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Auron MacIntyre Total State

Auron MacIntyre’s The Total State: Review and Analysis

Auron MacIntyre is a rising star on the political right. Only a few years ago he was both a high school teacher and a local journalist, but through effective social media management, mainly Twitter/X, he has built up a reputation and now is the most conservative voice at The Blaze. He is known for his deep dives into political theory and applying this to modern political discourse, which has made him a poignant and underrated voice in the movement.

In his new book The Total State: How Liberal Democracies Become Tyrannies, Auron MacIntyre does a deep dive into the phrase he is most known for, explaining how the modern world became one where everything is political. In under 200 pages, The Total State delivers upon its premise in a concise fashion, boiling thousands of pages of political theory down into a digestible format. Like Stephen Wolfe, MacIntyre did the readings. He brings these conclusions to the reader while contextualizing them for the audience.

Summary and Analysis

Early on, the book attaches the core ideas and arguments to the shared experience with the reader, that being of the COVID-19 pandemic which kickstarted his journey into these advanced political theories. He does not spit facts and logic at the reader but rather walks the reader through collegiate level ideas, constantly relating them back to the American experience.

In essence, the Total State is the politicization of everything, which arises out of the constant centralization of power through the expansion of the bureaucratic apparatus. Every piece of art, media, book, sport etc. becomes “an opportunity to further state propaganda” (pg. 10). Instead of using the phrase Deep State, MacIntyre instead uses the term Cathedral to describe the “coordination mechanism between different organizations in society” (pg. 13). This term is effective in that it goes beyond the State bureaucracy to explain the groupthink behavior of the mainstream media, big tech, academia, and every other institution that has been captured by liberalism while branding them as extensions of the State. MacIntyre would go on to extensively utilize Bertrand de Jouvenel’s concept of the metaphysics of power to describe why and how Power expanded beyond what the kings of prior centuries were capable of wielding. At the same time, this becomes an arms race, so every society must adapt, or it will fall victim to the other Powers.

By dissolving the bonds and obligations of family, tribe, and religion, the ruler can make his subjects entirely loyal to and dependent on the state. Liberalism does this in the name of freedom for the individual while socialism does it in the name of the collective good, but the result is the same (pg. 22).

By channeling de Jouvenel, MacIntyre conveys why hyper-individualism and hyper-collectivism yield the same outcome. By dissolving the bonds, the state is able to expand its power. This is seen through public education and the welfare system expanding to duties and obligations that were once helmed by religious organizations or the sphere of Family. In America, this was achieved primarily through the doctrine of individual rights. MacIntyre concludes this second chapter by highlighting the naiveite of Conservatives who appealed to “a shared principle of individual liberty or equal application of the law” because they assumed the Left was playing by the same rules (pg. 33). Throughout the book, various shortcomings of the Conservative movement are addressed regarding their ineffectual strategy and common misconceptions.

In particular, Auron MacIntyre rips the band-aid off regarding the Constitution, something many still feel is “sacred” and will prevent tyranny, only to be effectively circumvented and subverted primarily through the means of Mass Democracy.

With the introduction of mass democracy, every branch was now subject to the same selective force: public opinion. Control of information and manipulation of public perception were now the only necessary levers of power…With all three branches now functionally subject to the same democratic pressures, it is no surprise an oligarchy came to achieve hegemonic social force in the United States (pg. 39).

Subsequent chapters would explain the nature of Elite Theory and why power is concentrated in the hands of the few. This picture should be visible to any American who can notice just how centralized American media has become in the hands of a few corporations, thus these corporations can manipulate public opinion, often in coordination with the state. The conservative worship of the Constitution is to the detriment of the movement, and as MacIntyre writes, “When Americans started treating the Constitution as the soul of our nation, they naturally fell into a hollow proceduralism,” something that has failed to stop the Total State.

Because Industrialization brought about productive efficiencies and wealth, liberalism was able to be the conduit for the expansion of power.

Despite the comforting fiction of the marketplace of ideas where only the best policies were supposed to emerge victorious, it is increasingly clear that policies advantageous to the ruling groups and their interests win no matter what…Liberalism pushes relentlessly towards globalization and homogenization across boundaries in its attempt to control an increasing number of people without having to navigate or resolve political conflict. This may remind you of the total state removing the competing social spheres that hinder its expansion (pg. 52).

It cannot be understated that what the elites want, they will eventually get no matter how outlandish their arguments become. When the elites want a war, they get their war. When they want to debase culture, they debase culture. If they want open borders, the borders remain open. It is not the best arguments that win debates, it is policy, and the elites largely control policy. No amount of owning the libs changes this. Liberalism by nature is described as having a constant appetite for growth and expansion, making it susceptible to globalism. One of the problems with Classical Liberalism is the universalization at the expense of particularity. Bureaucracies by nature seek for homogeneity in order to render Man predictable so that he can be controlled. They seek for everyone to be the same; otherwise, the efficiencies break down.

The middle chapters of the book deal with the bureaucratic managerialism that has captured the West, often framing it in the foxes and lions paradigm. However, the issue for bureaucracies is that they increasingly become self-aware.

For a social organization to increase its load-bearing capacity, it must eventually shift from serving the needs of its customers or citizens and instead shape their needs to serve the organization. Once the organization has birthed a bureaucracy that can prioritize its own needs over those it was designed to serve, a clear split develops in the incentive structure (pg. 131).

Essentially, the bureaucrats serve their own existence rather than the corporation or country. Management becomes about problem-solving, even if that means inventing problems to solve to justify their further advancement. This naturally gives birth to liberalism and the Woke, which employ dialectic games through the bureaucratic class. MacIntyre explains that woke marketing exemplifies this bureaucratic incentive since the marketing team might design an ad campaign that harms the company but benefits them via career advancement.

Therein lies the vulnerability in the Total State, that while MacIntyre eerily describes its perpetual expansion, the final chapters detail the eventual collapse.

The extreme flattening of culture and tradition required to generate such a level of control contains the seeds of the regime’s destruction (pg. 149-150).

The perpetual expansion of power requires Man to become predictable and homogeneous in order for effective management, but because this is an impossible goal, the Total State will inevitably collapse, and the bureaucracies will manage the decline. Despite the US Government’s expansion of power, their incompetency is increasingly apparent. The constant push to render humans mere cogs in a system becomes the system’s undoing. MacIntyre writes, “Liberal democracy made several key promises, but the most important was the miracle of progress” (pg. 150). This can be seen in lifespan, GDP, and technology, but what happens when these things no longer improve? If the line is no longer going up, then the house of cards will collapse, because it requires this constant growth to survive, much like an organism. Similarly, the miracle of improvement justified the expansion of Power which became the Total State.

The book ends with the mantra that “the only way out is through” in that, there is no returning to some bygone era, but that the reader must prepare for the inevitable collapse of the Total State. While laying out several possibilities, MacIntyre favors a strategy of balkanization that has been shared by the likes of Joel Webbon. He further advocates a localized approach to politics as various local and state powers will fill the void of the Total State’s collapse.

Tower of Babel

The book contains the text of Genesis 11:1-9 depicting the Tower of Babel which is the subtle theme of the book. In many ways, the centralization of power is a recreation of the Tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babel is not an engineering problem. It is a pattern repeating itself across human history: the hubris of power centralizing in the hopes of reaching heaven only to collapse under its own weight, and perhaps, a nudge from the divine (pg. 155).

While Auron MacIntyre is by no means a pastor, he has increasing prominence in Christian circles because of his political and cultural analysis. The Total State utilizes (mostly) secular political minds, but these minds often arrive at conclusions that align with a biblical worldview. In On Power, de Jouvenel describes patriarchy as best for civilizational development and population growth, which should not come as a surprise to the Christian. However, there are many topics unaddressed in Scripture, so Christians should not take an anti-scholastic approach but rather rely on other materials insofar as they align with a biblical worldview. For example, the Bible does not speak to bureaucracy, instead to human nature, so reliance on the works cited to examine the rise of managerial bureaucracy is thus helpful to Christians.

Critiques and Objections

One of the objectives for The Total State is to redress the failure of the Constitution to prevent the tyranny it was designed to safeguard against. Those that cling most firmly to this belief tend to be older and grew up inundated with the post-war consensus that justified American hegemony and was largely perpetuated by the Cold War. Much like looting the treasury phase, this is an inescapable feature of a societal collapse. Many will worship the document or LARP a tradition that no longer is viable, similar to the Ghost dances addressed in the final chapter. They might object to even the mention of Carl Schmitt simply because of his German associations. This is an emotional impulse, one that MacIntyre might be incapable of overcoming. In many ways, the people that need this most are the most incapable of changing. Furthermore, there is no shortage of dinosaurs in Con Inc. and Big Eva pedaling the failed strategies that are confronted in the book.

Since the Total State seeks ever increasing efficiency, one problem unaddressed in the book is the Malthusian nature of the global elites. While the breakup of familial bonds would mean that Power is at war with the family, the Malthusian myopathy of the Total State is almost sowing the seeds of its own demise through population collapse, something that prior regimes did not do. Augustus Caesar centralized power, but he also instituted the Lex Papia Poppaea, a bachelor tax, to encourage marriage and childrearing. Other regimes have attempted similar taxes as they gained power. This dynamic requires greater exploration.

Although the primary focus of the book is liberal democracies, the question remains over how the subjects discussed in this book apply to more autocratic regimes, like China and Russia. In other words, how unique are the concepts of the book to Liberal Democracy versus other forms of government. China and Russia are described as adversaries taking advantage of the Total State’s collapse, but they too would have centralized power similar to the United States in accordance with Power’s proliferation over the past century.

Conclusion

The Total State serves as a thorough introduction to political philosophy for the reader pursuant in these intellectual interests, yet sufficient for the average individual who might not be as inclined to dive deeper into the readings, as the book takes a balanced approach that is useful to all readers. The major weakness of the book is its brevity, which also stands as its greatest strength. Overall, for a crash course in political theory, look no further than The Total State.

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One Response

  1. Analysis Analysis… Bible Prophecy is happening all over the World, right before our very eyes……

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