The Roots of Cultural Liberalism

The is a pretty good summary.

I’ve never seen post-liberals, reactionaries or White Nationalists bring up the true origins of cultural liberalism: the immoralists and decadent aesthetes of late 19th century Europe. It was the avant-garde that made transgression against bourgeois moral norms fashionable.

The following excerpt comes from Henry F. May’s book The End of American Innocence, 1912-1917:

“It was not the fervent romanticism of an earlier period, though it drew on the romanticism of all times. The new believers in art did not expect, as Coleridge had for instance, that intuition would transfigure and illuminate the universe. They did not hope, like Ruskin, that beauty would ennoble society. Art did not necessarily lead to to any truth but its own; there might not be any other kind of truth for it to lead to. Aesthetic values, down to the last delicate nuance, must be cultivated for their own sakes, desperately, without regard to ordinary morality, if necessary at the cost of madness and despair.

In 1857, the same year that Flaubert published Madame Bovary, caricaturing the old romanticism, Charles Baudelaire inaugurated the new with Flowers of Evil, the bible of the antimoralists. Unlike many of his followers, Baudelaire meant what he said and was superbly able to say it. In his famous invocation he recognized as the worst of mental monsters, the most likely source of horror and destruction, an apparition fully familiar to Europeans in the nineteenth century but hardly glimpsed in busy America: Ennui.

Baudelaire and his followers made a cult of Edgar Allan Poe, admiring in him exactly the qualities which American critics continually deplored: his febrile intensity, his love of exotic and bizarre subjects, his rejection of modern civilization, and his insistence that “Poetry” was independent of moral judgment. For three quarters of a century after Baudelaire, a series of schools of poets moved further into many kinds of moral and technical experiment. French verse, fertile, various, and brilliant, experimental in both form and point of view, became the single most importance influence on Western Literature. Its great figures, particularly Mallarmé, Verlaine, and Rimbaud, became the heroes and martyrs of the aesthetic cause in all countries except America. These poets, different as they were, had in common at least a new kind of devotion to art, a dedication so proud, so intense, and so exclusive, that it seemed simply insane to surviving believers in material progress.

Toward the end of the century European aestheticism, or part of it, branched off the main road into decadence. The distinction is not precise; perhaps it is only one of seriousness and intensity. Defying conventional morality became, instead of a desperate necessity for a few, a fashion. Conscious artificiality, deliberate cultivation of the perverse and excessive were the hallmarks of decadence. Perhaps the epitome was the overrated, languid, black-mass foolishness of Joris-Karl Huysmans. Even matter-of-fact England had her amoral aesthetes; from Victorian preachers of beauty the path led through Swinburne to the brief vogue of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. Witty and courageous, the London decadents were fundamentally trivial and imitative. When the public learned that Wilde had defied its standards in action as well as words, the movement collapsed. On the continent, however, aestheticism experimented, even the extremes of decadence continued in vogue. Everywhere in Europe the picture of the artist, drawn by himself, was familiar to the bourgeoisie.

The revolt against nineteenth-century progress and morality took a more vigorous form in Germany with Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche, who continually prophesied that he would be misunderstood, has been made into many things, including an old-fashioned idealist in disguise and a modern naturalist. If he was an idealist, the disguise was a good one; if he was a naturalist, his kind of naturalism was new in Western culture. God, he announced, was dead, which was not at all the same thing as saying that He had never existed. Science was dying, too, and intelligent men, having realized that it could never get very close to reality, were abandoning it.

Nietzsche, in contrast to his predecessor Schopenhauer, and in contrast to the antimoralist aesthetes, was called an optimist, a great yea-sayer. Again, if he was an optimist, it was in his own terms only. Progress, utility, reason, democracy – the things on which modern civilization prided itself, were to Nietzsche symptoms of sickness and approaching death: joy and health lay only in the self-fulfilling and self-transcending individual. For him there was hope, but only if he boldly threw aside the restraints of Christian morality. The abandonment of outward cruelty and selfishness had been a dreadful error, a source of inward sickness, the result of a plot by the feeble and cunning against the strong and beautiful. Only by moral revolution, by a reversal of values, could man recover tragedy, his only real kind of happiness.

