On Power: The Natural History of its Growth, Bertrand de Jouvenel.
The spectacle presented by modern society is that of an immense state apparatus – a veritable complex of moral and material controls by which individual actions are conditioned and around which private lives take shape.
This is the way de Jouvenel describes our existence in “modern society”; if this isn’t hideous enough…
The result is that, when we consider the sum of the services it renders us, the bare idea of its disappearance throws us into such a fright that an apparatus in such close communion with society naturally seems to us to have been made for it.
He describes this as the dialectic of command, using perhaps the least-familiar definition of the word: the dialectical tension or opposition between two interacting forces or elements. In this case, our desire to be free of Power dictating many details of our life in opposition to our fear of being free of this.
We are taught that we are freer today – under democracy and enlightened political leadership, with legislation replacing common law and tradition – than man has been at any time in history. Yet, from what time in western history might a man come to our age and proclaim “you live free, under good law”? I suggest that rare would be the case.
It follows that the state is in essence the result of the successes achieved by a band of brigands who superimpose themselves on small, distinct societies….
There was a time when the conquered people were slaughtered; lands and possessions were the objective. This came to change when it was discovered that there was more wealth to be had in the labor of the living.
Power of this kind can make no claim to legitimacy. It pursues no just end; its one concern is the profitable exploitation of conquered and submissive subjects.
The wars are for control of the people – not the oil, not the natural gas, not Israel. The single most valuable renewable resource: human capital. This is the concern of Power.
Of course, things could be much worse; what if they decide that we, the subject populations, are no longer useful to them?
If they could not be made useful in this way, there would be no point in leaving them alive.
What a hideously immoral phenomenon, you tell me.
Take a deep breath; de Jouvenel offers a light at the end of the tunnel:
Wait a little. For here is an admirable case of time’s revenge: the egoism of command leads to its own destruction.
We have seen this truth too many times in history for it to be ignored. Events of the last few years – and even the last few weeks (and even days) – are clearly markers of the destruction of the current Power.
We are witness to de Jouvenel’s “light at the end of the tunnel.” While we will live through many bumps before emerging, I remain comfortable in believing it is not a train!