The Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership

The Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership

The Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership

The Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership

Synopsis

Do we live in basically orderly societies that occasionally erupt into violent conflict, or do we fail to perceive the constancy of violence and disorder in our societies? In this classic book, originally published in 1980, Cedric J. Robinson contends that our perception of political order is an illusion, maintained in part by Western political and social theorists who depend on the idea of leadership as a basis for describing and prescribing social order.



Using a variety of critical approaches in his analysis, Robinson synthesizes elements of psychoanalysis, structuralism, Marxism, classical and neoclassical political philosophy, and cultural anthropology in order to argue that Western thought on leadership is mythological rather than rational. He then presents examples of historically developed "stateless" societies with social organizations that suggest conceptual alternatives to the ways political order has been conceived in the West. Examining Western thought from the vantage point of a people only marginally integrated into Western institutions and intellectual traditions, Robinson's perspective radically critiques fundamental ideas of leadership and order.

Excerpt

In 1985 Philadelphia police bombed the Osage Avenue residence of move, a Black radical organization originally known as the Christian Movement for Life, and killed eleven of its members. This was after multiple arrests had been made, 10,000 rounds of ammunition had been unloaded on the home, and the police had resorted to fire hoses and tear gas to drive the residents out of their home. When the resulting fire spread throughout the neighborhood, it left more than 250 people without homes. the mayor of Philadelphia at that time, the man who made the call to bomb the move compound, was the city’s first Black mayor, W. Wilson Goode. That was twenty years after the U.S. Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, and here was the most gruesome evidence that politics could hardly solve the problems that politics itself had caused. Thirty years later, as the United States watches the administration of its first Black president languish on the shores of the promise of change, the mobilizations of those who might be said to constitute a modern-day motley crew of the dispossessed have thrown into tragic light what was so obviously clear then: the security presumed to rest in the agents of law and order—that is, in government—is a security that destabilizes and voraciously seeks the destruction of the lives, worldviews, and ways of being of those who cling to other forms of safety, other modes of knowing, and other reasons to plan.

This was the world—is the world—into which Cedric J. Robinson’s first monograph, The Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership, announced its devastating critique of politics and its reorientation of intellectual and social energy toward antipolitical, radical transformation. What we’ve seen in the thirty-five years since suny Press first published Terms is that the mythos of leadership, masquerading as order, covers over the most hideous forms of violence against those . . .

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