Heterodoxy > Heteronomy > Anomie

Is it not inevitable that a heterodox society, wherein lots of different and irreconcilable doctrines about God, world, man, and so forth all propagate freely, will eventually lead to a contest of divers and irreconcilable notions of the proper ordering of society – to heteronomy - resulting eventually either in civil war that establishes orthodoxy, or in the recusal of the formal organs of social enactment (government, academy, press, market) from more and more of the truly important questions of morality and law (accompanied, perhaps, by their ever increasing and ever more relentless focus on unimportant or indeed even meaningless questions – questions, i.e., of pc), so that when it comes to the fundamental questions, society is more and more anomic? In an anomic society, is it really surprising that there should be widespread anomie? For, in such a society, there would be no generally accepted world view under which men could reckon the significance, value, importance, meaning of their humdrum lives, their personal tragedies and acute sacrifices.

If such devolution of heterodox societies is inevitable, then the establishment of religion looks like a no-brainer.

But, maybe it isn’t inevitable. Thoughts?

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34 thoughts on “Heterodoxy > Heteronomy > Anomie

  1. This question reflects the Christian inability to separate belief and values. This is a particularly Christian problem since most other religions are capable of separating these thing. Christianity is based on faith which means that all Christians are required to believe the same thing. Other religions are not based on faith, so members of those religions are able to have different beliefs as long as they share whatever it is that is central to the religion.

    I had to look up “anomie”, not knowing what it means. It means a lack of social norms. Social norms are the result of shared values, not shared beliefs. As long as people share values, they can share social norms regardless of how much their beliefs differ. Liberals actually have differing beliefs but shared values (values almost the exact opposite of mine). This is why Atheist Liberals, Christian Liberals, and Jewish Liberals are able to cooperate. I wish Reactionaries/Traditionalists of differing beliefs were able to cooperate so well.

    • Franklin: The meaning of “anomie” goes a little deeper than that; it refers to the atomization of society into ever-tinier social units due to that lack of social norms. The logical end of an anomic society is a confused mass of solitary individuals with no mediating institutions between themselves and the monolithic state. And this is indeed what we see: the modern state lays siege to the family and to the churches in order to destroy alternative sources of authority.

      Besides that, I am struggling to understand your point about Christianity versus other religions. Beyond the creeds (and the de fide teachings of the Church, if you are Catholic or Orthodox), Christians are free to hold whatever views they like on a wide variety of matters. It seems you are attempt to make a point relevant to Kristor’s question, but I am not at all sure what you mean by it. Could you develop it further, please, particularly your definition of “faith” (which other religions do not share), and how a belief/values distinction would help ameliorate matters?

      • Oh, hang on, I think I get your point. (I wish I could edit or delete comments.)

        “Liberals actually have differing beliefs but shared values … Atheist Liberals, Christian Liberals, and Jewish Liberals are able to cooperate. I wish Reactionaries/Traditionalists of differing beliefs were able to cooperate so well.”

        Well, sure, but this is a truism. The reason they can cooperate (as you imply) is that their liberalism is far dearer to them than their religious beliefs, which are useful only insofar as they advance liberalism. For orthodox Christians, it is the other way round: We believe in Christ and Him crucified, and all else is subordinate to that. So sure, yes. You’re right, but by asking us to lay our beliefs to the side in order to advance particular values, you are asking us to become liberals; that is, apostates.

      • The reason they can cooperate (as you imply) is that their liberalism is far dearer to them than their religious beliefs, which are useful only insofar as they advance liberalism.

        I’d go one farther and say their liberalism iss (is and only is) their religion… and doctrinal “distinctives” about the existence or nature of God amount to mere stylistic flourishes.

    • I do not see other religions separating their beliefs and values so well. Observe: Sunni vs. Shia, Tutsi vs Hutu, there is even sectarianism in Buddhism. (Obviously these conflicts also involve race and economics.)

      Also, I think you are in the right place when you wish that reactionaries/traditionalists were better able to cooperate. This is, afterall, the Orthosphere- where the stated complaint, solution, and daily practice, is just that!

