Reaction at First Things

An essay by Nathan Pinkowski at First Things analyzes the resurgence in France of traditionalist Reaction, personified by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. It gives more, and more explicit, evidence that the formerly exhaustive hegemony over the categories of latter day political discourse of the spectrum from Left liberal to Right liberal has begun to tilt. The appearance of the essay in First Things – a bastion of Right liberalism – would seem to indicate that the classical liberalism of the religious Right by whom and to whom First Things is written has begun to undergo – not to suffer, so much as to enjoy – the radical shift of orientation that arrives with the realization that there is an altogether different axis of political categories, that is orthogonal to the spectrum from communism on the left to libertarianism on the right, prior thereto, and superior.

Pinkowski begins by saying that, “Since the 1980s, the French Left and Right have formed a front républicain or cordon sanitaire to keep the Front National (FN) out of power.” His conclusion is that with the rise of the reactionary Right – or as we would call it, the orthogonal Right – French politics has begun to enter a phase change, in which the rightward end of the classically liberal spectrum will begin to waken from its liberalism, so that the cordon sanitaire will instead quarantine the Left.

The article is well worth reading, not just on that account, but because it provides a succinct and informative précis of domestic French politics since the Revolution, focusing naturally on the decades since WWII. Highly recommended. A sample from the conclusion:

Rather than predict electoral success or failure, it is more important to acknowledge the emergence of a new political tradition. The once-conflicting strands of the French right are discovering intellectual and political unity through a critique of liberal individualism. For this reason, anti-Orléanism could realign French politics in a way not seen since de Gaulle.

De Gaulle’s achievement was to draw the more traditional cultural forces of the French right into the orbit of republicanism. He used the resources of Bonapartism to fix the errors of the Fourth Republic and build a lasting republican regime. But his alliance with Orléanism was a Cold War ­alliance of convenience to hold off more sinister forces. While Orléanism is to the right of communism and socialism, its conception of freedom makes it an ally of all attacks on traditional authority and culture. When French communism weakened and French socialism became bourgeois, this alliance ceased to make sense. In a way, what France has witnessed since 1989 is a return to 1789. As was evident then, Orléanism is ontologically left. It votes to execute the king.

The test for the French right is whether it has the virtue of prudence. Can it identify the problems of new decades and new circumstances that de Gaulle never addressed to create a new political alignment? While it must hold to de Gaulle’s republicanism, it must confront its real foes more directly than Gaullism ever did. Thus the sine qua non of the French right is a new cordon sanitaire. Curing the body politic of its ills requires quarantining liberal individualism and detoxifying France of May 1968.


28 thoughts on “Reaction at First Things

  1. Pingback: Reaction at First Things | @the_arv

  2. … or as we would call it, the orthogonal Right …

    I appreciate the pun very much. But maybe orthonormal right would be better still — opposed, naturally, to the heteroperverse wrong.

    • OK, yeah: lots of room here for creative neology. How about this: tradition, which since 1789 is Reactionary, is orthodextrous; classical liberalism – the libertarian right – is heterodextrous; and the Left is sinister.

      Or something. It’s risky to get me started on this sort of thing. I might be up all night with it.

    • As a physicist, orthonormal leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, it implicates the claim that the Throne and Altar Right is, as they say, normative; it is that by which we measure all other political movements.

      On the other hand, in making that claim it spreads the love to implicitly legitimize that against which we react.

      Of course, this is all just my immediate personal reaction, and perhaps says more about myself (and possibly the complete relativism of the philosophy of physics) than anything useful.

      • Rhetocrates:

        Keep in mind that I contrasted orthonormal to heteroperverse. I wasn’t punnily suggesting that the heteroperverse is on some axis orthogonal to normative reality, or lies along one axis of it contrasted to the orthodox axis. Quite the contrary. The distinction is (contra the punny Kristor with his invocation of orthodox orthospheric orthogonality) not the distinction between one orthogonal axis and another: it is between transcendentally good, true, and beautiful reality vs the unreal evil, false, and ugly “stuff” of incoherent nightmares.

      • Nevertheless the Transcendental Good, True, Beautiful and Real is indeed orthogonal to the secular horizon; likewise Tradition is indeed orthogonal to the spectrum of Left and Right that has almost completely predominated modern political discourse. That the axis of Tradition and the Transcendentals is orthogonal to that of Modernity does not at all mean that the latter is somehow dignified by its orthogony to the Good. On the contrary. What is anywise orthogonal to the Good is in some degree somehow evil, wicked, false.

        The pervasion throughout the West of the liberal Left Right categorical scheme has been so complete for so long that most moderns can’t parse events under any other. They think it basic, given. They think it the social axis mundi. But it’s not. Tradition is basic. The ladder to the Transcendentals and their primordial instance and source is the real World Tree. Modernity is a defect of Tradition; a vice of Tradition, that weakens and kills. It is a falling away from congruity with the Good.

