Revising the Fourth Political Theory

Last year, the controversial Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, regularly dismissed in the west as a Putinist and even a fascist, debated the prominent French advocate of liberal-democatic political ideals and military interventions, Bernard-Henri Lévy. It was an awkward event inasmuch as they spoke in English. This was to the strong disadvantage of both, and also wholly unnecessary inasmuch as Dugin speaks much better French than English (he also, incidentally, speaks excellent Italian, and probably also Spanish). It was simply painful to see two figures from outside the Anglosphere try to adapt to it in this manner.

Lévy is outside the Anglosphere only in linguistic terms, however, whereas Dugin is outside of it in every respect. To some extent, Dugin’s so-called fourth political theory is the product of a collaboration with Alain de Benoist, the leading thinker of the French nouvelle droite. In some respects, “fourth political theory” can even be regarded as simply a new name for this new right. It is clearly a better name, since the designation “new right” was introduced by the school’s opponents, is misleading, and has always been found unsatisfactory by de Benoist himself. On the other hand, the fourth political theory, as presented by Dugin alone, goes beyond the new right in important respects.

Dugin has certainly made many extreme and unacceptable political pronouncements. But he is clearly not a fascist. Because of the depth and comprehensiveness of the interpretation of our current historical situation on which it is based, an interpretation which includes not just its political and cultural but its spiritual dimensions, Dugin’s fourth political theory in some respects at least represents a significant development in political thought today.

Dugin presents the fourth political theory not as a finished system to be accepted or rejected, or even just selectively accepted or rejected, but by way of an invitation to a constructive dialogue, as a few suggested points of departure, “a correctly posed question”. In what follows, I will make some suggestions of how the fourth political theory could be modified with regard to its problematic elements by way of a rapprochement to certain western philosophical and political positions I find it necessary to uphold and defend, yet which are not the dominant ones upheld by Lévy. They can be broadly summarized as those of modern idealism, of personalism, and of so-called value-centered historicism. The suggested revision of the theory as this far sketched by Dugin would entail a needed adaptation of his in some respects distinctly Russian version of the fourth political theory to the European and more general western mindset.

Despite the open invitation, I don’t think Dugin is very favourably disposed towards the particular ideas I think must be mobilized in order to adjust his philosophy. His writings make quite clear and explicit the distance between his thinking and the indicated European and western currents of thought, not just Lévy’s. This does not stop me, for despite the fact that quite a few things are from my perspective obviously in need of being revised and modified, I am in agreement with the basic outline of the theory to an extent which makes the formulation of the suggested changes seem worthwhile from my own perspective.

I will indicate the proposed development in very general terms only, through a discussion of the main points of conclusion of Dugin’s presentation, in the summary in the concise second part of the final chapter of his book The Fourth Political Theory, published in English translation in 2012. There is, needless to say, much more that for some purposes needs to be commented upon in this book and in Dugin’s many other books, articles, interviews etc. But this is the central text on the fourth political theory, and since it could be argued that it is really only the most general outline of the fourth political theory that is interesting and relevant, it is sufficient for my purposes to focus only on these few formulations.

I will provide an overview of a general analysis of his theory from a perspective determined by the mentioned currents of modern philosophy as well as some related concepts I have used for the purposes of broader historical, cultural and political analysis, such as “soft” traditionalism, alternative modernity, and qualified pluralism. This conspectus will indicate the main, decisive points on which the fourth political theory must be said to stand in need of further development through partial revision and modification.

In the first chapter in the book, Dugin makes clear the fundamental difference between his positions with regard to the first political theory, liberalism, on the one hand, and to the second and third, socialism/communism and fascism, on the other. The first theory, as in a specific manner analysed and understood in the context of and as part of modernity and postmodernity, is the main enemy, “the foe”, der Feind in Carl Schmitt’s sense, which, having survived the second and third theories, dominates and defines the unipolar western system of global capitalism. It is Lévy’s theory.

Dugin significantly regards the second and third theories as having failed as “contenders for the expression of modernity’s spirit”, of “the soul of modernity”. Only liberalism, he suggests, “secured the right to the legacy behind the spirit of modernity and obtained the right to create the ‘end of history’ based on its own premisses”. The second and third theories’ “appeals to modernity and its assumptions” thereby lose their relevance, since they “lost the battle for modernity and the liberals triumphed”.

