Monday 6 March 2023

Hannah Arendt on Authority

The Second World War and then the Cold War which followed it saw an enormous expansion in the Public Sector and in the powers of public authorities to regulate conduct of every sort. 

The cretin Hannah Arendt chose 1954, the year of 'peak Authority' in McCarthyite America, to publish the following-

 it is my contention that... authority has vanished from the modern world. Since we can no longer fall back upon authentic and undisputable experiences common to all, the very term has become clouded by controversy and confusion.

Fuck off! The House Un-American Activities committee represented an authentic and indisputable experience for lots of people. Stalin, of course, had yet more fearsome mechanisms of enforcing authority. 

Little about its nature appears self-evident or even comprehensible to everybody, except that the political scientist may still remember that this concept was once fundamental to political theory, or that most will agree that a constant, ever-widening and deepening crisis of authority has accompanied the development of the modem world in our century.

Sheer nonsense! Informal or uncoercive forms of authority had been replaced by much stricter and more lethal structures.

This crisis, apparent since the inception of the century, is political in origin and nature.

This woman did not understand that the politics means stuff done by the State or those who seek to gain control over the State. It has nothing to do with what stupid pedants gas on about.  

The rise of political movements intent upon replacing the party system,

The Communist party, like the Nazi party was just as much a party as the Tories or the Republicans. 

and the development of a new totalitarian form of government,

where one party took over the Government and banned all the other parties 

took place against a background of a more or less general, more or less dramatic breakdown of all traditional authorities.

Traditional authority traditionally disappears once we get to modern times. 

Total war meant that even democratic countries had to beef up 'Authority'. In British India, which was a pretty laid back place if you happened to be White, even the privileged 'box wallahs' of Calcutta began to grumble about 'Authority' once their air conditioners were requisitioned for the Army's V.D hospital. Orwell, an Old Etonian, wrote 1984 as a protest against rationing under Atlee in 1948.  

Nowhere was this breakdown the direct result of the regimes or movements themselves;

The reverse was the case. If the Tzar or Kaiser or Hapsburg in charge was as stupid as shit and lost a war then their authority evaporated. 

it rather seemed as though totalitarianism, in the form of movements as well as of regimes, was best fitted to take advantage of a general political and social atmosphere in which the party system had lost its prestige and the government’s authority was no longer recognized.

Where? Can Arendt give a single example of this happening? In Italy and Germany, the Dictator was a proxy for the anti-Communist Army. Portugal did have utterly rubbish 'Liberal' administrations but Salazar only came to power because of a financial crisis. Running out of money or facing the threat of a Communist takeover can have political consequences. But no decline in 'authority' caused any such thing. Why? There was never any mystical 'authority' even in the Age of Faith. This is because beating a Pope or Bishop tends to make him consecrate you as God's anointed.

The most significant symptom of the crisis, indicating its depth and seriousness, is that it has spread to such prepolitical areas as child-rearing and education,

Arendt had no kids. She believed that babies no longer loved and obeyed their Mummies. Also, kids kept knifing their teachers coz of Rock & Roll.  

where authority in the widest sense has always been accepted as a natural necessity, obviously required as much by natural needs, the helplessness of the child, as by political necessity, the continuity of an established civilization which can be assured only if those who are newcomers by birth are guided through a pre-established world into which they are born as strangers.

babies aren't strangers. They very quickly colonize Mummy or Daddy type people and spread joy and happiness.  

Because of its simple and elementary character, this form of authority has, throughout the history of political thought, served as a model for a great variety of authoritarian forms of government,

Very true. Hitler used to keep his hair in curlers and rule Germany wearing an apron. He dealt with Rohm and Schleicher by sending them to bed without any supper. Stalin, on the other hand, regularly spanked Trotsky which is why he ran away to Mexico.  

so that the fact that even this prepolitical authority which ruled the relations between adults and children, teachers and pupils, is no longer secure signifies that all the old time-honored metaphors and models for authoritarian relations have lost their plausibility.

