Neoreaction Research Reading List

A reader shared his neoreaction research reading list with me, I thought I’d post it here.

Mencius Moldbug:

“Gentle Introduction” series

A Formalist Manifesto:

“How Dawkins Got Pwned” series

“From Mises to Carlyle: My Sick Journey”:

Nick Land’s Dark Enlightenment series:

Michael Anissimov


Outside observers:

Sine qua non

Conservatives in general are fond of the notion of concentric loyalty – that we should be loyal to family first, then community, then region, then nation, and then the world.  Greg Cochran Socratically needles this idea by pointing out that mammals are all more related to one another than birds, so why don’t they act out of concentric loyalty to protect one another from birds of prey?

The answer is that outside immediate relatives, altruism only happens if reciprocity can be assured.  Two randomly selected humans will cooperate against an animal predator not because they’re genetically related – the extent of overlap is trivial compared to that among family members – but because we implicitly recognize that as humans we share subconscious tendencies towards reciprocation.  Squirrels and groundhogs share no such tendency.

What this suggests on the social front is that concentric loyalty is only stable if the social technology exists to enforce reciprocation.  Within a small town, reputation tracking can serve the function – mooching or lying carry reputation costs and so people rationally avoid that behavior.  In much of the modern world, this is much more difficult.  Reputation tracking by locality and nationality is practically nonexistent.  To the extent that reputation exists, it’s carried by other social technologies – loose Facebook networks of old alumni stretched across the globe, professional associations that bind a cardiologist closer to a doctor from Turkey than to his neighbor down the street.

Much of neoreaction is favorable towards reviving old forms of association – ethnonationalists who wish that ethnic kinship meant what it once did, Putnam fans who wish that local communities were as vibrant as they were in the recent past.  What Cochran’s question suggests is that the focus on advocating concentric morality, and individually acting on it, mostly misses the point.  The key goal – if you want to revive group solidarity on any scale – is creating the social technologies to allow stable reputation tracking and encourage reciprocation.  Lacking that, dreaming of organic communities or coherent ethnic clades is LARPing.

Short FAQ of Obvious Questions I Get When I Introduce Critiques of Democracy

Since the book came out, I’ve had the privilege of hearing a number of counterarguments to critiques of democracy. Some of these are listed here.

Q. You critique democracy, but isn’t it the best out of all the bad governments which have been tried? (Quora.)

A. In this new land of political theory, we consider critiques of democracy at a deeper level than pithy Churchill quotes. This is unfamiliar territory, I know. The lowest grade of thinking about democracy and its critiques are the Churchill quotes. After we get rid of those and agree to never speak of them again, then we can have an adult conversation about democracy and its merits.

Q. About monarchy — what about succession issues? (Arnold Kling)

A. Your concept of monarchy is based on democratic/republican selective reporting of history and availability bias with respect to stories of exciting succession crises. Have you made a list of monarchs in post-Renaissance kingdoms and actually broken down how often there is a succession crisis and how bad the results of it are? Have you then compared that list to democracy? Have you accounted for global American hegemony as a crucial factor in the apparent stability of democracies across the globe? If not, then you are going off of the standard “intuitive” model of monarchy common to anyone living under democratic-republican hegemony, which is extremely biased, self-serving, and historically inaccurate. Spend a few hours picking one European dynasty and skimming its route of succession until its conclusion. Figure out the percentage of succession events that caused crises or major wars. You will find out that that percentage is small (less than 10%, with average reigns being 20-25 years, or about one crisis per 200 years), which is roughly equivalent to the frequency that democratic Presidents are assassinated and far lower than the percentage of bloody coups in democracy as it is practiced by nearly any non-white countries, including South America, Africa, and the Middle East. In any case, there needs to be a fuller treatment of succession, and that is forthcoming in my second book.

I analyzed the stability of monarchy at length here.

Americans are predisposed towards underestimating the stability of monarchy because England had particularly unstable monarchies during a crucial historical period, right around the time Americans broke away. It is necessary to learn about Continental monarchies to get a more balanced view of the “average” stability of monarchy.

Q. Monarchy may be better for the leaders, but what about the people who are governed? Didn’t think of that, did ya smart guy? (Quora.)

A. Yes, I did think of that. That is the whole point. Why would someone go to the trouble of writing a book critiquing democracy and not have the welfare of the common citizen in mind from the start?

Q. You wouldn’t be able to write critiques of the government in a dictatorship. (Quora)

A. Big deal. Free speech is not the highest good. Most historical monarchies did not seriously restrict speech except for questioning the legitimacy of the Crown itself. Monarchies are not the same as Communist dictatorships. If a small percentage of speech is restricted for a vast gain in security and stability, I’ll take it. Ben Franklin’s quote about liberty and safety is republican claptrap. The highest liberty is civilizational success, not milquetoast aimless freedom. If that means outlawing treasonous speech against the Crown, so be it.