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Editor’s note: The White House last week fired speechwriter Darren Beattie after CNN reported he had “white supremacist ties.” Beattie, who contributed to American Greatness early in our publication history, spoke at conference the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) deemed a “band of white nationalists, pseudoacademic and academic racists.”
Beattie, who was a Duke University political science professor at the time, delivered the paper—titled “Intelligentsia and The Right”—as part of a panel at the annual conference of the H.L. Mencken Club in 2016.
Beattie issued a statement over the weekend in response to CNN’s story: “In 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely. It was the honor of my life to serve in the Trump Administration. I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him one hundred percent. I have no further comment.”
American Greatness obtained the draft of Beattie’s paper. It has been edited only slightly to correct a few typographical errors. We’ve also provided English translations for a few German phrases at the end. Otherwise, the paper is as Beattie presented it in 2016. We invite readers to judge for themselves whether his work is “pseudoacademic,” “racist,” or “white supremacist.”
Intelligentsia and The Right
I’d like to begin by thanking the H.L Mencken Club and particularly Professor Paul Gottfried for being generous enough to invite me to speak here. I consider it a great honor.
I’ve been asked to address the question of “The Intelligentsia and the Right.” For those of us unfortunate enough to have inhabited what passes as the conservative world of “ideas” this topic would seem to invoke a well-worn genre of defeatism and lamentation associated with the frustrating but otherwise indisputable fact that, since World War II at least—and in some ways going back much farther than that—the intellectual class and creative class more generally have been associated with the left and the advancement of a so-called left-wing agenda. That many of you likely heard the phrase “Intelligentsia and the Right” and had the immediate thought of a separate and oppositional relationship between the two words—that is, the intelligentsia as considered apart from and antagonistic to the right—testifies to the status of this old genre and the reality it reflects.
But I don’t need to tell you—though it always bears repetition—that these are no ordinary times. Changes are afoot. Accordingly, I’d like to address what I think are some underlying developments giving rise to the emergence of, if not an intelligentsia of the “right” then certainly one that stands in stark and robust opposition to what we’ve come to describe as the “left.” Please note that I use these terms “right” and “left” tentatively and with qualification because the developments to which I attribute the optimistic possibility of a new kind of intelligentsia are at the same time developments that call into question the usefulness of the “left” “right” paradigm itself.
Furthermore, note that in discussing the possibility of a new type of intelligentsia emerging from recent historical developments pertaining to the changing circumstances and structure of ideology, society, and the economy, I thereby give a nod to the broadly Hegelian and Marxist connotations of the term without being able to address at adequate length the its complicated and rich intellectual history, not to mention the vexed philosophical questions lingering within that history. I’ll come back to this point briefly at the end of my talk.
Now, what are the circumstances and developments that have given rise to the possibility, speaking very broadly, of an intelligentsia of the right? There’s much to say about this, but I will confine my remarks to three major developments, the first of which is the death of American conservatism, and particularly the movement conservative ideology that emerged during the Cold War and culminated in Reagan’s presidency.
When I speak of the “death of movement conservatism” I do not mean to suggest that there are no people who would claim to remain in its tradition, or that such claims would be entirely false from the perspective of any particular professed Reaganite movement holdout. Indeed, at this point I know better than to underestimate the cluelessness of aspirational suburbia, especially in its Baby Boomer instantiations, whose status angst continues to generate a modicum of genuine demand for the kinds of Paul Singer subsidized, upper middle brow think pieces that appear in glossy legacy rags like National Review. But I digress.
When I say that movement conservatism is dead I mean that the circumstances that once provided a certain coherence and viability to the three chief components of the movement conservative coalition no longer exist. More specifically, the so-called fusionism that attempted to reconcile socially conservative religious traditionalism of the Kirkean variety with a generally libertarian free market capitalism only made sense within a now defunct or non-existent Cold War context. It is no accident then that this coalition proved most successful during Reagan’s presidency, which oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Fusionism was so called because it was able to construct a narrative that fused together traditionalist Burkean social conservatives and religious Christians, firstly, Cold-War hawks (Cold Warriors), secondly, and free market economic types (including libertarians like Friedman), finally, together. My central claim with respect to fusionism is that the tripartite coalition to which it refers makes no internal sense by itself, but rather it borrows its coherence artificially not only from the geopolitical threat posed by the USSR, but also from its reactive opposition to communist ideology as such.
