Obedience as Laughter: From the Great Dictator to the Great Spectator

My claim is that the next murderous regime will be less based around agi­tation, fear-mongering and fiery speeches. It will come, there is good reason to suspect, from the source we least expect: comedy. In the echoing laughter of the crowd, transmitted over long dis­tances of net­worked broadcasting, we will find the next genocide. Un­wanted popul­a­tions violently exterminated, and the crowd laughing, laughing.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

In today’s media-saturated society, jesters are indeed becoming kings. This is an aspect inherent to the postmodern condition, where the global village is imprinted upon us through a deluge of images from near and far, from across time and space—always told with someone’s perspective, some­one’s story, someone’s spin. The jesters, the tricksters, are the ones most proficient at catching people’s attention, and then quickly shift­ing bet­ween frames of understanding, between contexts.

That’s how comedy works: some frame or circumstance is suddenly shifted in communica­tion, and—whack!—things get funny. The simplest example is a pun or play-on-words: “Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.” The linguistics shift the meaning for us, creating a double meaning that catapults us, in this case, from the reassu­ring to the gruesome. A frame is shifted.

Add a refined sense of pacing, timing, rhythm—and nobody can stop the laughter from breaking out as clear water from a foun­tainhead.

Postmodern culture, the culture of perspective and surface, is a lot about mastering such framings of situations. One person can be framed as a hero, a president, a crook, a buffoon. Those who can most skillfully craft frames and shift between them with sleights-of-hand, in and across many different media are also likely to become the most powerful.

The late-night shows, the television hosts, the comedians—their power is growing. Jesters are becoming kings. The youth are getting their news filtered through comedy and entertainment. The jesters grab the attention of everyone, shaping and directing it—making us laugh together.

A large crowd laughing, united under one will. Oh, that’s so funny. That’s so edgy. They’re so smart, so admirable. Comedy is so liberating.

And then there is a subtle slide… If we all laughed along, then that must mean we all at least somewhat agreed, that what was said was at least partly true. And whoever was laughed at must have been, at least in part, at fault. We slide into assuming that the power to make us laugh is also the power to tell us the truth—or to suspend another truth, another story, another felt experience.

When we laugh we don’t only break taboos, relieve tensions and forge bonds. The laughter of the crowd also disciplines people into silence, and obedience—if anyone gets mad and says it isn’t funny, they just appear to be poor sportsmen with sticks up their asses. It stratifies us: the joker on top and the butt of the joke at the bottom. It unifies us, yes, but into “us and them”, with a rather clear who’s who.

Can you see it? The laughter of the crowd is a source of massive hidd­en obedience and submission to one will. Can you think of any other mom­ents when you can get hundreds, thousands, millions of people to sus­pend normal morality and to fall in line around the same point? Is there any better way to effectively steer a crowd?

The fascists of a hundred years ago hijacked the tech­niques of travel­ing socialist agitators. These knew how to display a sincere criticism of socie­ty, of how to fire up a crowd, how to point out glaring injustices. The fasc­ists caught on. Yet in today’ world, where educated and comfortable pop­u­l­ations are suspicious of such fiery speeches, of fanaticism and lack of iro­ny, the correspon­ding effect is achieved through jokes. Do you imagine that the fascists today might be paying attention and catching on?

It’s already happening. If you take a look at online movements of the far Right, such as the Alt-Right and the “meta-right”, these are packed with trans­gressive jokes and irony—often to the level of extreme absurdity so that it’s no longer distinguishable what is a joke, what is “post-truth” and what is sin­cere and what is not. The far Right jokes more than anyone else. They joke and joke and make memes until reality itself becomes transmogorified into a dream state where nothing is real and nothing needs to be taken seriously. If we have already joked a million times about being nazis and killing Jews, and waging war, and about a conspiracy that undermines our civilization, and about our own mega­lomania… then when the images of real crimes crop up, we keep jok­ing, keep laughing. “Relax, it’s just a joke. Don’t you get it, huh? All the smart people do. You’re one of the smart people, aren’t you? You’re not one of those with a stick up your ass who can’t even take watching children and animals being slit up alive—are you? I’m one of the crazy ones, the ones who know the subtle art of not giving a fuck. To me, there is nothing you can’t laugh about. Only people who are against free­dom would like to set taboos for what you may or may not joke and laugh about.”

During the Second World War, Charlie Chaplin famously made a par­ody of Hitler in his 1940 film, The Great Dictator. Chaplin used comedy to demask and demystify the power and allure of dictatorship and totalitar­ianism. And of course, this postmodern move, one of irony and parody, proved to be the hallmark of a superior society; one that ultima­tely beat the complete lack of self-distance that marked the fascists. When one side screams and rages on, and the other changes the frame and makes us all laugh—of course the latter is going to win. Of course the latter is going to be allied with a superior information processing system, which ultimately wins the war.

But now, nearing a century after the first emergence of fascism, the forces that want violence and bloodshed have learned a thing or two. This time, they won’t try to be Hitler—they’ll try to be Charlie Chaplin. The next dictator, the one who seduces crowds and leads the masses into trans­gressing common decency and morality, supporting nihilism in its destructive form and an abandonment of all empathy—will be a com­edian. Today, only comedians can claim the absolute and amoral obedi­ence of the crowd. Guess who also likes absolute and amoral obedience of the crowd? The totalitarian dictator.[i]

Michael Billig, a professor of social science, published a book in 2005 titled Laughter and Ridicule: Toward a Social Critique of Hu­mour. Boring­ly written as it is, this book seems almost prophetic: Billig was amongst the first to see that with laughter comes ridicule, and thus comes a reaffir­mation of power relations; sometimes liberating, but all too often discipli­ning and oppressive. Laughter often says: Shut the fuck up and obey.

Today’s inquisition, today’s Thought Police, thrives on the power of laughter. The most (pathologically) power hungry amongst us will be­come masters of mean and crafty jokes. And they will get away with it. And they will rule. And you will obey them with the rest of the mob.

What, then, beats laugher and ridicule? We may turn again to the early writings of Nietzsche. In his 1872 work, The Birth of Tragedy, he argues that tragedy is a higher and more refined art form than the “Apollonian” search for perfection in sculpture and “Dionysian” rapture and self-expression in the moment-to-moment flows of music. And indeed, in literature and theatre, comedy has never been able to become as highly esteemed as tragedy.

Tragedy is thus an expression of a higher synthesis; it resonates with more profound and vulnerable layers of the human soul. And tragedy is best expressed through poetry in its many different forms, poetry in a wide sense, what is sometimes called “poetics”.

In the times to come, then, dictatorship and oppression, sadistic power and maso­chistic submission, will come dis­guised in the form of comedy and laughter.

Resistance and emancipation, kindness and freedom, will come from that which brings a tear to our eye—from a subtle sense of tragedy, expre­ss­ed in different media, by poets of different shapes and sizes.

In these times, building upon the experiences of the last century, we have accustomed ourselves to thinking of the trickster as the hero. That used to be a good rule-of-thumb, and it still can be, in some cases. But this intuition will be increasingly treacherous in the times ahead.

We are beginn­ing to see the unfolding of a subtle battle-performed-as-play for the global hu­man soul—the near­est thing to what might be called a cos­mic struggle be­tween good and evil: the evil comedian, who speaks to the masses but sec­retly despises them as a herd that follows the crude me­chanics of humor understood only by a select elite, against the good poet, who sings to the few, but is in love with the many and their crea­tive spark of collective in­telligence. This is the struggle-reborn-as-play, stirring at midnight in the garden of good and evil.

David Foster Wallace, the early metamodernist novelist and cultural comm­entator who died by suicide in 2008, aged 46, author of the dense, thick and magisterial novel with the prophetic title Infinite Jest (1996), once said in 1990 “that the next real literary rebels in America would be artists with little interest in trying to shock or upset their peers but who were, rather, willing to become so credulous of everything in the world that their peers would laugh at them”.[ii] That’s what takes greater cour­age, and that’s where liberation is to be found—in a new sincerity.

The dictator-comedian, the jester-king, steers the laughter, pacing it with perfect timing as a dir­ector would an orchestra—often saying things that would have been completely unacceptable had they been voiced by an ordinary person. Remember Carl Schmitt’s definition of the sovereign as “he who decides on the excep­tion”? To a growing extent this seems to apply to the comedian: the elevated position of being excepted from the morality applying to everyone else. The consumtariat—the underclass of the inform­ational and attentionalist digital economy, per­petually starved for authen­tic meaning, participation, community and re­cognition—alwa­ys stuck in the role of onlookers, always consum­ers, always spectators; they laugh along greedily, hiding in the crowd, cheering. The consumta­riat are offered a false sense of participation and superiority: Chuckling along, they momentarily feel that they are part of what happens, and on the winning side, too. Indeed, laughter is the new heiling.

But the transmogorified dream-world of boundary-less jokes is not a productive outlet for the human soul. If, in the 20th century the biggest joke was The Great Dictator; today’s biggest tragedy is The Great Spec­tator. The Great Dictator was an easier foe, because The Great Spectator turns out to be yourself.

The Great Spectator will mindlessly laugh along, from his own sense of inferiority, envy and Sklavenmoral—while the poet acts and is laughed at. What about you, will you laugh your way to obedience and meaningless murder, or will you side with the laughed-at? Will you sing with the infor­med naivety of the metamodern heart—one that can resist the cruel lau­ghter of a crowd reduced to groveling slaves?

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. When I first wrote this, Europe had already seen the rise of standup comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy. Now, rereading the text, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has just been elected by a landslide of 73% (vs. 24% for the sitting president)—also a comedian, who even plays the part as president in a satirical television show. While these two can hardly be called new dictators, they do certainly attest to the new power of comedy—and the crossroads of fact and fiction. Stranger days are coming.

[ii]. Quoted from Seth Abramson “On Metamodernism”, published April 16th 2018 on Medium, retrieved May 2018:


The Totalitarian Potential of New Age Spirituality

In this series of what we can learn from the totalitarian ideologies (for communism click here, and for fascism click here), I’d wish things would get less demonic around this time and that I could point to a cuter and happier ending when we get to New Age spirit­uality. But alas, as the human (or post-human) condition progresses, it only gets more wondrous, complex, per­ilous and terrifying, all at once. As Leon Trotsky once said “The forms of life will become dyn­am­ically dramatic […] And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” He just for­got to mention the new opening abyss between us and the peaks. Higher emancipation, incidentally, is found on the very edge of doom.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

For many readers, no doubt, “New Age” seems to be the odd one out in a series about the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. Commun­ism, fascism, and… New Age? These phenomena aren’t usually discuss­ed in the same context. And yet, there is a clear and fundamental pattern conn­ecting the three; even a logical, historical progression (as well as more inter­connecting ties and overlaps than we could name or hope to trace).

The three ideologies appeared and gained prominence in sequence as modern society pro­gress­ed, each of them related to holistic visions, and each of them led to totalitarian, abusive and collapsed societies. Commun­ism rel­ates to a profound social equality and union between humans, to the abol­ition of the “shame-regime” as discussed in my book Nordic Ideology (since no one would have lower status in the communist utopia). Fascism builds upon the com­m­unist radical unity and the rise of certain strong wills and great figures in that unified society and a conscious refinement of huma­nity, corres­ponding to the abolition of the Sklavenmoral-regime. And the New Age move­ments aimed at creating a reign of universal love flowing from a genuinely unified and deeply emancipated hum­anity, uni­fying us not only with one another, but with the cosmos at large, with all life, and with our highest inner potentials—in Hanzi lan­guage, with our “highest subjective states” and “greatest inner depths”. Like commun­ism, New Age spirituality is utopian and egalitarian, like fascism it em­phasizes the dist­inctions between the genders as well as the value of authenti­city and full­ness of commitment and of total submission of the ego and disso­lution into a complete unity. This corresponds to the “higher reaches of free­dom” per­taining to the later stages of human development, to the deepest reaches of our imaginations and the most universalistic and holis­tic visi­ons of soc­iety and humanity.

Because of its developmental qualities, reaching higher and deeper than commun­ism and fascism, New Age holds the potential for a more hellish, oppressive and suffocating totalitarianism than anything hith­er­to seen in communist and fascist societies. Luckily for us, no utopian New Age mov­e­ments really gained power in the 20th century—their social sust­ainability was simply too low to grow beyond small communities and inward-looking cults. The exception may be Scientology, which turned itself into a self-sustaining market mechanism using psychological coer­cion to get peop­le to aggressively pool money into real estate around the world, which in turn boasts the identities of members (“look at my big temple”) who then gain incentives to uphold the structure.

The close connection between fascism and say Adi Da’s cult, or that of Osho, or Scientology, may be difficult to spot on a surface level. After all, fascists are tough and manly, and New Agers soft and spiritual. But many scholars have shown that fascism—new and old—is full to the brim with esoteric and spiritual underpinnings. Karla Poewe, Pankaj Mishra and Göran Dahl are worth mentioning in this context.

