DEMOCRACY VERSUS POPULARCHY

by
 James Lawrence
 

So Biden got inaugurated, and Trump grudgingly submitted. The Kraken flopped, the Rubicon wasn't crossed, the Storm never came, etc. QAnon turned out to be nothing more than the reductio ad absurdum of conservative 'dog-whistling' – the subtle art of hinting to the plebs that you might, any day now, start doing something more for them than farting out hot air and raking in their votes.
 
Trump's piddling accomplishments, hard-won over four years of storm and drama in office, were largely reversed in the course of one day. And now the democratic regime is gearing up to persecute the remnants of his core support base – the loosely-defined Alt-Right – for such crimes as unsanctioned protesting and five-year-old shitposts. No doubt there will be many such cases, and it would be flippant to call them casualties of war. A war in which your every victory is vain and Pyrrhic, and your every loss real and disastrous, is surely not worth a single casualty.

The thing about the blackpill is this. Either you can seek it out, face it head-on, and take it the right way (i.e. from intellect to praxis to experience) by your own will; or you can turn away, scrabble for copes and delusions, and have it rammed into you the wrong way (from experience to praxis to intellect) by the hard hand of reality. I won't expand on the subtleties of this metaphor, or subject you to a second tour round the case for embracing the blackpill. Whether we embraced it or not, we are all blackpilled now
 
So let's move onto a brighter side of the blackpill: its tendency to turn, once properly digested, into a whitepill. Or, at least, into something more colourful than a blackpill. 

The whitepill is that the Alt-Right has won a victory against the regime. It has done so at a heavy cost – some of its number are imprisoned, some persecuted, some bankrupted, some humbled, some discredited – and at the price of its own dissolution as a coherent movement. But all the same, it has won its victory – not the victory that it wanted, but the victory that it needed.

To understand this, you must be blackpilled enough to know that those in power have won nothing that they did not already possess. No, they did not just stage a revolution and overthrow the American Constitution. I know the brains of democrats pass through the waters of Lethe every election cycle, but surely we can cast our minds back a mere four years. Surely we can recall how Trump was elected to the executive in a landslide, how his party initially controlled the legislature too, how he eventually managed to appoint one-third of the top-level judiciary – and how he still got nothing done.

The permanent government that gelded Trump, and now represses his supporters, has never once left power since it was established in the early 20th century. To all intents and purposes, it is a totalitarian state overlaid by a ceremonial elected government. It permits no legal path to its own overthrow (like, duh), and has defeated or co-opted every popular challenge to its power, from McCarthyism to Reaganism to Trumpism. It has also reproduced its basic form throughout all its foreign satrapies – so everyone in the West lives under the same system, or else is having it forced upon them right now.
 
So what is the Alt-Right's victory? To have exposed this permanent government to public view. It did so unknowingly, in a fit of inchoate defiance, like Truman veering off-script on the set of his show – not so much exposing the power structure, as prompting it to react to unpredictable moves and expose itself in the process. 
 
But now that it has done so, millions of people can now see – or at least suspect – that the media is lying, elections are rigged, conservatism is a toy-opposition party, progressivism is a pro-government astroturf movement, and that freedom, progress, tolerance, etc. are Orwellian paradoxes. That is why the regime must seek its security in the tools of hard power. Contrary to appearances, its position behind its stormtroopers is much weaker than it was when it could hide in plain sight – and leave its subjects to consume the fake news, blow off steam at the ballot box, and rationalise every facet of its misrule through democratic religious casuistry.

But to repeat: this is the victory that the Alt-Right needed, not the victory that it wanted. And as a movement half in hock to democratic lies, it is at once the victor and the victim. All its own fantasies of victory – capturing the conservative party, winning a landslide election, smashing the Left off the streets, exposing a cabal of shadowy evildoers, storming the temple of government – have been played out as farce, and revealed to be tragically futile. 
 
But many Alt-Right remnants do not want to accept the verdict of this catharsis. And so the dissident community as a whole could conceivably pick up its broken delusions, somehow cope them back together again – and end up failing to make any use of the hole it has punched in the Matrix.

Where do we go from here? There is no one right answer to this question. But the decision can only be informed by what we have witnessed over the past four years. 