Mummy isn't the model of an authoritarian relationship. Atilla the fucking Hun, maybe.  

Since authority always demands obedience,

No. An authority on a subject does not demand obedience. Authority provides Aumann public signals which promote better correlated equilibria. But solutions to coordination games don't have to be coercive or demand compliance.  

it is commonly mistaken for some form of power or violence.

Nonsense! Nobody thinks a thug has authority.  

Yet authority precludes the use of external means of coercion;

No. It may be backed by a sanction but then again it may not.  

where force is used, authority itself has failed.

Nope. It has been reinforced. An authority on German history may certify that Holocaust denial is not compatible with the historical record. The State may pass a law punishing Holocaust denial in which case we may say that the authority of historical experts has been affirmed or reinforced. 

Authority, on the other hand, is incompatible with persuasion,

Rubbish! Authority can use 'moral suasion'- indeed Monetary authorities consider it to be part of their tool-kit. 

which presupposes equality

persuasion does not presuppose equality. We may want to persuade the monarch as well as the jail-bird that smoking is bad for your health.  

and works through a process of argumentation.

No. Persuasion may eschew arguments in favor of subliminal methods which appeal to cognitive dissonance- e.g. showing attractive people as holding a particular position while ugly and stupid people are shown holding the opposite position.  

Where arguments are used, authority is left in abeyance.

Utterly false. The person with supreme authority may chose to supply arguments for why he is giving a particular order.  

Against the egalitarian order of persuasion stands

coz Madison Avenue plutocrats were actually egalitarian Communists- right? 

the authoritarian order, which is always hierarchical.

Nope. Authority may arise as a result of being the Schelling focal solution to a coordination game without any hierarchical distinctions arising. Thus the 'price leader' may be a small firm with little market power.  

If authority is to be defined at all,

it is defined in terms of power or control rights 

then, it must be in contradistinction to both coercion by force and persuasion through arguments.

No. Authority may use force or persuasion but can exist without either.  

(The authoritarian relation between the one who commands and the one who obeys rests

on an uncorrelated asymmetry not some stupid shite Arendt pulled out of her arse. 

neither on common reason

unless common reason is the name Arendt gives to shit she pulls out of her arse 

nor on the power of the one who commands; what they have in common is the hierarchy itself, whose Tightness and legitimacy both recognize and where both have their predetermined stable place.)

This is sheer bullshit. Conquering Armies had an 'authoritarian relationship' with conquered peoples who had zero idea as to what 'hierarchy' obtained in the occupying country. The reason the conquered people obeyed the occupying forces was because they could see that they would be killed or incarcerated if they failed to comply. However, there was no 'predetermined and stable place' between, say, the American occupying forces and their German subjects. America didn't want to tyrannize over the Germans. 

This point is of historical importance; one aspect of our concept of authority is Platonic in origin,

Rubbish! Plato is considered a shithead who knew nothing about politics. Alexander was important. Aristotle sucked ass.  

and when Plato began to consider the introduction of authority into the handling of public affairs in the polis,

The public affairs of the polis were conducted on the basis of the authority of the ecclesia. Arendt- like Heidegger was a stupid as shit.  

he knew he was seeking an alternative to the common Greek way of handling domestic affairs, which was persuasion

when not killing or exiling peeps- right? 

as well as to the common way of handling foreign affairs, which was force and violence .

Encouraging trade and promoting joint cultural and religious activities  were a big feature of the Hellenistic world. However, once nomadic pastoralists started chasing each other out of Eurasia, political philosophy became irrelevant. The revival of Greek power under Byzantine rulers gave way to Turkish rule. Then, Western European cod fishermen created a truly global maritime commerce which became increasingly industrialized and technologically advanced. These Western Europeans had a few pedants who pretended that Plato and Aristotle and so forth weren't as stupid as shit. But this was just a pretense. I suppose that is what Hannah's Aunt was getting at when she said authority was dead. Still, the dim bint was able to make a living for herself- not perhaps as good a living as Ayn Rand but beggars can't be choosers. 

No comments: