Narratives, world views, ideology. Those will be the primary discussion of my blog. Not that I will always use those words but those topics will be at least tangential to what I will discuss. That fact may go without saying giving the importance and broad nature of those topics.
I will start off my blog with a non-review of a movie I recently watched. I hope this doesn’t become a habit but I will indulge myself for an easy start. I thoroughly enjoyed Dredd, although I can’t recommend the movie, I liked it for aesthetic reasons rather than quality of content. It was a typical nonsensical apocalyptic scenario which happened to involve a common problem: a government struggling for control of a mega-city. It brought up an interesting question one which I hope to explore more in the future. At what point does the power of a state collapse where it is no longer able to control its population? Not that this question was posed outright by the movie, but it none the less brought the question to my mind. For whatever that’s worth.
Firstly what do I mean by control a population? I’ll tentatively define control of a population as having three components: justification, voluntary disempowerment, and hegemony. This is not a comprehensive definition or explanation but it will do just fine now. Justification is generally any form of ideology, religion, or threat that is readily accepted by the population as valid. For example in the United States one form of justification would be the demotic control of the government. People will swear by it sighting it as a great blessing or virtue. Justification need not be true just accepted and most importantly transmittable. This transmission could be verbal or behavioral. Control through threats is often transmitted behaviorally, and not just in the obvious application of violence. If the threat of a ticket becomes real people will slow down and speed less. If you are familiar with driving in an area you will often see a change in the amount of speeders between regions where the threat of receiving a ticket is more or less real. No one needs necessarily explain this to each other, thought they might, but people will gauge they amount they can speed by the behavior of drivers around them or at least by a bunch of brake lights. This is not to say that a government must prevent speeding to maintain control, this is simply an example of a sphere where variance in control is clearly visible. Voluntary disempowerment is closely related to this concept of justification.
By voluntary disempowerment I mean people allowing the government to provide a service which they could have either provided themselves or consumed from a private party. This does not mean that the disempowerment is not de jure, what is more important is de facto compliance or utilization. If guns are banned voluntary disempowerment would mean citizens do not own or use guns. Just because something is against the law doesn’t mean citizens don’t have choice and what choice they make is reflective of government control. How people provide or consume security is a perfect example of voluntary disempowerment. In an area where government is well in control even if people have the means to provide their own security they will most often still call the police. They are voluntarily surrendering their autonomy in how their security or justice will be handled to an arm of the government. In an area where control is not so absolute people will often avoid calling the police. This is not to say that citizen’s are making a conscious calculation as to how much control the police have, but that their self interest, along with the justifications, or lack of them, provided by their neighbors and associates will affect their behavior regarding the consumption or provision of security. A gas station with bars or Plexiglas between the customer and the cashier might call the police, but they have not voluntarily disempowered themselves and have consumed goods for their store’s fortification.
Lastly we have hegemony. Governments provide a number of services, if they have true control of a population they must have hegemony over some or all of their services. I say some because some services provided by the government can have competition without a loss of mandate. FedEx can compete with the postal service without the government falling apart. Roads are a simple example if the government maintains a hegemony on the building and maintenance of roads they maintain a certain mandate. Again this doesn’t mean they have to do a good job but that they have to be the main show in town. Even if they contract out to a private company as long as they “foot the bill” they will likely maintain control. Where their are private roads the government has less influence. A citizen will do things on the dirt road his family built that he would not do on a pubic road even if he does not own the road outright.
There are many places in existence today where governments are not in control. This has happened many times on both a micro and macro level. Certainly no government has absolute control, none has become the perfect leviathan within its own geography and purview, but some maintain de facto control. A refinement of my previous question is what conditions are necessary and or conducive to government control? Which is more important the nature of government or the nature of the people? Do the right people just give the government an easier time, or does the right government make the people more compliant? To be continued…..