ACADEMY & GALLERY
A Thermodynamic Interpretation of History
The Truth of Nation State
Copyright © 1999, 2005 by Lawrence C. Chin. All rights reserved.
As is said, our task is to unveil the truth or true meaning of the phenomena of Modernity, that is, of those phenomena that constitute the essence of the third stage of history, the era of industrialization. The phenomena that characterize the third stage of human history, the era of industrialization, are commonly and proudly (and in fact strangely) all subsumed under the rubric “humanism,” with overtones of “liberation,” “freedom,” “equality,” etc. These include: the rights of men firstly; “democracy” or more precisely representative constitutional government; monogamy; “the rights of women” finally, or what is called the equality of sexes, which really signifies their rights to vote (and be voted), to representation, to education, to participation in every aspect of public life, and finally to participation in that sacredly male institution, i.e. the military. All of these are today uncritically accepted and experienced by people as “advancement,” as “signs of civilizedness.” Men have, so the uncritical self-perception and self-interpretation goes, at last freed themselves from arbitrary oppression from above; and women at last from domination and enslavement by men. But nonetheless (the ideology continues), the fruit of women’s noble struggle against sexual injustice is always in peril (women still frequently encounter all variants of oppression [discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.] within the public domain into which they enter each year in ever increasing number thanks to their enlightened refusal of tyranny… This is just in USA; in other parts of the world, where the situation of humanity is far less “advanced,” women have not even begun to extricate themselves from enslavement by men and to participate in the public as men do); and constantly do women have to maintain themselves in vigilance, fighting here and there to knock down the last, local vestiges of traditional oppression. In any case, most do agree that the age of darkness (for both men and women) is near its end and the light of peace and happiness, perhaps re-capturing the original paradise lost during the jealous patriarchal usurpation, is dawning.
Nothing is further from the truth. The original motivation for writing this essay was to unveil the truth or true meaning of the “liberation of women” in the Western world. We attempted to model this dévoilement on Foucault’s debunking of the myth of “liberation of sexuality” (again in his Histoire de la sexualité: la volonté de savoir) by subsuming also women’s participation in the public sphere (women’s becoming manly, breaking through their limited sexual role), just as liberation of sexuality, into bio-power as its manifestation. That is, women’s liberation from patriarchal past was to be interpreted less as resistance against power (i.e. patriarchy) but more as the continuous growth of power (bio-power in place of “patriarchy”). But as we began to understand that bio-power was the function of the formation of modern, nation-state out of the older, aristocratic type of society and that nation-state itself was the continuous growth or extension of thermodynamic pressure into the human, cultural sphere, or rather the open dissipative structure of the noo-sphere building itself progressively more complex, it became clear that women’s liberation had ultimately to be based in the structure of nation-state and considered in a single package with all other phenomena of modernity (rights of man, democracy, capitalism, socialism and totalitarian state), with all these finally being reduced to the pressure of the second law of thermodynamics. To unearth the origin of women’s liberation, then, to map out its genealogy (the reference is to Nietzsche’s genealogy), hitherto unattempted, we must first of all turn to a consideration of the formation of nation-state and the origin of bio-power therein, before we can locate women’s new fate together with all the other “stuff” within the framework of the evolution of the modern, nation-state.
We must emphasize our (thermodynamic) approach to interpreting history/ evolution of human society: the evolution of human society is the formation of supraorganism; in the whole process of entropy-increase the open dissipative structure builds itself progressively more complex (from cell to multicellular organism to our “supraorganism”) for the sake of augmented and more efficient dissipation of energy, or simply because there is energy available – nature leaves room – for it to build itself progressively more complex; the supraorganism, i.e. society, a synthesized and coordinated collective of individual multicelled organisms just as a multicelled organism is a synthesized and coordinated collective of individual cells, dissipates energy with its “economy,” the social name for its metabolism and corresponding to the metabolism of multicelled and single-celled organisms; the formation of supraorganism takes place in three stages, corresponding to the three stages of history: tribe, aristocratic, kingly state and nation-state, whose economic modes describe their modes of metabolism respectively: hunting-gathering, agrarian, and industrialization (for the inclusion of pastoral nomadism within the agrarian system, c.f. ftnt 1. of Ch. 1, "The Material Meaning of History"); the supraorganism seems finally to have completed itself (so far as we can know) in the third stage, a society as nation-state based on mass-consumption.
