Normative, Punitive and Coercive states

I have permission to post a couple of responses from scientism in a non-public discussion around the issue of social norms and forms of rule. I will add further comment after the text of the post, as I think this issue is extremely interesting, and deserves some form of public exposure and discussion. The posts are as follows:

Post 1

“I think there’s a simple way to unify all our interests around the “Confucian insight”:

1. The central difference between Chinese civilisation and Western civilisation is that Western civilisation has (or had) separate political and religious hierarchies. “Rule by virtue/rites” was essentially the responsibility of the Church hierarchy (note how illiberal and “totalitarian” this rule was, they had representatives in every village, telling people what to think). Much modern confusion about society stems from this separation – for example, people tend to think religion is in the “private sphere” whereas government is the “public sphere”, but really you’re just governed by dual institutions. More importantly, if the Church represents rule by virtue/rites, what would its abolition look like? Wouldn’t it look exactly like Protestantism? “Every man his own priest” is the decisive move.

2. The account of human nature given by Aristotle fits neatly within the Confucian framework and made sense for the semi-integrated Medieval Western world, but it’s a poor fit for the modern, post-Reformation world. The modern world needs an account of man that is solipsistic and hyper-individualistic, who has no need for virtue and rites. Descartes and the British Empiricists provide this account. Liberalism is its mature politics.

3. The Carlylean critique can be interpreted as a critique of the transition from an informal world of customs that play a constitutive role in human ability to a legalistic world of externally imposed protocol (by means of punishment/reward) that increasingly displaces human judgement as it consumes itself like an ouroboros. The ultimate, Satanic expression of the latter would be the LandPlan: Contrary to Land’s claims, democracy is an obvious expression of the same thing. It’s inherently opposed to rule and so inherently disposed to produce convoluted systems in which leadership is obscured. The West seems to have an unfortunate history of flirting with such systems, such as Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic.

4. Both liberal “rule of law” and “free market” capitalism fall under the type of rule (hegemony) Confucius deems lesser than rule by virtue/rites. They are both concerned with rule by punishment/reward. Both, in fact, valorise punishment/reward as the highest good and recognise no other possibilities. Systems of “incentives” are seen as “realistic” whereas systems that involve a more complete account of human nature are seen as “idealistic”. It’s notable that Marxism actually falls firmly into the liberal camp and Soviet economics is a flat command structure involving punishment and reward. Japan is probably the only real example of an economy that deviates significantly from the perverse ideals of liberalism. Regardless, liberalism and free market capitalism are clearly two sides of the same coin, having identical origins and ideals and an identical account of the human individual.

(added: “The Master said, “If you try to lead the common people with governmental regulations and keep them in line with punishments, the laws will simply be evaded and the people will have no sense of shame. If, however, you guide them with Virtue, and keep them in line by means of ritual, the people will have a sense of shame and will moreover reform themselves.” Analects, 2.3)

5. The spread of degeneracy appears to be just a part of this general move from rule by virtue/rites, to rule by punishment/reward. It probably can’t happen without perversion spreading through the elite and then being promoted to the population at large.

6. It’s notable that classical Western education (the 7 liberal arts) looks a lot like it was training the elite to be exemplars in the rule by virtue/rites model, similar to classical systems of education in other civilisations. Modern education appears empty by comparison (learning a bunch of stuff you might find in an encyclopaedia).

7. Hierarchy is essential to rule by virtue/rites, but completely inessential to rule by punishment/reward, where you instead have an impersonal state that rules over an extremely flat structure. This is because a system based on human judgement has an inherent need to order people, so everybody has some sort of leadership available, whereas a system based on law and punishment simply needs a handful of all-powerful institutions that can enforce the law on the masses. The Soviet systems looks to me simply a different version of the liberal system in this respect. Capitalism tends to allow leadership within private corporations (although this is increasingly being stamped out, both from Left, in the form of workplace regulation, and the Right, in the form of making executives beholden to “the market”), whereas the communists removed even that, creating a “purer” system in certain respects. Constitutionalism, rule by law, etc, are all part of this sort of monstrous system. The Fascists gained some understanding of its shortcomings, but still seemed to view power in liberal terms and not understanding the central role of virtue/rites.

