Front Page Titles (by Subject) II: Nonspontaneous Order - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
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II: Nonspontaneous Order - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Differing paradigms of man, state, and society have led to radically contrasting views of the legitimacy and role of government. The following summaries illustrate variations on an ethical-political theme: human good and social order derive from coercive and centralized authority, rather than from the voluntary or spontaneous personal choices of free individuals. Here freedom is conceived as moral perfection imposed forcibly by the political community, which directs individuals to realize their moral and social goals nonspontaneously.
In this sequence, the last five summaries analyze the ruler's methods of eliciting obedience and conformity to create the moral or ordered society.
State vs Society
“The State and the Community in Aristotle's Politics.” Reason Papers (USA), 1 (1974): 61–69.
In his Politics, Aristotle confuses and shifts equivocal meanings of polis or city-state. Failing to discriminate the distinct concepts of polis1 (the state as a coercive political agency monopolizing law and force over a given territory) and polis2 (the larger community which includes both the coercive state and the various voluntary social institutions such as family, religion, schools, friendship, and commercial associations) misleads him into conflating both notions of polis. This semantic error results in the Stagirite's faulty argument that polis1 (the coercive state) should not merely protect individual rights from force or fraud but also, confusedly assuming the functions of polis2, should make men good, moral, and virtuous—by force. Aristotle's confusion about polis as state and polis as community blinds him to the valuable contributions to political justice and the proper limits of state activity offered by an ancient Greek version of libertarianism.
Throughout the Politics, Aristotle strives to refute the Sophists' challenge that all social institutions are merely conventional (nomos), and that by nature (physis) the strong should exploit the weak by erecting a natural and moral base for the polis and its laws (nomoi). He grounds the naturalness of the polis on his teleological theory of human nature. Man, by his own nature, requires the various institutions and relationships of the polis to achieve his proper human end, perfection and self-actualization.
Accordingly, Book I of the Politics, employing polis2 (in the sense of broader community) demonstrates that man is by nature a polis-oriented animal (politikon zoon). The polis emerges from the prior and more fundamental units of the household, and later, villages, which provide men with their natural and vital needs. The polis, as Aristotle summarizes its development, “came into existence for the sake of life, but exists for the sake of the good life” (Pol. 1252b27–34). Thus, the polis is the end of human association since it is the natural or perfecting context in which the individual can live the good and virtuous life. It is evident, however, that this moral view of the polis in Politics I cannot be narrowly identified with the political state (polis1), but is rather the broader community (polis2), which includes the intricate web of voluntary and spontaneous human relationships and activities (friendship, career, the pursuit of wisdom, etc.), which enables the individual to live and achieve the good and examined life. This meaning of polis as community is clear from its genetic roots in the voluntary, noncoercive social unit of the household.
Later, in Book III of the Politics, Aristotle's shifting definition of the polis in the dual senses of coercive state and broader community elucidates why he criticizes the early “libertarian” conception of the state as articulated by the sophist Lykophron and the famous town planner, Hippodamus of Miletus. Developing the notion of political justice, both protolibertarians defined the just state (polis1) as one limited to protecting individual rights from domestic and foreign force or fraud. Lykophron viewed the polis1 as a limited state: “an association of men in a territory with the aim of preventing them from doing injustice to themselves and of promoting commerce” (Pol. 1280b29–31). Both limited state theorists argued that law should be similarly limited in scope. Defining law as “a guarantor of mutual rights (dikaion)” (Pol. 1280b10–11), Lykophron seems to agree with Hippodamus in limiting state laws to those proscribing hubris (violent personal assault), blabe (property damage), and thanatos (homicide) (see Pol. 1280b37–39). Both Lykophron and Hippodamus imposed clear limits to the scope of state power and law, and permitted it only to defend individual rights. Aristotle opposes this libertarian limitation from his confusion that if the polis (state?) does not also enforce the virtuous life, the polis (community?) is not being moral.
The Greek libertarians' conception of political justice breaks down the influential but false dichotomy that allowed only the alternative of Sophistic “natural justice” (the “naturally” stronger should enslave the weaker) or conventional altruism (see Plato's Laws 891a2-9: serving others according to convention and law). Lykophron undermines this false alternative by his new conception of libertarian justice that obliges citizens to show mutual respect for each other's rights, and allows neither exploitation of one's fellow citizens by force or fraud nor self-sacrificial servitude to one's fellow citizens.
Aristotle's objection to this limited state, law, and circumscribed theory of political justice, follows from his conflation of two distinct notions of polis. The end of the community—the fundamental justification for its existence—is the happy life. But this is best interpreted as the motivating reason why individuals choose to live in the broader community (polis2): in order to partake of those personal, vocational, educational, and moral activities that perfect them in human virtue. Aristotle engages in a non sequitur in maintaining that it is polis1's function (the state's) to use coercive force against its citizens to make them virtuous and happy. This confuses the educative, moral, and perfecting role of the broader community (polis2) coupled with all its voluntary institutions, with the limited legal framework, which the state (polis1) supplies to enable the community to perform its voluntary and moral functions. Men cannot be forced to be happy or virtuous.
