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the_anatomy_of_power [2008/11/05 00:35]
dan
the_anatomy_of_power [2008/11/08 12:00] (current)
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 One means of presenting history is as the waxing and waning of sources and types of power and the contours of the interplay between different powers. One means of presenting history is as the waxing and waning of sources and types of power and the contours of the interplay between different powers.
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 ===== The Precapitalist World ===== ===== The Precapitalist World =====
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 This history begins around 1500, just after the first exploratory voyages to the Americas. ​ The two main sources of power in Europe were the Church and network of feudal lords. This history begins around 1500, just after the first exploratory voyages to the Americas. ​ The two main sources of power in Europe were the Church and network of feudal lords.
  
-The Church'​s primary mechanism of power was conditioning,​ both explicit (through regular religious services and sermons) and implicit (the acceptance of the Church'​s role and doctrines were accepted implicitly by the entire community, an unconscious status quo).  But the Church had other sources of power too: the Church owned extensive lands which generated the income that sustained a considerable organisation (combining property, compensatory and organisational power). ​ Pope Urban II was careful to urge the spoils of land which would be won when urging the First Crusade in 1095.  This was not the Church'​s only claim to condign power --- more usual applications ranged from the burning of heretics to the Inquisition. ​ And personality was also important --- both of Christ and of God --- personalities which both managed to overcome the usual weakness of personality-derived power, its mortality.+The Church'​s primary mechanism of power was conditioning,​ both explicit (through regular religious services and sermons) and implicit (the acceptance of the Church'​s role and doctrines were accepted implicitly by the entire community, an unconscious status quo).  But the Church had other sources of power too: the Church owned extensive lands which generated the income that sustained a considerable organisation (combining property, compensatory and organisational power). ​ Pope Urban II was aware of the spoils of land which would be won when urging the First Crusade in 1095.  This was not the Church'​s only claim to condign power --- more usual applications ranged from the burning of heretics to the Inquisition. ​ And personality was also important --- both of Christ and of God --- personalities which managed to overcome the usual weakness of personality-derived power, its mortality.
  
 A feudal lord's power was more predominantly property in source and condign in mechanism, although he also provided compensation to those who worked his land and benefited from a significant implicit conditioning affirming his right to rule.  Personality was certainly of great importance in the more successful secular figures, those who were able to increase the stock of property that they commanded. A feudal lord's power was more predominantly property in source and condign in mechanism, although he also provided compensation to those who worked his land and benefited from a significant implicit conditioning affirming his right to rule.  Personality was certainly of great importance in the more successful secular figures, those who were able to increase the stock of property that they commanded.
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 ===== The Emergence of Capitalism ===== ===== The Emergence of Capitalism =====
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 In the principle trading centres (Amsterdam, Bruges, Venice) the interests of merchant capitalism and that of the state were essentially one and the same; in other areas there was an ongoing conflict between feudal and mercantilist interests. ​ Merchants also derived their power principally from property, although in their case this property was embodied in inventory, transport infrastructure (particularly shipping) and specie rather than the land of the feudal system. ​ Their principal source of power was compensatory,​ which they used to command the labour of craftsmen and artisans and those they needed to manage the navigation of their shipping. ​ Personality was far less important than in the feudal case.  Organisation became increasingly important as the period progressed, as chartered companies came to be necessary to manage long-distance transit, and gradually to increase in size and power. ​ Chartered companies, as they became more substantial,​ gained access to increasing quantities of condign power, to protect their own shipping and dominate areas of land important to the pursuit of their commerce. ​ Companies such as the East India and Hudson Bay companies thereby came to closely resemble national governments --- and indeed the areas they commanded and the organisation that commanded them gradually morphed into nation-states. ​ Such organisations commanded formidable property but rarely any significant personality. In the principle trading centres (Amsterdam, Bruges, Venice) the interests of merchant capitalism and that of the state were essentially one and the same; in other areas there was an ongoing conflict between feudal and mercantilist interests. ​ Merchants also derived their power principally from property, although in their case this property was embodied in inventory, transport infrastructure (particularly shipping) and specie rather than the land of the feudal system. ​ Their principal source of power was compensatory,​ which they used to command the labour of craftsmen and artisans and those they needed to manage the navigation of their shipping. ​ Personality was far less important than in the feudal case.  Organisation became increasingly important as the period progressed, as chartered companies came to be necessary to manage long-distance transit, and gradually to increase in size and power. ​ Chartered companies, as they became more substantial,​ gained access to increasing quantities of condign power, to protect their own shipping and dominate areas of land important to the pursuit of their commerce. ​ Companies such as the East India and Hudson Bay companies thereby came to closely resemble national governments --- and indeed the areas they commanded and the organisation that commanded them gradually morphed into nation-states. ​ Such organisations commanded formidable property but rarely any significant personality.
  
