The white status competition theory of white suicide
November 13, I criticized
Steve Sailer’s idea that suicidal white guilt is a function of status competition among liberal whites.(See Sailer’s articles touching on this theme here
). I said that Sailer’s view is a form of reductionism that makes it impossible both to understand
the guilt-driven white suicide and to oppose
it. Several interesting comments came in at the time, but, instead of replying to them, I got involved in the thread
on the same topic at Dennis Mangan’s blog which soon turned into a discussion
about my objectionable personality and—of all things—my supposed gnosticism. Now, eleven days after it was first broached, VFR discusses this interesting topic. Below are readers’ responses to my critique of the white status competition theory, followed by my responses.
Ilion Troas writes:
While you’re right to critique Sailer’s “nothing-buttery,” there is some truth in what he says.
That whole “white guilt” charade does serve to allow “liberals” to assert their moral superiority over everyone else, in much the same way that “liberalism” serves to allow “liberals” to assert their moral superiority over God.
Of course. It is about moral superiority.
But look at that phrase: moral superiority.
For there to be moral superiority, there has to be a notion of morality. The motivating force here is not status, but the attainment and expression of a certain morality. Because people believe in that morality, and think it’s the highest thing there is, the more they demonstrate that morality, the more virtuous they are, the more worthy of respect they are, the more status they have. So of course people care about status, but they care about status within a certain system of morality. Without that system of morality, that particular type of status wouldn’t exist.
Then there’s the further twist, as you suggest, that within liberalism, there is no good higher than man, higher than the self. As a result, people who believe in and express the good become themselves the highest object, become absolutely superior to those who do not believe in that good, who are worthless and deserving of no consideration at all. Thus you have the self-worship of the white liberal elite, and their absolute disdain for non-liberal whites. But this is already something distinct from ordinary status. It derives from the unique liberal notion of morality, which involves the following sequence of thoughts:
(1) There is nothing higher than man.
(2) Therefore, all human selves are equal.
(3) Therefore the one wrong thing is to judge or discriminate.
(4) Therefore people who do not believe in anything higher than man and who do not judge and discriminate, embody goodness itself, while
(5) the people who do believe in something higher than man and who do judge and discriminate are subhumans. They are the backward, the resentful, the bitter, the fundamentalist, the racist.
(6) In short, all human selves are equal, but some human selves (namely those who know that all human selves are equal) are infinitely superior to other human selves (namely those who don’t know and who resist this truth).
Thus the belief in equality leads to the belief in the absolute superiority of some and the absolute inferiority of others. Let’s consider further how such a paradoxical thing can be the case.
In traditional morality, which believes in an objective truth outside and above man, the more moral person is only relatively more moral than the less moral person, because he is somewhat closer to the truth, while the other person is somewhat farther from the truth. No person possesses the truth or is identical with the truth. Some people are higher on the moral ladder than others, but only because they are closer to a truth which remains external to and above them. Thus their moral superiority is relative, not absolute. Because the truth itself is absolute, the moral superiority of any one man over another is only relative—relative to the absolute truth which is above both men.
But under liberal morality, there is no objective moral truth. There is nothing higher than the human self, there is no higher truth by which different selves can be distinguished from each other in terms of their relative closeness or distance from the truth. Therefore the only truth is that all selves are equal. But because there is nothing higher than the self, the self that grasps this truth is not merely relatively superior to other selves that don’t grasp it, he is absolutely superior, while the others are absolutely inferior.
Which is the source of the absolute liberal hatred and disdain for conservatives. In the view of liberals, conservatives are not people who are a little further away from truth than themselves; they are people who stand outside and against the one and only moral truth, which is the equality of all people. Because they reject this one and only moral truth of the equality of all people, they are sub-human, non-human, they don’t deserve to exist.
My analysis is somewhat analogous to that in Animal Farm, in which all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Under the regime of equality established by the animals, the ruling animals are vastly more superior over the other animals than men were superior over the animals under the old (human) regime. Under the old (human) regime, there was a moral hierarchy of which the men themselves were a part and to which they were subject. Under the animal regime of equality, there is no moral hierarchy, therefore there is nothing higher than the ruling animals, and their superiority over the other animals is absolute, subject to no moral rules.
David B. writes:
My impression of Sailer is that he sees the status competition among whites as striking a pose. An example is white liberals voting for Obama while making sure they live in the whitest section of town they can afford. I know many people like this.
