Alexander Dugin
Alexander Dugin
This post picks up where the last one left off, looking a little more closely into the proposition that Russia's military intervention into Ukraine constituted a major blow against the managerial class' globalist faction. Toward fleshing out these ideas I'll be taking us on a quick tour of key relevant ideas of Alexander Dugin, who, at the time of Russia's invasion of Crimea, Foreign Affairs characterized as "Putin's Brain." However, while Dugin's thinking provides the geopolitical context for understanding the relevance of these events, the intellectual history he offers to underpin the relevance of that geopolitical context provides a less thorough fit to the facts than does the theory of managerial liberalism. If Dugin's nominalist explanation is replaced by the theory of managerial liberalism, his geopolitical analysis becomes more compelling.

It would be convenient if we could just launch directly into Dugin, but unfortunately I've not yet had occasion to expand on the theory of managerial liberalism in this blog, so a brief introduction will have to precede the Dugin discussion. The fuller explanation of managerial liberalism is available in The Managerial Class on Trial, but in the meantime, we'll have to do the best that we can as a brief summary, here.

As a class, and indeed a class-conscious class, the managerial class first began to consolidate its power in the private sector, increasingly controlling the large - science and engineering intensive - companies that emerged in the latter decades of the 19th century, during what is sometimes called the Second Industrial Revolution. This consolidating of private power only led the managerial class to start flexing its muscle at the level of government by the second, moving into the third, decade of the 20th century. As a practical matter, such public governance was virgin territory to the managerial class, who had to figure out how it would govern under the stress of the post-WWI period's growing financial hardship, epitomized by the Great Depression. Across the North Atlantic world, the different national branches of the managerial class found themselves also facing quite different conditions, particularly as related to the relative strength of the bourgeoisie - the class which they needed to displace to become the new ruling class.

This tumultuous period gave rise to a range of different nationally situated strategies, which not only were involved with national inter-class struggles, but also international intra-class struggles, as the different national branches of the managerial class struggled for global leadership within the class. In Europe, these strategies relied on varying degrees and flavors of draconian rule; communism, fascism and Nazism were all managerial class strategies devised for specific national conditions.1 At least in Europe - as discussed last post, the epicenter of today's globalist managerial liberalism agenda - fascism and Nazism did not survive WWII. While communism did survive the war, in the waning decades of the 20th century it became increasingly moribund and collapsed on the eve of the century's final decade. The last man standing, as a managerial class strategy, was not one generated from within Europe, but rather one generated in the United States. The details of why this less openly draconian strategy proved successful in the U.S. are too complicated to rehearse here (see The Managerial Class on Trial) but, of immediate relevance: it put more emphasis upon self-legitimization of the managerial class' mode of rule.

This strategy of managerial liberalism operates at two distinct levels. The first level is the specific implications of "liberalism" as associated with its distinct modifier. This liberalism emphasizes a concern for the aggrieved and underprivileged. In the early decades of managerial liberalism, under the pressure of the economic hardships associated to the depression, the aggrieved that needed relief were the working class, the migrant and indigent laborers. In this context, the New Deal was very much a new deal for the rule of the managerial class. During WWII, the U.S. managerial class redirected its energies to fighting fascism and Nazism (which many of them had celebrated back in the 1920s, incidentally).

Soon after the end of the war, though, managerial liberalism picked right up where it had left off. Through the 1950s and 60s the aggrieved were racial - mostly focused on black Americans, though there was some growing attention to what in those days were called American Indians. By the 1970s and 80s disaffected youth, women and homosexuals were official members of the aggrieved. The process has continued to accelerate into the disabled, transgenders, and the obese, among others. However, it is easy to get caught up in the "liberalism" dimension of managerial liberalism and only see it as a metastasizing growth of aggrieved sub-groups.2 This would be to miss the point entirely.

