The Virtues and Absolutism

by Chris B

There are many points of agreement between an absolutist political theory framework and the ethical project of Alaisdair MacIntyre, and it is the purpose of this paper to make the claim that MacIntyre’s ethical theory contained in After Virtue, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? And Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry is completely compatible with this framework.

One of the major areas within which the absolutist framework can assist MacIntyre’s project, is in the area of political structure and the state, which is an area where MacIntyre appears obviously at a loss. An exploration of this is available in a paper by Thaddeus J. Kozinski in the First Principles Journal. This paper raises a number of issues with MacIntyre’s conception of the state which are of importance to this paper. Fundamentally, the author comprehends that MacIntyre cannot provide a coherent and robust explanation or criticism of the modern state’s actions, operations and existence (and for that matter, neither can the author):

If the explanation for the morally-biased character of the state is that it is a necessarily immoral bias, then one must conclude that the state is irredeemably evil. This severe judgment requires both an adequate philosophical explanation and historical demonstration, which MacIntyre does not provide.[i]

Something furthered by other commentators:

As Breen points out, MacIntyre confusedly characterizes the state as both irredeemably evil and non-political, and yet capable of some good political activity: “The state supposedly subverts all values and yet he praises the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’ for removing obstacles to ‘humane goals.'” What this reveals is that, for MacIntyre, the state can be a bearer of ethical value, at least sometimes. However, if it is sometimes capable of genuine moral activity, then it is not irredeemably evil, as MacIntyre suggests in other places. Breen notes, “Whether states corrupt values is a matter of contingent fact, not theoretical generalization.” In other words, it is not clear why, if the state’s moral corruption is only a contingent phenomenon, it could not be reformed.[ii]

MacIntyre’s confused approach to the state whilst trying to counsel a conception of virtue which we will contend in this paper requires clear authority, results in the ironic situation of MacIntyre advising small communities in dealing with the state to:

adopt the self-serving, calculative attitude of state functionaries. Breen notes: “Far from attaining unified lives, virtuous practitioners must maintain a stark duality of mind, oriented to local excellence but the canniest of tacticians in their tussles with state functionaries.”47 The result of such moral schizophrenia can only be a less robust and integral practice of the virtues of acknowledged dependence.[iii]

The cause of this intellectual conflict is, I believe, correctly noted in the paper as it is claimed:

MacIntyre’s error is to conflate state politics with liberal politics, but he provides no adequate reason to think that the connection is a necessary one, even though it has been an historical one. In short, for Breen there is nothing incompatible about a state politics of the virtues of acknowledged dependence. Breen’s critique is powerful, and as we shall soon see, it is incompatible with MacIntyre’s political ideal not to involve the state in a politics of virtue.[iv]

Absolutist theory, however, can provide illumination on this; the connection is a necessary one for an unsecure power system, as the promotion of anarchist ontologies – of which liberalism is the prime example – is a necessary development of an unsecure power system of which the modern nation state is the example par excellence. And when a political system is unsecure and formally divided Macintyre’s critique of its corrupting nature is perfectly correct.

To explain this concept further, at this point we will have to make a bold claim and declare that the language and categories we are using to discuss governance are woefully inadequate. They are woefully inadequate because they have been formulated on, and perpetuate, an underlying sociology which does not correspond with the virtues, but instead corresponds to the needs of the expansion of unsecure Power. There is unfortunately no clear way to explain this concept using the language of modern political discourse, so it will need to be explained on its own terms.

The means by which governance is conducted within the sphere we refer to as the International Community is convoluted and confused. In essence, the formal state stands as nothing more than a bureaucratic stamp, or rather a tool for decisions which emanate in elite circles irrespective of the formal roles they hold. This is not to say that the state and the roles it contains are not important, because they are as a means of legitimacy. If, for example, the head of the Ford Foundation were to declare that everyone should consider animals as covered by human rights tomorrow, no one would listen, but if this were to be issued from a functionary of the state, such as a supreme court decisions, then it would be a different matter.

Now, these decisions cannot be implemented in a proactive manner within the formal avenues, as the nation state is set up in such a way that it is supposed to be institutionally balanced to halt action, it is also subject to electoral considerations, so any policy being promoted will need to be popular, or at least palatable. What then occurs is a great pantomime in which resources extraneous to the formal state structure are used to develop “bottom up” change, promote the policies being implemented by this elite, and engage social pressure in favour of the changes. The huge resources of the foundations have been the key resources used by the governing elites in the Twentieth Century as has the education system and media, but these institutions have been doing this for as long as the power system in the Western world has been subject to checks and balances and premised on a democratic basis.[v] Having forced popular enthusiasm for change, or, having created sufficient anarchy to give casus belli for the change, formal enshrinement of the social change is formalised by the state. It is usually the case the change was wanted by no one bar the elite and usually a disgruntled minority, usual made disgruntled by the same elite for the purposes of change. It is also the case that this change is cover for other motives, such as geopolitical conflict.

The overall effect of this structural issue is that those in positions of governance encourage and direct movements designed to undermine those structure and institutions under them which are designed to block their actions. The continuous advance of emancipatory philosophy then becomes obvious as a tool of Power aimed at those blocks beneath the formal state structure. In summary, democracy, republican governance and all various iterations of liberalism are a sham and a cover for thuggish expansion of Power.

Unfortunately, this mechanism is far more convoluted and bizarre than explained above, but it gives a satisfactory overall picture for the purpose of this paper. To concentrate on the state’s formal structure is to lose sight of what is actually happening.

So, contrary to MacIntyre, it is not political organisation on a great scale, or the state as an entity that is the problem but in actual fact it is a problem of power security and the structural make up of institutions that form governance. The rejection of divided governance and the public/ private pantomime is paramount, and it is something MacIntyre himself imperfectly articulates when he writes:

Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical, or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition[vi]

Whilst from an absolutist political theory angle this rejection is premised initially on the resultant chaos that such an arrangement produces, MacIntyre and his conception of the virtues add a deeper layer. Divided systems by taking conflict as ingrained within society systemise a conception of ethics which is an individualist and isolated affair- a marketplace of competing claims which are woefully unsuited to human flourishing. Unified structures meanwhile, of necessity, systemise a conception of ethics that are unitary and directed. MacIntyre has repeatedly referred to small unified communities as providing structures that shape moral traditions for good reason.

MacIntyre’s further lament on the impossibility of patriotism in the classical sense only heightens the clear and obvious links between absolutism and his ethical criticisms of divided political systems:

In any society where government does not express or represent the moral community of the citizens, but is instead a set of institutional arrangements for imposing bureaucratized unity on a society which lacks genuine moral consensus, the nature of political obligation becomes systematically unclear.[vii]

The alternative being put forward by Macintyre being, again, the creation of small communities that he sees as the only possible way to embody the virtues in a systemic way. One memorable claim along these lines is his supportive comments in Whose Justice? Which Rationality?[viii] of Andrew Fletcher’s advocacy of dividing the British Isles into a collection of city states. Fletcher writes the following on this position:

And as to the advantage of having twelve cities governing themselves happily and virtuously, instead of one great vicious and ungovernable city, I leave it to your consideration, who have so judiciously shown, that great cities do not only corrupt the manners of their own inhabitants, but those of whole nations, and destroy all good government. Cities of a moderate extent are easily governed, and the example and authority of one virtuous man is often sufficient to keep up good order and discipline; of which we have divers instances in the history of the Grecian republics: whereas great multitudes of men are always deaf to all remonstrances, and the frequency of ill example is more powerful than laws.[ix]

So we face a point at which Absolutist theory derived from Jouvenel can lead MacIntyre and his project out of an impasse to which he has been unable to escape. The revolutionary concept which has never occurred to MacIntyre, and which never occurred to Fletcher, is that this radical decentralisation of governance and the resultant ethical ramifications could be achieved through the creation of an absolutist system with no systemic conflict of power centers and a clear structure – in effect a removal of that most pernicious of concepts imperium in imperio. It is quite unfortunate that the conclusion that almost all readers have taken is that the opposite is necessary.

MacIntyre’s latest essay on the role of ethics Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning, and Narrative further encapsulates the impasse to which MacIntyre has been trapped due to his adherence to an anarchistic ontology -whilst his entire philosophical position presupposes the rejection of this. That MacIntyre recognises this on some level is demonstrated by the following quote:

Aristotle’s account of the virtues, when fully spelled out, is or rather presupposes a psychology and a sociology. To have and to exercise the virtues is to function well in one’s social roles as citizen, as a member of a household and a family, and so on. A political society or a household functions well only if it educates its members in the exercise of the virtues, and political societies and households are classified and evaluated as adequate or inadequate by reference to just those social relationships – in the case of political societies the relationship of ruling or being ruled- that are either sustained or undermined by the exercise of the virtues.[x]

How, can such an account (to which MacIntyre himself holds) culminate in a political system which has at its apex a set of laws or a constitution? Virtue in MacIntyre’s account is plainly a social and practical endeavor which cannot be learned from merely referring to a book, but is infused with practice itself. Such a conception pre-supposes a single person at the apex of governance- a monarchical like structure.

Of course, if we are to continue discussing the issue of virtue, it would be remiss not to make it clear what is meant by virtue, and such a definition is provided by MacIntyre, but it requires some explanation, after which we can apply this conception of virtue to our current liberal state political systems.

For MacIntyre, virtue is:

an acquired human quality, the possession of and exercise of which tends to enable us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving any such goods[xi]

Practice being defined as follows:

By a ‘practice’ I am going to mean any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved, are systematically extended. Tic-tac-toe is not an example of a practice in this sense, nor is throwing a football with skill; but the game of football is, and so is chess. Bricklaying is not a practice; architecture is. Planting turnips is not a practice; farming is. So are the enquiries of physics, chemistry and biology, and so is the work of the historian, and so are painting and music. In the ancient and medieval worlds the creation and sustaining of human communities—of households, cities, nations—is generally taken to be a practice in the sense in which I have defined it. Thus the range of practices is wide: arts, sciences, games, politics in the Aristotelian sense, the making and sustaining of family life, all fall under the concept.  But the question of the precise range of practices is not at this stage of the first importance. Instead let me explain some of the key terms involved in my definition, beginning with the notion of goods internal to a practice.

Consider the example of a highly intelligent seven-year-old child whom I wish to teach to play chess, although the child has no particular desire to learn the game. The child does however have a very strong desire for candy and little chance of obtaining it. I therefore tell the child that if the child will play chess with me once a week I will give the child 50 cents worth of candy; moreover I tell the child that I will always play in such a way that it will be difficult, but not impossible, for the child to win and that, if the child wins, the child will receive an extra 50 cents worth of candy. Thus motivated the child plays and plays to win. Notice however that, so long as it is the candy alone which provides the child with a good reason for playing chess, the child has no reason not to cheat and every reason to cheat, provided he or she can do so successfully. But, so we may hope, there will come a time when the child will find in those goods specific to chess, in the achievement of a certain highly particular kind of analytical skill, strategic imagination and competitive intensity, a new set of reasons, reasons now not just for winning on a particular occasion, but for trying to excel in whatever way the game of chess demands. Now if the child cheats, he or she will be defeating not me, but himself or herself.

There are thus two kinds of good possibly to be gained by playing chess. On the one hand there are those goods externally and contingently attached to chess-playing and to other practices by the accidents of social circumstance—in the case of the imaginary child candy, in the case of real adults such goods as prestige, status and money. There are always alternative ways for achieving such goods, and their achievement is never to be had only by engaging in some particular kind of practice. On the other hand there are the goods internal to the practice of chess which cannot be had in any way but by playing chess or some other game of that specific kind. We call them internal for two reasons: first, as I have already suggested, because we can only specify them in terms of chess or some other game of that specific kind and by means of examples from such games (otherwise the meagerness of our vocabulary for speaking of such goods forces us into such devices as my own resort to writing of ‘a certain highly particular kind of’); and secondly because they can only be identified and recognized by the experience of participating in the practice in question. Those who lack the relevant experience are incompetent thereby as judges of internal goods.

A practice involves standards of excellence and obedience to rules as well as the achievement of goods. To enter into a practice is to accept the authority of those standards and the inadequacy of my own performance as judged by them. It is to subject my own attitudes, choices, preferences and tastes to the standards which currently and partially define the practice. Practices of course, as I have just noticed, have a history: games, sciences and arts all have histories. Thus the standards are not themselves immune from criticism, but nonetheless we cannot be initiated into a practice without accepting the authority of the best standards realized so far. If, on starting to listen to music, I do not accept my own incapacity to judge correctly, I will never learn to hear, let alone to appreciate, Bartok’s last quartets. If, on starting to play baseball, I do not accept that others know better than I when to throw a fast ball and when not, I will never learn to appreciate good pitching let alone to pitch. In the realm of practices the authority of both goods and standards operates in such a way as to rule out all subjectivist and emotivist analyses of judgment.[xii]

This conception of virtue is, again, necessarily a social conception, and a practical conception. This stands at odds with all current ethical and moral theory which place ethics as decodable from universal truths and as such are individualistic and non-social conceptions – anarchistic conceptions. As MacInytre notes, all modern understanding of ethics specifically divorce ethics from practice, and place the individual qua individual as the central point, which is obviously prior to society. Any political organization based on such a concept is going to be utterly lacking in the virtues, as it specifically rejects them. Indeed this is a point made repeatedly by MacIntyre, such as in his comments on St Thomas in Whose Justice? Which Rationality?:

the best regime is that whose order best conduces to education into the virtues in the interest of the good of all. Hence the modern liberal conception of government as securing a minimum order, within which individuals may pursue their own freely chosen ends, protected by and large from the moral interference of government, is also incompatible with Aquinas’ account of a just order.[xiii]

This concept of divided and undivided governance, and more pointedly, unsecure and secure Power also has relevance to MacIntyre’s attempts to formulate a criticism of economics. As MacIntyre notes throughout Whose Justice? Which Rationality?,  the liberal capitalist market system which is ultimately based theoretically on merely the amalgamation of the desires or wants of individuals is antithetical to excellence and the pursuit of internal goods, being based on reasoning from the position of individual qua individual, not at any point qua the political structure within which it resides or qua the good. That such concepts (again promoted by centralising Power we may add) such as free trade ultimately leads to the subversion of all values and virtue in society is therefore obvious. Worse than this, the virtues require us to be able to overcome our basic desires and to understand our roles in accordance with the society in which we reside and to shape our desires in accordance with the virtues. Desires then clearly become acknowledged as post societal and not pre-societal as they intrinsically betray an ordering to the goods.

On this topic, MacIntyre covers the difference between a virtuous conception as expressed by St Thomas, and one provided by Hume and Adam Smith:

Sentiments that Hume takes to be near universal and natural among mankind Aquinas takes to be symptoms of failure as a rational agent. And in this respect Aquinas’s view contrasts not only with Hume’s but also with that of Hume’s contemporary and friend, Adam Smith.

On Smith’s account of economic activity, it is by each individual pursuing the increase of his or her own profit that productivity is increased, and that each individual benefits from the labor of others, so that the general prosperity is increased. What motivates individuals to act so as to grow as wealthy as possible is in key part, on Smith’s account, a set of cheerful illusions fostered by our imaginations about the satisfactions afforded to the great and the rich by their possessions and power, illusions that, except ‘in times of sickness and low spirit,’ set us to work.[xiv]

These desires not only can, but must, be controlled and regulated toward an overall good for any society to function properly. A pursuit of virtue which correctly orders these desires is therefore paramount, yet the consumerist economic system of liberal democracy is devoted to the atomisation of individuals and manipulation of these societally adopted desires through consumerism and the application of advertisement to stimulate demand for the productive basis of the economy, whilst simultaneously asserting that desire is intrinsic – an astonishing example of the incoherence of liberalism. The members of a liberal economy become nothing short of individual entities manipulated into consumption, and any virtue is decried as unrealistic by the collective political spectrum – both left liberal and right liberal. MacIntyre notes this very same issue when he bemoans the total absence of a possibility of collective good in the positions of both Smith and Hume:

But is should at once occur to us that that conception and thought are not found in Hume’s writings anymore than they are in Smith’s. And this suggests that their absence was a matter of the general culture shared by Hume and, Smith and those educated contemporaries in Scotland, England, France and the Netherlands who were their readers and who provided the political, mercantile, commercial, and academic leadership of their societies.”[xv]

We can also provide another avenue of potential assistance to the critique of economics in the area of property because MacIntyre’s attempts to wed Marxism to an understanding of virtues come across as quixotic by MacIntyre’s own rational system, something he seems unaware of. Marx in his conceptualisation of capitalism worked with categories and considerations of property which he inherited from the liberal political economy of Smith and Hume et al. This consideration of property is one in which the property in question is treated as a possession and is not a granting of authority. This distinction is key. Possession is a status which does not rely on legal distinctions, or even the agreement of another person, but is a brute fact. Either the actor possesses the possession, or they do not. Property however, is utterly different, and relies on the recognition by authority in the form of custom and law. The conflation of all property as possession is something which is central to Marx’s theory of surplus value and the unjust appropriation of an agent’s property (or rather , possession.) The significance of this is that this analysis and understanding is one which singularly considers the political structure within which the property/ possession is analysed as almost irrelevant. To draw this issue out further, consider the following; Marx uses a theory of property derived from Locke’s labor theory of property, this theory of property presupposes that property is what Hodgson in Conceptualizing Capitalism[xvi] calls an agent-object relationship. In effect this understanding falls within an anarchistic conception of property. This anarchistic conception of property has clear and discernible geneology from the very same state of nature conception which MacIntyre so correctly rejects in the field of ethics – so why should it hold in the arena of property? The answer must be that it simply cannot. Further to this, the argument has been made elsewhere[xvii] that this conception of property itself must be perceived in light of the institutional conflicts in play at this time and place, and this provides us with a clear picture of a conception of property which is derivative of the very same section of society from which modern ethics derive. Property in the Marxist sense, and in the liberal sense, is ahistorical and does not correspond to reality. If it could in any sense be implemented in reality, no functional society could follow.

At this point, we can also note a major departure of absolutist theory from liberal and Marxist understanding of man as a self-interested entity, we can do this by rejecting all of those critiques of capitalism which vilify these actors in capitalism who form the “the political, mercantile, commercial, and academic leadership of their societies”[xviii] as being critiques based on an account of human behaviour which is not confirmed by examples. Marx’s analysis, which MacIntyre follows far too closely, leads to only a partial understanding that while these actors promote a form of society and ordering of goods in line with their social positions, this was not, and has not been, in line with mere greed, but contained a genuine belief in the beneficial nature of this state of affairs. We can thank Marx for his understanding of the role of the economic position on the actor and the formative role of the social position, but then depart from him on this anthropology. What we find when we don’t purposefully blind ourselves with this anthropology is that these very same actors transfer their wealth into the promotion of what they perceive as the common good. For examples of this, one only has to look at the aforementioned foundations of the 20th Century and the actions of the heads of industry. From the Ford Foundation, the various Carnegie Foundations, the various Rockefeller foundations, to now the Gates foundations and Soro’s Open Foundation, those who obtain great wealth then direct it to what they see as societal good, good which is informed by the traditions from which they operate. That this wealth is also used for more cynical means is part and parcel of the unsecure Power system. Power pursuit is both driven by desire for power and for the societal good that one believes one will render to society.

The implication is clear, MacIntyre has himself applied exceptional sociological awareness to extricate himself from the errors of our modern ethical inheritance, but has been led astray by Marx’s economics and fallen back into this same anarchist tradition with all of its attendant errors in economics and political structure theory. MacIntyre then presents a strange hybrid of two mutually incompatible concepts in his essay Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity. The ethics of virtue simply do not fit Marxists interpretations of economics, nor do they fit Distributionist economics.

MacIntyre’s understandable slip in taking on a conception of property that is infused with the very same underlying philosophical precepts as the modern ethical project he rejects is a great source of weakness. Thankfully, in the area of tradition he is not so unaware. Many commentators have noted with some confusion that on a number of occasions Macintyre has taken aim at Edmund Burke’s conception of tradition. Something demonstrated by the following passage from After Virtue:

Traditions, when vital, embody continuities of conflict. Indeed when a tradition becomes Burkean, it is always dying or dead. . . . The individualism of modernity could of course find no use for the notion of tradition within its own conceptual scheme except as an adversary notion; it therefore all too willingly abandoned it to the Burkeans, who, faithful to Burke’s own allegiance, tried to combine adherence in politics to a conception of tradition which would vindicate the oligarchical revolution of property of 1688 and adherence in economics to the doctrine and institutions of the free market. The theoretical incoherence of this mismatch did not deprive it of ideological usefulness.[xix]

Just what this oligarchical revolution was in MacIntyre’s opinion is of issue. What the revolution in effect succeeded in doing was enshrining just that agent-object conception of property which MacIntyre has advocated erroneously as a means of analysis for his understanding of virtue and political action. Prior to this period, it appears property was understood as a granting of authority, after this period – and this is key- property was considered as not reliant on this authority.

This rejection of the role of authority is central to Burke’s consideration of tradition, more fundamentally so than the issue of rationality. So when we find MacIntyre noting that on the issue of rationality as a defining feature of a tradition that:

Burke was on this matter, as on so many others, an agent of positive harm. For Burke ascribed to traditions in good order, the order as he supposed of following nature, “wisdom without reflection” (reflections on the revolution in France, ed. C. C. O’Brien, Harmondsworth, 1982, p. 129). So that no place is left for reflection, rational theorizing as a work of and within tradition.[xx]

What he misses is why Burke (a Whig politician) was putting forward this formulation, and the answer is because he was trying to elaborate a mechanism for tradition that was in effect spontaneous and not the result of authority and governance. Burke presented an anarchistic conservatism, something which later thinkers such as Friedrich Von Hayek have taken to its logical conclusion and made obvious with the vacuous concept of spontaneous order. This sheds further light on Burke, because the French Revolution that prompted his elaboration of “conservatism” was basically the aggressive application of just that same underlying anarchistic ontological understanding of society of which he was a proponent. This is something that MacIntyre himself notes in After Virtue when he writes:

Indeed at least the first phase of the French revolution can be understood as an attempt to enter by political means this North European culture and so to abolish the gap between French ideas and French social and political life. Certainly Kant recognized the French revolution as a political expression of thought akin to his own.[xxi]

His call to “unthinking wisdom” in the form of leaving existing structures in place then comes across as a plea to not apply anarchism fully, but to instead merely leave the structures that non-anarchistic monarchy put in place. It is a theoretically incoherent advocacy of the advancement of principles of anarchism as far as he thinks are beneficial to society, not just him, but society, which is something which conservatism has continued to do since. The rejection of rationality and tradition in the guises understood by MacIntyre then become a subset of the rejection of authority that occurred with the English Civil War and after, which was itself a symptom of institutional conflict and the centralising Power of the unsecure system. And this is precisely the argument that this paper seeks to put forward, this being that an absolutist political theory supplies the model which explains why the ethical and social changes that MacIntyre reveals occurred. So when MacIntyre writes the following in After Virtue:

There is a history yet to be written in which the Medici princes, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, Frederick the Great and Napoleon, Walpole and Wilberforce, Jefferson and Robespierre are understood as expressing in their actions, often partially and in a variety of different ways, the very same conceptual changes which at the level of philosophical theory are articulated by Machiavelli and Hobbes, by Diderot and Condorcet, by Hume and Adam Smith and Kant. There ought not to be two histories, one of political and moral action and one of political and moral theorizing, because there were not two pasts, one populated only by actions, the other only by theories. Every action is the bearer and expression of more or less theory-laden beliefs and concepts; every piece of theorizing and every expression of belief is a political and moral action.[xxii]

We believe the absolutist theoretical framework supplies just such a history. The actions and thoughts developed and acted out by these thinkers are explainable from a position of understanding the incentives and the predictable actions of those in positions of authority, and from a position of understanding how they act from the traditions they inherit. These institutions which make up the authority within any given domain are of paramount importance because it is precisely these institutions which are the ultimate gatekeepers of social change. This is in stark contrast to all anarchistic ontologies which simply ignore them at best, or treat them with hostility and consider them parasitic at worst.

The absolutist framework within which MacIntyre’s ethical historical geneology fits so well is then one which traces the period of modernity as a continual institutional conflict between unsecure power centers which have engaged in a number of behaviours which are predictable. The ethical changes which MacIntyre traces are then explainable as the unfortunate outcome of the centralisation of Power within the western European states, and the removal of ecclesiastical power centers in the process. More detailed outlines of this model are provided in the accompanying papers in this journal edition.

One brief example we can present here regarding the history of philosophy is that philosophy is the product of the university system, a system which Bertrand de Jouvenel notes were encouraged by secular power in the form of the monarch, as it provided him:

“with his most effective champions. These maintain his cause, whether against the Emperor or the Pope, in brilliant theses, but, also and still more, they gnaw darkly and continuously at the foundations of baronial right.”[xxiii]

Universities became the birthing ground for power’s intellectual attack on those traditions which were based on a pursuit of excellence. Those then operating within this university system produced a philosophical tradition embodied by these institutions, which then continue to develop along the rational parameters set by this conflict. Traditions are the result of institutions, so which institutions are allowed to flourish or promoted by Power, become the producers and keepers of traditions in the area within which Power operates. Absolutist theory then places the issue of rejection of virtue that MacIntyre traces firmly in the hands of unsecure centralising Power, so by the time we get to the sophisticated philosophical elaborations of liberalism of the modern period the structural changes that it described had already been accomplished.

What these institutions then do is they provide a tradition, in this case the very liberal philosophical tradition noted by MacIntyre, whose adherents lack the necessary sociological awareness to transcend the intellectual system they are provided. What they take as universal and timeless is in fact historically and geographically contingent.

Now, it must be noted at this point that the political theory I present may be superficially interpreted as being subject to just those criticism of mechanistic theories which MacIntyre presents in After Virtue when he writes:

“An Aristotelian account of what is involved in understanding human behavior involves an ineliminable reference to such items; and hence it is not surprising that any attempt to understand human behavior in terms of mechanical explanation must conflict with Aristotelianism.[xxiv]

But I would counter that the mechanisms outlined by absolutist theory are imbued with precisely those aspects which MacIntyre identifies as being necessary to be in line with an Aristolean understanding of facts. Not only does power analysis present human action within a teleological setting with reference to the goods of the actors in question, but it is also placed within a framework which is acknowledged as a tradition in the MacIntyrean sense and not a claimed “objective” position. The model is not based on supposedly value free concepts but on the regularity of the tools and mechanisms available to actors within authority, or with power, in a society given institutional conflict. The tools used are predetermined by the socially perceived validity of the concepts advanced, hence we see a continual and chronic advancement of the socially acceptable ploy of advancing equality and liberty as a means to undermine other power centers. Indeed, just such an understanding is partially expressed by MacIntyre himself when he writes:

The modern nation-state, in whatever guise, is a dangerous and unmanageable institution, presenting itself on the one hand as a bureaucratic supplier of goods and services, which is always about to, but never actually does, give its clients value for money, and on the other as a repository of sacred values, which from time to time invites one to lay down one’s life on its behalf. As I have remarked elsewhere, it is like being asked to die for the telephone company.[xxv]

In summary, the claim of this paper is that the ethical project of Alasidair MacIntyre can be augmented by an absolutist conception of power and politics and provided with a robust political model that provides an explanation of the trends and developments which supersedes the Marxist foundations of MacIntyre’s conception of tradition. This conception also supersedes the poverty of liberal interpretations of the role and development of the modern state, power, authority and property in society. In short, we believe Absolutism provides a sociology that is of extreme value to MacIntyre’s project, and would represent a radical step forward in attempts to develop a coherent political framework embodying virtue.

 

NOTES

[i] Thaddeus J. Kozinski, “Alasdair MacIntyre’s Political Liberalism,” First Principles ISI Web Journal (March 1, 2008.) Accessed April 4, 2017.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] See the accompanying papers in this journal for a fuller elaboration of this political interpretation.

[vi] Alaisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Third Edition (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) p 255.

[vii] Ibid, p 254.

[viii] Alaisdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, ( Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988) pp 257-8.

[ix]  Andrew Fletcher of Saltoon, Selected Political Writings and Speeches, Ed. David Daiches (Edinburgh, Scotish Academic Press, 1979). Accessed April 4, 2017, http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/fletcher-selected-discourses-and-speeches/simple.

[x] Alaisdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning, and Narrative, (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2016) pp 220-21.

[xi] MacIntyre, After Virtue p 191.

[xii] Ibid, pp 187-90.

[xiii] MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, p 200-01.

