Curtis Yarvin schools Tucker in ‘neoreaction’
The Right-wing blogger joined the Fox News host to discuss his theories of power
Among the shouty pundits and greasy politicians who litter cable news like rubbish in a landfill, Curtis Yarvin was an unlikely fit. Looking like Silicon Valley’s biggest Grateful Dead fan, one of the founding thinkers behind “neoreaction” appeared on Tucker Carlson Today to discuss his theories of power.
Yarvin’s opinions were once sufficiently esoteric and unspeakable that he wrote under a pseudonym, “Mencius Moldbug”, on his now defunct blog Unqualified Reservations, where he wrote hundreds of thousands of words of political theory in dense, allusive, and occasionally playful prose.
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There, on the murky fringes of the blogosphere, he assailed egalitarian and democratic ideas, and promoted quasi-monarchic corporate governance. Western institutions, Yarvin theorised, had been subverted on all levels by a progressive oligarchy he nicknamed “The Cathedral”, and their restoration depended on a “hard reset” of power, such as a coup. This, he claimed, would make government strong and lean rather than expansive and inefficient.
His ideas, along with those from the likes of “accelerationist” philosopher Nick Land, fuelled the baggy subculture of anti-egalitarian would-be philosophers whose movement was quickly overshadowed by the more populist, angry and simplistic politics of the “Alt-Right”. The neoreaction movement seemed to be over before it had ever really got started.
Of course, this was not to be the case, with Yarvin re-booting his image by beginning to write a Substack under his own name and publishing his (highly abridged) writings in more mainstream conservative publications. His relevance to a mainstream Right-wing commentator such as Carlson is clear — among a crowded field of anti-Trump Republicans and intellectually vacuous MAGA-bros, Yarvin is one of the few people capable of explaining why former President Donald Trump was unable to achieve lasting political change in the United States.
Yarvin explained to Carlson that “people think when they vote for Donald Trump, that they’re voting for the same job that FDR had. They’re actually voting for like 0.01% of that job.”
Power, in other words, has been decentralised and spread through government, the courts, the media and higher education — in the words of the neoreactionaries, given over to “The Cathedral”. So, for example, Trump’s border restrictions were swiftly overturned by district judges. To achieve success, the Right has to expand its understanding of power.
Being a Jewish, culturally liberal man, it helps that Yarvin is no one’s idea of the stereotypical far-Right demagogue. In fact, his ideal state is looks more like Singapore than Nazi Germany. Unlike others on the “dissident Right” he argues that progressive power is not reducible to an elite race or class. This is by no means to claim that his ideas are not radical and controversial — only that they are in unexpected ways.
It would take a book to analyse all of Yarvin’s ideas. Certainly, his faith in Singapore-style corporate power as a means of exerting Right-wing governance seems naive in an age of woke capital. Even his friend, the billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who might be as close to Yarvin’s ideal head of state as anyone, is funding the self-consciously populist senatorial campaign of J.D. Vance.
Still, Yarvin’s appearance with Mr Carlson demonstrates the scale of the ideological upheaval that American conservatives have been thrust into by the loss of Trump. Thinking in structural terms, rather than pinning their hopes on a personality, might lead to a more focused and holistic Right-wing agenda. The least that one can say is that it should be more interesting than stuffy talk about top-rate tax-cuts and bombing Iran.
Without Curtis and Unqualified Reservations, I would never have made the political journey from left to right, and I wouldn’t have got to the point where I am commenting on Unherd.
Hats off, even if his ideas are unusual and tightly packed inside his words.
Great interview. I watched the whole thing. Yarvin has a very labyrinthine thought process because he obviously knows a lot and has complex view of history and government. He can’t follow a linear argument which makes listening to him challenging but worth the effort.
The best part was right at the end when Carlson asked him what the next stage–or reinvention–of US government will look like. Yarvin answered that the worst case scenario is we’re in terminal decline. The best case scenario is we elect a CEO-style president who essentially shuts down most of the executive branch and pays them a generous pension to go away, much as the East German Stasi were paid to retire at the end of the Cold War. Then we construct a new executive branch.
I honestly don’t know if a US president could do that, and I’d certainly like to know whether Yarvin can propose a practical scenario.
Hey, Unherd, how about you give us more interviews/articles that describe where we go from here. How do we get back to some kind of sensible, functioning democracy? Or is the Unherd view that we’re at the end of the line?
Good call !
Loved the 1:15 minutes of the talk!
I am a convinced conspiracy loon, and his talk really gave me lots to consider as it both confirms, and reduces my beliefs.
First thing is he seems to refute any International Cabal of Elites, which I hold exist. Second is he seems to believe in an utterly decentralized Oligarchy which exists and holds total power, all by working on their own independent will to power, and not through collusion – because the very system today has incentivized every technocrat, power structure in Industry, Education, Government, Media, Tech, science, Military, and so on – to all unify in their discipline and centralize the policy of their disciplines as that way they can grab greater influence over Government – and thus grab greater power. That they are Lefty/Liberal is merely because the modern upper class, elites, are (and they are the ones who get into the power Universities).