-> It was their singular advantage that, almost everywhere, they moved into what rather precisely could be called a power vacuum. ​ The term, though rarely ​ever defined in modern usage, aptly describes a community or territory where all the sources of power --- effective personality,​ property, organisation --- are feeble or absent, as also, in consequence,​ are all the instruments of its enforcement. ​ This accurately describes the East Indies and the subarctic reaches of North America as they were invaded by the trading companies ​ In northern America there was, in these terms, nearly nothing; in the East Indies there were occasional personalities,​ some property, and some slight organisation. ​ But these, and especially the organisation,​ were weak compared with those possessed by the Europeans, and so were the resulting instruments of enforcement. ---page 105-6+> It was their singular advantage that, almost everywhere, they moved into what rather precisely could be called a power vacuum. ​ The term, though rarely ​if ever defined in modern usage, aptly describes a community or territory where all the sources of power --- effective personality,​ property, organisation --- are feeble or absent, as also, in consequence,​ are all the instruments of its enforcement. ​ This accurately describes the East Indies and the subarctic reaches of North America as they were invaded by the trading companies In northern America there was, in these terms, nearly nothing; in the East Indies there were occasional personalities,​ some property, and some slight organisation. ​ But these, and especially the organisation,​ were weak compared with those possessed by the Europeans, and so were the resulting instruments of enforcement. ---page 105-6
  
