Saturday, March 11, 2017

Alexander Dugin — The Existential Theory of Society

Weekend reading for the philosophically inclined. Alexander Dugin is one of the foremost thinkers of the times in terms of influence, so I am putting it up for those that may find it interesting and approachable. While he is a sociologist by training, he is generally considered a philosopher.

This essay is "philosophical," and the translation into English is rough, so without much background a reader may feel lost. Complicating the matter, European philosophy is quite different methodologically from Anglo-American, as well as in the questions it addresses. In addition, Russian philosophy is different from both Anglo-American and Continental philosophy.  I was only able to get the gist of it through the translation. The link to the original Russian is provided for those that know Russian.

Dugin's theory is Heideggerian, which automatically means difficult to understand. There are probably as many interpretations of Heidegger as serious readers of him. It's not important whether Dugin gets Heidegger "right," whatever that means, but rather what he does with Heidegger as a jumping off point for his own thinking. This is typically what philosophers do. The history of philosophy is dialectical, as Hegel observed.

Heidegger's characteristic terminology is invented, making it even more dense, especially for those not familiar with German, where such constructs are not uncommon. Here is a Heideggerian glossary.

It is also useful to know that Heidegger was an "existentialist." Existentialism is opposed dialectically to essentialism. Dialectic views opposites not as contradictory but as complementary. In the preface to Phenomenology of Spirit,  Hegel observes that "the truth is the whole." So to assert an aspect of the whole as being true necessarily calls forth its complement. Focus on essence chiefly misses existence as its complementary opposite in the whole of being. This is similar to function as complementary to structure. 

Essence and structure are liminal, while existence and function are subliminal, but the latter are no less important and from the existentialist and functionalist perspectives, they are more important to recognize and acknowledge because they are generally overlooked. 

Margaret Thatcher once declared, "There is no such thing as society." Structuralists respond that society is a system whose structure can be articulated. Functionalists add that there is more to it that that:  Society is a communal process that involves life and the living of it interactively.

Heidegger and Dugin seek to and delve and beneath this and express it in a way that others can grasp. This involves elucidation more than description.

The Fourth Revolutionary War
The Existential Theory of Society
Alexander Dugin


jrbarch said...

Very difficult to make out what Dugin is getting at, even with the help of a glossary.

For me: - imagine You are as far away from the earth in ‘elevation’ as the stars to the streetlamps. Looking down on the earth you see your ‘appearance’, your personality, getting around in daily life, far far below (almost below the threshold of your ‘alter or elevated’ consciousness - unless a deliberate effort to gaze down and focus intently, is made). You see that the locus of different people’s awareness is to be found either in the physical body, the emotional body, or the mind body, the most significant ‘wave’ or ‘impression’ within which, is their earth identity – the ‘I’. For most people, their universe revolves around the ‘I’ or its extensions to ‘Other I’s’ in what we call relationships. The ‘I’ is a highly conditioned entity.

These bodies provide both the field of awareness and prison or ring-pass-not for expansion of the awareness towards the consciousness that you are, in the realm that is truly your home. Someone in the Upanishads recognised this and wrote: ‘the worldly mind is born in the world, lives in the world and dies in the world’. A fully developed human personality is one who has subdued the forces of each body, coordinated and integrated them, and can apply them to some work: good or bad, light giving or darkening. An awakening personality is one who is slowly becoming aware of the consciousness within (you). Hence ‘self-knowledge’ and peace, love gratitude – energies of the inner word.

So, for me, Dugin wanders around in the mind, from concept to concept, looking for a way out and the Self. Somewhere also in the Upanishads, a kind person mentioned that truth can never be found by the mind – it is not the tool for the job. Everyone seems to ignore this little observation, quite studiously.

This ‘way-out’, this tool as I never tire or delight in saying, is the human heart. Mind has to learn to become still so that the heart can learn without distraction; how to feel, deepen, and become aware. Then the true role of the mind becomes obvious (it is a witness and ‘eye’ into the lower worlds). Gathering strength, this new-found awareness of the persona has to break-through the wall of the mind, reach up, and contact the Self. The Self, in its own realm, reaches up towards the Sun that gave you birth. For that, you need a teacher. That is the beginning. Knowledge comes through the heart and practical experience. Not concepts. Not books. Although I doubt Dugin would want to be told that – but then again I have always been surprised by people.

