December 1, 2022

On il Fin de Siecle & il Nove Cento

Preliminary Remarks

The Third Position of the Twenty First Century would stand to benefit from reflecting on the dawn of the Twentieth Century. In such a reflection, we can see the essential origins of our way of thinking. 

While the Nineteenth Century ended on a mixed note of Liberalism, Romanticism, and Nationalism, the Twentieth Century was left to process these mixed notes into different scales and harmonies. 

On one hand, the Nineteenth Century saw the tendency for Liberalism to spread via revolution. On the other hand, it saw the tendency for Romanticism to fuel Nationalistic and Reactionary forces (like the Prussian and French Empires). Nothing epitomized this mixed dynamic better than the Risorgimento and Italian Unification of the Nineteenth Century. 

The Legacy of Hegel

Perhaps the greatest mind of the Twentieth Century was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who understood the paradox of his time: that liberty requires a strong state and only a strong state can grant rights and liberties. For this reason, Hegel subordinated Liberalism to the necessity of a kind of Romantic Nationalism. From dictators like Cromwell to Robespierre, this proved to be historically accurate. Ultimately, whether one romanticizes Liberal Revolution or Nationalist Reaction, what cannot be ignored is that both only proved that there is a need for a strong, totalitarian state. And ultimately, none proved this better than Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Hegel said the following of in 1806…

“I saw the Emperor – this world soul; it is indeed a wonderful feeling to see such a person who, concentrated here on a point, sitting on a horse, extends to the world and dominates it.”

With that being said, post-Hegel, there were two camps of thought: the Right Hegelians and the Left Hegelians. The former understood that Liberty could only be achieved through the State, whereas the latter believed that Liberty should be achieved without the State. In some respect, analogues to these two schools of thought can be seen in almost every revolutionary movement: from the Federalists vs. Democratic Republicans in the American Revolution to the Nationalists vs. Liberals during the Risorgimento to the Bolsheviks vs. Mensheviks of the USSR

It is from Hegel that we get the two second greatest minds to inspire the Twentieth Century: Marx and Nietzsche. 

Where Marx represented an interpretation of Hegel for the slave seeking liberty, Nietzsche represented an interpretation of Hegel for the master who rules the state. And it must be acknowledged that Nietzsche seemed to understand the reality of politics and the politics of reality much better than Marx in this respect. 

Where Marx was Hegel for slaves, Lenin was Marx for masters and Trotsky was Marx for slaves. 

Where Lenin was Marx for masters, Mussolini was Lenin for masters; and by this point, mastery had been so diluted from Marxism that it had circumnavigated its way back to a kind of Right-Hegelian Nietzscheanism. 

And here is where Sorel and Nietzsche culminate under Mussolini. But above all else, here is where Hegel influenced the views of great politicians like Mussolini and great minds like Giovanni Gentile. It is worth noting that the realization that culminated under Mussolini and Gentile had precedents in Italian Proto-Fascists like D’annunzio, Marinetti, Alceste De Ambris, etc…; the French Cercle Proudhoun of Georges Valois, which was influenced by Maurice Barres, Charles Maurras, Georges Sorel, etc…; and the German Conservative Revolution of Feder, Heidegger, Junger, Sombart, Spann, Spengler, Schmitt, etc…

And where the Conservative Revolution helped to fuel the flames of the Freikorps, the Italian Proto-Fasicsts helped to inspire the Arditi.

It is interesting to note that France should be one of the places for Fascism to blossom in light of the fact that, by this point in history, it had been ruled by an Italian (Napoleon) and occupied by Prussia under Frederick the Great. 

Caesarism, Bonapartism, and Totalism

Some sociologists of the Twentieth Century, like Max Weber, would argue that the Caesarism of someone like Napoleon (along with Napoleon III) is a byproduct of mass democracy in the same way rational bureaucracy is a byproduct of Western Capitalism. This concept of “the Iron Cage” of bureaucracy was further formalized and broadened by the Italian Elitist School into “the Iron Law of Oligarchy” of Robert Michels (an Italian Fascist himself), which understood that “he who says organization, says oligarchy”. 

In the tradition of Goethe, historians like Oswald Spengler argued that Caesarist movements occur within the natural process of the lifespan of a given civilization, which was in contrast to someone like Hegel, who believed that liberty achieved through a strong state was the final stage of history.

Here we get at the distinction between Causality-Thinkers and Destiny-Thinkers, as Francis Parker Yockey expanded upon in Imperium his sequel to Spengler’s Decline of the West: On one hand, we have thinkers who look at the limitations and lifespans placed on a given population; on the other hand, we have thinkers who grasp that vital potential that allows populations to overcome all odds.

And if we hope to win in spite of the odds against us, we cannot afford to give into the fatalism of causal-thinking in terms of some historical morphology like Spengler or Yockey, instead, we need the endless self-determination of the STATE, which Hegel rightly noted to be “the march of God”.

We need Caesarism and Bonapartism, but above all else, we need an all-encompassing type of Totalitarianism or Totalism. 

2 thoughts on “On il Fin de Siecle & il Nove Cento

  1. You got the centuries for the philosophers wrong in some parts, such as saying marx and hegel were from the 20th century. Otherwise great read.

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