The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

Publications Filter? Da Russophile
Nothing found
 TeasersRussian Reaction Blog

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

Then you might get something like Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War, which I’ve finally read on the recommendations of Kolya and TG. Ranging from Ermak’s subjugation of the Sibir Khanate to the rise of Rome, Turchin makes the case that the rise and fall of empires is reducible to three basic concepts: 1) Asabiya – social cohesiveness and capacity for collective action, 2) Malthusian dynamics – the tendency for population to outgrow the carrying capacity, and 3) the “Matthew Principle” – the tendency for inequality and social stratification to increase over time. The interplay between these three forces produces the historical patterns of imperial rise and fall, of war and peace and war, that were summarized by Thomas Fenne in 1590 thus:

Warre bringeth ruine, ruine bringeth poverty, poverty procureth peace, and peace in time increaseth riches, riches causeth statelinesse, statelinesse increaseth envie, envie in the end procureth deadly malice, mortall malice proclaimeth open warre and bataille, and from warre again as before is rehearsed.

Turchin, PeterWar and Peace and War (2006)
Category: history, cliodynamics, war; Rating: 4/5
Summary: Amazon reviews

Ibn Khaldun, Malthus, and Saint Matthew meet up for coffee

1) According to the Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, empires only form when a tribe, nation, or religious sect attains a high degree of asabiya, – the ability of a group’s members to cooperate with each other, to maintain their identity and discipline in the face of adversity, and to impose their beliefs, values, and control over other groups. Other similar expressions are social cohesion or “social capital”. As Ibn Khaldun wrote, “royal authority and dynastic power are attained only through a group and asabiya. This is because aggressive and defensive strength is obtained only through… mutual affection and willingness to fight and die for each other”. (To put this in context, this is similar to Lev Gumilev’s theories of “passionarity” / пассионарность (willingness to sacrifice oneself for one’s values) or my own ideas on the sobornost’-poshlost’ / rationalism-mysticism belief matrix, in which a state of sobornost’, of course, refers to a high level of asabiya).

This is not surprising – military cooperation and morale is an important factor in military success. See the stunning successes of the early Islamic armies spreading the revelations of Mohammed, or of Nazi Germany. Later in the book, Turchin references the work of Trevor Dupuy, who showed that the Germans had a “combat efficiency” of 1.45, compared to the British 1.0 and American 1.1, in the battles on the western front of 1944 – in other words, excluding equipment and terrain, each Germany soldier was militarily “worth” 20% more than an Anglo-Saxon one.

Now why do some societies have higher asabiya than others? Ibn Khaldun’s analysis covered the dynamics of the desert / settled boundary in the North African Maghreb. Amongst the desert Bedouin tribes, constant inter-tribal warfare exerts group selective pressure favoring the emergence of tribes high in asabiya. These selective pressures are much weaker in settled civilizations with rule of law. Now these defects are more than made up for civilizations’ greater population density and better technologies, which can normally yield much bigger, better-equipped armies than anything the barbarians can muster. However, should civilization fall into a state of internal strife and social dissolution, it becomes “vulnerable to conquest from the desert” by a coalition of Bedouin tribes organized around one group with a particularly high asabiya. However, as soon as the barbarians become ensconced within their new domains, they gradually assimilate into the urban civilization, the high asabiya of the core group dissipates, and the cycle begins anew.

Turchin extends Ibn Khaldun’s beyond the Maghreb into a general theory of the rise of empires, almost all of which arise along “meta-ethnic frontiers” featuring bloody conflicts between starkly alien peoples. The constant military pressure and hatred for the Other binds the borderlanders together, fostering the relative economic equality, social solidarity, and discipline that will in time build an empire. Examples of this include the conflict of the Roman farmer-warriors against the Celtic barbarians of the Po Valley that melded the Latin peoples into the Roman Empire, the centuries-long struggle against the raiding, slave-taking steppe Hordes that incubated Muscovy’s rise, and the violent frontier wars against the Native Americans that formed the “melting pot” identity of the United States. The entire history of Europe from the Roman Empire to Poland-Lithuania has been characterized by the millennial, north-eastern drift of the meta-ethnic frontier between Rome/Christianity and tribal pagans, a frontier which repeatedly spawned new states and empires (Rome itself, the Caroliangian Empire, and the myriad Germanic and Slavic states.

