Logo of IRGAC
Image of the article »Perverse Possibilities of Capitalist Collapse: Neoreaction and Dark Enlightenment as an Authoritarian Alternative to the Structural Crisis of Global Capitalism«

Perverse Possibilities of Capitalist Collapse: Neoreaction and Dark Enlightenment as an Authoritarian Alternative to the Structural Crisis of Global Capitalism

Theory & ResearchIn recent years the new forms of reaction have become a historical force to be reckoned with, fighting in the war in Ukraine in the form of neo-Nazi militias — as is the case of the well-known Azov Battalion — or marching in Italy to the rhythm of chants and gestures evoking Mussolini, as well as reaching the highest seats of political power in different nations — for example Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Nayib Bukele and, more recently, Javier Milei in Argentina. However, its true historical nature can only be grasped in relation to the real movement that has made the entire planet its field of deployment: capital.

"Thanks to free enterprise capitalism, today the world is at its best. There has never been, in all of human history, a time of greater prosperity than the one we live in today. The world today is freer, richer, more peaceful, and more prosperous than at any other time in our history". 

Javier Milei, speech at Davos, January 2024 

As Adorno foresaw after World War II, the conditions that made fascism possible have not disappeared, but, on the contrary, have become more generalized. In this respect, the structural crisis of global capitalism, aggravated by a techno-economic acceleration (Land 2014) that implies the growing anachronism of value (Postone 2003) entails the emergence of a new type of reaction qualitatively different from the historical fascism of the twentieth century. Indeed, Robert Kurz (2020) is emphatic in pointing out that the Italian fascism of Benito Mussolini and German National Socialism were products of the historical imposition of the capitalist mode of production through processes of lagging modernization, while the new rightists are the result of the accelerated historical decline of this capitalist mode of production. 

In fact, in recent years the new forms of reaction have become a historical force to be reckoned with, fighting in the war in Ukraine in the form of neo-Nazi militias — as is the case of the well-known Azov Battalion — or marching in Italy to the rhythm of chants and gestures evoking Mussolini, as well as reaching the highest seats of political power in different nations — for example Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, Nayib Bukele and, more recently, Javier Milei in Argentina. However, its true historical nature can only be grasped in relation to the real movement that has made the entire planet its field of deployment: capital. Indeed, the rise of new forms of reaction is incomprehensible if abstracted from the real development of the objectivity of global capital and its structural socio-ecological crisis. Perhaps the recent triumph of Javier Milei — self-declared, to the horror of old-style anarchists, as anarcho-capitalist — and his rapid deployment of ultra-liberal economic policies are one of the best examples of the relationship between neoreaction and the crisis of capitalist socialization. This comes in the face of the growing difficulty of capital to produce surplus value, and the new forms of reaction respond with an exacerbated precarity of the wage-earning classes. This allows a greater extraction of working time and an accelerated destruction of nature. In this way, climate denialism is a transversal element of the new reaction. In other words, the new forms of reaction constitute a forward escape of capital, an exacerbation of its immanent logic, and a defence to the hilt of a form of socialization threatened by the crisis. 

Now, since neoreaction — the central point of our discussion here — and a fortiori the new rightists are the direct result of the historical decadence of the capitalist mode of production and the techno-economic acceleration of capital, our analysis begins with this last point, which is fundamental to the neoreactionary theoretical framework. 

Techno-economic Acceleration as a Historical Trajectory of Capital

In philosophical terms, the deep problem of acceleration is transcendental. It describes an absolute horizon – and one that is closing in…. No contemporary dilemma is being entertained realistically until it is also acknowledged that the opportunity for doing so is fast collapsing. (Land 2017)

It is interesting that for Milei (2024) — a true contemporary prince of neoreaction — capitalism constitutes not only the best moment of humanity, but also the most peaceful moment in history. This would be anecdotal mockery were it not for the fact that, as the socio-ecological crisis of capital accelerates, war spreads across different regions of the planet in a truly global neo-imperialist conflict — and 2023 closes as the most violent year since the end of World War II. More interesting is that Milei (2024) points out in a distorted way the accelerated character of the capitalist mode of production, but only to praise it as the system that has produced the most wealth in history — clearly the distinction between abstract and material wealth is completely beyond the reflection of Milei and his followers. However, according to Nick Land (2014, 511), acceleration is the authentic “time-structure of capital accumulation”, a self-reinforcing dynamic of value valorization that would constitute the very foundation of the trajectory of capital as a historical mode of production. 