The Therapeutic State
“Justice in the Therapeutic State.” The Theology of Medicine: The Political-Philosophical Foundations of Medical Ethics. Harper & Row: New York, 1977, chap. 9:118–133.
Today we risk transforming the state from a legal entity concerned with individual justice into a medical therapeutic one. Law and medicine have intertwined to the disadvantage of both. We confuse legal methods of social control with medical methods of social control. Instead of regulating human relations by the rule of law in the form of contract between equals, we slip into discretionary control by medical elites. These elites impose psychiatric treatment on “disturbed” individuals even without any preexisting law to justify the therapeutic sentence. Contract fosters the individual's capacity for independent action; therapeutic discretion frees the “expert” to form any restricting rules of justice.
The rise of modern science in the seventeenth century (with its desire to control the physical world) explains the impulse of experts to “therapeuticize” human relations. Two protagonists of this ideology are the American Founding Father, Benjamin Rush, and the contemporary Karl Menninger.
Benjamin Rush (1745–1813) served as physician general of the Continental Army and fathered American psychiatry (the official seal of the American Psychiatric Association bears his image). He transformed moral questions into medical, scientific problems to be cured at the discretion of the expert rather than by legal due process. You will find the following typical of many of Rush's statements as the architect of the therapeutic state: “Were we to live our lives over again and engage in the same benevolent enterprise [political reform], our means should not be reasoning but bleeding, purging, low diet, and the tranquilizing chair.” Rush consistently championed benevolent despotism justified by medical need. He subordinated free men to the clinical judgment of a medical autocrat.
More recently Karl Menninger, past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, follows Rush in advocating the therapeutic state. Menninger views human problems as mental illness; all of life is a disease needing the expertise of the psychiatrist—even if in the process he must ignore individual freedom and rights: “Some mental patients must be detained for a time even against their wishes, and the same is true of offenders.”
Menninger would abandon the legal system of limited and prescribed penalties and replace it with a therapeutic system with unlimited, discretionary penalties termed treatments. This therapeutic state mentality seeks prescriptive universal health. Its champions view conflict, especially between the state and the individual, as a symptom of psychopathology. As its chief duty, they claim the state should relieve such conflict by compulsory therapy.
According to individualism, man primarily needs protection from the threats of unlimited government. According to the therapeutic mentality, man needs state instituted protection from the dangers of unlimited illness. Among recent thinkers who have opposed the behavioristic-scientific forces seeking the “abolition of man,” C.S. Lewis reasoned:
“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.... To be “cured” against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will...” [“The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,” Res Judicatae (Melbourne U., Melbourne, Australia), 6 (1953): 228].
Paradoxically, the more ostensibly “loving” the state becomes, the less humane and just it proves to individuals. Far better to keep unimpaired human freedom: man's ability to make uncoerced choices. In its zeal to “free” us from internal limitations of body, mind, and personality (illness or ignorance), the therapeutic state imposes external limitations which diminish our moral choice.
Order and Elites
“Self-Image of a ‘Natural Aristocracy’: What Flows from Neo-Conservatism.” The Nation 225 (1977): 44–51.
Neo-Conservation through its influential academics, such elite publications as Commentary and The Public Interest, and mass media impact, deserves study for its philosophy, history, and program.
In their roots and perhaps their vision of a future society, many Neo-Conservatives evidence a strong tendency towards pessimistic socialism. Many Neo-Conservatives originated as young socialists, turned into liberals, and then evolved into disillusioned critics of post-New Deal America. At first it seemed that Rooseveltian liberalism or some other reform movement could substitute for their socialist utopia. This reformist surrogate to socialism seemed to offer an orderly institutional framework both to lead gradually towards national prosperity and to guarantee rewards to the intellectually talented.
To give a thumbnail sense of where the Neo-Conservatives stand politically, consider Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His ideas skillfully combine traditional but tightfisted liberal welfare state economics (government has a duty to provide a rising floor to the less fortunate) with a foreign policy which advocates a return to the Cold War (only a militarily strong America can win its national goals). Pragmatic national interests generally dictate Neo-Conservative attitudes toward other countries: are countries the U.S.'s friends or enemies in the anticommunist conflict? The paramount American responsibility to defend Israel and espouse the cause of Soviet Jews transcends pragmatic calculations.
Neo-Conservatives reject John Locke's philosophical defense of inalienable individual rights because this abstract “ideology” may lead to disorder. They prefer the aristocratic, legalistic, traditionalist, and authoritarian views of Edmund Burke.