Hence human society in general, as supraorganism, or its most completed form, the nation-state with mass-consumptional economy in particular, finds its justification, its origin, its truth ultimately in the second law of thermodynamics: as the pressure to dissipate the influx of electro-magnetic energy (photons) coming from the sun built up on earth, first single-celled organisms evolved as open dissipative structures to aid the process, then single-cells grouped together to form multi-celled organisms with greater metabolism (or dissipative power) than the equivalent mass of the sum of single cells, and finally these multicelled organisms grouped to form “supraorganisms” or societies that dissipate on an unprecedented scale – simply consider the leap in environmental destruction that has been taken from the first thermoacidophilic bacteria to the contemporary MacWorld. Again the formation of larger and larger open dissipative structures on higher and higher levels (from biosphere up to the noo-sphere) is the function of the extension of the second law into the higher levels, or simply as the result of the abundant extra-energy left over, in the process of its dissipation, for the organism (of whatever level) to build itself more complex and onto higher levels. The leap, of course, is taken in the name of the survival of the species; which has been, before the duty of dissipation endowed on Life by the second law is fulfilled, coincidental with the increase of dissipative power – until the moment of the fulfillment of the duty, at which time the increased dissipative power coincides with the extinction of the species.
The humanitarian “stuff” that so characterize the last few centuries will be argued here to be mechanisms for the formation of the nation-state together with its mass-consumption economy, and so ultimately the means for thermodynamic debt-paying that will in the end result in the extinction of the nation-states (civilization), the human species that built them, and much of the other aerobic life on earth.
The formation of the nation-state and its mechanisms (bio-power and the like)
The origin of bio-power and its masks is to be found in the emergence of the nation-state: a new form of power is coming into being with the formation of nation-state. What are the masks of this new power? Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, or any slogan of the sort that deceives the “people” as to the true nature of the emerging nation-state by putting them on a pedestal. “The new nation is of, for, and by the people.” People as the new God. Down with all traditional authorities: God, king, the nobles, or whatever. People are at last liberated (in the new nation-state). However, things like “equality before the law” and representational government (together with the rest of the humanitarian advances) are the other side of bio-power, mechanisms that help the consolidation and centralization of the new nation-state and enable it to have greater, tighter and finer control of its citizens. The truth is far out in the opposite side of “liberation.” The natural growth of any open dissipative structure, its building its internal structure progressively more complex to accommodate quantitatively greater and qualitatively more complicated metabolism, always implies greater centralization and integration of its internal constituents. As the supraorganism becomes better (self-)integrated, humanitarian efforts appear in it as mechanisms to aid its growing metabolism and self-integration.
Therefore, we need to pay attention to the circumstances in which the supraorganism moves into the next level of self-integration called nation-state to understand the origin of bio-power and humanitarianism.
Just as intergroup competition earlier in the three independent sources of civilization – the Mesopotamian Interaction Sphere, the Chinese Interaction Sphere (5000-2000 BP), and the Mesoamerican Interaction Sphere – pushed the individual tribal villages within each sphere to form tribal confederations and finally “states”, so from 1500s onwards the fierce inter-state competitions within the European Interaction Sphere induced individual states to further consolidate, centralize and integrate themselves in order to extract more power from themselves in the struggle with each other. Intergroup competition always drives the individual group/unit involved (tribes, states, or nation-states as in today’s Global Civilization) to advance into the next level of self-integration (so tribes into states, and states into nation-states) because greater self-integration means that the state exerts more control of its subjects and by virtue of that it can extract more power/productivity from them with which it may beat the other competing states. The essence of the game is state’s attempt to increase its power. So all the European states of the time carried out schemes to make their citizens more docile/controllable and yet more productive. The people’s increase and complexification in consumption and production (or the enlargement of the state’s economy) now becomes the principal interest of the state for, as the metabolism of the state, people’s consumption and production is the source of the state’s power. This is the “true” origin of European bio-power, of bio-politics. It has been said that population increase brought about by the agricultural innovations necessitated the need for regulation of the newly available productivity and increased consumption; that the new prosperity had revealed the possibility of explicitly taking control of life-processes so that famine and epidemics would never again become a threat. But truly, the state’s need for more power to meet the requirements of competition with other states is the motivation behind the state’s initiation of bio-politics.
All “stages” of European history since the end of the Middle Age capture each and progressively a further break-through in the process toward the next level of supraorganismic integration; a further breakthrough in state’s attempt to control its subjects. We may follow William H. McNeill’s three-fold division of modern European history, which seems excellent: “The high civilization of the Far West … has revolutionized itself three times over.” (The Rise of the West; p. 539.) (1) 1450-1650; (2)1650-1800; (3) 1800-1900 (see Part 3 of The Rise of the West). Modern history of the West however took two routes, that is, the formation of supraorganism seems to have taken two routes, which we may conveniently label the French and the Anglo-American.