2) The author notes that Ibn Khaldun’s blaming of “luxury” and “senility” for the degeneration of civilizations is an inadequate explanation, being nothing more than a biological metaphor with questionable applicability. Instead, Turchin lays out the theory of cliodynamics, the “mathematized history” that attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation of the “secular cycles” of imperial rise and fall by modeling Malthusian dynamics, i.e., when a great empire arises the resulting stability and prosperity produce overpopulation, which results in dearth, rising inequality (i.e. the old middle-class shrinks, while oligarchs and the landless indigent veer into prominence), and an intensified struggle for scarce resources that undermines social solidarity. Eventually, a severe shock such as a disastrous harvest, peasant uprisings, civil war, or foreign invasion provokes a full-fledged Malthusian crisis that triggers the collapse of the empire. I’ve already written about cliodynamics in detail here.

(Incidentally, I’ve also connected the decline of asabiya (or in my terminology, the transition from sobornost’ to poshlost’) to the socio-demographic cycles of cliodynamics. The theme of The Ages of Man, in which the bounteous Golden Age of the first dynasties (imperial rise) degenerates into the “immorality” and dearth of the Iron Age (social atomization, Malthusian stress, decline), – finally followed by an apocalyptic “cleansing” and start again (Malthusian collapse, barbarian invasions, Dark Ages, etc), is common to all civilizational traditions. See my Musings on the decline and fall of civilizations and explanation of the Malthusian Loop.)

3) Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”. In other words, there is a natural tendency for wealth to become concentrated in the hands of the few, called the Matthew Principle. In other words, if a pre-industrial civilization enjoys socio-political stability, has ineffective redistributive mechanisms, no free land / overpopulation, and a social mentality that accepts (or even glorifies – see “conspicuous consumption”) big levels of wealth inequality, within several generatons it will develop prodigal levels of social stratification. Wealth inequality tends to reach a maximum just before a collapse of the entire system: for instance, the Roman Empire fell for the last time just decades after reaching “peak inequality” in 400AD. Similar things can be said about the end of republican Rome, the decline of medieval France, and even Russia 1917 or Iran 1979.

Why does the Matthew Principle operate so strongly in Malthusian settings? In agrarian societies, private property is the normal way of storing inherited wealth. If a family has lots of children, each one will inherit ever smaller plots. To make ends meet, they will be eventually forced to borrow loans; if they can’t, their land is taken over by their creditors, and they now have to hire themselves out as agricultural laborers or drift into the cities where they can try to join a trade (hence the reason why cities expand so much in times of subsistence stress). Meanwhile, those who have land can 1) rent it out at exorbitant rates (since the demand for it is so high in an overpopulated country) or 2) they can sell the grain their tenants or serfs produce at high prices (again because there are more mouths to feed). The resulting accumulation of drifting unemployed are matchwood for social unrest (e.g. see the role of the sans-culottes in the French Revolution).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the social spectrum, the elites or nobility grow at a faster rate than the commoners because they have better access to food and can afford more children, and die less quickly. Those with land benefit from cheaper labor and the rise in rent prices, while manufactures become easier to afford thanks to the increase in trade and urban artisans. However, intra-elite inequality also increases, and there is increasing tension as some poor nobles see peasant arrivistes rising above them in social status. Because the king depends on the nobles for governing his kingdom, state institutions must be expanded to “feed” all those nobles who are left out of inheritances, fostering corruption, aristocratic intrigues, and social stratification. Those at the very top of the social pyramid engage in the most extravagant conspicuous consumption, provoking envy amongst the have-nots. All these widening social chasms reduce the society’s asabiya.

The plagues, wars, and internal violence unleashed by Malthusian collapse tends to kill off most of the top and bottom of the social period. The landless indigent starve to death, or their weakened immune systems succumb to disease, or they get carried away as the cannon fodder in the uprisings that wrack the failed state. The nobles also die fast, thanks to their status as a military caste. Generational cycles of violence and wars and political purges carry many of them off. After the collapse, land becomes cheaper and labor becomes more expensive. Subsistence stress largely subsides and society becomes much more egalitarian. The cycle begins anew.