[xiv] MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity,  p 91-92.

[xv] Ibid, p 92.

[xvi] Geoffrey Hodgson, Conceptualizing Capitalism: Institutions, Evolution, Future (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.)

[xvii] See the paper titled Absolutist Ontology in this edition of this journal for an account of the origin of anarchistic property claims.

[xviii] MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity,  p 92.

[xix] MacIntyre, After Virtue, p 222.

[xx] MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, p 353.

[xxi] MacIntyre, After Virtue  p 37.

[xxii] Ibid, p 72.

[xxiii] Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power: Its Nature and the History of Its Growth (USA, Beacon Press Boston, 1962,) p 185.

[xxiv] MacIntyre, After Virtue  p 84.

[xxv] Alasdair MacIntyre, “A Partial Response to My Critics,” in After MacIntyre: Critical Perspectives on the Work of Alasdair MacIntyre, John Horton and Susan Mendus, ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), p 303.

 

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Absolutist and Anarchistic Ontology

by Chris B

An anarchistic ontology is an intellectual system which takes the individual as anterior to society and which rejects the formative and definitive role of authority. Anarchistic ontologies necessarily have to assume a great deal of conditions to which there have been no proofs supplied, such as the potential for spontaneous order that allows for a society without governance, and all other manner of fictions. At their most honest, we see a wide variety of anarchisms, and at their most convoluted and confused, we find the whole cacophony of various iterations of liberalism. Before we go into detail as to how an absolutist ontology would look, and what value it can provide as a model for observation of society; it may still be worthwhile to quickly survey a number of arguments which Filmer deals with in Patriarcha, and other works of his, to show the necessary incoherence to which an advocate of anarchistic ontology must descend.

The first such advocate of an anarchist ontology that Filmer deals with is St. Robert Bellarmine. Filmer notes in Patriarcha that in accordance with Bellarmine’s claims regarding property the following three points follow: Firstly, if God granted ownership in common, then all order except anarchy is in effect contra God and in violation of natural law; Secondly, God, in providing common ownership failed to supply a nature to man which would make it work, which leads to the claimed need to give power to specific men to govern, which the people, nevertheless, can rescind. This raises the question of if the second point is correct then who gets to decide on rescinding government? Finally, why, given point one, is government even needed at step two?[i] The conclusion that can logically be drawn is that Bellarmine is not coherent.

Hugo Grotius is dealt with in a similar fashion. Filmer notes that Grotius’ position led logically to the following conclusions:

1 That civil power depends on the will of the people.

2 That private men or petty multitudes may take up arms against their Princes.

3 That the lawful Kings have no propriety in their kingdoms, but an usufructuary right only, as if the people were the lords, and the Kings but their tenants.

4 That the law of not resisting superiors is a human law, depending on the will of the people at first.

5 That the will of the first people, if it be not known, may be expounded by the people that now are.[ii]

Grotius himself appears not to have agreed with these points, or if he did he was being deceitful in his arguments because his attempts to deny the supremacy of the people and the logical conclusion of anarchy is tempered by his equivocation that Filmer summarises as the “modal proposition that in some places with some exception, and in some sort, the people may compel and punish their Kings.”[iii] The pattern of tempering inherent anarchism with all forms of unprincipled exceptions has been a reoccurring theme with advocates of anarchist ontologies since Filmer’s time. I will spare the reader extensive quotations from Filmer and Grotius on this matter as it will suffice to note that we see a pattern which repeats in all iterations of the state of nature. If all property was common property, as put forward by Grotius, then exactly how could the decisions of previous generations bind future generations? And if these decisions of previous generations do bind us then this concept is not a conception of political governance relevant to now, but is humorously a conception of the origin of political governance which in effect supports Filmer’s own position on patriarchal governance. The division of property and power has been decided already, so now we must adhere to the inheritance that results from it or, as Filmer notes, it is not a theory regarding “whether kings have a fatherly power over their subjects, but how kings first came by it.”[iv]

The position of this paper will simply be that there isn’t a coherent intellectual body of arguments to the state of nature argument, nor can there be. There has been close to five hundred years for such an argument to be made and proven and it still has not. From this point on the onus will be assumed to be on advocates of anarchistic ontology to resolve their logical failures and not on opponents to take it on dogmatic faith that it is correct. Further to this, I will contend that if we attempt to treat these thinkers outlining an anarchistic ontology at face value then we fall into a grave error, as such an argument is not in any way logically correct, but works in reality as a rhetorical device for the expansion of political power.

Now that we can skip reviewing the minutia of anarchist positions as a fruitless exercise we can apply a differing model to explain the role of anarchist ontologies. A guide to how we may begin this is fortunately provided by Filmer himself, as he writes:

“Late writers have taken up too much upon trust from the subtle schoolmen, who to be sure to thrust down the king below the pope, thought it the safest course to advance the people above the king, that so the papal power may more easily take place of the regal.”[v]

Why this concept was promoted at this time, and in this geographical location, and by certain segments of society, poses a question to which we have an answer and this answer is provided by Jouvenelian theory regarding the high-low conflict inherent in unsecure power systems. It is also explained in more detail with the additional insights of Alasdair MacIntyre to whom we will direct our attention at a later point. I have outlined the Jouvenelian model in question in other places,[vi] but it would be useful to re-tread the ground briefly. Jouvenel’s model is simply that power that is unsecure and unable to act freely to attain goals will cite the common good, and will promote liberty and equality as a means to undermine power centers which block its path. This will be a tactic engaged by many power centers in any given political arrangement, so in this case highlighted by Filmer’s quote we can see the ecclesiastical power centers of medieval Europe advancing a state of nature argument as a means to undermine the rising monarchical power centers (See Bellarmine and Suarez.[vii]) This same process was also instigated by the rising parliamentary/ bourgeoisie power centers (see Grotius.[viii]) We can then see the strange phenomena of both Catholic and Protestant thinkers advancing the same argument. The Protestant branch would prove to be the ultimate victors in this conflict, bequeathing us the tradition of liberalism in the process. The state of nature argument thus becomes a clear political stratagem and is temporalized, geographically placed, and provided an institutional context. As a result, it is stripped of its claims to abstract universality.

If we discard the entire spectrum of modern political theory dependent on this entire web of logically fallacious arguments, we can then consider how a genuine analysis of societal organisation would appear. Again, such a conception was provided by Filmer in later writing which rectifies the inconsistencies which Filmer maintains in Patriarcha, inconsistencies which make the work fail to develop in a sufficiently absolutist direction.

In a later work titled “Observations upon Aristotle’s Politiques Touching Forms of Government” Filmer outlines the following six points which are of crucial importance:

1) That there is no form of government, but monarchy only.

2) That there is no monarchy, but paternal.

3) That there is no paternal monarchy, but absolute or arbitrary.

4) That there is no such form of government as a Tyranny.

5) That the people are not born free by nature.[ix]

Maintaining the underlying logic behind Filmer’s position’s, and not relying on Biblical exegesis or even his attempt to agree with Aristotle on the origin of society, we can in effect give Filmer the update provided to Locke. However, in this instance we will be able to rely on recognisable logic and historical record, as opposed to fantastical non-existent societies and speculation which the modern adaptions of Locke are unable to do. We can therefore use Filmer’s six points as a backbone for the elaboration of an absolutist ontology.

 

That there is no form of government, but monarchy only.

Firstly, a number of thinkers have come to the same conclusion as Filmer on this first point “that there is no form of government, but monarchy only,” but have failed to understand the truly radical nature of their positions because of the faulty anthropology they presuppose. Two clear examples of convergence on this issue are provided by the Italian School of Elitists (comprised of Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca and Robert Michels), and also the theory of the German jurist Carl Scmitt.

The Italian school is famous for the concept of the permanence of an elite within society with the most detailed exploration being provided by Michels’ iron law of oligarchy. The iron law of oligarchy outlined in Political Parties[x] is interesting in that it fails to provide a clear and concise explanation of just what an oligarchy is. Pareto at a number of points offers up inconclusive and unsatisfactory attempts at a definition, but fails to be precise; Filmer himself covers much the same ground with his criticisms of Aristotle’s schemes of governance, with Filmer dismissing Aristotle’s categories of aristocracy and polity as being:

speculative names, invented to delude the world, and to persuade the people, that under those quaint terms, there might be found some subtle government, which might at least equal if not excel, monarchy.

[…]

As Aristotle is irresolute to determine what are truly perfect aristocracies and polities, so he is to seek in describing his imperfect forms of government, as well oligarchies as democracies, and therefore he is driven to invent several sorts of them, and to confound himself with subdivisions[xi]

That Aristotle is unable to define any of his forms of governance adequately except monarchy is made clear by Filmer. Filmer appears to be moving towards expressing the position outlined in point one that no government can be anything but a monarchy. Writing of the Venetian Republic and The United Provinces, Filmer hits upon this realisation when he claims that “whatsoever is either good or tolerable in either of their governments, is borrowed or patched up of a broken and distracted monarchy.”[xii] I contend that what Filmer’s argument presupposes is that there is no oligarchy, no aristocracy, no polity, no democracy, no anarchy, nor spontaneous order of free sovereign individuals possible at any scale whatsoever. All governance and social organisation is in effect monarchical in principle, a position hinted at in Patriarcha when he writes “Kings are either fathers of their people, or heirs of such fathers, or the usurpers of the rights of such fathers”.[xiii] All authority is then rooted and derived from a previous authority, which makes the numerous references by Filmer in Patriarcha to democracy inconsistent. Democracy is merely a shroud around a confused and strange monarchy. Filmer moves towards this when noting how a general assembly is first made up of representatives of the people from differing regions, who then select speakers for the different regions “hereby it comes to pass, that public debates which are imagined to be referred to a general assembly of a kingdom, are contracted into a particular or private assembly, than which nothing can be more destructive, or contrary to the nature of public assemblies.”[xiv] In this private assembly:

“Each company of such trustees hath a prolocutor, or speaker; who, by the help of three or four of his fellows that are most active, may easily comply in gratifying one the other, so that each of them in their turn may sway the trustees, whilst one man, for himself or his friend, may rule in one business, and another man for himself or his friend prevail in another cause, till such a number of trustees be reduced to so many petty monarchs as there be men of it. So in all popularities, where a general council, or great assembly of the people meet, they find it impossible to dispatch any great action, either with expedition or secrecy, if a public free debate be admitted; and therefore are constrained to epitomize and sub-epitomize themselves so long, till at last they crumble away into the atoms of monarchy, which is the next degree to anarchy; for anarchy is nothing else but a broken monarchy, where every man is his own monarch, or governor.[xv]

The implication for the iron law of oligarchy is that there is no such thing as an oligarchy. What the iron law of oligarchy then represents is a stunted realisation that governance is always and everywhere monarchical.  Michels’ theory merely halts part of the way toward this conclusion for no justifiable reason.

Returning back to Michels’ Political Parties, we find this inability to define the political categories inherited from Aristotle adequately leads Michels to make all manner of unclear statements. For example, in the author’s preface is the following: “The most restricted form of oligarchy, absolute monarchy, is founded upon the will of a single individual.”[xvi] We can clearly define monarchy but what is oligarchy in this sense? This becomes even more curious when Michels comes to define aristocracy and democracy citing Rousseau:

We know today that in the life of the nations the two theoretical principles of the ordering of the state are so elastic that they often come in reciprocal contact, “for democracy can either embrace all of the people or be restricted to half of them; aristocracy on the other hand, can embrace half the people or an indeterminately smaller number.” Thus the two forms of government do not exhibit an absolute antithesis, nut meet at that point where the participant in power number fifty per cent.”[xvii]

Michels then unjustifiably shifts from aristocracy to oligarchy by later making the claim that:

The democratic external form which characterizes the life of political parties may veil from superficial observers the tendency towards aristocracy, or rather towards oligarchy, which is inherent in all party organisation.”[xviii]

This issue with defining these categories then gets even more interesting when Michels explains what he means by the possibility of small scale democracy. Using the example of bookkeeping in small scale unions, Michels claims:

““In the second place, this usage allowed each one of the members to learn bookkeeping, and to acquire such a general knowledge of the working of the corporation as to enable him at any time to take over its leadership. It is obvious that democracy in this sense is applicable only on a very small scale”[xix]

Here we see that democracy on a small scale implies a simple rotation of the leader (or delegate) from the whole population of the organisation. This is allowable due to the lack of detailed specialisation which Michels claims occasions the need for an organised leadership. So we see that even this small scale democracy which Michels proffers as a possibility is simply a rotation of the position of leader.

This logic is taken to even closer convergence by Schmitt who in his state of exception,[xx] in effect, made the claim that a king, or rather, a monarchical point of governance always exists. There is always someone who is above law and always someone who decides on exceptions which breach written constitutions, or so called rule by law. This is pre-empted by Filmer’s arguments regarding the status of law in the role of government. Citing Ulpian, Filmer states that the “prince is not bound by the laws,”[xxi] and declares that the claim of law being able to govern is nonsensical as laws are dumb, they need human interpretation, human application, and they are also necessarily incomplete. Filmer’s complaint is laid out wonderfully by his analogy of a carpenter’s rule: “[we] might as well say that the carpenter’s rule builds the house and not the carpenter, for the law is but the rule or instrument of the ruler.”[xxii]

Schmitt is frustratingly unclear in Political Theology on whether he considers this sovereign as necessarily a single person. His famous opening line that the “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” [xxiii] implies that this indeed must be a person; however, in further passages he seems to be less clear on this sovereign being a singular person. We can nevertheless make the claim that it must be a single person. We can do this on the basis that in resting the state of exception on the act of making a decision Schmitt makes the state of exception one which requires a human agent to make such a decision. From an absolutist ontological position there is no deference to an unexplained small scale democracy, so it cannot be a group that is able to hold the role of the sovereign and to make this decision; the decision must rest with a single person. Can a small group make a decision as a group? We fall back into precisely the problem we encountered with the Italian elitists and Michels in particular. From an anarchistic position it would usually be claimed that a small group and a large group can make such a collective decision through voting, but we can argue that this is not a decision, but in fact a resolution of conflict and the prevailing of one decision over that of others.

This leaves us with a radical claim, because if the monarch is he who decides on the state of exception, and this person always exists, then as has been claimed by Filmer and is claimed by this paper, all governance is in fact monarchical and what really varies between forms of governance are not numbers, wealth or consideration of the good, but rather the velocity of sovereign turnover.

Now, trying to identify the specific sovereign at any point with any accuracy in a governmental structure that is massively degraded will be almost impossible. Such an endeavor would require taking a snapshot of the society in question then tracing exactly who in that given instance represented the individual who held the position of deciding if a state of exception pertained. This is unfeasible due to its complexity. The alternative is to approach such a problem in a generalised way. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact person, but we may be able to generally locate the center of power in which the sovereign at any moment may reside on a probability basis.

 

That there is no monarchy, but paternal.

This brings us to the second major point put forward by Filmer “That there is no monarchy, but paternal.” Again, taking this out of the very specific context of hereditary monarchy, and applying it to authority as such, we can retain the logic and provide a model of society radically at odds with anarchistic ontologies. This concept implies, as has previously been touched upon, that there is no such things as anarchy. All monarchs, or rulers, issue forth from the authority of the ruler of the society in question or come from external authority. The simplicity of this concept is deceptive. What is being said is that even new rulers that arrive by revolution are either fathered by the authority being overthrown or were fathered by external authority. There is no room for any conception of spontaneous order at all here, and this is exactly the mechanism outlined by Jouvenel. The implication of such a model is that when we consider any form of social and political upheaval that appears to be spontaneous, we should immediately seek to locate a sponsoring hand in the affair, and not assume it is due to spontaneous causes which don’t exist. One such clear example of this process is provided by the mother of all parliaments, the English Parliament. Filmer is quite correct in locating the historical origination of Parliament as a granting of the Kings of England, and he is exceptionally astute in noting that the convening of the first Parliament of the “people” was conducted by King Henry I for unjust ends,[xxiv] this being a clear application of Jouvenelian high-low versus the middle conflict due to King Henry’s precarious political situation. Parliament, which obtained supremacy following the English Civil War was then a progeny of the monarchy which it then superseded like a child superseding a father. This is a clear example of absolutist ontology and the paternal succession of monarchs.

Now, the reader may be forgiven for being somewhat confused as to how I could term the sovereignty of parliament as a form of monarchy given the previous rejection of small scale democracy. This is where I would need to direct the reader back to Schmitt’s the state of exception and the first of Filmer’s points. At all times there is in effect an individual above the law who can decide on the exception, and that person is functionally the monarch. Abolishing the name, or retaining it in the form of a constitutional monarchy, does not, and cannot, abolish the absolutist constant of a single point of sovereignty. In our modern parliamentary and republican governments for example, a great deal of these questions appear to now fall into the remit of a supreme court. This makes unsecure government a confused and complicated affair where clear guidance to the population is impossible. The social ramifications of this state of affairs are not in any way desirable, and we do ourselves a disservice if we become transfixed by the formal roles outlined in a written constitution, much like failing to follow the card in a three card monte.

Now contra to modern discourse of human rights, Filmer correctly points out that even those documents claimed as sources of liberty such as the Charter of the Forest and the Magna Carta are worded in such a way that it is clear the rights contained were granted by the king.[xxv] Indeed, as Filmer notes, “If the liberty were natural it would give power to the multitude to assemble themselves when and where they pleased”[xxvi] and despite the protests of libertarians and the claims of spontaneous order this remains true.

Clearly then, this liberty is not natural, and one can only speculate as to how Filmer would have responded had he seen the entire intellectual output of political thinking from the 16th century onwards premised on the concept that it is. But, of course, this state of affairs must be placed solely at the feet of the power centers we have had since this point, as presenting the idea that these rights are somehow natural has been a genuine source of expansion of power which they have themselves used. A sobering example of this is provided by considering that in medieval England, to gain one’s freedom meant to become a citizens under the governance of the king only.[xxvii] The trick in question is to place the concept in the passive voice and then remove the subject, so a person was freed from local obligation, or if we put the subject back into the sentence, “a person was freed from local obligation” by the monarch. This trick of obscuring the role of the subject of the sentence is noted by Filmer in regard to Grotius’ claims of children being able to gain independence from paternal governance by citing Aristotle. Filmer makes the point that Grotius is presenting the claim in the active form, whereas Aristotle writes in the passive. So, instead of children freeing themselves, children are subject to parents “until they be separated” by the law of the sovereign. Unless one is the sovereign any freeing from a particular aspect of governance is merely transference to another form of governance.[xxviii] Liberalism is an intellectual system singularly adept at self-effacing the sovereign from the passive sentence – a key aspect of it value to Power.

It is worthwhile considering at this point how a monarch under an anarchistic ontology is formulated if it rejects the claim that all authority derives from prior authority. Such a rejection makes a mockery of the definition of sovereignty and this is precisely the point Filmer was making when he criticised Grotius’s implication that “lawful Kings have no propriety in their kingdoms, but an usufructuary right only, as if the people were the lords, and the Kings but their tenants.”[xxix] This criticism also holds for sovereignty as conceived by Hobbes and all anarchistic ontological accounts of sovereignty. In an absolutist account, sovereignty is clearly delineated by the monarch being in possession of the territory over which they are sovereign. All subsequent property distribution must by necessity be derivative of this possession and all actions which occur within this territory are the ultimate responsibility of the monarch. In contrast, an anarchistic ontological account presents the sovereign as an entity which has been agreed upon by the property owners of a given territory, who then may violate the property of the property owners for the property owners own benefit. This position undermines the very basis of sovereignty, it also cannot account for historical property distribution hence the strange theories of property that undergird liberalism, it merely makes the property owners sovereigns. These property owners that submit to an arbitrator obviously must retain the ability to withdraw this submission, for if not, then as with the criticism that Filmer levels at Grotius’s origin of property claim, it again, quite humorously, merely denotes a theory of how the sovereign came into being, and is not an issue relating to current governance.

 

That there is no paternal monarchy, but absolute or arbitrary.

The third point of Filmer’s six claims “That there is no paternal monarchy, but absolute or arbitrary,” upon analysis proves to be just as robust as the previous two. It is a key aspect of modern political theory that the political solecism of imperium in imperio is not recognised as such, but is treated as a genuinely desirable goal without any concern as to the possible ramifications of attempting such a fantastical structure. In fact, the very idea of a political structure in any way having an effect on society is all but denied before discussion is engaged in modern thought, given that the base claim of modern government is to be a neutral arbiter over a society of diverse interests.

Whereas the reader may be sure of what absolute is meant in Filmer’s claim, the reference to arbitrary will be open to rhetorical abuse given its negative connotations in modern English. Filmer is quite clear in a number of passages in Patriarcha that the monarch’s decisions are not arbitrary in the sense of being made without reason or rationality, but instead as being subject to the monarch’s ultimate discretion in line with circumstances (think of a sculptor working on a piece of marble rather than the liberal cut out despot.) This is in contrast to those who claim that a monarch could in any way be bound by law and subject to some form of written constitution. The truth is that even a monarch that operates according to a set of laws, or guidance, is doing so arbitrarily given that they are ultimately free to disregard said laws. If they were not, and were genuinely bound by those laws, this would imply they were bound by those interpreting the laws and those enacting the punishment for transgressing the laws, then we would need to draw our attention to the human actors engaging in the maintenance of the law, as the real monarch will be one of them, or above them. Again, you cannot abolish the absolutist constant of a monarch by applying the formal title of monarch to an individual subordinate to a real sovereign. Filmer covers such an argument in Observations upon Aristotle’s Politiques where he writes:

No man can say, that during the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth, that King Henry VIII, Edward VI did govern, although that many of the laws that were made in those two former princes’ time, were observed, and executed under her government, but those laws, though made by her predecessors, yet became laws of her present government; who willed and commanded the execution of them, and had the same power to correct, interpret, or mitigate them, which the first makers of them had; every law must always have some present known person in being, whose will it must be to make it a law for the present; this cannot be said of the major part of any assembly, because that major part instantly ceaseth, as soon as ever it hath voted[xxx]

The idea of division of power, and rule of law, in the western tradition is then rendered an incoherent mess when placed in the absolutist ontology because in effect all that one has done when claiming that such a government is possible is to erect an elaborate façade over a monarchical governance structure, and increased the velocity of change between monarchs.

This façade unfortunately does not have a neutral effect on society, as maintaining governance whilst maintaining this façade results in perverted imperatives being placed on the real monarch (whoever they may be at any given moment.) At their most acute, we see massively violent regimes engaging in aggression against their own populations; In more drawn out example, yet also ultimately utterly destructive, we see the examples of modern democratic states which have occasioned a number of social “developments” which defy logic in any sense bar that of intra-elite conflict. For the purpose of this essay, it suffices to note that division of power creates needless hurdles to clear governance, and note that I write hurdles, and not actual blocks, which are impossible.

The form that government takes is then taken as having a definitive effect on society as a whole in direct contradiction to the liberal conception of the neutral state. This can be seen in the very idea of the categories of private and public which were created by the rise of the modern state. If government, contra to modern theory, infuses and determines all within its purview and is the ultimate grantee of rights and enforcer of laws, then such distinctions as private and public cease to make much sense logically. There is no “private” area which spontaneously organises, and such a claim is derivative of the state of nature argument. It is merely the incoherent partial application of anarchistic ontology. In being aware of the nature of this argument we can see that the public and private split is composed of two parts. First, the private is that area which is ungoverned; an arena for the so called spontaneous interplay of actors allowed by the state. The second part is the state (public) which is not spontaneous, but is a power center designed to protect and allow the private to flourish. Another way to consider this is that the private is that segment of society where significant organisation is disallowed on any grounds which threaten the public government, the public government then exports democracy, it does not consume the poisonous product itself. The division now looks a lot more like a form of political control by unsecure power then a timeless form of existence. So, if we were to go back to the beginnings of the articulation of such a split, we will be unsurprised to see thinkers like Locke developing this argument contra ecclesiastical authorities with his claim that religious affiliation is voluntary, but adherence to the state isn’t. In fact, the very category of religion itself arises out of this institutional division.[xxxi]

If we disregard this public/ private split as logically incoherent and based on fraudulent grounds, we can then free ourselves to simply consider it as an artifact of political conflict between power centers, and we can dismiss it from our analysis. Having done so, we can then perceive a drastically different society in light of absolutist ontology in a great number of areas, not least of which is that of property and capitalism. For example, it is taken in anarchistic ontology that property exists separate from a political order, but this is a strange position to take based on the aforementioned state of nature concept, and it results in unresolvable conceptual issues. Such a position simply conflates possession with property.[xxxii] This is also comparable to the issue of law in which anarchistic ontology present an image of law being a spontaneous development from custom, despite the historical record not according with this at all. Custom itself is ultimately determined by authority. As a result of this, the practical application of law and the practical administration of property differ drastically from theoretical conceptions in modern political theory and accord with the absolutist ontology. Modern political theory is in effect an arena in which historical accuracy and real world confirmation are taken as irrelevant.

 

That there is no such form of government as a Tyranny.

As for Filmer’s fourth point “That there is no such form of government as a Tyranny.” We must understand Filmer’s argument regarding this in Observations upon Aristotle’s Politiques as his point is important. Filmer argues that:

No example can be shown of any such government that ever was in the world, as Aristotle describes a tyranny to be; for under the worst of Kings, though many particular men have unjustly suffered, yet the multitude, or the people in general have found benefit and profit by the government.”[xxxiii]

Tyranny here is defined as a government for the government’s own benefit, and it central to Jouvenelian theory that this is precisely correct. All governance invokes both a social role and a concern for an increase, or preservation of the security of, its own position. That a government can do terrible things in the process of moving towards these goals is a problem caused by imperium in imperio, and not, as asserted in the modern liberal tradition, the opposite case. It is the age of democracy and republican governance that gave us the meaningless mass slaughter of populations by governments. This position has further implications for the very basic claims of modern governance. The liberal conception of society, and this conception of tyranny, are rendered nonsensical by the Jouvenelian model. They are false as Filmer correctly noted.

 

That the people are not born free by nature.

As for Filmer’s fifth and final point “That the people are not born free by nature” the significance of this philosophically is that at base the entire modern liberal project is wrong. Filmer was absolutely correct in his criticisms of the potential political order based on such a consideration, and it is clear that for any serious absolutist ontology to be formed, the very basis of this claim must not only be proven false, but a new consideration of society must be presented on a very different footing which does not entertain the fantasy of traditionless principles. Such a basis is provided in the trenchant attacks on liberalism presented by the philosophical work of Alaisdair MacIntyre in the area of epistemology and ethics. It has gone unnoticed by both MacIntyre’s supporters and his critics that his conception of ethics is one which is in accordance with the theoretical positions of Filmer and that derived from the theory of Jouvenel.

MacIntyre’s position on the claims of modernity can be summarised as a rejection of the claims of liberalism’s supporters that their positions are based primarily on some fundamental truth which is contextless and not rooted in a tradition. Tradition in the MacIntyrean sense is a body of ideas which provide a system within which the rationality of a given concept is rendered intelligible, and which is subject to continual alteration, discussion, and development. Such a conception of tradition would apply to liberalism as much as any other body of thought because liberalism has been singularly unable to provide an abstract, contextless, and universal ground for its premises. Liberalism, as such, is a tradition which continually denies, or rather seeks to escape, being a tradition. It has failed because such a project is incoherent and obtuse. Its hegemonic success is explainable by its value to power, and not to any inherent coherence or correctness.

The implication for human nature is that the liberal mockery of a traditionless and timeless human dummy that forms the core of the liberal order is a source of falsity and distortion. The dummy itself says more of those that advanced the concept than it does to any serious consideration of humanity as such. The state of nature individual is in reality a stand in for a specific group of people within a specific political arrangement at a specific time in history, the individual in question being a property owning man from North West Europe in the Jansenist and Protestant tradition. Just as in the area of ethics as claimed by MacIntyre, this project of asserting the basics of this individual is an attempt to advance the values, beliefs and interests of this specific sub set of society as being constituent of humans per se, taken up by power for its claims to equality for all, and with the belief that doing so renders a public good. Any claim to the opposite from the supporters of these very same thinkers must wrestle with the incoherence of the central claim to self-interest that underlines their own position. If man is a self-interested and anti-social entity then those advancing the claim of man being self-interested and anti-social are not exempt from this. By liberalism’s own logic, these thinkers advocated these positions out of simple self-interest and were not uncovering some enlightened position.