We have witnessed an elected US President – theoretically "the most powerful man in the world" – hobbled by press and spook inquisitions, unable to defend his supporters against political violence, forced to abandon most of his agenda, and helpless in the face of banana-republic-tier election malarkey. We have seen a cast-iron double standard that permits pro-government protestors to burn cities, and forbids anti-government protestors to occupy buildings. And we have seen a Republican party that won a landslide victory thanks to Trump and the Sailer Strategy – yet hated Trump, undermined his strategy, stuck to its unpopular cuck agenda like shite on bog-roll, and suffered only splash damage from the election rigging (while naturally failing to lift a finger to help Trump).

What this should tell us is that electoral politics is a con, and that the role of conservatism is to serve this con. And the evident function of the con is to protect the permanent government, by continuing to obscure it from view. Ergo, the only viable dissident strategy after Trump is to destroy the con party by withdrawing our support
 
We don't need a third party to do this. (Indeed, unless it were single-mindedly committed to abolishing the permanent government, such a party would only be hijacked and turned into another con party). Just stop voting, stop supporting conservative activists, stop identifying as conservative, and stop biting on the bait when conservatives sidle up to you and run their "hello fellow opponents of the government" game.

This is literally what they think you are.
Try not to act the part.

The con party hated Trump, not because it was full of genteel moralistic stick-in-the-muds, but because he threatened its position and interests. Cons don't want to start a kulak insurrection (they have everything to fear from such a thing). They want to dog-whistle just plausibly enough to be boosted into office by the kulaks, and then pursue their own agenda: to funnel a bit more loot to corporations and the army and a bit less to the leftist bureaucracy. 
 
This is not exactly 'conspiracy theorising'. Except for the taboo part about dog-whistling, cons will tell you outright that this is what they are about. It is ourselves who insist on harking to the whistle and trotting after it.

All very well, you might say, as long as the cons can marginally improve things by restraining the bureaucracy. Problem is, they don't. The two-party electoral system – in which the inner government faction must constantly outvote the outer government faction – is the single most important mechanism holding together the alliance of the state with non-whites, feminists, welfare-dependents, and other leftist votebanks. By volunteering to fight in the ritual civil war of Fat Controller and Fat Director, productive white men are suffering the attrition and despoliation of a defeated people.

Some wags like to joke that conservatives conserve nothing. On the contrary, they are very good at conserving leftist cultural revolution, well beyond its normal ten-to thirty-year lifespan in other totalitarian states (Soviet Russia, Communist China). And again, if you stop listening to the dog-whistle like dumb beasts and go and ask them like men, they will tell you that this is what they are doing. They are conserving democracy.

Hang on, though. Surely democracy is one thing, and leftist cultural revolution in a totalitarian state is another. Surely we once had something called democracy, in which voting actually worked as advertised – and it wasn't hell for productive white men, nor was it heaven for non-whites, feminists and welfare-dependents. The leftist-totalitarian-managerial-cosmopolitan-oligarchical-elites may have hijacked that democracy, but surely we will never get it back by abandoning the only remnant of it that still exists in the non-democratic system they have imposed on us.
 
That really is a sticking point, isn't it? 
 
Ever since the GOPniks kicked Trump under the bus, I have seen all sorts of Alt-Right talking heads – from Nick Fuentes to Andrew Anglin – proposing that his supporters should boycott the vote. Some, at least, envisage something more permanent than a boycott. But I suspect that most are speaking in anger, and will be serenaded back into obedience as soon as the con party retunes its dog-whistle.

Perhaps other Alt-Righters will provide the backing vocals. This writer, after regaling us with Biden's instant destruction of a four-year-long political agenda for which people have forfeited their lives, spurns the blackpill and concludes that we just need to support our politicians harder. This one speculates on the prospect of using the con party as a vehicle for nationalism – which, in reality, means allowing the con party to use nationalists as useful idiots for its own outer-government agenda.

After hearing out my blackpilled screeds in the second comment thread, Greg Johnson had this to say in response:

"I think the real issue between us is that I believe in democracy, understood as popular sovereignty + enfranchisement of the many. I think we have everything to gain by demanding that the existing regimes actually become democratic, which is a form of legitimacy that they cannot afford to reject openly. The more our ruling elites are forced to lie, cheat, and steal to maintain power against the people, the greater the popular discontent we can mobilize against them. But we can’t win that game if we don’t play."

