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“Neo-Eurasianism” and Perennial Philosophy
ANTON SHEKHOVTSOV AND ANDREAS UMLAND “Frankly, I hate traditionalists—no matter whether they are of domestic or Western origin. They are rabble. Good people do real work or wage wars, even if they have little chance of success. All over the world.” Aleksandr Dugin, February 24, 2000
ow relevant is Integral Traditionalism or Philosophia Perennis to an adequate assessment of the multifaceted phenomenon of post-Soviet Russian “neo-Eurasianism,” as a whole, and to the eclectic social doctrine of Aleksandr Dugin (b. 1962), in particular?1 A final answer to this question would be only possible if Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement (Mezhdunarodnoe “Evraziiskoe dvizhenie”)—or another organization principally inspired by him—were to rise to power and through its policies clarify which aspects of his vague ideology are most significant.2 Nevertheless, in this article we shall evaluate the significance of Integral Traditionalism for Dugin’s ideological constructs. Such an attempt is motivated in part by Dugin’s repeated self-identification—despite the epigraph—as a “Traditionalist” and his numerous references to the classics of Integral Traditionalism.
The authors would like to thank Olena Sivuda for her help in the preparation of this text for publication. 1 We have raised selected issues dealt with in this article earlier in Andreas Umland, “Der ‘Neoeurasismus’ des Aleksandr Dugin: Zur Rolle des integralen Traditionalismus und der Orthodoxie für die russische ‘Neue Rechte,’” in Macht – Religion – Politik: Zur Renaissance religiöser Praktiken und Mentalitäten, ed. Margarete Jäger and Jürgen Link (Münster, 2006): 141–57; and Anton Shekhovtsov, “The Palingenetic Thrust of Russian Neo-Eurasianism: Ideas of Rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin’s Worldview,” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 9:4 (2008): 491–506. The term “Philosophia Perennis” as it is used in modern intellectual history carries a meaning different from Aldous Huxley’s philosophical concept of the same name. See Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (London, 1946). For yet another connotation of the term see Nikolaus Lobkovits [Lobkowicz], Vechnaia filosofiia i sovremennye razmyshleniia o nei (Moscow, 2007). 2 Alexander Höllwerth, Das sakrale eurasische Imperium des Aleksandr Dugin: Eine Diskursanalyse zum postsowjetischen russischen Rechtsextremismus (Stuttgart/Hannover, 2007); Andreas Umland, “Kontseptualnye i kontekstualnye problemy interpretatsii sovremennogo russkogo ul'tranatsionalizma,” Voprosy filosofii, 2006, no. 12:75–77; idem, “Tri raznovidnosti postsovetskogo fashizma,” in Russkii natsionalizm: Ideologiia i nastroenie, ed. Aleksandr Verkhovskii (Moscow, 2006), 223–62 (also available at www1.ku-eichstaett.de/ The Russian Review 68 (October 2009): 662–78 Copyright 2009 The Russian Review
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
A second reason for this investigation is the appearance of various journalistic and academic studies that have classified Dugin as a “Traditionalist.”3 The growing interest among political scientists and other observers in Dugin and his activities is the result of his recent evolution from a little-known marginal radical rightwinger to a notable and seemingly influential figure within Russia’s mainstream. Dugin’s gradual entry into the Russian intellectual élite and Moscow’s political establishment during the last fifteen years has been already described in some detail.4 In view of this literature, we will refrain here from demonstrating Dugin’s relative importance, as well as from justifying our attempt to analyze more thoroughly how his ideology relates conceptually to Integral Traditionalism. THE INTEGRAL TRADITIONALIST WORLDVIEW The foundations of Integral Traditionalism as a systematic religious teaching were laid down in the first half of the twentieth century by the French-born Muslim René Guénon
ZIMOS/forum/docs/Umland6.pdf [unless otherwise noted, all web sites referenced were last accessed on November 24, 2008]); idem, “Conceptual and Contextual Problems in the Interpretation of Contemporary Russian Ultranationalism,” Russian Politics and Law 46:4 (2008): 6–30. 3 See, for example, Konstantin Frumkin, “Traditsionalisty: Portret na fone tekstov,” Druzhba narodov, 2002, no. 6 (available at http://magazines.russ.ru/druzhba/2002/6/fr.html); Mikhail Sokolov, “Novye Pravye intellektualy v Rossii: Strategii legitimatsii,” Ab Imperio, 2006, no. 3:321–55; and idem, “New Right-Wing Intellectuals: Strategies of Legitimization,” Russian Politics and Law 47:1 (2009): 47–75. 4 See, for example, Andreas Umland, “Die Sprachrohre des russischen Revanchismus,” Die Neue Gesellschaft: Frankfurter Hefte 42:10 (1995): 916–21; idem, “Toward an Uncivil Society? Contextualizing the Recent Decline of Parties of the Extreme Right Wing in Russia,” Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Working Paper Series 3 (2002) (available at www.wcfia.harvard.edu/node/589; and also published in Demokratizatsiia 10:3 (2002): 362–91); idem, “Formirovanie fashistskogo ‘neoevraziiskogo’ dvizheniia v Rossii: Put' Aleksandra Dugina ot marginal'nogo ekstremista do ideologa postsovetskoi akademicheskoi i politicheskoi elity, 1989– 2001 gg.,” Ab Imperio, 2002, no. 3:289–304; idem, “Kulturhegemoniale Strategien der russischen extremen Rechten: Die Verbindung von faschistischer Ideologie und gramscistischer Taktik im ‘Neoeurasismus’ des Aleksandr Dugin,” Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 33:4 (2004): 437–54; idem, “Postsowjetische Gegeneliten und ihr wachsender Einfluss auf Jugendkultur und Intellektuellendiskurs in Russland: Der Fall Aleksandr Dugin 1991–2004,” Forum für osteuropäische Ideen- und Zeitgeschichte 10:1 (2006): 115–47; Charles Clover, “Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland: The Re-emergence of Geopolitics,” Foreign Affairs 78:2 (1999): 9–13; John B. Dunlop, “Aleksandr Dugin’s ‘Neo-Eurasian’ Textbook and Dmitrii Trenin’s Ambivalent Response,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 25:1–2 (2001): 91–127; Victor Yasmann, “The Rise of the Eurasians,” The Eurasian Politician 4 (2001): 1 (also available at www.cc.jyu.fi/~aphamala/pe/issue4/ yasmann.htm); Markus Mathyl, “Der ‘unaufhaltsame Aufstieg’ des Aleksandr Dugin: NeoNationalbolschewismus und Neue Rechte in Russland,” Osteuropa 52:7 (2002): 885–900; idem, “The NationalBolshevik Party and Arctogaia: Two Neo-fascist Groupuscules in the Post-Soviet Political Space,” Patterns of Prejudice 36:3 (2003): 62–76; Marlen Lariuel’ [Marlène Laruelle], “Aleksandr Dugin, ideologicheskii posrednik,” in Tsena nenavisti: Natsionalizm v Rossii i protivodeistvie rasistskim prestupleniiam, ed. Aleksandr Verkhovskii (Moscow, 2005), 226–53; Marlène Laruelle, “Aleksandr Dugin. A Russian Version of the European Radical Right?,” Kennan Institute Occasional Papers 294 (2006) (also available at www.wilsoncenter.org/ news/docs/OP294.pdf); idem, “(Neo)evraziitsy i politika: ‘Vkhozhdenie’ v gosstruktury i bezrazlichie k obshchestvennomu mneniiu?” Vestnik Evrazii – Acta Eurasica 1(31) (2006): 30–43; idem, “(Neo-)Eurasianists and Politics: ‘Penetration’ of State Structures and Indifference to Public Opinion?” Russian Politics and Law 47:1 (2009): 90–101; Vladimir Ivanov, Alexander Dugin und die rechtsextremen Netzwerke: Fakten und Hypothesen zu den internationalen Verflechtungen der russischen Neuen Rechten (Stuttgart/Hannover, 2007); and Valerii Senderov, “Neo-Eurasianism: Realities, Dangers, Prospects,” Russian Politics and Law 47:1 (2009): 24–46.