The Neo-Conservatives' desperate “search for order” appeared in their response to Senator Joseph McCarthy's anticommunist crusade in the 1950s. They viewed McCarthy as a populist demagogue, a latter-day Jacobin, who invoked disorderly direct democracy to circumvent the orderly conservative institutions of government. Ever fearful of “Mass Man” they sought to defuse any popular ferment by gradual economic reform. Still they were uneasy. According to their analysis the American people, although economically reformist and gradualist, were socially conservative and potentially reactionary.
In the 1960s they documented in scholarship their belief that the American people's social conservatism included anti-Semitism. Government institutions which could assure gradualist, nonradical reform, a necessary stabilizing proper to social order, stood between dangerous demagogues and a fickle democratic mass. During the Kennedy-Johnson years of the 1960s their ideal was orderly and controlled economic change within a secure framework of national prosperity.
In elitist fashion, they grew disturbed when the Warren Court seemed to endorse a mindless majoritarianism by its “one man, one vote” decision (1964). America needed the antipopulist “safety valves” of a federalist system. Politicians or the Court should not raise mass political expectations.
During the past 20 years, the Neo-Conservatives' unremitting tone of anxiety, their fear of a relapse into social disorder, and their emphasis on authority and tradition, can be explained in large part as reactions to a major trauma—the fear of anti-Semitism. Hannah Arendt's brilliant Origins of Totalitarianism explains, in Neo-Conservative fashion, this pervasive fear. According to Arendt, strong national states protected the European Jews in the nineteenth century. But Populist movements endangered them. In effect, a conservative elite protected the Jew, whereas the mass, “the people,” were the bigoted enemy. To deal properly with the volatile masses, one needed managed reform by elites which produced ordered change.
It is difficult to predict the future shape of the Neo-Conservatives' coalition. Today it consists of an alliance with labor and the Jackson wing of the Democratic party on economic issues; on “social issues” it forms an uneasy alliance with traditional conservatives. As the ongoing major themes of Neo-Conservatism, note respect for authority, the goodness of the corporate status quo, and the need both to curb economic appetites and to preach social harmony. Its vulnerable points are elitist bias and antidemocratic fears.
Order and Virtue
“Understanding the ‘New Conservatives’.” Polity (USA), Winter 1977: 261–273.
The “New Conservatives” are thinkers who have received considerable attention as recent converts to conservatism. They may not be welcome allies since they do not appear to be defenders of Lockean liberty or laissez-faire, but rather of the traditional conservative values of Burke: “ordered liberty,” the aristocratic virtues, and a religious basis for social morality.
We may profitably examine the thought of several of these intellectual leaders of the loosely knit “neoconservative” movement comprised primarily of former liberals and socialists. Such figures include Alexander Bickel, Daniel Bell, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Robert Nisbet. What emerges is a rather diverse “movement” united principally by a somewhat unfocused disgust with contemporary American life: with bureaucratic, monolithic corporations; with ever escalating demands placed upon government by the masses for equality and ample provision of educational, medical, and employment goods; and with the erosion of traditional moral and religious values.
The acknowledged intellectual predecessors of the groups are diverse. However, Burke seems to be a unifying precursor, with de Tocqueville, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Schumpeter, Weber, Madison, and Montesquieu enjoying less universal appreciation. Employing Louis Hartz's classification of two previous periods in American life in which Whiggery dominated (the post-Jacksonian period and the era of industrialization following the Civil War), Abbott categorizes these “new conservatives” as constituting the third rebirth of Whiggery in America.
The positive content of the “new conservatism” is rather diffuse and unfocused, but its political style is one of “moderation and a spirit of compromise.” Nisbet's prescriptions seem the clearest; what he proposes is a pluralism based upon neighborhoods, local universities, and decentralized economic life. Thus, Nisbet constitutes a link between socialist, conservative, and liberal Whiggish thought. The importance of these thinkers lies in their isolation of elements which are lacking in American life—i.e., a tragic sense of life, devotion to transcendental ends, and the absence of awe-inspiring heroism.
“Some Reflections on Political Nature: Conservative Theory Revisited.” Journal of Philosophy (USA), 72 (1975): 593–604.
Neither the utilitarian nor the contractarian branch of classical liberal moral philosophy can establish adequately traditional rights and liberties for Constitutional Democracy. What may be needed is a reinterpreted classical conservatism, rooted in Aristotle's political thought. This outlook may provide the philosophical foundations for a good state.
The primary concept for the conservative is the good man, the fully realized or actualized man. The good society is the society that fosters growth toward that maturity. It provides whatever is needed to actualize man. It minimizes opportunities for incompatible courses of development. As for natural man, he is an interesting mass of potential, nothing more; his rights and desires he will acquire only later—from his society. If the society is good, the rights and desires he will acquire will be those encouraging growth to full humanity.