According to Marxian analysis, with the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, the production of material wealth becomes less and less determined by the direct expenditure of human labour but instead increasingly by the general level of scientific development: material production becomes more and more an expression of the social brain — of the “general intellect” (Marx 1973, 706) — and of the productive powers of the species (Postone 2003) developed under the compulsion of the self-valorization of value. Examples of this include: the automatic machinery and computers that have marked our era; and the productive powers of the species (Postone 2003) developed under the compulsion of the self-valorization of value. This dynamic generates the foundation for the historical anachronism of value (Postone 2003), since the enormous productive potential developed by the human species is increasingly inadequate for the abstract form of social wealth, even though it is precisely value — the abstract time of human labour — that is the foundation of capitalist civilization (Cardoso 2021).

This process thus implies a self-reinforcing dynamic of techno-economic acceleration that Land (2014, 511) calls teleoplexy: a “cumulative circuit, stimulated by its own output, and therefore self-propelled, [in which] acceleration is normal behavior”. Indeed, it is no small matter that Land (2017a) takes up the Marxian conceptualization of capital as an automatic subject:

As the circuit is incrementally closed, or intensified, it exhibits ever greater autonomy, or automation. It becomes more tightly auto-productive…. Because it appeals to nothing beyond itself, it is inherently nihilistic. It has no conceivable meaning beside self-amplification. It grows in order to grow. Mankind is its temporary host, not its master. Its only purpose is itself.

The logical consequence of this automatic subject that is founded on an accelerated dynamic is “mechanical automatization, self-replication, self-improvement, and escape into intelligence explosion” (Land 2014, 517). With respect to this last point, it is remarkable how the gradual introduction of artificial intelligence is revolutionizing a number of branches of industry and political administration in capitalist societies (Shanahan 2021). This implies the need to reflect carefully on the perverse possibilities entailed by the ongoing contradiction of capital and its empirical trajectory of self-abolition through the anachronism of its basic social relation. The computerization of the world, augmented intelligence, the contemporary transition towards the fourth industrial revolution, the space exploration of neo-imperialist powers, and contemporary cyberwars imply a growing tendency toward the dissolution of the direct expenditure of human labour time in production — thereby tending to abolish value as the foundation of capitalist modernity. However, this does not automatically lead to the realization of an emancipated society, but rather seems to be dragging humanity toward a new kind of barbarism. 

Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that by its own immanent logic, capital constitutes the historical unfolding of a sacrificial dynamic — this was already clear in Marx  (1976 [1867], 799) — that can have no other logical end than the annihilation of human beings and nature. For this reason, we intend to highlight here the importance of the neoreactionary perspectives of the current crisis — particularly Nick Land’s proposal, its most finished version — insofar as such a frame of reference explores possibilities of the process of the accelerated decomposition of capitalism. These possibilities are an obligatory reference for any reflection via a critical theory of society that purports to be at the height of the challenges posed by the historical process of the contemporary crisis (Noys 2014). 

Neoreaction as a Possibility of Capitalist Crisis  

Faced with this decline of the geopolitical power of the West in the midst of an accelerated structural crisis of capitalism, a whole series of neo-fascist, ultra-nationalist, ethno-separatist, neoconservative, and other movements have emerged, which outline a new type of reaction qualitatively different from the historical fascism of the twentieth century (Hawley 2017). However, of particular interest is the so-called neoreactionary movement or Dark Enlightenment, a response from socio-political philosophy to the decline of Western hegemony that constitutes one of the most sophisticated intellectual expressions of the new quality of reaction in postmodern crisis capitalism. Note these thoughts: 

