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Politicized Science vs. Scientific Politics

Posted By Alex Kurtagić On December 17, 2012 @ 2:51 am In North American New Right | Comments Disabled

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Gabriel von Max, “The Vivisectionist,” 1883, detail

2,731 words

It may seem ironic for those who are said to have “far Right views,” but perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in the struggle for the West is the far Right’s obsession with the scientific understanding of human races. It is not so much that scientific knowledge about race is irrelevant to our political purpose (which is the struggle for the West), but, rather, that this science is thought to possess a political utility it does not and will never have.

As I have stated before, unless he is already temperamentally predisposed towards elitism, the man in the street in the 21st century will never be induced to alter his views on race by dint of scientific data alone, because that data will be interpreted always in relation to extra-factual social considerations that, in the West, hinge on the dominance of egalitarian liberal morality.

This is not to say, however, that the science of race has no place in the struggle for the West, because it does. This is to say that the scientific conceits of those who are involved in that struggle are in need of a reassessment or repositioning. In this essay I will examine the relationship of the far Right with the science of race and its use as a campaigning tool.

The Liberal Penumbra

Liberalism was the first of the egalitarian ideologies of modernity. It gained its political ascendancy in the 18th century, most memorably in France, but, before it, in the United States, which went on to become the leading global exponent of political liberalism. (France, nevertheless, defined the modern political terminology, based on the seating arrangements of the National Assembly, where those who sat on the Right represented the ancien régime, and those on the Left the supporters of the Revolution.) Marxism, the second egalitarian ideology, which emerged during the industrial revolution, criticized liberalism for not delivering on its promise of equality.

In political terms, these two ideologies were criticized during the 20th century by fascism (with an uncapitalized “f”), which found its best-known expressions in Italy under Mussolini and in German National Socialism. Metapolitically, however, liberalism, and then Marxism, had been under attack from the Right since the 19th century, which saw the crystallization of a modern anti-egalitarian intellectual tradition.

Today’s far Right is the political heir to this tradition—though, it has to be said, for all its elitist pretensions, its approach has been largely populist. Despite a unifyingly hierarchical worldview (one that essentially puts a premium of quality rather than equality), the far Right’s conceptions of race are divided, notably along Anglophone and North Atlantic lines. In Europe, particularly in the continent, race is wrapped up with culture and at times with a certain mysticism. In America, race is conceived much more concretely, in almost purely biological terms.

Indeed, there is a tendency towards biological reductionism within the American far Right that is unusual in Europe, even though the science of race is also studied there. For the American far Right dissident, race is an empirical problem: it is about facts and evidence, it is a problem that is to be understood numerically, and which requires a quantitative solution. It reflects an extreme, pragmatic outlook, the origins of which may lie generally in the English temperament, and intellectually in the British Empiricists, who developed out of the scientific revolution that began during the Renaissance. There are exceptions, of course, and one is Francis Parker Yockey, whose views on race had been influenced by continental European philosophy.

There are historical reasons for the North Atlantic divide. The most obvious ones have to do with how North America was settled, and by whom. What later became the United States was initially a series of British colonies populated by Englishmen, some of whom decided to import into the new territories West African slaves not intended for citizenship or assimilation. Subsequent immigrant waves from Europe then progressively diluted the specifically English identity in favor of a generic Whiteness, which, since it was determined by ancestry, was necessarily biological.

A less obvious reason, but no less important, has to do with the period of intellectual European history when the United States came into being. The Founding Fathers were Classical Liberals. Thomas Jefferson was influenced by John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Francis Bacon, the latter two key figures in the scientific revolution; Benjamin Franklin, whose work in the then incipient field of population studies later influenced Adam Smith and the utilitarian Thomas Malthus, who in turn influenced Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace; George Washington and Samuel Adams were enthusiastic about Thomas Paine, who lived in France during the 1790s, was actively involved in the French Revolution, and wrote an apology for it—the Rights of Man. Along with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, these men were all firm believers in republicanism.

Accordingly, the founding documents bear the influence of John Locke, extending Thomas Hobbes’ contract theory—indeed, the United States Declaration of Independence follows closely John Locke’s phraseology; Montesquieu, another Enlightenment figure, who argued for the separation of powers, though he is controversial; Sir William Blackstone, a jurist of the British Enlightenment, author of the Commentaries of the Laws of England; and Edward Coke, another jurist, who extended the protections of the Magna Carta to all subjects, rather than just the aristocracy.

