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Alfred de Grazia: Discovering National Elites





Every elite endeavors to transform its power into authority in order to gain psychological acceptance of its exercise, of power, and to gain a general attitude which will confer legitimacy on the physical coercion that is needed to carry out authoritative decisions. The stability of the government depends directly upon the elite’s control over the instruments of force and violence. Internally speaking, the greater the authority of the regime, the less it need rely on violence and force. The greater its weakness, the more it must use violence as a means of holding and gaining power. These propositions, however, are cut across by the fact that violence as means for executing decisions is more acceptable in certain societies than in others. The fact that many elements of Western elites disavow force as a means of governing, except in extreme, does not preclude a number of different societies from preferring forceful means to psychological or economic methods of carrying out state decisions. In all societies, however, the instruments of force constitute a reserve power, though the point of commitment of reserve varies greatly.

Whether or not violence has an accepted place among the ordinary instruments of power, violence will increase as a means of power when consensus is disrupted by disagreement between elites and mass or between segments of the elite. External conditions of the use of violence - the preference for violence in other communities or societies, the aggressiveness of other communities - affects independently the position of violence and of those skilled in force within a society, apart from but certainly affecting the internal condition previously described. Consequently, the total place of force in a society at a given moment depends both upon internal and external conditions, operating independently and also with mutual effect. The military element of the elite consists of those whose careers are devoted to the preparation for and the exercise of physical coercion. Beyond the ordinary meaning of the military as land, sea and air forces rest the police; a final sub-section hereunder will treat of them also.

The present world situation is one that focuses attention of people upon the use of force, both internally as civil struggle, and externally as war. This heightened attention is itself a factor increasing the visibility of the military and the expectation that the military will become civic leaders. The military is always a potential elite, even in the most peaceful of societies, for so many are the influences that will heighten the attention given to military events and to the qualities that the military are expected to possess, that a significant fraction of every elite will possess military skills. If one surveys the proportion of years in history that have been given over to war, and more usefully the present state of the world, the military is shown to be much more active in the elite than this minimum picture conveys. Since at least and at most the military contributes to public policy in any national group and by reflected glory in many non-national, corporate, provincial local and other groups, the operator must attend to military leaders as targets with at least as great attention as he pays to targets among the intelligentsia or the press.

In a large proportion of states (for example, France under the Directorate Italy after the first world war, Egypt and Guatemala today) a Napoleon, Mussolini, Nassar or Castillo an skyrocket into power by forceful means. The fact that the military are traditionally reputed to have only the slightest interest in propaganda should not deter the operator from seeking constantly to devise media and messages suitable to the military element.


XVIII-1. Importance of the military. An obvious measure of the importance of the military element to the general elite is the proportion of top posts of the government held by the military, as individuals or collectively. Again, the test of the scope, intensity and domain of power should be applied to those who wear uniforms in their normal work in order to determine what proportion of decisions involve them, how important those decisions are, and how many people they affect. It should be remembered that, all things being equal, the transfer of civil power to a military leader almost automatically increases the intensity of the power since the military has at its command disciplined man-power for executing orders. Whereas with other bureaucracies, even firing is a rare occurrence, the military has the court martial, which is completely beyond the disciplinary power of civil agencies.

XVIII-2. Comparison of armed forces. The army tends to be more political than the navy or air force. Army leadership works most often with larger masses of men, works more often among civil populations, is used to taking ground and holding it and treating with the occupants of the territory, has more complicated problems of discipline and human relations because of the distribution of its forces over territory in contact with disturbing elements, and consequently has been more naturally power-conscious and the source of power.

XVIII-3. . Internal differences. Despite efforts to rotate military personnel among the various types of line, staff and command services, most armies face the problem of antagonisms between combat and service or staff elements. For instance, one of the reasons that a number of South American revolutions have been led by colonels is that they are often the highest active command officers, whereas generals are deprived of direct control over troops and are stationed in capital cities. In determining the most powerful political element in the military, in the present and potentially, the operator may well look for some distinction between combat elements with a high morale and strong drives, and the more bureaucratic army leaders who have merged more readily into the status quo or the elite. Evidences of this distinction may be seen in rotation schedules, time and space separatism, various differences between periodicals, bulletins, and orders issued at a low level as against the high level, and the atmosphere in clubs frequented by the one as opposed to the other group.

