Lessons from Elite Theory
It is a common pastime in these online circles to bemoan the loss of a civilization that was. Whether it is the glory days of the 1950's economic boom, the patchwork-tapestry of culture and innovation that was the European renaissance, or even the Roman empire - You’ll always find some guy dedicating his entire Twitter profile to turning back the great wheel to a specific moment in time and space. Perhaps it is just the nature of men to long for a golden age, or perhaps it is a sign of our times.
It is not just gimmick accounts on Twitter who think something is not right. When talking to people in everyday life about politics and philosophical topics I get the sense that what @ForeskinCrusader1488 on Twitter is actively expressing - as marred by internet autism as it may be - most people feel in their bones. A sense that the scales of our society have become unbalanced and threaten to topple the entire structure.
So it falls to the men of our times to dive into the archives and teachings of old. To peruse the forbidden texts for formulas and solutions that might prove an energizing concoction when administered to a dead man walking. Despite this, there is a popular sentiment that we cannot go back. That despite how much we would want to recreate a “capital T” Traditional mode of being it just isn’t possible. I agree, and would add that the only way forward is through. We can weather the storm, or be dragged down into the depths - carried away by the currents that have swallowed so many civilizations before us.
In the interest of weathering such a storm I would like to present a tool to understand the world around us. Reality, as well as we can perceive it, is certainly not clear cut - even less so when we are surrounded by people and systems that actively exist outside of reality or even at odds with it. The world of modernity and the West present a confusing kaleidoscopic stream of conflicting imagery and information. To navigate such a world requires a toolbox full of individual lenses and the understanding of when to apply them.
In the interest of looking ahead at the challenges facing us I would like to outline a set of observations a “sensible centrist” might have against the current trajectory of our civilization so that we might understand why we would be interested in opposing it:
- Our political & cultural systems and safeguards have either failed or deteriorated to the point where sustainable operation will only be viable for the foreseeable future.
- Our elite caste of managers and experts - spurred on by the industrial revolution and the age of information - have abstracted their work in such a way that it no longer maps onto a reality that is easily perceived by the common man.
- Due to the issues outlined in point 1 and 2, cultural, societal and genetic norms and lessons are suffering. This threatens a dysgenic “point of no return”, and a permanent break with what we may call “the human experience” for the modern world. This is what many dissidents describe when they lament the state of the urbanite character: producing nothing of value, abstracted from nature, living in a small pod in dense population centers.
- The elites in charge are willingly ignoring these issues or have become too incompetent to notice and repair them. They could be allowing them to happen or attempting to survive the coming changes in a way that will keep them in power once the dust settles.
- As a consequence of these low quality elites, freedom and economical management on the level of a family unit or community is becoming increasingly impossible, or even interpreted as hostile action.
- A change in the makeup of our elites or their quality is required to revitalize “The West”. Failing that, the alternative is riding out the collapse and rebuilding a stronger regime in the ruins of the old.
Elite Theory - A quick primer
Before attempting to describe a way of looking at the world it is imperative to outline a quick and general explanation of the mindset required. This will be a short, introductory primer to the ideas of the Italian elite theorists. It’s members focus on the pure realities of power and politics, and champions that societal power tends towards autocracy and oligarchy rather than any organic “bottom-up” movement.
I have mentioned several times already an “elite”. You might be predisposed or have an instinctual understanding of what that term means. It is not meant to conjure images of puppet masters leading shadowy organizations, but rather categorize a societal structure that already exists in plain sight.
Gaetano Mosca claimed that any society is made up of two segments. Despite any societal myth and ideology that tells the narrative of how its systems work, the real composition of society will always be an organized minority ruling over a disorganized majority.
He expands this definition by identifying a secondary categorization within the ruling minority. The “governing elite” and the “non-governing elite.” The former of these two groups contain traditional, visible offices of power. The king and his court, or a President and his cabinet. The latter group form the backbone of the daily operation of the state, comprising of civil servants, bureaucrats and so forth. Borrowing from James Burnham, we might call this non-governing elite the managerial class. Others argue that this class also includes the ideological opinion shapers of the state. Journalists, tv-personalities or priests spring to mind.
When we speak of elites we are not just talking about the persons in offices of power, but the ones who influence us on behalf of these powers. Who occupies these positions can circulate if given time or change in the political, cultural and resource landscape of a society. As such it is important that we add another group to our understanding of the makeup of society. The organized dissidents.
Using the understanding of elite theory, the only political movers worth paying attention to at any time are the organized minority and the organized dissidents. Anything else is just a show that at any time either explicitly or implicitly serves to distract from this conflict. At any time in societal operation, the organized minority elite can be overthrown by an organized dissenting group with sufficient resources or planning.
Heuristics & The Fridge Theory of Politics
A heuristic is a mental shorthand or shortcut that allows humans and animals to perform quick decisions that generally works out in their favor. One might think of this like a computer running a program. You press the “start” button, and watch the machine execute the same logic with different parameters. If the rate of success is sufficient, running the heuristic “program” is often the best strategy compared to doing individual processing of every situation. If our instincts are correct 75% of the time when facing new problems, we are willing to sacrifice the pain that the 25% of failures might cause us, evolutionarily speaking.
