Thursday, February 08, 2024

Traditionalism and Nikolai Berdyaev

The Polish philosopher Marek Jedliński has just published an article in Studia z Historii Filozofii (in English) entitled “Russian Yearning for Elite Power: Nikolai Berdyaev’s Reflections on the Metaphysics of Democratism” (available here). Berdyaev (1874-1948, pictured) was a Russian philosopher and exile whose critique of modernity was grounded in religion. 

Jedliński, who has previously published on Julius Evola, René Guénon, and Traditionalism, terms Berdyaev a “traditionalist” and compares him in several respects with Guénon, especially with regard to their understandings of modernity and democracy. Berdyaev even wrote of a “democratic ideology of quantity” (48). There are certainly interesting parallels, but in the end Berdyaev was not a perennialist, even if he was an anti-modernist. 

Jedliński’s article raises the question of what Guénon and Berdyaev thought of each other’s work. They both lived in Paris at the same time, and Berdyaev’s key Le Nouveau Moyen-Âge (The New Middle Ages) was published in French in 1924. Berdyaev was friends with Jacques Maritain, at one point Guénon’s sponsor. Yet Guénon never seems to have mentioned Berdyaev, nor Berdyaev Guénon.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Dugin's multiple contexts

An excellent article on the multiple contexts of Alexander Dugin and Eurasianism has just been published in the New York Review of Books. It is “Russian Exceptionalism” (available here) by Gary Saul Morson, a scholar of Russian literature who has read Dugin and other Eurasianists carefully. He places Dugin in three larger contexts: the “Russian Exceptionalism” of his title, early Eurasianism, and contemporary Russia. And he may well be right in all three ways. He concludes that “Far from distorting earlier Eurasianism, Dugin’s bloodthirstiness represents its predictable development.” I myself would prefer “apocalypticism” to “bloodthirstiness,” but I must admit that the current Dugin can certainly seem rather bloodthirsty. 

Two thirds of the article is about the early Eurasianism of Nikolai Trubetskoy, Pyotr Savitsky, and Lev Gumilev, to which too little attention is usually paid. In Morson’s view, Dugin synthesized this “with the work of practitioners of geopolitics from Halford Mackinder on, along with structuralists, postmodernists (Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze), French ‘traditionalists’ (René Guénon and Alain de Benoist), and various Nazis or ex-Nazis, including Julius Evola, Carl Schmitt, and, of course, Martin Heidegger.” Yes, though Benoist would not identify himself as a Traditionalist like Guénon, even if there is indeed much Traditionalism in his through. And Evola, of course, should be listed as a Traditionalist, not a Nazi—he was never even a proper Fascist, let alone a Nazi. But this is not the point: the article is about contexts, not the classification of Dugin’s sources.