1: Introduction: Jouvenel, Power and War.
2: Man, Machine and the Minotaur.
3: Summary of On Power and its Relationship to STEEL-cameralism.
4: The Origins of the Minotaur.
5: The Minotaur’s Game of Thrones.
6: The Essence of Power.
7: The Mind of the Minotaur.
8: The Pleasures of Power; the Game and the Philosophers.
9: War Makes the State and the State Makes War.
10: The Minotaur: Permanent Revolutionary.
11: Why the Minotaur Loves the Low.
12: Napoleon: Master of the Minotaur.
1: Introduction: Jouvenel, Power and War.
(Here, in this part, we draw upon a single text: Bertrand de Jouvenel’s On Power: A Natural History of Its Growth. In II, we draw upon the work of Charles Tilly and his theory of state formation, which compliments the work of Jouvenel. Finally, we turn our attention to the American Minotaur of War.)
Our formula for explaining the growth of Power is quite simple:
Man makes war; war makes the state and the state makes fascism.
War, as Heraclitus said: “is the father of all things and king of all”; yet, as Jouvenel makes clear, the “High-Low alliance” started by medieval kings was taken over by the modern, bureaucratic, kingless state and no one now understands the real causes and reasons behind political and social reality.
Power grows in an endlessly repeated two-step process: first by conquest; second by purging and social leveling of the “conquerors”.
The bureaucratic behemoths of modern states originate in war; are sustained by war, and expand via war. Civilian bureaucracy – with its regularising, standardising and equalizing is a consequence of the state’s need to render its new “materials” clear, consistent, predictable and useful – is a straightforward adaption of already existing military bureaucracy.
Jouvenel’s work is, quite frankly, an astonishing intellectual achievement. Written during World War Two by a French intellectual, Jouvenel set out to explain the totalitarian barbarism of the war and the horrifying growth of state power.
On Power is the Origin of the Species of Politics and Jouvenel is its Charles Darwin. Like Darwin’s theory, the logical theory contained within On Power is simple; so simple that, like Huxley, you kick yourself for having not thought of it first. Nevertheless, like Darwin’s vast knowledge of nature, Jouvenel furnishes the work with an encyclopaedic, empirical knowledge of European history that demonstrates his logical theory time and again.
2: Man Machine and the Minotaur.
Guibert said, in anticipation of Napoleon, that:
Among men like these let there arise— there cannot but arise— some vast genius. He will lay hands, as it were, on the knowledge of all the community, will create the political system, put himself at the head of the machine and give the impulse of its movement.
Then, nearly two centuries later, we have the following from Jouvenel:
…a Power which was at once widespread and weak. But it is of Power’s essence not to be weak. Circumstances arise which make the people themselves want to be led by a powerful will. Then comes the time when whoever has taken hold of Power, whether it be a man or a gang, can make fearless use of its controls. These users quickly demonstrate the crushing enormity of Power. They are thought to have built it, but they did not. They are only its bad tenants.
Napoleon was not much of an originator or innovator; what he was was a systematiser par excellence, who followed in the footsteps of men like Carnot. Jouvenel:
The power house was there before them: they do no more than make use of it. The giant was already up and about: they do no more than furnish him with a terrible spirit. The claws and talons which he then makes felt grew in the season of democracy. It is he that mobilizes the population, but the principle of conscription was founded in a democratic time. He is the despoiler of wealth, but democracy provided him with the inquisitorial mechanism of taxation which he uses. The tyrant would not derive legitimacy from the plebiscite if the general will had not already been proclaimed the sufficient source of authority.
Democracy, then, in the centralizing, pattern-making, absolutist shape which we have given to it is, it is clear, the time of tyranny’s incubation.
As our maxim has it: war makes the state and the state makes fascism:
Can anyone doubt that a state which binds men to itself by every tie of need and feeling will be that much the better placed for devoting them all one day to the dooms of war? The more departments of life that Power takes over, the greater will be its material resources for making war; the more clearly seen the services which it renders, the readier will be the answer to its summons. And will anyone be so bold as to guarantee that this vast mechanism of state will never fall into the hands of a glutton of empire? Is not the will to Power rooted deep in human nature, and have not the outstanding qualities of leadership needed for the handling of a machine which goes ever from strength to strength often had for companion the lust of conquest?
The Minotaur Presented from On Power: A Natural History of Its Growth. Bertrand De Jouvenel.
3: Summary of On Power.
What follows is, as the French say an explication de texte of On Power.
Here is a brief summary of the themes to follow:
1: Our formula for explaining the growth of state power and fascism is the following: Man makes war; war makes the state and the state makes fascism. This is clearly the logical and temporal development of On Power – its “philosophical history“.
2: Jouvenel’s work, as he says, is “evolutionary”; furthermore, his work is also naturalistic in that he views man as an animal – a naturally social and political animal; secondly, his work assumes no theological, idealist or moralistic framework: he aims merely to describe and explain.
3: The origins of war, for Jouvenel, are in man’s nature. While his speculations here are only that, they are plausible and now have much more support from fields such as evolutionary psychology; anthropology and archaeology.
4: Power operates in a dual way according to Jouvenel. It is expansionist in that it seeks, as a force of nature, to extend its remit universally; secondly, it is also securing, in that it seeks to bind its conquests to itself in such a way that neither Power nor its subjects can ever – or want – to separate from it.
5: With human nature as a given, war is then the first, ultimate and sustaining cause of Power’s growth (external or expansionist aspects). Power’s need to make itself more secure (internal aspect) sees it become “social” and less “egotistic” and “benevolent” by “liberating” the “Low” and “leveling” the “Middle”.
6: Yet, as Jouvenel makes clear, every so called example of “progress” is useful for war-making. This gives a double meaning to Grant’s claim that “war is progressive”.
7: Furthermore, what is called economic and social development or “modernisation” and “democratisation” is a state-led arms race in totalitarianism and war-making. Jouvenel writes: “We see, then, that, as every advance of Power is useful for war, so war is useful for the advance of Power; war is like a sheep-dog harrying the laggard Powers to catch up their smarter fellows in the totalitarian race.”
8: It is Power – the power to command, the power to control, chiefly with force and violence (Guns), that is the driver of history and not Gold (economics) or God (God or ideas). The “essence” of power is the power to command and control.
9: Jouvenel’s “philosophical history” like Tilly’s, is materialist but not Marxist. In Marxist terms, Power’s dual process of expansion (war making) and securing (social leveling by engaging in proxies, set out in the Patron Theory of Politics) is the “base” and religion and ideology is the “superstructure”.
10: Power is both the creator of the social order and its destroyer. It is the “designer” and maintainer of the left and right institutionalized political architecture; on the one hand, the institutions that Power builds are “conservative”, yet, on the other, Power’s need for new resources and security cause it to upend these orders and replace the people who only currently occupy positions of power.
11: If the logic and incentives that account for Power’s actions make no sense in what follows or are too abstract, we have simplified and explicated Jouvenel’s work here and here, by making use of concepts derived from Mesquita’s “rules for ruling” and Mises’s praxeology (pure science of action).
12: Jouvenel follows the hallowed philosophical tradition of ascribing personality to the state or Power. He calls it the Minotaur, but also a “vampire”. We also, in the commentary below, label Power as having the “dark traits” traits of personality; the same kind of traits that James Burnham ascribes to “ruling elites” in his book Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom.
13: The notable feature of Power is that it has a purely instrumental use of its minions. It hates being dependent but loves to create dependency. It keeps people only so long as they are useful and will dispose of them when their use is no longer required.
14: Jouvenel urges us to look Power squarely in the face and acknowledge its real nature and not pay attention to its “formal” nature. Power does indeed become “social” and puts on a “benevolent” face but this is simply a Machiavellian mask to further Power’s ambitions.
15: Power’s historical victims have, largely, been the aristocracy. Its victims, essentially, are the mighty, the powerful, the rich and those who are independent of Power’s control. Power rarely attacks directly, and its typical method of attack is to make use of a “cat’s paw” – the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the disaffected. Power (“Elite”) stirs the “plebs” (“Expendables”) up against the aristocrats or middle-class (“Essentials”) and robs them of their power, their property, their social prestige and their legal protection.
16: Jouvenel’ claims that not only does war bring more power to Power but that absolute equality results in Power having absolute power. This claim was strikingly demonstrated by Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which we explained here.