The modern West has lost faith in itself. In the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment period, this loss of faith liberated enormous commercial and creative forces. At the same time, this loss has rendered the West vulnerable. Is there a way to fortify the modern West without destroying it altogether, a way of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

(Thiel 2007, 207)

These words are from Peter Thiel — entrepreneur, venture capitalist, Republican, co-founder of PayPal, and initial investor in Facebook — and constitute the summary of the neoreactionary programme: a defence of Western culture and power through an exacerbation of capitalism. Note, on the other hand, the similarity of the discourse on the decline of the West if we compare with Milei (2024):

I say that the West is in danger precisely because in those countries where we should defend the values of the free market, private property and the other institutions of libertarianism, sectors of the political and economic establishment, some because of errors in their theoretical framework and others because of ambition for power, are undermining the foundations of libertarianism, opening the doors to socialism and potentially condemning them to poverty, misery, and stagnation.  

Thus, if one were to ask the question: “what characterizes neoreactionary thought?” one could broadly answer that it is a vindication of the so-called “human biodiversity” — a pseudoscientific form of postmodern racism — the proclamation of the right of exit or secession as a fundamental right along with private property, a visceral rejection of any form of political correctness and progressive egalitarianism, and a proposal for the socio-political administration of capitalism with marked overtones of social Darwinism: this is referred to as “neocameralism” (Land 2017b). 

The main exponents of neoreaction as a philosophy are Curtis Yarvin and Nick Land. Yarvin is an American software engineer, entrepreneur, and blogger — writing under the pseudonym Mencius Moldbug — who began producing and disseminating neoreactionary ideas under the influence of Peter Thiel (Jones 2019). Unlike the traditional Silicon Valley elite, Yarvin is against the basic tenets of neoliberal governance that characterize the traditional American right. Self-taught in political and social issues, Yarvin understands politics through the prism of a computer engineer operating with cybernetic systems rather than from the perspective of a social scientist, since according to his alt-right worldview and sensibility, all academic literature is dominated by progressive elites (Jones 2019). For his part, Nick Land continued to develop accelerationist philosophy after leaving his job as a university professor at Warwick and settling in Shanghai. His deepening of the neoreactionary sense of accelerationism led him to eventually come into contact with the ideas of Curtis Yarvin as expounded in his blog Unqualified Reservations and to develop a philosophical commentary on Yarvin’s work under the title The Dark Enlightenment (2022), the most comprehensive compendium of neoreactionary philosophy to date. Due to his extensive early philosophical training and his knowledge of the theories of Deleuze and Guattari, he was able to develop a synthesis between Yarvin’s neoreactionary ideas and postmodern critiques of late advanced capitalism (Jones 2019). 

What makes neoreaction within the alt-right special is its rejection, en bloc, of liberalism. Paradoxically, the neoreactionary movement is closer to the ultra-leftist critique of democracy, the state, and liberalism’s own institutions than, for example, the Republican establishment (Jones 2019). Accordingly, one of the neoreactionary movement’s greatest theoretical failures is its inability to grasp a tradition of radical critique independent of liberalism (Jones 2019), hence its uncritical apology for a capitalism that is understood as split from, and held back by, the very historical institutions that have allowed it to perpetuate itself in contemporary history.

The neoreactionaries capture the process of the contemporary crisis of capitalism from a unilateral prism, apprehended mainly as the decline of the West from the expansion of progressive liberalism. It is an explanation that understands Western decline not as a consequence anchored in the inherent dialectic of the process of capitalist globalization, but as the tragedy of a capitalism that is slowed down in its accelerated historical trajectory by forces that are extrinsic to it. Indeed, for neoreactionaries there are no flaws per se in capital, but rather capital is always threatened by social forces conceived as being external to the logic of capital. Again, Milei provides a perfect recent historical example of this conception: 

This problem essentially lies in the fact that even supposedly libertarian economists do not understand what the market is, for if it were understood it would quickly be seen that it is impossible for there to be such a thing as a market failure. The market is not a supply and demand curve on a graph. The market is a mechanism of social cooperation where property rights are voluntarily exchanged. Therefore, given that definition, market failure is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as market failure. (Milei 2024, emphasis added) 