Viewed with the goggles of my own theory, this is the develop­mental imbalance of “the magic residual” at work, as explained in The Listening Society; i.e. people who have greater depth and/or state than complexity and/or code tend to seek wholeness and be drawn to the non-rational in the search of the trans­rational. In other words, you have a pervasive sense there is som­ething more to the world and to reality than we can normally describe and grasp with our conscious conceptual minds, and that the direct expe­rience of reality always points towards something larger than any specific struc­ture of thought, but that something requires that we jump off a cliff into the unknown, that we stop thinking and allow ourselves to “fully be”.

This impulse, while true, opens the door inside of us for a holistic vis­ion that would unite all of society with primary, archetypal and spiritual forces: Martin Heidegger initially supported the Nazis and Carl Jung had early writings which spoke of collective Aryan and Jewish psyches, and count­less other “deep stuff” thinkers have fallen into similar traps. There is a very close connection between fascism and the New Age, most recent­ly revealed per­haps by the harrowing example of Andrew Cohen’s cult.

Why then would I claim that New Age has the potential to be even more hellish than Gulag or Holocaust? Think about it: These relations involve your innermost ontological belief structures. They can make you believe that if you don’t follow suit, if you even think the wrong thought, you will be punished for a literal eternity of unbearable suffering. And they can make you believe that in full and earnest. That’s much, much more radical than making you think you’re a bad comrade or not a part of the master race. And they can make you believe that the fate of the entire cosmos, literally speaking, depends on your work with this and that inner purifica­tion, enlightenment, etc. And they can make you believe this or that person is literally God speaking and that nothing else has any relevan­ce compared to what they may be saying. And they can make you inti­mately feel that with every cell of your body and soul. It’s the Michelin Star Club of totalitarianism. It’s totalitarianism magna cum laude, extra everything; ketchup and mustard. Because it reaches into the depths of your soul and controls parts of you neither Stalin nor Hitler could reach. In theory, then, what crimes could that sort of power make you commit? And if you were invested in it, what would you be prepared to do to defend it from perceived attackers?

If you consider the stories told by some escapees of North Korea, you notice this pattern. This is a nominally communist country, which all but in name has transitioned to a caste-like hyper-militarized fascist society, and where you increasingly see the use of supernatural narratives to legiti­mize pol­itical pow­er. Miracles are associated with the Supreme Leader, and it can take years for a young woman who escaped to get rid of the belief that he is reading her mind. That, if anything, is worse that Orwell’s 1984. And it’s pretty close to what has been reported by ex-Scientologists. If Sciento­logy would have managed to take over society as a whole, you might have seen similar patt­erns emerging in other countries or at a larger scale.

And then there’s always that distinct trait of totalitarianism: First you have a creative burst for a period in which the arts flower, then you con­verge around a massive repetition, a complete shut-down of all art. Scien­tology looks and feels exactly the same today as it did in the 1970s, except now in an ironic and more critically minded age, it all looks extremely kitschy and hysteri­cal. The same is true of North Korea: There are paint­ers, sure, but their skills are entirely tamed and employed on a producti­on-line basis, all in credit of the regime and its worldview. The same happened with nazism during its very short period of existence and with the “per­manent revolu­tion” in some commun­ist countries. If someone gets to you with the idea that they have a correct grasp of “the totality”, any divergence, even in your dreams, becomes a subject of great existen­tial terror. This adds another, and more terrifying, layer of mean­­ing to Orwell’s “boot stamping on a human face—for ever”. Personally, I would rather be gas­sed to death naked than to have someone convince me of an eternity of suffering for me and others if I don’t obey. Spiritual involve­ment opens the door to a whole new world of horrors.

And yet, it would be wrong to think that universal love and high­er inner states have no place in the future of humanity. Again, it’s a matter of developmental imbalances; the spiritual and existential insights that infor­m­ed and energized the New Age movement in its many forms, and the pro­found and authentic experiences that gave it life, are not in them­selves false. They’re simply too big and too difficult to manage to fit into what­ever human relationships, social roles and symbolic universes we con­struct, and so these relation­ships and roles always self-destruct pretty soon after we start engaging with the highest (spiritual) subjective states.

As society progresses and we reach deeper into ourselves in order to deal with the existential underpinnings of civilization as well as coordi­nating our streams-of-action on subtler and more complex levels, we are bound to come face to face again with these spiritual or cosmic peaks and abysses. Individually, many of us can ignore these issues and live “normal lives” and not be bothered, but transpersonally speaking, we as a global society and emerging posthumans cannot avoid it. We are going to have to deal with the terrifying depths and towering heights of existence, with the vast oceans of being, with the eternities of tragedy and suffering and the unbearable infinity of potential—sooner or later.

If the present world-system survives and development continues to accelerate, consciousness is very likely to self-organize into posthuman stages mirroring the great existential depths intuited by the mystics. The New Age movements have given us a brief taste of these farther land­scapes of the soul, of the peaks—and the great abyss.

The abyss. We then, collectively and transpersonally, encounter a more profound terror than has hitherto been experienced; a terror intuited only in madness and bad psychedelic trips. A terror beyond death: an experi­enced eternity of looped suffering. There is a towering challenge ahead of us; beyond anything yet experienced in the history of the known universe. The scale is of a whole other magnitude, the stakes of a cosmic kind. Sheer terror, pure emptiness—and a corres­ponding level of evil, always found, ultimately, within ourselves. The highest good—universal love and accep­tance—can only be attained by facing the greatest and purest of evils. Although this challenge lies outside the scope of the political metamoder­nism I have formulated, the latter can at least commence the needed pre­paratory work for this unavoidable challenge to our innermost being. Only an existentially mature civilization will be able to face the surmount­ing terror.

You cannot gaze into the abyss without being moved. You cannot taste the heavens without becoming, at least in some abstract sense, a believer. And that’s what political metamodernism shares with the New Age: an acceptance of the highest subjective states, their ultimate significance and transrational truth; that of universal love and acceptance, the dissol­ution of our separate identifications, and the non-attachment to ideas and beli­efs. In brief moments, these higher potentials can animate us, “As spring sweeps uninvited into barren gardens, as morning breezes reinvigorate dormant deserts”, as one of the most celebrated poets of the Urdu langu­age, Faiz Ahmed Faiz once wrote.[i]

These flowers of freshest hue must be met by an unequivocal commit­ment to deal with a corresponding level of existential terror. Unlike the New Ager, the metamodern mind is not a millenari­an one; we don’t bel­ieve that a wave of light will “come soon” and “wash over” all of us and this will make people “wake up” and that we are the carriers of that evan­gel (or some circumscription of the latter). We just recognize that there is such a thing as spirituality, yes, and we allow for faint glimmers of it to hint us about a potential future that is both incom­prehensively mag­nifi­cent and terrifying beyond imagination.

We do, however, share the idea that inner transformation is an import­ant and essential part of societal transformation, and ultimately of socie­ty’s sur­vival. And we share the idea that self-knowledge tends to lead to greater universalism and love, however tortuous and difficult the path. And we believe this path is not laid down, but that it must be conti­nually paved and rediscovered as we interact with the open systems of the world as these open systems inevitably also change us.

Here we return to the metamodern idea of proto-synthesis—we can­not just throw all maps of meaning and directionality overboard. We must see that spiritual insight and higher universal love are powerful futu­re attract­ors, but that they reside in the posthuman or transhuman realm of poten­tials, which means that we shouldn’t rush it. In this case, we must remain careful and conservative, as the sheer terror that can be unleashed under the auspices of a “metamodern totalitar­ianism” leaves a heavy ethical bur­den on us. Imagine a world where dictators control your soul and the con­struction of your social universe and have a thousand social, psycho­logical, chemical and technological tools to control the structure of your mind. That would be beyond nasty.

Where does this leave us? At the spot where political meta­modernism seeks to carefully work for the relative utopia of a listening society—a soc­iety that has resolved the modern problems of sustainabi­lity, inequality and alienation; but it must always stop before any direct, pass­ionate and non-ironic utopianism.

So fundamentally, whether political metamodernism becomes a force for good or evil in the world—or just another obscure cult-like group­ing—depends upon our shared ability to manage paradoxes and both-ands. And it depends upon our willingness and capacity to engage with the open systems of the world, and letting these systems change us, while still keeping some kind of shared map.

It is okay to let glimmers of New Age spirituality—and traditional paths in general—inform and inspire us. They must, however, never go­vern us, lest we will inherit all their pathologies, albeit in a magnified and yet more toxic version. These are dangerous dreams.

Political metamodernism is a bit like standing on the North Pole; if you go far enough north, so that you actually stand on the exact location of the North Pole, east and west and north all disappear; on that particular spot there is only south—in all directions. When you get really close to it, all directions become the opposite of what you want to achieve, and yet you have to keep trying to go “north of the North Pole”.

There’s a koan to stay with: What is north of the North Pole?

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. From the poem Last Night, loose translation by Michael R. Burch.

The (Partial) Glory of Fascism: What We Can Learn from the Far-right

It’s difficult to be playful around fascism. It arose in shaky times, gathered absolute power in the hands of fanatic psychopaths who not only oppress­ed their own populations but also got us the Second World War and the Holo­caust. To this day, we have crazy mass-killers swearing allegiance to fascist theories. Naturally, it’s not a joke.[i] And yet, the understanding of fascism as “pure evil” (and only an exist­en­tial lie) is simplistic, bordering on incorrect. There are very good rea­sons to revisit fascism and perform a little psycho-historical archeology to dig up partial truths that may serve political metamodernism and help us see the challenges ahead more clearly.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

Here are a few circumstances that put the emergence of fascism in a different light:

  • The link to (and partial overlap with) the genuinely rev­olutionizing form of modern art called Ital­ian futurism, starting in 1909 with poet and art theorist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who wrote the Futurist Manifesto. Futurism shows a number of signs reminiscent of meta­mod­ern­ism as an art move­ment as well as a philosophy—emphasizing agency, mobility, totality, acc­eleration, dev­elop­­ment, tech­nological transforma­tions, the conquest of other areas of life under the domain of art—as I discuss else­where.[ii]
  • The undeniable genius and lasting relevance of fascist and proto-fascist political thinkers such as Carl Schmitt (who coined the insightful definition of a sovereign as “he who decides on the excep­tion” and who went on to be the “crown jurist” of the Third Reich); Georges Sorel (who theorized the importance of myth in people’s lives and developed his own flavor of post-Marxism); Vilfredo Pareto (who is known for the 80/20 principle of income distribution, but also embraced fascism); and the US-born poet Ezra Pound—just to mention a few. These weren’t persons who got stuck in the fascist regimes of dumber people; they were deep thinkers whose oeuvres and lives led them to fascist conclusions.
  • The relative progressivity of the 1919 Fascist Manifesto (also authored by Marinetti), containing: uni­versal suffrage including women (opposed by most countries at the time), minimum wage, retirement at 55, the expansion of labor union rights and workers represented in boards of companies, and an eight-hour workday.
  • The undeniable fervor and enthusiasm sparked within literally millions of people in the years during which fascism and nazism emer­ged. Of course, this ability to unify and inspire does not in itself justify fascism. It does, however, highlight the fact that fascist practices can resonate with pro­foundly positive and beautiful emotions and coordinate many people’s actions in large and non-capitalist projects (i.e. actions coordinated by other means than monetary exchanges).
  • The general idea within fascism to view society and the populations as a developmental work of art. If you look at the 1929 novel Michael by Joseph Goebbels (who later became the propaganda minister of the Third Reich), you find the idea that a statesman is an artist:

“Art is an expression of feeling. The artist differs from the non-artist in his ability to express what he feels. In some form or other. One artist does it in a painting, another in clay, a third in words, and a fourth in marble—or even in historical forms. For him, the nation is exactly what the stone is for the sculptor.”[iii]

Naturally, this is a dangerous and dumb idea if you fall off the holistic balance and land in totalitarianism. Of course, people aren’t your “marb­le” to play around with. But the impulse in itself—to view society as a work of (co-created, participatory and democratically shared) art—is shared by political metamodernism. Society can be approached with the mind of an artist who wants to express his innermost depths. Society should not be the result of a cold bureaucratic process, but of passionate creation and love—aiming at the development of the inner qualities of the population.

  • The revolving door between fascist ideology and the far-left (Mussolini himself being an example, Georges Sorel another, even Goebbels and Hitler learning from Marxist theory and practices) as well as between deep ecology (recurr­ing in Heidegger and many esoteric green fascists) as well as with radical conservatism (notably with the Revolution von rechts idea: “revolution from the right”), including authoritarian conservatism and its link to neoliberalism (via Pinochet’s Chile, which espoused Milton Friedman’s libertarian economics). Basically, you find fascism sneaking in here and there across the classical political spectrum—and even in spirit­ual and religious thinkers. Mod­ern political thinkers will tend to emphasize the aspects that others share with fascism while denying their own connections, so as to prove one’s moral high ground, being “the farthest from fascism”, its very opposite. But it makes more sense to acknowledge that fascism has certain partial truths that are being denied and disowned, and then to productively own up to these and to include them in one’s own per­spective.

