Political Authority and Consent

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mk12
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Dec 29 2004 16:38
Political Authority and Consent
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Does political authority rest upon the consent of those being governed?

This is my essay question. I have read liberal views on this (Thomas Hobbes and John Locke).

THey argue that legitimate government rests upon the consent of the citizens. Hobbes said, "silence is sometimes an argument of consent".

What do people on here think? Please don't come back with comments like "smash the state", "everyone is authoritarian" etc...

I personally think that they completely forget the fact that the ruling ideas of any society are the ideas of the ruling class, and therefore the majority of the population is socially constructed to accept the norms (through education, media etc). Gramsci's hegemony and Chomsky's manufacturing consent seem relevant here.

What do people on here think about Locke and Hobbes' view?

Anarchoneilist
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Dec 29 2004 22:08
mattkidd12 wrote:
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Does political authority rest upon the consent of those being governed?

In this country?You have got to be kidding!

]

nuclearcivvy
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Dec 29 2004 22:08

It's supposed to be rule by consent in the UK, but there's plenty to suggest it ain't so on the ground. Most other European states have rule by dictat. A legacy of governments imposed by other states.

If you ask me, the answer is no. It rests in the hands of the military. A statement of fact I'm not happy with, but an undeniable one.

The media has it's "influence" too.

Since in the west, both these institutions are so deeply influenced by corporate interest, I'd say wall street and the city of London has the real shot calling authority here.

If the authority rested with us, would we really trust these jokers with it?

And if we got it together enough to throw one out, we'd just see another sold out yes man intalled in his place. There's no true authority resting on us here. We've had it stolen while we were watching Corrie.

Mike Harman
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Dec 29 2004 23:14

Locke/Hobbes and Rousseau's Social Contract rely on the idea that people are in an eternal conflict with each other, and they voluntarily gave up some of their freedom in order to gain security - the State, by restricting some freedom, would protect people and therefore ensure their freedom. This ignores that the historical development of States and government was the conquest of people by force. It's easier to maintain this domination if you don't have to continually use force - violence itself is expensive. So the threat of violence, and the reinforcement of social norms which encourage obedience to the State and acceptance of government allow for more efficient control. The State still has a monopoly of violence internally (the police and security services) and externally (the armed forces and security services) and any consent to government can't be considered free when it's absence would result in repression or war.

mk12
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Dec 30 2004 12:45

Catch-can I copy and paste you answer in my essay wink Only joking.

I think 'false consciousness' is important here too. Why do working class people vote BNP? Why is football more important to them than the Iraq war? Locke/Hobbes would say that that is basically giving consent to the government. However, I would say the media and ideological institutions in society have had a large role to play in this. The fact that most people don't see an alternative to capitalism, for instance. Anarchism is generally considered a violent ideology, for young balaclava-clad teenagers, and Marxism equals Stalinist Russia. These ideas have been forced into their heads through ideological institutions.

Would people agree with this?

Mike Harman
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Dec 30 2004 13:08

I think anarchism's presence in the media is such that it has almost no currency in the wider public at all - the violent/balaclava image barely appears except on page 14 the day before MayDay (or similar), so although that's the main stereotype, I don't think it's one that most people subscribe to. The main approach of the media (and educational institutions) towards anarchism and Marxism is to ignore them. When they _are_ mentioned, it's not actually anarchism or marxism proper - the recent BBC National Bolshevik/Anarchist mix-up is a case in point - journos in the main don't even know the difference.

What's the essay question for?

mk12
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Dec 30 2004 13:21

I do a Uni module called "Political and Social Philosophy". Quite good actually. You are correct though; we talk about Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau...but only briefly at the end do they mention Proudhon, Marx, Kropotkin etc. Most of my lecturers are typical liberals - John Stuart Mill lovers...'utilitarians'.

I think the main point Lockeans say is - well, if people aren't happy with the current regime, then they can revolt, or vote someone else. Would you say this is true?

Mike Harman
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Dec 30 2004 13:28
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Why do working class people vote BNP?

What, working class people, most of the population of the UK all vote BNP? Hadn't noticed that.

The tiny, tiny minority that votes BNP probably does so because they're dissatisfied with the established political parties and their own economic situation. The BNP capitalises on this by blaming it on other sections of the working class, diverting attention from the true causes of those problems.

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Why is football more important to them than the Iraq war?

Who? Working class people again? All of them? What about the ones watching IACGMOOH or Big Brother?

Plus why the Iraq War? It's just one of many international conflicts going on at the moment (Sudan's another), not to mention all the internal repression going on in various States. If your straw-man working class were to magically shift their passive TV watching from football to the Iraq war would they be able to have any more effect on the war than they would on the next football match they watch?

In order to stop the State from undertaking imperialist adventures like Iraq, it's necessary not to "support the resistance" (with what?) or "Stop the War", since that does nothing to remove the economic and political structures that make war-making itself possible. The best form of anti-imperialism is that which weakens the power of the State internally, allowing it less control over labour and resources, not trying to change it's mind on specific issues through demos or petitions.

