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The Social Engineering Grimoire by Carlos Perona Calvete

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The Social Engineering Grimoire

"El sueño de la razón produce monstruos" (The sleep of reason produces monsters) (ca. 1799), a 21.5 × 15 cm aquatint by Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Created for the Diario de Madrid, it is the 43rd of the 80 aquatints making up the satirical "Los caprichos."

The apothecary of any observant cultural pathologist should by now have accumulated a respectable grimoire of dark spells by which the powers-that-be carry out their social engineering. 

I mean to catalogue a few of these, acknowledging that each requires its own detailed treatment, in the spirit of contributing to a more precise vocabulary with which to parse the ways in which human flourishing is being impeded in our age, and match these to an a priori strategy for resistance:

1. Silos, submission, and scapegoats

At work, when a supervisor is unable to do right by us in some way, it isn’t uncommon for him to invoke the higher echelons to the effect that some other department is receiving more than its share from management, thinning out the resources available to him and which he would, if only he could, surely lavish upon us, his subordinates. Our attention is thus turned towards another part of the organisation, fostering a culture of rivalrous silos. Another turn of the screw may come by way of the similar scapegoating not of another department but of a certain person or persons within (or outside of) the organisation, presented as somehow responsible for there being less resources to go around. In any case, the result is effectively to render subordinates acquiescent to those decisions taken by their superiors. 

More specifically, this manifests through the professional managerial class and its failson enforcers. We have the same dynamic as the above, but unfolding on a societal scale. The failson (a term originating with a certain segment of the online left) is the progeny of middle-class parents with careers in some field of mental-labour, whose prospects for achieving the same purchasing power as them seem slight. He will therefore begin signalling his capacity for managerial work by policing social discourse (enforcing political correctness), like a middle-manager or human resources officer for the culture at large. This is both a strategy for appealing to the labour market (to the corporate world of ‘woke capitalism’) and a genuine expression of his values, which are a function of his class consciousness. 

The ‘discourse policing’ in question will target a scapegoat, the existence of which is presented to the failson as the reason for cultural backwardness as well as, more subtly, economic underperformance—including his own. This scapegoat is that segment of society most anchored to inherited, pre-modern, or pre-postmodern identities such as the rural and the religious; the hicks and rednecks. 

Progress is identified with the erosion of older moral norms as well as with technological innovation and material abundance. The scapegoat is therefore not only an impediment to a cultural or moral project (that of emancipated subjectivity, the supposedly self-determining individual), but also, in more tangible material terms, to an economic one. And this economic project is by no means an anodyne. It is understood to be the motor of technological progress, increasingly described with a kind of eschatological pathos as leading to ‘the singularity.’

Society’s inability to produce more progressive structures that would end the failson’s material (and presumably personal) woes is thereby attributable to the scapegoat. As a result, the failson will not lash out against the structures that perpetuate those woes, or compete directly for professional managerial work, but rather will serve as an agent of social control to further the conditions of his own alienation. This is particularly evident in the visceral attacks on critiques of mass migration as racist. Of course, this approach tacitly justifies the economic plunder of third-world countries and use of their population as an importable human resource, while fostering a private sector that does not pay enough, or provide enough stability, to allow its workers to start families (it being cheaper to import the next generation of labourers than to internalise the costs of their reproduction). Politically correct discourse facilitates economic exploitation. 

⧫⧫⧫ Any reaction against this dynamic must be twofold: 1) the aggressive repudiation of discourse policing, including at the workplace and, 2) in order to facilitate the latter as well as to give failsons an alternative to their hapless task, the creation of businesses whose employers refuse to participate in ‘cancel culture’ and whose employees can recover their freedom of speech. The latter should orient itself towards a cooperative model in which employees own a share of the business, as this would distinguish it from the high-turnover model of the wider economy, promoting rootedness and long-term community building instead of a constant flux of mere human resources. 

