A group of my friends intends to discuss The Way of Men by Jack Donovan in a few days. This article will describe his salient points and offer my opinion on his ideas. While reading Donovan’s book, I felt really enthusiastic about his ideas, but my critical mind has weighed in since then. He starts with the understanding that modern men feel frustrated because the society around them devalues manliness and has not taught men to be men. If one tries to arrive at an answer for what manliness is, competing ideologies are apt to confuse the issue. (He himself gives examples of what might be termed aristocratic, spiritual, and commercial versions of masculinity, which are at odds with one another.) Donovan attempts to cut through the problem of competing ideologies by looking at man in a state of nature in order to understand what manliness really is. Yes, he owes Thomas Hobbes for his method of argument and quotes him several times.
What do we find in a state of nature? The most pressing goals are survival and protecting one’s community. In a primitive state of nature, there exist no weapons that completely make up for a lack of strength. So, strength and physical courage are the prime determinants for who will be in charge of defending the group. This job has paramount importance and naturally falls to men, with the strongest and most courageous receiving the greatest honor and respect. To use Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Civil Society, we are looking at a barbarian society, where manly virtues have the most scope. This state is unlike modern commercial society, where the intellectual virtues governing buying and selling hold primacy of place and fewer people are responsible for defending society.