Alain de Benoist
Alain de Benoist in 2012
|Alma mater||University of Paris|
|Modernization and secularization of Christian Values, Repaganization of the West, Pensée unique, Nouvelle Droite, Ethnopluralism|
Alain de Benoist de Gentissart (/
Principally influenced by thinkers of the German Conservative Revolution, de Benoist is opposed to Christianity, the rights of man, neoliberalism, representative democracy, egalitarianism; and what he sees as embodying and promoting those values, namely the United States. He theorized the notion of ethnopluralism, a concept which relies on preserving and mutually respecting individual and bordered ethno-cultural regions.
His work has been influential with the alt-right movement in the United States, and he presented a lecture on identity at a National Policy Institute conference hosted by Richard B. Spencer; however, he has distanced himself from the movement.
Alain de Benoist de Gentissart was born on 11 December 1943 in Saint-Symphorien (now part of Tours), Centre-Val de Loire, the son of a head of sales at Guerlain, also named Alain de Benoist (1902—1971), and Germaine Langouët (1908—1981). De Benoist grew up in a bourgeois and Catholic family. While his mother came from the lower-middle class of Normandy and Brittany, his father alledgelly belonged to the Belgian nobility. During WWII, de Benoist's father was a member of the resistance armed group French Forces of the Interior. He was a self-declared Gaullist, while his wife Germaine was rather left-leaning; and the de Benoist family divided between Free France and Vichy France during the war.
De Benoist was still in high school at Lycée Montaigne and Louis-le-Grand during the turmoils of the Algerian war (1954-1962), which shaped his political views. In 1957 at 14, he met the daughter of the antisemite journalist and conspiracy theorist Henry Coston, and began his journalist career three years later by writing for Henry Coston's magazine, Lectures Françaises. De Benoist however stayed away from Coston’s conspiracy theories on the Freemasonry and the Jews.
At 17 in 1961, he met François d'Orcival, with whom he became the editor of an underground newspaper for the pro-colonial paramilitary organisation OAS, titled France Information. The same year, he joined the student society Federation of Nationalist Students (FEN) and became in 1962 the secretary of the organization's magazine, Cahiers universitaires, in which he wrote the main articles along with D'Orcival. He would then start as a student in law and litterature a period of political activism and passion for fantastique cinema. According to Pierre-André Taguieff and Pierre Milza, de Benoist had an intellectual curiosity that was lacking from his elder colleagues like Dominique Venner (1935–2013) and Jean Mabire (1927—2006), and de Benoist showed them a conceptual universe "that they could not imagine", nor its "possible ideological exploitations".
De Benoist met Dominique Venner in 1962. The following year, he took part in the creation of Europe-Action, a white nationalist magazine created by Venner in which he worked as a journalist. De Benoist published at that times his first essays: Salan devant l'opinion ("Salan faces the (public) opinion", 1963) and Le courage est leur patrie ("Braveness is their motherland", 1965), defending French Algeria and the OAS.
Between 1963 and 1965, de Benoist was a member of the Rationalist Union and likely began to read Louis Rougier's criticism of Christianity—who was also an adherent of the organization—during this period. They maintained a relationship and Rougier's thesis deeply influenced de Benoist's own anti-Christianity. "We oppose Rougier to Sartre," de Benoist wrote in 1965, "like we oppose verbal delirium to logics [...], because biologicial realism is the best support against those idealistic chimeras". De Benoist continued his journalistic career and became in 1964 the editor-in-chief of the weekly publication Europe-Action Hebdomaire, holding the same position at L'Observateur Européen from 1964 to 1968. He also wrote in the neo-fascist magazine Défense de l'Occident, founded in 1952 by Maurice Bardèche.
After a visit to South Africa at the invitation of Hendrik Verwoerd's National Party government, de Benoist co-wrote with Gilles Fournier the 1965 essay Vérité pour l'Afrique du Sud ("Truth for South Africa"), in which they endorsed apartheid. The following year, he co-wrote with D'Orcival another essay, Rhodésie, pays des lions fidèles ("Rhodesia, country of the faithful lions", 1966), in defense of Rhodesia, a breakaway country in southern Africa ruled by a white-minority government. The then prime minister of the unrecognised state, Ian Smith, prefaced the book. Returning from a trip to the United States, de Benoist deplored the suppression of racial segregation and wrote as a prediction that the system would survive outside the law, thus in a more violent way.