Leaving aside the intellectual confusion of anarchist ontology, we can note that the absolute refusal of those advancing this form of political thought to seriously entertain individuals who are disabled, dependent or simply children is a clear giveaway of the manner in which this argument presupposes a human agent with a specific set of characteristics and represents a position that is drastically lacking in sociological awareness. The central criticism that we can take from MacIntyre is that liberalism is a continuation and elaboration of this specific cultural and socio-economic group’s intellectual and ethical traditions. A tradition that is in a continual mode of confusion due to rejecting the claim to being a tradition. This allows those advancing its claims to engage in a kind of intellectual fantasy world. MacIntyre provides an excellent example of this out of sync nature of liberalism in Whose Justice? Which Rationality? As MacIntyre writes on the similarity of the position of ancient sophists and modern liberals:

“In every culture emotions and desires are norm-governed. Learning what the norms are, learning how to respond to the emotions and desires of others, and learning what to expect from others if we exhibit certain types and degrees of emotion or desire are three parts of one and the same task.

[…]

Thus, to exhibit a particular pattern of emotions and desires, to treat them as appropriate in one type of situation rather than another, is always to reveal commitment to one set of justifying norms rather than another.

[…]

In treating the passions as part of nature defined independently of culture rather than as an expression of culture, they were already adopting one particular evaluative standpoint, derived from their culture’s understanding of nature.”[xxxiv]

Being an entity that is “free” and “equal” the liberal assumption is that the preference and desires of the individual are pre-social. These sets of pre-social desires are then brought to a market place where they form the basis of a negotiation and navigation within which the individual satisfies these desires or preferences. We see this throughout all aspects of modernity, especially in utility based economics. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the liberal intellectual is in reality engaged in a discussion regarding a parallel world which does not exist.

Any political theory, and a political order derived from this tradition in denial, can a priori be predicted to be significantly unable to predict, explain, or be of any use at all except as a means of destruction of order, and this is what we also see empirically. Liberal theory and all variants premised on it, including sociology, psychology, economics, political science etc. are all marked by a self-conscious embarrassment from honest practitioners that they have collectively been unable to explain anything. Absolutist Ontology allows us to predict that this will not change, and allows us to lay the blame squarely on the anarchistic ontology underlying them all.

 

NOTES

[i] Sir Robert Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works of Sir Robert Filmer (Oxford, Alden Press, 1949,) Part Part II and II pp 56-58.

[ii] Ibid, p 68.

[iii] Ibid, p 69.

[iv] Ibid, p 71.

[v] Ibid, p 54.

[vi] See “The Patron Theory of Politics” and “The Patron Theory of Politics Revisited” accompanying this paper in journal volume one for further elaboration of the theory derived from Bertrand de Jouvenel.

[vii] Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid, p 228.

[x] Robert Michels, Political Parties, A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, (Batoche Book, 2001, Kitchener.)

[xi] Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works, p 200.

[xii] Ibid, p 222.

[xiii] Ibid, p 62.

[xiv] Ibid, p 223.

[xv] Ibid, p 223-24.

[xvi] Michels, Political Parties, p 7.

[xvii] Ibid, p 8.

[xviii] Ibid, p 13.

[xix] Ibid, p 23.

[xx] Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2005.)

[xxi] Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works, p 106.

[xxii] Schmitt, Political Theology, p 5.

[xxiii] See Political Theology for an exposition of Schmitt’s theory of the state of exception. At numerous points Scmitt makes the claim that the sovereign is “He” who decides the exception, yet at times appears to indicate that a political body is possibly sovereign. The lack of clarity from Schmitt need not impede our reading of this concept.

[xxiv] Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works, p 117.

[xxv] Ibid, p 121.

[xxvi] Ibid, p 118.

[xxvii] For a detailed look at the actions of the king’s court in applying negative liberties to undermine franchise holder in medieval England, see Nicholas Szabo’s “Jurisdiction as Property: Franchise Jurisdiction from Henry III to James I” (April 21, 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=936314.

[xxviii] Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works, p 72.

[xxix] Ibid, p 68.

[xxx] Ibid, p 227-28.

[xxxi] For a detailed exploration of the connection between the rise of the modern state institutions and the concept of relgion, see William T. Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.)

[xxxii] For a full exploration of this issue, see Geoffrey Hodgson, Conceptualizing Capitalism: Institutions, Evolution, Future (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.) Hodgson makes the strong case that simple possession based on the brute fact of holding something is the ultimate basis of conceptions of property in various economic theories, from Marxism to libertarianism. This conception of property takes property as therefore not reliant on institutions or society, but on the relationship between the agent and the object that forms the possession. Locke’s labor theory of property is the key example of this. In reality, property is defined not by first appropriation or any such system, but is a recognised series of complex rights granted by authority; a state of affairs actually demonstrable from historical record and everyday experience. It would seem that in effect, the only entity that holds property as a possession is the sovereign by virtue of military defence, so we can see the link between property and the concept of sovereignty.

[xxxiii] Filmer, Patriarcha and Other Political Works, p 204.

[xxxiv] Alaisdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Idiana, Notre Dame Press, 1988,) p 76.

The Anthropoetics of Power

by Bouvard

The Originary Hypothesis

We can think about the distinction between liberalism and absolutism in terms of the conflicting notions of equality and hierarchy; individualism and the primacy of the social; self-interest and virtue; nominalism and realism; materialism and faith; proceduralism and responsible decision. We can synthesize all these binaries into the single question of whether the low generates the high or the high originates and presides over the low. The orthodoxy of the modern order is that the low generates the high—desires, interests, bodily needs, inventions, give birth, through some complex process of interaction, to ideas, values, virtues and beliefs. The implication is always that ideas, values, virtues and beliefs are nothing more than epiphenomena that can be reduced to their underlying causes; even more, that reducing them to their underlying causes liberates humans from the pernicious illusions we have suffered under throughout our history as a species. The (liberal) political implication first drawn from this doctrine was that top-down political structures are to be avoided, and constitutional, economic and legal structures should be set up so as to allow desires, interests and needs to interact in reciprocally balancing ways. With the advance of the physical and human sciences, though, a new, more top-down (progressivist) conclusion was drawn, that greater knowledge of social, psychological and biological processes could allow for benevolent manipulations of human desires, needs and capacities. In that case, knowledge of needs, desires, bodily functions, and human cognition allows for the more effective meeting of needs and desires and the more efficient functioning of body and mind. Politically, this means rule by technicians of the human animal.

The main resistance to this lowering of the human has come from religions which maintain the understanding of human beings as created in God’s image. But, on the face of it, the order of the modern sciences seems to correspond with the doctrine of the lowering: after all, chemistry depends up physics, biology upon chemistry, and studies of animal (ethology) behavior relies upon biology, and study of humans presupposes that humans are an evolved species of animal. The problem with religious resistance is that the terms of our divine origin must be taken on faith in very specific doctrines which, for many, if not most, cannot withstand the scrutiny of the very modern sciences that have displaced them. The only non-religious thought capable of combatting materialist lowering on its own terms—that is, the terms of the very constitution of the human—is the generative anthropology of Eric Gans. Gans is the author of the “originary hypothesis” regarding the origin of language, which for Gans is coeval with the origin of the sacred and of language. Gans presupposes the anthropological model of Rene Girard, for whom the mimetic character of humans (and first of all the advanced hominids who were our immediate predecessors) means that deadly conflict is endemic to the human condition. If I imitate you, I learn to desire through you—I want what you want. Sooner or later I will want the very thing you possess, or reach for, right now, and from being my model you become my obstacle and therefore rival. For Girard, humanity emerged in a collective event in which the mimetic rivalry of the members of the group issued in a mimetic crisis, a collective violent melee, which is resolved by one of the members being singled out by the group and becoming the target of its collective violence. This scapegoat is both victim and god, the latter because he has “saved” the community, which resumes normal cooperative behavior once the crisis has been “resolved.” Girard sees the entire subsequent history of human ritual and reiterations of this original scapegoating event, until the logic of scapegoating is exposed and overturned in Jesus’s self-sacrifice.

Gans’s criticism of Girard’s account is based on his observation that without language there is no way for the original event to become meaningful to the group. They have just killed one of their own—so what? Animal groups chase off and kill weaker members all the time. So, Gans’s introduced the sign into the originary event—what he calls the “ostensive” sign, or, more colloquially, pointing. If all the members of the group point to the body of the slain member, thereby informing each other that the episode has been completed, the event can become iterable and therefore memorable and meaningful. But if the sign is what is really important, we no longer have to presuppose the scapegoating and “lynching” of the stigmatized member (an assumption that, as Gans as pointed out, does not correspond to anthropological and archaeological evidence that places the emergence of human sacrifice at a much later date). We just need a scene upon which some central object (Gans assumes a large animal, taken down in the hunt) attracts all the members of the group, with that attraction being mimetically intensified (each wants it more because he sees the others wanting it) so that the animal hierarchy (in which the alpha animal would eat first, then the beta, etc.) breaks down as all rush toward the central object. The terror this induces leads some member of the group to hesitate, and gesture toward the object, a gesture all repeat (Gans has termed this the “aborted gesture of appropriation”). This gesture is the first “sign,” the origin of language, because it is the first non-instinctive form of communication that takes on its meaning merely by being sustained by the (now) social group. The central object is also the first sacred object, or God: it has saved the community by “making” them cease their self-conflagrating headlong rush to appropriate the object. The originary event is also the origin of resentment: the same sacred Being that preserves the community restrains desire while endowing the object with a sacrality that enhances its desirability. The pecking order of the animal hierarchy is replaced by the human signifying order.

Gans’s originary hypothesis is compatible with evolutionary theory while theorizing the creation of the human as a shared leap into a higher mode of being (biology does not determine language) that will now order the human estate. We could say that Gans’s hypothesis “demystifies” religious doctrines but only while preserving their most fundamental anthropological and ethical insight—human beings are not another species of ape, modified by natural selection through a long series of genetic mutations. Most fundamentally, humans have been created by a sacred being who protects them from their “evil” (mimetic and violent) tendencies. The transcendent—the sign, whose being is invisible, intangible and eternal—is what defines us. Through a series of books written over the past 35 years (The Origin of Language, The End of Culture, Science and Faith, Originary Thinking, Signs of Paradox, The Scenic Imagination and A New Way of Thinking) and on his Anthropoetics webpage, Gans has explored the implications of the originary hypothesis for history, religion, politics, philosophy, aesthetics and economics. In this essay, I will focus on those elements of Gans’s thinking that lend support to absolutist political thought, which I will in turn define and clarify.

Originary Thinking and Civilization

The earliest human groups were egalitarian hunting and gathering communities, organized around rituals devoted to some animal that was simultaneously food source, sacred object and ancestor. No wealth can be accumulated or political hierarchy established, as all social relations are organized by ritual and kinship relations enforcing traditional and roughly equal distribution of resources. The first significant transformation of human order attended to by Gans (primarily in The End of Culture, but he returns to this in Science and Faith) is the emergence of the “Big Man” studied by the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins and others. The Big Man, through enterprise, discipline, and what Gans calls “producer’s desire” accumulates goods and prestige that place him above the egalitarian community. The Big Man marks the beginning of wealth accumulation, individual liberty, and social hierarchy. Even more, the Big Man usurps the ritual center of the community, taking on a sacred status, ultimately becoming a kind of God King (this is really the origin of the scapegoating phenomenon studied by Girard). Gans distinguishes “producer’s desire” from “consumer’s satisfaction” to distinguish between competing dispositions within the egalitarian primitive community: on the one hand, to imagine the community as a whole, and take the initiative to attend to its ritual representation; on the other hand, to enforce the equal distribution of shares of the community’s product. It is the producer’s desire that is manifested in the Big Man, and the “consumer” both relies upon and resents the “producer.”

The Big Man, and the more established sacred kings and God emperors who follow is the center of devotion and obedience in the community: he is the center of an asymmetrical gift relation opposing him on one side and the entire community on the other. The resentment that is generated and resolved by the sacred center is now directed towards the Big Man: on the one hand, every one, and especially rivals, envy him his place; on the other hand, and even more importantly, all members of the community insist that he enforce a “just” distribution of goods, with “just” being based on the model of the originary scene. This resentment feeds back into the system which refines itself by increasing the distance between the center and the margins, making rivalry increasingly irrelevant, and codifying distribution in ritual and bureaucratic hierarchy. We can see here the origins of the gigantic centralized imperial bureaucracies of the ancient world (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, etc.), and therefore the origins of civilization. The limits of what we can see as the original form of sovereignty lie in the fact that the very qualities that allowed for the emergence of the Big Man must be forbidden to others. The resentments directed toward the Big Man are the very same resentments that created the Big Man, who “rebelled” against the “consumers” who both depended upon and restrained his “productivity.” The resentments toward the Big Man, now God Emperor, can be contained only at the cost of preventing the activities and interactions that might generate such productive resentment in the first place. Only the emperor himself can be free.

Civilization can only start to develop once the tension between social hierarchies and what Gans calls the “moral model” of the originary scene becomes a topic of reflection. In the West this reflection takes place in very different ways amongst the ancient Greeks and the Ancient Israelites. For the Greeks, philosophy becomes a way of constructing an imaginary discursive scene in which participants are equal, as a way of subjecting real world inequalities to scrutiny. Inequalities and political power can be justified by the greater virtue of the wealthy and powerful, by the benefits to the community, or by the justice of the ruler, but the main point is that it needs to be justified. For the Israelites, meanwhile, all humans are the children of a single God, and in that way equal, regardless of real world inequities. The emperor god is replaced by the God who names Himself in Exodus as I AM THAT I AM, what Gans calls the name of God as the declarative sentence, that is, a God immune to imperative entreaties, who is therefore to be found in relations between members of the community. In other words, no one can invoke the name of God to bless some project in exchange for some kind of sacrifice: God subsists beyond all such entreaties, made by anyone whosoever, because he has gifted to humanity the incommensurable gift of all of creations—the only, necessarily inadequate, return to such a gift is complete devotion (the gift of oneself). Such an immeasurable gift implies immeasurable love and goodness, so the way to devote oneself to God is by striving to imitate that love and goodness amongst one’s fellows. Along with their invention of philosophy, the Greeks’ creation of an independent sphere of art, and especially drama, allowed for the representation and transcendence (“catharsis”) of resentment directed at dominant figures anchoring the community. What Gans calls the “narrative monotheism” of the Israelites, meanwhile, projected the resentment towards the emperor God onto a linear historical frame, in which the fall of empires represents the judgment of God—a moral judgment applied to the exile of God’s chosen people themselves. In both cases a new increment of deferral and therefore freedom is created, as we can work towards a social order that puts knowledge of God and Truth at the center, rather than trying to coerce magical forces on our behalf.

For Gans, the completion of the monotheist narrative in the Christian revelation, which applies the moral model universally (love your enemies) and incorporates the Greek logos, creates a space of individual freedom and reciprocity that ultimately leads to the modern market society, of which Gans considers liberal democracy to be a part. Here is where I begin to draw different political implications from Gans’s originary thinking. First of all, I introduce the concept of “civilization” into originary thinking, because that seems to me the best way to sustain the originary concept of deferral as the primary concept of social thought. Humans originated in deferral, and so every advance they make and everything they learn, I propose, must be acquired in the same way. A civilized order is one in which there is a positive feedback loop between discipline (deferral deliberately applied to self or other) and social benefits, whether in goods or prestige or authority; whether on the individual or social level. Civilization is the generalization of the experience of the Big Man, in which authority is generated by self-denial, generosity and concern for and action on the community as a whole—not necessarily its complete generalization (any civilization will contain the less and uncivilized), but the steady inclusion of more social spaces. The generalization of the Big Man’s experience is made possible by reintegrating the model of the originary scene into hierarchical orders as a non-ritual, and therefore moral and intellectual, standard for just rule.

It would certainly be consistent with my analysis so far to argue for democracy and/or liberalism as ways of instituting the model of the originary scene into hierarchical societies: such societies would channel resentment against any position of power outside of the accountability of the community, and would therefore require multiple centers of power and enforced rotation of power holders. That would be, though, to privilege the expression and “purging” of resentments over limiting them and making their expression beyond a certain low level and outside of controlled spaces unthinkable. Civilization involves a new form of hierarchy, one based on the “charisma” that, as Philip Rieff saw, comes from the discipline that allows its practitioner to see orders invisible to the less disciplined. The more disciplined, the less governed by resentments because the more capable of framing and thereby pre-empting resentments. The relation between the more and the less disciplined therefore entails the former framing and pre-empting the resentments of the latter. This means prompting the less disciplined to earn greater rights and freedoms, rather than giving sway to resentment regarding the rights and freedoms enjoyed by others. The growth of civilization, as Nobert Elias shows in The Civilizing Process, involves a centralization of power in which the monarch suppresses and defuses rivalries at lower levels (the violence of the honor system) and enforces the replacement of open resentment with a system of deference (“courtesy” and manners), that signifies hierarchies framed by the court. Now, any established order will tend to inertia and routinization, and therefore the one holding sovereign power will not invariably be the most disciplined, morally, intellectually or physically. But our conception of civilization enables us draw upon the model of the originary scene as the organization of reciprocities based upon a shared (if unequally sustained) deferral so as to imagine such an order. The good subject acts as if the sovereign is the most disciplined, and orders his realm so as to promote and reward in accord with each one’s discipline and deferences: this reconciles the tension between actual hierarchy and the originary moral model by iterating the discovery of deferral on the originary scene.

On a more empirical level, it cannot be denied that the “decentralizing” tendencies of the modern market have not eroded state power. Quite to the contrary, that power continues to grow so that we have, and have had for quite some time, states that are far more powerful, controlling and intrusive than the most absolutist monarch. From a absolutist perspective, the frenetic expansion of state power results from the lack of certainty regarding sovereign power and therefore property, with an endless cycle of new power centers promoting subversion and the central power seeking to resecure power by grabbing more of it. Even libertarian accounts of this modern development lend indirect support to the absolutist analysis. You either concede some role, however minimal, to the state, or you don’t. If you do, then however you minimize that role (protecting property, protecting “negative rights,” preserving social order) you concede to the state not only the power needed to play that role but to interpret it; if you institute checks upon the state (like selection of state officials through election) then you concede the power to those doing the checking to interpret that role. Presumably, then, all those checks have added themselves to the power structure, calling forth the need for new checks, and so on. If you concede no role to the state, as anarchists like Hans-Hermann Hoppe do, then you concede that the inequality of property will lead the biggest property owners to essentially govern (they will literally be deciding who can walk on the streets, enter businesses, get educated, and so on), and the social order imagined by Hoppe is different from one an absolutist might imagine only in the confusion introduced by overlapping security systems and distributed ownership over thoroughfares needed for social existence. Most importantly for us here, from an originary standpoint, there is no reason to assume that the social center is ever unoccupied: it passes from the ritual center of the primitive community, to the succession of Big Men and then monarchs and then, finally, to the modern state, which undergoes more rapid staffing changes than the monarchies, but never leaves society without an agency and hence some individual that has the final say on what is permitted and what is forbidden.

Even more: all of our daily activities and thinking in a civilized social order take for granted the existence of a central power with whom final decision making power resides. Think of all the times and ways people say “we” “should” do this or that—we should take care of the poor; we should have a more civil discourse; we should address the lack of our integrity in our government; we should be more tolerant; we should regulate Wall Street more rigorously, etc. We can dismiss all these expressions as sloppy thinking, and analyze the meaning or lack therefore in the “we,” the “should,” and even the objects of the expressions (“civility,” “integrity,” “Wall Street,” etc.) and it is indeed very good to do this—but none of that changes the fact that these lazy formulations all presuppose someone out there who is in principle capable of doing something we would call “regulating” to something we would all agree to call “Wall Street” in a way we would all consider “rigorous.” The most effective and enlightening analysis of such phrases would be ones that showed how much social consensus would be necessary for these expressions to have any real meaning, and how tightly and hierarchically organized all social institutions would have to be to maintain such a consensus (to hold “referents” like “regulate” and “Wall Street” in place, or, if necessary, replace them with other, clearer ones). All of these “shoulds” are essentially cries for absolute power, even if the myriad and incompatible “shoulds” means that such a power would not give anyone exactly what they want—and an acknowledgement and acceptance of that by the vast majority is precisely the level of disciplined maturity that would be necessary to institute that kind of power. Without the presupposition of an absolute central power to mediate and contain our resentments, we would be reduced to telling each other on an individual level what particular thing we want right now, a situation which is unimaginable.

Victimary Thinking and the Moral Model

The most important contribution Gans has made to contemporary political thought is, I would say, his analysis of “victimary thinking,” which seemed a fairly marginal phenomenon when he started examining it in the mid-90s but has by now clearly metastasized into one of the major political issues of the day. Victimary thinking is, for Gans, a moral transformation in Western society resulting from the shock at the Nazi genocide of the Jews. All “ascriptive differences,” that is, differences based on some presumably indelible marker of belonging to a certain group (most obviously, skin color), are now framed in terms of the Nazi-Jew binary. The rapid, almost frenzied, decolonization following World War II can be accounted for in these terms: once, say, British domination of India can no longer be seen in terms of the more civilized leading the less civilized, or even more invidiously but still less absolutely as an unjust domination of one nation by another, but as racial oppression akin to Nazism, then colonial rule becomes completely untenable. The same holds for the civil rights movement in the US, which one can see was fairly consistently framed in terms of racial oppression and justice derived from the Western recoil from Nazism. Once the victimary model is in place, no real limits can be set to it: the “oppression” of women, of homosexuals, of the “transgendered” can all be plugged in to produce a public and political discourse in which to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding or to open women’s bathrooms to any male who says he is really a woman is make oneself morally indistinguishable from Adolf Eichmann.

Now, the obvious “other” to victimary thinking is ordering based on merit. In that case, one’s critique of victimary thinking would be from a modern, liberal, meritocratic basis. But the problem here is that victimary thinking insinuates itself into the complacent meritocratic discourse. It turns out that we can’t take for granted that the GRE and grades in high school and college should determine who occupies which position in the social order. Standardized tests are biased and different students have differential access to education; even if standardized tests and grades do accurately measure merit they simply ratify pre-existing inequalities which therefore must be addressed through more fundamental transformations: if whites do better than blacks on such tests, for example, it really just means that whites have, unjustly, more money, live in better neighborhoods and go to better schools than blacks, and therefore all of that needs to be reconfigured before we can rely on tests and grades. Liberal meritocratic thinking has not been very effective at putting up resistance to all this, doing little more than acting scandalized at the whole phenomenon. The most immediate intellectual reason for this is that meritocratic thinking fantasizes differences to exist along individual lines and is completely ill-equipped to cope with the recognition that differences emerge along group lines. For the meritocratic liberal to consider that, say, more blacks might be in jail because blacks have, on average, less self-control or, for that matter, that secularized Jews might trend overwhelmingly leftist because they see themselves in an antagonistic relation to predominantly white, Christian societies, is simply unthinkable. But that means that the meritocratic liberal is always already victimary, and merely resents being replaced by a more consistent and militant member of the troupe.

Indeed, once we see victimary thinking as constitutive of liberal thought from the very beginning, the “victimary” itself becomes a much more powerful concept. The original “ascriptive differences” were not racial but the orders, ranks and obligations that constituted the feudal hierarchy and were incorporated into (and subverted by) the growth of the monarchy. Liberalism’s agenda from the beginning has been to undermine and de-legitimate such hierarchical orders, with “merit” and “consent” its primary means of doing so. Any institutionalized hierarchy will be imperfectly aligned with at least some judgments of merit, and can be attacked on that basis. “Consent” is an equally thin reed upon which to base a social order, as the rapidly spreading notion of “affirmative consent” in sexual matters (not the sexual act as a whole, but each interaction within that act must be explicitly consented to if rape charges are to be avoided) rather parodically reveals. “Consent” can also always be attacked as insufficiently consensual—unequal starting points means it was really force rather than consent, the signs indicating consent were not clear enough, conditions unknown to the consenting partners invalidate the consent after the fact, etc. Such ambiguities can perhaps be handled within a traditional common law legal order, but cannot be the basis of such an order. The maintenance of a traditional system of reciprocal obligations based upon differential contributions to the creation and maintenance of social order and flourishing is clearly at least as effective a basis of social order as “consent.”

To return to Gans’s account of the originary scene: Gans understands the “moral model” (the reciprocity of all participants on the scene) in a way that is closer to liberalism’s notion of free and independent individuals than I think is warranted. The first act following the emission of the sign on the originary scene is the consumption of the central object. Rather than consumption following the order of the animal group, with the alpha first taking his share, then the beta, and so one, all members of the new human group participate in consumption. This is the first “moral” act. Now, Gans is of course well aware that the division of the object is not equal in terms of size of portions—no one on the scene has a yardstick or scale, and differences in size, strength and speed will affect the amount consumed by each. Still, distribution is equal enough so that no one is excluded from the scene, and, more precisely, equal enough so that the mimetic rivalry that culminated in the event is not restarted. So far, so good—even the most hierarchical social order can be considered “equal” in this very restricted sense. The originary equality of participants in the exchange of signs is translated into access to social goods. Let’s take a look at a couple of passages from an important essay of Gans’s (http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/ap0101/gans.htm):

What we call our “sense of justice” is first experienced through the scandal of injustice. We need no reflection to feel resentment when we see ourselves refused a privilege granted to another. The model we apply to such situations is that of the symmetrical exchange of signs in the originary scene of language. The originary crisis is averted by the enunciation of the sign as name-of-God by the entire human community. At this moment there is no hierarchy, no alpha individual; the exceptional being that resolves the crisis is God, not man. Resentment is our scandalized reaction to the existence of situations where this symmetrical configuration is not maintained. Unequal treatment of anyone constitutes a disequilibrium that is scandalous because it seems to threaten the community with return to originary chaos. I am not merely upset at my own ill-treatment; I am in terror of the potential disintegration of the entire social order.

Our resentful reaction to inequality reveals our belief in the moral model–an ostensive belief like the foxhole belief in God. Resentment points to the act of injustice, makes it known. God remains the implicit audience of our resentment as he was of our plea for help, but now we expect the rest of the human community to share our reaction. Where the foxhole renews the terror of the originary crisis that compels the use of the linguistic sign, the scene of resentment reproduces the moment in which language has already brought peace by deferring appropriation of the central object. In the first case, there is no preexisting model of resolution; we put ourselves in the hands of God. In the second, the community is expected to close ranks against a threat to an already established stability.

The equalitarian moral model is the minimal basis of ethics, just as ostensive belief in God is the minimal basis of religion. The traditional claim that this model, like the idea of God, is implicit in humanity itself is sharpened by its identification as that of the originary exchange of signs.

The symmetrical exchange of signs is the model we apply in resenting privileges granted to another. This begs the question of what will count as a “privilege.” On the originary scene God resolves the crisis, and no hierarchical order or empowered individual. But when we ask God to judge, and the rest of the community to “share our reaction” (presumably because we are all united in asking God to judge) in the case of the injustice we have suffered (the resentment we feel) it is a human order with at least some hierarchy (some members must be more respected, their opinions given more weight, than others) that is itself a result of a closing of ranks against some threat. If injustice is disorder and justice a reordering, then there is a presumption in favor of the existing order, including whatever hierarchies it has installed. What will count as “privilege,” then will be usurpation of a power not licensed by that order—that will be the source of the resentment. Here, it seems to me that Gans is interpreting “privilege” in terms of a liberal notion of equality—“privilege” is anything that someone else has that I don’t that is not justified in terms of us equally being mere users of signs. But in abstracting the leap into language—sign use “in itself”—through the hypothesis of the originary scene we are not thereby projecting that abstract sign use in itself upon the participants of the scene. There is an order and hierarchy even on the originary scene that later abstractions or remembrances of the originary scene (in Judaism, Christianty, liberalism and even the originary hypothesis) in different ways and to different extents erase. It is likely that that order is some articulation of the carrying over of animal hierarchies (the previously alpha animal may still get the biggest share) and new abilities (like suggesting a “fair” division), differentially distributed, created by the invention/discovery of the sign itself. We can’t really know, and so the most minimal discussion of the scene will exclude such “asymmetrical” elements. In applying the model of the originary event to political thought, where we have to be able to answer the question of what counts as a justified resentment, though, we must make a minimal presupposition of such asymmetries. To be a sign user, then, is to support and seek to enhance an existing order, to further embed the reciprocities it imposes in our shared practices and, certainly, to point out derelictions in assigned duties. Resentments in this case serve as a kind of data, the meaning of which is to be determined further up the chain of command. If, on the contrary, we see the exchange of signs as a model that is by definition more symmetrical and therefore more moral than any existing order, we will see resentment as presumptively legitimate, as having a kind of epistemological validity in identifying flaws in the social order. It is the social order, then, that becomes accountable to resentments—and, in fact, the most effective, i.e., virulent, subversive, treasonously supported resentments—which it is obliged to appease. Social order as deployed against itself to remedy its always receding failures in reciprocity—that is liberalism, and it is displayed most explicitly and consistently in victimary thinking. Absolutist thought, meanwhile, is not indifferent to merit or differences in ability but simply focuses on preserving the institutional and social hierarchies and orders needed to recognize it.

