Should the Protestant Ethic Become the Spirit of the Alt Right?Ricardo Duchesne
Whites will become a minority within a few decades in all their main homelands. The question is no longer how to prevent becoming a minority but how to survive in order to regain majority status.
A few months ago I noted that easy going comfort is the main factor behind the decline of masculinity in the West and that only an atmosphere of conflict and hardship in childhood will strengthen Westerners to fight against the occupation of their lands. Hardship and healthy stress within a returning patriarchal family can produce the epigenetic effects on young boys necessary to engender the vitality and morale to reverse their extinction.
But contrary to perceptions in the manosphere, toughness is only one side of a successful counter revolution. Whites will also need to drill into themselves and their children a nationalist version of the Protestant/Calvinist ethos that made possible the immense creative outburst of Europeans in the modern era leading to the acquisition of entire new continents.
What could an ethos, a “calling” to engage in self-control and disciplined work as an end in itself, associated with the rise of capitalism, and explained in terms of the “inner loneliness” and “anxiety” produced upon believers by the Calvinist teaching of predestination, say about White survival?
Weber’s essay, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published in 1904, is one the most debated essays in history. The consensus nowadays is that, however high the quality of this essay, the avalanche of writings against it, with Marxists playing a leading role, successfully invalidated its argument. I accepted this invalidation until very recently. I can see now that the arguments against Weber applies primarily to the strictly religious aspects of his thesis. To what degree did he do justice to Catholicism? To what extent did the English Puritans believe in predestination? Did Calvinism really served to justify the accumulation of wealth and a behavior defined as capitalist?The importance of Weber’s thesis goes well beyond his effort to connect the development of rational capitalism with the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. What makes his work a timeless classic, or what should make it so from an alt right perspective, is its observation that only Western men, among all religious believers in history, promoted a “this-worldly” religion, which introduced a drive to mastery in worldly affairs by means of a systematic ordering of every aspect of one’s life starting with self-mastery over “everything impulsive and irrational, the passions and the subjective interests of the natural man.”
While Eastern religious men were contemplative in orientation, preoccupied with transcending worldly affairs, or reaching a harmonious coexistence with the world as it was, the Protestant sects of Calvinism, Methodism, Pietism, and Baptism called upon believers to gain mastery of this world through the “deliberate regulation of one’s life,” disciplined and methodical work, rather than to find salvation out of this world.
Weber was right that the incredible success of Europeans in the modern era was made possible by a type of personality no longer interested in the unscrupulous pursuit of selfish interests, “undisciplined” acquisition of wealth, “without reserve and as an uncontrolled impulse.” The aim of the Protestant way of life was to produce a new type of character able “to bring order into the conduct” of his life, “a cool self control and frugality,” to achieve the highest return for each hour. It was only by making his Faustian restlessness “thoroughly rationalized,” “emancipated from planless otherwordliness,” freed “from the power of irrational impulses,” that European men came to master the world in the nineteenth century as never before.
The incredible success of Europeans brought them unparalleled affluence and easy comfort after WWII, coupled with the evaporation of any notion of a “calling.” The capitalism of frugality and savings came to be replaced by a new form of Keynesian capitalism driven by effective demand, consumerism and welfare spending. It seems impossible now to resurrect the Calvinistic ethos Weber so admired. But if we can find a way to think of this ethos without the religious beliefs accompanying it, we may be able to extract some eternally valid precepts.
One often hears in alt right circles exhortations about the primordial life-strengthening qualities of Europe’s ancient pagan religions. But beyond historical curiosity and respect, the last thing we need is a return to the confused and dark, the mystical and ecstatic, uncontrolled and animistic atmosphere of paganism.
We need the opposite. What made Calvinism absolutely different was its complete rationalization of the conduct of believers through the elimination of magic from the world as a means of salvation, which Catholics, and even Lutherans with their emotional piety, had not carried far enough. We need the elimination of “all the sensuous and emotional elements in culture and religion, because they are of no use toward salvation and promote sentimental illusion.”