Criticisms and Consequences

I think Turchin’s book is a good introductory text to the new science of cliodynamics, one he himself did much to found (along with Nefedov and Korotayev). However, though readable – mostly, I suspect, because I am interested in the subject – it is not well-written. The text was too thick, there were too many awkward grammatical constructions, and the quotes are far, far too long.

More importantly, 1) the theory is not internally well-integrated and 2) there isn’t enough emphasis on the fundamental differences separating agrarian from industrial societies. For instance, Turchin makes a lot of the idea that the Italians’ low level of asabiya (“amoral familism”) was responsible for it’s only becoming politically unified in the late 19th century. But why then was it the same for Germany, the bloody frontline for the religious wars of the 17th century? And why was France able to build a huge empire under Napoleon, when it had lost all its “meta-ethnic frontiers” / marches by 1000 AD? For answers to these questions about the genesis of the modern nation-state, one would be much better off by looking at more conventional explanations by the likes of Benedict Anderson, Charles Tilly, or Gabriel Ardant.

Nowadays, modern political technologies – the history textbook, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the radio and Internet – have long displaced the meta-ethnic frontier as the main drivers behind the formation of asabiya. Which is certainly not to say that meta-ethnic frontiers are unimportant – they are, especially in the case of Dar al-Islam, which feels itself to be under siege on multiple fronts (the “bloody borders” of clash-of-civilizations-speak), which according to Turchin’s theory should promote a stronger Islamic identity. But their intrinsic importance has been diluted by the influence of modern media.

Turchin has an interesting discussion of the future of the US, China, Russia, and the European Union based on the conclusions of War and Peace and War. In particular, one very relevant point he made is that to become a true empire, the EU requires 1) the development of a European-wide loyalty towards it, willing to shed blood for it, and 2) its core state, Germany, must continue to underwrite it financially. None of these conditions, I think it is safe to say, will be met. Germany is most emphatically not prepared to sacrifice its national interests in favor of a European project over which it does not have direct control; the Germans have their own problems, foremost among them the demographic aging of the population. Furthermore, only 37% of Germans are today prepared to fight for their own country, according to the findings of the World Values Survey*; if that is the case, then how many Germans would fight (and risk death) for the Brussels bureaucracy? 5% would probably be generous. Quite simply the EU does not have any foundations for an imperial future, nor the will to create one; it is very fragile and will start unraveling at the smallest shocks.

Another major problem with the book that makes it incomplete is that although Turchin touches and speculates about the modern world and the future – in particular, he notes that the rising inequality, crime rates, slower growth, etc, of the post-1960′s industrialized world is similar to the traditional symptoms of an emerging Malthusian crisis – he does not connect the dots with the Limits to Growth, the theory that explicitly states that we are being swept into a Malthusian crisis due to global overpopulation and resource depletion. This is a far more important development than the techno-hype he devotes much of the last chapter to.

In the end I gave a 4/5 for this book, although it could have potentially gotten 5*/5. Turchin did valuable work in emphasizing how the material (e.g. the Malthusian) interacts with the spiritual (asabiya) in history, whereas many lesser theorists regard the latter as a “mystical” factor unworthy of serious attention. However, the book suffered from 1) poor writing, 2) too many marginal details that should have been edited out, and 3) unsuccessful application of the theory to the current, post-agrarian era. He should either have left it out entirely, or spent a lot more time doing it better.

* From the latest “wave” of the World Values Survey, “Of course, we all hope that there will not be another war, but if it were to come to that, would you be willing to fight for your country?” I think this question is an excellent way of gauging asabiya in a nation, since it directly addresses the issue of life, death, and self-sacrifice. The results are very interesting.