The French path fits well with the above three-fold division. And it is France which has played the decisive role in shaping the politics of continental Europe. (We might just as well call this route the Continental route.) The second phase of the formation of nation-state (1650) was initiated by Louis XIV: he attempted a tighter control of the populus of his land, created the absolute monarchy, and struggled constantly with the nobility and the local immunities that stood in the way of his plan of centralization, of greater internal integration. This model of absolute monarchy as the mechanism for more effective government (or for greater state-consolidation and state-power) was soon followed everywhere on the continent. The transition from the second to the third phase was marked by the French Revolution. With the Revolution, the formation of this new, centralized supraorganism was carried a step further when the “reforms” removed once and for all the nobility and their legal privileges (the true meaning of equality before the law), instituting representative legislative sovereignty and allowing the government to extend absolute and exclusive control to every corner of the society. (c.f. Foucault, Surveillir et punir.) More absolute than absolute monarchy. Again, Europe to the east struggled to emulate this more effective form of government for the sake of greater power.
Scholarly minded historian like McNeill is sober about the revolutionary slogans of “liberty,” “the People,” “equality” and so on. What is at stake in, and the effect of, a “revolution” is the formation of a more tightly integrated supraorganism that on the one hand metabolizes faster and greater – with its political machine adjusted to its new economic mode, capitalism (whence the French Revolution was by and for the bourgeoisie: their taking over the government) and on the other may, through the augmented metabolism, deliver more powerful blows into the external environment. A more powerful state, a nation-state. For example, McNeill: “The transformation of government and its relationship to individuals… may be regarded as the most important single achievement of the French Revolution” (p. 746). “…the whole cut and thrust of the Revolution aimed at destroying the tissue of legal associations intervening between the individual citizen and ‘his’ nation-state. Such mediate corporations were what the revolutionaries usually meant by ‘privilege.’ Therefore in destroying privilege, the Revolution in effect polarized French society far more nakedly than before between a centralized bureaucracy, which in practice wielded nearly all of the extensive powers and functions arrogated to itself by the nation-state, and the millions of free, equal, and presumably fraternal citizens of France” (p. 748). “It was undeniable that the French had succeeded, first under the republic and then under Napoleon, in mobilizing hitherto undreamed-of energies and channeling them into the service of the nation-state. This aspect of the French Revolution made it a mighty twin brother to the industrial Revolution, inasmuch as each enormously enhanced the range of power effectively at the disposal of Western peoples and government… The theory which declared the people sovereign… made it easy for the Sovereign People through its official agents to demand new services and greater sacrifices from the people severally” (p.747, emphasis added). It’s almost as if people were fooling themselves; but in fact this is a case of the collective asserting its supremacy and priority over its constituents. The collective identified (falsely? But at least deceptively) the interests of its constituents (“people”) with its own interests; it called its goals the people’s goals. Everything the nation-state desired to accomplish became “for the people’s sake.” Put on a pedestal, and posited as the new divinity, the People became easily persuaded to work to death for the sake of the nation-state. Such is the truth of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: greater self-integration of the collective/nation-state (its direct and complete control of its citizens) with which it may extract more energy/power to meet its external pressures (competition with other nation-states). Such then, too, is the truth of “democracy,” or representational government: government of, for, and by the people.
“Without intimate reciprocity between government and public [the essence of popular government] stable administration became difficult; with it, European government could command a much greater proportion of the total energies of the population than ever before” (p.749-50).
“Viewed in this light, the French Revolution looks suspiciously like a renewal of the thrust toward centralization and consolidation which had resided in the French monarchy since medieval times” (p. 747).
This last comment of McNeil’s should not be surprising. (See B. de Jouvenel's description in Ch. 5.) History (from the dead physical universe through the biosphere to the “noosphere” [human symbolic consciousness; culture]) is much more linear than is usually recognized. Leaving insect and certain exceptional mammalian societies aside, the potential for formation of supraorganism out of individual organisms (within the human sphere) since and probably on account of the birth of language (just as the formation of the individual organism out of individual Eukaryotic cells) has been progressive in marching toward its actualization; and it is only natural that the Revolution was simply a latest stage of this “progress,” notwithstanding its contrary (and deceptive) appearance of a “break” from the tyrannical, uncivilized past through a final “enlightenment.” Given the natural sequence tribe – tribal confederation – kingdom/state – nation-state it seems that that evil invention of the twentieth century, totalitarianism, whether as communism or national socialism, is only the next logical thing to grow out of the nation-state/republic created by Revolution: totalitarianism as even more integrated, more “supraorganismic” than the nineteenth century nation-state. While this is correct by our hypothesis, we all know that nineteenth century nation-state or the totalitarianism growing out of it are succeeded by the diffused power structure (laissez-faire) of the British-American type. How to understand this? The British-American type evolved in parallel to the French tradition and is a divergent branch of bio-power; it is the lineage that succeeded while the other failed and became extinct. It is the other route, the Anglo-American way. We should come back to this problem in Chapter 5.