17: Jouvenel speculates as to why intellectuals support Power and why power is so pleasurable to men with it; Jouvenel also makes clear that Power makes ample use of whatever political or religious ideas are at hand to justify itself or its actions. Indeed, at one point Jouvenel points out that Power offering the people – the common people – a God they can all believe in is a perfect religion for Power to make use of. A speculation, we applied to explain Constantine the Great’s adoption of Christianity.
4: The Origins of the Minotaur.
What follows, is a close study of Bertrand de Jouvenel’s On Power: A Natural History of Its Growth.
The Origins of Power
To understand the nature of Power, let us learn first how it was born, what it at first looked like, and by what means it got itself obeyed. This approach is, intellectually, a natural one, especially for the modern intelligence, which has been shaped by evolutionist thought.
War and Power begin with human nature. Contemporary evolutionary psychology and anthropology bares out much of what Jouvenel speculates about the origins of Power in what follows.
- THE COMING OF THE WARRIOR
Clearly then the patriarchal group will quickly become stronger than the avuncular, and at the same time more united. This has given rise to conjectures that some matriarchal societies had the patriarchal way of life thrust on them by their most powerful members, and that the groups so formed swallowed up the others whom they ground into a proletarian powder. But, however different their social structures may have been, it seems certain that all primitive societies answer to our description of the ritual rule of the Elders. Rule of that kind was necessary to guide men’s uncertain footsteps past nature’s ambushes. But, for society to take wing again, the old rule with its unchanging essence must be overthrown or, more accurately, discarded. What we may call the first political revolution was precisely that process. What was the cause of it? Beyond all question, war.
War is the father of all things and king of all.
The presence or absence of the will to power brings in its train vast consequences. Take the case of a pacific people. It renders respect and obedience to those who understand how to disarm and mollify the forces of nature, knowing that to them are due abundant harvests and multiplying cattle. But take on the contrary a bellicose people, which is less submissive to the decrees of nature. Violence will furnish it with whatever it lacks of women or cattle. We may be sure that there the first man in consideration is bound to be the warrior-purveyor.
The following point about war and civilisation has also been explored recently by Ian Morris in his book War: What Is It Good For?
Be that as it may, it is beyond doubt that the principal authors of material civilization are the peoples who are marked by the spirit of conquest.
War is the cause, whatever else, of far-reaching social disturbances.
The following claim by Jouvenel is also held by Moldbug in that the last two World Wars, and the American Civil War all saw leftism go from strength to strength:
War is the overthrow of the established hierarchy.
Consider the case of those Australian savages whose only form of wealth is their serving-maids. So precious a commodity are women that they can be had only by barter. And so powerful and selfish are the Elders that none but themselves may dispose of the girls of their hutment, whom they in fact barter, not for the benefit of the young men of their tribe, to get them wives, but purely for their own; thus the number of their own concubines increases while the young men have to go without. To make matters worse, these ancients, fearing reprisals, do not allow the young men to go out on armed forays for women. The latter, therefore, have to do without women, and count themselves fortunate should they find some elderly female whom no one else wants any more, to maintain their fire, keep their drinking vessels full, and transport their luggage from camp to camp.
Suppose now that a gang of these young men gets together and sets out on the warpath while the old men are palavering. The warriors return generously provided with wives, and their status—not only their material but their moral status—is at once transformed. If the foray leads to war, so much the better for them, for strong right arms will go up in price in times of peril, and the longer the war the more complete will be the displacement of authority. Honour to the combatants! The bravest become the most sought after and form an aristocracy.
The course of events varies greatly according to whether the society is, or is not, patriarchal. If it is, then the sons’ exploits profit the fathers by strengthening their credit. If it is not, then the opposition between the Elders and the warriors becomes more sharply defined; the one is the party of obstruction, the other of movement; the one is for fossilizing the behaviour of the tribe, the other for regenerating it by contact with the outside world. Where the Elders grew rich by monopoly of the tribal wealth, the new aristocracy grows rich by pillage: that is its contribution to the community’s life, and there perhaps lies the secret of its political triumph. The bravest are also the best placed for practising the aristocratic duties of hospitality and largesse. Through the tribal feast they gain entry even into the secret societies and become their masters. They are, in a word, the parvenus of primitive societies.
In a society of this kind, in what does wealth consist? Not in the land, for its extent is, relatively to the small population, almost infinite. To some extent, in food stocks, but these are soon exhausted —the important thing is to keep them continually replenished. In tools, certainly, but tools are no use without men to handle them. At a relatively advanced stage, in cattle; but animals need men to guard and take care of them.
Wealth, then, consists in having a large labour force—wives at first, slaves later. War pays both these dividends, and pays them inevitably to the bravest fighters. It is they who come off best; it is they who have the largest families.
The hero procreates on a scale which is in proportion to that of his successes. At a later date, after the institution of monogamy, losses in war tend to extinguish the breed of warriors—our feudal nobility, for instance, is now extinct. Consequently, in our time, we have got used to seeing societies replenished by high birth rates among people of low position. But in earlier times the reverse was the case. It was the warrior families which multiplied. How many legends in how many languages tell us of the “hundred sons” of the gallant knight!
The origin of aristocracy:
In this way war came to create a monopolistic caste of men who were at once wealthy, warlike, and politically powerful; the Romans called them the patricians, the Greeks the eupatrides. The rest of society formed up inside the cadres of the clans, so that it came to resemble a line of human pyramids; at the top of each is the chief of the clan, lower down are the clients, and at the bottom are the slaves. Each is a little state, in which the man on top is government, law, and justice. Each is also a citadel of religion, with its own cult.
Now we come to the king:
Even more complex is the problem of the king.
There seems, roughly speaking, to be in kingship a fundamental dualism. Among certain peoples there are actually present, and among others there are traces of, two distinct personages, both of whom correspond generally to our idea of king.
One is essentially a priest, officiating at the public ceremonies and conserving the strength and cohesion of the “nation“; the other is essentially chief freebooter, leader of forays, director of the nation’s strength.
This duality is even today seen in America, where for Republicans, the President is the “Commander in Chief” or “Imperator” and for the Democrats he is a kind of “Pontifex Maximus”.
It is at once the symbol of the community, its mystical core, its cohesive force, its sustaining virtue. But it is also ambition for itself, the exploitation of society, the will to power, the use of the national resources for purposes of prestige and adventure.
5: The Minotaur’s Game of Thrones.
However it may be with these conjectures, it is sure that at a certain point of historical development we meet with the ambitious king who aims at extending his own prerogatives at the expense of the chiefs of clans—”the absolute monarchs of their families,” as Vico calls them—and is jealous of their independence. Inevitably the battle is joined. Among some peoples it is relatively easy to follow its course, and among them, as it happens, the kind’s armament of mystical prestige is small. That is why, no doubt, he comes off second best in Greece and at Rome: but in the East the issue is far different.
Next is the entire core of the issue, the “Game of Thrones” between the Elite and the Essentials:
Let us examine first of all what is at stake.
Without the chiefs of clans the king is powerless, since it is they alone who bring him the obedience of the groups which they control; the groups themselves are impervious to the royal authority.
(As we see here in this scene.)
What is the objective of the king bound to be?
To deprive the magnates of this solid basis of power, which forces him to bring them into the government, and then, having broken their ranks, to acquire for himself the direct control of all the forces of which they dispose.
To carry out this programme he seeks and receives the support of the plebeian horde which passes its uneventful life outside the proud pyramids of aristocracy; in some cases, too, he is helped by crushed and frustrated elements from within these pyramids.
A victory for the king will be followed by a complete reclassification by a new-found social independence for the humbler members of the community, and by the erection of a governmental machine which will make every individual directly amenable to Power.
A defeat for the king will put back the social reclassification, will save for the time being the social pyramids, and will place the direction of public affairs in the hands of the patricians, who will form an oligarchic republic.
Mark this well: by its own inner logic the same impulse embarks Power on two courses—the diminution of social inequality, and the raising and centralizing of public authority.
The chances of success for the royal purpose are least in a community which is relatively small, and in which the cohesion of the patrician classes is that much closer. But a society tends to grow, at first by confederation and later by conquest. We have the examples of Rome, Sparta, and the Iroquois to show us that confederation comes naturally enough to warrior peoples. The effect of confederation is to introduce into the newborn “nation” an element of heterogeneity, which gives the joint rulers, of whom there were two at Sparta, two among the Iroquois, and in early times two at Rome, a certain accrual of influence.
Instead of “heterogeneity” you could just as well say “diversity”.
