To understand Empires and Imperialism we must above all understand the nature of Power.
POWER IS AT THE CORE of being. It is the ability of one entity to change another entity. The measure of power is the measure of the extent of that force. A discussion of power follows naturally from a discussion of empire and vice-versa, since empire is a social organization of power which seeks to extend itself and which defines itself largely in terms of legitimizing its own power and extension of power and reducing, eliminating or assuming such powers as are not its own. An understanding of the world is not feasible without an understanding of the powers which create the world. They are the world. This is as true for the social and political world created by our species as it is for the cosmos independent of our existence.
Without power to hold them together entities disintegrate. Without the power to feed itself a biological entity disintegrates. Identity of any kind can not be understood without reference to the power of the entity possessing the given identity. At the very source of life is the “alliance” of R.N.A.and D.N.A. to effect something greater than themselves. The multi-cell organism itself is an empire with its defence system (immune system) and its will to growth, and of course, its striving for posterity through procreation. Scientists agree that a qualification for life is the ability to reproduce. All this necessitates power. Power, which is so often glibly mocked and denounced on principle (all power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely), power is the source and explanation of all life.
There are many kinds of power. There is power of matter, by which I mean lifeless power, the power of the elements of chemistry, of mass and velocity and not least and crucial to life, the power of energy (the unconscious will of Mother Nature). These powers may of course be harnessed by conscious power but are not in themselves conscious. (Power over a gun is a conscious power, the power of the gun itself is not.) There is the deliberate power of material strength – “deliberate” being here used to refer to a chosen exercise of power, a power exercised by life to maintain, defend or extend itself by the use of power. Since all maintenance of life ultimately presupposes the enforcement of certain chemical conditions, and the abandonment of life an inability or a refusal to maintain such enforcement, life itself is literally a matter of power. Death is the abandonment or loss of the will to maintain an identity (matter of power) against the forces of disintegration. Life is the power of an entity to maintain itself against disintegration and the will to reproduce itself through some scheme of reproduction. The life of a being, any living being at all, in time and space, constitutes the will to maintain its identity, its individual existence. The triumph of one existence over another is the act of devouring, whereby one life force steals energy from another and extends its power at the expense of another. The other signature of life is the will to self-reproduce, an act which is closely related to the act of feeding. The will to feed and reproduce are commonly accepted as the defining activities of life.
The maintenance of an identity, whether living or not, consists in a maintenance of a relationship of forces in which the identity concerned holds some kind of “power” in the broadest sense of the word. The expression in English, to “lose one’s grip” to denote a physical or psychological decline, is especially apt, since “grip” is the condition for a steering, viz. a power over things, an ability to master them. We define ourselves to ourselves and to others as what we are by virtue of our distinction and our distinction consists in there being an area of control which belongs identifiably to us. A “distinguished” man enjoys a prestige which is acknowledged as legitimate by others, this prestige provides access to power. The association of power and prestige is summed up in the Greek word Kudos.
A loss of power and a loss of identity go hand in hand. To maintain a living identity requires an active energy or will set against forces which would dissolve the identity. Indeed it may be argued, and was argued by the German philosopher Schopenhauer, that there is no distinction to be made between life and will, that will, in a word, is life.
This philosophy of Schopenhauer’s involves a completely new way of regarding the soul. For Schopenhauer there is no Christian soul, the individual friend of any God; instead of the soul there is the will. For Schopenhauer the will precedes the soul, as he explained thus:
“Bei mir ist das Ewige und Ungestoerbare im Menschen, welches daher auch das Lebensprinzip in ihm ausmacht, nicht die Seele, sondern, mir einen chemischen Ausdruck zu gestatten, das Radikal der Seele, und dieses ist der Wille-”
(The eternal and indestructible in man, which forms his very principle of life, is not for me the soul, but, to borrow an expression from chemistry, the “radical” of the soul, that is to say the Will.)
This radicalisation of the will is the impetus behind what Spengler in Der Untergang des Abendlandes termed “Faustian” culture, since it pits the individual against the world. In the English language, the word for the will and for the denotation of a decision relating to future intention is the same word. But this notion of the independent will shaping the future is alien to the Christo-Judaic tradition, and the Semitic tradition (Judaic, Islamic, Christian, Marxist) as a whole, in which the actions of man are pre-ordained, a fulfilment of destiny, Kismet. Until recently the Western ideology of progress was dominated by a combination of Faustian will in the realm of science with a submission to destiny in the realm of politics. The great dictators of this century were themselves imbued with a notion less of their own individual importance than of their own significance in shaping the destiny of people or nations. They spoke of themselves and their followers spoke of them not as the changers of history but rather as the instruments of Providence or historical will.
From Hegel to Marxist-Leninism:the will of one man instrumentalising the will of the party as the objective historical will of the proletariat and ultimately all humanity). In the “passive” or Magian culture, by contrast, the notion of the eternal struggle between good and evil predominate. In this sense the Marxist axiom “religion is the opium of the people” is entirely consistent with a Faustian world-view. Marlowe’s Tragical History of Dr. Faustus opens with the learned doctor condemning the tedium of traditional learning under the constraints of the world as he knows it. Goethe’s famous opening to Faust I, in which the doctor expresses his world weariness, his reluctance to accept the constraints of nature and particularly Time, and Times messenger, Death, draws on the same cultural inspiration.