I've seen much the same sentiment everywhere else in discussions of the voting question. Like I said, it's a sticking point. But perhaps it can be overcome. We will need to do some theorising.

Popularchy, or sovereignty of the people

Our main problem is that the word democracy is playing host to so many meanings. On the one hand, we have 'democracy-as-religion': the principle of legitimising government by the ritual consent of the sovereign people. On the other hand, we have 'democracy-as-politics': the actual power structure that rules the West, claims to represent the people, and (I contend) is the source of totalitarianism and cultural revolution.

The division between 'religion' (principle, doctrine, ritual) and 'politics' (rulership, power, coercion) is important. But instead of using those clunky hyphenated terms, I will substitute popularchy for 'democracy-as-religion', and keep democracy for 'democracy-as-politics'. 
 
Both have old roots, but democracy gets to hold onto its name, because the ancient Greek word demokratia was used to describe a power structure and not a religious principle. Moreover, when popularchy emerged into modern Western history, it did not initially call itself 'democracy' – with good reason, as the two systems are very different from one another.

Athenian democracy was not based primarily on voting, and it knew nothing of such religious mysteries and paradoxes as 'representation of the people' and the deference of the ruling minority to the ruled majority. Direct power was simply monopolised by the free citizens of Athens – who did not outnumber the slaves and resident aliens in their own city-state, let alone the population of other cities ruled by it – and exercised through three collectively-controlled institutions, namely the Assembly, Boule (or Council) and Courts.

The kleroterion, one of many voting
contraptions used in ancient Athens.

The equality of citizens and dispersion of power was maintained by employing all sorts of ingenious tricks – ostracism, liturgy, rotation of offices, elections, voting devices, ceremonial archons, etc. – to suppress the notorious tendency of power to be consolidated in the hands of a small group (oligocracy) or a single individual (monocracy).

By contrast, modern Western popularchy was based on elections or plebiscites, which functioned as religious rituals used to legitimise government. Direct power had to be exercised by elective parliaments (oligocracies) or presidents (monocracies) who represented the will of the people. The people did not wield direct and active power, but rather indirect and passive sovereignty – like a king who sleeps most of the time, leaves the running of the government to others, and wakes up every now and again to reshuffle his ministers and tell them what to do. 
 
It's worth pointing out that the principle of 'representing the people' does not descend from ancient democracy, but from the set of ideas bundled up with mediaeval kingship. Most of these ideas were religious, and popularchy is essentially a religious principle. It does not change the basic structure of political power: the people are still worked, taxed, regulated, etc. But collectively, they take on the status of an infallible religious oracle – although, like the sleepy king, they are always in danger of having their sovereignty usurped or brushed aside by those who exercise power in their name.
 
It would make no sense to call ancient democracy 'rule by the majority', as the citizens of Athens were not even a majority in the city. Nor does it make sense to call it 'rule by the few', as this would not distinguish the mercurial and crowd-minded democratic government from a small and cohesive oligarchy. What does make sense is to understand democracy as rule by a multitude. This multitude is still a ruling minority, albeit an exceptionally large one, and must guard its position against the ruled majority – which is why Athens restricted its citizenship to the children of existing citizens.

By contrast, the prevailing tendency in popularchy is towards wider and wider extensions of the electorate. The more dependent, divided and diluted is the sovereign people, the less wise and wilful it will be when it periodically wakes up and starts ordering its representatives around. Fortunately for the representatives, the inherent logic of representation goes hand-in-hand with their political interests. Just as the religious contemplative must seek the true face of God in higher and higher forms of spirituality, the popularchist intellectual must seek the true face of the people in lower and lower common denominators of humanity.

Whether or not you want to use my terms and definitions, bear in mind that rightists who wax nostalgic about democracy are invariably thinking of what I call popularchy.