The following explains why the Elite do so love their diversity:
When vast annexations of several societies are effected by a small conquering nation, the chief of the latter has always offered him a wonderful opportunity of absolutist power.
Within the city’s walls there was but a small population to hear his call to rise against the patricians; but the subject peoples, vanquished at a time when national sentiment was still unformed, can give him all the help he needs.
One instance of this is Alexander, who formed a guard of young Persians when his Macedonians mutinied. Another is that of the Ottoman Sultans, who recruited from the Christian peoples beneath their rule the corps of janissaries which brought them despotism at home and strength abroad.
By means of conquest and of the openings which the diversity of the conquered gives him, the king can now shake off the aristocracy, of which till then he had been little more than the president; he turns monarch. Sometimes he turns more even than that. In the confused mass of conquerors and conquered the cults of the different groups get confused—those cults which are in every group the privilege of a patrician elite. For to have relations with the gods is one way of securing their complicity, and there is no sharing out a private alliance of that kind. If, therefore, the king offers to the mass of his subjects a god for all, he is conferring on them an immense favour. The modern critic who thinks that the rulers of Egypt imposed on their humiliated subjects the cult of a god who was more or less themselves, is quite wrong. What happened was, on the contrary, that, basing themselves on the sentiments of their time, they gave the mass a newfound right and dignity, by including them with the nobles in a common cult.
Constantine the Great did this exact thing – literally – as we illustrated previously.
Such are the political and religious devices by which the monarch can erect a whole apparatus of stable and permanent government, complete with a bureaucracy, an army, a police, a tax code, and everything else which is connoted for us by the word “state.”
The apparatus of a state is built by and for personal power.
For the will of one man alone to be transmitted and exercised throughout a wide kingdom, transmission and execution must both be systematized and given the means of growth—in other words, bureaucracy, police, taxation.
Despite the fact that the king is long gone, the imperatives of Power remain:
For monarchy this state apparatus is the natural and necessary instrument. But on society, too, its influence down the centuries is so great that, when at long last the monarch has vanished without disturbing it, its motive power will still be conceived of only as one will, though it is now the will of an abstract person who has taken the monarch’s place. The mind’s eye will see, for instance, the nation deciding and the apparatus of state executing its decisions.
High and Low against Middle:
We have seen how the king of a warlike society of clans could not take action without the help of the chiefs of clans, and we realize how natural it was for him to aim at concentrating all power in himself—a purpose which was bound to end in his breaking the power of the clans with the help of outsiders and plebeians of every kind, both native and captive. The clannish aristocracy suffers, inevitably, from a split mind.
The decisive moment in history:
The really decisive moment in the early history of a people is that of the crisis between the king and the chiefs of clans; it is then that, according to the issue of the conflict, differences in political character are formed such as will never be completely erased.
Whenever the chiefs of clans have won, the resulting political arrangements have been regarded as a society maintained jointly by the citizens for the advancement of their common interests—a res publica.
The flesh and bones of this society are the individuals who make it up, and it takes visible form in their assemblies—the comitia. In time, those who were not of the society at first are promoted to membership and take part in its life; and with them the assemblies expand—the comitia centuriata and the comitia tributa. But when it is a case of opposing the whole of the community to an individual member or to a foreign community, then the title invoked is this concrete reality, the populus, and the interests which concern it, the res publica. No one speaks of the state, and there is no word to denote the existence of a fictional person separate from the body of citizens.
If, on the other hand, the king wins, he becomes the man who is above all and rules all (supra, supranus, sovrano).
The members of society are so many subjects (subditi = subjected). As and when the sovereign bids them, they lend him the aid of their resources; and the benefits which he brings them they enjoy. The community’s focal point, its manifestation in the flesh, is the king on his throne. It is he who decides for and acts for the people, developing for this purpose an apparatus which consists solely of himself and his minions. Around this skeleton the flesh of society, its men, ranges itself. And the tie to which the community responds is one of a feeling, not of being associated in common, but of being possessed in common.
The King is Dead! Love Live the Power of Kings!
That in the end the king disappears in a political revolution makes no difference; for his work remains, that of a society formed about an apparatus which is society’s master, never to be discarded.
We see then that the monarchical period established in the body of society a distinct organ: this was Power, which has its own life, its own interests, its own characteristics, its own ends. It needs studying under this aspect.
5: The Essence of Power.
OF THE NATURE OF POWER
- THE DIALECTIC OF COMMAND
Once it is admitted that Power may forswear its true reason and end, and as it were detach itself from society to form far above it a separate body for its oppression, then the whole theory of Power’s identity with society breaks down before this simple fact.
Jouvenel, like Machiavelli and Moldbug, urges all of us to overcome our moral squeamishness and ethical horror and look the beast clear in the face:
At this point nearly all who have written on the subject look the other way. A Power which is both illegitimate and unjust is off their intellectual beat. This feeling of repugnance, while it is understandable, has to be overcome. For the phenomenon’ is of too frequent occurrence to give any chance of life to a theory which does not take account of it.
Remember, as Moldbug says, a reactionary is always a “Machiavellian” in that it is reality that they are interested in – cold, black, remorseless reality.
It is clear enough how the mistake arose: it was from basing a science of Power on observations made, as it is history’s business to make them, of Powers whose relations with society were of one kind only; what are in fact only its acquired characteristics were thus mistaken for Power’s essence. And so the knowledge acquired, while adequate to explain one state of things, was quite useless in dealing with the times of the great divorces between Power and society. It is not true that Power vanishes when it forswears its rightful begetter and acts in breach of the office which has been assigned to it. It continues as before to command and to be obeyed: without that, there is no Power—with it, no other attribute is needed for it to be. It is not, therefore, the case that its substance was ever fused with the nation; it had a life of its own. Neither did its essence he in its rightful reason and end. It can live, as it has shown, as command and nothing more.
The essence of Power, is the essence to command – and control:
We must see it as it is if we are to grasp its inner reality, the thing without which it cannot be: that essence is command.
I shall, therefore, take Power in its pure state—command that lives for its sake and for its fruits—as the basic concept from which I shall set out to explain the characteristics developed by Power in the course of its historical existence; those characteristics have vastly changed its appearance.
Power in its pure state consists, as we have said, in command, a command which has an independent existence.
Government as a criminal enterprise:
It follows that the state is in essence the result of the successes achieved by a band of brigands who superimpose themselves on small, distinct societies; this band, which is itself organized in a society as fraternal and as full of thieves’ justice as you please,’ behaves towards the vanquished and the subjected as Power in the pure state.
The meaning of William’s division of England into sixty thousand knightly fiefs is just this: that henceforward sixty thousand groups of men will each have to support by their labour one of the conquerors. There lies the justification, the only one visible to the eyes of the conquerors, for the continued existence of the subject populations at all. If they could not be made useful in this way, there would be no point in leaving them alive. And it is well worthy of note that, where the conquerors are more civilized and do not treat the conquered so, they will yet, without having intended it, end up by finally exterminating populations which are no use to them: thus it has happened in both North America and Australia. The natives fared better beneath the rule of the Spaniards, who enslaved them. History, with whom there is no shuffling, shows no instance of a spontaneous relationship between the victor members of the state and the vanquished, other than that of exploitation.
When the Turks had established themselves in Europe, they lived off the tribute paid them by the non-Mussulmans, whose difference of dress betrayed them as not belonging to the conquering race. It was a sort of annual ransom, the price extracted from those who could have been killed for being allowed to live.
The parasitic domination of a small society over a collection of other societies—that is everywhere the mark of the big formation, the state. Whether the domestic economy of that small society is, as at Rome, republican, or, as at Athens, democratic, or, as at Sparta, egalitarian, in each the relations of the victors with the vanquished show us an exact picture of command for its sake and for its fruits.
What a hideously immoral phenomenon, you tell me. Wait a little. For here is an admirable case of time’s revenge: the egoism of command leads to its own destruction. The further that the dominant society, urged on by its material appetites, extends the area of its domination, the more inadequate its strength becomes to hold down the growing mass of subjects, and to defend against other appetites an ever richer booty. That is why the Spartiates, who offer the perfect example of the exploiting society, limited their conquests. Again, the more the dominant society increases the weight of the charge which it imposes, the greater the desire it excites to shake off its yoke. Athens lost her empire by increasing the weight of the tributes which she extracted from it.
It was for fear of that happening to them that the Spartiates took from the Helots a moderate rent only and allowed them to grow rich. The Spartiates knew how to discipline their egoism of domination. Among them, egoism acted as might’s conductor to right, as it was put by Ihering. But domination, no matter how prudently administered in practice, had its term.
