We all talk progressive

(Note: my wife went to bed early and I’ve been drinking – the following posts will not be heavily edited – read at your own risk).

Part of the problem with becoming a reactionary is that you can’t really become a reactionary.

I’ve spent the better part of two years trying to learn to be able to think like Filmer, for example. I can read his writing and understand his arguments. I can agree with his points, but I can’t really quite actually think in the same way that he thought. The problem is that – at root – I think it’s impossible for someone raised in modern times to stop thinking like a progressive – even when said person is rejecting progressivism.

We see everything in terms of "problems" that "need" "solutions" which are to "flow" from "systems of government" that are "designed." It’s un-reactionary to even have a position on how society should be structured.

The reactionary and even the conservative (the old kind that don’t really exist anymore – which perhaps best illustrates my argument) shouldn’t view the world this way. The goal isn’t to make the world perfect, it’s to make the world a little less crappy. The goal isn’t to make everyone better off, as some people aren’t capable of "being made" (damn it, I can’t even get this point out without talking like a progressive) better off.

The fact of the matter is that the truly reactionary society may not capable of being described in modern language.

The best I’ve been able to come up with is to use certain heuristics. For example, I assume that someone who wrote a book a couple hundred years ago that is still easy to obtain and read is a lot smarter than anyone else that I’m going to read in the present. I try not to think of people in the past as "child-like" in any way compared to modern people. But the root problem remains – progressives have successfully won the battle of language. The victory has been nearly absolute. Perhaps this is the biggest obstacle to any reactionary movement (damn it again!).


14 Responses to We all talk progressive

  1. Red says:

    I’m not a big fan of the reactionary label as it seems to be way of calling someone of evil without the religious baggage that the term evil requires.

    As for what structure I want to see governing is pretty simple: Let local communities deal with their own shit. If the local cities want to hang everyone who spits in public or cut thieving bankers balls off that’s fine, it’s their community. If another community wants to put child molesters in charge of daycare centers to rehabilitate themselves, that’s their own business. I want people to be in charge of themselves and face the consequences if they fuck up.

    In time people would rediscover things that work and that don’t work. Communities would adopt these working ideas or they would perish. They can even get a head start if they look into old English common law.

    Progressive by it’s nature is imperial rule from afar. People prosper the most when their both challenged by competitors from without and ruled with in by benign neglect.

  2. Erik says:

    I note at least one point where the progressives haven’t won. I often see them needing to resort to words such as “heresy” and “blasphemy” to describe transgressions against their philosophy, but they are unable to use those words, and so end up spluttering and talking around the point, when it’s strongly apparent to me that their complaint is not with my argument but with my offense to their sacred things.

    This seems to be a decent starting point for reactionary language: start with a very few absolute rules, in the mold of “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” and whenever a progressive tries to come in and make an exception to something with a bleeding heart for-the-children argument or for-the-poor or for-the-women or for-the-blacks or for-the-immigrants or for-the-gays or for-the-muslims or for-the-whatever, cut him off with “Heresy!” to the proposed changes or to the very idea of violating the fundamental rules, and refuse to engage the intent, even to say that it will not actually work that way. Engaging the intent just lets them pick the battleground, and they’ve chosen wishful thinking.

    • Handle says:

      Actually they have, through doing a little bit of the ol’ ultraviolence to the English language, created perfectly adequate substitutes for these religious terms.

      Instead of infidel, heretic, blasphemer, heathen, pagan, apostate, unbeliever, schismatics, etc., there are various forms of expressing “Politically Incorrect” such as: “Racist!”, “[X]-Phobic”, “offensive”, “insensitive”, “harassing”, “uncivil”, “discriminatory”, “creating a demeaning, intimidating, excluding and/or hostile environment”

      There are also things like “Redneck”, “Christian”, “Religious”, “Small town”, “Rural”, and “White”. Sometimes it’s passive-voice determinative ordinate like “unacceptable” or “intolerable”.

      The point is to create the knee-jerk reflex *connotative status emotions* (contempt, condescension, superiority, patronization, etc..) around these code-words, so as to create an “us-them” climate and excommunicate transgressors from the congregation of those faithful to the orthodoxy.

