Nationalism, Political Theory, and the Errors of the Modern West

Peasants Dancing outside an Inn, David the Younger Teniers (1610-1690)
Peasants Dancing outside an Inn, David the Younger Teniers (1610-1690)

Peasants Dancing outside an Inn, David the Younger Teniers (1610-1690)

I. The Problem

If we live in a world made up of separate political communities, each of which constitutes itself to a greater or lesser extent as an institutionalized scheme of reciprocity, and each of which pursue a different mix of values embodied in its public culture, we can’t assume that we have the same duties to people everywhere regardless of membership. . .Strong cosmopolitanism would require the creation of a world government, and this could only be an imperialist project in which existing cultural differences were either nullified or privatized. –D. Miller, 2002, “Cosmopolitanism: A Critique”

This quote summarizes the basic ethical concept of ethnic and communal nationalism. The very existence of the modern state incorporates implicit ideas about the political system internationally. The state is not the sole actor in global affairs. “Political communities,” usually ethnic, can be both within a state, an opponent of the state or the foundation of the state. Nations within states are often sources of conflict. In Africa, for example, ethnic groups are almost randomly found within arbitrary borders. The state, defined as that web of coercive agencies with “public duties,” has no cultural or moral relation to the ethnic groups within its borders.

This implies that, for the most part, ethnic groups within the state that are not associated with the state are opponents of it. This is especially true of ethnic groups who have been given autonomous status. This status permits the ethnos access to structures of power that serve as resources for mobilization. Autonomous ethnic units within a state with their own local structures can mobilize quickly. Those without such autonomy are vulnerable as a result.

The very nature of community contains inherent markers: there must be a common language (broadly defined as a world of meaning); there must be foundational truths accepted by all or nearly all; it must have a historical existence; it must be comprehensive in that it contains all the components essential for a rational and just social life. Without these, the community is a haphazard aggregation of people that are either too specialized to be comprehensive (such as a bridge club) or too diverse to come to any consensus. Such random groups have no means of communication. The main issue then becomes: Without a connection to its ethnic nucleus, the state is a mere imperial imposition without legitimacy.

This paper will deal broadly with the question of community and its relation to international politics Three largely forgotten Russian authors, A.S. Vyazigin, E. Trubetskoy and L. Karsavin will be used to explicate these issues in a way few English speakers are aware.

The quote from Miller above are abbreviations of the ethno-communitarian idea. The ideas that can be deduced from that quote above are:

  1. Citizens live in political communities with their own sense of “reciprocity.” This is really the array of rights and duties integrated within that community. No social arrangement, privilege or institution is ever merely abstract. Abstractions are the result of intellectual indolence, dishonesty or a lack of specialization in a specific region. The nature of reciprocity in any given social world is, by its very nature, ethnic in a broad sense. Therefore, the specific history of that people require painstaking and detailed analysis. Panoramic sweeps of entire social epochs are unjustifiable.

2. Communities, which must contain at least some ethnic markers, are the principal manifestation of a constitution. This is a much older, continental concept of “state.” Normally, state in writers such as Hegel refer not to coercive administrations, but rather the cultural scaffolding that such institutions rest upon.

3. Ethnic communities specify the nature and function of duties, rights and rewards. This is what distinguishes the national community from all other communities less comprehensive. These institutions derive from the specific experience and history of a people. Without grasping these processes, such arrangements seem inscrutable.

4. Communities are different from one another because of their historical experience, resources, social condition, economic life and geographical markers. These identifying marks create different types of people with differing priorities.

5. Native and foreign peoples are easily identified and are implied in any usable idea of “community.” In fact, the ability of one group of overarching political significance to identify outsiders is proof of the internal cohesion of the community. This kind of differentiation is as old as humanity.

6. Communities do not subsist without traditions, or basic foundational sentiments that serve as the context for any communication or activity. In a general sense, traditions of political significance are means whereby peoples have maintained cohesion under strained circumstances. They are the infrastructure of security.