The liberal's theory contracts man into a civil society, whose only claim on the individual's duty is its consistency in providing the appointed benefits. Conservative theory, on the contrary, defends the proposition that tribal association necessarily precedes political, both psychologically and logically.
Tribal-peace theory of the origin and justification of the state posits a “state of nature” of independent agents, as does social-contract theory—but these agents are tribes, not individuals.
The good state, developing from the tribe, characteristically cherishes political dialogue and its prerequisite: the protection of traditional individual rights.
The classical conservative can thus give a coherent account of the good man and the good state or society, not as opposed, but as mutually reinforcing.
Socialism and Freedom
“A Note on Freedom Under Socialism.” Political Theory (USA), 5 (1977): 461–471.
Socialists, before attempting to refute it, must recognize the cogency of the classical liberal attack upon the irreconcilability of socialism and freedom.
Criticism of socialism advanced by classical liberals such as Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek can be surmounted. However, the contentions that socialism and freedom cannot be reconciled should be seriously entertained. When these antisocialist assaults are combined with similar conclusions reached by socialists such as Frank Parkin—that “equality requires socialism and equalitarian socialism seems to require the suppression of civil liberties”—such arguments present a devastating attack upon socialism, if they are correct.
Initially, one can reject the two typical ploys by which socialists attempt to deflect the attack upon socialism as incompatible with freedom. The first ploy contends that it is invalid to cite communist states to support the antisocialist argument; in reality unique historical circumstances prevented them from establishing a regime compatible with freedom. The second ploy counterclaims that the freedom judged to be irreconcilable with socialism is not freedom at all; in reality this “freedom” is an atomistic, bourgeois notion. As regards the first point, even if this were true, it still fails to demonstrate that under more favorable historical circumstances, a socialist regime tolerating freedom could and would have been instituted. On the second point, one can dismiss the “positive freedom” position because it sanctions a slave or conformist mentality.
Three requirements seem necessary for an ideal of freedom appropriate to socialist aspirations: 1) social relations must embody mutual respect so that each individual can develop as a social being and “obey oneself” while responding to shared norms and objectives; 2) each citizen must have options available to carve out his own life; and 3) each must be encouraged to attain self-consciousness. The second requirement necessitates a free interchange of ideas, some autonomy for education, and protection for dissenters. A further difficulty in reconciling socialism and freedom is the problem of identifying local communal interests. Under socialism how can the individual always identify his own interests with the nation as a whole? That is, how can citizens come to identify themselves with the state without the persuasion of repression?
The solution for the socialist is to reformulate the socialist ideal so as to include the three mentioned conditions required for socialist freedom. Such a reconstruction would be founded upon partially autonomous work places and local community control within the nation state. Voluntary consent by citizens to national objectives would follow from this local autonomy. Other institutional arrangements would include local control of schools and publications. These local arrangements would exercise some independence from state control (maybe even a “modest market sector,” here), possess an independent judiciary, and guarantee the right of workers to strike. Thus, the socialist's solution to the antisocialist challenge of Friedman and Hayek is to synthesize socialist aspirations with liberal constitutional restraints.
“Socialism and the Market.” Political Theory (USA), 5 (1977): 473–489.
Can a suitably designed market economy satisfy the moral aspirations of a socialist? The motivation behind this proposal is the conviction that planned economies have not succeeded on economic grounds alone, even if one ignores their obvious failures to achieve the democratic ideal. Planned economies failing to coordinate production with demand thus result in surpluses of unwanted goods and black markets; nor have these economies produced the quality of goods attained in market economies. In addition to these obvious failings of planned economies, the works of contemporary political philosophers (Robert Nozick and John Rawls) compel us to reexamine the supposed incompatibility of socialist aspirations and a market economy.
The kind of “market” envisioned differs from a traditional free market. This market involves state ownership of the means of production with cooperatives leasing these factories from the state. Goods would be sold on an open market; the private hiring of labor would be prohibited; and an extensive social welfare system would supplement the incomes of unprofitable cooperatives. Such a system might not be as efficient as capitalism, but it would be more efficient than socialism.
The remaining question, then, is whether market socialism can satisfy traditional socialist aspirations of a noneconomic kind. These objections against the market may then pass muster to see whether they would also hold against “market socialism,” i.e., the contentions 1) that the market is socially unjust because it does not distribute goods according to need or to desert; 2) that it engenders acquisitiveness; 3) that the market produces alienation; and 4) that it destroys altruism and human community.
The socialist concludes that market socialism provides a reasonable compromise between the claims of social justice and efficiency. To all the specified objections, he answers that market socialism will not fall victim to these allegations. Of the four charges, the last poses the most difficult problem for market socialism, i.e., promoting community.
