Conflict between freedom and organization

The following is excerpted from the book, The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy & Hegemony, by Anders Corr.

While in Saudi society there is some distinction between interdependent types of power, totalitarian rulers go beyond typical authoritarians to seek the seamless fusion of power. Under totalitarianism, there are few limits to the ruler’s ability to determine the exact nature, interaction, and deconfliction of the hierarchies of strength, wealth, and knowledge. This is a strength and a weakness of totalitarian forms of government. The strength is that totalitarians can better coordinate the wealth and knowledge resources available to the state. Totalitarians thus see themselves as bringing benevolent order to political, economic, and intellectual chaos.
The weakness is that in the process knowledge must be constrained to the official version, which obscures the power of perception and innovation of the totalitarian. Without allowing knowledge to be free, the disincentive to impart knowledge and the inability to turn knowledge work into direction or ownership removes the incentive to think productively, and civic engagement deteriorates. The knowledge transmitted must remain faithful to the official version, even if it is fatally inaccurate. This dynamic leads to information failures that cause wars, famines and the stifling of scientific progress, as well as to the acceleration of ethical decay due to intellectual and moral weariness.
In domestic politics, totalitarianism is one end of the continuum between centralization and decentralization of power. The other extreme is anarchy. Anarchists and libertarians have an almost religious hope and faith that, without the state, society will evolve into some form of utopian collectivism or consensual market relations marked by egalitarianism. More often than not, if not always, a lack of government erupts into violent chaos, as found in the interstices of power in the European Middle Ages, the period of warring states in ancient China, and failed states like Somalia and Afghanistan. A lack of government transforms societies from a law that reifies hierarchy into a society of violence that establishes hierarchy, because most humans are not pacifist anarchists but rather greedy and fearful opportunists.
Democracy stands midway between anarchy and autocracy in that it institutionalizes protections – at the national level – for the freedom of individuals, political associations and businesses from arbitrary control or victimization by government. state and criminal violence. Relatively powerless and unorganized individuals are thus protected by laws and regulations that limit, but do not destroy, the economic power of corporations, the intellectual power of intellectuals, and the political power of government and military. Democracy is inherently conservative and risk-averse because, unlike other forms of government, it requires deliberation and agreement for the state to act. The deliberation is accompanied by an examination of the proposals from several angles, including by those who are against the proposal and who are sure to point out its risks. However, it allows for change and progress where most people believe “progress” should take place.
Democracy is a stable political system, just like totalitarianism. The transition from democracy to anocracy, which is only a partially autocratic state, goes against public expectations of democracy and progress, and thus increases the likelihood of instability, civil war and overthrow of the government. Statistical analysis of regime types and transitions, historically, lends support to this theory.
The Dominican Republic in the early 1960s is an example. The country enjoyed well-established democratic institutions, but in 1961 President Trujillo was assassinated. A coup took place and a power struggle ensued. At the end of 1963, counter-revolutionaries overthrew the government and the country descended into civil war, which included an armed population and constitutionalist military rebels who sought a return to democracy through revolution. The Constitutionalists had occupied a rebel area, but some of the radicals among them received support from Castro’s Cuba. Their leader and former president, Juan Bosch, was seen by the United States as too weak and incompetent to resist this communist influence. US President Lyndon B. Johnson responded in 1965 by sending a detachment of Marines, which isolated the rebels and stabilized the country in favor of autocratic rule.
The broader global struggle between autocracy (now represented by China and previously represented by the USSR) and democracy (represented by the United States and its allies) prevailed over the narrower struggle for democracy in a given country if this so-called democratic struggle leaned politically towards communist dictators and their allies, and thus risked democracy on a global level.
As part of its 1978 election, the Dominican Republic returned to democracy thanks to pressure from U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Democratic politicians from Europe and Latin America. Supporters of authoritarianism in power, President Joaquín Balaguer, have tried to use fraud, intimidation, theft of ballot boxes, allegations of electoral fraud and rumors of a military demand for an “election subsidiary” to annul the election he had lost. But the international pressure worked. The winning Democratic Socialist opposition candidate later released political prisoners and eased press censorship.
