagnose the problem but was powerless in effecting a cure. Francis writes:
The significance of Chambers's witness, then, is considerably diminished if it is mistaken as merely an account of Soviet communism and its Western stooges. His point throughout his writings in the 1940s and 1950s was that the roots of communism lie in the West itself and that they flourish because the modern age has chosen to credit the serpent's promise. That promise and its lethal consequences for the West were as palpable to him in the United States of Truman and Eisenhower as they had been under the Edwardians and as they were in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. Only when the West had awakened to the falsehood of the promise could it bear what he called "that more terrible witness" by which it would destroy its external enemy and begin to purge itself of its internal toxins. But he had no expectation that the West would do so, and no suggestions on how to do it. 
Whilst I think Francis gives Chambers an accurate appraisal, I feel that his own lukewarm religiousness rendered him partially deaf to Chambers' message. Francis was looking for a method or program, within the existing materialistic world view to right it and it was Cambers's contention that there was no solution within it. The only way out was by re-embracing religion. Burnham, on the other hand, seemed to take Chambers's witness more seriously, and by the time he had written Suicide of the West, Burnham had conceded that ideas, i.e. culture, were just as significant as material and historical determinism. Burnham's identification of liberalism as the solvent of the West owes a large part to Chambers influence, yet he would not fully embrace religion, whilst recognising its utility, till shortly before his death. 

The point of Chambers witness is that there is no conservative or bourgeois revival unless we bend the knee to God. The best we can hope for otherwise is a Singapore or Japan, but perceptive observers of these countries realise that, they too, are dying. And even they, with their well managed managerial states, pale into insignificance, in terms of cultural output when compared to the glories of European civilisation. 
Chambers's message is that the cause of the death spiral of the West is atheism. Atheists, of course, reject this message, but it's also problematic for Christians. Faith is not something that can be engineered. It can be shored up with logic and argument but the faculty which gives certainty to the propositions of faith is a free gift of God that cannot be commanded. Religious reactionaries, I do not feel, have fully recognised this fact or its political implications. Perhaps this is a future project for a religious neo-reaction.

With regard to NRx, Chambers diagnosis pretty much damns Moldbuggian NRx which, trapped in its atheism,  is really just a better way of arranging things. If NRx wants to be truly transformative it needs to go Churchy. This will be a bitter pill for many.

It's true that Burnham made a huge impression on Francis, but as Francis lay dying from the complications of aortic surgery, he was visited by a Catholic priest who offered him the choice of a blessing or the Last Rites. The priest, by the way, being Antonin Scalia's son. Francis, like his hero Burnham chose the Last Rites. Perhaps Chambers made more of an impression on Francis than he really let on.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Francis on Burnham:II

It's clear from Francis's writing that he felt that contemporary conservatism, in both its libertarian and "traditionalist" forms was incapable of dealing with the societal changes which occurred in the 20th Century. Francis felt the the libertarians had an "abstract" view of man which did not map onto reality and the traditionalists were still operating under the assumption that the fundamental nature of the world had remained unchanged. If Sam Francis was about anything, it was about the understanding of reality and how to navigate it, it was for this reason that Burnham appealed to him. 