In his long and tortured search for a new god to replace the old one, Nietzsche considered and rejected art as well as science. The true principle of reality was the will to power, present in all things and reaching its highest form in the noble, overcoming, superman. Thus Nietzsche cannot be classified with aesthetes except in a very broad sense. What he had in common with them was their enemy: modern culture. In this sense Nietzsche’s “joyful wisdom” was a part of the same great turn in the history of European thought.

In the period of its apparent triumph, the modern world and its values – humanitarian progress, comfort, and conventional morality, values often identified with America – were violently rejected by scattered groups of intellectuals. The true morality, these sad protesters agreed, lay in experience and its expression for their own sake, not in success but in tragedy and transcendence.”

About Hunter Wallace 9628 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

18 Comments

  1. If we are facing total social breakdown, I doubt anybody is going to be searching for the reason in late 19th century art culture.

    This content doesn’t seem to be only detaching from the election politics of current year, something everyone is probably already sick of, it seems to be departing from reality wholly.

    As tempting as it is to look for any way possible to get away from the insanity and evil by trying to rationalize it, categorize it, establish a taxonomy for its components, a nomenclature etc., in the end its still just escapism.

    In a real scenario of social breakdown, nobody is going to have the luxury of navel gazing. Will I, at my federal show trial for racism and badthink, attempt to expound on the origin of modernism, or claim to be engaged in an avant-garde repudiation of bourgeois social norms of color blindness?

    When they put me against a wall, in front of my family, I’ll have to decide if I say goodbye, or remind them I was right about the origin of our social decay, before some Antifa executioner shoots me in the face.

    Escapism is decadence manifest in mentality.

    Utility is an imperative of the living.

    Are we already dead? Is that why the dissident right has been so gay this past year or so?

    Wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t get the memo, as I still don’t follow any of this crap on social media, where undoubtedly everyone is spending all of their time judging by the number of tweets linked in everybody’s articles.

    Is everybody there on twitter waxxing philosophical? I mean besides Antifa, who actually exhibit will to power and are busy taking power at a local level, understanding fully that power at the federal level is pointless in a fragmenting system in late stage social decay.

    I’m pretty sure Neetch, if he saw us today would call us a bunch of fags.

    I’ve got a family to provide for. None of this is going to feed them or put a roof over them. At some point it becomes time to put aside childish things.

    I suggest uninstalling twitter.

      • They want your humanity, your humanness must be destroyed, the Christ in you must be extinguished. Don’t give in, refuse to become what they want you to be and want you to become, the beast, the animal, that which is without reason and that which kills and destroys without reason. Refuse.

      • My suggestions:

        1) Shift your attention to trying to fill the shoes of Jack Corbin, who was our greatest antifa hunter to date. You have a great head for this kind of thing. Identifying and pressuring authorities over guys like Michael Forest Reinoehl, who are committing these crimes with impunity. Did you notice the organized hit team that was in on this? They had multiple vehicles spotting, a guy picking up shell casings, a litteral finger guy pointing out “Trump Guys”. This was organized, coordinated and the timing of his death, hours after his admission to it in the vice interview was more than suspicious.

        2) Shift your attention to local races for Sheriff in key areas. Sheriffs of county’s are a much more local and accountable source of governance than any other. How is the best way to organize to sway those elections?

        3) What is a good way to put away emergency food without spending 5k on MRE’s? Alot of young familys have no idea about this kind of thing. How was this done 50 years ago? Whats a good balance of rations to keep?

        4) How do castle doctrine laws work in various states? How do you find this kind of thing out?

        5) Whats a good number of gallons of gas to store in to keep it from going sour?

        6) Do you have any thoughts on TRS starting a political party? What is the viability of such a thing at local level?

        7) Strategy for purchasing land to get out of the cities.

