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Russia’s ecumenical jihadist

by Ronald Beiner:

Who is Aleksandr Dugin and why is he saying all these terrible things about the West?

Aleksandr Dugin has come to public attention (even in Canada, though only fairly recently) as “Putin’s Brain,” as Foreign Affairs memorably dubbed him1 – that is, as the ideological mastermind behind Russia’s moves toward reasserting imperial ambitions, notably with respect to Ukraine.

Is this accurate, or is it just media hype? The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to judge with confidence exactly to what extent Vladimir Putin’s more aggressive policies toward Ukraine or anywhere else reflect Dugin’s influence (or supposed influence) as an omnipresent publicist and behind-the-curtain adviser to aspiring czars. The suspicion easily arises that Putin uses Dugin, letting him rant on state TV, without himself buying into Dugin’s crazy worldview. But whether Dugin really is influencing Russian policy or is simply the object of excessive hype, intellectuals as well as ordinary citizens in the West need to be aware of him, lest they be taken in by his pretensions as a theorist and his claimed interest in civilizational dialogue and pluralism, which functions as a rhetorical cloak. Either way, he’s dangerous.2

Dugin has given his distinctive ideology a variety of different labels: National Bolshevism, neo-Eurasianism, the fourth political theory. They all amount to the same thing: a scheme for uniting all the global enemies of liberalism under Russian leadership and displacing the current liberal dispensation with something virulently antiliberal and antimodern or premodern. Dugin aims, in fact, at a fusion of totalitarian ideologies, from fascism and even Nazism at one end to Marxism at the other end. Yet his ideological roots are far closer to fascist and proto-Nazi sources (for instance, the demented “Ariosophy” doctrines of Guido von List and Jörg Lanz) than they are to anything in the Marxist tradition – which is why both Dugin’s English-language publishers and the websites that are drawn to him belong to the ultra-right. Dugin’s “politics” are bathed in the swampy waters of mystical esotericism and occultism, and his root-and-branch rejection of liberal democracy likely owes far more to his spiritualist and theological or pseudotheological commitments than to anything we would customarily understand as political or philosophical. 

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About the Author

Ronald Beiner
Ronald Beiner is Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His most recent book is Political Philosophy: What It Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge University Press, 2014).


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