In time the master gang thinned out. Its strength faded, so that in the end it could no longer hold out against foreign armies. Its only resource then was to inject strength into the subject mass. But it was too late: at the time that Agis armed the “dwellers- round” and changed their status, there were but seven hundred citizens left, and Sparta was in its dying agony.
The instance of Sparta poses the problem which confronts Power in its pure form. Founded as it is on force, it has to keep up this force by maintaining reasonable relations with the mass which it dominates. Those who dominate are compelled by the most elementary prudence to strengthen themselves with associates recruited from among the subject ranks.
If this royal power is in being, the collection of an empire gives it a wonderful chance, not only of consolidating its conquests, but of breaking, at the same time, the half-independent, half-equal status of its partners in them.
What does it have to do?
The king ceases to regard himself as the leader of a victorious band, the rex Francorum, upon whose united aid he must rely to maintain a power of constraint; instead he manipulates to his own advantage a part of the resources latent in the conquered formation, and employs them against either the rest of the formation or his own associates, whom he proceeds in this way to reduce to the level of subjects themselves. That, in its most brutal form, is what the Ottoman sultans did.
Is this not also exactly what America, the UK and France have done with Muslim immigrants?
Power comes, in the first and final analysis, from the gun:
Command remains in principle the same: it is still, as always, force.
But now the force has left the hands of the conquerors as a whole, and has come to rest in those of the king as a man, who can now employ it even against his old companions in arms.
The larger the part of these latent resources on which the king can lay his hands, the more authority will he have.
He achieves much merely by attracting into his personal service some of the subjects, whom the contrast between the situation now within their grasp and the tyranny which so far they have endured will deeply affect. But he does better still if he can attach to his person the general body of the subjects by lightening such of the burdens laid on them as do not redound to his own advantage; the battle against the feudal system then opens. And in the end he crowns his efforts if he can manipulate to his own advantage the traditions of each of the groups which compose the whole; this Alexander did by giving himself out to be the son of Horus.
Or Mao, in the Cultural Revolution, as we explained here.
Not everyone had the advantage of being taught by Aristotle, but what Alexander did was so natural that he has had many imitators since. Henry I, the Norman King of England, married a daughter of the old Saxon royal family. The son of their marriage he made the fulfilment of a prophecy: the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, Edward the Confessor, had promised his people that, after a succession of usurpations, a child would reign who should mend all. Here was that child.
See our “rules for ruling” that explains Alexander’s actions.
We see, systematically set out, the logical way of the establishment of what may be called “national monarchy“—it would still be an anachronism to use the word “nation.” Power, as is clear at once, has not changed a jot: it is still what it always was, a system of command for its own sake and for its fruits.
Next we see Jouvenel explain that Power grows in a two-step process:
The monarchy owes its existence to a twofold triumph: a military one, of conquerors over subjects; and a political one, of the king over the conquerors.
The reason why one man can govern alone a vast mass of men is that he has forged the instruments which enable him to be, strangely enough, stronger than anyone else; those instruments are the state apparatus.
So far, we have man making war and war making the state. Next, we see Power, after its expansionist phase, securing its power by binding the people to it by engaging the “Low” or the Expendables: the plebeians, the slaves, serfs and disaffected.
7: The Mind of the Minotaur.
And so it is with Power. Command which is its own end comes in time to care for the common good.
Those same tyrants who left behind them in the shape of the Pyramids the proof of a horrifying egoism, also regulated the course of the Nile and fertilized the fellah’s fields. Western monarchs have the best of logical reasons for encouraging national industry, but the encouragement becomes in time a pleasure and a passion.
What had been a one-way flow of services from the City of Obedience to the City of Command tends to be balanced by a counter-current, even when the subjects are in no condition to claim benefits as of right.
To speak in metaphor again—the plant of Power when it has attained a certain growth cannot continue to draw nourishment from the subject soil without putting something back into it. Then comes its turn of giving. The monarch is not in the least the creature of his people, set up to satisfy their wants. He is rather a parasitic and dominating growth which has detached itself from the dominating group of parasitic conquerors.
A better term is predator, and not parasite.
To paraphrase Julius Caesar: with money, buy men and with men, take power:
But the need to establish his authority, to maintain it and keep it supplied, binds him to a course of conduct which profits the vast majority of his subjects.
The Minotaur needs its minions and the minions need the Minotaur:
Power has, by a wholly natural transition, moved from parasitism to symbiosis.
The monarch is, as is obvious, at once the destroyer of the republic of conquerors and the builder of the nation. This explains the conflict of judgments which were passed on, for instance, the Roman emperors; they were condemned by the republicans at Rome and approved by the subject peoples of outlying provinces. And so, at the start of its career, Power pulls down the exalted and exalts the humble.
Can such a description not be used to describe every single President since FDR? That they were “class” or “race” traitors but who were nevertheless loved and cherished by the minorities?
The State as a sociopathic, narcissistic Machiavellian:
Its behaviour is quite changed, for now it dispenses the blessings of order, justice, security, prosperity. Its human content is quite different, for now it is made up of the most competent elements of the subject mass. This great transformation scene is entirely explicable by reference to the tendency of command to persist as such, which it can only do by drawing ever closer its ties with the people beneath it, by widening the scope of its services and the recruitment of its elite, and by a harmonization of wills.
The effect is that Power behaves for practical purposes as if it had exchanged its essential nature, which is egoist, for an acquired nature, which is social. But at the same time it gives proof of a tendency to oscillation; sometimes this merges it completely with its asymptote, when it seems altogether social, and then again swings it back to its starting-point, when it becomes egoist once more.
The Minotaur learns enlightened self-interest:
I make no claim to have traced here the historical evolution of Power, but rather to have proved by a logical demonstration that the hypothesis of a Power based on “pure” force and “pure” exploitation carries with it the implication that such a Power must necessarily try to come to terms with its subjects and adjust itself to their needs and aspirations; that, although inspired by a “pure” egoism, and with no other end than itself, it will notwithstanding come, by a predestined road, to advance the interests of the community and to pursue social ends.
In lasting it becomes social; it must become social to last.
The point could not be better put, that society, in setting up an apparatus for its service, has brought to birth a small society which differs from itself and has, inevitably, its own sentiments, interests, and personal wills. Anyone wishing to regard the nation as a moral being, endowed with a collective conscience, and capable of exercising a general will, must see in Power what Rousseau saw—another being, with its conscience and its will, drawn on by natural egoism to the pursuit of its private advantage.
Striking evidence can be produced as to this egoism: It is true [remarked Lavisse, the historian] that the public authority in France, under whatever regime, the republican as well as the rest, has its own, narrow, egoistical ends. It is, I will not say a coterie, but a consortium of people who, having attained authority originally by an accident, are thenceforward concerned not to lose it by an accident. National sovereignty is undoubtedly a lie.
8: The Pleasures of Power.
The pleasures of power among the avatars and minions of Power:
Man, in love with himself and made for action, rises in his own esteem with every extension of his personality and multiplication of his faculties.
Power and leadership:
The leader of any group of men whatsoever feels thereby an almost physical enlargement of himself. His nature changes with his stature.
The personal prudence and avarice which we associate with egoism are rarely seen in him. His restricted gestures take on an amplitude: he has, as the ordinary man truly puts it, “lordly” virtues and vices.
He is the man of destiny. Command is a mountain top.
The air breathed there is different, and the perspectives seen there are different, from those of the valley of obedience. The passion for order and the genius of construction, which are part of man’s natural endowment, get full play there.
The man who has grown great sees from the top of his tower what he can make, if he so wills, of the swarming masses below him.
Jouvenel sees the necessity of having “artists” of power:
It is, no doubt, a flattering picture, this of a managing elite motivated exclusively by benevolence. The rulers themselves are so susceptible to it that they profess to dislike the discharge of public duties, which they claim to have undertaken from nothing but a sense of duty. But so much devotion, even if it was genuine, would not be to society’s advantage. Any advantage there was would come to it only from minds of a purely speculative type, whose presence in public life has often been desiderated.
A government of that kind. fails—apart from one other very serious disadvantage to which we shall revert—from a lack of red blood, of which the governed quickly become conscious.
In the order of nature everything dies which is not sustained by an intense and brutal love of self.
Power, in the same way, can only maintain the ascendancy necessary to it by the intense and brutal love which the rulers have for their authority.
