Saturday, June 3, 2017

Degeneracy in the Age of Enlightenment and Beyond: The Trailblazing Neoreactionary Sociology of John Brown by Doug Smythe

The new Reaction, they say, entails a “full reboot of the social sciences.” A new body of knowledge, in the course of drawing epistemic lines of demarcation around itself, does not simply wipe the slate clean of all past traditions and knowledges; rather, in the process of demarcation, it defines for itself what Michel Foucault called a “field of memory” in the form of a scholarly canon that identifies important pioneers and precursors in past authors marginalized or ignored in the field of memory of the previous paradigm. These authors are thus made to return from oblivion in the dust of archives, and resurrected to live once again in a new intellectual tradition. Reading an author made to come back to life this way is very different from a history of ideas that, so to speak, is content to read the epitaph on the intellectual gravestone of a hallowed but long-dead ancestor. To read an author revived and replaced in the living chain of a new tradition means doing more than reverently summarizing his ideas and leaving it at that; it means critically interrogating his ideas, unhesitatingly pointing out their flaws and limitations, and indicating where the new thinking must be willing to go far beyond him.
The emerging new sociological paradigm defines research problems and questions in terms of how society, understood as something indispensably defined by hierarchical structures and relations of authority that cannot be abolished or even abstracted away for purposes of analysis, either secures orderly functioning within and between the levels and components of the hierarchy, or fails to and so visits upon itself negative outcomes of a greater or lesser degree of severity. An early exemplar of this very approach was John Brown's Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times, published in London in 1757, famous in its day but today only known to a handful of social and intellectual historians, and totally ignored in standard-model social science—until right here and now that is. Won't you join and help him live again so we can hear what he has to say about grave social problems of his times, and moreover bring him into the conversation about the problems of our own?
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