Neofeudalism II: The Ontology of Power and the Clash of Civilizations

Andrew D. Knapp
24 min readNov 28, 2020

I. Prologue: Dumezil and the Trinitarian Society

In my previous article in the Neofeudalism series I covered the basic framework of my idea set: that society can be characterized by a process of social evolution by which different mimetic systems evolved to satisfy human beings needs for meaning, order, and provision. This idea was first put forward cogently by Georges Dumezil, an underrated 20th century philologist and structural anthropologist known for mentoring Michel Focault and being a peer of Claude Levi-Straus. Dumezil analyzed the trend in Indo-European mimetic systems towards a trinity of institutions, headed by gods who embodied Sovereignty, Warfare, and Fertility (Zeus/Ares/Aphrodite, Odin/Thor/Frikka, et cetera). These institutions repeat themselves in modern and postmodern political and social history.

In that article I also mentioned the insights of Mancur Olson, an American political economist who studied the effects of distribution-limiting coalitions — networks that protect incumbent sources of revenue creation. I also briefly covered the work of Rene Girard, who highlighted the process of mimesis — the creation of symbolic systems that are passed down from generation to generation as a way of ordering society. Taken together, these three thinkers provide a framework for thinking about pre-Classical politics and some of the deeper incentives civilizations face when it comes to generational survival and reproduction. These three pillars are embodied in institutions that don’t necessarily understand each other, and this intra-civilizational conflict characterizes human society up to the present. When they do understand each other, or at least work in tandem, we have a phenomenon I referred to as a trinitarian society, where the telos of these institutions is shared and works towards a common order or telos. These societies are immensely powerful, because they satisfy human needs in a cohesive way and can project power against weaker societies, both in material and mimetic terms. The more of a story a civilization has, the better it tells its story; the better it tells its story, the more powerful it is in influencing and suborning other networks.

In this respect, my main project here runs in the same vein as Leo Strauss and Aleksandr Dugin. I want to be able to describe political life in a somewhat comprehensive way that puts narratives within a descriptive ontological framework that also can provide normative instruction. Where Strauss’ philisophical ambit was in part a rehabilitation of classical political philosophy and a rejection of several of the moderns, Dugin rejects the western tradition in favor of tradition. Rather than trying to synthesize these thinkers, which is a noble project and done far better by actual political scholars like Michael Millerman, here I’m just trying to cover some rational bases. This project starts with a pre-classical ontology of politics and extends that framework into the postmodern world.

Institutions and Lateral Mimesis

As Roko Mijec points out, there are two basic temporal approaches to the mimetic process: vertical memes, which are passed from generation to generation and are subject to evolutionary pressure, and horizontal mimesis, where ideas are passed on or imposed across one slice of time, extended by force more frequently than inheritance. Further, when another civilization overtly or covertly exerts its own mimetic system over another, that process is horizontal because those narratives are being imposed on a people who did not inherit the same path-dependant mimetic systems from their ancestors. Think Christian missionaries in Africa or neocons in Iraq insisting the locals adopt practices alien to the way of living evolution has selected for them.

These different institutions (sovereignty, law, and commerce) are not entirely equal when it comes to being vertical or horizontal. One might change their religion more easily than their skill set or government, and might adopt new institutions from contact with others. I write as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant whose family fled English religious strife and had outsized influence in the political, commercial, and religious history of the United States, so I’m more or less working within the full stack of my ancestors when I talk about Christianity, Common Law, and Capitalism. A friend from college is Tlingit (Alaska native) and shares these institutions, but they were adopted or imposed within three generations of the present. His grandfather traded with Russian settlers in Southern Alaska in the 1920’s, and his great-grandfather was born in a time before European settlers arrived in force, and his culture was more or less a peak power in southern Alaska. Like most incidents of first contact, commerce and trade preceded the introduction of systems of sovereignty and justice. Commerce is inherently more horizontal, both within and without societies, and the process of creative destruction means that mimetic dynasties are less likely to exist in that sphere.