Socialists recognize the deficiencies of socialism as both a means of maximizing production and satisfying consumer demand. Socialism is in trouble. Socialists can acknowledge that the market is the most efficient way in which to satisfy consumer demands and to allocate scarce resources. Hence, their solution: an attempt to fuse socialism with a market. Naturally, the market proposed bears scant resemblance to a free market. What it amounts to is something akin to the old guild socialism approach—but within the framework of a nation state.
Centralism vs Decentralism
“Marx, Engels, and Duehring.” Journal of the History of Ideas (USA), 35 (1974): 98–112.
Although most students of modern political thought know Friedrich Engles's Anti-Duehring (1877–1878), few are familiar with the writings and beliefs of Eugen Duehring (1833–1921). He was the blind privatdocent of political science and philosophy at the University of Berlin. Not much is known about his influence on the politics of the German Social Democratic Party and its doctrinal skirmishes of this period. Duehring deserves more study in the history of Marxian thought since his was an early and respected voice within socialism that opposed the centralized, bureaucratic state favored by Marx and Engels.
Duehring's own elaborated system of socialism, Kritische Geschichte der Nationaloekonomie und des Socialismus (1871), analyzed Das Kapital, vol. 1, in what Gerhard Albrecht called “the first serious scientific critique of the Marxian system.” As an advocate of a “force theory” stressing the efficacy of political action, Duehring viewed Marx's economic determinism as too one-sided. More importantly, Duehring branded Marx with Hegelian mysticism in his logical formalism and nebulous dialectic of concepts as a subtitute for a practical program of political action. He also criticized Marx's failure to spell out the ultimate product of his dialectical evolution, namely, the precise nature of socialist or communist society. Duehring also questioned Marx's labor theory of value and his theory of progressive pauperization.
Duehring's own theories advanced in Cursus der National-und Socialoekonomie (1873), and Cursus der Philosophie (1875), are somewhat inconsistent. He advocated worker strikes as a means to oppose not only capitalists but also the centralized “force state” which the capitalists used. Although not one himself, Duehring approached the anarchists in his advocacy of political and economic decentralization. A vague utopian system of egalitarian workers' communes marks his ideal socialist system. Duehring stressed decentralization in sharp contrast with the state centralization advocated by both Marx and the academic Katheder Socialists.
In the first half of the 1870s, Duehring attracted an influential following in the socialist movement because of his radical attack on the prevailing order. Such followers as Eduard Bernstein admired “the liberal element in socialism” as spun out by Duehring, since many socialists feared the state worship and statist thinking in socialist ranks.
Other sympathizers of Duehring's decentralism in socialist ranks were August Babel and the political agitator, Johann Most. They, and others on the left wing of Social Democracy, contrasted Marx's use of a strong state to confiscate the means of production with Duehring's system of democratic egalitarian communes.
Almost the whole leadership of the Berlin Social Democratic Party organization supported Duehring. This provoked the counterattack against Duehring by Engels (and Marx) in his Anti-Duehring articles of 1877–1878, perhaps the most systematic presentation of the Marxian system. Engels conceded that Marxism had used Hegel's inevitable dialectical laws with their negation of negations. Engels spelled out how dialectics with an assist from state centralism would “negate” the contradiction of capitalist private ownership of the means of production: “The proletariat seizes state power and immediately transforms the means of production into state property.” Engels's advocacy of “one single vast plan” is far removed from the decentralized network of Duehring's communes, the system so popular with German Social Democracy. In his near-anarchist prescriptions for the future, Duehring stood to the left of Marx and Engels.
Duehring characterized the Marxian system as “Staatscommunismus” and protested that it would mean “the enslavement of society by the state.” He concluded that “Mister Marx's theocratic, authoritarian state communism is unjust, immoral, and contrary to freedom,”—an echo of Bakunin's critique of a decade earlier.
“The Radical Humanism of Étienne de la Boétie.” Journal of the History of Ideas (USA), 38 (1977): 119–130.
La Boétie (1530–1563), the French Renaissance classicist, gained fame both for his friendship with Montaigne and for his short treatise La Servitude Volontaire [see the translation by Harry Kurz and introduction by Murray N. Rothbard of The Politics of Obedience: “The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (New York: Free Life Editions, 1975)]. La Boétie's Discourse identifies liberty as the primary human value and condemns all personal authority except parental guardianship. We may summarize La Boétie's political and social vision as “radical humanism.” The vision embraces humanism because it proclaims the classical values of a free and equal society guided by reason and nature. We see it as a radical vision because La Boétie completely departs from conventional ways of organizing human life under hegemony and political authority. His vision also offers highly sophisticated insights into ethics and political psychology.
The Discourse begins by rejecting all political authority, the subjection of some men by others. It poses Rousseau's paradox that man although born free is everywhere in chains. How did this political servitude come about? This appears all the stranger when we realize that if the subjects withdrew their sanction and consent, their political masters would be toppled from authority: “Only be resolved to serve no more, and you will be free.” Since all men are by nature free and equal, how did unnatural mass servitude become universal?
