The 49 Laws of Power
This article is a distillation of the laws of political power as seen through the lens of elite theory. My work is based on the book “The Populist Delusion“ By Neema Parvini, otherwise known as Academic Agent. The book outlines and popularizes the great thinkers in this tradition. This article is a further simplification into a set of laws and quotes that represent the most basic functions of political power.
In his introduction to “The Populist Delusion“ Parvini outlines the myths of the current political order. The rules of eternal power conflict with, and overrule these myths, in any objective analysis. These beliefs block advancement toward a real understanding of the actions of power.
Myths of Liberalism:
Myth of the Stateless Society: That there could ever be separation between state and society.
Myth of the Neutral State: That politics could ever be separate from or unbiased by state intervention.
Myth of the free market: That economics can function separately from state influence.
Myth of the separation of powers: That competing power centers can realistically exist without converging.
The analysis of elite theory is only concerned with a realist view of the functions of political power. It is not concerned with issues of morality or economic efficiency. Elite theory can be viewed as the answer to the question: What are the laws that govern the function and actions of power.
The laws that follow are divided by the thinkers who most contributed to each. Much of their work overlaps and builds one on another. This is not a scholarly work. I have ruthlessly edited, or changed, quotes and ideas to make them comprehensible and suitable to this purpose. This is an act to change what people believe. Not to educate. I encourage you to buy “The Populist Delusion” which is a scholarly work. It is well written and well worth your time.
There is Always a Ruling Class: “In all societies, two classes of people appear, a class that rules and a class that is ruled.”
There is Always a Political Formula: There is always a “moral and legal basis on which the power of the political class rests“ in the mind of the ruled. e.g. divine right of kings, the democratic will of the people.
Mosca’s Law: The larger the community to be governed, the smaller the proportion of it is part of the ruling minority, and the more difficult for the majority to organize resistance to it.
Leaders Select Themselves: Leaders select themselves, or have themselves selected, even in democracy.
“His friends have him elected. As in all social life, those with will and the moral, intellectual and material means force their will upon others.“
There are Two Classes of Elites: Ruling elites and non-ruling elite bureaucrats.
Power Flows According to Non-logical Human Needs: History and power are governed by non-logical human needs and types. These are sentiments that pre-exist reason.
Foxes and Lions: The two human types most relevant to the function of power are “Class I: Instinct for Combinations”, who are known as foxes, and “Class II: Persistence of Aggregates,” known as Lions.
“The combinations [Class I] are responsible for bringing about new ideas, new cognitive and moral systems, new technologies, new social and cultural forms, and so forth. They are, in short, the endogenous factors of socio-cultural evolution. The persistences [Class II] are judges in the final instance of what shall be programed into the social order. They may be viewed as the basic selective mechanism in socio-cultural evolution. People strong in persistences [Class II] tend to be patriotic, tradition loving, religious, familistic. frugal in their economic habits, inclined toward the use of force and confrontation in political matters, adept at deferring gratification. Conversely, persons strong in combinations [Class I] are culture-relativists,; they value change as an end in itself; they are hedonistic, rationalistic individualistic, dedicated to spending and entrepreneurship; they are also inclined toward ruse, deception, and diplomacy in political matters.“
Circulation of the Elites: The elite class, over time, becomes ossified, weak, or maladjusted to new circumstances. Foxes tend to rule in old elites. They are replaced by a new mix of elite lions and foxes capable of using force after the old foxes lose the ability to maintain order, or lose the will or ability to use force to retain power.
The Ruled are Always Lions: The ruled are always majority lions, though they may preserve the traditions established by foxes, and thus have fox-created values. Even having fox values they will act with the sentiments and pefferences of lions.
Elite Interests are National Interests: “Ruling Classes have at all times identified their own interest as the interests of the nation.“
All Political Formulas are Supported by Derivations:
Assertions: “This is true.”
Authority: “This authority says it is true.“
Schema of Principles: “These are the principles which make it true.“
Logical Sophistry: “Here are the arguments that make this true.“
The Iron Law of Oligarchy: “Who says organization, says oligarchy.“
“Organization implies a tendency to oligarchy. In ever organization, whether it be a political party, a professional union, or any association of any kind, the aristocratic tendency manifests itself very clearly. As a result of organization every party or professional union becomes divided into a minority of directors and a majority of directed.“
The Two Psychological Factors of Being Ruled:
Mass need for hero worship and excess gratitude.