This "liberalism" dimension of managerial liberalism is merely a performative ideology. It is performed for general public consumption: drawing attention to the aggrieved and their many problems. However, it is not the real ideology of managerial liberalism. Rather, as a performance this "liberalism" is the rationale for the real ideology which lies in the modifier adjective "managerial." The constant highlighting, and indeed multiplication, of official social problems is the rationale for the bureaucratic paternalism of the administrative state. The technocrats of the administrative state, so easy to regard as cold, clinical, faceless bureaucrats3, can now be presented as paternal do-gooders who merely want to solve social problems, reduce the suffering of the aggrieved, and make the world a better place. This bureaucratic paternalism then sets the stage for the massive projects of social engineering that have always been the real objective and animating ideology of the managerial class.

The "liberalism" is the performative ideology that legitimizes the real "managerial" ideology of pervasive social engineering. If all that sounds eerily familiar to our discussion of the World Economic Forum (WEF) agenda in the last post, so it should: the WEF is the logical culmination of managerial liberalism embodied in the contemporary world. Likewise, now when you see major corporations celebrating ostensible social justice movements which not only loot and destroy cities, but openly call for the destruction of those same corporations, perhaps this behaviour won't seem as anomalous to you as it may have before understanding the logic and dynamics of managerial liberalism. Such corporations are not acting as irrationally as may appear to those using an insufficiently sophisticated social-political theory. They are promoting their class' ideology.

I apologize for that lengthy opening digression, but for my assessment of Dugin it will be helpful to have the theory of managerial liberalism under our belts. The core of Dugin's analysis was already touched on in my general remarks about the Russian military incursion into Ukraine. In his most influential book, The Fourth Political Theory, Dugin explores the prospects for a new path for the world beyond the three political theories that had dominated the prior century: communism, fascism and liberalism.4 In contrast to the expansionist tendencies in these earlier political theories, he sees the fourth as a more pluralist model in which different societies and their unique, organic cultures are allowed to thrive. He particularly sets up the conflict as being between the totalizing, universalizing liberal West, and the many other societies, which want to maintain their own values, traditions and cultures.

In a more recent book - perhaps better described as a pamphlet - The Great Awakening vs The Great Reset, Dugin acknowledges that his earlier construct of the West vs the Rest may have been overdrawn. He now recognizes allies for the non-westernized societies amid the populist uprisings within the West5, both among the European identitarian right and the Trump-inspired populists of America. I suspect he would have been happy about the Canadian trucker-inspired movement in Canada, too. Dugin now argues that all these forces, both from without and from within, constitute a spontaneous order of resistance against the globalist "Western" agenda of the Great Reset: with its aspirations to impose world government and technocratic culture. This resistance movement he calls the Great Awakening. In his estimation, at the last moment, just before the iron grip of the Great Reset closed, a worldwide response has emerged, of people finally sufficiently awake to make one last effort to regain their freedoms and reassert their unique cultures. For Dugin, it's in this context that the Russian incursion into Ukraine must be understood.6

This is the geopolitical situating of the Russia-Ukraine business that seems to me a valuable contribution to understanding that military intervention through the lens of the "circulation of elites" realist analysis provided by this blog. As mentioned, though, at the level of the intellectual history underpinning all this, I do have an objection to Dugin's position, which is important to clarify.

Dugin offers the intriguing argument that the driving force behind the agenda of what I call the globalist faction of the managerial class is the philosophical axioms of nominalism. This he describes as the idea that individuals are naturally, and should be practically, atomized individuals. Individualism - separated from social, communal, collectivizing institutions - is our natural and ideal state: justice is achieved insofar as people are effectively liberated from collective identities and memberships. The primary political expression of this nominalism has of course been what Dugin calls liberalism, which over the years has pushed for people to be liberated from religious, ethnic, national and class belongings.7 Furthermore, he sees the natural elaboration of this nominalism in the current trends toward mass immigration, transgenderism and transhumanism.