  2. The possibility must also be entertained that an anomic society would be simply conquered by other non-anomic societies. Or it could disintegrate into non-anomic societies, each having different norms and values.

  3. Kristor: I think it’s true that heterodox societies inevitably doom themselves, but it seems that you gloss over the problems posed by those “unimportant or meaningless” questions that lead to PC. One of the biggest hurdles we must overcome is that the modern state has been staggeringly successful at indoctrinating its members into a shared morality (though a satanic one). And indeed, liberal society is stiflingly, almost uniformly, moralistic.

    I think I know the answer to this one, but how can anomie exist in a society which by and large adheres to the powerful shared social norms furnished by political correctness, such as indiscriminate tolerance, anti-racism, sexual libertinism, and the like?

    • How can anomie exist under totalitarian pc? In a heterodox society, men must discover their philosophies on their own, and this is extremely difficult to do, so that few succeed. Their personal moralities are therefore unfounded, thus merely situational and adventitious (being all products of blind stupid evolution), and – as they know full well in their hearts of hearts – therefore ultimately specious. But this renders the criteria of all their decisions specious; and this makes the lives that are constituted of such decisions nothing but meaningless noise.

      So they get depressed, and self-medicate, or distract themselves with busyness, or with entertainment; or obsess over picayune details (burnishing the gloss on their ‘vettes, or their politics, or whatever). And they get *very* attached to whatever is out there that can furnish order or structure to their lives, and to society; so they get passionate about pc.

  4. The separation of values and beliefs is, in my opinion, artificial. Values find their context in a shared narrative.

    Liberals have a shared narrative that takes precedence over beliefs individually held. The liberal narrative includes the following elements: a primordial state of absolute equality, a fall into some form of oppression, a struggle to regain equality for certain groups, with an egalitarian paradise as telos. There’s even an efficient cause operative in this scheme: individual bits of the fragmented god irresistibly finding their way back to absolute monistic unity.

    It’s not a question of whether we will have an established religion, but which religion will be established.

  5. If such devolution of heterodox societies is inevitable, then the establishment of religion looks like a no-brainer.

    Not only is it a no-brainer, it is virtually impossible not to achieve. America was founded upon axioms, religious in every meaningful sense but name, proposed by enlightenment rationalism. In America therefore, the established religion is liberalism; always has been ever since radical protestants set foot on the continent. The so-called gains of liberalism (remarkably, Cthulu only swims leftward) have been nothing more than that established church spreading its tentacles into ever farther reaches of public and (alas) private life.

    • Brilliant. The documents our founding elders put together are at pains to avoid mentioning Christ. They didn’t believe in him, not down in their hearts, not enough to make it part of their vision. Their vision was Enlightenment rationalism all the way down the line.

  6. Franklin says “I wish Reactionaries/Traditionalists of differing beliefs were able to cooperate [as well as leftists do].” One reason leftists cooperate better is that among people of different beliefs, cooperation on concrete social actions such as more benefits for immigrants or more legitimization of same-sex pseudo-marriage is always easier than cooperation on persuasion about ideas. People of differing beliefs can still agree to agitate for more immigration, but people of differing beliefs cannot agree on how to argue for their different beliefs. And the current situation makes it much harder to agitate for concrete conservative policies than for concrete liberal policies. The ratchet only turns one way.

    • The reason that leftists “cooperate” better is that in which they are cooperating: anarchy. It is much easier to tear down or blow something up than to (re)build it. And liberalism, after waving aside all the show, all the moral preening, all the hyper-rationalist dreck, all the post-hoc utilitarian justifications, is anarchy.

      It requires almost no coordination.

      You want wealth transfers from the productive classes to the unproductive, while I want the evil patriarchy flogged by every university and media organ? Fine. Let’s work together. You want “homophobia” ended in Uganda, while I want qualified red-state proles marginalized from elite institutions? Fine. Let’s work together. Let’s each start our own NGO… [Ever notice how NGOs never seem to have conflicting interests? Hmm...]

      It’s far easier to turn 10,000 years of human moral, cultural, and social development into a smoldering heap than it is to rebuild it.

      • @SN – Yes, that’s it exactly. In a word: nihilism.

        But why?