In the post-Cold War neoliberal order commerce is triumphant and there is massive domestic and international confusion about the other two domains. Our domestic narratives of politics are decaying rapidly, and we are all witnessing upheaval as part of this process. We no longer live in a trinitarian society; there are competing sources of telos in every domain, and no inhereted narrative can be trusted to be true or held by others. The lateral success of commerce has occurred with a breakdown of vertical systems mimesis; family formation and religious participation — both critical to the formation of community and cultural longevity— are in secular decline (pardon the pun).

The Family and Vertical Mimesis

It’s uncontroversial, true, and worth stating prior to going any further that the family unit is the primary source of mimetic reproduction for all three domains of Dumezil’s typology. Not only are families required for the creation and upbringing of new people, they inculcate vertical memes that have been subject to evolutionary fitness and selection. Families and reproduction pre-date all of our inherited political systems, though they are doubtless informed and shaped by them, and many families have seen outzised influence in dominating specific spheres of life — think of the influence of the Rothschilds on modern banking, the Kennedys in American politics, the Whitneys on early industrial manufacturing, or any number of religious dynasties like the descendants of Muhammad. But at the end of the day families traditionally cross all three domains and are responsible for the mimetic education of their children in religious, political, and economic systems.

Another basic element of family life is the ownership of property. Assets are generally passed down through inheritence and empower families, or at least their more fortunate branches, to maintain a degree of wealth and freedom to reproduce into the future and have influence over their surroundings. Those who do not inherit assets must either acquire them under their own power or submit to the institutions in the broader world. Unlanded sons and daughters usually join the clerisy or the military, or incur debts as apprentices in a trade, rather than manage and inherit the family estate.

This observation is mundane, but it conceals enourmous insight. If we understand our political life as largely an extension of evolutionary needs, then the metaphysical systems we use to govern property would seem to be a very natural evolutionary factor that characterizes our life together. Property law also creates imbalances — inefficiencies of distribution — that encourage the have-nots to rebel against the prevailing order.

This rebellion can be visceral and thoughtless, like that of Antifa, but that doesn’t mean that the rebels are not making very explicit metaphysical assumptions. While counterrevolutionaries tend to be thoughtful and marinated in the intellectual millieu of the present regime, revolutionaries often lack a working system to replace the present order. They often have eschatological ideas (the dictatorship of the proletariat, Christ’s return, the Mahdi’s return, etc.) but these ideas often break down in contact with the real challenges of governance and they end up embracing the systems of their predecessors once in power — witness the continuity of the Oprichniki into the NKVD and eventual KGB, or the continuity of the prerevolutionary secret police (SAVAK) in Iran into MOIS and the IRGC.

Institutions and Horizontal Mimesis

Conversely to to family, most institutions grow by absorbing new members. They themselves cannot have children. They must create incentives to absorb attention and resources in competition with other institutions. Prestige is a signal in this process. People want to go to Harvard because it has prestige. People want to work for the government because it has prestige, especially the military and intelligence services. People want to work for Apple or SpaceX because they have prestige. At its most simple is the process of advertizing. Those selling points enable those institutions to persist mimetically and to exercise power over networks beyond their immediate sway. They also mean institutions have natural incentives to enthrall as many as possible and to serve as gatekeepers of political power.

Natural Hierarchy and Defector Incentives

While post-revolutionary institutional continuity is interesting in its own right, my main concern here is the impetus people within these established orders feel to overthrow part or all of the system. I’ll call these defector incentives — literally incentives to either opt into a new system or out of an existing system. Defector incentives are the key to political power, as the regime or order that creates them in their rival’s camp has outsized power in exerting their influence abroad.

Conversely, the regime that creates defector incentives within their own community is made more fragile. When people do not have a means of achieving success, they look for a way out. That way out can be visceral and radical, or it can be through counterrevolution — renewing the values and objectives of a conceived regime with historical antecedents.

There is also a question of space and opportunity. Cortez invaded the new world as a man with little opportunity in Spain; Ottoman Ghazis invaded the Byzantine empire under much the same incentives. My ancestors left England for the new world because they could not practice their Protestant faith or own meaningful property in the overgrown English system.

