Sam Francis on the Roots of Liberal Hegemony.


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Sam Francis’s thought was heavily influenced by the American political theorist James Burnham (1905-1987). And as Francis himself pointed out, the roots of Burnham’s thinking are highly unusual for an American conservative. Beginning as a Marxist in the 1930s, Burnham came to believe that the capitalist bourgeoisie, which dominated the society and politics of the 19th century, had been displaced from power not by Marx’s proletariat, but by a new elite of managers and technicians: men with the expertise required to direct the large enterprises typical of the 20th century economy. He developed this theory in his best-known book, The Managerial Revolution (1941).

Burnham later gravitated toward classical elite theory, as developed by the Italian social and political thinkers Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, believing it provided a better foundation than Marxism for understanding the managerial revolution he had described. The heart of elite theory is the principle that all human organizations are necessarily oligarchic in structure. Dictators, for example, cannot truly rule by themselves, but are always dependent on a group of men who accept their authority; these men, and not merely the dictator personally, constitute the elite of such societies. In democracies it appears that the broad masses of the people choose their leaders, but according to the elite theorists, it is really the leaders who have themselves chosen by the people. Even political parties advocating radical forms of democracy are forced, if they wish to be effective, to take on an oligarchic form, with a small party elite commanding the allegiance of a larger base. This has been called the iron law of oligarchy.

But elites are not permanent. Politics is a continual process of circulation of elites. Much of the history of the early modern era, for instance, can be interpreted as a process whereby entrepreneurial capitalists (the “bourgeoisie”) displaced the aristocratic landed elites inherited from feudal times. And according to Burnham, the managerial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was one in which the bourgeois elite inherited from the 19th century was replaced in its turn by a new managerial elite that continues to rule us to this day.

(American Renaissance, August 3, 2016).

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