In terms of Kevin MacDonald’s very important and overlooked work on the JQ, the past week has seen some major Overton Window shifting vis-à-vis the academic article “Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy: A Critical Analysis of Kevin MacDonald’s Theory” by Nathan Cofnas, and through a Quillette piece (“What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong About Jews”) co-authored by Cofnas and designed largely to promote the aforementioned academic paper.
On the Dissident Right side of things, Z Man has written two relevant pieces (“A Critique of the Critique” and “Letter To The Antisemites”.) In Counter-Currents, Spencer Quinn has written a good riposte to the latter Z Man piece (“Letter to the Z Man”). The remainder of my post below is largely based on a comment I left to the Quinn piece.
KM is expected to have a full reply to the Cofnas paper any day now and, after that is published and digested, I will likely write a longer replay to the Cofnas paper itself.
With respect to the JQ, KM’s overall thesis largely rests upon foundations of social identity theory and the related dynamic of group evolutionary strategy (GES), both being pre-existing concepts in social psychology. Insofar as KM’s thesis rests upon the concept of GES, it is on sound footing. Hence, various critics of KM find the need to base their critique on a second-order critique of GES itself (e.g., is the notion of GES unfalsifiable? Etc.) It’s unclear if Z is also skeptical of evolutionary biology or evolutionary theory (e.g., group selection) itself. This is no small matter. It is what leads him to say things like: “I’m a bit skeptical of group evolutionary strategy. It could be a real thing or it could be nonsense.”
I’m reminded here of 70s-era protests against E.O. Wilson and other founders of sociobiology. With respect to the JQ, it seems at this stage of the game we ought to be firmly staking a position for or against the idea of GES as a coherent explanatory model well beforehand, and not use this particular moment (a pointed discussion of KM’s work taking place qua Cofnas) to be debating the latter.
GES does not imply inexorable biological causation (a crude biological determinism.) It implies largely emotional predispositions (and post-hoc rationalizations thereof), selected for by the trials and associated pressures of group competition for limited resources. GES is not comprised of 100% conscious and rational choice decision making. It’s not like intelligent design. There’s no hand-wringing & plotting going on here. In point of fact, as a phenomenon GES represents the compounded effects of countless micro-level, game theoretic, social interactions largely fueled and guided by unconscious forces (instinct), much as life itself is. IOW, both conscious and unconscious in-group preferences (social identity theory; crypsis) are a function of GES, not GES itself.
Quinn writes: “You are not arguing against anti-Semitism so much as the abuse of anti-Semitism.” This is a very important distinction. Speaking for myself, while none of us puts 100% certitude into any given theory, given the evidence I have digested, I find KM’s thesis quite convincing. Does this then make me a Radical Anti-Semite (RAS), the type who LARPs, trades in gas chamber memes and uses Pepe@1488 handles? Z seems to conflate what Quinn aptly calls ‘counter-semitism’ with RAS. For reasons having to do with both the dominant liberal Culture we operate within (the so-called Overton Window), and for reasons having to do with the infighting and purity-spiraling we currently experience within the Dissident Right, this is an extraordinarily important distinction to make.
As an academic field, sociology (at least sociology worth its weight) is composed of multivariate analysis. Nonetheless, certain variables will inevitably play bigger or smaller roles in the equation. Some will take KM’s theory and, unfortunately, essentialize it into a reductionist Anti-semitism, using it as an all-purpose explanans for everything gone wrong in the world. Such is the aforementioned RAS. But the careful reader of KM’s theory, as demonstrated by KM himself, does not necessarily lead to RAS.
Furthermore, as someone who tries to adhere to the precepts of the scientific method (a continuous process of conjectures & refutations), the fact that I currently find KM’s thesis convincing is no guarantee I’ll necessarily find it convincing tomorrow, given some new piece of evidence or competing theory. But such is the nature of the scientific method (and the formation of ‘knowledge’) itself. Taking a small-S skepticism towards KM’s thesis is no different (and just as healthy) as taking a small-S skepticism towards any number of other theses: the idea that ‘democracy’ is good; the idea that there exist ‘natural rights’; the idea that the ‘Non-Aggression Principle’ is the theoretical end-all and be-all; the idea that the universe is expanding, etc. The point here is that it is rather odd for Z to highlight his second order, small-S skepticism towards the GES behind KM’s theory, but not broach similar second order concerns to other auxiliary ‘race realism’-related theories (or any number of other theories in other domains of knowledge) that he presumably espouses.
It is especially unfortunate to take this position towards a theory that is, within the range of ideas of mainstream Culture, clearly on the margins. Don’t get me wrong: all theories deserve scrutiny. But, in our current academic climate, KM’s theory is essentially not even allowed on the stage, and is the subject of gross mischaracterizations (if not outright caricatures) as well as the most infantile of ad hominem attacks. As such, it risks being confined to the most extreme margins of the Dissident Right, relegated to being sanctified by LARP-ers as a holy relic. Were KM’s theory a generally accepted truth in the epicenter of respectable Cultural Discussion, however, I could then see the practical utility of punching right, so to speak, challenging and testing KM’s theory to a continuous and rigorous stream of first-order critiques as well as even second-order doubts about the coherence of GES, etc.
To a position central to both Z and Cofnas, Quinn writes: “If it were all about aptitude and living in cities… then why has there never been Left-Right balance among the diaspora Jews and their works?” This bears on the importance of carefully assembling the data. On the conservative side of the political spectrum, it is true that Jews have had a significant role in both libertarianism and neoconservatism and this makes sense, insofar as both strands of political thought are good for the Jews: the former due to a purely market-based meritocracy for which Jews are notably suited (e.g., Slezkine’s The Jewish Century) and the latter for the obvious reasons widely discussed in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Jews have not, however, had a comparable degree of representation in what we might call the ‘blood and soil’ nationalisms (ethnonationalisms) of Central and Western Europe. And it is this empirical fact which begs the question: Why is this the case?
At a minimum, the question of ‘What causes anti-Semtism?’ is a chicken or egg situation. However, anti-Semitism does not occur in a vacuum, nor can its long history in Europe and elsewhere be plausibly explained away as a series of spontaneous eruptions of mass hysteria and collective irrationality, taking place in a variety of different host cultures. As KM and others have documented so well, epochs of anti-Semitism can arguably best be explained as coalescent reactions to extreme displays of Jewish ethnocentrism. Jewish hyper-ethnocentrism and its in-group effects (both in terms of creating in-group advantages & in giving shape and form to gentile reactions to such emergent advantages) may be a better explanation for Jews being kicked out of hundreds of societies than, say, spontaneous irrationalism.