The answer is complex. It was force that originally constrained men to bend to the political yoke; but gradually the custom and habit of obedience “denatured” men. In the final part of his Discourse, La Boétie analyzes the several techniques used by governors and tyrants “to put their subjects to sleep beneath the yoke.” Through bread and circuses (paid for through taxes), and through the trappings of the secular and religious symbols of power, rulers stultify and mesmerize the minds of the ruled. Finally, the machinery of the tyranny rests its power, (in addition to public largesse through taxation, pomp, and symbols), on an extensive network of patron-client relationships which passes on the privileges and economic power in concentric circles of vested interests.
In La Boétie's intricate analysis of power, rulers manipulate the strength of custom, ideology, and the bewitching spell of symbols to win obedience. The strong linkages of shared profit and power cementing rulers with privileged underlings reinforce these techniques. In reality, those who are best off in such a system of complicity are those at the bottom, who enjoy some measure of freedom by not worrying about falling from the ruler's favor.
The question is no longer why the many do not throw off the ruler's shackles and realize their nature as free persons. The web of the ruler's techniques seems allencompassing and explains the ingrained psychology of servitude. The many have been implicated in forging the chains of their own bondage, and have avidly accepted baubles (trinkets) and huckster's tricks in exchange for their natural right to liberty. Any call to regicide, given the popular delusion and love of servitude, would be vainglorious. Regicide would simply substitute another ruler to rule over still docile subjects.
Thus we see La Boétie as a man of anarchistic premises but nonanarchistic, rather pessimistic, conclusions. La Boétie appears a radical anarchist in opposing all forms of institutionalized authority. But the powerful fear of freedom, and the pessimism about the mass psychology of obedience and voluntary servitude, hide from him any practical alternative. Any call to revolution would be unreasonable since it would merely change the cast of rulers while continuing the popular obedience to the new set of rulers.
La Boétie's melancholic pessimism about the human herd and submissive psychology (reflected in voluntary submission) surfaces in his question: “what unhappy accident can it have been which has so much denatured man, born, alone among all the animals to live freely; and caused him to lose even the memory of his original being and the desire to find it again.”
La Boétie relieves this pessimism, although in elitist fashion, by his humanistic hope that superior men of reason would find their true liberty in an intellectual tradition that rejected the “gross populace's” servitude and valued liberty at least in the silence of their conscience or writings. The sad irony is that La Boétie for all his love of liberty found himself immeshed in the power network he so condemned.
Authority and Obedience
“The Case that Milgram Makes.” Philosophical Review 86 (1977): 350–364.
Stanley Milgram's well-known obedience experiments have been interpreted by social psychologists as establishing human nature's sheeplike submission to authority. The experiments claim to confirm how prone humans are to obey the immoral commands of authority figures, to give themselves over to voluntary servitude to evil.
In his celebrated book Obedience to Authority, (New York: Harper & Row, 1974, p. 3), Milgram described the setting of his obedience experiments:
Two people come to a psychology laboratory to take part in a study of memory and learning. One of them is designated as a “teacher” and the other a “learner.” The experimenter explains that the study is concerned with the effects of punishment on learning. The learner is...seated in a chair, his arms strapped to prevent excessive movement, and an electrode attached to his wrist. He is told that he is to learn a list of word pairs; whenever he makes an error, he will receive electric shocks of increasing intensity [from the teacher].
In reality, the shock machine is a fake; the “learner,” as a confederate of the experimenter, deliberately misremembers the word pairs to see if the “teacher” will compliantly obey the authoritarian experimenter and increase the bogus painful shocks. The results of nearly 1000 experiments showed that 62.5% of the subject “teachers” obeyed and pressed the shock levers up to maximum “painful” voltage.
Milgram claimed (1) that his laboratory subjects behaved in a “shockingly immoral way;” and (2) that there was nothing immoral in conducting the obedience experiments. Yet if we concede proposition (2), then proposition (1) is undermined. We then face two alternatives: either Milgram's experiments are themselves unethical, or they prove nothing about unethical obedience.
Milgram inferred that most of his experimental subjects acted in unethically obedient ways since they 1) obeyed an authority when there was no good reason to do so; 2) obeyed without question to commands as such; and 3) committed obviously unethical acts on command. However, Milgram rejects the arguments of his critics who allege that his experiments harmed his subjects. Milgram contends that nothing unethical happened in his experiments.
But if Milgram's experiments were not unethical, then it follows that the experimental subjects did not behave unethically either. In short, if Milgram's method of conducting the obedience experiments was justified, they fail to demonstrate his claims concerning obedience to authority.