For me, philosophy has kept the mind focused on the enduring questions – well and good. But the mind has to understand the heart and like a parachute, open to it. It begins with thirst! Taking care of you worldly duties all the while, perhaps even better than before.

Ryan Harris said...

The translation isn't perfect.

Matthew Franko said...

" Dialectic views opposites not as contradictory but as complementary. "

this is textbook Apostle Paul 101... you can really see Paul's larger measure of influence in the eastern church (vs. western church) via Dugin here...

Tom Hickey said...


This is sort of what Dugin is saying from a Russian Orthodox perspective couched in Heideggerian terms.

Heidegger made several points that Dugin makes use of in this regard.

Heidegger distinguished between the ontic and ontological. The ontic is concerned with the nature of things as they appear in the world. The ontological is concerned with things as the are in actuality, taking into consideration their existential import. Here "concerned" means both focus of attention and attitude of "caring."

In Heidegger's view, the contemporary world is overshadowed by the advance of science and technology. Humans are concerned with knowing how things work (science) and what this implies for ordinary life, which brings in technology as a primary influence.

Heidegger held that the major problem that humans (Dasein, which signifies "being there" or being present) faces is "technicity." Material life that he concerned with making and accumulating stuff is mechanical. The actuality of existing as a human being is lost in the superficial.

For Heidegger and Dugin, humans are not merely individuals but socially entangled. They find their actuality in relationship with others. A culture that is concerned chiefly with the material aspect of life loses touch with the depths of what makes human-being human. Life becomes mechanical and society and culture become superficial.

Living superficially, humans avoid dealing with the implication of their mortality, which is their ontological challenge as being in time. Being in time results in "Angst" or anxiety at the prospect of not being. In ordinary life people submerge this in accumulation and stimulation.

Like the prophets of old, the true philosophers and artists, poets and priests, sages and saints call upon their fellows to turn around, shifting concern from the trivial superficiality of the ontic to the important depth of the ontological. Such a culture is refining and actually cultures a people.

Traditional peoples and the cultures they developed are the carriers of the actuality of a group of people in a location geographically and historically. The traditions, customs, habits, and the institutions based on them ground a people in actuality. The actuality of humans (Dasein) is possibility. The challenge is to unfold full potential as a human being. This is not an abstract undertaking but occurs historically and socially. This is the importance of Russkiy mir for Russians. It is the incubator for development of "the Russian soul."


Tom Hickey said...


Dugin claims that the West has lost its roots and become superficial through the adoption of extreme liberalism that blurs the boundaries of peoples and traditions and aims at one homogenous world based on materialism. It has become chiefly ontic in Heideggerian terminology and lost its ontological roots in being as expressed socially which is necessarily historically.

He sees a similar trend developing in Russia now. Putin is pushing for a multicultural meaning of "Russian" that is inclusive, which Traditionalists like Dugin view as succumbing to liberalism. Traditionalists distinguish between Russian as designating a nationality of passport holders that includes many traditions and peoples, and the traditional Russian people and culture. There are separate words in Russian for this.

This is similar to the Alt Right push in the US for a return to American traditions and values based on the founders, that is, a WASP culture rather than the current trend toward multiculturalism. For this reason, Dugin is viewed as an influence on the New American Right.

The difference is that Dugin is aware of the ontological roots in addition to the ontic expression. The Alt Right is chiefly ontic and most advocates are promoting merely a different ontic approach without awareness of the ontological or reference to it. There is an important difference between traditionalism and Traditionalism. It is the difference between appearance and being. Dugin is talking about "the Russian soul" as expressed historically in the culture. This dimension is largely absent in American discourse.

By bringing in Heidegger, Dugin is making this distinction clear. For Dugin, race, nationality, ethnicity, etc, are ontic. Concern from them chiefly misses the point. They are the historical garb of an approach to living life "authentically" rather than going through the motions, never being engaged with the actual human condition and taking an angle toward it that is congruent socially and historically. §

There is an apt saying of Hegel in this regard.

"Thus the life of God and divine cognition may well be spoken of as a disporting of Love with itself; but this idea sinks into mere edification, and even insipidity, if it lacks the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labor of the negative.”

