Leaving the Antiworld behind; a response to James Kalb

James Kalb has written an interesting essay at Intercollegiate Review titled “Out of the Antiworld.” The “antiworld” is an interesting way to characterize the modern liberal order which is the main governing ideology in the Western World today. Kalb’s essay is basically an overview of the nature of the current political regime, why this current regime is hard to fight and hard to escape from, the different political camps that have developed as part of the overall modern liberal worldview, the rebellions against modern liberalism that have shown up so far and why they are ineffective, and then finally to approach the question of “what is to be done?”.

The “antiworld” is a world without God or what I call the “Superior Power.” I have a particular definition of what I mean by “Superior Power” that is meant to be compatible with both a religious and an atheist world view.

Definition of Superior Power as given in the “TFAs” section of this website:

“The Superior Power is defined as that which creates the order of life and imposes meaning upon life and determines what the nature of life is. Furthermore the Superior Power is external to human will and above human will and cannot be altered by human choice either individually or collectively. In addition the Superior Power possesses moral authority and therefore is an entity one is obligated to obey.”

The key feature of the “antiworld” which James Kalb describes is that it is a world lacking in the concept of a Superior Power. The antiworld denies the reality of a Superior Power and therefore denies reality itself as reality comes from the Superior Power in the first place. This is what makes such a world “anti;” such a world is anti-reality, anti-truth, anti-rational, and most importantly anti-moral.

Kalb presents social conservatism as the central theme of effective resistance to the modern liberal order. The strategy for promoting social conservativeness is to stick to basic principles of social conservatism while advocating the social conservative point of view and to not let oneself get sucked into going along with the reigning modern liberal paradigm. The key point about the social conservative point of view is that it is founded on basic fundamental truths of life; its central premise is the need to obey the Superior Power or in more explicitly religious terminology the duty to obey God. God is the basis of social conservatism; this is what makes social conservatism true and good.

The modern liberal view however rejects the Superior Power or God as the ultimate source of truth, it instead claims man and man made institutions; particularly government; to be the creators and arbiters of truth.

A criticism I have of Kalb’s essay is that it seems to view the “ordinary man” as being under the control of the “managerial liberal regime” as if ordinary people live their lives according to how the “elite” tell them to live their lives. There is definitely a “mainstream culture” and a world view that the mainstream media promotes and I would agree that this dominant cultural paradigm is much like how Kalb describes it where the central moral imperative is “maximizing equal satisfaction of equally valid preferences.”

As Kalb puts it in his essay:

“Given such a view [“that there is no God or objective moral order that can be relied on”], the uniquely rational approach to social order is to treat it as a soulless, technically rational arrangement for maximizing equal satisfaction of equally valid preferences. That principle claims to maximize effective freedom, but it narrowly limits what is permissible lest we interfere with the equal freedom of others or the efficient operation of the system. Private hobbies and indulgences are acceptable, since they leave other people alone. So are career, consumption, and expressions of support for the liberal order. What is not acceptable is any ideal of how people should understand their lives together that is at odds with the liberal one. Such ideals affect other people, if only by affecting the environment in which they live, and that makes them oppressive. If you praise the traditional family, you are creating an environment that disfavors some people and their goals, so you are acting as an oppressor.”

The thing is, people have the right and ability to choose whether to go along with “the liberal program” or not. Yes there is a dominant liberal culture that seems to think that truth is whatever they declare it to be and then it is so because they said it is so. The ordinary person however doesn’t have to go along with this. Just as much as there is a modern liberal order that is very real free will is an even more fundamental reality. The modern liberal order will not last forever but free will will remain. The exercise of free will at the individual level is then how God will ultimately assert His authority over human affairs.

There are two different ways one can see the cultural reality around us. One is the political scene. What the elites of society believe in and advocate, what changes in the law are happening, what the most important political movements in society are and what they think, what the cultural messages are in the media and entertainment and in public schools and colleges.

There is however another way the issue of what is going on in the culture can be approached; that is by looking at social statistics to see how well people’s lives are functioning in real life and how that level of functioning is changing over time.

