Society is Companionship

The modern notion that monarchy is inherently tyrannical and exploitative is an artifact of a fundamentally deficient concept of human society. That concept – the modern concept – treats society as basically loveless, a collation of antagonists engaged in a zero sum game; so it eventually finds, as we have lately seen it do, that all human relations are more or less exploitative – the wife and husband of each other, the mother and father of the child, and so forth. Such is the conclusion of the latter day apotheosis of modernist dialectical materialism in postmodernism: all human relations are about power, and nothing else.

Notice that this doctrine is self-fulfilling. If on the basis of the conviction that human relations are all essentially exploitative you then proceed to exploit your fellows, you are likely sooner or later to discover that they have all reciprocated.

Postmodern social theory boils down then to an assertion that, as composed of mutually inimical agents bound only to exploit each other as much as possible, society is essentially sociopathic. And behaving as if this were so leads to actual sociopathy.

But this is an absurd result. It is to empty the concept of society of all its society – which is to say, literally, of fellowship, of companionship, of love. It is to mistake the basic defect of society – some failure to love – as essential thereto. The reality, of course, is that you can’t obtain a failure to love in the first place, except and unless there be first a prevalence of love, from which one might then fall, or fail.

It is not enmity that is the basis of society, but love. What sane man, after all, *wants* to fight, or *wants* to injure his fellows? Do we not all rather hunger after fellowship? Would not all sane men rather benefit each other, than injure each other?

So monarchy is not inherently exploitative. It is, on the contrary, and like all human relationships, fundamentally loving, and only defectively exploitative. Society is affectionate first, or it is not society to begin with. Only derivatively can it be exploitative, abusive, evil. Hobbes was wrong: the State of Nature is not war, but friendship.

It goes deeper. Society is not just loving, it is loyal, and feudal – manifesting fealty, féodalité, fidelity, fidelitas, homage sworn by a vassal to his overlord:

socius “companion, ally,” probably originally “follower,” from PIE *sokw-yo-, suffixed form of root *sekw- (1) “to follow,” and thus related to sequi “to follow” (see sequel). Compare Old English secg, Old Norse seggr “companion,” which seem to have been formed on the same notion).

Society is how we keep faith with each other; and since always some men are by nature or effort more virtuous than others, more noble than their brothers and friends, so féodalité gives rise naturally and organically to loyalty between lords and their followers, their companions. So far then is the royal relation from essentially exploitative, that it is almost the archetype, sign and synecdoche of the shared bread that binds men together in companies.

48 thoughts on “Society is Companionship

  1. Well said, Kristor!

    You said “since always some men are by nature or effort more virtuous than others, more noble than their brothers and friends, so féodalité gives rise naturally and organically to loyalty between lords and their followers, their companions.”

    We see a desiccated form of this in the fans of athletes or entertainers. They recognize virtue (of a sort) in the object of their reverence, and consequently swear loyalty (so to speak) to their better.

    • Thanks, Alan.

      Where men are forbidden to honour a king, they honour millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

      – C. S. Lewis

      Recall how you and I became shieldmates and friends: through our common loyalty to a noble man, Laurence Auster. Viva vile sycophancy!

    • North Korea is a radically defective monarchy.

      We don’t delete the office of fatherhood because there are some bad fathers out there. We don’t prevent families as such because many of them are toxic. Ditto then for monarchy.

      • Some good indicatjons is that for now. They are forced to concede some liberties in order to maintain their regime like the free market jangmangdang. If its anyone that needs prayer its the Kim Dynasty as well as the people.

      • “We don’t delete the office of fatherhood because there are some bad fathers out there.”

        The Left would like to delete anything remotely resembling proper fatherhood.

        “We don’t prevent families as such because many of them are toxic.”

        The Left thinks traditional families are toxic, and thus attempts to delete them by way of redefining and remaking families according to their definiton of what a family should be.

        “Ditto then for monarchy.”

        Again, the Left.

      • Correct. It is a natural reaction among those who understand authority per se as unjust. We can’t really blame them for it. Well, no, we can. But just think: how horrible must it be to think of all your familiar relations as fundamentally wicked? How, believing such a thing, could you avoid hating yourself, as being throughout a product of, and indelibly corrupted by, an unjust archy? If you hate your ancestors, you hate yourself. How then to avoid falling somehow into the self-annihilation Thordaddy rightly decries – particularly so as to frustrate any reproduction of the perverted social order that produced you?

        To hate authority is to hate society; it is to hate reality, to hate GNON, who lords it over us implacably. It is to enact the Gnostic rebellion of Lucifer and all his vassals, against the True, the Beautiful, the Good, the Real. There’s a certain horrible purity and courage to the project.

      • Who exactly are you referring to when you say “the left”? I get the impression many people here would apply that label on me but I do not dismiss fatherhood or categorically reject monarchy.

      • If you don’t categorically reject monarchy, you are categorically *not leftist.*

        What’s more, you are categorically not liberal.

        Congratulations!

        Leftists are liberals who believe in the propriety of expropriation of property by the state, in some way, and for a number of purposes; and who reject any authority but that of the People (howsoever they construe the People); who therefore also would mush together all peoples in one indiscriminate mass.

      • Kristor, exactly! I’ve tried before to imagine the hell such people must go through, but at the end of the day I simply can’t.

      • Yet, the very game of “what is liberalism” to which scrooge so subtly keeps his “racist” protagonist gainfully engaged in is just more of the Babel.

        “We” KNOW from materialist precepts that “liberalism” CANNOT possess a spiritual or intellectual origin. Ergo, “liberalism” must originate as a physical act (per inverted reality, actuality before Logos). So all the spiritual and intellectual creation myths for “liberalism” are a fraud mostly perpetrated by the “intellectual right.”

        “Liberalism” originates in the homo-sexual act… The transgressive act of self-annihilation where:

        Homo=same=exact same (per equality)= Self.

        No more creation myths for “Liberalism.”

      • “Leftists are liberals who believe in the propriety of expropriation of property by the state, in some way, and for a number of purposes; and who reject any authority but that of the People (howsoever they construe the People); who therefore also would mush together all peoples in one indiscriminate mass.”

        Winston, that’s actually a pretty good working definition that many of us who comment here embrace. I don’t think of you as a leftist, btw; I think of you more as someone on the fence on certain left/right issues, so to speak, who is also trying to figure out which side to get off on.

        Kristor, concerning your parenthetical qualification in the above quotation – I remember like it was yesterday the very first time it occured to me that something was amiss with the Declaration’s assertion that the only legitimate government was that which derives its powers from the “consent of the governed.” This was two or three years before I even discovered VFR. I was arguing with a libertarian about the exercise of authority and he kept hitting me with the phrase. Finally I got frustrated and asked, “who exactly do you think are ‘the governed’?” Ha, ha.

        This was one of those defining moments that we all talk about from time to time when reality hits us square in the face; at which point we either begin to wake up, or go into a deeper coma.

      • That “consent of the governed” phrase was a scandal for me, too, long ago. I thought: “OK: but that’s not really saying anything, because if the governed don’t consent to their government, it isn’t a government in the first place; so, all government whatsoever has the consent of the governed.” If everyone wakes up one day and decides that the king is no longer the king, well then, by God, he is no longer the king, and that is that. So for any political authority whatever.

        The “consent of the governed” found its way into the Declaration precisely because, and only because, the underwriters thereof had awakened one day to find that in their hearts, for whatever reason, they no longer found that George III or his Parliament had their authoritative government. Men don’t notice their consent as such, who have not at all questioned it, but rather given it wholeheartedly; they treat it rather as it were a sort of simple filial piety, a due recognition of the natural and correct state of things – until they find they cannot. George had lost their fealty. His moral authority was for them simply gone. So then was his power to govern them; instead, all was between the Founders, and their Divine Governor; so that they felt good, strong, correct in pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their “sacred honor” to the cause of Revolution. They were ready to welcome the noose, rather than truckle to what they could not but see as a false and therefore unjust authority.