“The undisciplined blustering” of alpha prelates will not secure White survival. The quiet self-control of the men who made Europe the technological dynamo of the nineteenth century is essential.
Alt righters are also mistaken if they think that the way to defeat the social constructs of the establishment is for Whites to affirm their natural inclinations for racial identity and in-group behaviour. There are no societies without constructs, or norms to regulate human behaviour. The question is which culture has the best constructs to achieve mastery over nature. The science of racial differences is a form of mastery implying education and careful investigations that do not come naturally to societies but presuppose an entire regimen of discipline and knowledge. Overcoming the state of nature under a strict regimen of self-control, suppression of spontaneous emotions through disciplined rationalization of one’s behaviour, are forms of habituation required in achieving mastery over worldly affairs.
All the words cited above are from Weber’s Protestant Ethic. Below I will present a quick sequence of additional passages and phrases from this essay with words added inside square brackets to make them speak to an alt right audience.
Weber Speaks To White Identitarians
- The ability of mental concentration, as well as the absolutely essential feeling of obligation to one’s job, are here most often combined with a strict economy which calculates the possibility of high earnings [highest returns for one’s political activities] and a cool self-control and frugality which enormously increase performance. This provides the most favourable foundation for the conception of labour as an end in itself, as a calling which is necessary [to the preservation of Whites].
- The question of the motive forces in the expansion of [White identity] is not in the first instance a question of the origin of capital sums…but, above all, of the development of…a rationalized spirit on the basis of the rigorous calculation, directed with foresight and caution toward the success [enhancement of Western culture].
- They were [White] men who had grown up in the hard school of life, calculating and daring at the same time, above all temperate and reliable, shrewd and completely devoted to the [survival of Western civilization].
- The ideal type [of the White leader] avoids ostentation and unnecessary expenditure, as well as conscious enjoyment of his power, and is embarrassed by the outward signs of the social recognition which he receives. His manner of life is…distinguished by a certain ascetic tendency…He gets nothing out of his wealth for himself, except…having done his job well.
- It is held to be an absolute duty to consider oneself chosen [to promote White identity], and to combat all doubts as temptations of the devil, since lack of self-confidence to reclaim their nation is the result of insufficient faith, hence imperfect grace.
- [The aim is to] develop a systematic method of rational conduct with the purpose of overcoming the state of nature, to free man from the power of irrational impulses and his dependence on the world of nature…The end of this asceticism [is] to be able to lead an alert, intelligent life: the most urgent task the destruction of spontaneous, impulsive enjoyment.
- The paths of worldly asceticism, which everywhere first seeks for tasks and then carries then out carefully and systematically.
- The idyllic state collapsed under the pressure of a bitter competitive [racial] struggle…The old leisurely and comfortable attitude toward life gave way to a hard frugality in which some…came to the top, because they did not wish to consume but to earn [for the White cause].
- A specific type of conduct unmistakably different from the way of life of the natural man…an incentive methodically to supervise his own state of grace in his conduct, and thus to penetrate it with asceticism.
- The real moral objection is to relaxation in the security of possession, the enjoyment of wealth with the consequence of idleness and the temptations of the flesh, above all distractions from the pursuit of a righteous life.
- Waste of time is thus the first and in principle the deadliest of sins. The span of life is infinitely short and precious to make sure of one’s own election [as a true White identitarian]. Loss of time through sociability, idle talk, luxury, even more sleep than is necessary for health…is worthy of absolute moral condemnation.
How can contemporary men be motivated to organize their lives by an ethic that lacks any religious compulsions? Was not the doctrine of predestination, which says that only some humans are chosen to be saved from damnation, and which was the source of the anxiety that led believers to view worldly success as a “sign” of one’s election for salvation, essential in sustaining the rationalization of one’s life?
But it is also an essential observation of Weber that the spirit of modern capitalism in the twentieth century would continue to be characterized by a Puritan-like worldly asceticism “without the religious basis,” by men who were no longer religious. He goes back to the example of Benjamin Franklin’s life, “a colourless deist,” as the ideal-type, all-round highly successful individual, who meticulously organized his life to achieve the highest returns in utility according to his famous thirteen virtues.
