One of the supreme guiding principles of Tradition and neoreaction is that of the restoration of right order within society. We live in an age in which far too many ideologies and political movements are seeking to “immanentise their eschatons.” Unfortunately, since you can only have one utopia at a time, this struggle of theories leads to a great deal of social disorder. This is especially the case when many of these ideologies refuse to bring themselves into accord with fundamental realities about the way societies, and even human beings, really work. Those of us on the reactionary Right desire to obviate the obvious results of all of this confusion by seeking a return back to hierarchy and order.
As a result, we reject the innovations which have arisen out of the Enlightenment and its revolutionary bastard children. The social disorder introduced by the false god of “Liberty” leads to revolution, passes through democracy, and results in the entropic heat death of a society addicted to equalitarianism and radicalised individualism. It is toward this end that all of the children of Whiggery – whether modern liberalism or modern conservatism/libertarianism – inevitably regress.
Yet, what will really restore order? A partial answer to this question, at least, will be provided by gaining a right understanding of the relationship between power, authority, and legitimacy within a society. These three concepts are often conflated in modern writing. Yet, they are not the same. However, they are related in that they form a three step ladder ascending toward good governance and right social order.
First, some definitions are needed.
Power – This word denotes the ability of an individual, group, or organisation to enforce his or their will upon others. Moldbug gives what I believe to be a similar, though more circumscribed, definition when he defined power as, “…the ability to change the rules, or to clarify them when no rules exist.” This is in accord with my definition above – obeying “rules” (i.e. modes of prescribed behaviour) involves the subsumption of one’s will to that of another. Making rules that others have to follow is to have power over them.
Authority – This concept involves an individual, group, or organisation having the institutionalised right or privilege to be able to exercise power.
Legitimacy – This term describes the fundamental propriety of the exercise of power and authority by an individual, group, or organisation, this being determined by accord with genuine natural law and long-standing traditional social and religious usages.
From these definitions, we see a progression upwards: something is –> something is legal –> something is right.
Let’s illustrate these concepts.
Look at power first. Let’s say you were walking along a city street minding your own business and a man steps out of an alley with a gun, points it at you, demands your wallet, and you have no means to either disarm or evade him. This man has you in his power. He has the credible ability to injure or kill you should you not comply with his command. He can enforce his will upon your own. In Moldbugian terms, he has changed the rules such that you now play his game (give him your wallet or else) rather than your own (keeping your wallet and minding your own business). Obviously, the robber has no authority to rob you – certainly no law has been passed or decree issued which declares that robbers may rob victims of their wallets. Equally as obvious, he has no legitimacy for his action. Indeed, the whole of human civilisation shows that robbery and theft are to be considered bad things, ones which have no moral or ethical support in religious codes, philosophical schools, or royal policies. This robber is exercising power, but nothing else.
Now on to authority. Imagine that you are driving across the country, and therefore are carrying a large amount of cash on your person for incidental spending and so forth. You get pulled over and are searched by the police officer on some “technically” legal probable cause reasoning. He finds your cash and confiscates it on the (obviously spurious) grounds that you might be a drug dealer and should not be allowed to enjoy your ill-gotten gains. You may be able to get it back after going through a lengthy court battle which will cost you five times as much as the cash was worth. Most people, simply relying on common sense and ingrained fundamental principles of justice nearly as old as humanity itself, would observe that this is a grossly unjust, and therefore illegitimate, action on the part of the police officer. Yet, if you’re in any one of but a handful of states, the officer’s actions are not only legal, but are likely encouraged by his department and the state’s laws. So, while the confiscation of your property would lack legitimacy, it carries the authority of institutionally-applied law, as well as the simple raw power that if you resist, the officer can kill you or put you in a cage for “obstruction of justice.”
