Metapolitics and Popular Culture – A Preface
[Eine ins Deutsche übersetzte und angepasste Version dieses Textes findet sich hier.]
The concept of metapolitics has become one of the most important and profound tools to understand the political and cultural framework of the contemporary Western world and reveal its intricate workings. Originally conceived by Italian communist Antonio Gramsci and later furthered by Alain de Benoist and the French New Right, this idea has established the notion that politics is inherently linked to and determined by the specific culture of a people, which functions as a moral and ethical framework that legitimizes political power. He who wants to radically change the established political paradigms of a society must therefore first win the cultural battle, i.e. he must work to transform the generally accepted patterns of ethics, values and conduct of a people, which are expressed in its language, habits, arts and culture.
While this concept has successfully been employed by the Left for decades (most commonly referred to under the moniker of “Cultural Marxism”), the Right is now slowly picking up on many years of missed opportunities. Still neglected in this process, though, is the contemporary “pop-culture” in Western countries. This quagmire of art and entertainment – electronical music and pop-idols, comic books, Fantasy novels, video games, Hollywood movies, television series and anime – may often seem toxic and dangerous to tread, but its power over the emotions and ideas of the young generation is vast. Ignoring this huge, as of yet nearly untapped well of potential and only focusing on higher forms of culture may proof a great mistake and the battlefield of pop-culture should therefore not be shunned by the Right.
Taking back criticism from the Left
The obvious way to take part in the metapolitical struggle for cultural hegemony lies in the creation of authentic works of art and entertainment that naturally reflect the archetypes and values which are to be infused into the cultural process of communication. This essential task I leave to the individuals more gifted by nature for it’s purpose. Another slightly more subversive way of changing and reinventing the cultural process is what I like to call “re-constructive criticism”: the reading and interpretation of a work of art according to a certain set of values, with the aim of connecting its contents to a specific theory or philosophy and thereby enriching it with meaning while also developing the respective theorem on the basis of a specific work. This is really nothing new and the Left has used such tactics for decades to deconstruct every piece of traditional Western art and culture that it got hold of by so-called “critical theory”.
But this tactic can just as easily be put to work to counter post-modern deconstructivism and reestablish a thread of meaning and continuum of sense between ancient and traditional schools of thought and contemporary art and entertainment. In the end, man himself hasn’t changed much over the course of centuries and we are still haunted by the same questions, desires and dilemmas that have fueled our creations for ages. Most of our contemporary popular culture still in a way reflects fundamental aspects and problems of human nature, communication and interaction, even if in a vulgar and debased form. It falls to us to bring forth those delicate remaining threads, embolden them and create new and meaningful connections that can support a growing self-confidence of traditional thought in modern culture.
The hidden powers of pop-culture
While music, literature and film have enjoyed many years of valuable criticism and academic examination, one very recent form of popular culture has been sorely neglected on this front: video games. The medium has not seldom been looked upon as an especially degenerate and perverting kind of entertainment, but such criticism obviously falls short of the incredible potential that rests in the complex and diverse ways in which video games stimulate the mind and manage to instill lasting emotions and impressions in the recipient. Wasting away dozens or even hundreds of hours on repetitive button-mashing and spending most of your masculine energy on virtual cock-fighting in online multiplayer shooters may rightfully be regarded as a rather toxic form of culture. But ask any kid who grew up with a Sony Playstation during the 90s about their childhood and you will probably find that Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy VII may have influenced their perspective on epic storytelling, dramatic heroism and romance just as much as Grimm’s Fairy Tales or the Homeric epics may have done for past generations.
Video games offer a complex cocktail of sensual stimulation that sets them apart from all other forms of culture and entertainment. Not only do they combine epic narratives with cinematic presentation and authentic orchestral scores, but they also involve the player in the process of creating and shaping their personal experience while testing their dexterity, making them struggle with logical problems and providing them with the primeval satisfaction of overcoming an obstacle. Spending dozens of hours with a well designed game can therefore provide the player with a strong emotional impression, lasting memories and countless stories to share with their mates. Many video game series can boast millions of dedicated fans and a vast number of young people commit considerable portions of their attention, leisure time and sometimes even professional careers to the genre. The cultural impact and influence of this comparatively young artistic medium can therefore not be underestimated. Simply dismissing it as vulgar and inherently inferior to music, literature and film would mean overlooking a powerful cultural agent that is undoubtedly shaping the minds and perception of young men and women and thus figures strongly in the battle for cultural hegemony.
Great potential in video games
It is also noteworthy that video games (even in the mainstream) offer a much more diverse landscape of narratives, aesthetics and thematic focuses than for example the Hollywood film-industry and are generally less permeated with political ideology. Because the video game industry has developed simultaneously with the internet and nowadays thrives on the direct communication between myriads of creators and fans, there are fewer established paradigms about a game’s possible subjects or where the lines for acceptable content are drawn. Developers from all around the world contribute to the (relative) mainstream and Japanese and European studios regularly outshine American firms in terms of creativity and boldness and are valued accordingly among fans and critics. Narratives often focus on explicit themes of heroism, romance and adventure; masculine archetypes and mythological references abound and the #gamergate-affair has shown that Cultural Marxism has not yet been able to sink it’s claws into the industry for good.
I am therefore convinced that video games should offer plenty of opportunity for re-constructive criticism and provide many chances to reconcile mainstream pop-culture and entertainment with traditional and higher forms of culture. Such a daring, more complex and mature reading of video games as authentic works of art and culture could also provide an antidote against a juvenile “geek” culture centered around the autistic and naïve worship of aesthetics, while lacking any kind of broader understanding of artistic context. In the upcoming essays, I will try to show what such higher criticism of video games could look like by interpreting a few of my favourite games in accordance with a traditionalist and identitarian outlook on the modern world.
⇒ Installment II: Rekindling The Fire – A Heraclitean View of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Dark Souls