Review: Civilization and Its Enemies

Civilization and Its Enemies

Stone Mountain, 2003

Even if I disagree with his conclusions, it is always a pleasure to read a Lee Harris book. I never fail to learn something new. After reviewing The Next American Civil War in August, I decided to go back and read Civilization and Its Enemies, an earlier book published in 2003 which has been sitting on my bookshelf for several years.

I’ve made no secret of my belief that most intellectuals are a complete waste of time. In Civilization and Its Enemies, Harris explains how misguided intellectuals can be transformed into enemies of civilization. This is a theme he greatly expands upon in his most recent book. It was helpful to go back and read his earlier work to see how his thinking has evolved on the subject.

At first glance, Civilization and Its Enemies is about 9/11, Islam, and American foreign policy. A crude reader might pick up this book and dismiss it as neocon boilerplate after reading it for a few minutes. Likewise, The Next American Civil War was ostensibly about the Tea Party movement, but it was really a much deeper philosophical rumination on the origins and history of liberty.

According to Harris, civilizations die because of what he calls “forgetfulness.” White Nationalists will be inclined to agree with this analysis. Civilizations are built by tough, virtuous, practical men. They are lost by their degenerate, effete descendants who lose touch with reality and their own natural instincts.

In the West, the triumph of liberalism has led to a dangerous situation where intellectuals refuse to acknowledge the existence of that primordial category of men known as “the enemy.” The postwar liberal international order has collapsed from within. The primary cause is the unwillingness of the Islamic world to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Pax Americana.

The West has become the victim of its own success. It has established a liberal international order in which trade (as opposed to theft) is the preferred method of resolving disputes over natural resources. The willingness of the West to pay the Islamic “honorary states” for petroleum (as opposed to simply taking it with military force) has transfered fabulous wealth into the hands of religious fanatics.

Flush with Western cash, the Islamic world has lost touch with reality, and is lashing out against its own principal economic benefactor. Money comes out of the desert as if by magic. This has trapped millions of Muslims in a medieval state of mind. Unlike the West, the Islamic world never had to adapt to modernity to reap the benefits of modern science and technology.

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are in the grips of what Lee Harris calls a “fantasy ideology.” This fantasy ideology is what enables them to overcome their own middle class inhibitions and resort to ruthless violence to realize their objectives. Fantasists treat others as props and weave reality into an all encompassing symbolic narrative. Their actions only acquire significance in terms of their own particular fantasy.

In the Second World War, the Japanese attacked the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor because of its clear strategic relevance to thwarting Japanese foreign policy objectives in East Asia. In contrast, al-Qaeda attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center, not because of their strategic importance, but because those targets were prominent symbols of American power.

The purpose of the 9/11 attacks was for Muslims to demonstrate to other Muslims that Islam was capable of hobbling the Great Satan. No strategic objective was accomplished in the attacks. As Harris points out, if the goal was simply to instill enough fear into the American public to change our foreign policy, it could have been much easier – and far more terrifying – to blow up innumerable soft targets in the American Heartland, say, a Burger King in Arkansas or a Wal-Mart in Ohio.

That’s not what happened.

Harris believes that America must use its enormous military power to crush ruthless gangs of fanatics and uphold the liberal international order. This is necessary if the world is to reach the “next stage of history”: a “utopia that works.”

The “utopia that works” is a world organized along the American lines of “team cosmopolitanism” in which sources of division like race, religion, ethnicity, class, nationality, and ideology are contained and mollified. It is a world in which the “pockets of peacefulness” extend across the entire globe, protected by American military power, and the “cardinal virtues of civilization” such as “stability, spontaneous cooperation, tolerance of their neighbors, and abstention from violence as a way of settling conflicts” are allowed to flourish everywhere.

Harris identifies three major challenges to moving forward to “the next stage of history”:

1.) The United States cannot permit itself to become the arrogant empire its critics fear. Otherwise, it will lose its legitimacy to act as a “neo-sovereign” and contain threats (i.e., ruthless gangs driven by fantasy ideology) to the spread of civilization. It must act as a “first nation among equals.”

2.) Intellectuals in America and Europe must abandon the pursuit of abstract utopias and fantasy ideologies and return to the real world. They must cease their attack on the cultural foundations and real communities of the West. Otherwise, the “culture war” will discredit the Left and degenerate into civil war.