Burnham regarded himself as an empirical student of power. Power as it is actually wielded rather than is theoretically expressed and hence the strong influence of Machiavelli, Marx, Mosca and Pareto in his thought.  His intellectual lineage put him outside the "tradition" of many conservatives who did not know what to make of him. On the other hand, Burnham himself felt that a conservatism which did not deal with the practical circumstances in which it found itself, and instead dealt with abstract principles only was an anachronism and destined to failure. Burnham's expositions of the ugly realities of power confused many who assumed that he was approving of them, which was not case. Burnham faced and stated realities regardless of how repulsive they were to himself.
The primary goals at which I aim in this column, as in most of the books and articles I have written, are fact and analysis. I do not accept any theory of class, national, ethnic, partisan, or sectarian truth. If conclusions I reach are true, they are just as true for Russians as for Americans, for pagans as for Christians, and for blacks as for whites.
For Burnham, historical and material circumstance had rendered traditional society obsolescent, in the same way that the internet is now rendering much of the media irrelevant, not by moral choice but by practical operation in the real world. And much like typesetters have become increasingly irrelevant, so too have the petit bourgeois capitalists in the modern world.
Yet the managerial regime did not evolve nor its elites become dominant in the economy, government, and mass society without a struggle. From the early twentieth century to the present, the social and political forces that resisted the formation of the managerial regime and the implementation of its agenda constituted a conservative, at times reactionary, influence. Small businessmen and entrepreneurs, the more parochial sectors of American society, lower middle-class elements, and groups that found the fiscal burden and social effects of the new regime a threat to their economic status and cultural identity provided the political base of the conservative resistance to managerial forces and ideas. The members of this base saw in the fusion of state and economy a threat to their own independent standing, endangered by the labor unions, regulations, and intervention imposed by the new managerial state in partnership with mass corporations. They saw their own values and institutions denigrated and undermined by the cosmopolitan ethic and egalitarian policies of the new elite. They suffered from the inflation and exorbitant taxation that financed the managerial state and from the crime and social dislocation that resulted from its social policies, by which the managerial regime subsidized an urban proletariat as its own political base. They were offended and often frightened by the globalist and, in their view un-American, international policies of the elite, which involved permanent intervention in world affairs, expensive foreign aid programs, the prospect of global war, and the renunciation of national interests in return fora cosmopolitan "one-world" that they regarded as both illusory and dangerous.
There's a lot to unpack in this paragraph of Francis's but I'm only going to concentrate on the main points.

Firstly, the battle is between the bourgeois and the current managerial elite.
Secondly, the strategy of the managerial elite is to squeeze the bourgeois middle by buying off the lumpenproletariat, who sell their votes to the highest bidder. This group are principally made up of the socially dysfunctional white and black lower classes in the U.S. who have been effectively "de-bourgeoised" by either genetic limitations or through adopting values which ensure their poverty. Kevin Williamson copped a lot of heat  for his article in the National Review--(there is a lot I disagree with)-- but he inadvertently vindicates Burhnam's and Francis's analysis:
Nationalism may speak to a longing for lost national greatness, but in our own time, it speaks at least as strongly to the longing after — the great howling lamentation for — the ideal family that never was lost, because it never was formed. The Mikes of the world may be struggling to make it in the global economy, but what they really are shut out of is the traditional family. The current social regime of illegitimacy, serial monogamy, abortion, and liberal divorce has rendered traditional families optional, at best — the great majority of divorces are initiated by wives, not by husbands — and the welfare state has at least in part supplanted the Mikes in their role as providers[ED], assuming that they have the wherewithal to fill that role in the first place. Traditional avenues for achieving respect, status, and permanence are lost to them.
The strategy of the elites was to buy the votes of the dysfunctional class. The cultural revolution of the Sixties effectively increased the pressure on the middle from the bottom.

Thirdly, the values of the managerial elite are different to the values of the bourgeois and there is an active displacement going on. This is going about through active exclusion from the decision making apparatus, economic pressure and cultural ostracism. According to Francis, the elites are effecting the destruction of the middle class.

Burnham, due to his historical determinism, felt that the managerial revolution was inevitable but what perplexed him was, unlike previous revolutions in the West, specifically when bourgeois society replaced the medieval one and which resulted in even greater civilisational advancement, the current elite was presiding over a civilisation that was dying. Burnham saw that the Elites were not just presiding over a new type of society but they were presiding over a society that had lost the will to live.
Burnham, though born a Catholic had been an atheist for much of his life. He recognised the "utility" of religion for a society but thought it one of Sorel's "Myths" that kept a society together. He did not believe in the truth of it. In trying to explain the West's loss of the will to live he tried to frame a different theory, one that both he and Francis did not seem entirely convinced of but one which I feel has a fair amount of merit. Francis writes in the Political Science Reviewer;
In his last book, Suicide of the West, Burnham was pessimistic about this ability and about the very survival of non-Communist civilization. Yet he was somewhat evasive on the exact causes of the contraction and decline of the West.[ED] It is true that the causes of the decline were not the subject of the book and that Burnham narrowed the possible causes to a failure of the will to survive within the governing elite, a failure rationalized by liberal ideology but more deeply associated, as Burnham suggested, "with the decay of religion and with an excess of material luxury". He did not pursue this suggestion further, however, and indeed it is too large a problem to be treated in Suicide of the West. 