In sum, while we may argue that there is in American culture a deeply-buried alternative strand, which is archaic, deeply religious, and quasi-barbarian; which goes back to the colonial period and was extended by the pioneers, adventurers, and frontiersmen of the Old West; which existed prior or beyond the reach of established liberal philosophy; and which was subsequently recuperated to end up in the fiction of Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft among others—while we can say all of the above, we can also say without question that the United States is a liberal or Enlightenment project, and the interaction of egalitarian liberal morality with multi-ethnic Whiteness and a very unequal multiracial society created a deep preoccupation with race.

In addition, part of the North American project involved the recreation of an English, and later a North European, society, without the burdens of European history. The North American continent was, as is often the case with settler colonialism, seen as an empty landscape (the various Indian nations residing in it were mentally and then physically “disappeared”), to be inscribed by settlers according to their visions and/or ambitions. North America was, in essence, a construction site, physically and metaphysically, and this attracted a particular type of immigrant—a man of action, with daydreams of a very material character—who, in turn, then faced immediate practical problems. The pragmatic, theory-averse temperament of the British was distilled, in this way, into a purified concentrate, which defined a type of extremism in the American character.

It is interesting to note that many of the prominent names associated with the scientific study of race and its improvement have been English, beginning with Charles Darwin and his cousin Sir Francis Galton, through Mary Scharlieb, Elizabeth Sloan Chesser, Stella Brown, and Alice Ravenhill, through to present-day proponents Richard Lynn and the late J. Philippe Rushton. It is also interesting to note that this field found its most fertile soil in the United States: Charles Davenport, Henry H. Goddard, Madison Grant, David Starr Jordan, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Fairfield Osborn, Seth Humphrey, Paul Popenoe, Samuel George Morton, William Z. Ripley, Margaret Sanger, and Lothrop Stoddard come to mind—a tradition that touched both ends of the political spectrum, and that continued to our day in an attenuated fashion with E. O. Wilson and the late Arthur Jensen.

Indeed, the American eugenics movement received institutional support and funding (the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, which later funded Theodor Adorno), influenced government policy (e.g., the Immigration Act of 1924, signed by then U.S. President Calvin Coolidge), and enjoyed support from household names like John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of Corn Flakes. Moreover, the principal disseminators of this body of work in recent times have nearly all been American. This type of material is, meanwhile, deeply underground in Britain, where it enjoys a much lower level of receptivity. Of course, the legal guarantees of freedom of speech are greater in America than in Britain, and greater in Britain than in continental Europe, reflecting how pre-existing tendencies have been exacerbated by legislation.

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The Death of Classical Liberalism

In previous essays [3] I discussed the nature of modern liberalism, so I will not again go over it here. Suffice it to say that while liberalism eventually defeated its Marxist critics, it also absorbed the criticism. This is why, in a way, the defeat of Marxism did not matter in the end, because by 1989 the process of absorption had been largely accomplished, and Western liberalism had by that time diverged significantly from its classical formulation.

The Politicization of Science

Marxist critics of classical liberalism have for decades attempted to demonstrate the various ways in which, in their opinion, Western science is ideologically biased. All of the scientists named above comprise what Marxists refer to as “scientific racism,” a term that has been adopted by modern liberals. In so doing, they have politicized the science they complained had been politicized by “White supremacism.” To be fair, their complaint was not without foundation, because the scientific study of the races of man was meant not only to satisfy intellectual curiosity but also used to maintain inter-racial power relations and influence government policy. Jordan deployed eugenic arguments to campaign against war; Grant and Stoddard to campaign against immigration; Sanger to campaign for birth control.

Since the 1930s a reverse politicization has taken place: science remains politicized  but now it is the view of the Marxist critique that dominates. The “White supremacist” view has not gone away, however. It survives in the outer fringes of the opposition, so far from the mainstream it is almost impossible to see it unless it is dragged into the limelight for purposes of demonization (which is a form of Leftist self-confirmation).

For the reasons outlined in previous sections, the far Right in the United States has tended to confuse politicized science with scientific politics. In other words, they believe that defeating the Marxist view is a matter of disproving it scientifically. Hence, we see an endless stream of race-related statistics and IQ studies interlacing attacks on modern liberalism and Marxism, their tendentious interpretations of scientific evidence, and their egalitarian pseudoscience.

The cause of the problem is the adoption of a modern liberal mindset by the Right, where this mindset has taken root via the intersection with libertarianism. Having “liberated” man from religion and mysticism, the world is for liberalism entirely material. In turn, Marxism, which radicalized this view and shares liberalism’s roots in the scientific revolution, continental rationalism, and British Empiricism, cast itself from the beginning as “scientific.” (Capital is written in a prose that has obvious scientific affectations, a style that at the time had the added benefit of helping with the censors.)