Where the will to life becomes the defining urge of man, good and evil make way for other antonyms such as will and inertia, life and death, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, happiness and unhappiness. (Modern Western culture is a hedonistic one in which the accepted ontological antonyms are no longer good and evil but pleasure and pain; according to this the reduction of suffering and increase of ease is the assumed basis of political and moral action.)
The original conflict however, which precedes all these and without which these other conflicts or antonyms cannot come into being, is between being and non-being and the instrumentalising and affirmation of being is power and the external recognition and honouring of power is glory. Faustus of course wishes for power over time, which is ultimately power over Death. Within Time is Space and with Space is Time. The ultimate ambition of Faustian man: to be “king of infinite space”.
The belief that life is a matter of the ambition of the will and the exercise of the will through energy to conquer opposition and organized opposition (enemy), with all its implied moral relativism raises many questions. Firstly, if all values relating to good and evil are relative, is all struggle a mere “game” of life? What is the significance of an enemy? What is an enemy? Is my enemy my evil? Is evil what is undesirable for me in the world? What exactly is evil? What is the purpose of this will to power in any case, seeing that “Death, a necessary end, will come when it will come”? These are questions which preoccupy many Christians, but an understanding of evil or the purpose of power is not only crucial to a Christian ontology. We struggle for power over an enemy. Even the humanitarian is engaged in a struggle against disease, ignorance etc. In the struggle we seek the destruction of our enemy and the enemy is the principle alien to us, the removal of which or whom will increase our power. (How could power even be measured if the wielder of power had no limits at all? ) The enemy is indispensable: a game of tennis without an opponent/enemy is not much fun, more paradoxically still, a good game requires a good opponent, whence the meaning in chivalry of only fighting an enemy worthy of oneself. The origin of life lies in a struggle, and all struggle is an attempt to defend or increase or use power. It can be argued and has been argued, that there is little meaning to the words “good” and “evil”, their being mere concepts referring to that which furthers and that which impedes the interests of a particular being. “Evil be thou my good”?
Evil in many of its manifestations may well appear relative, but in one respect an unqualified evil may be postulated, namely as a lack of respect for life, an unwillingness to “look back at” life, a submission ultimately to nothingness. If qualified evil or subjective evil is the force which hinders me totally, that is destroys/reduces me to worthlessness, then logically unqualified evil is the force which seeks to reduce all life to that condition. Evil can be thus understood as the force of universal deterioration. The will to enhance my own life at the expense of another’s is not necessarily “evil” although it will be “evil” for my victim.
If evil is the expression which men have given to the force of universal disintegration, then in manifests itself not primarily as power or even the abuse of power, but in a lack of respect for the differentiation which has taken place in the universe and which has taken us out of non-being, hence the deeply embedded notion of evil as the power of darkness and goodness as the power of light. Power can only be measured in respect of possible loss and acquisition of power in relation to another force, and this other force is then the enemy. In the struggle of life, the living entities which struggle are seeking to impose their harmony on the world, to make the world a more comfortable place for them, from the breeding bacteria all the way to the arguing man and they can only do so by weakening, often to the point of destroying, something else to ensure their own benefit. Harmony arises out of violence: one of the primal paradoxes of life.
For Schopenhauer (and Thomas Hobbes as well) the world was naturally in disharmony. Human society would escape from natural chaos only by the imposition of strong order, otherwise, as that quintessentially Hobbesian novel The Lord of the Flies, warns us, we return to savagery, from which we are only separated by a hairs breadth. The harmony of human society, which would naturally be broken if free will were allowed full play, that is to say a society in which individual exercises his or her own powers without civil constraint, could only be maintained by strong rule, incorporated in the sovereign monarch (Hobbes) or legislator (Schopenhauer) who represents the supreme secular authority, namely the leviathan, the state. But no individual who has sufficient self-respect to perceive himself as unique can accept total political submissiveness. The religions of the book preached acquiescence to Caesar, whose possible injustices would be rectified on Judgement Day. In our secular society, the probability of such a Judgement Day ever taking place is widely doubted, but the spirit of acquiescence is still strong. What we in the West are acquiescent to, is not so much a person or political party or creed, but the “tyranny of material facts”. The individual has no other certainty than that of his own existence and not his existence as spirit but his existence as the classical body-spirit, the spirit having no life beyond the body. The slave was the animal in human form who was considered to have no spirit, the breath of eternal life, within them. An essential element of the spiritual will to power was the conquest of time and space by the captured spirit. In the Western world today, the spirit is a product of the individual, limited to time and space. In religions which preach the submission of the will, (the very word Islam means “submission”), power and glory is not abandoned but conferred upon God or His representatives on earth. The tyranny of social facts is not accepted, indeed may be violently challenged, but the tyranny of divine facts is accepted, indeed that is the essence of religious faith that it be so. The alternative to asserting the will is submission to the power of facts, the successfully asserted will of something else.
Where the will has expressed itself in a new way then logic becomes the coward. The will to power is life, but what is power? Power is more than might or strength. Power may be the power to inspire, the power to win fame and not least of course power over nature, that is to say the power to change the natural circumstances of our origin and to redirect the course of our development as a species. Issue 5 of this magazine was entitled Where have the heroes Gone?. Heroes fix a pattern of power, even when, especially when perhaps, they ultimately fail. Scott of the Antarctic, King Arthur, King Harold, Lawrence of Arabia, were failures in practical terms: they failed to achieve their aims. It is this aspect of heroism which the modern world, the world which measures all value in monetary terms and only monetary terms, in short the capitalist world, cannot accept. Power and the glory which attends it, is in the capitalist system a question of obtaining power by increasing purchasing power. Money is the badge and the source of glory and esteem today. Even artistic or sporting talents, respected in other cultures, in ours are worthless when not enhanced, flattered and manipulated by Almighty Lucre.
