Shrinks and Hipster Liberalism


While doing a Google search I ran into an abstract of a 2007 scholarly article by three French psychiatrists whose English title is "New society, new families: a new basic personality? From the neurotic to the narcissistic-hedonistic personality."

The basic thought is that changes in education, family structure, social attitudes, and so on have led to a new dominant personality type with specific pathologies that require a reorientation of psychiatric care:

This basic personality, which could be termed as "narcissistic-hedonistic", is characterized by few internalizations, a poorly efficient Superego, nearly no guilt feeling, a weakly socialized Ideal Self suggesting more the Ideal Self of the early childhood, and finally a difficulty in experiencing or testing oneself as a free subject. The resulting narcissistic fragility leads the subject to be more dependent on external objects, to be allergic to frustration, to find delay in the achievement of instinctive aims hard to take, to develop an exaggerated pursuit of perception and sensations. The relation to time is also affected through a privileged investment in the present and the shading off of historical time. These changes must lead to a different subjectivity stemming from a new basic personality. Disorders may stem from three axis of this new basic personality: dependency with attachment disorders, narcissistic fragility, and a high risk of depression; guilt-free "narcissistic perversion" with people, who use other people for their own and exclusive interest, without real empathy; "light" psychopathy, with people capable of social integration for shorts periods of time, with a lot of breaking off in love, friendship, and professional ties.

The account is jargony but the substance sounds familiar. The basic idea is that people aren't really getting socialized, so character and connections to other people disappear. Instead there's just impulse, self-indulgence, and flip-flopping between grandiosity and depression, tyranny and subservience, and no doubt other mindless polarities. Life becomes a matter of pure immediacy and groundless assertion of self, combined with insecurity and avoidance of issues.

Psychological changes like that aren't private in their effects. They mean that people experience the world differently, and that means political change. The obvious social result of the tendencies described, given man's need for self-validation, is a sort of hipster liberalism: hedonism, self-involvement, rejection of settled distinctions, irony as a way to avoid impossible problems and turn contradiction to account, pretense based (like everything else) on nothing, equality that's not meant--wearing a John Deere cap and drinking PBR or whatever--as proof of superiority.

Hipster liberalism isn't particularly satisfactory, but where's something better going to come from? People fall into it because it's not clear where else to go in the present fragmented situation. It's not as if there's a well-formed mainstream grownup culture to glom onto or even a noticeable movement of opposition with something definite to offer. Where, as they say, are the heroes? How can you do better than accept the accepted view, since that's what there is, and then try to mitigate it through irony?

We have to start where we are, so for a lot of people the first step is to turn against the New York Times and the kindergarten teachers who provide our official theory of the good life by adopting a youth culture that's heretical and seems powerful because it's assertive and appeals to pieces of reality now officially nonexistent. They become pagans, Randians, white nationalists, or whatever.

When orthodoxy is stupid and inhuman then heresy is at least alive. It's good to know that particularities matter, masculinity has its points, "we" and "they" have functions, and not everyone is the same or equally deserving. The problem, of course, is that such recognitions aren't enough. America and the West need more than this recognition or that to restore a scheme of life that makes sense. For that we don't need bits and pieces of reality, we need the Whole Thing.

Taking what we have now and adding HBD or Nietzsche's superman or the masculine warrior image isn't going to do it for us. All of us are charter members of the reality-based community. So what we need is a grip on the reality of things in all its dimensions. That grip on reality is the basis of any civilization worthy of the name. It follows that for us what is needed is a radical turn toward the basic understandings that made the West, in a form capable of sustaining themselves as a tradition. It is to the recovery of that tradition--to radical traditionalism--that any serious movement of the right should aspire. Hence, I believe, the slogan of this site.