Next, let’s discuss legitimacy. Imagine a king against whom a group of rebels revolted with the intent of overthrowing the royal government. They fail and are arrested, and the king decrees their execution, which takes place the next morning. In this situation, all three concepts are in play. The king, of course, has the physical power to execute them – he tells the headchopper to do his thing and he does it. The king also has the institutional authority to execute those who commit such offences of lese majeste – in fact, there has never been a governmental system in the world which has tolerated genuine treason against itself. Here, however, we find that the king also has legitimacy for his action. He is not merely relying on raw power or statutory legality. He also has the further backing of longstanding human tradition. Kings rule by sovereign authority, and this has been the case for much of humanity and for most of human history. Even non-monarchical systems have still implicitly recognised this fact in their adoption of elements of executive power accompanied by lese majeste into their own constitutions. This legitimacy transcends mere law – a society does not need to pass a law each time a king is to rule, the king rules because doing so is natural and morally (rather than merely legally) prescriptive. In the Christian realm, this legitimacy is enhanced even further – a right understanding of Genesis 9:6, Jeremiah 30:21, Jonah 3:7, Romans 13:1-7, and I Peter 2:17 combine to provide a pretty substantial case for the legitimate authority of kings and aristocrats.
So back now to the question of good social order. To have this, each of these elements much be present in a social institution for it to be well-ordered. If one wishes to look at it from a fractal perspective, this good order much be present at the top (government) and should be faithfully reproduced downward through smaller and smaller (though not necessarily less important) units of society – subsidiary governments, the churches, the männerbunden, the families, and so forth. The power, authority, and legitimacy that a king exercises at the top should be faithfully mirrored in the power, authority, and legitimacy enjoyed by a father and husband in his family. When these elements are all present, a society will reflect the sort of social harmony that we desire. Once the obstacles of disorder are removed, relationships even between individuals will be set on a right footing – Confucius’ five relationships will be ordered properly: the ruler and the subject, the father and the son, the husband and the wife, the older brother and the younger, and the elder friend with the junior. Indeed, even the individual life that yields to these will itself be rightly ordered in comparison to the sort of disorder, shame, and cravenness so common in modern Western lives today.
The fact that so much of the modern life lacks one or more of these elements explains so much of what we see in today’s entropic societies. Such situations arise, most often, when the higher element exists, but is not built on the foundation of the lower.
For instance, the breakdown of the modern Western family rests on the fact that while fathers and husbands still possess the moral legitimacy to rule their own families (something which cannot be taken away by a government or other agency), modern society has assiduously worked to undermine and remove his legal right to do so (authority), and even his power to do so. This would be an inverted system.
In some cases, disorder arises because none of these factors exist. For instance, most Western churches find themselves in the unenviable position of effectively possessing none of these three elements: they can’t or won’t enforce their doctrines through church discipline and/or excommunication, they have foolishly adopted the “separation of church and state” mindset that prevents them from exerting any authority in their societies, and because they have essentially abdicated their stand for the fundamental basis of Christian tradition – the Bible – they no longer rest in any position of moral or spiritual legitimacy. This comprises a non-existent system.
Sometimes, the lower elements exist, but miss the vital cap of legitimacy.For instance, take dictatorship, which is often confused with monarchy by democrats and other demotists. The commonness of a mistake does not lend it greater credibility, however. Monarchy has a long and venerable history in human society which gives it access to legitimacy as a substantiating function. Dictatorship does not enjoy this prestige, and therefore should not be confused with legitimate monarchy. The fact of strong executive authority and power is not enough. A dictatorship lacks legitimacy, and in fact, most likely exists because of the overthrow of a long-established and traditional government. This was the case with the tyrants of ancient Greece and is as true with modern nouveau pouvoir dictators, whether they call themselves socialists or fascists. Their basis is founded upon some form of “enlightenment” philosophical system, while monarchy, aristocracy, right order are all founded on prescriptive social tradition and millennia of rightful tenure. This would be an example of an incomplete system.
All three of these systems – inverted, non-existent, and incomplete – contribute in their own ways to the destruction of social cohesion and orderliness.
Hence, a return to right order and the rejection of social disorder must necessarily include the acceptance of these these three elements, and their application to whatever society will arise upon the ashes of the present (and fundamentally unsustainable) one. Essentially, this means a return to hierarchy, to patriarchy, to a robust role for religion in civil society. It also means that whatever form any post-Great Reset societies might take, if they wish to maintain order and avoid the mistakes of their fallen predecessors, they must invoke a return back to traditional and prescriptive forms, rather than further speculative experimentation with utopian or other novel governmental and social systems. We have no eschatons to bring to fruition, no “end of history” to force upon the world. If we want order, then the future must be the past.