An absolutist reading of the originary hypothesis, then, emphasizes the predominance and continuity of the center—from initial ritual center to, ultimately the center to which intelligent loyalty is directed—as a cynosure of desire that inspires new deferrals. Deferral and discipline are concepts applicable not just to personal behavior—adhering to norms of politeness and sitting still for several hours to work on a task are certainly instances of discipline, but so are activities like suspending one’s existing assumptions in embarking on a new inquiry or noting rather than expressing one’s spontaneous responses to some provocation. Any distance we place between ourselves and some object of desire requires discipline, the rewards of which (such as comradeship, a broader range of interests and/and various registers of attention) cannot always be known in advance. In fact, the most obvious examples of discipline—like studying nightly and forgoing youthful pleasures so as to gain an advanced degree—while impressive, are not necessarily the most spectacular. The control of resentment is really the highest disciplinary accomplishment, and the most important for absolutist political theory. Resentment is controlled by accepting the impermeability of the center to which resentments are addressed—in learning that “the world” doesn’t care if you have been offended by this one, cheated by that, and disregarded by another, and also doesn’t care about your rage at “the world” for not caring, one is really learning that the establishment of social regularity and the suppression of disorder must attend to higher levels of interactions than those at which the resenter is situated. The more you control your resentments the more you learn about those higher levels of interaction and their ramifications throughout the social order; and, the more you learn about those higher levels the better able you are to control your resentments and submit them to whatever adjudication is available. In the process, the closer you come to wanting what the sovereign wants. All the social hierarchies treated with such contempt by the ideologues of “merit” and “consent” exist so as preserve and institutionalize these successive increments of discipline, and therefore to serve as a model for emulating them.

The Will of the Sovereign

The center, from the originary scene on, has intentionality—that is what makes it possible to deify the central object. The originary human group is grateful to the center for arresting their catastrophic rush to the object, which is to say, for giving them peace. The center always gives peace by instructing us in the arts of deferral, which we learn exchanging signs with our fellow humans regarding our intentions toward shared objects. At the same time, all resent the center, for blocking access to the object (even as it inflames our desire for it). The intentions of the center become more complex the more complex social order becomes, which is to say the broader the array of desires and resentments that require deferral. The first act after the object on the originary scene is consumed is the establishment of ritual, the re-enactment of the originary scene—ritual facilitates future access to the central object—clearly, we couldn’t count on the spontaneous rediscovery of the originary sign every time conflict flares up. The form of ritual is dictated by the center, which is to say the intentions of the center are embedded in a community’s rituals. But they are not made explicit by rituals which, by definition, embody tacit knowledge. Understanding what the center wants involves, then, a reading of rituals or, more precisely, the attribution of intentions to the figures populating the ritual.

We need to understand more explicitly what the center wants because the totality of human practices always exceeds the knowledge embodied in ritual, in part because ritual enables the community to develop new practices. Those broader fields of practice also make it possible to interpret the will of the center, because those fields are where those intentions that can be attributed to the figures on the ritual scene are drawn from. For Gans, this is the origin of myth. As the intentions attributed to the figures on the ritual scene are enriched, the intentions the members of the community are correspondingly enriched as well—we all humanize or, better, anthropomorphize each other. We could say that the meaning and purpose of human history is to continue delving into the intentions of the center. Now, as I said earlier, with the advent of the Big Man, a human figure comes to occupy the center—it is therefore that human figure with whose intentions we are concerned. As I suggested earlier in my discussion of monotheism and metaphysics, we make sense of the actions of the central figure—the sovereign—against the background of the models of the originary scene, or the moral model insofar as we take that central figure to be fulfilling the intentions of the center, as understood through those more abstract and mature models of the originary configuration. Insofar as we want the actions of the sovereign to be seamlessly interwoven with the model of the scene, we want central power to be secure, monolithic, visible, explicit in its intentions and effective in implementing those intentions (and nothing other than those intentions).

We could say, then, that, just as all discourse in primitive society is ultimately concerned with identifying the will of the center through the narrativizing of the ritual scene, all discourse in civilized society is concerned, directly or indirectly, with trying to “map” the will of the sovereign onto the originary moral model by studying his actions. Think about how much political discourse aims at telling us who “really” runs things—some, of course, believe straightforwardly that it is in fact our elected officials who are in charge, but many more point to big corporations, international finance, the deep state, the media, the Jews, etc. First of all, in other words, you need to identify who the sovereign actually is—until you do, nothing that happens in the world can really make any sense. Think about more everyday, apparently apolitical conversations and thoughts—our neighbor is a good guy, who helped me clean out my garage, my spouse is lazy and letting him/herself go, my boss is alright but loses his temper too often, my kid’s not working up to his potential in school, I can’t wait until the next episode of that TV show, etc. All of these passing thoughts and evaluations have standards built into them (being lazy is bad, and we know what it means to say someone is lazy), standards we assume are shared and, even more distantly, assume are preserved and defended—any of us would be scandalized to wake up one morning and discover that being lazy has suddenly been declared the path to success. We can only have these thoughts, we can only use these words, to the extent that we take for granted that the institutions and orders that provide us with examples of good and bad bosses, good and bad TV shows, over and underperforming children, etc., are intact. When we talk about these judgments, we are also indirectly “reading” the center, or the ‘instructions” coming from the center, which we would prefer to be clear and consistent (and which we resent for being otherwise). Even those who oppose one or another of these norms would prefer whatever their replacement standard would be to be decidable.

All differences in any conversation whatsoever are, then, differences regarding our understanding of the will of the center, or the sovereign. If you can’t find two people who agree about who is “really” running things, that’s a sure sign that the will of the center is divided—we have, you might say, sovereign turnover: maybe some days it is the media that makes the final decision on something important, on other days the bankers and sometimes even the President. The same would be true if we started to violently disagree about, say, the value of children applying themselves in school—if enough people start thinking maybe it’s just as well if their kids join a gang, we have indications of sovereign turnover—no one’s really sure who’s deciding things now, or who will be tomorrow. The more secure central power is, the less our conversations would be about who really has power, or the differences between what those in power do and what they say, or which source of power to align ourselves with, and the more about how to implement the instructions of the center, how to gather information that would be recirculated back through the center, how to map the will of the center onto the moral model and how to raise the level of discipline of each and all so as to open new moral and intellectual vistas to be incorporated into the center.

The basic assumption of absolutist thought is that sovereignty is absolute and sovereignty is conserved. This means that everything done within a social order is the responsibility of the sovereign. It’s impossible to imagine any economic, cultural or individual activity that is not framed by the will of sovereign. The equivalent and anthropological support for these assumptions in originary thinking is that the center is never absent. Everything we do or think is in deference to the center, including our deferences to one another. The purpose of social life, then is to contribute to the intelligence of the center and derive from it further iterations of the moral model of the originary scene. This means donating our resentments to the center, setting aside our resentments toward the perceived failure of the center to settle accounts in our favor, and resenting on its behalf. The sovereign’s “job,” meanwhile, is to hold his sovereign power, and to do so by converging power and accountability—everything the sovereign promises to do, he does—he doesn’t promise what he fails to do, and he doesn’t do what he hasn’t promised. All instances of power throughout the social order are delegations from the sovereign—also performing no more and no less than the delegation calls for. All subjects share with the sovereign the concern for keeping power secure, since all will suffer from struggles over the center. Struggles over the center, in fact, are no different than struggles over property. It would be better for you and your neighbor to know for sure whose house is whose, even for the one who gets the worse house, than for nobody to know which belongs to whom. And this would be the case whether that uncertainty resulted from one conqueror after another passing through the land, or from an endless legal appeal process, or from an open-ended and completely free democratic process of discussion and voting by other members of the community. If the absolutist sovereign falls, not knowing whose is whose will follow on a systematic scale; without a secure form of power, that is what we have, to an ever greater extent, now. Converting our resentments of the center (which are resentments caused by and of the unsecurity of the center) into donations of resentment on behalf of the center (informing the will of the center with our deferrals to its will) lays the groundwork for restoration.

 

WORKS CITED

Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process: Sociogenic and Psychogenic Investigations. Revised

Edition. Blackwell Publishing, 2000.

Gans, Eric. Science and Faith: The Anthropology of Revelation. Second Edition (Originally

published 1990). Aurora, CO: The Davies Group, 2015.

———-. The Girardian Origins of Generative Anthropology. Imitatio/Amazon Digital Services,

2012.

———-. A New Way of Thinking: Generative Anthropology in Religion, Philosophy, Art. Aurora,

Colo.: The Davies Group, 2011.

———-. The Scenic Imagination: Originary Thinking from Hobbes to the Present Day. Stanford

University Press, 2007.

———-. Signs of Paradox: Irony, Resentment, and Other Mimetic Structures. Stanford University

Press, 1997.

———-. “The Unique Source of Religion and Morality.” Anthropoetics  1, 1 (June 1995)

http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/ap0101/gans.htm

———-. Originary Thinking: Elements of Generative Anthropology. Stanford University Press,

1993.

———-. The End of Culture: Toward a Generative Anthropology. University of California Press,

1985.

———-. The Origin of Language: A Formal Theory of Representation. University of California

Press, 1981.

Rieff, Philip. Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us. Pantheon,

Formalising Power Analysis

by Chris B

In this essay, in opposition to political science, we will present a new form of political analysis born from the groundbreaking work of Bertrand de Jouvenel, and we will provide an analysis of the state of political science itself using this same analytical framework to demonstrate the viability and accuracy of this approach. The background to the approach is found in the works of political theorist Jouvenel, in particular his seminal book On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth[i] in which Jouvenel developed an observation that the leveling of society was conducted as a means to furthering the ends of power centers in society. Taking this observation as his starting point, Jouvenel provided a significant quantity of case studies from across the feudal era and early modernity to make the case that centralising power in the form of the monarchs of Europe, and then subsequent republican governments, led to the development of modernity and democracy.

Extrapolating from this analysis it follows that if leveling was conducted by the actions of power centers, and was not therefore a natural process bubbling up from society spontaneously as is assumed by all current political science variants, then there is significant predictive value in this insight. Further to this, it follows that power centers in engaging in leveling as a means of conducting conflict with other power centers act as selection mechanisms for culture. This mechanism leads to society moving toward certain cultural traits which are selected not on merit or correctness, but on value to the power centers in question. These conclusions have lead to the development of the following multi-layered framework:

 

The level of individual actors

Attempting to formulate theories of cultural, ideological, intellectual and historical development based on aggregating ground level actors such as activists, academics, journalists, politicians, minorities, etc. is incoherent and attempts to make sense of it are misguided. These developments are a product of selection and promotion by less visible institutions. Identification of these institutions is key, and the means to do so is to identify organisers and financing behind the actors which leads to the second stage of analysis.

 

The level of power-institutions

The various ministries and departments of the state, private foundations, academic institutions etc.,  explain how movements at the lower level get organised and funded, but this stage does not yet explain why, for the actions of these institutions cannot be understood in terms of their own stated aims, but only in terms of the power-structure in which they are embedded. This leads us to the final stage.

 

The political system

The constitutional and legal structure of the state, as it actually functions rather than as it is supposed to function, explains why the state’s constituent institutions (both putatively public and private) have been set against one another in intractable covert warfare. Here we find the explanation for why the power-institutions employ such bizarre means in their battles with one another, including the various strategies Jouvenel outlined.

Power analysis in this framework has significant explanatory power, and is extremely capable of providing confirmable predictions. An excellent case study is supplied by the continual dominance of political science in its current guise. This has occurred despite its inherent failure to provide an explanation for anything, or even the promise of a solid analysis of society.

 

An application of power analysis to political science.

Beginning the first level of analysis, we can disregard any theoretical model which attempts to explain the existence of political science as being a result of the spontaneous interplay of individuals. With this we reject the obviously assumed mechanism of selection based on correctness. The first order of business is to then analyse the actors within political science and establish where their funding and organisation came/ comes from.

Doing this, we can see that it is an open secret that political science has been shaped by tax exempt foundations and federal governance decisions. The APSA (American Political Science Association) which would form the center of political science originated as an Anglo-American forum for discussing political theory, with the proceedings from the first annual meeting revealing an unclear idea of political science[ii], but it is not until the chairmanship of Charles Merriam that the direction of political science was set on the course which we see today with the creation of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC.)[iii] It is a matter of record that the funding that allowed Merriam to do so was provided by a cross network of private funding through the major philanthropic foundations as noted in the Rockefeller archives entry for the SSRC, which reveals:

To support its work, the SSRC turned not to the U.S. government, whose support seemed more appropriate for the natural sciences, but to private foundations. For the first fifty years, well over three-quarters of the SSRC’s funding was provided by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and two Rockefeller philanthropies, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial and the Rockefeller Foundation. By the 1970s, however, funds for some special projects were obtained from federal agencies.[iv]

The wording on this entry incorrectly supplies the impression that the SSRC was created independently, then sought funding, something which makes no sense. It was the other way around. This same funding source was responsible for all of the major political science institutes and trends which occurred in the Anglo-American world, with the foundation of such institutions as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in the United States and the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA also known as Chatham House) in the United Kingdom.[v] Funding came from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation to name but a few.[vi] The Ford Foundation in particular would prove the main catalyst post World War II, as Joan Roelofs notes in Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism:

Somit and Tanenhaus estimate that during the 1950s and 1960s:

[T]he Ford complex provided 90 percent of the money channelled to political science by American philanthropic institutions. Under these circumstance, political scientists would have been less than human were they not tempted to manifest a deep interest in the kinds of research known to be favoured by Ford Foundations staff and advisers.[vii]

The result of this initial funding from the likes of the Ford Foundations was to place a pre-decided positivistic political science firmly in the driving seat in Anglo-American academia despite it being pretty much baseless, with the work and influence of Charles Merriam in particular being dominant. Merriam even became a trustee of the Lucy Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund through which his influence was direct both intellectually and financially.[viii] Post- Merriam this has not altered in the least, and at every turn foundation money is directed toward positivistic political science.

A closer look at specific variants of political science will reveal this mechanism of foundation funding (and funding itself) being the key driver of theory development and success, regardless of inherent correctness. For the purposes of this paper, we will look at both the rise of behaviourism, and also the case of international relations from which we can learn important lessons. Both areas are clearly the result of the proactive actions of foundations, which is to really say, the proactive actions of an elite stratum of American society in control of foundation funds. These foundations and their trustees did not act in isolation and without communication with the rest of the governing elite of society, to assume that this is the case is illogical.

 

The rise of International Relations

In The Invention of International Relations Theory: Realism, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the 1954 Conference on Theory[ix] editor Nicolas Guilhot observes the following in his introduction:

Once again, intellectual histories tend to produce a coherence that is then transformed into a property of the corpus of intellectual productions under scrutiny, the field being then seen as a rational “dialogue” or “conversation” between different works or authors – but they often fail to gauge the extent to which such a conversation may be staged, when “staging conversations” falls precisely within the line of business and the discrete power of philanthropic foundations funding various academic ventures. Turning the spotlights from the disciplinary stage to the backstage logistics suddenly makes visible the work of identification, classification, and promotion that is involved in the constitution of disciplinary canons.[x]

With the example of international relations theory, the logistics of the canon of works can only be explained adequately by the actions of foundation funding. In fact, as the same author notes later in his introduction that “Ultimately, we may learn as much about the history of IR from such garbled discussions as the 1954 conference as from reading the “classical” works in the discipline.”[xi] This “identification, classification, and promotion” of text and thinkers is precisely what makes and shape areas of thought, and it is clear from even a cursory search of the main actors within the IR area that they are all funded and maintained by grants from foundations or the federal government, either directly, or indirectly.

Taking a name out of a hat, metaphorically speaking, we can look at the distinguished CV of Robert Keohane, Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University[xii] and we can assess the level of significance the logistics of foundation funding has had on his very existence as an academic in international relations.

Looking at fellowships, we can see below which institutions were created or maintained by foundation funding:

Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1977-1978; 1987-1988; 2004-05. (Founded by the Ford Foundation)[xiii]

Guggenheim Fellowship, 1992-93. (Founded by the The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation)[xiv]

Bellagio Resident Fellowship, 1993. (Founded by the Rockefeller Foundation)[xv]

National Endowment for the Humanities, Frank Kenan Fellow, 1995-96. (Funded from various foundations and educational institutes)[xvi]

Visitor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J., 2008-09. (Receives significant funding from a number of foundations including the Ford Foundation)[xvii]

Social Science Research Council, Senior Foreign Policy Fellowship, September 1987, August 1988. (Founded by Charles Merriam with the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Foundation.)[xviii]

German Marshall Fund Research Fellowship, 1977-1978. (Funded by numerous foundations and institutions)[xix]

Council on Foreign Relations, International Affairs Fellowship, 1968-1969. (Founded and funded by numerous Foundations since its inception)[xx]

Moving onto to Selected Professional Service:

 American Political Science Association, President, 1999-2000. Council, 1971-1973; Woodrow Wilson Award Committee, 1982; Nominating Committee, 1990-91 (Chair, 1990); Chair, Minority Identification Project,1990-92; Member, Committee on Graduate Studies, 2004; Chair APSR Editorial Search Committee, 2005-06. International Studies Association: President, 1988-1989; Chair, Nominations Committee, 1985.  (Funded by various foundations)[xxi]

Department of Political Science, Stanford University: Chair, 1980-81.

 Department of Government, Harvard University: Chair, 1988-92. International Organization: Board of Editors, 1968-1977, 1982-88; 1992-97, 1998-2004. Editor, 1974-1980; Chair, Board of Editors, 1986-87.

National Science Foundation, member of Political Science Panel, c. 1977-79. (Federal founding)[xxii]

National Academy of Sciences, “America’s Climate Choices” Committee, panel on limiting emissions, 2009-10. (Federal founding)[xxiii]

I have neither the time nor the resources (barring a Foundation granting me such) to pursue all of the records of Robert Keohane’s income from universities specifically, and whether they too were supplemented/ sourced from foundations, so the above simple analysis will likely massively understate the role of foundation money on his academic career and influence.

This state of affairs will be the same for all major figures in the International relations field across all variants, as there is no other way it could not be. There are simply no independent benefactors of any real size, and no real scope for self-sufficient thinkers on any great scale. As such, we should be considering the formal effect of simple funding on cultural and intellectual development as definitive.

 

The rise of behaviouralism

In addition to the foundation led creation of the discipline of international relations, we also have the case of behaviouralism which is practically an indistinguishable discipline.

In 1947, Henry Ford II directed Rowan Gaither to produce a report outlining what the Ford Foundation should direct their funding towards. The report was published in 1949 following exhaustive consultation with the academic establishments of the USA with the title Report of the Study for the Ford Foundation on Policy and Program.[xxiv] The conclusion of this study was that funding should concentrate on the following programs:

Program Area One deals with the conditions of peace essential to democratic progress. Program Area Three is concerned with the economic bases of democracy, Program Area Four with its educational foundations, and Program Area Five with the conditions of personal life requisite for democratic self-realization.[xxv]

Program Area Two meanwhile is simply “The strengthening of democracy.”[xxvi]

This fifth category in the above quote is not quite clear however its chapter title of “individual Behavior and Human Relations”[xxvii] should make it more so. Category five is the incipient area of behaviourism and modern political science. Indeed, one only has to read the Gaither report to see the language of behaviourism before its rise:

Theories now exist which promise to lead to more complete understanding of the mainsprings of human action and, even more fortunately, we now have certain techniques for the testing of these theories. Moreover, we have in the social sciences scientifically minded research workers who are both interested in, and equipped for, the use of such techniques. Among these are the psychologists, sociologist, and anthropologist.[xxviii]

Noting this direct link between Behaviourism’s rise and the Ford Foundation is not something unique to this paper, but is actually something of an open secret. Erkki Berndtson[xxix] in a wide ranging essay on the subject notes that:

Many have even argued that the whole concept of behavioralism came into use only because of the policy of foundations (Geiger 1988: 329). And Bernard Berelson seems to agree:

“What happened to give rise to the term? The key event was the development of a Ford Foundation program in this field. The program was initially designated ‘individual behavior and human relations’ but it soon became known as the behavioral sciences program and, indeed, was officially called that within the foundation. It was the foundation’s administrative action, then, that led directly to the term and to the concept of this particular field of study.” (Berelson 1968: 42)”

The foundation money created also a self-generating process which led to the recruitment of behavioralists. Because behavioralist projects were funded better than traditional ones, there were a larger supply of behavioralists up for recruitment than others (Hacker 1959: 39-40). It is no wonder that some of the key practioners of behavioralism have been willing to admit, that “it was almost single-handedly the Ford Foundation that did so much to legitimate empirical social science” (Warren E. Miller in Baer, et al., eds. 1991: 242).[xxx]

Berelson, for the record, was the director of the Behavioural Sciences Program of the Ford program from 1951 to 1957.[xxxi]

The upshot of this state of affairs is that it is clear that the selection mechanisms for theories within academia in relation to political science are neither accuracy nor the explanatory capability of the theory in question This rules out any spontaneous development theory of the development of political science. Instead, the foundations set a course for a putatively objective, progressive, and scientific political science which no matter how many times it fails, does not lose funding and becomes self reinforcing. Any competing claim or analysis on the other hand finds itself sowing seeds on barren ground. It became, and remains, a self-reinforcing discipline.

 

The political system

Having progressed from the individual level to the power institution level, the next question to face is that of why the foundations and institutes propagated and continue to propagate this specific course of theorising. To do this, we need to address the political structure within which these institutions exist, this is to say, to address the republican structure of society.

A republican structure is one in which governance is subject to various checks and balances as a means to ensure that the behaviour of governance is responsible and limited. However the result of republican governance is the exact opposite of these aims because of this structure.

Another factor inherent in republican structures is the passive, or rather, reflexive nature of the governmental structure, which ultimately requires matters become legal matters to achieve final incorporation into the “rule of law.”

Given this analysis, we would likely see that governing elites wishing to act in a proactive manner in a republican democratic structure which formally precludes this form of behaviour will engage in the following behaviour as outlined by Jouvenel’s theory:

  • Promotion of equality and cultural trends at the expense of intermediary power centers to circumvent hurdles to action.
  • Utilisation of putative “non-governmental” resources to achieve goals, and undermine intermediary centers of power.
  • Attempt to raise the actions aimed at, and contained in, point (1) and (2) to legal issues to incorporate them into “rule of law” through legal action, making the actions legitimate within the framework of republican governance.
  • Promotion of any cultural trends and ideas which promote republican governance overall.

The question then becomes – what does this have to do with political science? The answer unsurprisingly is that the specific ideas of empirical and positivist understanding of governance contained in political science promoted by foundations accord with liberal theories of governance, in which society can be run through formula or through mechanisms such as “rule of law.” This understanding of society is also one premised on society being an agglomeration of individual desires and wants to which the liberal state acts as a protective umpire. This is fundamentally liberalism at root. These theories also promote a scientism which has been a hallmark of liberal politics used as a weapon against recalcitrant sections of society. The spread of positivistic social science and liberal democracy, as well as republicanism, move hand in hand at all times.

Foundations are, and have been since the start, manned by the elite within society, who had, and have, strong links with formally recognised government actors and on many occasions were jointly formally recognised government actors. It is questionable whether they should really be considered as private endeavours at all and instead should be considered informal government actors. This renders the creation of all mainstream political science by foundations (run by the liberal elite) a case of creation according to a mix of a priori ideologically deduced demands, and politically induced aggression (the electoral cycle, republican blocks and any other elements of the formal governance structure that are not viewed as progressive.)

The subsequent decisions of these actors to follow specific assumptions without any particular proof that they were correct at all beckons us to place their assumptions within their overall cultural environment, which is itself a product of the structural reality of the political system of republican democracy. This realisation that political science is a mere sub set of progressive assumptions is again echoed in Berndst’s essay on behavioralism with the referencing of the British critic of positivistic social science Bernard Crick. As Berndst writes:

Scientific culture is tied to many ways to the general social, economic and political culture and development of a given country. Bernard Crick’s thesis that American political science is based on a four-fold relationship between a common notion of science, the idea of a citizenhip training, the habits of democracy and a common belief in an inevitable progress (Crick 1959: xv) still merits attention.[xxxii]

Or as James Farr notes in an article on “The History of Political Science”:

“Crick thought that political science, at least in America, harboured some definite political beliefs of a distinctly liberal sort and that writing a history of political science according to scientific criteria simply recapitulated those liberal beliefs. He argued quite plainly that “the classification [of the development of political science] according to methodology is itself the expression of some substantive political beliefs, characteristic of American political thought””[xxxiii]

And that “”the idea of a science of politics” showed itself to be but a “caricature of American liberal democracy.””[xxxiv]  To make this point even stronger, we can return to the Geither report and excerpt a number of passages to make it clear that, in effect, the driving impetus for the creation of political science was democratic advocacy. The report declares that “the committee’s conception of human welfare is stated in Chapter I[…] is in large measure synonymous with a definition of democratic ideals.”[xxxv] Further:

the committee believes that these problems may be attacked and human welfare furthered by programs in the areas recommended in Chapter III: the establishment of peace, the strengthening of democracy, the strengthening of the economy, the improvement of education, and the better understanding of man[xxxvi]

In addition:

the committee’s analysis in Chapter II of the critical problems of our contemporary society makes clear the great need for knowledge of the principles which govern human behaviour in political, economic, and other group activities, and in the individuals’ personal life…At the same time individuals require an understanding of human behaviour, their own as well as that of others, if they are to help maintain the democratic nature of such planning and control, and if they are to make adequate personal adjustment to the conflicting and changing demands of modern living.[xxxvii]

So we can see program area five (which again, was to become behavioralism and modern political science) was driven by the aim of improving human welfare, human welfare itself being synonymous with democracy to the elites funding political science. The question then arises as to what would happen if this “science” found results that conflicted with democratic assumptions, but then this question is rendered null and void by the very fact that it carries the assumptions of democracy (which are clearly synonymous with liberal political theory) with it. Its conclusions were decided before it began. The mainspring of these conclusions can be found expressed on page 17:

Basic to human welfare is the idea of the dignity of man – the conviction that man must be regarded as an end in himself, not as a mere cog in the mechanisms of society. At heart, this is a belief in the inherent worth of the individual, in the intrinsic value of human life[xxxviii]

This is again repeated on pages 46-47 of the report:

Democracy accepts the fact of conflicting interests and even encourages the positive expression of divergent views, aims, and values. Democratic theory assumes, however, that conflicts can be resolved or accommodated by nonviolent means, and that discrimination and hostility between groups on the basis of race, national origin, or religion can be kept below the point where the basic well-being of society is threatened. In a most realistic and practical manner, intergroup hostilities weaken our democratic strength by dissipating important resources of energy in internal conflicts, and by swelling the ranks of malcontents who constitutes the seed bed for undemocratic ideologies.
[…]
Considerations such as these lead to the conclusion that man now stands uncertain and confused at a critical point in world history. He must choose between two opposed courses. One is democratic, dedicated to the freedom and dignity of the individuals, as an end in himself. The other, the antithesis of democracy, is authoritarian, wherein freedom and justice do not exist, and human rights and truth are wholly subordinated to the state.[xxxix]

Not just category five, but all categories mentioned in the report are devoted to democracy. Not society, but a democratic society. They are all highly politicised by default, and a result of the political structure which they clearly serve. They all not only assume an individual in accordance with the anthropology of liberalism but actively promote the concept.

The ramifications of this are that this program that became behavioralism, political science etc. is anything but objective, but is in fact loaded with liberal theories concerning anthropology which are either overt or basically just assumed without thought. These assumptions include the belief that the human is pre-societal, possessed of set preferences that are subject to societal negotiation, and that individuals are a natural state of mankind, despite the stunning ahistorical nature of this assumption. Democracy and liberal theory then goes from being the temporal, geographical and contingent state of affairs that it is, to being the basis of “science” in the form of political science.