7. Membership is not the same as citizenship. The former is active, while the latter is ascribed merely from being born. Membership implies a concrete relation while citizenship is an abstraction, at least in modern states.

8. The cosmopolitan idea is an invention of empire and international capital. It is the most artificial and abstract of all social categories. It has no inherent content, and yet, given the nature of globalization, is largely the official ideology of the western world.

9. The isolated ego, believing itself autarkical, has no idea of its responsibilities until it is incorporated into an ethnic unit. The isolated ego again, does not exist, but is essential to the “social sciences.”
The community is not a government, but serves as the substratum upon which the state constructs its institutions. A government (which is not a “state”) that does not partake substantially in the authentic tradition of the population is an imperial imposition which, under most circumstances, cannot have moral credibility.

10. Communities do not necessarily require a government, though for the most part, small states require some formalized mechanism to protect their integrity. It is a necessary evil used to restrain irrationality both internally and externally.

11. Tradition, in order for it to be operative, must be institutionalized in formal and informal organizations. The latter are far more numerous and important than the latter.

12. A written constitution makes sense only if it reflects the historical experience of the community. It cannot be based on abstract ideas on mankind in general. A constitution is really an abbreviation of the historical experience and the ensuant priorities of the society.

Using the work of Vyazigin, Trubetskoy and Karsavin, these implications will be summarized from the Russian point of view. Russian history is unique, almost totally uncharted by western academics1, and thus contains implicit duties and rights that might not exist elsewhere. These three authors express these forms of identity in great detail.

The self is something that is created and cultivated. It is constituted by those interwoven “institutions of reciprocity” that make a community a real family rather than any mere flock of random people. If the self is created, it is secondary in social significance. If it is secondary, than it must have intrinsic obligations and responsibilities to the society that raised and nurtured it.

The liberal idea, rising with and complimenting capitalism, takes the purely ideational ego as the main “actor” of political theory. Yet, the family, language, creed, history, geography and a countless number of other institutions are more foundational than the ego. The very existence of an abstract ego, an capricious will, is itself the creation of modern capitalism that does not exist except as an expression of profound alienation.

The self is antithetical to the ego in that it is a hypostasis. This is just to say that as a person, one manifests the historical experience of a group as a person. In other words, the universal life of the community is carried inside the self without negating one’s personal identity and peculiar purpose. From an ontological point of view, the alienated idea of the abstract ego is the social expression of nominalism.

The literature in this field is immense, but normally of little value. Liberalism is the default ideology of academicians that only hear the nationalist critique of post-modernity only in caricature. Worse, academics cannot make a distinction between the state and the nation, holding that there is a “civic nationalism” which has no individuality of itself, but is merely a “public” sphere for interest groups to contend for power. Liberalism is in such a position of power that all challengers to its dominance must justify itself to it. Liberalism necessitates no argument.

Writers such as Johnston (2004) and Guttman (1993) accept liberalism as a matter of course, and use it to unmake any useful sense of communal identification. Once this identification is gone, they do not bother to ask what remains. Once the culture has been corroded by the force of ego, cash and self-interest, what remains is the detached, disoriented individual whose identity consists of a fragmented and pliable set of conceptions deriving almost wholly from both capital and the state.

Individuals cannot exist without the community. Post-modern America is probably the first example of a culture-less people. What results is arbitrary behavior and the worship of power. What was once seen as mental illness is now a virtue. Deviousness is conflated with intelligence. The job of arguing that the “ego” is accordant with community living is not an enviable one. Yet, liberalism is based on just that. If nothing else, its history exists to uphold markets and urbanization, which, of course, know no identity at all except the common denominator of hard cash.

Thankfully, writers such as Halfman (1998), Harty (1999) and Husserl (1939) emphasize the alienation occurring under this decrepit liberal reductionism. The work of Bowles (2002) and, more importantly, Parry (1982) explain the logical, historical and cultural concept of nationalism, communitarianism and a profound conception of identity largely foreign to western elites in general. Their work pulverizes the suppositions and falsifications of establishment liberalism. As Parry argues, there is no concept of autonomy that does not rely on a tradition of action. There is no way to justify an ethic of egocentrism that does not eventually collapse into the Will to Power.