It should be apparent, then, that fascism cannot simply be discarded and never related to again. You can say that fascism is the cata­combs of the modern ideo­logical metropolis: It constitutes a vast network of secret and forgotten under­ground tunn­els connecting all of the poli­tical ideolog­ies. I guess you can say the same about all the ideologies to some extent—they all inter­connect—but fascism remains the most denied and least under­stood.

The poli­tical metamodernist must learn to travel these dark tunnels with­out becom­ing a creature of the night. You drain the sewers, clean them up, put in proper lighting, make sure the pipes work—you get the picture. As such, political metamodernism is both the ideology that is the closest to fascism and the one most in opposition to it. The catacombs are there, whe­ther we like it or not. The political metamodernist travels them and cleans them up; the liberal innocent denies their existence and sleep­walks in their dirt.

There is, naturally, something exquisitely demonic about fascism. As I argue in another book,[iv] this demonic aspect can be understood in terms of relations between “meta­memes”: Fascist and nazi thinkers used early postmodern insights (like the mass psychology of Gustave Le Bon and ideas about image control in the media, some pretty advanced psycho­anal­ytical and situational-psychological ideas as well as socialist criti­ques and the communist art of agitation) to mani­pulate a distinc­tly mod­ern society at a moment of crisis in order to wrest control over modernity’s advan­ced political mach­inery and econo­m­ic prowess; to rest­ore what is nominally a postfaustian society (traditio­nal), but in prac­tice amounts to a num­ber of faustian goals and ideals (the con­quest of the world, a master race, sheer power for the heck of it, war for the sake of war, the return of esoteric power gods, skulls on the sleeve, and so forth). That’s exactly what the archetype of a demon signifies: a fallen angel, one close to God who uses an elevated and exalted position, an access to rare truths and insights (postmodern), for crude and narrow purposes (faust­ian).

That’s the essential truth; fascism is so profoundly evil because it is dem­onic in this primary archetypal sense. A demon is a fallen angel, some­thing profound and beautiful in the service of something base and shallow. Developmental imbalance. And every time you have such glaring dev­elopmental imbalances, you can know for sure the hell patrol is com­ing.

Political metamodernism can only be true to its cause and polit­ically effect­ive if it faces this great demon of modernity—fascism—and asks him for his central truth, for his gem (yes, demons have gems, they love ‘em).

“So, okay then, dear mister get-kids-to-murder-and-torture-innocent-people-in-secret-death-camps, what’s your secret? What could you possi­bly tell me? What do you have that I, the enlightened and democratic modern mind, lack and secretly desire?”

The green little devil smirks slyly and replies:

“One word, one word. There is a longing inside of you; one that I live out more fully than you, one that you deny, but still haunts the outer rims of your mind as it beckons to the innermost core of your soul. And on the hour of your death, it will grant me victory over you. The word is heroism.”

Yes, everyday life under modernity’s democracy and capitalism denies and suppresses an impulse shared by all of us: the drive for great­ness, for superiority, for con­quering death, for ascendance. A small part of us knows that we want more, that this life—and our role in it—is too petty, too drab, too trivial, too self-serving, too spiritually impoverished. We know we were meant, in some sense, to take the hero’s journey, but we got caught up in mortgages and deadlines, and we tell ourselves that’s all we ever really wanted.

We hide this side from one another, from ourselves. It embarrasses us immensely. We find ways to subtly and gleefully dismiss the deepest striv­ings of others as boyish, immature, puerile, distasteful, deluded. We deep­ly resent the glimmering greatness of one another because it reminds us of the subtle lies we live by. And instead we reenact these longings in movies, in books, in music, in fantasies and historic personae. If someone around us wishes to go down the highway of heroes, we use all the strategies we can to ridicule their effort:

“Hah! They would have themselves be a movie char­acter, a Rambo! They lack humility. But I am mature—I really am—and I will never be a hero. Ever. I don’t even want to; only if fate forced my hand—which I by the way have a feeling might happen anytime soon—would I ever put on display the inner virtues that are uniquely my own! Until then, here’s to keeping an honest job and watching TV. With some bloody dignity.”

But when we utter these words to ourselves, we find our inner voices ring­ing strangely hollow. The green little devil’s whisper lingers on: We want to be heroes; we know that we really are heroes, and we want to fight the good struggle, and win. We want to conquer mort­ality. We want to be unleashed as creators beyond our social roles and masks, beyond the trivi­al confines of everyday life. We want to sacrifice ourselves, as Gilga­mesh, for the sake of unity so that we may live forever.

The word “fascism” stems from Italian fascio meaning a bundle of rods, ultimately from the Latin word fasces; it means to unite into a whole. Not all of us want heroism all the time and in every situation, but all of us do have this inner longing for greatness, for something far beyond ourselves. We like glory. A part of us secretly resents having given up any chance for rising higher—and that same part resents glimmers of the Übermensch in our fell­ow human beings.

­For all its wackiness and evil, for all its developmental imbalances and inherent pathology, fasc­ism is the ideology that most effectively honors this basic existential truth: the longing for heroism, power and trans­cen­dence through our deeds.

A reminder of this truth is the recurr­ing role of domin­ance and sub­miss­ion in sexuality and eroticism. Demo­cracy, fair­ness, gen­der equality, peace and deliberation—they all lack something: they lack that “oomph”, zest, lust, that carnal and dark demonic princely power.

At the heart of humanity, there is a sexual beast seeking to be unleash­ed. For all its moral and pract­ical superiority (even military, as it turned out), democracy is a bland nice guy. Fascism promises us an edgy bad boy and a sublime feminine surrender into uncon­trolled ex­­plosive orgasms that shake the foundations of the cosmos. Fasc­ism is the opposite of refi­ned demo­cracy: it is pure dom­inan­ce and sub­mission. It is speed, excite­ment, violence, blood, iron, autonomy, force, will, power. It is untamed—erotic in the deepest sense of the word.

Another reminder of the ubiquity of heroism in our psychology is the archetypal “hero’s journey”. Joseph Campbell famously described heroic blueprints shared by disparate mythologies, recurring in folk sagas, novels and movies (directly inspiring George Lucas in the creation of Star Wars). This universal narrative involves leaving our safety zone, tra­veling to our inner depths, facing dan­ger, conquering evil, and returning in a trans­formed state of being.

Hitler galvanized people—albeit around a stupid plan involving kill­ing everyone on the way down to the Black Sea so as to fill the area with raci­ally pure Germans who would go back to working as farmers, have lots of blond children and driving down a giant autobahn to Crimea to go on summer vacation in extremely repe­titive concrete blocks by the beach. Regardless of the app­arent stupidity and absurdity of the plan, which was only thinly disguised and was in actuality supported by many Germans, there was something there that modern life otherwise never offers us: an epic, heroic struggle with no irony, no distance, no second thought, no excuses made. What does it matter, then, if the aim itself is entirely pre­posterous?

Fascism was and remains a feverish boy room fantasy. But psycholog­ically, for all its immature lies and manipulations, it honored the fact that a part of us is always susceptible to such a dreamy will for greatness. We can­not truly “grow out of it”; only deny it. The world is not enough.

As lack of meaning and lacking sense of strength and vitality take hold in many young men, and some women, in our days, they turn again to these themes. From their imprisoned anguish grows new streams of fasc­ism. Some few join overtly fascist movements, others nationalist and radi­cal-conservative ones and “Indo-European identitarianism”, and yet oth­ers find more innocent ways of reenact­ing aspects of these: pick-up artist “gaming” (social power games to get women), BDSM tantra work­shops, violent porn, some of the authoritarian undercurrents of the men’s move­ment, anti-feminism, anti-modern anti-“decadent” art sen­ti­ments, varia­tions of theories about “the fall of the West” and other ideas about cyclical civilizational patterns where you need to rescue “civili­zation” by becom­ing more manly (again, a theme shared with the proto- and pre-fascists at the turn of the 20th century, with Oswald Spengler and others).

Not all of these things are all bad or all fascist. The men’s movement and learning good dating skills particularly have potentials for creating prod­uctive results, and some aspects of these blend into political meta­modern­ism. Viewed as a whole, these partly interrelated phenomena do however reflect the staying power of fascism and the masculine and boy­ish qualities it embod­ies. Most of it is relatively subtle and hidden from public view, but the psycho­logical forces brewing are strong.

These tenden­cies work their way through the collective psyche and slow­ly prepare the ground for de­mands of a new “Revolution von rechts”; the sentiment that decadence has gone too far grows, “the West” or “civil­iza­tion” or “the phallic order” or “the logos” are in danger, and this “nec­ess­ita­tes” some “decisive mascu­line action” to “save” your favorite unit of identification (the West, this or that country, etc.).

Ah, a new brotherhood of Greek hoplites, free-roaming muscular hero­es, always pre­paring for war! The women want it too, the fascist mind mur­murs; they only came up with their angry feminism because they’re subcon­sciously enraged with the too weakly and nerdy men of late mod­ern society.

In short: Fascism stirs, sprung from cages—at a new and higher, more abstracted and yet more demonic level.

If you look at more overtly fascist thinkers such as representatives of the Nouvelle Droite, (the New Right) and more recently the Alt-Right (the Alt­er­native Right), these enjoy the masculine anti-democratic qualities more unabashedly: bloggers, YouTubers and rightwing online media all base their ideas on Julius Evola’s esoteric fascism, Tomislav Sunić presents his theses in a book smugly titled Against Democracy and Equality (1990), and US Alt-Right leader Richard Spen­cer performs fiery speeches about ethno-nationalism. There’s that demon­ic quality again—it is shared to some ex­tent by the online movement of the so-called “Dark Enlighten­ment” (a brand of anti-pomo anti-femin­ism mixed with different wild re­actionary suggestions) and social media figures like Milo Yiann­opoulos who criticize political correct­ness and leftwing “social justice warr­iors” and ridicule vegan “soy boys”. Then there are radicals such as the pseudo­nym Bron­ze Age Pervert, flaunting more overt fascism, mixed with a kind of extreme, ironic humor. And there is Curt Doolittle’s propertar­ianism, attracting many young men through the internet. There’s even a “meta-right”, whose mem­bers seem keen on learning from political metamoder­nism.

These wider tendencies create a vast network of strange bed­fell­ows. Time and again, the different positions deny to be in league with each other but end up feeding the same underlying currents. Trump’s pop­ulism doesn’t like Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right, but the latter likes the form­er and claims to have influenced him. Jordan Peterson, the Jungian psych­ologist who calls himself a “classical liberal”, talks approvingly about posh brit Milo Yiannopoulos, who in turn loves Trump, who in turn was put in office with the help of Russian online troll factories, who spread anti-fem­inist ideas, which are recycled by the men’s movement and the loosely related BDSM tantra work­shops (in­cluding some rather nasty sex cults, such as The New Tantra).

The Russian online trolls spread ideas about the fall of the West and the “Fourth Theory” ideas of Putin’s chief philo­sopher Aleksandr Dugin, who claims not to be fasc­ist but is part of a Russ­ian machinery that supp­orts radical nation­alist parties across Eur­ope, the leaders of which read up on the power-grabbing theories of Carl Sch­mitt and others who inspired the 20th century fascists, and thus they gain edge on the conven­tional poli­ticians who only do law, economics and boring conven­tional political science. I have been invited to such Kremlin-paid meetings myself (to unite “alter­native” European politics).

In the US, the National Rifle Association is propped up by the Russian government and supports Trump, while arming a population of mostly white react­ionary males who feel Western civilization is being lost. And Steven Bannon buys Facebook data and conspires with the company Cambridge Analy­tica to win the culture wars in a neo-conservative direc­tion through tar­geted manipulations of public opinion.

Phew. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

I’m not saying all of these should be reduced to one another. Gett­ing a good whipping at a BDSM retreat doesn’t make you a fascist, nor is Peter­son a Trump fan (but would have voted for him), and Trump is not a Rus­sian neo-fascist, etc. And not all of them are all wrong or crazy. The point is merely that the same under­lying fascist im­pulse is there.

These are the dark tunnels beneath Metropolis Moder­nity that I was talking about. They all connect.

People who don’t know the fascist catacombs can some­times end up in argu­ments about masculinity or being against politi­cally corr­ect inter­sectional femin­ism, or criticizing some aspects of Islam, and find a flatt­ering and sur­pris­ing surge of support and enthu­siasm from people they normally wouldn’t associate with. Some of them under­stand they’re gett­ing a little demonic boost from the under­world, but many re­main genui­nely naive to what’s going on. The atheist philosopher Sam Harris—who is a fierce critic of Islam—was earnestly surprised that so many of his foll­owers were devoted Trump fans and vehemently resisted him when he sided with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

What, then, does any of this have to do with political metamodernism? Here it is: Political metamodernism shares a part of that same demonic quality, which comes from owning the unapologetic striving to take the hero’s journey.

