Review: Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola
Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola
Review: NM Phoenix
Not often does one find Evola and like subjects in mainstream academia, particularly Routledge. Paul Furlong has done just that and accomplished a solid introduction to the thought of Julius Evola. Whether one agrees or disagrees, loves or hates, the intellectually honest will surely admit that Evola is worth reading. Multiple great minds have fallen between the cracks of common academia due to their less than acceptable political or social positions. Unfortunately this has only further limited discourse in an attempt to erase dissenting opinion. Paul Furlong makes it clear in the introduction what he sets out to do, that is to give an overall summarization of Evola’s political positions and its relevance to present day movements. Even to the most seasoned academic it would be both daunting and difficult to accomplish this task, much less while sufficiently appeasing publishers. Furlong mentions, and I find it worth restating, that the work is a summarization of Evola’s social and political thought, not the mysticism thereof. At first it seems self-defeating as the political/social positions of Evola are tied closely to his commitment to the transcendent, though surprisingly Furlong still manages to deliver a clear presentation.
Throughout the chapters Furlong correlates particular time periods in Evola’s life with his respective works. In the earliest period Evola confronted the existential nihilism common of his time, which he documents extensively in Ride the Tiger. Furlong mentions two existentialists in particular, Nietzsche and Michelstaedter. Evola finds agreement with Nietzsche in his affirmation of existence, but maintains insistence in the a priori. The philosophy of Michelstaedter is that of inevitable negation; the impossibility of man to ever attain transcendent or a priori knowledge. Julius Evola not only obviously disagreed, but finds it an imperative that the truly exceptional must grasp the a priori despite the modern nihilism of the age. Furlong further clarifies Evola by contrasting Evola with his contemporaries; the two closest being Gentile and Croce. Idealism was the subject shared, though each approached it in a drastically different manner. Evola finds Gentile too epistemological in approach rather than ontological, lacking in tangible application in the world as it is. Even further from Evola is Croce, whom was liberal minded and opposed fascism. His goal was to surpass both, and neither seemed to go to the lengths that Evola was willing to go. More importantly, neither Gentile nor Croce focused upon the transcendent, rather their philosophies maintained a human-centric perspective.
Last and certainly not least, is the contrast between Evola and Guenon. Both of which continue to have a strong influence in contemporary rightist movements. What heavily distinguishes Evola from Guenon, as Furlong elaborates, is Evola’s focus upon the Kshatriyas (the warrior caste) and Guenon’s focus upon the Brahmin (the priest caste) in approach to Tradition. In simple terms, Evola looked to the West and Guenon looked to the East. Throughout Evola’s work is the active-heroic approach to Tradition and affirmation of individualism. Guenon advocated the passive-priestly approach to the Tradition and the absolute requirement of a guru figure. While one could say Guenon was a radical, Evola could be considered even more radical in approach. Furlong does not go in-depth regarding the mystical teachings of either, but does an excellent job clarifying what distinguishes the two from one another.
One misinterpretation of Evola that has caused dismissal is the misinterpretation that Evola was a supporter of Italian Fascism. It is no debate that he lived in the heart of Fascist Italy, was involved in the intellectual scene at the time, and even attempted to win the favor of Mussolini. Interestingly enough he was also a critic of Italian Fascism, though for entirely different reasons than one would find in a liberal minded individual. As Furlong writes about extensively, Evola disliked the secular nature of fascism at the time. In his earliest works he imagined a fascism that was rooted in Tradition, in the transcendent. It was this empty and hollow edifice that Evola found wholly inadequate. Nationalism in and of itself was insufficient, and only if rooted in Tradition would it endure and benefit man. It is indeed a misnomer to categorize Evola as a fascist or even remotely compatible with his political peers. Politically speaking Evola was an oddity whom did not disagree with the severity of the time, but felt the severity was not severe enough. Without a state rooted in Tradition, in the transcendent, Evola considered it as bankrupt as any other political or social movement. The individual of Tradition is an exceptional state of being amidst the ignorant masses of the Iron Age, and only a nation founded in Tradition could be of clarity in the Iron Age.
It was partly due to this disappointment that Evola resigned to a position thereafter known as apoliticia, or detachment. Not to be confused with quietism or retreat, it is the individual divorce from societal values at large and tangible action within the world, undertaken in a completely different manner of spirit known only to oneself. It rings similar to zen or karmic yoga teachings; action for the sake of action, for the perfection of the act itself, rather than attachment to the fruit of the action. This does not mean retirement from the political realm, only that the political realm is to be a means for the individual rather than an end.
The second misinterpretation which Furlong takes special consideration to address is Evola’s unique definition and position on racialism. The slightest hint of racialist thought is enough for a past intellectual to be dismissed from studying in present day academia. It is common that Evola is categorized alongside his contemporaries as both racist and anti-Semitic. This is both inaccurate and a gross injustice to the incredibly particular definition that Evola has concerning race. Probably the most valuable chapter in Furlong’s work, this has made it clear that Evola does not care for the crass biological definition of race in Nazism, and instead comprehends race as a correlation of cultural/ethnic patterns and their particular expression or embodiment of Tradition. In the simplest wording, to Evola, races are meant to be understood as races in the ‘spiritual’ sense rather than merely the biological. This does not necessarily mean Evola was not a racist, only that his definition is incredibly particular in contrast to the common use of the word. Furlong goes to similar worthy extent documenting Evola’s varying developments and nuances regarding anti-Semitic thought.
Overall Furlong accomplishes an impressive feat; documenting the political and social thought of Julius Evola in such a way that it is academically acceptable while also being incredibly fair and forthright. The work is light on Evola’s mystical and occult thought, but covering that in itself would require a whole other colossal undertaking. As an introduction to Evola, a thorough abstract to his thought and life, Furlong does an impeccable job. One can only hope this is the beginning of seeing Julius Evola and other long neglected geniuses in the pages of present day academic journals.