In two essays published in 1966, Les Indo-Européens ("The Indo-Europeans") and Qu'est-ce que le nationalisme? ("What is nationalism?"), de Benoist contributed to define a new European nationalism, where the European civilization—or the "white race"— would be considered above its constituting ethnic groups, all united in a common empire and civilization including Russia. This theory was embodied in the program of the European Rally for Liberty (REL), in which de Benoist was a member of the national council, during the 1967 legislative election, and later became a core idea of GRECE in 1968.
The successive electoral failures of far-right movements—from that of presidential candidate Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour in 1965, who de Benoist had supported via the "T.V. Committees", to the debacle of the REL in March 1967,—led de Benoist to question his political involvement and focus on a meta-political strategy. According to him, he decided in the fall of 1967 “to make a permanent and complete break with political action” and to launch a review.  During the May 1968 events, then 25, he was a journalist for the professional magazine L'Écho de la presse et de la publicité.
Along with militants of the REL and FEN, de Benoist founded in 1968 GRECE, an ethnonationalist think-tank, of which he soon became the leader and its "most authoritative spokesman". In the 1970s, de Benoist adapted his geopolitical view-points, from a pro-colonial attitude towards third-Worldism; from the defense of the "last outposts of the West" towards anti-americanism; and from a biological to a cultural definition of "difference", developed in his ethnopluralist theories.
His works, along with others published by the think tank, led what media called the "Nouvelle Droite" to fame in the late 1970s. De Benoist became a critic for mainstream right-wing magazines, namely Valeurs Actuelles (from 1970 to 1982) and Le Figaro Magazine (from 1977 to 1992), and received in 1978 the Prix de l'essai from the Académie française for his book Vu de droite: Anthologie critique des idées contemporaines, which sold 30,000 copies.
While he had abandoned political parties and elections from 1968 onward to focus on meta-politics, de Benoist was nonetheless a candidate in a far-right micro-party (Party of New Forces) during the 1979 European elections. In the 1984 election to the European Parliament, he announced his intention to vote for the French Communist Party, and justified his choice by defining the party as the most credible anti-capitalist, anti-liberal, and anti-American political force then active in France.
De Benoist met Alexandr Dugin in 1989. Then soon became close collaborators: de Benoist was invited by Dugin to Moscow in 1992 and the latter presented himself as the corresponsant of GRECE in Moscow. They however broke their relationship in 1993, after a virulent campaign in French and German media against the "red and brown threat" in Russia. While de Benoist aknownledged ideological differences on eurasianism and Heidegger, the two of them have maintained regular exchanges since then.
In 1979 and 1993, two press campaigns launched in French liberal media claiming that de Benoist was a "closet Fascist" or a "Nazi" damaged his reputation and influence in France. They accused him of hiding his racist and anti-egalitarian beliefs in a seemingly acceptable way, by replacing the hierarchy of races with "ethno-pluralism". In the early 1990s, although he still frequently comments on politics, de Benoist chose to focus on his intellectual activity and avoid media attention.
Since the 2000s onward however, public interest for his works have re-emerged: he has made several media appearances in France Culture, Europe 1, Telemadrid, Radio Courtoisie or Il Giornale, and his writings have been published in several academic journals like the New Left Telos, the white nationalist Mankind Quarterly, the paleoconservative Chronicles, the nationalist Occidental Quarterly and the radical traditionnalist Tyr.
He was one of the adherents to the 2002 Manifesto Against the Death of the Spirit and the Earth.
In a 2002 republication of Vu de droite, de Benoist reiterated what he wrote in 1977: the “greatest” danger in the world today was the “progressive disappearance of diversity from the world," including biodiversity of animals, cultures and peoples. De Benoist is now the editor of two journals: Nouvelle École (since 1968), and Krisis (since 1988).
Although the extent of the relationship is debated by scholars, de Benoist and the Nouvelle Droite have influenced the ideological and political structure of the European Identitarian Movement. Part of the alt-right also claims to have been inspired by de Benoist's writings.