        I think we have to regard this project as *deliberate* evil, demonically inspired and driven.

        I know that it *can* be explained – sort of – in terms of the short termist self interest of elites etc. But the relentless drive to destroy Good, across centuries, and the capacity of this project to elist all manner of persons for all manner of ‘reasons’, is exactly the kind of thing that Christians have traditionally attributed to demonic activity.

        Leftism *began* as a rationalism, but now it is now psychotic, crazed, maladaptive, a sickness – and this is up front and in your face, day to day.

        Since Leftists are now behaving with such self-destructive recklessness (purposefully destroying everything in the world that they value such that it will not even last their lifetimes, and certainly their children cannot have it) that the non-religious explainers are reduced to making the same kind of complex and convoluted explanations as have been associated with Leftism

        (on the lines of arguments which state that “it may *look* as if this person is sacrificing their child to the god of multiculturalism, but actually it is a devious and roundabout way of increasing their own power, wealth and status”. What rubbish! Things are what they seem to be. These people are trapped by a morality by which they cannot defend the interests of their own children.).

        To say the Western world is ‘going to hell’ is a simple statement of fact.

  7. I agree with Steve Nicoloso, Liberalism is a religion. My point is that liberalism is not a religion about belief, it is about certain values (like selfishness). And this is where I am disagreeing with the original post. I am saying that shared belief is not needed for common culture. Because Liberalism isn’t based on belief, Liberalism can be unified without beliefs being unified, as is the case today. Many other religions also aren’t based on belief. I don’t expect Christians to give up their beliefs, I am only asking them to understand that shared beliefs are not needed for a shared culture.

    Earl, none of the examples of conflict that you gave seem based on difference of belief. Tutsi vs Hutu is ethnic and Sunni vs Shia was basically political.

    Kristor, if “heterodox” just means differing beliefs, then this doesn’t mean that people can’t share other things like standards of behavior. The Analects by Confucius gives very detailed instructions for behavior but doesn’t say a word about what to believe.

    Andrew Matthews, the Liberal narrative is much vaguer than the Christian narrative. Some narratives aren’t even intended to be taken literally. Fables, for example. Judaism is full of stories that make a point but aren’t expected to be taken literally, and these form the Jewish narrative. Judaism is an example of a shared culture that doesn’t require a shared belief since the unifying element of Judaism is basically tribal.

    Steve Nicoloso, I don’t agree that America was founded as a liberal republic. It was founded as an attempt to unify the states under a limited central government that wasn’t supposed to dictate much of anything to the people. The states were left to themselves to form any type of society that they wanted. It is the limiting of the central government that failed and so the strongest religion took over the central government, that religion being Liberalism.

    Alan Roebuck, I can think of plenty of concrete things that Traditionalists could agitate for, starting with covenant marriage.

    Steve Nicoloso, I don’t see Liberalism is being for anarchy. Liberalism is primarily an ego-worshipping religion where selfishness is strongly protected by law. For example, slut-walking wouldn’t be possible under anarchy. But in Liberal society, their selfish inconsiderate behavior is protected by an army of police. Similarly, divorce is encouraged by Liberal government protection where the government forces alimony and child support, another example of sponsoring selfishness. Liberalism cannot exist without a powerful government to protect it.

    • Franklin I fail to see how the believe vs. values distinction is helpful at all. I don’t even like the word “values”… it implies a market price, an exchange of one thing for another. If someone “values” freedom, then they “believe” freedom is important. If someone “values” equality, then they “believe” that equality is important. If someone “values” equality more than freedom, then they “believe” that equality is more important than freedom… and will, presumably, behave accordingly.

      I don’t agree that America was founded as a liberal republic. It was founded as an attempt to unify the states under a limited central government that wasn’t supposed to dictate much of anything to the people.

      Well, that’s just what the colonial agitators wanted you to believe. Winners write the history. The losers have no reason to lie.

