Dear Sublation Magazine Readers,

Thank-you for supporting us by reading and sharing our articles. To help us keep all of our content free, please consider supporting us with a donation.

What the “World’s Most Dangerous Philosopher” Can Teach the Left About The Limits of Particularism


Aleksandr Dugin and the need for a revival of leftist modernity.

In Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Volume 1, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari dissect the decoding and recoding of territorialized particularities within the social matrix. Capital’s machine-like ‘becoming’ reconfigures social, libidinal, and semiotic strata, bending them to its infrastructural dictates. The dance of de- and reterritorialization intrinsic to capitalism’s trajectory gains momentum as it accelerates toward a cybernetic regime, shedding the constraints of human oversight.

Capitalism is undergoing a metamorphosis, where it evolves into a cyber-positive feedback loop, continuously coding emerging particularities to fuel its infrastructural drive, unlike a cyber-negative system that seeks equilibrium. Here, counter-hegemonic discourses and desires are subsumed and repackaged, serving the very hegemonic structures they opposed.

Consider early Freudo-Marxism, through Otto Gross and Wilhelm Reich, which posited that dismantling the Oedipal triangulation within the patriarchal bourgeois family would unravel capitalist relations. Sexual and political revolutions were seen as mutually reinforcing. Yet, the post-’68 sexual revolution reveals how permissive hedonist sexuality has been modulated by hegemonic forces, leaving capital unscathed.

Similarly, the ’60s psychedelic counterculture has been reterritorialized to serve capital, with Silicon Valley giants promoting psychedelic consumption to enhance productivity and creativity within the workplace. 

We must recognize capital as the ultimate social engineering force, perpetually restructuring discourses and desires to its benefit, while its core economic imperatives remain unchallenged. Resistance via political and cultural particularisms is incapable of competing with capitalist universalism.

Our contemporary multipolar neoliberal reality unveils a disavowed truth: capital and liberalism are no longer conjoined. Despite historical precedents where capitalism spread through brute force—Napoleonic wars, US-backed Cold War dictatorships—the post-Berlin Wall sentiment in the West was one of liberal democracy heralded as Hegel’s ‘End of History’, a vision immortalized in Francis Fukuyama’s seminal essay, “The End of History and the Last Man”. Liberalism was celebrated as the victorious ideology of modernity, having vanquished both fascism and Soviet-style communism.

This optimism burgeoned as American capitalism infiltrated the newly privatized Eastern Bloc and as post-Maoist China integrated into the global market. Yet, the ensuing decades shattered this messianic vision of universal liberalism. Capital’s trajectory diverged, revealing that the spread of Western liberalism was neither inevitable nor universal.

As the BRICS economies surged, it became manifest that capitalism’s fungal expansion post-Cold War was no triumph for liberalism. Diverse national-ideological architectures erupted. 

Take China: its Dengist framework, a paradox of capitalism minus liberalism. Here, the philosophical monad of liberalism, the free individual, is subsumed. Liberalism’s ontology imagines power as exterior to the individual, the State is thus to be critically surveilled and self-limited. Democratic constitutions codify checks against the State’s excesses, safeguarding individual freedoms, unlike Ancient Greek democracy where Socrates was put to death for the use of his speech following the will of the citizens.

In contrast, the People’s Republic of China situates the Communist Party above both state and constitution, an apex unrestrained. Deng Xiaoping, from 1978 to 1989, solidified the untouchable authority of the CCP while nonetheless letting the flow of foreign capital into the Chinese relations of production. China’s capitalism, uncoupled from liberal narratives, thrives under a blend of nationalism, Confucianism, and the dogmas of Mao, Deng, and Xi. This emergent behemoth refutes the Western anticipation that liberalism would underpin China’s economic reforms. The Chinese model, a growing threat to Western capital, demonstrates that liberalism is not the inevitable superstructure of a market-driven empire. The market’s discourse may be universal; liberalism, unequivocally, is not.

The escalating tensions between the Western world and the Russian Federation, intensified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, spotlight another non-liberal capitalist model. As Russian forces move into Ukraine to counter Western economic and geopolitical hegemony and safeguard national oligarchic capitalist interests, they cloak their actions in a peculiar blend of Orthodox Christianity, nationalism, traditionalism, and warlordism. Russian propagandists frame this ‘special military operation’ as a Holy War against Western degeneracy and Satanism, though the conflict’s roots lie in the imperial power struggle between Russia and NATO. This starkly contrasts with American military interventions, which are ostensibly conducted in the name of freedom and democracy. 

