Towards a plurality of Absolutes

Dugin’s whole sphere of reference, starting of course with de Benoist, is European. And the whole emphasis on a transition from modernism to postmodernism is Western. And indeed we may question how much of his writing really is distinctively Russian. Dugin purports to be an Orthodox Christian - how, under the circumstances, could he not? Yet there is nothing in what I have so far read of him (and I've read quite a lot of what is available in translation) that is distinctively Orthodox Christian. No hint of disagreement with Evola or Benoist both of whom see Christianity (albeit Western Catholic/Protestant Christianity) as destructive of European culture (Benoist is a contributor to ‘The Journal of Contemporary Heathen Thought’ and author of a book - unfortunately currently unavailable. It looks interesting - called On Being a Pagan). No discussion of how Guénon’s idea of tradition might relate to Orthodoxy (a very intelligent attempt at reconciliation has been made by the English convert to Orthodoxy, Philip Sherrard). Nothing to explain how his statement that Evola’s ‘traditionalism, characteristic for National-bolshevism in the most common sense, is certainly this “left esoterism”’ can be reconciled with his supposed Orthodoxy.  No reference to what is surely the most exciting development in modern Russia, the best guarantee of Russia's moral and spiritual independence from 'the West', the revival of the monasteries. No hint that they might have something to contribute to combating the problem - if there really is a problem, different from the old problem Christians traditionally identify as the problem of sin - of the degradation of the human reality, dasein, in our post-liberal, post-modern, post-human society.

I find that I have presented Dugin's thinking in a rather negative light, perhaps more in the style of my presentation than in the substance. I do in fact think there is a lot in it that deserves to be retained and taken seriously. In the first instance, there is his effort to identify and define his Enemy - variously called 'the West'. 'liberalism', 'civilisation', 'progress', 'modernism', 'post modernism'. This is recognised as a coherent body of thought which is itself going through changes but which is fairly clearly laid out in, for example, Karl Popper's Open Society and its Enemies and Francis Fukuyama's The End of History.

To some extent Dugin is prepared to accept this body of ideas as a legitimate expression of the history of the societies in which it evolved - chiefly the UK and US, the 'Atlantic' nations. What he does not accept is the attempt to impose these values on the world as a whole, in the process destroying the wide variety of alternative possible world views that correspond to the wide varieties of history as experienced by the different peoples of the world. He sees this effort as inherently racist. He also sees it as a process driven by intellectual conviction. His great concern is always with ideas. In the material I have seen I don't think he engages with the Marxist argument that this process of imposing uniformity on the world - Imperialism - is pushed by economic necessity, the imperative need of an economic system - Capitalism - to expand and conquer new markets (the point is important because the poles in a multipolar world cannot be expected to coexist peacefully if they accept the logic of capitalism and are therefore each driven by the same economic need for expansion).

The strategy of opposing liberalism by identifying himself with the two political alternatives that rose and fell in the twentieth century - Communism and Fascism - may seem unduly risky given the horrors committed under their name, which Dugin does not in any way fail to acknowledge. But one of his main points is that liberalism is equally responsible for the horrors of the twentieth century. Indeed we might say that the ruthlessness of both Bolshevism and Fascism was largely a reaction to the breathtaking ruthlessness shown by liberalism in the First World War.

The label 'National Bolshevism' signifies a refusal to accept the effort of totalitarian liberalism to bury both Communism and Fascism completely in a tomb of infamy - to do to them, indeed, what they would each have liked to do to each other. Within both Bolshevism and Fascism, Dugin insists, there are elements that can still be regarded as positive, especially on the fringes of their thought - in the case of German National Socialism in the wider body of thought associated with the 'Conservative Revolution'. So far in what I have read he has been more interested in the right wing side of the enterprise than in the left but this may be because of the large body of work already done in this direction by de Benoist.

Against liberalism he is willing to defend virtually any doctrine that proposes an Absolute and since logically there can only be one Absolute this can easily be held up to ridicule. And yet the acceptance of a multiplicity of Absolutes is the necessary condition of the 'pluriverse' or 'multipolar world' - a world that will accommodate a wide variety of world views in opposition to the effort to impose a totalitarian 'liberalism'. In this context we might define 'liberalism' as the refusal of an Absolute, freedom from the Absolute. And we might argue that it is only in relation to an Absolute, an object of veneration that is other than ourselves, that the human being can become something other than a consumer; and we might argue that this is the problematic of Heidegger's Dasein.

Since Dugin is trying to regroup all the forces that might see the world in this way it is perhaps unreasonable to criticise him for failing to define his own Absolute. And eccentric as his embrace of 'chaos' might appear, this is the worm that has developed within totalitarian liberalism itself. That radical, formless discontent is part of the material the opponents of liberal totalitarianism are given to work with. Hence the strange spectacle of the apostle of order and the Absolute, the defender of the Iranian theocracy, surrounded by punks and black metal rockers. Dugin's project is ambitious, perhaps absurdly so, but what he is trying to do, develop a political project that posits the need for an Absolute and at the same time allows for the coexistence of very many different Absolutes, is something that needs to be done.