Let us consider “the narcissism of small differences” also known as “the narcissism of minor differences” (NMD) – one of Freud’s few legitimate conceptions. The purpose of this analysis is not to deny the importance of differences that exist between, e.g., different types of Europeans, but instead to understand why such differences sometimes become exaggerated to maladaptive levels, inhibiting the development of the sort of pan-European cooperation that is necessary.
This essay explores the theoretical implications of Freud’s notion of `the narcissism of minor differences’ – the idea that it is precisely the minor differences between people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them. A comparative survey shows that minor differences underlie a wide range of conflicts: from relatively benign forms of campanilismo to bloody civil wars. Freud’s tentative statements link up with the insights of Simmel, Durkheim, Lévi-Strauss, Dumont, Elias, and Girard. Especially helpful is what Bourdieu writes in Distinction: social identity lies in difference, and difference is asserted against what is closest, which represents the greatest threat. An outline of a general theory of power and violence should include consideration of the narcissism of minor differences, also because its counterpart – hierarchy and great differences – makes for relative stability and peace.
The last sentence raises eyebrows – that polities groups containing “great differences” are more stable and peaceful – absolutely ludicrous given the conflicts of human history when disparate groups are brought into contact. Conflict between similar groups is partly due to NMD (something that needs to be carefully examined) but also because similar groups have historically been geographically proximate and hence in regular contact, and more likely to complete for shared resources and common ecological niches. It does not follow that because of this, groups greatly different would be more stable – if brought into proximity they would compete for living space and their highly divergent natures would trigger mechanisms to reject the “other.” Indeed, one can argue that the presence of highly divergent others would actually diminish NMD among the similar groups, as the differences harped upon in the absence of a more contrasting highly divergent group would fade into insignificance compared to that divergent group (e.g., different types of White Americans experiencing heightened assimilation when contrasted to, e.g., the Negro). Hierarchy, yes, I can understand the stabilizing influence of that, but not of “great differences.”
Some examples of NMD are ludicrous, such as the “anti-Black racism” of “poor Whites” in the South. A Neo-Marxist interpretation dismisses the wide racial gulf as a “small difference” and instead focuses on “economic similarity.” Hence, the “racism” is due to poor Whites exaggerating “slight” racial differences in order to distinguish themselves from former slaves who were on a similar economic level. A more realistic interpretation is that poor Whites were forced to interact with Blacks and thus were exposed to the horror of Negroes and Negro behavior, which wealthier Whites were able to evade. Many other examples (and this point will be amplified below) are simply a matter of circumstance – groups that happen to be in proximity, with local resources (including and especially territory) to squabble over, will come into conflict and focus on differences to maintain identity and to focus hatred and contempt on the enemy. Over time, this can be ingrained into a group’s “historical DNA” and become part of their own identity (think Serbs vs. Croats or the English/Irish and Northern Ireland scenarios). This in no way implies that even wider gulfs of race and culture wouldn’t trigger even more bitter hatred, as we have seen throughout history (look at the history of race relations in America, which, despite the Neo-Marxist interpretations ridiculed above, focus on the widest possible differences between human groups).
Another ludicrous example typically given of NMD is of “Jews persecuted by German Nazis.” Only a historical idiot can ignore the wide gulf between German and Jew (see Freud’s comment on Aryans/Semites below) – alleged “assimilation” notwithstanding – indeed, Yockey makes clear that Jews are derived from a completely different (and non-Western) High Culture and are thus a completely different people than their hosts, whatever “similarity” and “assimilation” is thought to have existed.
A more reasonable essay on the topic of NMD is here. Excerpts (emphasis added) with comments:
Blok, in a sense, is more Freudian than Freud himself. He believes that when Freud wrote that ‘We are no longer astonished that greater differences should lead to almost insuperable repugnance’, the great Austrian doctor came very close to undermining his own theory. This sentence, Blok thinks, shows that Freud failed to recognize the importance of his own discovery and reduced its heuristic value (Blok 1998: 35). Blok even suggests that Freud may have misunderstood the quintessence of his own discovery, and he volunteers to rectify this by revealing its true purport. As it turns out, however, many of the examples Blok cites clearly show that other factors than NMD, such as status anxiety, economic interests, and competition for material resources play a greater role in conflicts than he himself is willing to admit…also cited by Blok, is anti-Black racism in the American South after the abolition. The most severe persecution, Blok points out, came ‘from poor and lower middle class whites… (who) feared being put on par with the former slaves.’ (ibid.) Again we see that status anxiety and fear of economic competition are the decisive factors rather than cultural distance per se. In any case, the phenotypical differences between poor Whites and poor Blacks in the United States are so evident that it is highly questionable whether this distinction may be regarded as ‘minor’.