Indeed, for this reason the second and third theories can now even be seen to have been in reality rather an “eschatological version of traditionalism”, by which Dugin, more precisely, means a new version of the kind of eschatological traditionalism defended by V. S. Soloviev, and also inspired by Berdyaev and the whole, distinctly Russian version of  messianism. Consciously or unconsciously, the representatives of the second and third theories “stood on the side of Tradition, although without drawing the necessary conclusions from this, or even not recognising it at all”.

These theories, proving that “they did not belong to the spirit of modernity”, led, in turn, to the “postliberal matrix”: “The kind of postmodernity which is currently being realised in practice, postliberal postmodernity, cancels out the strict logic of modernity itself – after the goal had been achieved, the steps taken to reach it lose their meaning.” Hence the retrospective assessment of the second and third theories must differ radically from that of liberalism.

They retain elements of relevance. And the most productive rethinking of them is through their “cross-reading”: “Marx through a positive view of the Right” or “Evola through a positive view of the Left”. This was the kind of thing the National Bolsheviks did. But it is not enough, for a “truly significant and decisive reading” of them “is only possible on the basis of an already established” fourth theory. Dugin thus here assumes that the fourth theory, as set forth by him in the book, is already at least sufficiently established for this purpose. This background is of course important when Dugin proceeds to some extent to undertake the rethinking, as well as for his summary and conclusion in the final chapter.

The affirmation of the reality of postmodernity as seen in the cited formulations is closely related to Dugin’s reliance on structural anthropology, to some extent a different expression of the same general philosophical position. This must be identified as a central problem in Dugin’s work, because of its characteristic relativist implications. His various developments of it also reveal a dark romantic substratum in Dugin’s mental universe, which culminates in his morally ambiguous assimilation of parts of the esoteric tradition and in the “metaphysics of chaos” that he sets forth in an appendix to The Fourth Political Theory.  Although he offers only a shallow alternative, Lévy could clearly sense this atmosphere in Dugins work. Over the years, it has been evidenced in Dugin’s somewhat extreme and unacceptable political and other statements and interventions, which account for his marginalization in academia and have decisively limited his political influence. A similar romantic tendency, although not as extravagant, and more European than Russian, is recognizable in some of the works of the new right.

If a “higher” romanticism can be clearly identified from the perspective of modern idealism, personalism, and value-centered historicism, Dugin’s romanticism evinces many typical traits of the “lower” variety, directly connecting to the continuously evolved problematic forms of impersonalist pantheism of the nineteenth century. Dugin mobilizes this wild postmodern romanticism for the purpose of his rejection of the legacy of the Enlightenment, but it is simply not compatible with the traditionalism which is what he claims to defend against the Enlightenment, and perhaps not even as reconceived in eschatological terms.

From the perspective briefly indicated above, postmodernity can only be accepted as unreality, as it were. It is not that it is unimportant as such, as illusion. Only it cannot cancel the lasting primacy of the analysis of the reality of varieties of modernity in relation to tradition. Hence, although there may be partial truths in the view of some forms, aspects, or stages of the second and third theories as eschatological traditionalisms, it hardly represents the whole truth about them, for the simple reason that they did in fact in central respects belong to the spirit of modernity, and the logic of modernity has not been entirely cancelled.

This, I submit, becomes evident in light of the understanding of the specific version of an alternative modernity (there are other versions, in the fascist tradition) that I have tried to point to – a modernity that is reconcilable with a “soft” traditionalism, but not with the “hard” one which Dugin generally seems to represent, even as eschatological. But the illusion of postmodernity may certainly facilitate a “hard” traditionalist view of modernity, and, in combination with it, elicit partial insights into it. The fact that the full truth about the first three political theories cannot be reached in this way does not detract from those insights.

The chronology of literalist eschatology in general, and not just in the Russian orthodox tradition and in modern Russian thinkers variously interpreting it, is notoriously vague and differs considerably between the religious authorities. As such, the value or at least the precise meaning of its application in this kind of analysis appears somewhat doubtful. The same holds for Dugin’s eschatologism as related to the distinctly traditionalist – in René Guénon’s sense – sources of this thought: the traditionalist conceptions of cyclical ages of the world. This imprecision is evidenced when the motif returns in Dugin’s summary, where he uses it as a partial explanation of why “all the previous anti-liberal ideologies” failed in their attempt to “fight liberal capitalism”: “at the end of time, it is evil that prevails”.

