August 31, 2022

Tolkien On Kingship


An excerpt from, "Tolkien’s Ideal of Monarchy" By aldariontelcontar, Political Reactionary, May 16, 2021:

In fact, Tolkien’s political views could be best described as “anarcho-monarchism”. Tolkien has explained the basic idea in a letter to his son Christopher: “the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity". (emphasis mine). Tolkien was, in general, opposed to the authority and importance given to the national governments. Instead, Tolkien was an advocate of unconstitutional monarchy in which government – the monarch – would only take interest in the lives of the people when absolutely necessary (such as war), and would otherwise stay out of the way.

This political ideal is a direct consequence of Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs and the Catholic ideal of subsidiarity, an environment, as David Hart describes it, in which “authority and responsibility for the public weal are so devolved to the local and communal that every significant public decision becomes a matter of common interest and common consent”. This belief was likely reinforced by Tolkien’s experiences of two World Wars, both of which were caused by overpowerful governments which leveraged popular outrage to push nations into conflict over colonial resources. Anarcho-monarchism thus rejects both authoritharianism and populism, and thus differs from liberal ideologies of 20th and 21st century, all of which embrace populism and some – such as Progressivism – embrace authoritharianism as well.

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Tolkien’s ideal society is, in fact, Shire. It has very few formal institutions, and even fewer of those are actually functional. It is an orderly society thanks to traditions, habits and character of its inhabitants, and the only political loyalty it has is to the far-off King in Annuminas (and then in Minas Tirith). The only formal political institution in the Shire is that of a Thain – a King’s representative and governor, whose formal political power however is limited to leadership in times of military threat.

Technocracy and generally autocracy is inpalatable to Tolkien. Saruman, after his fall to evil, espouses the same ideas that globalist technocrats do: “our time is at hand: the world of Men, which we must rule. But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the wise can see”. Utopia justifies the means, and this attitude is common to any tyrannical ruling class – including that of modern democracies – which believes that it knows better and is thus justified in imposing their kind hearted plans onto everyone else. No matter how good intentions may be, wielding power and forcing people into a mold always leads to evil. This is obvious from history – Communism most obviously – and is well-represented in the wraithing process which created the Nazgul, but also in Gandalf’s and Galadriel’s warnings of how attempting to use One Ring for good would always lead to evil.

An excerpt from, "Anarcho-Monarchism" By David Bentley Hart, First Things, November 12, 2010:

One can at least sympathize, then, with Tolkien’s view of monarchy. There is, after all, something degrading about deferring to a politician, or going through the silly charade of pretending that “public service” is a particularly honorable occupation, or being forced to choose which band of brigands, mediocrities, wealthy lawyers, and (God spare us) idealists will control our destinies for the next few years.

But a king—a king without any real power, that is—is such an ennoblingly arbitrary, such a tender and organically human institution. It is easy to give our loyalty to someone whose only claim on it is an accident of heredity, because then it is a free gesture of spontaneous affection that requires no element of self-deception, and that does not involve the humiliation of having to ask to be ruled.

The ideal king would be rather like the king in chess: the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game. There is something positively sacramental about its strategic impotence. And there is something blessedly gallant about giving one’s wholehearted allegiance to some poor inbred ditherer whose chief passions are Dresden china and the history of fly-fishing, but who nonetheless, quite ex opere operato, is also the bearer of the dignity of the nation, the anointed embodiment of the genius gentis—a kind of totem or, better, mascot.

As for Tolkien’s anarchism, I think it obvious he meant it in the classical sense: not the total absence of law and governance, but the absence of a political archetes—that is, of the leadership principle as such. In Tolkien’s case, it might be better to speak of a “radical subsidiarism,” in which authority and responsibility for the public weal are so devolved to the local and communal that every significant public decision becomes a matter of common interest and common consent. Of course, such a social vision could be dismissed as mere agrarian and village primitivism; but that would not have bothered Tolkien, what with his proto-ecologist view of modernity.

An excerpt from, "Tolkien and Kingship" By Kai McWhirter, Fellowship Fairydust, September 4, 2019:

It’s fair to say that Tolkien was a royalist. Although he rarely discussed his political views in detail in his correspondence, in a letter to his son Christopher in 1943 he wrote, “My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy.” This apparently contradictory position reflects Tolkien’s dislike of people who felt themselves suited to “bossing others around”, as he put it. Tolkien opposed what we might today call “government overreach”, but he also liked the idea of a person holding ultimate authority who never asked for it—or better yet, never even wanted it; this, in Tolkien’s view, was the best possible qualification for a leader to possess. This formed the basis of Tolkien’s fondness for hereditary monarchy.

Video Title: Political Philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. Source: Apostolic Majesty. Date Published: January 3, 2022.