Yes, but that does explain anything about white suicide? Furthermore, what does it say about Sailer and others who believe that the greatest tragedy in history, the downfall of the white West, is happening as the result of a “pose”? Since reductionist thinkers like to reduce other people’s motives to the most trivial and meaningless level, shall we not submit the reductionist thinkers to the same analysis? In other words, based on reductionist assumptions, the reductionist view of the world is no more true and objective than any other view, but must be reduced to its “true” causes. So, what is it that drives people to take a reductionist view of the world? The answer might not be pleasant for the amour propre of the reductionists.
David B. replies:
It shows how powerful the liberal impulse really is. You have to take these attitudes to be accepted in “polite society.” Another thing is that white liberals think it will never affect THEM. They think they will always be able to insulate themselves in their nice neighborhoods.
Mark A. (who started
the ball rolling on this topic) writes:
Another interesting thought generated by Steve Sailer and germane to our discussion from last night: Note that 70 percent of blacks in California voted to ban gay marriage. Who are the gay advocates upset with? The blacks? Why no. They are upset with the white Mormons who “funded” Prop 8.
What this points to is the articulation of the white population into two distinct groups. While a difference of status is part of this relationship, it is not the essence of it.
Liberal society requires three groups or classes to operate. First, there is the liberal white elite, who embody the liberal ideals of the system and for whom the system really exists. Second, there are the putatively non-liberal whites. In fact, they are not necessarily non-liberal at all (since almost all white people in modern society are actually liberal), but they must be seen as non-liberal in order for them to play their assigned part as non-enlightened, bitterly clinging to their guns and Bibles, etc. And then are the various designated minorities and non-Westerners.
The highest moral value of liberal society, its substitute for God, is non-discrimination (of course, not just any non-discrimination, but non-discrimination toward those who will weaken and destroy whatever remains of the traditional Western society). To demonstrate their adherence to the non-discrimination principle, liberal whites must have nonwhites and non-Westerners upon whom to practice the liberal virtue of non-discrimination. It’s not particularly desired that these groups assimilate, because if they did, they would no longer be (at least culturally) different and could no longer serve as objects for the liberals’ virtue of non-discrimination. Only groups that are unassimilated, and preferably unassimilable, can serve this purpose.
And what about the non-liberal whites? Their function in the liberal order is to serve as the foil for the liberal whites. They embody the principle of prejudice and intolerance (sin in the liberal scheme) which always threatens the liberal order and which the liberal order must always strive to overcome.
To sum up, the liberals require an ever-present object of non-discrimination, and an ever-present embodiment of discrimination, which the liberals’ non-discriminatory principle is overcoming and against which it shines, This is why, with each new advance of inclusion (a female House Speaker, a nonwhite President), it is as though the entire society had been mired in prejudice until this moment, and only at this moment is goodness triumphing over America’s all-encompassing wickedness, “toppling the barriers,” “shattering the glass ceiling.”
M. Jose writes:
I don’t think that Steve Sailer is saying that status seeking is the root of “anti-racism,” (i.e. white surrender). He is saying that status seeking rather than benevolence is what motivates most of the followers of “anti-racism.”
In other words, he is not describing the motives of the trendsetters, but of the trendfollowers.
As I’ve pointed out before, if that’s all Sailer is saying, then his statement has little more meaning than saying that people breathe oxygen. Since all human relations, and thus all human activities in society, inevitably involve questions of status (e.g., who is considered the more respected and the less respected person in a social group; who is part of a group and who is not part of it), it’s meaningless to say that white suicide is driven by status competition. It’s like saying that people seek education and knowledge and the ability to speak well for motives of status. Well, obviously the degree of a person’s education, knowledge and ability to speak well is highly correlated with status. But then how is the desire to be knowledgeable any different from the desire to parade suicidal liberal attitudes on race? And how are those desires any different from the desire to have the most attractive possible mate, or from the desire to write a great book, or to discover a great scientific theory, or to design a great park? In Sailer’s reductionist view of man, the motive for creating civilization is the same as the motive for destroying civilization. So his status competition theory tells us precisely NOTHING. Yet Sailer and his fellow reductionists somehow imagine that they’re got the “real goods” on suicidal liberalism!