For this reason, only the second partial explanation adduced can be backed up with the kind of more conventional empirical evidence that is required for Dugin’s general evaluation: that the failure of those ideologies is due to “their inner contradictions and limitations”. And that judgement is certainly true. The basic reasons for the need of a fourth political theory in the first place are well established. And that theory being also in fact itself established at least to a sufficient degree, Dugin proceeds to summarize the “truly significant and decisive reading” of them from its new vantage-point.

Socialism/communism and fascism have “positive sides”, which “should be accepted and integrated into a future ideology”, i.e., into the fourth political theory. (The question of the relation between ideology and political theory is, incidentally, an important one, and has been problematized in some respects by Michael Freeden in Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach.) It is important to note that Dugin does not pay much attention to the various forms of socialism, but concentrates on what he calls “the classical form of Communism”, by which he clearly means that of the Soviet Union in the Stalin era. It should also be observed that Dugin uses “Third Way” as an alternative appellation for generic fascism. The term is less felicitous, since it is more often used for a certain development of liberalism and social democracy in the 1990s. What Dugin means is, I think, normally called the “third position”, although, as I understand it, that is today a still broader and more inclusive category than generic fascism.

With sweeping generalizations, Dugin identifies the “positive sides” which should be retained: these ideologies, or earlier political theories, were all “anti-capitalist and anti-liberal, as well as anti-cosmopolitan and anti-individualist”. The generalizations do serve some clarifying or, perhaps, pedagogically simplifying purpose in Dugin’s argument, or at least in his rhetoric. But for the purposes of the reception and acceptance of the fourth political theory in the west, some central distinctions and some nuance must be introduced.

First of all it must be pointed out that, while capitalism and liberalism are, in a sense, rightly rejected, they both define a whole historical epoch, which cannot in any sense that is meaningful for contemporary politics or political theory be rejected as such. A more historicist approach would seek to replace them because history has moved on, because they are obsolete and no longer valid and adequate under current circumstances. They cannot be rejected as abstract items in the isolated present, as dishes on a smörgåsbord with many more to choose from. Their historical results cannot be ignored, and must be properly understood and managed not just by current political practice but also by new political theory.

And this includes due discernment. Rejection of capitalism, for instance, and especially of monopolistic finance capitalism in its current development as a globalized imperial system, should clearly not imply rejection of a limited, subordinate, and properly controlled and regulated market sector, shaped by and embedded in a community with a sound moral and cultural ethos. That is something different, and something that not least the historical experience of communism teaches us should be accepted. Dugin may agree with this, but it nevertheless needs to be pointed out, since such understanding of the place of the market mechanism is also a part of the historical legacy of the liberalism – broadly conceived – which he seems to reject in its entirety.

Second, as Dugin is of course aware but elects to ignore, fascism can certainly not be said to be generally anti-capitalist. Both fascism and national socialism did have partly socialist versions and tendencies of their own kind, but in both cases they were strongly played down or relinquished once those movements gained political power. Of course, it could be said that fascism favoured only the national capitalists of the fascist countries, and hence their pre-globalist imperialism. But this is not an objection. Also in America, some of the biggest capitalists supported American fascism, for the purpose of using it against Roosevelt when he was seen to move towards socialism.

Third, socialism and communism are of course not generally anti-cosmopolitan. This Dugin himself points out, contradicting his inclusion of them under this designation for all the anti-capitalist and anti-liberal ideologies. The resultant ambivalence in his understanding of them is perhaps due to his own National-Bolshevik background and the fact that his principal reference in this field is the development of the Soviet Union under Stalin – “the classical form of Communism”. In terms of historical references, the criticism of cosmopolitanism would perhaps better be supported by what Dugin seems to regard as the main “positive side” of fascism, namely aspects of nationalism, the stress on national sovereignty, against globalism – while at the same time he rightly rejects the “narrow” aspects of its nationalism, along with its racism, xenophobia and chauvinism, as unacceptable to the fourth theory.