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(1886–1951) and the metaphysician of Anglo-Ceylonese origin Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877–1974).5 Integral Traditionalists repudiate all achievements of modernity and, instead, subscribe to a mythologized and idealized interpretation of humanity’s past. Traditionalists believe that a “perennial wisdom” or “primordial Tradition” was revealed to humanity during a “Golden Age” (the Hindu Satya Yuga). As subsequent ages (Yugas) superseded each other, the world slid into decadence, and “perennial wisdom,” as a single “spiritual language,” gradually disappeared from people’s life. In our current age—the so-called Era of Vice (Kali Yuga)—the ancient cultural foundations of human existence have degenerated completely: only traces of the “primordial Tradition” remain, and they survive only in certain world religions that Traditionalists understood to be dialects of the lost single “spiritual language.” Thus, according to Integral Traditionalists, a single “perennial wisdom” lies at the heart of different religions, and a primary objective of Traditionalists is to find and preserve those religious teachings that retain remnants of the “primordial Tradition.” One characteristic of Integral Traditionalism, then, is a comprehensive pessimism, that is, an absolute confidence in the doomed nature of modern decadent society. At the same time, Integral Traditionalism refutes any possibility of improving or altering the allegedly degraded state of the contemporary world through political engagement—itself a profoundly “modern” and foolish human activity. Much has been published—in different languages—on the origins and development of Perennial Philosophy.6 Publishing houses such as Sophia Perennis or World Wisdom specialize in Integral Traditionalist themes, and the number of Traditionalist websites is high. In Russia, the teachings of Integral Traditionalists have only recently become wellknown. The Russian academic journal Voprosy filosofii first introduced Soviet readers to Perennial Philosophy in a 1991 article on René Guénon and Traditionalism that was written by the philosopher and translator Iurii Stefanov.7 The next few years witnessed an avalanche of articles, essays and translations of different quality published in magazines, journals, and websites. And some of the first essays to appear were published in Dugin’s periodicals Milyi Angel and Elementy. With this brief sketch of the Traditionalist school, we can now turn to a comparison of Perennial Philosophy with Dugin’s so-called “neo-Eurasianism.” FROM GUÉNON VIA EVOLA TO DUGIN? Throughout the 1990s, Dugin repeatedly claimed Guénon as his teacher, and at one time he dreamt of naming Rostov State University, to which he has some relation, after the French
5 Marco Pallis, “A Fateful Meeting of Minds: A. K. Coomaraswamy and R. Guénon,” in The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, ed. Rama P. Coomaraswamy (Bloomington, 2004), 7–20. 6 For thorough overviews of the philosophical school see, first and foremost, William W. Quinn, Jr., The Only Tradition (Albany, 1997); and Harry Oldmeadow, Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy (Colombo, 2000). For a comprehensive study of Coomaraswamy see Roger Lipsey, Coomaraswamy, Vol. 3, His Life and Work (Princeton, 1977). On Guénon see Paul Chacornac, The Simple Life of René Guénon (New York, 2001); Xavier Accart, Guénon, ou, Le renversement des clartés: Influence d’un métaphysicien sur la vie littéraire et intellectuelle française (1920–1970) (Paris, 2005); and Robin E. Waterfield, René Guénon and the Future of the West: The Life and Writings of a 20th-Century Metaphysician (Wellingborough, 1987). 7 Iurii Stefanov, “Rene Genon i filosofiia traditsionalizma,” Voprosy filosofii, 1991, no. 4:31–42.
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
esoteric.8 But it was less Guénon or Coomaraswamy than the Italian mystic, former Dadaist, and SS sympathizer Baron Julius Evola (1896/98–1974) who exerted a crucial influence on the young Dugin. Evola’s pamphlet Pagan Imperialism probably had a formative impact on Dugin, who translated the text from German into Russian when he was still a young man, in the late Soviet period.9 As a result, it is Evola’s peculiar (re-)interpretation of Traditionalism, rather than Guénon’s original version of the doctrine, that has been used in many texts written by Russian New Rightists inspired by Dugin’s initial elaborations on Traditionalism.10 And, as we see below, Evola’s journalistic and philosophical legacy constitutes a deep revision, rather than consistent extrapolation, of Guénon’s Integral Traditionalism.11 At their core, many of Dugin’s works are an amalgamation of Traditionalist concepts, Evola’s theories, geopolitical ideas, and the ideology of the German interwar “Conservative Revolution.” The latter was congenial to Evola’s sociopolitical teachings and has been rightly identified by Leonid Luks as an important source of Dugin’s doctrine.12 As is well known, the ideologists of the “Conservative Revolution”—Carl Schmitt, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Oswald Spengler, Ernst Jünger, and others—became passive accomplices of the Nazi movement during the Weimar Republic by helping to undermine the legitimacy of Germany’s first democracy among the reading public. Despite their role in the rise of history’s most murderous anti-Slavic movement, the ideas of the “Conservative Revolution” recently have made a surprising comeback among Russian intellectuals, not least because of Dugin’s continuous propagation of their ideas in hundreds of articles and dozens of
8 Boris Rezhabek, “Merzlaia zemlia evraziitsa Dugina,” Lebed', no. 248 (2001) (also available at www.lebed.com/2001/art2744.htm [last accessed April 4, 2009]). 9 Iulius Evola, Iazycheskii imperializm, trans. Aleksandr Dugin (Moscow, 1994). 10 On Evola’s importance for the development of Dugin’s doctrine see the discussion by A. James Gregor and Andreas Umland in Fascism Past and Present, West and East: An International Debate on Concepts and Cases in the Comparative Study of the Extreme Right, ed. Roger Griffin et al. (Stuttgart/Hannover, 2006), 459–99. See also A. James Gregor, “Review of: Shenfield. Russian Fascism,” Slavic Review 60 (Winter 2001): 868–69; idem, “The Problem,” in Fascism, Vol. 1, The Nature of Fascism, ed. Roger Griffin and Matthew Feldman (London, 2004), 339–40. 11 On Evola’s fascism see Thomas Sheehan, “Myth and Violence: The Fascism of Julius Evola and Alain de Benoist,” Social Research 48:1 (1981): 45–73; Richard Drake, “Julius Evola and the Ideological Origins of the Radical Right in Contemporary Italy,” in Political Violence and Terror: Motifs and Motivations, ed. Peter Merkl (Berkeley, 1986), 61–89; idem, The Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy (Bloomington, 1989), 114–34; Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum,’” Modern and Contemporary France 8:1 (2000): 35–53; and idem, “Grey Cats, Blue Cows, and Wide Awake Groundhogs: Notes towards the Development of a ‘Deliberative Ethos’ in Fascist Studies,” in Fascism Past and Present, West and East, 411–58. 12 Leonid Liuks [Luks], “‘Tretii put',’ ili nazad v Tretii Reikh?” Voprosy filosofii, 2000, no. 5:33–44; idem, Tretii Rim? Tretii Reikh? Tretii put'? Istoricheskie ocherki o Rossii, Germanii i Zapade (Moscow, 2002); idem, “Zum ‘geopolitischen’ Programm Aleksandr Dugins und der Zeitschrift Ëlementy – eine manichäische Versuchung,” Forum für osteuropäische Ideen- und Zeitgeschichte 6:1 (2002): 43–58; idem, “Eurasien aus neototalitärer Sicht – Zur Renaissance einer Ideologie im heutigen Rußland,” Totalitarismus und Demokratie 1:1 (2004): 63–76; idem, “A ‘Third Way’ – or Back to the Third Reich?” Russian Politics and Law 47:1 (2009): 7–23. See also Andreas Umland, “‘Konservativnaia revoliutsiia’: Imia sobstvennoe ili rodovoe poniatie?” Voprosy filosofii, 2006, no. 2:116–26 (available at www1.ku-eichstaett.de/ZIMOS/forum/docs/3Umland06.pdf; reprinted in Russkii natsionalizm v politicheskom prostranstve [Issledovaniia po natsionalizmu v Rossii], ed. Marlène Laruelle [Moscow, 2007], 54–74).
Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland
books.13 Finally, heavy traces of the influence of the so-called European New Right (ENR)— for example, Alain de Benoist, Robert Steuckers, Jean Thiriart, Troy Southgate, among others—are evident in “neo-Eurasianism.”14 Dugin personally met several ENR thinkers in Moscow, Paris, Antwerp, and London.15 The ENR too is indebted to the legacies of Evola and some “conservative revolutionary” authors—perhaps, most of all to Carl Schmitt—and ENR authors occasionally refer favorably to Guénon’s works. Dugin’s case raises a question also applicable to the assessment of Evola’s and the ENR’s interpretation of Integral Traditionalism: are Evola’s theories and the ENR’s ideology legitimate successors of Guénon’s teaching? The answer, we believe, is that they are not, or that they are at best skewed reinterpretations of Integral Traditionalism. The universalist core of the deist worldview of classical Traditionalism—to some extent reminiscent of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Ringparabel in the play Nathan the Wise—is lost in the outlooks of Evola, the ENR, and the disciples of “neo-Eurasianism.” Dugin plainly rejects the “transcendent unity of religions”—a central concept of Integral Traditionalism.16 Within the framework of ENR reinterpretations, Guénon’s and his initial followers’ ideas appear as rhetorical devices for creating an insurmountable opposition between an open, pluralistic, and democratic model of society on the one hand, and a closed, monistic, and hierarchic model on the other. To be sure, this juxtaposition by itself is fundamental to Integral Traditionalist postulates as well. But for the ENR, including Dugin, Traditionalism does not serve as a source of genuine intellectual inspiration but, instead, as a wellspring of original-sounding notions and ideas, the primary value of which lies in their usefulness for conceptually disconnecting postwar right-wing extremism from the discredited terminology and outlook of German Nazism. Initially, Alain de Benoist and other ENR thinkers, including Dugin, held more or less biologically informed prejudices of the “old right’s” racism.17 As it evolved, however, the ENR substituted biologistic fundamentalism with radical cultural particularism with regard to both ethnic groups and world civilizations. This new form of ascription perverts the liberal ideal of the right to be different. While its consequences are less aggressive than ordinary biological racism, the ENR’s cultural differentialism leads to comparable political
13 Valerii Senderov, “Krizis sovremennogo konservatizma,” Novyi mir, 2007, no. 1:117–51; idem, “Konservativnaia revoliutsiia v poslesovetskom izvode: Kratkii ocherk osnovnykh idei,” Voprosy filosofii, 2007, no. 10:3–18. 14 See Anton Shekhovtsov, “Aleksandr Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism: The New Right à la Russe,” Religion Compass: Political Religions (forthcoming). 15 On the New Right see Tamir Bar-On, Where Have All the Fascists Gone? (Aldershot, 2007); Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia”; idem, “Plus ça change! The Fascist Pedigree of the Nouvelle Droite,” in The Development of the Radical Right in France, 1890–1995, ed. Edward Arnold (London, 2000), 217–52; Alberto Spektorowski, “The New Right: Ethno-regionalism, Ethno-pluralism and the Emergence of a Neofascist ‘Third Way,’” Journal of Political Ideologies 8:1 (2003): 111–30; and Sheehan, “Myth and Violence.” 16 Aleksandr Dugin, Filosofiia traditsionalizma (Moscow, 2002), 42–43, 100–101. On the importance of the “transcendent unity of religions” for Integral Traditionalism see, inter alia, Frithjof Schuon, De l’unité transcendante des religions (Paris, 1948); and Oldmeadow, “The Transcendent Unity of Religions,” in his Traditionalism. 17 Griffin, “Plus ça Change! The Fascist Pedigree of the Nouvelle Droite;” Aleksandr Dugin, Giperboreiskaia teoriia (1990; reprint ed. Moscow, 1993); Andreas Umland, “Pathological Tendencies in Russian ‘NeoEurasianism’: The Significance of the Rise of Aleksandr Dugin for the Interpretation of Public Life in Contemporary Russia,” Russian Politics and Law 47:1 (2009): 76–89.
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
programs of ethnic screening, forced deportation, global de-integration, and international isolation. It asserts that different cultural entities and their representatives are deeply incompatible, and it elevates civilizational values or traditions—rather than genetic or phenotypic traits—to characteristics that set human beings fundamentally apart from each other. In reaction to the instrumentalization of Guénon’s ideas, students of Integral Traditionalism, as well as Traditionalists themselves, have explicitly or implicitly cast doubt on whether Evola’s ideas can be included in the Traditionalist school of thought. For example, Harry Oldmeadow, an expert on Perennial Philosophy, does not mention Evola in his influential Traditionalism.18 He does consider Evola’s works in Journeys East, which explores Western thinkers who have addressed Eastern religious and philosophical themes. But he does so in the chapter “Orientalism, Racial Theory and the Allure of Fascism,” where Evola is mentioned as a “‘disciple’ of René Guénon” using ironic quotation marks.19 Another specialist on Integral Traditionalism, William W. Quinn, mentions Evola in a passage of The Only Tradition devoted to thinkers associated with the Traditionalist school. But the thinkers he focuses on at this point are those “who were to varying degrees affected by the thought of Guénon and Coomaraswamy, but who ... were not part of the central core of the Traditional school per se.”20 To be sure, Evola’s books do reflect the ideas of Guénon to a considerable degree. But Evola’s “anti-Modernism”—if that term is at all appropriate for Italy’s famous Dadaist— which some authors tend to trace directly to Guénon, also has other, non-Traditionalist sources, including the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Oswald Spengler. (Evola translated the latter’s The Decline of the West into Italian.21) As a result, it seems doubtful whether a consistent negation of the modern world—a central idea of Integral Traditionalism—can be easily ascribed to the Italian avant-garde artist.22 Renaud Fabbri, the editor of the Traditionalist journal Vincit Omnia Veritas, has argued that Evola “was influenced by racist theories and the philosophy of Nietzsche, long before reading Guénon,” and because of this “deviated from the core of Perennialist teaching on far too many points to be considered as part of Guénon’s legacy.”23 Evola himself admitted that, “in the field of ideas,” his synthesis of “transcendent” and Kshatriya principles “became the foundation of defining ... the concept of ‘traditionalism,’ in opposition to its more intellectualist and Eastern-centric interpretation that characterized the movement led by René Guénon.”24
Oldmeadow, Traditionalism. Harry Oldmeadow, Journeys East: 20th Century Western Encounters with Eastern Religious Traditions (Bloomington, 2004), 368. 20 Quinn, The Only Tradition, 39. 21 Göran Dahl, Radical Conservatism and the Future of Politics (London, 1999), 132; Nicholas GoodrickClarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity (New York, 2002), 55. 22 Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (London, 2007), 39–41. 23 Renaud Fabbri, “Introduction to the Perennialist School,” www.religioperennis.org/documents/Fabbri/ Perennialism.pdf). 24 Julius Evola, Il Cammino del Cinabro (Milan, 1972), 13 (emphasis added).
