Hypothesis: We are Ruled by Meta-Doctrine

Michael Anton recently hypothesized that we are not ruled by people, but by doctrine. He discusses the claim approximately between timestamps 7:30 and 10:00. Anton: “The real sovereign is the doctrine.”

The claim is plausible. We cannot identify any individual or group as having real authority/power, with the possible and highly limited exception of the Supreme Court. Every other source of power can be blocked by other powers. It has always been the case that people act because of a combination of beliefs and constraints, authority being the ultimate constraint. With almost every extant authority capable of being countermanded (especially on behalf of members of Official Victim Groups) it seems that, by a process of elimination, belief is the ultimate ruler. And doctrine establishes the beliefs of the people, so doctrine seems to rule.

But the claim also seems incorrect. The word “doctrine” implies specificity, but our leftist rulers have doctrine which constantly changes. They are not like, for example, Marxists, who preserve a set of beliefs that have a clear connection to their founder. Also, the left claims not to have doctrine, but only self-evident beliefs that are said to be “our values,” such as Democracy and DIE.

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We can resolve the paradox by postulating that the ruler is not doctrine, but meta-doctrine: Not a specific set of beliefs, but a set of impulses/attitudes/hunches that manifest differently from place to place and from time to time.

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This serves the left’s apparent purpose of destruction. Groups with widely divergent natures, goals and methods can still cooperate despite a lack of conscious coordination if they all participate in the same meta-doctrine. Meta-doctrine can attract the allegiances of wide varieties of people who inflect it to suit their desires. It can also be endlessly modified to suit the latest needs without precipitating charges of heresy. If your group has no formal beliefs, nobody can be a heretic.

The mechanism of meta-doctrine’s rule is organized induction. Meta-doctrine induces people to act by giving them simple slogans (“America is racist”) which induce primitive impulses (“protect the oppressed” / “smash the oppressors!”) which are channeled toward pre-existing courses of action created by woke theoreticians (“defund the police!”) Wokelings who have formal power act directly, but often a mob must be summoned to ensure compliance. The mob consists of those whose impulses have been organized into concrete actions by leftist organizations. But without the meta-doctrines inducing the individuals to act, none of this would work and wokeness would not rule.

Formal rulers (executives, legislators, judges, bureaucrats) do have power / authority. Sometimes their principles, their charisma, or the crowds they summon lead to local, limited implementation of non-wokeness. But a system is characterized by its overall nature, not by the exceptions. Wokeness is the rule, and because it is fundamentally irrational it can only rule via sub-rational meta-doctrine, mediated by the woke organizations and the latest theoretical constructs that direct the woke.

Meta doctrine evolves to meet the needs of the left. The classic example is freedom of speech. When the left was tolerated-in-a-sense but not in charge (prior to roughly 1990), the left held freedom of speech as an important doctrine because it allowed them to broadcast their beliefs in spite of said beliefs being odious to much of the ruling classes (not to mention the people.) Free speech also resonated with most Americans because part of our historic self-understanding is that we are a reasonable people. Now that the left rules, the principle of free speech has been replaced with its opposite: Not causing offense to Official Victim Groups.

The meta-doctrine underlying both free speech and its opposite could be called “stickin’ it to The Man.” Authority is not to be respected as a necessary element of maintaining a good society; it is to be manipulated to serve your ends. When the other side is The Man, trick him into allowing a deep criticism of his person and works. When you are The Man, deny it, pretend the other side is The Man, and carry on.  (Plausible deniability, don’t cha know.)

This reversal is not a double standard. It is a single meta-doctrine: pursue victory by strengthening your side and weakening the other side. Lawrence Auster also identified the double standards of a previous generation of liberals as the single standard of treating unequals as equals. Equality is an important woke meta-doctrine which can be inflected in endlessly-different ways. In one generation, equality of opportunity. In another generation, equality of results. For today’s woke left, the metaphysical equality of all human beings.

Meta-doctrine can also be characterized as an attitude of being attracted to certain articulations of doctrine rather than allegiance to a specific doctrine. Consider hatred of tradition. Until the 1980s the left hated the traditional American system and were attracted to countercultural doctrine which championed outsiders. Now that the new ruling system is leftish they support it, but they still view metapolitics as being virtuous outsiders (BIPOCs, women, Alphabet people, non-Christians, et al) needing favoritism because they are oppressed by powerful white Christian males. In the ‘60s leftists wanted to smash the System. Now they want to use the System to smash those bad actors who still hold traditional beliefs.

Meta-doctrine is generally unspoken. It is implied by slogans, policies, works of art and media, historical narratives, and so on. This gives it a defensive shield of plausible deniability and at the same time makes it seem part of the furniture of the universe so that conformists and shallow thinkers find it normal and believable. Even though leftist meta-doctrine is highly dubious for those who make the effort to understand it, and is intended to harm much of the population and all that they value, only now are the masses starting to realize the danger.