Consequently, neoreaction would constitute a search for a way out of the decline of modern liberal civilization that conceives itself as a radicalization of the enlightenment project — and, a fortiori, of capital and its immanent logic — as the updating of a tendency of the enlightenment project that does not follow the liberal-progressive line of evolution, but takes up the “dark” tendencies of the enlightenment such as the philosophy of Thomas Carlyle and the cameralism of Friedrich Wilhelm I (Land 2022). Such a neoreactionary rejection of the liberal strand of enlightenment would arise from what Yuk Hui (2019), making use of Hegelian jargon, calls the “hapless consciousness” of the neoreactionaries — consciousness that Milei has exposed so well before the eyes of the world: a self-consciousness of the historical process that has not reached a unified concept of contradiction, a scepticism unable to escape from itself. 

This is unfortunate thinking insofar as it apprehends the contradictions without grasping the intrinsic logic of the capitalist system that inherently produces them. It is lacking the capacity to grasp the contradiction intrinsic to the dual character of capitalist social forms. In other words, neoreaction is another form of truncated critique of capitalism that would be added to the various variants of fascism, Islamic jihadism and, why not, liberal progressivism, the latter being neoreaction’s main object of critique. However, this should not lead to a naive rejection of the neoreactionary analysis, but rather implies a critical problematization of its premises in order to discover its moment of truth. To this end, it is worth analysing two of neoreaction’s fundamental critiques of the contemporary crisis process: its analysis of the decline of democracy in relation to techno-economic acceleration, and its cathedral theory.

The Decline of Democracy in the West and the Theory of “The Cathedral”  

As recent historical events have shown — see the assault on the US Capitol of 6 January 2021, the Russia-Ukraine war that has neo-fascist battalions armed with state-of-the-art technology on both sides, and the more recent Brazilian version of the Trumpist insurrection — a new kind of authoritarianism is looming on the horizon today, whose most advanced exponents are to be found in the East, Latin America, and in the western centre of the global commodity system: the United States. Despite numerous attempts by progressive sectors to curb his (renewed) rise, Trump is emerging day by day as the probable winner of the next elections. In the USA, racial and ethnic violence by alt-right groups and individuals — particularly the massacres perpetrated by armed individuals against non-white communities — generates alarm regarding the possibility of a new American civil war in a nation where the number of firearms exceeds the number of inhabitants. 

For Nick Land (2022) it is the effective advent of the “Dark Enlightenment”, the emergence of a new genre of reaction and the tendency towards the establishment of a new form of hyper-capitalist techno-economic domination that goes hand in hand with the decline of democracy as the hegemonic form of government of late capitalism in the West. According to this perspective, the historical decline of liberal democracy would be the inevitable result of capitalist dynamics in the West — Yarvin (2007) even goes so far as to point out that neoreaction does not require any form of struggle or propaganda for democracy to be historically superseded by corporate rule. Thus, the Dark Enlightenment would be a historical event and a process precipitated by capitalist acceleration that would rapidly erode the power of democracy within the highly versatile and globalized hyper-capitalism (Jones 2019). This perspective, which until a few years ago would have been dismissed as mere science fiction by the champions of market democracy, is today increasingly becoming an effective reality even in the hegemonic centres of the liberal West. In Europe, such is the case of Germany, which has not only begun rearmament plans — the largest since World War II — in the context of the neo-imperialist struggle in Ukraine, but which is also experiencing a process of the fascistization of society in which the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD) party has taken increasing prominence (Konicz 2024), resulting in massive protests in January 2024 when it was discovered that party members had participated in a secret meeting with businessmen and far-right activists where the expulsion of immigrants, as well as so-called “unassimilated” German citizens, was discussed (Deutsche Welle 2024).  