ADDED: There’s something very striking to me about this “legalistic” approach to government. Note that it has to actively oppose hierarchy, human judgement, etc, because, from its perspective, these are forms of corruption. Everybody must be “equal before the law” and this means systematically crushing systems of “privilege” (a “privilege” can be seen as anything the legalistic state cannot account for or anything that obstructs its system of “justice”). In fact, it has no need to uphold culture at all. The only thing it concerns itself with is, “Are you breaking the law?” Everything else must go, since it has the potential to obscure this concern. Moreover, it’s only concerned with things that will meet its standard of evidence. So it’s focused on supposed “harms” that can be subjected to the system (a “harm” is defined entirely in terms of the systems ability to process it, in terms of so-called “standards of evidence”). This is felt in society in two interrelated ways. Firstly, the legalistic state will actively seek to destroy anything it can’t process (as corruption/privilege). Secondly, the only alternative is for something to be elevated to the status of a legal issue and so the only way to gain acceptance by the legalistic state is to promote your cause as a legal issue. Hence gay rights, etc. The legalistic state isn’t concerned with moral correctness or even the sustainability of its rule, but rather is wholly concerned with what it is able to see from its narrow legalistic perspective. If you can turn your cause into a legal issue, it will accept you. If you cannot, it will crush you. Doesn’t this explain the entire course of modern Western history?”

Post 2

“I’m going to attempt to introduce some terminology, although I don’t think it’s perfect.

There are three basic types of rule:

1. Normative – rule by upholding and propagating norms; Confucian rule by virtue/rites

2. Punitive – rule through legal institutions, which effectively means through punishment and reward, according to some system

3. Coercive – rule through force and threat of force, in the absence of a system of formal law for its application

I think this also fits the Confucian categorisation of sage-king, hegemon and tyrant.

There are distinctions to be made between the “self-images” of each kind of state. For example, a punitive state sees the basis of its power as essentially coercive, but takes itself to be better than a purely coercive state only because it’s orderly in some sense (essentially, you know what’s going to happen to you if you break one of the many rules). Under liberalism, this becomes extremely pathological, and everything must be subject to formal law in order to be “good”. But it’s interesting that the punitive state has this supposedly “realist” tendency; it sees the fundamental basis of power as force. To the degree that those in a punitive state believe that the state can be a force for good (social democrats or communists, for example) it’s only to the degree that the state itself is subject to law at all levels. This contrasts with the normative state. The normative state sees the fundamental basis of power as normative mastery. There’s an obvious argument for this: no state can deploy any kind of force unless it at least has the loyalty of its military. Indeed, another way of looking at the three types of rule (only available from the normative perspective) is this: under the coercive state, the state only has the loyalty of the military, and this is the only means to enforce its rule; under the punitive state, the state has the loyalty of the military and the bureaucracy and so it can formalise its power in a system of law; but under the normative state, the state has the loyalty of the people, so it isn’t reliant entirely on the military or bureaucracy, but can count on the wider population to regulate itself, more or less. The normative state also has a different view of the relationship between the different types of rule. Normative rule is more effective than punitive rule and punitive rule is more effective than coercive rule. This means that all three means can be employed by the normative state. Punitive rule is to be used where normative rule fails and coercive rule where punitive rule fails. This contrasts with the punitive state, which either doesn’t recognise normative rule at all or sees it as hopelessly idealistic or even mystical. The punitive state’s relationship to coercion is also strange. It sees it as the basis of its power – the means by which it enforces the law – but it also sees it as illegitimate unless it is entirely subject to formal law. We can see that this is because it lacks the normative state’s moral dimension; it cannot recognise any action as legitimate except in legal terms. So the punitive state cannot “fallback” on purely coercive means. It has to generate convoluted reasons to put down uprisings, go to war, etc. It is incapable of handling exceptions and this has knock-on consequences because it must handle every exception systemically, by altering laws in ways that will set dangerous precedents and have unwanted repercussions at later times. So the punitive state will gradually unravel. This inability to handle exceptions as exceptions also opens the possibility of being hostile to leadership as such and is probably the source of its pathological need to subject everything to law. It has an inherent need to expand and destroy sources of legal unpredictability. The normative state, on the other hand, can, if it errs, fallback on punitive and coercive measures. Although it hopes to avoid both the growth of the legal bureaucracy and the use of unchecked violence, it will employ either in circumstances that call for it.”

