Friday, June 1, 2018

Robert Paul Wolff — The Deep State

Robert Paul Wolff is largely correct here, but "the deep state" cannot be equated with bureaucracy as a political factor ensuring constancy and stability, as Max Weber described.

He apparently did not so a search on the term "deep state," which seems to have originated with respect to Turkish state and intelligence services and senior administration under Kemal Ataturk. In Russia is this is known as the siloviki (senior career intelligence and military) and nomenklatura (senior administrative bureaucracy). In China, the deep state is the senior level of the CCP. 

These are special cases of a state within a state as the locus of power in a nation-state, and not all deep states resemble each other closely. However, the family resemblance is arguably close enough to provide a context for at least a semi-analytical the use of the concept of a deep state in political science. However, the meaning should be carefully specified to avoid ambiguity, conflation, and confusion.

In the US the "deep state" has several meanings, given by different analysts. The most restricted is the senior career intelligence, military, and government service that persists across administrations. It also means those that control the military-intelligence-industrial-financial-government apparatus that is based on the revolving door that provides continuity between the public and private sectors insuring effective control by unelected elites. NGOs such as think tanks but not limited to them constitute another factor mediating the connection of public and private, state and non-state, government and shadow government.

The post describes something that is related to the these factors but is not coterminous with it. The US government bureaucracy is huge since it includes all the civil servants. The deep state is something different. It is partially a subset of the bureaucracy but not limited to it, and the revolving door makes it dynamic, uniting the public and private sectors.

US deep state is also more amorphous than the government bureaucracy, since it is a shadow organization rather than one with institutional arrangements, including a foundation in law. Because it lacks institutional arrangements, many deny its existence as an entity. And that is the way the deep state likes it.

But RPW's point that bureaucracies provide continuity that can inhibit change, including reform, owing to the iron law of oligarchy, is well-taken. A deep state can be viewed as a aspect of bureaucracy that is concentrated and entrenched at the top, providing elite control.

The deep state is also a subset of the Establishment, but also different from it. The Establishment is made up of the entrenched elite and their cronies and minions. The deep state is a concentrated subset of the Establishment, characterized by occupying positions of power and influence.

The Philosopher's Stone
The Deep State
Robert Paul Wolff | Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Noah Way said...

Excellent, literate commentary, Tom.

Yours, not Wolff's.

Tom Hickey said...

Excellent, literate commentary

Thanks. Actually, I just edited it, cleaning up the typos, clarifying some points and adding things I neglected to mention in the first draft.