The Dark Enlightenment, also called the neo-reactionary movement (sometimes abbreviated to NRx), is an anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian,[1] reactionary philosophical and political movement. The term "Dark Enlightenment" is a reaction to the Age of Enlightenment and apologia for the public view of the "Dark Ages".

The ideology generally rejects Whig historiography[2]—the concept that history shows an inevitable progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy[2]—in favor of a return to traditional societal constructs and forms of government, including absolute monarchism and other older forms of leadership such as cameralism.[3]


Neo-reactionaries are an informal community of bloggers and political theorists who have been active since the 2000s. Steve Sailer is a contemporary forerunner of the ideology, which also draws influence from philosophers such as Thomas Carlyle and Julius Evola.[4]

In 2007 and 2008, software engineer Curtis Yarvin, writing under the pen name Mencius Moldbug, articulated what would develop into Dark Enlightenment thinking. Yarvin's theories were elaborated and expanded by philosopher Nick Land, who first coined the term Dark Enlightenment in his essay of the same name.[4][5]

When approached by The Atlantic political affairs reporter Rosie Gray, Yarvin attempted to troll her on Twitter, and blogger Nick B. Steves said that her IQ was inadequate to the task of interviewing him and that, as a journalist, she was "the enemy".[3] By mid-2017, NRx had moved to forums such as the Social Matter online forum, the Hestia Society, and Thermidor Magazine. In 2021, Yarvin appeared on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Today", where he discussed the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan and his concept of the "Cathedral", which he claims to be the current aggregation of political power and influential institutions that is controlling the country.[6]


Central to Nick Land's ideas is a belief in freedom's incompatibility with democracy. Land drew inspiration from libertarians such as Peter Thiel, as indicated in his essay The Dark Enlightenment.[7][non-primary source needed] The Dark Enlightenment has been described by journalists and commentators as alt-right and neo-fascist.[2][8] A 2016 article in New York magazine notes that "Neoreaction has a number of different strains, but perhaps the most important is a form of post-libertarian futurism that, realizing that libertarians aren't likely to win any elections, argues against democracy in favor of authoritarian forms of government."[9]

Andy Beckett stated that "NRx" supporters "believe in the replacement of modern nation-states, democracy and government bureaucracies by authoritarian city states, which on neoreaction blogs sound as much like idealised medieval kingdoms as they do modern enclaves such as Singapore."[10]

According to criminal justice professor George Michael, neoreaction seeks to save its ideal of Western civilization through adoption of a monarchical, or CEO model of government to replace democracy. It also embraces the notion of "acceleration", first articulated by Vladimir Lenin as "worse is better", but in the neoreaction version, the creation and promotion of ever more societal crises hastens the adoption of the neoreactive state instead of a communist one.[11]

Other focuses of neoreaction often include an idealization of physical fitness; a rationalist or utilitarian justification for social stratification based on intelligence, based on either heredity or meritocracy; an embrace of Classical philosophy, and traditional gender roles.[citation needed]

Relation to the alt-right

Some consider the Dark Enlightenment part of the alt-right, representing its theoretical branch.[2][12] The Dark Enlightenment has been labelled by some as neo-fascist,[2] and by University of Chichester professor Benjamin Noys[2] as "an acceleration of capitalism to a fascist point." Land disputes the similarity between his ideas and fascism, claiming that "Fascism is a mass anti-capitalist movement,"[2] whereas he prefers that "[capitalist] corporate power should become the organizing force in society."[2]

Journalist and pundit James Kirchick states that "although neo-reactionary thinkers disdain the masses and claim to despise populism and people more generally, what ties them to the rest of the alt-right is their unapologetically racist element, their shared misanthropy and their resentment of mismanagement by the ruling elites."[13]

Scholar Andrew Jones, in a 2019 article, postulated that the Dark Enlightenment (i.e. the NeoReactionary Movement) is "key to understanding the Alt-Right" political ideology.[14] "The use of affect theory, postmodern critiques of modernity, and a fixation on critiquing regimes of truth," Jones remarks, "are fundamental to NeoReaction (NRx) and what separates it from other Far-Right theory".[14] Moreover, Jones argues that Dark Enlightenment's fixation on aesthetics, history, and philosophy, as opposed to the traditional empirical approach, distinguishes it from related far-right ideologies.

