Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Walter E. Grinder and John Hagel III
Fifty-five years ago, Alexander Rüstow published the first of three volumes in his classic work with the rather nondescript title of Taking Bearings on the Present. It remains today one of the most powerful statements of historical sociology in the classical liberal tradition. Although the full original work has never been translated from the German, Princeton University Press published in 1980 a one volume edited translation of Rüstow’s work under the much more compelling title of Freedom and Domination.
This is a book with extraordinarily rich insights from a classical liberal perspective – one that could shape promising research agendas for many younger scholars - yet it remains largely neglected in the social science disciplines. As a catalyst for research, Rüstow’s book could also help to address two of the key weaknesses of the current classical liberal movement – its relative lack of depth in history or sociology.
Rüstow, a distinguished sociologist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany when he published his three volume work, had spent 16 years of his academic life in political exile from his native Germany at the University of Turkey in Istanbul. During his exile, he developed friendships with many leading Austrian economists, including Hayek, Mises and Röpke – in fact, he singles out Röpke as one of the major catalysts for writing his magnum opus.
Experiencing World War I firsthand as a lieutenant in the German army and then witnessing the rise of Hitler, Rüstow was not a detached academic. In the Foreword to his book, he makes his position clear:
. . . I affirm freedom and reject domination, I affirm humaneness and reject barbarism, I affirm peace and reject violence. These pairs of opposites are the great poles between which the drama of human history is enacted.
This in fact, is one of the powerful themes of Rüstow’s perspective: history represents a continuing struggle between these pairs of opposites. Rüstow does not advance a dialectical view of history; instead, like Proudhon, he describes antinomies. History does not unfold smoothly, but instead represents an ebb and flow between these opposites, shaped by ongoing struggle. Rüstow repeatedly resorts to words like combat, battle and conflict to characterize the historical landscape. The opposites are not just ideas, this is not just intellectual history – lives and freedom are literally at stake.
Rüstow looked to history to better understand the present and he sought this understanding to support the struggle for freedom. His goal was to understand the origins of the tyrannies that defined his era so that the forces of freedom could be more effective in resisting domination. Although his discipline was sociology, Rüstow believed passionately that understanding of today’s social formations hinged upon a deep understanding of history: “a culture can be fully understood only by tracing its historic roots.” In fact, Rüstow maintained that
. . . a “radical” critique of civilization and reassessment of our cultural self-consciousness – that is, a critique and reassessment going to the very roots - . . . must take its starting point precisely from this origin of civilization and from the circumstances surrounding it.
In Rüstow’s eyes, conquest played a fundamental role in the rise of the state. He employed the term “superstratification”, attributing the origin of the concept to the great Arab sociologist Ibn Khaldun and acknowledging the role of Augustin Thierry, Ludwig Gumplowicz and Franz Oppenheimer, among others, in developing the concept. Superstratification, in Rustow’s eyes, occurs whenever an invader occupies the same geographic space as an invaded population. This produces “human social groupings that, in their inner structure, were based on bloodshed and violence.” Whereas in earlier eras communities banded together and fought other communities, superstratification turns bloodshed and violence inward.
In the process, it permeates and reshapes all elements of society: “the division of the social body into two strata, its cleavage into rulers and ruled, is a permanent source of internal tension and unrest. . . . [it] has a distorting, destructive, and disintegrative effect on the natural communities affected by it . . .” The struggle between the twin forces of community and conquest lead to a host of pathologies including atomization and alienation on the one hand and what Rüstow describes as “pseudointegration” on the other hand – artificial efforts to bring people together, as in the efforts by rulers to artificially nourish and intensify hatred against external (and often internal) “enemies”.
One of the consequences of superstratification is economic exploitation:
It is clear that the “aristocratic” morality of the superstratifying upper class disparaged and despised work – especially manual labor – directly related to earning a living. . . . Indeed, the most important economic aim and practical effect of superstratification is to spare its bearers the drudgery of performing any remunerative work and to shift such activity on the subjugated strata.
To better understand superstratification, two important works provide a useful complement to Rüstow: John H. Kautsky’s The Politics of Aristocratic Empires discussing the persistence of exploitative relationships between aristocrats and peasants and Arno J. Mayer’s The Persistence of the Old Regime exploring the continuing domination of aristocratic classes in Western Europe well into the twentieth century. These books highlight a key dimension of superstratification: its residues persist and accumulate over time like geological sediments. The state may change forms as it evolves, but its essence does not change.