 

The liberal source of political science

In summary, having applied power analysis to the field of political science, we can conclude that its shape, its priorities and its continuation are the result of funding institution’s activities. The motives of the institutions providing the funding are themselves only comprehensible by reference to the political structure within which they reside and their relative positions in that structure.  The structure in question is the liberal democratic state structure which ingrains a liberal theory of politics and society in which society is comprised of individual actors that collectively constitute society from the ground up. From this understanding which is central to liberalism and the modern state, we have a number of assumptions which political science encapsulates:

  • The totality of society is determinable from an empirical study of the preferences and behaviours of individuals within society.
  • These individuals have a predetermined and fixed set of preferences which are pre-societal.
  • A fact/value distinction.
  • That according to point one, two and three, Democracy is a scientifically groundable concept.

These conceptions amount to the assertion that political structures are developed from the ground up, and that an objective comprehension of this mechanism is possible to deduce that is not influenced from above.  Contrary to this, the evidence shows that all of these concepts and all concepts within political science are thoroughly rooted in time, place and power configuration context. Referring back to basic liberal theory, we find that all of these conceptions and assumptions are present, thus demonstrating the genealogy of this concept beyond the point of the foundations.

Beginning with the idea that the totality of society is divinable from the preferences of individuals, this is distinctly Hobbesian and Lockean. One could say this is a central point of liberal thought and the institutions which have promoted this thinking since the 16th century. If we return back to the beginning of the intellectual formulation of liberalism, it is observable that it is a process of taking individual actors as given individuals anterior to society. From social contract theory to the state of nature, all of this theory is premised on trying to deduce why these pre-societal individuals form governments. Why these institutions and thinkers did this at the origin of liberalism itself appears to be a result of conflict between power centers at the time[xl]. There is more to say on this topic, but for now it suffices to observe that the individual as anterior to society is a liberal conception, from which political science derives its fundamental assumptions.

Further to this assertion of the pre-societal nature of the individual, we have the fact/value distinction which is rendered incoherent without the underpinning of set, pre-societal preferences and desires. The underlying structure of the fact/value distinction is basically liberalism, which is again, a historically, geographically and structurally contingent development.

Taking all of these basically liberal conceptions together, we can then begin to talk about a science of politics which can be developed from analysing the actions of the individuals that comprise society. We can therefore see behaviouralism and political science are merely liberalism in a thin disguise of science.

In summary, again, what we can see given a review of the logistics of political science is that it is not explainable as a spontaneous development that has won over thinkers by it successful ability to explain political events. This is not a tenable claim. Political Science in its modern guise was brought into being by funds from philanthropic institutions with a clear liberal underpinning. The smooth transition to federal and university funding once the institutionalising of this liberal science was complete should not be a surprise given the overlap between foundations and the governing and educational elite.

The motives and drives for this funding into existence of political science is subsequently the key question, and this is explainable in accordance with the Jouvenelian observation that power centers within a divided governmental system will engage in centralising conflict with one another by indirect means. The example of Rowan Gaither serves as perfect expression of this. A reader unfamiliar with Gaither may look for the Gaither report, and become confused by the presence of two reports referred to by this name. The first is the previously mentioned Report of the Study for the Ford Foundation on Policy and Program,[xli] whilst the second is Deterrence & Survival in the Nuclear Age[xlii] produced for, and presented to, President Eisenhower. Conventional wisdom implicitly asserts that these two reports produced for two separate institutions must be non-related. As if Gaither would write and work for the USA’s official governance institutions then walk out of the door, become a neutral actor, then walk through the door of the Ford Foundation and operate as an independent actor. This is a totally unreasonable assumption, but it is a basic foundation of political understanding in republican governance that there is a sharp distinction between the categories of a private sphere and a governmental sphere. This assumption is so ingrained that Gaither himself also refers to himself and foundations as neutral, impartial, and apolitical whilst discussing influencing politics.

An alternative and far more reasonable assumption to make would be that the governing web of elites would work irrespective of the formal institutions that define the republic structure, using such centers as the Ford Foundation as tools just as much as the Presidential Office or Senate. I see no reason to consider the Ford Foundation or any other institution as an entity independent of governance as it (and Gaither) claims.

This pattern holds throughout all of the putative non-governmental institutions cited in this essay, with the egregious examples of the actions of those setting up the RIIA and the CFR standing out. I have made a point of providing reference and documentation directly from the institutions in questions so as avoid any questions as to the sources, given the nature of the claims in this essay.

In effect, the formation and direction of political science is accurately predicted using the model outlined in this article. Any political “science” which cannot rise to the challenge of refuting this is not worthy of the name.

 

NOTES

[i] Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth (New York, Viking Press, 1949.) For further analysis of the relevance of Jouvenel, see the further essays in this journal edition: “The Patron Theory of Politics,” and “The Patron Theory of Politics Revisited: Religion and Conflict.”

[ii] See Frank J.Goodnow, “The Work of The American Political Science Association,” Proceeding of the American Political Science Association, Vol. 1 (1904): p 35-46.

[iii] Kenton W. Worcester, Social Science Research Council, 1923-1998 (New York, Social Science Research Council, 2001.)

[iv] Rockefeller Archive Center, Social Science Research Council Archives, 1924-1990, accessed March 12, 2017, http://rockarch.org/collections/nonrockorgs/ssrc.php.

[v] For details on the various funding sources for the RIIA see Carol Quigley. The Anglo-American Establishment (New York, Books in Focus, 1981) Chapter 10- The Royal Institute of International Affairs. For details of the various funding sources for the CFR and its origination from “The Inquiry” created by Woodrow Wilson, also see Quigley. In addition, see Peter Grosse. Continuing the Inquiry (New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1996) for the financing provided by foundations and members of international finance.

[vi] ibid.

[vii] Joan Roelofs. Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (State University of New York Press, 2003) P 42.

[viii]  100 years The Rockefeller Foundation, Social Science Research Council exhibit page, accessed March 12, 2017, http://rockefeller100.org/exhibits/show/social_sciences/social-science-research-counci.

[ix] Nicolas Guilhot. The Invention of International Relations Theory: Realism, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the 1954 Conference on Theory (New York, Columbia University Press, 2011.)

[x] Ibid, pp 14-15.

[xi] Ibid, p 15.

[xii] Curriculum Vitae of Robert Owen Keohane, accessed 12 March, 2017, https://www.princeton.edu/~rkeohane/cv.pdf.

[xiii] “History of the Center,” Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, accessed 13 March, 2017. https://casbs.stanford.edu/history-center.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] “The Bellagio Center Residency Program”, accessed March 13, 2017, https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/bellagio-center/residency-program/.

[xvi] “Who we are” National Humanities Center, accessed March 13, 2017, http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/who-we-are/.

[xvii] “How is research at the Institute funded?,” IAS frequently asked questions, accessed March 13, 2017, https://www.ias.edu/about/faqs. Also, note a significant grant of £1.5 million in 1969 to the IAS to create a school of social science, with a further 2 million obtained from other sources as yet unclear – most likely other foundations. See: “Research and Training Support” PS, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Summer, 1969), pp. 401-06.

[xviii] Rockefeller Archive Center, Social Science Research Council Archives, 1924-1990, accessed March 12, 2017, http://rockarch.org/collections/nonrockorgs/ssrc.php.

[xix] See GMF annual reports for sources of funding, accessed March 13, 2017, http://www.gmfus.org/annual-report-financials.

[xx] Peter Grosse. Continuing the Inquiry (New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press,1996.)

[xxi] A full review of the funding history of the APSA is not feasible for this article, it suffices to note the links between APSA and the major foundations in relation to the creation of the Social Science Research Council Archives.

[xxii]  “About the National Science Foundation,” National Science Foundation, accessed March 13, 2017, https://www.nsf.gov/about/.

[xxiii] “History,” National Academy of Sciences, accessed March 13,2017, http://www.nasonline.org/about-nas/history/.

[xxiv] Published by the Ford Foundation. Report of the study for the Ford Foundation on policy and program [prepared by the Study Committee] (Detroit, 1949.)

[xxv] Ibid, p 63.

[xxvi] Ibid, p 70.

[xxvii] Ibid, p 90.

[xxviii] Ibid, p 92.

[xxix] Erkki Berndtson. “Behavioralism: Origins of the Concept”( Prepared for Presentation at the XVIIth World Congress of the International Political Science Association August 17-21, 1997 Seoul, Korea.)

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] For internal reference to the central part played by Berelson, see The Ford Foundation Behavioural Sciences Division Report dated 1953, which also provides details regarding the funding activities of the Foundation in relation to Program Five of the Report of the study for the Ford Foundation on policy and program [prepared by the Study Committee]. A copy is obtainable from http://digitalcollections.library.cmu.edu/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=50995 accessed March 12, 2017.

[xxxii] Erkki Berndtson. “Behavioralism: Origins of the Concept”( Prepared for Presentation at the XVIIth World Congress of the International Political Science Association August 17-21, 1997 Seoul, Korea.)

[xxxiii] James Farr. “The History of Political Science,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Nov., 1988), P 1179.

[xxxiv] Ibid, p 1176.

[xxxv] Published by the Ford Foundation. Report of the study for the Ford Foundation on policy and program [prepared by the Study Committee] (Detroit, 1949) p 12-13.

[xxxvi] Ibid, p 14-15.

[xxxvii] Ibid, p 90.

[xxxviii] Ibid, p17.

[xxxix] Ibid, pp 46-47.

[xl] See the further papers “The Patron Theory of Politics,” and “The Patron Theory of Politics Revisited: Religion and Conflict” for arguments regarding the role of institutional conflicts in the development of liberalism.

[xli] Published by the Ford Foundation. Report of the study for the Ford Foundation on policy and program [prepared by the Study Committee] (Detroit, 1949.)

[xlii] Deterrence & Survival in the Nuclear Age (The “Gaither Report” of 1957,)(US Government Printing Office , Washington, 1957.)

The Patron Theory of Politics Revisited: Religion and Conflict.

by Chris B

In “The Patron Theory of Politics”[i] a new model of political theory was presented which rejected the possibility of spontaneous order. The picture which emerged from this analysis was one in which anti-authority sentiment and protest is revealed as being encouraged and directed by centralising and self-effacing power centers against their competitors. In this paper, we will revisit this model and review two recent books that shed light on historical examples of this process which have significant ramifications for current political events. The two books in question are William T Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict and Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001. Both books deal with the birth of new cultural developments (Protestantism and Political Islam) and both make links independently that correspond to the patron theory of politics.

 

Re-imagining the beginnings of Protestantism; Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence

In Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence, Cavanaugh presents a thesis which is radically at odds with received wisdom concerning the origin of the secular state. Citing the examples of Baruch Spinoza,Thomas Hobbes and John Locke who presented religious division[ii] as the cause of the conflicts of the period, he notes that this narrative provided:

the backdrop for much of the Enlightenment’s critique of religion. There developed a grand narrative in Enlightenment historiography—typified by Edward Gibbon and Voltaire—that saw the wars of religion as the last gasp of medieval barbarism and fanaticism before the darkness was dispelled.[iii]

More modern liberal thinkers have subsequently traced the birth of liberalism to the so-called religious conflicts of this period, with Cavanaugh citing Quintin Skinner, Jeffrey Stout, Judith Shklar and John Rawls as exemplifying this narrative.[iv] This narrative takes on a pressing importance given the usage of it in justifying numerous policies and legal decisions of the modern state. Indeed, in a section dealing with the usages of the myth of religious difference and religious violence being the cause of societal conflict, he makes the claim that:

The myth of religious violence is simply part of the general conceptual apparatus of Western society. It is one of the ways that the legitimacy of liberal social orders is continually reinforced, from official government actions to the common assumptions of the citizen on the street. [v]

Cavanaugh’s interpretation of political conflicts then takes this assumption of religious differences, and religion as such as the cause, and turns it on its head. In so doing, Cavanaugh also targets the very category of religion itself and uncovers the institutional creation of the modern understanding of this concept.

In this new interpretation of conflicts center stage is given to the power centers in play at the time in question. As Cavanaugh takes pains to point out, the institutional changes which were supposed to have been ushered in as a result of the religious conflicts actually presaged them. To bolster his argument he provides ample examples of conflict occurring between states with the same denominations, as well as collaboration between differing denominations. The most trenchant observation is provided by the example of Martin Luther:

As Richard Dunn points out, “Charles V’s soldiers sacked Rome, not Wittenberg, in 1527, and when the papacy belatedly sponsored a reform program, both the Habsburgs and the Valois refused to endorse much of it, rejecting especially those Trentine decrees which encroached on their sovereign authority.” The wars of the 1520s were part of the ongoing struggle between the pope and the emperor for control over Italy and over the church in German territories. [vi]

Cavanaugh even manages to find a wonderful quote from Pope Julius III complaining of Henry II of France’s actions, “in the end, you are more than Pope in your kingdoms. . . . I know no reason why you should wish to become schismatic.” [vii]

On this, we can then see clearly the role of Jouvenel’s mechanism of power employing dissenting sects in the process of power expansion. The employment of schismatic sects and the promotion of what Jouvenel called “the most ignorant of the preachers”[viii] becomes an obvious means of extending the power of the power centers in question. This observation is supported by the thesis presented by Cavanaugh that the Reformation failed in those states that were advanced in the State’s absorption of ecclesiastical power:

It is unarguably the case that the reinforcement of ecclesiastical difference in early modern Europe was largely a project of state-building elites. As G. R. Elton bluntly puts it, “The Reformation maintained itself wherever the lay power (prince or magistrates) favoured it; it could not survive wherever the authorities decided to suppress it.” [ix]

In contrast:

Where the Reformation succeeded was in England, Scandinavia, and many German principalities, where breaking with the Catholic Church meant that the church could be used to augment the power of the civil authorities. To cite one example, King Gustav Vasa welcomed the Reformation to Sweden in 1524 by transferring the receipt of tithes from the church to the Crown. Three years later, he appropriated the entire property of the church. As William Maltby notes, accepting Lutheranism both gave princes an ideological basis for resisting the centralizing efforts of the emperor and gave them the chance to extract considerable wealth from confiscated church properties. [x]

To make matters worse, it appears as if not only were the conflicts derived from governmental structural conflict, but the very definition of “religion” was as well. The word and the concept it covers really does have a history, and it is connected to the structural conflicts of the early modern period.

In the narrative presented by Cavanaugh, and supported with significant evidence, religion as modern people understand it arose in the 15th century with Nicholas of Cusa’s  usage of religio to “indicate the various ways in which God is worshipped.” [xi] This stands in contrast to the earlier usage of the word in which:

religio was primarily used to differentiate clergy who were members of orders from diocesan clergy. Secondarily, religio named one relatively minor virtue in a complex of other practices that assumed the particular context of the Christian church and the Christian social order. [xii]

This was followed by Marsilio Ficino who presented the concept of religio as meaning “something like piety,”[xiii] which differs from the previous concept of the word because “it is both interiorized and universalized. It is located as a natural, innate impulse of the human heart, indeed the fundamental human characteristic common to all.[xiv]

This identification of religion as an internal belief separate from practice (which in effect becomes superfluous) then continues to gather pace with the rise of Calvinism and Protestantism in general, intellectual systems which we may recall from Jouvenel were precisely those favoured by Power.  Why would this be? The example of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury is provided by Cavanaugh, and it amply demonstrates the particular context of a thinker advocating such a concept of religion:

It is important to note that Herbert’s interiorization and universalization of religion go hand in hand with his support of state control over the church. This may seem like a contradiction, but Herbert has no intention of privatizing worship. Herbert’s scheme for toleration is part of a larger shift toward the absorption of ecclesiastical power by the rising state in the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, served the English Crown as ambassador to France and wrote a history of King Henry VIII and a short paper in English, “On the King’s supremacy in the Church.” In the latter document, in looking over the biblical and historical record, he finds that “noe Change of Religion, during the Reigne of their Kings did follow, which was not procured by their immediate power,” an echo of the policy of cuius regio, eius religio. He also argues that “it is unsafe to diuide the people, betwixt temporall, and spirituall obedience, or suspend them, betwixt the Terrours of a secular death, and Eternall punishments.” The distinction between religion and the secular in these two passages is not yet a distinction between private and public.” The private origin of religion in the individual’s intuition of the common notions, however, allows for the state to enforce order by reducing religion to five relatively innocuous propositions and an “austere” public worship stripped of most of its formative power.[xv]

By the time we get to Locke and the clearly modern consideration of religion, we find:

For Locke, as for Herbert, religion is primarily a state of mind: “All the life and power of true religion consist in the inward and full persuasion of the mind.” For this reason, Locke denies to the magistrate any power to enforce religion, because the magistrate cannot penetrate the inner reaches of the personal conscience where true religion resides. Locke draws a distinction between the “outward force” used by the civil magistrate and the “inward persuasion” of religion, and he argues that “such is the nature of the understanding that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. [xvi]

This conception of religion which appears to be a philosophical artifact of political conflict then facilitated a removal of the ecclesiastical from the modern nation state. Locke is clearly outlining exactly where institutions defined as religious have authority, and exactly where those institutions defined as secular have authority. That this accorded exactly with the monarch’s, and then parliament’s, interest in obtaining sovereignty is no coincidence:

When the opposition of religious clergy to secular clergy was transferred to the new conception of religion in the early modern era, however, the secular retained its oppositional character and became that which is not religious in the modern sense. The new religious-secular dichotomy fit into the modern state’s individualist anthropology, as typified by Locke. As Ezra Kopelowitz remarks:

The distinction between the “religious” and the “secular” occurs in societies in which the individual, rather than [the] group is the primary component of social organization. The rise of the individual as the basis of social organization corresponds with the expansion of the centralized modern state, with its strong legal-rational bureaucracy that treats individuals and not groups as the primary source of social rights. Before the rise of the centralized state . . . “religion” was not a distinct social category that a person could choose or reject. You were born into a group, of which ceremony and symbols rooted in doctrine (religious content) were an integral part of public life.

Although Kopelowitz persists in spying a “religious content” underlying medieval forms, his overall point is accurate: the religious-secular binary is a new creation that accompanies the creation of the modern state.[xvii]

There is much more to be said of Cavanaugh’s excellent scholarship, but that can wait for another time. For the sake of this essay, we will need to move onto another area in a similar Jouvenelian dynamic is obvious, and where clear parallels of Cavanaugh’s claims are present.

 

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the role of power conflict: Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.

It has become commonplace to compare the modern developments in Islam and the current turmoil of the Islamic world to the Reformation.  Such comparisons correctly note two similar symptoms of the same problem, but drastically mistake the underlying cause. Steve Coll’s work on the history of US involvement in Islamic conflict and terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond takes us behind the scenes and presents us with a narrative which has already been laid out for us by Jouvenel, and by examples provided by Cavanaugh.  It is actually of quite considerable credit to Coll that he not only follows the thread of United States (US), Pakistani, and Saudi Arabian (SA) institutional involvement in the Afghan conflict with extreme detail, but he also manages with great foresight to provide historical parallels to the rise of the House of Saud through its partnership with Wahhabism in the 19th century. Much like with the role of Protestantism in the formation of European states and progressivism/ liberalism since, Islam in the form of Wahhabism required the destruction of all other belief systems and simultaneously provided a system of equality before the House of Saud, the centralising power. Saudi Arabia, according to Coll, therefore became the first modern nation state built on Jihad.[xviii] Following this same logic, Pakistan under the guidance of General Zia is presented as utilising Wahabbi Islamic and Deobandi Islamic schools of thought in the form of madrassas, citing startling statistics, Coll points out that “In 1971 there had been only nine hundred madrassas in all of Pakistan. By the summer of 1988 there were about eight thousand official religious schools and an estimated twenty-five thousand unregistered ones.”[xix] These schools though, were not spontaneous or organic as understood in liberal theory, but were supported by General Zia, and by a cross network of funds from the Saudi General Intelligence Department (GID) and charities funded by wealthy Saudi patrons in line with formal Saudi funding. As Coll claims:

Zia strongly encouraged personal religious piety within the Pakistan army’s officer corps, a major change from the past. He encouraged the financing and construction of hundreds of Madrassas or religious school, along the Afghan frontier.[xx]

In short, the entire network was sponsored into existence at the instigation of power actors. The question to then answer is why would these centers of power provide the financial and logistical backbone to political Islam, and the answer is because it served their goals.

From the angle of president Zia, Coll makes it clear that the incentives from his position were numerous and all in favour of encouraging Jihad and Salafi style Islam. Pakistan for a start is a country comprised of a number of ethnic groups, and Pashtun nationalism in particular appears to have been a concern, hence Coll reports the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad Howard Hart being of the opinion that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) favoured Muslim Brotherhood linked groups in Afghanistan because “it weakened groups likely to stir up Pashtun nationalism in Pakistan.”[xxi] Coll notes that the ISI effectively eliminated all the secular, leftist, and royalist parties competing with their favoured groups. National unification was a significant influence on Zia’s calculations as Coll discusses with regard to Zia’s strengthening of Jamaat-e-Islami.[xxii] Clearly another example of a centralising power promoting an intellectual system premised on equality/ uniformity.

This policy of favouring Islamic groups to act as competitors for secular movements threatening to certain power centers would be repeated many times in the Middle East. One clear example of this is provided by Israel’s support of Hamas as a means to weaken the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO.) The details of the policy are revealed in a Wall Street Journal article dated January 24, 2009 in which a former government official is quoted as admitting to the Israeli policy of supporting and declaring that “”When I look back at the chain of events I think we made a mistake.”[xxiii]

The other major impetus for Zia, and one which he shared with the US and Saudi Arabia, was using local unrest in Afghanistan and conflict between Islamic groups and Marxist groups as a means to cause conflict for the USSR and its Marxist Afghan client state. It was of importance to Pakistan to have a friendly government in power or risk being sandwiched between a hostile India and Afghanistan. In such a situation, finding those opposed to the Marxist government in Afghanistan was obviously a priority. Just such opposition would be found in Islamic groups which along with the Marxist ideology of the government are noted as “imported ideologies” by Coll. This imported Islamic ideology came by the route of Al-Azhar University. Al-Azhar University itself appears to have been the recipient of sustained Saudi attention in the form of significant financial largess, with Coll providing the example of King Faisal supplying a grant of $100,000,000 to the rector.[xxiv] The Jamestown Foundation in volume 1 issue 7 of the Terrorism Monitor also provides a number of examples this Saudi influence took, such as the following:

In 1981 an Azhari professor who had often railed at the obscurantism of the Wahhabi creed received the US$200,000 King-Faisal Prize for “services rendered to Islam” and another US$850,000 from the King-Fahd-Prize. He thereupon published a pro-Wahhabi tome entitled The Saudis and the Islamic Solution.[xxv]

Saudi Influence in the conflict appears to have resulted from the strategic geopolitical importance of Afghanistan and the potential threat posed by a USSR with a strong foothold there, a concern shared identically with the USA and Pakistan. This prompted a joint effort by both the USA and the Saudis to fund the Afghan conflict via the proxy of Pakistan’s ISI, which itself was acting covertly. The Saudis agreed to match US funding dollar for dollar. It is simply the case that without these funds, prolonged conflict in Afghanistan and successful resistance to Soviet intervention would have been inconceivable. The US and Saudi money purchased supplies, alliances, and weapons primarily from China.  This was further exacerbated by both Saudi and American efforts to fund groups in Afghanistan independent of the ISI who favoured a coalition run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Coll reports that at one point the Saudis had direct influence in the war through funding Abdurrab Rasul Sayyef’s rebel party, while Sheikh Abdul bin Bazhad, head of the Kingdoms’s official religious establishment had influence through funding Jamil al Rahman’s group[xxvi], with the CIA having an independent footing through funding Abdul Haq, and later Ahmed Massoud.[xxvii] [xxviii]

This funding glut was taken to incredible levels following the initial success of the Afghan War, with US funding reaching $470,000,000 in 1986, and $630,000,000 in 1987. Each figure, again, matched by Saudi’s GID, and then augmented by donations from non-formal Saudi channels.[xxix] The numbers are simply astounding and represent the very lifeblood of political Islam.

So we can see quite clearly that the success and development of Salafi Islam as with Protestantism cannot be explained as a dialectical development in accordance with reason, but instead as the symptom of sustained and brutal geopolitical conflict to which it lent significant assistance. US assistance in the process is especially egregious given the subsequent consequences of this development. Attempts at expanding the conflict into Central Asia were apparently authorised by CIA head William Casey, with “Afghan rebels carrying CIA-printed Holy Korans in the Uzbek language,”[xxx] entering Uzbekistan using CIA provided weaponry. It appears to have been very clear US policy to encourage the spread of Islam against Soviet governance. That these adherents of strict Islam would have trouble differentiating modern western states from Soviet states, and then direct their attention to the US appears to have not been deeply considered by western analysts, which has more to say about western intellectual robustness then it does about the Muslims in question. An unintentional insight into this is provided by Coll himself as he lists complaints against the Soviet Afghan government, “They…banned dowries for brides, legislated freedom of choice within marriages, and mandated universal education in Marxist dogma.”[xxxi] One has to assume that with the inclusion of “Marxist dogma” Coll perceives some kind of significant difference to western mandated education where students are educated in liberal concepts which would I assume, not count as dogma.

 

Application of the dynamics presented in the two works- Syria and the Arab Spring

It is clear that the rise of Salafi Islam in the 20th century is not in any way some form of natural process, it was not spontaneous at all, but is eminently explainable in relation to institutional conflict with Afghanistan proving to be the crucible within which it fully flowered. The continual flourishing of political Islam points towards a continual usage of this process even now. One only has to look toward the current issues in Syria to see the similar dynamic of Afghanistan in play. Political Islam is, like all cultural emanations, built like a body upon a skeleton of institutions, which facilitate the movement of money, which is its life blood.

Applying the model to the events in Syria, we will have to consider the various rebellious factions as being animated by funding from external actors. It doesn’t take long to note that the actors in question consist of the US, the United Kingdom (UK), numerous European nations, Israel and the Middle East states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Other factions are seemingly provided support from Iran, Russia, and China.

Just such a position is actually expressed in a declassified US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document.[xxxii] The document in question reveals this in the following pertinent section:

B, The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, ad AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

C, The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition, while Russia, China and Iran support the regime. (sic)

The Syrian conflict mirrors the Afghan conflict to such a degree that we even appear to have the same dynamic of multiple revenue streams operating concurrently from the Gulf States and the West. In a speech addressed to Goldman Sachs, then Secretary Clinton made the following remarks in relation to the US weapons transfers to Syria:

“Some of us thought, perhaps, we could, with a more robust, covert action trying to vet, identify, train and arm cadres of rebels that would at least have the firepower to be able to protect themselves against both Assad and the Al-Qaeda-related jihadist groups that have, unfortunately, been attracted to Syria,” she noted. “That’s been complicated by the fact that the Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons—and pretty indiscriminately—not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate, least likely, to cause problems in the future, but this is another one of those very tough analytical problems.[xxxiii]

One can only wonder if the US dollar for dollar agreement has been replicated between the GID and US security institutions.

If one were to continue applying the Afghan model to the Syrian conflict, one might also take note of the actions of US security services in transferring captured Iraqi ordinance to the Afghan battle field following the First Iraq War. Coll writes:

Saddam Hussein’s army abandoned scores of Soviet-made tanks and artillery pieces in Kuwait and southern Iraq, The discarded weaponry offered the potential for a classic covert action play: The CIA would secretly use spoils captured from one of America’s enemies to attack another enemy[xxxiv]

In addition, “Peter Tomsen and others at the State Department agreed to support transfers of Iraqi weapons.”[xxxv]

This would allow us to predict that following the Libyan conflict and the overthrow of Gadafhi, weaponry from the Libyan army would find its way to western allies in Syria with the connivance of the State Department. This is indeed exactly what happened according to a Times article by Christina Lamb from December 2012.[xxxvi] What should be surprising about this is that it has been greeted with surprise. The organisational structure of the US hasn’t changed, and recourse to such convoluted schemes will be expected to continue until it does change.

Another striking parallel is outlined in an article in the New Eastern Outlook[xxxvii]  on the sudden appearance of a fleet of Toyota pickup trucks in the hands of ISIS. The article rather dryly takes apart the charade of the US Treasury Department’s investigation of Toyota over the issue when it is clear from reports released by the US State Department and UK sources that they provided them to the Free Syrian Army (FSA.) I have no doubt that a review of orders will also show purchases from the Saudis and Qatar as well. The cover of “good” freedom fighters having been given the cars is fairly childish, but in reality the general public does not need a more sophisticated one. For a political theorist, however, it should not block a serious analysis of events. Returning back to Coll’s book, reference is made on numerous occasions to the CIA and local Afghan factions favouring Toyota pickup trucks. One reference in relation to the Jalalabad battle of 1989 is particularly illuminating; as Coll writes “The CIA purchased several hundred trucks in Japan that winter, shipped them to Karachi and rolled them up to Peshwar to support the Jalalabad assault.”[xxxviii] These trucks being “favoured by the CIA and its Afghan clients during the anti-Soviet jihad”[xxxix] So it would appear this arrangement, and the favouring of these trucks, has a long standing basis with elements in the security services of the West.

