View from the right
Review: Alain de Benoist, View from the right. A Critical Anthology of Contemporary Ideas. Vol. I. Translated by Robert A. Lindgren. London 2017
What can you expect of a book from 1977 re-released in 2018 which announces to the reader portraying the intellectual and cultural landscape of France in the late 70s? Originally consisting of more than 100 articles, published in Valeurs Actuelles and other magazines, Vu de droite is a snapshot taken with a lens from the Humanities. It was released in five editions and was also translated in just as much languages. The highlight was the awarding with the well known Essay-price Académie Francaise which the text received in the June 1978.
In the preface from 2001 Benoist reflects about the first sentences in his book released 25 years ago. A book dedicated to the right shouldn't be necessarily a book written by „the right“ or better should have been. Benoist reaches a harsh judgement. In the face of currently successful neoliberal and right-wing populist movements and parties on the right he's glad to have been silenced. He's arguing that this very right didn't take up the advice he gave to them in this book back in 1977 (we rememver his famous definition „what is right-winged“). Benoist also critizises himself. The main enemy is for him no longer egalitarianism but the ideology of the same ("le Même") since in the further developement of his critique on egalitarianism he realizes that behind the egalitarian rhetorik is the wish for homogenity. She's the main theoretical foundation of egalitarianism and therefore the core of the problem. He also radicalizes his critique on universalism. Whereas universalism tends to deny the difference through reducing the other to sameness, ethnocentrism tries to reduce diversity through radically cut off the other. From this point of view the only suitable opposition to the ideology of the same is the principle of diversity. Benoist already mentioned this earlier but now in 2001 he seems to lay heavy emphasis on that.
The first volume of View of the Right is diveded in two parts. In the first one – Heritage – Benoist outlines the historic and cultural developement of the Indoeuropeans starting with the hunters and gatherers 35.000 years ago to the Indogermanic tribes, which is outdated in scientific terms unfortunately. Referring to the famous teachings of Georges Dumézil he writes about their social structures and religion. For the Bronce Age Benoist forms a broad spectrum from the heroes of Homer, beyond the Mazdaism of the Indo-Iranians, the Etruscians, Celts, the Germanic tribes, Norse mythology to the Vikings in America. The first chapter about the theses of Jürgen Spanuth about Atlantis is irritating, because it was already falsified by the scientific community. The publisher should have better relinquished this chapter according to agreement with Benoist.
The second part concerns itself with the foundations and is in the first part about Philosophie and cultural theory. The vast space dedicated to the chapter about Nietzsche is impressive and even consists of a section about difficulties in the edition of the philosopher's work. Benoist stresses that Nietzsche's eternal return of the same couldn't be understood without his spheric concept of history. He talks about the essence of identity which is a selective moment of the eternal return since only those things can return which want to. From the culture theory of Norbert Elias Benoist leads the reader to the German romanticism. First one might be puzzled about this and some could be irritated about some badly investigated passages but one has to keep in mind that German romanticisim was scarcely noticed in France. So Benoist writes in detail about the emergence of the term „Volk“ and the late romanticist state theory (the organic state). He stresses the big influence the Age of Romanticisim had on important thinkers like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler and Carl Schmitt.
The following parts which make up more than the half of the book are dedicated to natural sciences. About the newest insights into physics and cosmologie and the question if intelligence is inherent or socialised Benoist moves on to biology and genetics. Here he's especially interested in the question which role genetics are playing in the natural determination of modern man. Spaciously he comprehends books and insights by Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinberger and last but not least Eibl-Eibesfeldt (especially his book: Der vorprogrammierte Mensch 1973) and describes how ethology and behavioural biology in made behaviourism irrelevant from their start on. Benoist concludes that the fundamental relevations of these young sciences must be comprehended in the form of a devastating critique against the ideas of Rousseau.
A translation into English was long overdue. The fact that this re-release was published with a new introduction by Benoist makes this print especially interesting.
Translated by Alexander Markovics