But superstratification is only one side of the story. Rüstow observes:
Man is by nature a communal being. Community is the form of coexistence consonant with human nature, and an ineradicable longing for community lives in every human being. Hence every noncommunity, every disturbed community, has a built-in inclination to return to community; only in community does it find rest. . . . Strong deviation from the essential community structure releases hidden springs of counter-forces which in their violent, explosive form we term “revolution”.
When Rüstow refers to community, he is highlighting the role of society as a countervailing force to the institutions and predation of the state. As Rüstow demonstrates, much of human history can be understood through the lens of the conflict between state and society.
Rüstow lays out his sociological analysis in Part 1 of the book. In Part 2, he takes us through Western history to show how the struggle between freedom and domination has unfolded. Finally, in Part 3, he uses these perspectives to analyze his current surroundings in the context of this historical struggle.
In his final chapter, Rüstow concludes that
To cure the social pathology of domination and unfreedom . . . there are in principle two methods. The first is to proceed consciously against all recognizable forms of the sickness . . . The other is to proceed half-consciously through a series of palliatives and attenuations, by way of checks and balances within the structure of domination. This was the course pursued by Western history . . . [but] domination and unfreedom have become ever more pronounced so that the entire structure of superstratification has reemerged with increasing sharpness.
The lessons are clear. Successful resistance to domination requires radical analysis of existing societies, in the literal meaning of going “to the roots”. This in turn requires deep understanding of the specific historical context within which current societies have evolved. Analytic concepts have limited value unless they are firmly rooted in historical understanding. But above all, successful resistance requires a commitment to fundamental change.
Rüstow indicates that he first encountered the concept of superstratification in the work of Franz Oppenheimer. In a future posting, we will discuss some of the key insights of Oppenheimer’s classic work, The State.
Robert A. George (Guest Blogger)
My colleague Ryan Sager chronicles even further undermining of the First Amendment in the name of" clean" politics.
Ah, John McCain, what hast thou wrought?
David T. Beito
"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest." -- Mahatma Gandhi
M.K. Gandhi An Autobiography OR The story of my experiments with truth, p. 238.
Earlier this year the new Nobel laureate for literature Harold Pinter asked what the First World War poet Wilfred Owen would make of the invasion of Iraq. “I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments.”
Pinter continues, “You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said:"We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria.”
British journalist Patrick Cockburn exposes the monumental series of blunders that plunged Iraq into chaos—and explains why the conflict will be longer, bloodier and more profound in its consequences even than Vietnam. Go here to read his essay. He concludes, “[I]f there is no withdrawal then the war will escalate. The occupation exacerbates a crisis it purports to cure. Mr Blair says British and American troops will stay until the job is done, but their very presence means Iraq will never be at peace.” Remember this next time anyone tells you that the U.S. must stay the course.
Phillip Knightley, author of the best-selling book The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq (3rd ed., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004) reviews journalist Robert Fisk’s new book, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (London: Fourth Estate, 2005; New York: Knopf, 2005). Knightley writes, “He [Fisk] continues to fulfill this duty with passion and anger. As he admits, his work, especially in this powerfully-written book, is filled with accounts of horror, pain and injustice. His triumph is that he has turned a slightly dubious and over-romanticised craft into a honorable vocation.”
And, finally, a story from Thursday’s Washington Post that has crossed the Atlantic and made it into the London press. Baroness Thatcher (that’s Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady) has, it seems, revealed her doubts over the basis for the Iraq war.
Robert A. George (Guest Blogger)
Actually,"non-black" poll day might be more accurate.
Why? Because George W. Bush has managed to bring the two of us together! We are part of this historic Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll result, released Wednesday, that finds only 2 percent of African Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president.
Yes, 2 percent. As in -- right after the number one. If you factor in the margin of error, one can safely say that, without a doubt, African Americans have, ahem, a"negative" view of President Bush.
Now, in fairness, the actuall margin of error is pretty large, given that the poll"included 807 people nationwide, and only 89 blacks."
