Reactionaries often blame capitalism for eviscerating tradition and reducing everything to the lowest common denominator. But capitalism – i.e., free exchange – is not a recent phenomenon. It was not invented by the Franciscans, forsooth, but rather discovered by them as a subject amenable to moral, theological and philosophical analysis, and so to discourse, development and elaboration. Capitalism has been around since the beginning of human society. It is no more than a fancy word for exchange that develops surplus, after all; for mere trade, and commerce. For almost all of human history, capitalism supported and indeed mediated local tradition – or, at least, did not vitiate it.
The Reformation, and the Protestant emphasis on sola scriptura, and thus the last devolution of the High Medieval Synthesis, were creatures not of commerce per se, but of the printing press. Bibles in the vernacular could be counted upon to sell enough to make their production (very expensive, even in the days of movable type) economical. Few other books could. So it was mostly Bibles (and novels, the basic subject of which is illicit sex, which always sells) that were produced for the popular market, and read. These vernacular Bibles were read in isolation, rather than at Church and under the interpretive supervision of a trained cleric. The works of the Church Fathers and Doctors, the ecclesiastical histories and records of Ecumenical Councils, and so forth – which, had they too been available in the vernacular, could have provided readers of the vernacular Bible some context for the development of doctrine, of the ecclesiastical institutions, and of the Magisterium – were not nearly so widely disseminated (this is still the case). So lay readers only of the Bible were at a loss to understand the whole edifice of traditional orthodoxy, which while it was implicit in the NT, was nowhere in it explicitly spelled out.
So bit by bit, and with the noblest intentions, those lay readers deleted a thousand years of Church Tradition – and, with it, of cultural tradition; for, culture derives from cult.
For four centuries every man has been not only his own priest but his own professor of ethics, and the consequence is an anarchy which threatens even that minimum consensus of value necessary to the political state.
Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
The internet is engendering a similar revolution in the affairs of men. It is eating away at all the narratives that had bound us together as a people. Many of those narratives were false, and so their evisceration is not an altogether bad thing. In particular, the narrative of the marketplace of ideas, of every man a priest, of free speech and individual liberty, and of the deletion of natural authority – religious and cultural – and, in short, the Narrative of Modernity, of progress and the Whig take on history, are all narratives arising from the age of rebellion engendered by Gutenberg.
The internet is turning and rending the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The internet is rediscovering Tradition. It is rediscovering five millennia of history, and finding out why this and that hoary cultural custom make sense after all. It is figuring out why there are all these Chestertonian gates all over the landscape. So is it changing perspectives upon human life, and thus values. When you see things differently, under a different more expansive and accurate vision of history, why then you evaluate them differently. And when values change, so do utility functions. Then, the free exchange of goods and services ensures that the newly rediscovered traditional and truer values are served, the reformed and corrected utility functions those values engender meetly met.
The panicked effort by the mainstream media and the tech giants to control speech and so to protect the Narrative of Modernity are the death throes of that narrative. But the internet is such that their clumsy controls of speech are detected and bruited abroad and debunked almost the instant they are launched. Their last bastion is constituted of holes, by its very nature.
It cannot therefore long withstand the onslaught of the multitude of autists madly digging away at the entirety of the historical record now available online 24/7, and shouting to one another about what they have dug up. The cat is out of the bag. More and more people, who have found out about the ages that preceded it, are realizing that Modernity has failed, was doomed to fail from the get go, and that the only way to have a healthy, prosperous society over the long run is to return to the ancient traditions that made us in the first place who we are, and that furnished for the West the social and economic room which eventually enabled the promulgation of the liberal nominalist meme.
The new reactionary paradigm has not yet matured, has not yet crystallized. But it will. It cannot but do so. There will come a sea change, when all of a sudden it will explode into a preference cascade, and a new paradigm shall of a sudden become altogether more credible. Scales shall then fall from millions of eyes, almost overnight. This phase change seems perhaps to have begun already.
Then, as the acolytes of the old paradigm of the Narrative of Modernity see it slipping away into historical oblivion, then will there be war. It will be soft at first, and cold; already we may discern its early lineaments. But later, and maybe quite soon, it shall wax hard and hot. For, the clampdown on reactionary ideas of recent months on the internet is by no means the last most lethal arrow in the quiver of the priesthood of the Narrative of Modernity.
War – a war of personal and corporeal destruction, which is to say, of killing and demolition – is their last resort. And they have, really, no more than two resorts to begin with: propaganda and character assassination; or, failing that, murder. The moment they see that they have definitively lost the propaganda war, and that the narrative is slipping away from their control, they will move instantly to war hot and bloody: to mass arrests, gulags, and torture.
We are heading for a religious war. As with our last go round, we will conquer the Muslims as a sideshow to our own internecine squabble. Not that they will not resist. But as always since their civilization attained with the Ottomans the fulfillment of its febrile and intentionally ignorant telos, the Muslims will fold like a cheap tent, when push comes to shove.
As with our last go round, most of the casualties will be intramural.
