The political-economic order

Sunday, January 19, 2020

3:40 a.m. I awoke with a knowledge, with something to be communicated, and that is that we are all enmeshed in a web, nobody is free. It occurs to me that even at the top nobody is free, which amounts to saying that the web is maintained at another level, or is merely a part of being such as “the web of being” that is a description of ecology.

You aren’t putting it well, yet.

Proceed, then.

Look at society in terms of economics. Everybody can understand this, though many will find it painful to realize. Or look at it politically, which is saying the same thing with different symbols.

And I hear you tempted to go on with other parallels.

But we resist. This is enough to be going on with, and you will see, easily enough, that the two are intertwined. Economics and politics are both aspects of control. Therefore they can never exist in isolation from each other. One may be boss of the other relatively, but they do not march in different directions any more than your left arm goes one way and your right a different way. Left and right arms may seem unconnected, may do different things, may specialize, so to speak, but they will always be part of a coordinated intelligence. That intelligence may or may not be seen at the level one examines the properties and activities of the arms – but it will exist, will control.

And people who perceive the coordination without perceiving that there is a higher level of organization will assume either that politics dictates economics, or economics dictates politics.

Yes they will. Yes they do. And in any one given case, it may be so, or close enough as makes no difference. Beyond that, theorists may clump groups of examples to demonstrate that one pole delimits, always or sometimes. (But usually they say always; it is more emotionally satisfying.)

So the way to advance your understanding of social control is to remember that despite appearances economics and politics are always two manifestations of the same dynamic. Really, it is better to think of “them” as “it.” That is, political-economic structure; one manifestation of an invisible web, but often seen as two.

An advantage to seeing things this way is that once you realize the undivided nature of what look like multiple forces, you can by examining any manifestation come to a greater understanding of the dynamics of the whole. (Not of the detail, of course; there is no royal road to social anatomy. But a general idea is most of what one needs in practice.)

This is subject to objections that may be raised.

Do raise them as stalking-horses.

Yes, as stalking-horses, for I do not necessarily share any of the objections, but I can phrase them, I think.

However, beginning this process will require a non-trivial investment of time and energy, and you had thought to take the day off.

Let me mention just one example either way, and see how we go. To begin with, many say economics absolutely determines politics. Others say the reverse. Either can cite historical examples that seem to prove their point. The current farce of impeachment, for instance. As with Clinton, so with Trump, the lower house composed of a majority of the opposition party indicts; the upper house, composed of a majority of the same party, acquits (or will acquit). Some would cite this as politics determining.

They won’t have looked very hard at the underlying reality, then.

No, I agree. The economics of getting elected guarantee that a majority will always represent those with sufficient resources. Those representatives appoint the judiciary. There is no branch of government that is, or could be made to be, independent of financial reality. Politics is a game (or a struggle, however you wish to see it) among people who have been approved by the financially secure. That doesn’t mean political differences are non-existent; it means they exist within the rules of the game, which are not set by the chessmen.

Similarly, any given part of the economic structure will be affected by the political tides. Those ebbs and flows aren’t pretend, either. But the real contention nonetheless is contained within rules fixed from outside the political-economic system.

It seems that the rich always do get their way, though. “You can’t put a million dollars in jail.”

Not untrue, but superficial.

I hear that. We are a vast pecking-order society, and while individual positions may alter due to circumstances, the nature of the web will not.

It may. It occasionally does. But regardless of the nature of a pecking-order, a pecking order is inherent in the concept of order.

I understand that, I think, but it could repay some spelling-out.

Different societies will establish or recognize different criteria for determining one’s place, but everyone will be placed. Birth, money, talent, geography even: There are many possible frames for pecking-orders, and a complication is that sometimes two or more criteria are simultaneously evident. (Usually, in fact.) This disguises the existence of the web by presenting the appearance of randomness, or at any rate of fluidity. With your historical knowledge, you could provide examples.

At another time, maybe.

The political-economic order must accommodate divergent and even contradictory pecking-orders. Hence, conflict.

I am too lazy to pursue this at the moment. As you noted, I intended to take the day off. Perhaps I will anyway.


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