Table of contents


Lesson Three: Organized and Disorganized Power


The form of the dialogue at the head of this page is one kind of compromise between a good, literary representation of whatever the dialogue might actually have been and a more accurate, perhaps phonetic, transcription. The problem of faithfulness to speech is one of the insoluble and eternal issues of literature. Trying to get around is, I first looked at the "straight" method:

A1: Did you fellows read the newspapers?

Ed: Yes. It was funny....

But that doesn't sound realistic. The rendition appearing in the text is better, though I would have preferred not only to suggest social class in the language, but to convey the immediacy of the situation by setting it as handwriting, perhaps with marks such as are found in musical notation to express intonation and rhythm. Best of all might be an Orwellian newspeak or an actual "voiceprint" of the conversation, but all of these approaches carry the dangers of inadequacy, incomprehensibility, unfaithfulness to the special group language being used, unrepresentativeness--not everyone speaks the same dialect, even in the United States--and the possible appearance of snobbery. Being of radical and obstinate disposition, I would like to try for something "far out," but the mechanics and economics of bookmaking don't permit the more extreme solutions.

Incidentally, the pollsters hit this kind of problem head on when they interview representative Americans for their opinions. If the questionnaires and interviewers do not use an absolutely neutral language (which is impossible), their respondents (the Great American Public) will (a) misunderstand, (b) get panicky, and (c) cunningly give them back the answers they appear to want. This is a severe problem of political and social science method. One of its results, as you can imagine, is that the universal and neutral language that they necessarily strive for turns out to be "baby talk" such as, "Do you think Senator Blank is doing a good job?" The answers aren't likely to be very useful.

It should perhaps be pointed out that A1 (Alice), Bill (Belinda), Carl, Dave, etc., really stand for A,B,C,D, ... N, and then (see page 65) for groups, cities, and countries. Our model, that is, has interchangeable parts, and much that has been said so far about two or several people could stand for a great many more.

The idea of using permutations and combinations came to me in the 1950s from Professor Ithiel Pool of M.I.T., who wrote a paper, still unpublished, on the significance of probability theory in access-analysis. There he pointed out that a person knowing 500 people would be extremely unlikely to know a person A chosen from the population at random; he would be more likely to know an acquaintance of A if A had 500 acquaintances. Since he has 500 acquaintances himself, the probability of his "knowing" A through a mutual acquaintance would be even higher. The probability of "knowing" A indirectly approaches certainly as the chain of acquaintances-of-acquantances is lengthened.

If we increase the assumed number of acquaintances of person from 500 to 2000 and replace randomness by weighting the "possibility of encountering" with the effects of social stratification upon personal acquaintanceship patterns, we can get close to the ideal politician who knows somebody who can have access to anybody. I've observed this idea floating on the subconscious of professional politicians (and some novelists), and it seems to me that it could be converted into a rational, applied political technique. (Governor Daniel Walker of Illinois, I note, won an astonishing victory over two of the strongest Democratic and Republican politicians and organizations in America in November 1972. He had the help of a 1200-mile campaign walk across the state.) Anyone can buy TV tune; a good statistician and a master of who-know-who could plan a high potency "access-strategy."


The gruesome hypothetical at the top of the page is no more than an averaging of English (or other) laws on regicide up to a century ago.

Concerning anarchism, the term rules implies power more than influence. Anarchists usually draw the line at coercive power. Some are of course misanthropes and wish to be rid of both power and influence (manipulation). Do you recall Bakunin's words? "I shall continue to be impossible so long as people who are possible remain possible."