This one goes out especially to all the nice guys out there who have had this inner split about Hanzi and metamodernism from the start. The nice guys (it’s usually men) get something dark in their eyes and they say:

“You are saying all of these progressive, sensitive things about a ‘listening soc­iety’ and the value of hard inner work, but you keep acting slightly evil, and you keep talking about gaining power. There is a performative contra­diction here: The theorists we are looking for should be calm, kind and wise—free from worldly desires and strivings—but you are presenting a sneaky and aloof persona. What you are saying is interesting and rings somewhat true; yet there is some­thing lacking, perhaps not as much in your theories as in you, Hanzi, as a person. It makes me, the pensive idealistic guy, suspicious and it leaves me with a subtle uneasy sense that there is something… demonic going on. It seems you can reach higher truths than you quite should, and you seem to be too immature to use them res­ponsibly; you seem to be using philosophical and spiritual insight for power. For my part, I will learn a thing or two from you, but then I will return to the safe, pure, goodhearted, simple and humble path for devel­oping soc­iety.”

And I guess that right there is the ultimate litmus test for the meta­mod­ern mind. The metamodern mind sees that all nodes in the great weave of life long for power, for expansion, for fuller expression. And it sees that competition—just as love and trade—is an irremovable element of social reality itself.

So, hey there Nice Guy. Yes you. You know I am talking to you. Do you know who actually whispered the above words in your ear? It wasn’t your conscience, not your inner angel.

It was the green little devil, a sly smirk nudging his thin lips again. Your green little devil is prepared to use morality and claims of moral purity for the legitimization of your own will to power at the expense of others, and at the expense of truthfulness.

The reason you get this “dark ominous sense” when reading Hanzi isn’t that you’re good and I’m evil. That was what you believed, wasn’t it? It’s that I own my green little devil and have it tamed, but yours is sneaking about and lying to you and controlling you. Your conscience lied to you. You were caught by the devil’s lasso.

The dark ominous feeling you get when you see me prancing around is not a reflection of your kind, critical mind resisting the sell-out to power that I represent. It is a reflection of your own disowned green little devil, of your disowned will to power, and the resentment you feel when some­one else expresses so clearly and straightforwardly what you have hidden away from view. You’re the sell-out, not me.

How do I know that? I know it simply because I understand that power and freedom are sisters; creation is power. So any time you want to chan­ge or create anything, you must have a will to power, and any time you make a power claim, there will be adversaries who have different ideas, ideals and interests, and thus you have to own up to that adversity and you have to try to win. And without a wish to change or create anything, you can have no morality; no wish to strive for the good. Hence: pure morality requires a pure will to power. Your denied will to power is im­moral, and that’s what you feel reflected in yourself when you watch me unfold without apology.

You can wait around for another hundred years if you like—but Yoda isn’t coming. There won’t be another “pure” path of only kindness and wis­dom under a pure and kind teacher and leader. And no, you won’t become that person yourself when you’re older. That’s your green little devil talk­ing: your disowned longing for greatness. There isn’t a pure path in which you don’t have to relate to the demonic quality of creation and chan­ge. Moral purity, calm wisdom, humility—that’s the lie, that’s “the liberal inno­cent”.

And here’s the bottom line: Your green little devil is transpersonally con­nected to mine, just as your mind is to mine. We are all nodes in the great web of life; and life pulsates with the will to power. All life literally eats its way through other flows of matter and energy. All events feed on entropy; on decay. A human body consists of organic matter under viol­ent control: killed, chewed, swallowed, digested, broken down and reorga­nized. This is an indispu­table phy­si­cal fact. Power is transpersonal becau­se all creation is co-creation, and all emer­gence is relational—and power, ultimately, is the will and capacity to free­ly create; it is the will of poten­tials to emerge as actualities.

And herein lies, of course, the deep connection between fascism and Nietz­sche’s philosophy. Naturally, Nietzsche was misread and misinter­pre­t­ed in the crude and anti-intellectual times that followed his death, but this fun­da­mental impulse remains true: an unapologetic affirmation of the will to power, the striving to get past any obstacles of fear, shame, guilt and Sklaven­moral, and to freely express our highest inner expressions: the Über­mensch.

Here’s my suggestion—how about we stop trying to exorcise one an­oth­er’s “egos” and “shadows”, and instead own up to the creative sparks we all share; and then play together as mutually empowering and beau­tifully imperfect co-creators, to write new values on new tablets?

When you run around trying to reveal, tear down and (let’s admit it) punish the egos and wills to power of others, are you really acting with the purity of intent you’re telling yourself? How many times have you found yourself saying things behind the backs of others, things where you make unqualified psychoanalytical guesses about their dark hidden mot­ives? Do you really think that stuff is coming from a place of moral con­cern and the purity of your soul? Spanish Inquisition, anyone? Nobody expects it, but it always shows up. The inquisitor always wears a mask, and beneath the mask is—again—the green little devil, your disowned will to power.

Nice Guy. Stop being a hypocritical inquisitor or witch-hunter and admit that you want shitloads of delicious power—and then be kind to people.

We should all try our best to be kindhearted. But there is also Sklaven­moral disguised as niceness, and that’s a problem.

Unapologetically in love with power—and uncompromisingly idealist­ic. Both and. Right there is an equ­il­ibrium from which we can build a very pro­found sense of inter­pers­onal, or trans­personal, trust. And that’s the space from which meta­modern pol­itics can emerge—from the trust that you will use your power kindly and I will use mine kindly, for mutual ben­efit and mutual goals; in a network of shared will to transpersonal power.

And here is the really cool part. Listen now.

Once you admit you want shitloads of delicious power, that you crave pure co-creation, and you see and accept that same will in all other crea­tures—a profound sense of equality descends upon your soul; I guess you could say “equanimity” as we mentioned earlier.

At the heart of the will to power rests the most radical egalitarianism and universalism. This is what allows us, among other things, to study stages of adult develop­ment in a truly non-judgmental, accepting and non -competitive manner. The competitive element of life becomes purified and falls in its proper place—eternally balanced by love and exchange, solidarity and trade; God doesn’t love one more than another.

So what if Hanzi has come farther than you in terms of philosophical insight, so what if I contain your per­spective but you couldn’t have con­tained or recreated mine? It doesn’t matter; more fundamentally, we are still equals, and in other aspects you are my super­ior. There’s nothing to it; it just is what it is. Radical egalitarianism. We are all chosen, all sub­lime, all exquisitely precious.

Seriously, try it. Embrace your inner princely darkness. The green little devil stops whisper­ing at the outer rims of your mind; it goes quiet. Your moral outrage ceases to murmur. Silence is there. And with silence comes clarity. And with clarity comes a more sustainable and authentic goodwill and kindness.

You recognize the simple truth that every­body is just super-vulnerable and utterly pathetic—yes, Hanzi too—and that the dynamics of everyday life force us to pretend to have dignity and to try to look like we know what we’re doing, and that’s why we want power. That’s why you want power, too. We’ll just admit the whole thing, no more obfuscation. From there on we can play together in sincere irony and infor­med naivety.

The metamodern perspective uses its capacity for perspective taking, its existential insights, and its idealism, to gain power. That’s its demonic qual­ity, and that’s why there must always be a dark and dangerous elem­ent to any form of political meta­modernism—a Machiavellian element. You cannot get rid of it by “getting over your ego”; you must stay with it, and balance it, and make it transparent and shared. It must always remain dan­gerous. En­er­gy is movement, and movement is dangerous; all becom­ing is also dest­ruction. Entropy.

This is where fascism informs political metamodernism; this is the glo­ry of fascism—it honors the will to power, to superiority, to what Socrates called megalothymia. It’s that principle within us that wants more, to be viewed and recognized not only as an equal member of society, but as a majestic and awe-inspiring being. That’s the truth even about Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Yoda. And centuries of denial and meditation will never efface it: to want anything, is to want power.

Look at your demon. Dance with the devil, lest he’ll make you his bitch.

Grab his fucking gem; it shines not only with an owned-up-to will to power that connects you to the will to power of all others, and thus to the non-local emergence of the universe; it shines with the pristine love of all perspectives.

Fascism lets you play the hero. It honors the principle of megalothy­mia. Democratic capitalism not so much; you deny your heroism and that of others. Political metamodernism lets you play the hero again, owning that part of yourself and others, just with ironic distance. It’s like ground­ing an electrical wire. And once that is done, we are free to travel these tunnels without being electrocuted, to think in terms of “political theo­logy” (the disci­pline that stu­dies the dynamics of how small, determined groups can seize power and constitute themselves as sovereign).

And then let’s play together to co-create a more conscious society. Bring your demon’s gem or don’t come at all.

Don’t hate the will to power of oth­ers—love it, balance it, and play with it. Again: love the game and love its players. Allow for others to relate to you in the same manner. Let us build that transpersonal trust, cultivate that trans­personal integrity. That is the metamodern per­spective; the one that has solidarity with all perspectives.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. Then again, present-day society and its suboptimal forms and trajectories are no joke, either. If you look at the suffering of just one issue, such as animal exploitation, the global tragedy churned out amounts to a global output of many “holocausts per year.”

[ii]. The 6 Hidden Patterns of History.

[iii]. Goebbels, J., 1929/1987. Michael. London: Reed Business Information, Inc.

[iv]. The 6 Hidden Patterns of History.

The Partial Truths of Communism We Ought to Include in the Politics of the Future

As you may know, the anarchists were eventually excluded from the Inter­national in the 19th century—Mikhail Bakunin lost the fight to Karl Marx, and the latter became the de facto intellectual and political leader of the European radicalized workers. Unlike Bakunin, Marx thought it necessary to seize real political power, i.e. to keep the state intact during the first steps towards an anticipated classless and stateless society. Utopian socialist ideals such as those of Char­les Fourier (one of the great pre-Marxist socialist thinkers, 1772-1837, also credited with coining the word “feminism”) were sidelined to only be found in small “intentional communities”—attempts at rebooting soc­iety based on utopian standards, which always collapse and/or go sour after a while.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

Real communism, Marx and Engels agreed with Bakunin, would exist only when the state had dissolved. But to begin with, there would be need for an interim dictatorship of the proletariat.[i] This idea of using state power to trans­form society stuck with the revol­u­tion­ary com­munist move­ments and came to define communism and “real socialism” in the 20th cen­tury.

That is why communism, unlike anarchism and Fourierism, became a serious political force, centered in the Soviet Union—the only coun­try of a non-ethnic and non-geographic denomination in the world, a society founded within the imaginary space of world-centric humanism.

Libertarian socialism nev­er materialized beyond small parliamentary representations here and there, and anarchism or lib­er­tarian Marxism hardly excised any political power anywhere: These have exist­ed almost entire­ly in the intellectual realm. As mentioned in Appendix A, the major wiel­ders of power have all been authori­tarian com­munists—follow­ing in the foot­steps of Lenin’s coup d’état in Russia.

The real leftwing political challenge to Marxism and Marxism-Leninism came from social democracy in the tradition of the philosopher Edu­ard Bern­stein (1850-1932) and perhaps the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), who sought a peaceful transition to socialism by demo­cratic means and reforms. Whereas social democracy (and socialist parlia­ment­ary reformism) gained wide followership, it has in prac­tice gra­v­i­tated to­wards social liberalism—and in late modernity, towards green social lib­er­alism; i.e. towards the attractor point of modern society. In real­ity, then, social-democratic countries have largely developed along similar lines as other capitalist welfare democracies.

The underlying principle of communism is more radical: to act­ively and deliberately transform the fundamental structures of soc­iety by shoc­king them with planned strategic actions thought to be in line with the attractors that society’s inherent dynamics point towards. “Norm­al” soc­iety, “capitalist” society, “bourgeois” society—is simply viewed as eth­i­cally unacceptable. It’s just not good enough; it’s inhumane.

This—everything—everyday life with all its hierarchies, limitations and banality, is simply not enough. The communist demands more. The com­m­unist mind, its kernel of truth, grows from this solemn vengefulness aga­inst the injustices and insufficiencies of everyday life and from the deter­min­ation that comes with it: a moral determination to transform all of society; to act for the sake of the weak and the exploited; to act with the willingness to risk everything—one’s own life, one’s lifetime of commit­ment, and even perhaps being wrong—to make the decisive move that breaks the bound­aries of normal life and lets us come out on the other side. An honest sense of hope, a sincere and embodied sense of tragedy—and enough tempered righteous anger to remedy at least some of that tragedy.