The cultural beliefs and practices of a society are related to the functioning level of a society but they are not the same thing. People can behave in a way that is more functional than what their stated beliefs would imply. Also people’s behavior may change even while their professed beliefs remain the same. It seems the main purpose in trying to change what people believe regarding cultural matters is to change how people behave regarding cultural matters; to replace unhealthy behavior patterns with healthy behavior patterns. The idea being that correct belief leads to correct behavior which then leads to positive outcomes.

If one looks at the political scene, particularly the mainstream dominant component of the political scene, the news is pretty much universally bad. It should be kept in mind though that dominant mainstream politics is not the whole picture, it is not even the most important part of the whole picture; it is instead simply one part of the whole picture, one indicator out of many indicators.

Kalb starts out his essay saying:

“Recent liberal successes, such as the ongoing redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, dramatize the failure of social conservatism in public discussion. What is most striking to conservatives about the situation is the conviction among intelligent and influential people that conservative social views are altogether baseless, so that adherence to them is an intellectual and moral vice.”

This observation that Kalb is making is true but irrelevant. Social conservatism is losing the public debate but it is winning in the realm of people’s private behaviors and I view the realm of private behavior as being more important than the public debate. I don’t really mind losing the public debate intellectually if my beliefs and values are being more and more reflected in people’s actual behaviors regardless of what they claim to believe in public. This is what is going on. People’s views are becoming more liberal but their behavior is becoming more conservative; more socially conservative. Social conservatives are winning the argument even while we are humiliated and publicly derided in the public square.

This may seem like a preposterous assertion for me to make. The assertion however is based in what I am seeing regarding social statistics and particularly the change in social indicators over time. The direction of change in social indicators is getting better across the board. Looking back historically there has been an expansion in the number of social indicators that are either declining more slowly or in some cases even outright improving. This indicates that even the social indicators not noticeably demonstrating any improvement right now will likely be showing improvement in the future. The first important social indicator to show outright improvement was women working; fewer women in the prime working years of 25 to 54 years old are working today than was the case at the peak of women working in 1999. The next round of important social indicators to show outright improvement appears likely to be the out-of-wedlock birth ratio and the incarceration rate. These indicators have either already seen their peak (2009 for the out-of-wedlock birth ratio and 2008 for the incarceration rate) or they will be seeing their peak in a couple of years. In future decades the indicators already showing improvement will be accelerating in their rate of improvement and additional indicators currently in decline will be first slowing in their rate of decline and then transitioning into outright improvement. This is the pattern that has been seen so far and I expect this pattern to continue going forward.

So I think what is going on in the political scene is a lagging indicator and misrepresents what is truly going on in the culture at large. I would agree with Kalb that social conservatives need to stick to their principles and not accept the overall liberal worldview. I think the focus should be on promoting a conservative world view; in particular teaching others the importance of God and the natural order and how the reality of a Superior Power that is to be obeyed impacts on moral decision making in everyday life. This is how we can all do our part in bringing about the end of the “antiworld” a little more quickly and a little more painlessly.

 
References:

The Cultural Revival has Already Started! Good news since 1995!

Intercollegiate Review

About Jesse Powell TFA

Anti-Feminist, Anti-MRA, Pro-Traditional Women's Rights Traditional Family Activist (TFA)
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8 Responses to Leaving the Antiworld behind; a response to James Kalb

  1. James Kalb says:

    Thanks for the comment on my essay. The comparison of social trends 1981-1996 and 1996-2011 is quite interesting.

    I agree that people can still live decent lives and many do in America today. Still, man is a rational creature, so it’s important what principles he holds, and he’s social, so it’s important what principles are treated as true and authoritative all around him. Like they say, without vision the people perish. And at the level of principle things seem to be getting worse–more atheism, more of a disposition to eradicate traditional understandings, more hatred for those who continue to hold them, and so on. The essay was a discussion of the situation at that level.

    On the statistics, here are a few caveats:

    1. Most of them don’t show improvement, they show a slower rate of deterioration.

    2. You can’t expect decline to be straight line down, down, down. The world is complicated, especially the human world, so you’d expect pauses and temporary reverses. The ’50s are an example: it looked like religion, family values etc. were making a big comeback but it turned out people didn’t believe in them all that much so they all fell apart in the ’60s. A lot of the problem I think was at the level of accepted principle, which was basically liberal and technocratic and didn’t support the conservative trend.

