If we accept the Jouvenelian model of high-low versus the middle as an expression of unsecure power, and if we accept that William Cavanaugh and others are correct in identifying the Reformation as a cultural phenomena driven by elites in conflict (Church versus the monarchical state,) then it raises an interesting way of interpreting current events, especially regarding Trump.
To briefly recap, the claim of neoabsolutism is that unsecure power creates conflicts which then produce cultural changes. The division of power between State and Church lead to an all-out conflict played out over centuries, with both sides trying to out high/low the other. From this conflict we get the division of secular and religious which on their own terms make little sense. From the angle of power conflict, however, they make total sense. The state institutions won and proceeded to render the realm of the Church as toothless and harmless as possible. A category of religion as a matter of individual conscious which cannot be compelled (by the Church) was instigated, and total adherence to the state institutions was promoted. It was a matter of power.
Well, given the above, and the fact that we still exist in a divided unsecure system in a state of total conflict, we can ask what the current instantiation of this comprises of. I mean the conflict between Church and State still rumbles on but is not really a hot one any more in the west, maybe it is still in other areas of the world. What we would need to see is two sets of institutions in a state of conflict. Are there any slowly gestating cultural developments which indicate the framework of the current conflict lines? The answer is yes, and is provided by Moldbug in the form of the Cathedral. The name “Cathedral” has been a source of some complaints, and I would agree to a great deal of the criticisms as the name allows for all sorts of lazy assumptions. One of the key ones is that the solution for banishing progressives is to label them as religious and then demand their removal from state machinery. This is an example of assuming that culture drives politics, and is not a post hoc justification for the acts of Power. This is completely wrong. If we leave the name aside for a second, what we can instead do is look at the general contours and then note how it echoes the religion/secular split and the underlying Church/State conflict.
In the current incarnation, it is the state apparatus which has become the party under siege thereby taking on the role of the Church. The new institutions underlying the attack and giving rise to the new cultural trends are non-state institutions. The ruling elite began a migration in earnest in the 20th century from the state institutions to the NGOs, Foundations and other civil society institutions because they offer much greater power. These institutions allows for direct, uncontrolled governance under the umbrella of being civil society. They are merely entities allowing the free acts of private citizens. Government agencies are subject to all manner of checks and balances, foundations for example, are not. They do whatever they want, from promoting gay marriage, to encouraging the movement of women to the workforce to reduce birth rates. These institutions have given rise to a slow cultural drive to etch out a segment of society which has been given the label “civil society” within which (formal) government intervention is deemed inappropriate, oppressive and downright creepy. These institutions have become transnational affairs with space called “civil society” in all countries being increased, strengthened and made into a bastion of power for these institutions. Recall that previously the state building elites did exactly the same with the creation of a secular category of life from which religion (the Church) was expelled.
For a time, these institutions have existed as complementary to the state and as a means to correct the necessary failings of the liberal categories which imply that there are areas of none governance in society. But now a conflict has broken out between them; we see it as nationalists versus globalists. A more accurate split would be to describe it as civil society versus formal governance, or rather, the civil society institutions versus government institutions. While for a great amount of time the formal institutions have been staffed by people willing to act as facilitators of the transfer of power to civil service institutions (to NGOs, foundations, corporations which have been retconned as civil society created “private” entities,) this has changed in a number of places and this transfer of power is being rejected. Eastern Europe in particular has been an area of innovation in curtailing civil society, which is not surprising in some respects as it was a place in which civil society institutions (Ford foundation and the Soros foundation, privatization etc.) ran wild and caused havoc, again under the banner of spontaneous developments. The US is now the epicentre of this conflict in the form of Trump who is currently engaged in constant squabbles with these institutions.
I contend that this all indicates that either there is a great reaction and the entire concept of a civil society space of spontaneous order is rejected entirely and the institutions governing this area fraudulently are dealt with accordingly, or this process will continue in its current absurd direction, and we end up with a new deranged form of governance.
If the secular/ religious split is anything to go by, it will probably take the form of creating a category with the name politics that consists of extremely limited power. It will probably end up as some kind of opt in governance which is not really government. Like choice between having a different company supply day to day documentation. Do you want a UK passport, or a German passport? You choose, it’s your internal right by conscious decision that cannot be forced on you and it makes no difference – there are no borders bigot. On the other hand, you must submit to being a member of civil society as an individual and if you don’t great punishment will be visited upon you. You will be added to a list, your human rights score will be reduced, you will be no platformed, you will be unemployable, you will be made example of, you will go to prison. Note the legal system will be more tied up with these new institutions than with the formal governance structure on the basis of it being apolitical and part of civil society and not governance. The legal system will complete its journey from being a delegation of the monarch to being a “independent” and “impartial” judiciary.
Is this going to be a stable state of affairs? either way it portends a world governance under the absurd category of civil society in the international community.