From being close to pro-colonial movements and adopting an ethnobiological perspective at the beginning of his writings in the 1960s, when he endorsed apartheid with Gilles Fournier as the "last outpost of the West" at a time of "decolonisation and international negrification", de Benoist gradually moved towards a defense of the Third-World against American imperialism and a more cultural definition of "difference", theorized in his concept of ethnopluralism. De Benoist is also an ardent critic of globalisation, unrestricted mass immigration, liberalism, postmodern society and what he calls the “ideology of sameness.” Scholars question if this evolution in de Benoist's concepts should be considered a sincere ideological detachment from a far-right activist youth, or rather a meta-political strategy to reshape unegalitarian ideas into acceptable differentialist terms.
Political scientist Jean-Yves Camus describes the key idea of de Benoist's writings in those terms: "through the use of meta-politics, to think the ways and means that are necessary in order for European civilization, based on the cultural values shared on the continent until the advent of globalization, to thrive and be perpetuated." Though he embodies the core values of GRECE and the Nouvelle Droite, de Benoist’s works are not always identical to those of other thinkers of the movements. He for instance disavowed Guillaume Faye's “strongly racist” ideas regarding Muslims after the publication of The Colonization of Europe: Speaking Truth about Immigration and Islam in 2000. De Benoist is indeed opposed to political violence, stating that he had been building "a school of thought, not a political movement."
Inspired by Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue and his Ich und Du concept, de Benoist defined "identity" as a "dialogical" phenomenon in We and the Others ("Nous et les autres", 2006). According to him, one's identity is made of two compenents: the "objective part" that comes from one’s background (ethnicity, religion, family, nationality), and the "subjective part", freely chosen by the individual. Identity is therefore a process in constant evolution, rather than a completely fixed notion. In 1992, he consequently dismissed the Front National use of ethnopluralism, on the grounds that it portrayed "difference as an absolute, whereas, by definition, it exists only relationally." De Benoist believes that knowledge of ethnic and religious traditions is a duty, which must be passed on to following generation, and is critical of the idea of a moral imperative to cosmopolitanism.
If scholars like Pierre-André Taguieff have labeled the Nouvelle Droite a form of “mixophobia”, due to its focus on the concept of "difference", de Benoist has also criticized what he calls "the pathology of identity", that is to say the political use of identity by the populist Right in order to push an "us versus them" debate escorted by "systematically and irrationally hating". The difficulty of understanding de Benoist’s views on identity lies in the fact that his writings have experienced multiple re-synthesis since the 1960s. In 1974, he said: "there is no superior race. All races are superior and each of them has its own genius”, thus admitting the reality of biological races, without concluding on their alleged essential inequality. Suspicions have arisen of a subtle meta-political guise designed with the aim of re-establishing the original fascist idea around a new framework, and de Benoist has been influenced by Carl Schmitt's distinction between friend and enemy as the core issue of politics. He however sees immigrants as eventually victims of globalization, and also explained that immigration was first of all a consequence of big companies being greedy for profits and preferring to import cheap labor.
De Benoist rejects the nation state and nationalism, on the ground that both liberalism and nationalism eventually derive from the same metaphysics of subjectivity, and that the centralized and "Jacobin" state French Republic had destroyed regional identities in the project of “one and indivisible” France. He stands instead for the political autonomy of each and every group, favoring an integral federalism built on the principle of subsidiarity, that would transcend the nation state and give way to regional identities and a common continental one at once.
De Benoist is a critic of the primacy of individual rights, an ideology he sees embodied in humanism, the French Revolution, and the American Founding Fathers. While not a Marxist, de Benoist has been influenced by the communist analysis of the nature of capitalism and conflicting class interests, exposed by Karl Marx in Das Kapital. As a result, another of his core ideas is that the world is facing the "hegemony of capital" and the "pursuit of self-interest", two typical trends of the postmodern era. According to Jean-Yves Camus however, if de Benoist can share anti-capitalist analysis with leftists, the nature of his goal is indeed different, as de Benoist considers the unlimited expansion of the free market and consumerism as key contributors to the erasure of peoples’ identities. Furthermore, although he aknowledges their existence, he does not makes an essential distinction between the "working class" and the "bourgeoise", but rather between the "new dominant class" and the "people". In 1991, his magazine Eléments described via its editorial staff how "too systematic anti-egalitarianism [could] lead to social Darwinism, which might justify free-market economy".