II. The Russian Response: Vyazigin

The work of A.S. Vyazigin centers around a book entitled A Manifesto of Creative Nationalism. Terms used by leftists in the Russian Imperial era were indefinite. They were merely negations of the tsarist order. Like Marx, they spent much time criticizing the imperfections of the Old Regime, and offered their own set of ideals as alternatives. The dishonesty here is evident: the real functioning of a social system can never measure up to an idealized set of concepts. Marx and Lenin, for their parts, refused to express what a future socialist society would look like. Arguing disingenuously that one cannot know such things, they still contended that such an unknown future is the final goal of revolution.

As with most Russian nationalists of the last century, Vyazigin argues that parliamentary democracy does not and can not represent anyone. Money is the sole means to winning elections, and backroom accommodation for the sake of getting along is the sole job of the politician. Very few voters could ever keep track of these perennial aspects of legislative democracy.

Public ignorance, in addition, is so immense (and remains so), that slogans and cliches become substitutes for political knowledge and experience. The very existence of ideology (as opposed to political principles) demonstrates the vapidity of mass liberal ideology. Politicians and citizens require quick answers to important and complex problems. These problems, the domain of independent specialists, are reduced to slogans that justify a far more complex and less clean-cut set of policy predilections. Worst of all, modern politicians want power. They seek it, and play various roles2 in order to get and maintain it. Only the most amoral can function comfortably in modern parliaments. Those who want power are the last people that should have it.

Concepts like “freedom” are means to an end. Such words are mostly rhetorical devices used for emotional impact. “Freedom” in any useful sense must proceed from truth and right, not fashion or whim. Liberalism is a “doctrine of despair” since it can be based on the idea that a) one does not believe truth exists; b) elites promoting these views do not want such truths to exist; or c) power is its own reward3.

The essential thesis of Vyazigin (and shared by Karsavin) is that the nation, the ethnic community, is a set of nesting identities existing in a hierarchy of comprehensiveness. The concept of “symphony” is essential in Russian social thought but has little currency in the west. Modern governments seek the weakening of intermediate institutions. They are challenges to central control and serve as the potential locus of rebellion. This is the very essence of absolutism, itself a creation of modernity. Nationalism, on the other hand, requires a substantial set of institutions that gradually initiate its members into what is socially valued and why.4 The family, ethnos, and state are in fact, moral ideas rather than formal structures. The destruction of these ideas is essential to totalitarianism and imperialism.

Liberalism rejects the existence of truth or goodness, except for its own vague sentiments. It exists so that individuals can experiment with their own limited and tentative conceptions of the good within a generally permissive society. This however, is not liberal practice. If the good is not knowable, then social justice, community and virtue must also remain unknowable. Capitalism, the state, media and official churches can therefore dominate societies without opposition, since there is no firm intellectual foundation that can be used to critique such power. This is why liberalism and capitalism are identical, the latter being the economic form of the former.

E. Trubetskoy

E. Trubetskoy’s argument is that once the ego is situated at the center of social life, there is no turning back to a firmer moral foundation. Relativism becomes normative because it is effortless. It requires no discipline or sacrifice, and therefore, it gives a sense of “worth” to the mass man corresponding to no effort. Western imperialism in 2014 (which is identical to the imposition of corporate capitalism), differs from the Russian variation in that it is based on self-indulgence. Making human beings slaves to their passions, and then selling the means of gratifying them is the most insidious form of despotism imaginable5.

This imperial process is accomplished slowly but deliberately. A small bit of “borrowing” from the west spreads rapidly, Trubetskoy argues, like a contagion. Again, since liberalism requires no sacrifice, virtue or ability, it is easy to adopt. The pressures of moral virtue are lifted and the piteous egotist believes himself “free” from everything except his insatiability.