A leader attaining power is intoxicated by expanding it. The desire to dominate, for good or evil, is universal.
The Three Practical Factors of Being Ruled:
Physically involving the mass in the day-to-day organization becomes impossible at scale.
The masses are not technically competent to decide or operate the levers of most organizations.
In reality, masses of human beings completely refuse to organize themselves without reliance on a ruling minority.
The Squared Iron Law: The Iron Law is iron because the practical and psychological factors of being ruled compound. All six must be overcome together, which, under normal conditions is nearly impossible.
The Extended Iron Law: Power accrues to the bureaucrats who manage the most.
The Interest of Power is Technique, Not Principle: The business of power is maintaining power.
Feudal Concentration, Bureaucratic Dissemination: Feudal societies concentrate executive power in individual leaders who act in all functions of the state. Bureaucratic societies disseminate power into managers and experts in bureaus and ministries.
Rivalry Between Elites Causes Feudalization.
Convergence Between Elites Causes Bureaucratization.
Bureaucratization: A degenerative, bio-Leninist process. It “suppresses individuality and gives the society in which employees predominate a narrow petty-bourgeois and philistine stamp. The bureaucratic spirit corrupts character and engenders moral poverty.”
The Political Formula is Always a Political Theology: The need for a political formula to justify social order and animate political action is an irrational and pre-rational human need and sentiment.
Consent is Grease: Legitimacy is derived from the consent of the ruled to the political theology and the elite that expresses it. This consent is grease for political action, but not the animating force for political action.
The Sovereign Decides the Exception: Sovereignty within an organization or state is judged under crisis and exception. Who decides when the rules don't apply, or when the state of exception to those rules ends.
Decisionism: “Any government is good once it is established.“ Providing the absolute decision is the most valuable thing to a state.
All Governments are Decisionist Until They Fail: Decisionism only ends when the government fails to uphold stability and the current social order, thus becoming illegitimate.
The Myths of Liberalism Continued:
Equality Under the Law: Denied by the sovereign deciding the exception and when the exception ends.
The State is its Laws: Denied by the same as denies equality under the law.
The Judiciary, or Other Separate Powers, are Impartial from Politics: Denied by numerous cases of being subject to a sovereign.
The Secular State: Denied by no state being separate from a political theology.
An Institution of the State May Be Agnostic to the States Theology: Denied by the institution being subject to the state.
Politics Exists Prior to the State: The human sentiments and conditions that create the state exist prior to the formation of the state.
The Friend/Enemy Distinction: “The distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.”
The state cannot be neutral and must always become political.
No Structural Differences Between Power Within States: The type of government does not change the eternal functions of power. Liberal, communist, fascist; the laws of power always apply.
All States are Totalitarian in Their Political Ideology.
Bertrand de Jouvenel:
High-Low-Middle Mechanism/Patron Theory:
High: The central sovereign power; who uses…
Low: The lowest strata of society; to harm and cripple…
Middle: Rival centers of power; that threaten the high.
Power has “a jealousy of every command which is not its own. Power cannot tolerate such independence.“
The State Erodes All Castles of Social Authority Not Its Own: “Power is the great leveler that seeks to eliminate every social authority that mediates between the individual and the state.“
“Call it socialization or nationalization, the state strives to make its own, all the great castles of the economic feudal system… These are the normal manifestations of power, and differ not at all from Henry the 8th’s confiscation of the wealth of the monasteries.”
The State is a Permanent Revolution: Power’s ceaseless quest to eliminate its rivals invariably must create new potential rivals in the process.
“Will political power, after beating capitalist feudalism (private ownership of industry) with the help of syndicalist feudalism (corporate/managerial ownership), now round on its ally? If it does not, it will be the syndicalist feudalisms, and not itself, which will exercise the vast powers committed to it by individuals. And the state will then be the ‘public thing’ of the syndicalist feudalisms.“
Revolutions are Not an Exception to the Laws of Power.
Most Revolutions Result in a Stronger Central Power.
Elite Failure to Use Force Invites Rivals to Exploit Popular Discontent.