That’s the dangerous dream of communism. It has little to do with drab concrete housing blocks, or polluting Trabant cars, or secret KGB agents, or nuclear warheads, or military marches, or mad dictators, or any of the things we usually associate with communism. We can even detach it from any specific vision about who owns the factories or how the eco­nomy is governed.

Real communism, then, in this deeper sense, simply connects to the det­er­mination to do what it takes to bring about a post-capitalist society. By definition, a communist society is that which dialectically flows from, and transcends, capitalist society and in which everyday life is governed and coordinated by another logic than economic capital. This logic must be less cruel and more rational, more in line with human needs and higher stages of inner development. It is a holistic, human­ized version of mod­ernity. Communism, in this deeper and generalized sense, is holis­tic post-­capi­tal­ism—plus the mor­ally driven determ­ination to achi­eve it.

The communists of the 19th and 20th centuries were wrong about a num­ber of issues concerning the dynamics and attractors of modern so­cieties and their economies. And this led to some terrible mis­takes, the worst of which was trying to force institutions into being with­out corr­es­­ponding develop­ments of psy­chology, behavior and culture (see this article on why communism failed); leading to jamm­ed information feedback processes, which in turn led to a fail­ing society, and ultimately to Gulag, surveill­ance, terror and coll­apse.

But some core aspects of communism were not in themselves false, only premature and out-of-context. Thereby I am not saying that bad con­sequen­c­es should be excused on account of good intentions. I am saying that par­tial truths should not be discarded on account of guilt-by-association.

What, then, are the communist truths shared by political metamod­ern­ism? One such aspect is the uncompromising moral determination to change the nat­ure of everyday life. Another is that there is in­deed some­thing that comes after capitalist relations, and that one can align one­self with such an emergence because it rhymes with discernable stages of techno­logical and societal development. A third aspect is that there should be a collect­ively intelligent form of governance based upon a more radical and deeper form of demo­cracy than representative party politics. A fourth one is that there should be a world-centric party (or meta-party) that takes on a transnation­al and even tran­scendental role of trans­forming soc­iety from a global perspec­tive, and that there should be some kind of van­guard who develops and spreads a shared theo­retical and organizational basis for such work. And a fifth, and last one, is that such a process-oriented party should rely upon the dialectics inhe­rent to society in order to guide its development and to gain power.

The Nordic ideology is, obviously, not communism. It may be revol­u­tion­ary, developmental and dialectical—but it is strictly non-violent. It works with other attractor points and it has other goals altogether. It sha­res the solemn vengefulness of communism, its tem­pered indignation: the grit, fire and guts to change a society that simply isn’t good enough, to achi­eve a higher stage of development, and to serve a deeper equ­ality.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. This is a posi­tion Marx at least partly revised after the 1871 Paris Commune, when “communard” workers revolted in Paris and held the city for two months before being beaten back.

Metamodernism, More Sustainable than Ecologism

For all its different forms, Green ideology seeks to create sustainability of some kind. Even if some proponents of more radical forms of ecologism like to point out that the aim can hardly be to “sustain” a destructive and eco­cidal civilization, that they prefer “resilience” or even “regeneration”, this still means that ecologists want this new imagined and preferable state of affairs to be… well, sustainable. No matter how you look at it, sustain­abi­lity is the dem­and, the goal, of ecologism. Resilience and regeneration both include sus­tain­ability within them.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications.

It is thus hardly a stretch to say that any kind of politics which does not maximize sustainability (again: of the present society or any imagined fut­ure one) is not the optimal Green politics, not in alignment with ecol­o­gism. Naturally, some forms of ecologism are of a reconciliatory bent (seek­ing to “reconcile” humanity with the environment), some are anth­ro­po­centric in their environmentalism, some are spiritual and focus upon att­ain­ing unity with “deep ecology”, some are unforgiving against the excesses of hum­anity while focusing on solidarity with ecosystems and the bio­sphere, some are transformational (seeking to transform the ecosys­tems of the world with human intelligence), some are futuristic and others primi­tiv­istic. You have pragmatists and hardliners, in the emble­matic exa­mple of Green par­ties, the German die Grüne, these are called the Fundis (fundamentalist environmentalists) and Realos (realist green politicians).

And then there are all the mixes with other ideologies and struggles: eco­socialism, green liberalism, techno-environmentalism, eco­fasc­ism, hu­man ecology of indige­nous minority rights, multiculturalism, and so on.

What they all share is a focus on sustainability in some form or other. Even if ecologist thinkers like Arne Næss, Murray Bookchin, Gary Snyder, Theo­d­ore Roszak and today’s Tim Morton and Roger Scruton all have diff­erent takes on this issue, it is not a stretch to say they are some­how committed to sus­tainability—although the word itself only became com­monplace after 1987 with the Brundt­land Report.[i]

What, then, can be learned from political metamodernism in terms of sustainability? A thing or two.

You cannot have a sustainable societal system (economy-layered-in-bio­sphere) without a corresponding and matching sustainability in all fields of development: system, culture, psychology and behavior (as dis­cussed here). In other words, you can’t have ecological sustaina­bility with­out social and economic sustainability. And how do you get there?

You need to get people to a point in their lives where they genuinely understand and care about issues larger than themselves. That’s Existen­tial Politics. You need to make sure people have good enough social rela­tions to not get stuck in prisoners’ dilemmas that hold back our devel­op­ment and potential to care and not get stuck in materialistic status gam­es. That’s Gemeinschaft Politics. You need to see to it that the systems of governance can nimbly and effectively redesign themselves so as to deal with new environmental challenges when they become known, in a way that gains support and legitimacy. That’s Democrati­zation Politics. You need to make certain that all of society is aligned with what is empirically shown to create circular economies and cradle-to-cradle processes, and you need to make sure that you spot and correctly understand environ­mental threats such as climate change and that the public is well informed and has the ability to respond reasonably. That’s Empirical Politics. And you need to make certain that ideas about ecology, sustainability and hu­manity’s place in a larger context of nature per­meate people’s conscious­ness and all of our ideas about life. That’s Politics of Theory. And un­less you’re an eco­fascist and just don’t care about the freedom of people, you need to make sure that all of these processes can play out without oppress­ing people, and that’s Emancipation Politics.

So tell me again how you were going to create a sustainable society with­out political metamodernism. Can you see how unrealistic any eco­logist ideology would be without these processes?

Any version of ecologism requires political metamodernism to be truly sust­ainable. Any environmentalism not underpinned by the Nordic ideo­logy is simply less sustainable, less resilient, less regenerative. That’s all, folks: the Nordic ideology is greener than Green.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. Named so after the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundt­land who led the UN’s work on understanding and defining sustainability.

Metamodernism, More Conservative than Conservatism

Conservatism may be the most misunderstood of the modern ideolog­ies—and its challenge to political metamodernism is perhaps the most serious one. The cen­tral conservative principle is a resolve to escape the traps of infatua­tions with utopian ideas and puritan ideals—and to settle for “the real world”. The insight that underlies this realization is one of humility: the world is always larger, more complex and more terrifying than our limited intellects and perspectives can imagine. When we want to change things around, it’s usually only because we haven’t really under­stood how they work in the first place. And so our dreamed visions and “creative ideas” usually end up wrecking what works in the first place, and then we have to painfully try to reconstruct what has been lost. Sometimes that can take an incredibly long time. Think of the sunk costs of the Soviet experiment.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

Conservatism reacts against the hubris of intellectuals. As soon as mo­d­ern society was showing its first glimmers and it became apparent that the human world was about to drastically change, “smart” but unwise people from privi­leged strata of soc­iety took upon themselves to use their intellects to try to shape the direction of this development. This was, and remains to this day, an act of vanity: you flatter yourself, you grow self-righteous, you put your­self above your place in the larger world, above your place in history, your place as a member of your peo­ple and their accumulated wisdoms—and this leads you to try to force your neatly arra­nged ideas and ideals upon the rich­ness and complexity of the world. And your mental con­struct never fits, and you always end up getting angry at the world. The stark raving revol­ution­aries take over and things get vio­lent. Crazy experiments abound. Decay follows.

The primordial and archetypal such dangerously utopian thinker is, again, Rousseau. While highly intelligent and idealistic, he was unbalan­ced as a person, an irres­pon­sible father and impossible friend—unable to live up to his own ideals of engaged parenting as out­lined in his 1762 work Émile—and he was hope­lessly roman­tically attach­ed to unachievable uto­pian goals. Rouss­eau, a perpetual child who would never grow up and died bitterly defending his ruined reputation with far-fetched justificati­ons, is the origin­ator of such dreamy and dangerous ideas as “Man is born free, and every­where he is in chains” and “We will force you to be free!”[i]

How telling, then, that Rousseau was the spiritual father of the hard­core Jacobins of the French Revolution—the ones who led the Reign of Terror and guillotined folks left and right as the Revolution began to eat its own child­ren. Maximilien Robespierre, the young Jacobin lawyer who rose to power and eventually had the king decapitated—and even coined the motto of the French Republic, “liberté, égalité, fraternité”—worship­ped Rousseau like a god:

“Rousseau is the one man who, through the loftiness of his soul and the grandeur of his character, showed himself worthy of the role of teacher of mankind.”[ii]

Fanaticism—just like Lenin would later declare himself to be “in love with Marx” and honor the memory of Robespierre with a monument in Saint Petersburg.

It was after the excesses and madness of the French Revol­ution that con­­servative thinking took hold in earnest. The pendulum swung and for a few generations the leading minds of France, Germany and England dev­eloped the foundations of modern conservatism. You have Burke’s re­pu­dia­tion of the French Revolution, the German Romanticism’s rejec­tion of the cold and ahistorical intellect of the French Enlightenment project, and Joseph de Maistre’s poignant retort to Rousseau’s ideal of men born free but being everywhere in chains: “To say that sheep are born carnivor­ous, but everywhere eat grass, would be just as reason­able”.[iii]

Conservative thinkers knew that modernity was encroaching upon society: They did not deny the power of science and technology and the profoundly new territory that humanity was entering. They held that modern society had to grow and evolve organically, and that the role of the intellect was not to force itself upon the world, but to refine the human spirit on an individual level by self-reflection and hard work—even beyond the intellectual re­alm: linking to the spiritual, the myst­ical and the aesthetic. People aren’t natur­ally be­nign, as Rousseau and Robes­pierre had postulated, and society does not always opp­ress them—it often protects, fosters and supports them. People are relatively brutish and simple, and they must refine their souls to be any good—and society’s role is more often to hold us in place so we don’t commit crimes or work against one another. And society can offer a source of cultural refinement—through history, art and Bildung.

To different extents, the conservative thinkers also defended God and the Christian faith against the onslaught of cold scientific rationality. Hum­ans need God to know their place in the larger scheme of things. So what could be worse than throwing all of that rich timbre of human expe­rience and culture overboard in exchange for a dreamt-up plan for a new society!

The point isn’t, then, to try to go back to the Middle Ages,[iv] but simply to defend traditions, sacred values, national ethnic bonds, hierarchical relations and institutions from unrealistic and irresponsible attempts to efface them. The funda­men­tal conservative prin­ciple is to be responsi­ble and prudent; it is to avoid what I have called “game denial”.

Conservatism and counter-revolution have surfaced as a political, aes­the­tic and intellectual force time and again since early modernity. During the period 1815–48, the Austrian statesman Prince Metternich, a major influence in Austria and in Europe generally, devoted his energies to erec­t­ing an antirevolutionary chain of international alliances throughout Eur­ope. After the turn of the 19th century you had Oswald Spengler’s som­ber ruminations on the fall of Western civilization. In its latest incar­nation you have thinkers such as the Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson and the US literary scholar Camille Paglia who call themselves classical liberal and libertarian respect­iv­ely, but who, structurally speak­ing, quite clearly repro­duce the conservative creed. They work to challenge leftwing academic postur­ing and to demask the exces­ses of univer­sity campus radicalism and the youth’s blind faith in neo-Marx­ism and inter­sectional femin­ism. Their message appeals mostly to white young men, just as ear­lier forms of conser­vatism. And just as before, the young men are encour­aged to cult­ivate their masculinities and inner lives. Peterson and Paglia seem to be lead­ing an ongoing counter-revolution in its own right—albeit in a cult­ural and not military sense.

The enemy is always simplistic and collectivist radicalism. As such, con­servative thinkers view themselves as opposed to “ideol­ogy”. The con­serva­tive mind holds that they stick to a sober view of reality, where­as radicals and progressives have sold out reason in hope of playing an into­xicatingly heroic role, or in covert hopes of advancing in the social hierar­chies. On a deep level, the conservative feels that ideologies provide an excuse for such behavior, a kind of simple filter through which the ideo­logue can view the world in black-and-white terms—thus avoid­ing to ever see his own limitations and the greed of his soul, because he is always on the “pure” and “good” side. The conservative tells us:

“Your ideology is a sickness, a big lie, an excuse for your in­ability and un­will­ing­ness to deal with your own inner weaknesses. And that is, ultimately, why the French Revolution turned sour, as did the Bolsh­evik one, as will all future ones. You say you are good, but you lie. If you really cared about what’s good, you would bother to first find out, without a priori, what is true—including truths that happen to hurt—and then you would do your hard inner home­work and deal with the less rosy and more terrifying reality of existence.”