For neoreactionaries, democracy and (market) freedom are increasingly incompatible, which implies that democracy has become inefficient as a form of capitalist government (Thiel 2007). In this sense, the ideal solution for the contemporary capitalist crisis proposed by neoreaction — already in itself truncated —is neocameralism (Jones 2019). Returning to the cameralist project of Friedrich I of Prussia on the basis of high-tech capitalism, neoreactionaries propose a corporate administration of the state, in which the state would be administered as a large company in which citizens are clients of the government and the government is managed by a board of directors of the most efficient companies and in which the ownership of the state would be divided into tradable shares (Land 2022). In relation to this form of government, the greatest inspiration for neoreaction is the authoritarian governments of the East, particularly China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai, where, according to Land (2022), high-quality service is delivered to their citizens without any kind of democratic governance. It should be noted that a renewed form of capitalist social Darwinism accompanies this future perspective, in which the accumulation of money constitutes the social selection mechanism par excellence. This is far from science fiction, since the noted Oxford philosopher William MacAskill — who is, moreover, an intellectual reference point for Elon Musk — has constructed a whole philosophical system called “radical longtermism”, a sort of dangerous futurist secular creed dressed in philosophical conceptuality that openly speaks of the sacrifice of millions of lives for the perpetuation of the human species — or, more precisely, for a capitalist mode of production that is elevated to the status of a natural fact of existence (Greaves and MacAskill 2021, 2).

On the other hand, for neoreactionaries the true instance of democratic government in the West is what is referred to as “The Cathedral” (Yarvin 2021). This would be a web of the academic-political-communication establishment at the service of the progressive agenda and today’s so-called “woke” culture. As Hui (2019) points out, political correctness — a fundamental element of contemporary “cancel culture” — is according to neoreaction a poison for Western civilization, and the church of political correctness is The Cathedral: “Tolerance has progressed to such a degree that it has become a social police function, providing the existential pretext for new inquisitional institutions” (Land 2017b, 180). The term “cathedral” was deliberately chosen, aiming to underline the failure of the secularization programme of the Enlightenment, a demythologization that would promote the search for truth and scientific knowledge (Hui 2019). In such a sense, the technological control over truth and the limitation of critical thinking by the political correctness exercised by the cathedral would, for neoreactionaries, amount to a return to pre-Enlightenment barbarism entailing social decadence: 

Every liberal democratic ‘cause war’ strengthens and feralizes what it fights. The war on poverty creates a chronically dysfunctional underclass. The war on drugs creates crystallized super-drugs and mega-mafias. Guess what? The war on political incorrectness creates data-empowered, web-coordinated, paranoid and poly-conspiratorial werewolves, superbly positioned to take advantage of liberal democracy’s impending rendezvous with ruinous reality. (Land 2017b, 191–92)

In this way, the Cathedral would be a kind of postmodern church of political correctness, which arbitrarily decides on what is open to debate or what should be cancelled, a kind of cultural Stalinism of high-tech capitalism. In this line of thought, neoreactionaries claim that the state can only perpetuate itself through a systematic collective lie (Jones 2019). Here again, the hapless consciousness of neoreactionaries manifests itself (Hui 2019), since, although their reflection contains a moment of truth — the manipulation of desire, social control, and coercion implicit in capitalist social relations — they are unable to reach a unified concept of contradiction, i.e. they lack the tools to turn their reflection into an immanent critique of capital. Hence also their truncated critique of the state and the culture industry, insofar as they conceive the state as an organ that holds back the progress of capital. In truth, the state is a necessary result of capitalist social relations. And they also see cultural institutions as co-opted by leftist, progressive forces, which are understood as powers external to capital itself. On this last point, again Milei’s speech at Davos is a tremendously exemplary case: 

Unfortunately, these harmful ideas [i.e. progressive values] have strongly permeated our society. The neo-Marxists have managed to co-opt the common sense of the West. They achieved this through the appropriation of the media, of culture, of universities, and yes, also of international organizations. This last case is the most serious because these are institutions that have enormous political and economic influence over the countries that make up these multilateral organizations. (Milei 2024)

Thus, even if it is relatively easy for those who make use of critical theory to dismantle the impostures of this thought — of which neoreaction is a political and philosophical expression — it is evident that this hapless consciousness has long since ceased to belong to minority sects and niches of alternative reactionaries. On the contrary, the new forms of reaction are a historical force that navigates with force in the tide of the crisis of capitalist civilization. This is driven by the tendency of the process to veer towards annihilation and barbarism, but also by the intimate affinity between the damaged subjectivities of late capitalism and the new forms of reaction in defence of the existing order, in a crisis that in different parts of the world leads to them attaining political and military power so that they may carry out their delirious dreams. In short, in a manner far worse than Gramsci could have foreseen when he launched his famous maxim, this is the moment when monsters emerge. 



