On Ethnonationalism and Aristocladism

Here at the Times, I have previously discussed ethnonationalism and even applied it to the American situation.  Essentially, ethnonationalism posits that nations – defined as people sharing common culture, heritage, traditions, language, religion, mores, and so forth (and thus, by extension, nearly always sharing a common genetic descent as well) – should be free to self-associate rather than being forced into supranational or globalistic schemas which dilute and destroy their unique national inheritances.  But let’s say that this sort of schema were actually to become a reality to a much greater degree than it currently is – what would such a world look like?  Would the world be divided among tens of thousands of different nations – each with its own well-defined territorial expanse – consisting of anywhere from tens of millions of people down to merely a few thousand?  I don’t necessarily see how that would be advantageous, and would indeed be a very chaotic sort of situation – exactly the opposite of the type of orderly system that traditionalists and reactionaries seek to restore.

Instead, I believe that an ethnonationalist world order should include the element of aristocladism.  Essentially, aristocladism may be defined as the division of national groups into hierarchies based on a variety of metrics having to do with their relative power and capacities, including many intangibles such as national spirit, courage, and so forth.  Some nations, even when compared to their close relatives and neighbours, seem to “have it together” more than the others.  It’s only natural that these nations should stand out as natural leaders and protectors for those around them.  However, before expanding on this idea, I’d like to discuss a few foundational concepts.

First, there is the matter of ethnogenesis.  Ethnogenesis is a well-known process which involves the evolution of new nations – ethnoi – over time, as people-groups migrate, war, and colonise.  Even the most superficial study of history will show that nations are born, grow, change, and die all the time.  This is why there are no more Tocharians or Thracians or Mitanni now, while if you were to go back in time two millennia, you would not find the English or the Spanish or the Russians.  However, the process is what is really interesting.  Especially during periods of expansion, a process similar to the “Founder effect” in population genetics can create rapid “national speciation” as tribal groups break off from the larger cultural unit and strike out on their own.  The collapse of previous higher civilisation may create the conditions for this to take place, but this need not always be the case.  The cultures and languages of these separating groups will continue to develop in their own unique directions, leading to greater and greater divergence as time passes.

An example for this which I always fall back upon is that of the Germanic peoples.  Around the time that Caesar encountered them as they menaced Gaul, the Germanic peoples were a semi-homogeneous constellation of tribal units stretching from Scandinavia and Friesland in the northwest to the Carpathian basin in the southeast.  Evidence indicates that these groups were relatively immobile (at least as compared to their later behaviour during the Völkerwanderung), and therefore stable.  They shared a reasonable similar culture throughout, and their dialects, while not absolutely the same, are thought to have been mutually intelligible throughout this geographic region during this time period.  But, once the Germans were over the Rhine and the Danube and into the Western Empire, they not only spread widely in a geographic sense, but their languages and customs also began to diverge much more rapidly than before.  By 800 AD, the Franks, Norse, Anglo-Saxons, Bavarians, Burgundians, Lombards, and the rest, while sharing many similarities in culture and thought, were nevertheless evolved into distinct and well-defined nations.  The same sort of argument can be made any number of times over for any number of related groups of people – the same process occurred with the Slavs, the Italic peoples, the Celts, and outside of Europe with the  Indo-Aryans, the Polynesians, Amerind groups, and many others.

 Second, there is the organisational hierarchy which I will use to group nations at various levels.  I realise that there are many schemes out there for distinguishing between “civilisation” and “culture.”  The one I will use here is perhaps less ideological and more purely descriptive than those forwarded by Evola, Toynbee, or Spengler.  At its broadest, various groupings of mankind may be divided into civilisations – the largest divisions and ones which encompass the most oecumenical sense of kinship between people-groups.  Below this, I would propose the “clade,” which describes subgroups within a civilisation which share cultural attributes more closely and which generally originated from a common stock which underwent the process of ethnogenesis described above.  Below this, there is the “subclade” – an even more closely related group of nations which often differ by matters of degree (or so it seems to outsiders) as compared to different groups in broader categories.  Lastly, there is the “culture,” which describes a single ethnic nation sharing the same traditions, language, and other “cultural” attributes.  Often, modern political states are composed of multiple cultures (more on this below) and are organised along the subcladic level.

