More Hand-Wringing About the Radical Right

A World After Liberalism: Philosophers of the Radical Right
by Matthew Rose
Yale University Press
208 pp., $28.00

This is a book with a touchingly familiar ring. Traces of my own published works abound in Matthew Rose’s exploration of “radical right” thinkers. His manifest borrowings would include the title of my 1999 book, After Liberalism, and my extensive treatment of interwar figures of the European right, including my widely circulated biography of Carl Schmitt. Clearly Rose has studied my oeuvre but chosen for his own reasons not to mention it.

The unacknowledged debt aside, there is a deeper problem in the cautionary attitude with which Rose approaches his subjects. We should keep in mind that he is revisiting figures who no longer resonate in our political culture. Unlike Rose, I can’t even imagine our post-liberal Western society falling into the hands of someone as unconventionally right-wing as Francis Yockey or that anachronistic Italian and would-be pagan of the early 20th century, Julius Evola.

The woke left seems presently in power everywhere in the West; and its opposition seems fragmented or managed by those who have no stomach for taking on ruthless totalitarians. Yet Rose seems implicitly to assume that a radical right is in a position to take over our culture and thereby our society. The government, corporations, and educational institutions are now abolishing binary genders and referring to those who produce children as “birthing persons.” Presumably males and the transgendered are now also supposed to give birth, and Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling (despite a previously impeccably leftist background) created a firestorm when she daringly asserted that “women are a gender.”

Rowling was responding to a PC description of her sex as “people who menstruate.” The fact that schools and offices are now running to install menstrual pad machines in men’s restrooms seems to raise greater questions about the mental health of our society than about the danger of a reincarnated interwar right soaring to power in Western countries.

At least for now, the woke left is firmly in command of what is still quaintly described as the free world. Rose’s subjects are of interest not because they are candidates for the heights of command. They are worth studying because they differ so strikingly from today’s leftist power elites and their conservative-establishment opposition.

There is also a problem with how Rose classifies his subjects. All of them are relegated to the radical right, but it’s not clear they have all battled the same enemy. Although American Renaissance Editor Jared Taylor characterizes himself as a “race realist,” there is absolutely no indication that he is an anti-Semite. Indeed, many of Taylor’s friends and collaborators are Jewish. Alain de Benoist is obsessively anti-Christian but gives no sign of disliking Jews and is effusively sympathetic toward Islamic societies. One of Benoist’s mentors, René Guénon, whom Rose also classifies within the radical right, was a French convert to Islam who went to live in Cairo. Evola was an avowed neopagan who admired Catholic cultures and Catholic asceticism while profoundly disliking everything Jewish. Yockey expressed strongly anti-Semitic views but was almost as willing to cooperate with Stalin’s government as he was with Hitler’s against what he viewed as a decadent America.

One can go on and on differentiating Rose’s subjects, but plainly they did not all feature the same enemy list or belief system. Complicating the situation even further, not all of Rose’s subjects, whom he identifies as members of the radical right, would reject liberalism per se. For example, alt-Right spokesmen such as Taylor and Stefan Molyneux have declared themselves to be libertarians.

It is also unclear where Rose is locating liberalism historically. Liberalism, as Rose describes it, “promotes the equality of lifestyles, declining to tell citizens how to become virtuous or great.” Such an idea is aimed at freeing “people to discover and express their individual identities, apart from coercive interference.” But is this what liberals in the 19th or early 20th century believed and taught? In my book After Liberalism, I set out to show how thoroughly conservative by modern standards liberal spokesmen and their audiences once were. In the United States, most of what we now consider to be conservatism, including our constitution and its authors, reflect classical liberal concepts of balanced and distributed powers. These principles have nothing to do with everyone choosing his own “lifestyle.” Certainly, the churched, landowning architects of America’s constitutional system would never have embraced that licentious notion.

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