Milgram advances two major defenses for the ethical uprightness of his experiments, one denying any harm and the other justifying any possible harm. The first defense cites the testimony of other psychologists to prove that his subjects suffered no long-term injury. Besides evading the issue of whether the subjects suffered short-term harm and stress, this defense is two-edged. If a valid defense, the subjects might use it themselves to ethically justify their own conduct. The experimenter, for example, told his subjects that the “learners” would suffer “no permanent tissue damage.” In Milgram's own view, this means the experimenter denies the very possibility of harm. Thus the subjects can appeal to the same defense of “no harm” if Milgram can.
As his second defense for his experiments, Milgram cites the testimony of questionnaires and conversations to claim that the subjects approved the experiments. Most subjects appreciated the experiments, believed that Milgram should conduct similar experiments, and felt that they learned something. This defense suffers several flaws. If Smith harmed Jones, then Jones's subsequent excusing Smith would not automatically justify Smith's original action. Next, if, according to Milgram's claim, the subjects acted in a grossly unethical way and if he considers them overly submissive, why should Milgram now trust their views to justify their treatment? Most importantly, just as Milgram's defense states that the subjects agreed that the experiments and experience were valuable, so the subjects' parallel defense might justify their actions by the value they provided to psychology.
Milgram might attempt to counter this line of argument by claiming that the subjects are arguing in a circle by denying that their conduct was unethical. For how do they defend their actions? By the submissive line of appealing to the authority's perception of the experiment! But this retort fails. The subjects could counterclaim as justification that they were accepting the claims of expertise. Expertise is not identical with authority. A nurse, for example, is justified in moving a patient's limbs even though it cases pain, because she rightly accepts the doctor's expertise. Similarly, the subjects could appeal to the experimenter's expertise.
Milgram now faces a dilemma. If he claims that no degree of expertise could justify such pain, he implicates himself and admits that he caused the subjects' discomfort during the experiment (e.g., fits, seizures, sweating, nervous laughter). If no degree of expertise justifies pain, then what about the pain Milgram caused his own subjects?
“Pastoral Care: Concept and Process.” British Journal of Educational Studies (UK), 25 (1977): 124–135.
Pastoral Care in the fashionable British educational jargon refers to school counseling, guidance, and the noninstructional aspects of teachers and other school personnel. According to conventional wisdom, pastoral care (in the forms of academic counselors, vocational advisers, or personal counselors), appears to be a positive and convivial institution essential to education. But this optimistic assessment lacks both theoretical and empirical proof. The concept may realistically conceal a more sinister face.
If we examine pastoral care from a phenomenological approach, we notice that many of the taken-for-granted assumptions of those providing such care are more problematic. Pastoral care is not necessarily what it seems. An alternative interpretation, the pupil's viewpoint, often disparages pastoral care as a nuisance, a “crashing bore,” or an impossible, impractical, and largely unnecessary diversion from the important job of teaching. According to a “conflict model of society” we can question whether educational methods generally, and pastoral care services in particular, are benign. Such counseling services may not primarily be concerned with the problems of the pupil's welfare but rather with facilitating social control and administrative convenience.
Pastoral care also may create alienation in young students. The young may display “deviance” not as a result of “inadequate socialization” but as an understandable response for the student in the oppressive school environment. A direct causal link is evident between the growth of and need for pastoral care “structures,” and the increasing size of schools due to reorganization, mixed-ability teaching, and proliferating public examinations. These developments exacerbate old problems while spawning multitudes of new ones. This suggests that the apparently benign pastoral care may be a consciously evolved device for managing a potentially explosive school crisis. Pastoral care enables the teacher to remain “in control”; it serves further as a safety valve in the guise of “administration periods” that enable a school of over 1500 pupils to run smoothly and efficiently.
Pastoral care structures have also served to divide up the British schools into manageable units such as teams. The term itself has euphemistically cloaked corporal punishment. It has not genuinely guided or counseled many pupils. Finally, by confirming “deviants” in their role as “deviants,” pastoral care far from alleviating distress has served to stimulate and confirm it.
In short, schools often function as massive, depersonalizing, pseudoeducational factories where “anomie” expresses itself in violence and destructive acts. It does not surprise us that teachers and counselors have used every means, including pastoral care, to maintain some control.
Power and Ideology
“Property, Authority and the Criminal Law.” In Douglas Hay et. al. Albion's Fatal Tree. New York: Random House, Pantheon Books, 1975, pp. 17–63.
How does the state's ruling class engineer the consent of the governed to its authority and legitimacy?
In brief, the ruling class uses the power of the state to secure its privileges. Force is one technique, but force must seem legitimate otherwise the majority (the ruled) will revolt. Therefore, to win the assent of the ruled, the ruling class cultivates ideology and loyalty through discretionary law enforcement. The criminal law's lessons (justice, majesty, and mercy), elicit the sanction of the victimized subjects. This benign face of criminal law masks the gallows and the death sentence.