3.) Westerners must struggle to overcome the collective tendency of civilized men and women to “forgetfulness.” Otherwise, the Western civilization will lose touch with its own moorings and degenerate to the point of collapse.

Clearly, Lee Harris has become preoccupied with the second scenario in recent years, as the internal tension within America between Reds and Blues, Whites and non-Whites,  is much greater today than it was in 2003.

The Guts

All of this is fascinating.

I largely agree with this analysis. If civilization is to be extended across the world, then clearly the external and internal threats to that project must be contained.

It is the guts of the book, which could easily stand on their own, that I found the most relevant and fascinating. Harris takes the reader on a long winding history course from Sparta to the Roman Republic to Protestant Europe to the United States. The purpose of this history lesson is to show how “the team principle” gave birth to republican government and the modern business corporation.

The origins of liberty and property are discussed. There is an insightful discussion about the inherent antagonism between “the team principle” and the family that sheds considerable light on why intellectuals have pushed the former to such extremes.

Of all the useful concepts introduced in the book, I found the discussion about fantasy ideology and the illiberal underpinnings of liberal civilization to be the most fascinating.

White Nationalism is recognizably a “fantasy ideology” under the definition provided. It is a transformative belief. It is based on the pursuit of an abstract ideal – the White ethnostate. Reality is judged on the basis of that ideal and found lacking in various ways. Ordinary White people are judged negatively. Real White communities are seen as imperfections of the timeless Platonic ideal.

White Nationalists clearly desire to close the gap between reality and their abstract ideal; reality is assigned the task of adjusting. They are willing to resort to ruthless methods to separate the races. Countless examples come to mind of White Nationalists treating other as props and their unwillingness to communicate with people in terms of their own experience.

White Nationalism and Fantasy Ideology

Fantasy ideology cuts both ways. It has positive and negative aspects.

People whose minds are in the grip of an abstract ideal are capable of doing incredible things. It was “fantasy ideology” that drove Revolutionary France to victory on battlefields across Europe. The 9/11 hijackers were willing to die for their beliefs. Communism and National Socialism were able to motivate millions and change the course of history.

White Nationalists are willing to put racial altruism above their own immediate self interest. Some have given their lives in pursuit of their ideal racial utopia. In the grips of a fantasy ideology, White Nationalists are able to see serious flaws in the established liberal order that mainstream commentators are unwilling to acknowledge, namely the reality of racial differences, or the negative aspects of Jewish influence on White America.

Seeing White Nationalism as a “fantasy ideology” enables White Nationalists to take a step back and reexamine their own rhetoric. It allows them to see the shortcomings of their own perspective (i.e., unrealistic short term goals, the inability to communicate with moderates, an unwillingness to engage the system) and adapt their methods to be more effective in accomplishing their goals in the real world.

The ideal would be to maximize the pluses of fantasy ideology while minimizing the minuses. Speaking for myself, I have profited from reading this book.

I suspect you will too.

About Hunter Wallace 9677 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

16 Comments

  1. I found the most interesting part of the book his discussion about how for true nationalism to exist tribalism much be ended. He sites Sparta as the first nation that overcame tribalism. He later shows how the muslim world has not left the tribal state behind.

    I read it when it first came out, so the details are a bit murky, but I remember thinking it was an excellent and very original book. He has a third book as well, which is also excellent.

  2. Moldbug-who is half-Jewish-is completely right here:
    http://foseti.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/mencius-moldbug-lawrence-auster-and-the-futility-of-conservatism/
    (…)

    Therefore, my program is to find the truth first and the power later. This means that counting heads–one, ten, a thousand, a million–is for the present entirely superfluous and irrelevant. Counting heads is building democratic power–which is, essentially, military power. I would rather have ten people, all in possession of the same absolute truth, than ten million tea partiers who agree on nothing but glittering lies and myths. For my ten is a viable government in exile–if they somehow gained power, they would keep it–whereas your ten million have no real collective identity at all. Even if they grow to a hundred million and elect all the politicians in Washington, actual power will elude them, the bureaucrats will wrap them around their fingers, and they will evaporate, disappear, and become jokes, like all 20th-century American conservative movements.