        It’s just like what is happening now with the collapse of PC. Prompted by the alt-right and Donald Trump, people are just shrugging off its authority. It is now simply inapposite to things. This is the reason for the panic so evident on the Left: their cudgel is now more and more revealed to be a wet noodle. They have lost the Mandate of Heaven.
        Consent of the governed, then, makes no argument for or against any particular form of government, or for any officer thereof. Something more is needed, to specify what it is, exactly, in which authority consists that is compelling to people, so that they accept it as legitimately authoritative and compelling, and accept its government.

        I have found only one candidate for such a factor of true authority: virtue. Everyone wants to have it, and to be seen to have it (this is the reason for virtue signaling, and for ostentatious Pharisaism). Only a few actually have it. Most such men are private. Their virtue is known only to their friends and family (for virtue is ever humble, and underweening). They are not public figures; so they never come to the attention of political discourse. Indeed, they avoid it.

        The central problem of politics then is to devise a reliable way to discover humble, private men of virtue, and to put and keep them in charge without ruining their humility.

  2. Pingback: Society is Companionship | Reaction Times

  3. Kind of confused, as usual.

    The idea that people are primarily self-interested agents has nothing to do with postmodernism, it՚s an artifact of evolutionary theory and 18th century utilitarianism. It՚s a valid concept, although often stupidly applied.

    “composed of mutually inimical agents” – not at all sure where that comes from, because being self-interested is not the same thing at all as opposing the interests of others.

    Maybe you are thinking of Marxism (again, not much to do with postmodernism) which does of course take class interest and antagonism as fundamental.

    It՚s safe to assume you aren՚t a fan of Marx, but in fact he makes much the same diagnosis as you do, except instead of blaming postmodernism for the decay of social relationships, he has a much more plausible explanation:

    The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.

    Marxism obviously turned out to be a really poor solution to the problems it diagnosed, although puerile nostaliga for an imaginary feudal paradise doesn՚t seem much better.

    Mammon is the true ruler of this world and the enemy of all that gauzy fellowship you long for, but my guess is you aren’t willing to battle against it — it’s a risky and probably hopeless effort. Better to rail against postmodernism, nobody really cares about that.

    • A.morphous, good to hear from you. Thanks for your perspective.

      I don’t actually disagree with Marx about the destruction of the old feudal and familiar relations, except in that I don’t lay the blame at the foot of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie were in my view only doing their best to cope with their circumstances. I lay the blame much further back. Philip the Fair did what he could to destroy all those relations, too; so did Henry VIII.

      I think you are wrong about Mammon, too. It is not Mammon who is the root of all evil, but the love of him.

      Marxism and postmodernism and corporate capitalism are all late phases of a long process of depravation of Western society. We may never recover from it. I am not in any case so much nostalgic for some imaginary feudal paradise as trying to understand from first principles, from history, from science, and from my own lived experience what a rightly ordered society would be like. My hunch is that it would be the sort of society that almost everyone would like to live in, regardless of their present ideological persuasions – that it would satisfy the dearest desiderata of all the various ideologies, each of which I take to be reaching for essentially the same thing: justice under heaven.

  4. Doesn’t the racism intrinsic to the alt-right movement and the red state / blue state political divide demonstrate a belief that society (at least American society) is a zero sum and exploitative game?

    • No. Why would it?

      Profitable trade can occur across the borders that separate different peoples, and between people of different sorts. So long as exchanges are not coerced, they are positive sum by definition.

      • There is a presumption that people of different races cannot coexist together peacefully. I assume this presumption is based on the belief that love and affection cannot exist between different races.

        And this profitable trade you referenced requires a level of mutual respect and toleration of the other. This is not a quality I associate with the Alt-Right.

