A Straussian neoreactionary review of *The Complacent Class*

The specific thinkers cited for ‘cyclical models of history’ are Vico, Spengler, and Toynbee, in that order.

With that triple-burst trigger pull, the race to a second, Straussian reading begins.

Taking a cue from those statements, consider that the book itself might be a cycle. Read forwards, it is a series of slightly overcooked thinkpieces that ends on a surprisingly bold note. Read backwards, one finds it hides a thrilling call to arms.

This is a contrarian reading; one I make no claim should actually be attributed to Cowen himself. Nonetheless, the coherences pile up too neatly to simply be ignored once seen.

There is much more of substance at the link.  That is from Thomas Barghest, via Justin.  By the way, someone else did a long “Alt Right” take on the book and emailed it to me, and I meant to link to it, but I misplaced the email somehow.  If you email it to me, or leave it in the comments, I’ll put it into Links tomorrow.  And here is just a wee bit more:

Cowen shows us that if we had the courage of immigrants and foreigners to ignore contemporary mores and treat our strengths as something to take pride in rather than something to hide, we might restore our culture to a dynamic greatness. Such honest pride in ourselves and our abilities was ours only a half-century ago, before the 60’s, he implies. It is not so long gone.

However, a proper neoreactionary, he doesn’t pretend we can simply wish ourselves there. Americans’ current complacency is not pure timidity. The transcendent is not something we’ve simply lost. It was crushed, stolen, and turned against us.

Overall, you guys crack me up, and I do mean “guys.”


There are plenty of questionably designed statistics and politically correct thinkpiece citations scattered throughout like so much gauche op-ed bling.

The truth hurts, doesn't it, Tyler!

What are examples of political correct think piece citations on the book, according to you?

I was 90% kidding. Tyler claimed to be amused by the review; I was actually somewhat amused by the line I put in italics, so I felt compelled to draw attention to it in an ironic fashion. I have not read the book.

I missed the irony, sorry.

Apocalypticism sells books, just like apocalypticism sells religion, from the Book of Daniel to the Revelation of John. For some reason, people love misery, and misery loves company. Coupling the apocalypse with the kingdom of God on earth makes for a happy ending, as does a return to 3% to 5% annual economic growth. And people of all faiths love a happy ending. But not this guy: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/books/review-american-war-omar-el-akkad.html?

They need to read Death of the author.

I find the fact that you are linking to that site to be fascinating.
Yes, the alt-right is heavily masculine (though not exclusively, especially in the more racist areas). But what philosophical movement isn't heavily gendered? Who are the great male feminist philosophers, for example?

>Who are the great male feminist philosophers, for example?

Jesus Christ. And I mean this in the most negative way possible.

He thought prostitutes were people.

Big deal. The people down the road thought that prostitutes were sacred.

I like the idea of a male feminist philosopher. I would offer in contrast perhaps the only significant female philosopher of recent time - G. E. M. Anscombe. Hugely out of fashion, in large part because she was an observant Catholic (convert) who had seven children and viewed abortion as murder. Does that make her a female misogynist philosopher?

Susan Haack, scourge of postmodernists! Brilliant philosopher.

The Anscombe society is making a comeback on college campuses. It's for homely intellectual minded students to tell themselves they choose not to have sex.

Really? I thought that was what all those feminist societies were for.

These days the Right has hotter women. I would be surprised if the Catholics did not.

"Are we not men?"

We are Devo!

Yeah, that, too, as a consequence.

John Stuart Mill:


"You guys" - This is hilarious for anyone who's been to typical libertarian seminar, conference or get-together, especially in the DC metro area.

"Hello fellow white guys"

Via Scott Alexander:

"For the record, here is a small sample of other communities where black people are strongly underrepresented:

Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%)."


Sorry, the claim that only 2% of atheists are black (which is what is being said, not 2% of blacks are atheist) is not believable.

Unfortunately the link to Pew is now broken. I find it not that remarkable, given that atheism skews (trigger warning!!!) higher income and higher IQ.

It does if you leave out the prison population.

"Given the cultural pull toward religion, less than one-half of a percent of African-Americans identify themselves as atheists"


Religiosity is highly genetically loaded. Blacks and whites differ substantially in terms of pigmentation, hair texture, sickle cell prevalence, obesity, vertical leap, SAT scores, and natural rhythm. Why would it be so shocking that they differ in terms of religiosity? For example in most African countries, witchcraft is formally handled by the criminal justice system.


Religiosity is highly genetically loaded.

The Sailer votaries are descending into self-parody.

This source has it at 3%:


How about chess tournaments?

I think I will call that review "zany."

Last time I checked this blog was run by two white men. Are you gonna replace Alex with a woman? Or is there some gender dysphoria play coming soon?

You could just replace the gender, not the person, these days.

That's an unfair point though, the GMU econ dept is mostly women.

You mean the support staff? I count exactly three female faculty.


Or maybe my /sarc detector is set too low.

Having previously picked on NR, while I do not know the exact count, I know that there are a lot of female grad students in the GMU dept. Faculty members may be kind of scarce, but the women in the dept are not all just staff.

Tyler becomes more despicable every day.

No complacency there!

No, no, that's a club to be used against *other* people.

The anti-neoreactionary interpretation of American complacency would argue that younger Americans are more complacent than the older generation of Americans because the costs of complacency are much lower than existed previously. This is actually sign that things are better than they ever have been, not worse. Why hustle and grind and work yourself to the bone, when you can still eek out a pretty decent life due to the conveniences of modern life.

If you got stuck in a dead-end job in the middle of the 20th century and your quality of life suffers dramatically. Now you get stuck in a dead-end job, at least you can still live rather comfortably: access almost all of the same forms of entertainment as the wealthy, travel abroad relatively cheaply, have all of human knowledge at your fingertips on the internet, a personal chauffeur that pulls up at the click of a button, enjoy the proliferation of amazing food and drinks, and interact with friends who, along with you, are willing to prolong adolescence as well. Additionally, with the disintegration of traditional family morals and the ubiquity of sex before marriage, bachelors no longer have to settle down and take on responsibility to sleep with women. Americans can now get the most of any person in history has ever gotten with the least amount of effort.

Not sure about the "least amount of effort" part, but I see what you're saying.

The only thing you got wrong is that apparently most bachelors don't sleep with any women at all.

Well, they have sex less often but clearly enjoy greater variety.

Given the dynamics of inter-sexual relations, it would work out that the majority of women sleep with the minority of men.

This thinking also holds true for women... A minority of women sleeps with a lot of man... Thank god!

Since 1900, the life expectancy of someone 24 years of age has increased by about 13.5 years. The median age at 1st marriage has increased by a shade over 4 years.

The ratio of marriages in a given year to the population of age cohorts in their early 20s was about 0.58 in 1955. Currently, the ratio of marriages to the population of age cohorts in their late 20s is about 0.51.

That doesn't tell us anything about the quality of the marriages.

Did the wife fuck other men before her husband?

How many, and for how long? Is the wife a raging harpy, or does she love, cherish and obey?

How many of these marriages will last?

How many will produce children?

How many children will they produce?

Will smart married couples produce more smart children than dumb married couples, improving their smart genes' relative Darwinian success?

And so on and so forth.

Some of these answers are quantifiable and some are not, but are all immensely qualitatively different between 1955 and 2017.

If only we could return to before the 60s, when women and black people knew their place, then we could Make America Great Again!

The idea that pre-1960s was 'great' might be lazy. But so is the view that pining for some set of past glories requires (or suggests) those glories were intertwined with women/black/places is lazy.

There probably were positive cultural values in those days that have been lost. You can appreciate those without the women/black/places aspect.

This is the alt-right's view of the past we're talking about, isn't it?
These are the same people who think everything went to shit when we started letting in non-white immigrants on an equal basis with white ones (Immigration Act of 1965).


Regarding your question, I think it would be instructive for you to have a read of this piece on theory and history: http://www.socialmatter.net/2016/10/04/where-did-it-all-go-wrong/

The neo-reactionary view was that America went to shit in 1933.

The reactionary view was that Europe went to shit in 1789.

The classic reactionary view was that Christendom went to shit in 1517.

The ultra reactionary view was that the West went into deep shit in 321.

The super reactionary view was the Rome went to shit in 133 BC.

However, it all started to go sideways when democracy killed Socrates in 399 BC.

Fernand Braudel once wrote: "By the time [Plato and Aristotle] came on the scene, everything worthwhile had been accomplished."

The Late Bronze Age Collapse was the real turning point.

Actually that is the soft-school alt-right. The hard line is that the 1965 law was a problem but the bigger mistake was earlier - when the Ellis Island immigrants were let in from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Everyone condemns the Fifties but everyone wants to live there. As soon as anyone can afford it, they move to a leafy suburb where wives stay at home, men go out to work, the children are mostly well behaved, everyone goes to Church on Sunday - and there are no Blacks. Even Black people do it.

So you can mock pre-1965 America, but everyone in their heart of hearts misses it and wants it for their children.

When, as a young non-complacent man, moved to SF from my safe suburb, I figured I'd live in the cheapest area. Save some money -- I wasn't getting paid much.

So I checked out the Tenderloin. Well... Okay, can't live there. I kept walking around this new city, with no real idea for the geography, like some sort of Nelder-Mead algorithm with only a faint idea of what I was optimizing for. By time I felt safe and at home, I was in the areas that were safe, picturesque, 1950s, and affordable (and mostly white and Asian, but don't notice those things. Stop it!).

I ended up in Pacific Heights. I could barely afford it, but it seemed like the only sane choice.

Isn't it weird when you really think about it? One of the richest, most vibrant, smartest, and most progressive city in the world! And as you walk down the streets, maybe the wrong streets, (sometimes you take the Union street Bart and just need to go up a few blocks, you know?), you find yourself stepping over the unconscious and avoiding eye contact with the wrong people.

Anyway, It's probably due to GOP cuts for mental health or something. If they'd cut a slightly bigger cheque it'd resolve itself.

Spoken like someone who only ever sees that world from the outside.

There aren't that many suburbs where wives stay at home anymore.
Or where everyone goes to Church on Sunday either.

Two income families are the norm, and Sunday barbeque-and-football parties are more common than church attendance.

Heck, I wouldn't want to live anywhere where wives stayed at home and people went to Church, this is why I don't want to live in Utah. The only people left that do that are Mormons.
My last residence was in a mixed race neighborhood on the edge of a wealthy white suburb. Although there was a trailer park carefully hidden in the middle of it, so maybe not that wealthy.
I like taking advantage of other people's racism - you can afford a much larger house that way.

>NatashaRostova March 28, 2017 at 7:00 pm
When, as a young non-complacent man,

Cute. Only in SF can a man be called Natasha Rostova...

Larry - Russian speakers often use a non-gendered word (in English "the rights of man" translates to Russian as, retranslated precisely: "the rights of man and woman". ) That being said, while in real life I appreciate the fact that God made men men and made women women, with a few exceptions that God in his wisdom saw fit to create, I wonder why someone would think it is an effective insult to a woman who has mistakenly referred to herself in a foreign language as a man to say what you said, or vice versa? If one is looking among the humans in one's social circle for a potential fertile mother to one's children, I get it ... but otherwise?

There aren’t that many suburbs where wives stay at home anymore.

Again, there isn't much of a secular trend in employment-to-population ratios over the post-war period. There's been some reshuffling as married women have entered the workforce in greater numbers and as men have retired earlier.

About 47% of the working population is female as we speak; about 33% was in 1957. There remain about 9 million women in the 25 to 54 age group who have left the labor for for 'home responsibilities". There are 35.4 million married women in those age sets.

Heck, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere where wives stayed at home and people went to Church,

They'd likely see through you.

this is why I don’t want to live in Utah. The only people left that do that are Mormons.

We get it. The world around you is a mystery to you.

EmanuelNoriega March 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Spoken like someone who only ever sees that world from the outside.

It is true that I don't live in a White leafy suburb. But I know it well.

53 Hazel Meade March 28, 2017 at 9:17 pm

There aren’t that many suburbs where wives stay at home anymore. Or where everyone goes to Church on Sunday either.

In the US the richer people are, the more they are likely to go to Church, get and stay married and so on. I suspect that larger numbers of their women stay at home too. As Art has pointed out many times before, the percentage of working women has not increased that much.

54 Hazel Meade March 28, 2017 at 9:24 pm

My last residence was in a mixed race neighborhood on the edge of a wealthy white suburb. Although there was a trailer park carefully hidden in the middle of it, so maybe not that wealthy. I like taking advantage of other people’s racism – you can afford a much larger house that way.

What racism? You are freeloading on the social capital of those nice White middle class Church goers. They have built a nice neighbourhood and you cannot afford it. So you gentrify. You buy on the edge and gradually push the minorities out. It works out nicely for you. But your property values depend on those Fifties values. Not on what you are doing.

