Teitelbaum is an American scholar who has previously published Lions of the North: Sounds of the New Nordic Radical Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2017), an excellent ethnographic study of radical nationalists and the related music scene in Sweden, and although War for Eternity is written in light, journalistic style, it is based on thorough research, principally long interviews with its main subject, Steve Bannon.
The book’s US cover and title focus on Bannon, but the UK cover and title are closer to the contents, as the book also covers several other Traditionalists, notably Alexander Dugin (Russia) and Olavo de Carvalho (Brazil), and then Gábor Vona of Jobbik (Hungary) and John Morgan of Integral Tradition Publishing and Arktos (online).
Some of what is in War for Eternity will come as no surprise to those who know their Traditionalism and/or have read my Against the Modern World, but much of it is new and interesting. Most of all, Teitelbaum’s long discussions with Bannon reveal Bannon’s own, modified, version of Traditionalism, and resolve a number of mysteries.
- Firstly, what Bannon now takes from Traditionalism is, in his own words, “the rejection of modernity, the rejection of the Enlightenment, the rejection of materialism,” and the understanding that “culture, true culture, is based upon immanence and transcendence.”
- Secondly, Bannon reconciled Traditionalism with populism by identifying the American working class with tradition, and America’s globalized elites with modernity. In Guénon’s terms, in the hierarchy of values “proceeding from the body, to money, to earthly creeds, to Spirituality,” it is the elites who are slaves to money, and the working class that may perhaps access spirituality. In Evola’s terms, it is the working class who are the warriors: “The aristos don’t fight! They strictly don’t fight.” All in all, it is the working class that is “out of time, insulated from the corrupting influences of modernity; vessels for eternal ideals and carriers of a spirit that unites a society internally and separates it from others elsewhere.”
- Thirdly, Bannon agrees with the Traditionalists that the end of the temporal cycle means that destruction inevitably proceeds a new cycle. Trump is the great destroyer, though Bannon more often calls him “the disrupter.” The early moves of the Trump administration, in which Bannon’s ideas were still influential, were aimed at the destruction of the forces of modernity in the form of the “administrative state,” in this instance the federal government. Unfortunately from Bannon’s perspective (though he does not put it quite like this), Trump then also went on to destroy his own administration, and thus also the possibility of it actually achieving anything very much. That was not the original idea (though perhaps it was fortunate, at least for those who see the federal government as performing necessary functions).
- Fourthly, Trump’s enmity towards China fits with Bannon’s Traditionalist views. For Bannon, “The globalists are totally tied to the mercantilist totalitarian system of the Chinese. China is the economic engine that drives it all. Without China, it doesn’t work; that’s what’s driven the system.” Bannon tried to convince Dugin of this during a long meeting between the two in Rome, arguing that the Chinese are trying to create precisely the unipolar world that Dugin has spent much of his career arguing against. Bannon very much liked Dugin’s Forth Political Theory. It seems that Dugin was less convinced by Bannon.
Somewhat less interesting is the section towards the end of the book on the relationship between Jason Jorjani, an American activist of Iranian origin who is influenced by Traditionalist, and Michael Bagley, a con-artist who ended up in jail.
One criticism: the book perhaps relies too much on interviews, and more attention could usefully have been paid to what Dugin and Carvalho have written.
All in all, however, required reading.