A Pew Research poll released Thursday had the black"approval" at 12 percent, which is obviously low -- but actually right around the 2004 election result for Bush among blacks. In short, a pro-administration spinner might say that despite Katrina and everything else, Bush's approval is, ahem, as good as it has ever been.
But, ultimately, who cares? The fact that a Republican president is polling low among black people isn't exactly a man-bites-dog story. But, I'm a Republican and I"disaprove" of the job George W. Bush is doing. My reasons are generally going to be a lot different than Mr. Gilliard. However, in the context of polling, we are going to be listed as part of the 88/98 of black disapproval.
My reasons for discontent:
It's the last item that bears watching. The big story in the poll is not that blacks disapprove of this president -- or that this black person disapproves (Heck, I've been disgruntled for quite some time.) The major finding is the -- like other recent surveys -- the 39 percent, below 40, figure dramatizes that the president is in danger of losing favor with his core supporters. The reason for that is Harriet Miers.
When state GOP organizations are being mobilized to to demand"fair treatment" (second item) of their president's Supreme Court nominee from senators of their own party;
when the RNC Chairman has difficulty getting support for his president's nominee on a pro-GOP blogging conference call;
when the Republican Senate aides are doing opposition research on their Republican president's nominee;
something is profoundly wrong.The"black" mood that should most trouble the White House comes not from African Americans, but from Red State.
The five largest deficits on record:
2004 — $413 billion
2003 — $378 billion
2005 — $319 billion
1992 — $290 billion
1993 — $255 billion
Only one was from a Democratic administration, and it was below the previous Republican one...
Kenneth R. Gregg
The influence of the Puritan and Reformed principles was a cause of the American Revolution. During the constitutional debates in the U.S., there were certainly strong reasons why they were held in secret. At that time, the Reformed churches were far more influential throughout the American Confederation than in 1872 when this tract was originally printed, and were the constitution publicly debated at the time of its inception, it is doubtful that the framers would have been successful. Many of the reasons can be found in the arguments expressed in "Our Political Protest. Why Covenanters do not Vote."
Just a thought.
Kenneth R. Gregg
Albert Jay Nock 10/13/1873-1945) was, no doubt, one of the greatest libertarians of the last century. He was the author of such classics as Our Enemy, The State, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (the first libertarian work that I read in high school--what an introduction to liberty that was!), Isaiah's Job, On Doing the Right Thing (which may have been a response to Pearl S. Buck) and numerous other works on history, philosophy, education, fine living, and living freely.
"American individualism had virtually died out by the time Mark Twain was buried in 1910. Progressive intellectuals promoted collectivism. Progressive jurists like Oliver Wendell Holmes hammered constitutional restraints as an inconvenient obstacle to expanding government power, supposedly the cure for every social problem. Progressive education theorist John Dewey belittled mere learning and claimed that social reconstruction was the mission of schooling. Progressive hero Theodore Roosevelt glorified imperial conquest. Progressive President Woodrow Wilson maneuvered America into a European war, jailed dissidents, and pushed through the income tax which persists to this day. Great individualists such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were ridiculed, if they were remembered at all.
Yet author Albert Jay Nock dared declare that collectivism was evil. He denounced the use of force to impose one’s will on others. He opposed military intervention in the affairs of other nations. He believed America should stay out of foreign wars that inevitably subvert liberty. He insisted individuals have the unalienable right to pursue happiness as long as they don’t hurt anybody."
Nock's prose was poetry, with each word, each turn of the phrase, carefully crafted and clearly encased. Editor of the great The Freeman of the 1920's (1920-24), Nock set the mold for both literary and libertarian periodicals of the time.
If there was an intellectual leader of the Old Right, Nock was the indisbutable leader. This "lost legacy" has now come back in the forms of paleoconservatism and libertarianism in general. For its birth, Nock is to be credited, for its rebirth, Nock is to be recognized.
Kenneth R. Gregg
"Right to the end
(Filed: 12/10/2005)[12 Oct 2005]
After Margaret Thatcher's victory in 1979, Arthur Seldon, who died yesterday, declared: "Labour as we have known it will not rule again." He made two other predictions: that the Soviet Union would not survive the 20th century, and that China would turn to capitalism. He lived long enough to be proved right on all three.