Because human life is naturally hierarchical, not just among families but among established institutions, it is worth exploring the basic tensions of hierarchy and the system it relies on to persist.

II. Property Law and the Ontology of Power

Today’s property laws and notions of ownership have pre-modern roots. Despite their modern usage, the rules and norms we use to govern ownership are almost entirely derived from medieval systems of thought and governance involving the “right to ownership” emanating from a metaphysical sovereign. In many cases the sovereign symbolically deferred ultimate authority to the divine to defray any immediate perception of tyranny and to accept the requirements to uphold the Mandate of Heaven or intellectually similar ideas within Christendom. Within this system, titles answer to some form of sovereign and extend personal rights and responsibilities as an element of a larger hierarchical system. These are metaphysical characteristics of physical objects that define human relations with the objects and with each other.

A Medieval property map. Note the organization of ownership is far more important than the geospatial accuracy of the map.

That you have a title for your home or car is an effect of the fact that people held titles a thousand years ago for their possessions, and that these represented a communal and a governmental acknowledgment of the person (or family’s) ownership of a given field, building, or even other people. Despite the fundamental nature of this concept, there is little popular scholarly work on what ownership means, what its historical antecedents are, or what a working philosophical definition of ownership might look like.

We will start by creating a simplified working theory of titles — domains of ownership — and describe how they intersect in the different areas of human life.

Titles are, in effect, temporal claims of ownership, influence, and authority. They are manmade symbolic constructs, which is not to dilute how very real they are and how much they matter to us in our day-to-day lives. They are metaphysical (as symbolic entities) but are symbols for the arrangement of very real and physical things. The world operates based on an intersecting field of these manmade titles, which belong to various people and collective entities including corporations, religious movements, individuals, families, and so on. They are the bones of the power hierarchies we all live in because they represent an endowment of authority and power to the individual, and they represent our own power and ownership delegated within these larger hierarchies.

Defining a Title

Titles are present in any and all systems by which humans are incorporated under a governing authority for the purposes of cooperation towards a stated or tacit goal.

By definition they are social definitions of ownership and responsibility according to some mutually understood system of rules. They are present by definition in states, corporations, and religious institutions, all of which make claims to authority over material things and people and are covered in the column-like typology featured in the Dumezilian model. Second, titles usually encompass an interlocking system of authorities, such that they include 1) influence over titles that are lower within the same system and 2) mutual influence and competition with same-column rivals and with other-column rivals. Competition between rival religions vs. competition between a religious instutition and a state or commercial enterprise.

There are two critical elements here — the material things that the title claims authority over, and the metaphysical scope of cooperation and outcomes that the title claims its authority from. Instead of bits and atoms a title is a unity of meaning and matter. It is the symbolic realm of ownership.

Every office, every responsibility, every entitlement is a form of a title. Being president of the United States is a title encompassing command of the nation’s armed forces and executive branch. Being CEO of a company entitles the holder to rights of revenues and direction of a company’s assets, checked by the board and the forces of the market. Being a homeowner is a title, albeit a much more humble and tenuous one in which the holder is subject to taxes and expropriation from higher titleholders and intermediaries, such as a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that reserves the right to place liens on property for infractions of building code or cleanliness. Being an ordained minister of a faith grants authority to speak on behalf of the religion, but does not grant authorities outside this domain.

In each of these titles there is a body of responsibilities and a body of rewards or endowments associated with possessing and exercising the title. In each of these the position can be transferred or revoked because the title is a symbolic entity that transcends the holder and represents the property or office at a metaphysical level.

Origins of Metaphysical of Ownership

Titles’ metaphysical claims include two pillars: the legal ownership of something over a given timeframe, with ‘legal’ defined as pertaining to explicit rules kept and enforced between people, and the true metaphysical sense of ownership, whereby one is entitled to power in any manner beyond that endowed by an explicit legal system.