    When you have a viable program for ruling and a government in exile (ie, a real political party–every real political party is a government in exile), you have a structure which, unlike the tea parties, exudes *potential* power. It is off–completely out of power–but if you turned it on, it would work. This is naturally attractive to human beings, who all lust for power. Power is always fashionable. Fashion is always powerful. As a recent Rasmussen poll revealed, only 23% of Americans believe their government enjoys their consent–so why does it remain? Because there is no alternative. Create a viable alternative, and power will flow to it as water runs downhill.

    To pursue in any such program, of course, you have to completely abandon your liberalism. You have to stop believing in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Flag, and all that crap–the entire American political pantheon. This is not to be replaced with nihilism, of course, but with an understanding of the deeper, older European tradition.

    The best way to uphold the Constitution is to burn it, for it has long since become a mockery of itself; its authors would tolerate no such fate. Your enemies believe in naked power. When they croak the Constitution at you, answer them with a gun butt to the jaw. It is their own secret language, which they understand perfectly.

    (…)

  3. “I found the most interesting part of the book his discussion about how for true nationalism to exist tribalism much be ended. He sites Sparta as the first nation that overcame tribalism.”

    Hunter and Jackson,

    While Harris is interesting, his view is not particularly commiserate with yours. His ideal is civic cosmopolitanism, yours is ethnonationalism. The family or kinship bond that he thinks is so important to dissolve, is essential to (non-propositional) nationalism. ( L. nationem (nom. natio) “nation, stock, race,”). In this book, he basically agrees with the left — that the family and kinship bonds should be supplanted, that it is the root of evil. And transforming the family is in fact what the left has been trying to do for the past 50 years. I’m not sure that this is that model you are looking for:

    “The civilization that the United States is now called upon to defend is not America’s or even the West’s; it is the civilization created by all men and women, everywhere on the planet, who have worked to make the actual community around them less addicted to violence, more open, more tolerant, more trusting. Civilization, in this sense, is Chinese, American, African, European, and Muslim.”

  4. “A crude reader might pick up this book and dismiss it as neocon boilerplate after reading it for a few minutes.”

    A more careful reader would still see the neocon bullshit, even after a second reading.

    The notion that ideology can substitute for reality is not new. It is certainly true that “fantasy ideology” can describe much of what goes on in the still-inchoate world of “white nationalism”.

    But tribes are basic and not to be suppressed. When they have been suppressed, a rootless public becomes just as susceptible to manipulation as those with tribal allegiances, but now without the grounding in tribal reality. Take a look at how the Jews manipulate the de-tribalized Westerners today.

    Disappointing.

  5. I think an important idea here is that ‘family’ is (or is thought to be) intrinsically tied to the idea of ethnic community. So if you are tying to sell the later, your want to work with symbology of the former. This of course is why the Liberal-left is so bent on creating alternative family structures.

    I quoted Haidt before:
    “Tönnies referred to the traditional pattern of social relations as “Gemeinschaft,” which is usually translated as “community.” Gemeinschaft relationships rest on the three pillars (whether real or imagined) of shared blood, shared place, and shared mind or belief. The prototype of Gemeinschaft is the family, and the family (particularly the patriarchal family) is easily scaled up to create larger Gemeinschaft institutions such as the Catholic Church or the feudal system. Tönnies labeled the new, more impersonal kind of relationship “Gesellschaft,” which is usually translated as “society” or “civil society.” Gesellschaft is what happens when the social restraints of community are weakened, mid-level institutions are eliminated, and people are largely free to pursue their own goals as they see fit. Gesellschaft relationships are “characterized by a high degree of individualism, impersonality, [and] contractualism, and [they proceed] from volition or sheer interest rather than from the complex of affective states, habits, and traditions that underlies Gemeinschaft”

  6. Spectator said:
    “A more careful reader would still see the neocon bullshit, even after a second reading….”

    Well said. Lee is selling the glories of propositional nationalism. Let me quote from page 131:

    “This form of cosmopolitanism we call team cosmopolitanism. It may be said to exist in any community in which membership is given to anyone who is prepared to accet and internalize the ground rules of this community, regardless of the particularly ethnic background. Team comopolitanism does not aim at creating a community of all human beings on the planet but at creating a society where membershi is open to all who wish to embrace the team ethos of their new community. Team cosmopolitanism is, and has been, the fundemental organizing principle of the united states.” [My comment: has it really? As in the 1790 naturalization clause?]