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What, then, are the differences between Evola’s doctrine and Integral Traditionalism? A crucial discrepancy concerns the issue of “initiation” as a spiritual rite of passage. For Guénon, “sacerdotal initiation” (to “greater mysteries”) is superior to “royal initiation” (to “lesser mysteries”).25 Evola inverted this hierarchy and even suggested the possibility of self- or auto-initiation. As Mircea A. Tamas, a Canadian expert on Integral Traditionalism notes, Evola “was a Westerner and could not accept the truth about the Occident and its lack of initiatory ways. For this reason he had to reject Guénon’s teachings and consider a sort of ‘auto-initiation’ (which would connect the neophyte directly to the Most High, without the need of a regular initiation or an initiatory organization).”26 This dissimilarity is critical: For Guénon, priority of the “royal” initiation was the result of a rebellion of the Kshatriyas who “strove to reverse the normal relationships and who, in certain cases, were able to set up a sort of irregular and incomplete tradition.”27 Importantly, Dugin took Evola’s side when describing, in his Filosofiia traditsionalizma, the differences between Guénon’s and Evola’s approaches to initiation. Like the latter, the “neo-Eurasianist” Dugin subordinated reflection and knowledge (the “sacerdotal,” Brahmanic principle) to action (the “royal,” Kshatriya principle).28 “Contemplation versus action” was one of the most fundamental antitheses for Guénon, who considered contemplation or cognition an expression of the “traditional spirit,” and action itself an “anti-traditional” one.29 Evola and Dugin, in contrast, subordinated the Eastern idea of spiritual meditation to activism—a concept that, for Guénon, was synonymous with the anti-traditional West. In its attitude to objective reality, this activism is related less to classical Integral Traditionalism than to so-called “actual idealism”—an idea developed by Giovanni Gentile, a founding father and major theorist of Italian Fascism.30 Evola’s sympathies for Fascism and his temporary collaboration with Benito Mussolini helped to estrange him from Guénon, who reviled any political product of the hated modern world, including Fascism.31 Xavier Accart, a historian of French thought and student of comparative literature, pointed out that the French metaphysician himself warned against a confusion of his ideas with Evola’s, and had condemned Europe’s fascist regimes well before World War II.32
See “Sacerdotal and Royal Initiation,” in René Guénon, Perspectives on Initiation (Hillsdale, 2004). Mircea A. Tamas, The Wrath of Gods: Esoteric and Occult in the Modern World (Toronto, 2004), 150. 27 Guénon, Perspectives on Initiation, 251. 28 Dugin, Filosofiia traditsionalizma, 403–58. 29 René Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World (Hillsdale, 2004), 33–36. 30 On Giovanni Gentile’s actual idealism see Henry S. Harris, The Social Philosophy of Giovanni Gentile (Urbana, 1960); and Claudio Fogu, “Actualism and the Fascist Historic Imaginary,” History and Theory 42:2 (2003): 196–221. On Gentile as a Fascist philosopher see A. James Gregor, Giovanni Gentile: Philosopher of Fascism (New Brunswick, 2001); and M. E. Moss, Mussolini’s Fascist Philosopher: Giovanni Gentile Reconsidered (New York, 2004). 31 Sergei Kliuchnikov, “Simvolika i nasledie ‘kairskogo otshel'nika,’” in Rene Genon, Simvoly sviashchennoi nauki (Moscow, 2004), 15. Iurii Stefanov also notes that one of the reasons of the discord between Guénon and Evola was the former’s apology for the East, while the latter “called upon the defense of the ‘Mediterranean tradition’ against the threat from the East” (Stefanov, “Rene Genon,” 36). See also Rustem Vakhitov, “Iulius Evola: Liudi i ruiny,” Volshebnaia gora 9 (2006) (available at www.phg.ru/?page=17&article=12). See also Guénon’s letters to Guido De Giorgio, in which he criticizes Evola, at http://nationalism.org/vvv/guenon-degiorgio.htm, trans. Viktoriia Vaniushkina. 32 Accart, Guénon, ou, Le renversement des clartés.
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
The political inactivity and indifference that the founders of the Traditionalist school, Guénon and Coomaraswamy, demanded and practiced became a bon ton for their followers, Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Lord Northbourne, and others. But not for Dugin. Despite his repeated claims that he is a Traditionalist, as a notable publicist and social activist he has from the very beginning departed not only from the political passivity of Traditionalism’s founders but also from a significant part of their literary and philosophical heritage. Some critics wrongly spoke of Guénon’s “sympathies” for the French ultranationalist organization Action Française. As his publisher and biographer Paul Chacornac clarified, Guénon did sympathize to “some degree” with certain leaders of the organization, particularly Léon Daudet, who “of all the leaders of Action Française was the most capable of understanding Guénon, and of accepting, at least partially, his point of view.” Guénon, however, sympathized less with the organization as such, than with some of its members. According to Chacornac, “there must have been far less sympathy between Guénon and [Action Française leader] Charles Maurras,” due to their difference regarding the nature of “traditional society.” Guénon’s 1929 book Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, specifically devoted to the hierarchical subordination of action to knowledge, was partly a response to the conflict between Action Française and Pope Pius XI. Guénon took sides with the latter, who had condemned Action Française as “a danger to faith and morals as well as to the Catholic education of youth.”33 Apparently, the nationalism of Action Française was the main reason for Guénon’s aversion to Maurras. According to the French Traditionalist, “all nationalism [is] essentially opposed to the traditional outlook.”34 Coomaraswamy’s involvement in politics, in turn, was confined to temporary participation in the Indian independence movement swadeshi, as well as his active protest against, and “his resistance to, the British conscription established to provide troops for the battlefields of World War I.” His status as a conscientious objector eventually prompted his emigration to the United States in 1917.35 Neither Evola’s worldview nor the doctrines of the ENR and Dugin constitute the unequivocal rejection of Modernity that Integral Traditionalism explicitly demands. Although Dugin radically repudiates some manifestations of Western Modernity, he eventually (resorting to Huntingtonian terminology) promotes “modernization without Westernization.”36 This formula indicates that the term “anti-modernism,” if applied to the “neo-Eurasianists” and ENR, in general, is misleading. Roger Griffin argues that the objective of all varieties of fascism—including the ideas of Evola, the ENR, and Dugin— is not anti-modern. Rather, fascist ideology constitutes an urge toward an “alternative modernity” and the creation of a “new fascist man.”37
Chacornac, The Simple Life of René Guénon, 70–71. Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World, 98. 35 Quinn, The Only Tradition, 10. 36 Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York, 1996); Aleksandr Dugin, “Modernizatsiia bez vesternizatsii,” Zavtra, no. 37 (250) (1997): 6. 37 Roger Griffin, “The Sacred Synthesis: The Ideological Cohesion of Fascist Cultural Politics,” Modern Italy 31:1 (1998): 5–23; idem, Modernism and Fascism.
