Race, Culture, and Anarchy
“The classic thing white students say when you ask them to talk about who they are is, ‘I don’t have a culture.’”
– University sociologist
A culture is the achievement of a particular blood line.
As such, “culture wars” may be seen as ultimately blood wars between competing conceptions of race and identity.
The culture war in the university between those advocating a “culturally diverse” curriculum and those advocating a curriculum based on the “Great Books” is, for example, essentially a debate about the future of American nationhood – will it be “Western” (i.e., white) or will it be “culturally” (racially) inclusive.
In the West, these sorts of wars have raged for nearly two centuries now. Many still fought in the United States are, in fact, but continuations of ones begun long ago in the old country.
This seems especially the case with the culture wars of Victorian England – in which the “progressive” or “liberal” forces, allied with “low-church” Protestants, challenged the traditional authority of the Church of England.
Since its establishment in the sixteenth century, the Church of England had rested on the social prominence of the landed aristocracy and gentry, and, more generally, on the organization of rural society, all of which began to decay with the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth century. As the numbers and prominence of the Protestant dissenters (responsible for much of the invention and entrepreneurialism that made Britain the world’s dominant economic power) grew in the course of the nineteenth century, especially after the Second Reform Bill of 1867 made them a majority of the expanded electorate, they more and more challenged the religious and cultural hegemony of the landed interests – the “Old Corruption,” so-called.
The dissenters’ demands for religious disestablishment were frequently raised in reference to the United States, cited as a vibrant, successful nation without a state church,
It was in the context of this cultural war between the landed interests and “the rising bourgeoisie” that the poet and critic Matthew Arnold intervened to rebuff the anti-traditionalists.
He argued that “All America Hebraises” and that England risked becoming Hebraic if it should follow the dissenters council, separate church from state, and let themselves fall into the “anarchy” that would come with disestablishment.
Having a not insignificant impact on subsequent American developments (especially in the university),1 Arnold’s argument speaks to us still in addressing the origins of our own culturally troubled age, particularly as it relates to our people’s cultural identity.
The Blood of the Isles
Arnold was steeped in the racial thought of his era, though his racialism tended toward the unsystematic and unorthodox. He had little patience with “rabbis,” men of a school or system who singlemindedly applied their fixed “truths” as if they were Holy Scripture.2
In his writings, particularly Culture and Anarchy (1869) and On the Study of Celtic Literature (1867) Arnold often framed his arguments about cultural developments in ethnological and racial terms.
All races, he believed, “have some one peculiar characteristic by which they are known.”
Race in this view denotes not just inherited physiological or genotypical differences but spiritual, psychological, and cultural ones that constitute “the soul of a race” and shape its history and civilization. A race’s soul or character is, then, just as fixed as its anatomic properties. Indeed, race so defined would serve in this period as a rough synonym for what we today call “culture.”
Arnold’s method, accordingly, was to ascertain the pre-eminent or representative characteristic of a race (or nation) and then seek evidence for it in fields where the race (or nation) exerted itself.
One representative example of his method is evident in his use of these lines from an old Irish verse.
For acuteness and valor, the Greeks;
For excessive pride, the Romans;
For dullness, the creeping Saxons;
For beauty and amorousness, the Gaels.
Despite the Irish boast is this, Arnold thought it captured a certain truth about his people’s character.
A morally earnest race, the English, he believed, lacked the lively, creative spirit of the Celts. This didn’t make them inferior, for dull as they allegedly were, the English were nevertheless the world’s foremost people: earnest, energetic, morally serious, and world-creating. Everything else, he held, rested on these “sterling” qualities.
But Arnold also believed the moral earnestness of the “Saxons,” especially in orienting them to money-making and individual salvation, had a tendency to make them one-dimensional – dull – and that this dullness was starting to take a toll on English national life.
Such reflections on national character were not atypical of his age. The third quarter of the nineteenth century (Arnold was 37 in 1859 when Darwin published his own On the Origin of Species) was a flourishing era of racial thought, particularly in its “Teutomania” (which, inspired by Tacitus’ flattering description of the early Germans, held that the most vital and regenerative elements in the West were Germanic in origin). Englishmen, Germans, Americans, and other North European peoples were all touched by it. (Manifest Destiny, Anglo-Saxonism, and Turner’s powerful frontier thesis were some of its more notable expressions in the US.)
Among Victorian England’s leading lights, it was everywhere assumed that the English were the purest of the Teutonic peoples, having been fathered by the Angle, Saxon, Jute, and Frisian invaders of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries and later by the Vikings and their descendants in French Normandy, while the Germans (the people who bore the name) were a Mischvolk, a product of different European stocks, and thus less “Germanic” than the English.
The Celts, the Irish especially, were, by contrast, seen as the near antithesis of the Teutons, foreign “in blood, belief, and religion.” Arnold’s own father, Dr. Thomas Arnold, claimed the distance between the English and the Irish was greater than that between “any other race in the world.”3 The good doctor, like his (born of a Cornish mother), had, revealingly, a good deal of Irish blood in his veins. More typically, Benjamin Disraeli described the history of “this wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain, and superstitious race” as “an unbroken circle of bigotry and blood.”4 Such sentiments would lead Ralph Waldo Emerson to argue in English Traits that “race avails much” and “all Celts were Catholic and believers in authoritarian government, while all Saxons were Protestants and believers in the representative principle.5
Arnold’s methodology was analogous in describing peoples or nations as collective personalities defined by their dominant traits. But, unlike most of his contemporaries, he was critical of the reigning Teutomania and lacked the religious biases of his day (whose anti-Celticism was usually a surrogate anti-Catholicism).
He was also informed by the latest racial research and saw how culturally distorting these biases were.