Here too, however, a central distinction needs to be made between different forms of cosmopolitanism, a distinction found in the work of Claes Ryn and must fully developed in his book A Common Human Ground: Universality and Particularity in a Multicultural World. From the philosophical position of value-centered historicism, and its central analysis of the relation between universality and particularity, as partly based on the idealist notion of the concrete universal, a higher form of cosmopolitanism is clearly identified and affirmed by Ryn, as distinct from the lower one of abstract, liberal globalism. Such cosmopolitanism is an essential element of the right kind of alternative modernity.

Socialism/communism and fascism are also anti-individualist, Dugin rightly says. Yet even from a distinctly anti-capitalist and anti-liberal point of view, their opposite positions of collectivism can of course be equally problematic. And here again, and not only from a more western perspective, it is rather a rectification of individualism than its outright rejection that is required. The correct modification and transformation is achieved by another of the essential elements of the true alternative modernity, namely personalism, to which Russian thinkers too have historically contributed, and in which individuality is taken up and acquires genuine value as part of the larger conception of the person and of persons in relation.

To the “positive sides” of socialism and communism that should be preserved in the fourth political theory Dugin rightly counts their social solidarity, social justice, and “general holistic attitude to society”. These are for Dugin “good, in and of themselves”. Here it is not least important to stress that the holistic view of society is a legacy of idealism, the increasingly relevant legacy, rediscovered and explored by scholars in recent decades, of modern, nineteenth century idealistic philosophy, both in general and, especially, with regard to its political philosophy and theory of the state. Selective recourse to this tradition of thought, which also shaped much of Russian philosophy, could substantially deepen this particular legacy of socialism/communism, and also contribute greatly to the necessary revision and adjustment that is needed as it is admitted and affirmed by the fourth political theory. Finally, with regard to the these ideologies, it should be added that the fact that the needed critical corrective for the analysis of fascism is readily available in them must also be counted as a positive side.

It is when listing the negative sides of socialism and communism that Dugin says that they are cosmopolitan, along with “modern, atheist, materialist”. All of this, he says, should be “thrown out”. Surely no one will misunderstand what Dugin means; no objections can be made here even with regard to cosmopolitanism and modernity in general, if by them are meant the lower – abstractly universal etc. – cosmopolitanism and what could be called the mainstream of modernity, the one analysed by Dugin as having led to and culminated in global capitalist liberalism. And the atheism and materialism of these ideologies as they emerged, as distinctly context-specific, out of the intellectual configuration of the mid- to late nineteenth century, are certainly their central and fatal weakness, along with the general cultural radicalism that normally followed from a onesided interpretation of Marxist historical materialism. In Western Marxism and postmarxism, this cultural radicalism is today often all that remains after the originally decisive analyses of the economic base were relinquished.

“If we free socialism from its materialist, atheistic and modernist features”, Dugin concludes his brief summary of the new reading of the second and third theories, “and if we reject the racist and narrow nationalist aspects of the Third Way doctrines, we arrive at a completely new kind of political ideology. We call it the Fourth Political Theory, or 4PT, the first being liberalism, which we essentially challenge; the second being the classical form of Communism; and the third being National Socialism and fascism.” But significantly, he notes that the proximate result of these theoretical steps is not 4PT itself. The latter’s “elaboration starts at the point of intersection” of the second and third theories, but after this start we first “arrive at National Bolshevism, which represents socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism, and modernism, as well as the modified Third Way theories”. Indeed, Dugin still regards National Bolshevism, along with Eurasianism, as a valid “secondary variation” of the fourth theory.

Here again, some dichotomization is needed, since Dugin introduces progressivism as another element of socialism. And here too, the dichotomization, with regard to the definition of progress and the differentiation between various areas of progress, of possible progress, and of impossible progress, is already in general available within the parameters of modernity alternatively defined, in the philosophical current of idealism.

The fourth theory fully emerges only with the addition of its unique – in relation to the previous three – and most characteristic element, beyond the “first approximation and preliminary approach” that is the “mechanical addition of the deeply revised versions of the anti-liberal ideologies of the past”. This element is the “appeal to Tradition and to pre-modern sources of inspiration”. That is what represents the “very important development” beyond “the National Bolshevik synthesis”. “There we have”, Dugin specifies, “the Platonic ideal state, Medieval hierarchical society, and theological visions of the normative social and political system (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish or Hindu).”