The effort to disprove the egalitarians’ bad science with good science assumes a conception of man as a rational actor, able to reach correct conclusions from empirical data by rational means. It also assumes that political victory is a matter of competing effectively in the marketplace of ideas and persuading enough people—with “hard facts”—that the science of race is correct, for then the egalitarian liberals would be discredited, giving way to their opponents. Egalitarian liberal morality is dismissed as merely “ideology,” which, it is assumed, can be refuted with facts, when the truth is that a morality can never be refuted, only discredited. In sum, these far Right activists adopt a liberal methodology and a liberal conception of man and the world, thereby operating in enemy territory, where they play a game invented by the enemy. No wonder they are not more successful!

Scientific Politics

None of the above means that the science of race is irrelevant, or that there is no place for science in politics. On the contrary, both are important. Their place and application, however, are different to those assigned to them by many supporters of, and campaigners on, the far Right. A fundamental confusion among many of them is one between policy and campaigning: believing that effective policy is made up of objective knowledge, they also believe that objective knowledge makes up effective campaigning. In this they are wrong.

Knowledge is always assessed against prevailing morality, and therefore accepted or rejected on the basis of whether the conclusions that stem from that knowledge are “right” or “wrong” morally. This is clearly seen in attitudes towards eugenics. Eugenics presupposes that humans are of unequal value, so liberal/Left morality classes it as “wrong,” which fuels efforts to deny its scientific status; indeed, eugenics is often referred to by liberals and Marxists as a “pseudoscience.” If the science is ever looked at seriously, it is only for the purposes of debunking it. In fact, debunking it is of such moral importance, that the truth of the facts does not matter at all.

Effective campaigning—essentially marketing—relies mostly on the extra-factual considerations and processes involved in human motivation. Any factual information used in campaigns tends to be simple, short, and often trivial.

This is not to say that campaigning is unscientific. In areas where success or failure depends on campaigning, such as commerce and democratic politics, a thorough scientific understanding human psychology, motivation, and social norms is essential. Perhaps because they see man in purely material terms, which means in purely biological terms, the advantages of studying the human animal qua animal was well understood by the liberals and their critics on the Left. Even Freudo-Marxists in the business of churning out fraudulent pseudoscience, such as The Authoritarian Personality, focused not on convincing people that their facts were right (for them this was a given), but on human psychology.

In the case of the Frankfurt School, it was in order to short-circuit what they saw as the “fascist” instincts of the Western mind. Later forms of Leftism, growing out of (and partially rejecting) Marxism, such as the early Jean Baudrillard in The System of Objects, The Consumer Culture, and The Political Economy of the Sign, worked one level up, where social psychology interacts with culture and ideology, in order to understand the psychological basis of capitalism and find a way to short-circuit the capitalist system (and, somewhat implicitly, the inequalities that arise in it). If they politicized science, this was a by-product—albeit an intended one—of their involvement in a form of scientific politics, by which I mean approaching the game of power and authority in social relations with a scientific methodology.

The political role of the science of race is not, therefore, the persuasion of the neophyte, but the confirmation of the inveterate and the reassurance of the sympathizer  Beyond that it offers the basis for a future development in the science of man, its future interpretation, and its future translation into policy, all of which are contingent on a paradigm-shift in moral philosophy and are therefore the elements of only one possible scenario in the struggle for the West. Whether that scenario becomes a reality will dependent on the time frame and direction of the shift, which is entirely up to what disestablishmentarian movements are able accomplish inside their window of opportunity.

Conclusion

The struggle for the West comprises multiple theaters of war, ranging from raw demography to abstract theory. Science is one of them. That the far Right’s strategy in this theater relies on liberal assumptions about man is ironic, but perhaps understandable given that the biological conception and study of race emerged in a thoroughly liberal context. The result has been a confusion between politicized science and scientific politics.

The far Right in the Westernmost part of our hemisphere has focused on attacking the scientific vices of modern egalitarian liberalism (i.e., the politicization of science), while failing to emulate successful practices (i.e., scientific politics). As usual, the focus has been on attacking effects rather than causes. Any movement seeking to defeat liberalism in the West would need to unthink all liberal assumptions first, understand thoroughly how and why this is to be done, and be able to articulate why doing so is morally right in a manner that makes those listening feel good and righteous about paying attention.

 


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[3] previous essays: http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/09/unthinking-liberalism/

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