A Utopia of The Right | Rupert August
Utopia; conventionally defined, is a preserve of either the left, or sometimes a much more specific ideology. This is perhaps because when we talk of utopia, we are thinking in terms of a system which is perfected, and creates perfect outcomes systematically. From final stage Communism, to Utopian Anarcho-Capitalism, from Plato’s perfect Republic to (dubiously) Thomas More’s Utopia – all are aimed at systematising outcomes, and thereby making them perfect for all time. This utopian impulse for improving systematically without trade-off or notable cost is perhaps further a preserve of the left (even in everyday politics) where the right so often plays the part of cautioning against the desires of the left. This is however, relying on the heuristic understanding of right versus left, rather a more concrete definition; but I would suggest that even without defining this often vaguely understood divide – there can be a way of conceiving of a general but unarticulated vision of a utopia of the right. I believe this is exemplified through prevailing Roman thought on the Mos Maiorum – the ancestral customs.
The Romans conceived of their own declining republic as a decline of public virtue, most particularly embodied by the men who brought it down with their actions. This is in sharp contrast to the men who were credited as early heroes of the republic, and the men who first founded it. I shall not go into the details of the specific virtues considered part of the Mos (though I would encourage you to look them up), but instead will highlight this idea in itself. Although primarily concerned with the conduct of the elites, most writings are lamenting on the mid-to-late republic’s displacements of small-holding farmers from their estates to become urban plebs. So too the faltering conduct of the population at large which it accompanied. The concept of a universally virtuous farmer-warrior population of the past had a deep imprint on the Roman psyche (as far as we can tell) and affected both diagnosis of the crises, and sometimes general policy direction. I would suggest then, that this is much more in line with utopia of the right. The sense of flagging virtue seems a fairly uniquely right-wing phenomenon (however it is diagnosed to have been caused), alongside the romantic looking back to times where these virtues were strong and sincerely held, and on to a future where they might be once more. The right seeks a utopia of spirit.
Within this frame we can begin to make sense of certain impulses of the right; to despair at the course of the country, perhaps even the world. By most materialist metrics things are better than ever. The cost it would seem, is public virtue and the national spirit, where such things are considered at all. While seeing little to no way out of their respectively conceived historical cycles, Spengler and Evola both seem to take this view as well, perceiving the underpinning of a civilisation to be its vital spirit, and the culture of virtue which is pursued at first without explicit incentive or material gain. Over time, these fade and are replaced by more materialist crutches to keep the rot from having material consequences. Incentives to replace duty, bribes and bonuses to replace loyalty, scale and quantity to replace disciplined mastery and craftsmanship.
There is another side to this all however. In the early days of civilisation and empire, a people cannot afford decadence, either literally or metaphorically. When Rome was a tiny inconsequential city between major regional players – they had to be strong, trusting in each other, and honourable. Deviation from this would have meant destruction or subjugation, and they lacked proximity to wealth to be anything but humble. When the riches of Carthage, Numidia, and Pontus flowed into the city; they could have almost any pleasure that existed in the world at that time. To resist then is a matter of will, rather than a lack of means. So too did our ancestors lack some of these means. Today we have scientifically engineered products and services designed to give the most addictive flushes of emotion possible. Virtue remains as difficult as ever, but vice has never been more available. The general despair felt is appropriate in that sense, but it also presents an opportunity. A people which can will themselves away from temptation, and onto the more righteous path – is one which is stronger in virtue and conviction than a people who have never encountered vice. As such, although building this utopia of total virtue is just as Cicephian as attaining any other pure form of utopia, the mere act of trying is at least incrementally valourous and certainly a worthy task. Although there may not be agreement on the specific virtues that it would be best to hone, nor the best way of achieving and maintaining them, the presence of them allows us to – rather than create a fixed system creating perfection for all time – successfully meet any challenge levelled at us.