    3. Overall statistics hide class differences. Charles Murray and others point out that the upper classes seem to be leading more orderly lives than in the recent past, they do what they have to do for the sake of their careers, but the lower classes are sinking more and more. One illustration: the life expectancy of white women without a high school diploma dropped by five years between 1990 and 2008. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/us/life-expectancy-for-less-educated-whites-in-us-is-shrinking.html.)

    4. There may be other important information. You note that fewer married women are working, but fewer women are getting married, and there are reports that fewer men are participating in the workforce. How it all sorts out I don’t know.

  2. Jesse Powell TWRA says:

    First off, thanks for commenting at my humble and still very new blog. It is an honor to have a man of your reputation comment at my website.

    Responding to what you said.

    You say at the “level of principle” things seem to be getting worse. What you are calling the “level of principle” I am calling the “political scene” and in particular the “mainstream political scene.” I am proposing that what people believe is a lagging indicator; that how people behave is already starting to show real signs of positive change. People adopting conservative principles will come later to match their new patterns of conservative behavior. The worst indicators in the cultural realm are “gay marriage” going mainstream, women in combat being fully embraced as an ethical principle, and the fast rise of atheism. These things are unambiguously bad signs. Acceptance of so called “gay marriage” indicates a rejection of masculinity and femininity and associated gender roles. Acceptance of women in combat represents the rejection of the duty to protect women. Rising atheism represents the rejection of any kind of external reality that imposes duties and obligations and a moral code upon the individual and group collectively. The rejection of reality and the restraints reality imposes is the central theme in all of these maladies.

    Still looking at the statistics strangely enough things don’t seem to be going so bad; they are certainly better in terms of rate of change than they used to be. My explanation is that the majority is getting worse slowly while the minority is getting better quickly. This would allow for the majority or mainstream to be getting worse while the total for the population at large remains the same. For instance; let’s say you have a population of 500 people made up of two groups; group A which has 100 members and is growing by 12% a year and group B that has 400 members and is declining by 3% a year. One year later group A has 112 people in it and group B has 388 people in it. Group B is the majority and the dominant and the mainstream so whatever group B believes is the mainstream culture and the law of the land. Group B is sinking so its cultural beliefs are getting worse over time. Group A is ignored by Group B and made to seem not to exist and certainly not to matter. Group A goes to church a lot and tends to keep to itself. In such a society total aggregate social statistics are about the same; the population in both years is 500. The dominant part of society, Group B, is clearly getting worse. This means mainstream culture is getting worse. In the future however current trends remaining the same group A will come to dominate.

    Regarding the social statistics:

    1. Looking at the 1996 to 2011 period absolute gains were seen in Women’s Labor Force Participation Rate and in Husband’s as Sole Breadwinners. The other indicators showed declines in the rate of deterioration. Interestingly looking at the particular years 2010 and 2011 all the indicators uniformly showed absolute improvement in both years. Things are still at the early stages in terms of moving towards improvement but real absolute improvements in social indicators have been starting to happen more and more.

    2. You mention that you can’t expect decline to be totally a one way street. Just because there are a few years of improvement doesn’t mean the overall trend of long standing duration has changed direction. This is very true. You mention in particular the “cult of domesticity” that reigned in the 1950s as an example of a period of seeming cultural repair that then broke down disastrously in the 1960s. Historically there have been periods of conservative backlash that fizzled. So the question is if the comparatively good social trends of 1996 to 2011 represent a mini-backlash within a more powerful overall negative trend that is still continuing or if a major historic change in underlying trend is taking place. My inclination is to think a truly fundamental change in trend is taking place. In the 1950s fertility increased, age at first marriage decreased, and the proportion of young people who were married increased. Still even during the 1950s the divorce rate increased, the proportion of women working increased, and the out-of-wedlock birth ratio increased. Indicators of disorder continued to increase throughout the 1950s, in fact they increased at about the same rate they had historically increased in prior decades; there was no noticeable slowdown in the increase of the indicators of disorder during the 1950s. The 1960s represented an acceleration in the increase of social disorder above prior trends.