It may be noted that Machiavelli had also attached central importance to the decline of religion and the rise of luxury as subversive forces in political society. Machiavelli had written in the Discourses, "there is no greater indication of the ruin of a country than to see religion contemned" and "in well-regulated republics the state ought to be rich and the citizens poor."' The decline of religion removes the principal unifying force in society able to rationalize sacrifices and suffering; the rise of luxury contributes to factionalism and the usurpation of the public interest by private groups and to the general softening and corruption of the physical and moral strength of the citizens. It is therefore not surprising that Burnham would have suggested these two phenomena as likely causes of Western civilizational decline, but he did not develop them.

Yet it is possible to reconstruct more clearly Burnham's views on the causes of the decline of the West and on the future of the West from the body of his published writings. Both problems in his mind were closely related to the internal structure and mentality of the Western governing elite. From The Managerial Revolution to Suicide of the West Burnham had predicted that the rising managerial elite would contain a heavy proportion of Class II residues [ED:Broadly analogous to alpha males, Class 1 residues are analogous to betas] and would be efficient in the use of force. Although he had regarded the totalitarian tendencies of the new elite as a serious threat to freedom and to the flexibilities that societal survival requires, he had praised the coming elite for its dynamism, its resoluteness, and its ability and willingness to seize leadership. In The Machiavellians he had written that "We may be sure that the soldiers, the men of force, the Lions, will be much more prominent among the new rulers than in the ruling class of the past century". In The Coming Defeat of Communism, published over a decade later, he again dwelt on the dynamism of the new elite and the decadence and vacillation of the old entrepreneurial class.

In Suicide of the West, however, he reversed this prediction and portrayed the managerial groups, under the influence of liberal ideology, as foxes, vacillating, unwilling and unable to use force, and relying on negotiations, propaganda, and opportunism. The correlation of liberal ideology with the managerial social forces was explicit, and it contradicted Burnham's earlier optimistic estimate of the new elite.

Although Burnham never explicitly accounted for his change of opinion, in Suicide of the West he suggested an explanation for the change that is entirely consistent with his earlier Machiavellian formulation of the theory of the managerial revolution. While it remained true that the social transformation has led to a greater presence within the elite of, and a greater reliance on, military leaders, the very nature of the managerial revolution, with its shift from small-scale, personal leadership to mass-scale, bureaucratic leadership, altered the character of the new military elite.
Technological change brings into the military force more and more persons exercising "civilian skills" (administrative, technical, scientific) that lack the in-bred immunity of the older, narrower military vocation to liberal ideas and values.
Two years later, in a highly controversial article in National Review on Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Burnham made the point more explicitly. Burnham praised McNamara, "a perfect exemplar of the top level of the new managerial class," for trying to "make the defense establishment as closely as possible an integral element of our advanced managerial economy." 'A Much of the criticism directed at McNamara Burnham saw as originating from traditional, entrepreneurial elements in American society and from traditional military types in the armed services. These critics were resisting the technical modernization of the armed forces as pan of their general social resistance to the managerial revolution and the new class that was leading it. Yet Burnham was not entirely laudatory of McNamara and the elite he represented. He cited a letter-perhaps apocryphal-from a naval electronics technician who commented that he had seen no proof that "McNamara & Co. have an intuitive feel for the use of force: they seem to be more foxes than lions."' Burnham, then, was aware that military leadership by foxes or Class I residues may lack the qualities of command, combativeness, and endurance that lions would exhibit. "There are things in war," Burnham commented, "not dreamt of by IBM's computers.
The point that Burnham was making was that managerial society, perhaps by its very nature, requires or finds useful the residues and psychic forces of the fox, not those of the lion. As he had written of the Class I residues in The Machiavellian
it is this residue that leads restless individuals to large-scale financial manipulations, merging and combining and re-combining of various economic enterprises, efforts to entangle and disentangle political units, to make and remake empires. (MDF, 187) 
These are precisely the traits needed by those who manage mass-scale organizations-whether economic, political, educational, religious, social, or professional in function. They are traits that lead to success in the mastery of technical and administrative skills; the use of language in argument, negotiations, and propaganda; and the disciplines of modern organizational life. The traits of the lions or Class II residues-fierce loyalties and hatreds, a capacity for violence or brutality, and a willingness to endure suffering and sacrifice-are not required by modern managerial society to any great degree. Thus, managerial society, even in its military organizations, tends to promote and encourage those elements of the population that exhibit Class I residues and to demote, exclude, and discourage those that exhibit Class II residues. It also has an affinity for derivations such as liberalism that reflect Class I values and ideas, and an aversion to derivations such as conservatism that do not reflect Class I values and ideas and to some extent reflect those of Class II. 
Burnham's psychological analysis of the implications of managerial rule raises a dilemma. If managerial society requires for the control of its internal power structure the psychic forces that are efficient at managerial and verbal skills but have an aversion to force, then there is a contradiction between the internal requirements of managerial power and its external requirements, which demand skill in the use of force. Hence it is that the principal threat to the survival of a managerial society, in which Class I forces predominate, must come from outside it or from below, from Class II residues consigned to the lower strata of society. Pareto had made this contradiction explicit, and Burnham had quoted his lengthy statement of it in Suicide of the West. Burnham's final formulation of the theory of the managerial revolution in Suicide of the West recognized the importance of Class I residues in the governing elite, and this recognition implied a different estimate for the future of the West under managerial rule. Whereas Burnham's earlier discussions of appeasement, retreat, and decline had associated these phenomena largely with the decadent entrepreneurial elite, he now linked them with the managers. The implication was that the phenomenon of decline was not a passing phase that would be reversed by the new elite but a permanent feature of the dominant managerial class. "The decay of religion and the excess of material luxury' were not so much the causes of Western decline, in this analysis, as part of the syndrome of phenomena associated with an elite of foxes. Pareto himself had correlated the rise of religious skepticism and the increase of wealth with the accumulation of Class I residues in the elite.
Burnham's argument essentially is that as society becomes wealthier, it's managerial elite becomes less "jock" like and more nerd "like" with a commensurate inability to fight external attacks. Burnham wasn't the first to notice that rich societies goes "soft" and while I think this is only partial explanation for the decline, I do think it is one with considerable merit. On a variety of metrics, I think that there has been failure of masculinity in the West which I think partially explains the lack of its assertiveness and it's inability to combat simple threats, however the explanation is incomplete.