Whereas fusionism is contingent and artificial in its American conservative expression, something similar to fusionism is imbedded much more essentially into communist doctrine at least in its classical Marxist forms. Karl Marx’s theory integrated its atheism with a dialectical materialism, which was at the same time an economic doctrine. The very real fusionism that belonged to classical Marxist theory made the reactive and contingent fusionism in America between free-market libertarians and religious Christian social conservatives possible; furthermore, the fact that this enemy atheistic-economic ideology received its expression in a major competing World Power made the hawkish foreign policy element a natural part of this coalition.
With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the artificial supports providing temporary coherence to movement conservatism began to disintegrate. The full impact of this disintegration, however, enjoyed a certain postponement; partially this was due to the “holiday from history” that characterized the period of peace and economic prosperity between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11; and partially because the self-identified conservatives’ response to 9/11 was a desperate and implausible attempt to portray Islamic Terror as the new Soviet-type threat in a way that would preserve the basic logic of the Reagan coalition. This band-aid job worked for a bit, but ultimately proved incoherent. Now with the failures of the Bush foreign policy plain to see, and with the middle class evaporating due, among other things, to the intensification of certain structural features of the economy, the irrelevance and inadequacy of movement conservatism can be felt rather than merely thought.
I ought to note that my analysis of the ahistorical and irrelevant character of fusionist movement conservatism is not strictly speaking a philosophical critique of, say, Meyer’s project. Meyer’s lack of philosophical depth probably was indispensable to the creation of a viable narrative on which to build a political coalition. My point is that that viability itself depended on a certain ideological and historical context that no longer exists.
The virtue of the increasingly indisputable collapse of movement conservatism is that the actual political configuration post-Cold War can be understood with greater clarity. Of course, there were further obfuscations pertaining to the role of an intellectual.
If somebody like Kojeve could have envisaged the role of an intellectual during the Cold War as working to reify a Stalinist universal and homogeneous state, Fukuyama’s modification of Kojeve upon the fall of the Berlin wall would simply suggest that the intellectual’s role would be to help reify the universal homogeneous state in its newly discovered historically appropriate instantiation via global democratic capitalism, human rights, and so forth.
There are many problems with Fukuyama’s thesis, but the one immediately relevant here is that so much of the debate surrounding his particular end of history thesis is that, whether one agreed with it or not, the debate was framed in such a way that obscured the true political configuration that emerged. That is, the discussion surrounding Fukuyama’s end of history thesis largely took for granted that the opposing forces in question were, on the one hand, capitalist globalization bolstered by democratic universalist philosophy, and, on the other, recidivist and reactionary tribalism. This characterization obscures the actual situation of the post-Cold War West in which the dominant “global” paradigm seems to be characterized by an unexpected and still not adequately explored connection between a certain masochistic religion of identity politics, global multinational capitalism, and the military industrial complex.
The connection has been explored a bit by Gottfried and Greenwald. My insight into this horrifying development is that it makes sense structurally in terms of a certain confluence of Nietzschean and Marxist factors. The Marxist side of what’s going on—that is, the side that accounts for certain social and class developments on account of underlying economic or material developments, has to do with the increasingly questionable role of the middle and working class under contemporary conditions governed by the underlying radical logic of economies of scale that characterizes the development of our integrated techno-corporate-global system. For example, with technological automation, integration, and economies of scale, the threshold for becoming a truly productive and valuable contributor to the economy is increasing dramatically—a process by which we little people become mere trivial zeros in the grand scheme of a rotten globo-corporate elite’s proprietary zeta function. What results is an ever increasing number of middle class Westerners who are shut out of the elite and economic relevance of the productive economy generally, and an increasing jealousy on the part of those in the elite to guard and protect their status.
But the increasing number of working-class, middle-class, upper-middle class, and even wealthy but not ultra-wealthy and connected pose a distinct problem, because unlike the imported masses from the developing world, they have a proven capacity to organize politically, and certain historical expectations regarding liberty and self-government. Whereas the Cultural Marxists may have resented the bourgeois on account of the bourgeois hindering the progression to a Marxist utopia, and resented the working class for not previously universally mobilizing against the bourgeois as was expected and predicted by Classical Marxists, the Corporate Marxists resent the bourgeois for preventing the natural progression toward a system like Brazil, in which a vanishingly small wealthy, gated, insulated elite lords it over hordes of easily controlled helots. Brazil is the new Marxist utopia for the Corporate Marxists, if you’ll forgive the term, though utopia might be an inapt term given the distinct plausibility of this eventuality.