(Perhaps, the Anglo-American model – the American society in particular – is the most tyrannical of all: for not only does the intermediary between the ruling and the ruled disappear, as in socialism or communism, but the two merge into one and the same person: the tyranny of the mass: everyone is the tyrant, or the society the tyrant in general, exercising tyranny upon itself.)
Within the European continent, people often felt betrayed by the course of post-revolutionary politics -- especially that in France. The idea of the "liberation of the oppressed" or "equality of all" which permeated the mentality of Revolution, seemed like a heavy rock sunken into deep sea in the post-Revolution era, never to leave any visible signs at the surface. It would seem that Revolution had failed; hence the fervent proponents of a Final Liberation attempting to actualize their illusory ideal again and again: in 1830, 1848 (the February Revolution: the rebellion of the Parisian poor), and 1871 (the Paris Commune). They would have been relieved from the pain of disappointment had they attained the clear-sightedness with respect to the "real" aim of Revolution, i.e. the advancement in the formation of supraorganism (which always meant further subordination of the individual to the interest of the whole), and realized that the aim had indeed been actualized! In fact, it was because the greater integration of the social collective (the "real" objective of Revolution) had been achieved that all later attempts of Revolution inevitably failed. As J. M. Robert notes: "A more fundamental reason why revolutions grew rarer was, perhaps, that they became more difficult to carry out. Governments were finding it steadily more easy to grapple with them, largely for technical reasons. The 19th century created the modern police force. Better communications by rail and telegraph gave new power to central government in dealing with distant revolts... armies had a growing technical superiority to rebellion." (History of the World, p. 697.) These new technologies for the integration of the supraorganism were the supplemental side to the new, centralized bureaucratic government put in place by the Revolution. The integration of supraorganism proceeded not just on the path of political reorganization (centralization) but also on that of the technological "hardware". The increasing gap in respect of means of power between the individual and the social collective is progressively rendering the former powerless to confront the latter. The new organization of police and the technologically well-equipped armies were the means by which the re-constituted supraorganism maintained its integrity, internally against insubordinate individuals and externally against hostile competitors. The European states during the era of the Revolution contrast well with the contemporaneous China, where the spread of the devastating Taiping Rebellion and the co-occurrence of the colonies of bandit "chiefdoms" that were forming all around the country side were the clearest indication that the Chinese so-called "empire" was far less "tyrannical", i.e. far less integrated than the European nation-states. What was usually thought to be the prototype of "despotism" really had far less control of its subjects than the "enlightened" nations that were formed in the name of "freedom".
Our “genealogy” of women’s liberation will again make manifest the underestimated linearity of history: it will be shown that the liberation of women has not really broken down any oppressive power structure (“patriarchy”); it has not formed a point of discontinuity in history; women’s liberation has overturned the past agents of power as desired by power to initiate power’s re-emergence from its cocoon, as it were: we know that the cocoon is wherein the larva veritably dies and decomposes to leave some embryonic remnants that will re-develop into a new organism of a completely different body-plan; thus this liberation constitutes in reality a straight-forward continuation with (past) power.
We must now turn to an examination of the formation of nation-states in Europe in order to see the above-discussed phenomena of political revolution and bio-power in their proper context. The nation-state is the function of European Interaction Sphere since the Middle Ages, and necessitated by the immense pressure from interstate competition therein. Recall the basic premises of the concept of Interaction Sphere: a state – the internal integration of a group of people – never occurs in a vacuum but always in a field of interactions (economic exchange and warfare) among competing, similarly organized units; this principle, remember, is true of the three cradles of human civilization, or more precisely, of the first human states (Mesopotamia, China and Mesoamerica), and applies equally to the cradle of nation-state in late Medieval Europe. Internal integration is always the function of external interaction.
If nation-state is in its essence an advancement in the degree of integration of a human association (in comparison to the preceding kingship-based state), then a new mechanism of integration – a new form of power – must be available to it for its realization. This new mechanism is, on its political face, the mass-based representational government with its sanctification of the “people”, and, on its social face, bio-power, the continuum of biologically understood life-species-maximizing dispositifs: discipline, demography, and sex-regulation. (Might we add the economic face of power: mass-based consumer society?) Foucault has identified the corresponding mechanism of power in the preceding kingship-based state as prélèvement, symbolique du sang, etc. Bio-power and humanitarian politics are concomitant of this new structure of human association called nation-state. We can come to understand this point by reading Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow’s commentary on Michel Foucault (Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics). Commenting on the contrast in political thought between pre- and the classic age they say:
“Traditionally in Western culture, political thinking was concerned with the just and good life. Practical reason sought to change character, as well as communal and political life, based on a larger metaphysical understanding of the ordered cosmos...”
