The average person generally sees themselves as little more than an observer of the larger political, economic, and social events unfolding around them. They hope for the best, of course, as these events will no doubt affect every individual in some way or another. But so many of us, regardless of our philosophical leanings, probably accept a certain amount of determinism when it comes to macroeconomics, macro-politics, and the larger society of which we are a part of and think very little about our place in ever-evolving social stages.
The purpose of this blog, and the next two, are to show that this is not at all the case. We, as a body of people, very much have control over the course of our own political and social development.
A THEE inquiry into the overall advancement of political developments has uncovered certain social stages. These stages effectively describe the ongoing relationship between people and their governments.
It all begins with pluralism, the first socio-political structure in which a certain, relatively small group of people find themselves in control of a society’s resources--wealth, land, divine rights, etc. Plural refers to the fact that many groups vie for power and wealth in society. For some, the struggle is successful--be it the monarchy or the military or the church. These elites consider themselves separate and greater than the “unwashed masses.”
This first stage of pluralism, or privileged pluralism as it is identified in THEE, can be found in many societies today such as Egypt’s military government, but to offer a few well-known historical examples, there is feudal Europe, the priesthood-theocracy of ancient Egypt, and communist Russia. Unless you found yourself among the elite in any of these societies, it would not likely be a pleasant time in which to live out one’s life.
In all political endeavor--which is essentially the drive and action to gain access to a society’s wealth and power--there is exploitation. In privileged pluralism, the elite classes are generally the least productive. They see themselves as the administrators of a society’s wealth where non-elites are the actual producers, be they farmers or artisans or laborers or merchants, and this administrative position entitles them to the bulk of the wealth.
For those vocal protestors who see through the inherent unfairness of the system, there is always an infrastructure ready to quash their voice (police, paramilitary forces, military, etc.). History is rife with examples of this. Google “Tiananmen Square Tank Man” for a particularly disturbing example of this. The elites justify their actions with the need to keep social order and/or their self-proclaimed right to power.
To further maintain their place in power, the elites control information. An historical example would be the Council of Nicaea in the 2nd century in which Catholic officials decided what would go in and what would stay out of the Bible.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Check out this recent example of what I'm talking about--or the fact that if you fly to Beijing and Google “Tiananmen Square Tank Man,” nothing comes up. If you think that the later of the two examples doesn’t happen in Western democracies, fly to Switzerland and Google “Abu Ghraib,” note the number of search results, then compare that to the same number of Google search results in the United States. It’s shocking and the implications are quite disturbing.
Obviously, we don’t live in communist Russia or feudal Europe but many of us live under Chinese party rule, or in Middle Eastern regimes. Western society has advanced through the series of political and social stages. Science, the Enlightenment, and many hard-won battles for human and civil rights, among other things, have brought us out of this primitive pluralism and seen humanity produce some of her most beautiful and admirable institutions and accomplishments to date. We will not go backwards.
However, the spiral circles back around to a new form of pluralism. The only significant differences are that the elite, responding to a population more demanding of their hard-fought rights, have devised more sophisticated, deceptive, and arguably dangerous methods for maintaining power. Western society currently finds itself deeply entrenched in this new form of pluralism. Rather than the elite being composed of feudal lords, a dominant military, secret police or religious authorities, they are now politicians, financiers, regulators, CEO’s, bureaucrats and the like.
The current unsustainable nature of our economic system and the subsequent popular reactions to it are throwing back the curtain and exposing the everyday citizen to the existence of a truly powerful elite and their exploitation of the world’s citizens and resources. We find ourselves in the midst of a transition, with all of the classic markings--the public’s widespread distrust and disenfranchisement, desperate political and economic reactions, money buying power and power buying money, and an impending, inevitable systemic crash.
Tune in next week for what’s coming.
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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