Book Review: The Way of Men by Jack Donovan
Above all things, masculinity is about what men want from each other.
Even great societies start small. But groups that are too small or fractured struggle against more powerful or established rivals. [Examples: Picts versus Romans, Hebrews versus their many post-Exodus rivals, Romans versus Sabines, Mongols versus the great sultanates, American colonies versus Britain, Etruscans versus Romans, startups versus blue chips, local banks versus megabanks.] Sometimes they fail utterly. What can small groups do to survive and thrive?
Like early Rome, they first establish a perimeter. They decide who is in and who is out. They create “us” and “them.” Members care about their standing in the group, and the group’s reputation with other groups. In other words, you have a gang. Then, they hunt and fight, either to protect themselves and what’s their or take what others have.
If the gang gets large enough, the perimeter can protect others who don’t need to fight and we achieve division of labor with all of its advantages. If the gang creates a flag, writes down rules of conduct, and is willing to enforce them we call it a government.
In the hardscrabble environment of the gang, your brothers have to know they can count on you, and you have to know you can count on them. So you test each other for courage and loyalty, verbally (can you be thrown off balance by a barbed remark?) or physically (with dares or rites of passage). The qualities that help you to succeed against “them” are the very “tactical virtues” described in the book’s chapters.
This environment is central to the experience of manhood. We want to be tested. We want to win. Without being challenged with the chance to win—without the prospect of actual failure—we withdraw (as western men are already doing) from marriage, from careers, and from investing their time, effort, and ingenuity in the family and community.
So where is the missing talent so frequently addressed in management literature? Is it in removing barriers to women? Or is it to revitalize and engage men in the economy, the workforce, and the world? I leave this to the reader to ponder, but must bring it up because only one approach is being discussed by mainstream opinion leaders.
I suppose that if we really have entered a New World Order Age of Aquarius in which a world government will protect everyone from want (or boredom or unpleasantness) then perhaps all the books about the obsolescence of men are correct.
I doubt it. Even powerful societies (and organizations) peak out and decline. Decadent societies and organizations must be revitalized or replaced and there’s only one group that can do that. The alpha gene will need to be preserved through the soft, comfortable “nice” aeons, waiting for the future time when it will again be needed and appreciated.
Donovan’s The Way of Men shows exactly what it is that must be preserved and how this is to be accomplished. While the understanding of masculinity can be advanced by reading the book, the principles must be put to work in order to do anything for you. Freedom Twenty-Five has done just that and offers a good model that is legal, safe, and not even clandestine.
Key concepts are either recurring themes or strong individual points made with a fairly general application. Books with a more theoretical bent will have more “key concepts.”
- The Way of Men is the Way of the Gang. A gang follows several themes:
- Territory: “This ground is ours.”
- “Us” and “Them”: You are either with us or against us.
- Internal Reputation: Members are concerned with the reputation regarding the tactical virtues because it shows they can be counted on. Those who don’t care what others think of them can not be considered dependable.
- External Reputation: Members also care about the reputation of the gang with other gangs.
- The tactical virtues differentiate men’s experience from women’s. These virtues unique to groups of men are:
- Strength: Survival requires strength, and all other virtues require survival. Therefore, the strength to get and keep resources is the primary virtue. [This is a different matter from how strength is deployed, which is the purview of moralists, ethicists, philosophers, and theologists. See "being a good man versus being good at being a man", below.]
- Courage: Putting strength to use requires risk, and facing risk requires courage. Courage must be demonstrated with a will [intent]: endurance is not the same as courage.
- Mastery: The cultivation and demonstration of proficiency and expertise. Mastery enables dominion over the self, others, and nature.
- Honor: The concern for one’s reputation for strength, courage, and mastery. The exact form “honor” takes changes depending upon the group and culture, but it always ties back to the other tactical virtues.
- Being a good man and being good at being a man are not the same.
- Being a good man is about virtue and morality.
- Being good at being a man is about embracing the tactical virtues and the qualities that improve the chance of survival in dangerous situations.
- Civilization denies most men the opportunity to be tested and know who they are, but there are several possible outlets:
- Simulated Masculinity: Playing sports, rooting for a sports team, and participation in military and police activities.
- Vicarious Masculinity: Watching, hearing about, or studying the history of other males participate in war, survival, or sports through movies or stories about other males demonstrating the tactical virtues.
- Intellectualized Masculinity: Economic aggression [adrenaline-fueled hostile takeovers or market manipulation], political aggression [high-stakes debates, negotiations, or pre-war domination], turning to inner battles of a religious or ideological nature, and asceticism.
- Democratic solutions to the loss of real masculine outlets are not possible. Men are wired to fight over women, not fight against women. This is why feminism wins. Men did not take to the streets for the freedom to cry in public: this “liberation” was rather imposed on them without their request. They will never “take to the streets” feminist-style or join men’s rights associations, to “put women in their place.” Trying to do this is a losing strategy.
- Gangs will rebuild from the rubble of our current decadent society. Start now to build your gang with:
- Proximity: Strong bonds are not formed online.
- Identification of “us”: Choose whatever criteria you want. Politics and urgent survival can create strange bedfellows, but these alliances are temporary and volatile. When the threat is removed, so is the alliance. Unity requires some kind of shared values.
- Fraternity: Loyalty is built over time through interaction.
From the back cover:
What is masculinity?
Ask ten men and you’ll get ten vague, conflicting answers.
Unlike any book of its kind, The Way of Men offers a simple, straightforward answer—without getting bogged down in religion, morality, or politics. It’s a guide for understanding who men have been and the challenges men face today. The Way of Men captures the silent, stifling rage of men everywhere who find themselves at odds with the over-regulated, over-civilized, politically correct modern world.
If you’ve ever closed your eyes and wished for “one day as a lion,” this book is for you.
Table of Contents
The Way of Men is the Way of the Gang
The Tactical Virtues
On Being a Good Man
Thug Life: The Story of Rome
A Check to Civilization
The Bonobo Masturbation Society
What is Best in Life
Start the World
How to Start a Gang