“A second type of political rationality emerged during the Renaissance and is usually associated with the name Machiavelli… there were no metaphysical considerations, nor any serious attention paid to goals beyond that of the princes’ power....”
“A third development in political thought, usually referred to as the theory of raison d’état [and this is where bio-power belongs]… the authors of the police and technical manuals of the age.”
“The tacticians of the raison d’état were concerned with the state as an end in itself; the state freed from a larger ethical order and from the fate of particular princes… political rationality no longer sought to achieve the good life nor merely to aid the prince, but to increase the scope of power for its own sake by bringing the bodies of the state’s subjects under tighter discipline” (p. 136-37).
This is the beginning of the nation-state. And the budding of bio-power therein. We may note how far it has removed itself from the states first constituted (in the West): the state of cosmological civilizations: ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia; the Ecumenic Empires, still within the cosmological framework: Persian, Macedonian, and Roman; state as a necessary step in the “waiting period” before the return to God, as in Medieval Europe, according to, say, St. Augustine. (In the Far East the evolution of the state, while linear, eventually curves toward the side and so never reaches the stage of nation-state, at the same time that it is not remaining on the primitive cosmological framework like Egypt or the Mesopotamian kingdoms.)
How are the components of bio-power relevant to the goal of the increase of state’s power for its own sake? That is, how are discipline, demographic praxes, and sexual dispositives to aid in the increase of state’s power?
“In the expanding arena of the modern state and its administrative apparatus, human beings within a given domain [i.e. within the boundaries of the state as its citizens] were considered as a resource. The individual was of interest exactly in so far as he could contribute to the strength of the state” (p. 139).
“Human needs were no longer conceived of as ends in themselves or as subjects of a philosophic discourse which sought to discover their essential nature. They were now seen instrumentally and empirically as the means for the increase of the state’s power… the relationship between the new administrative concept of human welfare and the growth of bio-power. State administrators expressed their concepts of human welfare and state intervention in terms of biological issues such as reproduction, disease, work or pain” (p. 140).
“Politics thus became bio-politics… [and there is] the increasing intervention of the state in the life of the individual” (p. 138).
It is now evident that what was happening since the 1500s in Europe was the progressive overshadowing of the state over the individuals – the formation of supraorganism comparable to the multicellular revolution occurring just before the Cambrian Era, circa 700 million years ago, where there was, too, the overshadowing of the whole organism over its constituent cells. The state needed, for greater power in its competition with other states, to extract more energy and more devotion from its constituent members – and this through deceptive exaltation of “people” (as in the government of, for, and by the people) and dispositives of bio-power that created healthy (in terms of biological processes) citizens who had now more energy to offer: discipline created forceful and more energetic but docile and hence controllable individuals; demographic sciences, by regulating population size, reproduction, longevity, etc, managed and maximized the use of this important resource of the state (i.e. the people; the other being the geological resources within the state’s boundaries); and the sciences of sex had a hand in both: such is the essence of nation-state, which, through these means, was able to deliver a more powerful punch on its neighbor. Such is the “progress” from the kingdoms of the past, dark, unenlightened age.
Alongside the population measures of bio-power, there we find at this age, no longer surprised, the proliferation of literatures documenting and taking account of the “nature” within the state: its geography, natural resources, animals… “the object to be understood by administrative knowledge was not the rights of people, not the nature of divine or human law, but the state itself… this required the gathering of information on the state’s environment, its population, its resources and its problems” (p. 137). To succeed in the competitive European Interaction Sphere, of course, “… the administrators would need such detailed knowledge not only about their own state, but about other states as well” (p. 138).
The birth of nation-state, the metamorphosis of the relatively weak monarchies of Medieval time into this new, powerful thing, opened up the era of industrialization and capitalism; this new mechanism of energy-production, or rather extraction, coupled the new energy-extraction through reorganization of population/labour.
“Disciplinary control and the creation of docile bodies is unquestionably connected to the rise of capitalism… At least in France, the slow growth of disciplinary technology preceded the rise of capitalism – in both a temporal and a logical sense. These technologies did not cause the rise of capitalism but were the technological preconditions for its success” (p. 135).
“The emergence of this political era [i.e. bio-politics; but may we add: mass government] is obviously related to major economic and demographic changes, above all the rise of capitalism” (p. 138).
Politics, or the form of power, i.e. either the positively intervening bio-power or the negative, prohibitive power of prélèvement, is never separable from its correlative economic form: positive power correlative with the mass, consumer, capitalistic system and the old, negative power with the élite consumer system with its concentration and redistribution of resources. A state able to deliver more powerful punch on its neighbors, the nation-state, implies within its very structure the more intensive, mass consumer economy (making higher metabolic rate for the supraorganism) and the greater internal integration (the new supraorganism) by which the state achieves stricter control and maximal exploitation of its citizens, both mediated through mass- and bio-politics. This new supraorganism is the product of interstate competitions in the European Interaction Sphere, 1500- 1945.
