The Dark Enlightenment or the neo-reactionary movement, sometimes abbreviated NRx, is an anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, reactionary philosophy founded by Curtis Yarvin, an American software engineer and blogger under the pen name "Mencius Moldbug," and developed further by English philosopher Nick Land. The ideology generally rejects Whig historiography—the concept that history shows an inevitable progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy—in favor of a return to traditional societal constructs and forms of government, including absolute monarchism and other archaic forms of leadership such as cameralism.
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 elaborated and expanded by Nick Land, who first coined the term Dark Enlightenment in his essay of the same name. The term Dark Enlightenment refers to the Age of Enlightenment, in a pejorative sense.
Neo-reactionaries are an informal community of bloggers and political theorists who have been active since the 2000s. Steve Sailer and Hans-Hermann Hoppe are contemporary forerunners of the ideology, which also draws influence from philosophers such as Thomas Carlyle and Julius Evola.
Central to Land's ideas is a belief in freedom's incompatibility with democracy. Land drew inspiration from libertarians such as Peter Thiel, as indicated in his essay The Dark Enlightenment. The Dark Enlightenment has been described by journalists and commentators as alt-right and neo-fascist. A 2016 article 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."
Neo-reactionaries sometimes decline to speak to reporters. When approached by The Atlantic political affairs reporter Rosie Gray, Yarvin attempted to troll her on Twitter, and blogger Nick B. Steves said that her IQ was inadequate to the task of interviewing him.
Journalist Andrew Sullivan notes that neoreaction's pessimistic appraisal of democracy dismisses many advances that have been made and that global manufacturing patterns also limit the economic independence that sovereign states can have from one another.
In an article for The Sociological Review, after an examination of neoreaction's core tenets, Roger Burrows deplores the ideology as "hyper-neoliberal, technologically deterministic, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, pro-eugenicist, racist and, likely, fascist", and ridicules the entire accelerationist framework as a faulty attempt at "mainstreaming...misogynist, racist and fascist discourses." Moreover, he criticizes neoreaction's racial principles for their brazen "disavowal of any discourses" advocating for socio-economic equality and, accordingly, considers it a "eugenic philosophy" in favor of what Land deems 'hyper-racism'.
Relation to the alt-right
Some consider the Dark Enlightenment part of the alt-right, representing its theoretical branch. The Dark Enlightenment has been labelled by some as neo-fascist and "an acceleration of capitalism to a fascist point". Land disputes this, claiming that "fascism is a mass anti-capitalist movement".
Journalist and pundit James Kirchick states that "although neo-reactionary 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."
Scholar Andrew Jones, in his article From NeoReactionary Theory to the Alt-Right, postulates that the Dark Enlightenment (i.e. the NeoReactionary Movement) is "key to understanding the Alt-Right" political ideology. "The use of affect theory, postmodern critiques of modernity, and a fixation on critiquing regimes of truth," Jones remarks, "are fundamental to NeoReaction (NRx) and what separates it from other Far-Right theory". Moreover, Jones argues that Dark Enlightenment's fixation on aesthetics, history, and philosophy, as opposed to the traditional empirical approach, distinguishes it from related far-right ideologies.
Historian Joe Mulhall, writing for The Guardian in his 2020 article, "Andrew Sabisky’s job at No 10 shows how mainstream the alt-right has become", questions the ethicality of Nick Land's stance on "gender, race, religion, [and] governance" and, consequentially, regards the philosopher's neoreactionist manifesto, The Dark Enlightenment, to be a means of "propagating very far-right ideas." Despite neoreaction's limited online audience, Mulhall considers the ideology to be a "key and constituent part" in the realm of "extreme far-right" socio-political beliefs, a microcosm of broader right-wing movements.
- Goldhill, Olivia. "The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles". Quartz. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
- Gray, Rosie (10 February 2017). "Behind the Internet's Anti-Democracy Movement". The Atlantic.
- Land, Nick. "The Dark Enlightenment". The Dark Enlightmenent.
- Finley, Klint (22 November 2013). "Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries". TechCrunch.
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- 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.
- MacDougald, Park (14 June 2016). "Why Peter Thiel Wants to Topple Gawker and Elect Donald Trump". New York Magazine.
- Sullivan, Andrew (30 April 2017). "Why the reactionary right must be taken seriously". New York Magazine.
- Burrows, Roger (10 June 2020). "On Neoreaction". The Sociological Review.
- Land, Nick. "The Dark Enlightenment".
- Matthews, Dylan (25 August 2016). "The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It's that, but way way weirder". Vox.
- Kirchick, James (16 May 2016). "Trump's Terrifying Online Brigades". Commentary Magazine.
- Jones, Andrew. From NeoReactionary Theory to the Alt-Right. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Mulhall, Joe (18 February 2020). "Andrew Sabisky's job at No 10 shows how mainstream the alt-right has become | Joe Mulhall". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-06-11.