I mentioned that there was a Nietzschean component to this dynamic in addition to a Marxist one. Indeed, though Nietzschean explanations are often contrasted with Marxist ones as the psychological to the material, yet in this case the Nietzschean psychological diagnosis of slave morality, masochism, whatever you want to call it actually operates in conjunction with the emerging class dynamic insofar as it serves to pacify or neutralize what would otherwise be an increasingly problematic class for the elite.
So this little sketch of the post-Cold War situation in the West is quite a bit different from the idealized model of a universalist classical liberalism of human rights bolstering a global capitalism as envisaged by Fukuyama. And this alternative account might therefore leave room for an appropriately historical alternative to the dominant paradigm, which is not possible in Fukuyama’s account in which the only alternative to democratic capitalist globalization are reactionary and therefore ultimately ahistorical.
I want to conclude this talk by giving a brief characterization of some structural dynamics that I think are conducive to the growth of a formidable intelligentsia that would function as an alternative to the dominant paradigm of the post-Cold War West.
This dominant paradigm, sometimes called globalization, ought to be understood according to its institutional reality. That is, just as the dominant system is not really characterized by universal human rights and capitalism as understood in reading packets, but rather according to the Marxist-Nietzschean dynamic described above, so must the associated term globalization undergo a similar reality check. Whatever fancy and idealized theories used to describe it, globalization in the real sense refers to a particular set of interests and a common investment in a particular assortment of untruths. Global democracy in reality refers to a specific geopolitical alliance with little to do with democracy; the same countries have a common stake in a certain reckless and unsustainable monetary policy through the coordination of various central banks taking on enormous debt; global free trade is in fact the trade deals written by lobbyists in dark rooms. The errors associated with globalization, and particularly those associated with immigration and monetary policy, are so large that a bubble has been created out of desperate attempts to avoid the reckoning with reality.
What does this have to do with the emergence of an oppositional intelligentsia? Well, much is said about the importance of the working class in the politics of anti-globalization, precisely because the economic model of globalization has the effect of casting more and more people out of the middle class. This is true, though I would also argue that very similar forces are leading to an increasing group of extremely intelligent young people who will be either unemployed or underemployed. The easy middle class existence that helped keep the Boomers so pleasantly docile in the face of the nation’s transformation doesn’t exist as a possibility for many my age and younger. So the opportunity cost of defection is diminishing. As defection accelerates, parallel institutions are formed that in turn diminish the marginal cost of future defections. There is a logic of a cascade effect at work.
Problems exist on the side of the elite as well. One of the paradoxes of our time is Mittleschicht verschwindet mittelmaessigkeit herrscht. That is, middle class disappears and mediocrity reigns. Competition is so intense in the academic world and the winners are less impressive than ever. My explanation for this is precisely that the reigning paradigm is a bubble, and this means that just as available jobs diminish so do the desired qualifications for the jobs change. More important is that the job be used to sustain the lie behind the bubble, which requires intellectual mediocrity or timidity, usually both. So in conjunction with the increasing incentives for defection is the possibility that young, ambitious smart people have less and less of an obvious place in the ever shrinking number of jobs sanctioned by the dominant system.
I’m over my time. Suffice it to say I see certain structure features of our situation that bode very well for the emergence of an intellectual class that is opposed to globalization in its present form. As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m not sure whether what will emerge could be classified in left-right terminology.
Because my feeling is optimistic for politics and culture in the medium term, I want to close with a note of not pessimism but caution. The optimistic structural dynamics I allude to say nothing about the underlying philosophical problems contributing to the spiritual deficiencies of the West. I cannot assume that political victories against our corrupt system will necessarily translate into or emerge from something of real philosophical significance, and might actually impede it. This philosophical problem is one I originally wanted to address, but felt that it was beyond the scope of what I could do here.
Heidegger closed one of his famously provocative analyses of Technology with a quote from the German poet Hoelderlin: “Wo aber Gefahr ist, waescht das Rettende auch.” (“Where the danger is, so grows the saving element.”)
In light of the possibility of political and cultural success, but continued philosophical and spiritual darkness, I close with the following modification: “Hinter das Rettende liegt auch das Gefahr.” (“Behind salvation danger also lies.”)
Photo Credit: Screen capture/CNN