Aleksandr Dugin, often dubbed Putin’s ‘court-philosopher’, provides a theoretical framework to understand the emergence of non-liberal ‘civilizations’ as new poles in global geopolitics. Thinkers like Fukuyama, who proclaim liberalism as the end of history, are Dugin’s ideological adversaries for several reasons. Often referred to as ‘the world’s most dangerous philosopher,’ Dugin critiques liberalism’s imperative to expand and impose itself upon diverse ideological systems. In Dugin’s view, liberalism categorizes civilizations as either liberal or not-yet liberal, aiming to transform the latter through hegemony or brute force.

Dugin condemns liberalism’s universalism for disregarding distinct civilizational ideologies such as the Russian, Chinese, Indian, African, and Islamic perspectives on political subjects and their world relations. He advocates for a multipolar world where liberalism is contested as humanity’s dominant discourse, perceiving its spread as a modern continuation of colonial racism, casting the Other as barbaric and in need of civilization.

Anyone with a rudimentary grasp of poststructural thought can discern the intersections between Dugin’s ideas and poststructuralism which is to be expected as they are both grounded in readings of the works of German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Both reject all-encompassing discourses (metanarratives) such as Modernism, Marxism, and liberalism, favoring a multiplicity of particular discourses that eschew epistemic violence. Historically aligned with the political left, poststructuralism values the marginalized voices overlooked or suppressed by dominant narratives. It asserts that no interpretation of the Other is unbiased, as subjects are embedded in discourses and epistemic frameworks shaped by power, which dictate their phenomenological worldviews.

This philosophical movement continues to focus on marginalized discursive production, deconstructing dominant interpretations of the Other that rely on the suppression of these voices. Colonial discourse is dismantled through the voice of the colonized, patriarchal discourse through the voice of women, heteronormative discourse through the voice of the queer, neurotic discourse through the delirium of the schizophrenic, and so on. The incorporation of the marginalized voice to deconstruct universalism in the name of epistemic particularism does not stop there however as even marginalized voices are deconstructed with the incorporation of intersectional thought which permits a near-infinite proliferation of particular discourses that each have their truth. A marginalized voice cannot speak for the entirety of its interpellated social territoriality as intersections of marginalization create unique phenomenological interpretations of society. For example, a colonized man educated by the metropole cannot according to post-structuralist thinker Gayatri Spivak speak for all the people subjugated to colonialism as his experience of colonial violence is not the same as say an uneducated person (according to the colonizer’s standards) whose discourse is not even considered in the theorization of decolonization (the subaltern).

Going back to Dugin, the Russian political strategist embraces particularism via his neo-Heideggerian idea of civilizational ‘Daseins’ according to which each civilization has its mode of ‘being-t/here’ which other civilizations cannot grasp: “Every individual and every culture possesses their own Dasein.”, states Dugin in Fourth Political Theory. This position helps understand Dugin’s rejection of Western criticism in regards to the Russian Federation as he claims that Russia has its own special “Russian truth” that Western liberal phenomenology is disconnected from. Therefore, according to this logic, the Russian State can continue building its particular non-liberal traditionalist superstructure without the aggressive liberal universalist gaze. If a liberal criticizes Russia’s lack of human rights as the French liberal philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy has in a debate with Dugin, the latter simply answers that the very notion of universal human rights which need to spread across the globe is ‘civilizationally’ racist towards non-liberal traditions and is constructed by a particular non-Russian ‘Dasein’. The Heideggerian thinker does not believe (at least in theory) that Russian culture and tradition are better than any other civilizational tradition, but that civilizations should embrace their tradition while respecting the differences of the others. This is the relativist geopolitical multipolarity that Dugin imagines now that the post-Cold War unipolar moment has come to an end. In his essay Fourth Political Theory, he defends the following thesis: “There is no common or universal measure to judge different ethnic groups. When one society tries to judge another it applies its criteria and so commits intellectual violence. This ethnocentric attitude is precisely the crime of globalization and Westernization, as well as of American imperialism.” This theoretical perspective is very similar to post-structuralism’s for whom universalism is epistemically violent (and impossible) and rather in favor of a multiplicity of discursive and epistemic particularities. 