The shift to rule by laws is something which can be said to be very much the trend of modernity, and it must be noted that as pointed out by Scientism, constitutionalism etc. and liberalism proper are totally law based, whilst prior social structures were not. We now have laws that are created in areas in which it has no conceivable place, and the growth of laws has reached obscene levels. Governance in a punitive system has to do so, because it has no other means of governance open to it, as it renounces the possibility of governance by virtue/ rites. In fact, such a governmental system systematically rejects any claim that such a thing is possible at its very core. The problem is that this process becomes so widespread and ingrained, that even opponents of this spread of punitive rule can only process it through the Cartesian/ British Empiricism philosophical system which accompanied and articulated this change (take a look at the excellent Hoppe analysis of De Jouvenel for an articulate example.)

In modernity (and this is noted by Tocqueville in Democracy in America) the legal profession becomes key, but unlike in Tocqueville’s conception, it does not form a visible ruling class. Lawyers and the legal profession stay very much in the background and do not rule directly. Tocqueville however, was very astute in noting that all political issue eventually become legal issues in a democracy, because in effect democracy is law based and completely blind to non-legal aspects of society  – “The third characteristic of the judicial power is its inability to act unless it is appealed to, or until it has taken cognizance of an affair. This characteristic is less general than the other two; but, notwithstanding the exceptions, I think it may be regarded as essential.” Democracy in America.

Another observation of Tocqueville’s which accords with Scientism’s observation is the following, also from Democracy in America- “”In the Middle Ages they [lawyers] afforded a powerful support to the Crown, and since that period they have exerted themselves to the utmost to limit the royal prerogative.” – this describes the flip to modernity perfectly. The crown in England for example employed the royal court to engage quo waranto campaigns to nullify the local courts powers, and take away the charters granted to manors- in the name of the people.

Of course the lawyers did not take overt control because with punitive regimes, the question of who is in charge is evaded by pointing to the laws as being in charge A.K.A rule of law. We obviously see in reality that this is not the case, and in effect those who interpret the rule are in charge, but their very position is based on a denial of rule by judgement and what Scientism has termed “normative” rule and as such we see extremely complex screens and charades to deny anything but rule by impartial law. This process is not planned in advance, but really a natural occurrence as dictated by the logic of the situation.

Further to this, most of the agents of modernity have been either lawyers, or those connected with the legal tradition, and even in circumstances in which even partial and imperfect rejection of liberalism occurred, it was always lawyer/ legal profession led. The legal dominance of society in modernity is taken as a given, whilst in reality it is a very perverse development. The recent excitement with Bitcoin and the potential for private law is clearly an extension of this process to infinity. Not only can everyone become his own priest under liberalism as noted by scientism, they can now become their own legal system. The idea of Norms, Virtue and Rites so far banished from our thought that human interaction can only be seen legally ( recent developments around sexually consent are relevant.)

Law then, we can see, extends far beyond its reasonable limits in a punitive state, as that is its only means of control. Everything must be subject to a law, and elite led norms and social organisation encoded in culture and natural interaction are invisible, only to be abused as a means to push acceptance of new laws thought societal pressure even when such means directly contradict the basis of liberalism.

This all raises an issue, which is never really raised as an issue – what relevance has law got?