Dark Enlightenment

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The Dark Enlightenment, also known as the neoreactionary movement, neoreaction and abbreviated NRx by its proponents, is an anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and reactionary movement that considers itself to be the antithesis to the Enlightenment. It broadly rejects egalitarianism and the view that history shows inevitable progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment, thus it is in part a reaction against "Whig historiography".[1][2] The movement favors a return to older societal constructs and forms of government, including support for monarchism and other forms of leadership such as a "neocameralist CEO"[3] of a joint-stock republic,[4] coupled with a conservative or economic nationalist approach to economics.[5] Proponents generally also espouse socially conservative views including traditionalist opinions on gender roles, race relations, and immigration.

A 2013 TechCrunch article describes "neoreactionaries" as an informal "community of bloggers" and political theorists who have been active since the 2000s.[6] Steve Sailer and Hans-Hermann Hoppe are described as "contemporary forerunners" of the movement, and neoreactionaries are also said to draw influence from philosophers such as Thomas Carlyle and Julius Evola.[6] Writing in Taki's Magazine, Nicholas James Pell notes that besides American computer scientist Curtis Yarvin and English author and philosopher Nick Land, other prominent NRx voices include "monarchist transhumanist Michael Anissimov, Catholic anarchist Bryce Laliberte, post-libertarian escape artist Jim, and the snarky satirists of Radish".[7]

The Dark Enlightenment has been described as an early school of thought in the alt-right.[8][9] Some critics have also labeled the movement as "neo-fascist".[2][10][8] A 2016 piece in New York magazine notes that "Neoreaction has a number of different strains, but perhaps the most important is a form of post-libertarian futurism that, realizing that libertarians aren't likely to win any elections, argues against democracy in favor of authoritarian forms of government".[11] Yarvin, for example, argues that a libertarian democracy is "simply an engineering contradiction, like a flying whale or a water-powered car."[12]

Summary of core ideas[edit]

Curtis Yarvin, an early exponent of neoreactionary thought

Central is a belief in freedom's incompatibility with democracy. This neoreactionary idea comes from libertarians like Peter Thiel, as indicated by Nick Land's coverage of an April 2009 Cato Unbound discussion in his essay "The Dark Enlightenment".[13]

Yarvin's preferred system (named "neocameralism" after Frederick William I of Prussia's system of Prussian cameralism[14]) is a system in which a business owns the country,[3] which is structured as a joint-stock corporation divided up into shares, and run by a CEO to maximize profit.[15]

Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman have backed the Seasteading Institute as one possible way of building fiefdoms free of outside regulation and law.[1]

Neoreactionary Michael Perilloux proposes that President Donald Trump seize more power by canceling the United States Constitution, declaring martial law and replacing the government with The Trump Organization.[9] Similarly, Google engineer Justine Tunney circulated a petition to appoint Google chairman Eric Schmidt as CEO of America.[1]

Some neoreactionary futurists focus more on the use of technology to defeat the state, for example, through transhumanist accelerationism in which the select few free themselves from the bonds of the state by evolving into superintelligent human-computer hybrids.[12] One proponent of such ideas is Michael Anissimov, an advocate of eugenics,[16] who in the words of Mark O'Connell "has in recent years basically cornered the white-supremacysingularity crossover market" and become "something of a pariah from the transhumanist movement." Rejecting the notion that all humans are created equal, Anissimov believes that there are already disparities in intelligence between existing races and that transhuman technologies will create further disparities in power.[17] He claims that aristocratic systems are more financially stable and efficient than democratic or communist systems.[6]

History and etymology[edit]

Dylan Matthews argues that neoreaction draws on the racialist, traditionalist and isolationist arguments of paleoconservatism as well as paleoconservatives' belief that the mainstream is trying to crush them. Differences between the two movements are that paleoconservatives are more religious and have more faith in the United States Constitution and republican ideals generally.[9] Rick Searle draws parallels between neoreactionaries and late 19th century figures like Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Maurras, and Vilfredo Pareto.[18] George Orwell also used the term "neo-reactionary" in an As I Please column for Tribune in 1943[19] — although not in the sense of the present-day subculture.