Historian Joe Mulhall, writing for The Guardian, described Nick Land as "propagating very far-right ideas."[15] Despite neoreaction's limited online audience, Mulhall considers the ideology to have "acted as both a tributary into the alt-right and as a key constituent part [of the alt-right]."[15]


Journalist Andrew Sullivan argues that neoreaction's pessimistic appraisal of democracy dismisses many advances that have been made and that global manufacturing patterns also limit the economic independence that sovereign states can have from one another.[16]

In an article for The Sociological Review, after an examination of neoreaction's core tenets, Roger Burrows deplores the ideology as "hyper-neoliberal, technologically deterministic, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, pro-eugenicist, racist and, likely, fascist", and ridicules the entire accelerationist framework as a faulty attempt at "mainstreaming... misogynist, racist and fascist discourses."[17] He criticizes neoreaction's racial principles and for their brazen "disavowal of any discourses" advocating for socio-economic equality and, accordingly, considers it a "eugenic philosophy" in favor of what Land deems "hyper-racism".[17]

See also


  1. ^ Kindinger, Evangelia; Schmitt, Mark (4 January 2019). "Conclusion: Digital culture and the afterlife of white supremacist movements". The Intersections of Whiteness. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-11277-2. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Goldhill, Olivia. "The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles". Quartz. Archived from the original on 2017-06-18. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  3. ^ a b Gray, Rosie (10 February 2017). "Behind the Internet's Anti-Democracy Movement". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b Finley, Klint (22 November 2013). "Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 26 March 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  5. ^ Phillips, Jon (Fall 2014). "Troublesome Sources". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2015-02-24.
  6. ^ "Conservative blogger Curtis Yarvin joins 'Tucker Carlson Today'". Fox News. 9 September 2021. Retrieved 2022-01-31.
  7. ^ Land, Nick (25 December 2012). "The Dark Enlightenment". The Dark Enlightmenent. Archived from the original on 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  8. ^ Sigl, Matt (2 December 2013). "The Dark Enlightenment: The Creepy Internet Movement You'd Better Take Seriously". Vocativ. Archived from the original on 2013-12-17. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  9. ^ MacDougald, Park (14 June 2016). "Why Peter Thiel Wants to Topple Gawker and Elect Donald Trump". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 October 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  10. ^ Beckett, Andy (11 May 2017). "Accelerationism: How a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in | Philosophy | the Guardian". Archived from the original on 2022-04-11.
  11. ^ Michael, George. "An antidemocratic philosophy called 'neoreaction' is creeping into GOP politics". The Conversation. Retrieved 2022-07-28.
  12. ^ Matthews, Dylan (25 August 2016). "The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It's that, but way way weirder". Vox. Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  13. ^ Kirchick, James (16 May 2016). "Trump's Terrifying Online Brigades". Commentary Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 May 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  14. ^ a b Andrew Jones (2019). "From NeoReactionary Theory to the Alt-Right". In Christine M. Battista; Melissa R. Sande (eds.). Critical Theory and the Humanities in the Age of the Alt-Right. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 101–120. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-18753-8_6. ISBN 9783030187521. S2CID 197950589. Archived from the original on 2021-02-14. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  15. ^ a b Joe Mulhall (2020-02-18). "Andrew Sabisky's job at No 10 shows how mainstream the alt-right has become". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2020-06-15. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  16. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (30 April 2017). "Why the reactionary right must be taken seriously". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on 8 October 2018. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  17. ^ a b Burrows, Roger (10 June 2020). "On Neoreaction". The Sociological Review. Archived from the original on 21 December 2020. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  18. ^ "'한국판 신반동주의'를 경계한다" [Be wary of Korean Neo-reactionary movement]. 중소기업신문. 23 September 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2023.