      • The presumption you notice is the very misconception I question in the OP. Disparate peoples can be at peace with each other just as disparate people can be at peace with each other. The default mode – the state of nature or reference state, the strange attractor and final end of all social homeostases – is, not war, but peace.

        This possibility is however foreclosed when disparate people or peoples would occupy the same territory. As you and I could not try to take the same seat on a plane without coming into some sort of conflict, so nor could two disparate peoples try to take the same site on a plain without conflict. Good fences make good neighbors. And good neighbors can trade in amity and peace, to their joint benefit.

        I would add that I don’t see racism as intrinsic to the alt-right. Race realism, yes; and such realism incorporates realism about the antagonism other races seem to have for the white race (and for each other). Racism, not so much. Analogously, the alt-right is sex-realist; but it is not misogynist. It is patriarchal; but it is not for the oppression of women. And so forth.

      • “This possibility is however foreclosed when disparate people or peoples would occupy the same territory. As you and I could not try to take the same seat on a plane without coming into some sort of conflict, so nor could two disparate peoples try to take the same site on a plain without conflict. Good fences make good neighbors. And good neighbors can trade in amity and peace, to their joint benefit.”

        Quite. This applies as well at the level of the family and marriage. Indeed, the failure to establish proper boundaries and a hierarchical order is a huge source of conflict and dysfunction in modern American families. As I’ve personally pointed out many, many times.

        “I would add that I don’t see racism as intrinsic to the alt-right. Race realism, yes; and such realism incorporates realism about the antagonism other races seem to have for the white race (and for each other). Racism, not so much. Analogously, the alt-right is sex-realist; but it is not misogynist. It is patriarchal; but it is not for the oppression of women. And so forth.”

        While I absolutely agree with the above distinctions, I also find it mildly humorous that one of the projects of the left is to eliminate the possibility of making such distinctions by effectively making these terms synonymous with one another. Hence, “racism” *equals* race-realism, “patriarchy” *just is* oppression of women, and so on.

      • The confusion of terms is a direct effect of the muddling of thought – especially moral thought – that has been one of the main stratagems of Old Scratch since the get go. It takes a muddled mind to think it makes any sense to start work on Babel.

    • scrooge…

      Your concept of “race” possesses no coherent connection to your concept of “racism.”

      It would be like having a concept of “bird” as wing and feather and then a concept of “birdism” as feathery wings must be superior to insect wings because they are feathery and not tentacled.

      Ideological junk.

      • scrooge…

        You’ve been protesting all over this blog attesting to your inability to understand anything I write. And now with a convulsion of equalitis, you accuse me of putting forth logical ideas as junky as yours.

        Your race = Your father

        Racism = immersion into the father(s)

        Who’s junk now?

      • Winston, Thordaddy: please stop. Your private controversy is boring. Proceed with it elsewhere. Further comments of this sort will not make it through moderation.

      • Very uncharitable, Kristor, especially in light of debating the definition of “liberalism” for at least a good decade (still unsettled) YET possesssing a “rock solid” definition of “racism” that in no way coheres to YOUR concept of race.

        It’s crazy.

      • Nonsense. We’ve been extremely charitable in posting your comments (your comments appear here more than those of any other writer, including all the contributors), and especially the last few comments from both you and Winston, in which you have both descended to the level of “LOL.” You want to snipe at each other, take it outside. You want to discourse like civilized men, then write good English, and refrain from insulting your interlocutors. It’s just politeness, Thordaddy. You are a guest here. Act like it.

        Among other things, polite guests don’t talk gibberish. They speak the tongue of their hosts, as best they can.

      • And I’m actually on topic and taking issue with scrooge’s babbling concept of “racism” and how it is supposedly “intrinsic” to the alt-rite.

        No…

        Anti-racism is instrinsic to the alt-rite IF YOU UNDERSTAND that your race is your father?

        Are you at least going take issue with the above so as to ensure that your corrupted concept of “racism” may make sense?