At the very high end -- say among parents at a school with tuition of >=$25k -- it's quite common for the wife to retire around age 35 to 45 when her $150k salary doesn't make all that much difference anymore to the total family income.

You haven't seen well-organized after-school activities until you've seen them organized by stay at home moms with Ivy League MBAs.

Ha! I absolutely have seen this in action! The elementary school volunteering was pretty much open to all comers, even a near-teenager like myself, as the things we were doing weren't all that removed from the activities of the children themselves; but once we hit middle school, the Booster Club meetings were run like a Fortune 500 company, and I understood that I no longer had anything to offer. More recently there was gathering of Area Women in the very fancy neighborhood nearby to campaign against the doubledecker freeway over our premier city park (adjacent to said neighborhood, hence these ladies' interest). As an actual, thoroughgoing enviro, I thought here at least I might be at home, and only worried about what to wear. So wrong. Those women were on it. They had even gone to the length of printing out a 12 foot long map. All the furniture had been moved out of the living room and a long war room table moved in. No chitchat, it was action items only, and God help the poor souls who raised their hands to blather. I can only describe these sort of women as "no-nonsense."

But will they accomplish anything like their garden-club grandmothers did? That is not obvious to me.

One of the little advertised consequences of otherwise literate people failing to complete the calculus: they focus on absolute quantities rather than gradient.

One of the greatest virtues of the 60's was the way it encouraged people to not be so narcassitically fear acknowledging the fact that other people have better sex lives.

Conservative married women have better sex lives than their peers. More sex, more orgasms too I believe.

So it would be nice that some of the petty resentments that drive the Left lifted in the Sixties, but I doubt it is true. They still seem pretty driven by hatred of the popular boys who got all the girls in High School.

You were in the Chess Club?

Someone might want to alert the peer reviewers of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy that the Bergin & Fisch tr. of The New Science of Giambattista Vico does indeed include the Practica (pp. 427 to 430), just as did all four of Fausto Nicolini's eds.

When will Tyler stop being complacent?

Why hasn't Tyler announced his startup to build brain implants?

"SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices."

Tyler talks about everyone being complacent, but fails to lead by example, like the immigrant Elon Musk does.

Maybe it's because Tyler wants everything he does to turn an economic profit or rent.

It's clear Elon Musk has no interest is safety or profit.

Of course, Elon is only twice as crazy as Jeff Bezos. Who likewise has no interest in safety or profit.

But the same might be said about Bill Gates. Who would try to eliminate malaria, dengue, yellow fever, polio, AIDS, etc in populations that are dirt poor? Where is the profit?

I bet Bill Gates would concede that eliminating the causes of poverty in Africa like disease and lack of education and ready energy would be very profitable to him as a Microsoft shareholder. Elon and Jeff tell people that their projects will eventually be profitable so they will invest billions in ideas the complacent consider insane.

The question is who today offers the hope and optimism to stop being complacent?

Who is saying "We choose to go to the Moon! ...[6] We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things,[7] not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win ..."

Ted Cruz? Jeff Sessions? Trump? Tyler?

Elon sees democratizing access to the coming AI as essential for maintaining a free and democratic society. He discussed this idea a bit an AI conference, but I don't have a link. I may be mis-remembering, but I believe the thought is that if humans are by design represented via links to and within the AI system and can exert influence on its direction, it is likely to produce a better outcome for the humans.

Elon wishes he could have gotten in on the ground floor with Theranos.

We chose to go to the moon to beat the Soviets.

The linked post from Scott Alexander on Invisible Women (in GDP figures) made me wonder if any economists worked out his puzzle.

Hazel Meade - If only we could return to before the 60s, when women...knew their place, then we could Make America Great Again!

Hazel, see above.

Also: "Why is it that women’s happiness is in decline even as they are earning more money and gaining more opportunities

No comments on juice?

"By the way, someone else did a long “Alt Right” take on the book and emailed it to me, and I meant to link to it, but I misplaced the email somehow. "

Here it is:


Jason Bayz's website has some pretty great book reviews:


For example, I learned a lot from his review of John Mueller's "The Remnants of War" even though I'd already read the book myself.

From the CC: "There is the distinct possibility that, in the next twenty years, we are going to find out far more about how the world really works than we ever wanted to know. "

I'm already there.

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