Books,  Humanity,  Politics,  Review

Book Review – Ethnos and Society by Alexander Dugin

To many the name Alexander Dugin brings up images of weird Nationalism, anti-liberalism, and Russian imperialism. And I honestly don’t know enough about Dugin’s beliefs to say one way or the other. I have merely read his book Ethnos and Society, and I have found it a very enjoyable read.

Ethnos and Society (EAS) is a short book clocking in at 200 pages with a relatively small page size, but it was one of the books were I was learning something new on every page.

EAS is a primer on ethno-sociology. Essentially, it’s sociology but no just applied to our modern society. It spans from the first groups of people’s (ethnoses) to our current age and speculates beyond. The first three chapters of the book are dedicated to sociologically analyzing the ethnos. The ethnos, as defined by Dugin, is “a community of language, religious belief, daily life and the sharing of resources and goals. The term most specifically describes archaic cultures.” You can think of ‘tribal’ groups that are small and all speak the same language.

Within these first three chapters Dugin explains how the ethnos is structured, how it operates and how it evolves to the next stage the Narod or Laos. From my brief understanding of this subject before reading this Dugin you the standard account of how these ethnic tribes operate, on par with something that Joseph Campbell might say. Such as how death is just the beginning for these groups, there is nothing outside the group, and the role of religion.

The only thing that I would have to say about this part is that it gets very wordy at times with words like ethnokinetics , ethnocentrum, and other words like that. They do, however, serve their function and make logical sense. Another criticism that I have of this section is that the transitions can be very hard to undertake if you haven’t been actively reading the book. As in it’s hard to stop reading the middle of a chapter and continue hours later without being forced to re read the last few paragraphs. It would also be nice if more specific examples could be used, but aside from these critiques, the content is good. If you just stick to reading it you will find the questions that you have seem to get answered almost as soon you ask them via the reading.

The fourth chapter is about the Narod or Laos. This, according to EAS, is the next stage of society. The narod is created by a composite of two or more ethnoses. Unlike the ethnos the ‘other’ exists. Things exists outside of the narod, where as nothing is perceived to exist outside the ethnos by the people in the ethnos. “The narod knows that the ‘other’ is an ‘other'” says Dugin. “And this knowledge is the essence of the narod’s being. But this knowledge is deeply tragic.” Another difference is that the narod has social stratification unlike the ethnos which is largely egalitarian. This social stratification is almost embedded in the narod as it often comes to existence by one ethnos dominating another ethnos. Most often nomads taking over agrarian ethnoses.

According to Dugin the narod comes in at least of the three forms: state, civilization, religion. An example of a state created religion are the ancient Egyptians where the Pharoahs were seen as gods. Another given example is the Persian Kingdom where the martial, nomadic Aryans first created a state in modern day Iran by conquering the various agrarian ethnoses living in Iran. And the perhaps pinnacle of state created narods is the Roman Empire, where the only identifiable quality among the people living in Rome was the fact they lived under the Roman state.

The next way a narod can be created is through religion. Here we are given examples of the Judaism. The ancient Jews, says Dugin “became a narod that formed exclusively around the religious ideas. In Jewish history, there were various states that came and went and there were periods of existence without a state.” He also gives examples of early Christian narods that formed in the Roman Empire. The Ummayad Caliphate, Dugin argues, is another example of a religiously created narod. Where originally the Ummah ethnos was able to expand to conquer other ethnoses “melting into a new social system formed around the Islamic religion.”

Lastly we have civilization narods. The most obvious example being the ancient Greeks which was a collection of city states that didn’t share a religion nor a state. According to Dugin, “The unity of the ancient Greek world was based on a specific type of culture, which was shared somehow or other by all participants of Greek civilization…”. The other examples he gives are the Chinese and the Indians.