    “In the unitied states membership in the club of citizens is not denied to anyone because of mere nature or because of his status in anything anyone might care to call the natural order. [Paraphrase:] American’s strength in the world arises from this” [My comment: as opposed to the accumulated social, human, and cultural capital of the pre-propositional national America?]

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that he is wrong. But he surely would think your aspirations are.

  7. @ “civilizations die because of what he calls ‘forgetfulness.’ White Nationalists will be inclined to agree with this analysis. Civilizations are built by tough, virtuous, practical men. They are lost by their degenerate, effete descendants”

    It’s far more deeper than mere “forgetfulness.” Will Durant put it rightly: Civilizations are born stoic and die epicurean” (i.e., they die immersed in hedonistic, new age beliefs): what happened to the Roman Empire.

    As to whether fantasy ideology “cuts both ways”, now that I’m reading Michael O’Meara’s recently published Toward the White Republic I must say that thus guy is a Cassandra. He’s absolutely right: a numinous vision always precedes the galvanizing of the collective unconscious, and the mere idea of a white ethno-state reminds me the Latin saying sic volo, sic jubeo (Thus I will, thus I command).

    In the 16th century the English believed they had replaced the Jews as the chosen nation: an important factor in American history which also helped Elizabethan England in their fight against Catholic Spain. O’Meara powerful book demonstrates that what moves societies is not scientific fact, e.g. IQ studies of blacks versus whites, but myths. Only myths can galvanize the collective unconscious of a nation. Homer’s epic hypnotized the minds of the ancient Greeks, not the geometric discoveries of the Ionia scientists and philosophers.

    For John Winthrop the previous American colonies had failed because they were carnal and irreligious. He believed that only an enterprise founded on religion had a chance to thrive.

    Even if God doesn’t exist and Christianity is ultimately false, Winthrop was right. In 1630 he gathered a float that parted toward what he and his enthusiastic company perceived as an escape from Egypt for the Promised Land. It is beyond doubt that the spirit that animated all of these men and women was not economic but an impulse of a religious order. A “City upon a Hill” watched by the world was the myth that galvanized the community. Once on American soil, and in sharp contrast to present-day Americans’ aid after the 2010 Haiti quake, Winthrop was delighted when receiving the news that North American Indians were being decimated as a result of smallpox. It was clear to them that God had accepted their right to occupy the land. Something similar happened down the South with the Spaniards’ Catholic myth during the conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires.

    Winthrop’s success resolved a mystery for me. Why were the English so reluctant to establish themselves in America even a century after Columbus’ discovery while the relatively more primitive Spanish and the Portuguese had already created vast empires? The answer is patently clear: they lacked a truly galvanizing story that conferred them a definite self-image and consequent self-esteem.

    Something similar could be said of the Great Awakening in America’s 1730s. An awakening is what whites desperately need today, albeit one based upon a different kind of myth.

    Toward the White Republic is more than a must read. Copies of this slim yet potent book could be given to our friends and acquaintances as part of the process that might catalyze whites’ collective unconscious for still another Big Awakening.

  8. Obviously, I am of the view that “team cosmopolitanism” has been pushed to an unreasonable extreme, one that threatens to collapse the American experiment altogether within our lifetimes.

    Liberty is a good thing. Equality is a good thing. Tolerance is a good thing … in moderation. These ideals have to be balanced by other considerations like the integrity of the community.

    Within a White ethnostate, I would find none of these concepts objectionable. I like open debate. I wouldn’t want to live under a bunch of pretentious White aristocrats. I like being in control of my own life.

    But that doesn’t mean I endorse social equality, the abolition of borders, the destruction of government, gutting morality in the name of tolerance, and so forth.

  9. According to Harris, civilizations die because of what he calls “forgetfulness.” White Nationalists will be inclined to agree with this analysis. Civilizations are built by tough, virtuous, practical men. They are lost by their degenerate, effete descendants who lose touch with reality and their own natural instincts.

    He’s absolutely right. This is easy for a Constitutionalist to see, too. Write whatever you want on that document, it’s meaningless once men have forgotten what it means.