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DUGIN AS AN ANTI-TRADITIONALIST When Dugin in 1997 proposed “modernization without Westernization,” he eventually collided openly with Guénon’s teaching. This disagreement not only exists on an abstract, theoretical level; it expresses itself over practical matters as well, as we can see in Dugin’s and Guénon’s contradictory assessment of concrete social affairs. For instance, “neoEurasianists” view favorably the training that students from Eastern countries receive at Western universities. Dugin believes that such students, when going back to their home countries, “return to their roots and take advantage of the technological models [that they studied, in the West] for the sake of their own civilizations.”38 Guénon, in contrast, argued that such students were “Eastern Westerners” and “avowed agents ... of the most baneful of all forms of Western propaganda.” Their aim, he wrote, was “to exhibit to the West their modernized East, which has been made to conform to the theories that have been instilled in them in Europe and America.”39 Another of Dugin’s conceptual conflicts with Guénon is highlighted by certain essays, in which the leader of “neo-Eurasianism” positively assesses the legacy of the British occult writer and Satanist Aleister Crowley, particularly in “Uchenie Zveria” and “Chelovek s sokolinym kliuvom.” Dugin tries to legitimize placing Crowley within the larger context of Traditionalism by referring to the link between Crowley and Evola, and specifically to the fact that they had a common friend—the Italian Freemason Arturo Reghini.40 Guénon, by contrast, had called Crowley a “black magician” and “charlatan,” and argued that many of the organizations founded by Crowley were “counter-initiatory”—that is, antiTraditionalist.41 Just by itself, Guénon’s negative attitude toward Crowley makes it difficult to consider the latter an Integral Traditionalist. As one Russian observer commented on
38 “Tekhnicheskii progress kak faktor politiki: Aleksandr Dugin v programme ‘Ishchem vykhod’ na radiostantsii ‘Ekho Moskvy,’” www.evrazia.org/modules.php?name= News&file=article&sid=2608. 39 Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World, 102. 40 Aleksandr Dugin, “Uchenie Zveria,” Milyi Angel, 1996, no. 3 (available at http://angel.org.ru/3/ crowley.html); idem, “Chelovek s sokolinym kliuvom,” in Aleksandr Dugin, Tampliery proletariata: Natsionalbol'shevizm i initsiatsiia (Moscow, 1997), 169–76 (available at www.arcto.ru/modules.php?name=News&file= article&sid=91). One may add that the relationship between Evola and Crowley was not as unambiguous as Dugin implied. See Hans Thomas Hakl, “Einige zusätzliche Bemerkungen zum Fragenkomplex Julius Evola und Aleister Crowley,” in Marco Pasi, Aleister Crowley und die Versuchung der Politik (Graz, 2006), 277–96. Reghini and Evola became acquainted after World War I and established the esoteric Gruppo di Ur. According to Goodrick-Clarke, Reghini exerted a profound influence on the development of Evola’s worldview (Black Sun, 55–56). The idea of the “pagan imperialism” originally belonged to Reghini, who published the essay “Imperialismo pagano” in the journal Salamandra in 1914. Evola published his book of the same name fourteen years later and borrowed heavily from Reghini’s essay, in other ways too. The rupture between the two thinkers was embarrassing: In 1929, one year after the publication of his Imperialismo pagano, Evola accused his former “friend” of being a member of a Masonic lodge (Mussolini had banned freemasonry in Italy in 1925), and tried to sue him on that ground. Concerning the relationship between Crowley and Reghini, the latter was an Italian representative of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a Masonic organization headed by Crowley from 1922 until 1947. See Marco Pasi, “The Neverendingly Told Story: Recent Biographies of Aleister Crowley,” Aries 3:2 (2003): 243. 41 Réne Guénon, Studies in Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage (Hillsdale, 2004), 197, 245.
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
this and related revisions by Dugin, “in terms of Guénonism, any sympathy with counterinitiation would mean the same as Christians’ sympathy with Satanism.”42 Dugin’s appreciation for Crowley stems from the latter’s nonconformism, as well as from what Dugin conceives to have been the British Satanist’s political position. Dugin wrote that Crowley supported all “‘subversive’ trends in politics—Communism, Nazism, anarchism and extreme liberation nationalism (especially the Irish one).”43 Referring to Christian Bouchet, leader of the French radical right-wing organization Nouvelle Résistance, Dugin calls Crowley a “Conservative Revolutionary.”44 In fact, Crowley’s true political views remain unclear. Insofar as his support for Irish nationalism is concerned, Crowley’s separatist guise actually helped him to win the trust of German secret service agents during World War I. For most of his life Crowley was an agent for MI-6, the British counterintelligence service that, in Dugin’s terms, constitutes an “Atlanticist”—and thus antiRussian—organization.45 Dugin’s attempt to present Crowley, as well as other thinkers with little relation to Integral Traditionalism, as exponents of Perennial Philosophy, along with his disregard of such acknowledged Traditionalists as Schuon or Nasr, suggests that the leader of “neoEurasianism” is interested in only those authors and thinkers whose legacy can be utilized for the formulation of his own doctrine. What attracts Dugin is not the authenticity of an author’s Traditionalist worldview, but rather his cultural nonconformism, political radicalism, or actual idealism. A further illustration of Dugin’s peculiar use of the term “Traditionalism” is his contradictory, if not paradoxical appraisal of the Romanian-born U.S. historian of religion, Mircea Eliade.46 In an essay interpreting Eliade’s academic works through the lenses of the scholar’s participation in the interwar Legion of Archangel Michael—a Romanian fascist organization better known as the Iron Guard—Dugin called the famous scholar a “prominent traditionalist.”47 But in a different text that did not mention Eliade’s fascist past, Dugin
42 Sergei Stroev, “Opyt ‘Arktogei’: Sval'nyi grekh bludomysliia,” Otkrytaia elektronnaia gazeta Forum.msk.ru, February 5, 2006, http://forum.msk.ru/material/politic/7368.html. 43 Dugin, “Uchenie Zveria.” 44 Ibid. On the concept of “Conservative Revolution” see Umland, “‘Konservativnaia revoliutsiia.’” 45 Richard B. Spence, “Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley and British Intelligence in America, 1914–1918,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 13:3 (2000): 359–71; idem, Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult (Los Angeles, 2008). 46 Mircea Eliade, who, during the interwar period lived mostly in Romania, was one of several scholars who tried to provide the ideology of the Legion of Archangel Michael with a Christian-mysticist legitimacy. See Zigu Ornea, The Romanian Extreme Right: The Nineteen Thirties (Boulder, 1999); Adriana Berger, “Mircea Eliade: Romanian Fascism and the History of Religions in the United States,” in Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes, ed. Nancy Harrowitz (Philadelphia, 1994), 51–74; Steven M. Wasserstrom, Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos (Princeton, 1999); Viacheslav Likhachev, “Revoliutsiia dukha. Khristianskii fashizm Mirchi Eliade,” Nezavisimaia gazeta: Religii, March 3, 2004 (available at http://religion.ng.ru/history/2004-03-03/6_eliade.html); and Anton Shekhovtsov, “Kontseptsiia ‘novogo cheloveka’ Mirchi Eliade kak forma politicheskoi oppozitsii,” Vestnik SevGTU, no. 71 (2006): 3–9. 47 Aleksandr Dugin, “Mircha Eliade – vechnoe vozvrashchenie,” http://arcto.ru/modules.php?name= News&file=article&sid=1103.