2. Resentful deviance

Today, young people are sold on the idea that they are anomalous—educational institutions and media initiate them into the tortured discourse of ‘neurodiversity,’ gender fluidity, sexual experimentation, and the like. To the degree that they can be convinced to personally identify with these identities, they become assured that traditional religion and communities, including their own families or ancestors, would despise them. This is similar to what is sometimes described as the ‘spiteful mutant,’ although the origin of that latter term comes with its own theoretical baggage. For our part, we are using “deviance” without malice: as descriptive of a certain self-concept. 

Illustration by Chiara Curci

By coming to think of himself as anomalous with respect to the human norm as articulated by traditional institutions, a subject will anticipate being rejected by those who hold to that norm. His reaction is to resent them, and instead give his allegiance to some radical alternative—to some project which purports to embrace him in his anomaly. His solution is to embrace that which embraces the subject, namely the cultural project of postmodernity.

The array of niche identities (including a myriad of genders) foisted upon Zoomers in particular are best described as anti-identities, for they are all articulated as gestures against preceding, more stable, identities (they are a function of hostility towards ‘white privilege,’ ‘patriarchy,’ ‘heteronormativity’). It is not as simple as referring to their champions as the ‘identitarian Left,’ then, for it is not at all clear that these identities would continue to be promoted after their destructive purpose is consummated. They are ultimately instruments of homogenization, not instances of genuine diversity.

⧫⧫⧫ This strategy of the ‘resentful deviant’ can be countered through that traditional inclusivity we may describe as charity and repentance. Ridiculing those who seem to have bought into absurd or perverse identities, as some on the Right are prone to do, reinforces the idea that, once one has gone down a certain path, he will have no friends except those who share in that path.

Instead, it should be clearly articulated that one can recover the human norm as tradition conceives of it, and that the tools to doing so are abstention from sin (or whatever secular formula we may use) and engagement with wholesome practices in the context of a loving community. 

3. Deferred closure and indeterminate frames

When presented with the unexplained—a mystery or absurdity to which some manner of explanation can nonetheless be intuited—the mind will remain open and expectant of more information with which to fill in the gaps. By refusing to provide this ‘filling in’ of the gaps, however, the source of mystery and partial, unsatisfactory information—that is, the media and government—can create a sense of dependence in the expectant, receptive subject, ever needful of closure, ever looking to that source, that establishment, for satisfaction. Deferred closure has actually been studied as an effective hypnotic technique. The prophet and poet William Blake was right, therefore, to speak of tyranny and mystery as twin evils. For clarity, we may dub these ‘tyranny’ and ‘mystification.’

This is related to what might be termed the phenomenon of speed and blurring. The rapid-fire production of novelty in the form of news, entertainment, and consumer goods keeps the mind constantly expectant, addicted to the stimulation of ‘the new’ and therefore too anxious to rest in contemplation or reflection. Desensitisation and the need for stimulation reduces the subject’s ability to think critically, to synthesise existing information rather than reaching for new data. This renders him unable to mount an effective resistance and articulate an intellectual alternative to prevailing structures. 

But beyond this, desensitisation and novelty-addiction tend towards denaturing the subject. Instead of enjoying a delimited set of experiences, constantly refreshing that enjoyment and deepening those experiences, stabilising a relationship to the specific existential possibilities proper to his personality and vocation in life (marriage to a certain person; the practice of a certain craft; the mastery of certain languages), the subject becomes accustomed to passing from one experience to another. This wreaks havoc on his ability to cultivate long-term relationships, for example. Indeed, it will tend to make any stable structure replaceable, so that human categories (national identity, gender, etc.) will begin to lose their ability to satisfy the personality and provide it with an anchor. We may describe this as the apparent blurring of forms from within a speeding vehicle. 

⧫⧫⧫ Here, resistance is difficult, as we are dealing with the very addictive quality of mass media. Parenting, homeschooling, and private schools are essential, so that the young man can be kept away from novelty-addiction and instead be accustomed to reflexive, ponderous mental tasks and contemplative aesthetic judgement of the sort that reduces the speed and increases the intensity of mental (and, perhaps, spiritual) exertion. This should accompany an emphasis on cultivating beautiful art, not just producing cultural and political commentary.