        So much such falling has there been, that the accumulated detritus thereof appears to us as a solid landscape. So vast is that landscape to our eyes, that it tends to obscure the source that it has betrayed.

        This is all quite literally given in the aetymology of “orthogonal,” which literally means, “right angle.” “Ortho-“ is related both to “right,” and to “order.” The only right way to stand is upright, toward the Heaven of the Good. That is to stand at right angles to this world; in it, but not of it.

      • Is Hell orthogonal to Heaven? Evil orthogonal to Good? Falsity orthogonal to Truth?

        I tend to agree with Rhetocrates that this seems to grant too much. Falsity isn’t the same kind of thing as truth, merely pointed in a different (but equally true) direction.

      • If falsity is orthogonal to truth, then by definition it isn’t pointed in an equally true direction; it is pointed in a false direction. If you were pointing north, you would not be equally pointing north when you then turned and pointed west.

        I’m still not quite sure I understand the worry expressed by Rhetocrates. Saying that north is orthogonal to west does not somehow make the west north. It does not bestow the dignity or character of the north upon the west. On the contrary, it specifies the essential *difference* between north and west.

      • Saying that north is orthogonal to west does not somehow make the west north. It does not bestow the dignity or character of the north upon the west.

        But it does. North and west are both truly directions in reality: they are the same sort of thing, not essentially different kinds of things (or non-things). Saying that ugly is orthogonal to beauty grants them both the same sort of reality, merely difference in direction. In a Cartesian orthonormal basis the Z axis is the same kind of thing as the X axis: in fact you could arbitrarily change labels or even the kind of coordinate system without changing the reality, as long as isomorphism is maintained.

        Anyway, I certainly see the concern (while at the same time enjoying the pun).

      • Simpler version:

        Orthogonality is a relation between things of the same kind (as north is orthogonal to west). So to grant orthogonality to (say) good and evil is to grant that they are things of the same kind; which is granting too much.

      • Saying that ugly is orthogonal to beauty grants them both the same sort of reality, merely difference in direction.

        But ugliness and beauty *are* the same sort of thing: they are both aesthetic characters. Likewise, righteousness and wickedness are both moral characters. This does not mean that ugliness is a different sort of beauty, or that righteousness is a different sort of wickedness.

        Righteousness and wickedness are the same sort of thing in one respect – that they are both moral characters – and radically different sorts of things in another – that one is a defect of the other, and intended toward a completely different aim.

      • This is fun.

        The analogy with the cardinal directions is imperfect, and so not dispositive. Nevertheless if you were meant to head north and instead went west, your northing would be defective. Orthogony and defection are not mutually exclusive.

      • Orthonormal is confusing to me as well. Orthonormal vectors are mutually orthogonal and each have unit length. They get me thinking about noncoordinate bases and local Lorentz frames and stuff like that. Which means the phrase probably has similar effects on many others.

        “Orthogonal” is at least a geometric analogy whose meaning is clear. Economic poles are in a sense “orthogonal” to spiritual ones. On the other hand “Right” and “Left” have more often been associated with the latter.

      • Orthonormal is confusing to me as well.

        It is just a pun playing on the multiple senses of “normal”, as in orthodox-normal versus heterodox-perverse. As with all jokes/puns the more you analyze it the less funny it becomes.

        These geometric analogies are imperfect in any case, and therefore possibly grant too much in common between the contraries to which they are applied — which I took to be Rhetocrates’ point.

      • The basic problem with any mathematical analogy is that math is useful and based on truth.

        To that end, the only mathematical analogy that really fits is to call liberalism absurd.

        However, that word has already been in general usage divorced from its technical meaning for a long time now.

        (This is all a bunch of silly noodling, but fun to play with.)

  3. Pingback: Reaction at First Things | Reaction Times

  4. The historian John Lukacs used to say that he was an anti-anti-communist. He was no friend to communism, but he saw how, beginning in the 1950s, the Right was distorted by the preponderance of anti-communism. Among other things, the doctrine of anti-communism reduced the Right to a right-liberal defense of capitalism. In the U.S., this of course became neo-conservatism. There are still communists out there, but they are not the primary threat. It as if we were in A.D. 450, with the Huns pouring over the Rhine, and the Roman Senators were still warning that “Carthage must be destroyed!” The old Right is still worrying about Hannibal, while the new Right worries about Attila.

    • Indeed. The old Right is still worrying about Hannibal, even though Carthage has been destroyed; but then, it completely overlooks the fact that the religion of Carthage – which is to say, the worship of Moloch – has almost completely overtaken the temples of Rome. Carthage has won. The old Rome is on her last legs, because Romanitas is sick unto death. This is why Attila is now a threat.

    • Pretty much, with the exception that he thinks the ilk of Sarkozy are awaking to the spiritual vitiation and moral perversion of French culture by liberal individualism, and rediscovering traditionalism, so that they are eventually bound to flip toward Reaction.