Seldon's insistence (often in articles for The Daily Telegraph) that small government should be promoted without reference to what was "politically possible" helped to make Thatcherism happen. It is now difficult to recall that, when he and Ralph Harris set up the Institute for Economic Affairs, the overwhelming consensus in all parties was that the man in Whitehall always knew best, and that prosperity could be achieved only by governments. That such days seem impossibly remote is a tribute to him and his work."
UPDATE: Wednesday's Independent (London) carries a refereshingly candid obituary of Arthur Seldon by Dennis Kavanagh and an appreciation by Colin Robinson. The article goes behind subscription at 7 p.m. (EDT) this Friday.
FURTHER UPDATE: London newspapers carry three more obituaries today (Thursday). Go here for an obituary by Alfred Sherman in the Guardian, here for the obituary in the Daily Telegraph, and here for the obituary in The Times. If you're interested in finding out more about Seldon, you'll find them all worth reading.
Robert A. George (Guest Blogger)
In my"day-blog", I can be found over here at a little place called RAGGED THOTS, where I might be found ruminating"on politics, race, pop culture, sports, comic books & various other sundry temptations of the human condition." For more, see here.
As a further introduction, please check out the copy of my pre-election conscientious objector essay from a year ago on why I couldn't vote for Bush's re-election. In light of recent developments, I'm happy to say that it pretty much holds up. Qualms over civil liberties? spending? and the administration's inability to hold officials accountable for screw-ups? Yep, yep and yep.
Indeed, the"lack of accountability" aspect is a big problem. I am frankly less concerned about how a Justice Harriet Miers would rule on so-called"social issues." Wwhat gives me shudders is the now- preferred pro-Miers talking point is that she will essentially be a rubber-stamp for the executive branch.
How else should we read this characterization by RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman in a conference call with GOP-leaning bloggers?"Judicial activism is interfering with the GWOT by 'micromanaging' decisions. Miers will be solid on executive prerogative." (Admittedly, this is Steven Bainbridge's live-blogging of Mehlman's comments, but I have no reason to believe that they are being mischaracterized.)
Indoctrinating the"principles" of the GWOT onto the Supreme Court. Wonderful.
While we're on that topic -- this would be a good question to ask Miers in a possible confirmation hearing:"Miss Miers, do you believe the Court should"defer" to executive prerogative or -- in the words of now-Chief Justice Roberts -- do you believe that the Supreme Court should be like an 'umpire' and not play favorites?"
Everybody should pay attention to whatever her answer may be.
Kenneth R. Gregg
" conference is free and open to the public. The conference runs from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday in the Richard Tam Alumni Center. For more information or to register for the panel discussions, visit law.unlv.edu/AFC--Conference.html."As Littlefield points out,
"The UNLV professor who started a ruckus over academic freedom was not invited to Friday's conference on the topic. Economics professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, whose showdown with administrators sparked the"Pursuing Academic Freedom in a Time of Crisis" conference, said he was miffed not to be formally included but glad his colleagues were continuing the debate. Hoppe quietly fought university administrators for a year over comments he made in a spring 2004 lecture before teaming with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada in February 2005 and going public with his case."Littlefield says, in an article about the conference, that:
The role of tenure is one of the issues being discussed Friday during UNLV's first conference on academic freedom. The conference was sparked by nationwide controversies last spring, including attempts by UNLV administrators to censure economics professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe. The criticism that swirled around Hoppe... fueled debates about tenure, academic freedom and academic responsibility, said Jonathan Knight, chairman of the American Association of University Professors tenure and academic freedom division. Tenure is supposed to allow professors to say things that are politically incorrect without their having to worry about repercussions from their employers, Knight said.You can send a letter to the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Review-Journal or to the UNLV Rebel Yell (campus student newspaper)
Just a thought.
As you would expect, her guest list is a roll call of honor from the 1980s Thatcher heyday. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are there (it’s rare for the monarch to attend such an event), as are Tony and Cherie Blair. Also attending are Lord Harris (that’s Ralph Harris who founded the Institute of Economic Affairs), economist Sir Alan Walters, Labour MP Frank Field, singer Dame Shirley Bassey, actresses Joan Collins and June Whitfield, Lord Lloyd-Webber and Sir Tim Rice, disk jockeys Terry Wogan and Sir Jimmy Young, chef Marco Pierre White, journalist William Shawcross, historian Norman Stone, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, Caspar Weinberger, two (out of four) contenders for the Conservative Party leadership, John Profumo (now there’s a name from the past!), in all 650 guests. For the complete guest list, go here.
