The Fourth Political Theory
End of the 20th Century – The End of the Epoch of Modernity
The 20th century ended, but we're only now beginning to realize that. The 20th century was the century of ideology. If in the previous century religions, dynasties, aristocracies and nation-states played a big role in the life of peoples and societies, then in the 20th century politics redeployed into a strictly ideological region, reshaping the map of the world, ethnic groups and civilizations in a new mould. In part, political ideologies embodied in themselves previous, deeper civilizational tendencies; in part they were absolutely innovative.All the political ideologies, having reached the peak of their dissemination and influence in the 20th century, were the outcome of “the new time” [i.e. the Modern Era]; and embodied, although differently and by different signs, the soul of Modernity. Today we are freeing ourselves from this epoch in leaps and bounds. Thus, everyone speaks more and more often of “the crisis of ideology”, even of “the end of ideology” . (Thus, in the constitution of the Russian Federation the existence of a government ideology is directly denied.) It is high time to occupy ourselves with this question more attentively.
The Three Main Political Theories and Their Fate in the 20th Century
The three foundational ideologies of the 20th century were:
• Liberalism (right and left)
• Communism (including together with Marxism both socialism and social-democracy)
• Fascism (including National-Socialism and other variants of the “Third Way”, the National Syndicalism of Franco, Justicialism of Peron, the regime of Salazar, etc.)
They fought amongst themselves to the death, forming along the way the whole dramatic, bloody political history of the 20th century. It is logical to assign to these ideologies (political theories) ordinal numbers according both to their meanings and to the order of their appearances, as was done above.
The first political theory is liberalism. It appeared first (back in the 18th century) and turned out to be the most stable and successful, having beaten its opponents in the historical battle at last. By means of this victory it proved along the way its claim to the full inheritance of the Enlightenment. Today it is clear: precisely liberalism more exactly than any another political theory conforms to the epoch of modernity. Although, earlier, this was contested (for that matter, dramatically, actively, and sometimes convincingly) – by communism.
It is fair to call communism (together with socialism in all its variations) the second political theory. It appeared after liberalism, as a critical reaction to the establishment of the bourgeois-capitalist system, the ideological expression of which was liberalism.
And, finally, fascism is the third political theory. Laying claim to its interpretation of the soul of modernity (many researchers, in particular Hannah Arendt, rightly see totalitarianism as one of the political forms of modernity) fascism turned together also to the ideas and symbols of traditional society. In some instances this resulted in eclecticism; in others, in the striving of conservatives to head a revolution rather than resisting it and bringing society into the opposite direction (Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, D. Merezhkovsky, etc.).
Fascism appeared after the other major political theories and disappeared before them. The alliance of the first political theory and the second political theory and the suicidal geopolitical calculations of Hitler defeated it at take-off. The third political theory died a violent death, not having seen old age and natural decomposition (in contrast to the USSR). That's why this bloody, vampirical spectre, shaded with the aura of “world evil”, is so magnetically appealing for the decadent tastes of post-modernity and why it is still so scary to humanity.
Fascism, having disappeared, freed up space for a battle of the first political theory with the second. This took place in the form of the “Cold War” and threw up the strategic geometry of the “bi-polar world”, which lasted almost half a century. In 1991 the first political theory (liberalism) defeated the second (socialism). That was the decline of world communism.
And so, at the end of the 20th century, of the three political theories capable of mobilizing many millions of masses in all areas of the planet, only one remained – liberalism. But when it was left alone, everyone in unison started speaking of “the end of ideology.” Why?
The End of Liberalism and Post-Liberalism
It happened that the victory of liberalism (the first political theory) coincided with its end. But this paradox is only apparent. Liberalism initially showed itself forth as an ideology; not as dogmatic as Marxism, but no less philosophical, well built and precise. It was ideologically opposed to Marxism and fascism, waging with them not only a technological war for survival, but also defending its right to a monopolistic formation of the way of the future. While other concurrent ideologies were alive, liberalism remained and grew stronger particularly as an ideology; that is, a totality of ideas, opinions, and projects peculiar to a historical subject. Each of the three political theories had its own subject.