One could at this point see a very clear contradiction within Dugin’s thought: how can the thinker be for the tolerance of different civilizations while equally supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine? To understand this seemingly hypocritical dual-stance, we must recognize that Dugin does not equate civilization with nation-State. Glorification of the nation-State is for Dugin a product of Western modernity which he rejects. He’s rather defending the so-called Eurasian civilization. Being a traditionalist, Dugin believes that nations are based on ideological lies birthed by modernity while civilizations are formed organically by communities. Eurasian civilization, according to ‘Putin’s brain’ surpasses Russian national borders and includes Eastern Ukraine. In light of Russia moving military forces into Eastern Ukraine, Dugin sees Eurasian civilizational resistance against liberal predatory universalism. The Russian invasion is thus in Dugin’s philosophical worldview the armed defense of a civilizational particularity threatened by a hostile Western metanarrative.  

Nonetheless, there is a contradiction in his thought that one should keep in mind that appears in every relativist standpoint. Dugin not only offers a theoretical system from which non-universalist multipolarity can be thought of but also defends the particular Eurasian civilizational tradition for it is his own. However, any enforced tradition must establish itself by defining and defending what it is as well as rejecting what it is not. In the case of Dugin’s Eurasian tradition embedded with the theological thought of the Russian Orthodox Church, a multiplicity of conservative values are defended, making him critical of Western progressivism that he openly describes as satanist. Therefore, Dugin does not simply critique the West for its expansionary universalism but equally rejects it as a particularity. 

This paradox in Dugin’s thought highlights certain limits of post-structuralism’s rejection of left-universalism as it does not possess the theoretical criteria to judge a discursive and epistemic particularity as counter-productive to the left. Just as Dugin’s disavowal of Western progressivism from a conservative standpoint suggests a hidden universalism in his framework that goes against the multipolar political philosophy he wishes to defend, the post-structuralist left is faced with the need to admit a certain universalist attitude when confronted by its malaise in regards to conservative particularities. The post-structuralist left is not equipped to criticize Dugin’s use of phenomenological relativism in the service of religious conservatism. When using Heidegger’s deconstructive method of philosophy, post-structuralists tend to conclude that we should ‘play’ with social particularities to reveal their non-essentialist nature, but what can they say to a right-Heideggerian who goes through deconstruction to embrace conservative particularism? 

To go beyond this theoretical cul-de-sac, we must realize that post-structuralism’s cynicism when it comes to all-encompassing universalist narratives such as Modernism and Marxism has left the infrastructural universalism of capitalist accumulation unscrutinized, universalism that, as seen previously, is capable of coding preexisting semiotic and libidinal strata in service to its economic imperatives. No matter the particular ideological configuration, the notion of capitalist progress is never called into question. Following the American military retreat from Afghanistan, trade relations were quickly established between the Taliban and the CCP, two incredibly different superstructural State incarnations that both transgress the individual-State relationship of liberal political philosophy (oppression of women by the Taliban, oppression of the Muslim Uighur population by the CCP). This market-based alliance of two non-liberal States that theoretically have major divergences is metonymic for the general coexistence of national-ideological particularism and capitalist universalism which increasingly reveals itself as the dogma of the rising multipolar geopolitical landscape.  

Post-structuralist critique of universalist narrativization associated with modernity is comprehensible when one takes into account the atrocities committed in the name of a grand narrative namely colonial violence, Nazism, and Stalinist repression. However, one should argue against these crimes in the name of universality, not particularity, denouncing the actors of the said crimes as false universalists. When the European colonial project was exercised, the way of life of the metropole’s elite was said to be universal and other ways of life were repressed. If this is universalism, then Adorno’s critique of universalism as an elimination of the particular from above holds. However, as Hegel argues in the conceptualization of the Lordship/Servant dialectic, universality comes from the servant as the master invests in his particularity. No universal can exclude a particular. Therefore, true political universalism isn’t exemplified by European colonialism, but rather by the Haitian Slave Revolt, which mobilized the modern values unleashed in the political sphere by the French Revolution against the French colonial particularism (with the Haitian revolutionaries even signing the ‘Marseillaise’ in the process). As Nick Srnickek and Alex Williams write in Inventing the Future “…asserting the superiority of Western culture is to betray universality, but to appeal to universalism as a way of dismantling the superiority of the West is to realize it.” In a multipolar geopolitical landscape in which the West’s monopoly over capital is contested by the rise of non-Western capitalist powers, the left must realize that Western superiority is revealing itself to be one of many hegemonic particularisms that rest upon capitalist universalism. This should be the warning sign for left-particularism as the dominion of capital has transcended the cadres of the West’s superiority complex. 