Mass immigration is based upon the ideal that we're all naturally atomized individuals, without any connection to nation or culture, so there should be no problem with mass numbers of people from one culture or ethnicity flooding into another. More biting perhaps though is the logic of transgenderism. The dichotomy of sexual dimorphism is itself of course a duality of identity - belonging to one sex or another. Transgenderism liberates one from gender or sex in the same way as liberalism has liberated people from religion, race and nation in the past. If we're to be free to choose who and what we are to be, this must also apply to our gender and sexuality. And with transhumanism this freedom meets its ultimate culmination. What kind of human we choose to be, or indeed whether we choose to be human at all, must also be the free choice of the deracinated, atomized individual.

There's certainly a compelling logic to this analysis; however, at the end of the day, I find it less compelling than my own analysis, attributing the social valence of these phenomena to managerial liberalism. The tricky case for Dugin's analysis is the immensely popular tendency toward identity politics. In a certain sense you can see elements of nominalism in this: people do seem to choose which identities they'll associate with. But of course, identity politics goes well beyond that. In the case of race, for instance, identifying with a race carries a clear collectivist dimension. To be black, say, is to participate in something called the lived black experience. It is an experience only considered available to those who partake of this shared identity of being black. It is concession to this distinctive, irreducible black identity experience that justifies black university students having black-only dormitories and graduation ceremonies. Similarly, if one is gay, or even that half of the world population that are women: under identity politics, one belongs to a specific, collectivist identity.

The greatest vitriol among the stormtroopers of the managerial class is reserved for those who "superficially" represent as one of these identities but reject the collectivist dimension of that identity. This kind of thinking though moves in exactly the opposite direction of the nominalism described by Dugin. These are the reaffirmations of collective identities. However, rather than being oppositional to the Great Reset or managerial liberalism, they are the latter's performative ideologies in good standing. The managerial class enthusiastically promotes such identities and those adhering to such identities both welcome the support and are on board with the rest of the managerial liberalist agenda - including the bureaucratic paternalism of the administrative state.

So, Dugin's nominalist explanation falls flat in this area. The critique of managerial liberalism though has no problem integrating this phenomenon. No less than transgenderism/transphobia or homophobia (or islamophobia) or environmental catastrophism, this renewed racial (or otherwise) collectivism is the product of a performative yearning for social improvement and progress. As such, it panders to the imperatives of bureaucratic paternalism, with its social therapeutic aspirations, begging for the socially engineered remedies eternally on offer from, and so constantly legitimizing, the socially invasive reach of the relentless administrative state. Insofar as the "liberalism" in "managerial liberalism" is the performative ideology of the managerial class, legitimizing and justifying its social engineering agenda, such identity politics is just more grist for the mill of the "managerial" organic ideology of the administrative state and the ruling managerial class.

Therefore, at the end of the day, as interesting and insightful as is Dugin's analysis, it is still the critique of managerial liberalism and the managerial class that offers us the more parsimonious, compelling and useful analysis of the latter's performative ideology. And understanding the nature and function of that performative ideology is essential to appreciating not only the general dynamics of global managerial liberalism, but, returning to our main point of discussion, also the specific contours of the Russian military incursion into Ukraine.

Think of what you hear most commonly as criticisms of "non-western," "illiberal," "undemocratic" countries and governments: women don't have equal rights, there's no gay marriage, trans-people are repressed. Based on these allegations, "Western" governments demand that "human rights" be respected.8 Now, I understand that for many readers this part is going to be cognitively tricky but try to separate your emotional response from your political analysis. Let's leave aside whether your sympathy for such mistreated people (assuming they truly are mistreated) is merely the product of your own specific culture or whether it taps into some deep human universal empathy for the suffering (perceived or otherwise) of others. The point, you'll recall, is that it is precisely this performative ideology, legitimizing the engineering of solutions for the aggrieved, that is the entry wedge for the social engineering technocracy of the managerial class. It is through this process that bureaucratic paternalism is legitimized, and the administrative state and its social engineering enthroned to run a society.