The last sentence is key here and also discussed by me above. Blok is an outrageous idiot if he thinks White-Black relations in the South are an example of NMD. One suspects that Europeans will become less naïve about racial differences as their nations in the 21st century become increasingly multiracial hellholes.
In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) Freud developed this concept somewhat further and applied it to attitudes between nations and between regional groups within nations. ‘Closely related races keep one another at arm’s length; the South German can not endure the North German, the Englishman casts every kind of aspersion on the Scot, the Spaniard despises the Portuguese.’ However, in this book Freud did not claim that minor differences are more prone to lead to animosity and conflict than big ones. On the contrary, he immediately went on to suggest that greater differences may cause even greater hostility among groups: ‘We are no longer astonished that greater differences should lead to almost insuperable repugnance, such as the Gallic people feel for the German, the Aryan for the Semite, and the white races for the colored.’ (Freud 1921: 101).
Note that Freud acknowledges the alien nature of the Jew (the “Semite” in the above argument), does not consider European-Jewish (“Aryan-Semite”) relations to be NMD but something greater, and also realizes that perceptions of group differences run along a continuum, with greater distance potentially leading to greater conflict. Note he reflects the racial “thought” of that age, in which different European national groups are akin to races (Gallic/French-German), but, overall, Freud is remarkably reasonable here.
Anton Blok is probably wrong when he surmises that Freud failed to develop NMD into an elaborate theory because he did not realize its full potential. A much more likely explanation for the undeveloped state of this idea in Freud’s writings is that he recognized its strictly limited usefulness.
Freud wiser than Blok. How about that?
The NMD-idea may be challenged on both philosophical, logical, and empirical grounds. Firstly, the very concept of ‘minor differences’ presupposes that a clearly defined hierarchy of differences made be agreed upon, with big ones on top, medium-sized differences in the middle, and small ones at the bottom. Clearly, this is not possible…even if we for the sake of the argument accept that such an hierarchy can be identified, we run into almost insurmountable difficulties if we should try to use it empirically. We would soon discover that whichever differences we decide are ‘most major’ or ‘most minor’, some massive violent conflicts exhibit many of them while the same differences are more or less absent in other equally serious conflicts…Even if Huntington is wrong when he identifies fault lines between civilizations are particularly conflict-prone, we must nevertheless conclude that some serious conflicts do indeed unfold along those lines.
I personally don’t see Huntington as wrong. Up until the modern era, conflicts between civilizations were much less frequent than those internal to each civilization, for the reasons discussed above: relative proximity of the within groups and the consequent fighting over local resources. But think of the centuries old conflict between the West and Islam, continuing to this day, and you can see Huntington is correct. At least this author is able to admit that civilization-wide conflicts do occur.
Finally, when carried to its logical end point, the strong version of NMD that Ignatieff toys with and rejects but Blok seems to endorse, leads straight into sheer mysticism. If it were true that ‘the smaller the real differences between two groups, the larger such differences are likely to loom in their imagination’, then differences that are so small that no-one is able to detect them, would be the ones most likely to produce conflict. This theory would be a social science version of homeopathy, the quasi-medical theory according to which the power of a chemical ingredient increases the more it is diluted in pure water. While many people believe this to be the case, chemically and medically this is simply impossible.
This is logical, but there are some precincts of the “movement” which apparently hold to the “homeopathy” model of group conflict. And in general, there have been strands of pop-culture American history overlapping flawed and maladaptive NMD models. As a minor but amusing example of this, I can think of a famous American athlete and KKK member (who shall remain nameless), in the sport of baseball, who expressed a life-long distaste for White ethnic Catholics, but who joyfully groveled to the Negro and actively assisted the “integration” of America’s “National Pastime” with the Black male. Surely, anyone (White) has the right to dislike White ethnics if they so wish, but being at the same time a pro-Negro cuck isn’t exactly an example of rational adaptiveness. This inversion of interests is ultimately maladaptive.
This means that some conflicts are structured as clashes between two competing identity claims, one of which insists that certain cultural differences in a certain population are minor, while the other maintains that they are major. In order to understand why some such conflicts turn violent while others do not we must not look for any objectively given differences but for differences in perceptions and how perceptions are publicly represented. This means that we much turn our attention to public rhetoric and discourse.