The virtues Franklin practised have an applicability among non-believers. The difficulty is whether White men today can live according to this very exacting mode of life. There is a world of difference between understanding an idea, agreeing with it, and having the epigenetic ability to organize one’s life according to it. The way Weber framed his essay, as a “contribution to the understanding of the manner in which ideas become effective forces in history,” does not help. It has been the way everyone has evaluated this debate, ideas versus “economic determinism.” But the Protestant Ethic is not about ideas; it is about the way in which a substantially high number of Europeans decided to order every hour and day in their lives to perform tasks carefully and systematically without vacillation and uncertainty, without idleness and whimsical joys.
One must be raised from childhood to behave this way, trained early on to suppress one’s natural inclinations, by parents who themselves have lived according to this “idea,” with the proper epigenetic changes in place to transmit to their children.
Weber mentions how Franklin’s “strict Calvinist father” “drummed into him again and again in his youth” religious precepts and utilitarian virtues. But just as important, as we read from Franklin’s Autobiography, he began a life of continuous work at ten years old, starting in his father’s shop, “employed in cutting wick for the candles, filling the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going on errands, etc.” This was just the beginning, but it was critically important in shaping his character for arduous tasks, in all spheres of life at a very high level.
Can Western men, living in an age in which globalists want us to become mere pursuers of consumer comfort, regain again these virtues, or will we only see halfhearted counter measures against globalism, sporadic outbursts, irrational acts of violence, lots of idleness and complaints, few methodical, systematically ordered lives dedicated to European nationalism as if it were a calling to ensure God’s grace and salvation?
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Calvin’s world, if all of it’s precepts were to be meticulously enforced, is one giant ode to human stupidity, and a confirmation that man is indeed noting else but a monkey with a driving license.
the Protestant ethic makes capitalism out to be something holy. I would say we already live in this paradigm. poor people are seen as deficient and degenerate. I think whites need to run our own institutions and have our own countries that are based on tradition. but greed and capitalism are what got our leaders to sell us as slaves to the heebs in the first place.
A charitable reading of the comments so far is that they are based on the title and not reading the article itself.
I think this is an important article not because I have any truck with Protestantism, but because Duchesne recommends that the White Nationalist movement incorporate an ethos of sobriety, hard work, modesty, and technical instrumental rationality — which would be a huge improvement over the reigning Whigger Nationalist ethos of laziness, high-time preference impulsiveness, alcoholism, and alpha/warrior-posturing.
I am the last person to comment after reading only the title. I regret posting that comment, not because it isn’t true, but because it was the wrong time and place, since I’m well familiar with CCs metapolitical approach and this articles alignment with it.
Well, I think almost anything will be an improvement over the currently reigning ethos in the West. For instance there are aspects of Agrarian thought that are positive in my view. Likewise there are some worthwhile angles to Catholic social teaching. The traditional, pre-Christian theologies of Europe offer much of value.
So while I’d agree that hard work, sobriety and self-discipline are important values, I’d draw the line at calling for ‘the spirit of capitalism’ to become the spirit of the alt-right.
The article accepts Max Weber’s views on Protestant thought, which while certainly influential were by no means the final word. The Australian nationalist periodical, Audacity, published an article a couple of years ago looking at the worldview of two early 20th century Methodists. Both were inherently nationalistic. Both actively supported the White Australia policy. Both embodied the values of hard work and frugality for which Methodism was known. And both thought capitalism was morally wrong. One actively built local cooperative pharmacies to counter the wild profiteering and shoddy product being sold by for-profit chemists in Sydney at the time.
The author approvingly cites Weber’s definition of the Protestant ethic as the spirit of capitalism. Unrestrained capitalism is the driving force behind open borders and the one world economy. The blue haired whales of the SJW left would not be sufficient to maintain unpopular immigration regimes in the West alone; they rely on the consensus of the capitalist right.
