Manual Naked Powers: Origins

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In Russell's view, the love of power is nearly universal among people, although it takes on different guises from person to person. A person with great ambitions may become the next Caesar , but others may be content to merely dominate the home. Russell This impulse to power is not only "explicitly" present in leaders, but also sometimes "implicitly" in those who follow.

It is clear that leaders may pursue and profit from enacting their own agenda , but in a "genuinely cooperative enterprise", the followers seem to gain vicariously from the achievements of the leader. Russell —8. In stressing this point, Russell is explicitly rebutting Friedrich Nietzsche 's infamous " master-slave morality " argument.

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Russell explains:. The existence of implicit power, he explains, is why people are capable of tolerating social inequality for an extended period of time Russell However, Russell is quick to note that the invocation of human nature should not come at the cost of ignoring the exceptional personal temperaments of power-seekers.

Following Adler — and to an extent echoing Nietzsche — he separates individuals into two classes: those who are imperious in a particular situation, and those who are not. The love of power, Russell tells us, is probably not motivated by Freudian complexes, i. The imperious person is successful due to both mental and social factors. For instance, the imperious tend to have an internal confidence in their own competence and decisiveness which is relatively lacking in those who follow. Russell In reality, the imperious may or may not actually be possessed of genuine skill ; rather, the source of their power may also arise out of their hereditary or religious role.

Non-imperious persons include those who submit to a ruler, and those who withdraw entirely from the situation. Russell — Accordingly, while the imperious orator will tend to prefer a passionate crowd over a sympathetic one, the timid orator or subject will have the opposite preferences.


The imperious orator is interested mostly in a mob that is more given to rash emotion than to reflection. Russell The orator will try to engineer two 'layers' of belief in his crowd: "a superficial layer, in which the power of the enemy is magnified so as to make great courage seem necessary, and a deeper layer, in which there is a firm conviction of victory" Russell By contrast, the timid will seek a sense of belonging, and "the reassurance which is felt in being one of a crowd who all feel alike" Russell When any given person has a crisis in confidence, and is placed in a terrifying situation, they will tend to behave in a predictable way: first, they submit to the rule of those who seem to have greater competence in the most relevant task, and second, they will surround themselves with that mass of persons who share a similarly low level of confidence.

Thus, people submit to the rule of the leader in a kind of emergency solidarity.

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Russell —10 [4] [5]. To begin with, Russell is interested in classifying the different ways in which one human being may have power over another — what he calls the "forms of power". The forms may be subdivided into two: influence over persons, and the psychological types of influence.

Russell ,27 [6]. To understand how organisations operate, Russell explains, we must first understand the basic methods by which they can exercise power at all — that is, we must understand the manner in which individuals are persuaded to follow some authority. To explain each form, Russell provides illustrations. The power of mere force is like the tying of a rope around a pig's belly and lifting it up to a ship while ignoring its cries. The power of inducements is likened to two things: either conditioning, as exemplified by circus animals which have been trained to perform this-or-that trick for an audience , or group acquiescence, as when the leader among sheep is dragged along by chains to get the rest of the flock to follow.

Finally, the power of propaganda is akin to the use of carrot and stick to influence the behaviour of a donkey, in the sense that the donkey is being persuaded that making certain actions following the carrot, avoiding the stick would be more or less to their benefit.

Russell makes a distinction between traditional, revolutionary, and naked forms of psychological influence. Russell These psychological types overlap with the forms of influence in some respects: for instance, "naked power" can be reduced to coercion alone. Russell But the other types are distinct units of analysis, and require separate treatments.

When force is used in the absence of other forms, it is called "naked power". In other words, naked power is the ruthless exertion of force without the desire for, or attempt at, consent. In all cases, the sources of naked power are the fears of the powerless and the ambitions of the powerful Russell As an example of naked power, Russell recalls the story of Agathocles , the son of a potter who became the tyrant of Syracuse.

Russell argues that naked power arises within a government under certain social conditions: when two or more fanatical creeds are contending for governance, and when all traditional beliefs have decayed.

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The process by which an organisation achieves sufficient prominence that it is able to exercise naked power can be described as the rule of three phases Russell According to this rule, what begins as fanaticism on the part of some crowd eventually produces conquest by means of naked power. Eventually, the acquiescence of the outlying population transforms naked power into traditional power. Finally, once a traditional power has taken hold, it engages in the suppression of dissent by the use of naked power. For Russell, economic power is parallel to the power of conditioning. Russell However, unlike Marx, he emphasises that economic power is not primary, but rather, derives from a combination of the forms of power.

By his account, economics is dependent largely upon the functioning of law, and especially, property law; and law is to a large degree a function of the power over opinion, which cannot be entirely explained by wage, labour, and trade. Ultimately, Russell argues that economic power is attained through the ability to defend one's territory and to conquer other lands , to possess the materials for the cultivation of one's resources, and to be able to satisfy the demands of others on the market.

Russell —, In Russell's model, power over the creeds and habits of persons is easy to miscalculate. He claims that, on the one hand, the economic determinists had underestimated the power of opinion. However, on the other hand, he argues that the case is easy to make that all power is power over opinion: for "Armies are useless unless the soldiers believe in the cause for which they are fighting Law is impotent unless it is generally respected.