What makes a country like Russia or Hungary the bรชte noire of the globalist wing of the managerial class is their effort to prevent such managerial liberalism getting a foothold in their societies. This is what makes them "dictatorial," "undemocratic" and all the rest of it. Russia, in particular, is a major trophy in this great game, between managerial liberalism and Dugin's Great Awakening. With both, one of the greatest cultural traditions in the world, with its remarkable achievements in literature and music, while also one of the greatest contemporary world producers of essential natural resources, it has the potential, depending upon which way it goes, to be a decisive piece in the outcome of Dugin's great struggle.

If NATO had capped off its continual encroachment upon Russia, through regular expansion into Eastern Europe, with the inclusion of Ukraine; if that NATO-ified Ukraine had a massive military build-up of NATO/U.S. arms along the Russian border, the pressure that could have been brought upon Russia to "respect human rights," to accede to the demands of managerial liberalism, may have been more than Russia could have withstood. This is after all the normal course of things, the "Western" powers demanding "progress" on "human rights" on the part of other, traditional societies under the threat of economic sanctions and possibly even clandestinely sponsored "color revolutions," or even military invasions.

Yes, as some object to such reasoning: Russia would still have their 6000 odd nuclear weapons. Are we really entertaining though nuclear winter as a reasonable or viable option? No, only sub-nuclear options can be seriously entertained. So, risk of nuclear holocaust aside, as a matter of cultural sovereignty, Russia could not allow itself to be put in the position in which managerial liberalism could have put that kind of pressure upon it if Russians were to maintain their national values and culture. That's why, from within the logic of Dugin's analysis, Russia's pre-emptive military incursion was essential for maintaining its sovereignty9 and likewise did indeed constitute (objectively) a major blow against the globalist expansionary ambitions of managerial liberalism and the globalist faction of the managerial class.10

No doubt, many in "the West" are aghast at the prospect that, in their struggle against the WEF and the globalist faction of the managerial class, they are inadvertently fighting alongside countries and cultures that wouldn't respect their own values as regards the rights of women and all manner of minorities. However, Dugin would observe, to require everyone else around the world to share your own values is the very logic behind the Great Reset and the globalist agenda of that faction of the managerial class. If you can't accept that different societies will at least operate differently than yours, and perhaps even hold values entirely incompatible with yours, you'll wind up not fighting against the globalists, but for them. This is the fundamental lesson of Dugin's analysis. The fight against the Great Reset is the fight for people with different values, traditions, cultures and aspirations to be free of the corrosive cultural acid of managerial liberalism and the universalizing world government imagined by the globalist faction of the managerial class.

Let me conclude by echoing back to the now forgotten Canadian truckers. For Canadians, and those who know Canada well, one manifestation of the trucker protest was especially striking. Canada has two provinces, or regions, that have long been at odds with each other. Quebec and Alberta not only have long harbored animosity against each other, but both have had long-simmering separatist movements, aspiring to secede from Canada. Both have specific cultures which many of their people feel are suppressed by their continued participation in the Canadian federation. The remarkable thing for so many, who know this history, was to see Quebecois and Albertan folks gather together, in front of Parliament, during those days' long block parties. Often through their unilingual inability to speak to each other, they embraced in a mutual recognition of their common cause, to recover their freedoms.