  5. An acquaintance of mine was in Paris in January of this year. His most lasting impression from the trip came from a talk that he had with a cab driver, a naturalized Frenchman, in reality a Tunisian Muslim.
    While the man was driving him through Paris they started to chat.

    In one moment, completely out of the blue, the Tunisian says – The French shall disappear. My acquaintance asks how and why they shall disappear.

    The man responds – Well look around you. And then my acquaintance did. Virtually everybody on the streets was black. Hundreds and hundreds of people, no Arab or Berber looking faces. This was in the Quartier Pigalle, famous for the Moulin Rouge among other places.

    The Tunisian says maybe Italy shall escape the fate of France, but this is also highly questionable. Five to six thousand of Africans cross the border from Italy to France daily, he said. On the other hand, he continues, the French don’t marry, or if they do they don’t have children, or they choose to be homos. So what do you expect in the end? They have no choice but to disappear.

    A Serb who worked for many years in France, has connections in the French Army, says that currently 70% of the ground forces of the army are blacks and Arabs. Their percentages in the Navy and the Air Force are 50 % and 30% respectively. If I was a cynic I would add the French soccer team as another example of this long established reality.

    Notre Dame for your average Frenchman today is a monument, not a cathedral. They of course can say it’s a cathedral but the word is devoid of any deeper, spiritual meaning. Its basic value is purely aesthetic and lucrative. God knows what would happen to Notre Dame if it was not beautiful on the eye and bringing profit from the selfie talking tourists.

    Some years ago I have read in an article, I cannot find it know, that starting somewhere from the 1960’s up to the early 2000’s thousands of religious monuments, abbeys, churches were destroyed by successive French governments in order to make room for parking spaces, apartment blocks, shopping malls, you name it. And if the churches are not destroyed, they are being converted to anything from skate parks and restaurants to mosques. This is a phenomenon that goes beyond France.

    The whole point of my writing is that in my view with Marion Maréchal or without her, short of a miracle France and a large part of what was once Europe is completely doomed. Closer to reality I am afraid that without some sort of civil conflicts, even outright civil wars, that shall of course in essence have a religious dimension, and to some extent also a racial element, we in Europe are goners.

    • The Tunisian is correct. How can we expect a future if we make no effort to turn up? We are contracepting, aborting and sodomising ourselves out of our future. Hard to deny we have it coming.

      • I recently quoted Thomas Carlyle saying ““such a liberty . . . as the earth will not long put up with.” Infertility is foremost among those liberties. Nature hates sterility and does not put up with it.

      • As Richard Weaver said – Ideas have consequences. In view of this fact, we are going to the graveyard because of our completely and utterly insane ideas and beliefs about practically everything that is of value to a human being. And that is if we recognize any value or virtue at all.

  6. France will no longer exist as France in 50 years. With the growth of Africa’s population and the flood from there all European countries will look like South Africa by 2100. There might be bitter clashes with Arabs, Turks and Indians but they will all leave once Europe has been essentially looted and the African population becomes the majority. Can’t fight the tide of demographics without being very harsh against immigration. Being violently xenophobic helps also.

    • I think that France already doesn’t exist in any meaningful way. But I do think that there is hope for Europe, however slight that hope may be. After all, geographically, culturally and religiously Europe goes all the way to the Urals, and even beyond in a way.

      If somebody is putting a strong fight against the liberal progressive insanity it is the Russians. And this in my opinion is the real reason why Russia has been constantly attacked, slandered and denigrated in the Western main stream media, particularly in the UK and the US.

      Essentially the Russians and the West, or, more precisely, the insatiably power hungry part of the West are in a war. This is a spiritual, a metaphysical battle, a battle of different worldviews and ideas.
      Politics and the economy, Putin and Trump, the so called Russiagate and sports scandals; this is all secondary, if some of it is important at all.

      The Russians being a white people who not only don’t want to die, which is already preposterous, but are also trying very hard to grow in numbers.
      A people who don’t suffer and refuse to suffer from white guilt, from a collective masochism and an acute sense of self loathing and self hatred. A people that are, with some exceptions, proud of their heritage, their history, their ancestors, traditions and customs. I have heard even an atheist say publicly that he doesn’t believe, but culturally, he belongs to the Russian orthodox culture and is proud of it, is proud of his homeland and of his ancestors.

      From this point of view the liberal/progressive hatred and hysteria towards Russia and the Russian people is quite understandable. For them this is a nightmare. How dare those white barbarians! Not wanting to teach their children (of course wanting to have children in the first case, more white oppressors coming in to the world) about alternative sexual lifestyles, new concepts of the family and the like.

      In my view if this insanity in the West, continues for just a little bit more, Russia can very easily come to be viewed as some sort of a safe haven for white Christians, no matter the denomination they come from, perhaps even white people who are not believers, but only have some trace of sanity and common sense left in them.

      And there are already some signs of this.


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