The Generals, Government departments, the Weather Scientists, the Social Scientists, city leaders, University, Media, everything – all must hound out the wrong thinkers so that unified they wield greater ability to grab greater power. Thus do unify in philosophy and exaggerate their importance – which means no dissenters. By this they have taken so much power they are ‘The Swamp, or as he calls it ‘The Cathedral’. They are the Oligarchy.
It is an interesting take – that the system merely uses the best and brightest – Who By Birthright Have these Radical Liberal/Left mentalities as seen in history, and incentivizes them to unify in their works and over sell their importance to government, and so form cabals of Lefty/Liberals all making up a Oligarchy controlling USA, with no Premeditation. It is merely the system because actual power is almost completely gone from the Executive and Legislative branches. They have filled the vacuum.
Sort of like the parents stay drunk so the children are running everything. Sort of a benevolent, Liberal/Lefty ‘Lord of the Flies’.
Personally I see his point – but dissent in I believe he is too close to the forest to see the actual trees. He is exactly one of the Elite Class he says are all doing this. He is from an intellectual, Liberal/Lefty family, a heritage student at an Ivy League University. A full blown Technocrat of both coasts. He is one of them – he really thinks the fly over states citizens are ‘Funny, but a bit dangerous’ as he says the Oligarchy does.
I also agree on him on the fact Democracy must decline and fail as the majority are just not up to electing the leaders, either intellectually, or morally. What scares me of his preference of the ideal state being ruled by Industry Bosses is that Zuckerberg, Gates, Dorsey, Gates would be them, and they are utterly evil. If it was Rockefeller, Ford, Lord Beaverbrook, and the older kind of tycoon I could see it – but today’s Tech Industry super elites are everything I despise….
Thanks for your post – it prompted me to listen and I recommend it to everyone. I think his analysis of power is insightful and it meets the test of agency, organisations that are oligarchical can work in step with each other without a guiding hand or any concerted effort. If you like it is in the genes. I also like his assessment that fighting the other side is missing the point. There is no benefit to hating people that have a different viewpoint. I would go as far as to say hatred is a weakness and understanding them is a strength. I agree with the shortcomings he states in the social sciences, everything that depends on behaviour and therefore choice as opposed to the hard sciences. That will continue until there is a hard science on how the brain holds and selects information. There is a lot there whatever your political views
Endlessly writing that people are ‘utterly evil’ isn’t really helpful, any more than saying the Nazis or Communists, or the Aztecs for that matter, were. OK, yes, but HOW did they rise to power? Wasn’t this organic to some extent? Although originating in the academe it has been genuinely lapped up by many, in London for example you often seem like a heretic if you challenge some version of identity politics lite, it is do mainstream. Different in more ‘provincial’ regions. I’m sure similar in the US. And what do we do about it?
quasi-monarchic corporate governance
This sounds too much like Mussolini’s f*scism. I’m not sure that quasi-monarchic corporate governance would be any better, except for those at the top. The only way I can see this being a success is if it was structured along permeable hierarchies based on professional kindness, fairness, merit, and achievement. In that way it should be an improvement upon ‘The Cathedral’ with its inverted hierarchy of cruel hypocrisy, mob justice, victimhood, and mediocrity.
‘Awaiting for approval’
my last post is awaiting for approval, sigh, waiting till Unherd can make sure it is XXX xxXxXX xxx xXxxXXX XxxxXx XXXX* (* This has been redacted by the moderation fact checker)
Wow this was quite something, what a find! This is the miracle of Substack giving voice to original thinking – something institutions have started failing to do.
I probably disagree with more of what he says, than agree. But there’s no denying this is someone who spent a lot of time and energy on what he’s saying.
He takes simply to long to answer the question(s)!
That is because 42 is no longer the answer.
Democracy is failing as it now is a tool for the elites to use minority groups to swing elections to the camp they wish to win. To get the minority groups they offer harmful promises, and divide and conquer, which will ultimately turn us into Zimbabwe or Venezuela. .
His whole thesis is the Elites are a oligarchy of independent technocrats rather than some Bond kind of super evil power mad monsters. I do not agree, I think there is a group of the world’s most powerful people out to take the globe and make it a serfdom.
- Curtis uses the words “oligarchy” and “monarchy” so liberally that those words are rendered meaningless.
- Driving across America and observing decay doesn’t imply a lack of progress.
- A semantic quibble but important: Few people would consider “The Cathedral” a decentralized institution. It’s a top-down system composed of a fraction of a percent of the population. Curtis treats monarchies as central, oligarchies as decentralized, and democracies as… I don’t know what?
I enjoy Curtis’ occasional Substack newsletter. But his ideas synthesized as a whole seem incoherent.
Thanks to UnHerd for posting this, and for introducing me to this fascinating guy. The interview with Tucker was excellent, difficult but worth it. Like Tucker, I’m not sure I understand all of what he is advocating, but I definitely believe that the Cathedral, Deep State, or whatever you want to call it is fundamentally evil and needs to be stopped. RAGE is an excellent option, and even though I hate almost all government employees (in the USA, at least), it may be the best option.
Well done, UnHerd! Let’s have more of him, and more like him!
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