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On the Margins of Alexander Dugin: Dark 'Particularities'

On the Margins of Alexander Dugin: Dark 'Particularities'

Monday, 30 May, 2022 - 11:30
Isam al-Khafaji
Isam al-Khafaji is an Iraqi writer and academic.

I was not surprised to see that Russian thinker Alexander Dugin has drawn more searches than any other. I have no doubt that many of those looking him up are not interested in philosophy, his primary field of interest; rather, they looked him up because of claims that he is “Putin’s Rasputin,” his spiritual father and ideological guide.

Many of those looking him up, then, are searching for insights into Putin’s thinking, his vision of the world, and his understanding of international relations. That is not the focus of this article.

Dugin’s popularity began rising a quarter of a century ago after his book, “The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia,” which became a textbook taught in the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian army, was published in 1997.

Those concerned with immediate political questions would find a lot of interesting ideas in this book and Dugin’s other works. These include his call for the establishment of a new Russian empire that extends from Vladivostok in the far east of Russia to Gibraltar in the far West of Europe, the formation of a strategic anti-American alliance that brings Russia together with the Baltic states and the Islamic world, especially Iran, and the murder of the protesters who took to the streets to oppose the regime of the Ukrainian’s pro-Russian president in 2014 (which forced the university to suspend his classes).

These positions could leave the impression that we are looking at a Nazi clown, who carries no intellectual weight. However, that is certainly not the case. The man has authored thirteen books about Heidegger, who had ambiguous ties to the Nazis. He began his political life in the USSR as an activist and a member of a secret organization, translating the works of Italian philosopher Julius Evola, who played an influential role in the fascist and Nazi movements of the 1920s and 30s , and sharply criticized modernity, the liberal system, the principle of progress, and the values of freedom and equality.

Dugin believes that the struggle with the West should be presented as a spiritual and existential battle over “Russia’s soul” rather than a political conflict. It is a clash between two civilizations, each of which holds radically divergent convictions and value systems regarding thrush and man. Western civilization, which he believes is currently degrading and in decline, is built on unsound philosophical grounds derived from modernity, “a catastrophic mistake.”

For Dugin, modernity is not a historical stage but an ideological framework that denies the sanctity of phenomena and refers to individual freedoms and human rights as universal rights while they are (per Dugin, of course) nothing more than artificial abstractions and ideological constructs used to protect those clinging to power, distracting the masses so that the powerful maintain their economic and political dominance.

As for the values of universalism, objectivity, and positivism, they are nothing but a smokescreen for a dictatorial machine striving to spread liberalism. Globalization is nothing but a weapon to spread these values and concepts globally, enabling the United States to control humanity.

Dugin proposes an alternative to globalization, calling it “universal pluralism (pluverism),” a term coined by the Nazi jurist Carl Schmidt, which opposes globalization on the grounds that nations are organic entities with divergent traditions, values, and worldviews, all of which arise and crystallize throughout their history. We must strive to safeguard the national spirit by building a military force that can confront external threats, and we must not subjugate that spirit and reshape it to maximize material comfort while dissolving social ties and spreading individualism.

Readers who are familiar with nationalist and Islamic literature will find that many of Dugin’s ideas are similar. Those who are skeptical or critical of this literature will understand the nationalists and Islamists’ sympathy for Russia’s official worldview, a sympathy that cannot be reduced to hostility to the West and the US.

Students of Nazism and Fascism will also find much in common among all of these intellectual and value systems. Those who have read “The Clash of Civilizations”, which Samuel Huntington wrote three decades ago, will find that its alteration is replacing Russian civilization with Islam as the force clashing with the West.

I cannot claim that Dugin brings nothing new to the table, as such a claim would demand reading his twenty-plus works, which I have not done and do not plan to do. What I can say is that the impact of his actions is linked to a particular historical context and that his influence on policy decisions in one of the world’s most militarily powerful countries raises several risks.

Since modernity began during the Age of Reason in the seventeenth century and then the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, modernity has come under attack from those decrying the erosion of tradition or religious values and customs and others voicing their frustration with the hardships associated with particular areas or groups within each country or globally.

Nonetheless, the ideological assault on the values of modernity and the concepts of equality, freedoms and accountability did not crystallize into mass movements until the black quarter-century, which began from the rise of fascism in Italy in 1922 and ended with the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, when it seemed to the world that this was a black stain on history that would not be repeated.

What we are witnessing today is hard right ultranationalist ideology gaining steam in countries with massive demographic, economic and military weight. While this thought has taken a colonial dimension packaged as anti-Western colonialism, in Trump’s America and today in Modi’s India, it was manifested in assaults against broad segments of the population, whether Muslim or Black.

All of these movements, as well as less extreme versions in Europe, justify their hostility in the name of preserving tradition, which they complain is being threatened by international conspiracies relying on a fifth column who come from different backgrounds to the “good guys” of the nation, whites here, Hindus there, Christians in Hungary, and so on…

Perhaps the rise of dogmatism, Trumpism, and Hindu nationalism, as well as similar phenomena in Iran and elsewhere, should remind us that attacking modernity and talking about “our particularities” is no longer associated with longing for the past and a desire to return to it. Indeed, these political movements sanctify technology and encourage industry, but pursue irrational dreams that assume that technical and industrial progress should not go beyond the factory and laboratory walls, that this progress should not seep into social and political structures.

The “spirit of the nation,” which translates into militarism, the exclusion of women from leadership positions (especially political positions), an aversion to the arts, hostility to freedom, and apprehensions about “others” who are not “our compatriots,” must not change, even if millions of women have joined the labor market, our teams and artists take part in international events, and our youth are informed about what is going on in the world.

Is the fear of modernity and reason anything more than a fear shared by those clinging to power and afraid of losing their grip on it?

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