The subject of communism was the class; the subject of fascism was the State (in the Italian fascism of Mussolini) or the race (in Hitler's National-Socialism). In liberalism the subject was the individual, freed from all forms of collective identity, from all kinds of “attachments” (l'appartenance).
While the ideological fight had formal antagonists, entire narodi and societies (at least theoretically) could select which subject to address themselves to; to the class-based, the racial (Statist), or the individual. The victory of liberalism answered that question: the normative subject at the limits of all humanity became the individual.
And soon appears the phenomenon of globalization, the model of a post-industrial society, the beginning of the epoch of post-modernity. From now on the individual subject is no more the result of a choice but some kind of compulsory given. A man is freed from “attachments”, the ideology of “human rights” becomes standard (at least in theory) and, in fact, compulsory.
Mankind, composed of individuals, is naturally drawn to universalism, becomes global and integrated. Thus is born the project of “world government” and “world rule” (globalism).
The new level of technological development allows people to reach independence from the class structures of industrial societies (post-industrialism).
The values of rationalism, science and positivism are recognized as “disguised forms of totalitarian repressive strategies” (big narratives) and are exposed to criticism – with a parallel glorification of complete freedom and independence of individual from any restraining factors, for that matter from reason, morality, identities (social, ethnic, even gender), discipline, and so on (post-modernism).
At this stage liberalism stops being the first political theory, but becomes the only political practice. “The end of history” comes; politics is replaced by economics (by the global market); government and nations are drawn into the melting pot of world globalization.
Having won, liberalism disappears, transforming into something entirely different: post-liberalism. It no longer has a political dimension; it is not a matter of free choice but becomes a peculiar kind of “fate” (from which comes the thesis of post-industrial society: “economics is fate”).
And so the start of the 21st century coincides with the moment of the end of ideology, of all three ideologies. They all had various endings: the third political theory was destroyed in the period of its “youth”, the second died of decrepitude, the first was reborn as something entirely different, as post-liberalism, as a “global market society”. But in any case in that state in which the three political theories existed during the 20th century they are no longer available, suitable or relevant. They explain nothing and do not help us understand what's happening or to respond to the global challenge. From this statement there follows the necessity of moving to a Fourth Political Theory.
The Fourth Political Theory as Opposition to the Status-Quo
The Fourth Political Theory will not happen by itself. It might appear, but it might not. The premise of its appearing is disagreement: disagreement with post-liberalism as a universal practice, with globalization, with post-modernity, with “the end of history”, with the status quo, with the inertial development of the cardinal civilizational processes at the start of the 21st century.
The status quo and inertia presuppose no political theories at all. The global world must operate with only economic laws and the universal morality of “the rights of man”. All political decisions are replaced by technological ones. Technique and technology displace all else (the French philosopher Alain de Benoist calls this “la gouvernance”, “governance”). Instead of politicians, who make historical decisions, come managers and technicians, optimizing the logistics of administrative leadership. Masses of people are compared to the mass of individual objects. Thus, the post-liberal reality (more precisely, virtuality, more and more displacing reality from itself) leads straight to the abolition of politics.
It could be objected that liberals “lie” when they speak of “the end of ideology”, that “in fact” they remain believers in their ideology and merely refuse the right of all others to exist. This is not entirely so. When liberalism from an ideological preference becomes the only content of the available social and technological reality, it is no longer “ideology”; it is a fact of life, an “objective” order of things, which to call into question is not only difficult but absurd. In the epoch of post-modernity, liberalism is transposed from the sphere of the subject to the sphere of the object. This, seen in perspective, will amount to the complete replacement of reality with virtuality.
The Fourth Political Theory is conceived of as an alternative to Post-Liberalism; not like an ideological attitude in relation to another ideological attitude, but like an idea set against material, like the possible, coming into conflict with the actual, like a not yet existing or being undertaken assault against the already existing.