This was particularly evident, he thought, in the disproportionate way the English treated Irishmen and Jews. The latter, he pointed out, especially after Puritanism, “seemed a thousand times nearer than the Celt to us.” As a result, “a steady, middle-class Anglo-Saxon much more imagined himself Enud’s cousin than Ossian’s.”6 The English, in other words, were more inclined to identify with alien Semites than with their closest blood cousins, the Irish.
What especially set Arnold apart from the classically trained Englishmen of his day was his familiarity with French and German thought, especially the pioneering Indo-European and Celtic studies that Ernst Renan and Amedee Thierry were carrying out in France.
From their studies, Arnold had learned that Saxons and Celts were closely related Indo-European peoples and that much of the existing archaeological and historical evidence contradicted the prevailing belief that the earlier Germanic invaders had other exterminated the indigenous Celtic Britons or else driven them to the island’s mountainous extremities in the west and north. He thus suspected that: “The Englishman who thinks himself sprung from the Saxons or the Normans is often in reality the descendant of the Britons” (i.e., the Celts).7
Indeed, Arnold believed it was the Celts’ gift for style – and “their vehement reaction against the despotism of fact” – that had saved England from “the Philistine vulgarity” he found offensive in North Germany.8
He thus celebrated the kinship of blood and spirit that had never before imagined to exist between Celt and Saxon, courageously doing so in a period when Fenian political violence had aroused a good deal of anti-Irish sentiment in Britain.9
“Hebraism” Versus Hellenism
In this context, Arnold coined the term “Hebraism” to characterize the moralizing tendency of various “Teutonic” peoples influenced by Calvinism’s strict biblical standards.
Following Renan, who was instrumental in presenting Judaism as the counter-phenomenon of “Aryanism,” Arnold believed Indo-European peoples had been responsible for the world’s great intellectual, political, and cultural movements, while the Semitic race was responsible for the great religious movements of monotheism.
Yet, if the Hebrews glory was their elevated morality, outside religion, their achievement, it seemed, was largely negative.
Englishmen Hebraised in an evangelical Protestantism may therefore have been morally resistant to the reputed “lubricity” of Continentals, something every earnest Victorian prized, but they were olso, Arnold saw, “narrow, harsh, unintelligent, and unattractive.” In his view, the prevailing coarseness and vulgarity of the evangelicals reflected, moreover, a deeper ailment associated with Jewish self-righteousness: “Der Englander,” as Goethe put it, “ist eigentlich ohne Intelligenz.”10
“Unintelligence” here denotes not “stupidity,” but rather the inability to grasp a thing’s relation to its larger context or value because a cramped conviction closed off a broader, more accurate view. As a result, Arnold argued that the Jews’ biblical “unintelligence” tended to make nonconformists Philistine, “vulgar on the side of beauty and grace, coarse on the side of mind, spirit, and intelligence.”11
As such, the nonconformists (”Quakers, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Baptists”) treated biblical moral standards as if they were the unum necessarium (the one thing needful) and, worse, were satisfied with a “very crude conception” of what these moral standards implied.
Given that non unum necessarium frees human beings from the obligation of thinking what to do in life’s multiple realms, this “one thing needful” was wont to justify the “vulgarity, hideousness, ignorance, violence” of its deformed spirit.12 To see things as they are, on the other hand, requires a larger conception of human nature – a conception of which those of the unum necessarium felt little need.
For Arnold, then, “to Hebraise” meant to sacrifice “all sides of our being to the religious side” – at the expense not only of a fuller understanding, but of a more balanced or complete life.13
As embodied in the Puritan middle class, the morally earnest Hebrew was responsible for what Arnold called the increasingly “humdrum, plain, ugly, and ignoble” character of English national life.14
The growing influence of this “stiff-necked and perverse” stratum, Arnold feared, meant that industrializing England risked a terrible deculturation, if the materialism and individualism of this class should become hegemonic and if the old traditions and established creeds, with their emphasis on beauty, harmony, and balance, were forced to retreat before a market-based culture in which all that mattered was commerce and industry.
Like the Continental bourgeoisie, the English middle class had tended to stand apart from the main currents of European society, for both Ancient and Medieval civilizations held the merchant in low repute. When this class assumed greater social weight in the industrial nineteenth century, it quite naturally retained something of its hostility to the traditional order, rebuking not just its political tenets, but its larger heritage. In practical terms, Arnold feared this was leading to the loss of English unity, of community, of a common system of value and belief, and, ultimately, of a shared sense of meaning and beauty.
Arnold was no enemy of the nonconformists and always stressed that they had contributed much of what was “strongest and most serious” in the English nation. He may have been unusually evenhanded as a Victorian in dealing with Catholicism, but he was decisively on the Protestant side, for the latter’s individual conscience allegedly made Protestants more religiously serious than Catholics and thus less prone to the “dissolute” life.15 For all his love of the Hellenic cultural tradition, Arnold still felt, as one critic put it, “the powerful appeal of the Old Testament conception of righteousness.16
He nevertheless criticized nonconformists for having “not enough added to their care for walking staunchly by the best light they have … [for developing] one side of their humanity at the expense of all others, and [for becoming] incomplete and mutilated men in consequence.” 17
The victory of “bourgeois civilization” in England and the development of a market society based on Hebraic principles may have made England a rich, powerful country, but, Arnold warned, it also threatened the older traditions of beauty, knowledge, and purpose, without which a people lacks a sense of direction or meaning.18
Given its narrow horizons and “mechanical” mental habits, the dissenting middle class seemed, then, to be divesting itself of the heritage native Indo-European peoples, cutting itself off from “the best which has been thought and said in the world.”
More immediately, this Hebraic tendency to dismiss every criterion but economic and individualistic ones, the nationalist-minded Arnold feared, meant that Continental peoples, with less energy than the English, but greater intelligence, would soon encroach on their supremacy – a rather bold and prescient idea in this age of British world supremacy.