The spirt-of-capitalism, taken to its logical conclusion, would preference the ‘hard working migrant’ over the native white population to fill the jobs that Americans or Australians ‘won’t do’ (sic). This is not mere conjecture. Australian capitalists and their US counterparts in the early 20th century were explicit in demanding mass immigration to reduce wages pressure. They were opposed by the socialists of the time, as you have noted Greg. In Australia, they were also opposed by some leading Methodists who saw capitalism as inherently anti-community.
100 years later, almost to the day, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was calling for massively increased immigration to counter wages growth (which was, at the time, well below historic averages). Their calls were echoed by conservative politicians who noted the famous ‘energy, frugality and drive’ of migrants.
The author goes on to makes the startling claim that affirming our ‘natural inclinations for racial identity and in-group behaviour’ will not be effective in challenging the social constructs of the establishment.
I cannot see how we can possibly change the current metapolitical narrative unless we do exactly these things. Earlier Australian Methodists did these things and saw them as completely consistent with their values.
So, if the essence of this article is to encourage hard work and sobriety in support of the organic nation, I’d agree.
I do think, however, that defining the Protestant Ethic (a la Weber) as the spirit of capitalism is problematic because (1) it gives a historically incomplete picture and (2) potentially calls us back into the conservative ideological swamp which Dr Saleam warned us about so presciently back in the 1980’s.
Protestants and Catholics create different kinds of societies not because of the “Faith” but because different aspects of the faith are chosen and emphasized by different founders and teachers. Calvin created Calvinism. Luther created Lutheranism. The faith is just the palette from which they chose their colors. The creation of different churches obviously hinges more on faith in the founders than faith in God.
There are good secular reasons to believe that industry is better than laziness, sobriety better than drunkenness, etc. Better reasons, indeed, than faith in a church. Those Protestants stumbled onto something. So yes, let’s put it on firm, secular, rational foundations. Particularly since Christianity is a dying religion, and merely pretending to believe out of conservative instincts or because one likes some select effects of Christianity is not really belief anyway.
The distinction must be made between free enterprise and capitalism. I very much doubt if the Protestant reformers approved or would have approved of capitalism, as it is based ultimately on all forms of usury which is condemned by Scripture. Free enterprise is an entirely different matter; if a man through sobriety and honest effort were able to start a small business that developed into a thriving concern which employed fellow Christians, such success would meet with approval and praise.
Contemporary Protestants, and Catholics too, particularly those of a conservative bent, mistakenly equate capitalism not with divine approval but with freedom and ‘democratic values’. Of course capitalism has nothing to do with either propositions but is a machine with its own on-going momentum that casually will brush aside Christianity or any other ‘ism’ not conducive to its aims and survival. Globalism and monopoly are the logical destinations of capitalism.
The Protestant Ethic did not give rise to capitalism but did instill into its adherents a feeling of worth-ness, a sense that they were in the Biblical phrase ‘the saving remnant’, that their actions had significance and the conduct of their individual lives mattered. Such attitudes are beneficial in all spheres of life, but in our case they must be insolubly linked to ideas for the betterment and triumph of the race for it is only through and by the genetic expression of the race can the individual have confidence his efforts will have effect and be cherished.
I hate to be blunt, but the old Protestants didn’t have jews in their midst pumping every sort of degenerate filth into the heads of their children and kinsmen. We mustn’t forget that our fall has a SOURCE. No… we are not perfect creatures. But, left to our own unhindered devices, there is an inner moral compass and respect for natural law which has guided our kind pretty well – from the Vikings on up. We must address the riddance of the alien poisoners. Until they are removed from our societal body, there will be no healing… no matter how hard we try.
Calvin was most likely a Marrano.
And, to quote Jacques Attali, if Protestantism was capitalism’s rocket, Judaism was its engine. Capitalism is, after all, state-sponsored usury.
The incredible success of Europeans brought them unparalleled affluence and easy comfort after WWII, coupled with the evaporation of any notion of a “calling.”