The Reason of the State (Raison d'État)
It is the pressure from interstate competition which has created this “state” as an end in itself or for its own sake – the essence of human society as a supraorganism. The state as an end in itself means “bureaucratization” or the mechanization of the state-apparatus into an impersonal machinery that engulfs the human beings that have created it merely as its cogs. This is what Max Weber has described:
Sachlich, “ohne Ansehen der Person”, “sine ira et studio”, ohne Hass und daher ohne Liebe, verrichtet der bureaukratische Staatsapparat und der ihm eingegliederte rationale homo politicus, ebenso wie der homo oeconomicus, seine Geschäfte einschliesslich der Bestrafung des Unrechtes gerade dann, wenn er sie im idealsten Sinne der rationalen Regeln staatlicher Gewaltordnung erledigt. Auch er ist daher kraft ihrer Verunpersönlichung einer materialen Ethisierung, so sehr der Anschein für das Gegenteil besteht, in wichtigen Punkten weniger zugänglich als die patriarchalen Ordnungen der Vergangenheit, welche auf persönlichen Pietätspflichten und konkreter persönlicher Würdigung des Einzelfalles gerade “unter Ansehung der Person” beruhten. Denn der gesamte Gang der innerpolitischen Funktionen des Staatsapparates in Rechtspflege und Verwaltung reguliert sich trotz aller “Sozialpolitik” letzten Endes unvermeidlich stets wieder an der sachlichen Pragmatik der Staatsräson: an dem absoluten… Selbstzweck der Erhaltung (oder Umgestaltung) der inneren und äusseren Gewaltverteilung. Erst recht galt und gilt dies für die Aussenpolitik. (Zwischenbetrachtung, Religionssoziologie, p. 546 – 7.)
In the matter-of-fact manner [i.e. mechanically], “without regard to the person,” sine ira et studio, and without hate and therefore without love, the bureaucratic state apparatus, and the rational homo politicus integrated therein, execute, just as the homo oeconomicus, its business thusly, including the punishment of unrighteousness, when they discharge this business in the most ideal sense, according to the rational rules of the authoritative-coercive order of the state. On account of its impersonalization, it [the bureaucratic state] is, however many appearances may point to the contrary, in important points less accessible to material ethicalization than were the patriarchal orders of the past, which were based on the personal obligations of piety and the concrete personal evaluation of the individual cases precisely “with regard to the person.” For the whole course of the inner political functions, in justice and administration, is in the final analysis regulated, despite all “social welfare policies,” repeatedly and unavoidably by the objective pragmatic of “the reason of the state”: by the absolute end-in-itself of the maintenance (or the transformation) of the internal and external distribution of power. This has held and still holds even more so for foreign policy. (Trans. altered from Gerth and Mills’, “Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, p. 333 – 4.)
In other words, the “purpose” of the state is its existence or survival as a supraorganismic unit against whatever contrary wishes there may be among its internal constituents (i.e. independent of the wishes of the human beings composing it: whether they like it to continue its existence or not) and among other supraorganismic units comparable to itself in the interaction sphere (i.e. in the ecological environment proper to them all). Therefore:
Der appell an die nackte Gewaltsamkeit der Zwangsmittel nach aussen nicht nur, sondern auch nach innen ist jedem politischen Verband schlechthin wesentlich. Vielmehr: er ist das, was ihn für unsere Terminologie zum politischen Verband erst macht: der “Staat” ist derjenige Verband, der das Monopol legitimer Gewaltsamkeit in Anspruch nimmt, -- anders ist er nicht zu definieren. (Ibid.)
The appeal to the naked violence of coercive means not only toward the outside but also toward the inside is essential to every political association. It [this appeal to violence] is rather what makes something a political association in our terminology: the state is that association which claims the monopoly of legitimate use of violence – otherwise it cannot be defined.
The monopoly of legitimate violence defines the singularity or unity of the association, i.e. as a single organism, that is, as a supraorganism. A person is a unity and not, say, two organisms merely joined together because he or she has one will, and strikes upon the other – or clears up the virus and foreign bacteria in his or her own body through the immune system – in accordance with this singular will: he or she possesses a monopoly of the use of force, among all the singular cells making him or her up. If this person’s upper body decides to strike someone else and yet his or her lower body runs away, then he or she is effectively two persons: there is no monopoly of the “coercive means.” Neither is the person “one” if the different parts of his or her body have the means to war with one another. The state asserts this monopoly by, for example, forbidding its citizens to possess arms. Thus this monopoly necessarily implies the priority of the collective over the individual. That in a nation-state, unlike in ancient tribal times, one cannot take the law into one’s own hand and kill whoever has earlier injured one’s family members, but that one must depend on the state’s police and legal system for revenge (for “justice”), refers just to this monopoly of violence by the state in its internal sphere.