Worse still, he feared that low-church Philistinism would make the English complacent about the factories and slums, the iconoclastic chapels and gin palaces, which were changing the nation’s character.
Against the Philistines and the spiritual impoverishment they served, Arnold took up the cause of “culture” and what he called “Hellenism.” For if the Puritan Reformation had, in Christopher Dawson’s phrase, “rebuilt the Jewish temple,” recasting Englishmen in a Hebraic mold, the Renaissance, against which the Reformation revolted, had “replanted the groves of Academus.”19
The Renaissance awakening of the larger Greco-European heritage that Arnold called “Hellenism” had the potential, he thought, to return “humanity to nature and to seeing things as they are,” unsmudged by the soot and smoke of a petty Hebraic conscience.20 (In this spirit, the Renaissance Pope, Leo X, had professed a greater love of Plato than of Christ.)
As the antithesis of Hebraism, Hellenism meant comprehending “things in their essence and beauty.” Arnold thought that Hellenism might even further the moral designs of Hebraism, for its Puritan distillation had made a great caricature of grace, faith, election, and righteousness. “No man, who knows nothing else,” Arnold professed, “knows even his Bible.”21
In awakening the creative impulse of its repressed Celtic heritage and imbuing its middle class with the “sweetness and light” of Europe’s Hellenic tradition, Arnold hoped to turn “the practical, utilitarian mentality” of the middle class toward higher, more noble aspirations.
Arnold’s Concept of Culture
When members of our racially conscious community hear the word “culture,” many react in the way Hermann Goering allegedly did – by reaching for their holster.22
No concept, in fact, has so often been used in the twentieth century to deny racial differences and relativize the white man’s values as the anthropological notion of culture – a notion, I nevertheless hold, that is of foremost relevance to the white-nationalist project.
When Arnold took up the cause of “culture” as a remedy to the threat of “anarchy,” the term did not quite mean what it currently does. In Keywords, Raymond Williams points out that “culture” is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language, with a long, complex etymology.23 It was originally used to define that which undergoes a process of tending or cultivation – like a crop of domesticated herds – and was thus initially associated with agriculture. During the eighteenth century, the French began to use the term as a synonym for “civilization,” but the early Romantic reaction to the Revolution of 1789 (particularly in German-speaking lands) associated Kultur with the spiritual heritage of a material civilization – and thus with the process of becoming civilized, specifically as it relates to human development (i.e., as Bildung or éducation).
In the late 1860s, when Arnold took up the cause of “culture,” it lacked the anthropological definition it would acquire in the twentieth century. Nor was the term widely used in English. Among those Englishmen conversant with it, the term was associated with the “frivolous and unedifying curiosity” of self-occupied Frenchmen and Germans and thus used disapprovingly.24
Only with the publication of E.B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture in 1871 was the way opened for the word’s subsequent evolution into an anthropological term to denote “socially patterned human thought and behavior” – though it ought to be added that Tylor, like Arnold and like the viewpoint expressed herein, associated culture with race.25
For Arnold culture is:
the pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world; and through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits.26
Culture in this is self-culture: that is, the self-cultivation of man’s being through a formation in the finest achievements of his civilization. Hence, the definition found in older editions of the OED: “The training, development, refinement of mind, tastes, and manners.”
For Arnold the striving to improve and enhance oneself (”perfection”) was the ideal state of the mind, just as health was the ideal state of the body.
Culture here is more a state of mind than a body of knowledge. For the mind’s love of perfection implies a process of becoming rather than of obtaining, designating an inward condition higher or greater than outward materialism. In submitting to “the sweetness and light” (the beauty and intelligence) of the great poetry and literature of the Western heritage, the individual imbues his mind with a balance, clarity, and fullness of thought, which Hebraisim – in its stern reaction to the moral indifference of Renaissance Hellenism – closes off.
As such, culture preserves an openness as it strives for the best, fostering in the process “human wholeness” and “social health.”
“Culture,” then, is essentially two things for Arnold: primarily, it’s a general process of “intellectual, spiritual, and artistic development” in the individual, and, secondly, it’s a body of works and practices representing the best in European artistic and intellectual achievement.
This notion of culture as the harmonious development of human nature through the individual’s cultivation of his mind has been subject to numerous criticisms. For example, it has been criticized for being too individualist and too bookish, for favoring “high” culture over folk culture, for being too abstract and having no reality in contemporary society, and nowadays for being exclusive and exclusionary, etc.
Whatever the justice of these criticisms, Arnold’s notion of culture (which is, admittedly, dated) must ultimately be valued not as an unconcealing truth, but as a valiant rearguard defense of the Western tradition – waged in an age when the West had begun to war on its own culture. (The white man, to be sure, didn’t have to await the Jews’ “culture of critique” to start assailing his heritage. It had already started in Arnold’s day, having grown out of the liberal modernist impulses of industrial society.)27
Arnold’s conception of “culture” may no longer be defensible, but his concern for the larger heritage and his notion of culture’s intimate relationship to national behavior, I think, retain a certain relevance.
The Rise of “Culturalism”
The Arnoldian concept of culture is held by few today. By the Cultural Revolution of the Sixties, the anthropological nation of culture that began supplanting the Arnoldian notion in the late nineteenth century had almost everywhere became dominant.
As early as 1949, T.S. Eliot, who succeeded Arnold as the foremost Anglophone defender of the European tradition, had accepted the anthropological concept that defines “culture” as a particular people’s way of life, encompassing all the genres and modes of a people’s experience. In a famous sentence, Eliot stressed the wide compass culture embraces:
It includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelve of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wenley-dale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-century Gothic churches, and the music of Elgar.28
All these things added up not to culture, however, only its multiple elements.