      These words work for them, and are useful for their purposes to accomplish the essential missions of the Puritan zealot-mindset.

      If there’s any sign of hope out there – it’s that the High Priests of The Orthodoxy have gotten noticeably worse in their ability to coin new and potent terminology. That is a breach in time and gives us an opportunity to create some of our own.

  3. Diver says:

    Good points. I’m strongly reminded of Bruce Charlton’s recent mini-essay “Tree or Mosaic”. Reading a lot of old books is a start, but really one needs to learn from other people.

    We should try and cultivate patience. Progressives are impatient. Two years is not a long time, especially for such a deep-seated change. We’ve all been marinating in the progressive world for decades before that.

  4. Diver says:

    As for: “it’s un-reactionary to even have a position on how society should be structured” – I think King Alfred might disagree with you, although the Christianized barbarians of that era went about the work of building their society quite differently than the fanatics, schemers and power-worshippers of the current age.

  5. Rob says:


    I think you’re mixing two different things. I believe it’s possible to advocate progressive “means” without postulating a utopian “end”.

    By that I mean that Progressive, utilitarian ideas such as rational government – as embodied by consistent government involving standards of bureaucratic conduct that are “scientifically” designed (i.e. civil service exams, consistent standards of accounting, documentation of expected outcomes with verification for government programs, etc) can improve the functioning of government and mitigate “irrational” practices – corruption, cronyism, etc.

    These will not result in “utopian” outcomes, because the irrational human factor will not be eliminated. The problem with the original religious progressives was that they believed rational government would solve the human problem and usher in a golden age.

    One problem of our society is that no one really wants to eliminate irrational factors in government, they just want to arrange society in such a way that irrational factors produce benefits for them. This is what affirmative action produces in practice, which is why we can’t get firefighters, policemen, doctors, etc that are really selected using scientific means (i.e. exams).

    Another problem is that egalitarian assumptions are both universal and completely wrong. There is an unwritten assumption that a properly designed progressive mechanism for advancement in education, government, etc. will produce equal outcomes across all nations and all ethnic communities within nations. This assumption is false, and is the source of much confusion for modern government functionaries.

    In short, I think their are three choices for dealing with progressive ideas:

    1. Progressivism + HBD – rational government is better than irrational government, but will always have to deal with tensions between unequal ethnic groups.

    2. Progressivism + egalitarianism – rational government will produce equal outcomes. Unequal outcomes are a sign of improperly designed government standards and practices.

    3. Reactionary – Progressivism is nonsense – organic standards of conduct are best, and the term “rational government” is nonsense pushed by busybodies.

    I am firmly in camp 1. I believe the west has been completely captured by 2, and I think 3 works fine for rational (i.e. European) people, because we’ve developed standards of government which are pretty rationally designed. For the rest of the world, 3 is a disaster. Even in the west, it works pretty poorly among proles of any ethny.

    The egalitarian assumption has to be broken – it looks pretty strong, but it’s so obviously false that I can’t believe it will survive forever. Then we can build a rational government. I believe that there are rational solutions to human problems, provided that they are not built on false assumptions like equality of outcome, and that we don’t expect rational government to usher in an age of utopia. Obviously the “Reactionary Progressive Manifesto” still needs to be written.

    The only progressives I believe really had it figured out were the old eugenicists. Unfortunately they are deeply unfashionable these days.

    • Foseti says:

      I don’t think I disagree with much – if anything – that you’ve written, but notice the language that you’re using. It’s pretty heavily laden with progressive concepts. When someone has been thinking like this his whole life, how does he stop?

      • Handle says:

        I see it as wheat and chaff, or gold and dross. Not everything the Progressives do or say or the way they think is objectionable or worthy of discarding or opposing.

        The key is to judge these things each on their own merits, and then segregate the worthy from the unworthy.

        What is most objectionable should be defined as “Fundamentally Progressive”, but where there is any common agreement should be completely expropriated from association with “Progressivism” and instead affiliated with an alternative, more abstract ideological framework that we can comfortably embrace.