Dem: “Widerstehet nicht dem Uebel mit Gewalt” der Bergpredigt setzt er das: “Du sollst dem Recht auch mit Gewalt zum Siege verhelfen, -- bei eigener Verantwortung für das Unrecht” entgegen. Wo das fehlte, da fehlte der “Staat”: der pazifistische “Anarchismus” wäre ins Leben getreten.
Gewalt und Bedrohung mit Gewalt gebiert aber nach einem unentrinnbaren Pragma alles Handelns unvermeidlich stets erneut Gewaltsamkeit. Die Staatsräson folgt dabei, nach aussen wie nach innen, ihren Eigengesetzlichkeiten. Und der Erfolg der Gewalt oder Gewaltandrohung selbst hängt natürlich letztlich von Machtverhältnissen und nicht vom ethischen “Recht” ab, selbst wenn man objektive Kriterien eines solchen überhaupt als auffindbar ansieht. (Ibid.)
In opposition to the Sermon on the Mount “Resist not evil with violence” the state enjoins “You shall help the right to triumph with violence – otherwise you too may be responsible for injustice.” Where this is lacking, so the state is lacking: the “anarchism” of the pacifists will then come to life.
Force and the threat of force however breed, according to an inescapable pragmatism of all actions, unavoidably more force. The “reason of the state” follows, therefore, internally as well as externally, its own laws. The very success of force, or of the threat of force, depends naturally ultimately on power relations and not on ethical “right,” even if one believed it possible to discover the objective criteria for such “right.”
This leads to the impersonalization and mechanization of the coercive mechanism (internal: police; external: military) of the state. Externally, the interaction sphere of the states itself becomes mechanized and impersonalized, much like the biosphere where lions prey on deer because they can – because the mechanism for this exists – and not because it is right to do so. Hence it is once said by a certain French political leader, “Nation [-state]s have no friends; they have interests.”
Earlier Weber speaks of the same impersonalization and mechanization of human relationships in the modern economic cosmos which accompanies the nation-state as its metabolism: the fruition of the full-potential of money, as “money is the most abstract and most impersonal thing there is in human life.” (“Geld is das Abstrakteste und ‘Unpersönlichste’, was es im Menschenleben gibt”; p. 544.) By reducing everything, even human actions (labor, artistic creativity, etc.) – though not human beings themselves, since the very humanitarian ideology which impersonalizes human life in the service of nation-state forbids the sale of human beings; but only because human beings have already been reduced to their quantifiable productivity and consumption – to quantitative evaluation – a common denominator – money renders everything in life interchangeable and so nothing therein particular, “personal,” inexchangeable. Impersonalization and mechanization of life in nation-state with respect to both the political and economic aspect. Mechanization makes the system more efficient and far more “stable.” Later we will learn how what have been worshipped as the apex of humanitarianism in a democracy, such as “the separation of power,” “checks and balances,” and even the “Constitution” in American democracy, are in fact not about human freedom but are just ingenious devices for the mechanization of political processes, which makes the American government the most “stable” in human history.
Finally, don’t let the foregoing description of the political and force-exerting (militaristic and police) aspect of the state as a supraorganism overshadow its metabolic aspect. A state goes to war, ideally, to either rob another state of its wealth and resources – so that it may consume and defecate more – or to attain “peace”, i.e. the condition under which it can consume and defecate normally. Foremost, a state is an open dissipative structure, not a warrior. That is, despite the fact that nations do not always go to war in a rational manner – the failure of the Angellist doctrine: that they do go to war for reasons such as saving face, in contradiction to their natural interests in self-preservation1 – they however usually fight one another in order to control the resources they need for their survival: i.e. precisely for the sake of self-preservation. And just as, in the case of advanced organisms such as human beings, the fact that, for most of the time, their life is characterized by “higher functions” – people want to be somebody and make something out of themselves in a search for the meaning of life – does not change the fact that the ultimate meaning of their existence consists in the “lower functions” – eating, defecating, and reproducing – even if the former fact far too often obscures the latter fact, especially when people die for abstract ideals or love, i.e. terminate their chances for lower functions for the sake of fulfillment of higher ones; so, in the case of nations, the fact that they always have some higher ideals to invest themselves with in order to justify their existence – kingdoms or empires embodying the will of the Ancestors or God or modern nation-states as the final incarnation of justice, freedom and human rights – should not divert our attention from the more fundamental fact that they really exist simply to consume resources and then dissipate these as environmentally destructive waste matter.
