I just read one of those stories so affectionately told and loved by so many, including strategists in basements in Langley, VA.
After some googling I got a refresher on a view on the nature of political and social power that I thought deserved some analysis in the context of global rule of law.
It started with a piece discussing the well-known synthesis of what is called collaborative and relational power. I’ll describe the two in the way I use the terms, and how I will use them here.
Collaborative power is a reference to societal-wide influence that a network of traditional power entities exert. These entities are not necessarily people, but institutions and institutional precedents in society; i.e. the formal mechanisms for assigning value in society, or law. I’m using the term “law” quite broadly here, but I mean to say the legal landscape of a society or societies which might include non-statutory constructs such as mores, cultural constraints, traditions, etc. Collaborative power sources are often much more complex and intricate than Relational power sources.
Relational power, on the other hand, refers to the same thing, except that the “mechanisms” are informal vice formal with examples including social networks (such as twitter), the media generally and religious and cultural institutions as opposed to the purely institutional entities associated with formal mechanisms. They can often revolve around the cult of personality. This is Langley-Land.
In the Atlantic article, Anne-Marie Slaughter uses a case study to capture a simple and useful image of these principles. In Egypt, at the end of November of last year, an Egyptian-American “columnist” Mona Eltahawy was abducted under color of authority and physically and mentally abused by delegates of the Egyptian regnant political establishment. She managed to tweet this simple fact just before her ability to communicate with the outside world was denied.
” … she managed to tweet five chilling words to her more than 60,000 followers: “beaten arrested in Interior Ministry.” Her tweet went out at 8:44 pm Eastern Standard Time (3:44 am in Cairo). At 9:05 pm, I got a direct message on Twitter from the NPR strategist Andy Carvin, who covers English-language social media from Arab protests, telling me of Mona’s tweet. After responding to him, I immediately sent an email to my former colleagues at the State Department. Within another hour, I’d heard back and was able to tweet that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was on the case. Nick Kristof, citing his own contacts at the State Department,, sent out a similar message to his million-plus followers. ”
Mona El Tahawy
… a description of events some bluntly say is reeking of privilege and connections; even though Anne-Marie’s thesis is that collaborative and relational powers are largely separate sources of power. What this description seems to show is that some degree of interconnectedness between these powers probably does exist, and that the separation Anne-Maries seems to implicitly assume is ephemeral at best.
Anne-Marie elaborates on her view of this binary view of power:
“… Nye is perhaps the world’s pre-eminent theorist of power; he coined the term “soft power” for the power of attraction versus “hard power,” the power of coercion … One familiar distinction is “power with” versus “power over.” The power that interests Nye is the power that a person, group, or institution exercises over other people, groups, or institutions, getting them to do something they would not have done on their own. “Power with,” on the other hand, is the power of multiple actors to get something done collaboratively.”
Here she means to say that “power over” is “relational” and “power with” is collaborative.
In another article responding to Anne-Marie’s article we hear an echoing of the observation regarding the close relationship and overlap between these “powers” from Alix Dunn:
“But does collaborative power really broaden the access circles of influence; or does it simply surface a few individuals’ connection to circles of power by making advocacy on their behalf easier and more visible? Does it equally distribute relational power, or do hierarchical power structures found in relational power dynamics simply regenerate in new media environments?”
Alex goes on to describe the apparent privilege of Eltahawy as we have already noted, and then he provides an interesting counter example,
“The case of Alaa Abdel Fatah is a clear counter example. Fatah has a reach similar to Eltahawy in the collaborative power landscape, significant media attention has been paid to his case, and yet he is still behind bars. The two main differences in these cases are related to traditional power dynamics — Eltahawy has American citizenship, Alaa does not; Alaa has been effectively supporting activism in Egypt for much longer than Eltahawy and has had significantly more on-the-ground impact on Egyptian social movements.”
I am framing this conversation so that we can see the difference of opinion on just how connected and incestuous these powers can be; some seeing it as one and the same on one extreme with others seeing is as two distinct sources of power. Having motivated the discussion, I can now speak to how this relates to global rule of law and its intriguing intersection with history.
As a deconverter I see all sorts of historical patterns in the history of the relationship between organized institutions of religion and secular authority. One of the motifs that will not quit is this relationship between the Sacred and the Profane as adumbrated in the exercise of political power. Historically, the institutions of religion, the Sacred, were analagous in almost every way to this modern construct of Relational Power; with the secular authorities being fairly described in terms of Collaborative Power.
What the public has never fully appreciated is that the distinction between these two powers was public myth. They were in fact one and the same.
In the work On the Means and Methods of Mass Deconversion (you can download it here) I wrote a section in the Christian deconversion variant of the work:
“… what was the Trinity all about, really? It is this author’s view that the Trinity was in reality one of many pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle of fraud and deceit. To truly understand the Trinity we start by introducing the concept of perspective. For the rulers and potentates that ruled large populations and who created this and other religions – a topic that will be developed further in this work – the Trinity was analogous to how they operate when acting as ruler:
As a shortest form formula, the Trinity “Doctrine” is analogous to an encoded version of the political formula for ruling large populations.
We can mentally substitute the King for the Father who delegates authority to Law Makers, the Word; and the Spirit for judgment with the Courts set up by the Kings.
Now, from the perspective of the potentates; they are truly separate and distinct to the extent that the King desires, up to and including full autonomy at his will, but never anything other than just the King himself by virtue of all its powers being delegated. At this level there is no logical contradiction
This is the formula in its simplest form for governance of large populations, the social contract at its most crude level where right of conquest determined who the King was. The man with the biggest stick and who was left standing at the top of the hill was the “elect”; no ballot recounting required.
But now, when we take the perspective of the subject – or later the citizen – the fraud becomes clear: because of this pre-existing relationship it may be possible for the King to slip into the shadows and away from public eyes, leaving just the law makers and the courts visible to the public; who thence think the system of government democratic but who in reality are rendered the mark and governed by a dictator.
Regardless of the exact path taken, that is what the French Revolution – and those that followed it – was all about; that is what western neo-liberal “democracy” really is. Religion is politics; has its origins in it, and was created for it. To understand history, law, economics and politics; that is, power, one must start with religion, its primary weapon. The Trinity is, as far as the subject is concerned, coded mockery of the adherents that parrot it.
At that point I concluded the discussion of power and moved on to the topic of deconversion proper. The point I was trying to make, and the point can only really be made after a long pattern of the aforementioned is fully discussed, was that there is in fact this motif about power that seems to follow humanity for hundreds of years through time. This is not a coincidence.
The challenge this presents for global rule of law is that these sources of power must be appropriately combined as one source of power, in a manner acceptably representative, in a very public, fully disclosed manner so that the public understands the way the system really works. Deceptive and fraudulent practices, taken for granted at the national levels, won’t suffice for global rule of law. This is necessary for total buy-in and durability. As we have stated elsewhere, issues of buy-in (of all individual citizens and persons affected) and durability are uber, uber prominent in any discussion about global structures of governance, in a way that makes the national level of governance look trivial. And this is what General Federalism is all about; bringing all these sources of power together in an appropriate and just manner that works the greatest favor to buy-in and durability.
Do I apologize for supporting “world government” and mass deconversion? Not hardly. There is no cause more virtuous, more noble and more worthy of our collective support than the effort to save Humanity from total annihilation.