14 July 2017     home | subject timeline

Alexander Dugin and Putin against Western Culture

The News Hour this week is running a segment titled Putin's Russia. It quotes an archpriest whose view on church and state differ from US tradition:

The state and my faith are united. They can’t be separated. The values of the church and the state coincide.

Shortly thereafter, the segment quotes Russia's Alexander Dugin sounding like a fascist:

Patriotism is organic. It is not artificial. Empire, or state, is not something additional or artificial, because it is our breath, our skin, our organic way of life.

Dugin has been a sociology professor at Moscow State University. He is described at BigThink.com as a prolific writer, "an advisor to key political and military figures and an articulator of a Kremlin-approved political philosophy." He is said to speak ten languages.

In a BigThink.com piece titled "The Most Dangerous Philosopher in the World," Paul Ratner describes Dugin as believing that liberalism is a dying ideology. Ratner quotes Dugin:

The [world's] liberalism insists on the freedom and liberation from any form of collective identity. That is the very essence of the liberalism. The liberals have liberated the human being from national identity, religious identity and so on.

Yes. Dugin supports Russia's old/new religiosity. (With his long beard Dugin looks like an Old Believer). Putin also supports Russia's return to religiosity. This is different from Trump embracing evangelicals, but Trump's aide Steve Bannon has his similarities with Dugin, Bannon faulting secular liberals for threatening Western civilization.

Newsweek Magazine compares Dugin and Bannon:

They both believe global elites have conspired against ordinary people. Their enemies: secularism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism. In both Bannon’s and Dugin’s worldview, the true global ideological struggle is not between Russia and the United States but between culturally homogenous groups founded on Judeo-Christian values practicing humane capitalism on one side and, on the other, an international crony-capitalist network of bankers and big business.

Dugin seeing a Trump victory as apocalyptic and civilization-changing. Paul Ratner quotes Dugin:

We need to return to the Being, to the Logos, to the foundamental [sic] ... to the Sacred, to the New Middle Ages — and thus to the Empire, religion, and the institutions of traditional society (hierarchy, cult, domination of spirit over matter and so on). All content of Modernity is Satanism and degeneration.

Dugin supports a greater Russian multi-national empire. He is ambivalent about Putin apparently because Putin is not as aggressive enough in pursing this empire. During the 2014 Russia-Ukraine conflict, the sociologist Dugan is said to have called for a massacre of Ukrainians and annexing Ukrainian lands that were part of the former Russian Empire.

Dugin's bestselling book “The Foundation of Geopolitics” 1997, has been described as a textbook at Russian military universities. And Dugin supports efforts to undermine order in the United States. He has written:

It is especially important to introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the US. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics.

Like Bannon, Dugin wants to preserve civilization — Russian civilization. He emphasizes the uniqueness of cultures and civilizations, and he sees modernity as a threat to these. This is despite the voluntary nature of these diffusions. Russians took to French literature, Japanese nobles in the Meiji era and Chinese revolutionaries borrowed from Western culture.

Dugin is deep into the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, whom he describes "not only as a great philosopher, on par with the other greats, but as the greatest of them all." This fits my view of people differing from me philosophically despite their high IQ. My view of Heidegger (one of the philosophers described on this site) is not kind. Heidegger is not a clear thinker, Bertrand Russell having written of Heidegger creating the suspicion that his language is running riot. Heidegger is a Platonist who uses essence frequently, pretending knowledge he doesn't have while denying knowledge created from sense experience. I believe in the modernity and science that Dugin derides and that is incompatible with Plato.

Dugin doesn't make much of Heidegger having joined the Nazi Party (in May 1933, a few months after Hitler became chancellor). He sees it as Heidegger's hope for a new, higher-minded era. (I fault Heidegger — Hannah Arendt's former professor and lover — for the philosophical confusion, in part political, that allowed him to join Hitler's party.

(On Amazon.com, somebody commenting on Dugin's book on Heidegger writes that Heidegger's "anti-liberal tendencies should not be read on a political but on a philosophical level." But, as Dugin realizes, politics and philosophy are not seperate entities.)

Alexander S. Duff has written an article for the Wall Street Journal titled of "Heidegger's Ghosts". He writes of opposition to the Western-originated, universalist claims of the broadly liberal cultural, economic, and political order taking diverse forms:

One can detect it among Iranian revolutionary theocrats, Russian imperialist ideologues, white supremacist “Identitarians,” European neo-fascists, identity-politics partisans, and anti-foundationalist intellectuals of many stripes. But standing behind some of the leading intellectual and political figures in this mélange of counter-liberalism is one animating mind, that of Martin Heidegger.

... For those inspired by Heidegger, the universalist claims upon which the liberal order is based are too thin, too weak, and too ignoble to provide tangible and meaningful sources of human identity.

Unfortunately for Dugin, many are satisfied with the Pursuit of Happiness described by Thomas Jefferson. Many still believe in the liberal tradition that developed in Britain with John Locke. Many still believe in freedom of the press and freedom from the kind of gangsterism for the status quo under Putin that threatened dissent in Germany in the 1930s and threatens Russia today — while Putin pretends innocence.

Nationalism had a big role in ending the great Russian empire by 1991. Dugin dislikes nationalism and globalism. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches of course preferred multi-national entities provided by empire. But revival of a great empire is as likely to happen as Mussolini's attempt renew the Roman Empire. It's about as likely as the return of even a portion of the British Empire. Histories are not easily undone — including all that needs undone to go back to Dugin's Middle Ages.

There is an apocalyptic element in Dugin's thinking, and in Bannon's worldview — view of a threatening evil. And some supporters of the old Soviet Union saw evil in the cultural influences from the bourgeois and decadent United States. Dugin, and to some extent Putin, still see this Western culture as an enemy. Religious culture or heritage plays at least a small role in a twist that is Dugin's new evil. Who knows when it will fade like so much else in history? Belief if in a coming apocalypse has been around for almost 2000 years.

Meanwhile, many of us hold to our secularism and, like Ron Reagan Jr, remain unafraid of "burning in Hell."

I welcome your opinions and help.


Copyright © 2017 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.