It has, alas! to be agreed that tenderness of heart, going to the length of self-denial, spells self-inflicted death to Power.
Instances of this are the case of Lamartine and the ever memorable one of Louis XVI. In an illuminating passage Tocqueville has shown us the monarchy turning into its own prosecutor for its crimes, and calling down on itself a wrath from which it has no wish to protect itself.
It lacked the will to live: “Go and tell the Swiss not to fire.”
Lord of Wars:
History rejects the heroes proffered it by poetry, the generous Carlos, the tender Alexius, the debonair Charles Edward. They were dear to their contemporaries, and even today sensitive spirits shed a tear for them. But, as Luther said, “God has not given rulers a fox’s tail but a sabre.” In other words, a certain feeling of superiority, a certain taste for domination, a certain assurance of Tightness, and an imperious temper are appropriate qualities in rulers.
The “Roi d’Yvetot,” the good little king of Beranger’s song, was like no king that ever kept his throne, of our era, too, has experimented in debonair rulers. Notwithstanding their amiable qualities, or perhaps because of them, history has swept them away with her broom. The life of Frederick the Great is in this respect an object lesson. The amiable young man that he was! But had he so remained, he would have gone the way of the Czarevitch Alexius. Then he mounted the throne, and an astonished Europe saw a very different person.
In praise of Nietzschean virtues:
A truce, then, to seeking in rulers virtues which are foreign to their condition!
Power takes life from those who exercise it, it is warmed and nourished unceasingly by means of the enjoyments which it procures them.
The keenest of these enjoyments are not those infantile delights of luxury and vanity which dazzle the popular imagination, irritate the small shopkeeper and thereby demonstrate to him the egoism of Power. The banquets portrayed for us by the Burgundian chroniclers, the state processions, the luxury which encompassed a Charles the Bold, a Julian II, a Lorenzo de’ Medici, a Francis I, or a Louis XIV, those epicures of wealth—that is what annoys the public. Yet we may feel grateful for their prodigalities, to which we owe the Van Eycks and Michelangelos of this world, as well as the Sistine Chapel and Versailles: the wasteful habits of princes have proved the most precious treasure of humanity.
The pleasures of command:
In every condition of life and social position a man feels himself more of a man when he is imposing himself and making others the instruments of his will, the means to the great ends of which he has an intoxicating vision. To rule a people, what an extension of the ego is there!
The ephemeral delight given us when, after a long illness, our limbs return to their duty can alone give us some small idea of that incomparable pleasure of radiating daily impulsions into an immense mass and prompting the distant movements of millions of unknown limbs.
It can be savoured in the shadows of a cabinet by a grey-haired and black-coated official. The thoughts he thinks keep pace with the orders he gives. He sees in his mind’s eye the canal being dug along the line which his pencil has traced on the map, the boats which will shortly give it life, the villages springing up on its banks, the profusion of merchandise heaped high on the quays of his dream-town.
It is not surprising that Colbert, on coming to his desk in the morning, rubbed his hands for joy, as the tale is told by Perrault.
The Game is the Game:
This intoxicating pleasure of moving the pieces on the board of the social game breaks out continually in Napoleon’s correspondence.
Is it merely attention to detail that makes him, even in time of peace, prescribe the route that each troop of soldiers is to take across his vast empire, determine the number of muskets to be stored in each armoury, how many cannon balls there shall be in each place, or how much cotton shall be imported into France and through what customs houses—the way which it shall follow and the time which it shall take to come from Salonika? Far from it: when he regulates the vast traffic of men and goods, he feels, as it were, the coursing of an infusion of new blood which supplements his own.
The outward growth of Power has excited much comment, the inward growth astonishingly little. Insufficient attention has been given to the fact that any Power whatsoever looks on the mass it rules as an investment from which it can draw the resources needed by it for its purposes, or as a block of stone to be fashioned as it sees fit. To resume the likening of a nation to an individual, but without forgetting that it is really only the rulers who so look at it, the head aims continually at pressing more services from the body, and the brain at increasing its conscious control of the limbs.
When Power makes a demand for resources for itself, it quickly wears down the complacence of the subjects. A thirteenth-century king might crave a grant for dressing his eldest son, amid seemly rejoicings, in knight’s armour. But if too soon after he bethought him of giving his daughter in marriage and asked the provision of a suitable dowry, he would meet with a very bad reception. 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, an outcome which outlived the reasons for it.
It was in this way, too, that the Revolutionary Wars provided the justification for conscription, even though the files of 1789 disclosed a unanimous hostility to its feeble beginnings under the monarchy.
Chaos, fear and insecurity are Power’s great opportunity:
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 accretions to its armoury; and these, when the crisis has passed, it keeps.
It has, moreover, long been a matter of observation that the egoism of Power profits by public insecurity: War [exclaimed Omer Talon] is a monster whom there is a conspiracy not to throttle, so that it may continue always as the opportunity of those who abuse the royal authority, enabling them to devour such property as is still left in private hands.
The State likes wars that do not end and a crisis is always to be exploited:
It is impossible to exaggerate the part played by war in the distension of Power; but war is not the only set of circumstances in which it can invoke the public interest to strengthen its grip on the nation.
Its role is not merely that of defender of its subjects against other Powers which are like unto itself; it claims also to protect them against forces which are different in kind.
Name one social problem, from drugs to family breakdown to poor education that a state has not made worse by intervening?
Power and the philosophers:
Is that a paradox, the association of the philosopher with the tyrant? By no means.
Authority can never be too despotic for the speculative man, so long as he deludes himself that its arbitrary force will further his plans.
Proof of this is the attraction, seen time after time, which Russian despotism has had for the intellectuals. The approach of Auguste Comte to Czar Nicholas is but a repetition of Diderot’s waiting for Catherine the Great to promulgate by ukase the Encyclopaedist dogmas.
Intelligence and Power:
Disillusioned with the weapon proper to itself, persuasion, the intelligence admires those instruments of Power which are swifter in action, and Voltaire found it in him to admire Catherine’s ability “to make fifty thousand men march into Poland to establish there toleration and liberty of conscience.” And so the credulous tribe of philosophers works in Power’s behalf, vaunting its merits right up to the point at which Power disillusions it; whereupon, it is true, it breaks into cursings, but still it serves the cause of Power in general, by placing its hopes in a radical and systematic application of its principles, being a thing which only a capacious Power can achieve.
The state as psychopathic manipulator:
As a self-proclaimed egoist, Power encounters the resistance of all the particular social interests with which it must have dealings. But let it call itself altruistic and give itself out for the executant of an ideal, and it will acquire such an ascendancy over every concrete interest as will enable it to sacrifice them to the fulfilment of its mission and crush every obstruction to its triumphal march.
Notice that this same ploy – using the natural sympathy and altruism of people/women – was used by Ted Bundy to abduct his victims. (Fabian Tassano also has this on the state (government) as a psychopath/pedophile.)
9: War Makes the State and the State Makes War.
VIII. OF POLITICAL RIVALRY
Making War pay for War:
Every encroachment by Power on society, whether it has been made with a view to war or for some totally different purpose, gives that Power an advantage in war.
The race of totalitarianisms:
The lesson is that no state can remain indifferent to another state’s wresting from its people more of their rights. It must make a corresponding draft on its own people’s rights, or else pay dearly for its neglect to put itself on a level. So France had already lost the war of 1870 because, through failure to impose military conscription as her neighbour had done, she could only put in the field against the Prussians armies which were much inferior in numbers. The most pressing and best known aspect of the phenomenon is the race in armaments. But the race in armaments is but the shadow and the reflex of a much more serious development—the race in totalitarianisms. A Power which interferes with its people only in certain respects cannot increase its warlike potential beyond certain limits. To pass them, it must revolutionize those respects and give itself fresh prerogatives.
Here it is, the core truth: War makes the State and the State makes Fascism:
Thus it happens that the great steps forward in the process of militarization are linked up, whether as effect or cause, with the great steps forward of Power.
Sometimes the reason is that a political revolution suddenly strengthens Power and so makes possible a scale of armaments which was previously impossible. That happened when Cromwell built up without difficulty a naval power for England which was beyond the dreams of Charles I; or when the French Revolution instituted conscription—a thing which the servants of the monarchy would not have dared propose. Sometimes the need to attain military equality with a formidable rival can be invoked to justify an advance of Power, as in France in Charles VII’s time, or in the United States today.