“Just as man is more than the sum of his body parts, culture is more than the assemblage of its arts, customs, and religious beliefs. All these parts act on one another and to fully understood one you have to understand them all.”29
Culture for Eliot is evidently not the cultivation of the individual mind, or even the canon of its great achievements, as Arnold held, but a common way of life embodied in social institutions, involving moral standards and practices with a tradition behind them.
His notion of culture is nevertheless something more than the anthropologist’s “way of life” – because it’s something entirely its own, something which Eliot associated with the religious incarnation of a people’s particular spirit.30
The strictly anthropological concept, by contrast, sever all ties between human biology and culture, seeing the latter as an artificial creation of generalized men in generalized circumstances, as if men were “blank tablets on which the environment inscribes culture.”
Beginning in the late 1880s, when Franz Boas “embarked on his life-long assault on the idea that race was the primary source of the differences in mental or societal capacities of different human groups,” he premised his argument on the supposition that all peoples and he premised his argument on the supposition that all peoples and races are mentally equal.31 He extended, in effect, the democratic principle from politics to culture and then from culture to race.
From this allegedly impartial perspective, different peoples, different societies, different forms of social organization, belief, and value are seen as the product of different histories, different experiences, different circumstances, different stages of development, but not the achievement of specific blood lines and races. In a word, group differences were reconceived as cultural rather than biological.
In Max Weber’s eloquent formulation, man is an animal suspended in webs of significance [i.e., culture] which he himself has spun.32 This makes culture sui generis – explainable solely in terms of itself.
Hence, Boas’ contention that cultural and social factors alone, rather than biological or innate ones, explain differences in human behavior. Hence also the anarchistic tendency inherent in the ensuing relativism, where no standard is allowed to judge human behavior except cultural ones, which are self-referential and thus self-legitimating. Hence, finally, the tendency to consider all cultures as inherently equal, as if the “culture” of New Guinea headhunters is comparable to that of the higher civilized cultures, which are products of history and the complex intertwined social worlds they create. Perversely, not a few twentieth-century anthropologists (Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict preeminently) have used their select knowledge of primitive peoples to highlight the failures of modern society and to challenge conservative moral standards – not for the sake of their own culture, but for that of liberal reform and the nonwhites of whom they are so enamored.
The larger point here is that the anthropological concept of culture, as the historian Carl Degler puts it, “made the idea of a hierarchy of human societies based on innate differences . . . no longer tenable; human nature was now a unity, however diverse its expressions.”33
Boas’s concept, which soon spread to other social science disciplines, was, of course, arrived at not through a disinterested, scientific inquiry, but through a belief in liberalism’s blank-slate ideology (which emphasizes the primacy of learning and environment).
It would be naive, though, to assume that this Jewish anthropologist (however dishonest and conniving) somehow single-handedly undermined the racial foundations of American life. Boas’s culturalist assault on the then existing racial hierarchy was waged in the spirit of liberal modernity and of the American political tradition. Boas’s efforts were indeed linked with the “new social sciences,” the Social Gospel, and Progressivism. For integral to the country’s pragmatic spirit (especially after the War of Secession) was a will to reform society, expand opportunity, and create a more rational social order based on individual achievement rather than on natural ascriptions.34 This was inherent in the liberal creedal principles of individualism and equality undergirding Lincoln’s new constitutional order – an order which Jews and other new immigrants were especially active in combating the country’s equally powerful national heritage.
Despite the previous existence of slavery and the persistence of rigid racial hierarchy, biological or Darwinian determinism jeopardized the environmental principles of America’s postbellum liberal enterprise. For if pathological behavior, poverty, and ignorance were due solely to racial or hereditarian factors, then there could be no hope for reform and progress: you simply could not change the unchangeable.
But if it’s culture and heredity – nurture and nature – that is the source of human difference, then race is incidental to existing social inequities.35 Reform and change are thus possible, which makes modification of educational and environmental factors the key to social development.
Culturalism, as such, rejects race theory on the basis of an unproven assumption: that mental processes are roughly equal in all people and therefore that the body is not a factor affected the mind. But if culturalism assumes that there is no relationship between mind and body, its materialistic mirror image, racial/biological determinism, assumes that the mind is simply another facet of the body, with the body determining the mind (not just in shaping its capacity but also its substance).
Though there is more evidence for racial/biological determinism, it is no less disputable, especially in that man in that man is a composite not merely of biological matter, but also of those nebulously named non-bodily substances like intellect, reason, mind, and soul.36
A plant or animal may thus be understood simply in terms of animated matter and instinct (i.e., biologically), but in human beings matter is linked with sentiment and intelligence, and, though in ways not often clear, it is the latter more than the body that plays the leading role – at least to the degree that the body possesses a vitality whose spirit achieves a certain sovereignty.37 The biological or “scientific” idea of race, by reducing man’s spirit to his animal nature (in the sense of making culture not merely dependent on, but synonymous with the disposition for intelligence and creativity bequeathed by genetics),38 is arguably objectionable in the same way that Marxism’s reduction of society and religion to the “superstructure” of the economic “base” is objectionable.39
Biological determinists and cultural anthropologists are quite alike, then, in being equally unqualified to speak on the relationship between culture and race, or on what might be called a variant of the historic mind-body question.
But through natural science in inadequate to the study of this relationship, it doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. The thinkers most qualified to examine this relationship, which has occupied Western philosophical thought in one form or another since Aristotle, are those belonging to that rarefied, mainly German, discipline known as “philosophical anthropology” – a discipline which aims at bridging the different realms of physical, cultural, and theoretical anthropology in order to develop “a coherent idea of human being.”40
From the perspective of philosophical anthropology, it is scientifically legitimate to classify man into “anatomical characteristics regularly and constantly produced by hereditary” (i.e., racial genotypes), but it itself this discloses nothing (or nothing substantial) about the mind’s relationship to its animal body.