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argued that the scholar belonged among those “authors who can be hardly termed ‘traditionalists’ in the Guénonian sense.”48 In fact, the opposite argument would be logical: it is precisely Eliade’s link to Romanian fascism that undermines the validity of classifying his outlook as a permutation of Integral Traditionalism; categorizing him as such would be possible only if we turned a blind eye to his flirtation with the Iron Guard. There is no doubt that Dugin has contributed to the development of Russian Traditionalism. But he has done so less by thinking or writing than by being an industrious publisher. As mentioned, Perennial Philosophy was a fairly unknown body of thought in Russia during the early 1990s, drawing attention from a limited readership attracted to forbidden philosophical conceptions. Iurii Stefanov first “popularized” Integral Traditionalism among educated Russian readers, but the audience for his translations and own writings was small. It was Dugin who first engaged in large-scale dissemination of Traditionalist ideas. The inaugural 1991 issue of his miscellany Milyi Angel, featuring three of Guénon’s articles, had a circulation of twenty thousand. As Internet access started spreading in Russia, Dugin began to post articles from Milyi Angel and Elementy to his web sites, along interviews with representatives of European Traditionalist schools and other material, all of which helped to propagate Integral Traditionalism.49 In 1991, Dugin’s publishing house Arktogeia issued one of Guénon’s key works, The Crisis of the Modern World.50 The high circulation of his journals and his extensive use of the Internet allowed Dugin to contribute significantly to the mass dissemination of Traditionalist ideas in Russia. While Dugin thus did make a significant contribution to Russian Traditionalism, the above-indicated caveat should be borne in mind: most of the texts published in Elementy and Milyi Angel are ENR instrumentalizations of Traditionalism. Articles and essays by Alain de Benoist, Robert Steuckers, Claudio Mutti, Jean-François Thiriart, Ange Sampieru, Christian Bouchet, David Barney, and others do occasionally use Traditionalist terminology, yet their ideological constructs conflict with the basic principles of Perennial Philosophy. Thus, the results of Dugin’s publishing activities, in terms of propagating Traditionalism, are ambiguous too. The arbitrary mixture in Dugin’s journals and web sites of unanalyzed but genuinely Traditionalist texts with non-, para-, pseudo- or anti-Traditionalist texts often does more to obscure the nature of Integral Traditionalism, rather than reveal it. The resulting conceptual confusion has contributed to the terminological jumble surrounding usage of the term “Traditionalism” in Russia. MARK SEDGWICK’S INTERPRETATION OF TRADITIONALISM AND DUGINISM Any assessment of the relationship between Traditionalism and Dugin’s ideas cannot ignore the research of Mark Sedgwick, an influential specialist on Integral Traditionalism and
Dugin, Filosofiia traditsionalizma, 30. See, in particular, www.arctogaia.com, www.arcto.ru, rv.evrazia.org, nu.evrazia.org, angel.org.ru, and www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/6824/. 50 Rene Genon [Réne Guénon], Krizis sovremennogo mira (Moscow, 1991). This book was the first and last of Guénon’s works published by Arktogeia. According to Artur Medvedev, the editor of the Russian Traditionalist journal Volshebnaia gora, Dugin, when asked about the prospects of publishing other Guénon books, replied:
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
author of the seminal monograph Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth History (2004).51 In a chapter dedicated to “neoEurasianism,” Sedgwick attempts to demonstrate the Traditionalist nature of Dugin’s doctrine and to interpret him as a “political Traditionalist.” Despite its impressive breadth, superior style, and factual richness, Sedgwick’s fascinating book has received restrained or negative reviews in a number of journals specializing in Traditionalism and esotericism, not least by many Traditionalists themselves who may feel threatened by Sedgwick’s revelations.52 Reviewers have accused Sedgwick of conceptual errors and unconfirmed assumptions. The most fundamental attack on Sedgwick’s book—expressed particularly by critics sympathetic to Guénon’s ideas—concerns the author’s allegedly insufficient characterization and unclear delineation of the nature of Integral Traditionalism. Even some of the favorable reviews have maintained that there is “relatively little space” in the book “devoted to the signal ideas or broad doctrines held by various schools of Traditionalism,” and that “readers seeking a discussion of Traditionalist thought” would be “disappointed.”53 Michael Fitzgerald, who apparently is himself a Traditionalist, accused Sedgwick of ignoring existing scholarship that contradicts his conclusions and relying instead on informants, “many of whom openly acknowledge their personal animosity toward one or another Perennialist writer.”54 According to this critique, Sedgwick not only failed to clearly define the subject of his research but also introduced the oxymoronic term “political Traditionalism.” He also used the term “Traditionalist” to characterize a number of worldviews, philosophical schools, and even political ideologies, though only some of them can be indisputably considered full-fledged varieties of Integral Traditionalism. For example, while Sedgwick’s list of “the seven most important Traditionalists” features such acknowledged representatives of Traditionalism as Coomaraswamy, Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, it also includes Julius Evola, Mircea Eliade, and Aleksandr Dugin.55 Fitzgerald notes that, in the case of Evola, Sedgwick himself acknowledged that “Evola made the most dramatic modifications to a Guénonian Traditionalism ... that was essentially apolitical” and that “Evola’s analysis of modernity is recognizably a variation on the established Traditionalist philosophy.”56 Xavier Accart
“We will not publish Guénon—he is a poor seller. My books are selling better.” See www.phg.ru/phorum/ viewtopic.php?p= 1555&sid=083b0b878f6220322a40aa3f615243f3#1555. 51 Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (New York, 2004); idem, “Alexander Dugin’s Apocalyptic Traditionalism.” Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 18–21, 2006. 52 See, for example, Michael Fitzgerald, “Review of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century by Mark Sedgwick,” Vincit Omnia Veritas 1:2 (2005): 90–104 (available at www.religioperennis.org/documents/Fitzgerald/Sedgwick.pdf); and Xavier Accart, “Review of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century by Mark Sedgwick,” Aries 6:1 (2006): 98–105. 53 Arthur Versluis, “Review of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century by Mark Sedgwick,” Esoterica, 2006, no. 8:185; Colin Beech, “Review of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century by Mark Sedgwick,” Journal of World History 17:4 (2006): 237. 54 Fitzgerald, “Review of Against the Modern World,” 91, 102. 55 Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, xiii. 56 Fitzgerald, “Review of Against the Modern World,” 98.
