The future of man
remains undetermined because it depends on him.
We propose here to take three critical steps back, through institutions, which we have been discussing most recently, and authority, which we dealt with before that, to the individual. We shall see that as we take these steps, we sink in turgescence, redundance and hypocrisy, which reveal human realities beyond either biological or philosophical circumscriptions. Our discussion is not intended to be a summation of what the book has covered, but some afterthoughts on the nature of the phenomena considered.
I. Institutional Turgescence
In the context of the total environment, men and their social, and political institutions should make sense, not necessarily in any ultimate terms, but at least in relation to each other. However, these relationships‑‑and this must be emphasized‑‑take place in the context of the total environment. When we observe, for example, the existence of an institution, we may infer a corresponding need. On closer examination we may find that the institution does not correspond to the need, or that the need does not exist. But that is only because we have looked closely‑‑too closely, perhaps, If we broaden our perspective, we may find that while, according to certain rationale, the institution in question may not correspond to a given need, we can nevertheless explain its existence. In an underdeveloped country a few years ago, I visited a village which had traffic lights but practically no motor vehicle traffic. The institution obviously did not have a corresponding need, That is true, however, only if we forget the human element. There were traffic lights in the otherwise underdeveloped village because, in the first place, the region had an excess of electricity due to the construction of a new dam and because traffic lights, if they did not serve as useful signs, at least served as symbols of progress, modernity and therefore prestige. Of course, in general, we are probably more likely to find intersections that need traffic lights but don't have them, or traffic lights that are not properly synchronized and thus contribute to traffic jams rather than alleviate them. The example of the traffic light is rather simplistic. The point is that institutions do not always correspond to needs in the social‑rationale sense.
By institutions we mean any aspect of cognizable social and political structures ‑‑ whether moral, ethical or legal norms, or constituted bodies such as an association or an office. Our earlier causal assumption that an institution implied a need for it was itself indicative of the need/institution lag. It implied that in human terms an institution is created to fulfill a need, which further implied the likelihood that the need preceded the institution. This is plausible considering man's attributes as a thinking animal whose institutions do not result simply from spontaneous and automatic instincts. He may create institutions in anticipation of future needs; but they will not necessarily correspond to needs once they arise; for while man can predict, he cannot know the future in the complexity of the total environment. The mention of the total environment should remind us again that it is not enough to explain the need/institution lag on the basis of rational rationales but also in the light of human, and not always so rational, factors. Need X may arise at point x. Not only will institution Y not come about spontaneously, but it may not even be provided at point x' when the need for it has been identified. Depending on the circumstances, institution Y may never be created.
There may be other priorities pre‑empting the provision of institution Y for need X. That is, the need for the institution may be felt by those who need it, but not recognized by those who establish the institutions.
By the same token, because of the discrepancy between those in need and the institution‑makers, even when an institution is created to meet a particular need, a gap will exist between the intrinsic need factor and its extrinsic evaluation and satisfaction by the institution. Here, of course, we are implying all the complexities covered throughout the book, such as the degree of participation and control which those who need an institution have in creating and running it. The more those who run the institution coincide with those who need it and the more they are controllable and accountable for the utility and efficiency of the institutions, the smaller the gap between the need and the institution. But in human terms, it is hard to conceive that they will totally coincide. Indeed, if they did they would consummate each other, and the need/institution constellation would hardly be recognizable. So, even if institution Y were created to satisfy need X at point x' when the need for the institution was identified, Y should not be presented as superimposed on the trend of X, but placed at a gap with it. The gap will be wider or narrower, depending on the coincidence of the identity and understanding of those in need and those in charge of the institution.
But a gap, no matter how narrow, will always exist. Even an individual does not always provide means ‑‑ even when he can and is consciously aware of them -‑ to satisfy his own needs. The social need/institution gap can, of course, increase or decrease where there are deviations and adaptations ‑‑ which may be mutual, because needs can also be conditioned by existing institutions. Also, it is possible that those instrumental in creating an institution may cause it to cease functioning before the need has been met, in which case there will again be a lag further along the need/institution combination representing an unsatisfied need. This last hypothesis, however, demands another reminder of human and social conditions. A partially satisfied need is harder to suppress than one that has not been acknowledged at all, because a human institution is not like running water or electricity that can readily be turned on and off. Beyond its implication that those whose needs the institution served will be more consciously dissatisfied, the phenomenon leads us, in our broad perspective, to another human dimension central to our present inquiry.
By virtue of their human factors, human institutions are not simply organic and mechanical. A human institution not only serves a social purpose and a need, but is at the same time an instrument for those who control it, and a source of livelihood for those who maintain it. An institution, therefore, evolves not only according to the social need for which it is supposed to have been created, but also under the influence of its controllers and occupants.
It is understandable that those who control an institution cherish it as a base of their power, and it is equally understandable that those whose livelihood depends on the institution also want to perpetuate it. While the evolution of an institution for such reasons can be explained within the rationale of the total environment, it is not always easily justifiable within the narrower relational rationale of the original social need which it was presumably created to satisfy. We may call the lag resulting from that evolution institutional turgescence. Not only may it cause the institutional trend to deviate from that of the need, but it may also perpetuate the institution beyond the need. For example, those who control the institution ‑‑ at different levels of responsibility ‑‑ will probably try to consolidate the base of their power by populating the institution with their own types, a trend that can result in favoritism, nepotism and the spoils system. Institutional turgescence is also reflected in the bureaucratic propensity to create busywork, redtape and extra positions to handle it, expanding the institution into a self‑perpetuating and self‑propelling body. Parkinson's Law did not gain renown as a satire because it was merely amusing, but because it depicted a human reality ‑‑ and not a new one. Chaucer, six centuries earlier, had said of his Sergent of the Law:
Nowhere was there a man as busy as he‑
And yet he seemed busier than he was.
Institutional turgescence develops more easily when the institution is fed funds indirectly so that the connection between the funds invested and the institution's corresponding accomplishments are blurred, and when there are fewer checks and balances, whether directly by those whose social needs the institution serves or by other institutions. The citizen is more likely to notice his mayor using for private ends the limousine bought with public money for official business than he is to notice his country's ambassadors in other lands doing so.
For purposes of analyzing a polity's efficacy, we can establish an institutional turgescence scale. Where the lag between the emergence of needs, their recognition, and the creation of institutions to satisfy them is short; where the gap between needs and institutions remains narrow; and where the lag between the passing away of a need and the dismantling of the corresponding institution is short, the polity may be considered harmonious and stable, with small zones of conflict and dissatisfaction. Where these conditions are reversed the likelihood of conflict increases. Whether the greater zones of conflict between the needs and institutions will cause the polity to collapse depends on the consciousness of those involved. For those in the institutional oligarchy, the situation may sometimes look more and more like it is working because they have shut out their critical vision. Yet the situation may continue if those in need are resigned to the prevailing order. In other words, there are psychological factors involved which could either help perpetuate the establishment or precipitate change.
II. Authority Redundance
When in Chapter Two we defined liberty as a sociological need, we used an elementary proposition to explain that, abstractly speaking, man lives in groups because, all considered, they are better than the state of nature. Formally, the proposition could read: GB > SN (i.e., Group Benefits are greater than what man can get in the State of Nature). We have long established that because man is a political animal, the state of nature has never been a human reality. But even though man is caught in his social dimension, he dreams of and visualizes a wilderness where he could speak his mind to the authorities who push him around. This idea was reflected in some of our topics, such as those dealing with man's adventurer inclinations and with anti‑norms. Now, with all the complexities we have behind us, let us use our simple formula in a simple hypothesis of polity development to see whether there is any inherent human phenomenon keeping institutions from corresponding totally to social needs.