  10. Svigor, if that was you commenting on that Roissy article the other day, my hat’s off to you. That series of comments was stellar.

  11. Hunter:”I’ve made no secret of my belief that most intellectuals are a complete waste of time. In Civilization and Its Enemies, Harris explains how misguided intellectuals can be transformed into enemies of civilization. This is a theme he greatly expands upon in his most recent book. It was helpful to go back and read his earlier work to see how his thinking has evolved on the subject.”

    One person’s “misguided intellectual” who is an “enemy of civilization” is another person’s righteous truth-teller who seeks to repair or save civilization. No doubt the current corrupt ruling class of The West considers all modern pro-White/pro-Western activists that engage in various intellectual activities to be “misguided intellectuals” who are the “enemies of civilization.”

    It’s a matter of perspective, especially when there are legitimate grievances: it is not we, but rather they, who are the enemies of civilization because they are the ones who have flooded Western nations with endless numbers of non-White consumers and workers/taxpayers of any and all racial/ethnic backgrounds just to keep their fake anti-Western plutocratic slave-state propped up for a few more years longer. In the future they will be forced to become progressively less ‘democratic’ and more totalitarian in order to keep it functioning in any decent capacity, just as happened during the waning of the Roman Empire: we’ve already seen the beginnings of this in legislation such as the Patriot Act and so on.

    If the current ruling class hadn’t sold out The West racially, socially, politically, economically, etc we wouldn’t have to be here on this website intellectualizing and seeking to figure out how to best salvage and repair what is left of our race and civilization. Again, they are the ones who have subverted and revolted against civilization, not us. The best argument against the current American ruling class – which as we all known is composed heavily of ethnic Jews and their bought-off lackeys – is that they are running the USA in to a ditch, ruining the nation on many levels: though primarily in a permanent racial sense. It’s really that simple: the USA has degenerated to such an extreme under their leadership, under their watch since at least the FDR Administration (likely even before). Just a terrible CEO and/or Board of Directors of a near-ruined corporation would be ousted by its furious shareholders, we have the right to oust those who have racially ruined our nations, our economies, our political systems, mass media, academia, etc…otherwise the rot will continue apace.

    “misguided intellectuals can be transformed into enemies of civilization.”

    Harris might’ve got that idea from Nathaniel Weyl [Jewish], and Weyl likely lifted the idea from somebody else (since throughout history Jews have so often been lifters of other people’s ideas); in his short article “Envy and Aristocide,” Weyl remarks on how ‘alienated intellectuals’ very often serve as catalysts of revolutionary movements:

    Alienated Intellectuals as Catalysts – The leadership element of revolutions is rarely composed of indignant peasants or enraged lupenproletarians. It generally consists of frustrated, alienated and misguided intellectuals, without whom the envy of the masses would remain directionless, nothing more than sullen and silent resentment. Alienated intellectuals serve as catalysts, inciting and actuating the prevalent sentiment of envy, providing it with a seemingly legitimate target, even gracing it with an ideology and a meretricious sort of moral justification. Yet many converts to totalitarian movements themselves come from the upper and middle classes. They belong not to the ranks of the enviers, but to those of the envied. How does one explain this paradox?’ – http://www.eugenics.net/papers/eb6.html

  12. I haven’t read anything by Lee Harris, but based on this review, I’d say the man is an arrogant, liberal, pompous ass in the Tony Blair vein.

    First, he overstates the threat posed to the West by Muslims, which is also the Jewish Zionist modus operandi. Then, he creates a fictional narrative in which the average Muslim is rolling in petro-dough, instead of the reality that the average Muslim is dirt poor. He also ignores the fact that the post-Christian West is economically based on fiat-currency and electronic credit, which is even less tangible than petro-dollars, since it is no longer backed by gold as it used to be, but now backed by guns (ie the US military). And those guns are most often shoved in Islamic faces to “make an example” of them, and to control their resources, and to advance the Jewish supremacist agenda, and for no other purpose whatsoever. He also celebrates “cosmopolitanism,” which is code for Jew-worship.

    All and all, the guy is apparently just another liberal, post-Christian swindler of the Shyster Class type that has parasitically lived off of and simultaneously sold out the good credit established by the Christian West over the course of centuries…just another crypto-Jew or Jew collaborator, like Tony Blair and his ilk.

Comments are closed.