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also disputes the notion of Dugin as a Traditionalist, basing his critique, he claims, on established definitions of Traditionalism.57 Notwithstanding such criticisms, Sedgwick’s book was the first extensive scholarly attempt to analyze Duginism through the lens of Integral Traditionalism, and this explains why his conclusions have been reproduced in subsequent scholarly studies of Dugin and “neo-Eurasianism.”58 Moreover, Sedgwick’s book is currently being translated and prepared for publication in Russia by Moscow’s renowned publishing house Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie. For these reasons, we consider here Sedgwick’s work and its significance for the study of post-Soviet “neo-Eurasianism” in some detail. To be sure, some of the criticism levelled at Sedgwick, such as those by the Traditionalists mentioned above, must be approached with caution, for they sometimes seem to be driven by nonacademic motives. Yet some of the issues raised even by these, possibly biased, reviewers are worth further discussion. This concerns above all Sedgwick’s treatment of Dugin. Sedgwick notes that “neo-Eurasianism” has four main sources, and that only one of them is the “Traditionalism that Dugin used to add a moral and existential element to Mackinder and Haushofer.”59 This combination of “Traditionalist” and geopolitical ideas is one of “the modifications Dugin made to the Traditionalist philosophy.”60 These “modifications” were so profound, however, that Sedgwick himself acknowledged that “neo-Eurasianism is not specifically or overtly Traditionalist.”61 Notwithstanding this admission, he still considers Dugin’s “neo-Eurasianism” to be “a form of Traditionalism.”62 A similarly ambivalent approach toward identifying the nature of “neo-Eurasianism” can be found in Sedgwick’s assessment of the role of Perennial Philosophy in classifying Dugin’s doctrine. Having distinguished three main elements of the Russian’s doctrine— “apocalypticism, critique of liberal democracy, and geopolitical analysis”—Sedgwick asserts that “the first two of these elements are clearly of Traditionalist origin.”63 But he then goes on to add that, although “Dugin’s apocalypticism ... has Traditionalist roots,” it cannot be “explained by Traditionalism alone, since most Traditionalists place much less emphasis on the imminence of the apocalypse.”64 Sedgwick admits that many of Dugin’s books “cannot be explained in Traditionalist terms.”65 Sedgwick links Integral Traditionalism not only to Dugin’s “neo-Eurasianism” but also to classical Eurasianism of the 1920s, which he identifies with “Geopolitics.”66 The link between the two systems of thought, in Sedgwick’s mind, is that “both Guénon and the
Accart, “Review of Against the Modern World,” 102. For example, Marlène Laruelle has reproduced some of Sedgwick’s conclusions with regard to “Dugin’s Traditionalism” in her otherwise perceptive paper “Aleksandr Dugin: A Russian Version of the European Radical Right?” 9–12. See also Adrian Ivakhiv, “Nature and Ethnicity in East European Paganism: An Environmental Ethic of the Religious Right?” The Pomegranate 7:2 (2005): 194–225. 59 Sedgwick, “Alexander Dugin’s Apocalyptic Traditionalism,” 17. 60 Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, 225–26. 61 Ibid., 230. 62 Sedgwick, “Alexander Dugin’s Apocalyptic Traditionalism,” 28. Elsewhere, Sedgwick calls Dugin’s NeoEurasianism “an unusual variety of Traditionalism” (Against the Modern World, 221). 63 Sedgwick, “Alexander Dugin’s Apocalyptic Traditionalism,” 12. 64 Ibid., 13–14. 65 Ibid., 10. 66 Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, 226.
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
Eurasianists were formulating their ideas in the same period, and so were subject to some of the same general influences.”67 We and others, including Ilya Vinkovetsky and Stefan Wiederkehr, have argued that Dugin primarily used the terminology, rather than ideology, of the Russian émigré movement of the 1920s and 1930s, while formulating his new version of “Eurasianism.” That is why, in this and other analyses of Dugin’s ideology, we have been placing quotation marks around the term “neo-Eurasianism.” Instead of seeking an authentic source for his constructs, the Russian neo-fascist may have embraced classical Eurasianism for more prosaic purposes. Because it was created by some highly educated and regarded Russian émigrés, “Eurasianism” has allowed Dugin to disguise his more important non-Russian—in particular, Western European—ideological roots: the “Conservative Revolution,” the ENR, Evola, and so on.68 Therefore, possible links between Integral Traditionalism and classical Eurasianism—however doubtful they might be—seem of only limited relevance to the discussion of the significance of Traditionalism to “neo-Eurasianism.” The same goes for a passage in a paper devoted to Dugin that Sedgwick presented in 2006. According to Sedgwick, Dugin’s activities can be characterized as Traditionalist because “his spiritual practice may be explained in terms of Guénon, and his political activity may be explained in terms of Evola, or perhaps in terms of Nietzsche and existentialism.”69 However, Integral Traditionalism has little in common with Nietzsche or existentialism. There is little reason to consider Dugin, on this basis, an adherent of Philosophia Perennis. Equally ambivalent are Sedgwick’s observations on the allegedly Traditionalist character of Dugin’s religious activities and spiritual life. He notes that Dugin belongs to the Edinoverie section of the Old Believers—a Church that recognizes the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Sedgwick’s words, “this detail makes no sense in Guénonian or Traditionalist terms, but makes a lot of sense in Russian terms, since it allows Dugin to have excellent relations with the mainstream Orthodox Church.”70 Such a strategy gives Dugin the opportunity to take part in political life of the Russian Federation—an activity that would have been more difficult, if not impossible, had Dugin followed Guénon’s example and become a Muslim.71 To be sure, Sedgwick recognizes that “Dugin’s personal religious practice ... cannot be explained purely in religious terms.”72
Sedgwick, “Alexander Dugin’s Apocalyptic Traditionalism,” 16. Ilya Vinkovetsky, “Eurasianism in Its Time: A Bibliography,” in Exodus to the East: Forebodings and Events. An Affirmation of the Eurasians, ed. Ilya Vinkovetsky and Charles Schlacks (Idyllwild, 1996), 143– 74; Stefan Wiederkehr, “‘Kontinent Evrasija’ – Klassischer Eurasismus und Geopolitik in der Lesart Alexander Dugins,” in Auf der Suche nach Eurasien: Politik, Religion und Alltagskultur zwischen Russland und Europa, ed. Markus Kaiser (Bielefeld, 2004), 25–138; Andreas Umland, “Kulturhegemoniale Strategien der russischen extremen Rechten”; idem, “Postsowjetische Gegeneliten und ihr wachsender Einfluss auf Jugendkultur und Intellektuellendiskurs in Russland: Der Fall Aleksandr Dugin (1990–2004),” in Generationen in den Umbrüchen postkommunistischer Gesellschaften: Erfahrungstransfers und Differenzen vor dem Generationenwechsel in Russland und Ostdeutschland, ed. Tanja Bürgel (Jena, 2006), 21–46 (available at www.sfb580.uni-jena.de/ typo3/uploads/tx_publicationlist/Heft20.pdf). 69 Sedgwick, “Alexander Dugin’s Apocalyptic Traditionalism,” 16. 70 Ibid., 10. 71 Ibid., 9–10. 72 Ibid., 9.