This conservative trail of thought of course also poses a challenge to poli­tical metamodernism. And the challenge should be taken seriously, by all means. How can we justify the Nordic ideology? Is it just another attempt at a seductive, blinding ideology that would make Chairman Mao proud?

As with the other modern ideologies, you can either beat conservatism by dismantling its core suppositions, or by taking it to its own limits and turn it against itself. And again, we need to do the latter. But just to point out some ways to disprove conservatism “from the outside” we can men­tion that:

  • conservatism cannot itself escape the charges of being an ideology,
  • conservative thinkers have all been beaten down by history as they opp­o­sed abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, labor rights, the rule of sci­en­tific method over religion, the separa­tion of state and religion, the in­­­depen­dence of colonies, the equality between sexes, and so on, i.e. they have sided with the losing institutions, and all been proven terribly wrong in the long run, and
  • you can always tear down their philosophical foundations, such as the belief in the individual, in free will, or in reason, all of which are manifestly false and provably so.

In short, it’s apparent that conservatives are usually right in the short run but wrong in the long run, and we can always point that out. But that would be cheating. It wouldn’t reach the conservatives on their own terms. Here’s the point of attack: The conservative wants to be pru­dent and to respect tradition and let society grow organically without effac­ing nat­ural hierarchies that have been est­ablished between com­petent and less competent members of society.

We can ask the conservative: Which scenario is most respectful of peo­ple’s relations and traditions—one in which you have an active and delib­erate Gemeinschaft Politics, or one in which such a thing is lacking? With a Ge­mein­schaft Politics you have the means to look at cultural, ethnic and national values and relations and to defend them or develop their inter­relations. Without it you don’t. So a good con­servative must accept that Gemein­schaft Politics can be useful—in fact, many unknowingly already advocate embry­onic forms of this kind of politics, as discussed in chapter 11.

How about Empirical Politics? Which society will be most prone to crazy dreamt-up and disembodied ideologies—one that continuously finds ways of optimizing checks against bullshit, or one that doesn’t? Em­pirical Polit­ics is perfectly in line with the conservative ideals of making well-informed decisions and demanding proof that something is likely to work before carrying it out.

And if you want to be prudent and respect the narratives and traditions that have grown through history, which alternative treats such folk narra­tives with the greatest care and respect; one that has a Politics of Theory to continuously see if culture has gone off the rails and become destructive, or one that has no such mechanism? Having a Politics of Theory is—toge­ther with Empirical Politics—like buying an insurance.

The classical conserva­tive wants to refuse to buy the insurance in an accelerating time that is changing very quickly and in which crazy ideo­l­ogies are popp­ing up again. The prudent thing to do—indeed, the resp­onsible and con­servative thing to do—is to buy the damned insurance and make sure you pay its premium. The same can be said about Demo­cra­ti­zation Politics: Again, it’s like buying an insurance.

And when it comes to the conservative concern for the soul, or the loss of connection to it in our fast-paced fast-food society, what could be more important than Existen­tial Politics? Would you like to go on not having inner development as a poli­tical topic, with good data to look at and dis­cuss? Not to mention Emanci­pation Politics—how will you defend indivi­dual rights without an institu­tional framework to do so? Wouldn’t it be reckless and irrespon­sible—which is what every conservative claims not to be—to reject such politics?

And then there’s the whole issue of the value of elites that have done hard inner work to earn their place and who lead with a gentle hand and a long-term perspective. Political metamodernism has a developmental psy­ch­ology to back it up and can help identify and gather such elites and make sure they can wield and maintain power. Can classical conservatism do that? Do the conservatives have any better strategies for how the edu­cated and com­petent elites of society should organize themselves to avoid an un­informed mob rule from taking over? Recent populist developments sugg­est they don’t.

And you want to not have a partial, ideological perspective, but to re­late to the slow and organic development of the whole? How exactly can you do that without seeing that the other ideological positions are also a part of that whole—without the metamodern principle of transpartisa­nism and the meta­­modern method of co-development? How can you lead and represent the whole when you always splice off about half of the population and their worldviews? You cannot let society grow organically without the holistic multi-perspectivalism of metamodernism. Or rather, you can, but you won’t be overviewing and leading that growth.

As you can see, good monsieur, your conservatism is only a cheap fanfare for political metamodernism. The modern form of conservatism is imm­ature, childish, irresponsible and imprudent compared to the Nor­­dic ideo­logy.

The Nordic ideology is, simply, more conservative than conservatism.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. Note that I’m paraphrasing here. What I am referring to is, more precisely, Book 1, Section 7 of the Social Contract. “This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his coun­try, secures him against all personal dependence.”

[ii]. Robespierre quoted from chapter 4 in: Hicks, S. R. C., 2004/2011. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. China: Ock­ham’s Razor Pub­lishing.

[iii]. Or actually, I’m playing along with a popular textbook simplification here. In reality this quote is from an 1899 book by Émile Faguet (Politiques et moralistes du dix-neuvième siècle), who creatively paraphrased the conservative philosopher de Maistre with the formulation: “Dire: les moutons sont nés carnivores, et partout ils mangent de l’herbe, serait aussi juste.” (p. 41).

[iv]. Even if some early conservatives, like the young Novalis, did indeed long for a united, Catholic, theocratic Europe.

Metamodernism, More Liberal than Liberalism

I will lump together classical liberalism, libertarianism and neo-liberal­ism under one banner, much like with the many strands of socialism above. For the sake of convenience I’ll talk about “liberalism”, even if this in an American context tends to just mean “left-leaning” which of course isn’t what I mean here.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

So the fundamental goal of liberalism is to maximize the freedom of the individual. It is hard enough for each of us to figure out how we should lead our lives and what is good for us and our kids—let alone know what might be good for others. Hence, it is unwise to put too much of your life into my hands and vice versa. This means that the realm of the public and the political should not unnecessarily infringe upon the private sphere and the voluntary exchanges on the market. Rather, government should be stretched only so far that it guarantees our protection from one another and ensure that we don’t breach our freely entered agreements: As long as you don’t do anything that directly limits or harms me, you should be free to do it.

There is, to a considerable extent, a trade-off between how much should be decided upon politically and how much each of us can decide for our­selves. For instance, if you have high taxes, the political system controls a large share of human activity, and with lower taxes more of that decision power lands in the hands of individuals. Generally speaking, individuals will be more empowered in the latter case, and this fosters responsibility, innovation, hard work, independent thinking and econo­mic growth, which in turn increases individual freedom. Such freedom should also have as few legal restrictions as possible; you need very good arguments if you want to use the monopoly of violence to threaten people to comply with some rule.

What do you say, will that do as a general idea of liberalism? From John Locke and John Stuart Mill, to Hayek, to Ayn Rand, to Milton Fried­man, to Robert Nozick (before he changed his mind) and Reaganomics—the above posi­tion would be shared by all of them.

The easiest way to defeat liberalism is by attacking its core supposition: the individual. The moment we are shown that it is a surface phenome­non and that the real unit of analysis is the dividual or the transindividual, and that freedom must ultimately be defined in transpersonal terms, we can see that liberalism must be subjected to metamodernism: Ultimately, you can never be free unless the people around you develop well, because their development affects not only your choices in every moment of your life, but even the degrees of freedom by which you can think, feel, and be in the world. We co-emerge, and freedom is a social category that func­tions through different emotional regimes.

Libertarians gather around the hacker and startup comm­unities of Silicon Valley and the East Coast of the US—they don’t set up shop in Somalia or Afghanistan, where there is indeed no state power to limit “individual freedom”. It’s just you and the desert (and a few warlords). A dynamic market ultimately rests upon a strong monopoly of violence that provides enough stability for freedom to prosper. Security is a service, and the state is an efficient provider of just that. As Max Weber noted so long ago, states and markets develop together.

But that, of course, is cheating. Libertarians and classical liberals won’t give up their belief in the individual anytime soon, so in order to beat them on their own terms you must show them that the maximization of indivi­dual liberty cannot be done without political metamodernism. And that’s perfectly doable, too.

The weakest spot is, unsurprisingly perhaps, the role of the state. As much suspicion as liberalism harbors against the state, it ultimately always depends upon it. Not only must there be a state to guarantee the safety of individuals against the violence or oppression of one another, it must also warrant legally binding agreements and protect property rights. No capi­tal­ist market is possible without at least some minimum state action. And if such a state does exist it will always have to make priorities, which will always limit at least some freedoms of some individuals.

So there is a state, if only a minimal one. How to make sure it is truly liberal and non-oppress­ive? If the govern­ance of such a state does not in­clude an active and deliberate Emancipation Politics, there will be fewer ways for the oppressed and dis­favored parties to resist. This in turn would re­quire a Democrat­ization Poli­tics to make certain that the form of gover­nance is something that is entered into voluntarily in the first place. And from there on, you will require all the other four forms of politics because they all depend upon each other. Empirical Politics is necessary to ensure that the minimized governmental action actually does max­imize human freedom. That too, in part, is an empirical question.

What, then, about anarcho-capitalism, one might ask? In this extreme version of liberalism you want to get rid of the state altogether and even have a market solution for buying and selling security services such as policing and courts. Let’s take it from the anarcho-capitalist perspective then: no state, basta! Anarcho-capitalists are not un­comm­on around hac­k­er comm­unities, Sili­con Valley and the tech industries, so it is a rele­vant ques­tion. And with cryptocurrencies and blockchain techno­logies on the rise, we may be seeing increas­ingly serious attempts at anarcho-capitalist projects.

Here’s the thing. Even if you had no state and security was up for sale, the best security solutions would still be those that provide people with a “listening society” so that peo­ple feel heard, seen and represented. The best security is still preventive security. This would in turn require a dev­elop­ment of all the six forms of politics (Democrat­ization, Gemeinschaft, Existential, Emancipation, Empirical and Theory). In market terms, this service would be more competitive.

Imagine you’re a “client-citizen” of the kind envisioned by anarcho-capitalists: You have blockchain money and you shop around for the best state services. In one such state service, the metamodern one, you can affect the mode of govern­ance, people are nudged to treat you better and you get a framework that helps you find profound meaning in life, and the fellow citizens will be much more peaceful and socially intelligent, and it’s all empirically proven to work. The other providers lack such services and end up using your volun­tarily paid money much more ineffi­ciently. Which one are you going to pick? You go with the metamodern one. If there is such a thing as your “natural rights”, these will come to a fuller expression in a meta­modern soc­iety.

The only way to stop people from voluntarily choosing the meta­modern solutions would be to stop free competition by some kind of threat of viol­ence or monopoly. The only thing that can stop liberalism from being eaten alive by metamodernism is authoritarianism.

In the “market of ideas” (as proposed by the liberal thinker J. S. Mill), political metamodernism lands on top of liberalism in all of its forms. Just as the telephone and internet beat the telegraph. If you’re not a meta­moder­nist, you’re just a bad liberal, because metamodern­ism is more libe­ral than liberalism—even in the stringent forms of libertarianism and anarcho-cap­italism.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

Metamodernism, More Egalitarian than Socialism

The fundamental goal of all authentic strands of socialism is to attain sha­r­ed (and fairly distributed) ownership of “the means of production”. This can and should lead to democratic control over said means of pro­duction. But this state of affairs is not quite the goal-in-and-of-itself; it is merely a means to achieving a higher socialist goal: a classless society that is fair, equitable, and in which everybody has what they need for a secure and dignified existence. The goal is to enact politics with soli­darity in order to bring forth a society that is equitable, the structures of which make possi­ble wide and deep solid­arity between all people, which in turn emanci­pates the human soul.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

The idea of socialism took root in the wake of capitalist industriali­zation, although the word originated as a derogatory term already in the mid-1700s as Catholic theologians criticized the legal philosophies of Grotius and Puf­endorf who had the insolence to think that law should be based upon the relationships between people rather than divine revela­tion. Such “social­ists” wanted a societal order defined by human rela­tions.[i] And modern socialism echoes some of that original meaning: Socialists want the econ­omy—and thus everyday life—not to be ruled by any blind, mechan­ical system, but by the relations between sensing and thinking human beings brought into benign relation with one another.

There are, naturally, more forms of socialist thought and practice than we could possibly deal with in this context—from Proudhon to Marx, to Bernstein’s democratic reformism, to Rosa Luxemburg, to Western hum­an­ist Marxism and Freudo-Marxism and their “New Left” and so on. But it is safe to say that anything falling outside of the above delineated bou­n­dary (in regard to the means of production and equality) is not “social­ism” in any meaningful sense of the word. By going to the root shared by all social­ists, we can compare socialism as a general category to the Nordic ideology.