G.W.F. Hegel, “Preface,” §19, Phenomenology of Spirit, Tr. by A. V. Miller, Oxford University Press, 1977, p. 10

History is the story of God becoming self-consciousness in and through history in individual life that is socially influenced.

Dugin is exploring what it means to live a good life in a good society from the POV of his take on Traditionalism.

Matthew Franko said...

"Dugin claims that the West has lost its roots and become superficial through the adoption of extreme liberalism that blurs the boundaries of peoples and traditions and aims at one homogenous world based on materialism. "

Its a slippery slope from this statement into putting on a hair shirt...

I dont see anything wrong with wanting to run our material systems effectively/efficiently while we are here... good housing, nutrition, clothing, sanitation, education, arts, healthcare, etc for all is not asking for too much and would also evidence the current era of the grace (unmerited favor) of God...

I wonder if statements like this by non-materially qualified people are often just sour grapes and whining by non-technocrats who seek to be relevant when much attention is often bestowed upon the material oriented people's material systems creative accomplishments...

jrbarch said...

Thank you for unpacking Dugin a little for me Tom – I appreciate that. I should head on over to Stanford some time and read a little more of H.

I empathise deeply with H.’s view of science and materialism somewhat ‘overshadowing’ the world, and the human being losing sight of himself: - as well as acknowledge Matt’s appreciation of the benefits brought, and ideas of competency. I would count our social entanglement and embedment in Time similarly, as fields in which the self can easily be lost. This is the great problem of our Age I think – the human being is lost to him(her)self; and certainly a long way from recognising their ‘part in the whole’. Women (as persona) tread closer to the path, but then if the Ageless Wisdom is correct, we all have appeared many times, in all races and both genders.

I do like technology as an ideal platform for both business and a human message. But if you lose yourself, of what use is anything? I don’t think Matt need worry ultimately, because materialism and spirit walk hand in hand, opposite poles of the same Being~Substance with consciousness their much loved child, between. It’s not a competition. And God bless the Russian ‘soul’. Much more should be felt, understood and spoken of the soul of each nation and country. Above all else the French love psychology. Maybe they will be the first to push back the barriers; maybe the Russians – America seems too intent on personality expression. Maybe the Indians will restore the ancient knowledge; their connection too is deep.

For me, D. & H.’s ideas push the shell of mind; trying to find a way out of all of the conditioning. I feel very deeply where these ideas are coming from, and resonate with them. Nor is it surprising that Einstein would recognise liberation as freedom from this shell, and the ‘I’. I don’t think people realise how tightly conditioned they are by the world (bound hand and foot, actually); but these guys wriggle a lot.

For me, the patterns are held in the Soul and manifest in the world; from the atom of science to the atom that is the human being, to the atom that is a solar system and universe. All is Energy. The human being in the lower worlds interpret these patterns imperfectly: - as we get more and more in touch with the soul and as the vehicle (persona) evolves, we produce the patterns more and more perfectly. The whole is driven forward by an Energy that embraces its own shores: - there are no real barriers. All is well.

Like an instrument, the human being needs tuning; get with the beat. The rhythm is peace; the strings are the human heart, consciousness is the sounding board, mind the pegs that need to be turned. From the Soul emerges the song of each world and atom. Sound is the great creative energy. Our society may be noisy, gross, full of conflict and violence, but within each human being, is something exquisite. We know that it exists.

Tom Hickey said...

Right. It's not a matter of either-or but both-and. However, it is also important to distinguish between the important and trivial. The ontological, here the "human," is important and the ontic ("the world") is trivial in comparison.

Scientific method aims at disentangling the subjective and objective, which is fine as a method for dealing with the ontic. But if the upshot is that the ontic ("scientific objectivity") is considered to be more significant than the ontological ("the human condition and human potential") then the baby has been thrown out with the bath water.

This view is much in tune with "the Russian soul" as the basis of Russkiy mir.

In an unexpected remark Friday, the Russian president spoke of the “meaning of life,” saying that for him “in general” it is love that matters.

Briefly digressing from politics, Putin ventured a philiosophical observation that “multifaceted” love is the basis of all actions and the essence of being.

"The meaning of our whole life and existence is love," Putin told his audience at the 15th Congress of the Russian Geographical Society. "It is love for the family, for the children, for the motherland. This is a multifaceted phenomenon; it lies at heart of any of our behaviors."


Ryan Harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.