        8) Buy or Build? Low low interest rates present a huge opportunity for young folks with agency.

        9) Start a family in the next year? Wait for a bit and save money?

        10) Get married?

        11) Hell, an article where you interview someone about how to set up a handpress to reload 9mm ammo. God knows you can’t buy that anywhere hardly anymore.

        12) What states, for guys that aren’t tied down, are good prospects to relocate to and why?

        There are any number of things that would actually be helpful and interesting.

        Start interviewing people if you can’t get motivated to write stuff that is uplifting or helpful.

        Anything but this.

        • Excellent. Agreed. You’ve said in your first post(much better than I could) what I’ve been thinking about all this.

        • Badshoe, this kind of grug practical wisdom fits our site nicely. If you’d like to contribute, hit us up at upic.works. You just gave me a post’s worth of good material.

          Hunter, love your work, but Shoe is right here – hunkering down for The Big Sleepy Orange Kabuki Collapse is what we on the Right always do to ourselves while Antifa et al are making Will to Power moves and maintaining the initiative.

  2. Brad, Brad, Brad….. Why are you searching among the dung of human opinion, when you know the answer lies elsewhere?

    And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. I Kings 18:21

  3. But is not “Adamkind”-ism (the unorthodox belief that only SOME ethnic groups – “true Israelites” and other Whites – are truly human and capable of regeneration (salvation), other groups being mostly or all incapable and predestined to Hell) a human opinion too?

  4. I don’t know if any of you have seen this. I stopped watching Fooseball 4 years ago, but it came across my news feed. JJ Watt is apparently confused as to why the crowd was booing the “moment of silence for racial justice”.

    I’m more confused as to why the people that are booing are even there in the first place. It’s clear that all professional sports are woke now and don’t deserve a dime of our money.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/texans-j-j-watt-on-boos-during-moment-of-unity-with-chiefs-don-t-fully-understand-that/ar-BB18VSHx?ocid=msedgdhp

  5. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy the idea that Romanticism led us to what we are today. You made an argument that revolting against the bourgeois is what kind of led us to where are. If that were the case, then Baroque would be considered degenerate because it was a counter-reaction to Rococo. Nobody considered the Baroque period to be degenerate.

    Degeneracy is not linear. Peter Paul Rubens was an early Baroque artist and did art way more shocking than any the Romantics could dream of hundreds of years later. He did not directly influence them despite his enormous impact in art history.

    I understand from all your posts you wish to return to a pre-modernism / pre-post-modernism world. Which is never going to happen. The world is not going to return to 15th-16th century colonialism and Catholic supremacy. I wasn’t sure that’s what you are advocating, maybe it wasn’t, perhaps you are yearning for an age even older than that?

    I mentioned this before, the “dissident right” has been bashing the constitution and “legal documents” and “freedom” as a degenerate distraction for the past few years, but in reality, our individual freedoms is our greatest treasure. Why? Freedom does not equal degeneracy. All freedom means is that you are not forced to be ruled by another man. Which is why I keep going back to Richard Spencer, the poster boy of “fash”. That clown endorsed Biden because he is a weak man who wants to be ruled. He wants to be ruled so badly, he will even let his enemies and persecutors rule over him. That’s why I keep making the argument that the “dissident right” is now a clown movement, because it followed in the foot steps of weak minded men like Spencer.

    In my humble opinion, I think the “dissident right” needs to ease up on the “muh individualism is degenerate” mantra. That’s what I gather from these intellectual articles that are posted, that individualism somehow led us to where we are today…when it was actually collectivism…communism.

    • I don’t think you understand what I am saying here at all.

      1.) By “neo-romanticism,” May is referring to Modernism.

      2.) Modernism was inspired by a hatred and loathing of 19th century bourgeois culture. That’s where the spirit of the avant-garde comes from. It is not simply a reaction to Romanticism. Transgression is central to Modernism. It wants to tear down traditional culture.

      3.) This is not comparable to Baroque or Rococo. Dynamiting the moral and cultural foundations of society in order to “liberate” the individual to engage in self absorption is degenerate. It is degenerate because it fundamentally rejects society.

