In previous posts, I have mentioned something which I refer to as the “natural aristocracy,” which should form the leadership caste within a well-ordered polity. My views on social order demand the rejection of democracy and allied systems which “spread around” authority within a society, leading to increased social entropy and an unnatural, increasingly non-functional social system. Instead, authority and power should be concentrated in the hands of that “wise few” whose energies and abilities are used to provide guidance and direction to a society so that it may be provided with competent, good government and that it may retain rational social structures which are in line with the natural order of things.
Typically in human history, aristocracies have consisted of those who are considered nobles by birth (hereditary aristocracy) or else who gain and keep power through their access to wealth and other resources (plutocracy). While these do not always coincide completely with the natural aristocracy of which I’ll be writing, there is a great deal of consequential overlap, which I will discuss below.
When we talk about an aristocracy being “natural,” what we don’t (or at least shouldn’t) mean is that there is some group of people who are “inherently” superior to their fellows in society, as through genetics or some other deterministic means. Rather, we should understand the term to be describing those who make the effort to adopt, cultivate, and perfect certain traits and capabilities in their own lives that will “naturally” make them stand out from and excel the general run of the masses, simply because the possession of these derived traits will make one superior to those who lack them. In other words, it is not an aristocracy that exists through no merit of its own. Rather, it is an aristocracy that rises to the top as the cream does from the milk, through nourishing their inborn traits by self-discipline while fostering new ones through effort and activity.
In many ways, societies and civilisations are tripartite beings, much as the human being himself is. When members of a society develop and enhance the attributes which perfect spirit, soul, and body, then they also strengthen the organism of their society in the same ways as well. An organism is healthier when its individual cells are healthy. When they are not, the organism begins to approach that entropic equilibrium point known as death. The natural aristocracy are those who go above and beyond the run-of-the-mill members of the ochlos in seeking to perfect themselves in spirit, soul, and body.
The natural aristocrat will seek, first of all, to improve himself in his spirit. This is done by cultivating habits of virtue and temperance which will enable him to master his own high-spiritedness and desires. The “spirit” (pneuma) is the vital principle of man, the anima which deals with his emotions, motivations, responses to stimuli, and so forth. Through self-control, he will not be prone to wild swings of mood or emotion, nor to making foolish decisions or actions. At the same time, he will also seek to positively display virtuous behaviour in his life, the sort of behaviour that will earn him the respect of the respectable with whom he surrounds himself. His conduct will be informed by a genuine devotion to true religion which teaches solid moral principles rather than sentimentalism or mere formalism.
The natural aristocrat will also improve his mind and intellect, he will work to enlarge his soul (psyche). He will be well-read, with a focus on older and classical works which teach lasting truths while avoiding modernistic perversions. Yet, he will not limit his intellectual endeavours merely to acquiring knowledge, but to synthesising and applying it as well. His areas of interest will be broad, not confined to one particular topic or field. He will understand, as Confucius said, that “a gentleman is not a pot.” A pot is good for one thing only – holding things. The superior man, on the other hand, is good for and good at many things. Has range of perceptions and aptitudes will be wide, and he will be as facile in the use of music or art or science as he is in history or philosophy or literature.
The superior man, lastly, will be a man of activity and industriousness. He will actively seek to improve the world around him in real and tangible ways which benefit both himself and his community and society. He will understand what Carlyle meant when he said, “conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.” He won’t just complain about what ought to be done – he will take it upon himself to get out there and do it. Yet, he will also understand that mere rabble-rousing will not solve problems. Rather, he will act intelligently in ways which will advance his goals without undermining his own efforts or those of other good men.
This nobility of merit may often coincide with the more common forms of aristocracy that were mentioned above – those of wealth and heredity. After all, an industrious man is much more likely to find worldly success in life. However, it is also true that many businessmen often focus on business to the exclusion of anything else, including the perfecting of spirit and soul. However, when such a man of industry gives attention to those as well, he will be a natural aristocrat. Likewise, the hereditary aristocracies in Europe (and presumably those elsewhere) originated though the exertions of daring and capable men, men whose descendants were often patrons of the arts and literature and who were often very devoted to spiritual matters as well. Yet, it is also true that such aristocracies can decline due to the degeneracy and profligacy of heirs still riding on the coattails of their distant ancestors. Such was lamented by Horace,
“Time corrupts all. What has it not made worse?
Our grandfathers sired feebler children; theirs
Were weaker still – ourselves; and now our curse
Must be to breed even more degenerate heirs.”
The great opponent of natural aristocracy is democracy, and more generally, the principles of populism and demotism. These actively work against the cultivation of true merit among those who would seek to do so, and instead drag down every one who would try to rise above his fellows. In every area, democracy and populism have weakened the pillars of natural aristocracy.