Our job is therefore to make the implicit explicit, show its falsehood and most importantly, help people see the true nature of the danger.

7 thoughts on “Hypothesis: We are Ruled by Meta-Doctrine

  1. For today’s woke left, the metaphysical equality of all human beings.

    This is the petard that Christians and classical liberals are getting hoisted upon and it’s a really big one. After all, didn’t Thomas Jefferson himself say that all men are created equal? Didn’t St. Paul say that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free?

    It’s a “gloves don’t fit–you must acquit” argument. There is no good response to it that doesn’t come off as evasive. Thus the ratchet of classical liberalism (and, I dread to say, of Christian social doctrine) can only move one way: David French praising drag queen story hour as a healthy expression of American liberty. And don’t think this train is stopping there; a whole industry dedicated to the mutilation of adolescent breasts and genitals sprang up while conservatives were debating marginal changes to the tax code.

    The Enlightenment has put us in a box canyon with liberalism. To get out of it, conservative political philosophy will have to jettison ideology and embrace realism (i.e., anti-gnosticism). We don’t want any ideal per se, we want human thriving and good stewardship. And most important, we want the thriving and stewardship of our own country prioritized above others. Universalism needs to be shot and thrown in a ditch.

    • Unity doesn’t entail actual abolition of difference in Christianity. The Nations remain distinct(In the Book of Revelation). And likewise Male and Female.

  2. There is an interesting observation of St John Henry Newman’s (He is talking of religious ideas, but it can be given a more general application)

    “Again, another similar peculiarity in developments in general, is the great remoteness of the separate results of a common idea, or rather at first sight the absence of any connexion. Thus it often happens that party spirit is imputed to persons, merely because they agree with one another in certain points of opinion and conduct, which are thought too minute, distant, and various, in the large field of religious doctrine and discipline, to proceed from any but an external influence and a positive rule; whereas an insight into the wonderfully expansive power and penetrating virtue of theological or philosophical ideas would have shown, that what is apparently arbitrary in rival or kindred schools of thought, is after all rigidly determined by the original hypothesis.”

  3. I think you are right to look upstream from formal doctrine, although I doubt metadoctrine is anything like an axiom or principle. When I consider my own mental topography, I see that my doctrine is a clarification of primitive sentiments that are very heterogeneous. These primitive sentiments are really memories of stories I’ve read, pictures I’ve seen, experiences I’ve had, arguments I’ve heard. Somehow these memories have accumulated in the lumber room of my mind and my doctrine is distilled from this accumulation. When I talk with a leftist, I sense that the lumber room of their mind is filled with very different memories, and I suspect that this is because they were, in the past, “moved” by very different stories, pictures, experiences and arguments. Stated quite simply, they were filled with admiration by things that filled me with mirth or disgust.

    I generally think of what you call metadoctrine as a mythos, since certain highly romanticized stories figure so largely in it. Leftists are enchanted by the great myths of the “Black Experience,” “Ellis Island,” “The Fight for (Worker’s, Women’s, Gay) Rights,” and they seek to redeem their lives by making them part of these myths. When the Great Book of Progress is written, they hope their name will appear in the index. It’s the closest thing they have to Heaven.

    • Thanks for your comment, JM.

      There is a lot going on here, and I wanted to focus attention on a small part: how the actions of society are coordinated. Rulers cannot rule, and there is no doctrine as used to be the case. Instead, as you observe, we have mythoi. But when the powerful want something done they have to crystalize the meta-doctrine / mythos in to somewhat concrete terms, and then channel the actions of the woke NPCs.

      Many decades ago I noticed that nobody is actually in charge and ever since I have been pondering on and off how the ruling classes actually steer society.

  4. Good, you are approaching Moldbug,2007: the story is the sovereign. Yarvin,2022: the first important feature of the story is that it always agrees with itself. There are no separate Yale and Harvard versions of it. It is synoptic. The second important feature is that because people with power seek advice from academia, the story evolves in the direction that justifies the use of power.

    It would be interesting to look into Tolkien’s Christian roots: how he sees temptation specifically in the form of the temptation to use and increase power, symbolized by the One Ring. It looks so *logical* to use the One Ring i.e. Power to defend Gondor and defeat Sauron… indeed it is a very unusual idea to not to. I don’t know from which aspect of Christianity it comes from.

    Similarly the basic idea of the story or metadoctrine is “Take and use the One Ring for good… use it to solve poverty, use it to solve world hunger, use it to solve injustice…”

    • I think the idea predates Moldbug; he simply articulated a unique version of it.

      I used to think that academia had the most fundamental power. I no longer believe that. Academia is in thrall to the meta-doctrine (the Story, if you will) just like everyone else. Meta-doctrine and academia evolve in ways that cannot be controlled; leaders can only amplify what they think is the latest Disturbance in the Force.

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