Power is useful for war and war is useful for Power – a perfect, expansionary feedback loop:
We see, then, that, as every advance of Power is useful for war, so war is useful for the advance of Power; war is like a sheep-dog harrying the laggard Powers to catch up their smarter fellows in the totalitarian race.
The European Minotaur of War:
This intimate tie between war and Power is a constant feature of European history. Each state which has in its turn exercised political hegemony got itself the wherewithal by subjugating its people more completely than its rivals could subjugate theirs. And to resist absorption by their predecessors in hegemony, the other Powers of the continent were bound to get on a level with them.
Power is linked with war, and a society wishing to limit war’s ravages can find no other way than by limiting the scope of Power.
The incentives of the King to centralise power and rule in an absolutist fashion is so that they can wage war more effectively:
Fontenay Mareuil gives us some idea of how large a part was played by military exigencies in liquidating the ancient forms of government and paving the way for absolute monarchy:
To save the realm it was absolutely necessary that the king should have in it an authority which was sufficiently absolute to enable him to do whatever should seem good to him; for since he was dealing with the King of Spain with his large country in which he takes what he wants, it is only too certain that had our king had to assemble the States-General, as is generally done, or to depend on the benevolence of the Parliament for getting all that he needed, it would never have been got.
The Maxim of the Minotaur:
Olivarez in Spain strove to make effective the maxim that “the good of the nation and the army transcends every law and every privilege.”
As we will see in Tilly, the evolution of war, the people and the state is in three stages: the Lord’s retainers; then mercenaries and finally, national armies:
Achievement of the right to search its subjects’ pockets for the wherewithal to maintain its enterprises had been the first great victory of Power in modern times. At first, in the time of the English Parliaments, the States-General of France, and the Cortes of Spain, taxation had been dependent upon the consent of the taxed. Then it became arbitrary, a step which marked an immense advance of Power. But another, and for the waging of war still more important, advance had still to be achieved: to lay hands on the very bodies of Power’s subjects, to swell the armies. Nothing was more alien than this to the genius of aristocratic societies; it is natural to them to be defended only by the aristocrats. That is the interest, the office, and the privilege of aristocracy.
It is as warriors that they make themselves, taken as a whole, indispensable to the monarch who is their chief and to the common people who depend on them. As champions of the one and protectors of the other, they gain both the good opinion of the nation and the respect due to their position, and they are no less able to defend national interests against the foreigner than their own interest against encroachment from above and agitation from below.
The universal militarism of the Minotaur:
The employment of mercenary troops had already cut into this monopoly of the profession of arms. It perished when military service ceased to be the preserve of the nobility and was extended to the entire population. As we shall see, kings have always yearned for universal military service; it provided them, so far as internal order was concerned, with the means of throwing down the barrier to state encroachments presented by the aristocratic order. And in respect of external order it brought them a prodigious accretion of resources.
The Minotaur of War:
In time of war all production must be planned by the state so as to get thereby the maximum war potential which is compatible with the need to maintain a minimum standard of life for the population. Thus the whole nation becomes a weapon of war wielded by the state; and the proportion engaged on warlike tasks is limited only by the need to keep it alive.
Why does the modern state meet no organized resistance?
The ancien regime met with such resistance, which was offered it by the representatives of the various elements in the nation who fought in line against Power. But in the modern regime these elements have become Power, and the people are left in consequence without a champion.
The “we” of Power:
Those who are the state reserve to themselves alone the right to talk in the name of the nation; an interest of the nation as distinct from the interest of the state has no existence for them. They would crush as sedition what the monarchy would have received as remonstrance. Under the pretext that Power has been given to the nation, and from refusal to see that there are here two bodies which are and must ever be distinct, the nation has been delivered over to Power.
10: The Minotaur: Permanent Revolutionary.
THE STATE AS PERMANENT REVOLUTION
Power is authority and makes for more authority.
It is force and makes for more force.
Or, if a less metaphysical terminology is preferred, ambitious wills, drawn by the lure of Power, expend unceasingly their energies in its behalf that they may bind society in an ever tighter grip and extract from it more of its resources.
(Consider Adam’s Auditioning.)
The process is not uninterrupted, but the checks and recoils which it receives have not prevented the advance of the state through the centuries, as is sufficiently proved by the history of taxation, the history of armies, the history of legislation, and the history of police forces.
It is clear enough that the fraction of society’s wealth appropriated by public authority is a growing one, as is the fraction of the population which it mobilizes. It regulates private activities more and more closely, and watches more and more narrowly those who are its subjects.
The sight prompts two questions:
What has made possible Power’s advance?
And why has the advance been so little observed?
Its success in achieving an ever further direction of individual activities, and in appropriating for itself an ever larger part of the strength subsisting in society, is not at first realized. Every increase of state authority must involve an immediate diminution of the liberty of each citizen; every augmentation of the public wealth means an immediate lopping of the revenues of each. So obvious a danger should, one would think, have the effect of uniting all in an almost unanimous opposition, by which Power’s advance would be surely stayed.
Why is it that the opposite happens and that we see Power pursuing its triumphal way over all the pages of history?
It had to remain largely invisible, and not to let alarm arise at its becoming an ever larger creditor for obedience and services. But that raises a further mystery. Why is it not clear as crystal to everyone that the private citizen is falling ever more deeply into the public authority’s debt for those commodities?
Jouvenel sees the symmetry between Power’s advance and the claim of “progressive liberation” of individuals:
And what is the explanation of the fact that, right down to our own time, the movement of history has in general been interpreted as a progressive liberation of the individual?
What assists the advance of the state is this:
that it is at war with others of man’s masters, the abasement of whom tends to be more regarded than its own elevation.
In other words, man makes war; war makes the state; the state makes fascism; fascism makes war: forever.
A divided, diverse and unequal, democratic society is the perfect society for Power:
Only in an ideally simple society, in which there were no social authorities, would matters proceed differently. When a particular society lies somewhere near this abstract prototvpe, as in communities of yeomen with nearly equal holdings, then Power encounters the maximum of opposition. Not only does it not expand, but it cannot even maintain its position as a separate entity in the body of society. It stays in, or returns to, the condition of being something open to all, and the members of society take turns in the function of command, the scope of which they are careful to guard from all accretion. But the form of society is in general far different from this. It is an inextricable blend of juxtaposed formations, inside which are ties of dependence and relationships formed by exploitation. Or again it is a hierarchy, a system of inequality, a struggle of classes, as Plato saw it to be: “Every people, no matter how small it is, is naturally divided into two peoples, the rich and the poor, who make war on each other.”
In the Game of Power, there is no middle-ground:
We can see at once that if, in society, the behaviour of groups, large or small, is governed by various authorities, then those authorities are bound to conflict with Power, which seeks to govern the behaviour of one and all: as their prerogative keeps back its own, its own aims at breaking theirs.
Those who are subjected to the rule of the various princes of society have no fear of the advance of the state, for they lose no liberty thereby. At the very worst they lose one command and get another.
Conversely, Power, in search of resources, attacks the princes of society who got in first.
For what purpose are wealth and strength but to hold in disposition a mass of human labour and energies? A rich man is one who can draw benefits from this mass. A strong man is one who can harness these energies to impose his will. The word “wealth” calls up the idea of a retinue of servants, “strength” that of an army of soldiers.
The Imperial Energies:
Always and everywhere the labour of men is put to use, and the energies of men are tamed.
Power moves disguised as freedom and emancipation:
Power, which needs them for itself, must therefore start by detaching them from their first overlords. The leaders of groups, the masters of resources, the gatherers of tithes, the employers of labour, are all despoiled by it, but their servants get no more than a change of masters. Thus, in the time of its expansion Power’s predestined victims and natural enemies are the powerful—the men with payrolls, and all those who wield authority in society and are strong in it. To attack them Power need feel for them no conscious hostility; with animal instinct, it overthrows what irks it and devours what nourishes it.
All command other than its own, that is what irks Power.
All energy, wherever it may be found, that is what nourishes it.
If the human atom which contains this energy is confined in a social molecule, then Power must break down that molecule. Its levelling tendency, therefore, is not in the least, as is commonly thought, an acquired characteristic which it assumes on taking democratic form.
Power and not Puritanism:
It is a leveller in its own capacity of state, and because it is state.
The levelling process need find no place in its programme: it is embedded in its destiny.
From the moment that it seeks to lay hands on the resources latent in the community, it finds itself impelled to put down the mighty by as natural a tendency as that which causes a bear in search of honey to break the cells of the hive. How will the common people, the dependants and the labourers, welcome its secular work of destruction?