Take the ‘divine right of kings’ as an example: in classical feudalism this concept involved an explicit political and religious order, but the underlying principle that the king ruled ‘on behalf of God’ or ‘with the Mandate of Heaven’ was itself a metaphysical principle, and in practice the king’s authority was only as far as his mimetic influence and swords could reach, which defined the de facto force of the legal claim. Codified laws assume a metaphysical source for authority, but that source often goes unquestioned and would be difficult to provide a convincing argument for as something sui generis in a postmodernist setting. Laws advanced without some concept of shared sovereignty are merely statements of force, which begs the question of why you would have a law in the first place.

The simple observation here is that there is a codependant process between the metaphysical system and the material extension of force to assert or defend ownership of something. To paraphrase Stalin, the question of “how many tank divisions does the pope have?” relates to this interplay of force and metaphysical authority. The Church outlasted communism because the latter did not have the same deep metaphysical authority to appeal to. To quote Machiavelli in tandem, unarmed prophets have also fared poorly.

Our offense at the uneven application of the law demonstrates how deeply we want the law to emenate from a sovereign source, which is by its nature metaphysical. In a materialist/cathedral/homo davos world the tacit assumption is that those who have assets and material power are sovereign and that no metaphysical sovereign can be presumed or called upon by those living under their reign. I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s revisit this later.

Varying shades of ownership could include possession of a country, a county, an institution, a business, or a more mundane asset such as real estate, a car, or an office on the city council. Anything that can be owned or possessed is subject to a title, implicit or explicit. Additionally, that ownership might be (and usually is) parsed out in smaller amounts below the heading of a larger body, both vertically (moving up the chain of command) or laterally among peers. Additionally, a title could be governed collectively by a board, a legislative body, a circle of counselors, or some other consensus mechanism that integrates it with the broader social world. Those are just rules applied to peer competition within a hierarchy.

The classical version of this concept has its antecedents in the so-called “great chain of being” (Latin; scala naturae), where God has authority over all, with varying ranks that run down through the Archangels to kings, princes, petty nobility, serfs, children, and even beasts of burden. This system of categorization is made explicit in popular Western culture as early as Plato, with the notional and very hierarchical Republic ruled by Philosopher-Kings governed by logos (logic), soldiers governed by thumos (spirit), and merchants governed by epithumos (bluntly, the needs of their loins and intestines). The Great Chain of Being is reflected by Aquinas and later thinkers, who took the concept as far afield as botany and zoology, though the concept of a divine hierarchy that overlapped and authorized the establishment of the state remained the core stem from which these permutations evolved. This conflation in Western society was the cognitive model for politics in the Christian world for much of the Middle Ages, with statesmen, governors, and priests justifying their endeavors as being derived from authority given to them by the will of God, despite operating in different subsystems.

Gorgio Agambien, a catholic scholar of some note, has argued that the notion economy itself — derived from the greek οικονομία (“oikonomia”) — extended down to the management of a household in mundane ways; not just the relation between the household and the market, but how children related to their father and how utensils related to the dishes at the table (The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government. Homo Sacer II, 2007).

It is natural in a wholistic worldview and anathema in a postmodern worldview to see a proper order between the cosmos and human affairs. Titles are a necessary mechanism for us to relate to each other, and their existence is predicated on hierarchy, but in a postmodern setting the metaphysical sovereign is ignored.

For our purposes, it might be useful to presume that the metaphysical aspects of title actually follow the simple use of force a la Max Weber, the precedent set by ones ability to defend and extract resources, and took on a secondary symbolic life from there. The origins of this system would make for an interesting academic investigation far too large and multifarious to pursue here, though it is a worthy philosophical and anthropological question to pick up later. If we were to comment on it in passing, though, it would seem that force necessarily predated language, but language and mimesis were necessary for any order and organization greater than the thuggery of individuals to prevail.

Personally, I think there is a symbiotic link is at the heart of natural law scholarship, where the universe we live and exist in has natural constraints, causes, and effects that inform moral and legal questions. We’re not concerning ourselves with the existence of some immutable, objective metaphysical reality, but taking as granted that human systems of law and governance naturally presume a metaphysical layer and operate according to the grain of human evolution, our needs, and the constraints of physical and cognitive resources that affects every contingent thing.