Chris H. writes:
From a purely biological perspective there are three ways of ordering a social group, and by extension a nation or civilization: narcissism, aggression, and perfectionism. They are not mutually exclusive and many societies are a mixture of all three. They are personality characteristics that are found mixed or separated in individuals who are the basic units of any social group large or small. Just like intelligence and height, and just about any other quantifiable characteristic you can think of, they vary in frequency and degree among individuals and among groups of people categorized by descent.
Aggression is the obvious quality needed to assert one’s will in the world. It is responsible for dominance and submission.
Narcissism is the less obvious quality that serves a similar purpose. It is a socializing function that encourages people to seek out not just other people, but groups of people; and then to seek “glory” if you will. It is responsible for vainglory and envy. Moderate levels of narcissism cause a person to worry what other people think of him; he wants to be thought well of. This encourages “good” behaviour. High levels of narcissism encourage grandiosity and megalomania.
Perfectionism is less directly social in function and can’t exist without being combined with aggression and or narcissism; but its profound effects can be seen in the orderliness and efficiency of societies comprising people with notable levels of perfectionism.
It seems that environments where survival involved individuals enduring regular hardship (the seasonal turn into winter) have higher levels of perfectionism, whereas regions where the living is easier and socializing is more important have higher levels of narcissism. (Anyhow, this is by no means a complete primer.) The different levels of these qualities (that and different levels of individualism, ethnocentrism, and intelligence) and their interaction within and among individuals explain a lot about modern liberalism—a northern European offshoot of Protestant Christianity.
Think of the difference between the Puritans of America and their pursuit of a City on a Hill leading their spiritual descendants to fight for abolition and later groups’ exploitation of political correctness such as the Irish Kennedys—from a society with low levels of organization but high levels of “pride.”
The Japanese, it would seem to me, are not characterized by high levels of narcissism; therefore status hierarchies are determined by dominance\submission and greater conscientiousness due to perfectionism, not to mention greater ethnocentrism. If, post WWII, Americans had decided to impose multiculturalism on the submissive Japanese, the Japanese might not have resisted. The fact that most liberals only half-heartedly and perfunctorily deride developed non-European societies for not being diverse enough indicates that status competition between whites plays a huge role in the cult of multiculturalism. The tragedy is that some conscientious lower status whites have truly embraced the cant; no surprise that more conformist and conscientious women are the major victims of this hypocrisy.
So status competition and Eloi-ism are not mutually exclusive explanations for the suicidal tendencies of Europeans. Steve Sailer has decided to focus exclusively on biological critiques of liberalism, and because liberals pretend that they are more rational and reality-based, his work is necessary. It is quite effective, you must admit, because, as he points out, his critics never are capable of anything more than ad hominem attacks. This use of empiricism is infuriating to the so-called intelligentsia. If I thought his work was a comprehensive refutation of the false religion being shoved down our throats, I wouldn’t bother reading your web page at all. You could go a little easier on him, at least on this issue.
Chris’s intelligent essay is a good example of the reductive approach I’ve been critiquing. The problem with his view is that a society in which everyone believed, as Chris believes, that the ordering forces of human life are the instinctive forces of narcissism, aggression, and perfectionism would be a society incapable of existing. No human society can come into existence, thrive, and survive without a shared belief that the good really exists and without a shared belief about what that good consists of. The self-seeking impulses of narcissism, aggression, and even perfectionism do not tell us toward what moral objects those impulses direct themselves.
Chris H. wrote: “The fact that most liberals only half-heartedly and perfunctorily deride developed non-European societies for not being diverse enough indicates that status competition between whites plays a huge role in the cult of multiculturalism.”
No, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that at all! It could just as well indicate that for liberal whites, nonwhites and non-Westerners are basically irrelevant to their moral and cultural universe. The morality or immorality of nonwhites and non-Westerners is of no interest to liberal whites. Thus, though liberal whites don’t realize it, they are intensely ethnocultural-centric. They’re concerned about their own society and their own people. Other peoples don’t really exist for them, except perhaps as tokens for a drama going on within white society. Now, one could describe that intra-white drama in reductive and ego-centrical terms as “status competition.” One could also describe it as the search for virtue and goodness. Which description better accounts for the realities of human life? Did Michelangelo sculpt the Pietà and the David out of status competition? Of course, he sought the best, and to be the best, and he succeeded. But does “status competition” adequately describe his motivations?
Jeff W. writes:
This is in response to your thread “Is white surrender a function of status competition among whites?”