With joy, inevitably.
The mask of the Minotaur lifted:
Its work is that of demolishing feudal castles; ambition motivates it, but the former victims rejoice in their liberation. Its work is that of breaking the shell of petty private tyrannies so as to draw out the hoarded energy within; greed motivates it, but the exploited rejoice in the downfall of their exploiters.
The final result of this stupendous work of aggression does not disclose itself till late. Visible, no doubt, is the displacement of many private dominions by one general dominion, of many aristocracies by one “statocracy.” But at first the common people can but applaud: the more capable among them are, in a continuous stream, enrolled in Power’s army—the administration—there to become the masters of their former social superiors. It is the most natural thing, therefore, that the common people should be Power’s ally, should do its work in the expansion of the state—a process which they facilitate by their passivity and stir up by their appeals.
Left and Right are but the hands of the Minotaur:
And look, they will say further, at the extent to which the state is of its nature conservative of acquired rights. Even in our days, when it is in the hands of the representatives of the greatest number, and is for this reason compelled to pull down social authorities, it may yet be seen supporting with one hand what it attacks with the other; it still gives sanction to the right of inheritance even when, in one law after another, it destroys the substance of the bequest. The example is well chosen. We see here the state playing two roles at the same time, guaranteeing the established order by its organs and undermining it by its legislation.
The “being” and “becoming” of the Minotaur:
What I am saying is that it has always filled this double role. True it is that the judiciary, the police, and, at need, the army do cause acquired rights to be respected. And if the state is viewed as a collection of institutions, as so much machinery, it is abundantly clear that these institutions are conservative in character and that the machinery works in defence of the existing social order. But we have already proclaimed our intention of not studying the state as an “it,” but of finding in it a “they.” As machinery, it plays its conservative role automatically; as a living thing with a life of its own, thriving and developing, it can but thrive and develop to the detriment of the social order. Look at it in its Being, and it is the protector of the privileged. But look at it in its Becoming, and it is the inevitable assailant of the master class, a word under which I comprise every form of social authority. In the course of history kings have welcomed more and more people to their courts, which became more and more brilliant. Is it not obvious that these courtiers and “officers” were stolen from the feudal lords, who thus lost at one fell swoop their retinues and their administrators?
The modern state nourishes a vast bureaucracy. Is not the corresponding decline in the staff of the employer patent to all?
The builder of order and its destroyer:
The requirement of Power, its tendency and its raison d’etre, is to concentrate them in its own service. To this task it brings so much ardour, instinctive rather than designed, that in course of time it does to a natural death the social order which gave it birth.
This tendency is due not to the form taken by any particular state but to the inner essence of Power, which is the inevitable assailant of the social authorities and sucks their very lifeblood.
Power is always present – true; because war and the desire for war is always present; however, always remember, that Power assaults the “social authorities” out of weakness and not strength. The maximum of Imperial Energy is that a ruler only becomes a tyrant when they do not have enough power.
And the more vigorous a particular Power is, the more virile it is in the role of vampire. When it falls into weak hands, which give aristocratic resistance the chance to organize itself, the state’s revolutionary nature becomes for the time being effaced. This happens either because the forces of aristocracy oppose to the now enfeebled statocratic onslaught a barrier- capable of checking it, or, more frequently, because they put a guard on their assailant, by laying hands on the apparatus which endangers them; they guarantee their own survival by installing themselves in the seat of government. This is exactly what did happen in the two epochs when the ideas of Montesquieu and Marx took shape.
The Minotaur strikes back:
The counter-offensive of the social authorities cannot be understood unless it is realized that the process of destroying aristocracies goes hand in hand with a tendency in the opposite sense. The mighty are put down—if they are independent of the state; but simultaneously a statocracy is exalted, and the new statocrats do more than lay a collective hand on the social forces—they lay on them each his own hand; in this way they divert them from Power and restore them again to society, in which thereafter the statocrats join forces, by reason of the similarity of their situations and interests, with the ancient aristocracies in retreat.
Permanent war and permanent revolution:
In this way new hives are for ever being built, in which lie hidden a new sort of energies; these will in time inspire the state to fresh orgies of covetousness. That is why the statocratic aggression seems never to reach its logical conclusion—the complete atoxnization of society, which should contain henceforward nothing but isolated individuals whom the state alone rules and exploits.
Guns, Gold and God:
Bureaucratic omnipotence tends naturally to convert the holders of key positions in the vast administrative machine into a new variety of notables and nobles. So it happened in the later Roman Empire. The aristocratic families had been ground to powder by taxation. Those, on the other hand, often the freedmen of subject races, who occupied strategic positions in the wealth-absorbing machine, got from it immense fortunes not unmixed with personal regard. On this subject Rostovtzev says:
The reforms of Diocletian and Constantine, by implementing a policy of systematic spoliation to the profit of the State, made all productive activity impossible. The reason is, not that there were no more large fortunes: on the contrary, their build-up was made easier. But the foundation of their build-up was now no longer creative energy, or the discovery and bringing into use of new sources of wealth, or the improvement and development of husbandry, industry and commerce. It was, on the contrary, the cunning exploitation of a privileged position in the State, used to despoil people and State alike. The officials, great and small, got rich by way of fraud and corruption.
It is, by a lamentable conjuncture, always in warlike times that the state tries its hardest to take immediate hold on the labouring classes. In times of peace it is relatively content to leave them in the hands of private employers; for the state obeys the rhythm of its own needs. Whoever does not wish to render history incomprehensible by departmentalizing it—political, economic, social—would perhaps take the view that it is in essence a battle of dominant wills, fighting in every way they can for the material which is common to everything they construct: the human labour force.
11: Why the Minotaur Loves the Low.
- POWER AND THE COMMON PEOPLE
The Minotaur is the first Social Justice Warrior:
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 time is the com mon people. The passion for absolutism is, inevitably, in conspiracy with the passion for equality.
Power and the aristocracy:
Aristocracy, always and everywhere, opposes the rise of a Power which disposes in its own right of sufficient means of action to make itself independent of society, those means being, essentially, a permanent administration, a standing army, and taxation.
The type of regime which answers to the aristocratic spirit is one in which the magistrates are entrusted by rotation to the most eminent citizens, an armed force is formed at need by the gathering together of the various social forces, and financial resources are collected, as occasion calls, out of the contributions of the leading members of the community. The more concentrated and urban an aristocracy is, and the more tightly knit its common interests, the more effective will such a system be; the more spread out and landed it is, and the more divided in interest, the less effective will it be. In a constitution such as this lay the strength of Athens at the time of the Persian Wars, and that of Rome at the time of the Punic Wars; but in it, too, lay the weakness of Germany in the Renaissance.
Always and everywhere a concrete Power tends to form in the midst of these aristocratic republics; its success is measured by the build-up of its bureaucratic, military, and financial agencies; the cooperation of the common people is the stay of its advance, its victim is the aristocracy. To this the history of France bears striking testimony.
Was it really Power that Hugh Capet got in a.d. 987? It was much more like the presidency of a loosely-knit aristocratic republic or, to speak more accurately still, of a federation of barons. It is common knowledge that a long line of our kings took their most important political decisions only when they were sitting at court with their peers and that the same procedure marked the giving of judicial decisions. It would be a mistake to think that the monarch merely asked for the peers’ advice. This customary procedure was a reflection of the social constitution. To bring into being any public body of force meant a bringing together of numerous private forces, the result being that nothing could be undertaken without the consent of those to whom those forces belonged. What use would it have been to the king to decide on a war if the barons had not mustered their contingents?
The following comment on the King’s Court as a “board of directors” is interesting and somewhat unsettling:
What use to condemn a notable if his peers were certain to refuse to cooperate in the execution of the sentence? The king’s court of those days corresponded to the board of directors of ours; its purpose was to handle matters which were within the competence of the commonwealth but not of one man. The weakness of Power of this kind was due to a process of decomposition which has been fully studied.
The process of Power:
Power emerged from this primitive state of impotence by continuous and successive stages:
for the organs lent it by the social authorities it substituted its own. At the top was the court, in which the divergent interests of the barons found expression. The king slipped into it some ecclesiastics, not any of the great bishops, who were as baronial as the barons, but humble priests who had in strict reason no place in what was really an assemblage of petty sovereigns. But their habit and their knowledge brought them respect: and their opinions supported the king’s.
