Ernst Jünger versus Metapolitics
Text written by Miguel A. Fernandez
The origin of the concept metapolitics is rooted in the studies of the Groupement de recherche et d'études pour la civilisation européenne, G.R.E.C.E (Research and Study Group for European Civilization) that was founded in France in 1968, as a circle of intellectuals who from a cultural standpoint aimed to define new European political paths, and this group was composed mainly of journalists, historians, writers and political philosophers. Here, the term metapolitics was inspired by the works of Italian Marxist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), who presents in his writings the thesis that political and cultural power go hand in hand.
As a Marxist, Gramsci´s reference point for critique is naturally the values embraced by the bourgeoisie, and the Italian writer observes that in recent History the bourgeoisie classes succeeded in keeping up their political power upon the lower social strata at the same time they propagated a worldview that is highly ideological in nature. And in effect, if one observes the style of power effectuated by the bourgeoisie in the West during the last two centuries, the correlation that Gramsci points out between culture and political power seems quite undeniable; the bourgeois gained power through the imposition of very specific cultural and ideological standards that mostly derived from the Enlightenment (rationalism, economicism, materialism, etc.) in combination with a highly moralistic conception on human action, human values and religious ideals. This was the “pedagogy” that the bourgeois operated on the minds of the working strata as a form of coercing their spirit. But one key nuance that ought to be pointed out here, which was excellently developed by Ernst Jünger in his essay Der Arbeiter (1931), is that there are structures of technical power present in modern society that can´t be intellectually assimilated and mastered through the bourgeois cultural “superstructure”, and yet are much more manageable by types trained in the novel procedures of techno-science and engineering. Jünger referred to the figure capable of handling these novel technical powers as the Worker, although in all volumes of Operative Traditions it was opted to translate into English such concept as the Operator, in order to define a demarcation between the particular style of Jünger´s figure and the common bourgeois economic perspective on work.
Jünger´s vision on the novel structures of power, in parallel to the influence of these novel techniques in the configuration of the modern State are today of precious value. These insights show that effective power progressively released in modernity from most cultural frameworks inherited from the past, and becomes much more of a technical/technocratic nature. And Jünger´s main thesis was demonstrated in fact, since the 20th century has shown the rapid raise of technocracy into the positions of power, and also has shown the progressive surrendering of the bourgeois classes to a mere subordinate position, mostly at the level of State-nation government, no longer having the power capable of concentrating capital as they had during the 19th century in Europe.
As an inevitable conclusion of the latter, any intellectual approach to politics and the State must necessarily incorporate the decisive influence of technique in the conditions of modern power. This also implies an analysis of the power of State-nation administration and bureaucracy, especially in a world as today´s where data centers worldwide are monopolizing all information. And yet in the metapolitics developed by G.R.E.C.E there is very little discussion on these key issues, and the debate mostly focuses in a speculative approach to the conditions of power, and not in an operative one. In other words, it is naively taken for granted that the activity of publishing texts and essays has the power to modify social consciousness, yet this assumption dismisses the fact that literacy itself is a technique, it is what Marshall McLuhan referred to as the “Gutenberg´s galaxy”(1) that has been vastly superseded by more powerful architectures, or as Jünger points out: “the accuracy and speed by which any party newspaper reaches its readers are much more significant than the differences between parties we can consider”(2).
There ought to be extreme caution in supposing that a mere change in dialectics can cause a change in cultural and political values. Rather, in most cases it is the other way around, this is, it is the modification of both the State and the spirit of time what determine the political validity or not of a given cultural expression or political science. In this regard it is very instructive the case of Karl Marx, who by having captured very accurately the mechanisms that were operating in modern industry during the 19th century, finally succeeded in providing a dialectical expression to such processes. The dialectical identification of these processes is what finally allowed effective political action, in a similar way as how learning theory of circuits provides a chance to control electricity. We can either agree or not with Marx´s worldviews, but what is worth recalling of his work is that it´s materialistic presuppositions (both dialectical and historical) allowed his thought to disregard the idealist/abstract philosophy of his age and focus in the processes operating in reality. This is the first requirement in order to avoid the pernicious dualism that derives from Judeo-Christianity and that constantly defines a gap between the phenomena we experience with our senses and the transcendent forces that determine such phenomena. Curiously enough, the dualistic view of the cosmos was criticized by some members of the G.R.E.C.E, as Alain de Benoist (3) and yet in practice their metapolitics is itself burdened by dualism, since all its political speculation is uprooted from the technical phenomena that in our times are decisively impregnating every single economic and sociopolitical process.
Text extracted from Operative Traditions I
(1) As Marshall McLuhan wrote in the 60s: “In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole: of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action. It is no longer possible to adopt the aloof and dissociated role of the literate Westerner” Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man. The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England 1994
(2) “die Präzision und die Geschwindigkeit, mit der jedes beliebige Parteiblatt an seine Leser gelangt, als alle Parteiunterschiede, die man sich ausdenken mag.” Ernst Jünger. Der Arbeiter. Ernst Klett, Stuttgart 1981. Klett-Cotta, 136
(3) As Alain de Benoist writes: “all of Judeo-Christian theology rests on the separation of the created being (the world) from the uncreated being (God). The Absolute is not the World. The first source of creation is entirely distinct from nature. The world is not divine” Alain de Benoist. On Being a Pagan. Ultra 2004, 23