Burnham also recognsied that explanation was incomplete and had to include the embrace of Liberalism, a position he came with the help of Whittaker Chambers. He realised that Liberalism was the poison affecting the elites though he could propose no antidote and thus became pessimistic of the West's Future. The problem with Burnham's approach to power is that while it deals with how to best arrange society based upon the empirical observations of the past, it does nothing to to explain why that society should want to chose to live.  But Burnham, presumably because of his scientific Atheism could never see religion as anything more than a "useful" social glue but which was ultimately "unscientific" and therefore beyond the scope of his analysis.

Whittaker Chambers did not make that mistake.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Francis on the Managerial Revolution.

Francis quoted Whittaker Chambers in explaining how the Managerial Revolution occurred in the U.S.
I saw that the New Deal was only superficially a reform movement. I had to acknowledge the truth of what its more forthright protagonists, sometimes defiantly, averred: the New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation. It was not a revolution by violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and law-making. In so far as it was successful, the power of politics had replaced the power of business. This is the basic power shift of all the revolutions of our time. This shift was the revolution.
While the revolution in the U.S. occurred peacefully, Burhnam felt that the type of society it created with similar in "structure" to ones being created in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Contemporary critics were horrified by the assertion and I imagine what beguiled analysts of the time was the fact the revolution as the U.S. was peaceful it was therefore fundamentally different in nature than from the totalitarianisms birthed in violence. But what these analysts failed to see is that with the changes bought about the by New Deal,  the U.S. assumed the "structure" of a totalitarian society even though its "managers" weren't totalitarian.  The checks-and-balances which limited government power still remained on paper but were practically were swept away through a variety of judicial and economic actions which neutered the constitution and vastly expanded government power.