It is one of the most striking features of the idea of a fourth political theory that it does not reckon with conservatism as one of the earlier theories. Conservatives, or at least some traditional conservatives and so-called paleoconservatives, could, at least prima facie, plausibly object that there is no need for a fourth theory, since conservatism is already what that theory claims to be, fills all the needs it points to, has been there as a profound critical opponent from the beginning of the emergence of the first theory, liberalism, and can easily be updated in all required respects for today’s purposes.

Yet even if we accept conservatism as another earlier theory, so that the fourth theory becomes in fact the fifth, one of the things that still clearly sets the latter apart is its partial assimilation of the “positive sides” of the distinctly modern anti-liberal ideologies that we have discussed. Another such thing is perhaps the appeal specifically to the traditionalist conception, in the Guénonian sense, of the pre-modern sources. This is seen not least in the inclusiveness of the appeal. We should, Dugin insists, “strongly oppose any kind of confrontation between the various religious beliefs – Muslims against Christians, the Jews against Muslims, the Muslims against the Hindus and so on”. The dramatic and suggestive, yet not least in this pluralistic context somewhat impressionistic eschatology is again brought in: “The inter-confessional wars and tensions work for the cause of the kingdom of the Antichrist who tries to divide all the traditional religions in order to impose its own pseudo-religion, the eschatological parody.”

Given the scope of religious diversity, some critical standard of discernment – possibly also one that could be worked out from within traditionalism in the “soft” version, the version which can accommodate partial truths of modernity – seems to be required here, however. In terms of comparative theology and the theology of religions, a position beyond the existing ones of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism is needed, a position that could be called qualified pluralism. The qualification is called for in this connection for the same reason that makes it necessary to reject Dugin’s general embracement of structural anthropology.

Yet these ingredients – the “positive sides” of the second and third theories as carefully specified, and traditionalism – not only clearly distinguish the fourth theory from all forms of conservatism as they have historically existed in the west. Dugin claims that “we have here an interesting basis for the conscious cooperation of the radical Left-wingers and the New Right, as well as with religious and other anti-modern movements, such as the ecologists and Green theorists, for example.” Contrary to all leading western conservative thinkers today, Dugin holds that liberal capitalism has turned out to be a greater threat to still valid traditional ideas and principles than socialism.

In terms of traditionalism, Dugin’s analysis seems to presuppose a very different interpretation and evaluation of the historical class structure of the west and its successive transformations than the one found in the work of the non-eschatological “hard” traditionalist Julius Evola. But Evola did not live to see the further, globalized degeneration of the bourgeois (dis)order in the last four decades. The distinctiveness of Dugin’s position is clearly seen in what appears to be his support, as a consequence of the application of this perception, for socialist parties and regimes around the world. Conservatives might wonder how this is congruent with the traditionalist appeal. But for Dugin at least, the answer is simple. If traditionalist values are to have any real place, a place that makes a difference in society and not just for a few, isolated individuals, capitalism must first be overcome, and at least this far no other major political force than socialism aims for that radical goal.

A “conservative revolution” in this sense is one of the counterparts in political praxis of the fourth political theory as a development of National Bolshevism; but significantly, it in no way precludes Dugin’s support also for the right-leaning populist nationalists in Europe. As we have seen, the traditionalist motivation does not mean that Dugin reduces socialism/communism to an instrument for its purpose, to be discarded as soon as the goal is reached. He explicitly affirms also some of socialism’s own essential positions. Elsewhere, however, he has clearly rejected other major aspects of it. For this reason, the question of how and to what extent, after liberal capitalism, the reconstruction of traditionalism within the new socialism is to take place is left open and undecided. This too calls for further development of the fourth theory, as does of course also the question of the nature of the transition from the current state of political affairs in the west.

While not making the fourth theory unnecessary, conservatism of the right kind can nonetheless contribute some much needed cautionary advice and exercise some restraining influence when it comes to the inclusion of the elements of socialism – or classical communism – and fascism in the fourth theory. “The only thing we insist on in creating such a pact of cooperation”, Dugin says with reference to his left-right alliance, “is to put aside anti-Communist, as well as anti-fascist prejudices. These prejudices are the instruments in the hands of liberals and globalists with which they keep their enemies divided. So we would strongly reject anti-Communism as well as anti-fascism. Both of them are counter-revolutionary tools in the hands of the global liberal elite.”