The socialist goal is an equitable society, not merely in terms of opport­unity, but also of outcome. Because so much of society is always and for­ever bound up with the situated social relations between people, it is una­void­able to also seek to level out the outcomes in terms of income and wealth—other­wise the privileges tend to stack up over time: wealthy fami­ly dynas­ties, economic classes, cartels and monopolies, corporations that flee from social responsi­bility and taxation, and so on. So if you don’t care about out­come, you will end up reproducing inequality of opportunity as well. And only if people are reasonably equal can they resist exploitation, and only if they resist being exploited can they be free and fully human.

And right there is the killing point, my dear comrade. If you have the goal to create a fair and equal society, you must also support equalities of outcome to some extent.

Can you get equality of outcome without a developed Gemeinschaft Politics? No, because there will be so much social, emotional and phy­sio­logical in­equality left, and these will reproduce new forms of inequa­lity. The “classless” society in an economic sense is a very superficial utopia: Most of the inti­mate and hurtful inequality remains, and the stakes cannot be fair by any means. Inequality is economic, social, physio­logical, emo­tional, ecological and informational—and all of these are intercon­nec­ted. Only metamodern politics can address inequality at that level of com­plex­ity. Without it, you will never get a classless society.

And even if “everybody” would own the means of production together and manage them democratically, this process would always be limited by what­ever form democracy takes. If the mode of governance is not itself a process of incremental and self-critical development, you will always be stuck with the power relations inherent to that particular system. So with­out Democratization Politics, you cannot actually have soc­ialism in any real sense.

Both Gemeinschaft and Democratization Politics require the other four new forms of politics (Existential, Emancipation, Empirical and Theory) to function. Thus, you simply cannot call yourself a socialist unless you also accept political metamodernism. All said and done, the Nordic ideology is more egalitarian than socialism.

Where does this leave the Left in its existing modern and postmodern forms? If political metamodernism charges ahead and becomes the stan­dard bearer of a more embodied and deeper equality—connecting specifi­cally to the emerging postindustrial and digitized economy—what pur­pose does the residual old Left have to play?

To understand this we may look at the role of Christian­ity during the 19th century. There can be little doubt that the fundamental “game chan­ge” shifts of this period were made possible by the emergence of a distinc­tly modern society: abolition of slavery, protests against rapacious exploi­tation in the colonies, the expan­sion of suffrage, the early forms of wel­fare. But—and this is a big but—radical born-again Christian­ity played a pivotal role in the mobilization of social move­ments and moral demands during this period. Hence, you can see how the morally driven “utopian” movements of the former metameme (postfaust­ianism) finally managed to reach the “low hanging fruit” that came into reach by the maturation of the next metameme—in this case modern soc­iety. The born-again Christ­ians and Pentecostals were hardly the “most enlightened” or “most mod­ern” citizens of their time; but they emphasized relatively simple and spe­cifically moral and collective demands that had now finally become rea­listic and achiev­able. They weren’t fans of Darwin, and still they had this progressive role to play in history.

That is the future role of socialism and the Left more generally in an increasingly metamodern world-system: being a source of popular moral mobil­ization within metamodern society. A lot of the things postmod­ern intellectuals and social movements may have wanted to achieve—animal rights, levelling-out international terms-of-trade, protecting the un­emplo­yed from marginali­zation and stigma—can become much more feasible in a society that is taking steps towards metamodern institu­tions, not least because it will make the average value meme and norm sys­tems develop more rapidly. We may perhaps not be looking at a “social­ism in the 21st century” as many like to imagine (i.e. viewing the Left as the key force in organizing and governing society in the period ahead of us), because it will be outcompeted by political metamodernism. And it will be torn by the populist Right and new versions of conservatism from the other side, and it has no present-day real-world governments to point at as positive examples. But just as Christianity was dealt its fatal blows dur­ing the 19th century and still managed to be morally transform­ative, so can the Left be a stepping stone for moral transformations in the 21st cen­tury.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. You can read about this history in: Honneth, A., 2015/2017. The Idea of Social­ism: Towards a Renewal. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

What Must Be Done: An Open Conspiracy to Take over The World

Okay, so now we’re really closing in on the point: You have six new forms of politics (Democratization, Gemeinschaft, Existential, Emancipation, Empirical and Theory), and these function, over the long-term, together or not at all, and they reinforce each other and they are already emerging in society. But who then makes it happen, and how? If you’ve been a good reader, you already know the answer to this question. Then again, everyone might need a reminder from time to time, and there are still a few blanks to fill in.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

You have two main agents in this world-saving drama: 1. the meta­mod­ern aristocracy and 2. the process-oriented party, both des­cribed in The Listening Society. The metamodern aristocracy is the trans­national networks of people who understand and embody the Meta­modern value meme (and the symbol-stage Metamodern G). They also happen to have the time, energy and resources available to commit them­selves more or less fulltime to working for a more conscious society. They play a key role in affecting the arts, academia, media, global institutions, political dis­cour­ses and in­dustries in a metamodern direction—whether or not they expli­cit­ly think of them­­selves as “metamodernists” in my terms.

You can spot metamodern aristocrats among some leading people and some less noticeable “garden gnomes” (folks who stay in the back­ground and quietly lift a great and complex burden, largely unbekn­own­st to most) within the process-oriented parties that are begin­ning to crop up in the Nordic coun­tries.[i] The metamodern aristocracy has a relatively clear under­stand­ing of the develop­mental map and the attr­a­ct­ors ahead of us. They combine high cognitive complexity with inner depth and are rela­tively psycholo­gically and physically functional and heal­thy. But such peo­ple remain rare. It’s simply unlikely for them to emerge in great numbers in any given society.

Metamodern aristocrats play key roles and plant the seeds. But most of political metamodernism must be brought into being by wider move­ments. Such movements don’t necessarily have to be very large in terms of numbers of participants, but they have to be strong enough to be able to mean­ing­fully participate in the political arena.

And that’s where the process-oriented political party comes in; its role is to be a vehicle for infecting the whole political spectrum with the meta­modern virus. The process-oriented party gathers wider ranges of people from the triple-H population (hipsters, hackers and hippies) and what I have called “the yoga bourgeoisie”, and it acts to slowly but surely spread metamodern structures throughout the political system.

Here’s how it works.

The process-oriented party pries its way into the conventional spec­trum somehow; this can happen in any number of ways: by taking over key pos­itions within centrist or center-right or center-left parties; by taking the initiative within green movements, for example The Alternative in Denmark; by riding on a wave of radical new­comers such as the pirates (as in the Pirate Party in places like Germany, Ice­land, Sweden or the Czech Republic) or fem­inists—or simply by forming its own party struc­ture when the time is ready (the only example I know of being a small thing called “The Initia­tive” in Sweden). It is more difficult to imagine this thing happening from the basis of a classical Left party, a hardliner liber­tarian party, or a nation­alist anti-immigration party. Somehow, the proc­ess-oriented party must be able to draw upon an accumulation of cultural capital (innovation, creati­vity, abi­lity to manage relationships and draw attention, command over status symbols and so forth) and hence the inte­rests and worldviews of the triple-H populations and what is some­times called “the creative class”. You need to be able to build upon the dominant ideology of Green Social Liberalism and work your way to­wards some version of a Green Social Liberalism 2.0.

We have some basic elements of process-oriented politics in France’s En Marche under Emmanuel Macron, Italy’s Five Star Movement and Spain’s Pode­mos—but they all lack a clearly meta­modern political foundation (such as an underlying theory as presen­ted in Nordic Ideology) and none of them act within the space of a sufficiently high value meme popula­tion. Hence, they can only be premonitions of the metamod­ern pro­cess-oriented party and its emergence as a transnational network at the center of the emerging glo­bal polity.

So first, the process-oriented party pries its way into politics wherever it can. From there on, it begins to transform public democratic discourse by taking the moral and rhetorical high-ground in terms of how to treat others’ arguments, how they stick to rules of relative transparency and how they commit to ideals of co-development. As we saw in The Listening Society, co-dev­elop­ment means you take a transpersonal, dialectical, and devel­op­mental view on politics: If you get the best possible processes for debate, dialogue and deliberation, you get the best possible politics, even as peo­ple have conflicting interests and values. It also engages more peo­ple more deeply by more systematically trying out ways for setting up meetings, idea workshops, feedback processes, deliberations and all the rest of it—hence building a versatile platform for citizen engagement.

It is hard work to get co-development right, but if you do this as your top priority, you eventually hit a nerve in every functional late-modern democratic society and the process-orien­ted party gains a central position.

The process-oriented party focuses primarily on the political process and on keeping very high standards of behavior. That doesn’t win mass votes and quick landslide elections, but it makes it become the most trus­ted and respected of all parties—or, seen differently, the least hated by all other positions on the spectrum. It does not maximize quantitative suc­cess (num­ber of votes), but becomes part and parcel of the most cen­tral nodes of society—respected by public actors, industries and civil society.

The party branches out, working within these different categories. It gets to the center of the network of power and it keeps up very high stan­dards of behavioral conduct, having solidarity with the perspectives of others.

“The center of the network of power”, aye? What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that political metamodernism takes a “centrist” position. It means, because it has solidarity will all other perspectives and the people who embody them, and their partial truths—and because it works delib­erately to co-develop transpartially with all of them, and because it att­racts higher average cognitive stage folks who are more able to do so—politi­cal metamodernism has the shortest average distance to all other posi­ti­ons. It is closer to socialism than the conservatives, closer to conser­va­tism than the ecologists, closer to ecologism than the libertarians, closer to liberalism than the social democrats, and even closer to the political frin­ges than the center and vice versa. It is not the most popular of posi­tions, but it is the least hated. It is thus, in a sense, the opposite of cheap-scoring populism—and yet it can approach and deal with popu­lism more easily than does con­ventional centrism and liberalism. Populism sounds exciting but is boring in terms of its potentials. Co-developmental politics sounds boring, even goes out of its way to look harmless, but it is truly radi­cal and trans­formative.

So the question is not to have one strong relation or alliance. It is to have many weak ties, and to compete by having the most such weak ties. In network terms, you thereby reach the highest centrality; you are more conn­ected than all the other positions. And as you have co-developmen­tal ties and processes with all other positions, you also gain higher “gravity”, i.e. you pull them a little more than they pull you, not least because you always have more contacts to draw upon.

The centrality and gravity of power is most concentrated to “bridges” in the network. And as metamodernism is itself often an expression of reinte­gra­tions of the three spheres of life that modernity differentiated—the pro­fessional, the poli­tical and the personal—this also means that the people it attracts are more likely to have contacts across various econo­mic, politi­cal and cult­ural spheres of life. This also facilitates the concen­tration of power into the hands of political metamodernism.

Who would vote for such a party? In the Appendix in Nordic Ideology under the section titled “Too Dumb for Complex Societies?” you can read how IQ scores tend to line up neatly along the axis of the value memes repre­sented by the political parties. If a co-developmental party shows up, the same pattern will show: You will get the smartest and highest stage con­stituency, and you will integrate them in a more multidimensional man­ner, meaning that your metamodern movement gains a disproportiona­tely lar­ge degree of agency in politics, media, public discourse, indu­stries, aca­de­mia and civil society.

And it can and will attract people with higher cultural capital, which is itself taking an increasingly dominant position within society and the eco­nomy. You get the triple-H population and creative class on your side, combined with the higher stage populations.

Ideally, such a process-oriented party should be able to balance the “lib­eral” minds with the “conservative” ones in terms of what people are attrac­ted to. As you may know, it has been shown and widely dis­cussed during the last ten years or so, that people’s personalities are at least partly genetically deter­mined. Personality types have different biolo­gical blue­prints, gearing the levels of sensitivity to negative emotions, the degree of em­pathy, one’s orderliness and so forth. And these different blueprints turn out to be strong predictors of people being leftwing “liberals” or rightwing “conservatives”. Liberal minds tend to really dislike unfairness and restr­aints to personal freedom and creativity, whereas conservative minds tend to really dislike dis­order, crime, cheating and loafing, waste­fulness, and so forth. Liberal is high openness on the Big Five personality scale, and cons­ervative is high conscientiousness. This has been said by more people the last ten years than I could name, per­haps most famously by Jonathan Haidt.

So even if you can see a good ten points of average IQ difference be­tween the UK Greens and nationalists,[ii] for example, this doesn’t mean that being more conser­vative in terms of personality is in itself correlated with being less intelli­gent; in fact, there have been many studies to suggest there is no signif­icant difference. The essential thing to do is to marry the high stage conser­vatives to the high stage liberals. This isn’t so easy to do, as the “triple-H populations” from where you draw the members and who­se interests you represent often have very liberal minds, which skews the recruitment and alienates the conservative types. But orderliness and creativity fit toge­ther; they need each other—especially in metamodern politics. If you get this mix right, you will have a very powerful potion.