    The period of 1996 to 2011 was characterized by a marked slowdown in the increase of social disorder compared to what came before. I believe a 15 year period of decelerating increase in social disorder is unprecedented in American history since 1870 when good social statistics first started to be collected. This means the kind of comparative improvement seen after 1996 up to the present day really is historically unprecedented since 1870 when the current period of social decline provably got started based on social indicators.

    Women’s participation in the workforce 25 to 54 years old went down from 2000 to 2010. Such an overall decline of women in the workforce is totally unprecedented; every single decade starting in 1870 women’s participation in the workforce increased. Looking at women’s participation in the workforce; first there was slow rise from a very low starting point, then the speed of women entering into the workforce increased, then there was a period of very fast growth (1973 to 1982), then the speed of growth started to decline (1982 to 1989), then the growth rate declined further (1989 to 2000), and then finally after 2000 women actually started to leave the workforce at a slow rate that is continuing to today. This is a 130 year time span from 1870 to 2000 where women’s participation in the workforce follows a classical mathematical pattern of slow increase followed by acceleration followed by a maximum rate of increase where the second derivative then turns negative (about 1977) and then the increase progressively slows and slows leading ultimately to a peak (about 2000) and then an overall decline begins slowly at first which then picks up speed.

    Looking at the out-of-wedlock birth ratio the same kind of pattern can be seen. Slow growth from 1920 to 1960, fast growth from 1960 to 1995, slow growth from 1995 to 2010. An absolute decline in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio should be the next stage scheduled to start right about now.

    So what I see is a fundamental change in trend going on; now just a temporary backlash that will be reversed.

    3. These trends I am focusing on are national trends where the entire population is averaged together. Yes there are differences between subgroups but what I am saying still holds true for the nation overall.

    4. There are definitely trends that are still negative. Women in the workforce appears to definitely be in long term decline; that is the only indicator that has turned unambiguously positive. The incarceration rate and the out-of-wedlock birth ratio appear close to the point of going into absolute long term decline but so far their respective peaks are only 2 or 3 years in the past so long term decline hasn’t been established yet. All other important social indicators that I am aware of are continuing a steady deterioration though often at a slower rate than was the case in prior decades. Also I will add these positive things I am seeing refer to the United States. Looking at Europe no similar good trends are in evidence. I do think however that in the United States five years from now out-of-wedlock births, women’s participation in the workforce, and the number of people in prison will all be steadily declining. This will certainly help things out even if a number of other family related indicators are continuing to decline.

  3. James Kalb says:

    interesting issues and thanks for bringing them up.

    I suppose there’s a general opposition between the view associated with Marx that accepted ideals arise out of the autonomous development of practical life, and the view associated with Hegel that the way people act and organize themselves arises out of the autonomous development of accepted ideals.

    It’s sensible to believe that sometimes thought influences practice and sometimes the reverse. Sometimes one indicator leads and sometimes the other. And it does seem that when the implications of accepted ideals lose all connection to what’s needed for a way of life most people find tolerable then at some point practical life will take the lead and people will ignore what the accepted theory tells them they should do. The question is when that happens. There still seems to be a great deal of genuine belief in the accepted theory, and it fits the short-term interests of a lot of people.

    To my mind it’s like predicting when an economic bubble is going to burst. If you see that it’s a bubble you’re going to think that every downturn means the whole stupid thing is going away. That’s usually not so, though, and the timing of the collapse is unpredictable.

    As a practical matter, none of this matters much since we should keep on doing the same things in any case: clarifying our thoughts, making our pitch to the rest of the world, living better ourselves, and establishing and defending areas of order in a disordered society. How it all plays out and when there’s a decisive turn for the better isn’t knowable.

  4. Is the decline in women in the workforce due to an increase in women depending on their husbands’ earnings, or is it due to an increase in women depending on the welfare state? If the latter is true, then your only major positive trend (not just a slowdown in deterioration) is not a positive trend.