To give an example to illustrate, we could draw a sample pedigree for (what remains of) the Provençal as follows: Their civilisation is Western, their clade is Latin, their subclade is Gallic, and their culture is Provençal.  They would share a subclade with other Gallic groups such as the Gascons, Francians (i.e. the French proper from the Isle de France), Burgundians, and Swiss Romandians – note that while most of these reside within the borders of the modern state of France, not all in this subclade do so, and neither are all groups in France (e.g. the Bretons) of the Gallic subclade.  The Gallic subclade, in turn, is a subdivision of the Latin clade – a larger group within Western civilisation comprising the Gallic, Italian, Iberian, Romanian, and other minor groups speaking Romance languages and exhibiting Latinesque cultural traits.  And of course, this clade – along with many others in the European and Anglospheric regions – is part of the broad body of Western civilisation.

Third, and hinted at above, is the fact that in many modern “nationalist” states with culturally centralising tendencies (many which arose post-1848, but some of which – like France and Spain – were already well along the way prior to that) tend to suppress local cultures in favour of one single culture that has come to dominate the subclade group.  For instance, France – as a “culture” – is really the imposition of the culture that grew out of the Francian state centered about Paris post-Charlemagne onto the rest of the geographical region now encompassed by “France.”  Other cultures within this area are discouraged and assimilated in a process which is pointedly opposed to the process of ethnogenesis.  As such, in many cases the political entities which encompass subcladic groupings can be thought of as a balancing act between the two tendencies – they cannot ever quite suppress the minority cultures within their boundaries (despite centuries of trying – see the Basques and Catalans as good examples of this) but they arrest the drive toward further diversification.

This brings me back to the matter of aristocladism.  Just as among individual men there are natural aristocrats who, under well-ordered circumstances, will rise to the top above their fellows through a combination of innate God-given attributes and disciplined self-improvement, so also some nations naturally seem to rise to the top among their fellows and occupy historical places of prominence and leadership.  The natural hierarchy among nations mentioned by Evola appears to be a real thing.  This self-organising principle appears to operate at every level.  Among the civilisational groups of the world, the Western and the Sinic have generally dominated for centuries.  Within Western civilisation, the Germanic and Anglospheric clades are currently on top.  Within the Gallic subclade, the Francians have come to rule the roost.  And so forth.  Obviously, cultures, subclades, clades, and even whole civilisational groups come and go during the long ebbs and flows of human history.  There is no Mesopotamian civilisation ruling the Fertile Crescent anymore, no more Sumer and Akkad and Mari and Haran influencing their neighbouring hierarchies of cultures and clades.  Clades and subclades that sat at the top became decadent and sank downward, while others upon whom God smiled rose to the top.

Now, aristocladism properly done would seem to be the way to balance the innate human desire for independence for ones own kith and kin against the chaos which thousands of competing national groups occupying oftentimes very limited geographical areas could create.  Aristocladism functions as a way of bringing order to the chaos without (in theory, at least) stamping out the diversity and uniqueness of the many different cultures involved.  The most natural level at which the political state seems to exist is the subcladic – it is here that we generally see one group rising to the top and creating a “nation-state” out of the several related cultures around it.  Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and other European states were formed in this way.

This aristocladic process does not have to take the form of outright imperialism.  Indeed, imperialism as it is most naturally understood from history tends to involve the incorporation of alien subclades, clades, and even portions of other civilisations within a tight political boundary – which when this involves the suppression of these alien groups can lead to greater instability.  Even within subcladic nations, imperial attempts at stamping out cultural diversity creates trouble – again, the Basques in Spain would be a good example – and tends to strengthen, rather than ameliorate, separatist tendencies (as with Catalonia, for example).  Aristocladism which makes obvious the leadership role of a predominating group while refraining from oppressing the lower status groups would be a more successful approach.  In some cases where there has been prolonged cultural interaction even across different clades or subclades, political states combining these may also provide stable association, such as in the United Kingdom, where the Germanic English provide aristocladic leadership for the Celtic Welsh, Scots, and Cornish.  What began as imperialism can “settle” into a lower energy state minimum when the process of cultural interpenetration is successful.