As is common in this literature, Trubetskoy makes the distinction between culture and civilization, as Spengler and K. Leontyev had also done. The distinction is a clear one: culture is informal, arising from historical experience and the numerous of variables mentioned above. It is nearly identical with ethnic identity. It needs no articulation until foreign ideas challenge it. When the culture is attacked, it can follow several trajectories: a) it finds many able defenders who are forced to turn it into a “system”; b) it falls to the easy, crisp and simple ideology of egotism or c) it leads to a society that is no longer a community. One segment speaks of the great heroes of old and the traditions of the people, but that seems unimportant and unexciting when compared with internet porn.

The use of these vices is a weapon. Once dependent on images and illusion for happiness, those who control its generation become totalitarian dictators, creating demand rather than serving it. Markets are amoral, as is economic production and western ideas of progress. It only becomes ethical when elevated to a national and historical context6.

Ultimately, Trubetskoy’s view of virtue he calls “ideocracy,” and is based on the following elements: first, that the society base itself around a popular, communal view that summarizes the historical path of the community. Second, the concept of courage, which refers to the chivalric conception of serving the good, sacrificing for it, and putting it ahead of one’s own life if needed becomes the essential virtue. Third, material self-interest should be seen as the root of evil. If a society is merely pursuing its “self-interest” (which George Santayana argued was a tautology) then those who have superior resources have no ethical boundary to keep it from dominating society. If self-interest is the only value, then the remainder of the population, the inert mass, have no intellectual grounds for challenging this tyranny. Finally, the concept of the ethnos must rest on some combination of history, natural life and the “soil,” or the topography and resources of the society and how families and localities relate to it. In the first section of his work on Plato, Trubetskoy states,

Man’s life in nature inherently contains the ground and necessity of right. Existence implies a necessary right and law. This mode of life is determined by a set of specific values tending towards social unity and sameness. Mankind’s life includes mutual repulsion; the source of loneliness and psychological isolation. The society taken together then becomes a unity in power, a creative and spiritual essence receiving a singular mode of life7.

The argument in this passage is that natural law implies cultural unity. This law, in other words, can only be truly understood in a community whose functioning and survival explicate the normal modes of human existence. “Nature” here can be taken in two ways. First, it refers to the inarguable axiom that human beings are naturally communal (but not naturally political). Individuals cannot survive on their own; humanity cannot exist when based on isolation. Secondly, it refers to the “nature” of the ethnos, that is, its territory, resources, soil conditions, weather and native growth. “Soil” is not some abstraction – the soil is where food is grown and thus, quite literally becomes a part of the people. Different foods, chemicals, vitamins, minerals and conditions create very different people.

Summarizing thus far, the essential morality of a healthy ethnic nationalism is based on the virtues of self-sacrifice, self-government (which requires a tremendous amount of moral discipline and restraint), and a stress on the local. Local communities are too small to be a state. A state must be large enough to supply most of its basic needs, but not too large that it ceases to represent an ethnic group. Obviously, the chess club, school board or bowling league, while social and require many of the same virtues as the ethnos as a whole, are not comprehensive enough to be “political” in a meaningful way.

One of Vyazigin’s essential ideas is that liberalism, state socialism, capitalism and state control, all closely related ideologically as they are elite inventions to serve their own desires. At universities, the assumption is that traditionalism is for “the rich,” while “the people” desire liberal change. This is almost never the case. Tradition is popular when properly articulated, and makes more sense than a state machine they cannot hope to influence. Politicians cannot control the courts or bureaucracy and hence their position must be based on an external power. The economic elites require politicians to blame when their own investment strategies fail. To speak of the “Reagan economy” is absurd: he did not make investment decisions or approve major building projects.

Elites demand the destruction of tradition, strong localities and church influence in society since these are a) potential sources of rebellion; b) a buffer against official propaganda; c) providers of meaning and purpose without reference to consumption; and d) produce children who, in general, see traditional life as their own.

L. Karsavin and Sobornost

The Russian principle of sobornost’ is often the first one novices wrestle with when dealing with Russian thought. It is rarely dealt with in any useful sense, since western positivism and nominalism have eliminated any vocabulary to describe it. Some even refer to it as “conciliar rule,” as if it refers to an institution. Alienated moderns have no frame of reference for a concept so profound.