In the spiritual arena, they have degraded genuine moral religion into a morass of syrupy sentimentality and popular clichés designed to bring in the largest crowds to be entertained (rather than to be taught doctrine and ennobled morally). The man who tries to lead a virtuous life will either be derided as a sap, or else despised for “thinking he’s better than everyone else.”
In the intellectual arena, acquiring an education that is not limited to the lowest common denominator pabulum taught in the public schools marks one out as a “loser.” Learning and knowing things is viewed as a waste of time. Mental capabilities suffer, as does simply the culture of the democratic society. It is not surprising that the grand works of Western civilization – the Mozarts and the Beethovens and the Titians and the other great artists – were generally produced within the courts of Europe’s great monarchies or within the Catholic church. Democracies tend to produce fewer Heinrich Bibers and more Justin Beibers.
The tendency in democratic systems is toward social and economic leveling, which necessarily sets itself against the active and industrious life of the natural aristocrat. In democracies, the masses of the citizenry are always at least a little suspicious of anyone who really begins to excel, figuring that it’s the government’s job to bring them to heel.
Simply put, the natural aristocracy consists of those relative few who really try – and succeed – in doing what is necessary to raise themselves above the level of the common run of humanity. In each area of human existence, they seek to perfect themselves – morally, intellectually, and physically. They will overcome the natural debilitations of human laziness and envy and ignorance, and demonstrate a life characterised by eutaxy and virtue. We should not be reticent or ashamed to acknowledge that such men are superior to others. Let us cast by the wayside the demotic inhibitions against recognising truly superior individuals and rewarding them for their exertions.
That government is best which governs in such a way as to advance superior men into authority. Such a government will almost never be a democratic system of any sort. Aristocracies and monarchies are much more effective at this, and hence tend to be more stable and more competently ran than governments operating on popular principles. One of the goals of Tradition and neoreaction should be the restoration of social and political systems which enable the rise and advancement of this natural aristocracy of superior men.
31 thoughts on “What is the Natural Aristocracy?”
An aristocrat takes responsibility for his actions and responsibility for those subordinated to him.
The present managerial class in corporations in by no means different from state bureaucrats. I am not sure how it work is the USA, but in Europe most people holding chairs on average and better-than-average universities are forced to become managerial bureaucrats, paying more attention to the financial transparency of their projects than to research.
People excelling in STEM area are no more properly taught in literature…
Any suggestions where to find some prospects of present (and future) aristocrats? Meritocracy does not produce aristocrats: it produces ability for low time preference but only high-quality damage control for self-preservation, instead of true leadership and responsibility for those whom Lord created with less ability.
Yes, we need to produce an aristocracy, but where to start? Is further decay, the wars and riots to come in the future actually an opportunity for natural aristocracy to emerge among self-oriented meritocratic managerial bureaucrats?
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I am fully agreed that the present managerial/bureaucratic/technocratic class is emphatically *not* an aristocracy in any meaningful sense of the term. Indeed, the way the present system is structured, it positively discourages genuine men of action from participating, and instead encourages the perpetuation of the rent-seekers and hangers-on who can’t and won’t act on their own for fear of losing their pensions.
Re: meritocracy, I guess it would depend on how the term is defined. If it is meant to denote those who know how to excel within the business or political world because they’re really, really good at one or two things and that gets them moved up the ladder, then I agree. If we mean the term in the sense of genuine merit, i.e. the tripartite willingness to better one’s self in every area, then we can make the case that meritocracy will produce a natural aristocracy. but it’ll have to be outside the present careerist paradigm, which generally acts to suppress independent action and learning, rather than to encourage it.
Unfortunately, your final paragraph, I think, has pretty much hit on how a new aristocracy would arise. I’ve mentioned “the Great Reset” a few times. That’s basically the collapse of the present order and its replacement with something new, and hopefully something less democratic and more aristocratic, and even monarchical. Personally, I don’t think we in NRx need to try to *make* the Great Reset happen, following Moldbug’s principle of passivity. Frankly, I think it’ll happen sooner or later of its own accord simply because of the grossly unnatural and unsustainable system we see throughout the West. Reality always asserts itself.
This is pretty historical, however. The fall of any imperial system always leads to power vacuums that see the rise of enterprising men, both those who seize political power, and also those who work with those men to excel in other fields which enjoy the great man’s patronage (arts, science, etc.). The fall of the Western Roman Empire is the premiere example, though certainly not the only one. Indeed, we can really say that the “classical” European aristocratic feudal system seen in Europe during the Middle Ages was more the result of the collapse of Charlemagne’s empire, not the Roman. The collapse of the American Empire may bring about similar opportunities.
So what to do? I’d say just cultivate yourself, build a network of like-minded men, and be ready to seize opportunities as they come.