Rulers and feudal property owners know that they must solve the problem of how to induce the many to submit to the few. In the long run, terror and coercion alone cannot cow the more powerful (but ruled) majority. Not physical strength but good “opinion” must win over the people. The ruler wields ideology or propaganda to win the minds of the people; the criminal law serves as a powerful ideological technique to maintain the bonds of obedience and deference to authority. Criminal law protected rulers, their revenues and authority through a mixture of terror and mercy, gallows and pardons, fear and gratitude.
Eighteenth century England illustrates how criminal law functions as ideology and induces “voluntary” obedience. A paradox presents itself: the number of capital statutes (offenses subject to the death penalty), increased fourfold between 1680 and 1820. Almost all these capital offenses concerned crimes against land. Government and its criminal law thereby protected the interests of the feudal governors. Yet the number of public executions for property offenses remained relatively stable. Thus, eighteenth century criminal law upheld the rulers' interests with bloody sanctions but claimed relatively few lives.
How can we explain the coexistence of bloody laws and increased convictions along with a proportional decline of actual executions? Because royal pardons increased and the courts grew more lenient. But why the “mercy”?
The paradox is resolved in the social and political function of criminal law as ideology to buttress the rulers by winning the deference, assent, and obedience of the ruled. Law appeared to the governed as a Janus-faced force, displaying alternately a stern or a merciful countenance, which molded popular opinion to submit to the few.
As ideology, law combined majesty (awe-inspiring spectacle and the quasireligious pageantry of court proceedings), the appearance of fair justice to the governed (actually a mix of the rulers' self-interest and paternalism), and a show of mercy. By granting mercy to the convicted through royal pardons, the rulers won the gratitude of criminals and the credulous awe of noncriminals. Pardons granting mercy were selective instruments of class justice. They allowed the powerful to bestow favors and thus win the support of the governed.
The law's majesty, justice, and mercy forged the ideological chains of consent and submission (Blake's “mind-forged manacles”). The rulers managed this consent by mixing firmness and “delicacy,” the carrot and the stick. Leniency and pardons in capital cases were tools to maintain the rulers' authority. Their motives were not simply humanitarian; they intended their “delicacy” to defuse possible riots.
“Gramsci and the Theory of Hegemony.” Journal of the History of Ideas (USA), 36 (1975): 351–366.
How do social transformations emerge? What role do intellectuals play in blocking or promoting such social change?
The life and intellectual career of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, centers around his concept of hegemony. By piecing together his scattered prison notes on this subject, we will more clearly understand hegemony, which was the capstone of Gramsci's political experience.
While in an Italian prison (during the 20s and 30s until his death in 1937), Gramsci came to appreciate the importance of ideas and intellectuals. He believed that they alone explained the survival of western civilization. In gaining this appreciation, he took issue with the old Marxian argument that every state was a virtual dictatorship, the more successful states did not have to “bare their teeth.” The chief reason for this was the factor of hegemony, or rule by engineered consent.
Rulers manipulate consent by popularizing a world view that persuades the ruled to believe that the rulers' actions largely benefit the masses. Gramsci came to this conclusion by distinguishing between “civil society” and “political society.” It was in civil society (i.e., the schools, churches, clubs, and publications), that the rulers worked their will by encouraging the intellectual class to propagate particular ideas. The intellectuals served as the mandarins of the ruling class, to control the limits of acceptable discussion of how society could and should operate.
Gramsci arrived at his theory by studying Lenin and interpreting his own experience. But most important in forming his concepts were the writings of Benedetto Croce and the “Machiavellian school” of political theorists, most notably Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto. These last two argued that no consensus could exist without force, and no “liberty” without “authority.” Like Lenin and most other early twentieth century Marxians, Gramsci was disturbed both by the apparent indifference of the masses to Marxism, and by the unexpectedly popular appeal exerted by “reformism.” He believed that the theory of hegemony explained these anomalies. In effect, the court intellectuals were quite successful in erecting new lines of defense for the old order.
The theory of hegemony had important implications for revolutionary theory and practice. It first explained why dictatorships had become necessary in both Fascist Italy and Socialist Russia: in both cases the “civil society” had become moribund. Next, what these old orders could not deal with were “organic crises,” generally caused by war or some other stress; hence their plunge into Caesarism. Furthermore, hegemony unveiled doctrines such as social equity and parliamentary democracy as mere ideological bluffs to dupe the masses. Finally, and most importantly, Gramsci's theory of hegemony showed that the old order will not vanish—nor will a new order emerge—simply because someone points out the relative vices and virtues of the system. A social order, no matter how exploitative, cannot be understood simply as a conspiracy of wicked men. It is not sufficient for the exploited to complain about the bad state of things. They must prepare themselves to change the old order by making themselves better than their rulers, technically, intellectually, and morally.