The greatest of the philosophical anthropologist to speak to this relationship, Arnold Gehlen, spent much of his career investigating culture’s complex physiological sources and the way the body is linked to the cultural expressions of the mind. This is not the place to repeat what I have said of Gehlen’s work elsewhere.41 Suffice to mention that Gehlen did not reduce mind to body, but instead saw culture (mind’s spiritual compendium) as a means of compensating for man’s “instinctual deficiency.”
Animals, Gehlen argued, have no need to think of plan how to build a nest, fly south for the winter, or ruffle their feathers to woo a mate. The “not yet determined animal” man, on the other hand, lacks such instincts and head, under the unsheltered sky 40,000 years ago, to rely on his culture – on the learned responses and principles that came from his past, that were continually modified in his encounter with world, and that ultimately took institutional form and became “quasi-automatic habits of thought, feeling, judgment and action” – to cope with the stimulations, impressions, and challenges coming from his environment.42
Culture arose and developed in Gehlen’s view as man’s “second nature” – as something to compensate for his instinctual deficiency and his lack of “environmental specialization.” And somewhat like his genetic heritage, culture, as a “shaping template” of behavior, is transmittable to the next generation, so that the achievements of one era can be passed on to the next. This makes culture a community of thought and achievement, a community of history and tradition, and a community of blood and kin. All these “communities” go into the formulation of a culture, and to stress just one, say body or thought, is reductionist.
Culture, in this view, is bound up with man’s physical nature, but is nevertheless “world open,” able to evolve and adapt and become self-conscious. It is this second nature that enables man “to anticipate himself, fall back upon himself, adjust and reverse his movements, plan – all in order to enhance his survivability.”43 As such, man’s being is caught in an endless exchange between interior forces (intelligence, will, imagination, etc.) and exterior ones (the environment), as the exterior is assimilated into the interior and the interior is manifested in the exterior. Mind – and the culture its creates – are not, then, mere reflections of the body, though they are inseparable from it.
It is thus through mind (and culture) that a specific genotype responds to and influences its larger environment.
Race, in this way, gives rise to a culture that can be seen, to use a term that Gehlen didn’t, as “an extended phenotype.” For if a spider’s web is the extended phenotype of the spider’s genotype, culture in a similar way can be seen as the extended phenotype of a specific human life form. In Louis R. Browning’s formulation: “The ability of persons to deal with, and manipulate, their environments, their interactions with other people, their schooling, their career: all such capabilities that can influence the fitness of a person can be considered part of the individual’s [extended] phenotype.”44
Racial behavior in this perspective needs to be seen in terms of tendencies that enhance “fitness,” not fixed inevitabilities, like instincts, for the different cultures that different races create do not actually dictate behavior per se, so much as they provide an orientation that shapes its contours and does so across history’s longue duree, as the generations of the dead impose their hard-won truths on the living. Ultimately, this works to enhance a people’s survivability, as well as its vitality.
In this vein, one of our great anti-liberal historians defines a healthy culture as one which recovers the sources of life. “Why,” he asks,” is a stockbroker less beautiful than a Homeric warrior . . .? Because he is less incorporated with life, he is not inevitable, but accidental, almost parasitic. When a culture has proved its real needs, and organized its vital functions, every office becomes beautiful.”45
What then is the relationship between race and culture? Arnold’s notion that every people or race has a distinct personality that can be grasped through a few designated characteristics is probably too simplistic to be of more than literary value. Indeed, every great people (from a historicist rather than a relativist perspective) is probably best viewed in terms of its own standards rather than those of another. Arnold, however, got the most important thing right: that people and culture, blood and heritage, are ultimately one. He thus posited a distinct relationship between race and culture, just as he suspected that the impairment of one would have a negative impact on the other.
This, I think, is key to understanding the relationship between race and culture. But it’s not until we get to Gehlen that we see how culture entails not just all those things that are tied up in a way of life, but also in life itself – in the form of man’s animal body. This relationship is not the simple one-way process that nineteenth-century racialists or contemporary sociobiologists assume – but it nevertheless accepts that a specific genotype (race) gives rise to a corresponding extended phenotype (culture).
Because culture is the second – the spiritual – nature of man, it no more determines the behavior of man’s animal body than the body controls a people’s culture. Rather than “determine,” the word should probably be “express” – for man’s second nature is unlike instinct in being “world open.”
Think of the cultural diversity among peoples of the same stock. Though there are profound similarities between, say, Irish Catholics and Scots-Irish Presbyterians (such as their profoundly conservative morality, the “epigrammatic concision” of their speech, or the intransigence of their nationalism), the sharp differences dividing these long-warring communities, despite their virtually identical DNA, demonstrate that culture is not a mere organic offshoot of the body. History, circumstance, and experience are evidently crucial factors in its production.
Culture and biology, though, are irreparably linked, as Gehlen indicates, and linked in ways that almost alway sustain one another. A white man born into Chinese culture may conceivably become Chinese in language, behavior, even spirit – which means he ceases to be a white man in any way except genotypically – but at the same time he can never become Chinese in blood, which is not the case of Irish Catholics and Presbyterians vis-a-vis each other’s cultures.46 The spirit of a Chinese-enculturated white man would consequently always he at odds with the body, and this would inevitably distort his place in the world. Said differently, his genotype acquires an “unfit” or incongruent extended phenotype.
Behavior, if follows, cannot replace biology; culture cannot be separated from its racial source; one cannot become what one is not.
The link between race and culture may therefore be a supple one, but in the last instance it cannot be eliminated without risking a mongrelizing adulteration – based on a callous disregard of man’s specific nature. For though blood inheritance is a paramount importance in determining man’s nature, the spirit that guides his nature, even with the help of contemporary behavioral genetics, cannot be understood outside the culture that situates it.47
The body that forms a community or a nation is not, then, the body of biology, the animal body, but rather the mind-perfected body of closely related cultural beings.