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Still, Sedgwick maintains that Dugin’s activities can be explained in Traditionalist terms, as his “spiritual practice may be explained in terms of Guénon.”73 However, it is doubtful that Guénon would have regarded adherence to a society’s dominant religious principles as an expression of Traditionalism. Adapting one’s spiritual practice to reigning political correctness, in the putative Traditionalist’s home country, is inimical to the spirit of Integral Traditionalism. We are going into such detail when criticizing Sedgwick’s otherwise excellent study not simply because its Russian translation may acquire significance as a seminal treatment of “neo-Eurasianism” in Russia. It could have a political impact as well, providing Dugin with a pseudo-conservative veil that obscures the revolutionary-ultranationalist—that is, fascist—agenda underlying his publishing activities. In recent years Dugin has been trying to establish himself as a mainstream pundit by presenting his ideology as “conservative.”74 An authoritative Western classification as a “Traditionalist” could prove useful for him in this endeavor. Dugin’s form of “Traditionalism”—if one chooses to use this term—has little relation to the philosophical school created by Guénon and Coomaraswamy. As Versluis puts it, Guénon would have not “recognize[d] himself at all in Dugin’s violent exhortations.”75 “NeoEurasianism” is the result of a syncretic combination—bordering on random compilation— of pseudo-archaic conceptions with modernist and postmodernist postulates.76 Perennial Philosophy serves Dugin as an arsenal of unconventional terms and offbeat notions—freely reaggregated in Dugin’s worldview—rather than as an organic precursor or ideational foundation of “neo-Eurasianism.”77 Why, then, this extensive treatment of Dugin’s clearly awkward historical and theoretical mixtures? His articles and books could be of intellectual interest only to those Russian readers who do not know foreign languages well enough to read, or do not care to get access to, the relevant European literature, or to those seeking ideological indulgence to feed their anti-Western—particularly anti-American—ressentiment. But Dugin’s numerous publications and frequent TV appearances have become part and parcel of the daily political and intellectual life of contemporary Russia. This article, then, seeks to apply a corrective to the startling seriousness with which prominent politicians, scholars, journalists, and cultural figures treat Dugin’s inept narratives.
Ibid., 12. Andreas Umland, “Pravoradikal'nyi ideolog stanovitsia professorom vedushchego VUZa Rossii,” inoSMI.ru, November 20, 2008, www.inosmi.ru/translation/245520.html (last accessed April 4, 2009). 75 Versluis, “Review of Against the Modern World,” 186. 76 One could add that challenges to the classical model of the development of advanced industrial states by ecological, neospiritualist, communitarian, and other movements is characteristic of everyday political life of contemporary Western liberal democracies. These phenomena can be considered as being inherent to the project of Modernity. See Griffin, Modernism and Fascism. From this perspective, the New Right’s radical repudiation of the Western development path is not that peculiar. 77 Shekhovtsov considers in detail the issue of Dugin’s determined amalgamation of sociopolitical, cultural, and esoteric themes for constructing a syncretic palingenetic myth at the core of “neo-Eurasianism” (“The Palingenetic Thrust of Russian Neo-Eurasianism”).
Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
In view of his massive “presence” in Russia, Dugin’s specific interpretation of Traditionalism could be declared seminal. Why not agree with the notion of, as Sedgwick puts it, “Dugin’s Traditionalism”? In the final analysis, “Traditionalism” is just a word. Why should we deny Russia’s major exponent of “neo-Eurasianism” and, perhaps, bestknown professor of Moscow State University his “right” to that term? Such a semantic revision would be permissible, if not for two issues, one etymological, the other pragmatic.78 First, it seems contradictory to use the word “tradition” in order to describe an ideology that is aimed, according to Dugin himself, at modernization (although not at Westernization). Word combinations like “traditionalist modernization” or “modernizing traditionalism” should be rejected as classificatory terms for much the same reasons we earlier rejected the notion of “conservative revolution” as a generic concept for scholarly analyses.79 Such oxymorons can be utilized in academic communication as proper names for singular phenomena. But within generic concepts such combinations of antonyms serve only to undermine the semantic field that constitutes the foundation of our communication. This observation leads to a second, pragmatic reason for refusing to identify Dugin as an Integral Traditionalist. Because, as we have tried to demonstrate, Duginism and Guénonism are not just somewhat distinct, but fundamentally different, applying the term “Traditionalism” to both worldviews would render the notion’s properties, extension, and referents—its connotation and denotation—meaningless. If Evola or Dugin are Traditionalists to the same degree as Guénon or Coomaraswamy, then why not proclaim Jerry Falwell, Benito Mussolini, or Plato to be “Traditionalists” as well? By stretching the notion of Traditionalism to include Duginism, we deprive the term of its heuristic and communicative value. If, in turn (the above-mentioned discrepancies notwithstanding), we acknowledge Dugin’s, rather than Guénon’s or Coomaraswamy’s, primary “right” to the term “Traditionalism,” while admitting the relevance of the differences between Duginism and Guénonism, we face another problem: How would we classify those philosophers who previously were considered Integral Traditionalists? If Guénon is not a Traditionalist, who or what is he? Apparently, we would have to coin a new term to designate his teaching. Yet, introducing neologisms is a tricky business: their primary function is to conceptualize new phenomena, so proposing a neologism for a relatively old referent that already has been defined and popularized through a particular term would be difficult. Such innovation collides with established traditions (sic) of communication, and could be considered mere novitism. The reason behind our refusal to consider Aleksandr Dugin a contemporary representative of Perennial Philosophy is not ideological or political. Rejecting Dugin’s
78 The following argument is based on methodological considerations developed in modern comparative political science. See, in particular, Giovanni Sartori, “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics,” American Political Science Review 64 (1970): 1033–53; Giovanni Sartori, Fred Riggs, and Henry Teune, The Tower of Babel: On the Definition and Analysis of Concepts in the Social Sciences (Pittsburgh, 1975); Giovanni Sartori, ed., Social Science Concepts: A Systematic Analysis (Beverly Hills, 1984); David Collier and James E. Mahon, Jr., “Conceptual ‘Stretching’ Revisited: Adapting Categories in Comparative Analysis,” American Political Science Review 87 (1993): 845–55; John Gerring, Social Science Methodology: A Criterial Framework (Cambridge, England, 2001); and Gary Goertz, Social Science Concepts: A User’s Guide (Princeton, 2006). 79 Umland, “‘Konservativnaia revoliutsiia.’”
Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland
classification as Traditionalist is simply less problematic than the alternatives—redefining the term, or stretching it far enough to encompass Duginism. Let Dugin and his followers have their pretensions to membership in the world-wide club of Traditionalists; or, if you will, ridicule them for their efforts. But either way, in order to preserve the collective fruits of scholarly research and maintain the efficacy of our communication, we need to classify the ideology of Dugin and his followers with a different generic term. To be sure, determining the exact role that Guénon, Coomaraswamy, or other established Integral Traditionalists played in Evola’s or Dugin’s intellectual evolution could still be of interest. But such research would amount, as we have demonstrated, to an analysis of how they misused the thesaurus of “Traditionalism” and employed its themes to effect a fundamental revision of this philosophical school. Done properly, it would be anything but a treatment of Evola and Dugin as legitimate contemporary exponents of Philosophia Perennis.