XVIII-4. Personality. In assaying the direction, capacity for action, and receptivity to media of the military leadership, it is often useful to make some determination of the extent of intellectualism, activism or bureaucratic habits among the military leaders. These distinctions have to do with the modes of reacting to outside information and of carrying out attitudes.

XVIII-5. Military values. Though the model military leader is one who is directed at external targets with the aim of overpowering them through force, other values frequently prevail among the military and assist or conflict with the primary goal. In the first place, there may be internal targets as well as external ones, and the internal ones may prove to be more important to them than the external. Many armies and other armed forces have been more concerned with overcoming internal elite opposition to their power than in facing towards an external target. In the realm of values, the acquisition of wealth can be a very strong motive of whose who employ force for a living. For instance, in past years, many Chinese warlords and provincial governors rose from poverty to become rich and powerful semi-independent rulers. Wealth has been a primary motive in their lives; one authority writes, "Almost without exception, warlords rose to fame from obscure beginnings, gained jurisdiction over a large territory, put money into their own pockets which should have gone to the government." If such a situation has changed in China, the typical personality of the new military elite gives the propagandist a different target than the old.

Yet another value frequently encountered among the military elite is security. At times military elites have opposed any constructive behavior that would have brought changes to the tables or organization or their standard operating procedures. Prestige and pleasure, following a reverence for tradition and for the social life of the armed forces, have been other important motives to characterize certain military elites or important portions thereof. Hunt clubs, and other sports, gambling, travel and generally high living, have been the motives for many military leaders of the past. Therefore, whether military is directed at internal or external targets, and what the values are that predominate among them, constitute important data for the propaganda operator.

XVIII-6. Militarization of the community. With an increased expectation of civil or foreign conflict, the elite tends to militarize those functions of society that have hitherto been considered irrelevant to power. Educational, economic, religious, scientific and business spheres become politicized governments are increasingly mobilized to face expected internal or external threats; the military begins to infiltrate into an ever increasing number of positions hitherto considered entirely civil. Soon one may, by examining laws, ordinances and appointments, determine whether a functional expansion of the military skill is occurring.

XVIII-7. Cohesion with other elite groups. Societies have widely differing interrelationships between the military and other functional and general social components. In some cases the military elite is intimately connected with other elite elements by almost all indices of social cohesion and intellectual agreement. In other societies the military is isolated - by training, by background, by function, by social class, by dress, and in social life generally. Against, some military elements are quite divorced from the mass, whereas in others they are the most democratic in the sense of being typical of the mass of the society as opposed to the rest of the elite. Reference here is made to the analysis paragraphs under Sections 12 (Single and Plural Elites) and 17 (Bureaucracy for the appropriate indicators of elite cohesion with military).

XVIII-8. Police Elements. The organizational forms, powers and relationships between the police and the elite and military forces are numerous. In totalitarian states or states approaching that condition in theory, if not in practice, the police are sharply distinguishable from the military by the hostility which all elite elements as well as the mass commonly feel towards them. In contrast, the elites of other societies feel confident of commanding the loyalty and obedience of the police. To be distinguished are locally commanded as against centrally directed police; secret police as opposed to non-uniformed police under strict supervision of formal institutional organs; police who operate according to the rule of law or arbitrary police who have a special code, either formal or informal that they follow.

Even where the police are controlled by law, are treated as equal to other citizens, operate mostly in uniform and under public record, are localistic, and are recruited by tests that do not emphasize ruthlessness, they will still have worked in human relations, as a matter of course, and are recruited by tests that do not emphasize ruthlessness, they will still have worked in human relation, as a matter of course, and are in a position to be opinion leaders or, at least, symbol conveyors. Though frequently thought not to have political opinions, most do possess them, and apart from obvious precautions about antagonizing others of different views. They carry on a great deal of face-to-fact contact in which opinions are exchanged with people of differing statuses and ways of life. As a special group, even a peaceful and law-abiding police force cannot be neglected as a vehicle and target for propaganda. As one goes to the other extreme, the secret police proceeding by arbitrary methods, the operator encounters, of course, not only concealed targets that he cannot spot, but also minds that are closed to messages that might influence others among his people. Pseudo-scientific periodical journalism and messages emphasizing the image of the operator’s sponsor as a powerful entity are two of the few modes of access to that type of police mind. Despite its forbidding aspect, it should not be ignored as a target of propaganda, for such a police force is a constant terrorizing influence over others who receive the operator’s messages. Any caution or lethargy that may be introduced into its behavior by terroristic propaganda aids the larger targets’ possibility of exposure.

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