To be sure, tangible wealth is usually considered a desirable reward of power in any culture, but in ours, this “reward” constitutes the source of all power itself. The manner in which such wealth is distributed has little to do with a reward for hard work. Work hard and you will become a millionaire is a myth concocted to maintain the illusion that the system is fundamentally just. It is a question of fortunate circumstances and, above all, the shrewd exploitation of those circumstances. Most random of all is the awarding of wealth to men and women whose sole claim to superiority consists in being particularly adept at dropping, lobbing, heading, kicking or otherwise projecting a ball into or over a net or hole, or those who are lucky enough to chose the right combination of numbers in a lottery, or those who are given financial reward for “hurt feelings” or loss of a job whereby the compensation for job loss is based on the money earned at the job in question, not on the worth of the individual concerned as a citizen, a or worker, proof if proof is needed, of how much more important the financial pecking order is in Western society to its much flouted equity and democracy.
For Schopenhauer, this fact was at the core of the absurdity of life. All virtues are no more than “tricks” created by nature to compel us to continue to strive to live. Apart from the confusion of “life” as an abstract with life in the specific circumstances of late nineteenth century Europe, there is another problem with Schopenhauer’s thesis. If life is ultimately irrational on the grounds that nature provides no rational for the end of power but only for the acquisition and maintaining of it, on the other hand the means by which life is maintained and developed by nature are rational. Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest as the dynamo of species development points not only to the ruthlessness of nature but also to its extreme rationality. The conundrum is: how can the rational arrangement of nature from say, species camouflage to the incentive to reproduce to the “tools” with which nature equips her children to survive, the claws of the lion, the long tongue of the bee, the adaptability of the virus, be reconciled to the irrationality of the whole?
Essentially, the pessimism of a Schopenhauer and after him a Nietzsche was to uncover the dogmas of salvation as preached by the Semitic religions, as what they saw as a wishful thinking in view of the hopelessness of man’s ever resolving the paradox of existence (as expressed between the irrational will of every organism to live and the irrational nature of existence as a whole). For Schopenhauer, the solution lay in the East,-whose religions, Buddhism especially, preached the abnegation of the human will, a refusal to play nature’s game. By denying the will the food of ambition which it needs to thrive, we free ourselves from the compulsions which are the source of the irrationality which lies at the origin of life itself. The major break with Christianity is not so much in the pessimism of this philosophy nor even in the rejection of the existence of an individual after-life, as in the insistence on the unity of all living things within life, that life is the expression of one will made manifest and that this will is not in the least concerned with the individual in time and space. Individual life, including human life, from this perspective cannot be sacred, since all life reflects the divine will, since ultimately life is the divine will. The world is in Schopenhauer’s words, “a mirror of the Will” (Die Welt, Spiegel des Willens).
The extent of individuality which exists in a species is a mark of the extent of the objectivisation of its will. In human beings compared to other animals the will has become extremely objectified.
For Nietzsche, the premises of Schopenhauer were valid but the conclusions echoed the rejection of the world which lay at the heart of the “other-wordly” religions. The destiny of man as Nietzsche saw it was to increase the objectification of the will. Other-worldly religions hindered him in achieving this by preaching the subjection of the will to a supreme will of his own creation, or more precisely of the creation of those peoples who feared they had most to lose from the rule of unfettered will.
Nietzsche “stood Schopenhauer on his head” much as Marx stood Hegel on his head. Schopenhauer admired the indulgence of animals in the simplicity of life for life’s sake, but for Nietzsche, the distance of man from the simplicity of life gives man the opportunity to become something more than animal. The Christian promise however, that man was more than animal (regardless of his merits as man), Nietzsche regarded as a fraud, since it took from him the very thing which qualified him to be something more than animal in the first place, namely his free will. Man had to prove he was more than animal. His superiority was not God- given, but won in battle, the battle of life. These views have been popularised by the Jewish professor Peter Singer in his Practical Ethics which argues the case for euthanasia principally on the basis that the sanctity of human life is a myth. Singer rather brutally equates a new born infant with a snail insofar that neither is aware of itself as a distinct entity
However much we may wish that she were not so, Nature recognises no sanctity of human life and no human soul. These are simply postulates of human religions which believers themselves usually agree are matters of faith and not proof. What we do see from Nature however is that life consists of struggle of one kind or another. Nietzsche believed that whoever had no stomach for the fight should retire from the ring, should abandon the struggle (viz. life) altogether. According to the realistic approach to human society based on an observation of Nature, individual human life is not sacred and cowardice and selfishness are at once natural (because instinctive) yet at the same time unnatural. Cowardice is not an act of self-preservation considered in the perspective of general survival, since it seeks escape from the struggle, the successful outcome of which means more life, the extension of life, the triumph of life.