When a community or nation defines itself in bodily or racial terms, even its idea of the body is shaped by the mind and its specific culture. For if an individual or a community is essentially grounded in a body, this body-idea shares in the given social or political reality (as the idea of dynasty, blood lineage, enthnonation, or race) and, as such, is always the product of a particular cultural heritage rather than an unmediated reflection of the body. (At the same time, the opposite also holds, for man is never a completely self-enclosed, autonomous individual, either physically or culturally: hereditary capabilities develop only in certain environments, just as their development depends on a genetic predisposition.) Man, in other words, is neither totally a product of race nor of culture, but a biocultural organism whose blood and spirit are inextricably bound.
It seems no accident that the starting point of most systems of human racial classification begin not with the “natural” or “pure” races found in primitive societies, but with “historical races” – entities pertaining as much to mind (history) as to nature. Instead, then, of being understood as distinct groupings based exclusively on physical traits, human races must also be seen, given that man is a composite, in terms of his unity of being – in terms, that is, of the inner principle that pervades his component parts.48
From this perspective it can be claimed that races come into existence and develop not according to strict biological laws, but under the influence of the mind.49 This is not to say that mind determines genotype, but rather that the mind’s social-cultural exteriorization affects a people’s racial istory and identity – and thus determines if a particular genotype will arise or not. There is, as a result, no distinct racial or national type without a correspondingly distinct cultural type.
I am not proposing a “culturalist” notion of race. The race I defend is the European race based on a specific gene pool, genetic cluster, breeding population, stock, or whatever term you want to use to speak of race in the zoological sense. Our genetic heritage is primary and cannot be compromised. But race as a biological category applied to human beings refers only to man’s animal nature, not his whole being. His animal nature may provide the disposition or capacity for specific European life forms and therefore cannot be dispensed with, but the European’s distinct heritage is only a facet of life, inseparable from everything else that contributes to it. Thus, however much race in the biological sense is requisite to everything else, in itself it has little explanatory power – because man’s being, even in the physical sense, is above all affected by the mind.
To take one’s stand simply in the animal sphere, then, not only confuses the part with the whole, it leaves us defenseless in all those higher realms where our life is manifested and sustained. A purely “scientific” (better said, “scientistic”) notion of race cannot, as a result, but leave all the other ramparts supporting our specific expression of human life undefended – and it is at these other ramparts (call them culture, society, religion, etc.) where the enemy has been most successful in destroying the basis of white life. For once the white man’s culture is destroyed, then the significance and purpose of white life is also destroyed – first ontologically, then physically. It’s imperative for this reason to take our stand not in natural science alone, but in all the multiple realms of human being.
There are several roots to the idea I’m suggesting here. The deepest, perhaps, is Friedrich von Schelling’s idea that a people emerges from its myths insofar as the “community of consciousness” forged by a shared myth is what grounds and unites a people as a people.50 Every understanding of the ethnogenetic process that creates races and nations starts from this idea.
Race, Culture, and America
The American case is the preeminent example of this conception of the connection between race and culture. When transplanted Englishmen in seventeenth-century Virginia began identifying themselves as “white,” in opposition to their black slaves – who were seen as more beast than man – they made “white skin” the basis of what later became the core of the American’s national identity. “White” here wasn’t just a biological marker that put whites at the high end of the human chain of being. It also implied all those things associated with their racial kinsmen in Europe (such as their cultural heritage, religious beliefs, standards of beauty, etc.) Other European whites (Scots-Irish, Dutchmen, Swedes, Germans, French, etc.) would consequently be accepted as Americans on the basis of their cultural and biological kinship with the larger European family of nations. Entry into American society was based thus largely on ethnic invisibility and racial origin – which made white skin color “the most important single determinant in their human relations.”
With the arrival of the Irish in the 1830s and ’40s, the religious (Protestant) and social (bourgeois) components of America’s white identity were culturally challenged by the Catholic, tribal character “the mud-splattered, shillelagh-wielding salpeen” with the imputed simian features.”51 In time, though, as the Irish were acculturated and Americans became more religiously indifferent, they were gradually accepted as Americans on the basis of their racial kinship wit the native Anglo-Protestants. But it should be added that Irish-Americans, however loyal to their new homeland, “had no intention of abandoning their religion, disguising their ancestry, or detaching themselves from the struggles of their native land.”52 Indeed, it was from their fierce devotion to Mother Eire that came their equally unyielding devotion to America. The Irish, as such, were acculturated into American culture, which they also helped to shape – they were not “melted” into a mongrel mass.
The “assimilation” of Irish and other Europeans ethnics, however, could never happen with blacks, for implicit in the American way of life was the understanding that race – not just white skin, but all that was associated with their Old World origins – was primary. Their European origins, in fact, were requisite to everything that made the American an American. The assumption here was not just that black skin belonged to another physical type of man than those with white skin, but that the black spirit – culture, soul, essence – was a different order of spirit than the white man’s. These differences were not accomodatable because they were fundamentally alien to one another, as alien as the drum-beating percussions of the African jungle were to the counterpoint of Bach’s Kunst der Fuge. An Irishman could change his religion, lose his brogue, or embrace American norms, but nothing could turn black into white.
Then as now, blue-nose reformers would insist that race was no more an obstacle to assimilation than religion, social rank, or national origin. But no matter how deficient Americans may have been in their high cultural accomplishment, they nevertheless retained their identity as Europeans – as whites – whose singularity was defined in opposition to non-Europeans. Cultural assimilation, in a word, was based on and conditioned by racial criteria.53
Only after 1945, under assault from the new National Security State and a largely Jewish-controlled “culture industry,” would the racial basis of American identity (and hence culture) be subverted and refounded on the basis of purely creedal/ideological criteria. Accordingly, the new nonracial identity of the postwar era led directly to a multiracial atomization destructive of the American’s former racial identity – as his expanded phenotype more and more diverged from his genotype, to the point where the former is now, arguably, no longer an extension but adulteration of the latter.