If you look at this, as I do, as a scene where tribes or groups of people are competing for dominance, a clearer picture emerges. In the U.S. there has long been competition between the Northern and Southern factions. The North won the historic, violent struggle of 1861-1865, and they also, about forty years later, beat back a challenge from William Jennings Bryan. The North defeated Bryan in three presidential elections and later humiliated him at the Scopes Monkey Trial, which is a victory they celebrate to this day. Northerners defeated the South again when they forcibly dismantled segregation in the 1960s. They also continue to celebrate and memorialize that great victory.
Key to the North’s success in recent years has been the support of two “client tribes,” blacks and Hispanics. It is vital to the North’s interests that this tribal alliance remains intact. Should it come apart, the door would be wide open for Southerners (such as John McCain, whose family is from Mississippi) to seize control of the Federal government.
So regardless of whether solicitous treatment of nonwhites is moral or right, such behavior is clearly politically necessary for the people of the North. Northern whites must treat blacks and Hispanics with solicitous care if this alliance of three somewhat mutually hostile tribes is to be preserved.
Also (and this addresses Steve Sailer’s view of the question), because the tribal alliance is so important, it follows that any person who might damage that alliance should be ostracized. Thus Northerners, as well as blacks and Hispanics, are constantly on the lookout for instances of racism. Competitive Northern whites, acting as individuals and for personal reasons, are also looking for competitors who can be removed from the playing field by using the racism charge.
Gilbert B. writes:
From an article, “Competitive Altruism: The Tyranny of Dimwits”“
… This phenomenon, whereby people seek out a sense of power from performing “more selfless than thou” acts, is known as competitive altruism. He who donates the most to charity, spends his life rescuing animals, or defending the rights of minorities will rise in social status because of our society’s obsession with egalitarianism.
Obama represents the minority underdog in America, and he won the election by appealing to precisely that symbolism. His election proves that the psychology of competitive altruism is still enormously powerful in the West. When did we stop embracing and encouraging the intelligent, beautiful and artistic qualities in our people? Somehow we’ve let our self-esteem fall so low that we reward excellence with contempt, except in people who renounce all higher aspirations and submit to our own self-loathing dogma….
“Isn’t it evident that Pippa Bacca, the 33 year old Italian airhead who hitchhiked alone through Turkey wearing a wedding dress to send a message of peace and tolerance and got murdered, was not doing it as part of some Saileresque status competition, but because she believed in peace and tolerance?”
It seems obvious to me that she truly believed in peace and tolerance, but that there was also something rather exhibitionist in her actions is hard to deny.
Your criticism that Sailer’s status seeking doesn’t explain what gives silly liberal ideas their status in the first place is completely valid, but the criticism can be turned on its head. One can ask, “Why does LA think liberals believe in multiculturalism in the first place?” “Why do liberals seem so resistant to any evidence upsetting this belief?” “Why is truth so repellent to liberals?” “Why do they work so hard to downplay demonstrably negative consequences—like they will invariably do when confronted with the murder of this Italian flake?”
I wouldn’t say that you’re turning my criticism of Sailer on its head, I’d say that you’re asking me the fundamental question that goes to the heart of the issue, the very question I’ve been raising since the start of this discussion: why do people believe in liberalism? And the best answer, in my view, is that modern people reject any natural, social, moral, or spiritual truth outside of or higher than themselves, which leaves them with the non-judgmental equality of all selves, which leads to, among other things, white Western suicide, as I discuss in my reply to Ilion Troas at the start of this thread.
If my view of the etiology of liberalism is correct, then, ironically, both liberalism and Steve Sailer’s inadequate reductionist explanation of liberalism stem from the same source: modern man’s denial of the transcendent structure of the world.
Irv P. writes:
“It’s a dirty world Felix, it doesn’t want you to clean it up.”
- end of initial entry -
Question: Why don’t these people just clean up their own lives? Answer. They have more important things to do because they’re morally superior—that belief is their fatal flaw.
Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed taking in the entries in this post. What you wrote is some of the clearest and most inspiring dialogue I’ve yet seen regarding morality, liberalism, etc. These are two of my favorite passages:
“To sum up, the liberals require an ever-present object of non-discrimination, and an ever-present embodiment of discrimination, which the liberals’ non-discriminatory principle is overcoming and against which it shines.”
“One could also describe it as the search for virtue and goodness. Which description better accounts for the realities of human life? Did Michelangelo sculpt the Pietà and the David out of status competition? Of course, he sought the best, and to be the best, and he succeeded. But does ‘status competition’ adequately describe his motivations?”
