This essay first appeared in July 2020 on postapathy.com. You can follow Ahmed’s work there and subscribe to his newsletter curating articles, podcasts, and books on topics such as philosophy, technology, governance and more.
Guilliuame Faye was a well-known French far-right intellectual and Lahabite whose most deep-seated fear was the conquest of Europe by Islam. His ideology consisted of an eclectic mix of anti-Christian neo-Paganism, Zionism, ecofascism, anti-westernisation, democracy and capitalism. Most of Faye’s writings include the standard fare that one can find in the works of the far-right today; the Muslims are coming, Europe is dying, return to tradition! Nothing new, nothing interesting.
However, there was a particular set of ideas that Faye wrote about that I found most intriguing. In a book published at the turn of the millennium, ‘Archeofuturism: European Visions of a Post-Catastrophic Age’, Faye provided an interesting attempt at building a new metapolitical theory called ‘Archeofuturism’, constructed out of two terms: archaism and futurism. This theory aimed to synthesise the ‘rational Apollonian will’ in human nature to create technology with respect for biology, values and forms of social organisation that have defined human civilisation for millennia. This would form the basis of a new post-modernity to replace the failed Enlightenment modernity paradigm.
For Faye, to merely reject something was not good enough; you had to ‘imagine, state and suggest what would be good’ if you wanted to make your critique meaningful. The role of Archeofuturism was to accomplish this. To build it, he drew on a surprising variety of thinkers, ranging from his far-right mentors (such as Giorgio Locchi) to key Leftist thinkers: Foucault, Derrida, and Lefebvre. In the project of retrieval of those primordial values - about which Faye is rather vague - and of construction, I find parallels between the thoughts of thinkers who have also worked on the problem of values and how they relate to modern life, some of whom I have drawn upon to make sense of the project of Archeofuturism, and whether it could truly achieve the titanic task of synthesising tradition and technology.
The Arche of Civilisation
Faye sought to redefine archaism by arguing that it should be given its true meaning in Greek (derived from the Greek noun: arche) as a ‘foundation’, ‘beginning’ or ‘founding impulse’. Faye explicitly rejected looking back into a romanticised past and viewed this action as a form of regression. Indeed, he argued for the elimination of harmful traditions that threaten the standing of the arche, while keeping those traditions which have proven their worth with the passage of time. As such, the arche engages in a constant process of iteration to ensure that it remains robust and relevant for the time. This also meant that, for Faye, arche did not denote tradition inasmuch as it provided an anchor for civilisation. Even though Faye rejected such idealism, past or present, he also rejected realism and embraced a Nietzschean view of history:
‘History is not realistic. Communism collapsed within three years: who would realistically have foreseen that?… in history, there are no accomplished facts… the essence of history is both real and unrealistic, for its motor is comprised of both fuel – will to power – and combustive – the power of will.’
There are further parallels between Faye’s concept of arche and the concept of the “central domain”, a term which Carl Schmitt succinctly defines as:
‘The problems of other domains are solved in terms of the central domain—they are considered secondary problems; whose solution follows as a matter of course only if the problems of the central domain are solved.’
The central domain of any civilisation is a moral foundation that would inform secondary problems such as the political, legal, economic, cultural and other phenomena to be found in society. This can be seen in that every society has a set of rituals, priests, blasphemies and Gods, be they tangible or intangible, figures or concepts. Our own society today is no different even as it proudly professes its Godlessness. Being the moral foundation of a civilisation, the arche can be seen as the engine which drives a people forward, and, once abandoned, leaves them to surf on the exhausted fumes of that moral inheritance until they unceremoniously vanish from history.
Ahmet Davutoglu defines western civilisation’s arche as being an ‘epistemologically defined ontology’, centring humanised knowledge (empirical and material) as the central domain, and so what we know there to be came to define what is. This was something that the post-Renaissance and Enlightenment period of western civilisation inherited from Christianity. This systemised itself through the cult of technological progress whereby any reference or deference to a divinely-inspired cosmological order was made anathema, and the moral came to be considered peripheral to the technological.
