I - Introduction
In contrast to the insecure, uncertain existential ramblings that all too oft nestle in my mind, political philosophy is a much safer, concise abode for any and every spirit, I believe, for it is based on the very clear, material, specific observations that, in their selective totality, forge a continuum that one might be interested to write down, publish, make known, make available, share, read, think about and feel within. This continuum of thought - be it linear (genealogical), spherical (structuralistic) or even shapeless, as one might be tempted to say of postmodern historical philosophy, is little more than precisely that
: a thought, a position, a status.
I have mentioned in the past that the worst thing that could happen to me is being taken too seriously; in my opinion, this usually marks the beginning of the political construct of a religion, and any number of metaphysical or post-material truths that might be hidden in my original reason are bound to be lost through the daedalic structure of yet another moral system.
A year ago I wrote an entry with some of my thoughts on metaphysics (williamdallwitz.deviantart.com…
I should now rename "On the Political Aspects of Metaphysics", for my opinions on the subject have come through thorough changes. I now recognize metaphysical beliefs in themselves to be at least harmless and in most cases quite beneficial - it is this obsession that we as a social species express when it comes to the establishment of a paradigm that corrupts, dissolves, bludgeons the great value that each one of us can bestow upon the metaphysical truth itself. A truth that, as I believe, is neither absolute nor exclusive, but rather a live, ever-changing part or product of the self, as divergent and multi-faceted as is the notion of a self-identity.
After this necessary but perhaps somewhat elongated introduction, I would like to address the issue at hand, a series of thoughts that I have been knitting around some core concepts for a while. It is, as is the case with every single one of my incoherent scriptures, merely a note, a memorandum, a write-it-down-so-you-can-recall-it-with-more-ease-at-the-future sort of incident. It is therefore neither bound by a strong logical development nor the argumentation that classical philosophy has accustomed us to - it is, in all acounts, a whim, a caprice.
The last thirty years approximately are considered by some to be "years without history". After Fukuyama's strangely progressive taunt that history has ended, through the predominance of western laissez-faire society as the ultimatum in the group development of humanity, a whole array of intellectuals have studied the idea relentlessly and it is now considered obsolete by some. I aspire to add nothing to the work of these people, as this is not my goal; I merely mention that I currently fall within the category of individuals who treat his concept as neither trivial nor overcome, but quintessentially important in determining - or, better, studying - the contemporary essence of society.
I shall traverse this space with the aid of one of Mertens' musical works:
It is possibly essential to note that this was used as part of the musical accompaniment of Jan Fabre's play "The Power of Theatrical Madness" in 1984 and all its subsequent performances. The piece thus establishes a political dialectic, or at least I am tempted to pursue this path in its initial interpretation.
II - Leadership as the Prime Need of Group Formation
We are talking about a society. The very term itself brings to mind not a uniquity or singularity, but a temporal and spatial coexistence, the formation of a group. And this second term presents a very serious problem: what is a group? Or, in other words, what defines a group? What separates it from a simple gathering by chance, a random proximity of individuals?
Let us, for the moment, push ourselves with greater velocity in the matter at hand by referring to Sigmund Freud's analytical work as essential in understanding the nature of groups (this is, of course, an axiomatic approach to the subject, yet I believe that, eventually, every philosophical approach unveils its basic structure as that of empirical perspectives - Kant and Hegel are both called idealists, but their basic acceptances and opinions drastically change their ideas' further development). Thus, his examination of group dynamics yields quite interesting results
[the following extract is non-sequitur but not unrelated to the entire text and has been placed here as a means of recording a relative stream of consciousness]
IV - The Irreversibility of Hegelian Dialectics
I believe that one of the major influences in modern and contemporary thought on politics and the society parable in general has been Hegel's paradigm of the master and the slave, of the dialectic relationship between a dominating party and a dominated party - what is most important is its difference between a domineering and a domineeree. The last century has been overly saturated with various attempts to reinterpret, alter both in details and in fundamentals as well as diminish completely this heavily examined proposition. It is, in my opinion, such a wide, all-embracing concept that the pure indeterminacy of its nature gives it an almost transcendental status, one that merely reinforces itself whenever challenged, one that reappears proudly whenever manipulated, one that silently regains its shape whenever bludgeoned. As such, all major revolutionary events in recent (perhaps also in older) genealogical continuity (in contrast to the vaguely totalistic teleology of historical narratives) have resulted in a reinstallation of this Hegelianism and not its evangelized "extermination", to use a noticeably harsh term.
The state of bipolarity in the master-slave dialectic is not necessarily total - and definitely not fundamentally abusive, from my standpoint; neither are the two positions noninterchangeable or mutually exclusive. They hold such potential in their indefinite stances that they can be applied to almost every and any situation. Indeed, an individual may find many such instances in society, even without the pomp and circumstance of "hardcore" political considerations: the doctor and patient, the teacher and student, the driver and passenger, the one who takes decisions, who proposes, and the one who agrees or declines, the party that establishes a situation and the party that adjusts itself within it. The list is endless.
What if, I might say, we procure a reversal? "Reversals can be entertaining", in the words of Greenaway's Goltzius. If the patient refuses the doctor's remedy, do they not interchange positions, as in the one who establishes a negation and the one who accepts is? If the self-adjusting pole takes an initiative, does it not form an establishing power, thus placing the former master in the position of a slave? It my belief that the relationship is not uniform but can take a great variety of shapes, of forms, of qualities. It is invaluable in its lateral possibilities of greatness that may be realized at any time by the two parties. To be a "slave" is not being, literally, in the state of a war slave. The dialectic takes its best form when the highest level of benefit for both parties is achieved, which, in my opinion, happens at a much more frequent rate than usually presented.
