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A Radical New Magazine to Challenge the Status Quo
A letter from the founders of AGON.
We live in an age characterized by accelerating global convergence and homogeneity, rampant politicization of life, the disappearance of historically-evolved independent domains of authority, and a moralistic, largely rhetorical commitment to egalitarianism.
Contemptuous of all old, concrete hierarchies and personal distinctions, this order and its reigning elites espouse an equality that, in practice, constructs new unrooted, rigid, and impersonal structures of subordination. Behind a veneer of universal rights and appeals to skin-deep forms of diversity and equity, the late-modern zeitgeist promotes across the globe an absolutism that, in the name of Progress, eviscerates genuine pluralism, rooted particularity, and difference. The intended result is sameness, leveling, and deracination—everywhere.
Ours is a moment of civilizational crisis. Yet the intellectual response to our cultural decline has been rather feeble, if not feigned. Nostalgic and reactionary traditionalism as well as postmodernist deconstructionism have proved to be dead ends and steeped in the same kind of dreamy idealism and pathological continuities that produced our malaise.
With its utopian disposition, modernity has spawned a plethora of dehumanizing phenomena—from war and centralized state control to the routinization of life, destruction of meaning, and deaths of despair. Its various ideologies and epistemologies—rationalism, scientism, utilitarianism, positivism, abstract universalism, individual rights, egalitarianism, identitarianism, and so on—have generated a destructive paradigm that we may call the ‘modern matrix’. It is the source of the lifeform that is wholly dominant in the Western world today and keeps expanding to other parts of the world. Combating this matrix requires a proper diagnosis of the many discontents that it has unleashed in their many representations and forms.
We need a full genealogy and a radical and heroic scrutiny and contestation of the fundamental assumptions behind this matrix while recognizing that modernity is not univocal. Modernity contains elements that are less known but of enduring value to human creativity and critical thinking. Such discriminating contestation, our intellectual ‘agon’, must move beyond the quotidian and the trendy and actively differentiate the systemic from the symptomatic.
In ancient Greece, the term ‘agon’ was often used to highlight the conflict at the heart of Greek tragedy. It was an apt name for a magazine which endeavors to contest our modern conceptions, challenge groupthink, and overcome tired orthodoxies. AGON’s mission is to expose the epistemological biases that have infiltrated and corrupted our thinking and language and structured our very ‘reality’. Recovering healthy conditions for the affirmation of human life and culture necessitates not only a new politics but new philosophy, new language, new ethics, and new art that can orient and limit the role of politics.
AGON exists to give voice to such radical contestation. It is dedicated to holistically challenging the modern matrix as a philosophical paradigm and a form of life, and, in turn, to restoring connections with the deeper, more enduring sources of a life worth living. In our era, this must be done in acute awareness that, given the aggressive universalism of the modern matrix, the coming intellectual wars must have a global dimension and scope.
Our international cohort of authors aspires to a radical realism that shuns not only the modern idealism that drives conservatives, liberals, and progressives but also the modern pseudo-realism of materialism, romanticism, and cynicism. We seek to contend with and eventually defeat the socio-political manifestations of the modern matrix and the noumenal idealism that ultimately fuels it.
Pieces published by AGON will seek to reveal and refute the basic underpinnings and systemic structures of life governed by the modern matrix and to critique the idealistic philosophical anthropology and progressive view of history that premise and pervade the modern worldview. AGON will disclose and critically analyze the tensions and contradictions that have arisen from modernity’s ultimately nihilistic rejection of rootedness, particularity, and natural and concrete hierarchies in the world’s great civilizations.
AGON responds to an era in which utopian and reckless idealism competes with lazy and tired traditionalism on the one hand and extreme subjectivism on the other. AGON contests uncritically held assumptions and their socio-political and cultural manifestations—such as those considered ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘modern’, ‘post-modern’, ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, ‘Marxist’, ‘Fascist’, ‘Islamist’ or ‘Woke’.
While AGON resists the facile classifications fostered by the modern matrix, it is alert to and protective of other, very different potentialities of modernity—including its original skepticism of dogmatism and courageous attempt at disrupting and subverting the pathological continuities that result in static civilization. AGON looks for fruitful syntheses among seemingly antagonistic ideas in the present that let us discern and creatively revive the deeper roots and processes that keep human cultures from calcifying.
AGON identifies and contests pseudo-solutions to modernity's crisis. It identifies and rejects idols whose cramped, abstract, anti-realist, anti-culture, anti-life, anti-body fangs threaten human vitality. In particular, AGON challenges cheap ‘progress’ and ‘liberation’ that, in practice, mask and unleash totalitarian drives and deliberately evade the need for realism, historical grounding, cultural and communal rootedness, and personal, perhaps even heroic, effort.
A proper etiology has been elusive partly because we have not confronted the theological and absolutist dimensions of the globalist and planetary penchant for domination that modernity has fostered. Demanding monopoly, these motivations foreshadow an unprecedented form of tyranny but also force on humanity a chronic state of conflict and war.
In order for this imperial drive to be overcome and a more restrained attitude to be established, it is necessary to expose modernity’s narcissistic and exceptionalist temperament, but it is also necessary to advance a radically different modus vivendi that recognizes and affirms an authentic global cultural pluralism. What is needed is an intellectual, normative, and cultural frame of mind and imagination that genuinely appreciates multiplicity and that combines respect for local, regional, national, and civilizational diversity with sensitivity to the shared higher purposes of communal flourishing and cultural health.
We are an independent publication, championing bold and original thinking that is not aligned with any one camp, tradition, or political party. We hope that you support our work and join us in this world-historical agon toward cultural renewal and midwifing a new age.
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