De Benoist is opposed to the American liberal idea of a melting pot. A critic of the United States, he has been quoted as saying: "Some people do not accept the thought of one day having to wear the Red Army cap. In fact, it is a terrible prospect. However, this is not a reason to tolerate the idea of one day having to spend what we have left to live on by eating hamburgers in Brooklyn." In 1991, he complained that European supporters of the first Gulf War were "collaborators of the American order."
De Benoist has supported ties with Islamic culture in the 1980s, on the grounds that the relationship would be distinct from what he saw as the consumerism and materialism of American society, as well as the bureaucracy and repression of the Soviet Union.
De Benoist's influences include Antonio Gramsci, Ernst Jünger, Martin Buber, Jean Baudrillard, Georges Dumézil, Ernest Renan, José Ortega y Gasset, Vilfredo Pareto, Karl Marx, Guy Debord, Arnold Gehlen, Stéphane Lupasco, Helmut Schelsky, Konrad Lorenz, the Conservative Revolutionnaries, the non-conformists of the 1930s, Johann Gottfried Herder, Johannes Althusius, interwar Austro-Marxists, and communitarian philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor.
His critics, such as Thomas Sheehan, argue that de Benoist has developed a novel restatement of fascism. Roger Griffin, using an ideal type definition of fascism which includes "populist ultra-nationalism" and "palingenesis" (heroic rebirth), argues that the Nouvelle Droite draws on such fascist ideologues as Armin Mohler in a way that allows Nouvelle Droite ideologues such as de Benoist to claim a "metapolitical" stance, but which nonetheless has residual fascist ideological elements. De Benoist's critics also claim his views recall Nazi attempts to replace German Christianity with its own paganism. They note that de Benoist's rejection of the French Revolution's legacy and the allegedly "abstract" Rights of Man ties him to the same Counter-Enlightenment right-wing tradition as counter-revolutionary Legitimists, fascists, Vichyites and integral nationalists.
A neo-pagan, de Benoist married Doris Christians in 1971 and has two children. He is a member of the high IQ society Mensa and owns the largest private library in France, with an estimate of 150,000 to 250,000 books.
De Benoist’s continued anti-egalitarianism, rejection of the Rights of Man and representative democracy, as well as valorization of pagan elite rule [...]
In contrast, on this side of the Atlantic, a liberal is primarily a spokesman of individualism, a supporter of free trade, and an opponent of the state (and also a supporter of America).
Since the early 1990s, the French New Right has been influential beyond France, especially in Italy, Germany, and Belgium, and has inspired Alexander Dugin in Russia. Part of the American radical Right and “Alt Right” also claims to have been inspired by de Benoist’s writings. Although this is questionable, de Benoist and Dominique Venner are also seen as the forefathers of the “identitarian” movement in Europe.
Certains ne se résignent pas à la pensée d’avoir un jour à porter la casquette de l’Armée rouge. De fait, c’est une perspective affreuse. Nous ne pouvons pas, pour autant, supporter l’idée d’avoir un jour à passer ce qui nous reste à vivre en mangeant des hamburgers du côté de Brooklyn.
Pages 66–67: To summarize: De Benoist's fascism is at odds with Evola's metaphysics but agrees with his social and political philosophy.... [F]or de Benoist, the organic State is an ideal that men can set for themselves and perhaps, with force, establish.
In the age that is heavily laced with the Biblical message, many modern pagan thinkers, for their criticism of biblical monotheism, have been attacked and stigmatized either as unrepentant atheists or as spiritual standard-bearers of fascism. Particularly Nietzsche, Heidegger, and more recently Alain de Benoist came under attack for allegedly espousing the philosophy which, for their contemporary detractors, recalled the earlier national socialist attempts to "dechristianize" and "repaganize" Germany. See notably the works by Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts(München: Hoheneichen Verlag, 1933). Also worth noting is the name of Wilhelm Hauer, Deutscher Gottschau (Stuttgart: Karl Gutbrod, 1934), who significantly popularized Indo-European mythology among national socialists: on pages 240–54 Hauer discusses the difference between Judeo-Christian Semitic beliefs and European paganism.
Il a la plus grande bibliothèque privée de France qui compte plus de cent cinquante mille ouvrages.