Troy Southgate examines late Italian philosopher Julius Evola’s Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. PRAVDA.Ru will present this summary as a series.
6. WORK: THE DEMONIC NATURE OF THE ECONOMY
When Evola discusses the "demonic nature of the economy," we are instantly reminded of the capitalist free market and communism’s deterministic assessment of man as economic unit (homo economicus). In the modern age economic forces have become the new gods of Mammon, creating a dangerous and cataclysmic antithesis to the spiritual aspirations of the ancient world. We have already examined how Evola warns against the lack of hierarchical authority, and in this chapter he demonstrates how both capitalism and Marxism have completely subverted the organic nature of our whole existence: "as long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, and that, generally speaking, human progress is measured by the degree of wealth or indigence - then we are not even close to what is essential." Thus work and the modern economy are depicted as the penultimate goals of human endeavour, rather than man accepting that his natural interests must lie ultimately in the satisfaction of his own material needs. This is not to suggest that food, clothing and shelter are the most important facets of human existence, simply that they are the most basic prerequisites of all. Man also needs to be satisfied both spiritually and as part of a structure which: "neither knows nor tolerates merely economic classes and does not know the division between ‘capitalists’ and ‘proletarians’; an order solely in terms of which are to be defined the things worth living and dying for. We must also uphold the need for a true hierarchy and for different dignitaries, with a higher function of power installed at the top, namely the imperium." But this vision is hardly being fulfilled today. Everything is geared towards economic production and, inevitably, wage-slavery. Evola does not believe in the formulation of a new economic theory, instead he explains that the current obsession with economic matters can only decline once people change their attitudes completely: "What must be questioned is not the value of this or that economic system, but the value of the economy itself." This is a fundamental part of National-Anarchist thinking, too, a total rejection of the Left-Right spectrum which, once again, ever since the French Revolution has imposed upon us a wholly superficial antithesis between two allegedly opposed economic ideologies. Those so-called "backward" nations which, thus far, have avoided economic development are said by Evola to "enjoy a certain space and a relative freedom." By seizing upon the issue of class, Marxists have deliberately obscured the components of the ancient world by smearing them with an economic grime. In traditional societies, of course, the economy was simply one area within an all-encompassing hierarchical structure. Terms like "capitalist" and "proletarian" did not exist and class struggle was redundant: "Even in the domain of the economy, a normal civilisation provides specific justification for certain differences in condition, dignity, and function." Marxism, says Evola, did not come about due to the need for a resolution to the social question, on the contrary, Marxism itself has exacerbated the problem by creating the myth of the class system. In traditional societies "an individual contained his need and aspirations within natural limits; he did not yearn to become different from what he was, and thus he was innocent of that Entfremdung (alienation) decried by Marxism." Leninists, Trotskyists and other advocates of the class struggle will recoil in horror at this statement, but Evola is denouncing the materialist desires of the common economic agitator rather than supporting the aspirations of the "ruling class." Indeed, economic determinism is considered to be unhealthy and detrimental because "it can legitimately be claimed that the so-called improvement of social conditions should be regarded not as good but as evil, when its price consists of the enslavement of the single individual to the productive mechanism and to the social conglomerate; or in the degradation of the State to the ‘State based on work’, and the degradation of society to ‘consumer society’; or in the elimination of every qualitative hierarchy; or in the atrophy of every spiritual sensibility and every ‘heroic’ attitude." There is little doubt, therefore, that the appliance of the economic worldview comes at a great cost. Evola implores us to express our real selves and to unleash our true potential. Each of us has a different function and a unique position to fulfil. Class conflict, therefore, is a diversion which has been thrust in the path of the unitary and the organic. In terms of the way in which we approach work, Evola tells us that an American attempt to extract more labour from a Third World workforce by doubling their wages, was met with "a majority of the workers cutting their working hours in half." Compare this traditionalist attitude with that of the modern-day office or factory worker who perpetually competes for overtime with his colleagues. Indeed, whilst traditional societies are merely interested in satisfying their basic needs, those in the West endure increasingly long hours, exhaustion, bad diets and severe health problems in their pursuit for computers, televisions and cars. Evola notes that, prior to the rise of the mercantile economy and the gradual evolution of capitalism, "the acquisition of external goods had to be restricted and that work and the quest for profit were justifiable only in order to acquire a level of wealth corresponding to one’s status in life: this was the Thomist and, later, the Lutheran view." Work was always designed to satisfy man’s basic needs and provide him with the time he needed in order to pursue more worthy and meaningful pursuits. But when the acquisition of wealth becomes such an obsession that it imprisons the individual within an economic straightjacket, something is clearly very wrong indeed. Success, therefore, is not determined by the credit in one’s bank account or the growth of industry and technology, it relates to the way in which an individual is able to progress in a more spiritual sense. Living in accordance with one’s own intrinsic nature (dharma) is far preferable to pushing oneself beyond the boundaries of normal behaviour through greed and materialism. This trend is epitomised by the restless nature of the capitalistic economy and its exploitative pursuit of new global markets. In the knowledge, of course, that once it has run its inevitable course the lack of available resources will herald its total collapse.
The emergence of capitalism has often been equated with the Protestant work ethic, and is here dismissed by Evola for the simple reason that labour has been transformed from a means of subsistence to an end in itself. It is not only the Right who are obsessed with work, of course, it is the Left too. One thinks of endless marches organised by the likes of Militant Labour and the Socialist Workers Party, during which the only objective is to enslave the proletariat to the employment system: "The most peculiar thing is that this superstitious and insolent cult of work is proclaimed in an era in which the irreversible and relentless mechanisation eliminates from the main varieties of work whatever in them still had a character of quality, art, and the spontaneous unfoldment of a vocation, turning it into something inanimate and devoid of even an immanent meaning." Evola sees this process as the very proletarianisation of life itself. There are certain parallels here with Richard Hunt’s advocation of the "leisure society," in which man can rediscover the natural and qualitative values of his existence. But Evola warns his readers that we must not "shift to a renunciatory, utopian, and miserable civilisation," but rather "clear every domain of life of insane tensions and to restore a true hierarchy of values." But whilst the individual is inadvertently eroding his own freedoms by viewing work as the ultimate goal in life, the State is also endangering its own existence through the encroaching scarcity of resources to which increasing productivity leads. Evola argues that the way forward lies in "autarchy," and that "it is better to renounce the allure of improving general social and economic conditions and to adopt a regime of austerity than to become enslaved to foreign interests or to become caught up in world processes of reckless economic hegemony and productivity that are destined to sweep away those who have set them in motion." On this point, however, Evola is perhaps forgetting that the decline of capitalistic economies is inevitable and therefore it is futile to postpone their collapse by implementing a policy of protectionism. This strategy may indeed enable a country to stave off the effects of an impending economic catastrophe, but given that all capitalist systems rely on the internationalist system, this simply would not work in the long term.
Troy Southgate submitted this work to PRAVDA.Ru
To read Part 1, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/11/28502.html
To read Part 2, please visit Read http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/13/28609.html
To read Part 3, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/15/28798.html
To read Part 4, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/16/28859.html
To read Part 5, please visit http://english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/05/18/28937.html
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