But there is not much doubt who will win in the end. It is the side with more guns, more muscles, and more guts. It is the side with less fear, and greater capacity for lethal violence.
… the disappearance of the heroic ideal is always accompanied by the growth of commercialism. There is a cause-and-effect relationship here, for the man of commerce is by the nature of things a relativist; his mind is constantly on the fluctuating values of the marketplace …
Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
This unfairly – inaccurately, ergo unjustly – impugns commerce. Somebody had better be constantly engaged in attending to the changes in outward reality, by God, and mediating the adaptation of social action thereto. Such is the engagement of enterprise, per se.
And everyone does this, anyway, willy nilly, whether well or not. Everyone constantly attends to the fluctuating values of the marketplace, for these are nothing other than the fluctuating values of our social fellows. And everyone who engages in exchange engages in commerce.
Does his constant attention to the flux of things make the man of business a relativist? It’s an idiotic question. Of course it doesn’t. You can’t take stock of fluctuating values in the first place – can’t evaluate them, to see what to make of them – except by reference to some stock of values that do not change.
There is no such thing as a frameless reference.
Commerce seeks only to meet the demands arising from the values of the people whom it serves, as they express their relative evaluations of things in market prices.
It is when the heroic ideal is no longer valued that commerce no longer tries to sell to that value, and so ceases to serve it. Commerce is not to blame for the loss of that ideal, or for the loss of religion, or for the loss of tradition, any more than metabolism is to blame for the food it processes. The metabolism processes whatever we throw down our gullet. Likewise, commerce will sell us whatever it is we indicate that we want – this is why the merchants will indeed sell to Bolsheviks the rope that they need in order to hang all the merchants (funny how the Bolsheviks never twitted that once they had killed all the merchants (including the petty landholders), and ended all commerce, there’d be nothing for the Bolsheviks themselves to buy … no rope, and no bread). Commerce is not able or therefore responsible to teach us what we ought to want, any more than metabolism is responsible to tell us what we ought not to eat.
To learn what we ought to want and ought not, we must look away from the vaisya to the kshatriya and the brahmana. If we no longer rightly know what we ought or ought not to want, the fault must lie with them.
The loss of the heroic ideal is not accompanied by a growth of commerce, but by the rise of other less heroic ideals, which commerce then serves as it had served their predecessors. Commerce has indeed grown since the end of the High Middle Ages, but this is due rather to technological progress than to a loss of heroic ideals. Technology – the compass, the gin mill, the internal combustion engine, the light bulb, the computer, the internet – has made commerce much less expensive and risky, so there is more of it.
The problem then is not commerce, but the loss of heroic ideals.
And the loss of heroic ideals is due not to commerce, but to liberalism, which abhors authority per se – particularly the authority of God and his Church – and which therefore abhors true heroism, which in the nature of things confers authority. Liberalism hates true heroism – i.e., hates heroism in service of the Good (it loves the other kind).
Liberalism profanes culture, and so – culture being a derivative function of cult – decoheres it. It has infected and decohered commerce, just as it has done for religion and politics. And liberalism is due at bottom to nominalism, which is an erroneous, incoherent product of the brahmana, who by it effected their eventual defection from their proper cultural office. That’s the root of the problem: the apostasy and then the treason of the clerics.
Nominalism made every man a priest, and a moral philosopher. So every man defends his priesthood on nominalist grounds. Nominalism then makes every man a *nominalist* moral philosopher; with the result that social morality withers, and heroic ideals are replaced with base, profane, ignoble ideals, that then infect and weaken all men: military men, churchmen, and businessmen, alike.
It should be noted also by the way that, in its good health, commerce too is adorned with heroic ideals: of customer service, honesty, fair dealing, the fiduciary standard, and so forth. It is not uncommon in private enterprise for men to labor heroically so as to achieve some objective for the company, or for her customers – to take terrible risks, to labor around the clock, to work their asses off, and yes to sacrifice money and security for the sake of their commercial interlocutors, and, more abstractly, for their industry as a whole, and for their people.
Liberalism abhors these heroic ideals of commerce, too, and wants to tear down the prestige and authority of the business leader every bit as much as it wants to destroy military and ecclesial authority and prestige.
Weaver’s prejudice against commerce is not new. The kshatriya and brahmana have often looked down upon the vaisya with contempt. The vaisya have in such times returned the favor. And likewise the kshatriya and the brahmana have often deplored each other.
But this sort of mutual contempt among castes is a defect of proper society. Mutual resentment is not inherent in hierarchy of classes per se; so that the abolition of hierarchy is not a forecondition of social peace.
On the contrary. Resentment characterizes social disease. In a healthy hierarchy – i.e., in a healthy society – the castes regard each other with affection and respect. In a healthy society, no one resents anyone else on account of his station; for, in a healthy society, everyone understands the reasons for stations and vocations, and the consequent dignity thereof; so that respect for every station and vocation, and indeed admiration, is widespread, is normal. In a healthy hierarchy, castes *enjoy* one another, and are happy.
It is deeply odd to me, that this is not more widely understood. I don’t get it. How was this understanding lost?