Each society arrives at its own temporary equilibrium, with adverse regime change in anocracy occupying the unstable space between autocracies and democracies, and tending to provoke civil war and gravitation towards one of these two relatively stable poles. The transition in the other direction – from autocracy to anocracy – is considered by the population as a benign change and therefore does not tend to provoke a civil war.
To understand why autocracies are stable, it is useful to consider the position of citizens in China or North Korea. Unfortunately, they cannot do much to liberate their country. Censorship, surveillance, targeted travel restrictions and the banning of even small protest groups from meeting privately, let alone publicly, make it nearly impossible for social movements to overthrow the government.
Conversely, the structure of the vote in the United States, where both candidates attempt to woo the median voter, results in a government in which, regardless of who wins, most moderates are relatively content. Moderates are not interested in overthrowing the government if their candidate does not win, and there are not enough extremists to do so, as evidenced by the small size of violent groups on the fringes of massive BLM protests, and the slightly larger relative size of the rioters. during the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. Of approximately 30,000 protesters at Trump’s lawful rally, approximately 10,000 made their way to the Capitol grounds and only 800 entered the Capitol building itself.
The 800 people who entered the building and the scattered violence of BLM and Antifa protesters were not enough to overturn an election, let alone overthrow a democratic government like that of the United States. But they are enough for the opposing political party to tar their moderate political allies.
Despite occasional insurgencies and revolutions, the entire political system evolves over time towards the centralization of power and is only stopped on this path when sub-units freeze into institutions that deliberately seek to prevent the concentration of power. able. Yet such institutional attempts to prevent concentration usually do not roll back concentration – in fact, they often fail or, if successful, institutions themselves become a means and a new site of concentration of power.
For example, nationalism and patriotism can protect the power and sovereignty of a relatively weak state against aggregation into an empire, sphere of influence, or international institution. Indian nationalists liberated their country from the British Empire in 1947 and are still independent. But nationalism can also cause a powerful state to impose its will on weaker citizens or foreign states. Hindu nationalism in India today is used to discriminate against Muslims. Thus, nationalism is necessary for the deconcentration (or stasis) of power for a weak state in its defense against a powerful state, and for the concentration of power by a powerful state if it is totalitarian and territorially aggressive, and that the totalitarian ruler buys public support through successful military campaigns abroad.
In China, Han nationalism succeeded in imposing Beijing’s rule over East Turkestan (now Xinjiang) and Tibet in the early 1950s. Civil war ensued in Tibet and the Uighurs in Xinjiang, perceived by the central government as disloyal, are currently suffering genocide, according to UN and US legal definitions. These hitherto independent regions are now virtually occupied by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with protests and even display of ethnic or religious diversity being harshly repressed. Nationalism can therefore be a force of independence or domination.
There are many small countries that are very patriotic, but not expansionist. And some behaviors that seem expansionist to some – for example, US overseas military bases during the Cold War – are not motivated by US nationalism or imperialism, as its critics claim, but by an ideological belief in defending the democracy and independence of others abroad, or because by supporting and creating allies, those allies could one day do the same for America.
Similarly, an international institution such as the UN can, according to its charter, protect the sovereignty of states in the international system and the human rights of citizens in repressive states. Or it can be influenced by great powers, including repressive powers, to wrest that sovereignty away from weak states and, through a process of skimming and hierarchical pumping, erode human rights and freedoms in the world. whole system. Nationalism and globalism are not good or bad in themselves, but tools used against or for freedom and democracy. Knowing the difference requires an understanding of the political context and the power motives behind a particular initiative.

Retrieved with permission from The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy & Hegemony, by Anders Corr. Publisher: Toronto : Optimum Publishing International, 2021

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