Core Ontological Characteristics of a Title

Here it may be helpful to provide a typology for characteristics involved in a title. By my estimation, there are six core characteristics without which one does not have a unity of material and metaphysic; objectivity, relationality, exclusivity, transferability, temporality, and durability.


Objectivity means the title refers to a real thing that has objective characteristics. Generally this refers to physical things, but noumena can count too. Ideas have characteristics, as do named things. In that vein, this real thing may be the authority to make decisions and benefit from them, and it may also be an entitlement to revenues or compensation from the labor of others.


It is impossible to own something that is not embedded in the semantic and social web of human life, wether that is a physical property or a piece of music. Insofar as something can be identified as a thing with characteristics, it fits this standard.

Relationality just means that some personage has discretionary control over something to a title in relation with other competing forces, such that they can exercise their will with regard to the thing, things, or persons described by the title. Titles are not sui generis — they exist in relation to a title-holder and characterize their power and authority. There has to be a personage or entity that holds the title, and though this is necessary it is not sufficient conditions to claim ownership. In this respect, corporations and governments are people because they represent a body of sentient intentions, wants, and desires, though not in the religious sense that they have souls.


Exclusivity means the title is endowed to the exclusion of others for that particular thing or good. Even if there are others with a similar title, the title itself is unique and embodies unique ownership of a specific thing.

To argue via negativa, one cannot have a title for things beyond their reach, such as the sun or moon, because there is no meaningful way to make the world’s relationship with the planets and stars exclusive. If, one day, a nation-state or corporation settles Mars, then ownership can be established. One can exclusively own land, precious metals, historically people, and anything else that is within reach — insofar as they can defend it from those who would take it. This goes back to the definition of this entity as a symbolic arrangement that was at least originally underwritten by force, even if it cruises along in the present on symbolic inertia.

Transferability and Revocability

Both of these are necessary and sufficient conditions to continue to hold the title. An irrevocable title is still revoked in death, as is a non-transferrable title.

That many historical titles were conditional on some sort of Mandate of Heaven illustrates this point. Even for an emperor, the holder could lose his or her title through poor management or bad luck — Mongolian invasions, natural disaster, or a change in the law or repossession by another authority.

Transferability and revocability is at the core of how titles work. I can sell my home, or business equities, or transfer wealth in inheritance, or forfeit titles because I have not paid my taxes or satisfied my obligations to a third party. If a so-called title is not revokable or transferrable it is effectively just an extension of one’s name, and has no ontological meaning beyond the embodiment it has with the individual. This is not to say that a title cannot be destroyed; that is quite different, as many of the titles that have existed historically have fallen out of common parlance and have no political relevance, but still existed at some point in history.


Everything exists in time, and this characteristic relates to the title’s transferability and revocability. This may be tied to the title or a condition of the holder’s death and an inheritance to a second holder. Whether you’re king for life or king for a weekend, there are no titles that do not have some degree of temporal constraint.


Durability pertains to the “stickiness” of an authority. For that reason, it is more of a secondary characteristic of a title’s temporal power. That ancient temples were colonized by new religions, or that political provinces maintained their administrative structure after being conquered are ample illustration of this principle. Part of this is the natural inclination for continuity among the governed, especially as a title’s power, holdings, and associations can mutate over time. Because it is a metaphysical belief passed down socially and symbolically, it is easier for a title to be handed down and slowly mutate over time than for it to be made of whole cloth.

Mongolia conquered much of the known world, but failed to establish governance that lasted the test of time. Conversely, Tehran, Beijing, Paris, London, and Washington have all been able to persist as political entities long after their founders passed away. This is true in extremes for religion, and less true for corporations, but the point holds that successful titles are more durable than the individuals who created them.

III. Dumezilian Narrative Competition in a World of Titles

I’ve written before about Dumezil’s thesis that Indo-European civilizations embody a characteristic known as the Trifunctional Hypothesis. The hypothesis argues that civilization requires independant subsystems that specifically address notions of metaphysical sovereignty, security, and posterity. Classically, this is Cross, Crown, and Coin, and it is notable that almost all historical coinage bears the ruler and some reference to the gods in tandem with its function as currency.