    • Hi Franklin,

      I’m actually not convinced that there is very much diversity of belief on the Left. There are differences of focus, certainly, but they all seem to hold the same values (autonomy, equality, pleasure) and the same narrative (evil white Christians oppressing poor, innocent blacks, women, sodomites, Muslims, Mexicans, the environment, etc, etc; eventual redemption by the seizure of power by an alliance of these victim groups). Not only that,, they even seem to all agree on what one might think of as secondary issues where disagreement wouldn’t be problematic. They all have the same prejudices regarding evangelicals and southerners; they all have the same Hollywood misconceptions about the Middle Ages; they all agree that smoking pot is cool but smoking tobacco is gross; they all agree on the hierarchy of victims (e.g. Muslims now have higher victim-points than Jews; blacks have higher victim-points than hispanics).

      I’ll bet if we were as intellectually homogeneous as the Left, we could cooperate really well, too.

      • Bonald, you are making my point that Liberals have shared values and shared narrative and that’s enough to make them homogeneous. But as I mentioned, there are Liberal Atheists, Liberal Christians, Liberal Jews, Liberal Buddhists, etc. Liberals don’t really care what you believe as long as you share their narrative and values. Traditionalists would be more successful if we did the same. As an example of what I mean, traditional Christianity and traditional Confucianism share a lot of values but very few beliefs.

      • Hi Franklin,

        Okay, I guess I wasn’t understanding your distinction between “values” and “beliefs”. In fact, I still don’t. I can’t think of anything the different types of liberals disagree about. Liberal Christians believe in liberalism, not Christianity. Liberal Jews believe in liberalism, not Judaism. Liberal Buddhists presumably (I don’t know much about these) believe in liberalism rather than Buddhism. The thing that comes after “liberal” in their label just indicates which tradition they betrayed when they became liberals.

      • Franklin,

        Whence do values come? Surely if we value something, it is because we believe it advances some good. Our conception of the good, in turn, is driven by our view of the proper ends to which we should be directed. And that view is driven by our belief about the ultimate nature of reality. Where else would values come from?

        Well, according to your argument, they don’t come from anywhere. They just float around in some amorphous form, untethered to any underlying belief system or worldview, yet mysteriously shared by millions of people of nominally different belief systems. Christian traditionalists, by your view, have complicated things immensely by insisting for no good reason that their beliefs necessarily entail a certain exclusive set of values.

        That’s all well and good, except that you have not yet provided any evidence that your view corresponds to reality. This places you in an amusingly circular predicament: You would like us to adopt your values about the disutility of connecting values to beliefs, yet in order to do so, you must articulate your beliefs about the nature of reality, from which your values spring!

      • I will give examples of each. For values, your examples are fine. Autonomy, equality, and pleasure are values. Pot is good and tobacco is bad, more values. The hierarchy of victims is about values.

        For beliefs: God exists or not. Jesus is son of God or not. Muhammad was a prophet or not. Capitalism or socialism produces higher median income. In fact both Democrats and Republicans are basically Liberals, so look at any issue they disagree on and you have an example of a difference of belief, not values. (The Tea Party being an exception to this rule.) New Age mysticism or scientific skepticism. Karma, reincarnation, etc.

        The phrase “believe in” can mean either “believe to be true” or “place value in”, so it is ambiguous. By belief, I mean what one believes to be true or false. Do you see the distinction?

      • Murray, a dog values a bone without any basis in belief. Us humans are a little more complicated and we often pick up values from our culture without even being aware of it. When we explain the beliefs behind our values, we are often just rationalizing after the fact.

        Christianity values belief, specifically faith. There is nothing at all wrong with that. I am just making 2 statements. First, that other groups value beliefs less and so members can get along with different beliefs. And second, that Christians shouldn’t compromise their values within their group, but they should recognize that alliances with other groups based on values other than belief is beneficial to everyone involved.

      • Franklin,

        “When we explain the beliefs behind our values, we are often just rationalizing after the fact.”

        You misunderstand me. I am aware that people tend to be poor at explaining the beliefs that underlie their actions. This is especially true of liberalism, which relies on a suite of beliefs that are incoherent and contradictory. That doesn’t change the fact that liberals’ values are in fact real expressions of their beliefs about the nature of reality, just as your values are expressions of your belief that values are not expressions of belief.

        “I am just making 2 statements. First, that other groups value beliefs less and so members can get along with different beliefs.”