These are weak and problematic formulations, which impede the reception of the fourth political theory outside of rather small and extreme circles. Of course, both communism and fascism are complex wholes with different and distinguishable ideological components. But Dugin’s attitude to them as shown here alerts us to an urgent need for caution, discrimination and rigorous moral judgement if proper obstriction of elements from these ideologies in the new larger whole of the fourth theory is to be at all possible. Anti-communism and anti-fascism are not just prejudices, just like anti-capitalism and anti-liberalism are not. And again, Dugin’s position relies too heavily on the understanding of fascism as anti-capitalist.

The implicit discounting of conservatism as one of the political theories can here clearly be seen as a weakness. For of course communism and fascism are objected to not only by liberals and the global liberal elites, but also by conservatives, and their objections must be taken into account for the sake of badly needed modifications. This is so even as we grant that their inability to apprehend how their values are undermined by capitalism, and consequently to oppose the latter, is increasingly absurd and to a considerable extent still reveals the reducibly class-based nature of conservatism, and to that same extent its limited validity.

It is the fact that, with few exceptions, even the best of conservatives are, at the end of the day, so easily assimilable to the liberal-capitalist camp, that makes Dugin’s whole venture of presenting the fourth theory in terms of the assimilation of the positive sides communism and fascism possible today. And as he has rightly analysed the situation, it is more than possible; it is to a considerable extent viable. For all over the world, Dugin has a very considerable following of former communists and socialists as well as former fascists and semi-fascists. The upside of this is that while, as we have seen, they must not, as regular followers, be anti-communist and anti-fascist, and must have set aside their prejudices of each other, they are all “former”: they have realized the limitations of the second and third theories, and the need to go beyond them, the need for a fourth theory. And to the extent that Dugin has converted conservatives or even liberals, it is not to communism and fascism, although they will somehow have had to give up their prejudices against them.

Some critics on the left will dispute this. They contend that the fourth theory serves primarily the far right, including the so-called alternative right, and indeed quite unreformed fascists; they see sinister networks of such people on all continents, controlled by Dugin. The fourth theory is for such critics just a version of the “third position”. But it is a fact that persons with seemingly impeccable leftist credentials work to some extent with Dugin even while remaining leftists. And since the modifications I propose are clearly such as would make this kind of interpretation and application of the fourth theory impossible, I feel discussion of this often somewhat sectarian criticism can legitimately be left out here. This holds, a fortiori, for the criticism from liberals.

Dugin also summarizes his argument for Dasein as the subject of the fourth theory. His use of Heidegger is a counterweight in his thought to the “hard” traditionalism, but the questions this gives rise to probably do not have to be dealt with for my general purposes here. Some of them are, inevitably, about the relationship between his reading of Heidegger and the romanticism discussed above.

Again, the fourth theory has been conceived by Dugin as an unfinished, ongoing, and collaborative project. But already as it has this far emerged, in his own work, as suggested points of departure, a correctly posed question, it captures, in broad outline, much of the essence of the human condition as it relates to world politics at our present point in time. And it indicates, equally broadly, a possible way out of the predicament that this condition in reality is, the predicament which the “first” political theory, liberalism, as inextricably bound to globalized, financial, monopoly capitalism in its present stage of development, has put us all in.

Dugin concludes that “we need to unite the Right, the Left and the world’s traditional religions in a common struggle against the common enemy. Social justice, national sovereignty and traditional values are the three main principles of the Fourth Political Theory. It is not easy to put together such a varied alliance. But we must try if we want to overcome the enemy.” This is the barest outline. At least some of what, more precisely, it means, and what it will mean as sufficiently revised and freed from sweeping exaggerations and simplifications, as well as from the ambivalent imaginative excesses of Dugin’s postmodern romanticism, will now, I hope, have been made a little clearer.

The strength, and indeed the whole point of a fourth political theory of this kind, is that it is distinct from, different from, the three preceding theories, while at the same time it preserves their partial truths as transformed in a new whole. But Dugin fails to do justice to the truths of the first theory. Had he been more attuned to Hegel, he might have described the new status of the truths of all the preceding theories in the fourth theory as aufgehoben aber aufbewahrt. Or he might have seen the preceding theories in their respective entireties as subordinate dialectical moments in the emerging totality on a higher level.