If the will is the source of being then not a rejection but a total acceptance of the will reconciles us to life. But Nietzsche distinguished between two mentalities, that of the master and that of the slave. The slave is he or she who has lost or never had the will to change life, to form and change life or who never had it. The slave is the subject of destiny, the master is the creator of destinies. The master race is characterised by ambition, the slave race by resentment. The one is creative, the other destructive. This and not good and evil, in Nietzsche’s view constituted the “eternal struggle” of the cosmos. Paradoxically, the will to conquer nature may be seen as supremely natural, empire building nothing more nor less than the impulse to live. On the other hand, the “other worldly” notion of the supreme value of each and every human life in contrast to the life of entire animal species has had the unnatural effect of domesticating the world and as the world is increasingly domesticated, the opportunity for individual courage is diminished. At the simplest level, the green areas of the world are rapidly vanishing. Indeed, the one fact common to all cultures and nations of the world, as pointed out already in Issue 11 of this magazine, and far too rarely pointed out, is the expansion of buildings and roads at the expense of green spaces and the not unrelated increase in the human population-the squeezing out of the wilderness and the confinement of wildlife to parks and socially designated areas. The human individual is no longer called upon to compete with nature as an individual but with the technics which he has created to ensure that nature can be effectively exploited to meet the demands of a rising population, itself the consequence of human technical and medical success. The wilderness has been conquered on this planet, distance no longer a factor in this world which costs significant time and cultures no longer sealed off from each other. Old forms of imperialism are being replaced by new, mainly occult forms with more power to them than glory.
There is a good case for saying that Nietzsche’s belief is widely accepted in our society, the belief namely that ambition is a sign of virtue and resentment a sign of psychological problems. To argue that for all cases the will to power is “good” and a lack of it “bad” is to remove from the notion of morality all religious, idealistic or metaphysical preconceptions, which is what Nietzsche did. But modern society has retained a crucial element of Christian teaching which Nietzsche entirely rejected, and that is belief in the sacredness of individual human life. The dogma of the “sanctity” of every human individual (regardless of anything else other than he or she is more or less identifiably Homo sapiens) in the name of which entire animal species have been and will continue to be exterminated (one case among many: the Japanese White Crane became extinct two years ago, its last breeding grounds turned into chemical-sprayed rice fields to produce food for a few more of Asia’s expanding human billions) and on the altar of which, ironically enough, mankind may make the ultimate sacrifice of himself, is inexplicable without a tacit acceptance of the existence of the individual soul, the “finger-print of the personality”.
The Christian God determined that the soul would be given the right to choose eternal life by rejecting sin. Sin, so the Christians tell us, is a human business, animals being unable to reject or commit sin, and the soul is a human business too, other animals having none. While on the one hand modern Western man rejects the Biblical historical accounts as fables at best, he still believes deeply in the inherent equality of all people and their intrinsic right to as much wealth as they can get for themselves. The wise adage that virtue consists in giving more than taking has been forgotten with the decline of Christianity but the notion of equality before God has not. The result is that Western society believes in the equal right of all to get as much out of the rest of the world as they can. With exquisite hypocrisy Western democracies preach human rights while the Western system is one which reduces the power of the sovereign individual in the name of freedom but what is freedom without power? Ultimately it is no freedom.The citizen of the West has a small and ever diminishing influence over economic and political events. Increasingly he/she is informed of the inevitability of economic and political developments and the futility of trying to oppose them. This writer made the experiment of informing one gullible German friend that European integration would include rationalising the calendar months, which after 1998 would all consist of thirty days. The reaction? Belief and resignation: How stupid, typical, but what can you do?
Inequalities are widening as power slips out of the peoples hands and the gap between the haves and have nots in the next century will widen in proportion to the extent that the personal achievement society does away with what remains of the social ethical constraints of the societies of the past. Everywhere the social state is on the retreat, modern liberalism has taken advantage of the failure of socialism and especially of Marxism to undermine the authority of the state to protect its citizens. In the next century even clean air and health will only be available for cash on the nail. Those without money will be given the freedom to perish. This is the Utopia of Hayek and Adam Smith: the Empire of Lucre.
One of the consequences of the modern code of behaviour is a gradual decline in human intellectuality and speculation in favour of shrewdness, skill and cunning. Power has become less “natural”. It is more and more concocted.
Physical strength even among the under classes does not count for very much these days. Everyone has weapons or lawyers (or both). Holefernes and Goliath, embodiments of brute strength, were defeated by the power of cunning, and David and Judith might well serve as heroes for the modern age, individuals who triumphed over great odds by using their wits to defeat their opponents by subterfuge.
Subterfuge is the most important weapon in the quest for power today and if the straining of the metaphor will be pardoned, money is its ammunition. Ignorance of everything not related to the obtaining and retaining of money is widespread and socially acceptable. Integrity is a luxury which few can afford, since the power of money outweighs the power of religion or morality or any other faith. Poverty in the West is the fate of those too honest or too stupid to evade the dues imposed officially upon them which those equipped with money and wits are able to evade. The new source of power and the will to exercise it does not lie in courage and is not a test of strength or ingenuity in the face of nature. Success is offered to those who single-mindedly pursue their career at the expense of their general intelligence, their sense of civic duty, political responsibility and integrity.
The Western system marginalises its opponents and tries to ensure that they do not reach any position of social or economic influence. Power so far as the individual is concerned is therefore apparently more a matter of personal initiative than it was in days gone by, yet the increasing narcissism of society is an indication of the decline of civil power for the individual. The individual has retreated from civic responsibility and his vacated place of power is replaced by the promoter, the advertiser. Ours is a society of pushers, the power of persuasion. The modern persuader offers the soft option, the reduction of the power of the individual to the power of the consumer, a passive power, a responsive power.