 With the Industrial Revolution a further shift came with the waxing of the industrialists. ​ Here, yet again, the source of power was property but, yet again, of a different sort than that possessed by the existing classes. ​ The industrialists'​ property existed in the form of the factories and machinery with which they worked. ​ History enjoys focus on the personalities involved, and though under entrepreneurial capitalism these were significant,​ it is easy to exaggerate their influence. ​ The organisational form, too, of the industrial firm represented a significant advance and new source of power. ​ In form, the use of condign power continued to decline although it was still available from the state where necessary --- but it was far less important than compensatory power. ​ Conditioning played a similar role as it had for the mercantilists. ​ Although neither managed to convince the general population of much, both managed to convince the relevant legislature that their interest was broadly the same as the national interest. ​ The mercantilists managed to convince governments of the value of protection, trading monopolies and to support the chartered companies --- in turn, the industrialists would convince their governments of the unique benefits of free trade. With the Industrial Revolution a further shift came with the waxing of the industrialists. ​ Here, yet again, the source of power was property but, yet again, of a different sort than that possessed by the existing classes. ​ The industrialists'​ property existed in the form of the factories and machinery with which they worked. ​ History enjoys focus on the personalities involved, and though under entrepreneurial capitalism these were significant,​ it is easy to exaggerate their influence. ​ The organisational form, too, of the industrial firm represented a significant advance and new source of power. ​ In form, the use of condign power continued to decline although it was still available from the state where necessary --- but it was far less important than compensatory power. ​ Conditioning played a similar role as it had for the mercantilists. ​ Although neither managed to convince the general population of much, both managed to convince the relevant legislature that their interest was broadly the same as the national interest. ​ The mercantilists managed to convince governments of the value of protection, trading monopolies and to support the chartered companies --- in turn, the industrialists would convince their governments of the unique benefits of free trade.
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 The became largely the instrument of the industrialists although Marx's description of it as the executive committee of the governing classes is an exaggeration. ​ Other interests were represented and protected --- farmers, small businesses, religious groups and in some countries the landed classes. ​ Not only that, but little by little the state developed power to act on its own behalf as an independent agent. The became largely the instrument of the industrialists although Marx's description of it as the executive committee of the governing classes is an exaggeration. ​ Other interests were represented and protected --- farmers, small businesses, religious groups and in some countries the landed classes. ​ Not only that, but little by little the state developed power to act on its own behalf as an independent agent.
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 > Hundreds of thousands of otherwise intelligent young people have their thoughts guided innocuously away from the exercise of industrial power. ​ We have seen that power is served in many ways and that no service is more useful than the cultivation of the belief that it does not exist... > Hundreds of thousands of otherwise intelligent young people have their thoughts guided innocuously away from the exercise of industrial power. ​ We have seen that power is served in many ways and that no service is more useful than the cultivation of the belief that it does not exist...
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-> But social conditioning,​ however deep and pervasive, cannot collide too obviously with reality. ​ The presence and power of the modern great corporations... are hidden only with increasing difficulty behind the market ​facade.  In consequence,​ a reference to neoclassical economics, the conditioning medium of instruction,​ has come to have a vaguely pejorative sound; something no longer quite real is implied. ​ Once economic instruction is perceived not as the reality but as the guidance away from the reality, its conditioning value is, not surprisingly,​ impaired... +> But social conditioning,​ however deep and pervasive, cannot collide too obviously with reality. ​ The presence and power of the modern great corporations... are hidden only with increasing difficulty behind the market ​façade.  In consequence,​ a reference to neoclassical economics, the conditioning medium of instruction,​ has come to have a vaguely pejorative sound; something no longer quite real is implied. ​ Once economic instruction is perceived not as the reality but as the guidance away from the reality, its conditioning value is, not surprisingly,​ impaired... 
->>+>
 > [A]n important effect of the social conditioning of corporate propaganda, as significantly it is often called, is to cultivate disbelief. ​ There must be some misuse of power when those who so obviously possess it are so at pains to deny having it.  In the industrial countries it is now a minor mark of sophistication that one does not believe what one reads or hears in the public-interest advertising of the great corporation. ---page 141-2 > [A]n important effect of the social conditioning of corporate propaganda, as significantly it is often called, is to cultivate disbelief. ​ There must be some misuse of power when those who so obviously possess it are so at pains to deny having it.  In the industrial countries it is now a minor mark of sophistication that one does not believe what one reads or hears in the public-interest advertising of the great corporation. ---page 141-2
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 ===== Organisation and the State ===== ===== Organisation and the State =====
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 > A similar design [to the myth that corporations are subject to the ultimate authority of the market] operates regarding the power of the government. ​ Nothing better conceals the exercise of power in and through the state than the political litany, undertaken virtually as a form of religious office, that all men and women come equally in their sovereignty to the polling place and are subject to the result in accordance with the will of the majority. ​ This the young are told; this the truly good citizen accepts. ​ And this the daily practice openly, visibly, comprehensively denies. ---page 147 > A similar design [to the myth that corporations are subject to the ultimate authority of the market] operates regarding the power of the government. ​ Nothing better conceals the exercise of power in and through the state than the political litany, undertaken virtually as a form of religious office, that all men and women come equally in their sovereignty to the polling place and are subject to the result in accordance with the will of the majority. ​ This the young are told; this the truly good citizen accepts. ​ And this the daily practice openly, visibly, comprehensively denies. ---page 147
  
-The dominant instrument in controlling government is the conditioned power that organisation possesses over both the voter and the legislature. ​ This power is certainly less visible than the compensatory power of previous times, and indeed less absolute --- but still of great importance and intensity. ​ Predictably,​ it invites a response from those resisting it --- each special interest group has an opposing group stressing the counterpoint. ​ And because conditioned power of this type is so readily available it is used without end, and the result is a cacophonic ​blur of conflicting messages+The dominant instrument in controlling government is the conditioned power that organisation possesses over both the voter and the legislature. ​ This power is certainly less visible than the compensatory power of previous times, and indeed less absolute --- but still of great importance and intensity. ​ Predictably,​ it invites a response from those resisting it --- each special interest group has an opposing group stressing the counterpoint. ​ And because conditioned power of this type is so readily available it is used without end, and the result is a cacophonous ​blur of conflicting messages:
  