Dugin’s ability to repackage postmodern critique of the West and liberalism in the service of an anti-modern conception of ‘Eurasia’ while ignoring a materialist critique of capital’s accumulation-driven parasitic expansion shows that he is simply the philosopher of the new multipolar emerging status-quo. 

Followers of Dugin’s thought may disagree with this statement by pointing to the fact that the Russian thinker claims to be an anti-capitalist, a ‘right-wing anti-capitalist’ that is. Dugin was one of the leaders of the post-Soviet ‘National-Bolshevik’ movement which was theorized at the time to be a Russian ‘third way’ political ideology combining elements of Stalinism with Russian ultranationalism. However, he left National-Bolshevism in 1998 and theorized the ‘Fourth Political Theory’ which rejects the ‘spirit of Modernity’ present in both communism and fascism in favor of traditionalism. Nonetheless, his traditionalism still pushes him to defend ‘Russian’ and right-wing anti-capitalism. Dugin explains that his ‘Fourth Political Theory’ wishes to conserve certain aspects of ‘second political theory’ (socialism, communism), namely anti-capitalism and solidarity while throwing out materialism, atheism, progressivism, and Modernism. The philosopher also wishes to incorporate certain elements of the ‘third political theory’(fascism) while discarding its racism and nationalism. Therefore, Dugin’s ‘anti-capitalism’ is more of an appeal to ‘traditional’ economic organization as demonstrated with this declaration made in a 2023 interview: “There can be no capitalism in a full-fledged holy empire.” However, Marx and Engels offer us some enlightening criticism of this position in their analysis of so-called ‘Feudal Socialism’: “… half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history.” The two revolutionaries equally note that these pre-capitalist critiques of bourgeois dominion fail to recognize pre-capitalist exploitation and the contradictions that gave rise to capital. With the help of Marxism, we see the clear limits of Dugin’s political philosophy. Dugin, being an idealist (admittedly as he claims to be a political Platonist), does not have a material basis that grants him the possibility to imagine a political subject that will bring about his economic traditionalism (unlike Marxism which situates the proletariat as its political subject because of its material relations to capital). The Russian thinker is equally unable to conceptualize the material contradictions of his traditionalism which can dismantle his pre-modern economic system whereas Marx and Engels note that feudalism’s contradictions gave birth to the bourgeoisie.

Instead of the proletariat, the individual, or the Aryan race being the political subject of his worldview, Dugin views ‘Dasein’ as the monad of his Fourth Political Theory which will revolt against the crisis of liberalism. This conception of an authentic state of ‘being’ which will be triggered by the crisis of liberalism ignores the inherent negativity within subjectivity and its constant ‘becoming’. It also assumes a form of retreat from the dialectical process of history, which could be advocated, but it would not be able to explain why authentic ‘being’ started ‘becoming’ dialectically. It is thus an ahistorical theory. 

Just like the examples of sexual liberation and psychedelic culture mentioned at the beginning of the article, Dugin’s political and philosophical theories lack a universalist and materialist comprehension of the social sphere which can bring about true revolutionary change. Therefore, his theories might also be reterritorialized by capital to defend a multipolar culturally particularist geopolitical order in which only the market and imperialist war are universal as his right-wing anti-capitalism can have no material support and is based on an erroneous conception of the subject. 

Faced with the rise of this reactionary relativist particularism, the left must be willing to embrace universality after having it radically reexamined by the critiques of poststructuralism to have a universal framework that does not exclude the particular. The common denominator between all the geopolitical poles of our post-liberal era remains the infrastructural might of ever-accumulating capital at the roots of ideological particularity. 

“The propulsion by the universality of thought is the absolute worth of civilization.”

-Hegel, Philosophy of Right