4. Double meanings

The use of a term such that it de facto comes to mean different things to different classes of people (even if this is not obvious). Here, we recognize double meanings specifically when a term holds one meaning with respect to a subject, and a different one with respect to the role-model that this subject is conditioned to defer to. 

Insofar as the subject identifies success with a role-model and attempts to imitate it in order to gain that subject’s status or prosperity, these differences in meaning will confound the subject and impede its ability to reproduce the role-model’s success.

This may seem abstract, but is easily clarified by way of examples. We may think of ‘diversity’ or ‘multiculturalism.’ To a large multinational firm, these terms refer to the cultural gap between workers that impedes their unionisation and so benefits the company’s bottom-line. Yet, to the population at large, diversity is presented as an umbrella term for a host of benefits, from culinary choices to the glamour of a cosmopolitan lifestyle, and not at all related to the precariousness of the working class.

‘Nationalism’ presents a similar case, as this word can refer to a large, continental project with huge economies of scale, as represented by the United States, for example, or to the consignment to geopolitical irrelevancy of nations defined in narrowly linguistic terms. 

Similarly, ‘economic liberalism’ and ‘free trade’ can describe the beneficial access to global markets, gained by a country’s companies after these have been built up through protectionism, which occurred for the United States—whose tariffs on manufactured imports were the highest in the world between 1816 and the First World War. And yet, the same expressions can also denote a country’s acceptance of bilateral trade agreements with a more developed partner, fostering low-value added exports while importing high-tech goods and so resulting in its languishing as a third-rate economy—historically often the case of the U.S.’s Latin American trade partners.

⧫⧫⧫ The problem of ‘double meanings’ must be addressed by promoting an ideal other than that of the role-model, and by exposing the degree to which its success relies on the subordination of others: ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘cosmopolitanism,’ for example, are marks of status that can elevate an individual above backwards rural peoples, and require the suppression of criticism against the negative results of mass migration. Countering this type of political double-speak involves developing alternative paths to economic prosperity, as well as psychologically divorcing the sense of high status ascribed to it from those cultural artefacts it promotes.

5. Populism as deflection and demoralisation

Often, when a reaction to negative social developments comes to the political fore, it does so as a deflection, and subsequently produces demoralisation. In this context we consider grievances around social anomie, atomization, the erosion of traditional morality and identity, as well as the precariousness of the job market (which impedes family formation and rootedness in a given place, thereby leading to said erosion). The political Right, which remains anchored in economic determinism, will tend to confound these grievances with the freedom to pursue economic interest for the individual conceived in isolation. 

Thus, politicians will absurdly treat lowering taxes and liberalising the market as an appropriate response to those grievances. These measures can, depending on how they are carried out, result in greater corporate control over the economy and less room for small, family-run businesses, and, in any case, they will serve to obfuscate the real source of popular discomfort with politics-as-usual. Such a gambit relies on a ‘double meaning,’ for the segment of the electorate reacting to the results of the erosion of traditional institutions may be convinced that those traditions are identical with something like Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiment and are, by some strange alchemy, addressable by simply reducing regulation (which the political Right barely ever really gets around to anyway, at least not holistically). If a supposedly ‘populist’ political initiative seems to triumph, but in truth succeeds only in carrying out the above sleight of hand, this will demoralise its supporters, who may consequently retreat from politics, reducing social resistance to social engineering and the dismantling of tradition, religion, and nationhood.

⧫⧫⧫ The only way to counteract this is to promote a healthy radicalism, a principled rejection of ‘Conservatism Inc.,’ until the acknowledgement that culture and politics are not downstream from economic policy becomes hegemonic on the Right. 


The above solutions are extremely cursory, but we may highlight that they all rely on social and cultural entrepreneurship, so to speak: that is, the building of cultural alternatives rather than making do with the job market and political establishment as they currently exist.

Carlos Perona Calvete is a writer for The European Conservative. He has a background in International Relations and Organizational Behavior, has worked in the field of European project management, and is currently awaiting publication of a book in which he explores the metaphysics of political representation.