  5. Jesse Powell TWRA says:

    Not quite sure about the reasons for the decline in women’s participation in the workforce but whatever the reason it is happening and it is the first time it has happened since 1870 so it is a major event contrary to the steady history of women’s never ending increase in the workforce from 1870 to 2000. I am not that picky about what the exact underlying causes are; I’ll take it as positive news regardless of the cause.

    The proportion of men as sole breadwinners within marriage has definitely gone up; from 18.6% in 1996 (the absolute low point) to 22.0% in 2010. To be fair though the proportion of marriages where the woman is the sole breadwinner has gone from 4.8% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2010. Also the percent of marriages where the wife earns more than the husband and both the husband and wife work has gone from 22.7% in 1996 to 29.2% in 2010.

    Also men’s labor force participation has been falling steadily but that is nothing new; men’s labor force participation has been falling steadily since about 1967. Women’s labor force participation falling is new. The peak month of women’s LFPR in the 25 to 54 age group was April 2000 when it was at 77.3%. In June 2013 it was at 73.9%. This kind of drop over an extended period of time is unprecedented regardless of the cause so I consider it good news and an important development regardless of the cause.

  6. Dar says:

    You seem to agree more than disagree with Kalb’s article.

    However, as far as the “dominant liberal culture” and that “The ordinary person however doesn’t have to go along with this.”, it should be pointed out that the problem is no so much if the individual can go along with it but whether the individual can exist and create a life, with family and career, that will naturally interact with the outside world, without being tainted by it.

    I can turn off the tv and create my own world, but can I do the same once married and with children?

    ========

    On a side note, have you read the book “The Myth of Democracy” Tage Lindbom?

    Te makes a similar point about what I guess we can call “the kingdom of God” vs “the kingdom of man”, with the former having a grand superior moral order, and the latter nothing but trendy desires.

    Lindbom was a Perrenialist/Traditionalist (a movement I don’t follow but am sympathetic to), and he wrote an interesting essay on similar themes:

    http://www.studiesincomparativereligion.com/Public/articles/Virtue_and_Morality-by_Tage_Lindbom.aspx

  7. As far as living a good life with a wife and children in a feminist liberal environment; there are communities that are actually performing quite well in spite of the fact that they are living under the same laws as everyone else and are part of the wider culture in at least so far as they are geographically near “ordinary” people living the feminist liberal life. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews particularly come to mind here. There is a huge Ultra-Orthodox population in Brooklyn in New York City and they have very high fertility and very few children living with single parents and very low negative social indicators regarding their family life. Their rate of social disorder actually seems to be at the level of the nation as a whole 100 years ago. This is right in the middle of New York City today this is being accomplished!

    I would say subculture is key, getting involved in a positive subculture is the best way to be able to live a functional life with social support and reinforcement. A local conservative church is the most obvious place where such a supportive subculture can be found.

    Also, for a man, the woman you marry is key. If the woman you are with is a good woman you can actually build a functional family life centered around the goodness and moral virtue of your wife that is then directed to the children you have with your wife therefore preparing well the next generation. As far as your career or job as a man, remember that your career is good because you are using the money earned by it to support your wife and your family. I wouldn’t worry too much about the culture or politics of your worksite; just remember your job is supporting your family and therefore furthering your cultural and family goals in the form of raising up the next generation.

    So, the center of your functioning as a man is the quality of your wife. Pick a good woman and make sure she understands and accepts the importance of obeying you as the head of the household. This will make the moral purpose of your marriage with her secure. Then get outside support for your family life by joining a positive conservative subculture most likely centered around church. This will insulate you and your family from the sickness of mainstream liberal culture quite well.

    On your other point, no I have not read “The Myth of Democracy” and am not familiar with what a “Perrenialist” is exactly. As far as the “Kingdom of God” versus the “Kingdom of Man”; I guess I see the “Kingdom of God” as being what is real while the “Kingdom of Man” is a kind of made up fantasy not dealing with reality. Disobey God and you will be destroyed, it is as simple as that really. God creates order while “doing what you want” creates disorder. This can be shown statistically as well as it being sound moral philosophy and logically easy to understand.

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