A backhanded affirmation of the inherent link between race and culture is particularly evident today in the ideology of multiculturalism. At the root of this liberal pluralistic dogma is the “anti-racist” contention that the biological entities once commonly referred to as “races” do not exist – but are rather mere “social constructs.” This makes “race” a totally subjective category based on an allegedly flawed, bigoted, or self-interested perception. But if race as a biological fact is a matter of perception, and if perception of biological (racial) differences is an expression of racism, as multiculturalists hold, this doesn’t mean that the socially constructed fact of race is to be ignored, for it has supposedly become pivotal to the dominant system of social control. Thus, no sooner do anti-racists deny race as a biological essence than they turn around and call for measures favoring the so-called nonwhite “social construct” – and, just as contradictory, they advocate not assimilation into the larger (white) American culture but a recognition and validation of their nonwhite cultures.
As one egalitarian critic of multiculturalism explains: “Treating race as a social fact amounts to nothing more than acknowledging that we were mistaken to think of it as a biological fact and then insisting that we ought to keep making the mistake.54
Culture in this multiculturalist optic becomes a surrogate for the biological notion of race, and the celebration of cultural differences (”diversity”) becomes a celebration of racial differences. Multiculturalism serves in this way as the proxy of multiculturalism. This doesn’t mean, of course, that race and culture are equivalent terms – only that among anti-racists there is a certain assumption about the inherent relationship between race and culture.
And on this one point I think these enemies of our people get it right.
Culture and Post-American Anarchy
In Arnold’s most famous poem, “Dover Beach” (1867), he depicted England’s troubled culture in all its deep-seated spiritual anarchy:
… for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams …
[Is but] a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
This is the England of Culture and Anarchy, whose disordering chaos lay not just in increased incidents of social violence and political agitation, but in the country’s
hideous sprawling industrial cities, its loud-voice assertion of personal liberty, its dismal, stuffy, and cantankerous forms of Christianity, its worship of size and numbers and wealth and machinery generally, its state-blindness, and its belief in collision (collision of parties, of sects, of firms) as the only way to salvation.55
Arnold thought the root of this growing anarchy was cultural. As a child of the Reformation, England had been home to that “Dissidence of Dissent and [that] Protestantism of the Protestant religion” called Puritanism.56 Puritanism, Arnold granted, may have been necessary to develop “the moral fiber of the English race . . . to break the yoke of ecclesiastical domination over men’s minds, and to prepare the way for freedom of thought.”57 But its notion of moral perfection had nothing to do with spiritual perfection, and its narrow, individualistic spirit was a threat to the nation’s unity.
Given that the chief bearer of Puritan dissent was the English middle class and that this class was dominant not only in the economy, but increasingly in society, Arnold feared its Hebraising effects would rend the nation’s communal fabric. For the Puritan’s highly developed individual conscience posited that every man was on his own in matters of religion, as well as in matters of business and personal conduct. The norms embodied in the established church were thus ignored, as was the cultural heritage that once animated the English people. Like Jacobinism, utilitarianism, and liberalism, Puritanism had no patience with the legacy of the past and was disposed to radical schemes subversive of established hierarchies. In its opposition to the Church of England, it proposed, for example, “placing all good men alike in a condition of religious equality.” Arnold called this the solution of the “tailless foxes,” who advocated that all foxed cut off their tails.58 The endless cycles of sectarian strife that isolated their mitotic churches in “holes and corners,” further fragmenting the nation. By rejecting any corporate or collective authority that might compromise their conscience and insisting that every Englishman had the right to do whatever he pleased, the dissenters’ individualism, Arnold feared, was leading, quite literally, to anarchy.
This is why he championed the cause of culture, which he called “the most resolute enemy of anarchy.”59 If the whole nation would learn self-discipline through a unified culture of “right reason, ideas, and light,” it might be possible “to cure the narrowness of Puritanism” and bring it “into the main current of national life.” A man reared in the “totality” of the established church had no need, he claimed, to struggle to find a private form of self-expression: imbued with “a sense of the historical life of the human spirit, outside and beyond [his[ own fancies laving himself free to develop his other sides. A national culture centered in an established church thus offered innumerably more avenues for self-development and realization, suggesting “new sides and sympathies for our own forms of religion, gives us the leisure and calm to steady out our view of religion itself.”60
“In a serious people, where everyone has to choose and strive for his own order and discipline of religion, the contention about these non-essentials occupies his [whole] mind.”61 Relatedly, all the great works of art, literature, and science “came not from nonconformists, but from men of the Establishment – or at least men trained by the Establishment.” The greatest Puritans – Milton, Baxter, Wesley – had, accordingly, been formed within the Establishment’s pale. “A generation or two outside the Establishment and Puritanism produces men of national mark no more.”62 Against the Puritans’ deforming morality, Arnold defended the sweetness and light that came from the Anglo-European heritage.
Arnold’s cultural antidote to the centrifugal forces of modern liberal society pertained, though, not just to Victorian England, but to the Anglo-Protestant culture of the United States.
The America Arnold knew was very different from the America that began to emerge at the end of the nineteenth century, just as the latter qualitatively would differ from the America of the late twentieth century. Nevertheless, much of what he said about this new country retains its significance in illuminating the country’s subsequent cultural trajectory. Basic to his view is the contention that America was essentially “a province of England,” with roughly the same admixture of Saxons and Celts. Yet unlike England, America had a small reading class, few men of letters, no intellectual center, and a people oriented more to material than cultural matters. Also, unlike England, America lacked both an aristocracy and a peasantry, which meant it was almost entirely a middle-class country, affected by the same Philistine and Hebraising tendencies he criticized in the English middle class.63
Influenced by the sectarianism of its evangelical Protestantism (”without great men and without furtherance for the higher life of humanity”),64 American energy was funneled into money-making or, when it took spiritual form, into doctrines of moral uplift, such as those promoted by the reforming mania of the Social Gospel.