Adding to our use of elite theory, we will borrow again from Pareto in using his economical analysis of the “80-20 principle”. This principle states that 80% of consequences originate from 20% of causes. In business and economics this general principle has been applied to productivity, wealth distribution, spending habits and so forth. It is not a hard mathematical principle, but it itself serves as a beneficial heuristic for describing the value of any input on any system's outcome.
Consider the following situation: Your fridge is broken and you need to replace it. You have bought a new fridge and the seller offers to deliver, install the fridge, and dispose of the old one - for a fee. Would you pay the fee and have the seller take care of the workload included in getting rid of the old fridge, shipping and installing the new one?
Regardless of your personal answer, we should first recognize that both options are valid in the realm of economics. Some might espouse an intrinsic value in taking care of your own problems, being strong enough to lift the fridge with a friend or two. Concluding that a society where everyone takes care of their own fridge would be a good one. But those are the minority, the 20% of the 80-20 principle. For most people, the heuristic of maximum gain for minimum effort will direct them towards paying their way out of the problem.
As Robert Conquest wrote as his first law of politics:
“Everyone is conservative about what he knows best”.
Herein lies a key part of the practicality I am presenting: For any given topic or challenge, the majority will seek toward an instinctual, heuristic path of least resistance. Just because you are part of the “based minority” on a topic doesn’t mean you get to be part of the societal elite. Of course, that is as long as we live in a society that devalues independent fridge-hauling. Changing that is up to you as the disorganized 20%.
The implication of this mode of thinking is that it also applies to any elite figure. As shown with the thought experiment of the fridge, the elites of any society are only elites in specific areas and opinions. Any elite overstaying its welcome as the premier of society will inevitably lead it into decline and destruction.
Let us consider Jonathan Haidt's concept of the Moral Foundations. Haidt posits that differences in moral concerns can be narrowed down to five foundations: Harm avoidance, Fairness of outcome, Authority, Ingroup loyalty and Purity. Marrying this with our heuristics-based theory of fridge-hauling we could argue that your moral foundations outline your heuristics in the face of problems and uncertainties.
The issue arises when these foundations become unbalanced. Once they are unbalanced, the automatic execution of these heuristics will cause people to inadvertently harm themselves or society with their actions. Haidt shows us how society has become skewed in his findings of American morality:
It is clear to see that a population and an elite increasingly sliding into liberal territory means an increase in “liberal heuristics''. Decisions made by elites that are actually “80%-ers” inevitably lead to destruction. As outlined in observation #6; A revitalization of the elite offices and members is paramount should the empire have any hope of restoring itself to any level of glory. But it is just as important to understand why this has not happened yet.
On any number of issues we are all part of “the masses”. On others, we are the elite. This is why organization of dissent is crucial - to be able to gather a network of productive and exemplary allies that can outmaneuver a growing incompetency and tyranny of an “80% rule”. This is also why the current regime has subverted any dissent in a way I suspect Machiavelli never thought possible.
In “The Prince” Machiavelli dedicates a chapter to discussing whether it is important for a ruler to be feared or loved by his population. The conclusion is that it is better to be feared than to be loved - to maintain control via the stick, not the carrot. I fear Machiavelli was never prepared for the possibilities and dangers of modern mass-communications.
Returning to our baseline structure of elites and counter-elites. How does a failing ruling elite ensure that no organized dissident group undermines or overthrows their position? By hindering organization. A disorganized dissident is no more than a mass man. But it is in the way that our current regime manages to dissipate dissident energy that ought to fascinate.
For what happens if the elite award carrots to its enemies, disguised as sticks? They clearly define what an enemy is, hand everyone a uniform and watch dissidents wear it with pride. Watch dissidents oppose the elites, in a way they intended - a way that does not even come close to harming them. The dissident will attack the target, claiming they have gone to war when all they have really done is devoured a carrot.
It imprints a disturbing Pavlovian call-and-response heuristic that will have the median, baseline conservative population - including any potential dissident - frothing at the mouth arguing about tax rates and birth control, “owning the libs”, and defining their politics in opposition to a 15 year old ball of hormones calling themselves “xir” on TikTok. All the while, elites continue marching towards liberal moral foundations.
What Can Be Done
The first step is to work on your own indoctrination, and try to see distracting low-effort targets that make you feel good for what they are: distractions. The next one is to work on the organization part of “organized dissent”.
A friend recently wrote a post on Twitter saying:
There are 4 ways to pay for political organization:
- Take by force
- Engage in trade
- Receive resources (donations)
- Spend free time
Since we’re not willing to do 1 yet, and 3 + 4 is limited, it’s not very wise to demonize 2.
It is my hope that if you made it this far down the post that you would be interested in spending more of your free time on organization. If “option 4” is less limited it would mean organizing would have to rely less on engaging in trade.
I will leave a link to the Basket Weavers. They are a non-political organization, but they are a great resource should you wish to hangout with people who are interested in these topics. Who knows, maybe you will even make some friends?