Cardoso, N. (2021), “The Ecological Limit of Capitalism: Value-Form and the Accelerated Destruction of Nature in Light of the Theories of Karl Marx and Moishe Postone”, Beyond Capitalism and Neoliberalism, edited by V. S. Pejnović, Belgrade: Institute for Political Studies, pp. 111–22.

Deutsche Welle (2024), “Germany: Marches against the far right draw over 200,000”, 20 January, available at https://www.dw.com/en/germany-marches-against-the-far-right-draw-over-200000/a-68043524. Last accessed on 22 March 2024.

Greaves, H., and W. MacAskill (2021), The case for strong longtermism, Global Priorities Institute, Working Paper no. 5-2021, available at https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Case-for-Strong-Longtermism-GPI-Working-Paper-June-2021-2-2.pdf. Last accessed on 22 March 2024. 

Hawley, G. (2017), Making Sense of the Alt-Right, New York: Columbia University Press.

Hui, Y. (2019), “On the Unhappy Consciousness of Neoreactionaries”, E-Flux Journal, vol. 81.

Jones, A. (2019), “From NeoReactionary Theory to the Alt-Right”, Critical Theory and the Humanities in the Age of the Alt-Right, edited by Christine M. Battista and Melissa R. Sande, Denver: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 101–20.

Konicz, T. (2024), “Über die Konjunktur für Faschismus”, Sozialistiche Zeitung, no. 03/2024, available at https://www.exit-online.org/textanz1.php?tabelle=aktuelles&index=3&posnr=882. Last accessed on 22 March 2024. 

Kurz, R. (2020), A democracia devora seus filhos, Rio de Janeiro: Consequencia Editora.

Land, N. (2014), “Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration”, #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, edited by Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian, Falmouth: Urbanomic, pp. 511–20.

——— (2017a), “A Quick-and-Dirty Introduction to Accelerationism”, Jacobite Magazine, 25 May, available in archived form at https://web.archive.org/web/20180113012817/https://jacobitemag.com/2017/05/25/a-quick-and-dirty-introduction-to-accelerationism/. Last accessed on 21 March 2024. 

——— (2017b), The Nick Land Reader: Selected Writings. 

——— (2021), Teleoplexia: ensayos sobre aceleracionismo y horror, Madrid: Holobionte Ediciones.

——— (2022), The Dark Enlightenment, Imperium Press.

Marx, K. (1955 [1868]), “Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels in Manchester, 8 January 1868”, Marx & Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow: Progress Publishers, pp. 198–99.

——— (1973 ([1857 – 8]), Grundrisse: foundations of the critique of political economy, London: Vintage Books. 

——— (1976 [1867]), Capital: Critique of Political Economy. Vol. I, London: Penguin Books.

Milei, J. (2024), “Milei en Davos: el discurso completo”, El Grand Continent, 18 January, available at https://legrandcontinent.eu/es/2024/01/18/milei-en-davos-el-discurso-completo/. Last accessed on 22 March 2024.

Noys, B. (2014), Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism, Winchester: Zero Books.

Postone, M. (2003), Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Shanahan, M. (2021), The Technological Singularity, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thiel, P. (2007), Politics and Apocalypse: Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, pp. 189–218.

Yarvin, C. (2007), “The Case Against Democracy: Ten Red Pills”, Unqualified Reservations, 24 April, available at https://www.unqualified-reservations.org/2007/04/case-against-democracy-ten-red-pills/. Last accessed on 22 March 2024. 

——— (2021), “A brief explanation of the cathedral”, Gray Mirror (Substack), 21 January, available at https://graymirror.substack.com/p/a-brief-explanation-of-the-cathedral.Last accessed on 22 March 2024.

Read more