The few weeks of the trucker protest have not eliminated the problems which have plagued Canadian confederation right from the start. Secession may indeed be the only long-term solution to those problems. Those moments of Quebecois and Albertan common cause though, creating a shared front in the interest of their distinct cultures, against the Trudeau proxy for the globalist agenda of managerial liberalism, was a telling microcosm of the potential emergence of Dugin's Great Awakening.
  • 1 For those nostalgic for the good old days, when I was focusing more on pathocracy, undoubtedly psychopathy played a major role in these movements, for good reasons that I will eventually get back around to discussing. The world won't be on crisis alert forever, I assume. In the meantime, this kind of class analysis - not requiring personal psychiatric diagnosis of participants (and since I suspect manipulative psychopathy of being a common denominator across all sides of the present conflict) - provides a more immediately effective political diagnosis.
  • 2 In case the (hopefully) obvious needs to be stated: to what extent such groups have had real grievances is an entirely different question from how those grievances have been exploited by managerial liberalism to promote the managerial class' ideology of technocratic social engineering.
  • 3 The dark side of the managerial class as clinical bureaucrat was Adolf Eichmann, whose crime against humanity was meticulously ensuring that the trains ran on time. His bland administration Hannah Arendt famously characterized as "the banality of evil." Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.
  • 4 His use of the term liberalism is very close to my use of managerial liberalism, but we'll see the important differences briefly below. I don't see anywhere though that he exhibits an awareness that all these ideologies or movements were just different national strategies of the same managerial class.
  • 5 In The Fourth Political Theory he does, in passing, acknowledge at least the emergent possibility of such an inchoate resistance from within the West, but speaks of it more as a potential. It's only in the latter book that he enthusiastically identifies and fully embraces the real-world manifestation of those resisting populist forces.
  • 6 Before continuing with this line of analysis, it is important to address the criticism of those, like Douglas Murray, who fault "the right" for imagining that Putin is some superhero fighting for the forces of light against the evil Bond-villain Klaus Schwab, or some similar version. If the criticism is directed at the level of subjective consciousness, I agree: there's no particular reason to assume that Putin sees himself striking a blow for the forces of Dugin's Great Awakening. (Aside of prestigious journals like Foreign Affairs claiming precisely this Duginist philosophy has been animating Putin's political strategy.) Be that as it may, the claim I'm making has nothing to do with Putin's subjective self-awareness; it is exclusively about the objective impact of his actions - whatever his subjective motives.
  • 7 Dugin seems to believe that with the rise of his ideal multipolar world, liberalism will be a spent force, disappearing from the political landscape. In my admittedly limited reading of him, he doesn't seem to leave room for the prospect that one (or more) of those diversity of cultures he advocates may in fact be a form of liberalism - either continually challenged to re-ground itself or based upon less universalistic-colonizing axioms. I'm not quite ready to concede that prospect. I have in fact speculated on what revisions to liberal axioms might give rise to such a potential: see my book, Darwinian Liberalism.
  • 8 In a challenging book to read for those steeped in the assumptions of managerial liberalism, Alain de Benoist, Beyond Human Rights, explicitly juxtaposes "human rights" to "freedom": "the discussion of human rights does not just have as its goal the supply of a substitute ideology after the collapse of the 'grand narratives'. By seeking to impose a particular moral norm on all peoples, it aims at giving the West a good conscience once again by allowing it to install itself once more as a model and to denounce as 'barbarian' those who refuse this model." I'll have more to say about this book in a future post.
  • 9 I know that the regular readers and subscribers of this substack don't need to be reminded of this, but for anyone new who have found their way here: the objective of the analyses here is to provide a realistic assessment of the world we live in, not succumbing to emotional or moralizing appeals or formulae. Nothing written here reflects the author's view of this war, any other war, or war in general. It's merely an effort to understand the roles of class conflict and pathocracy in contemporary political life. As mentioned in note 1, though, addressing the class dynamics provides a more readily applicable framework in such fast moving current affairs. That is not to deny the potential presence and impact of pathocratic tendencies on all sides of the conflict.
  • 10 To be clear, none of this is to deny that Russia too (like China) is largely run by branches of the managerial class. But as was seen with our discussion of the conflicts between different national branches of the managerial class in the early to mid-20th century, being part of the managerial class does not necessarily entail devotion to managerial liberalism as a strategy of the class. At least, not in the short term. As the 20th century examples emphasized, managerial rule may manifest differently, given different national conditions. There are nationalist factions of the managerial class, too (for some discussion of this matter as regards the U.S., see, for example, here). Furthermore, in different national political and cultural ecologies, different sets of counter-pressures may limit the reach of the managerial class, causing their most ambitious aspirations to be constrained in the interest of pragmatic gains. It doesn't thereby follow that any specific national branch would opt instead for the corrosive cultural acid of managerial liberalism as an alternative to their own nation's cultural constraints.