The power supposedly offered by the electronic revolution is of a similarly passive and indeed unreal nature, as left-winger Mark Slouka points out in his timely warning against the isolating, anti-social nature of the internet and virtual reality, War of the Worlds. The social vacuum is filled by the big persuaders. Many persons spend more time listening to voices telling them what to buy and looking at images telling them what to buy, than they do to any arguments of social or political principle. For better and for worse, political parties no longer rally belligerent interest groups, since the masses of the West only grumble, they are not belligerent.
Politics has become entirely subservient to marketing principles. Power is gained by selling the best product or perhaps only the best packaging. Party political propaganda and public relations campaigns are one and the same thing. All address their customers/electors as passive consumers of the message of prosperity and well-being.
Listening to Establishment politicians is like listening to the rival claims of agents from competing life insurance companies. Indeed, is the modern political party more than an insurance company without the benefits of legal obligation for the future which an insurance company is obliged to offer its policy holders?
The big persuaders do not have the big arguments, they have the big money, and thus the power a power which is self-perpetuating and self enhancing. The system has now reached a point that it is almost impossible not to work for it and depend upon it, yet its power does not appear, its power underlies the entire structure of Western life. That power is not ostentatious. Even military power, that most ostentatious of all forms of power, is a matter of technics and computers more than numbers or weight of canon. Military capability is increasingly hidden from public view, increasingly light-weight and long distant. Power lies more than ever before in the legitimacy of ownership, which legitimacy is regulated by money, the legitimated acknowledgement of the power to own, and money itself will soon be occult, no longer visible symbolically as cash, but just a mark on a computer screen. The occult power of the system of the West is rational, appealing to the senses and like all power refers ultimately to physical strength in that money, which is the right to hire physical strength, is concentrated in the hands of the champions of the internationalist system. A notable exception to this is the case of some Muslim countries, whose oil revenue have enabled them to operate a counter influence.
The power of an individual live entity is internal and external. Internal power is to a large extent unconscious. We do not consciously tell our lungs to inhale, our heart to beat. Certain religious traditions do insist on the ability of the mind to will a change in our internal organization however, and in recent years there has been an increasing acknowledgement that the role of the mind in affecting the body for better or for worse has been underestimated in Western medicine. The fact remains that the greater part of the internal power of the body is unconsciously administered.
With the power of the body over the external world the pattern is reversed. Power over matter outside a living entity involves decisions on the part of the entity, decisions which are a matter of deliberation. (Even an amoeba can be observed to make a detour around obstacles, undertake the necessary processes for the consuming of material, and so on.) Scientists have for a long time argued that deliberation by animals is a matter of “instinct” and that this “instinct” was entirely unconscious. It has also been common to Christian dogma to argue that animals have instinct whereas human beings have replaced instinct to a great extent with reason and that reason is a gift of grace.
Reason, so the argument, is what distinguishes us from the animals and is divine. For this reason we are worth more than other species, indeed, according to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, human beings and the rest of life belong to two different worlds, human beings having been given the so-called “gift of eternal life”. The extent to which deliberation involves awareness however is not as easy to establish as many have supposed. Certainly human beings have a greater degree of self-awareness than other animals. Self-awareness of the significance of their deliberation, that is to say awareness of their own being alive and consequently of the implications of their own power arguably constitutes their humanity.
From an awareness of the possibility of power stems the assessment of the chance of extending it. This will to power is the will to life, is at the very core of existence itself, human beings differing from other living beings in the ability as a result of apprehending life of changing their life, of reshaping the world to their will. Collectively we call this our history. Not intelligence, not a replacement of “instinct” (whatever that is exactly) by reason, but an awareness of our history, an awareness that history is, distinguishes us from the animal or the slave.
The power over the external world is extended by tools for hunting for planting, mining, building; but all these activities require social organization. One human individual has less power than each individual in a collectivity. But because the collectivity itself is an accumulation and increase of power, the political question arises of power over the collectivity itself. At this point power is no longer only physical compulsion; it is also psychological impression. Laws, custom, fashion, tradition must be able to exercise a power in themselves, the power of dissuasion (penalty) and the power of persuasion (consensus). There are two core elements of power then: psychological and physical. Both increase by drawing on their own capital, that is to stay the effect of the evidence of power on others is to increase that power. Success creates success, money earns money, a manifestation of physical power evokes admiration and draws adherence to it. Power is to a large extent a legitimization in itself, not least in democracies, where the importance of becoming a “serious” force by achieving a certain power base is crucial for a political movement or a lobby.
A celebration and honouring of a power, the turning of the reality of power into an aesthetic of power is called glory. The right to exercise power we give to authority because authority is credited with greater knowledge or access to knowledge or greater ability to put that knowledge to effect than the one on whom authority is imposed. The compensation of abandoning power to authority is that the authority should shoulder a responsibility in proportion to the authority assumed. The justification of authority in terms of the acceptance of the greater access to knowledge and the responsibility assumed is called legitimacy.
The political question of the coming century is what will be the source of the legitimacy of authority in the world. There are four broad tendencies which can be identified in terms of their claim to the source of legitimacy of power:
1) “Collectivist” The interests of the individual are less important than the collective interest of some group, such as tribe, class or race. The individual is the product of the larger entity and is not isolated in time and space but is linked to that entity in its past and its future. The entity may be politically made (class) natural (race) or a combination of the political and the natural (nation).