Burnham, and Francis tended to view the "managerial" class along Marxist lines in the sense that class acted to self consciously further its self-interest and power, which in turn implied and ever increasing domain of "management" and hence an expanding government. While I do think that there is an element of truth in this, I feel this is a weak point of Burnham's analysis. At the time he was harshly criticized by both Orwell for this view--correctly in my opinion--and Burnham's thinking changed later in this regard, especially by the influence of Chambers. When Burnham wrote Suicide of the West, it wasn't the parasitic managerial class which was the issue as much as it was the "culture" of that class. Francis wrote;
The ideology of the emerging managerial regime in the United States came to be known as "progressivism" and later as "liberalism," though a more appropriate label might be "managerial humanism." The ideology articulated a view of man as the product of social and economic environment and thus susceptible to amelioration or perfection by a scientifically trained elite with power to redesign the environment. It involved a collectivist view of the state and economy and advocated a highly centralized regime largely unrestrained by traditional legal, constitutional, and political barriers. It rejected or regarded as backward, repressive, or obsolete the institutions and values of traditional and bourgeois society—its loyalties to the local community, traditional religion, and moral beliefs, the family, and social and political differentiations based on class, status, and property—and it expressed an ideal of man "liberated" from such constraints and re-educated or redesigned into a cosmopolitan participant in the mass state-economy of the managerial system.
Francis recognised that the nature of the class would in turn reflect the nature of the society, but Burnham's analysis felt that human dynamics and societal structure would relentless push society in an anti-traditional direction:
Despite the conservative, stabilizing, and establishmentarian appearance of consensus liberalism, however, the managerial system is incapable of stabilization. The dynamic of managerial capitalism involves a continuing erosion of the social and cultural fabric through the mass consumption and hedonism, social mobility, and dislocation that it promotes and through the obsolescence of hard private property, under the control of individual and family ownership, that corporate and collective property and governmental regulation encourage. The managerial state obtains its raison d'ĂȘtre from continuing intervention, activism, and social engineering, as became clear in the War on Poverty, the civil rights revolution, and the Great Society programs. The intellectuals, technocrats, and professional verbalists of the managerial intelligentsia and communications elite—what Kevin Phillips has called the "mediacracy"[ED:Cathedral]—are committed by their material interests and their ideological predispositions[ED] to the design and implementation of continuing social change, the rejection and destruction of the bourgeois constraints on their functions and power, and the defense and extension of the apparatus of the managerial system. The rhetoric of conservatism did not alter the basic reality of the managerial regime and its continuing revolution, and the reality came to the surface again in the utopian imagery of the "New Frontier," "Camelot," and "Great Society" of the 1960s and even in the planning of the Vietnam War. Lyndon Johnson and his advisers projected a "TVA on the Mekong" that would "solve" the environmental problems that, in their view, lay at the root of communism, and the "McNamara Revolution" in the Defense Department carried through the managerialization of war and the technocratic transformation of the military services. Few large corporations supported Senator Barry Goldwater's rather quaint evocation of bourgeois beliefs in the 1964 presidential campaign, and most corporate donations accrued to the Johnson-Humphrey ticket.• The "conservatization" of managerial liberalism in the postwar era was intended to legitimize the managerial regime by lending it the appearance of continuity and respectability and to check the tendencies of the ideological Left to push the regime beyond what the elite wanted and required, but it did not significantly slow or reverse the radicalizing and anti-bourgeois mechanisms of the regime and its system of social dominance by the managerial elite.
It's interesting here to see that Francis thought that "big business" capitalism worked synergistically with the managerial state to erode both traditional society, morality and the protective mechanisms for individual liberty. Francis also saw that the managerial elite could superficially appear conservative but was ultimately radical at its core and unless the managerial "structure" could be disestablished it would pose a continual threat to any nascent attempts of Conservative resurgence.  He regarded the Reagan years as a failure and interesting illustrated how the managerial apparatus managed to deal with upstarts who wanted to change the status quo.
"Reaganism," then, was neither a continuation of the bourgeois conservatism of the Old Right nor one more installment of an eternally recurring William McKinley nor the culmination of a cycle in American politics by which one elite ousted another and then itself succumbed to corruption. It was rather an effort to wed or fuse those destabilizing movements, fed by resentment, fear, and frustration, which gelled in the New Right and the candidacy of George Wallace, with still-dominant managerial elements in the state, economy, and cultural apparatus. Those elements saw their institutional apparatus of power and the "consensus" that rationalized it jeopardized by an insurgency from the right as well as from the left in the 1960s and 1970s and by the whole unraveling of American society that their own efforts at social reconstruction had helped cause. So far from challenging or displacing an old elite, Reaganism simply allowed the leadership of the insurgent forces to crawl into bed with the managerial establishment and sample its favors, thereby effectively decapitating (or, to extend the  sexual metaphor, emasculating the insurgency)[ED]
The formula worked as long as the Teflon President was there, and it has worked for his successor since Good Old Dutch was strapped to his pony and hauled back to his ranch. But it may not work much longer if recession and the economic woes Mr. Phillips discusses pop out of the political woodwork as they seem to be doing. What is surprising in Mr. Phillips's analysis is not his conclusion that Reaganism actually endangered middle-class aspirations but his neglect of the continuing power of the cultural and social frustrations he has so admirably penetrated elsewhere. In his 1982 book, Post-Conservative America, he predicted that what historian Fritz Stern called the politics of cultural despair"—racial, national, and social hostilities and dislocations—would coalesce with economic frustrations to yield a chauvinist, authoritarian, and perhaps overtly racialist political movement on the order of what occurred in Weimar Germany. In his present book, there is virtually no reference to that thesis despite its continuing relevance.
Here we are.