Athena, Athens, Argentum

In the pre-modern setting God’s existence and authority was assumed. In a modern and post-modern setting there is no civically assumed divinity, though the notion of progress implies a telos to human civilization. No government, religious, or commercial network promotes nihilism, even though many do operate nihilisticly in practice. To borrow Moldbug’s concept of The Cathedral, we still have a stated telos, albeit one that is secular, materialist, and represents the economic interests of the Party of Davos. Not making a moral judgement here, just observing continuity.

This telos isn’t necessarily even stated aloud — in fact most of the narratives we observe and participate in are just window dressing for the underlying system of titles, or as misdirection.

If we apply Dumezil’s hypothesis to competing institutions within a society, we derive three hierarchical networks within a given society; the networks that govern, the networks that guide, and the networks that provide. These each have their own internal networks of titles. The Pope has bishops, priests, and parishoners. The Government has a president, a legislative body, a judiciary, and local government that is subservient to those above. Commerce has a pecking order of companies, each with their own dependancies, supply chains, resources, capital, labor, and so on.

Few people are entirely in one camp. There are of course statists, religious fanatics, and cyberpunk “corpos” — each deriving benefits from their higher place within a hierarchy, but making sacrifices along the other lines of human life to get there. This is something we could title simple ambition — the will of human kind to attempt to climb the ladder of titles within the system most native to them, to strive after promotion and power within an established network along its own internal protocols and politics.

Internal competition is of course not a complete map. Members of these networks cooperate and compete with members outside of their native hierarchy: peer influence and peer competition. Peer influence is cooperative — regulatory capture by government or government influence on religion are obvious examples. Peer Competition is more controversial — it is the state of hostile play between different networks, such as the pope excommunicating a king, or a king siezing commercial assets, or a company using its position in the market to achieve a political end such as subverting political sovereignty.

Third, there is the concept of title traction. Traction describes the ability of a title holder to exercise their intentional will through the social networks the title is part of. Appealing a legal decision is an exercise in using title traction, but making people obey a law or meme (say, mask mandates) is an exercise in creating title traction. Seeing Like a State outlines this process at length, and implies the metaphysical nature of these contests of governance, but it’s worth mentioning again here for those interested in the anthropological side of the question. This applies to the other Dumezilian columns as well — successful marketing creates title traction for a brand, religious conversion and behavior according to spiritual standards demonstrate title traction from the networks advancing them.

If you want a facinating anthropological read in this space, check out James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State, which chronicles the process of domestication and surveillance observable in southeast asian city states who seek to control their periphery. States seek standardized measurments, common languages, and common religions because it makes a people governable and taxable. As a form of resistance, people use other currencies, adopt other religions, self-govern, and seek to become more opaque to central governing authorities.

Scott’s work in Southeast Asia is especially interesting when it comes to the practices of resistance that mountain communities embody, where they maintain different languages, different systems of commerce, property, and even different religions to maintain their opacity to central state power. This is a clear cut antrhopological example of metaphysical resistance to rival power — within a society these would be defector incentives — outside of an established mimetic network, this process is the clash of civilizations, where competing mimetic stacks and their constituent titles fight for primacy over themselves and over others.

Fourth, there is the concept of thralldom. Thralls are those in a system whose agency is completely limited or dictated by the system. All dominance hierarchies have people at the bottom rung who compete for the scarce resource of attention and compliance from their subordinants. Extreme title traction and isolation from other title networks is a prerequisite for thralldom. Individual columns are by themselves authoritarian and worship the objective of making thralls of everyone not in the existing title hierarchy. Religions seek maximum compliance and tithe revenue from their believers, states seek to maximize tax revenues and willingness to die to preserve the state, and commercial entities seek maximum consumption. Because none of these is monolithic, they must compete with each other, which provides room for human freedom, optionality, and adaptability.