The Scandinavian countries – limp-wristed feminist socialists that they are ;) – all say a resounding “yes” (Sweden 86%, Norway 88%, Finland 84%). Similarly, for all the problems of the post-Communist transition, Eastern European nations also retain high levels of asabiya (Poland 75%, Russia 83%, Georgia 70%), though Serbia 61% is lower (maybe because they’ve already fought) and so is Ukraine 69% (its Russophones aren’t as loyal as West or Central Ukrainians). Most of the Muslim countries say “yes” (Iran 81%, Egypt 80%, Morocco 77%), including a whopping 97% in Turkey. Iraq 37% is the sole outlier. Similarly, the Asian nations also have high levels of patriotism (China 87%, India 81%, South Korea 73%).

The United States 63% isn’t as high as one might think, and curiously close to France 61%, Great Britain 62%, and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world. The nations of Latin America tend to have similar figures. The Mediterranean countries, the old countries, and the countries defeated in World War Two are the last willing to put their lives on the line for their nation (Italy 43%, Spain 45%, Japan 25%, Germany 37%).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
🔊 Listen RSS

During one conversation at Sean’s Russia Blog, the commentator Evgeny referred me to a work by Russian political analyst & nationalist Konstantin Krylov, Поведение (“Behavior”). In it he tries to classify the world’s civilizations into four ethical systems (South – tribal, East – collectivist, West – individualist, North – kind of like communism?, and not yet reached anywhere). He makes some good observations, though they are certainly not new to sociology and he simplifies too much. However, I found his last chapter, Civilization and its Enemies, to be a really incisive characterization of two major social groupings “outside” conventional civilization – international diasporas and barbarians. [Go here for Google translation].

Krylov characterizes the diaspora mentality thus:

Мне нет дела до других, как и им – до меня. Как другие ведут себя по отношению ко мне, пусть так себя и ведут. Как я веду себя по отношению к другим, так я и дальше буду себя вести. Все действуют так, как считают нужным, и я тоже действую, как считаю нужным.

[I don't have any cares for others, just as they have no cares for me. Let others continue to behave towards me just like as already do; as for me, I will continue behaving towards them just as I always have. Everyone acts as they consider necessary, and I too act, as I consider necessary.]

According to Krylov’s thinking, diaspora peoples follow a “minimal ethical system”, expecting, and thus accepting, anything at all from others, both within and without their diaspora. They tend to disavow black-and-white, good-and-evil thinking; instead, they can understand an array of different values, they’re just not judgmental about them, except in so far as they are more or less “useful” or “harmful” to them personally. They hold a certain contempt for the rigid ethical / behavioral constraints of normal societies, which they find difficult to understand. Instead, they view themselves as unabashed realists, focus on survival and profiteering, and do not hold grudges or blood feuds; they are fully capable of negotiations with people who wronged them in the past if the situation changes or they need something from them.

Because of their minimal levels of social trust, the diaspora population cannot exist as a stand-alone community and must act as a parasite on another, already existing one; the example par excellence are the Jews, though others include Armenians, Greeks, the Chinese “bamboo network” of East Asia, etc (see Amy Chua’s concept of market-dominant minorities). He acknowledges that this view may be interpreted as being anti-Semitic, but disavows it because it is not an innate characteristic of Jewishness (be it in the “ethnic, religious, or politico-conspiratorial sense”), but rather of their diasporic nature.

Indeed, he notes at the end that Israeli Jews are entirely “another people” from the classical Jewish diaspora, since they have taken up the (Western) ethical system in favor of their previous diasporic ethical system after the formation of the Israeli state. They had to, since they now constituted the majority population and could no longer parasite off themselves. Nowadays the Jews in Israel possess a great sense of national destiny / uniqueness / patriotism, education isn’t particularly valued (interestingly, on international standardized tests Israelis tend to perform rather poorly, in stark contrast to diaspora Jews), etc, – in other words, they are a conventional civilization.

He then discusses relations between the diaspora within, and its relations with its “host” society. He notes that they can be at times useful, at times neutral, and at times debilitating to the host society; furthermore, the diaspora itself remains constant, while it is the host society that leads change. He makes the interesting observation that frequently members of a diaspora are more afraid of their own, rather than of members of the host society, since the latter must act towards them under the constraints of their particular ethical system, whereas between diaspora members relations are cleanly pragmatic / exploitative – and thus they can do unto them any kind of evil if it serves their purposes. Paradoxically, this state of internal insecurity actually binds the diaspora together.