Next, he introduced some lawyers of plebeian rank, who sat humbly on the steps of the benches reserved for the peers and upper barons—as Saint-Simon contemptuously records —that they might be consulted when it was convenient to do so. Raised from nothing by the king, they gave advice, having for its inspiration the Roman law, which was always favourable to the central authority. In the end the sovereign permitted them to express opinions, thus subverting the primitive constitution by which a man’s importance in the state was in proportion to the strength which he wielded in society. At long last, the court became the parliament—the expression of none but the royal interest. The fist of the state was an army made up of feudal contingents, each of which acknowledged only its immediate chief, the particular baron who had summoned it to his banners: a structure which was without cohesion, for the caprice of any one baron could at a stroke deprive it of an entire group of combatants:
…The king soon put in their place a force of hired cavalry which he developed as far as his resources allowed. He would have liked to withdraw the commons from feudal authority and draw on them for a substantial force of infantry, a truly national army which would be under his orders. But all attempts in that direction failed until the last one, Charles VII’s * free corps of archers, of whom nothing more would be expected after their rout at Guinegate (in 1479).
This military development, which moves in lock-step with political “modernity”, is also something that Tilly makes clear: the move from knights, to mercenaries to national armies.
Infantry did not become capable of withstanding cavalry charges until the Swiss had revived the Greek tactical formation of the “hedgehog”: and it was only then that, backed by plebeian mercenaries, the monarchy could make itself absolute. The nerve centres of the political high command were at first the “great officers of state,” powerful barons who supervised, controlled, and bridled the king, and on occasion turned against him. The king in his turn took every occasion of noiselessly removing these dangerous auxiliaries.
It was in the military sphere that the monarchy let itself be served longest by the great barons. In all others it may be seen having systematic recourse to plebeian servants. What could be more essential to the royal authority than finance? And how could its management possibly be left to a powerful baron, such as the chamberlain, whose key denotes that the safe is in his keeping? For that reason the sovereign took for the effective administration of his revenues humble ecclesiastics and mere bourgeoisie. Borelli de Serres has given us the names of these officials from the time of Philip the Fair in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries: all of them are men of humble rank. There we see it: plebeian counsellors, plebeian soldiers, plebeian officials; these are the instruments of a Power which seeks, more or less consciously, to make itself absolute.
In popular imagination a monarchy keeps its employments for the nobles and excludes from them the common people. In fact the exact opposite happens; it endures the services of the great only so far as it stays under aristocratic tutelage; but it calls on the services of the common people so far as it aims at becoming absolute. The most total Power that Europe in the days of the ancien regime ever knew was that of the Ottoman Turks. And where, if you please, did their grand seigneur find his most faithful soldiers and his surest servants? Not among the Turkish nobility, the companions of his conquests, of whose pride and turbulence he went in fear.
He recruited his janissaries among the subject Christian races. To them, too, he went for his administrators, and even for his grand vizier. In this way he raised above the natural aristocracy a statocracy composed of men who had nothing and owed him everything.
Our French kings moved on the same road. Some of them moved consciously, as in the case of Louis XI ( 1461-1483 ) , who is shown us by Comines as being “the natural friend of the middle class and the enemy of the great who could do without him.” The other kings followed instinctively the same course. The natural requirements of Power made the fortunes of the common people. All those “little people,” whom Dupont-Ferrier shows us staffing the Treasury Court and the Taxes Court, no sooner found their niche in the state than they set about advancing their own fortunes along with their employer’s. At whose expense? The aristocrats’.
With a boldness born of obscurity they encroached progressively on the taxing rights of the barons and transferred to the royal treasury the incomes of the great. As their invasions grew, the financial machine grew larger and more complicated. That there might be new posts for their relations, they discovered new duties, so that whole families came to take their ease in a bureaucracy which grew continually in numbers and authority.
Again, as more and more taxes were demanded from the people of the realm, the middle-class officials of the Taxes Court took the chance presented to secure the elevation of their provincial colleagues. Assessment and collection were at first entrusted to men chosen by the taxpayers; but these officials soon came to be appointed by the administration and continued in office from one tax to the next, spawning the while a whole hierarchy of underlings—deputies, clerks, registrars. So it was that everywhere the service of the state became the road to distinction, advancement, and authority for the common people.
The judicial world went the way of the financial. The poor bachelors of law who were summoned to the king’s court steadily pushed the barons out of it, gained assurance, put on a periwig, became the parliament, and forced their way by degrees even into the baronial estates; this last they did by setting up as judges between the baron and his followers: in other words, by robbing him of his authority. What a sight it is, this rise of the clerks, this swarming of busy bees who gradually devour the feudal splendour and leave it with nothing but its pomp and titles! Does it not leap to the eye that the state has made the fortunes of all these common people, just as they have made the state’s?
Thus we see that the advance of the common people in the state is closely linked with that of the state in the nation.
Power constructs the Cathedral:
The common people are to the state servants who buttress it; the state is to the common people the master who raises them. In favouring the freeing of the serfs and limiting the right of the barons to exploit their underlings, the king thereby weakens his natural enemies. In encouraging the formation of a stratum of well- to-do bourgeoisie, an oligarchy of commoners and a mercantile class, he gets himself servants and assures himself support. In instituting the farming of taxes, he opens to this bourgeoisie the gates of the state. In allowing these taxes to become a heritable property, he links with his own fortunes entire families among the bourgeoisie. He encourages the universities, which provide him with his most effective champions.
The roots of the Modern Structure:
We have only to listen to Saint-Simon’s bitter cries against Mazarin. Saint-Simon well understood that at the time of the Fronde a revolution happened, not of the tumultuous sort at which the Frondeurs tried their hand, but rather an invisible one, which was accomplished by the minister who was Richelieu’s heir and Louis XVI’s tutor. All his attention and care were devoted to abolishing in every possible way the distinctions of birth and to despoiling persons of quality of every sort of authority, for which purpose he tried to keep them away from affairs of state; to bringing into the administration people of as low extraction as his own; to magnifying their offices in point of power, distinction, credit and wealth; to persuading the king that as every noble- man was the natural enemy of his authority, he should prefer to them, to handle his affairs, men of no account, who could at the first sign of discontent be reduced to insignificance by having their employments taken from them as easily as the gift of them had raised them from insignificance; whereas the nobility, being already men of importance by reason of their birth, their marriage connections and often by their establishments, acquired through high office and ministerial patronage a formidable strength and became, for the same reason, dangerous to re- move from office. That was the cause of the entry into public life of men of the pen and the long robe and of the destruction, still felt and seen, of the nobility at a rate which will seem a prodigy; the men of the pen and the long robe well knew the means of hastening this destruction, and made their yoke worse every day until a point was reached at which the greatest nobleman in the land became of no use to anyone and became in a thousand and one ways dependent on the vilest plebeian.
The logic of unsecure Power:
Historians of the sentimental school have sometimes regretted that royalty became absolute, while at the same time rejoicing that it installed plebeians in office. They deceive themselves. Royalty exalted plebeians just because it aimed at becoming absolute; it became absolute because it had exalted plebeians. It is always utterly impossible to build an aggressive Power with, aristocrats. Care for family interests, class solidarity, educational influences, all combine to dissuade them from handing over to the state the independence and fortunes of their fellows. The march of absolutism, which subdues the diversity of customs to the uniformity of laws, wars against local attachments on behalf of a concentration of loyalties on the state, douses all other fires of life that one may remain alight, and substitutes for the personal ascendancy of the notables the mechanical control of an administration—such a system is, I say, the natural destroyer of the traditions on which is founded the pride of aristocracies and of the patronage which gives them their strength. Resistance is, therefore, the business of aristocracies`
The French Revolution was the restorer of Absolutism:
The work of the Revolution was the restoration of absolute monarchy.
The checks and balances were all swept away, and here, as Mirabeau saw, lay the king’s great opportunity. He wrote to him:
“The idea of forming all the citizens into but one class would have pleased Richelieu, for an equality of this kind facilitates the work of Power.” Mirabeau saw himself filling the part and place of the great Cardinal, gathering the fruits of this stupendous lopping of heads. But Louis XVI and the Assembly thought otherwise; so did history.
12: Napoleon: Master of the Minotaur.
The boundless authority of Napoleon was the goal towards which the entire upheaval had been proceeding from the day on which the ambition of Orleans or the vanity of Lafayette set it in motion. “One would say that to create Napoleon I was the uninterrupted design, daily and meticulously followed, of the men of the Revolution.” Everything converged on that end.