The “Reason of the State” thus does not consist simply in the mechanization of the state-apparatus in complete independence of the human beings composing it, but at bottom means that states as supraorganisms ultimately are here to “consume and defecate” – until they die – and nothing more. As we will see in more detail later (Chapter 6.C. "The Progressive Bildung of Open Dissipative Structure"), nation-states as thermodynamically constrained supraorganisms (order systems that maintain their order by taking in energy and order and dissipating these afterwards in disordered form) take in petroleum and other commodities (such as iron, copper, etc.) as the nourishment providing them with the needed energy for metabolism and the needed material for the construction and replacement of their structural parts, just as aerobic multicellular organisms take in oxygen and food as the needed nourishment. Such “Reason of the State” as the evolutionary goal of all modern nation-states in fact renders intelligible all contemporary international relations, from the unwielding behavior of the “rogue” states to the behavior of even such a contemporary nation-state as the American republic whose “fascist” tendencies and aggressive foreign policies would otherwise appear paradoxical, i.e. in seeming contradiction to the spirit and tradition on which this nation was founded. The principal reason (not the only) for which the American republic goes around the world conducting its “war against terror”, for example, is to maintain control of the global distribution system of petroleum that it has set up since World War II, against the newly emergent China which attempts to cut in as required by its massive industrialization (the modernization of its metabolism): the United States is in competition with China for oil. (Of course the war has nothing to do with terrorism or spreading democracy and freedom, though it does have something to do with spreading free-market economy as a secondary motive.) Moreover, something like the Wolfowitz Doctrine that we hear about – that “the goal of American foreign policy in the post-Soviet era [is] to maintain an overwhelming global dominance to prevent ‘potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role’… that “the crushing of any possible rival must be the ‘dominant consideration,’ as the U.S. strives ‘to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would … be sufficient to generate global power’”, e.g. China… that, finally and in addition, America’s global hegemony is to proselytize the world with the “'single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.' In other words, the American Way” (Pinkerton, ibid.) – is just a straightforward manifestation of the Reason of the State, that the goal of the State is to become larger and larger and more and more powerful externally and internally (hence domestic surveillance and control of its population and global hegemony over other nations) and to consume more and more resources and "defecate" more and more waste matter (free enterprise and consumer market economy for which freedom and democracy are the dispositifs).
The state as a supraorganism that has fulfilled its “reason” (the nation-state) of course does not care about its “people”, just as a person does not care about this one cell here or that one cell there of his or her body. The state can be entirely concerned only with its “head”, caring about the self-preservation not of its entirety but only of the government which runs it, just as a person can be so engulfed in the fulfillment of his or her psychological needs (located solely in his or her brain) that he or she is willing to sacrifice parts of his or her body or even life entirely in order to satisfy these. The contemporary North Korea serves as an illustration. The nation's uncompromising behavior (insisting on declaring itself a nuclear power to ward off enemies; absolute refusal to liberalize its politico-economic structure despite the near-breakdown of its metabolism which the socialist system has entrained -- a famine that has killed off one-tenth of the population, the lack of electricity to light up cities and run transportation system, etc.) can probably prolong the life-span of the ruling regime, but at the risk of causing considerable damage to the supraorganism as a whole and weakening it permanently. Here we find the reason for the aforementioned irrational ways in which nations go to war: an incomplete identification between the identity of the supraorganism and its body, when that identity rests entirely in the “head function”. (Mass tyranny -- to be seen later -- is then the fulfillment of such perfect identification.) In the next chapter we will learn how feminism has emerged as a function of this "Reason of the State" -- to help the supraorganism become more powerful and metabolize more intensely.
1. James P. Pinkerton in “Superpower Showdown” (The American Conservative, Nov. 7, 2005): "In the 20th century, the greatest updater of Montesquieu’s views was Sir Norman Angell, whose 1910 book, The Great Illusion, boldly declared that war was obsolete. 'The warlike nations do not inherit the earth,' he maintained. 'They represent the decaying human element.' Angell’s argument -- that nations connected to each other by market economics have no choice but to co-operate with each other on politics—struck a resounding international chord. His book was translated into 25 languages, selling more than two million copies. It even gave rise to 'Angellism,' a body of thought holding that 'military and political power give[s] a nation no commercial advantage.' Indeed, Angell concluded, 'It is an economic impossibility for one nation to seize or destroy the wealth of another, or for one nation to enrich itself by subjugating another.' In many ways, of course, he was right: it didn’t make economic sense for countries to go to war against each other. Nevertheless, they did go to war. The Angellists failed to understand that countries fight over perceptions of slight, as well as regard for status. For all the alleged hardnosedness involved in planning for war, actually going to war is rarely a rational decision."
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