Conversely, aristocladism does not involve what we would call “federal” or “confederal” organisation among political units sharing a common culture, such as what the American colonies represented at the time of their separation from Great Britain.  The idea here is that aristocladism provides a way of hierarchically organising differing cultural units in such a way as to respect their traditions while subordinating them to aristocratic leadership on the world stage.

Perhaps the best historical example of formal aristocladism (at least from European history) would be that of the Holy Roman Empire during the later Middle Ages.  While nominally centered about the person of the Emperor (who was almost always a German from one of several successive ruling houses), the core of the Empire was largely built out of various German states (who ethnically arose from among the Germanic tribes who stayed in Germania proper during the great expansion) which formed the core subclade of the Empire.  Other groups in northern Italy, the Low Countries, and Bohemia were descended from more extended Germanic or germanised groups forming an extended clade more ethnically distant (yet not altogether dissimilar, by any means) from the core Germanic states.  Politically, the Empire was successively dominated by one or a handful of these German states, which formed the aristocratic core among the peoples of the Empire. The same sort of process can also be seen in the histories of other great civilisational and cladic groups such as in India, China, and Russia.

The aristocladic process can also be more informal.  For instance, we can see Russia’s traditional sense of responsibility for and leadership of the Slavic peoples, especially in the Balkans (support for Serbia against the Austrian ultimatum was the proximate cause of Russian involvement in World War I, for instance).  Likewise, this impulse would seem to be at the heart of some Asian movements such as pan-Turanism and pan-Iranism.

 As a supranational organising principle, aristocladism would appear to have much to recommend it.  It would seem to represent an “energy minimum” in the constantly changing transitional state that maps international interactions, one which balances nationalist impulses with the need for order and which grants a higher degree of stability to the states employing it than to those who seek alternatives.  This may explain why the Holy Roman Empire lasted as a stable European institution for nearly a millennium, while the multiethnic and imperial Austro-Hungarian Empire did not.  Likewise, it may explain China’s remarkable stability verses the instability of imperial systems which other nations like Japan attempted to establish in East Asia.  When naturally aristocratic nations take seriously their leadership role vis-à-vis their cultural cousins, right order seems to fall into place.


9 thoughts on “On Ethnonationalism and Aristocladism

  1. Good article, yet, towards the end you have somewhat arbitrarily made a cut between the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The latter is only the final period in the much longer history of the so-called Habsburg Monarchy, which originated in 1526/7, when the Ferdinand, the younger brother of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in charge of Austria, became King of Bohemia and King of Hungary (including Croatia and Slovakia), after the death of his childless brother-in-law, Louis II/I at the disastrous Battle of Mohacs.
    Austrian lands (including Slovenia), Hungary and Bohemia were three separate Kingdoms. Still, when the army and taxes were collected, the Habsburgs regarded those lands more as a total. Montecuccoli and Eugene of Savoy fought the Turks in Hungary and Croatia, as well as the French in Alsace.
    The Holy Crown of Hungaria ruled the officially autonomous Croatia from the beginning of the 11th century. The non-autonomous Slovakia even longer.
    It is interesting to note that Slovenians and Slovaks, the two Slavic people still retaining the “global” Slavic name did not have their own nobility (or that nobility was germanized/hungarized very early). On the contrary, Czechs, Poles, Croats and Serbs had their own nobility with Slavic surnames, many of them actually being the remnant of the freemen, those who never fell into serfdom and had no more than several families of serfs.
    In the old Hungary, noblemen spoke Latin in the Diet. There was no question of whether the language of communication in post offices, schools or railway stations (none of which existed at that time) will be Hungarian, or Slovak, or Croatian, or Romanian. This appeared only in the early 1800s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi MM,

      Good to see you by again!

      Yeah, I’ll admit I probably elided between the two Empires somewhat. That transition from HRE to AHE isn’t an area of history I’ve studied as much as some others. Thanks for the background information you provided, however! I’ll add it to my knowledge base. Slavic ethnogenesis is an area where I’ve been planning on delving, hopefully sooner rather than later.



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