By "group," we said, we did not mean a cluster of units confining each other but interacting with one another. To put it more concretely, in a small communal setting, Mr. Jones, wanting to contact Mr. Smith ‑‑ to go to his farm, for example ‑‑ would have to go through Mr. Doe's domain – Doe’s place of sustenance and rest. This intrusion of Doe's domain ‑‑ his liberty ‑‑ is, part of the price he pays for the benefits he draws from the group. In fact, Jones' passing through may be no intrusion at all. Doe may enjoy having the chance to chat with Jones. That can be part of the group benefits. If, however, the group grows so that more and more people whom Doe knows less and less keep passing through his domain, it might become a nuisance for him and for others who submit to the same interference. The practice could, in effect, establish a right of passage through their domains and thus infringe on their rights, giving rise to the need for a public road.
We can, of course, conceive of an already existing authority to take charge of satisfying this need. But to make our point step by step, let us assume that to take care of the need for a public road, the members of the group join to establish a particular authority. First, of course, they have to decide where the road should be, which may imply that some have to cede their land and that others have to compensate them. We are slowly moving beyond the informal group benefits toward more explicit and formal public interests, which call for further concessions by individual members of the group, including remuneration for the authority established to build roads. In our hypothesis of the individual's conscious participation in group life and his hypothetical alternative, the state of nature, we should now add the new dimension of public interests to our formula. The sum total of the group benefits and the advantages to be drawn from public interests (PuI) should be greater than the concessions one makes on his hypothetical absolute freedom of action in the state of nature. Thus:
|GB + PuI| > SN.
Of course, public interests refer not only to a single situation such as constructing a means of communication. Any society beyond an isolated primeval level develops social needs for intercourse and exchange requiring structures and rules, i.e., institutions and laws. Beyond a certain group size, authority cannot be exercised by the whole aggregate of individual members and will have to be vested in some body (individual or institution) responsible for organizing the institutions which serve public interests. It will speak in the name of the group which has instituted it. Let us designate this authority as A. A will become the concrete representation of the abstract "group," a point of reference for both its individual members and those who serve the group.
If, in our example of road‑building, someone finds the road not properly constructed, he will complain to A. In like manner the contractor building the road, recognizing A as the job‑giver, will heed his instructions and pay him due respect. The concentration of the group's "will" in authority A and the exercise of his assigned functions thus acquire for A a certain amount of prestige and an aura of superiority by which he may be advantaged and on which he may draw beyond the quid pro quo remuneration of his services. The road contractor may do a better job around A's property for which, in the long run, the other members of the society will pay. The city mayor may receive more respect and consideration from the police corps than does the common citizen. Try to tell the tax collector or the policeman that you contribute to his upkeep and that he is really your servant; you will be in trouble! The president of the republic is honored: traffic is stopped for him and he is accompanied by a motorcade.
As authority becomes more complex, some of these additional attributes which do not directly contribute to public interests are conceded by the members of the group, and others are taken, or taken for granted, by the authority. While the remuneration A receives for his services may be considered an expense incurred for the sake of public interest, the surplus attributes he accumulates because of his position entail no returns for the group members, who put up with them as necessary evils for the sake of the GB and the PuI. In our formula, it should be deducted from their total. Let us call these surplus attributes Authority Redundance (AR):
|GB + PuI ‑ AR|> SN.
Authority redundance cannot be calculated objectively. It is a psychological factor and, in the final analysis, depends on what the individual considers redundant. Some authority attributes may engender affectional satisfactions, such as national pride in a coronation, a military parade or a monument. They cannot altogether be considered authority redundance, for they contribute to group benefits and public interests by nurturing such strongholds as nationalism and cultural identity, which provide group cohesion.
