On reading De Jouvenel

In reading De Jouvenel’s “On Power” the only real conclusion with which you can take regarding the question of which is primary – power or culture? Is that power is clearly primary. At each point the central power is that which is in the position of acting as gatekeeper and controller of the influence and reach of cultural currents within society. The tragedy of modernity is that what has been ensconced as power is a rejection of judgement in favour of automatic systems in the form of constitutions, electoral politics, bureaucracies and guidance by science.

When political structures, philosophical systems and society in general begins to stop working, there are only a few general response which can be taken. The first is that the problem is a result of a failure of the constituent actors to apply the rules and systems truly and accurately. This is the response seen in relation to the current crisis of science. The problem is seen as a failure to apply the scientific method properly, resulting in a perversion of science. This pattern is also observably in the conservative reformation which lead to Protestantism. The problem was the Catholic Church was not sticking to the book close enough. It is a doubling down on literalism.

The second option when systems break down is to rejoice and attack it by elements which have an ingrained hate of the particular system. The enemies of the system in effect. Examples include Marxists, utopians, liberals – the general progressive collection really.

At first sight this would appear to support the thesis of cultural above power. The general flux of ideas and new philosophies spread and create unrest which then emerges from the bottom up – but this is false, and fails to see the hand hidden in plain sight- the central power. Which is what De Jouvenel seeks to bring to view so well.

The rise of the state that gave birth to modernity is really a story of four groups of actors, and not three groups of actors as put forward by De Jouvenel– the first group is the central power which was the Kings court, which then became the parliamentary democracy, then the bureaucratic democracy. The second group is the feudal regime which comprised the various forms of order based on human judgement and devolved decision making. This reaches all the way down to the family itself, and represents very simply human judgement connections. The third group is the elements of society which actively hated the relationships and human judgement connections, and various other disaffected agitators with varying complaints. The forth group which it would seem De Jouvenel includes with the middle, but which really need a separate grouping, is external and or/ parallel power influences. This includes the Catholic church and it’s bishops.

The central power in the form of the kings court in effect sows dragons teeth as a means to undermine the middle structures and the external or parallel power structures. It enters into an unholy para- alliance with the agitators and rebels. The adoption of Protestantism as a means to remove Church influence is one such example of power allowing (and in the case of Henry VIII) engaging in aggressive implementation of cultural turnover. The monarchs actively opened the gates, it was not inevitable, and they did it to remove competitor influence.

This process continued in all walks of life, with anti-scholasticism being encouraged as a means to further remove catholic influence. That a number of scholastics such as William of Ockham were responsible for beginning the process is not that surprising. If the state was not engaging in anti-Church stances they would have been roundly ignored and forgotten, is it is they were in the right place and saying the right things.

The next alliance was that of the protestant “science” aka empiricism which promised an alternative to human judgement and the philosophy of the scholastics comprising of Aritotle and Aquinas. Anti-Aristotleanism and anti-scholasticism marks the Enlightenment and modern philosophy from Descartes onward. It is, and remains, an anti-human judgement endeavour. A purely negative phenomena not guided by internal rationality, but by it position of opposition to what Leo Strauss termed the “kingdom of darkness headed by Aquinas.” It was in effect, a system adopted by first the state headed by monarchs in the case of England (see the Royal society,) and then by anti-royal and anti-feudal Encyclopeiestas in France.  British empiricism is heavily ingrained with the French revolution, as it is in liberal politics in the form of Hobbes, Locked, Hume, Smith et al.

At this point, I think a further elaboration and emendation to De Jouvenel is needed. The central power with the French revolution went from being one guided by rational human judgement (even if misguided, lacking serious wisdom as to the outcome of its actions) and therefore a cosmic central power to one which was devoted rejecting order, and therefore became a chaos central power. The parliament became the central power and then subsequently bureaucracy. From this point, the idea of constitutionalism, systems and rejection of human judgement would become key, or modernity in short.

From this point, no rational actor was present in the Chaos central power as rejection of human judgement is central to it. All growth by the central power is therefore not subject to correction, direction or amendment. The only central organising principle is removing judgement and replacing with laws and rules devised in accordance with scientific, sceptic and empirical principles. Every action and every development of further thought that pushes towards even greater rejection of judgement is giving a direct pass to power. Any counter prevailing position withers on the vine. Power selects the culture which best suits it.

So we see conservative literalists and fundamentalists, gender ideologues, anti-racists, progressives science advocates and the whole collection anti-human judgement groups in fundamental para-allience either at once, or in differing times, but all working toward the same goal. The religious and conservative literalists often providing the role of the van guard destroying order on a the misguided principle that they are bring greater order, which rather indicates ISIS will lead to a flowering of atheism and (even more deep grained) chaos in the Islamic world once it has finished its role much as Protestantism did for europe.

On a deeper level then, De Jouvenel’s theory points to towards a concept of cosmos which is very much based on human judgement, with chaos being used as an enemy against it, and then consuming the actors which use it against other wielders of human judgement.

This then would seem to the key to political organisation and the apparent contradictions of modern political theory. The dividing line is between human judgment and systemic adherence. Human judgement is that which progressives have always been aligned against. From the bizarre criticisms of monarchical and dictatorial government on the basis of being unable to trust what the leader would do, to the attack on every form of asymmetric personal relationship from slavery through to feudalism and non-progressive marriage (modern marriage appears to be a form of optional friendship.)  The line is clear. This is further augmented in other fields such as scientific theory and epistemology with the spread of empiricism, and the aforementioned literalism of religious text. Systemic adherence is therefore chaotic at route, the only question is then your motivation.

That systemic adherence is ultimately chaotic regardless of the various dreams of hyper rightwing concepts that can be locked in by a system is that the system can never be bounded, and will always be a fraud. The deeper philosophical question is present in the conception of “sovereignty is conserved” which maintains there is always and outside of society. There is always someone manning the system, and the only escape would be to create an intelligence which is non-human to man the system and correct for unforeseen circumstances which any given “right wing” system could never account for. Such a system must at all times be directed against human judgement as a threat to itself and in effect would be de facto chaotic in that regard as well.

More modern examples which highlight this ingrained division can be seen in the current state of chaos central power (aka the liberal state) dictated modern society. The red-black alliance of Isis/ western elite is real and clear, as is the elite-immigrant criminal alliance, as is the general criminal-elite alliance, as is every elite/ scum alliance. The alliance is always anti-order. Order being human judgement and human relationships not mediated by the state. Bible thumpers and other right wing literalists, constitutionalists and democrats of varying colours are a visible useful enemy (for now) but their role of stupid refreshers of chaos central power is inbuilt, as Thomas Jefferson said “the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants” and they will have their time again, and will usher in more chaos as they are brother in service to chaos, unless reaction occurs and human judgement and cosmos is recovered.

Advertisements