I think the important things to take from Burnham are;

Firstly, the Managerial Revolution transformed the U.S. (and other Western Societies) structurally so that they resembled societies with '"totalitarian" power structures.

Secondly, the "culture" of the managers, reflected the nature of that society and the nature of that totalitarianism. And contemporary events bare this out. As our elite culture drifts relentlessly leftward and atheistic the legal protections afforded to Christians have vapourised and a "soft Left" totalitarianism is taking its place.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Francis on Burnham.

The neglect of Burnham by liberal and even mainstream media is explained by many conservatives as the response to be expected from those whose incantations to the broad mind and the open mouth are belied by their contempt for those who dissent from their canons. Yet Burnham was also neglected by many conservatives, who knew him best through his column and his classic Suicide of the West, repeatedly reprinted since its first publication in 1964. George H. Nash in his monumental The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945 acknowledges Burnham's importance in the emergence of conservative anticommunism in the 1940s and 1950s, but neither Mr. Nash nor most other students of American conservatism have fully appreciated the significance of Burnham's political ideas or their potential for constructing a serious and critical political theory for the contemporary American Right.
By far, the greatest influence on thinking of  Sam Francis were the writings of James Burnham.  A communist in the 1930's and who was in contact with Trotsky, Burnham became disillusioned with Communism in early 40's and eventually turned hard right. Though, Burnham "turned" right, he was never really "at home" with the post war Right from a social and intellectual perspective. What set him apart from most of them was his "modernist" understanding of contemporary events.
Burnham did not generally socialize with the conservative movement. He was not a member of the Philadelphia or Mont Pelerin societies, rarely contributed to conservative periodicals other than National Review, and seldom or never participated in the seminars and summer schools of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute or Young Americans for Freedom. His aloofness was probably in part a personal choice, but it also reflected an incongruity between his mind and that of the mainstream of American conservatism as it has developed since the 1940s. Burnham and his more percipient readers were aware of the incongruity, which served to keep him at a distance  from many of his professional collaborators on the Right, while, ironically, causing the Left to concentrate its fire on his writings to a greater degree than on those of any other conservative intellectual figure of our era.
Burnham came to public prominence through the publication of his book, The Managerial Revolution.  Matt Forney gives a good review of the book here, though I disagree with some of his thoughts.  Even Orwell was impressed enough to write a rebuttal of it and the book and at the time earned considerable praise. And although Burnham's approach was strongly inspired by the Marxist analytic method, the book, in my opinion, needs to be seen within the same tradition of thinking as exemplified by Ortega y Gasset and Pitrim Sorokin. These thinkers recognised that  a fundamental change had occurred in society at the end of the 19th Century as a consequence of religious collapse, technology and more importantly, the rise in population mass. Traditional conservative thinkers tend to ignore the latter two in their analysis of human history, seeing human nature as something apart from the material conditions of man and society. Richard Weaver once remarked that Ideas have Consequences but  what's really important in the Burhnamite analysis is that the historical and material circumstances of man have consequences as well.  And one of the things which impressed me with regard to Burnhams analysis is the notion that more people doesn't just mean a bigger society, it also means a different type of society.  Quoting Francis: 
The twentieth century, for the United States as well as for the rest of the world, has been an age of revolution of far more profound transformational effect than any the modern world has ever experienced. Perhaps not since neolithic times has mankind undergone simultaneous changes in economic, social, political, and intellectual relationships of such far-reaching consequences. Some aspects of this transformation are obvious and have been explored by count-less analysts—the rise of totalitarianism, the intellectual revolution precipitated by Einstein and Freud, the decline of the Euro-American civilization and the rise of non-white power centers, the evolution of a "postindustrial" technology and economy in place of agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Yet for all the theories, explanations, and accounts of the twentieth-century revolution, there is no better perspective from which to view this transformation than James Burnham's theory of the managerial revolution, formulated in 1941. Despite many flaws, inaccurate predictions, and overstatements, Burnham's theory perceives the essential core of the twentieth-century revolution and contains the elements by which the complex political and intellectual ramifications of our age can be explained. Although in a narrow sense Burnham's theory sought to