What happens however, one may ask, when it takes its worst form? In that case, the term used would be "tyranny", "totalitarianism", "absolutism". There is a series of benefits for one side whereas the other is inversely proportionate in its boundaries, its pains, its heaviness.
As such, is it impossible for a sense of balance to appear? No, not at all.
Everything in the world is based on every individual's experience. With reference to Kant's famous critical discourse, an empirical knowledge precedes all rules and laws of everyday life in their various appearances, but at the same time works in itself within a rational (sic - for lack of a better term) system of acknowledgement of the real. Reality is, in my opinion, subjective and, as such, there are as many reals as there are human beings on the planet, perhaps greatly more, if we are to take contemporary studies on animal cognition and psychology into consideration. In this vein of thought, society is not a self-serving overstructure; neither are politics, the economy, the sciences, the arts; they all result as a "combined affect" of the relationships between individuals.
And a relatinship may come under stress or be strained, but there is nothing that limits it from a restoration. All that is needed is the combined effort - end desire to such a course of events - of both parties.
As mentioned in part II [note: in actuality it is currently not mentioned, but will most likely be when sector two is finished], leadeship as a concept and leaders as persons are the direct result of the human species' trend towards group formation and organization. The stern bipolarity of Hegel's principle is, I believe, a farce: the citizen is subject to the leader's decision (thus a slave), but the master is subject to the citizen's initial will and later reaction towards said decision (thus a master). Within social bonds, everybody is simultaneously both the master and the slave.
V - Major Numbers and the Concept of Power
The leader is, therefore, only symbolically placed higher than the group. In effect, leadership is the prime expression of power; and power is sacred for it is nothing more than the combined interest of the group. Leaders do not appear and dissolve on their own, neither as part of sinister conspiracies to keep the "mass" under enslavement of sorts (obviously, my personal opinion); leaders are as common as the commoners, and "a person is only as common as their dreams". The leader is basically what holds the entire group together, the lacanian father who acts as a messenger of the great Other.
So, I believe it's not that "people get the government they deserve"; it's that people get the government they want. There cannot be a leader who does not fall on par with the group's aspirations, for there would immediately - or soon, at least - be a revolt; as there has been one, hundreds of times in the past. The democratic paradigm has brought us closer to the initial state of affairs when it comes to society creating a plan for itself: the juxtaposition of powers as connected to numbers. In a sense, it is much more primordial when compared to more elaborate systems such as monarchy or bureaucratic socialism, amongst others; it's expressed as simply as in "we, the many, shall prevail".
Of course there are two major considerations to take into account:
First, there has arised, as a supplement of the original democratic scheme, one could say, the argumentum ad populum, or the popular argument in english: the many are true because they are the many. The same argument in reverse could take the form: the many are false because they are the many. Without falling into the lark of logical positivism (as I believe it is more distracting than useful), I would simply state my belief that it belongs to the realm of the morality of custom, that the accustomed procedure credits the majority for most matters of legislation, especially when concerned with more or less "moral" (sic) values, values of a way of life, values of savoir-faire, values of certain aspects of human expression.
Here I want to add a short addendum: the nature of law is, in my opinion and in the course of this current continuity of thought, that of a violence. "Humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination.", thus Foucault. Law is naturally limiting, it places a borderline and promises punishment, it installs cagebars and frightens with pain. But it all falls within the necessity of development; for it is impossible, I reckon, for an individual to evolve to a fully grown human, a free human, without what Foucault later describes (here paraphrased) as a self-castration power enforces upon itself to ensure its own empowerment, as a limitation of the organism in order to procure its rebirth, its continuation, its predominance over the ravages within time.
Political freedom is, in my opinion, folly. Every "political being" operates within a specifically detemined space, determined by commune desire of course. Freedom is before and beyond politics - I could say that they have nothing to do with each other, as it is neither the goal nor the method of politics, not in its more sophisticated, scientific forms, to provide freedom (protogenous political consciousness is a whole different case). Politics is a tool and freedom is a state that stems from the deepest reaches of the individual soul. Freedom is. The sentence has to stop exactly there. Thus everybody is free, so long as they aspire to.
The second consideration is the development, existence and function of what Foucault terms the "technologies of power". Within such a workfield, the position of the master and the slave can be elongated, their interchange postponed. Within all sorts of rationalized and institutionalized procedures one may find mechanisms that enforce a particular strain of power: education, religion (of all sorts), science, art, all domains hold at least some level of politicisation, what Laibach have come to render in their early manifesto: "All art is subject to political manipulation (indirectly – consciousness; directly), except for that which speaks the language of this same manipulation." (I would like to make it clear that the use of the term "structure" and its derivatives in the following lines does not necessarily or consciously follow the positions of structuralism.) Said technologies arch above the basic formations and actions of political life to form a sort of overstructure, or combined overstructures into a wider spectrum of political perspectives and initiatives, which (overstructures) connect with, influence and are influenced by the underlying layers, "under" and "over" used here with no implications other than spatial.
But there is nothing in the world that disables on from reacting to the technologies themselves! From my viewpoint, they do not constitute the tyrant's panacea nor a particular paradigm's key towards immortality or immunity. They are always questionable, objectionable, reversible and, ultimately, collapsible, so long as one wills to gaze into their mechanism. Even with the most heavy form of correctional processes within political life (a figurative panopticon, so to speak), the reason of their activity and existence in the first place is always, I believe, the majority's desire and decision. If people today feel slaves, I'll let Reich speak for me: "Your slave driver is you yourself."