In 2007 and 2008, Curtis Yarvin—writing under the pen name Mencius Moldbug—articulated what would develop into Dark Enlightenment thinking. Yarvin's theories were later the subject of Nick Land, who first coined the term "Dark Enlightenment" in his essay of the same name.[13] The term "Dark Enlightenment" is a play-on-words for the knowledge supposedly gained in the Enlightenment.[2][5][6][20] According to Land: "Where the progressive enlightenment sees political ideals, the dark enlightenment sees appetites"[13]—on the view that the tendency of sovereign power (in democracies) is to devour society.

Yarvin had originally called his ideology formalism (a term inspired from legal formalism),[21] but Arnold Kling used the term "The Neo-Reactionaries" as a noun in July 2010 to describe Yarvin and his followers and the term was quickly adopted by the subculture.[6][22] According to Adam Riggio, the embryo of the neoreactionary movement lived in the community pages of LessWrong.[23] Social Matter is a major online publication and thought machine for neoreaction.[24]

Neoreactionaries have often declined reporters' requests for interviews, explaining that journalists—as manufacturers of consent—are their mortal enemy. When The Atlantic political affairs reporter Rosie Gray attempted to interview neoreactionary leaders, Yarvin suggested she instead "speak directly to my WH cutout / cell leader"—a sarcastic reference to widely reported yet unsubstantiated rumors that Yarvin had ties to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon—while Nick B. Steves told her she was ill-suited to write about neo-reaction because "115 IQ people are not generally well equipped to summarize 160 IQ people".[3]

Neoreactionary writings, particularly those by Yarvin[25][26] and Land, are sometimes viewed as so verbose, dense, discursive, detached and "edgy"[3] as to be inaccessible and self-marginalizing.[27][28]

Ryan Summers wrote that neoreactionary imagery is often infused with hyper-masculine ideas of men, such as tanks, spacecraft, Greek Gods and soldiers with guns.[24]

Relation to other movements[edit]

Relation to the alt-right[edit]

Some consider the Dark Enlightenment as an early school of thought in the alt-right,[8][28] or as its most theoretically minded branch.[9] In particular, one philosopher with Landian ideas, Jason Reza Jorjani, co-founded AltRight.com and spoke at the 2016 National Policy Institute conference led by Richard Spencer.[29] Some critics have also labeled the Dark Enlightenment as "neo-fascist"[2][10] or as "an acceleration of capitalism to a fascist point", although Land argues this is inaccurate because fascism "is a mass anti-capitalist movement".[29] Land states:[3]

NRx doesn't think the Alt-Right (in America) is very serious. It's an essentially Anti-Anglo-American philosophy, in its (Duginist) core, which puts a firm ceiling on its potential. But then, the NRx analysis is that the age of the masses is virtually over. Riled-up populist movements are part of what is passing, rather than of what is slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

James Kirchick notes that although neoreactionary thinkers disdain the masses and claim to despise populism and people more generally, what ties them to the rest of the alt-right is their unapologetically racist element, their shared misanthropy and their resentment of mismanagement by the ruling elites.[12] Duesterberg observes: "As a rule the alt-right is scattered, anonymous and obscure—thriving, as the curious metaphor has it, in the 'dark corners of the internet.' By contrast, neoreaction is centralized and public: darkness enlightened".[30]


A criticism of neoreaction is that its pessimistic appraisal of progressivism's results dismisses many advances that have been made, including greater freedom for women, racial minorities and homosexuals; increased security for the elderly and unemployed; greater access to health care by the poor; steep declines in world poverty;[31] improved air quality; greater religious tolerance and racial integration; lower crime rates; and an absence of world wars since 1945. They also point to the culture of London, whose population is majority nonwhite;[32] and the high standard of living and continental peace in the European Union. Another criticism is that global manufacturing patterns limit the economic independence that sovereign states can have from one another.[33]

Some of the critics who felt the Dark Enlightenment's pessimistic assessment was unsupported by economic data formed the Grey Enlightenment.[34]