Стоит обратить внимание на внутреннее устройство такого рода сообществ. Как правило, люди, входящие в них, боятся друг друга больше, чем чужих – поскольку ждут от “чужих” этически окрашенного поведения, а от “своих” чисто прагматического. Именно это обстоятельство может как разрушить подобное сообщество, так и (как это не парадоксально) сплотить его.

Diasporas are easily pushed around, and hesitate to stand up for themselves, preferring instead to buy off threats. He then argues that the phenomenon of diaspora peoples favoring others from amongst themselves for jobs, positions, etc – e.g. a Armenian (or Jew, etc) looking out for other Armenians at a big company – is not so much an expression of “national solidarity”, but a method of buying off potential enemies from within their own community; however, when said Armenian reaches a high management position subject to closer scrutiny, he refrains from hiring fellow Armenians, instead relying on credentialed specialists.

Diasporas sometimes have a good effect on the national economy, e.g. in nations where the host population is barred, through law or custom, from working in certain dirty or “debasing” occupations (typically those tied to finance or commerce in traditional Malthusian societies) – the Jews of medieval Europe are the archetypal example. He is also strongly against the idea that diasporas try to covertly acquire power in a country through cabals, etc – quite simply, they are not interested in it enough, nor do they understand the culture they are in (whose behavioral norms are much more complex than their own) well enough to be effective at it. Their main interest is in survival and eating.

Why do diaspora peoples appear to be extremely effective and successful? According to Krylov, because far from being extremely clever or devious as caricatured, the diaspora mindset is much simpler; they have little concept of social shame and simply don’t think about, or notice, many of the ingrained social customs and traditions constraining the actions of members of the host society. For instance:

Если самый дешевый способ получить то, что тебе нужно, от кого-то, это публично унизиться перед ним, то почему бы так и не поступить? Но если проще и дешевле обхамить, надавить, в конце концов обмануть того же самого человека, почему бы не сделать так? С такой позиции это чисто технический вопрос. Для того, чтобы его решить, не надобно большого ума, хотя со стороны такое поведение может казаться чуть ли не образцом сатанинской изворотливости.

[If the cheapest method of acquiring something you need, from someone, is to publicly lower yourself before him, then why not? If its easier and cheaper to pressure or deceive that same person, again why not? To them this is an entirely technical question with no moral overtones. To solve it one doesn't need a great deal of intelligence, even though from the side this kind of behavior may appear to be an example of almost Satanic resourcefulness.]

Finally, he notes that short of the diaspora disappearing – either through complete assimilation into the host society, or by acquiring a new ethical system and becoming another people entirely (like modern Israelis) – the civilized state must treat them with cautious toleration.

Кроме всего прочего, не следует излишне демонизировать поведение “рассеянных народов”. Люди такого типа действительно способны совершить любое зло (за что к ним соответствующим образом и относятся), но они, по крайней мере, не считают причинение зла другим единственным достойным способом существования. Такие люди могут быть безупречно лояльными гражданами, если только государство, в котором они проживают, будет внушать им достаточные опасения – а запугать их легко. Другое дело, что ждать от них проявлений настоящего патриотизма, чести, даже элементарной порядочности, не имеет никакого смысла.

[It does not follow that we should excessively demonize the behavior of diaspora peoples. People of this type can indeed make any kind of evil (which is why host peoples tend to have such bad relations with them), but they ultimately don't consider doing evil unto others to be the only way of earning a good existence. They can be flawlessly loyal citizens, though only if the state in which they live pressures them with substantial threats for disobedience, for they are easily cowed. It's another thing, however, that to await expressions of real patriotism, honor, even elementary decency from them, is entirely futile.]

Are these viewpoints bigoted? Correct? Racist? Anti-Semitic? Primitive? Incisive? A combination of all of them? As someone forced into becoming a “rootless cosmopolitan” myself, I admit to finding myself nodding to almost everything he said. Here’s a recent convo I had with people at Peter Lavelle’s UT discussion group on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

I realize, of course, that life under “Communism” was very bland andas the years rolled by increasingly corrupt and unfair to the peopleliving under it. I also understand that from the perspective of most East-Central Europeans, especially those of the younger generation,that system’s collapse was greeted with joy, signifying as it didnewfound social, economic, and national freedoms. Good for them, I hope they enjoy themselves.

That said. As a Russian whose parent’s livelihood basically vanished (R&D / academia) in the 1990′s, forcing him to migrate to a strangeculture whose pernicious effects made me into the historyless rootlesscosmopolitan / cultural traitor that I am today, I view the collapseof the USSR with a certain sadness and regret, despite my recognition of its manifold flaws.

You don’t have any roots in this country, You are like one of those weeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and are native nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are apiece of human trash that America collects from all over the world.

This is how a (proudly anti-Semitic, fascist) critic once described me. The thing is, he is 100% correct in my view.

In the context of this discussion, instead of living under the second, “Eastern” (collectivist) ethical system of the Soviet Union, I have been forced into living under the minimal “diaspora” ethical system described by Krylov, in which I am unaccepted by my host societies – and which I myself reciprocally do not accept either – the kitsch, or feelings of loyalty / self-sacrifice / etc, for either Britain, or the US, or even Russia. One of the replies was the following:

Your condition as described by one of your detractors and which you agree is correct -

[["You don't have any roots in this country, You are like one of thoseweeds that do not develop deep roots; they grow everywhere and arenative nowhere, You are a human weed without the roots, You are a pieceof human trash that America collects from all over the world".]]

– is actually a blessing.

This is what has enabled you to be a truly interesting and outstanding thinker, and this is why you will be able to contribute to humanity as you go along.

Had you been “enjoying your life” in that great and fantastic USSR, and taking deep roots there, the chances are that you would grow up as an insignificant miserable cog in that self-destructive aimless machine.

I remain to be convinced.

Anyhow, back to Krylov and this time his exposition of the barbarian mentality. Whereas diasporas lie half-way between civilization and its opposite, barbarians are symmetrically opposed – an ethical system of pure parasitism, glorifying the use of violence and deceit to achieve its goals. He does not believe that barbarism merely signifies a lower level of socio-economic and cultural development than civilization; instead, it is its own world opposed to and feeding off civilization. Barbarism is tightly-interlinked with and even a product of civilization, being that it is a parasite on civilization (which he defines as a construct that aims to solve its problems by itself, problems ranging the gamut from gathering food to hosting high-minded philosophical debates).

Я буду вести себя по отношению к другими так, как они не ведут себя по отношению ко мне (не могут или не хотят). Я буду делать с другими то, чего они со мной не делают (не могут или не хотят).

[I will behave towards like others don't behave towards me (either because they can't or don't want to). I will do unto them, what they don't do unto me (because they can't or don't want to).]

It is a principled position – the barbarian chafes under any other ethical system. A barbarian society regards living off others with pride, as self-actualization of its values, etc – and the feeling is all-encompassing, even among those who can’t physically be thieves or raiders. Furthermore, a key defining trait is that barbarian elites have access to the technical and ideological products of civilization:

Настоящее варварство еще не там, где все ходят с дубинами (и каждый может сделать себе такую же дубину). Настоящее варварство начинается там, где все ходят с дубинами, но вождь и его охрана носят стальное оружие (которого данный варварский народ делать не умеет), а еще лучше – с автоматами и гранатометами.

[Real barbarism begins not where everyone walks with clubs (and anyone can make himself a club). Real barbarism begins where everyone walks with clubs, but the leader and his guards carry cold steel weapons (which said barbarian society can't manufacture itself), or even better - with assault rifles and RPG's.]

Наиболее характерное внешнее проявление варварства – нарочито примитивные и дикие нравы в сочетании с развитой чужой (купленной, краденой или отнятой) материальной культурой. Монгольский хан, кутающийся в китайские шелка; африканский вождь на “джипе” и с “калашниковым” на шее; пуштун со “стингером” на плече – вот это и есть варварство. Варварство выживает, борясь с цивилизацией средствами самой цивилизации.