Sobornost, to keep it simple, is the “symphonic personality” of Karsavin. This is a metaphysical term that can be described as the physical manifestation of the real and ideal as one. It is human perfection, the conciliation of opposites such as right-duty; God-church; person-society; state-culture; self-other and many more. It is the goal of all philosophy since it comes from the very person Christ defined and clarified the Synod of Chalcedon (451). The balance between eternal truth and its manifestation in physical being is the solution to all ontological problems. The hypostasis is both a universal Form and specific individual personality.8 This has implications for all aspects of life. Essentially, when manifest in daily life, it is a social concept.

Karsavin’s “symphonic personality” is a concept quintessentially Russian, displaying her turbulent history in sharp relief. Put generally, this idea implies that law and right are conceived only in justice – the community predates the individual both chronically and logically. Put differently, justice is the traditional proportions existing among different functional institutions in social life. It is similar to a “constitution” in the broad sense. The ethnic tradition is far more important than its specific manifestation in law. The multiplication of laws, as is the case in much of the world, is a sign of social decay, amorality and disorientation. Laws cannot change minds, and have little but coercive force if they do not derive from the specific experience of a people. They equally have no effect if citizens are ignorant of its underlying tradition or alienated from it.

Rights and duties imply each other in the sense that one’s “rights” are not abstract entities that come from a bourgeois God that has been rendered irrelevant, but they derive from the specific corporate role that provides one’s social usefulness. Rights adhere to social institutions necessary for a society’s basic functioning. Corporatism usually derives from this as a formalization of these functional tasks and needed labor.

Power is not something to be sought. Liberalism, capitalism and democracy reward, not the most just and certainly not the most knowledgeable, but only the most devious. Deviousness is not intelligence, nor is it common sense. It is an instinctual survival drive that manipulates others so that the deviant can use ethical language as images, leverage or weapons. Law for example, for the Will to Power is only important when it can be used to escape justice, act as a weapon against adversaries or defend possessions. There is no respect for law per se. The Will to Power seeks to make an exception for itself. It sees law as a useful weapon to restrain everyone else. Of course, such a person also becomes infuriated when similar tactics are used to frustrate his “noble” will. In the west, law is divorced from morals, and the stupid phrase “you cannot legislate morality,” common among Americans, is a pointed and cutting sign of complete moral and social decline.

Only when power is separated from responsibility, the good and the transcendent does it become appealing, since only then can it be wielded in a selfish way. Karsavin holds that a natural ruling class forms a true nobility. Somewhat akin to John Adams’ argument of the natural aristocrat, Karsavin argues that an elite is required to rule justly. This seems self-evident, since the complexity of even a minor area of public policy or legal dispute requires substantial, concentrated and informed research. This is not the Will to Power, since the Nietzschian conception of the Overman implies that its ends are purely instinctual and relative, and even more, that the Overman must be self-identified. To hold that all acts, laws or ideals derives from some desire for power is similar to the phrase that all act for their own interest. Power is not unitary, nor is instinct. If power means the desire to change x into y, then the above claim is a mere tautology. Like utility, it both assumes and explains too much to be useful9.

The Platonic conception here is clear: the good, both manifest and ideal, is not something that the mass man knows exists, let alone can identify. Political rule is a highly specialized field that is easily perverted for base ends. True, natural nobles sacrifice for the commonweal and, at a minimum, do not permit any private interest to influence policy. Their power is their last consideration; this is the very nature of a true aristocrat. Ideology and party have no place in a true ruling class, since these are the negation of the philosophical idea. Ideology is a negation since it requires little thought and effort to give the “proper” answer to any question, regardless of whether or not the respondent actually knows anything.