The main weaknesses that necessitate the kind of development that is also a revision should have become clear. Liberalism and capitalism also contain partial historical truths, they too can be seen as dialectical moments. And above all, conservatism, which many important thinkers have rightly distinguished as a “theory” clearly set apart from the Dugin’s first, second and third ones, must be added to the latter as another force that is transcended yet whose lasting truths are in a certain way preserved. Much of the missing balance, proportion and moderation of which the fourth theory stands in need could be supplied by this particular influence.

With the suggested development, and if the specifics of the fourth theory are worked out in culturally somewhat more adjusted ways for the different sensibilities of the different parts of the world, the discovery of its deeper congeniality and universal importance would, I think, be greatly facilitated. The suggested development should make it dovetail somewhat better at least with the current European and American sensibilities and modalities of thought that come closest to it and tend on a general level to converge towards it.

Since Europeans are directly addressed by Dugin’s Eurasianism, it seems to me especially important that Americans are not left out. Dugin himself realizes that, and has addressed the American people separately. For America, or the United States, cannot of course be reduced to and identified only with what Dugin, too uncompromisingly not least in some historical respects, opposes as “the foe”: unipolar, global capitalist liberalism, Bernard Henri-Lévy’s universalist conception of the west. If this principal and still dominant form of modernity is to be overcome, it must surely be through a process at work also within that country.

4 Responses to “Revising the Fourth Political Theory”

  1. 1 John Anngeister April 17, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Very interesting Jan. I saw this come up in my email feed and I think it is worthy of being transferred to paper for more careful reading.

    Is it necessary to read your 2
    012 post on Fourth Theory, or can I treat this one as a self-contained development from that earlier one?

    I’ll read this at any rate, and check back if I have further questions.

    Hope you are well, from one of your “fringe” followers.


    • 2 Jan Olof Bengtsson April 17, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Great to hear from you again John! There are actually two earlier posts on Dugin linked to here, one from 2012 and one from 2013, but this new one is self-contained: read the other ones only if you are interested in the particular subjects they deal with, which are indicated by the clickable parts of the text: fourth political theory as a new name for the new right, and Dugin’s reliance on structural anthropology, respectively.

  2. 4 John Anngeister April 18, 2020 at 2:20 am

    I guess I haven’t read enough Dugin, but I am inclined to think that 4PT is not going to be able to contain a true personalist and modern idealist principle.

    I do think Personalism provides a philosophical basis for a category of social organization that is independent of both individualism and collectivism. This would be a third kind of philosophical ground for intentional societal structures (politics). (call it 3PG)

    When I look at the standard political theories strictly in terms of the above three categories, I judge both liberalism and fascism to rest on principles of individualism.

    Collectivism is the principle of communism, certainly.

    But I think there is a pure socialism which has nothing to do with collectives and everything to do with social responsibility (personalism), and I don’t like the combined phrase “communism/socialism”, which implies the two are on some kind of continuum.

    I think socialism is neither a collective or an individualistic structure, categorically, and it needs to be set free from all references to collectivism, and I think a personalistic philosophy could do it.

    Haven’t we discovered that the real continuum of equivocation is that of liberalism/fascism? Were not all fascist parties going nowhere until they co-opted the liberal parties with strong anti-international spin in regard to social platforms (divorcement from global collectivism). Did not their toxic, amoral individualism eventually destabilized their liberal governments (from within)?

    There is in Personalism a strongly integrated Kantian imperative which demands on principle that I be socially responsible for the good of the greater whole and at the same time free of the tyranny of the whole. There is an inherent demand that I be personally responsible for the rights of each member of society, as they are for mine. This demand is not the hallmark of either individualism or collectivism, both of which cannot deliver these things without need of external legislation (done badly, half-heartedly, partially, with favoritism for either the individual or the collective).

    I think Personalism can easily be mined to produce a consistent philosophy of domestic and foreign responsibility for the Sovereign Other (whether persons or states). It can be the foundation of a socially responsible and non-interventionist free-enterprise economy.

    Now I worry that I have missed some distinctions which would require me to revise my response, and I depend on you, Jan, to let me know if you see anything that does an injustice to Dugin.

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi