Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Enemies of Tradition, Left and Right

Augusto Del Noce on left-wing liberalism and right-wing liberalism

Reader Rob G. is really enjoying reader Carlo Lancelotti’s translation of philosopher Augusto Del Noce’s The Crisis of Modernity. Rob writes:

Don’t know how far you’ve gotten in the Del Noce book, but this morning I read the chapter “Right and Left,” and found it extremely pertinent to the SSM debate and the futility thereof.  The background to the essay, written in 1970, is a dialogue between rightist Catholic Thomas Molnar and leftist Catholic Jean-Marie Domenach.  In brief, Del Noce argues that while the Left in Europe had largely failed at the level of politics, it had won at the level of values. The still greater victory, however, was won by what he calls the “technocratic right,” because “it has been able to completely turn the culture of the left into its own tool.”

9k=Thus, the cultural revolution of the 60s, which began as a rebellion against bourgeois values (mistakenly considered “traditional”) was captured and then used by a foundational aspect of the very thing it was rebelling against.  Transfer this to our place and time, and we observe that the same thing has happened here, that American corporatism, our “technocratic right,” has, in effect, harnessed the Sexual Revolution for its own purposes.

Del Noce says, “Because of the culture that inspires it, the technocratic right is mortally opposed to traditional thought…” and “the alliance between technocratic right and cultural left is there for everyone to see.”  While this may have been true in Del Noce’s time and place, it’s undoubtedly not so visible here, at least among the mainstream left and right.  Because of its commitment to the Sexual Revolution the left misses — either by being blind to it or downplaying it — the role that the “technocratic right” has played in the furtherance of “sexual liberation.”  Likewise the mainstream right, given its commitment to corporate capitalism, fails to see the corrosive effect of the same on what it values culturally, and thus serves as a semi-willing accomplice.

So what happens to the old traditionalist right? Among other things, says Del Noce, it is given “no political space because it is suffocated by the new technocratic right, which inexorably opposes it, being itself the [cultural] epilogue of the left.”

And what about debate, then?  He has an interesting quote from Molnar:  “What irritates me, however, in Domenach’s [leftist] proposal…is the arrogance of sticking the labels ‘socialism’ and ‘left’ on every human self-surpassing, on generosity, on justice…In front of such a bundle of all virtues, the man of the right is truly reduced to being just a member of a gang of consumers and power fanatics…What then is the usefulness of discussing with him?”

Of course, this take on things isn’t new to either you or me, or to many other trads out there.  What’s amazing to me is that Del Noce saw it going on in Europe and had it pegged it as early as 1970, and it indicates that what’s going on in the U.S. today is by no means unique.  It also gives us a lot to unpack.