Sunday, 22 November 2015

Machavelli & Dynamics of Power

A re-posting of an earlier piece.

Earlier short piece on Machiavelli here. Machiavelli is famous for writing in The Prince on the prudent methods a political ruler must use in order to attain, maintain and strengthen his political power. The very idea that 'Machiavellian' refers to some exceptional and cynical mode of political behaviour rather than a reflection of the norm would presumably have been incomprehensible to Machiavelli, as rather than an instigator of some new ruthlessness, he is simply an observer and adviser of strategy within this field of human conduct and invariably conflict. That politics is a strategical game with the ends being raw power, and since there is nothing moral about power then this is a value that has no meaningful place within this game, just as for instance goodness has nothing to do with breaking a land-speed record. So more or less goes the thinking. The means reflect the ends, and by simple cause and effect the ends are determined by those means.

Politics however, unlike the land-speed record and most other 'games', is not self-enclosed, directly affects the wider world, and so this amorality, or often immorality- if we permit the existence of a moral universe - is a very serious issue, and it's best for those liable to be affected by the actions of its players, which is to say all of us, to realise that such a game is being played in the first place and to have some idea of its modus operandi. These participators in the game would consider themselves realists, and to the highest degree, but just because some have decided to set boundaries on what constitutes reality and conduct within it, doesn't mean this has any truth beyond the minds of those believing it to be so. Though as said, Machiavelli when expressing the desirability of deviousness and ruthlessness as practices within this 'game' is simply reflecting a reality rather than particularly instigating anything new.

Once however Machiavelli has given his views in his book of ideal if general method, these notions of best practice enter more profoundly into the world of politics as conscious general method to be emulated, rather than as accidental and intuitive understandings by various individuals in particular circumstances. The Prince is also a lens through which the more disinterested observer can look upon historical and present-day realities and discern the methodology behind 'random' events, unseen by the unsuspecting and gullible.

And so the idea that 'Machiavellian' refers to some unusual form of political practice rather than the norm is either an instance of uneducated naivety, or itself an instance of Machiavellian duplicity by those playing the game - that, as a virtual matter of course, at the other end of government is someone or body of people acting to cement and increase their power over their subjects. As quoted in the earlier short piece, "the people are everywhere anxious not to be dominated or oppressed by the nobles, and the nobles are out to dominate and oppress the people." This tension is for Machiavelli an unquestionable, fundamental truth. The ruling elite will always want to oppress the people, to further their control, and by simple logic the ultimate desired destination is absolutism, the totalitarian state. This leap to absolute power is dangerous for the rulers however, as the people are great in number and have no wish to be the subjects of outright tyranny. To excessively act on this urge for such total mastery is to gamble with what they already possess.

Principalities usually come to grief when the transition is being made from limited power to absolutism. Princes take this step either directly or through magistrates.

At the moment in the comparatively free West, it is via the use of the magistrates, or legal 'reform', that the desired movement towards absolutism is being conducted, but this must be justified, if noticed at all by the people, by deception: because of say a perceived external threat, intentionally created or/and hyped up by the nobility's means of public propaganda. He writes:

We must distinguish between....those who to achieve their purposes can force the issue and those who must use persuasion. In the second case they always come to grief, having achieved nothing; when however they can force the issue, then they are seldom endangered.
The populace is always fickle; it is easy to persuade them of something but difficult to confirm them in that persuasion. Therefore one must usually arrange matters so that when they no longer believe they can be made to believe by force.

So they must be made to believe what the rulers want them to believe, which is the necessity of an increase in centralised state power. But greater forces than persuasion must be used. Persuasion simply appeals to the limpid reason. To be made believe by force the far more powerful, primal aspects of human nature must be attacked and harnessed - fear and hatred. And so the application of this being, for example, the Gladio network of terror earlier described here, on which the BBC did a detailed 3-part documentary. In the words of its director, Allan Frankovich:

This BBC series is about a far-right secret army, operated by the CIA and MI6 through NATO, which killed hundreds of innocent Europeans and attempted to blame the deaths on Baader Meinhof, Red Brigades and other left wing groups. Known as 'stay-behinds' these armies were given access to military equipment which was supposed to be used for sabotage after a Soviet invasion. Instead it was used in massacres across mainland Europe as part of a CIA Strategy of Tension. Gladio killing sprees in Belgium and Italy were carried out for the purpose of frightening the national political classes into adopting U.S. policies.

As one of the key pariticipants in the Gladio network describes in the documentary, methods included not just by perpetration of acts and blaming them on others, but also infiltration of these groups, and leading them to perpetration of the desired terrorist acts. People who imagine themselves to be well-informed about political realities continue, however, in their naivety to consider such simple tactics of control as mentioned by Machiavelli to be the province of the mentally unhinged, to be conveniently scorned and without differentiation as "conspiracy theories."
Machiavelli also says, and he makes no moral judgement here, simply states as a fact:

Princes who have achieved great things have been those who have given their word lightly, who have known how to trick men with their cunning, and who, in the end, have overcome those abiding by honest principles.
Because all men are wretched creatures who would not keep their word to you, you need not keep your word to them.
One must know how to colour one's actions and to be a great liar and deceiver. Men are so simple, and so much creatures of circumstance, that the deceiver will always find someone ready to deceive.

This low, depraved notion of humanity is perfectly normal amongst those living within this field of life, as naturally enough for those within this reality, such is a kind of norm. They are realists within their domain. Across all fields the perceiver himself is central to that which is perceived, and the individual is simply making of his debased self a general rule of humanity. Thus the influential thinker within the American neo-conservative movement, Leo Strauss, mirrors Machiavelli: "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed." Conscience presumably is never wholly absent in anyone, so even these manipulators must convince themselves of their realism and virtue.

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