To Faye, ‘egalitarian modernity’ was the key obstacle to achieving an arche and freeing Europe from the grip of cosmopolitanism, progressivism and any other perceived enemy, owing to its rejection of any stable core. This egalitarian impulse always results in a race to the bottom with its homogenising individualism and ‘change for the sake of change’. As such, the rhetoric of egalitarianism does not match the actual dynamics that it ignites and results merely in the equalisation of misery and poverty for all.
The concept of a central domain which provides the order around which a civilisation is constructed is not exclusive to Faye’s definition of arche. The Christian Palestinian and Islamic law specialist Wael Hallaq has written at length about how the shari’a was the central domain and, therefore, the arche of Islamic civilisation. All aspects of life, such as ‘the theoretical-philosophical… sociological, anthropological, legal, political, and economic phenomena’ of Islamic civilisation was conducted in reference to this arche. As the shari’a itself was drawn from several sources, mainly from Qur’an and Sunnah, this meant that the cosmological order of Islam had a firm hierarchy that began with the divine and filtered its way down to the rest of existence, such as that everything, in some essence, was a reflection of the divine imperative.
European-imposed modernity systematically tore apart this arche and attempted to impose its own notion of order on Islamic civilisation: nationalism, secularism, technological progress, European laws and customs etc. A comparison could be made between the European development of modernity leading to European Christianity destroying its own foundation, and her foisting of modernity upon Islamic civilisation as destroying its arche too. Both civilisations are now in the same place, floundering as they have lost their central domain and are subjected to a secular reality, and, therefore, are unable to imagine and build a future for themselves.
An important element of the arche was its vitalism, an ‘organic and non-mechanistic mentality, respect for life, self-discipline based on autonomous ethics, humanity, and an engagement with bio-anthropological problems’. Its place in Archeofuturism was to combine a healthy respect of human tradition and social organisations, and deference to nature in its wonders, constraints and realities. For Faye, no future vision was possible if the biological laws of civilisation were disrespected. As such, transhumanist projects were doomed to fail in creating the future by rejecting the essential aspects of life.
Envisioning the Future
Faye defined futurism as the ‘rational planning of the future’, not as sweeping away the past but instead ‘the envisaging of civilisation as a work in motion’. This is an explicit rejection of reigning technology-futurist discourse today which at best ignores history and at worst rejects it as useless. To envisage civilisation in such a manner also required a ‘historical and political will to power’ and a possession of ‘the Faustian spirit’, in accordance with his Nietzschean view of history, in which men of will would determine the course of events.
The nature of futurology is such that one is compelled to actively imagine what the future could be like in a long-term and pragmatic manner, which leads to many creative possibilities. It also naturally lends itself to an aesthetic vision of space and technology. Therefore, one also had to possess an ‘aesthetic project of civilisation-building’ that would ensure that project was a golden vision of the future. Without this, futurism trends towards pessimism about the coming dystopian tyrannies that are ever on the horizon. There are very statesmen today who can wield an aesthetic project of civilisation-building, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to be among those few if her Green New Deal campaign posters are anything to go by.
Faye theorised that futurism alone was not an antidote, and criticised the technological sciences where ‘the futurist mentality may prove suicidal owing to the deifying of technology as something that can solve anything’. This deification is today commonly found among the technologists in Silicon Valley (and other places), who place an overriding trust in the ability to use software to solve pretty much any issue in human nature and society. By abandoning the biological reality of human and earthly organisms, technologists risk catastrophic meddling in processes they refuse to understand, and only an arche could provide the sort of moral base to prevent this.
The Algerian sociologist Malik Bennabi also noted the inherent problem with focusing on the structural and technological aspects of society in Bases of Civilisation, noting that every civilisation begins with an arche whose central domain lies in religion. It is only when this original arche is abandoned does civilisation begin to decline. It was therefore useless to consider technological means of reviving civilisation without considering moral revival as a requisite to such endeavours.
The role of politics in the planning and construction of this futurist vision was not just the Schmittian concept of the political, i.e. to identify and even define oneself against one’s enemies, but also the ‘identification of one’s friend… and as the future transformation of the folk, driven by ambition, a spirit of independence, creativity and the will to power.’ What Faye may have been advocating for here is the importance of ‘asabiya as an organising force for a people. Any attempt at constructing this futurist vision would not be accomplished by Napoleon alone, but requires a people who share a united moral vision and work together towards actualising it.