I don’t agree with Prof Duchesne’s thesis, either as put forth here or in the essay of his linked in second paragraph. Cèline, on the significance of Battle of Stalingrad, is quoted in the comments of Greg Johnson’s recent piece on Alt-Right Sectarianism. Duchesne seems oblivious of the cost to Western Civilisation of the 20th century’s wars. He seems not to know much about economics either, as he fails to recognise post-war economic growth has been predicated on the growth of petro-dollar finance in lieu of real economics; people are drowning now in cheap imported junk but we’re actually losing ground with each generation in the ability to acquire wealth.
There is nothing wrong with our children either, except for our having, as a people, our living spaces encroached upon by third-worlders. In his reflections on the 50th Anniversay of the Detroit Riots, published recently at The Occidental Observer, Peter Baggins recounts how as a boy in the mid-1950’s he was able to ride his bike unmolested all over the city. It’s not safe for children to roam and explore on their own now, and thereby to become hardy and resilient as in generations past. Moreover, isolation and anxiousness leaves parents susceptible to whatever current social ill, like childhood ‘transgenderism’, is coming down the pike. We’re all suffering from a combination of real fall-out of the wars, in our reduced numbers and faltering confidence, in combination with how those effects are masked. (Finance was a way to defer the real cost of the material destruction of the wars.) Alongside the way we have been preyed upon for decades by Cultural Marxists; that is to say, hostile people with power and money.
Human nature is not going to change so to even try and find a way to think of this ethos without the religious belief accompanying it is, in my opinion, sheer folly. Besides, the Christian God is the true God and his followers, once motivated, can easily handle the heretics in our midst.
Michael Hoffman and E. Michael Jones would flatly state that capitalism is state sponsored usury and that the religious origin of usury is the Talmud/Kabbalah. The “deep state” within medieval Catholicism brought in usury at the tine of the Renaissance and the Reformation which is probably how the Judeo got into Christianity to give us Judeo-Christianity.
Duschesne with his sense of history is on the right track and the answer to his question should at the very least get our Christian wing back on track.
Everyone who commented on this must have done poorly on the reading comprehension portion of the SAT (assuming you are American.) All the critiques are of capitalism, Calvinism and free enterprise. This essay isn’t about any of those things.
There’s nothing bad to be said about the virtues of Calvinism. They are social goods. They uplift the individual and society. “Capitalist” wealth accumulation (actually, often just middle class savings) is merely a by-product of them. But as the author himself remarked
As the Philosopher said in the Nicomachean Ethics,virtue is a habit. It must be inculcated, coerced, if you will, into the members of the social group. What were the instruments of coercion in the case of Calvinism? First there is that internal coercion caused by belief in God, and having failed him. Second is the coercion by the family and the community for being a reprobate.
Only extraordinary individuals have enough willpower and resolve to be virtuous of themselves, even without apparent reward. Most of us have to be coerced, gently, by means of encouragement and reproof, by the community.
The Church used to be the place where members of the community would go to display their “visible signs” (or lack thereof) of being saved — wealth, large families, clean clothes, impeccable manners, etc. — and receive positive, reinforcing feeback (or the contrary if they didn’t have them). But alas, the Church itself has been compromised with the ideology of liberalism, and there’s no substitute for it yet.
Thank you for this article Dr. Duchesne. I think it’s an excellent guide in ordering ones life and the political activities of White advocacy. Success always seems to come down to self control. This article expands on that difficult to practice behavior. New word of the day-epigenetic.
I am of the opinion that the Protestant ethic is an outgrowth of a genetic trait of Northern European peoples adapted into the ideology of Christianity for survival purposes. Back in the day when putting away food for winter, hunting, and/or possessing lots of cattle was a measure of your status, has now been translated into have an abundance of money to survive. Calvin made being of the elect and not doubting it a requirement for success. If not, you were utterly depraved. An either/or that had consequences. It is interesting to note that Leo Strauss in his book Natural Right and History claims this ideology leads to nihilism. I think he is on the side of doubt which would lead to nihilism. I think it leads to dogmatism and ruthlessness if there is no affection and/or mercy. (allowances for ability)
That’s an interesting thought. I also have the idea Protestantism emerged at roughly the same time the Great Age of Exploration was beginning, and perhaps represented a more streamlined and transportable version of Christianity to be exported along with colonists. Whereas Catholicism sought to convert the indigenous groups rather export numbers of their countrymen.