First he explains that the only two heroes he has met are both Catholic missionaries, Joe Haas and Frei Adolfo. “If they did not believe in God, these men would never have taken such risks for other people.” Then he continues, “Remarkably, no one, until now, has attempted systematically to answer the question with which this column began. But in the current edition of the Journal of Religion and Society, a researcher called Gregory Paul tests the hypothesis, propounded by evangelists in the Bush administration, that religion is associated with lower rates of ‘lethal violence, suicide, non-monogamous sexual activity and abortion’. He compared data from 18 developed democracies, and discovered that the Christian fundamentalists couldn't have got it more wrong.”
He quotes Gregory Paul. “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion ... None of the strongly secularised, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction.” Within the US, “the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and midwest” have “markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the north-east where ... secularisation, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms”.
Monbiot then claims that “[t]hree sets of findings stand out: the associations between religion - especially absolute belief - and juvenile mortality, venereal disease and adolescent abortion. Paul's graphs show far higher rates of death among the under-fives in Portugal, the US and Ireland and put the US - the most religious country in his survey - in a league of its own for gonorrhea and syphilis. Strangest of all, for those who believe that Christian societies are ‘pro-life’, is the finding that ‘increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator ... Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data’.”
He then asks whether it’s fair to blame all this on religion. He observes that the nations that do well in Paul's study also have higher levels of social spending and distribution than those which do badly, and asks whether this is a cause or an association? As a libertarian, I’m not persuaded that this is a cause. However, it does appear that the broad trend is clear and in Paul’s words, “The more secular, pro-evolution democracies have ... come closest to achieving practical ‘cultures of life’.”
Monbiot admits that he doesn’t know whether these findings can be extrapolated to other countries and other issues. “[T]he study doesn't look, for example, at whether religious belief is associated with a nation's preparedness to go to war (though I think we could hazard a pretty good guess) or whether religious countries in the poor world are more violent and have weaker cultures of life than secular ones. Nor—because, with the exception of Japan, the countries in his study are predominantly Christian or post-Christian—is it clear whether there's an association between social dysfunction and religion in general or simply between social dysfunction and Christianity.”
He concludes, “However, if we are to accept the findings of this one—and so far only—wide survey of belief and human welfare, the message to those who claim in any sense to be pro-life is unequivocal. If you want people to behave as Christians advocate, you should tell them that God does not exist.”
I understand what George Monbiot is saying although I wouldn’t choose to word it that way. After all, it isn’t only Christians who desire a society free of murder, venereal disease, and marital breakdown. Nonetheless, the research he cites does suggest that Christian belief (or is it Christian fundamentalist belief?) is not only unnecessary for the achievement of a better society and is also a baleful influence on our lives. As an atheist, I welcome those findings. However, I certainly don’t think they or many more like them would ever or should ever conclude the debate on God’s existence.
David T. Beito
"I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right." Attributed to Tallulah Bankhead
I suspect that Tallulah Bankhead, perhaps Alabama's most famous rugged individualist in terms of lifestyle, would approve of the Bankhead Fund's conference on Thursday and Friday (October 13 and 14) on"Censorship, Free Speech and Free Press in the University" which is being sponsored by the Department of History at the University of Alabama. See here for a schedule of speakers and locations.
Roderick T. Long
On September 21st I gave a talk to the Auburn University Libertarians on the subject"Rich and Poor in a Libertarian Society."
On October 8th I gave a talk at the Mises Institute's conference on fascism titled"They Saw it Coming: The 19th-Century Libertarian Critique of Fascism." (An audio file of my talk is now online.)
On October 15th I'll be giving a talk to the Advocates for Self-Government 20th Anniversary Celebration in Atlanta with the title"Fire the Rich! Why the Free Market Is the Proletarian Revolution."
(So, that's three plutocracy-bashing talks….)
Finally, on October 21st I’ll be giving a talk at the Alabama Philosophical Society meetings in Montevallo explaining"Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right."
(I say"finally," but I have conferences coming up in November and December too….)