Legitimacy lies in the quest for human harmony with certain natural laws.
2) “Utilitarian” The interests of the individual are less important than the collective interests of humanity as a whole as represented in the principle of the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
Legitimacy lies in the quest for fairness and the combating of human suffering.
3) “Libertarian” The interests of the individual are supreme because we only know ourselves as individuals and all collective identities are a kind of superstition.
Legitimacy lies in the legally binding contract.
4) “Religious” The interests of the individual are best served in preparing him or her for life beyond this world. This world is only a testing ground or a preparation or the individual life one of any lives.
Legitimacy lies in the quest to conform to a divine ordinance.
1 and 4 are romantic, 2 and 3 are pragmatic. 2 and 3 believe in human rights as the groundstone of civilized society. 4 believes that life is sacred but not necessarily in human rights. 1 believes that integrity as the fulfillment of duty is higher than individual self-preservation and that human rights are given under conditions. 1 and 3 are “nature based” in that they base their arguments on an appeal to the evidence of observed facts about life. 2 and 4 are “anti-natural” in that they wish to separate human or social order from a natural order by arguing that the human or divine order will improve nature, that nature is in some way “at fault”. 1,2,3 claim at least to be laying the basis for an optimal social organization. 4 may not necessarily make this claim, certainly not in the material sense.
Imperialism, the quest for supreme power which I discussed in Issue 17 of The Scorpion, seeks its authority to some extent in all four elements. Its claim to legitimacy runs as follows: it is a historical fulfillment of civilization (1), it creates social justice for the greater number (2), it asserts the importance of the legal contract and the economic imperative (3) and it often speaks in the name of One Faith which all subjects are encouraged or compelled to acknowledge (4). As the so called “information revolution” has reduced the importance of space and time in limiting power (more perhaps than some geo-political theorists are prepared to acknowledge) the elements which make up this total imperial claim become crucial. National claims to self- determination, for example, are increasingly made with an eye to the world stage, that is to say not in terms of only a struggle for survival or sovereignty as a direct attempt to assume certain political and economic power but also on the relativist basis of claiming the right to be different, therefore as a moral right. This moral right was laid down at the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the Great War which established the rights of small nations in principle to rule themselves, although it appeared earlier in European history, notably in nineteenth century liberal sympathy for national republican uprisings.
What of power itself, what kinds of power are there? How is power manifested imperially today? The power to purchase and the power of information media are subjects which I have only briefly touched on here-they will be examined more closely in future issues of The Scorpion. Directly relevant to the topic of imperialism is the power of the nation or nation-empire. In this writer’s opinion established wisdom over-estimates that power, right-wing conspiracy theorists under- estimate it. It is in major conflict with what A.K. Chesterton called the “money power” an inadequate expression, for which however, no adequate alternative has yet been found, the power of money as an international force and those in possession of it, notably the international banking system and the institutions of the international banking system: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
A conflict which has been running at least since the end of the Second World War, is between the national powers and emerging forces of national conglomerates and the forces working within them for internationalism. De Gaulle was a champion of the rights of the nation- state and later of the nation-empire and believed that military defence at a national/imperial level was a priority for the century to come. His influence is still very strong, especially in France. There are many who believe that a united Europe will become a kind of mini-empire with ambitions to out-bid, out buy and out flank the United States.
There is a tendency all over the world for nation states to move closer to their partners as part of some politico-economic bloc. The Andean Pact created in 1969, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru and Venezuela, then Mercosur, set up by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 1991, NAFTA (Canada, Mexico, U.S.A.) in 1994, which received a fillip from the defeat of Quebec nationalism in the referendum of 1995, the European Union of course, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co- operation), the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity, are all moves in the direction of power blocs which are intended to weaken and ultimately replace the nation state.
The question which is unclear and not yet decided is the extent to which these power blocs will really be independent and how far they are a stage on the way to world government. The Jews in the United States, who, as in Europe, exercise an enormous influence in deciding the parameters of political debate, are themselves divided over this, fearing that while a one world government is desirable in theory, internationalism in practice is perilous (they have never forgotten the UN condemnation of Zionism as “racism”). On the whole, however, they prefer internationalism to the establishment of competing power blocs. When President Clinton sought United Nations authority for the invasion of Haiti as well as for American air attacks on Serbian nationalists he made a significant break with the precedent of Panama and Grenada, not to mention Viet-Nam. Not all Jewish spokesmen are happy about this. Jewish conservative Charles Krauthammer has deplored the subservience of the US military to the UN in Bosnia and articles in the influential Jewish organ Time has denounced Clinton’s “weakness” in kow-towing to U.N. demands. The refusal by Michael New, a member of the American armed forces, to wear UN blue uniform, and his subsequent expulsion from the army for his stand, has highlighted the paradox of the United States position in world politics. Is the U.S. an imperial power, protecting its interests around the world, or is it the main armed force of the United Nations, implementing the decrees of the New World Order? Is there a perceptible US national interest represented in US foreign policy or has US foreign policy become the instrument of the UN and/or Israel?
