The Pure Theory of Politics

By Bertrand Jouvenel De | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
ON BEING HEARD

I wake up in an Arab town. Because inhabitants are tightly packed, I hear many voices; because I am idle, I am aware of them; and because I do not understand the language, my attention is not turned off by a feeling of indiscretion. Therefore I let the tones of voices play upon my mind. It is easy to tell that this voice is recounting events, these two are engaged in bargaining, while children at play near by are taunting each other. But now suddenly a voice is raised, immediately followed by a clatter of feet: in response to that voice, children have assembled. Somewhat later I notice that a discussion is warming up: voices wax loud and angry, others join in excitedly: then a new voice cuts in and the shouting abates. Thus in a short time I have observed, through sounds alone, the immediate efficiency of two voices: the voice which mustered and the voice which appeased. And it comes naturally to call them both 'voices of authority'.

Both manifest a phenomenon central to Politics: the pressure of words upon the behaviour of others. When the uttering of words by one affects the behaviour of many, this is objective proof that the words have weight. We know in general that if streams of activity are deflected by the intervention of a new factor, this factor effects work, which testifies to its energy. The working of words upon actions is the basic political action. Shakespeare exhibits it in the scene of Mark Antony's oration over Caesar's body: when the orator has done, his listeners move violently in the direction he has suggested; as Antony observes in an aside: 'Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot.'

The scene induces us to reflect that in this case the effect of the speech has gone very far beyond what Brutus expected when he allowed it; and surely Shakespeare meant this great reversal of the citizens' attitudes to come as a dramatic surprise to the public. It is profitable to distinguish the ex post observed efficiency of a speech from its ex ante expected efficiency. Now if we place ourselves in the ex ante position, as outside observers, we do not know what the speaker will say nor the manner of its expression. Therefore our

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The Pure Theory of Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I- Approach- Politics as History 1
  • Chapter 1- Configuration and Dynamics 3
  • Chapter 3- On the Nature of Political Science 29
  • Part II- Setting- Ego in Otherdom 41
  • Chapter 1- Of Man 43
  • Chapter 2- Home 48
  • Chapter 3- Otherdom 55
  • Part III- Action- Instigation and Response 67
  • Chapter 1- Instigation 69
  • Chapter 2- Response 83
  • Part IV- Authority- ''Potestas'' and ''Potentia'' 97
  • Chapter 1- On Being Heard 99
  • Chapter 2- The Law of Conservative Exclusion 109
  • Chapter 3- Place and Face 118
  • Part V- Decision 129
  • Chapter 1- The People 131
  • Chapter 2- The Committee, I (judicial or Political) 146
  • Chapter 3- The Committee, II (foresight, Values and Pressures) 157
  • Part VI- Attitudes 167
  • Chapter 1- Attention and Intention 169
  • Chapter 2- The Team against the Committee 176
  • Chapter 3- The Manners of Politics 187
  • Addendum the Myth of the Solution 204
  • Conclusion 213
  • Index 215
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