Fusing Tradition and Technology
Archeofuturism was to be the dialectical overcoming of the gulf between tradition and technology, to create a philosophical alliance between ‘the Apollonian sovereign and rational will to shape the world’ and ‘the Dionysian’s aesthetic and romantic mobilisation of pure energy’. For Faye, attempting to build a vision of the future without thinking about its arche was akin to building a house on quicksand. Civilisation requires a foundation, and that foundation is to be found in ur-traditions, or, rather, religion and the morality that is derived from it.
Archeofuturism distinguishes itself from the purely traditional in its approach to the technological sciences, which it wholly embraces and does not view with suspicion or fatalism. An important thing to remember is that the vaunted ancients whom we credit with creating our traditions were not just sitting around – they were constantly trying out new things and were most often the heterodox thinkers of their time, hence, the creation of tradition! Archeofuturism is open to change in a process akin to ijtihad as found in Islamic law, as the values of the arche metamorphosise and take new forms and shapes. This iterative process was critical not only to ensure that the arche remained relevant for new times, but that technological progress, depending on a healthy civilisation, depending on having a healthy moral core, could continue.
Naturally, Archeofuturism rejected the theory of moral progress, believing ‘that the worldview of a people must rest on unchangeable bases (even as forms and expressions may vary) … progress must be replaced with movement.’ Faye makes an important point about progress versus movement and flirts with something we may all feel today. As we experience social and technological decline, the rhetoric around progress (embodied in the progressivism that is quickly becoming the American imperial elite’s ideology) is reaching fever pitch. However, it is likely that this is willful self-delusion in the face of the increasingly widening chasm before us; we are suspended in time, destroying the past which inhibits our ability to construct the future, and so we experience progress without movement.
Archeofuturism’s contribution to the harmony of tradition and technology is simply that civilisation rests on certain immutable laws of biology and human nature, and that these laws need to be followed if we are to see sustained technological progress. This was obscured by secular modernity and the hubris of its champions in assuming that they no longer needed an arche, and that technology alone would suffice humanity. We are now living in tumultuous times, where the moral base of society has been firmly hollowed out and technological advancement is slowing. The connection has not really been made yet, but a people without a purpose and shared ambition would, in theory, be susceptible to a sort of lethargy in building and innovating, leading to technological slowdown and stagnation. The reconnection of archaic values with the Faustian spirit is, at least in Faye’s estimation, the catalyst for any future renaissance.
In a time where biological and ontological reality is increasingly under attack, the idea that religion and tradition has something to offer the modern man is belittled. Many reject the idea that religion could adopt technology and continue to push the frontiers of science. However, there is increasing awareness about what the loss of religion truly means for society. In the western hemisphere, there are thinkers and publications now attempting to re-imagine some sort of stable core that can form the arche of western civilisation – not on fantastical ideas about race (although, as this century proceeds, racial harmony between different peoples will be the most important social issue in the western hemisphere), but drawing on timeless, moral visions on what it means to lead a just and good life.
Ultimately, Faye’s wider vision of society was corrosive. He promoted an ultra-identitarian subjectivist worldview to save Europe and agitated against universalism as a disease that destroyed her. Yet it is the universalist faith of Christianity that is responsible for Europe as we have come to know it today. Faye further advocated for a theory – Archeofuturism - that provides the perfect template for a new universalist worldview. If there are primordial values that metamorphosise with time, then why not with place? This was not addressed in detail beyond vague declarations about the immutability of races, possibly because it upended the racial worldview of Faye and his contemporaries.
Beyond speculation, whatever Faye’s beliefs, I believe that Archeofuturism offers an interesting attempt at synthesising tradition and technology, if not a useful theoretical base on which to start thinking about and building a worldview with the aim of one day realising a technologically-advanced moral society.
 Drawn from the term Lahabism, coined by Abdul Hakim Murad in his new book, ‘Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe’. Lahabite is a play on the name Abu Lahab, one of the Qurayshi figures that most deeply hated Islam. It is meant to replace the racialized term Islamophobia, and more accurately diagnose the hatred which people feel towards Islam, not fear per se.
 See Schmitt, “Age of Naturalization,” 84–87
 See Davutoglu, “Alternative Paradigms”, 12-13
 See Hallaq, “The Impossible state”, 6-7