This part was one of most entertaining parts to read and didn’t leave me searching for constant answers like the first part did. I would tend to agree with Dugin’s arguments, but I think it’s a stretch to call all of India or all of China a narod. Chinese and Indian history is super complex like all places and they’re too diverse to be called one single narod. Such as the many ethnic groups that live in both China and India, although as a general rule I believe that Dugin’s analysis holds up.

The next part, chapter five, is the Nation. He gives examples of early 20th century Europe as being a time of when nations existed side by side narods. Nation he says were countries like Spain, France, and Italy while traditional states or narods where the Ottoman Empire, Russia and Austro-Hungary. In the transition from a narod to a national state or a nation the caste stratification of the narod turns into a more class based system, “the modern state is a bourgeois state”, Dugin asserts. We also see more strictly defined borders that aren’t the relative borders of older times, as well as a secular state starts to emerge along with a more centralized legal system.

Also in this section there is a very non-biased assessment of what nationalism, and patriotism is. The difference between ‘big’ and ‘small’ nationalism, as in the difference from a smaller ethnos in a narod wanting more autonomy or even their own country versus a dominant ethnos in a narod seeking more of their own homogeneity.

Overall the section on nationalism defines many terms that we often see used as just buzzwords (ie. racism, nationalism, chauvinism, genocide, etc) and gives them firstly an unbiased, objective definition, as well as viewing them objectively through an ethnology-sociological lens.

The next part is largely speculative and talks about a new evolution beyond the nation state, although he does indicate that we are in a transitional period in many places to a new civil and “global society”. In this speculative, but less and less so, new society an ‘egocentrum’ emerges. Dugins defines that as “The form of pure individual self-identification, in which a person identifies himself only with his own individuality and nothing else…” With the egocentrum rationality is placed solely on the individual and creates such things as “gender voluntarism, i.e. the possibility of the choice of gender in civil society.” Also within the egocentrum nationalism is gone away with in replace of each person’s own egocentrum. Nationalism, he says, is made to be the ‘other’.

Here I will start to largely disagree with Dugin’s anyalsis. Liberalism, he says referring to classical liberalism (like that of John Mill), “is the ideology that lays claim in general to the fundamental principles of civil society in a normative key… As a priority, liberalism examines precisely the economic activity of the individual. Main is a “homo economicus”. He then goes to argue that because of the emergence of liberalism, we see the rise of the free market. I find several problems here. My question to Dugin would be where do we see massive implementation of the free market? All the regulations of the nation state era are still in place, and more and more are placed upon all the nations. Nowhere do we see any substantial deregulation from nation states that isn’t overshadowed by regulation elsewhere.

Also, the idea that liberalism sees man as purely economical units is also false. If anything liberals like Ludwig von Mises didn’t see man from the perspective of them as economic units, but as people. He saw that people are more than graphs, lines, and equations but that they make decisions and act in ways non humans can’t. While if you’re reading Keyensian theory you would think all humans act the same and in perdictable ways. To the contrary Mises understood that humans act unpredictably and that you can’t make charts and graphs about human decisions. But maybe I’m overthinking this and what Dugin really means is that sometime in the future we will see a free market system be implemented in these new societies.

However, the rest of the chapter is good in talking about the United States as an example of a society that essentially started as a civil society, and how that civil society differed from the European Union trying to impose a pseudo super state on all the member countries. As well as in the last chapter he delves into how his models aren’t exact. For instance narods can be dissolved back to their original ethnoses, and how even at our current stage different places are at different stages.

The best part about this how book is it’s almost perfectly a-political status. This is the only book I have read by Dugin and from it I couldn’t find really any ideological tendency, and this was surprising after I skimmed his Wikipedia article and found out about a lot of the political things he has been very active in. From this book, I would’ve guessed this guy never didn’t hold too strong political views any way, but perhaps Dugin belongs to an older school of writing where you don’t always have to shove your ideology in someone’s throat even if you’re talking about the most mundane academic topics.

This book has definitely made me much more interested in ethno-sociology and has reexamining many things where I took the present and applied it to the past, where as Dugin took the past and built up to the future. Which is a very interesting take.

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