Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dan Sanchez — Trump Surrenders to the Iron Law of Oligarchy

Regardless of how it came about, it seems clear that whatever prospect there was for a truly populist Trump presidency is gone with the wind. Was it inevitable that this would happen, one way or another?
One person who might have thought so was German sociologist Robert Michels, who posited the “iron law of oligarchy” in his 1911 work Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy.
Michels argued that political organizations, no matter how democratically structured, rarely remain truly populist, but inexorably succumb to oligarchic control.
Even in a political system based on popular sovereignty, Michels pointed out that, “the sovereign masses are altogether incapable of undertaking the most necessary resolutions.” This is true for simple, unavoidable technical reasons: “such a gigantic number of persons belonging to a unitary organization cannot do any practical work upon a system of direct discussion.”
This practical limitation necessitates delegation of decision-making to office-holders. These delegates may at first be considered servants of the masses:

“All the offices are filled by election. The officials, executive organs of the general will, play a merely subordinate part, are always dependent upon the collectivity, and can be deprived of their office at any moment. The mass of the party is omnipotent.”
But these delegates will inevitably become specialists in the exercise and consolidation of power, which they gradually wrest away from the “sovereign people”:

“The technical specialization that inevitably results from all extensive organization renders necessary what is called expert leadership. Consequently the power of determination comes to be considered one of the specific attributes of leadership, and is gradually withdrawn from the masses to be concentrated in the hands of the leaders alone. Thus the leaders, who were at first no more than the executive organs of the collective will, soon emancipate themselves from the mass and become independent of its control.
Organization implies the tendency to oligarchy. In every organization, whether it be a political party, a professional union, or any other association of the kind, the aristocratic tendency manifests itself very clearly.”…
There are two aspects of oligarchy operative in the US. The first is plutonomy aka plutocracy, of the rule of the wealthy. The second is technocracy, or the rule of "experts." The US political power is wielded by both.

The idea was that Trump, being among the wealthy, would not be subject to the same influences from the wealthy ownership class that others would be. However, political power in actually wielded on a day to day basis through the administrative bureaucracy (Russian: nomenklatura) and the military, paramilitary and intelligence services (siloviki). This can be consider the deep state that provided continuity in policy across changing administrations. Trump learned quickly that he would be stymied unless he played ball with the governmental technocracy.


No comments: