Liberal Neutrality, Class-Warfare, and the Cross of Christ

There is a Hegelian-Marxist “political metaphysics” which rejects the liberal progressive myth of a neutral “safe space,” in which individuals may freely shift between different narratives, express different identities, assert different rights, exercise different freedoms, and so forth. Liberalism purports to set up a public space that is neutral with respect to these varying narratives, identities, and rights, a space within which they might all coexist peacefully, equally, and without judgment. Such a neutrality is, in fact, fundamentally at odds with the Hegelian-Marxist metaphysics, which is based not upon insipid neutrality, but upon bold confrontation, antagonism, opposition — the dialectic. Strife is the god of such a metaphysics. For such a metaphysics, history proceeds only by continual strife, mobilized only by negation, and by the negation of the negation. In Marx, this dialectic is embodied in class warfare, the underlying dynamic of all social structures. Every historical epoch must be defined by the taking of a confrontational stance. For the Hegelian-Marxist, the public space is nothing apart from the particular historical forms which it takes; it is never neutral. It is like prime matter: it only exists as the particular forms which inhabit it, and thus it is always in strife, always taking a stance. Every identify, every particular form, is the utterance of an antagonistic “No!” to every other possibility. It is necessarily oppositional. This is why class antagonism is the driving force behind the motion of human history. There is no neutrality; there is only the great “No!

There is much truth in this alternative to liberalism — and much falsehood. Hegel-Marx are Aristotelian enough to acknowledge that prime matter cannot exist as a neutral thing, but only as the particular forms which it assumes, and that one form cancels out another. But they deny another fundamental Aristotelian principle: that prime matter — or pure potency — is not the same as pure privation or nothingness. This further makes them blind to another Aristotelian principle: that the actualization of potency requires a prior actuality. Consequently, the Hegelian-Marxist falls into an irrationalism that smacks of the error David of Dinant: that God is prime matter. This is also what makes certain Hegelians, such as Feuerbach — or better yet, Slavoj Zizek — comfortable enough to call themselves “Christian Atheists.” For these thinkers, God, the moving force and finality of all of history, is no more than ultimate negation, the beginning and end of all antagonisms, pure Nothingness — a nothingness, to be sure, that cannot abide mere neutrality, because it must always represent itself as “No!”

Turning this nihilistic metaphysics on its head, a truly Aristotelian philosophy recalls that prime matter is not mere privation, but potency, and that act is prior to potency; and therefore, the moving force behind all existence and history is not negation, but affirmation. God is not ultimate non-being, but Being Itself. The true force that drives history is not strife, but love; not antagonism, but the seeking of the other; not conflict, but cooperation; not “No,” but “Yes.” It is not warfare, but friendship that truly makes history bound ahead.

The Aristotelian must agree with Hegel-Marx that social structures and cosmic structures are the only context and framework within which all individual phenomena, ideas, choices, etc, can be understood — the whole is great than, and prior to, the part. Moreover, the Aristotelian must agree with Hegel-Marx that the social or public space is not defined by neutrality, but by the forms which move in and out of it. The neutrality of liberalism is a myth with no metaphysical sustainability. But for the Aristotelian, the social and cosmic structures of the universe are not defined by a metaphysic of antagonism, but a metaphysic of love: desire for the good of the other. And the Other is ultimately perfect Being, pure Actuality, God Himself. In other words, the Aristotelian resistance to liberal neutrality is founded, not upon a No, but upon a radical Yes to being; not a negation, but an affirmation. The Yes is primary, because indeed, act is prior to potency — even prior to privation. Under such a metaphysics, even opposition, antagonism, and violence can — and will — be subsumed and absorbed into the more universally encompassing dynamic of Love. Every Yes entails a No; but the relationship between them is causal, where affirmation is the cause.

In Christianity, there is no lack of warfare and violence. The crucifixion is an act of violence against the flesh; every sacrifice involves an immolation, the saying of “No!” to something evil — but only because there was said first a great Yes. The Christian social order absorbs all violence into the sanctifying dynamic of Christic Love. The desires of the flesh are crucified upon the Cross of Love, immolated, and transformed into holy gifts. The Cross is the ultimate rejection, not only of sin, but of lukewarmness. The Cross is, indeed, a great utterance of negation — it is a death, after all; but it is a death to sin, a “No” to Satan and all his works. As such, the Cross is an act of great violence. But this is only because it is, much more fundamentally, an act of great Love. The Cross is Christ’s great “Yes” to the will of the Father, an act of worship, an affirmation of all that is good and holy. Into this great affirmation all the violence is absorbed reversed, as Christ performs a great affirmation eternally upon the heavenly altar.

The social implications of this reversal and correction of the Hegelian-Marxist negative dialectic are undeniably integralist. The dynamics that move history are defined by being towards the Good, in the direction of joyful and holy affirmation, motivated by the coming together of lovers. Lovers must deny themselves for the sake of love. There is none of the free self-assertion of liberalism, unencumbered by the other, protected within the neutrality of the social space. There is rather free embrace of the Other, of the Good — free allowance of the Good to shape oneself. This Good is twofold: natural and supernatural. And in service of love of this Good, the violence of the Cross is enacted and passes away, subordinating the flesh to the spirit, nature to grace, temporal to eternal, in the life of every man and of human society bound by Love.

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