        I would like to see an actual argument for this point rather than repeated assertions of it. It is my plain and unambiguous experience that the values of Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, liberals and Marxists are manifestations of their beliefs no less than those of Christians. The fact that all these belief systems also express themselves in unique and wildly different cultural forms is further evidence that belief is fundamental.

        “And second, that Christians shouldn’t compromise their values within their group, but they should recognize that alliances with other groups based on values other than belief is beneficial to everyone involved.”

        It really depends on what you mean by “values other than belief”. As I have argued, values are inextricable from belief, even if the person in question cannot articulate those beliefs. Every time a person makes a statement of value, they are offering a glimpse into their beliefs about the nature of reality. This seems to me such an obvious fact that it is difficult to believe I have to spell it out.

        In any case, many of us have acknowledged that we are willing to make alliances of convenience with other groups (Muslims, secular-rightists, Jews, whoever) if such an alliance would help us achieve our goals. But if (as it seems) you are exhorting us to set Jesus Christ aside for the sake of those goals that we happen to share, then you are asking us to become apostates.

        “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” Mt 16:26

  8. The totally anomalous society is impossible, although it remains entirely possible (maybe it is fully patent) that an ideology of anomaly might take hold almost universally among a people. The totally anomalous society is impossible for the simple reason that there are not enough worldviews to go around. Really there are only a handful of worldviews, but even the smallest Western societies (Iceland, say, or Monaco) contain hundreds of thousands of people. The society in which the majority of individuals lays claim (each person) to a “unique point of view” makes an immediate laughingstock of itself from any external perspective. I suspect that the more vehemently a society insists on the principle of autonomous individuality, so much the less are its members actually autonomous or individual. They are in fact utterly conformist, assimilating themselves to a doctrine while pretending to do the opposite. Since the claim is at complete variance with reality, a society in the condition just described is bound to be full of irritated, resentful people, who secretly know their lack of originality and actual degree of conformity. Such people will poor their hatred on actual dissenters. Have I painted a purely speculative scene or have I painted the reigning condition?

  9. An additional comment: The term “anomie” is Greek by origin but came into use, if my memory serve, in French existentialism in the 1950s. I am fairly sure that Sartre used it, for example. Now I am not picking an argument with Kristor, whose usage of the term is the usual one; I am merely meditating on the term itself. When I do so, a feeling of suspicion arises in my mind. Supposing that the self-denominating “anomalous society” were, in fact, not anomalous or individuated at all, but was a shockingly conformist society, then “anomie,” which has a rather clinical, neutral flavor, would describe something other than a society in which everyone minded his own business and bothered no one, while luxuriating in his “uniqueness.” “Anomie” would in fact describe a society in maximal “undifferentiation,” a coinage that I borrow from Rene Girard, with no one able to distinguish himself from anyone else. “Anomie” would describe a society in profound crisis. This observation chimes with the final sentence of my previous comment. Societies in deep crisis, or rather those that lack the cultural buffers provided by Christianity, always go on a rampage seeking scapegoats for their outrage. That is what we see in North American society today.

  10. Gentlemen: I have read with great interest all of your comments and analyses, but I have to say this. One can dissect to an infinite degree all the nuances of the decline of this society that all of us have existed in and it will make no difference whatsoever. Once the Love of God was replaced with the love of man, the trajectory of this civilization has been downhill ever since. As Babbitt stated in the early 20th century, men then devolve into a form of “utilitarianism and sentimentality.”
    In this very blogsite you touted the book entitled “PURE” by Anderson in which he reviewed the thinking of the early philosophers and they predicted that man would destroy his rationality with his rational ability. Their findings so paralleled the teachings of Christ, that one is stunned when one discovers their writings. “Narrow is the way and few there be that find it”, “Permit the dead to bury their own dead”, to quote a few.
    I am a retired physician, and a crude saying among doctors with a patient with a terminal illness: “he is circling the drain.” That is the condition of this society!

  11. A key insight of the Lutheran Confessions, to which I adhere, is that, often, the natural man, the man without Christian faith, *loves religion*; he just doesn’t love Christ.