What do you do with that power? You introduce “stealable” ideas, and do so by “show it, don’t tell it”. You start advancing the six new forms of politics, one by one. First, you say you want to revitalize democracy (as En Marche, Five Stars, Podemos, Pirates and others have already been doing, only without much of a theory behind it or a larger perspective), showing everyone that Demo­cratization Politics is a thing. As this is a powerful and competitive idea in late modern societies with semi-bank­rupted poli­tical party syst­ems, others will follow suit. Some of the Green, centrist and leftwing par­ties will steal your ideas and find their own twist on them, which is fine. Then you go on to Gemeinschaft Politics—and others will try to steal it, such as social demo­crats, center-right conservatives or even nat­ionalists who seek to revive obsolete forms of social inte­gra­tion. Once the other parties have stolen this idea and compete about having the best Gemein­schaft Politics, the process will have taken hold in society… at which point you introduce Existential Politics, only to see it stolen by Christian demo­crats or equi­valents, mak­ing it their hall­mark.

Then Emancipation Politics, and liber­tarians rejoice at their new-found weapons. Then Empirical Politics, and serious governing parties take after. And then you introduce Politics of Theory, and you assert your own pos­ition at the center of society’s deliber­ation about its own fundamental ass­umptions about itself and reality, forcing all other parties to deepen their discussions about what they really believe and why, and deepening their deliberation with the process-oriented party.

Other parties will steal not only your policies, but also your co-devel­op­mental party struct­ures, and hence their political culture will shift and coll­ec­tive intelligence of governance will increase across the board.

You will then have introduced all the six processes into the political spectrum as a whole, and from there on, the six forces will be com­peting with each other and the process-oriented party will be at the center of this dialectical development, at the heart of the master pattern. The meta­modern political program will have infected all of society with its political virus; it’s a benevolent hostile take-over. And the listening soc­iety grows slowly from these forces pushing against one another: We will find a thou­sand new empirically sound and affordable ways of advancing peo­ple’s inner development, their relations and empowerment as citi­zens.

That is what must be done.

More Sinister Plots

Once all of these processes are in place, we are on our way to cultivating a listening society; this society will be much more efficient at spurring (in)­div­idual development and increasing collective intelligence, and hence it will be highly competitive in the world economy. It will have an easier time attracting some of the highest value meme populations, gathering more cul­tural and economic capital than other regions. Because that’s what all of these processes do; they improve people’s lives and their rela­tions in pro­found and far-reaching ways.

To make metamodern politics happen, you don’t have to ask nicely. You just have to outcompete the crude politics of modern society, on its own terms. Hence, other regions of the world will need to compete by trying to copy some of the processes—and this em­bodied know-how of metamodern society will in itself become an impor­tant ex­port.

These processes naturally require decades to play out and properly affect and saturate society. Hence only people who will be able to work for deca­des long projects will be truly motivated to seriously partake in the develop­ment. The modern welfare state took a good 80 years to build, cultivate and refine. The listening society might take just as long.

According to the late adult development psycho­logist and org­aniza­tional theorist Elliot Jacques, people have different “time spans of dis­cretion”, i.e. the longest timeframe for a task they can undertake indep­en­dently, without supervision. High stage folks tend to have longer inner time horizons, at least if we believe Jacques. So we will see a lot of high-stage folks involved in the process-oriented party, and the recruit­ment base will grow as society be­comes better at generating conditions for such people to emerge. And from there on you have a new society, one that is able to resolve what today’s society cannot, and voilàrelative utopia. And yes, that does include a world “saved” and oceans of human and ani­mal suff­ering and degradation being prevented and a few ecstatic dances and prances at the highest reaches of human freedom.

You see it? There’s an attractor point here; a bunch of interrelated pro­cesses that potentially reinforce and resonate with each other in a new way, a way that is different from modern society. And yet they are highly competitive—not in the short run, but in the long run.

In the introduction to The Listening Society I half-joked that the metamodern aristocracy must “take over the world”? Now you see it; now you see our sinister plot. So it’s true—just in a very abstracted and “infor­med naivety” kind of way.

The good news is it doesn’t even require you to do anything evil. All you do is act very politely and be super-nice to your political “opponents” and co-develop the political realm. Learn from them, listen, really try their arguments out and work on getting a more solid grounding for your own. If you fail to act transpartially and co-developmentally, you wreck the plan. You can even be entirely transparent about the whole “hostile take-over” plan!

In some ways all of this is more than a little byzantine and Leninist: the elaborate plot of a small vanguard, and so on. But on the other hand it is entirely non-violent, requires no coups, no lies, no deceptions, no hypo­crisy, no mani­pulation, no low blows in debates. It requires highly ethical and impeccable behavior, and honesty about one’s own will to (trans­personal) power. That’s all.

Why do you get to be part of this? I suppose some of the answer lies in the fact that you actually chewed your way through some twenty odd chapters on pretty dense theory—and theory means “seeing”. Now you see where we’re going, or at least where I believe we are. If you can coor­dinate this stuff with your own life, I guess you’re part of the journey—in a big or small way.

So now you have a map and a plan to travel it. For certain, this is a sket­chy plan that only works in countries relatively similar to the Nordic ones, and you will need to adjust and change the plan as you go along—co-dev­elop it, that is.

But it certainly is better than no plan at all, don’t you think? And you hav­en’t heard such a plan anywhere else, have you? That’s the meta­modern mindset for you: informed naivety, putting a proto-synth­esis out and taking it from there. A sound plan, or a minimally un-sound plan—or perhaps even a sinister plot—that needs to be revised, is better than no plan at all. Take the plan, use it, and revise it.

That is, ultimately, what must be done.

Simmering Micro Movements

In late modern societies you can actually see all of the six new forms of poli­tics cropping up already in different miniscule shapes and forms, like little fungi in the forest. If you know where to look, you can spot them.

Because each of the new forms of politics is an attractor point, they are also low-hanging fruits; i.e. people are likely to come up with ideas that point in these directions and start projects here and there. Hence you get a const­ant simmering as these micro movements come and go at an accele­rating pace.

The reason the micro movements can only ever remain small but pro­mising projects at the fringes of society is that they are all based on only one of the six forms of politics. They all lack a metamodern political theory to back them up, and they all work without ze Master Pattern. In other words, they are all left to play according to the rules and limitations set by the surrounding modern society. They don’t have a plan and a roadmap so as to hack their way past these limitations, and hence they cannot gain real power, even if some of them have good ideas.

A minority of the micro movements do, admittedly, have a hold of two of the new forms of politics, but that is still quite insuffi­cient. What the micro movements can do, how­ever, and which is exceedingly impor­tant, is to more generally prepare the ground for political meta­moder­nism to emerge. When they do their projects that never really take off, at least they gather invaluable experience for their participants, and at least they spread some early versions of metamodern ideas. They don’t simmer in vain; they simmer with potential for a new society. They are a set of complex forces that can be harnessed and coordin­ated by the activists of political meta­mod­­ernism.

Let’s give some descriptions and examples of such micro movements. If you’ve been in and around grassroots activism and political or civil society startups, you will have noticed them around—perhaps you will even have joined or started one of them. Once you see the pattern, you will be able to spot them and see how they fit into the larger master pattern.

Democratization Politics has been recognized as a potential by all of those little political parties and civil society groups who seek to radicalize democratic governance. Wikipedia counts 38 of them worldwide at the time of writing; Sweden has three. You will notice all the direct democracy parties, often with creative ideas about how power could be more equally distrib­ut­ed; far from all of them support the idea of a crude direct demo­cracy. The­re are also a bunch of innovative IT companies working to strengthen demo­cracy by means of online communication, as I mention­ed earlier, and there are people working very eagerly with methods for demo­cratizing org­aniza­tions.

Gemeinschaft Politics is prevalent among the many volunteering-based groups of civil society—and some professionals within public social work —who work to create “meeting places”, “melting pots” for the cultur­al inte­gration of immigrants, dialogue clubs for common issues, fora for dealing with cultural traumas, and so forth. These groups understand you can work with Gemeinschaft itself, with community itself, and that you can rep­air it, upgrade it, create new social settings and do relational maintenance. In terms of political parties, you have the Swedish Feminist Party, which deals specifically and primarily with issues of identity poli­tics, and hence with finding ways to develop everyday relations between people.

Existential Politics in rudimentary forms exists within a lot of spiritual circles, even with spirit­ual political parties such as Die Violetten in Germ­any (started 2001, some 700 members), Enhet (“Unity”) in Sweden, Inte­grale Politik in Switzerland, Partij voor Mens en Spirit (Party for Human and Spirit) in the Nether­lands. You have these little gatherings in other countries as well. They emphasize the importance of spiritual and inner development, but do so of course without the larger metamodern frame­work. They also tend to be linked to peace movements. Millenarianism, magical think­­ing and what I in Book One called “the magic residual” are rampant here—and I mean rampant. And game denial reaches extreme levels. These groups generally attract what I have called “light pomos”, people high on depth and state but low on complexity and code. So know that this force exists, but don’t get too cozy with these folks; they tend to be nice guys in the not so flatte­ring sense. Besid­es these New Age inspired groups, you have movements like Synth­eism, and to some extent the Burning Man Festival community, which seek to explore and co-create new forms of spirituality and existen­tial develop­ment. Also, you see civil sphere movements here and there for philosophy and/or meditation in schools, which is promising.

Emancipation Politics, or an early form thereof, exists within the pirate parties, as these specific­ally guard the rights and integrity of (in)dividuals vis-à-vis governments and big corporations. They fight against excessive sur­­­veillance, creepy control and for personal informational security. You are probably familiar with the axis of political thinking dominant among hack­ers and Silicon Valley people: libertarianism, anarcho-capi­talism and trans­humanism. All of these share a libertarian ethos and are in some way on to what could be called Emancipation Politics in the meta­modern sen­se.

Empirical Politics shows up among all those science and “evi­dence ba­sed politics” parties. You have one of them in the UK (established in 2010 by quantum physicist and science writer Michael Brooks), one in Austra­lia, there have been beginnings of such parties in Sweden, there is a Partei der Vernuft (“Party of Reason”) in Germany from 2009—and I am certain there are more of them around. On a more promising note, with­in the legal profession and academia you have the strand called “therapeutic jurisprud­ence” seeking to find empirical support for desirable outco­mes for the legal justice system, which is also arguably a kind of Empirical Poli­tics.

The only thing we have to struggle a bit to find as a micro movement is Politics of Theory—and this shouldn’t surprise us as it is the most abstract and least intuitive of the six new forms. (It was also the one I thought of last. If it weren’t for semiotics I would have missed it.) And yet, it is the most distinctly metamodern form of poli­tics. You can find it in net­works and think tanks which have as their explicit goal to change the meta-narrative of society. Except for my own work at Metamoderna, I can think of two such con­texts: the Ekskäret Foundation in Sweden (they have a private island where they gather people to talk about the future of socie­ty) and Perspectiva in the UK (they, especially the UK chess Grand Master Jon­athan Rowson, write about spiri­tuality and personal devel­opment con­nected to e.g. climate crisis). Both of these are associated with the Swedish entrepre­neur and author Tomas Björkman.

Anyway, now hopefully you can see these micro movements cropping up across society—with increasing frequency as they are all responses to attractor points ahead of us. I am sure you can add more examples. For inst­ance, basic income movements tend to have significant overlaps with some of these, as does the Dutch animal rights party, Partij voor de Dieren. And then there are a bunch of interesting Green movements who have some common themes with these dimensions.

The micro movements show up with the greatest regularity, and in high­er quality versions, around “progressive” countries such as the Nordic ones. And they do so in tandem with the shifting political landscapes of such societies where the receding classes and parties of modernity leave room for new and more deliberative and co-developmental politics to emerge. This is part of the structural emergence of the Nordic ideology.

The secret here is, of course, not to get stuck in the partial narratives of any of these micro move­ments—quite a few of them are steeped with gla­rin­g­ly incompetent folks on the fringes, so don’t gorge on the mush­rooms. Rather, the secret is to be able to see them from the bird’s eye view offered by the master pattern. When you go ahead to intro­duce political meta­mod­ern­ism, others will try to reduce your project to one of the six dimen­sions and some will try to pin the failures of any of the micro move­ments onto you. Don’t let them distract you.

This, my dearest comrade, is non-linear politics. We’re not going from A to B in a straight line; we’re playing the field of potential to let things emerge. The task is to draw upon these micro movements and find ways to chan­nel them and coordinate them—to play strate­gically to align all these forces with the em­er­­gence of a meta­modern society.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. The idea of garden gnomes I owe to the Swedish sociologist and organizational consultant Thomas Jordan who introduced the term hus­tomtar in a 2006 report in Swedish. I am not aware of any publications in larger languages on the topic.

[ii]. See Appendix B in ‘Nordic Ideology’.