Your continuing demolition of reductionism and, dare I say, your reduction of liberalism to its essential anatomical components, is duly noted and appreciated.
Thank you very much. And, yes, it’s the reductionists who must be reduced down to what they really are.
Bruce B. writes:
Two quick, unrelated thoughts on Sailer’s reductionism:
1. Anyone who has read him much has to have noticed that he emphasizes and reemphasizes the ideas that he sees as HIS unique contribution to right-wingery. His status competition theory is an example of this. It’s HIS idea and he’s going to make sure you know it. I have no problem with a writer taking credit for an original idea, but his writing can take on a bit of a repetitive, self-promoting quality. Maybe the result of blogging for a living? Obviously this observation doesn’t invalidate your criticism but it does explain his repeated emphasis on this aspect of liberalism. Part of his reductionism is the result of having to promote his particular ideas.
2. A flip side of his status theory of liberalism is the pathologization of any consciousness of or resistance to white/Western suicide. Noticing it and objecting to it is associated with low social status.
I wasn’t aware that he stressed his status theory to such a degree. It’s remarkable that he puts so much importance on a theory that purportedly tells us a great deal about white/Western suicide, but that in reality tells us nothing about it.
You write: “It’s HIS idea and he’s going to make sure you know it. I have no problem with a writer taking credit for an original idea, but his writing can take on a bit of a repetitive, self-promoting quality.”
What you’re really saying is that Sailer pushes his status competition theory out of a desire for status, that he advances a theory that reduces human behavior (even the destruction of our civilization) to mere narcissism, because his narcissism propels him to do so. Which suggests that his theory is a projection of (or, to use his own reductionist concept, his theory is nothing but a projection of) his Darwinian Yuppie psychology and values. See my article on Sailer’s thought: Biocentric yuppiedom versus the West.
Is it unfair of me to reduce Sailer and his work to his smallest and most egocentric personal motives? How can it be unfair, since Sailer reduces all of mankind to the smallest and most egocentric personal motives? Whom better to subject to a reductionist analysis than the reductionists?
As for your second point, that’s certain true. As I’ve acknowledged over and over, in liberal society, being a proper liberal confers high status, and being a non-liberal or anti-liberal confers low status. But that will be true of any ruling ideology or behavioral code. (See further expansion on this point below.)
NOTE TO STEVE SAILER PARTISANS:
The preceding comment is not a personal attack on Steve Sailer. It is an attack on his theory, which I honestly think is not only wrong, but harmful, because it gives his readers the satisfied feeling that they have grasped the real truth about what drives whites to denounce white racism, when in reality it has done nothing of the kind, and so leaves his followers incapable of opposing the anti-white movement, except to intone wisely, “There go those racism-obsessed liberals again, building up their status.” Wow, what a powerful argument.
“Albert Nock” writes:
I applaud your application of reductionism to reductionists. I believe reductionism is how we attain greater accuracy and it is only fit for a reductionist analysis to be applied to everything, including its purveyors. For a similarly “meta” view on a related subject see Robin Hanson’s The Cynic’s Conundrum.
Thanks, Mr. Nock. But if I accept your praise, does that mean I have to adopt reductionism as the best explanation of the world?
LA continues (from reply to Bruce B.):
Today in America, people must demonstrate proper liberal attitudes about race, sexuality, and other hot button subjects to be accepted in upscale professions and social circles. But in the pre-Sixties America, people had to demonstrate, not liberalism, but middle-class propriety to be accepted in upscale professions and circles. Up to circa 1970, an American middle class (or working class) woman would be instinctively, automatically ashamed to let her child run around and make noise in a restaurant or other public place; she wouldn’t dream of letting her children behave that way. Today, an American middle class woman considers it perfectly normal to let her children run around and make a disturbance in a restaurant or other public place, and she often becomes indignant and furious if anyone suggests that such behavior is not welcome. In both instances, certain attitudes and behavior are required to maintain one’s place in “respectable” society, but the “good” attitudes and behavior are different in each case. The compelling motive to maintain one’s social status via conformity to the society’s expectations hasn’t changed; what has changed is the content of the high-status or respectable behavior.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 24, 2008 11:33 AM | Send
So, once again, to say that people behave a certain way to maintain their respectable position in society tells us NOTHING about any particular society, including liberal society with its need to subscribe to the belief in white guilt, because the compulsion to maintain one’s place in society is universal to all societies.