A characteristic expression of barbarism is the presence of primitive and wild social norms in conjunction with a developed foreign (bought, stolen, or looted) material culture. A Mongol khan, wrapped in Chinese silk; a Pushtun with a Stinger [missile] on his shoulder – this is barbarism. Barbarism survives by fighting civilization using the tools of civilization itself.

Barbarians defend their barbarism eloquently using the intellectual language of civilization – “freedom”, “faith”, “human rights”, “Sharia”, etc. At heart it is a criminal enterprise (by civilizational standards), but Krylov notes that frequently it has a seductive character of its own – thanks to its avid mimicry of civilizational attributes, and the support of influential supporters within civilization. He makes the intriguing argument that the Russian intelligentsia is an essentially barbarian social group.

“Русский интеллигент” – это человек, решающий свои проблемы за счет того, что он доставляет обществу неприятности, хотя и не оружием, а словами. Интеллигенция ведет себя по отношению к русскому обществу (и тем более к государству) примерно так же, как скандалист в очереди: он непрерывно оскорбляет всех присутствующих, и ждет, что его пропустят вперед просто затем, чтобы он, наконец, замолчал. …

[The "Russian intelligent" - is a person who solves his problems by way of bringing ill to society, if not by weapons, then by words. The intelligentsia behave towards Russian society (and especially towards the Russian state) as a scandal-maker in a queue - he insults everyone present, and expects that he will be allowed to move forwards in line just so that they'd get him to shut up.]

Именно такую цель имеет тотальная критика интеллигентами всех аспектов русской жизни и целенаправленное внушение русским людям чувства иррациональной вины … Как правило, эта “критика” использует ряд идей, созданных на Западе (например, либеральных социально-экономических теорий), причем ссылающиеся на эти идеи лица обыкновенно не понимают смысла того, о чем они говорят: это еще один случай использования орудий, созданных цивилизацией, для борьбы против цивилизации …

[This is the basic underlying point behind the intelligentsia's total criticism of all aspects of Russian life and their purposeful foisting of an irrational sense of guilt on the Russian people... As a rule, this "criticism" uses an array of ideas, created in the West (e.g., liberal socio-economic theories), furthermore in many cases the people leaning on these ideas don't actually understand them: this is another example in which the tools created by civilization, are used in the fight against civilization.]

Поэтому не следует удивляться тому, что вполне конструктивные западные идеи приобретают в России некую “разрушительную силу”: они используются для заведомо деструктивных целей.

[Therefore there's no reason to be amazed that completely valid Western ideas acquire a "destructive force" when applied to Russia: they are used for explicitly deconstructive purposes.]

I agree. The Russian intelligentsia has at large been an agent of destruction, most clearly seen in their guise as Old Bolsheviks and the 1990′s extreme liberals. Their current manifestation is in the liberasts, e.g. for examples of their arrogant intolerance and treasonous mentalities see Korchevnaya’s observations and Anatol Lieven’s article on Russia’s Limousine Liberals. Thankfully they no longer represent a real threat to Russian society and can be safely ignored.

One final thing I would note is that it is much easier for a person with a diaspora mentality to become a barbarian, considering that they’re already half-way there.

Application to the Belief Matrix

The Belief Matrix is a tool I invented to classify societies based on their degree of rationalism – irrationalism / mysticism on one axis, and sobornost / social solidarity – poshlost / internal strife on another axis. See “The Reich Loop within the Belief Matrix” section here for a more detailed description.

In this model, the diaspora mentality correlates to both rationalism and poshlost, i.e. the lower-left of the Belief Matrix; barbarism is the top-left, i.e. irrationalism and poshlost. Both are unstable states. The diaspora mentality cannot be sustained within a non-diasporic society, for a society cannot be a parasite on itself indefinitely; it will have to move upwards, towards barbarism, and start preying on others. But that too will eventually come to an end, either when it is crushed by the civilizations it makes war on – or it conquers them, and must now generate its own productive forces now that the opportunities for living off rents / confiscated surpluses have extinguished. This is the essence of the belief cycle called the Sisyphean Loop.

For more on related themes, see here (according to Mark Steyn, the Muslim community in Europe would qualify as barbarians), here (Germany), here (Russia), here (violence is reality), and here (my exposition of nihilism).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
No Items Found
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.