Democracy, or rule by a multitude

Now let's look at the political system that actually exists today. For a full description, you can read Moldbug's descriptive constitution of the modern regime. Then you can read my proposed expansion of his theory, which argues that modern democracy is essentially continuous with ancient democracy. Alternatively, you can shelve all that reading for later, and just take a look at this: 
 
 
Look long and hard, because you ritually consent to this monstrosity every time you vote – albeit under the illusion that it is an oldfangled popularchy in which the people elect the government. Obviously, it is no such thing. (Apart from the bloating of the priestly class, and its distortion of the plebian hierarchy, this regime is just about recognisable as a modern echo of the archaic tripartite society – which, needless to say, was not known for its commitment to popularchist principles.)

Let's hazard a brief explanation as to how it works.

The most important point to make is that the modern regime is a democracy (rule of a multitude) squeezed into the bloodied and distended hide of a popularchy (elected representative government). So it has a ruling demos, and a subject people, but never the twain shall part as far as official theory is concerned. To filter the people from the demos, you must listen between the lines when the democratic media conjures up such linguistic oddities as "the threat to our democracy from populism". And to sift the demos from the people, you must piece together a blind men's elephant from the 'elites', 'cosmopolitans', 'managerialists', 'oligarchs', etc. of populist demonology. 
 
This does not mean that the demos has abandoned popularchy. On the contrary, it has expanded the idea of popular sovereignty and representative government into a complex mystery religion – interpreted and re-interpreted by academic scholasticism on the one hand, pursued through the ascetic rigours of self-criticism, callout culture, performative activism etc. on the other. At the same time, it has elevated its own dialects and folkways into an ever-evolving halakha of 'political correctness' – which excludes plebs and populists, and therefore morally justifies their subjection, adding yet another substrate of bullshit to the old and unlovely Curse of Ham tradition. 
 
Despite the hypocrisy, this is all consistent with the political essence of the popularchist religion, which has as its basis the alliance of patron and client
 
Add to this picture the excluded third party in the middle – who is ganged up against and squeezed by the more powerful patron and his more dependent client – and you have the blueprint for the Western cultural revolution, in which the demos divides the people by empowering the mamluks (dependent client groups) against the kulaks (scapegoated intermediary classes). These categories are not stable – white women, for example, are switched from mamluk to kulak and back again according to the situation – and there is no coherent plan to the cultural revolution. It is directed by the decentralised logic of the 'free market' in clientage enjoyed by the various sources of patronage in the demos.

The citizen-classes of Athens and Sparta were military in essence, based on the Athenian navy and Spartan army. The modern Western demos is essentially a priestly class. Like the Athenian demos, it exercises direct collective power through three institutions: the state church of the Cathedral (academia and journalism), the permanent government of the Bureau (civil service and quangos), and the popularchist theatre of the Arena (a.k.a. the Show-Front-Shop – politicians, political appointees, activists and lobbyists). 
 
Note that only one of these institutions, the Arena, involves direct participation by the people. They can elect only one of the four political classes to represent them, and (as we have found out) their chosen politicians cannot function without the consent of the Cathedral and Bureau. Quite clearly, the voters are not electing a government, but volunteering for a ritual civil war between pleb armies led by two factions of the demos. It's a civilised, scholarly, humanist sort of war, in which only the plebs get hurt. 
 
Populist armchair-generals who think they can strategise their way through the Arena need to stop deluding themselves (or at least, stop deluding others). We don't co-opt the Arena, it co-opts us. But if we could stop charging headlong into it, and step back from the wall until our eyes and brains come back into focus, we would realise the importance of a functioning Arena to the permanent government of the demos.

It seems to me that the Arena plays three roles in modern democracy. First, it is a popularchist ritual, in which the demos anoints itself with the chrism of legitimacy according to its own religion. Second, it is a deliberative assembly, which allows the demos to gauge its own political temperature along with the mood of the people. Third, it is the means by which the demos and the people elect a ceremonial archon – or, in more modern parlance, a figurehead-king. 
 
This last is certainly not least. The ceremonial archons in Athens held titles dating back to the archaic days of royalty. Surely it was not out of nostalgia for kingship that the Athenians preserved this tradition into the democratic era.
 