-> ...voters and legislators develop an immunity to what the mind cannot conceivably absorb. ​ That so much exercise of conditioned power has little or no practical effect --- wins slight or no submission --- dos not, however, lessen its use. ---page 149+> ...voters and legislators develop an immunity to what the mind cannot conceivably absorb. ​ That so much exercise of conditioned power has little or no practical effect --- wins slight or no submission --- does not, however, lessen its use. ---page 149
  
 Very often, the ultimate result is a confusion between a resort to an instrument of power and the exercise of power itself. ​ An attempt to condition is mistaken for a successful exercise of conditioning. Very often, the ultimate result is a confusion between a resort to an instrument of power and the exercise of power itself. ​ An attempt to condition is mistaken for a successful exercise of conditioning.
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 The power of autonomous processes is greatly enhanced by the size and complexity of the modern tasks of state --- this has enabled a further conditioned power to be exercised whereby there is general acceptance that such tasks 'must be left to the experts',​ being too complex for the layman to understand. ​ These perceptions change with time, however --- particularly the degree to which foreign policy was so regarded as an expert field has reduced over time.  Autonomous processes'​ power is augmented when they operate in tandem with organisations in the exterior processes (eg Department of Defence with weapons firms) but where they are in opposition to exterior processes the familiar dialectic develops. The power of autonomous processes is greatly enhanced by the size and complexity of the modern tasks of state --- this has enabled a further conditioned power to be exercised whereby there is general acceptance that such tasks 'must be left to the experts',​ being too complex for the layman to understand. ​ These perceptions change with time, however --- particularly the degree to which foreign policy was so regarded as an expert field has reduced over time.  Autonomous processes'​ power is augmented when they operate in tandem with organisations in the exterior processes (eg Department of Defence with weapons firms) but where they are in opposition to exterior processes the familiar dialectic develops.
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 ===== The Military Power ===== ===== The Military Power =====
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 The military'​s sources of power are primarily organisation and property --- personality has played a significant role in the past, but has been of marginal importance since World War II.  It has unrivalled access to all three mechanisms of power: a unique claim to the internal use of condign power, property resources which "far exceed any similar source of power" and extremely deep conditioning both internally (an environment in which individual thought is perceived to be not merely heretical but abnormal) and externally (based on the implicit conditioning of every truly good citizen to be a '​patriot'​). ​ Discipline is less strong in the external component of the military power --- the nexus of weapons and ordinance firms --- and yet it is extremely rare to hear a member of that nexus express dissent against military purposes. The military'​s sources of power are primarily organisation and property --- personality has played a significant role in the past, but has been of marginal importance since World War II.  It has unrivalled access to all three mechanisms of power: a unique claim to the internal use of condign power, property resources which "far exceed any similar source of power" and extremely deep conditioning both internally (an environment in which individual thought is perceived to be not merely heretical but abnormal) and externally (based on the implicit conditioning of every truly good citizen to be a '​patriot'​). ​ Discipline is less strong in the external component of the military power --- the nexus of weapons and ordinance firms --- and yet it is extremely rare to hear a member of that nexus express dissent against military purposes.
  
-A specific enemy is a vital need of the conditioned power of the military. ​ It is also very important for the appropriation of property --- military expenditure in the US has closely followed the nature of diplomatic relations with the USSR.  Control of information is a similarly important means of maintaining conditioned power --- military organisation is uniquely able to prevent information which might undermine its conditioned influence from reaching a wider audience. ​ Even without such constraints,​ the mere technical complexity (real or imagined) is leveraged as a barrier sustaining conditioned power --- it is strongly argued that those outside of the military establishment do not have the expertise to undermine military declarations of fact.  The extent of this power may be of supreme in the case of the nuclear arms community:+A specific enemy is a vital need of the conditioned power of the military. ​ It is also very important for the appropriation of property --- military expenditure in the US has closely followed the nature of diplomatic relations with the USSR.  Control of information is a similarly important means of maintaining conditioned power --- military organisation is uniquely able to prevent information which might undermine its conditioned influence from reaching a wider audience. ​ Even without such constraints,​ the mere technical complexity (real or imagined) is leveraged as a barrier sustaining conditioned power --- it is strongly argued that those outside of the military establishment do not have the expertise to undermine military declarations of fact.  The extent of this power may be of supreme ​importance ​in the case of the nuclear arms community:
  