      • I can’t take issue with what you say, or agree with it either, until you write it out in normal English so that it is intelligible. Winston is right about one thing: I almost never have much idea what you are talking about. The comment to which I here reply is no exception. I can’t even see how to rewrite it so that it makes sense.

      • Kristor…

        Who or what is YOUR race?

        What is racism?

        Now tell me how you make sense out of your answers IF NOT for liberal ideology?

      • Who or what is YOUR race?

        It makes no sense to ask who my race is. Do you see how you are abusing English by misusing pronouns in this way? Do you see how such abuse of English makes your prose incoherent, ergo unintelligible?

        I am Swedish, mostly, with an admixture of Norman and of Angle. So, basically a Viking.

        What is racism?

        OED: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

        Now tell me how you make sense out of your answers IF NOT for liberal ideology?

        The intelligibility of the answers has nothing to do with liberalism.

      • Let’s try this then, Kristor?

        YOUR race is your father.

        Now explain how “racism” can provoke ideas of inferiority and superiority between fathers?

  5. I don’t get it- all of this race talk. Christian doctrine tells us that Christ saves all of mankind, all of creation actually. To my lights, the only way to legitimately bring race into the equation is via the concept of the spiritual races, a la Perennialist doctrine. But, if one takes on that position, then I am inclined to say that one is committed to taking on the other Perennialist views, like the transcendent unity of religions.

    • There is indeed a transcendent unity of religions in the Christian revelation, which subsumes, purifies, corrects and completes all things – including all religion. So likewise with races. But that Norse and Greek mythology both refer to and are caught up and perfected in the truths of Christianity does not mean that the Norse mythos *just is* the Greek mythos, nor does it mean that there are no important differences between them. So likewise the Norse are different from the Greeks, even though both are branches of the same tree. It would be a mistake for the Norse and the Greeks to deal with each other as if they were exactly the same, for they are not exactly the same.

      That the Norse and Greeks differ, NB, does not prevent their friendship. Indeed, they could not be friends if they were not disparate to begin with. NB also that the default state of relations among disparaties is friendship. War is exceptional.

  6. “the modern concept – treats society as basically loveless, a collation of antagonists engaged in a zero sum game; so it eventually finds, as we have lately seen it do, that all human relations are more or less exploitative”

    “a war of all against all” – Thomas Hobbes
    “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” – Karl Marx

    • Yeah, Hobbes and Marx were both materialists. Because materialism rejects final and formal causation, it has a hard time understanding history as anything more than a bunch of mindless amoral collisions. In other words, it has a hard time understanding history, period full stop.

      History is indeed a tissue of struggle, to be sure. But it is not nothing but struggle; nor is it basically or essentially struggle. Struggle is a defect of political order. That defects are legion does not mean that there is no Good in the first place, from which things might then defect. If history were nothing but struggle, we would not apprehend struggle as evil. It would not seem defective, or bad, or painful. It would feel normal to us, like the water feels to the fish. We would not avoid it; we would not understand that it ought to be avoided, and in its absence we would feel something like the terror of a drowning man. We would then have felt no need to cobble together a Social Contract, as under Hobbes’ theory, so as to avoid conflict. That would have seemed to us like an insane idea.

      But not so! On the contrary, violence and the threat of violence fill us with horrible terror – of all our problems with each other, they are the absolute worst – whereas their absence strikes us as the absence of really serious problems. That our agreements with each other feel ideal tells us that agreement is the norm.

      We are, after all, and above all, the linguistic animal. What is language, but a procedure for bringing minds to coordinate agreement under a common conception of things by an exchange of information gleaned from differing perspectives? As language is basic to man, so then is the final end of language in the coordination of mental acts.

      The Fall did indeed ruin us, so that war and crime and punishment and scapegoating are endemic among us. But it did not ruin us altogether, or we would not still be here. Conflict in all its forms, indeed, has everywhere sooner or later been hijacked to support more basic and stable agreement.

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