        So, for example, Progressives claim to be “Rationalists” (they aren’t, but they think they are – they are either religious or hyper-rationalists). But True Rationalism has its legitimate areas of supreme competency (like, balancing your checkbook, or building a bridge).

        The key is to demonstrate that Progressives are, in fact, divorced from the larger, worthy ideas and philosophies to which they claim adherence, whereas The Reactionary (who advocates, for example, Formalism: honest, as opposed to fantasy, national accounting), is only the True defender of Rationalism.

        By iterative steps, you get to define the real heart of modern Progressivism, and when you take away all the elements of general agreement, all that is left is a Delusional, Unreal, Utopian, and Puritanically Intolerant False-Religion.

        This is the corner into which we should force Progressivism – to expose the rotten core, while claiming ownership of all their popular strengths, and using them, judo-like, against them.

  6. The Monk says:

    It is as you say; 1984 is truly upon us.

    But there is a way out of this morass, as there is of all good things. It is not in analytic works of Filmer and his ilk that the salvation of your lexicon lies, but in literature. Only the works of the great masters of your civilisation that move you can let loose the waters of your reactionary eloquence, dammed for so long by an insipid and castrated language.

    I speak of course of the great works of the Western Canon. Homer and Virgil spring to mind; Shakespeare and Milton if you prefer your own tongue. And if familiarity has dulled their sharpness, there is of course the ultra-reactionary Indic canon, with its epic core consisting of the Ramayana and Mahabharat. (You may find this chapter from the Ramayana of some interest; consider it a checklist of the consequences of democratic governance, and more importantly, see it as how much democracy has wandered by now into ‘not even wrong’ territory.)

  7. Rob says:


    I agree – One of the most important things I learned from reading Paul Gottfried is that I am not a conservative in any meaningful sense. I am a variety of progressive, and my objections to the current order are essentially progressive. I believe the rickety superstructure of egalitarianism, marxism (cultural or otherwise) and affirmative action are irrational and unscientific.

    Is there any reason to abandon progressive or technocratic frameworks for defining problems and solutions? One gets the sense from reading early 20th century marxist or progressive political thinkers that technological progress was irrevocably changing human society is ways that could not be forseen. I think that this is correct, though I may disagree stridently with their proposed responses. I think that the time for being a reactionary is done, and that any successful political system now or in the future will be some variety of technical, scientific managerial regime.

    A valid objection to progressivism is that it conflates arbitrarily chosen values (democracy, universalism, etc.) with empirical means to achieve them, and treats the whole package as “rational government”. This is one of Gottfried’s major theses in “After Liberalism”. This is a problem I don’t know how to address. However, for early progressives, there were a lot of competing value systems under active discussion – marxism, fascism, etc. I’m still untangling these threads in my head. Universal democracy was a american protestant progressive obsession, and not necessarily the only political system proposed under respectable progressive opinion at that time.

    It may be that we are framing problems using progressive and technocratic concepts because it’s the only reasonable framework for defining problems in advanced western states. Any alternative would have to rely on some spiritual or transcendent justification, which is a non-starter, IMO. Utilitarianism is completely triumphant.

  8. […] – “DC’s Changing Demography“, “We All Talk Progressive“, “Freedom, Dependency and […]

  9. Alrenous says:

    Coercion often requires more coercion to end without disaster. This principle is, for some reason, extremely widely applicable. To pick up smoking, you have to override your body’s objection, and to put it down you have to do so again. Welfare is bad but it has to be phased out slowly unless you enjoy watching children starve to death. (According to my definition welfare recipients own their welfare, and it has to be stolen back.) Fed intervention is bad but if the coercion is stopped all at once the market will see a huge shock and enter a ridiculously volatile regime.

    To end progressive utopianism, your options are apocalypse or to hold an intellectual movement. To see the problem, and solve it. By counter-designing a form of government.

  10. homemade solar panel…

    […]We all talk progressive « Foseti[…]…

  11. […] even democracy (though a very different type of democracy than we have now). As Foseti points out, we all think and talk like communists/progressives, not as 19th century conservatives or reactionaries. We think about plans for fixing the world. […]

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