Thus, although "the power over opinion" may occur with or without force, the power of a creed arises only after a powerful and persuasive minority has willingly adopted the creed. The exception here is the case of Western science, which seemingly rose in cultural appeal despite being unpopular with establishment forces. Similarly, religion, advertising, and propaganda all have power because of their connections with the desires of their audiences. Russell's conclusion is that reason has very limited, though specific, sway over the opinions of persons.

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For reason is only effective when it appeals to desire. Russell then inquires into the power that reason has over a community, as contrasted with fanaticism. It would seem that the power of reason is that it is able to increase the odds of success in practical matters by way of technical efficiency. The cost of allowing for reasoned inquiry is the tolerance of intellectual disagreement, which in turn provokes scepticism and dims the power of fanaticism. Conversely, it would seem that a community is stronger and more cohesive if there is widespread agreement within it over certain creeds, and reasoned debate is rare.

If these two opposing conditions are both to be fully exploited for short-term gains, then it would demand two things: first, that some creed be held both by the majority opinion through force and propaganda , and second, that the majority of intellectual class concurs through reasoned discussion. In the long-term, however, creeds tend to provoke weariness, light scepticism, outright disbelief, and finally, apathy.

Russell is acutely aware that power tends to coalesce in the hands of a minority, and no less so when it comes to power over opinion. Perhaps surprisingly, Russell avers that the consequences of systematic propaganda are not as dire as one might expect. Russell — A true monopoly over opinion leads to careless arrogance among leaders, as well as to indifference to the well-being of the governed, and a lack of credulity on behalf of the governed towards the state. In the long-term, the net result is:.

When only one doctrine is officially allowed, men get no practice in thinking or in weighing alternatives; only a great wave of passionate revolt can dethrone orthodoxy; and in order to make the opposition sufficiently whole-hearted and violent to achieve success, it will seem necessary to deny even what was true in governmental dogma" Russell By contrast, the shrewd propagandist of the contemporary state will allow for disagreement, so that false established opinions will have something to react to.

In Russell's words: "Lies need competition if they are to retain their vigour. Among the psychological types of influence, we have a distinction between "traditional, naked, and revolutionary power". Naked power, as noted earlier , is the use of coercion without any pretense to legitimacy. By "traditional power", Russell has in mind the ways in which people will appeal to the force of habit to justify a political regime. It is in this sense that traditional power is psychological and not historical; since traditional power is not entirely based on a commitment to some linear historical creed, but rather, on mere habit.

Moreover, traditional power need not be based on actual history, but rather be based on imagined or fabricated history. Thus he writes that "Both religious and secular innovators — at any rate those who have had most lasting success — have appealed, as far as they could, to tradition, and have done whatever lay in their power to minimise the elements of novelty in their system. The two clearest examples of traditional power are the cases of "kingly power" and "priestly power". Russell traces both back historically to certain roles which served some function in early societies.

The priest is akin to the medicine man of a tribe, who is thought to have unique powers of cursing and healing at their disposal Russell In most contemporary cases, priests rely on religious social movements grounded in charismatic authority, which have been more effective at usurping power than those religions that lack iconic founders Russell — The history of the king is more difficult to examine, and the researcher can only speculate on their origins.

At the very least, the power of kingship seems to be advanced by war, even if warmaking was not the king's original function Russell When the forms of traditional power come to an end, there tends to be a corresponding change in creeds. If the traditional creeds are doubted without any alternative, then the traditional authority relies more and more on the use of naked power. And where the traditional creeds are wholly replaced with alternative ones, traditional power gives rise to revolutionary power Russell Thus, for the revolutionary, power is a means to an end, and the end is some creed or other.

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Whatever its intentions, the power of the revolutionary tends to either devolve back into naked power over time, or else to transform into traditional power Russell The revolutionary faces at least two special problems. First, the transformation back into naked power occurs when revolutionary power has been around for a long period without achieving a resolution to its key conflict. At some point, the original goal of the creed tends to be forgotten, and consequently, the fanatics of the movement change their goals and aspire toward mere domination Russell Second, the revolutionary must always deal with the threat of counter-revolutionaries, and is hence faced with a dilemma: because revolutionary power must by definition think that the original revolution was justified, it "cannot, logically, contend that all subsequent revolutions must be wicked" Russell A transition into traditional power is also possible.

Just as there are two kinds of traditional power — the priestly and the kingly — there are two kinds of revolutionary power, namely, the "soldier of fortune" and "the divine conqueror". Nonetheless, the traditional forms bear only an imperfect relationship, if any, to the revolutionary forms. Having introduced the reader to the forms of power, Russell applies those forms to a selection of organisations.

The purpose of discussing organisations is that they seem to be one of the most common sources of social power. Organizations differ in size and type, though common to them all is the tendency for inequality of power to increase as membership increases. An exhaustive list of the types of organisation would be impossible, since the list would be as long as a list of human reasons to organise themselves in groups. However, Russell takes interest in only a small sample of organisations.

The army and police, economic organisations, educational organisations, organisations of law, political parties, and churches are all recognised as societal entities.