“Where will it end? In the destruction of all other commands for the benefit of one alone - that of the state. In each man’s absolute freedom from every family and social authority, a freedom the price of which is complete submission to the state. In the complete equality as between themselves of all citizens, paid for by their equal abasement before the power of their absolute master - the state. In the disappearance of every constraint which does not emanate from the state, and in denial of every pre-eminence which is not approved by the state. In a word, it ends in the atomization of society, and in the rupture of every private tie linking man and man, whose only bond is now their common bondage to the state. The extremes of individualism and socialism meet: that was their predestined course.“
The interests of the managerial class/bureaucrats is distinct from all other classes.
“Once the managers consolidate their position within an institution, their objective interests no longer fully correspond to the interests of the other groups involved.“
The Eternal Iron Law: Michels’s Iron Law applies to the organization you favor too, be it a corporation, church, junta or clan.
“Self-justifying managerial control tends to keep alive operations which have little social purpose other than to nourish an enclave of managers.“
The managerial class is anti-democratic in practice, though not in rhetoric: “Managerial predominance tends toward regimentation and suppression of active democracy.“
“Parliament is the sovereign body of the limited state of capitalism. The bureaus are the sovereign bodies of the unlimited state of managerial society.“
Universal Modern Managerialism: All modern governments, USA, USSR, NS Germany, etc., are, or were, managerial, bureaucratized states, with no fundamental structural differences in the absolute function of power.
“In the new form of society, sovereignty is localized in administrative bureaus. They proclaim the roles. The shift occurs on a world scale.“
Managerialism Has a Globalizing Tendency: It converges all centers of power.
Managers Have a Vested Interest in Convergence: They always seek to defeat feudalism and separation of powers and increasing bureaucratization.
National Governments Represent Feudal Castles: In globalizing managerialism, as in all empires, the interest of convergence demands national goverment be dissolved, in effect, if not in practice.
Requisites for Revolution Against a Current Elite:
Elite cannot adjust to new technology and social forces
Large percent of elite reject ruling in exchange for cultural and aesthetic pursuits.
Current elites fail to assimilate new rising elites.
Large percent of elite questions legitimacy of its own rule.
Elite and non-elite reject the formula/political theology upholding current order.
The elite lacks courage to effectively use force.
Samuel T. Francis:
Managerial Ideologies are Totalizing, as are All Political Theologies: Under the managerial regime the ideological vision must be totalizing, as equality and diversity are in the current regime. No vestige of the previous regime can be allowed.
Management is Unlimited Control: As ideological tools, behaviorism and social constructivism justify and necessitate unlimited managerial control.
“All the mass cultural organizations function as part of the media of mass communication and they are a necessary element in the power base of the managerial elite.“
Management Against Natural Order: In social constructivism, inequalities arise from “society,” not natural order. Society must be changed to create equality (or any other ideal). Only management can do it.
To Continually Fabricate Public Opinion is the Managerial Ideal: “public opinion may be nothing other than a fabrication of the media or a ‘pseudo-environment.’”
“The private citizen is like a deaf spectator in the back row, who cannot quite keep awake. He knows he is affected by the show. Rules and regulations constantly, taxes annually, and wars occasionally remind him that he is being swept along by great drifts of circumstance. Yet these public affairs are in no convincing way his affairs. They are largely invisible. If they are managed at all it is at distant centers, from behind the scenes, by unnamed powers. As a private person he has no certainty what is going on, or who is doing it, or where he is being carried. In the cold light of experience he knows that his sovereignty is a fiction. He reigns in theory, but in fact does not govern.“
Modern Correlates and Addendums:
“In the twentieth century, egalitarianism is the primary political formula and rationalization for an emerging elite to displace an existing elite, while disguising the dominance of the new one.“
White people are a current enemy of the state because they are capable of being independent of it.
The old Capitalist Formula (Once progressive, now reactionary and being replaced):
Managerial Formula (Newly re-embraced and crypto-championed by Corporate progressivism):
Centers of possible resistance to modern managerial globalism:
Kulaks-Independent middle class-petit bourgeoise
Managers at the national level, i.e., national leaders/governments.
Private ownership of industry has been separated from real power through the limited liability corporation (Syndicalist feudalism), a legal creation of the state.
Re-Law 45: Currently, only criteria C for revolution is strongly present (current elites fail to assimilate new rising elites): The current elite are rejecting or expelling rising elites who do not conform. This may form a new castle of opposition or counter elite. Without the other criteria for revolution no major movement will occur.