Many writers, from AK Chesterton (New Unhappy Lords) to Robert Lee (The United Nations Conspiracy) and more recently Cliff Kincaid (Global Bondage) argue that the United States has been hijacked from within by an internationalist cabal, while European theorists of the New Right tend to see the United States as an imperialist nation still. The jury is still out, but increasingly developments point to the first interpretation.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that when given the chance to vote on the matter, many peoples would not be against the imposition of an American New World Order, or indeed any imperial order which they believe will ensure them security and a better future for their children. Only 5% of the population of Puerto Rico voted for independence from the United States when given the chance to do so, Surinam seems uninterested for the time being in obtaining independence from the Netherlands. In Burma, rebels still await the return of the British. The French departments of the Caribbean are the most prosperous islands there. French troops were welcomed in Ruanda and one wonders how many privately yearn for the return of Johnny Turk to the Middle East trouble spots.
Most European citizens are inclined to vote for the security of the United States of Europe when the elite allows them the right to do so. It is otherwise with Russia, whose former colonies are not ecstatic about the idea of returning to an empire known for so long as “the Upper Volta with missiles”, especially as the alternative centres of gravitation offer greater prosperity. The fact is there is more hostility to the American Empire in America, to the European Empire now emerging in Europe, than to those external nations which may become their satellites. It is the American and European middle-classes which will suffer most from the change from nation state to Empire, not Asia or Africa.
China and India and the Muslim world may also develop into such nation- empires. They are seeking a future in which they will be able to supply themselves with their own technology and their own finished goods and where they are able to control their own production, but they are hampered by an imbalance of non-professional workers to professional and a lack of living space. For Japan and Europe the situation looks bleak, since they traditionally rely on cheap suppliers of raw materials. This is especially the case of Japan, which is heading for collision course with China, a collision which can only be avoided by successful investment in and economic take-over of, a large part of the land and resources of Australia and/or Black Africa. (The Sino-Japanese confrontation has been prevented or perhaps only delayed by the divisions in the Chinese world between communist and non-communist.)
Another source of power is the power of the autocratic nation as opposed to the nation empire.
There is a trend today, at the very time that Europe for example is being encouraged to homogenise, to break away from the centre. The most successful and terrible example of this in recent years was Cambodia, where the “communist” revolution was also a profoundly nationalist reaction to the modern world in its entirety. The demands of small peoples for a homeland has all over the world helped internationalism by further weakening its arch-enemy the nation state, at the same time is a challenge to internationalism by its implicit rejection of political and cultural homogenization. At the same time the nation state seems to many to possess little sovereignty in many cases but to be the client of the super powers. There are two widely different interpretations of the failure of South America and Black Africa to improve their standard of living in the last forty years. One, the libertarian, as put forward by writers like Siegfried Kohlhammer in Germany, Paul Johnson and writers for the Libertarian Alliance in England, the Club d’Horloge in France, is that national and social elites in ex-colonies have imposed an impossible barrier between their peoples and economic prosperity, acting as parasites on the nation and hindering free-trade.
The other view, the socialistic one, and argued notably by Noam Chomsky in his Economy and Violence. From Colonialism to the New World Order, is that the rich nations have used international organizations and agreements such as GAAT and the World Bank, to replace the former European colonies for the purpose of exploiting “the periphery”, a system which can be summed up as one of buying raw materials cheap and selling back so dear that the countries concerned are forced to borrow credit at exorbitant rates of interest.
Another factor, tentatively suggested by some Japanese politicians, is that it is not a coincidence that the countries which are now most backward are those with very high Negro populations, the argument being that Negroes are genetically incapable of powering and managing a modern economy and maintaining high per capita income for a broad stratum of a given population. In fact it is quite feasible that all three interpretations have some degree of truth in them. Central planning is no more likely to create a high standard of living in Cuba than it did in East Germany, US supported military regimes in Chile and Brazil have been destructive of the environment without bringing substantial economic benefits to the country (quite the reverse) ; while the backwardness of Black Africa compared to East Asia is now so obvious that the term Third World is widely regarded as redundant, and the suspicion that race can play a role in economic performance will not go away just because it is considered bad manners to mention it. Mauritius is a case in point. Every kind of interpretation has been and is given to explain the economic prosperity of the little island compared to the islands of the Caribbean which it resembles in many ways,, except a conclusion which can be drawn from the fact that its population, unlike the populations of the Caribbean, is predominantly Asian.
At the very time that leading politicians are calling for greater integration into their proclaimed economic and political power blocs, the movement to separation has never been stronger. But should separation be national or regional? For the source of power to be regional, national power must be sapped and this is of course what those who favour a social order with an ineffectual political order will welcome. The future looks grim for the nation state, caught as it is between tribal identity on the one side and imperial on the other. The general mood is for greater identity at local level, with the protection of empire at the higher level: few European regionalists or separatists are fundamentally against a united Europe for example, but most seem unable or unwilling to see the conflict of interest between the independence of their region and the authority of a central European state. But power is shifting from the nation-state to the institutions which for want of a better word may be called the System. The sovereign state, which as the German jurist Carl Schmitt pointed out, had been the basis of Euro-centric law ever since the Roman Empire, began to decline as a result of the blurring of the distinction between state and society after 1848. This signalled the approaching end of the international order known as jus publicum Europaeum. In Der Nomos der Erde (1950) Schmitt portrayed the emergence of a world economy replacing state economies.
The Monroe doctrine was the first major challenge to the Euro-centric order of international law and witnessed the emergence of the first power bloc (Grossraum). President Wilson set aside the Monroe Doctrine in favour of an internationalism which at the same time recognised the rights of small nations to self-determination. But the modern empires, notably Russia and the United States, claimed the legitimacy for their national strength by referring to an international code.