The revelation of western actors supporting political Islam as a means of disruption provides insight into the seeming incompetence of security agencies surrounding the free movement of so called Islamic extremists in the west. An article in The Russian Times ““British Collusion with Sectarian Violence: Part One”[xl] covers a number of incidences in which trials against active recruiters, and individuals attempting to engage in Islamic terrorism, in multiple countries in Europe collapsed due to security service involvement. Supplying one particular eye opening source in the form of an interview with Abu Muntasir we learn that security services allowed him free reign:

Muntasir, who is seen sobbing in the film as he recounts the horrors of his own days on battlefields in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Burma, is described as one of the “founding fathers of western jihad” and admitted that he worked to “create the link and clear the paths. I came back [from war] and opened the door and the trickle turned to a flood. I inspired and recruited, I raised funds and bought weapons, not just a one-off but for 15 to 20 years. Why I have never been arrested I don’t know.”[xli]

We do not have to be as confused as Muntasir at all. Islamic violence is in actuality a valuable resource to unsecure power.

If this clear repetition of the Afghan conflict holds (which it will) then we can predict a number of outcomes for Syria, firstly, once major US actors lose strategic interest due to victory or a change in goals, then Syria will be left without a clear plan of action. Things will merely drift on whatever course they end up on. Secondly, any form of order will not return if Assad and the institutions that make up the Syrian government are destroyed as long as the US remains in its current structural guise. Just as Afghanistan and now Libya went from having functioning governance to total dysfunction, Syria will do the same. Maybe every now and then some segment of the US NGO complex will develop a transient pointless interest, only to lose it again. Any attempt to re-establish governance on any sane footing will necessarily be anathema to US democratic sensibilities and interest will only return if geopolitical necessity brings major US actor’s attentions back to the area at which point more conflict will occur. Afghanistan’s descent into barbarism is a fool proof guide.

 

Egypt and Tunisia – the Facebook revolutions

Widening our scope to look at the wave of protests which sparked the Arab Spring and not just Syria, we are faced with the by now familiar spectacle of top down grass roots movements financed by western NGOs in line with the geopolitical aspirations of the American governing elite. We have been told that the triggers for spontaneous uprisings and attacks on the regimes in North Africa and the Middle East were based on economic inequality, and in particular, anger over corruption, but such claims beggar belief. The claims fail to answer elementary questions such as why would all of these countries suddenly be upset over corruption which is seemingly endemic to such societies? Why in the western world do we not engage in rampages and regime change at the sight of the President of the U.S living in the luxury of the White House? Why does the U.K. not combust into flames at the revelation of Tony Blair’s riches? There is significant and chronic inequality throughout the liberal world, yet they remain relatively stable. Further questions we may ask include why had numerous previous demonstrations not developed into widespread regime change? And why this area of the world in particular, and at this time in particular? As always with such narratives, the level of immaturity is a direct consequence of the need for it to be widely disseminated. A look at those directly involved in organising and leading the protests however will lead us to understand the underlying institutions and funding which created and maintained this organised social unrest.

Our first clue as to what happened with the Arab Spring is provided by an article in the New York Times titled U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings. The story presented by the author is predictable:

WASHINGTON — Even as the United States poured billions of dollars into foreign military programs and anti-terrorism campaigns, a small core of American government-financed organizations were promoting democracy in authoritarian Arab states.

The money spent on these programs was minute compared with efforts led by the Pentagon. But as American officials and others look back at the uprisings of the Arab Spring, they are seeing that the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.[xlii]

This pattern would indicate that US officials and power centers engaged in the organisation, training and funding of proxy actors agitating for equality, liberty etc. This prediction is confirmed from the wealth of cable leaks by Wikileaks. Looking at these cable leaks, we can indeed see a very clear pattern emerging of the leaders of these uprisings planning and receiving training in organisations in the U.S. and discussing their plans with US officials in both Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and formal governing institutions. Looking at the case of Egypt first, we can see first-hand a report on the activities of an Egyptian activist in the U.S. discussing plans for a push for regime change before the Arab Spring. The activist in question even advises a full three years before the event that opposition parties in Egypt were seeking to implement regime change:

xxxxxxxxxxxx claimed that several opposition forces — including the Wafd, Nasserite, Karama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Kifaya, and Revolutionary Socialist movements — have agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections (ref C). According to xxxxxxxxxxxx, the opposition is interested in receiving support from the army and the police for a transitional government prior to the 2011 elections.[xliii]

It would appear that the activist in question is an Ahmed Salah mentioned in a further Wikileaks cable.[xliv] I presume it is him due to the repeated references to working as a journalist fixer, but I am unable to confirm this. This further Wikileaks cable is interesting in showing clear support from U.S. officials for an actor openly seeking the overthrow of the Egyptian government as well as the involvement/collusion of Facebook. The relevant section is below:

5. (C) Saleh expressed interest in attending the December 3-5 “Alliance for Youth Movements Summit” in New York, saying that he would welcome the opportunity to meet other activists and discuss with Facebook how the company could facilitate his movement’s activities by allowing them to delete users who are trying to infiltrate their on-line discussions. He stressed his view that solely attending the conference is not worth the risk of being sent back to jail, so he is interested in holding a series of meetings in the U.S. with “influential U.S. officials, members of the Obama transition team, members of Congress and think tanks” to lobby on behalf of democracy and human rights in Egypt.  Saleh requested Department assistance in facilitating such meetings.  Citing the film “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Saleh opined that even one member of Congress can make a significant difference.

6.(C) He laid out his movement’s publicly expressed vision for a democratic Egypt, involving a three-year transitional government appointed by the judiciary followed by free and fair elections for parliament, an empowered prime minister, a weakened presidency and a new constitution. He noted that he had been in contact with unnamed members of Freedom House to discuss scheduling U.S. meetings. Saleh described a recent conversation in Cairo with an unnamed Amcit who advised him on potential Washington meetings and is working to include him in an early December dinner in New York with Egyptian activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim.  Saleh said he hoped to lobby influential Washington officials in December and then again in 2009.[xlv]

Ahmed Salah is quite open about having been working towards, and organising, protests, as shown by articles such as one jointly authored by him in The Huffington Post where he wrote:

As an activist, I spent nearly a decade working both independently and as part of a number of popular movements to overthrow Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power since 1981. I focused on nonviolent protest and abstained from politics.[xlvi]

Quite how an individual who sought constitutional change and lobbied American institutions while being in constant contact with the State Department can claim to have “abstained from politics” is puzzling, but is part and parcel of the thinking of activists. Salah also confirms that the protest date was organised beforehand, and that he:

…worked nonstop to spread the word, to share the strategy I believed in, and to train new protesters. Those of us who had experience gathering signatures — most particularly my fiancée, Mahitab — set up meeting after meeting with anyone who had ever attended a protest or expressed interest in it.[xlvii]

Of course, it was not merely Salah involved in the organisation, but many others linked through numerous institutions organised and funded by US sources, as detailed in further New York Times articles titled Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in Revolution[xlviii] and A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History.[xlix] The constant in both articles is the brazen attempt to frame the social unrest in deterministic terms, as if underlying economics explain events, as well as in spontaneous terms in which people just organised as if by telepathy or a general will, whilst outlining in admirable detail the clear structural necessity of US institutions. The clear incompatibility between these concepts always goes unnoticed. The articles outline a narrative in which the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict ran workshops to train demonstrators in both Tunisa and Egypt on how to “undermine police states,” provided organisational advice, fostered connections, provided funds etc.  The organised nature of the protests is highlighted by the wonderfully unreflective quote by one Mr. Ghonim that he had ‘never seen a revolution that was preannounced before,’”[l]

This US funded and organised social unrest was then met with official US calls for the regime targeted to relinquish power to actors which the US officials had groomed for their replacement. Usually this take the form of calls for reform, which means relinquish power to these replacements in a transitional way, or it becomes simply abdication, which means relinquish power immediately. Either way, the game is relinquishing power to actors that the dominant US power centers wish for power to be transferred to, and over whom they have control.

Before we progress to the Tunisian example specifically, it would be worthwhile clarifying the role of US involvement. One thing which is clear from the Afghan example is that the actions of various US institutions is fragmented, often contradictory, confused and subject to often strange imperatives. The example of the House of Saud likewise provides significant confusion. Despite the disconnected and convoluted array of actors originating in the US, the overall pattern of behaviour follows a certain path as outlined repeatedly in this paper. This political ecosystem works inevitably towards ever greater equality in various flavors. So whilst I may have at times referred to US involvement, it must not be taken as an insinuation of a unified and logically thought-out grand scheme or strategy, rather it is merely the actions of whatever institution represents the US at the times, and on that issue. What we see is the unsecure nature of the power system selects key behaviours and provides incentives for these same behaviours. As such, we can observe actors at one part of this eco-system acting with the pure motivation of equality, whilst in other areas, a more cynical attitude appears. All however, swim towards “progress.”

Turning our attention now to Tunisian events in particular, we can approach the claim that the cause of the unrest was the self-immolation of a trader in Sidi Bouzid. What is noteworthy is that there had been previous examples of this, as well as many protests that did not lead to nationwide activism. The claim simply doesn’t hold water; instead we can apply the patron theory model and see what is revealed. Firstly, we can look for an actor promoting and organising the protests. This would appear to have been the Sidi Bouzid branch of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) as revealed by an Al Jazeera article titled How Tunisia’s Revolution Began:

The protests that erupted in Sidi Bouzid were indeed spontaneous, yet they were marked by a level of organisation and sophistication that appears grounded in the sheer determination of those who participated in them.

The Sidi Bouzid branch of the UGTT was engaged in the uprising from day one.

While the national leadership of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) is generally viewed as lacking political independence from the ruling class, its regional representatives have a reputation for gutsy engagement.

“The major driving force behind these protesters is the Sidi Bouzid union, which is very strong,” said Affi Fethi, who teaches physics at a local high school.

For Fethi, it was when police killed protesters in nearby towns including Menzel Bouziane and Regueb that the regional protests became a nationwide uprising.[li]

This role played by UGTT is again not a random occurrence, but is in line with details outlined in a cable dated 22 February 2007. The cable in question summarises a call between the US ambassador and the UGTT Secretary General. The UGTT is described as “a natural ally on our Freedom Agenda goals.”[lii][liii] The cable then goes on to record the UGTT Secretary General claiming that:

…that the American people and government historically were respected internationally for supporting peace, democracy, human rights and freedom.  Tunisians today still believe these are shared Tunisian-American values[liv]

So we see a warm relationship between the UGTT and the US, which includes increased co-operation and funding from the US as the cable concludes, “Post will follow up with Jerad to encourage greater cooperation, including through MEPI funding and PD programs.”[lv]

MEPI is seemingly a reference to the Middle East Partnership Initiative run by the State Department[lvi], with PD presumably being reference to participatory development programs generally. So we see very clearly at first-hand that the US spent considerable time increasing the resources and competency of opponents of the Tunisian government. This increasing support for activists is covered in Tunisia: From Stability to Revolution in the Maghreb where the author claims:

Particularly after the 11 September attacks, the US government became concerned that Ben Ali’s sclerotic kleptocracy could become a liability rather than an asset. The embassy in Tunis became critical of Ben Ali and increased contact with opposition organizations[lvii]

This is augmented by the claim that “opposition activists also believed that Ben Ali’s grip was slipping and that powerful international actors had lost some of their confidence in him,”[lviii] and that “A range of legal and illegal opposition parties and civil society organizations had become more active and begun to cooperate with one another.”[lix]

The narrative provided matches the cables. The US began providing funds, organising the opposition, and laying the groundwork for the overthrow of the government for some time beforehand. Further diplomatic cables from the US Tunisian embassy only support this narrative. One cable titled “What should we do?” is quite strange in that it lays out a picture of the Tunisian GOP being a benign regime with the foreign policy goal of simply “to get along with everyone”[lx] [sic] with the embassy’s anger apparently being directed at vague human rights complaints and anger at having their movements curtailed so that they had trouble:

to maintain contact with a  wide swath of Tunisian society.  GOT-controlled newspapers often attack Tunisian civil society activists who participate in Embassy activities, portraying them as traitors.[lxi]

The aim of this engagement being because the US has “an interest in fostering greater political openness and respect for human rights.”[lxii] The cable advises that the US should change its approach to one where:

The key element is more and frequent high-level private candor.  We recommend being explicit with GOT leaders that we are changing our approach, while also making clear that we will continue to engage privately with opposition parties and civil society.[lxiii]

This increased communication being outlined in the following relevant section:

In addition to talking to the GOT, we need to engage directly with the Tunisian people, especially youth.  The Embassy is already using Facebook as a communication tool.  In addition, we have the Ambassador’s blog, a relatively new undertaking that is attracting attention.  Over the past couple of years, the Embassy has substantially increased its outreach to Tunisian youth through concerts, film festivals, and other events.  Our information resource center and America’s Corners are popular ways for Tunisians to access unfiltered news and information.  We should continue and increase such programs.[lxiv]

The Tunisian government then seems to have been guilty of doing no more than asserting their sovereignty in relation to cultural developments within their territory, and in maintaining the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. US animosity to the regime seems bewildering in this light, given these are central roles played by governance such as with LGBT rights promotion.

The events of the Tunisian revolution and the clear involvement of US officials on numerous levels are also clearly demonstrated by further Wikileaks cables. One leak dated 23 January 2007 details a round table discussion between NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary J. Scott Carpenter and six leaders of Tunisian civil society to discuss democracy advocacy support.[lxv] Further context is provided in a further cable on democratization of the region in which it is recorded that then secretary Clinton :

…emphasized the importance of civil society’s role in the G8-BMENA Forum for the Future process.  She highlighted the role youth play in the region; noted the use of technology as an important tool to reach young audiences; and said the USG wants to provide technological support to civil society.  Civil society representatives expressed tremendous and heartfelt gratitude to the Secretary for her support for the Forum for the Future.  Participants also expressed the need for continued USG support for civil society initiatives in the region, and stressed that the USG should not ignore issues such as human rights and democracy when engaging with governments in the region.[lxvi]

This reference to technology is key, as the reader may recall the earlier reference to Facebook in the cable mentioning Mr. Salah in Egypt, which brings us to a pertinent question, if the US had been attempting to overthrow these governments for some time (again, reform is in effect overthrow,) then why did the action occur in such a short space of time in 2010?

The answer to this puzzle seems to lie in lines of communication open to the societies in question. It is fairly well know that in Tunisia, media had been largely monopolized as mentioned in previously cited cables. An article from Al Jazeera summarises the context :

Article 1 of the Press Code in Tunisia provides for “freedom of the press, publishing, printing, distributing and sale of books and publications”. The Tunisian constitution asserts that the “liberties of opinion, expression, the press, publication, assembly, and association are guaranteed and exercised within the conditions defined by the law”.

Yet as early as 1956, with the birth of the first republic under the leadership of President Habib Bourguiba, the ruling government gained control over the press – and later over broadcasting.

[…]

Civil society organisations, lawyers, academics, and trade unions do not have a platform to express their critical views on state media or ‘independent’ media.[lxvii]

The constant reference to technology and the involvement of Facebook in the US State Department’s Alliance of Youth Movements Summit offer a way to route around this media control in places such as Tunisia.[lxviii] It is notable that the US State Department in the cables, and in the very usage of “youth,” aimed at a segment of the Tunisian (and greater Middle East) population which was technologically connected and wealthy. Revolutions need organisation, and platforms such as Facebook provide a means for organisation. It is as simple as that.  US fostered, organised, and funded social unrest for the overall aim of removing non-favoured regimes using platforms for organisation that the regimes in question could not control. Of course, the US power centers then worked very diligently to self-efface their role and the revolution became a force of nature and the will of the people, and not the predatory actions of unsecure power centers enforcing change in means that were illegitimate by their own rules of engagement. Interest in Facebook is notable in leaked cables such as one dated 20 February 2009 which is an actual report noting the increasing usage of Facebook and its potential for circumventing Tunisian government control.[lxix] Something even more pointedly revealed in an earlier cable dated 2008 August 19 on the blocking of Facebook which complains:

Clearly, the uncontrolled information sharing of social networking sites like Facebook is now beginning to worry the Tunisian authorities.  Such sites provide a means to circumvent strict government control of domestic print and broadcast media.  The decision to block Facebook has also stifled what was promising to be a very useful outreach tool for the Embassy.[lxx]

Another cable from 20 May 2008 shows that the issue of open access to the internet was so important to the US embassy that they raised the issue with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The concluding paragraph of this cable is darkly humorous given the results of protestor’s usage of social media to organise the overthrow of the government:

Even as the print media has shown some signs of increased openness, internet censorship continues apace, reflecting the paranoia that still restricts freedom of expression in Tunisia.  For this to change, the GOT would have to accept that open and free debate is good for the country and the government.  The baby steps on print media signify an important step in the right direction, but limits on internet access make clear the GOT still has a long way to go on freedom of expression.

It must be quite a bizarre and confusing experience being on the receiving end of US democratization. One actor aggressively presses for the opening up of society, whilst another then uses this same opening to engage with “civil actors” who are radicalized to press incessantly for reform or swift overthrow, all the while being told that this is actually good for oneself.

The strange processes that many of those engaged in this democratization go through tends to center around the concept of an apolitical space, which they mentally maintain whilst clearly negating it. This is something which connects all of the examples contained in this paper. From the creation of a secular area with the creation of religion, to the belief in autonomous “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan whilst shoveling obscene amounts of money and weapons into the region, to the constant reference to civil society and being apolitical whilst working to bring down entire governments such as in the case of Tunisia. A superb demonstration of this is presented by Facebook in an article titled “The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks” which reveals Facebook’s response to Tunisian government attempts to identify users identities:

At Facebook, Sullivan’s team decided to take an apolitical approach to the problem. This was simply a hack that required a technical response. “At its core, from our standpoint, it’s a security issue around passwords and making sure that we protect the integrity of passwords and accounts,” he said. “It was very much a black and white security issue and less of a political issue.”[lxxi]

But this claim doesn’t make sense, and neither does any claim to neutrality. Any action (and non-action counts as action) must by necessity favour one group over another. In this instance, you have the issue of the users in question breaching Facebook’s own policy on using real identities.[lxxii] So here we have a very selective enforcement of rules favouring a specific group which is then claimed to be neutral, but the impression the reader gets is that Sullivan does believe he acted in a neutral way. If Facebook had acted in a truly disinterested way, they would have enforced their own rules regarding the usage of real identities which would have led to the Syrian security agencies not having to hack passwords in the first place.

In summary, the problems that afflicted the Middle East and North Africa region in 2010 show a clear pattern which completely undermines any claim to spontaneity as per liberal theory. There is a clear pattern of increasing contact with actors opposed to the government, increased training and funding of these actors, as well as the clear moral support afforded by such actions. That this state of affairs would render the opposition both more competent and bolder is not difficult to surmise. That the snapping point was the widespread adoption of Facebook as a means of communication outside of Tunisian government (but not outside of US government) control is clear. The patron theory of politics holds yet again.

 

NOTES

[i] See “The Patron Theory of Politics”contained in this journal volume.

[ii] William T. Cavanaugh The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.) pp. 124-127.

[iii] Ibid, p 127.

[iv] Ibid, p 130.

[v] Ibid, p 183.

[vi] Ibid, p 143.

[vii] Ibid, p 167.

[viii] Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power: Its Nature and the History of Its Growth (USA, Beacon Press Boston, 1962.) p 179.

[ix] Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence, p. 168.

[x] Ibid, p 167.

[xi] Ibid, p 70.

[xii] Ibid, P 69.

[xiii] Ibid, p 72.

[xiv] Ibid, p 71.

[xv] Ibid, pp 77-78.

[xvi] Ibid, p 78.

[xvii] Ibid, p 80.

[xviii] Steve Coll. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001, (London: Penguin Books, 2005), p. 182.

[xix] Ibid, p 408.

[xx] Ibid, p 150.

[xxi] Ibid, p 165.

[xxii] Ibid, p 77.

[xxiii] Adrew Higgins, “How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2009, accessed March 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123275572295011847

[xxiv] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, p. 261.

[xxv] Laurent Murawiec, “The Saudi Takeover Of Al-azhar University,” Terrorism Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 7, (December 2003,) accessed March 30, 2017, https://jamestown.org/program/the-saudi-takeover-of-al-azhar-university-2/

[xxvi] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, p 194-196.

[xxvii] Ibid, p 134.

[xxviii] Ibid, p 38.

[xxix] ibid p 109.

[xxx] Ibid, p 210.

[xxxi] Ibid, p 104.

[xxxii] Judicial Watch, Department of Defense Information Report, 14-L-0552/DIA/ 289, accessed March 3, 2017, http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf.

[xxxiii]  Zaid Jilani, “In Secret Goldman Sachs Speech, Hillary Clinton Admitted No-Fly Zone Would “Kill a Lot of Syrians,”” The Intercept, October 10, 2016, accessed March 30, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2016/10/10/in-secret-goldman-sachs-speech-hillary-clinton-admitted-no-fly-zone-would-kill-a-lot-of-syrians/.

[xxxiv] Coll, Ghost Wars, p 504.

[xxxv] Coll, Ghost Wars, p 505.

[xxxvi] Christina Lamb, “Covert US plan to arm rebels,” The Times, December 9, 2012, accessed March 30, 2017, http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1173125.ece.

[xxxvii] Tony Cartalucci, “The Mystery of ISIS’ Toyota Army Solved” New Eastern Outlook, October 9, 2015, accessed March 30, 2017, http://journal-neo.org/2015/10/09/the-mystery-of-isis-toyota-army-solved/.

[xxxviii] Coll, Ghost Wars, p 434.

[xxxix] Ibid, p 691.

[xl] Dan Glazbrook, “British Collusion with Sectarian Violence: Part One,” Russian Times, April 3, 2016, accessed mrch 30, 2017, https://www.rt.com/op-edge/338247-uk-extremists-syria-isis-violence/.

[xli] Tracy McVeigh, “‘Recruiter’ of UK jihadis: I regret opening the way to Isis,”” The Guardian, June 13, 2015, accessed March 30, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/13/godfather-of-british-jihadists-admits-we-opened-to-way-to-join-isis.

[xlii] Ron Nixon, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” The New York Times, April 14, 2011, accessed March 30, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&emc=eta1.

[xliii] Embassy Egypt, “APRIL 6 ACTIVIST ON HIS U.S. VISIT AND REGIME CHANGE IN EGYPT,” Wikileaks Cable: 08CAIRO2572_a, dated December 30,2008, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08CAIRO2572_a.html.

[xliv] Embassy Egypt, “APRIL 6 ACTIVIST DESCRIBES GOE HARASSMENT, REQUESTS INFORMATION ON YOUTH MOVEMENTS SUMMIT,” Wikileaks Cable: 08CAIRO2431_a, dated November 26, 2008, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08CAIRO2431_a.html.

[xlv] ibid.

[xlvi] Ahmed Salah and Alex Mayyasi, “The Spark: Starting the Revolution,” The World Post, accessed March 30, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ahmed-salah/egypt-january-25-revolution_b_3671877.html.

[xlvii] ibid.

[xlviii] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution,” The New York Times, February 16, 2011, accessed March 30, 2017,   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17sharp.html.

[xlix] David D. Kirkpatrick and David E. Sanger, “A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History,” The New York Times, February 13, 2011, accessed March 30, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/middleeast/14egypt-tunisia-protests.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

[l] Ibid.

[li] Yasmine Ryan, “How Tunisia’s revolution began,” Al Jazeera, January 26, 2011, accessed March 30, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/01/2011126121815985483.html.

[lii] Embassy Tunisia, “UNION LEADER HIGHLIGHTS SHARED VALUES, DISILLUSION WITH US POLICY,” Wikileaks Cable: 07TUNIS246_a, dated February 22, 2007,   https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07TUNIS246_a.html.

[liii] For an overview of the Bush administration’s “Freedom Agenda” see the White House archives entry at https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/freedomagenda/, accessed May 2, 2017.

[liv] Embassy Tunisia, “UNION LEADER HIGHLIGHTS SHARED VALUES, DISILLUSION WITH US POLICY,” Wikileaks Cable: 07TUNIS246_a, dated February 22, 2007,   https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07TUNIS246_a.html.

[lv] ibid.

[lvi] For a review of the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) see: https://mepi.state.gov/, accessed May 2, 2017.

[lvii] Alexander, Christopher. Tunisia: From Stability to Revolution in the Maghreb, (New York, Routledge, 2016) p 74.

[lviii] Ibid, p 75.

[lix] Ibid, p 77.

[lx] Embassy Tunisa, “TROUBLED TUNISIA: WHAT SHOULD WE DO?,” Wikileaks Cable: 09TUNIS492_a, dated July 17, 2009, https://search.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09TUNIS492_a.html.

[lxi] ibid.

[lxii] ibid.

[lxiii] ibid.

[lxiv] ibid.

[lxv]  Embassy Tunisia, “DAS CARPENTER’S ROUNDTABLE WITH TUNISIAN CIVIL SOCIETY”, Wikileaks Cable: 07TUNIS102_a, dated January 23, 2007, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07TUNIS102_a.html.

[lxvi] Embassy Morocco, “SECRETARY CHALLENGES BMENA CIVIL SOCIETY,” Wikileaks Cable: 09RABAT921_a, dated November 22, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09RABAT921_a.html.

[lxvii] Dr. Noureddine Miladi, “Tunisia: A media led revolution?,” Al Jazeera, January 17, 2011, accessed March 30, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/01/2011116142317498666.html.

[lxviii] For a list of attendees to the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit held in New York City between 3-5 December 2008 see: http://allyoumov.3cdn.net/f734ac45131b2bbcdb_w6m6idptn.pdf, accessed May 2, 2017.

[lxix] Embassy Tunisia, “GOT FRIENDS?: FACEBOOK POPULAR, DESPITE DOMESTIC SMEAR CAMPAIGN,” Wikileaks Cable: 09TUNIS99_a, dated February 20, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09TUNIS99_a.html.

[lxx] Embassy Tunisia, “FUN WHILE IT LASTED – FACEBOOK BLOCKED FROM TUNISIA,” Wikileaks Cable: 08TUNIS926_a, dated August 19, 2008, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08TUNIS926_a.html.

[lxxi] Alexis C. Madrigal, “The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks,” The Atlantic, January 24, 2011, accessed March 30, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/01/the-inside-story-of-how-facebook-responded-to-tunisian-hacks/70044/.

[lxxii] Facebook Terms of Service, Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Date of Last Revision: January 30, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/terms. Section 4. Registration and Account Security:

“Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”

The Patron Theory of Politics

by Chris B

The political theory of Bertrand de Jouvenel presented in On Power its Nature and the History of its Growth[i] is one which provides an interpretation of human society, and the role of power, as following certain imperatives dependent on the relative position of the actors in question. Jouvenel himself failed to see the full radical implications of his interpretation, yet he presents a conception of the development of centralised Power which became so obvious in the 20th century, and which rips at his very own central beliefs in such a way that his writing and conclusions present a strange dissonance. This conception of power is one which recognises both the social nature of power as well as the expansionary nature of power, as Jouvenel writes:

The duality is irreducible. And it is through the interplay of these two antithetical principles that the tendency of Power is towards occupying an ever larger place in society; the various conjunctures of events beckon it on at the same time that its appetite is driving it to fresh pastures. Thus there ensues a growth of Power to which there is no limit, a growth which is fostered by more and more altruistic externals, though the motive-spring is still as always the wish to dominate.[ii]

But Jouvenel in so doing has immediately and irrevocably breached the cardinal rule of classical liberalism that all must be explained ultimately in terms of self-interest, and in so doing opens up a door towards a conception of power which is assuredly alien to classical liberalism. It is at this point that we can both thank Jouvenel for the model he provides, and also reject his attempts to adapt this system of insights to a defence of mixed governance in book VI.[iii] While it is necessary to acknowledge the debt from Jouvenel, it is also just as important to explain exactly how, and where, further developments from Jouvenel depart from him in a manner which retains the coherence of his breakthrough, while rejecting his adherence to a classical liberalism which in essence is a cultural artefact of the very same power conflict he uncovered.