Perhaps about now (one-fifth of the way through the book) you will be drawn into a discussion of the "isms." Fend everybody off with tentative definitions and assignments. if the course now descends into quibbles and yak, the students will decide they need not purchase my book, which, most likely, the bookstore has craftily underordered and has kept them waiting for. Here is a list, each item of which is good for an assignment or a quick definition in class:

1. Anarchism
2. Aristocracy
3. Authoritarianism
4. Catholicism
5. Communism
6. Confucianism
7. Conservatism
8. Conventionalism
9. Democracy
10. Democratic
11. Ethnocentrism
12. Existentialism
13. Fascism (Nazism)
14. Kalos (see pages 81-84; as if there weren't enough!)
15. Laissez-faire
16. Legalism
17. Liberalism
a. old liberalism
b. Neo-liberalism
(welfare state)
18. Majoritarianism
19. Marxism
20. Militarism
21. Mysticism
22. Nationalism
23. Oligarchy
24. Pacifism
25. Phenomenology
26. Pluralism
27. Populism
28. Positivism (scientoid positivism as distinct from instrumental positivism)
29. Pragmatism
30. Relativism
31. Republican
32. Republicanism
33. Scientism (value-free-ism)
34. Socialism
35. Syndicalism (guild socialism)
36. Taoism
37. Technocracy
38. Totalitarianism
39. Zen


On the chart of the three citizens, the parameters of scope and intensity are reflected, but not the dimension of durations; the domain consists of the three exemplary citizens, insofar as the particular power affects each, and an unknown number of others. (I think that I might have used the space to better end.)


A certain stress on F may be needed here. When an engineer builds a bridge, he has to be a social scientist, for he contends with politicians who want it faced with marble, with traffic flow studies, with the opinions of his profession on how a bridge has to be made, with architects who will find his design repulsive, with workers who logically will strike, if they have reason to, in the week before its scheduled opening to the public, and so on. His mechanics will carry him only so far.


The definition of organization arises from an idea complex to which I try to hold throughout this book:

*An action is unique individual (or group) consciously or unconsciously in purposive motion.

*A habit is a repetitive pattern of actions.

*An organization is a set of collective patterned activities.

*A structure is a deeply channeled collective activity.

*An institution is a set of structures (or a complex, enduring organization).

May I be permitted to counsel you here that "definitions" of concepts in social science (unless you are up against the problem of operational definitions for a precise study purpose) depend a lot upon "visualization." Albert Einstein and some other pretty good ratiocinators have asserted that their minds move "visually." Inventors say that they move by "feeling the objects in their hands." They are both correct. Creative thought, and ideological thinking in the beneficial sense of the term, moves by an almost sensual brain process where consistency need not be evidenced by rigid words (and usually is adversely affected when it is). The utility and validity of the construction comes out of the effects that the holistic imagery has upon the manipulation of the things and events that one is dealing with. (I believe that this is what pragmatism, operationism, functionalism, and instrumentalism say.)


Proceeding to the antics of leadership, perhaps a small prize should be given to any student who can add some expression to the published list (like "like off the fat of the land").


The double-column list is sure to cause trouble. Apart from the cautions voiced in the book, one may mention that college administrators, in this age of hundreds of new colleges and revolutions in the old, often find themselves in a "loose habit group-type 1 organization."


Respecting the functional or realistic conceptions of constitutions, you might consider whether your class could conceive of the U.S.A. having had eight constitutions. The exact number depends upon what you define as an important enough set of changes in power and institutions so that a new "plan for an authoritative organization" has come into being. Thus, the eight "constitutions" might be:

1. The Articles of Confederation
2. The Federalist Constitution
3. The Jacksonian Party Constitution
4. The Slave Constitution
5. The Civil War Constitution
6. The Monopolists' Constitution
7. The New Deal Welfare Constitution
8. The Centralized Constitution

For the future there are two possibilities:

9. The Total Constitution (under which everything can be done by an executive-run government in Washington), or

10. A Revolutionary Constitution (under which some major directions of all eight constitutions are reversed).

After all, if a caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly, it is now to be called a butterfly. If Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde, he is Mr. Hyde. Why should we continue to insist that the U.S. Constitution is and always has been just that? The answer is, of course, psychological; we need permanence in our diet of change.


The elephant of authority symbolizes not only authoritative individuals but also authoritative (sacred) institutions and objects.


Probably the class can manage to produce collectively all the examples of the elephantine authority from the behavior of the incumbent President, or the history, say, of the British Crown, or the Hitler regime, or some religious hierarchy familiar to them.


Table of contents