Up to now our formula has confined the individual's side to the hypothetical state of nature alternative. We pointed out earlier that, while the individual may indulge in weighing the advantages of social life against those of the state of nature, the state of nature is only a point of reference, like the North Star for navigators, and not a state the individual can attain totally. As the formula now stands, group life is a take‑it‑or‑leave‑it proposition for the individual, with the "leave‑it" side only hypothetical. But this situation would reduce the individual to servitude. In the extreme he would be a slave in chains. Beyond that extreme, however, social dynamics assume an exchange between the two sides of the formula. The state‑of‑nature freedom, which the individual relinquishes and which turns into group benefits, public interests and authority redundance on the other side of the formula, is the raw material on which the group draws, but which also, as individual liberty, emanates from the group as a whole, of which the individual is a part. Thus he can aspire to share in the social part of the formula. In other words, the individual has some potential power (PP) which, socially speaking, he can at some stage convert into social action. The more the conversion of potential power is fluid, the more the individual not only enjoys the fruits of group and public action, but also partakes in shaping them, and consequently either shares authority redundance or neutralizes it. We may now realize that when the conversion of this potential power of the individual to the |GB + PuI – AR| side is handicapped, his alternative is not reduced to the hypothetical abandonment of social life, reverting to the state of nature. His potential power may turn instead into Militancy Potentials (MP) within the social context to resist and fight what may have become an unacceptable amount of authority redundance. Our formula will then read:
|GB + PuI – AR| > |SN + MP|
The establishment maintains itself best where the members of the society, like Voltaire's Candide, believe that "all is well in the best of all possible worlds." This situation does not necessarily imply the greatest social consensus, public service, flexibility and mobility among the social strata, but may imply high degrees of conformity, strict socialization, persuasion and indoctrination, as discussed earlier. The harmonious consensual situation is, of course, one where maximum group benefits and public advantages are enjoyed by the members of society, where authorities do not abuse their positions, and where the process for converting individual potentials into social benefits is adequate. These advantages need not all be present for the establishment to survive. For example, while some members may consider that at a given time the advantages offered by the establishment are not satisfactory and the authority's abuse of power is excessive, they will not necessarily use their militancy potentials to overthrow the establishment, but may rely on the future conversion of their potential power to replace the established authority. Such would be the case of an opposition political party in a polity that provides for an honest electoral process.
Our conceptual formulation should therefore be understood as a temporal continuum, and our power potentials as those potentials which, under the existing social order, are convertible at a future time. Potentials converted immediately become militancy potentials, amounting to a revolt against the establishment. The student who disagrees with the educational system as provided by the establishment may yet submit to it because it offers him possibilities to play a role in the establishment in the future. After he has obtained his degree, whatever social benefits he draws from it will be transferred to his social side of the formula, and he will rethink his formula in the light of his new position and power potentials. The student who does not believe the system is worthwhile may revolt, either by violence or by alienation, by joining a militant body or a commune. The final outcome of this on the social structure will depend on the dynamics of the dissatisfied elements and their impact.
A situation is, of course, conceivable in which the establishment side of the formula is negative and yet the establishment maintains itself. This would correspond to a despotic police state where authority redundance exceeds the benefits offered to the members of the society. Authority redundance includes not only the money the dictator spends on his limousines, but also the police force he maintains which does not safeguard the members of society but persecutes them, puts them in jail and encroaches on their liberties. Somoza’s crushing of the uprising in Nicaragua in 1978 was a classic example. In such a situation, AR > |SN + MP|; i.e., the individuals or groups submit to the establishment, although resenting it, because they have too few liberties and militancy potentials to reverse the trend of authority redundance. If and when the trend can be reversed and a successful attempt is made, it will be revolutionary instead of the previously discussed evolutionary conversion of power potentials. Anarchy, in the popular sense of nonexistence of government and consequent confusion and disorganization, may accompany the moment of passage when AR = |SN + MP|, and may last longer where the SN factor within the emerging powers is greater, or shorter where the MP prevails (militancy also implying discipline). As with the revolution the potentials materialize into the establishment, the members of society will become entangled in the new social network with its new authority redundance. The subjective evaluation of social realities by individuals, whether those who constitute (or feel they constitute) the establishment or those who submit to it, and their corresponding behavior and actions are then the raw material of political authority. Thus, after our brief and critical second look at institutions and authority, our final step takes us back to the individual human behavior with which we began.