 > Almost casually the nuclear arms community assumes and defends power to arbitrate and control not only questions of individual life and death but the question of the survival of the human race.  Of all the expressions of power cited in these pages this one is transcendent,​ for inherent in its exercise is the power to end all other exercises of power. ---page 167 > Almost casually the nuclear arms community assumes and defends power to arbitrate and control not only questions of individual life and death but the question of the survival of the human race.  Of all the expressions of power cited in these pages this one is transcendent,​ for inherent in its exercise is the power to end all other exercises of power. ---page 167
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 Although there is a wide belief that the military power is carefully and effectively kept subservient to civilian governance, the reality is different. Although there is a wide belief that the military power is carefully and effectively kept subservient to civilian governance, the reality is different.
  
-> In nearly all recent Pentagon confrontations,​ when faced with the strongly conditioned attitudes of the military establishment,​ civilians have surrendered thereto. ​ They wish to be thought forthright, decisive, heroic, and otherwise in keeping with the conditioned military virtue. ​ They must show that they can master the intricacies of military operations and of weaponry, that they are no less aware than soldiers of the need for military defence. ​ In consequence,​ many civilians --- on the NSC, frequently in the State Department, in the intelligence agencies, and notably in the Department of Defence itself ---have ended up being more warlike, more committee ​to weapons systems and large budgets, than the members of the armed forces themselves. ---page 168+> In nearly all recent Pentagon confrontations,​ when faced with the strongly conditioned attitudes of the military establishment,​ civilians have surrendered thereto. ​ They wish to be thought forthright, decisive, heroic, and otherwise in keeping with the conditioned military virtue. ​ They must show that they can master the intricacies of military operations and of weaponry, that they are no less aware than soldiers of the need for military defence. ​ In consequence,​ many civilians --- on the NSC, frequently in the State Department, in the intelligence agencies, and notably in the Department of Defence itself --- have ended up being more warlike, more committed ​to weapons systems and large budgets, than the members of the armed forces themselves. ---page 168
  
 But the military power is not without opposition --- not without, most significantly,​ organisation committed to countering its conditioning --- the symmetric response to calls for patriotic support or military purpose. ​ This organisation became decisive during the Vietnam War, with particular effectiveness as the draft extended into university campuses, and therefore communities of people skilled and experienced in the prosecution of conditioned power. But the military power is not without opposition --- not without, most significantly,​ organisation committed to countering its conditioning --- the symmetric response to calls for patriotic support or military purpose. ​ This organisation became decisive during the Vietnam War, with particular effectiveness as the draft extended into university campuses, and therefore communities of people skilled and experienced in the prosecution of conditioned power.
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 > The military power overreached its resources of conditioned power; the result was a substantial reverse. ​ Now, a decade later, there continues to be the publicly expressed hope that Vietnam has been forgotten. ​ That, in the present terminology,​ is to express the wish that the social conditioning that was then so adverse to the military power is no longer operative. ---page 169 > The military power overreached its resources of conditioned power; the result was a substantial reverse. ​ Now, a decade later, there continues to be the publicly expressed hope that Vietnam has been forgotten. ​ That, in the present terminology,​ is to express the wish that the social conditioning that was then so adverse to the military power is no longer operative. ---page 169
  
-This opposition continues in the present (1983) with the growing organisation calling for a freeze on nuclear weapons tests, development and deployment. ​ "It seems proper to ask...that all who read these pages involve themselves with this countervailing effort."​+This opposition continues in the present (1983) with the growing organisation calling for a freeze on nuclear weapons tests, development and deployment. ​ "It seems proper to ask... that all who read these pages involve themselves with this countervailing effort."​
  
  
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