explain the civilizational impact of the "separation of ownership and control" in the corporate economy and the rise of large corporations directed by professional managers rather than by traditional individual owners and partnerships, in a broader sense his theory applies to political and social, as well as to economic, organizations. The characteristic feature of twentieth-century history has been the  vast expansion in the size, scale of transactions, and complexity and technicality of functions that political, social, and economic organizations exhibit. This expansion, which Pitrim Sorokin also noted under the label "colossalism," was itself made possible by the growth of mass populations and by the development of technologies that could sustain the colossal scale of organization. Just as business firms expanded far beyond the point at which they could be operated, directed: and controlled effectively by individual owners and their families, who generally lacked the technical skills to manage them, so the state also underwent a transformation in scale that removed it from the control of traditional elites, citizens, and their legal representatives. Just as in the mass corporations a new elite of professional managers emerged that replaced the traditional entrepreneurial or bourgeois elite of businessmen, so in the state also a new elite of professionally trained managers or bureaucrats developed that challenged and generally became dominant over the older political elites of aristocrats and amateur politicians who occupied the formal offices of government. Both in the economy and the state, organizations began to undertake functions for which a smaller scale of organization was not prepared and which the traditional elites of aristocratic and bourgeois society were unable to perform. A similar process occurred in labor unions, professional associations, churches, educational institutions, military organizations, and the organs of mass communication and cultural expression. In all sectors of twentieth-century industrial society, the growth of mass organizations brought with it an expansion of functions and power, a new elite wedded by its material interests and psychic and intellectual preparation to continuing expansion, and a metamorphosis of the organizations themselves as well as of the social and political orders they dominated.
What needs to be understood here is that Burnham recognised the rise of this class was not the product of some "conspiracy" or malignant design, rather he recognised that the rise came about through the complex interchange between commercial forces, technology and population. Changes which frequently, were enthusiastically embraced and forwarded by Conservatives as well. Take Capitalism, for example. The push for efficiency in capitalistic organisations doesn't just result in lower "overheads" but also selects for organisations which are highly centralized. What this means is that Capitalism in operation is synergistic with the centralising tendencies of the managerial state.* Likewise the current decline in the fortunes of the Press is less an intended outcome than and unintended consequence of technological innovation. It also illustrates why  "turning" the clock back is not a realistic option since turning it back involves not only a change in values but a change in the material and technological circumstances as well
The evolution of the new order and its ideology was not, of course, the result of a conspiracy or a conscious design on the part of its founders, but rather the product of an almost irresistible process by which new technologies, new forms of organization, and new ideas joined together to challenge and replace old forms that were unable to sustain or accommodate the immense scale of human numbers and their interactions. Those who gained from this process—the new managerial elites—encouraged it instinctively from a combined sense of their personal and group interests and their unquestioned faith in their self-serving ideology.
The past is dead, hence Francis's opinion that any new Right will not be a rehash of the past--sorry Trads--but will rather be a new formulation, while different, will maintain a continuity with the old. Still the important term here is "self-serving" ideology, something I will get back to in the next post.

Burnham was a student of power and wanted to understand who, what and how to wield it. Burnham's analysis led him to the conclusion that power in modern society was situated in the "managerial" class, which acted for its own interests by co-opting the lower classes[Ed: and Minorities] to squeeze the middle class which it saw as its greatest threat.  Particularly, it's bourgeois elements. It's interesting here to see that the problem is not just the elites but the proletariat as well. Francis recognised that the continual exploitation of the "bourgeois middle" would eventually radicalise it and motivate it to action.

Using Burnham's analytic method Francis felt that the best approach to attack the managerial state was for Conservatives not to "reach out to minorities", whom he felt would never bite, but to position themselves as representing the interests of the bourgeois middle. The failure to that would would leave a vacuum which would be exploited by a strong man who would.

Goodbye GOP. Welcome Donald Trump.

*(For those who have difficulties understanding, I'm not saying capitalism is wrong, rather that it has both positive and negative dimensions which cannot be seen by a simple balance sheet analysis.)