Ryan T. Summers observes: "For the most part, neoreactionaries do not emphasize anti-Semitic views as other alt-right counterparts".[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Pein, Corey (19 May 2014). "Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream of a Silicon Reich". The Baffler. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Bartlett, Jamie (20 January 2014). "Meet The Dark Enlightenment: sophisticated neo-fascism that's spreading fast on the net". The Daily Telegraph.
  3. ^ a b c d e Gray, Rosie (10 February 2017). "Behind the Internet's Anti-Democracy Movement". The Atlantic.
  4. ^ Steorts, Jason Lee (5 June 2017). "Against Mencius Moldbug's 'Neoreaction'". National Review.
  5. ^ a b Walther, Matthew (23 January 2014). "The Dark Enlightenment Is Silly Not Scary". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e Finley, Klint (22 November 2013). "Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries". TechCrunch.
  7. ^ Pell, Nicholas James (29 January 2014). "Overreacting to Neoreaction". Taki's Magazine.
  8. ^ a b c Goldhill, Olivia. "The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles". Quartz. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  9. ^ a b c d Matthews, Dylan (25 August 2016). "The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It's that, but way way weirder". Vox.
  10. ^ a b Sigl, Matt (2 December 2013). "The Dark Enlightenment: The Creepy Internet Movement You'd Better Take Seriously". Vocativ. Archived from the original on 2013-12-17. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  11. ^ MacDougald, Park (14 June 2016). "Why Peter Thiel Wants to Topple Gawker and Elect Donald Trump". New York Magazine.
  12. ^ a b c Kirchick, James (16 May 2016). "Trump's Terrifying Online Brigades". Commentary Magazine.
  13. ^ a b c Land, Nick. "The Dark Enlightenment".
  14. ^ Hui, Yuk (April 2017). "On the Unhappy Consciousness of Neoreactionaries". e-flux.
  15. ^ Goodman, Matthew Shen (9 June 2015). "Bears Will Never Steal Your Car". Leap.
  16. ^ Abbott, Benjamin (5 June 2013). "The Specter of Eugenics: IQ, White Supremacy, and Human Enhancement". Ethical Technology.
  17. ^ O'Connell, Mark (30 April 2017). "The Techno-Libertarians Praying for Dystopia". New York Magazine.
  18. ^ Searle, Rick (15 August 2016). "Shedding Light on Peter Thiel's Dark Enlightenment". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  19. ^ Orwell, George (24 December 1943). "As I Please". Tribune.
  20. ^ Phillips, Jon (Fall 2014). "Troublesome Sources". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2015-02-24.
  21. ^ Moldbug, Mencius (23 April 2007). "A formalist manifesto". Unqualified Reservations. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  22. ^ Kling, Arnold (18 July 2010). "The Neo-Reactionaries". EconLog. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  23. ^ Riggio, Adam (23 September 2016). "The Violence of Pure Reason". Social Epistemology Review & Reply Collective.
  24. ^ a b c Summers, Ryan T. (2017). "The Rise of the Alt-Right Movement". Media and Communication Studies Summer Fellows (11): 6. The ideology is also enthralled with hyper-masculine visions of men. In Post-Anathema, a Tumblr page, common images depict soldiers with guns, tanks, spacecraft, and Greek Gods.
  25. ^ Johnson, Eliana (7 February 2017). "What Steve Bannon Wants You to Read". Politico.
  26. ^ Beam, Alex (18 June 2015). "The right to be stupid". Boston Globe.
  27. ^ Haider, Shuja (28 March 2017). "The Darkness at the End of the Tunnel: Artificial Intelligence and Neoreaction". Viewpoint Magazine.
  28. ^ a b Gray, Rosie (27 December 2015). "How 2015 Fueled The Rise Of The Freewheeling, White Nationalist Alt-Movement". Buzzfeed.
  29. ^ a b Goldhill, Olivia (18 June 2017). "The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles". Quartz.
  30. ^ Duesterberg, James (2017). "Final Fantasy". The Point.
  31. ^ Brin, David (30 November 2013). ""Neo-Reactionaries" drop all pretense: End democracy and bring back lords!". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  32. ^ "Census reveals white Britons as minority in capital for first time". Evening Standard. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  33. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (30 April 2017). "Why the reactionary right must be taken seriously". New York Magazine.
  34. ^ Evans, Jon (19 July 2014). "Eigenmorality And The Dark Enlightenment". TechCrunch.

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