At the same time, The Fourth Political Theory cannot be a continuation of the Second or Third one. The end of fascism, as well as the end of communism, was not simply an accidental misunderstanding, but the expression of the clear logic of history. They challenged the spirit of Modernity (fascism almost openly, communism in a veiled manner—see the studies of the Soviet period as a particular “eschatological” version of the traditional society in Agursky , or Kara-Murza ) and lost.
That means that the war with the post-modern metamorphosis of liberalism in the form of post-modernism and globalism must be qualitatively different, must be based on different principles and must offer new strategies.
Moreover, the starting point of this ideology – the possible one, but not guaranteed, not fated, not predetermined; issuing from the free will of man, from his soul, but not from impersonal historical processes – is precisely a rejection of the very essence of post-modernity.
However, this essence (as with the discovery of the earlier, unknown, hidden motives of Modernity itself, which so fully realized its content that it drained its inner possibilities and went over into a routine of the ironic recycling of prior stages) is something entirely new, previously unknown, and only intuitively and in part guessed at during the earlier stages of ideological history and the ideological struggle.
The Fourth Political Theory is a “Crusade” against:
• The post-industrial society
• Liberal thought realized in practice
• Globalism and its logistical and technological bases.
If the Third Political Theory criticized capitalism from the right, and the Second from the left, then in the new stage this old political topography no longer exists: in relation to post-liberalism it is impossible to determine where the left is and where the right. There are only two positions: agreement (centre) and disagreement (periphery). Both one and the other are global.
The Fourth Political Theory is a concentration in a common project and common impulse of everything that turned out to have been thrown away, toppled and degraded on the way to the erection of the “spectacle-society” (Post-Modernity). “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Mark 12:10). The philosopher Alexander Sekatsky rightly points out the importance of “marginalia” for the formation of a new philosophical zone, offering as a metaphor the expression “the metaphysics of garbage”.
The Battle for Post-Modernity
The Fourth Political Theory is concerned with the new rebirth of the old enemy. It disputes liberalism as did the Second and Third Political Theories of old, but it disputes it in a new condition. The principal novelty of this condition consists in the fact that, of the three great political ideologies, only liberalism won the right to the legacy of the soul of modernity and received the right to form “the end of history” on the basis of its premises.
The end of history could theoretically have been a different one: “the planetary Reich” (in the case of the victory of the Nazis), “world communism” (if the communists had been right). But “the end of history” turned out to be namely liberal (a fact that the philosopher Kojeve was one of the first to assess correctly , though his idea was later used by Fukuyama ). But since it turned out to be liberal, then any appeals to modernity and its variants, which in one or another degree the representatives of the Second (mostly) and Third political theories urged, lose their relevance. They lost the battle for modernity (the liberals won that). Therefore the theme of modernity (as, by the way, of modernization), is no longer the topic of the day. Now begins the battle for post-modernity.
And it is here that new perspectives open up for the Fourth Political Theory. That post-modernity, which today is realized in practice (post-liberal post-modernity), itself annuls the strict logic of modernity – after the goal has been reached, the steps toward it lose their meaning. The pressure of the ideological corpus becomes less harsh. The dictatorship of ideas is replaced by the dictatorship of things, “login-passwords”, bar codes. New holes are appearing in the fabric of post-modern reality.
As in their time the Third political theory and the Second political theory (understood as eschatological version of traditionalism) tried “to settle modernity” in its battle with liberalism (the first political theory), today there is a chance to complete something analogical with post-modernity, using precisely these “new holes”.
Against the straightforward ideological alternatives, liberalism worked out perfectly functioning means on which its victory was based. But precisely that carries in itself the greatest risk for liberalism. It is necessary only to find these new points of danger for the new global system, to decipher the access codes, to break the system. At least, to try. The events of 9/11 in New York demonstrate that this is possible even technologically. The network society can give something even to its convinced opponents. In any case it is necessary, first of all, to understand Post-modernity and the new situation not less deeply than Marx understood the structure of industrial capitalism.
In post-modernity, in the abolition of the Enlightenment program and the attack of the society of simulacra, the Fourth Political Theory must draw on its “personal enthusiasm", understanding this as a stimulus to battle, but not as a fatalistic given. From that one can make a few practical inferences relating to the structure of the Fourth Political Theory.
Reconsideration of the Past and of Those Who Lost
The second and third political theories positioned themselves as contenders for the expression of the soul of modernity. And these contentions fell to pieces. Everything connected with these unwarranted intentions in the previous ideological theories is least interesting to the founders of the fourth political theory. But the very fact that they lost is worth attributing sooner to their virtues than to their vices. Since they lost, they proved by that very loss that they do not belong to the soul of modernity, which, in its turn, transformed into a post-liberal matrix. And precisely in that are their good qualities. Furthermore, this signifies that the representatives of the Second and Third political theories – consciously or unconsciously – stood on the side of traditionalism, although they did not make from this the necessary conclusions or were not admitting it at all.
It is necessary to rethink the Second and Third political theories, setting aside what should be thrown away, and what has some worth in itself. As finished ideologies, insisting on themselves literally, they are useless, both theoretically and practically – but some marginal elements, as a rule unrealized and remaining on the periphery or in the shade (reminding ourselves again of the “metaphysics of garbage”), can turn up unexpectedly as incredibly valuable and saturated with meaning and intuitions.
But in any case the Second and Third political theories must be rethought in a new key, from new positions, and only after the refusal to believe those ideological constructs on which were held their “orthodoxy”. Their orthodoxy – that is the most uninteresting and useless in them. A more productive approach would be a combined reading: “Marx through the positive views from the right” or “Evola through the positive views from the Left”. But such an engaging “National-Bolshevik” beginning (in the spirit of N. Ustryalov or E. Niekisch) is not enough by itself, since the mechanical joining of the Second political theory and Third political theory won't get us anywhere by itself. Only retrospectively will we be able to delineate their common area, which was harshly opposed to liberalism. This methodological event is healthy as a warm-up before the full working out of the Fourth Political Theory.
Truly, the important and decisive reading of the Second and Third political theories is possible only on the basis of the already existing Fourth Political Theory, where the most important – although radically rejected as a value! - object is Post-modernity and its conditions: a global world, governance, the market society, the universalism of the rights of man, “the real domination of capital", and so on.
A Return to Tradition and Theology
Tradition (religion, hierarchy, the family) and its values were overthrown with the dawn of modernity. Strictly speaking, all three political theories were thought of as the artificial ideological constructs of people, reflecting (in different ways) on “the death of God” (Nietzsche), “the demystification of the world” (Weber), and “the end of the sacred”. The heart of the modernity consisted in this: in the place of God came man; in the place of religion: philosophy and science; in the place of Revelation: rational, volitional, and technological constructs.
But if in post-modernity modernity is exhausted, then together with that ends the period of “theomachy”. To post-modern people, religion is not inimical but indifferent. Moreover, specific aspects of religion, as a rule, relating to the regions of hell (the demonic textures of the post-modern philosophers) are rather attractive. In any case, the epoch of the persecution of tradition has ended, although following the very logic of post-liberalism this will most likely result in the making of a new world pseudo-religion, founded on disconnected fragments of syncretic cults, unrestrained chaotic ecumenism and “tolerance”. And although such a turn of events is in some ways more frightening than straightforward and simple atheism and dogmatic materialism, the weakening of persecutions of faith has a chance if the carriers of the Fourth Political Theory will be consistent and uncompromising in defence of the ideals and values of tradition.
That which was put beyond the laws of the modern epoch one can bravely assert today in a political program. And this will no longer be seen as so ridiculous and absurd as it once was. Although that is perhaps because generally everyone in post-modernity looks ridiculous and absurd, including the most “glamorous” sides: it is no accident that the heroes of post-modernity are “freaks”, “monsters”, “transvestites”; this is a law of style. Against the background of world clowns, nothing and no one will look “too archaic”, even people of tradition, ignoring the imperatives of modern life. The justice of this arrangement shows not only the serious successes of Islamic Fundamentalism but also the revival of the influence of extremely archaic Protestant sects (Dispensationalists, Mormons, and so on) on the politics of the USA (Bush started the war in Iraq because, in his words, “God told me 'Strike Iraq!'” -- entirely in line with the soul of his Protestant teacher-Methodists).
Thus the Fourth Political Theory can calmly appeal to what preceded modernity and draw therefrom its inspiration. The acknowledgement of “the death of God” stops being “a categorical imperative” for those who want to remain relevant. The people of post-modernity are already so reconciled to these events that they can no longer understand: “Who, who do you say has died?” But for the developers of the Fourth Political Theory it is possible in the very same way to forget about these “events”: “We believe in God, but ignore those who teach of his death as we ignore the ramblings of madmen.”
Thus returns theology. And it becomes the most important element of the Fourth Political Theory. But when it returns, post-modernity (globalization, post-liberalism, the post-industrial society) is easily recognized as “the kingdom of the anti-Christ” (or its analogy in other religions - “Dadjal” for the Muslims, “Erev Rav” for the Jews, the “Kali-Yuga” for Hindus, and so on). And now this is mobilizing a mass of metaphors; this – the religious fact, the fact of the Apocalypse.
Myth and Archaics in the Fourth Political Theory
If for the Fourth Political Theory the atheism of the modern age stops being something obligatory, then also the theology of the monotheistic religions, which displaced in its own time other sacred cults, will also not be the truth in the final instance (more exactly: maybe, but maybe not). Theoretically, nothing limits the depths of the attention to ancient archaic values, which, correctly discerned and considered, can occupy a definite place in the new ideological construct. Free from the necessity of having to develop theology under the rationalism of modernity, the carriers of the Fourth Political Theory can neglect entirely those theological and dogmatic elements, which in monotheistic societies (especially in their late stages) were touched by rationalism, which, by the way, led to the ruin of Christian culture in Europe first in deism, and later in atheism and materialism, in the course of a phased development of the programs of the modern age.
Not only the highest and wisest symbols of faith can be taken up anew as a shield, but also those irrational moments of cults, rituals and legends, which confused divines in previous eras. If we dispose of progress as an idea characteristic of the modern epoch (which, as we see, has ended), then everything more ancient acquires for us a value and persuasiveness by the mere fact of being more ancient. More ancient means better. And the more ancient, the better.
The most ancient creation is heaven. The carriers of the Fourth Political Theory must strive to its new discovery in the future.
Heidegger and “the Event”
At last we can mark the deepest – ontological! - foundation of the Fourth Political Theory. Here it is recommended to turn not to theology and mythology, but to the depths of the philosophical experience of the thinker who made a unique attempt to build a fundamental ontology – the most summarizing, paradoxical, profound and piercing teaching about being. I am speaking of Martin Heidegger.
Heidegger's conception, in short, is this. At the dawn of philosophical thinking, people (more exactly: Europeans; even more exactly: Greeks) put the question of being at the centre of their attention. But thematizing it, they risk being confused by the nuances of the difficult relationship between being and thinking, between pure being (Seyn) and its expression in things (Seiende), between human being (Dasein) and being in itself (Sein). This error occurs already in the teaching of Heraclitus about physis and logos; later it is seen clearly with Parmenides, and at last, with Plato, who put ideas between man and things, and who determined truth as correspondence (the referential theory of knowledge), it reaches its culmination. From here is born alienation, which gradually leads to the emergence of “calculating reason”, and later to the development of technology. Little by little man loses pure being from view and turns to the path of nihilism. The essence of technology (based on the technological relation to the world) expresses this constantly accumulating nihilism. In the modern age this tendency reaches its culmination; technological development (Gestell) finally displaces being and elevates “nothing” to the throne. Heidegger despised liberalism ferociously, reckoning it the expression of “the calculating beginning", which lay at the base of “Western nihilism”.
Post-modernity, which Heidegger did not live to see, is in every sense the final oblivion of being, “midnight”, where nothing (nihilism) begins to ooze from every fissure. But his philosophy was not despairingly pessimistic. He supposed that nothingness itself is the opposite side of the purest being, which – in such a paradoxical manner! - reminds humanity of itself. And if the logic of the development of being is correctly deciphered, then thinking humanity can save itself, and with lightening speed, at that, in the very moment when the risk will be maximal. “There, where the risk is greatest, there lies salvation” quotes Heidegger from Hölderlin.
Heidegger calls this sudden return of being by a special term “Ereignis”, “the Event”. It occurs exactly in the middle of world midnight, in the darkest point of history. Heidegger himself constantly vacillated regarding the question of whether that point had been reached or “not quite yet”. The eternal “not quite yet”.
For the Fourth Political Theory, the philosophy of Heidegger can turn up as the most important axis on which everything else will be strung, from the rethinking of the Second and Third Political Theories to the return of theology and mythology.
In this way, at the centre of the Fourth Political Theory, as its magnetic centre, is placed the vector of approach to “Ereignis” (“The Event”) in which is embodied the triumphal return of being precisely in that moment when mankind finally and irreversibly will forget about it; yes, even as the last traces of it disappear.
The Fourth Political Theory and Russia
Today, many guess intuitively that there is no room for Russia in the “brave new world” of world globalism, post-modernity and post-liberalism. Never mind that world government and world administration are constantly countermanding all national governments. The problem is that all of Russian history is a dialectical argument with the West and Western culture, a battle for the assertion (sometimes grasped only intuitively) of its own Russian truth, its messianic idea, its version of “the end of history”, however that would express itself – through Muscovite Orthodoxy, the secular empire of Peter, or the world communist revolution. The best Russian minds saw clearly that the West is moving to an abyss, and today, looking at where neoliberal economics and the culture of post-modernity have brought the world, we can be entirely sure that that intuition, pushing a generation of Russian people into a search for alternatives, was absolutely well-founded.
Today's world economic crisis – this is only the beginning. The worst is yet to come. The inertia of post-liberal processes is such that it is impossible to change course; “emancipated technology” (Spengler) will seek for the salvation of the West all the more effective but purely technical, technological means. This is a new stage of the dawn of Gestell, the spreading of the nihilistic spots of the world market over the entire planet. Going from crisis to crisis, from bubble to bubble (thousands of Americans demonstrate during the crisis with signs that read frankly: “give us another bubble!”) the globalized economy and the structure of post-industrial society make the night of mankind more and more black; so black that we gradually forget that it's night. “What is light?” people ask themselves, never having seen it.
It is clear that Russia has to go another way. It's own way. But just here there is a question. To diverge from the logic of post-modernity in one “separately taken country” cannot easily succeed. The Soviet model collapsed. After that the ideological situation changed irreversibly, as did the strategic balance of power. In order for Russia to be able to save herself and others, it is not enough to think up some technical means or dishonest gimmicks. World history has its own logic. And “the end of ideology” is not an accidental falling-out-of-step, but the beginning of a new stage; by all signs, of the last stage.
In such a situation, the future of Russia depends directly on our efforts at working out the Fourth Political Theory. While locally looking over variants which a globalized regime offers us with but a superficial correction of the status quo, we will not go far; we will only lose time. The challenge of post-modernity is extraordinarily serious: it is rooted in the logic of the oblivion of being, in the retreat of man from his being-related (ontological) and soul-related (theological) sources. To respond to it with hat-throwing initiatives and PR substitutes is impossible. Consequently, in order to decide urgent problems – the global economic crisis, resistance to the unipolar world, the preserving and conserving of sovereignty, and so on – we must turn our attention to the philosophical bases of history, must make a metaphysical effort.
It is difficult to say how the process of working out this theory will unfold. Only one thing is obvious: this cannot be an individual matter or the undertaking of a limited circle of people. It must be a universal, collective effort. We can be helped greatly in this question by representatives of other cultures and peoples (both European and Asian), who also sharply perceive the eschatological tension of the present moment and who also seek desperately an escape from the global dead-end.
But first we can affirm that the Fourth Political Theory, founded on the rejection of the status-quo in its practical and theoretical dimensions, in its Russian version will be oriented to the “Russian Ereignis”, to that “Event”, sole and unrepeatable, which many generations of Russian people lived for and waited for from the beginnings of our people to the arrival of the last days.