Quotable (#211)

Critical traditionalism:

Today the signification of “Puritan” approximates that of “authoritarian”, but this is an abuse of language. The Puritan, while an almost psychotically punctilious and ruthless rule enforcer, is the opposite of an authority figure: a spiritual outlaw and renegade, a born leveler and enemy of all social orders of rank, an antinomian and anarchist, a sower of discord and force for social disorganization. All of this is hardly the stuff of which secure and stable authority is made. Authority represents the organized whole over the part, the universal over the particular. Puritanism, born of faction and separatism, does the exact opposite. It is, in fact, the historic germ form of the abovementioned secularizing particularism that erodes the universal authority and public truth of religion and finally dissolves its solidity into a gaseous cloud of idiosyncratic personal tastes and opinions held by isolated and disorganized private individuals. Once again, this sort of thing is powerful to tear down existing authority structures – but to build new ones, not so much.

The whole article is impressively done, even if — from an accelerationist perspective, at least — its practical (rather than diagnostic) significance is hard to make out.

8 thoughts on “Quotable (#211)

  1. What might interest accelerationists is that, if the thesis I advanced turns out to be correct and the existing order can no longer hold belief within limits compatible with its ongoing reproduction and prevent people from thinking what it deems unthinkable, then it is headed for undoing. (The mere fact that it’s even possible to talk about accelerationism suggests that the ideological foundations of the established order are already beginning to crack).

    • I broadly agree with your historical analysis, while seeing no sign whatsoever that rolling Protestant Revolution is reversible. The recent set-backs for the left have all been due to accelerating media decentralization, rather than any kind of retrenchment.

      • In your opinion, will the present order be able to find a substitute vehicle for the old, centralized media, which was a flagship vehicle for the transmission of the dominant ideology? Time was when people believed that “if it’s in the paper, it must be true”, and would let the op-ed page of the newspaper form their political views for them. But that seems to be all out the window now; op-eds are just one voice in a vast ocean full of them, with no special authority or credibility, and this is already starting to cramp the Establishment’s style in a fairly serious way.

        • how would one show that this “Time was when people believed that “if it’s in the paper, it must be true”, and would let the op-ed page of the newspaper form their political views for them” is true and not (as I think more likely) that people were always full of folk-theories/conspiracies/gossip/etc and now there are just public platforms for them to be on display?

          • @dmf: “It’s in the paper, so it must be true” is something people actually used to say, not a turn of phrase I made up. If there are any senior citizens in your life, you might be able to get them to say that exact phrase if you talk to them about current affairs long enough. Implicitly and sometimes even explicitly people used to think that the mere fact that something appeared in print meant that it was tantamount to a statement sworn under penalty of perjury. A week or two ago there was something about the New York Times talking about how they run the country from their office. This sounds like outrageously self-important bragging now, but within living memory it wasn’t that far from the truth. I think that this was, in part, because public writing used to be a highly rarefied activity, even for people who were quite literate themselves, and thus came across as very impressive and authoritative, the more so to the extent that the audience was bigger.Today public writing is almost the default form of human communication, and, as you say, anybody can get a national and even international platform for his views if he wants it badly enough.

          • I was well into life before, cable tv, the internet, etc and people (including elders) didn’t take the news outlets as gospel, the only difference now is that the news people are actually getting feedback about how little authoritas they actually have.

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