Well that’s fine as far as it goes, but the major point I think about NMD is that it manifests itself most strongly in the absence of more glaring contrasts of group distinctiveness. Contra Blok, I don’t believe – and history certainly does not support – peacefulness when highly disparate groups are brought into proximity. Rather, in circumstances when and where highly disparate groups are separated and do not come into significant contact, then more similar groups will focus on those small differences that exist between them to help maintain their unique identities. So, “difference” is relative – when the only differences are those between similar groups, then those “small differences” fill the niche space of popular conceptions of identity and difference and hence attain great significance and possibly become the focus of inter-group conflict. When more disparate groups come into the picture, the “small differences” between similar groups will more likely fade into (relative) insignificance, in comparison. Let’s remember the words of Yockey:
The touching of this racial-frontier case of the Negro however, shows to Europe a very important fact — that race-difference between white men, which means Western men, is vanishingly small in view of their common mission of actualizing a High Culture. In Europe, where hitherto the race difference between, say, Frenchman and Italian has been magnified to great dimensions, there has been no sufficient reminder of the race-differences outside the Western Civilization. Adequate instruction along this line would apparently have to take the form of occupation of all Europe, instead of only part of it, by Negroes from America and Africa, by Mongols and Turkestani from the Russian Empire.
That is exactly my point. And the disparate groups do not necessarily need to be in the same territory in today’s globalist age of a Clash of Civilizations. Competing power blocs of Race-Culture ensure that differences between widely disparate groups will continue to be the major focus of rational attention moving forward.
That said, and despite the existential crisis facing the White Race, there are many who reject Yockey’s (and my) argument, and continue to focus on NMD-style intra-European division. However, to be honest, they do have a point in one sense. Let us take for as an example an English nationalist concerned about the “Polish immigrant threat.” This nationalist may believe that since Poles are White Europeans, then “British Poles” – unlike the more different and alien Blacks and Asians – would be accepted in any future White Britain, negatively affecting English ethnic interests and diluting English uniqueness. Or, even in today’s multiracial Britain, the concern would be that the relative similarity of Poles would make their assimilation into the native British population far more likely than that of non-Whites, thus being a larger threat to English ethnic purity. In this view, more similar groups can be a greater threat to a given ingroup simply because such more similar groups are more likely to be accepted by the ingroup in question. Therefore, so the idea goes, to safeguard the uniqueness of any given ingroup, one must be especially on guard against those outgroups similar enough so as to threaten that uniqueness by being accepted into that ingroup. The problem here is that the on-the-ground reality of what’s actually happening in the West is that it is truly the more distant groups that constitute the existential problem. Yes, Poles in Britain is a concern, but in a nationalist Europe, Britons and Poles, who ultimately can understand each other being derived from the same broad Race-Culture, can work this problem out – it is not an existential problem that threatens the very existence of the British peoples. The Third World invasion of Britain is such an existential problem; if Britain is doomed it will be doomed because of the Afro-Asiatics, not because of Poles. Just because some aspects of NMD are understandable does not mean they are necessarily correct. What then to do?
On the one hand, we must acknowledge these as legitimate concerns, and these concerns are a reason why pan-Europeanism must never be confused with panmixia. Reasonable concern with preserving group identity and uniqueness needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Poles eventually would need to leave the UK. On the other hand, these concerns, however legitimate, must not be used as an excuse to promote intra-White division that impairs the sort of pan-European cooperation we need for racial survival. On the broader arena of the Clash of Civilizations, Britons and Poles are on the same side. Thus, a balance must be struck in which legitimate narrower concerns are not blithely dismissed as NMD but are taken seriously and acted upon but, once taken into account, these concerns cannot descend into permanent intra-European grudges and grievances.
In summary, NMD is real, but is much less a factor than what Blok purports it to be. Freud’s general conception of a continuum of difference leading to varied levels of conflict is reasonable, and compatible with both the existence of NMD and also the reality of Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. From our White nationalist perspective, NMD can be a problem, but only if we neglect to consider legitimate concerns about narrower interests. However, while we need to take steps to defuse real problems that could lead to NMD, we shouldn’t tolerate irrational NMD simply out of a general principle that any and all differences must be accepted as equally legitimate foci of interest. That runs the risk of descent into “ethnoracial homeopathy” or into an inverted sense of interests in which genetically and culturally more distant groups are embraced while similar groups are rejected and opposed (even after steps are taken to ensure continuity of all groups).