III. Conclusion

Nations and traditions of all kinds are specific. The worst error of modernity is its fixation with abstracting all significant qualities from an object and leaving the least significant, its strictly formal structure as its “truth.” One consequence of this is “proceduralism.” A verdict or outcome is “just” if the proper procedure for its resolution was followed. The outcome is trivial since only bureaucratic etiquette has value.
Therefore, we can conclude by summarizing the nature of the ethical critique of liberalism:

  1. There is no useful concept of rights or duties unless based on a living cultural unity10. Rights are specific because the essence of each community has universal problems which are resolved into unique solutions. Even the universal issues that all face (such as the dread of sickness), are dealt with quite differently in different parts of the world. Therefore, while many concerns and issues are universal in scope, how these are manifest in a society’s scale of priorities will differ greatly.

  2. Public goods cannot exist unless there is a public to serve. The public, if it is not just a random agglomeration of people, needs to be specifically constituted by the broad and complex ideas of language, history and a panoramic agreement on moral concepts11. Without these, civic discourse is hopeless. Debate implies agreement.

  3. Individualism and liberalism are mental orientations that serve the interest of capital. There is no globalization without the simultaneous termination of all significant forms of identity outside this nexus. Therefore, it is official policy that all national movements, unless they temporarily serve the Washington Consensus, are to be fought. To create centers of identity that are multifaceted and “symphonic” is to dis-empower capital from taking over the psyche, home and nation.

  4. If the nation is seen as “imagined” or “mythical,” then there is no moral place to stand to excoriate imperialism. This is an essential argument. There is no imperialism without nations, since it is the latter that are enslaved and exploited by the colonizing power. One cannot be “under occupation” if there is no entity that is being occupied.

  5. Nationalism and cultural communitarianism are the same thing. There is no nation without a well-articulated culture that furnishes elementary public unity. The government is not essential as a definer of membership. At best, it is the “protective coating” of the ethnos12. Reliance on coercion is a sign that allegiance to the ethnic whole is weakening.

  6. Arguments against nationalism are anemic and unoriginal. The self will be created either by the indigenous culture or economic elites, often foreign ones. It is usually one or the other. Writers and scholars have to pick a side, since they are opposed. They cannot meaningfully be synthesized. Capital, since its conception, has been planetary in scope. Colonialism precedes industrialization and, as a result, was required to rely on colonial possessions for raw materials. It was never “national,” especially in tiny states like Portugal, Japan, the Netherlands or England.

The work of Vyazigin, Trubetskoy and Karsavin, only summarized here, serve to offer a distinctive justification for ethnic independence and self-determination based on moral grounds. The elite bias against ethnic nationalism is self-serving. By claiming that nations and states are the same, western elites can then associate ethnic solidarity with formal coercion.

Vyazigin’s concept of socially determined rights and obligations, Karsavin’s “symphonic personality” and Trubetskoy’s “ideocracy” are three different ways of getting at the same general principle: national survival is impossible unless tradition takes its sources from historical experience, especially unpleasant experience. The strength of communal structures is often proportionate to a people’s experience with genocide or foreign occupation.

Russian national thought is useful partly because it remains unknown, and partly because the specificity of Russian history offers a very different set of variables, ideas and justifications for community. The Russian climate, geographic exposure, poor soil and monstrous size have created a “Russian idea” that must establish and enforce strong communities, sacral rulers and a militarized ethos based on common service. This is essential for her security and survival. When the west piously condemns these historical essentials as “backward,” they merely show their intellectual stagnation, ideological shackles and lack of historical sensitivity. Most of all, such sentiments serve the elite who require traditional structures be dissolved in favor of the passionate haze of impulse.

Bibliography:

  • Johnson, Matthew R. “Universalism, Moral Theory and Ethno-Anarchism: A Challenge to Contemporary Nationalism” The Occidental Quarterly, Summer 2003

* Borneman, John. Uniting the German Nation: Law, Narrative, and Historicity. American Ethnologist, Vol. 20 (1993): 288-311

* Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis. Social Capital and Community Governance. The Economic Journal, Vol. 112: F419-F436

* Castles, Stephen. Hierarchical Citizenship in a World of Unequal Nation-States. PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 38, 2005: pp. 689-692

* Halfman, Jost. 1998. Citizenship Universalism, Migration and the Risks of Exclusion. The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 49: 513-533