    We are, I suppose, near a turning point. “Enlightenment values” were pressed until vestiges of Christianity in (e.g.) the understanding of the arts, or norms regarding marriage and sexual conduct, etc. were removed from the public square.

    Now that this project is largely complete, a re-religionizing of the public square is probably imminent. It just won’t be orthodox Christianity, which will continue to be regarded, and more searchingly regarded, as making one unfit for participation in the public square, and as a private activity that must be monitored.

    Kristor’s posting suggests that the cost of the “Enlightenment” project is too much to bear, hence society will fall apart. Perhaps, but I think it may well be, rather, that society in America and Europe will become more cohesive. People are ready for this; they are ready for what Baue, in The Spiritual Society, calls a “Therian Age” — a religion of the Beast. The pseudo-religious trappings of the Third Reich, the extremist cults and New Age enclaves, the totalitarianism of Communist countries — these are all foreshadowings of where we are headed, I suspect. I’m not saying we are or are about to enter the ultimate Antichrist era. That might arrive many years from now after various social oscillations and, yes, collapses and revivals. I don’t know. But if you want a sense of where we may be going couched in the terms of a legend, read the unbeliever Ivan Karamazov’s “Grand Inquisitor” scenario in Dostoevsky’s novel.

    Dostoevsky’s response to Ivan is the whole novel, notably the teaching of the elder Zosima and the life of active love of his disciple Alyosha. This is a good novel to read often. Note how the major characters all face, at least once, what I call “the test of the child” — a situation in which their hearts are liad bare by how they respond to a vulnerable child.

    This blog needs a little more focus on how we, each one, can deal with “the test of the child” — a bit too much of it is, perhaps, basically focused on either generalized scenarios or on one’s personal frustrations.

    • This is an insightful comment. The Endarkenment has crushed orthodox Christianity. But man was built for God, and man must and will have religion. So he will have religion, just not Christianity. Maybe it will be Scientology.

      • The Lutheran or Conservative Reformation often refers to “enthusiasm,” meaning thereby the natural man’s desire to feel “god” within him (en-theos) or to interpret his feelings as the stirring of god within.

        This “enthusiasm” contends always against the Word of God, whether in Eden or 2012.

        Multiculturalism advances enthusiasm. In a religious context, enthusiasm rejects Christianity insofar as the Faith presents an Authority external to oneself Who has defjnitively revealed Himself in the prophetic and apostolic word and, especially, the Word incarnate; but multiculturalism will celebrate the innumerable enthusiasms of human beings, the innumerable forms that the “god within” takes or by which it manifests itself. I think these forms typically owe much to “the world” and “the flesh,” but of course they tend to serve the devil’s purpose of obstructing people’s access to the truth. Enthusiasm may be known by its pervasive muddling of Law and Gospel.

  12. Franklin, it’s a good point you make about the Liberal narrative being more vague than the Christian narrative.

    So you agree a common narrative exists. Or, perhaps there is an ideological family sharing common elements. In my previous comment I tried to lay these out. I’d be interested to know whether you and the other contributors and commenters here agree with the basic account I provided.

    Granted, some stories aren’t intended to be taken literally. I’d be surprised if all the early gnostic schemes were understood literally by their creators. However, It seems though it would be worth our while to sketch the basic outline of the liberal narrative. Finally, do we agree liberalism is fundamentally gnostic?

  13. Responding to Andrew: The radically “autonomous” individual of liberalism is, like the Gnostic initiate of antiquity, a would-be creator-god of his own universe. Liberal resentment against the actual Creation that no individual can lay claim to have created, is also Gnostic.

  14. Pingback: Misanthropy and glory. | Dark Brightness

  15. Liberalism is the denial of a true common good for human beings; each man must choose his own hierarchy of goods. Therefore, true society is limited to the small, voluntary associations within the shadow of the larger society wherein people affirm the same understanding of the good. Men get their social “fixes” in these smaller units (family, churches, dog breed organizations), but the commonwealth slowly crumbles. As we become more and more thoroughly liberal — more consistent in manifesting liberalism in law and life — less and less human energy goes into keeping the larger ship afloat. Instead, we are busy with our own little rafts. And some rafts are built better than others . . .

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