Where individual columns or the notion of overarching metaphysical sovereignty are eroded, as they have been in the present order, the last institution standing will naturally work to wrest the mantle away from the other institutions. Not in a charitable way, but in the way that tyrants of every age have enthroned themselves as gods among men. In the neoliberal order commerce has eroded both governance and spirituality. Woke capital is the embodiment of commercial interest overstepping its sovereign space, often with no direct link to its commercial health. In this respect woke capital is satanic — it is the inversion of classical sovereignty to the ends of a party without claim to it.

Intuitively, I think much of our natural anger towards slavery (both chattel and financial) reflects the dynamics of this conflict. By their nature, these are both instances where a human being’s place is subject to other humans in lieu of God or shared sovereignty. Thralldom is the primary indicator of an unstable society, and the degree a decadent society will go to in order to preserve thralldom, through media, war, and institutional capture demonstrates just how explosive this realization is.

Defector Incentives in a World of Competing Narratives

Every one of these subsystems has its own preferred narrative system, whose promulgation underwrites the network’s success as well as its continuity into the future. When they compete with each other, they provide room for human freedom, as those barred from advancement and agency find new ground. Where there is no new ground, or where the narratives converge under a single hegemonic order, people tend towards violent revolution. Witness the protestant reformation, the American or Russian revolutions, et al. Political paradigm changes are far more infrequent (and far more violent) than Kuhnian scientific revolutions.

Usually defector incentives have us switching institutions. When our business is harmed by politics, we become more political. When our sense of meaning is impinged by the mundanity of it all, we explore spirituality. But if these institutions are too incompetent or ineffectual, we seek to find something more within or without our civilization. This is especially true for thralls — those who lack inheritance or acceptance in the traditional power structure of societies.

Down-Title Traction and the Clash of Civilizations

To quote an advisor to Kublai Khan later quoted by Kruschev, “you can build a throne of bayonettes but you can’t sit on it for long.”

The primary question in a title network or a civilization is the ability of top-tier title holders to have their will exerted over those within the network. Further, title holders at the top are strongly incentivized to add other thralls to their title network — to subborn people in the broader world to their narrative, ideally in ways that benefit the power and the prestige of the title holders at the top.

Mentioning Scott’s work again, this is the basic political process in all polities. People are subject to not just the pronouncements of the title, but the metaphysical systems that the title relies on. That’s not just the metaphysical pronouncement of the divinity of the sovereign, but the systems of measurement, exchange, and personhood that the title network conveys. Citizenship is a metaphysical concept based on participation and place in a nation-state: it defines rights and obligations by the individual exchanged with the sovereign. All successful title networks provide their citizens with some form of benefit in exchange for some form of fealty. Government draws blood and taxes in exchange for security, religion draws tithes in exchange for the blessings of salvation and community, commerce draws labor in exchange for currency that can be exchanged for other goods and services.

These benefits accrue upwards to title holders, but title holders cannot break from their benefit of those who participate in them. Serfs may be kept serfs with force, intellectual thralls with cable news and prestigious educations, but these are fragile forms of order because they create substantial defector incentives, especially when they are out of touch with human needs.

What needs to happen for an order to persist is for people within title networks to enjoy real benefits from participation. Unless people are stakeholders, the order will decay and fracture. Down-title traction is a matter of national security in a grand strategy sense because it defines how a people will resist external title networks — rival powers, who seek to suborn foreigners and extract rents from their imperial power.

Because this balance is out of whack in the postmodern West, the West is being unduly influenced by outside forces, chiefly but not limited to the Chinese Communist Party, whose version of governance is atheist, materialist, ethnically homogeneous, and enforced by totalitarian control of technology. The real debate in the present is between the West’s trinitarian system and totalitarian power’s unitary system of total cybernetic control by the party.

The proper strategic response is to increase the function of the titles within our own civilization and to prevent subordination by those outside of our civilization. Stagnant and decadent societies are weaker and will be overtaken by the strong, who can mobilize their populations and others in conflict. I think this is the most fundamental ontology we can take to the question of domestic tranquility and international security, because it describes the primary domains of conflict. I’ll expand on this later.



Andrew D. Knapp

Professional, entrepreneur, author; not necessarily in that order. Write mostly philosophy, politics, & economics.