* Harty, Siobhan. The Nation as a Communal Good: A Nationalist Response to the Liberal Conception of Community. Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, 1999: 665-689

* Husserl, Gerhart. The Political Community Versus the Nation. Ethics, Vol. 49, 1939: pp. 127-147

* Miller, D. Cosmopolitanism: A Critique. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Vol 5, Issue 3, 2002, 80-85

* Johnston, Pamela et al. The Elusive Ideal of Equal Citizenship: Political Theory and Political Psychology in the United States and Great Britain. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 66: 2004, 1036-1068

* Knight, Frank H. Abstract Economics as Absolute Ethics. Ethics, Vol. 76, 1966: pp. 163-177

* Parry, Geraint. Tradition, Community and Self-Determination. British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 12, 1982: pp. 399-419

* Vyazigin, A.S. Манифест созидательного национализма. Institute for Russian Civilization, 2008 edition. This is actually a set of articles and speeches set out during the period between 1902-1914. It is an extremely useful compendium of contemporary issues. However, the reader must glean the more permanent ethical truths from the issue-oriented writing.

* E. Trubetskoy. Смысл жизни. Mamontov Publishing, 1914; his best known work, this deals with the most general ethical truths governing human life tout court.

* Великая революция и кризис патриотизма Omsk, 1919. Written during the civil war, this work attempts to diagnose the failures of Russian institutions in the face of total war.

* Социальная утопия Платона. Moscow, 1908; often inaccessible to many readers, Trubetskoy successfully rests his critique of modernity on a semi-Platonic foundation without committing himself to Plato as such.

* Hobsbawm, E. Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge University Press, 1991

* Karsavin, L. Пролегомены к учению о личности. Put’ 12, 32-45, 1928. This is the main source for his doctrine of the “symphonic personality.”

* Философия истории. Berlin, 1923 Here, his concept of the person is placed in a historical context.

* Восток, Запад и русская идея. St. Petersburg, 1922, as is normal for Russian writers, the contrast with the west relative to Russian moral imperatives is treated.


  1. This means that western academics do not understand the context that understanding a society such as pre-revolutionary Russia. Alienated, liberal and conformist urbanites climbing the educational and bureaucratic ladder are in no position to pass judgments on societies that have nothing in common with such estrangement. It is precisely these kinds of people that Gogol was mocking in most of his work. That the typical liberal academic seems innocent of such facts speaks to their competence. 
  2. This is the proper definition of the word “hypocrisy.” It does not mean “inconsistent” but rather, the fundamental relativity of the role one is forced to play. 
  3. The ideas in these paragraphs derive directly from the Russian language edition of A.S. Vyazigin. Манифест созидательного национализма, published by the Institute for Russian Civilization, 2008 
  4. Many writers on nationalism, such as Marxist ideologue E. Hobsbawm, reject the idea that intermediate institutions are important to nationalism. They fail to answer the obvious question as to how cultural diffusion takes place. Relegating this to the domain of elite conspiracy, as Hobsbawm does, is intellectually duplicitous, especially in his Nations and Nationalism Since 1780 (1991), which is the official leftist handbook written to fight national movements. 
  5. The basic summary of Trubetskoy’s position derives from these three works: Смысл жизни (Мамонтов, 1914); Великая революция и кризис патриотизма (Omsk, 1919); and Социальная утопия Платона (Moscow, 1908). The latter work on Platonism is the most general ethical critique. 
  6. Cf esp Великая революция и кризис патриотизма for a description of this process. 
  7. Социальная утопия Платона, 1908, sec 1 translation mine, albeit fairly loose. 
  8. Karsavin’s most interesting and relevant works are: Пролегомены к учению о личности. Put’ 12, 32-45, 1928; Философия истории (Berlin, 1923); and Восток, Запад и русская идея. (St. Petersburg, 1922) 
  9. Cf his Восток, Запад и русская идея for a more detailed explanation of this. 
  10. Husserl, 1939 
  11. Knight, 1966 and Bowles, 2002 
  12. Bornman, 1993 

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