As you have guessed, I did mean people who are a kind of Free Northener’s “High-IQ homo oeconomicus: low-time-preference, intelligent, good in one, two, or more things, but mainly focusing his intelligence on enriching the CV, passing tests (true and figurative) and getting certificates (true and figurative). He will do an activity, get the check marks, and in case that pursuing the same activity brings no further check marks, he will gladly switch to other activities. Such a man has a perfect CV, many “merits”, has competence in many specific areas, sometimes only formally, but frequently indeed also for real. However, he values his CV check marks more than real competence, and, which is much more important, is not a fully developed person in your tripartite sense (soma+psyche+pneuma).
Another important thing to think of is how to raise or sons (and daughters), especially in countries like mine, where home schooling is prohibited and no traditional Catholic certified schools exist (those that do are modernist, with lower discipline than one would expect and attended by either lower-class children or by upper-class children with detected problems in behavior and upbringing). From the beginning, our sons are surrounded almost only by female teachers: I would say about 90% in primary schools and 70%-75% in high schools. Since the entire educational process lacks men, I try to expose my own son to Maennerbund environment and values. Men-only company as much as possible, which means both boys-only play and fathers-and-sons socializing.
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Exactly. The one content to merely be a worker bee will never rise to the top. Of course, the world needs more worker bees than aristocrats…
Sounds like a bad situation for you with your sons. We’re blessed to live in a state that is very friendly to homeschooling, and my wife is a stay at home mom who teaches our son. Still gives plenty of opportunity for man-to-man activities with our son, however. In a situation like yours, church and männerbund sound like your best options – of course, they almost always are anywise!
The meritocracy problem (i.e. of scum rising to the top under open social mobility) seems to be inescapable. Moreover, allowing people to self-select in and out of castes presumes full legal equality, and social equality more broadly. I don’t presume to know just where the reset wheel will land- but West 2.0, if it is to be viable, will have to assign people to their natural station by non-voluntary and obligatory means. Perhaps our successors will develop aptitude testing that actually gets results beyond crude horoscope-like generalizations, and start streaming children into suitable vocations early on in life.
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Climbing the social ladder based on true merits would not be bad, providing that it is done through several generations and with true merits.
Things that are nowadays presented as merits are either mere betrayal or a set of check mark “certificates” which mean nothing and can be hacked.
From the historical perspective, I have much more favor for medieval nobility, which were both warriors and society leaders, than the later “nobility-in-service”, which were either a King’s civil servants (England: starting with the Tudors) or commissioned officers (England: 17th and 18th century), already excelling at one thing (either war or administration) but being natural leaders of men in “their” counties. Bertrand de Jouvenel’s Power, in this latter case, has already succeded to separate them from the reality of life in the full sense, already making them some kind of bureaucrats and thus removing the possibility that such men become parallel authorities.
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Good stuff. Added to my blogroll.
One common thing I have heard is the so-called ‘meritocratic’ criticism of hereditary aristocracy, that such a system is unfair because people are born into privilege and may retain some of that privilege unearned. This may be true in a lot of cases, but they don’t seem to recognize that meritocracy eventually becomes a hereditary aristocracy by default, because naturally human beings pass what they have to their children. The only way absolute meritocracy could be enshrined would be with a Soviet-style brutality.
The simple fact is, historically, family lines that lose their aristocratic qualities generally disappear. Their wealth is squandered, competing families buy up their assets. Meritocracy is only a theory. Hereditary aristocracy is that theory put into practice.
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Thanks for coming by and thanks for the link!
You are correct about heredity vs. meritocracy – both are really present in a healthy aristocratic system. One thing about heredity that the “meritocracy ONLY” folks need to keep in mind is that a naturally aristocratic man will most likely seek to pass the traits that make him a NA on to his sons. If successful, they will carry on the nobility of their blood. Meritocracy comes in when “new blood” is allowed to join the upper castes, which will be the case for a society which desires to maintain a healthy ruling class. Societies need both the old blood like the Fabii and the Junii, but also the new blood like the Cicerones and Porcii.
Way back in the day before anyone knew my blog existed I wrote a post about how western nations have the wrong aristocracy – our current one is not really an “elite” in the true sense of the term. It is merely the sort of Soviet-style “meritocracy” whose promotion is due to toeing the party line, not due to either inherited status or to being “novus homo” talented individuals.
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I do think you’ve written a foundational piece for NRx.
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Thanks for dropping by!
Not sure it’s foundational, but hopefully it’ll provide something positive to the discussion, eh?
It was my pleasure.
When we say “become worthy” in abstract, it sounds to me like any other progressive slogan. You have provided a comprehensive way forward, a specific program as to what to do to become worthy. Much more can be done, sure, but this is a very needed starting point.
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Happy to contribute then! I get the sense with NRx that we’re in the process of building a philosophy which will accompany a paradigm shift. That will necessarily be an iterative and evolutionary process.