My two cents is that the Germans would kick butt even had they practiced Shinto or Santeria. As an evolutionist I would point out the chicken/egg dichotomy inherent in the question. To some extent, a folk forges an ideology congenial to its character and preexisting habit of mind, or perhaps adopts such an ideology if a suitable one already exists in the environment. The Germans created Calvinism, but is it any surprise that the puritans were centered in the most Saxon local of England, while Protestantism meets great resistance as it moves towards Ireland? The arabs created Islam from primitive Christianity and Judaism. A subset of Jews emphasized certain preexisting veins of the Torah and developed Talmudic Judaism. Europeans adopted Christianity, originally a Jewish subcult.
I agreed with most of this, except that these qualities are unique to Western man. Confucianism is like Max Weber on steroids. You could not find a better model for White Nationalism than classical China.
It think it might be useful to address the issues addressed in the article above in terms of executive functions as addressed in Russell A. Barkley’s landmark work on the subject, Executive Functions: What They Are, How They Work, and Why They Evolved (New York: Guilford Press, 2012). (Chapter 9, “Implications for Understanding Executive Functioning and Its Disorders,” is especially relevant.) Although I find the model or analogy of the Protestant ethic problematic, I think that Ricardo Duchesne is effectively saying that we need an ethic that strengthens our executive functions, individually and collectively, and I strongly agree with this.
Barkley’s definition and discussion of executive functions is intricate and subtle, and I can’t do justice to it in a short comment, or even a long one. His definition of executive functioning — “the use of self-directed actions so as to choose goals and to select, enact, and sustain actions across time toward those goals usually in the context of others often relying on social and cultural means” (p. 176) — might not appear to be particularly meaningful when read by itself. I will, however, cut, paste, and comment on some things Barkley says about the consequences of deficits in executive functioning. These consequences include the following (185-86):
“A maturational contraction or perversion such that the individual’s behavior either comes to resemble that of a younger, less mature member of the species or reflects a bizarre and abnormal variation of the normal performance of the species.
“A spatial contraction in that the individual is less capable of using both rearrangements of the physical environment and of social entities that surround it in its quest for self-regulation over time to achieve goals.
“A temporal contraction in the individual’s time horizon — a reduction in their capacity for foresight and thus in the length of the temporal period over which they can consciously contemplate the future and make preparations to act in anticipation of that future. Deficits in EF produce a nearsightedness to the future (a temporal myopia), making the individual relatively time blind and thus more focused on the now or near-term than should be the case for that individual’s developmental stage. The individual with EF deficits is therefore likely to be governed more by external events within their immediate sensory fields than by mental (internal) representations concerning hindsight/foresight and the future more generally. Those mental representations can no longer serve to guide their behavior toward delayed consequences and future goals as would be the case in normal individuals of that age.
“An inhibitory insufficiency — the individual is less able to defer immediate actions and thus less able to contemplate a future, the choices they may have, and the longer-term goals that may be worth pursuing.
“A motivational time preference contraction or reward discounting increase — the individual shows a greater discounting of delayed rewards (values consequences less as a function of their delay) in choosing what goals and consequences to pursue and thus can be characterized as showing a high time preference or poor delay of gratification.
“A behavioral complexity contraction — a decrease in the length, complexity, and hierarchical nature of goal-directed behavior because the goals being pursued are nearer in time and because the behavior necessary to attain those goals is necessarily shorter in duration, less complex, and less in need of being hierarchically organized.
“An abstract to concrete rule contraction — with injury to the EF system, the capacity for the individual to use more abstract rules for self-governance contracts such that higher-level rules, such as ethics, laws, and regulations, may no longer have any governing influence over behavior. The individual comes to be guided by nearer-term, more concrete, and hence more selfish forms of rules (and morality).
“A social complexity contraction — the number of interactions needed with others and the number of others with whom the individual trades, reciprocates, and cooperates will contract. Since the goals pursued are immediate or near term, the need for and motivation to share and cooperate with others, particularly socially important ones, diminishes greatly or disappears entirely. The result is a highly selfish, impulsive, hedonistic, and even socially callous or psychopathic nature to the individual’s conduct.
“A cultural scaffolding collapse — the defective EF system no longer allows the individual to acquire and capitalize on the information available in the culture as well as on the products, devices, and other means that culture can provide to assist with the individual’s goal-directed actions, to extend those goals further ahead in time, and to bridge those larger temporal delays. . . .
“All of these contractions will result in a loss of freedom or self-determination and the dynamic and flexible quality that higher levels of EF contributed to human adaptation to the environment. That is because the EF system provided for four additional levels of universal Darwinism or evolution of information acquisition that are now jeopardized or lost in the individual. The development of each new level of universal Darwinism added an additional degree of freedom to the individual’s options, choices, and actions — degrees of freedom now in jeopardy or lost due to injury or EF disorders. Those individuals with PFC [i.e., pre-frontal cortex] injuries will be more at the mercy of the immediate environment, less free to contemplate and choose among various options for responding to events, less dynamic and capable of rapid adjustment to changes in environments, especially the social and cultural ones.”
Contractions in executive functions, Barkley notes (pp. 186-87), “will change the nature and source of information that governs the individual’s behavior. Those sources will shift backward from internal to external, from the self to others, from the possible future to the temporal now, and from delayed gratification to immediate gratification.” Such individuals will be:
“Less able to regulate their behavior by internal representations concerning the future and their goals, and thus they are subject to being controlled more by external representations in the temporal now.
“Less able to rearrange the physical and social environment in support of their efforts at self-regulation across time toward goals.
“More under the socially manipulative influence of others (social predation or parasitism) and less able to regulate or govern their own behavior for their own welfare.
“More preoccupied or governed by events nearer in time than are other normal individuals of the same chronological age.
“More focused on and governed by consequences in the immediate context or near term rather than aiming behavior at larger or more socially important consequences that lie ahead across longer time spans (deferred gratification).”
In short, deficits in executive functions are profoundly debilitating.
Barkley writes of extended time horizons (pp. 179-80):
“This is the common thread that binds all levels of this extended phenotype [i.e., executive functions]. It is also the thread that binds EF to the fields of ethics and morality, law, economics, culture, politics and government because all of them depend on this mental faculty for their existence. This is not just the capacity to sense and contemplate the probable future that may come to pass if things remain as they are. It is also the capacity to contemplate the possible future, a future that could result from one’s own desires if one elects to plan for it and pursue it. This sense of the possible future leads to a growing preference for larger delayed consequences over smaller immediate ones, often referred to in economics as one’s time preference . . . and in behavior analysis as temporal or reward discounting . . . It provides a greater motivation to self-organize and self-sustain goal-directed actions toward those larger delayed consequences. The development of this EF hierarchy results in a progression of behavioral complexity from methods to tactics to strategies and, perhaps for some, onward to principles. Methods for self-reliance can be grouped into sets to form tactics for social exchange and reciprocity that can eventually be organized into sets to form strategies for group organizations like cooperatives, with each transition resulting in longer, more hierarchically organized, more complex, and more temporally extended goal-directed activities.
“As a result of the developing capacity for taking ‘the long view,’ it becomes evident to individuals that they need each other and can choose to rely on each other if each is to gain the benefits that accrue to reciprocators, cooperators, and mutualists. As a result, the social networks necessary to achieve longer-term goals increase and change in complexity and duration. Across all levels there is also an increase in the level of abstractness of the rules being followed for pursuing one’s long-term welfare from methods to tactics to strategies on to the use of principles — the most abstract rules governing human life. Finally, across the levels is a growing reliance on culture as well as contribution to it — the accumulated and shared knowledge, means, methods, systems, devices, and products on which individuals will capitalize to achieve their longer-term goals and to which they will contribute using EF.”
We need a political culture in which our time horizons are extended, indeed ratcheted upwards, by social complexity and cultural scaffolding.
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