The model which we can adopt without the confusion provided by Jouvenel’s political affiliation is one which shows that Power acts both for its own expansion and security, and also as a social process for the benefit of those that come under the purview of Power. With this rough basis, which is about as much as is possible within the liberal tradition from which Jouvenel worked, we can begin to view the development of governance in a sophisticated manner, and view a process which has been concealed by modern/liberal theory; concealed by precisely those elements of modernity which demand that we view humans as self-interested agents working for primarily selfish means. One only has to review the works of the classical liberal tradition, such as those of Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, or Adam Smith to see that the human agent in the modern liberal tradition is one which operates on an individual basis within a moral framework which takes the human agent as an anti-social entity acting on self-interest first and foremost. It is no surprise then, that all liberal theory takes governance as at best a necessary evil to be maintained to avoid all out conflict (Hobbes) or as something to be rejected entirely as an immoral entity (various anarchisms.) All aspects of modernity are then tied together by these very same shared ethical assumptions to which all their theories must accord. If, contrary to the modern/ liberal tradition, the human agent is not an anti-social agent acting from individually determined self-interest, but is instead a social one, then we should see the actions of the human agent being in accordance not only with the individual’s circumstance based interest, but also with the perceived interest of the society within which the individual resides. This would hold just as much for subjects as it would for rulers. The tyrannical ruler unrestrained by checks and balances of the liberal/ modern mind would then prove to be a fiction – a claim which historical record prior to the modern period provides support.

The model thus provided by Jouvenel is both exceptionally simple, yet of devastating importance, it is simply that in any given political configuration if there are multiple centers of power then conflict will occur as the centers of power seek to both secure their position and pursue expansion. The dominant power center will become the central Power. This dominant Power will enlarge its remit and power not by direct physical conflict (which would in effect spell outright civil war) but through means presented (and seen by both the actors in power, and those who benefit) as being beneficial to society overall.

The example of the expansion of the remit of the monarchs of Europe and its transformation into the modern state is presented by Jouvenel to demonstrate this model, and the picture painted is stark and repeatedly supported by historical record.  As Jouvenel makes plainly clear, “It is true, no doubt, that Power could not make this progress but for the very real services which it renders and under cover of the hopes aroused by its displays of the altruistic side of its nature.”[iv]

For example:

To raise contributions, Power must invoke the public interest. It was in this way that the Hundred Years’ War, by multiplying the occasions on which the monarchy was forced to request the cooperation of the people, accustomed them in the end, after a long succession of occasional levies, to a permanent tax, and outcome which outlived the reasons for it.

It was in this way, too, that the Revolutionary Wars provided the justification for conscriptions, even though the files of 1789 disclosed a unanimous hostility to its feeble beginning under the monarchy. Conscription achieved fixation. And so it is that times of danger, when Power takes action for the general safety, are worth much to it in accretion to its armoury, and these, when the crisis has passed, it keeps.[v]

Of course it is not only in times of public danger when Power proceeds under the name of public interest. The direction of the monarch’s competition was not only towards external power centers to which overt war was socially permissible, but also internal competitors in the form of barons and lords to whom overt war was not permissible (generally.) To them a process which can best be described as a coalition of the high and low in society was in action. As Jouvenel notes regarding Power:

The growth of its authority strikes private individuals as being not so much a continual encroachment on their liberty, as an attempt to put down various petty tyrannies to which they have been subject. It looks as though the advance of the state is a means to the advance of the individual.[vi]

Jouvenel further elaborates on this with the following: “the monarchy, through its lawyers, comes between the barons and their subjects; the purpose is to compel the former to limit themselves to the dues which are customary and to abstain from arbitrary taxation.”[vii]

The monarchy then engaged in this alliance with the common people due to the imperatives its relatively weak position foisted on it due to the barons intransigence and opposition, and also as a means to ostensibly better govern.  Monarchy was then anything but a despotism which modern/liberal propaganda post-enlightenment has presented it as, but rather a political structure under restraints which were genuine.  A reality that we are again blind to due to the shared assumptions provided by modernity/liberalism that we have passed from a period of darkness into the enlightenment of liberal governance, assumptions that we shall see were perpetuated by Power’s expansion.

It is here that we can move past Jouvenel and be more reflective on the issue of personal liberty by refusing to be engaged in advocacy of classical liberalism, and by being aware of these assumptions of self-interest. We can then use his observation of this high-low alliance to make some startling assertions implicit in his work. The basis of these observations is provided by the following passage:

If the natural tendency of Power is to grow, and if it can extend its authority and increase its resources only at the expense of the notables, it follows that its ally for all times is the common people. The passion for absolutism is, inevitably, in conspiracy with the passion for equality.

History is one continuous proof of this; sometimes, however, as if to clarify this secular process, she concentrates it into a one-act play, such as that of the Doge Marino Falieri. So independent of the Doge were the Venetian nobility that Michel Steno could insult the Doge’s wife and escape punishment which was so derisory as to double the insult. Indeed, so far above the people’s heads was this nobility that Bertuccio Ixarello, a plebeian, was unable, in spite of his naval exploits, to obtain satisfaction for a box on the ear given by Giovanni Dandalo. According to the accepted story, Bertuccio came to the Doge and showed him the wound in his cheek from the patrician’s ring; shaming the Doge out of his inactivity, he said to him: “Let us join forces to destroy this aristocratic authority which thus perpetuates the abasement of my people and limits so narrowly your power.” The annihilation of the nobility would give to each what he wanted- to the common people equality, to Power absolutism. The attempt of Marino Falieri failed and he was put to death.

A like fate befell Jan van Barneveldt, whose case was the exact converse. In the history of the Netherlands we come across this same conflict between a prince wishing to increase his authority, in this case the Stadtholder of the House of Orange, and social authorities standing in his way, in this case the rich merchants and ship owners of Holland. William, commander-in-chief throughout thirty difficult and glorious years, was nearing the crown and had already refused it once, as did Caesar and Cromwell, when he was struck down by the hand of the assassin. Prince Maurice inherited his father’s prestige, added to it by victories of his own, and seemed about to reach the goal, when Barneveldt, having organised secretly a patrician opposition, put an end to Maurice’s ambitions by putting an end , through the conclusion of peace, to victories which were proving dangerous to the Republic. What did Maurice do then? He allied himself with the most ignorant of the preachers, who were, through fierce intolerance, the aptest to excite the passions of the lower orders: thanks to their efforts, he unleashed the mob at Barneveldt and cut off his head. This intervention by the common people enabled Maurice to execute the leader of the opposition to his own increasing power. That he did not gain the authority he sought was not due to any mistake in his choice of means, as was shown when one of his successors, William III, made himself at last master of the country by means of a popular rising, in which Jean de Witt, the Barneveldt of this period, had his throat cut.[viii]

It is a position without controversy to trace the origins of liberalism, classical liberalism, modernity etc. to Protestantism and The Reformation. If what Jouvenel outlines in the above passage, and in the rest of On Power, is correct, then it seems quite evident that the origins of Protestantism and its success is a result of these very same conflicts between these various power centers, something Jouvenel points to with his reference to equality being the ally of Power expansion. It would seem that really equality and liberty are both in conspiracy with Power.  For just who were the subsequent intellectual descendants of these “most ignorant preachers” but the liberal tradition proper? So we have a conundrum. Jouvenel is writing in defence of a liberal political position which he is clearly demonstrating was propagated and favoured by power actors in conflict with other power actors. The question we can ask ourselves at this juncture is how does this accord with the accepted narrative of the development of liberalism? Because the radical implications presented by Jouvenel’s model are that this entire political and social paradigm was favoured and propelled forward not by reasoned discourse and collective enlightenment, but in actuality as a result of its suitability and beneficial character in relation to the expansion of Power.

In asking such a question, the focus of our attention must therefore shift from popular consideration of liberalism as a rational discourse conducted over many centuries to which the assent of reasonable and rational agents was won, to instead a consideration of it as being the result of institutional actions. In effect, we go from the Whig theory of history, Progress etc. to one which identifies modernity as the cultural result of institutional conflict. Such a consideration has radical implications for political theory.

We will now move onto the further developments from Jouvenel’s work.

 

Unsecure power and secure power – The moldbuggian development

In categorising unsecure power and secure power Mencius Moldbug correctly identified that the primary motivations for power centers to engage in leveling conflict were the insecurity of their positions and the blocks they faced, they simply could not, and cannot, govern in a direct and concise manner. This has many further ramifications which we shall cover later, but for now it suffices to note that as these power centers were placed in positions of chronic conflict within society. The centers were unable to engage in actual direct conflict to resolve the tension, so the alternative option was, and still is, to pursue that of advancing their attempts at centralisation and conflict against competing power centers by appeal to greater societal good.

Secure power in contrast is power which is not placed in a position of conflict. This conflict can take the form of either the balancing of institutions against one another, such as with the republican structure and the balance of power it enshrines, or by claims of law or human rights being bounding, thereby placing the judiciary as a competing institution – there are many variants of imperium in imperio.

In pursuing this line of investigation over a number of years, an extremely accurate and effective model of the current liberal power structure was developed on the Unqualified Reservations blog[ix] which managed to trace the development of power by virtue of ignoring the frames of analysis which current political theories take as relevant. This analysis neither took the human individual as the relevant point of analysis, nor did it take current political institutions such as nation states as relevant. Instead, by placing the analysis on the manner in which internal institutions have been allowed to operate in a state of permanent surreptitious conflict, a picture emerged of a strange governing entity which centred around the Ivy League universities, media, the civil service and additionally non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society foundations in a systemically logical conflict against all other intermediary structure which have been under sustained and continued destruction. The key point to note is that the systemic conflict provides all of these centers with the context within which their decisions are enacted, rendering their actions predictable to a large degree. This is why we can see all the progressive institutions acting in a similar manner without need of a central governing body. Unsecure Power is then definable as power acting in a system designed on (or degraded to) internal conflict.

Secure Power in contrast is Power acting within a system in which institutions are complementary and not conflicting. Authority flows down only. Similar entities are seen in the form of corporations, the very same entities which actors in governance have been engaging on ever greater levels as a means to provide effective and efficient services, something which the national governance structure of the modern state has been unable to maintain. The great expansion of private military companies and privatisation in everyday walks of life are premised on the idea that the profit motive is a strong driving force for competence, but fails to take into account that the profit driven companies are first and foremost driven on a model of governance which is a rejection of imperium in imperio, thus ensuring a means of management which allows for clear and effective action. No one creates a business with an imperium in imperio design.

 

Unceasing conflict – the liberal model

The modern system has managed to ingrain imperium in imperio not as a solecism, but as an unalloyed good. Institutions in unceasing conflict are assumed to balance out society and ensure no center in particular may hold total power. This concept was provided an intellectual justification by a conception of human anthropology which was developed by liberal thinkers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, and traces its roots back through to voluntarist Christian sects.[x] The underlying premise seems to be that humans are naturally in conflict, and that we have entered into societal relationship from a state of nature. Leaving the question of just how coherent this voluntarist protestant anthropology is for now, we can concentrate on Jouvenel’s great observation which was that this division of power has led to continual and unceasing conflict between internal institutions using the concept of equality as a means of undermining competitors. A review of a number of case studies of modern history using currently available resources will confirm Jouvenel’s observation on the nature of power. The first such example is The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

 

The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Right Movement has now become an ingrained aspect of modern culture, with the main visible protagonists being widely known throughout the world. The names of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are recognisable everywhere as being the drivers of civil rights. However, applying Jouvenel’s observation that power centers within a divided governance structure will employ equality and therefore employ agitators for equality as means to undermine competitor power centers behooves us to look at possible power centers acting behind such people. If we can establish that the Civil Rights Movement is more accurately explainable as a residual culture artifact of inter-institutional conflict caused by the governmental system, then it provides great supporting proof.

A review of the Civil Rights Movement, and the support for the visible actors, quickly turns up a wealth of information which is widely available, but widely ignored. All of it is a matter of public record, and the institutions involved are actually happy to make their actions public.

One of the key institutions in this era is the Ford Foundation, they are joined by a number of other philanthropic foundations which are curiously left out of the well know history of the Civil Rights Era, despite some of the visible protagonist wishing to complain about them. A superb example is provided by Malcolm X’s celebrated speech Message to the Grass Roots which contains revelations regarding the logistics of the Civil Rights marches:

They had a meeting at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. The Carlyle Hotel is owned by the Kennedy family; that’s the hotel Kennedy spent the night at, two nights ago; [it] belongs to his family. A philanthropic society headed by a white man named Stephen Currier called all the top civil-rights leaders together at the Carlyle Hotel. And he told them that, “By you all fighting each other, you are destroying the civil-rights movement. And since you’re fighting over money from white liberals, let us set up what is known as the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership. Let’s form this council, and all the civil-rights organizations will belong to it, and we’ll use it for fund-raising purposes.” Let me show you how tricky the white man is. And as soon as they got it formed, they elected Whitney Young as the chairman, and who [do] you think became the co-chairman? Stephen Currier, the white man, a millionaire. Powell was talking about it down at the Cobo [Hall] today. This is what he was talking about. Powell knows it happened. Randolph knows it happened. Wilkins knows it happened. King knows it happened. Everyone of that so-called Big Six — they know what happened.

Once they formed it, with the white man over it, he promised them and gave them $800,000 to split up between the Big Six; and told them that after the march was over they’d give them $700,000 more. A million and a half dollars — split up between leaders that you’ve been following, going to jail for, crying crocodile tears for. And they’re nothing but Frank James and Jesse James and the what-do-you-call-’em brothers.

[As] soon as they got the setup organized, the white man made available to them top public relations experts; opened the news media across the country at their disposal; and then they begin [sic] to project these Big Six as the leaders of the march. Originally, they weren’t even in the march. You was [sic ] talking this march talk on Hastings Street — Is Hastings Street still here? —  on Hasting Street. You was [sic] talking the march talk on Lenox Avenue, and out on — What you call it? — Fillmore Street, and Central Avenue, and 32nd Street and 63rd Street. That’s where the March talk was being talked. But the white man put the Big Six [at the] head of it; made them the march. They became the march. They took it over. And the first move they made after they took it over, they invited Walter Reuther, a white man; they invited a priest, a rabbi, and an old white preacher. Yes, an old white preacher. The same white element that put Kennedy in power — labor, the Catholics, the Jews, and liberal Protestants; [the] same clique that put Kennedy in power, joined the march on Washington[xi]

The philanthropic institution referred to by Malcolm X was the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership set up by Stephen Currier and his wife Audrey Bruce Currier (nee Mellon) of the Mellon fortune. They also received significant funding from the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation among other funding sources. [xii]

The alliance between Nelson Rockefeller and Martin Luther King Jr. in particular is an instructive demonstration of the mechanism in play. King Jr. received significant and repeated funding from Rockefeller throughout his career, from the provision of $25,000 dollars to Kings’ Gandhi Society for Human Rights,[xiii] to even going to the lengths of providing bail money for King’s protesters.[xiv] In an interview with Vanity Fair, King’s lawyer of the time, Clarence Jones, reveals the following relating to the provision of funds for bail by Rockefeller:

Jones remembers Belafonte saying in an excited tone, “‘I was discussing [the Birmingham problem] with Nelson Rockefeller’s speechwriter. It’s a fellow named Hugh Morrow—he used to work for The Saturday Evening Post—who you’ll be hearing from.’ Next thing I know I got a call from Morrow—‘How can I help?’”

Jones replied, “Well, I’m coming back [to New York] tonight. Let’s meet.”

Since 1961, Nelson Rockefeller had been writing occasional checks to the S.C.L.C., usually in the range of $5,000 to $10,000. This time, they would need much, much more. “I arrived in New York late,” Jones recounts. “Morrow lived on Sutton Place. I called him at one o’clock in the morning. Half asleep, he says, ‘We want you to be at the Chase Manhattan Bank tomorrow, even though it’s Saturday. We want to help Martin.’

“I walk in at the [appointed] time and there is Rockefeller, Morrow, a bank official, and a couple of security guards. They open the huge vault. There was a big circular door with a driver’s-wheel-like handle on it. Lo and behold there was money stacked floor to ceiling! Rockefeller walks in and takes $100,000 in cash and puts it in a satchel, a briefcase-like thing. And one of the Chase Manhattan Bank officers says, ‘Mr. Jones, can you sit down for a moment?’ I sit down and he says, ‘Your name is Clarence B. Jones, right? We’ve got to have a note for this.’”

Jones hesitated, flabbergasted. “This man filled out a promissory note: Clarence B. Jones, $100,000 payable on demand,” Jones recalls. “Now, I wasn’t stupid. I said, ‘Payable on demand?! I don’t have $100,000!’ And the bank official . . . said, ‘No, we’ll take care of it, but we’ve got to have it for banking regulations.’”

Worried he was being impudent, Jones signed the document. “I took the money and got on a plane headed back to Alabama,” Jones says. “I am a hero. All the kids are bailed out.”[xv]

Jones is also quoted as saying the following in complete agreement with Malcolm X:

Curiously, King and Jones also shared a deep mutual respect for Judaism. Influenced by Levison, they had developed into staunch supporters of Israel. “Jewish Americans, along with a few guys like Rockefeller, financed the civil-rights movement,” Jones explains. “And Martin’s sentiments regarding Jews were not opportunistic, as some have claimed. It was real. He consistently sought to maintain the historic coalition and alliance with leaders of the Jewish community.[xvi]

An example of this dynamic between Jewish segments of society, the black population and wealthy foundation based individuals is provided by an article from the Chicago tribune in 1968 in which the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defence Fund, Jack Greenberg, is quoted on the role played by the Ford Foundation. The article reveals that before Bundy “you couldn’t get in at the Ford Foundation to see the time of day,” says Jack Greenberg, head of the legal defence fund.”[xvii] The article also outlines that led “by the Ford Foundation under McGeorge Bundy, the white controlled philanthropic foundations have funded some direct action programs that a few years ago they would not consider.”[xviii] This included a $230,000 grant to King’s Southern Christian Leadership conference. Also worthy of note is that the article quotes Bundy as saying “Dr. King and his associates have other commitments that fall outside the areas in which a tax-exempt foundation should give support,”[xix] these commitments are seemingly a reference to the acts of protest for which Rockefeller and the Council for United Civil Rights were providing the funding. McGeorge Bundy it should be noted was an extremely connected and influential individual, as were all the actors within the foundation sphere. These were not individuals outside of Power. Bundy was involved in various governing institutions, and Rockefeller was just as connected.[xx]

This funding was not only used to allow for mass organised protest marches, but also to engage in legal litigation. The foundations in question created and then pursued legal cases using the funds at their disposable as a means to alter legislation. A process which the Ford Foundation actively and widely celebrates, as demonstrated by even a cursory review of the Ford Foundation’s A legacy of Social Justice web page, “Since 1952, Ford Foundation grants have supported public defenders. In the 1960s, the foundation supported legal aid and litigation as a primary strategy to advance civil rights.”[xxi]As well as:

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was an opportunity for the Ford Foundation to expand its support of academic studies on race relations and African-American educational institutions to include action-oriented grantees who sought to empower whole communities. Most significantly, Ford supported public defenders and the training of African-American lawyers. This innovative strategy became the framework for Ford’s advocacy for Mexican American, Native American, and women’s rights in the US, and for its role in bringing down apartheid in South Africa. By the 1980s, Ford was investing heavily in indigenous and cultural rights.[xxii]

Further:

During the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s, Ford supported intellectual freedom. Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, coups in Latin America prompted the foundation to adopt new policies for working in repressive societies. Launched in 1975, the foundation’s human rights program provided seed money to build new NGOs. Building on the legal strategies developed through the American civil rights movement, Ford helped support human rights law and watchdog groups around the world, including groups focused on women’s and indigenous rights.[xxiii]

This is nothing less than a casual admittance to being an active an aggressive governmental actor.

Another excellent example is that of the famous Brown v Board of Education of Topeka 1954 case. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) actively brought this case into being, with the chief litigator becoming a chief justice himself in 1967.[xxiv] The funding for the case being provided from liberal philanthropic foundations composed of individuals clearly part of the progressive governing power centers.[xxv] What is even more remarkable about this case is the reliance on social science testimony by the court regarding the claimed negative impact of segregation. This social science itself having been produced with funding from the foundations, and frankly premised on an intellectually groundless basis. The whole charade was pre-ordered by Power.[xxvi] This case is also of note for showing the clear mechanism of federal level governance being directed against state level governance. In a Reuter post dated May 14, 2017, Aryeh Neier[xxvii] makes the following observations on the case in general, and on a friend of the court brief, issued by the Department of Justice, in particular:

The brief, submitted by Attorney General James P. McGranery, said, “The United States is trying to prove to the people of the world of every nationality, race and color, that a free democracy is the most civilized and most secure form of government yet devised by man…. The existence of discrimination against minority groups in the United States has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries.  Racial discrimination furnishes grist for the Communist propaganda mills.”  It also featured an excerpt from a letter by Secretary of State Dean Acheson, described as “an authoritative statement of the effects of racial discrimination in the United States upon the conduct of foreign relations.”

President Harry S. Truman, acting on his authority as commander in chief, had ended racial segregation in the armed forces in 1948. But he had been stymied in dealing with schools. They operated under state control, and many states had laws that required segregation. Congress was empowered to act under the 14th Amendment. But given the powerful positions of long-serving Southern senators and representatives, there seemed little possibility that Congress would take on the task of desegregating the schools. The only chance to solve the problem, Truman realized, rested with the Supreme Court.[xxviii]

Here we see that hurdles to Power acting occasioned this tactic of encouraging proxies and of petitioning itself. In this instance the hurdles being state level governance intransigence and the federal “democratic” structure itself.

For further detailed and disturbing insight into the all-pervasive nature of the Ford Foundation in this era in particular, one could do worse than to obtain a copy of Karen Fergusan’s Top Down: The Ford Foundation, Black Power, and the Reinvention of Racial Liberalism.[xxix] One would also do well to note that the Ford Foundation was merely one among many foundations involved in this event. The torrent of financial support provided by a cross network of philanthropic institution in the control of a network of power actors is almost unimaginable. The usage of these vast pools of “private” philanthropy wealth becomes in effect an unacknowledged arm of government engaged to get around republican hurdles in the governing structure.

So to recap, we have Power, in conjunction with social agitators engaging in subversive conflict against a third power center, the conservative element of society, which is the impediment to Power acting. With the Civil Rights Movement we also have the added complexity of the Southern and Northern Democrat Party in conflict over the issue of race throughout the 1950s and 60s. This arrangement creates a situation in which the acting institutions must always self–efface, and instead manufacture a narrative of the “oppressed” acting to free themselves from the oppression of the fictitiously stronger conservative element, a socially acceptable disguise for Power engulfing enemies. That the “fight” of the oppressed happens so effortlessly, is funded so miraculously well, and all decisions go in its favour is then presented as the march of Progress, or some other form of historical determinism. The alternative, that the likes of Stephen Currier, McGeorge Bundy, Rockefeller and the rest of the foundation managers were not embodiments of the prevailing governing institutions is not feasible.

Of course, if this holds for the Civil Rights Movement, then it follows that this same mechanism has been the one by which the unsecure Power system of the modern state has been operating on since inception, and it raises a pertinent question regarding the coherency of these developments.

To break this model down further, we can say we have a mixture of actors all acting within the logic of their respective places in this system. At the top we appear to have a mixture of actors engaging in cynical usage of agitators as a means to undermine enemies, as well as a genuine belief on the part of other actors in the validity of promoting the same agitators. In conjunction with this we have the agitators and the “grass roots” support that either genuinely believe this “social progress”, or again, is operating on more cynical motives. Whatever the ultimate motives, we see there are generally two groups here, the power actors dispersing money and support to promote the agitators and their immediate helpers, and the agitators and immediate helpers themselves. It is clear that without the first group, the second group would merely cease to be able to function. The validity of this is provided by the manner in which foundations which possess these funds have been the engines of social change in a direct fashion.

Quite frankly, none of the marches, none of the legal cases, and none of the mass speeches that were pushed onto national media would have been possible without the funds provided by a cross network of philanthropic foundations.

 

Human rights – a result of inter-institution conflict.

The example of the Civil Rights Movement furnishes us with ample demonstration of the primacy of financial logistics in creating societal movements, and the usage of agitators as means of unsecure governance to be able to act in a passive, yet active, manner. The key is that the agitators are always directed at a section of society which is an enemy to Power – they are never a serious threat to the Power.

A further example provided by the modern American system is the rise of human rights, which we will see was a creation of the Democratic linked power bases of the American system, and developed in response to challenges from the conservative centers.

The entire development of the modern human rights system apparently has its roots in a report initiated by David Heaps, an apparent Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent and Ford Foundation representative.[xxx] David Heaps was the author of a report which was presented to the Ford Foundation trustees in 1975 following the Pinochet Coup titled “Human Rights and Intellectual Freedom.” The events surrounding this are found in admirable detail in William Korey’s Taking on the World’s Repressive Regimes: The Ford Foundation’s International Human Rights Policies and Practices.[xxxi] The book and Korey’s research itself were funded by the Ford Foundation.

Following the acceptance of the recommendations of Heap’s report, the Ford Foundation began to devout significant resources to human rights. Korey also notes that coincidentally at the same time the Ford Foundation was discovering human rights, the Democrat Party elements of Congress suddenly discovered them independently:

by a striking coincidence, human rights emerged as a critical concern during precisely those years in the U.S. Congress, specifically in the House of Representatives[…] Its Subcommittee on International Organisations and Movements, headed by Congressman Donald M. Fraser (a Democract from Minnesota), held unprecedented hearings on U.S. human rights policy[…] as some of the most important congressmen sat on the subcommittee and its parent body, the report was certain to attract attention. Notably unusual was the phrase in its title, “Call for U.S. Leadership.” It reflected an angry rejection of the Nixon administration policy, of which Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was a principal architect, and a demand for a radically new orientation in American policy.[xxxii]

It is interesting to note that the claimed driver for human rights, the Latin American military coups and the subsequent removal of academics and foundation grantees from positions of influence by General Pinochet, affected the influence of precisely those power centers of the US that could be termed “progressive” or “democratic.” The full influence of the Ford Foundation alone is revealed by Korey as he quotes Jeffrey Puryear:

so effective had Ford Foundation grants been with individual scholars that, according to Jeffrey Puryear, a historian of the grant program area, the economic and social reforms initiated by the previous Christian Democratic administration of Eduard Frei and extended under its socialist successor, Salvador Allende, could be considered very much the foundation’s product.[xxxiii]

These individuals then being removed by Pinochet’s army:

…at least two thousand faculty members of the leading university-the University of Chile- were fired by 1975. This constituted fairly close to a quarter of the faculty.[…] since many of the dismissed faculty were recipients of foundation grants and, importantly, came from the intellectual stratum of society the foundation especially favoured, it was scarcely surprising that urgent measures had to be undertaken.[xxxiv]

These urgent measures included creating “private social-science research centers”[xxxv] to continue producing policies and maintaining the sustenance of Foundation supported individuals influencing Chilean society.

To add another level of confusion to matters, the advisors who Pinochet turned to – the famed Chicago Boys, were themselves trained on a program funded by the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation through the State Department (a key progressive power center) called the Four Point Program (a program which Nelson Rockefeller appears to have been heavily involved with,)[xxxvi] and a similar story appears to have unfolded with the example of the Berkley Mafia in Indonesia.[xxxvii] So all-encompassing is the influence of foundation funding on the cultural developments of the 20th century that all serious movements appear to have been logistically created by them, even the punitively opposed ones. This does also raise the question of just how far apart the underlying theoretical basis of the “left” and “right” are in western liberal society, something not in the scope of this article to explore.

In the wake of this sudden interest and supply of funding occasioned by the Ford Foundation (which was augmented by the additional smaller foundations, as is the way they operate,) the academic and non-governmental organisation (NGO) interest in human rights exploded. A review of Google’s Ngram viewer for the term “human rights” shows a corresponding sharp increase at precisely the point indicated by Korey’s research. (Fig 1)

Untitled

(Figure 1)

In summary, it is clearly observable that the actions of the democrat power centers in discovering and then promoting human rights is an obvious policy tool against regimes which were inimical to their influence. The power centers acted in a manner predicted by Jouvenel’s observations. These power centers engaged the usage of equality and the form of altruism as a means of attacking competing power centers and enlarging their own influence. The success of this program is a testament to the power of this approach in such an unsecure power system. This also presents the disturbing insight that the events in Chile can really be modeled as a proxy civil war between power centers based in the USA. Though of course, note that this does not indicate that The Democrat Party is Power, it is merely one center within the Power nexus, usually the dominant one within formal governance. The Republican Party and any other party that accepts the system can be considered a competing ally.