Power tends to taper into a hierarchical pyramid, and someone must end up at the apex. This being the case, in order to to preserve the equality and anarchism of democracy, a placeholder must sit upon this apex and prevent it from being straddled by a tyrant. Communist regimes did not succeed in this, and so fell prey to tyrants (and thence to Thermidorian reactions), despite the apparent intent to set up the anarchic collective rule of representatives. The reason is that they destroyed pre-revolutionary traditions of government, instead of repurposing them to the task of appointing ceremonial archons.

The Western demos has not made the same mistake. It elects fake leaders like Trump and Biden through the old, respected popularchist ritual, so it never has to worry about the emergence of real leaders from real centres of power. But this arrangement would be jeopardised by the withdrawal of the people from the Arena. Once elections are reduced to irrelevant farce, a monocracy or oligocracy could develop at the centre, and would likely feel threatened by the anarchic power-mongering of the demos. Such a tyranny – for we should call it what it is – may well set about bringing the demos to heel, under the pretext of curbing its depredations upon the people.

The populist who votes for democracy
Everyone in the West loathes the thought of living under tyranny. And no-one in his right mind thinks this type of governance is a good thing. But if you are a pleb – nay, a kulak – and you are worried about the prospect that a tyrant might destroy democracy, then you are like a turkey who not only votes for Christmas but also rails against Christmas lockdowns on Youtube. There is no sane reason for you to give a toss about preserving the freedom of the demos – which is nothing other than its freedom to rule you, tax you, regulate you, and impose cultural revolution on you. If anything, the fewer the tyrants, the better.
 
Another point to bear in mind is that the tyranny of the demos is permanent, whereas the tyranny of a tyrant can only be temporary. Arbitrary personal rule cannot persist beyond the ruler's lifespan, and the rule of oligocratic cabals is too unstable to last much longer. Sooner or later, a permanent regime based on some sort of legitimate succession of power must rise out of the ruins. 
 
It is in the dregs of this blackpill that we may glimpse a resolution of our problem. Let's say a tyrant has smashed the power of the demos, and bent the surviving bureaucrats and scholar-elites to his will. Let's say that he, or his successor, feels the precariousness of his position and wants to set up a stable and legitimate regime. Given that 'legitimacy' means nothing more than conformity to the dominant religious doctrine, one of the strongest candidates on his list would be a restoration of popularchy.

Let me be honest. Although I am a pleb, and thus a populist at heart, I consider the prospect of restoring popularchy to be a dangerous temptation. The most likely scenario is that it will decay into democracy again, due to the leakage of power into the press and civil service from the weak elective government. Moreover, the religious principle of majority rule is driven by its own internal logic. Anti-whitism, for example, would seem to be a logical conclusion of popularchism in the modern era, given that whites are a prosperous minority on a worldwide scale.

At the same time, I am well aware of the problems that could beset a restoration of monarchy. Monarchy throughout history has usually been semi-religious in nature, or else legitimised by religion and the priestly class. And although this principle caused unending disputes in the Middle Ages, the absolutist kings who liberated themselves from it merely set the ball rolling towards revolution, popularchy and democracy. 
 
Given that traditional religion is not taken seriously enough these days, it is likely that some sort of popularchist doctrine and ritual would be needed to legitimise a restorationist government. At least, it would be authoritatian nationalism (à la China); at middlest, it would be restricted-franchise voting on certain aspects of governance; and at most, it would be a full restoration of popularchy, in which the people elect a parliament or president that directly runs the country (though none could say for how long).

What I hope – perhaps naively! – that dissidents can agree on, despite our differences, is that all of these prospective regimes including popularchy are just castles in the sky right now. None of them can be conceived or actualised until the reigning democratic government is negated in theory and dismantled in reality. 
 
And I would argue that the way to do this is not to bolster the demos' claim to popularchical legitimacy, nor to collaborate in its efforts to regulate popular dissent and suppress consolidation of power. No – instead, we must expose that claim and undermine those efforts. Supporting democratic elections, out of attachment to the memory of popularchist elections, is the way of the deluded conservative who preserves the dead skin of his ideal while allowing the vital innards to be hollowed out. 
 
Dissidents have been sorely tempted by conservatism over the past four years. Most of us have swooned to its siren-song, and gone back to trucking with lies. But it's not too late for us to get back on the right path – hard and lonely though that path may be.

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