METAPHYSICS OF POWER
I. OF CIVIL OBEDIENCE
1. The mystery of civil obedience. 2. The historical character of obedience. 3. Statics and dynamics of obedience. 4. Obedience linkedto credit.
AFTER describing in his lost treatises on Constitutions the variousgovernmental structures of a large number of different societies,Aristotle, in the
, reduced them all to three basic types:monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. The characteristics of thesethree types, in the various mixtures in which they were found inpractice, accounted for all the forms of Power which had come underhis observation.Ever since then political science, or what passes for such, hasfollowed obediently in the footsteps of the master. The discussion of the different forms of Power is always with us because, there being inevery society a centre of control, everyone is naturally interested inthe questions of its powers, its organization, and its conduct.There is, however, another phenomenon that also deserves someconsideration: the fact that over every human community therereigns a government at all. The differences between forms of government in different societies and the changes of form within thesame society are but the accidents, to borrow the terminology of philosophy, of the same essence. The essence is Power. And we maywell break off from inquring into
what is the best form
of Power-frompolitical ethics--to ask
what is the essence
of Power--to construct apolitical metaphysic.The problem may also be looked at from another angle, which permitsof a simpler statement of it. At all times and in all places we areconfronted with the phenomenon of civil obedience. An order issuedby Power gets obeyed by the community at large. When Poweraddresses itself to a foreign state, the weight behind its words is inproportion to its own ability to make itself obeyed and win from thatobedience the means of action. It all turns on that obedience. Whoknows the reasons for that obedience knows the inner nature of Power.
Another point is that, as history shows, obedience has certain limitswithin which Power must keep, just as there is a limit to the amountof a society's resources which it can take for its own. These limits, asobservation shows us, do not remain static throughout the history of a society. For example, the Capetian
Kings could not impose directtaxation, and the Bourbons could not exact military service.The fraction or quantum of a society's resources which Power cantake for its own is theoretically measurable. Clearly it is strictlyproportioned to the quantum of obedience. And these variations in theresources available to Power are the measure of its own extent. Weare safe in saying that the more completely Power can control theactions of the members of society and turn their resources to its uses,the greater is Power's extent.
The study of the successive variationsin its resources is to consider the history of Power by reference to itsextent--a very different thing from the history usually written of it, byreference to its forms.These variations in the extent of Power, considered as a function of the age of a society, could be represented in the form of a graph. Willthe curve run in capricious indentations, or will its general direction besufficiently defined to enable us to speak of Power being subject to alaw of development in the society in question? Taking the latterhypothesis to be true, and also taking the view that human history, inso far as it has come down to us, is but the arrangement in theirorder of the successive histories of big societies or civilizations (intothe formation of which smaller ones have gone), all carried forwardon the same impulse, then we may easily conceive that the curves of Power in all these big societies will probably show a certain similarityto each other and that to examine them may throw some light on thecourse taken by civilizations. The start of our inquiry will be anattempt to penetrate to the es-
The Capetian dynasty ruled in France from 987 to 1328.
What the author has here in mind can be pictured as a mathematicalrelationship: , thenumerator and the denominator both being variables by reference to time andcircumstance. The study of this relationship is the main purpose of the book.This mathematical view of the matter may help to clarify the author's meaning,but it must not be supposed that the fraction can at any given moment beaccurately quantified, though the proportion of the national income taken intaxation and the proportion of the nation's manpower taken in conscriptionwould always be serviceable indications.