Review- Faye, “Archaeofuturism”

Guillaume Faye, “Archaeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age” (1998) (translated from the French by Sergio Knipe) – It’s been a while since I read an actually interesting book by a fascist. Guillaume Faye helped lead the French Nouvelle Droit in the seventies and eighties. To simplify greatly, the Nouvelle Droit exemplified the possibilities of the “suit” strategy in the far right’s “suits and boots” dichotomy. They were very “intellectual” fascists (they didn’t like being called fascists, but fuck them) looking to change politics by changing culture. The Nouvelle Droit achieved a great deal of visibility and prominence for a while in France, where they like their intellectual novelties. But it was in terminal decline for a while by the late nineties, with Faye having jumped ship some time before to work in mainstream media.

“Archaeofuturism” was Faye’s return to far-right political writing. In it, he attempts to both right the ship of the French far right and inject energy into its project. The Nouvelle Droit went wrong because it got too academic, too self-obsessed, too weird, Faye argues, citing in particular erstwhile ally Alain de Benoist’s odd religious ideas- pagan, anti-Christian, but friendly to Islam. Catastrophe is coming, Faye declares, and modernity, defined here as the combination of industrial society and egalitarian culture and politics, is doomed. One way or another we will get “archaeofuturism” – a return to archaic cultural values, social structures, and politics combined with ever-advancing science and technology. The role of the French (and broader European) far right is to help usher in and eventually rule the brave new archaeofuturist future.

Faye’s not wrong about catastrophe. As expected, he gets the valences wrong. The threat of climate change, the major thing he is right about, looms over the book, but typically low down on the list of things Faye worries about. Similarly, Faye highlights the rise of inequality, unemployment etc. He shared the anticapitalism of the Nouvelle Droit, which is to say, he was rhetorically opposed to capitalism’s culturally disintegrative tendencies and the rulers it promotes and pays lip service to its actual problems, while sharing many capitalist assumptions about worth and merit- the usual weak sauce bullshit of right anticapitalism.

But this is a right-wing book, after all, so his big worry is demographics, basically “the great replacement” the right goes on about. He takes it as given that European values and culture reside in some bio-mystical way in European genes and European land, and that allowing non-Europeans in means the death of Europe, etc etc. Islam plays the big boogie-man here, and as you often get with demon figures, there’s an admixture of admiration here. Islam, in Faye’s telling, is still a healthy, vibrant, “macho” culture, unlike weak, sickly, feminized, “ethno-masochist” Europe. If he didn’t see Islam as backwards (and wasn’t as attached to his European nativity), Faye might join his old pal de Benoist in being sort of positive about it. Of course, Faye lumps all billion or so Muslims together as sharing the same agenda, a real laugh after the last decade and a half of struggle within the Muslim world. Same with colonized people all over- they all want revenge on the colonizer and will get it through immigration. Faye doesn’t do subtlety or nuance.

Catastrophe will force archaic values to re-emerge, whether anyone wants it or not (Faye sees it as devoutly to be wished). Modernity, Faye argues, brings on the catastrophe, not so much through capitalistic profit motive but from its utopian promise that everyone can get along and live well. The planet can’t sustain it and people don’t want it- they want to advance their ethnic/religious interests, says Faye. Everything is ideology, for him and many on the far right. When modernity collapses, archaic values — hierarchy, order, valorization of warriors, a cyclical view of history, etc — will reimpose themselves upon the survivors. Faye waxes rhetorical about this at various points. He’s smart enough to avoid the usual “traditionalist” trap of valorizing everything old, or defining which culture’s folkways are really traditional and which aren’t (most of them are actually not that old in any event). Instead, Faye enlists the right’s best philosophical player, Nietzsche (and yes, he was on the right, sorry, don’t at me), and Nietzsche’s definition of the archaic values of classical Greece and Rome. That’s what we’ll all go back to, he says, though he also sees archaic values as those of medieval Europe, which doesn’t make a ton of sense and seems like a soupçon thrown to traditionalist Christians.

So does all this archaicism mean a return to archaic modes of production and technology? Yes and no. Probably Faye’s most important point and what really gets at the nut of what he contributes to the contemporary far right is that the great inequality for which the right should both prepare for and strive for is inequality in access to the fruits of science and technology. Most people should live at a roughly medieval technology level, Faye argues, but a minority should live with ever-advancing technology. Only a minority can truly benefit from technological society anyway, Faye insists. Any guesses as to the racial composition of who gets to follow a donkey cart and who gets to see the future? Well, here Faye vacillates a little. In some versions envisioning a racial hierarchy where whites and maybe East Asians get to live in future-world and browner people toil, more or less happily, in the primitive level they supposedly belong to, in others, every continental bloc/empire (it’ll all be empires, you see) will include both techno-people who run everything and a majority of happy peasants doing their folk dances in the villages, including the “Eurosiberian” empire he envisions.