In Arnold’s view, the “unintelligence” of English nonconformists almost totally dominated the United States. He rhetorically asked in one of his articles:
Do not tell me only … of the magnitude of your industry and commerce; of the beneficence of your institutions, your freedom, your equality … tell me also if your civilization – which is the grand name you give to all this development – tell me if your civilization is interesting.65
And he answered himself in the negative, for America in his eyes lacked distinction, having, despite its vast economic achievement, failed to develop “the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of beauty, the power of social life and manners, as well as the great power of conduct and religion.”66
Like many European critics of America’s plebian civilization, Arnold was overly quick in applying his European standards to American life, failing to grasp many of its defining features (such as the cult of republicanism and producerism inscribed in the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian-Populist tradition, which in some ways served as a national “church,” or the personal trust and mutual interest that bound these ostensibly atomized individuals to one another.) The result is a picture not quite as balanced as it should have been. Arnold also didn’t fully understand that a totally middle-class country, based on an idea of “personal aggrandizement” and having no Church, nobility, or army to anchor its established values, was a country dominated not just by individualist market principles, but by state and social structures indifferent, if not hostile to nation and culture.
Nevertheless, his basic point – that America’s Philistine, middle-class culture, with its materialist and individualist slant, was corrosive of community and thus a force of anarchy – retains, I think, a certain pertinence, even if he failed to see what it implied in terms of larger structural or institutional developments.
More generally, the postbellum America Arnold knew was in the process of succumbing to forces that exacerbated the atomistic tendencies of its middle-class culture, as the country fell into the hands of a rapacious plutocracy indifferent to its diverse population and incapable of developing a national culture around which to assimilate its different European stocks.
The divisive, potentially anarchistic tendencies that have since colonized its culture with the prerogatives of the market have not merely continued into the present, but have been accelerated by other, more centrifugal forces.
In the late nineteenth century the country’s massive industrialization began to overwhelm the small-town, rural character of American life, replacing it with sprawling, smoke-stacked metropolises that radically transformed the social-scape, as the earlier agrarian America gave way to a new business civilization dominated by giant corporate entities.67 The peasant masses from Eastern and Southern Europe who came to fill the new factories helped undermine the largely British/North-European character of the population. Linguistic, cultural, and ethnic identities became more complex and conflicted, just as local and regional cultures surrendered its urbanizing, commercial, and technological forces.
America’s increasingly deracinated masses were drawn into a “culture industry” based on newspapers, vaudeville, touring theater companies, and then, in the twentieth century, on automobiles, urban night life, professional sports, movies, radio, TV, and other mass entertainments lacking the “sweetness and light” characteristic of traditional European culture. Worse, this consumer-driven, commercial culture, instead of rejecting the outward materialism, fully succumbed to it. Not the best that had been thought and said, this mass culture appealed to what Henry James called “the new, the simple, the common, the commercial, the immediate, and, all too often, the ugly.”68
The late twentieth century then introduced forces that were qualitatively more anarchistic. The most radical of these, of course, was Third World immigration, which is changing not just the ethnic but the racial character of the population, breaking down the country’s last remaining European remnant.
It seems hardly fortuitous that America’s present Affenkultur is tied to the racially alien forces of hip-hop and Hollywood – and to a spirit, institutionalized in Marxisant cultural studies departments, which treats all forms of discrimination, taste, and value judgment as illegitimate.
This cultural process of ethnoracial dissolution has been compounded by a communication and digital revolution, whose programmed images create a “virtual reality” unmoored from the realities it represents and whose representations are both medium and message;69 by a globalization of economic exchanges in which national imperatives give way to world market interests and those of the global “superclass”;70 by a “new class” elite increasingly nonwhite, “counter-cultural,” and indifferent to all former standards of social distinction and taste;71 by “entertainment values” and visual media that corrupt the way we think;72 and by an educational system, which has produced what is arguably the dumbest and most infantile generation of students in American history.73
Behind these developments that have become integral parts of America’s consumer society that seek to turn Americans into a faceless mass of coffee-colored consumers lies the destruction of all that connects genotype and extended phenotype, as the organic ties linking America’s European race and its nativist variant of the larger European culture are severed.
As long, then, as white American identity is not defined by the symbols, beliefs, and destiny dictated by our past and by our regulative tradition, but by the programmed contrivances of an alien culture industry, we cease to exist as a people. For without the memories and myths that make a people a people, white Americans are only “so many politically bound” people.74
To the extent that the white-nationalist project endeavors to raise the consciousness of the country’s European-descended population, it is largely a cultural project to heighten white identity by anchoring it in a body of beliefs and practices – a culture – whose consciousness defies the racial anarchy presently threatening whites. It thus consciously or unconsciously accepts that culture is neither the democratic smorgasbord for all tastes that multiculturalists claim nor is it something fixed in an academic canon for all time, as our Jewish-trained conservatives would have it. Rather, as suggested above, it is the spirit engendered by the blood that created the European life world and the people who inhabit it – it is the extended phenotype of the white genotype.
Culture as such is an organic growth, inseparable from the people who live it and make it grow. At the highest level it is indistinguishable from race and nation, being the spiritual manifestation of a people’s distinct life form. To separate race and culture – not just through the introduction of Hebraising practices, but through a concerted assault on the institutional relationship between whites and their heritage – is to destroy, then, both race and culture, for one cannot exist without the other.
Michael O’Meara, Ph.D., studied social theory at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and modern European history at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe (Bloomington, Ind.: 1st Books, 2004).