Whether the society still at Stage-1is traditional or modern, the people in it acquiesce to the system. They acquiesce because this is the way it has always been and it is the way most feel it will remain in their lifetimes. In some societies, there is also a fear of chaos accompanying any change: a fear which is often stoked by the elites.
The elites also believe it is the way society should be. They may emphasize their benevolence, wisdom and care for the people, or they may evoke the need for harshness, austerity and control to deal with permanent enemies. Elites commonly re-write past history and current events to justify the existing social order, with themselves at the summit.
In traditional societies, the class or group into which an individual is born often controls what that person can do or be. Traditional societies are built on kinship, with bloodline, clan and caste defining personal and social identity. Status-relations not only define the political elite but also various popular classes like merchants, peasants, artisans and traders.
The elites present themselves as acting according to tradition or modern social values and bearing an onerous duty to take care of the people.
Unless tyranny has taken root, such elites commonly do possess a paternalist sense of concern for the society and everyone within in. In the past, they also tended to be the most highly educated. This responsibility is the main ethical justification for the political order, but it implies an infantilization of the populace.
Elites naturally wish their care for the country to be willingly reciprocated in the form of fine living, valuable gifts, subservience, and willing affection. They may be ambivalent about providing education for the population.
The elites in government ensure that access to social goods is facilitated for their own groups: disproportionately so. The aim, often openly recognized if not talked about, is to use political power to maintain control and to exploit or take advantage of the mass of the population.
Given the amount of resources obtainable centrally by even small and backward countries, massive quasi-corrupt diversion of wealth, to elites with political or bureaucratic power, is virtually unavoidable.
Most people in society simply cannot comprehend what is going on. So, elite wealth is either quietly accepted as normal by the populace or later, with more education, struggled against with rather limited success.
There is usually a time-consuming flow of ritual-ceremonial contacts by the rulers with the populace e.g. via parades, sporting events, economic projects, military displays, religious holidays, artistic productions, opening of events.
Much effort in politics is expended in struggles for power and dominance within an elite group; and also jockeying for power amongst the various elite groups.
This political work expands to become a full time occupation, requiring endless scheming, forming cabals and cliques, emboldening supporters, developing factional subgroups, gathering intelligence, handling accounts of indebtedness, coercing via bribes intimidation or blackmail, defaming and smearing, even commissioning assassinations.
Leaders of elite classes are always intensely preoccupied with maintaining and extending their political power. However primitive such political players and their systems may look to outsiders, political life in such societies is as vigorous, active and effective in its own terms as any.
Politics is hard work…intrigue, blackmailing, bribery, intimidation, vilification, assassination, taxation, oppression, pay-offs, revenge, internal espionage, criminal dealings, propaganda, disinformation, torture, subversion, cronyism, nepotism—it seems that there is nothing that governments of so-called advanced countries have that less developed countries lack.
The form of government incan be any one of:
The ideology used or espoused in privileged pluralism can be any one of:
Unless the culture specifies unambiguously how power transition is to occur (e.g. democratic elections, dynastic succession) and suitable candidates exist from the viewpoint of the populace and other elites, the death of a political leader will generate in-fighting and social turmoil.
Legal systems always exist in literate societies and in modern times. But the legal system naturally entrenches the existing power system of the society that creates it.
Even though laws emerge from the, a legal system is not synonymous with emergence of in politics (which is a feature of ).
Legal systems in lèse-majesté», «royal prerogative » and «internal security».entrench the powers of established elites with laws invoking such things as «
Discussion and meetings by ordinary citizens tend to be prohibited by labelling them, variously: sacrilege, sedition, treason, insubordination, anarchist, subversive, terrorist.
does not look good from a modern cultural perspective: hence the descriptor: . But there is nothing abnormal or especially «wicked» about it.
It is simply what self-interest is so often about: gaining as much wealth and power as possible, and holding on to it tightly without being too concerned about others.
In any case, most current definitions of politics make little or no mention of ethics.
It seems likely that entirely reasonable and basically fair political behaviour requires completion of the full maturational process in a society. Clarifying and understanding this natural developmental process is the challenge of this inquiry, while generating maturation is the responsibility of everyone in their own society.
Reminder about the Present Focus
As explained at the outset, in What Politics is About, the focus is on as it exists universally, taking society as the primary example. I am not interested in the particular intellectual garb that existing political elites may inherit or choose to wear at any point in time or in any particular culture.
Concerned citizens, journalists, and political scientists naturally become preoccupied with changes of regimes or ideologies, or with specific government policies. Issues relevant to such matters, which apply regardless of the making choices for society and political activities within society., will be considered when we look at
Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 27-Mar-2014.