The Fourth Political Theory
By: Alexander Dugin
This book is not for the faint of heart. A stem-winder of metaphysics, deep right thought, and mysticism, Alexander Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory launches salvo after salvo at the ascendant (but degenerate) liberalism of the day and its perceived progenitor: the United States. Dugin came to my attention about a month ago after listening to a podcast in which he discussed his work and his philosophical orientations.
Often credited as the architect of Putin’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy as well as his intensely conservative domestic policies, Dugin’s hodgepodge offerings in The Fourth Political Theory are precisely what one would expect—incredible antagonism towards the West in general and the United States in particular, incoherent calls for the resurrection of long dead Traditionalism, eschewal of progress, technological skepticism, and ultimately the resurgence of a “Eurasianist” Russia that presides over an unstable coalition composed of the “liberal” West’s enemies.
The book while decently written, is at the same time pedantic and esoteric. The book’s main premise is this: the 20th saw the rise of predominant political ideologies, each vying for supremacy: liberalism (the subject of which is the individual), communism (the subject of which is class), and fascism (the subject of which is the state). Fascism in Dugin’s view, died a quick death in its infancy due to the horrific legacies of such characters as Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. Communism enjoyed a much longer shelf life but perished nonetheless; this death was signaled by the 1991 collapse of the former Soviet Union. Liberalism, as the first political theory and heir to the Enlightenment, vanquished the second and third theories and stepped into the political void where it now exists unchallenged, as an assumption rather than a proposition:
“When liberalism transforms from being an ideological arrangement to the only content of our extant social and technological existence, then it is no longer an ‘ideology,’ but an existential fact, and objective order of things.”
Ultimately, Dugin views each of these philosophies as failures. Fascism was too racist and bloody; communism was too godless and materialistic. However, he is particularly angry with liberalism, as it has cut ties with Tradition and now advances its world view as the only acceptable and viable world view, to disastrous results. To Dugin, liberalism disregards difference in order to impose a uniform set of values on the world and contains an inherent chauvinism that causes it to view the wholesale acceptance of its values as right and inevitable. He scorns the “unipolarity” that liberalism creates and its philosophy of self-aggrandizement, radical individualism, irreligion, and Western chauvinism. Dugin attempts to separate the wheat from the chaff of the three discarded ideologies in the interests of discovering a kernel of truth within each one to create a new, syncretic political ideology and an appropriate new subject for this ideology: The Fourth Political Theory. This theory places itself in opposition to “postmodernity, the postindustrial society, liberal thought realized in practice, and globalization, as well as its logistical and technological bases.” The theory is fundamentally atavistic, Traditional, essentially religious, and admittedly irrational.
The book begins on a strong note with its takedowns of the three political philosophies and its accurate descriptions of the grotesqueries that unchecked liberalism has visited upon the world. The book is also correct in calling for a return to traditional modes and mores through religion, hierarchy, and family, but its interest ends there. Dugin’s true apocalyptic agenda is quickly revealed: (1) the destruction of America (2) the destruction of the individual (3) bringing about the end of days with a concomitant return to pre-rational modes of existence. Quoth Dugin:
“We must strike the individual, abolish him, and cast him into the periphery of political considerations.”
“Liberalism must be defeated and destroyed, and the individual must be thrown off his pedestal.”
“Only a global crusade against the US, the West, globalization, and their political-ideological expression, liberalism, is capable of becoming an adequate response”
“If someone deprives us of our freedom, we have to react. And we will react. The American Empire should be destroyed.”
Dugin is essentially a leftist whose critique of the Left comes from even further left. His “traditionalism” is simply the mask that his reconstituted version of communalism wears, as evidenced by his opposition to development, to the individual and to progress. When Dugin cites “traditionalism,” he’s not referring to traditionalism in the context of developed societies; he’s referring to tradition as it would have developed in the Paleolithic age. Tradition as it naturally occurs in the state of nature. Dugin would be more than happy to throw the world into a second Dark Age, to cut down the tree of modernity, negatives and positives alike, rather than simply prune its decayed branches.
Ultimately, the book fails on several fronts. Dugin regularly conflates “liberalism” and “leftism,” using them interchangeably throughout the book. “Leftism” is a cancer, on this we can agree. Or do we? Are we talking about the “leftism” that has given rise to transsexualism, feminism, repressive tolerance, gay rights, transhumanism, identity politics and etc.? Or are we referring to “liberalism,” which brought the world concepts of limited government, property rights, freedom of speech and conscience, due process, and equality before the law? While The Fourth Political Theory correctly concludes that certain features of postmodernity are absolutely repugnant, it does not properly distinguish between the two and thus mischaracterizes the cause. Furthermore, Dugin does not establish why tradition would be incompatible with Enlightenment principles.
We can agree that the West, and the US in particular is now like a patient with a gangrenous limb. The limb represents the forces of ultra-leftist postmodernity that has brought the world a veritable circus of degeneracy, the fifth column that is destroying the West from within. Where we diverge, however, is how we choose to treat this patient. As one who despises the leftward tendency of the West and believes in tradition, I believe that the patient (the West) can be saved were the dead limb to be cut off and the wound cauterized. Dugin would rather euthanize the patient in order to give the hospital bed to another patient (Russia and its coalition of Traditionalists). Dugin opts to ignore the existence of this fifth column and imputes their perverse agenda to the entirety of the West, using this as a pretext to call for the West’s destruction. Indeed, rather than identifying the globalist Left for what it is—the source of both the decay and the increasing unipoliarity of the world—Dugin extends the olive branch to the Left, confusingly inviting it to join his coalition of Tradition as an ally.
Furthermore, his denunciation of the US is based upon a conception of the US that has not really existed in 70 years. Dugin sees the US as an imperialist power, eager to spread its values of materialism and liberalism at all costs. However, a quick look at the US puts the lie to this claim. The Obama Presidency has seen the adoption of European style socialism in the arenas of health care and trade. It has seen the liberalization of relations with illiberal regimes that had long been sanctioned. It has also seen the US throwing off the mantle of “global police officer,” and withdrawing further into its own hemisphere where it disembowels itself to atone for its “privilege.” Above all, this presidency has seen the acceleration of leveraging, miring the country further and further in debt. America is running on fumes. America is not the powerhouse of Duginian fantasy and nightmare.
Of concern also is the nouveau ethno-Marxism that he proposes as “traditionalism,” that relies upon an unstable coalition of “the Rest” against the West, the adherents of tradition versus the agents of postmodern destruction:
“Politically, 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.”
“Another question is the structure of a possible anti-globalist and anti-imperialist front and its participants. I think that we should include in it all forces that struggle against the West . . . [t]his means Muslims, Christians, Russians, and Chinese, both Leftists and Rightists, the Hindus and the Jews who challenge the present state of affairs…”
In accepting all cultures antagonistic to the West (and to each other) regardless of common values or features, Dugin also accepts that he may be preparing to unleash forces that will ultimately be beyond his control and will begin to cannibalize the both Fourth Political Theory and the coalition before unleashing great chaos upon the world. In particular, Islam is an ideology that lusts for universal supremacy, not for alliance or coalition. These pronouncements make it clear that Dugin is not opposed to unipolarity per se: he’s opposed to a unipolar world led by the US and the West. He’s fine with a relatively unipolar world with Russia at the helm and a cavalcade of assorted cultures bringing up the rear.
Ultimately, the Fourth Political Theory’s greatest failure is the fact that it remains open by design and unfinished. The Fourth Political Theory, in Dugin’s own words is “contemplation.” It is not action, it is not design, it is simply thought and wishful apocalyptic thinking. The Fourth Political Theory is a book that promises but never delivers.