The continued value of the human rights nexus has been demonstrated in subsequent geo-political events, including the fall of the Soviet Union, as noted by Korey. Korey himself explains how the Ford Foundation incredibly played a key role in the downfall of the Soviet Union in Chapter 5:

“What greatly contributed to the historic and revolutionary changes was the role of nongovernmental organizations, most notably those formed in Eastern Europe, which were greatly assisted by newly established Western NGOs sponsored and sustained by the Ford Foundation.”[xxxviii]

The key point of weakness which it appears the NGOs in question targeted was the inclusion of “human rights” in Principal VII and Basket 3 of the Helsinki accords. Yuri Orlov, a Soviet dissident apparently noted the potential for creating dissent with this provision, as Korey writes “For Orlov, an invaluable lever had been handed to the democrats.”[xxxix] Even more striking is that the Helsinki accords contained a provision that called upon “the citizenry of member states to assist in forming NGOs in all state that would check on the compliance of their governments with the provisions of the act.”[xl] Such a provision was taken clearly as an open door for Ford Foundation largess in the Soviet Union to push for changes that supported the west geopolitically. Strikingly, Korey makes a clear connection between democractic movements and the Helsinki agreement, as well as organisations created in its wake and funded by the Ford Foundation. Not only are the Solidarity organisation and Lech Walesa in Poland linked directly to the organisations supported by the Ford Foundation, but so are the organisations central the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic such as Charter 77.[xli] Human rights formed a focal point around which dissidents could rally and obtain resources.

It is at this point in the story where we again encounter McGeorge Bundy, who was approached by the US ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg, part of the delegation to the follow-up meeting of the Final Act of the Helsinki Accord in Belgrade. Korey reports:

Goldberg desperately sought assistance from McGeorge Bundy, the Ford Foundation president. They knew each other from the years during the Kennedy administration when Goldberg served as Secretary of Labor and Bundy was the president’s National Security Adviser.

What must have been in the back of Goldberg’s mind was the need to create an American NGO that might impact upon U.S. public opinion and drive home the need to effectively raise the continuing repression of dissidents, minorities, and Jews in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in communist East

Europe. Such an American NGO could also strengthen the recently created NGOs, comprising dissidents in Eastern Europe, such as Charter 77 and Solidarity,  that were continuously harassed by the authorities. An influential group might also stimulate the rise of similar groups in Western Europe. While there appears to be no record of the initial Goldberg-Bundy meeting, nor even of precisely when it was held, available information from the foundation archives and from various interviews indicates that Bundy was most responsive.[xlii]

As Korey notes, the result from this meeting was that Bundy “suggested inviting Robert Bernstein, the head of the Random House publishing company, to join Goldberg and himself on April 5, 1978.”[xliii] The result of this collaboration would be the Helsinki Watch NGO. Such a group “he said, could serve as a “private counterpart” to the U.S. Helsinki Commission and, thereby, help put “pressure on the Executive Branch,” or the State Department.”[xliv] That this NGO group was basically created by Bundy is not disputed by Korey. He even notes “What is more than evident was that the top Ford Foundation executive had already decided on the path to be followed and had set in motion all the crucial steps for creating the kind of Helsinki Watch Committee he wanted,”[xlv] and “From the very beginning, U.S. Helsinki Watch linked its destiny with the foundation; even its very origin was a product of the foundation’s planning at the highest level.”[xlvi]

Interestingly, Korey recounts the initial organisation of the Helsinki Watch Group and is confused regarding the appointment of a committee member by the name of David Fishlow. It appears that Fishlow was hired on the basis that the NGO would predominantly concern itself with US adherence to the Helsinki agreements human rights clauses as it was officially supposed to do, and catches other board members in an act of apparent misinformation by claiming Fishlow subsequently resigned.[xlvii] A small detail which reveals a lot, as Korey claims to have located a memo on the issue:

The pertinent section of Bushey’s memo reads as follows:

Bernstein hired a Committee staff director before functions and objectives were defined. This proved harmful because he was a specialist on American minority problems whereas the Committee subsequently developed largely along international lines. As a result, conflict arose and the director was fired several months after he began work—with considerable disruption of activities. Bernstein then appointed Laber to the post.[xlviii]

Obviously, the organisation had no serious intention of being directed at the US. Instead Bundy and the Ford Foundation heads were directing it against Eastern Europe. The exceptional nature of this organisation is also revealed by a disgruntled Ford Foundation member by the name of Bruce Bushey who Korey records as complaining as follows:

He said that it was Bundy himself who “pushed ahead against our [staff] objections,” referring to the objections registered by Bushey and Gaer. Bushey went on to add that Bundy approved the formation of the Helsinki Committee and, more importantly, “made four hundred thousand dollars available to support its activities during a two-year period.” That was a huge sum of money for an NGO, and an amount extremely rare for a start-up project.[xlix]

Clearly reading between the lines the organisation had some serious background to which Bushey and Fishlow were not privy. The NGO would ultimately result in “the decision in 1982 by U.S. Helsinki Watch to create, with the assistance of the Ford Foundation, similar Helsinki NGOs in a number of European countries, in both the West and the East.”[l] The significance of Ford Foundation support is somewhat encapsulated by Korey’s account of Vaclav Havel’s visit to the Helsinki Watch’s offices in Manhatten:

His words in the charged atmosphere would not easily be forgotten by Laber and the other guests. He said, “I feel I’m here as a friend among friends. I know what you did for us and perhaps, without you our revolution would not be.” The remembrance of things past was stirringly powerful. Several months earlier Laber had received from Havel and his vice president, Karl Schwarzenberg, a fax recalling how only a year earlier she had been arrested for meeting with Charter 77 leaders. The fax went on to say, “we would like to thank you for everything you did for us.[li]

Korey quite remarkably notes that this process seems to have been missed by even the celebrated statesman Kissinger until long after the fact:

Kissinger now acknowledged that Basket 3 (which he earlier had never even noticed in his writing) turned out to be “most significant” and “was destined to play a major role in the disintegration of the Soviet satellite orbit.” He went on to add the startlingly unbecoming comment that Basket 3 “became a testimonial to all human rights activists in NATO countries.” It was these human rights activists, he suddenly recognized, “who deserve tribute,” for it was “the pressures which they exerted” that hastened the end of totalitarian rule. Especially accorded praise were the “heroic reformers in Eastern Europe”—the NGOs of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary—who used Basket 3 as “a rallying point” in their struggle against “Soviet domination.” He made no specific reference to U.S. Helsinki Watch, but Vaclav Havel, it could be said, did it for him.[lii]

One can only agree with Korey’s underlying subtext that the omission of the role of the Ford Foundation in the disruption of the Soviet Union is astonishing. The Helsinki Watch NGO would evolve into the Human Rights Watch NGO and take on an international perspective. It has been utilised in various other countries. Now, if we did not have historical records that already show the widespread usage of human rights in providing pretext for disruption of governments inimical to western elites, we could have predicted from this revelation that this is what would happen. From the Balkans to the Middle East and North Africa, and now Eastern Europe again, human rights have been deployed and NGOs have engaged in governmental disruption, something which Russian strategic thinkers have picked up on in a somewhat incomplete manner. In an article in the Military Review “Getting Gerasimov Right” it is claimed that:

In the Russian view, the pattern of U.S. forced regime change has been as follows: deciding to execute a military operation; finding an appropriate pretext such as to prevent genocide or seize weapons of mass destruction; and finally, launching a military operation to cause regime change.

However, Russia believes that the pattern of forced U.S.-sponsored regime change has been largely supplanted by a new method. Instead of an overt military invasion, the first volleys of a U.S. attack come from the instalment of a political opposition through state propaganda (e.g., CNN, BBC), the Internet and social media, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). After successfully instilling political dissent, separatism, and/or social strife, the legitimate government has increasing difficulty maintaining order. As the security situation deteriorates, separatist movements can be stoked and strengthened, and undeclared special operations, conventional, and private military forces (defense contractors) can be introduced to battle the government and cause further havoc. Once the legitimate government is forced to use increasingly aggressive methods to maintain order, the United States gains a pretext for the imposition of economic and political sanctions, and sometimes even military sanctions such as no-fly zones, to tie the hands of the besieged governments and promote further dissent.

Eventually, as the government collapses and anarchy results, military forces under the guise of peacekeepers can then be employed to pacify the area, if desired, and a new government that is friendly to the United States and the West can be installed.[liii]

Further:

This narrative also sheds some light on the Russian government’s hostility toward NGOs.6 Though there are usually no allegations of NGOs being directly or indirectly controlled by foreign governments, most Russian reporting on NGOs purports that they are simply being funded because they have an objective to influence a particular government in a given way, or to just cause general instability.[liv]

It is unsurprising that the Russians faced with the strange actions emanating from this US human rights nexus created by foundations should be so bewildered by the techniques employed. However, there are vast holes in the Russian analysis of the situation. The beginning of this process in the current human rights guise can be traced back to 1975 with some accuracy, however the mechanism of outside actors funding destabilising elements is central to unsecure power, and it is only credulence of the political divisions asserted by political theory and the belief of genuine spontaneous revolution which blinds us to this.

Before we leave this specific topic, it is worth raising a number of questions. The first is a question regarding the human rights provisions in the Helsinki agreement. Why were they put there, and was it merely a series of improvisations that followed it from Heaps, Bundy and the rest? Or was there a strategy in place already to which this history of Korey’s is merely a connecting of the dots. What are, and were, the philosophical basis for these human rights? Have they been proven, confirmed, or even debated openly?  It should be a startling realisation that great wealth, as well mass movements, were predicated on a concept which seems to have been accorded no confirmation.  It would appear each person in the chain simply ran with the concept. Does this entire narrative as revealed incompletely by Korey not point to the collapse of the Soviet Union being due to internal social schism fostered by the west? These questions are not within the scope of this article to answer, but do point to further research in this area. For now, we will look at yet more examples of this governance dynamic in action.

 

The link between Black Lives Matter and the Anti-Corn Laws movement

Modern scholarship appears to have a great deal of trouble explaining the actions of Prime Minister Robert Peel and the undermining of his own Conservative Party during the Anti-Corn Laws Movement, but with de Jouvenel’s insight we have no reason to be confused. The Anti-Corn Laws League was in effect a Black Lives Matter movement of the 19th century. Both movements share the same funding pattern, the same organisation pattern, they are/ were both movements engaged by Power to enact change.

Starting with Robert Peel and the Anti-Corn Laws League, it is a matter of record that the funding for the activities of the League were key to their existence. It was a pressure movement financed by so called “private” sources, that these private sources were the Whig industrialists linked to parliament that benefited from the reorganisation of the economic policies of the British government should be cause for pause. The League was not a grass roots creation at all, and was brought into existence by this highly powerful and heavily connected group of people. Again, as with all of these movements, the image passed down to us is one of a brave David fighting against the Goliath of vested interests and oppressive feudal aristocrats, yet the funding figures belie this. For example, it is recorded that:

In financial terms, while the League grew from a £5,000 annual fund in 1839 to one of £250,000 in 1845, the latter year saw the core of the Anti- League (the Essex Agricultural Protection Society) scraping together the paltry sum of £2,000 to fund its campaign.[lv]

Anderson and Tollison[lvi] note that:

Cotton textile mill owners were the predominant group represented among the League’s founders, leaders, and principal financial backers. Bright was a Lancashire cottom mill owner (Ausubel, [1966], p.2). Cobden was the owner of a cotton mill that printed calicoes (Read [1968], p.10). Henry and Thomas Ashoworth, owners of the large Ashworth mills, were League founders, and together contributed over 2000 pounds to the League (Boyson [1970], p.202). The Strutt family, textile mill owners, apparently were large contributers, donating 300 pounds in one recorded instance (McCord [1968], p.138). Generally, the cotton textile mill owners were the major participants and contributors in the League.[lvii]

Anderson and Tollison also ask a telling question regarding the dissolution of the League, this being simply “why was the League disbanded in 1846?”[lviii] The answer being that:

The League dissolved basically because by 1846 its financial support had begun to dry up (McCord [1968], p.204). The League leaders and agitators did not suddenly lose interest in political issues, but many of them lost pay checks as employees in League offices.[lix]

Concentrating on the arguments for, and against, the Corn Laws as put forward by advocates and critics is not in the least bit fruitful, and takes our attention away from the real issue. This was an issue which was sponsored into being, with the proxy being the benefit of the workers. The league was Power petitioning itself which is a form of governance endemic to democracy. This leaves us with a puzzle as to what were the motivations for the actions of Prime Minister Peel in providing the key assistance in undermining the Corn Laws? It may help to step back and consider other developments that Peel was famous for and note a pattern in their overall effect. For a start, we can note Peel’s support for the Test Act (1828), the Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829), the Income Tax Act (1842) and the Mines Act of (1842) and the Railway Regulation Act (1844) among others. What we have here is a series of acts which removed barriers to Catholics and anyone not conforming to the Church of England, legislated the activities of factories and mines, legislated the running of railways and introduced income tax in peace time.  All of these acts represent an expansion of Power by means of promotion of equality and the legislation of individuals. I have no doubt Peel would have envisioned himself as in the act of governing the United Kingdom, and was acting in line with such a role. His decision to push through with the Corn Laws repeal would no doubt have been based on a number of factors which he would have not explained in any other way than the weak arguments he presented in his speeches, given the limitations placed on him by democratic governance. Whatever his specific thinking was, the unspoken alliance with the Anti-Corn Law Movement was extremely helpful to both parties. This mechanism has clear and pertinent replication in the current Black Lives Matter pressure group, which like the Civil Rights Movement pressure groups, has been sponsored into existence.

Luckily with the Black Lives Matter group we do not have to wait decades before researchers comb through the archives, but can instead utilise the Soros hacks that have been made public. These hacks, and other information sources, paint a stark picture of a pressure group which has been funded into being by actors in close connection with governing institutions and power centers.

A leaked memo from Soro’s Open Society organisation for the May 2015 meetings[lx] reveals the following:

The federal government is seeking philanthropic support for a number of its initiatives. In addition to seeking support to advance the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Taskforce, the White House recently launched the Policing Data Initiative to explore how best to use data and technology to build trust, voice, and solutions to improve community policing.

[…]

We are gaining a better understanding of these efforts in order to determine how best USP can use this moment to create a national movement. We have already had a set of preliminary conversations with about a dozen key stakeholders and will undertake a field scan to map the areas of work currently underway to advance police reform, including an assessment of the redundancies and gaps in work, and opportunities for collaboration. As we proceed, we will engage the funder network we helped to establish, the Executive Alliance on Men and Boys of Color, which now includes forty foundations.[lxi]

Followed by:

The events of the past several months have understandably led to a wide range of activities, including a variety of advocacy efforts, to respond to the significant challenges in policing that have been exposed and the opportunity to promote meaningful and lasting change.

[…]

The range of efforts underway raises a number of questions and concerns about capacity, the need for coordination and the appropriate prioritization of policy objectives, among others, which we will discuss in the policing portion of the meeting.[lxii]

A further leaked document detailing meetings in October 2015[lxiii] is even more pointed in its revelations than the earlier one. In this memo we find the following instructive passage:

Recognizing the need for strategic assistance, the U.S. Programs Board approved $650,000 in Opportunities Fund support to invest in technical assistance and support for the groups at the core of the burgeoning #BlackLivesMatter movement. While these emerging groups had mobilized communities with a force that captured the nation’s conscience, behind the scenes, they had invested much less time in reflection, strategy development, and future planning. U.S. Programs provided that space through a grant to the New Venture Fund (NVF), which supported a series of planning convenings for different aspects of the movement. The highest profile events, the #BlackLivesMatter convening in Cleveland and the #Law4BlackLives gathering in New York, yielded a promising critique of efforts to date and a potential blueprint for strengthening the movement going forward.

That support calls into question how we might most appropriately support such efforts; specifically whether we should seek to shape the movement as opposed to facilitate its direct action. How do we confront the reality that such movements frequently flail as they attempt to grow and confront the challenges of institutionalizing themselves sufficiently to extend their reach? To what extent do we believe that we should play a role in helping such movement leaders connect with others that might help deepen policy recommendations or connections to sympathetic, but silent, inside actors? How can we help link such movements to existing grantees and other key actors that provide mutual strengthening? And throughout how do we make sure we follow the first rule of philanthropy in such circumstances, namely to do no harm? (In this vein, it is noteworthy how the Soros name is or can be used to try and delegitimize such movements).[lxiv]

This information has indeed unfortunately been misinterpreted as Soros being the guiding hand in these movements when it is clear from the Jouvenel model, and previous iterations of this unsecure power governance structure, that it is strikingly mundane. A further look at other foundations acting in the same manner as Soro’s Open Foundation provides added context, and reveals Soro’s organisation as merely one among many. For example, the Ford Foundation through the Borealis Philanthropy Organisation is acting to provide the obscene amount of $100,000,000.[lxv] The one constant in all of this is the support of federal governance and the elite in American society, or rather the progressive power centers. It is simply Power petitioning itself.

What is even more interesting about the October 2015 Open Society Memo is that one section from which the previously quoted passage comes from is actually titled “Black Lives Matter and the Challenges of Supporting Decentralized Movements,”[lxvi] and it asks the following (very telling) question:

Heading into the 2016 Presidential election season, we’ve seen increased visibility from several burgeoning social justice movements, each vying to shape the nation’s political agenda. Each of these movements, from the Dreamers in the immigration context, to Occupy Wall Street and #BlackLivesMatter, has had varying levels of success. Along the way, philanthropy has grappled with its historic role in supporting these efforts. The inherent tension between the organic nature of authentic movement-building and the need for institutional infrastructure has often stymied philanthropy in its efforts to effect social change. This begs the question of what is the appropriate role for philanthropy, in either supporting or defining policy agendas. Does philanthropy undermine the field when it advocates directly in spheres of political influence instead of empowering grantees to do the same? Are there times when philanthropy can use its levers of influence to expedite change as institutional actors mature?[lxvii]

To which the answer was the previous passage. The foundations have organised, funded, and directed the movement accordingly. The memo is instructive in revealing the mind-set of those engaging in this coordinated “spontaneity.” A further excellent example of this thinking in process is provided from another series of leaks, this time the John Podesta email leaks in which Podesta talks of organising ground up change to disrupt the Catholic Church. The email chain in question is reproduced in full, as the insight it provides into the reasoning of those engaging in this activity is of extreme importance:

Re: opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing . . .

From:tara.mcguinness@gmail.com

To: john.podesta@gmail.com

Date: 2012-02-11 13:19

Subject: Re: opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing . . .

I did this thing at Brookings yesterday, with EJ (it was supposed also be with the bishops counsel but he bailed) and there was a lot of this. Though I agree with michael sheehan who I think said that the catholic church is not a democracy, if people want that they can become congregationalists, where the people in the pews matter 🙂

Father thomas, from georgetown had one killer stat. One out of every 3 americans born catholic, leaves the catholic church. If that group of people formed one church it would be one of the largest (top 3) churches in the country.

You know what all our catholic groups are missing? Deep serious theological thinking. They are organizing vessels – not engines of ideas. No one is more removed from heirarchy these days than the serious catholic scholars.

There were some other good observations yesterday from lib catholics that are worth making it back to our friends.

——Original Message——

From: John Podesta

To: Sandy Newman

Cc: Tara McGuinness

Subject: Re: opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing . . .

Sent: Feb 11, 2012 8:45 AM

We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a

moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now.

Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this

one will have to be bottom up. I’ll discuss with Tara. Kathleen

Kennedy Townsend is the other person to consult.

On 2/10/12, Sandy Newman <sandynewman@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi, John,

>

> This whole controversy with the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage even

> though 98% of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) have used

> contraception has me thinking . . . There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in

> which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and

> the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the

> Catholic church. Is contraceptive coverage an issue around which that could

> happen. The Bishops will undoubtedly continue the fight. Does the Catholic

> Hospital Association support of the Administration’s new policy, together

> with “the 98%” create an opportunity?

>

> Of course, this idea may just reveal my total lack of understanding of the

> Catholic church, the economic power it can bring to bear against nuns and

> priests who count on it for their maintenance, etc. Even if the idea isn’t

> crazy, I don’t qualify to be involved and I have not thought at all about

> how one would “plant the seeds of the revolution,” or who would plant them.

> Just wondering . . .

>

> Hoping you’re well, and getting to focus your time in the ways you want.

> Sandy

> Sandy Newman, President

> Voices for Progress

> 202.669.8754

> voicesforprogress.org

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile (sic)[lxviii]

The wording and thinking exhibited in this email, as with the Open Society meeting notes, provide absolutely perfect confirmation of the patron theory of politics and the power analysis heuristic behind it.  Unsecure power leads those in positions of governance to engage in strange mental gymnastics to preserve this fraudulent spontaneity to even themselves. This thinking works along the basis of identifying an enemy to their own power, engaging proxies to then encourage, whilst simultaneously convincing themselves that they are acting for the greater societies good. The duality is, as Jouvenel wrote, irreducible.

This leaves the question of why the BLM movement is being used at this time, and as with the example of the Brown v Board of Education 1954 case, there appears to be a number of overlapping incentives, with the central issue being federal versus state level yet again augmented by electoral politics. As the Open Society meeting notes from February 2015 make clear:

Leaders of #BlackLivesMatter and The Movement for Black Lives worked to influence candidate platforms during the 2016 primary season. This came alongside the recent acknowledgement by political strategists that African-American voters may be much more pivotal to the 2016 general election than previously forecasted.[lxix]

So, we see the political structure itself being the driver for a process of radicalization and convoluted strange behaviour as predicted by the patron theory of politics.

 

Conclusions

The unsettling conclusion that can be drawn from the mechanism identified by Betrand de Jouvenel is that culture is fundamentally and definitively defined by the institutions that govern society. An unsecure power system will occasion the usage of proxies in the form of revolutionary cultural actors and revolutionary currents as a means to engage in war with other power centers, and to also attempt to actually govern. These actors are in effect sponsored into the prominence and assisted by the institutions in the process of power expansion.

Without massive funding from foundations, as well as support from progressive power centers in response to the Latin American coups of the 1970’s, and its usage against the USSR, human rights would not have such a prominent role. Without the actions of foundations and other actors in the Civil Rights Movement, none of the black empowerment movements would have existed. Without the current funding glut from these same actors, the BLM movement would be non-existent. Without Peel and the Whig industrialist’s support, the Anti-Corn Law League would have amounted to nothing. It is sobering to consider how many political movements, and how many of our cultural touch stones, are derived from these institutional conflicts.

 

NOTES

[i] Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power: Its Nature and the History of Its Growth (USA, Beacon Press Boston, 1962.)

[ii] Ibid, p 119.

[iii] Ibid, p 283.

[iv] Ibid, p 128.

[v] Ibid, P 129.

[vi] Ibid, p 130.

[vii] Ibid, p 167.

[viii] Ibid, pp 178-79.

[ix] “Unqualified Reservations,” last accessed March 28, 2017, http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.tw/

[x] For a detailed and persuasive analysis of this genealogy, see Alasdair MacIntyre’s trilogy of books dealing with the issue of ethics: After Virtue (1981,) Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (1988,) and Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry (1990.)

[xi] Malcolm X, “Message to Grassroots” (speech, King Solomon Baptist Church, Detroit, MI, November 10, 1963), TeachingAmericanHistory.org, http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/message-to-grassroots/, accessed March 27, 2017.

[xii] Nina Mjagkil. Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations (New York, Garland, 2001.) pp 173-74.

[xiii] Letter from MLK to Nelson A. Rockefeller, Monday, November 1, 1965, accessed March 28, 2017, http://thekingcenter.org/archive/document/letter-mlk-nelson-rockefeller.

[xiv] Entry for Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich. at the Stanford King encyclopaedia, accessed March 28, 2017, http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/

[xv] Douglas Brinkley, “The Man Who Kept King’s Secrets,” Vanityfair.com, April, 2006, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.vanityfair.com/news/politics/2014/01/clarence-jones-martin-luther-king-jr-secrets

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] “Foundations Boost Civil Rights Grants,” Chicago Tribune, February 11, 1968, accessed March 28, 2017, http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1968/02/11/page/75/article/foundations-boost-civil-rights-grants.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] It is not the place of this paper to provide a thorough analysis of the cross connections between the individuals that compromise the philanthropic and financial/ economic elite of American society. It suffices to note that, with little research, significant connections can be found to exist external to the formal structures of government and foundations.

[xxi] “A legacy of Social Justice,” accessed March 28, 2017, https://www.fordfoundation.org/about-us/a-legacy-of-social-justice/

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s chief council went from working for a foundation and elite supported institution to becoming a fixture of formal governance.

[xxv] Walter Stephan and Joe R. Feagin, School Desegregation: Past, Present, and Future (New York, Plenum Press, 1980.) pp 33-35.

[xxvi] See the paper “Formalising Power Analysis” for a review of the origins of social science within the Foundation nexus.

[xxvii] Aryeh Neier appears to be the same Neier involved heavily in the human rights network from the start, including the founding of the Helsinki Watch Group. He appears to currently be employed on the board of the Open Society Foundation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryeh_Neier

[xxviii] “Brown v. Board of Ed: Key Cold War weapon,” accessed March 28, 2017, http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/05/14/brown-v-board-of-ed-key-cold-war-weapon/

[xxix] Karen Fergusan, Top Down: The Ford Foundation, Black Power, and the Reinvention of Racial Liberalism(Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.)

[xxx] “David Heaps, 84, Human Rights Advocate” accessed March 29, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/17/world/david-heaps-84-human-rights-advocate.html

[xxxi] William Korey, Taking on the World’s Repressive Regimes: The Ford Foundation’s International Human Rights Policies and Practices (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.)

[xxxii] Ibid, p 70.

[xxxiii] Ibid, p 26.

[xxxiv] Ibid, p 26.

[xxxv] Ibid, p 27.

[xxxvi] See Pinochet’s Economists: The Chicago School of Economics in Chile By Juan Gabriel Valdes for a detailed look at the involvement of both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations in the “Chile Project.”

[xxxvii] David Ransom, “The Berkeley Mafia and the Indonesian Massacre” Ramparts, Vol. 9, No. 4, October 1970, pp. 26-28, 40-49.

[xxxviii] Korey, Taking on the World’s Repressive Regimes. P 90.

[xxxix] Ibid, p 90.

[xl] Ibid, p 91.

[xli] Ibid, pp 91-92.

[xlii] Ibid, p 96.

[xliii] Ibid, p 97.

[xliv] Ibid, p 99.

[xlv] Ibid, p 101.

[xlvi] Ibid, p 102.

[xlvii] Ibid, pp 103-04.

[xlviii] Ibid, p 105.

[xlix] Ibid, p 108.

[l] Ibid, P 114.

[li] Ibid, p 115.

[lii] Ibid, pp 115-16.

[liii] Charles K Bartles, “Getting Gerasimov Right” Military Review, (January – February 2016,) p 32.

[liv] Ibid, p 33.

[lv] Cheryly Schonhardt-Bailey, From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interests, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006,) pp 90-91.

[lvi] Gary M. Anderson and Robert D. TollisonBd. “Ideology, Interest Groups, and the Repeal of the Corn Laws,” Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft / Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 141, H. 2. (Juni 1985,) pp 197-212.

[lvii] Ibid, pp 201-02.

[lviii] Ibid, p 207.

[lix] Ibid, pp 207-08.

[lx] U.S. Programs Board Meeting, New York, New York, May 7-8, 2015.

[lxi] Ibid, p 35.

[lxii] Ibid, pp 34-35.

[lxiii] U.S. Programs Board Meeting, New York, New York, October 1-2, 2015.

[lxiv] Ibid, p 22.

[lxv] Valerie Richardson, “Black Lives Matter cashes in with $100 million from liberal foundations,” The Washington Post, August 16, 2016, accessed March 29, 2017,  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/16/black-lives-matter-cashes-100-million-liberal-foun/

[lxvi] U.S. Programs Board Meeting, New York, New York, October 1-2, 2015, p 22.

[lxvii] Ibid, P 21.

[lxviii] E-mail chain between Sandy Newton and John Podesta, Cc: Tara McGuinness, February 10-11, 2012, accessed March 29, 2017, https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/57579

[lxix] U.S. Programs Board Meeting, New York, New York, February 11-12, 2015, p68.