      4.) Nothing happened in the 17th century that is comparable to the collapse of Christianity in the 20th century or the repression of ethnicity in the name of liberal values.

      5.) You are confusing Modernism – an aesthetic and cultural shift in late 19th/early 20th century Europe – with Modernity. They are not the same thing. Modernity would be the West as it has existed since around 1492. Early Modern would be from 1492 to 1789. The Modern world would be the West since the French Revolution. Modernism is specifically a cultural shift that began in the late 19th century and became dominant in the West in the early 20th century. It is our present age which began at the end of the Victorian era.

      6.) I’ve actually been drawing a distinction between liberalism and modernism. The former is an ideology that has been around in various forms since the Enlightenment. The latter is the sensibility of our own age.

      7.) As I have pointed out a thousand times now, liberalism doesn’t have an immune system. It is a cultural solvent. It weakens our culture and allows it to be infected by other things like political correctness.

      8.) Richard Spencer is correct that the Trump presidency has been devastating.

      9.) Expressive individualism is one of the major reasons that we are where we are today. The typical normie is lost in self absorption and nihilism, not communism. He isn’t a collectivist. He is detached from his own ethnic group. He doesn’t have a positive sense of ethnic identity.

    • “when it was actually collectivism…communism.”
      lol
      Every corporation in America would happily bar you from employment, communications, banking, food, light and water for just posting on this website.
      But you’re gonna be their barking poodle, fighting for Capital. You’re living in a dead era. Hyper-capitalism is by far the biggest threat in 2020. Capitalism is acid that must, by nature, dissolve and profane everything.

      “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto

      • “Every corporation in America would happily bar you from employment, communications, banking, food, light and water for just posting on this website.
        But you’re gonna be their barking poodle, fighting for Capital. You’re living in a dead era. Hyper-capitalism is by far the biggest threat in 2020. Capitalism is acid that must, by nature, dissolve and profane everything.” – Tim

        I am a pro-union populist, When I am talking about Marxism I am mostly talking about cultural Marxism, not economic Marxism. I hate corporations. I am a hard worker not because I want to line the pockets of the company I work for. I work hard because hard work gives me dignity.

        Comments like yours is why the “dissident right” has descended into what it is now. Weak men need to be ruled by other men. No man rules me. I am my own man.

        See my comment below where I call Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon the most evil man in the world. I am not a corporate hack.

      • “Hyper-capitalism is by far the biggest threat in 2020. Capitalism is acid that must, by nature, dissolve and profane everything”:

        That is the correct view, and it’s even Biblical. Key verse: “The love of money is the root of all this evil.”

  6. I’m going to go off topic a bit but I want to touch up on the JQ.

    From my observations, there are Whites who have been just as dangerous to their fellow Whites as some Jews have been to Whites. Jeff Bezos is probably the biggest scumbag in the contemporary world and he is White. He has pillaged our economy (especially during this pandemic which profited off of), owns mega-Marxist mouth-pieces like the Washington Post, funds all kinds of degenerate movements and politicians. Bill Gates, Jeff Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsy do the same pillaging of our culture and economy as Jeff Bezos but not nearly to his extent. Out of these 4 tech lords that control our world, only one is a Jew.

    After working in a high paying job in Knoxville a couple years ago, I worked with poor excuses for what would be considered “White people”. These people were so trashy (as in backstabbing and generally nasty) they made the token Black guy on the shift look good. I became friends with him, it was then that I realized that there are trash people in every race.

    There are trashy Jews, trashy Blacks, and yes, trashy Whites. There is trash in every race.

    But I believe that we need to take care of our own people before we look after the rest of the world, which is why I am a populist. I gave up on White Nationalism, I am just a nationalist.

    If we need to point the finger at someone for our demise, we need only look in the mirror. We did this to ourselves.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is this site would be better suited towards populism and nationalism in the image of European far right political parties rather than a semi-White Nationalist site.

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