III. The Ideal/Real/Hypocritical Loop
At the beginning of this book we said that political science was the science of truth. We know, however, that truth is relative, depending very much on what an individual believes to be true. To the extent that he acts thereupon, his truth becomes the convictional support for his action. Truth, however, is relative not only to the individual but also to his total environment. In the social context, truth according to a man's belief and the actual social phenomena is hard to perceive and to establish. The possible range for an individual oscillates between two extremes: the ideal and the hypocritical. He may base his truth on abstract values, and his "untruth" on his selfish interests; i.e., he may be an idealist in the application of his truth to his social realities, or be a hypocrite in their evaluation for his personal needs. In the latter case, his values are false values, as elaborated earlier.
Politics is said to be the art of the possible because it requires consciousness of the critical limits of social realities between the ideal and hypocritical extremes. Politics is an art, however, not only because it requires consciousness of the limits and the extremes, but also because it calls for courage and potentials for probing those limits yet not falling into the extremes. Indeed, it is critically probing the limits that gives the political practitioner or scientist the broad perspective he needs of the social realities he is to cope with. The political practitioner or scientist who confines himself to the strictly material and concrete factors of social reality narrows his angle of vision. By approaching the ideal limits of social realities, he will enlarge his vision and understanding of the "valuational" improvements that are possible within the social context he deals with. But he can do so only by moving, on the other side, to the brink of hypocrisy within the social realities in order to know the real stuff of the society, the visceral contents of the man he is dealing with.
You will see now why the real art of politics is so difficult to master, for it is very difficult to understand the possible limits of the ideal without becoming an impractical idealist, and it is equally difficult to use one's power to the limits of the hypocritical in order to understand the egoistic interests of others, and to promote one's political cause for social good, without falling into the excesses of self‑indulgence. While by probing the ideal and the hypocritical limits of social realities critically the political practitioner or scientist broadens his angle of vision, at the two extremes he also risks to sink into the ideal nebula or the hypocritical viscera. That could narrow his angle of vision until he is totally submerged. He may then become vulnerable, taking his ideal or hypocritical vision as real, and may indeed take one for the other to justify and balance, consciously or unconsciously, his behavior and action within the social environment. By rationalizing instead of being rational, he would make the two extremes meet and thus produce for himself an ideal/real/hypocritical loop where the ideal/hypocritical side mirrors the real, as the negative mirrors the photograph.
Within that loop, hypocritical actions may be justified by ideal abstractions, and selfish interests may wear a mask of altruism. In the name of civilization the British massacred the Mau Mau and the French tried to suppress the Algerian uprising; in the name of anti‑imperialism the Russians suppressed the Hungarian revolt and invaded Czechoslovakia; and in the name of anticommunism the Americans carpet‑bombed Hanoi. These are generally known international issues. But if we look into our own immediate political and social surroundings, we are bound to trace back to the ideal/hypocritical loop, to different degrees at different levels, whatever turgescence in the institutions and redundance in the authorities we may find. It is, indeed, by confounding ideals with hypocrisy that "the people" claim citizenship in a democracy without participating in its political process. And when they do participate, rationalizing their private interests into public good, they let interest groups manipulate and control the political process and institutions, helping politicians and bureaucrats create their own ideal/hypocritical loop.
The "ideal" solution, keeping in mind all the socio‑political complexities covered, is political consciousness and participation on the part of every member of the society beyond private interests. But that is an ideal which can be strived for only if we look closer into ourselves and observe how often, when our interests are not at stake, we float on the clouds of idealism, and how, when it comes to our precious selves, we descend into the thick of hypocrisy. We are the stuff of which politics is made: to understand politics, we must first know men, and that is ourselves. Knowledge of the problem is part of the solution.