On Power, Its Nature and the History of Its Growth

By Bertrand de Jouvenel; D. W. Brogan et al. | Go to book overview

I. OF CIVIL OBEDIENCE

1. The mystery of civil obedience. 2. The historical character of obedience. 3. Statics and dynamics of obedience. 4. Obedience linked to credit.

AFTER describing in his lost treatises on Constitutions the various governmental structures of a large number of different societies, Aristotle, in the Politics, reduced them all to three basic types: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. The characteristics of these three types, in the various mixtures in which they were found in practice, accounted for all the forms of Power which had come under his observation.

Ever since then political science, or what passes for such, has followed obediently in the footsteps of the master. The discussion of the different forms of Power is always with us because, there being in every society a centre of control, everyone is naturally interested in the questions of its powers, its organization, and its conduct.

There is, however, another phenomenon that also deserves some consideration: the fact that over every human community there reigns a government at all. The differences between forms of government in different societies and the changes of form within the same society are but the accidents, to borrow the terminology of philosophy, of the same essence. The essence is Power. And we may well break off from inquring into what is the best form of Power-- from political ethics--to ask what is the essence of Power--to construct a political metaphysic.

The problem may also be looked at from another angle, which permits of a simpler statement of it. At all times and in all places we are confronted with the phenomenon of civil obedience. An order issued by Power gets obeyed by the community at large. When Power addresses itself to a foreign state, the weight behind its words is in proportion to its own ability to make itself obeyed and win from that obedience the means of action. It all turns on that obedience. Who knows the reasons for that obedience knows the inner nature of Power.

-17-

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On Power, Its Nature and the History of Its Growth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Translator's Note xiii
  • Preface xv
  • The Minotaur Presented 1
  • Book I - Metaphysics of Power 15
  • I. of Civil Obedience 17
  • Book II - Origins of Power 61
  • Iv. the Magical Origins of Power 63
  • Book III - Of the Nature of Power 93
  • Vi. the Dialectic of Command 95
  • VII- the Expansionist Character Of Power 119
  • Book IV - The State as Permanent Revolution 155
  • IX- Power, Assailant of The Social Order 157
  • Xi. Power and Beliefs 194
  • Book V - The Face of Power Changes, But Not Its Nature 213
  • Xii. of Revolutions 215
  • Xiii. Imperium and Democracy 236
  • Book VI - Limited Power or Unlimited Power? 281
  • Xv. Limited Power 283
  • Xvii. Liberty's Aristocratic Roots 317
  • Xix. Order or Social Protectorate 336
  • Epilogue - Written by the Translator 379
  • Notes 383
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