The project, nearing completion (as one wit observed, the arguments of Euro-sceptics and pro-Europeans over sovereignty resembles that of drunks over an empty bottle) of the United States of Europe is thwart with the ambiguity of internationalism versus empire-building. According to Alan Millward in The European Rescue of the Nation State, the drive towards European unity lies firstly in the possibility of greater wealth which it offered, just as the origin of the European colonies can be explained to a great extent by the desire to extend wealth. Economic growth was stimulated by a series of arrangements which involved the sacrifice of sovereignty on the part of the nations involved. Paradoxically, it was the rise in the eighties of a self-confident free- market right (Mrs. Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Reagan in the United States, the emergence of a strong Spanish New Right, powerful pro- liberal capitalist elements in South America, President Mitterand’s abandonment of nationalization in 1983, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc) which acted as a boost to European integration, an integration which could either be the spring-board for further internationalization or for the establishment of a European super-state. Guy Monnet, the financier appointed by De Gaulle as head of the Plan for Modernization and Equipment, the embryo Common Market, told the editor of The Economist in 1950 that his brainchild, the European Coal and Steel Agreement, was intended as the first stage in the “setting up of a neutralised group in Europe”, a power base independent of the super- powers. Idealism was there from the beginning but nationalism was as strong an element in the EEC as it has been in the United Nations. The Luxembourg agreement of 1966, which disallowed majority voting in the Council of Ministers, delayed the destruction of the nation state in Western Europe by decades.
The Common Market and the drive towards a united Europe also owes a great deal to Konrad Adenauer and the rejection of communism. The old Catholic ideal of a Europe of the Faith permeates the European Community and the old nostalgia of a resurrected Roman Empire persists. It is no coincidence that the founding treaty took place in Rome. At the same time, the force of economic liberalism has become so powerful, that the socialistic element of the Common Market, with its subsidies, especially its subsidies for agriculture, may well be swept away. As ex-Marxist French writer Regis Debray has pointed out in writings calling for an independent socialist Europe, Europe is now entering a free market reality behind socialist rhetoric.
The emerging European super-state will be ruthlessly free-market and will brush aside all powers of monopoly and privilege other than those of money. An important element in the cementing of power in an empire is language and the lingua franca of the European dictatorship will be English, not French or German. The dominance of the English language in Europe is a serious set-back to those who would have wished to see a European power-bloc and indicates a decline of their power in favour of internationalism. Mathematically the European Union today represents the largest single unit in the world economy with a nominal GNP of six trillion dollars compared to 5 for the US and 3 for Japan, but where only economic achievement is important, the importance of this will soon fade away, as all economic units give way to the rational pressures for one world.
There is a tendency, as the American sociologist Christopher Lasch pointed out, for the ruling elites of the Western world to move away from moral and political commitment in favour of a “realistic” and “administrative” role in which they present themselves as the managers of the inevitable. The spin doctor replaces the ideologue. The broad masses are not deprived so much of wealth as of power. The reluctance to offer referenda, contrasted with the media hype which is spent on elections; most significantly of all, the decline in participation in elections, point to the fact that democracy is liberalism’s pretext to legitimacy.
Just as in a religious age only the solving of religious problems is of importance, so in the age of economics only the solving of economic problems is of importance. Because the solving of economic, as opposed to political, problems can be convincingly shown to be best solved by opening doors and breaking down barriers until there are no doors or barriers left, so the arguments of our time point as though by magic, to an inter-national solution. As Charles Champetier argued in an article in Elements (Le Peuple contre la nouvelle classe Issue 85 pp 5-10), no one is listening to the palaver of what Lasch called the New Class any more. After all, the modern democratic liberal system has fostered a generation of brain-addled consumers and this generation is as unable to understand the arguments for democracy and human rights as it is unable to understand any other argument. The New Class can no longer persuade because its subjects are too mentally feeble to be intellectually persuaded. They hold the right opinions just so long as those opinions are associated with bread and circuses but no longer. The legitimacy of power of the elites of Western democracy does not rest on conviction, it rests on the appearance of power and security. Who will run to liberalism’s aid, when the house is burning? The quarrel between imperialists of Europe and European internationalists, plays at a high level and does not involve the people at all, who have as a body no say in the running of European affairs. The creation of a European super- state, however it is undertaken will ensure and is intended to ensure the abolition of all vestiges of authentic democracy. It is richly ironical that the peoples most aware of this are those who live in the “eye of the storm”, the Russians and to a lesser extent Americans. An alliance of Russian and American populists with the old capitalist/communist confrontation forgotten and buried, could lay the ground stone for a new world order based not on lucre but on nature. We develop power in response to danger, by reacting to it. We need what Carl Schmitt called the Ernstfall, the moment when our lives are out at risk for the whole, as a means to unite us with the whole, to overcome our inborn isolation. To establish an alternative power-base, therefore, solidarity is needed and solidarity emerges in the recognition of an Ernstfall.
The decline of non-economic associations accompanies the decline in sources of resistance, political as well as economic, to the system in power. There is no point of reference because no association. Equally important, power draws on itself. Power becomes easier to obtain the more one has of it yet power can be offered unexpectedly by Providence and power may depart old acquaintances with little warning. A political or economic crisis may catapult those who maintain alternative systems of power to the fore and give them the opportunity which they seek. A sense of crisis is an ominous one for any established power and crisis is a common word today. Can we smell smoke?
Michael Walker is the Editor of The Scorpion