This is, of course, daft, and has the classic tell of daftness (on the right, left, and center) that is overschematization- everything in the archaeofuture is clear, all could be understood easily from a simple map (like one for a video game) or PowerPoint presentation. It’s as utopian as the most hippie-dippie soft-left daydream and considerably more so than most Marxist ones, as it basically handwaves away any question of the means of production, as in, “where does the food come from?” or “where are the raw materials for all that tech coming from?” or “who cleans the toilets in the pristine future-cities?” Presumably, the peasants are farming, but Faye makes clear: intercourse between technoworld and peasant-lande is to be strictly limited, if not altogether forbidden.

Faye doesn’t bother with any of these questions. Part of this is that technology is just supposed to figure it out. The other part, I think, is more important. Faye humble-braggingly insists he’s not laying out a dogma or a plan, that the right of the future will have to sail the seas of uncertainty. That’s a smart move, both rhetorically and because it leaves unsaid his other implicit answer to questions of political economy: it’s supposed to be cruel. The techno-lords are better than the peasant-folke he patronizingly pats on the head, and so along with having nicer lives, the former will exploit and oppress the latter. They’ll do it for fun if not for profit. That’s the other part of “archaic values” – no sentimentality about the peasants and their dead babies, even while having a little sentimentality for their charming folkways. At first, in Faye’s telling, the violence of the archaeofuture would be defensive, beating back “the hordes” and making new ethno-empires. But we all know — I’m sure Faye knew — it would turn offensive, the quotidian, personalized violence of the plantation, the pimp and the john, the colonizer.

Reaffirming racialized (and gendered and class-based) inequality and its attendant cruelty as a positive value and the only meaningful response to the crises of the twenty-first century: this is what “Archaeofuturism” is about and is basically what the entire far right is about today. Take out some of the silly filigree and this is more or less what the entire right dreams of. In terms of laying out an agenda for the far right in the twenty-first century, Faye is much more lucid than many figures who get more attention than he did (he died last year). His writing makes a lot more sense and is much more applicable to today’s situation than anything Julius Evola (who died in 1974) wrote. Some of the snootier “identitarian” types, like Generation Europa, namecheck Faye as part of their inspiration from the Nouvelle Droite. But it’s Evola that gets the memes and his turgid “Revolt Against the Modern World” that zoomer fascists try to slog through, lips doubtlessly moving the while. This, when a fascist press went to all the trouble of translating Faye into English, complete with explanatory footnotes for readers who might not know what a Breton or a GDP is! Alas for him.

Many of the more interesting strategic/ideological points Faye makes “scan” from the perspective of an ambitious contemporary fascist organizer. Faye’s attitude towards homosexuality is that it’s deviant, but should be allowed to go ahead in (fun, kinky) secret but unprosecuted- sounds roughly like what Milo Yiannopolous would like. He departs from the Nouvelle Droit in seeing America less as an enemy and more as a potentially productive rival. Presumably, his American followers disagree with his assertion that America isn’t badly threatened by immigration, but that was a throwaway point, easily papered over.

Most controversially, he has little to say about Jews, and in other work came out in support of Zionism as a bulwark against Islam. On the one hand, this is a path some on the contemporary far right have taken. On the other, it illustrates one of the ways in which Faye is too clever for his own benefit. Without antisemitism, there’s a gaping hole in all far right thought: why did anything change, if premodernity was so great? Most fascists just say “the machinations of the Jews.” Faye doesn’t, and so squirms around alluding to “neo-trotskyites,” bitches about the Jacobins (the French right has a long memory), etc. The whole thing would be more wrong but also more consistent if he was an anti-semite, but given his other commitments, you can see why he took the stance he did.

So this was an interesting read. The French right has long been a source of some of the more interesting and readable right-wing writing, in spite of (because of?) never getting a unified fascist movement off the ground. In terms of reading experience, it was better than the average right-wing screed, but contained long sections of Faye just spit-balling opinions that bogged things down. The end was also disappointing, a fictional “day in the life” of a mover-and-shaker in the “Eurosiberian Empire” of the archaeofuture- this sounds like it could be fun but was just a dull recitation of the points Faye already made. Above all, this was a clear presentation of what the twenty-first century far right is about, not in the sense that many contemporary fascists follow Faye’s blueprint, but that he prefigured much of their vision. ***

Review- Faye, “Archaeofuturism”

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