3rdseason
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Dec 30 2004 14:31
mattkidd12 wrote:
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Does political authority rest upon the consent of those being governed?

Yes.

I think so. Individually people can not consent but apathy means that as a collective they consent.

mk12
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Dec 30 2004 19:30

Catch- you know what I was saying. Surely you accept the fact that the majority of the UK population are not socialist/anarchist, and are ultimately hostile to revolutionary views. Why do you think this is?

One of the most common capitalist arguments is - people want it. Revolutionaries are in a minority today. Why do you think this is?

nuclearcivvy
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Dec 31 2004 08:14
mattkidd12 wrote:
Anarchism is generally considered a violent ideology, for young balaclava-clad teenagers, and Marxism equals Stalinist Russia. These ideas have been forced into their heads through ideological institutions.

Would people agree with this?

It's a point with substance, and well made, but it's in danger of being dismissed as a biased assessment. The anarchist movement has produced balaclava'd up violence, and marx' theories did inspire the founation of Stalin's tyranny. Until the respective groups can own these political side effects, and address their fears, the general public is right to be suspicious. Why aren't you?

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cantdocartwheels
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Dec 31 2004 10:42

Legitmacy theory i guess, its all about the state retaining support in a certain % of the population. This means that % would need to be granted a set of priviliges and so on that keep them loyal.

Taking a look at nazi germany for example, hitler doidn't need everyone to support him, he headed a totalitarian state, so he needed about 30% of the population to actively support him and aother 50% to be prepared to tolerate him, the rest, well that was what the gestapo were for. The state works by marginalising opposition, keeping a set supportive group for state policies, and making sure that everyone else, while they might dislike certain policies, feel to paralysed to do anything, or feel that the alternatives could possibly be worse etc etc

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cantdocartwheels
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Dec 31 2004 10:50
Catch wrote:

In order to stop the State from undertaking imperialist adventures like Iraq, it's necessary not to "support the resistance" (with what?) or "Stop the War", since that does nothing to remove the economic and political structures that make war-making itself possible. The best form of anti-imperialism is that which weakens the power of the State internally, allowing it less control over labour and resources, not trying to change it's mind on specific issues through demos or petitions.

Well obviously you can't stop the war by protesting, but ''Stop the war'' is a demand for peace, a demand that cannot be met under capitalism.

And as socialists/anarchists we should be making impossible demands on capital to show the limitations of capitalism and how it cannot be reformed.

Obviously the iraq war represents the biigest international situation where the horrors of capitalism are demonstrated, so it'd be somewhat foolish to ignore it really.

And also to pretend its an issue that doesn't affect the english working class ''because they all watch the football'', as some people have on this thread is a) incorrect and b) patronising. I might watch the football instead of the news, mainly because the news is depressing and i know there is nothing that i can do about it in the short term, i'm sure thats how a lot of people feel.

john

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2004 10:58
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Surely you accept the fact that the majority of the UK population are not socialist/anarchist, and are ultimately hostile to revolutionary views. Why do you think this is?

I think most of the UK population would like to have -

more direct control over hospitals and schools - allowing nurses and doctors to run them with input from the community around them

some way of guaranteeing care in old age which doesn't depend on easily manipulated/robbable pension funds

less traffic and polution

shorter working hours with the same (or higher) wages

work that they enjoy and is easy to get to/from

--

I also think most of the UK population dislikes -

all three major political parties and doesn't view any of the others as a viable alternative (in fact, many probably don't think the Tories or Lib Dems are viable either)

the power that bureaucrats have over their lives in terms of housing, benefits, access to services

the constant disparity between what they think should be priorities for funding and what actually gets funded.

-------

In most cases this leads to either apathy or single issue protest politics. Revolutionary politics barely registers but if people have a view on communism or anarchism it's likely to be negative or misinformed. However, direct democracy, community control, transformation of work are all things that I think a great deal of people in the UK would like if it was ever presented as an option. So the way is to present self-organised solutions to problems and try to build up these trends as much as possible within society, whether it's called anarchism or not. I don't think people are hostile to these things at all, the main problem I think is indifference.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2004 11:08
cantdocartwheels wrote:

Well obviously you can't stop the war by protesting, but ''Stop the war'' is a demand for peace, a demand that cannot be met under capitalism.

And as socialists/anarchists we should be making impossible demands on capital to show the limitations of capitalism and how it cannot be reformed.

john

I think that's what I said just about. But MattKidd12's focus on war vs. football is to focus on something that in most people's minds exists outside our everyday relationship to capital. If propaganda focuses on the war to the exclusion of other negative manifestations of capitalism (as the SWP has), then it fails to offer people ways to effect change. The war needs to be brought into a much wider range of things that affect people - in terms of how it uses resources (for killing Iraqis) that could, for example, be spent on dealing with child malnutrition in the UK. That it has negative effects at both ends of the process is important. It shouldn't be ignored, but it doesn't present practical solutions for opposition by itself - those have to be within communities and workplaces and deal with immediate capital and power relationships in society.

mk12
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Dec 31 2004 17:40
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''because they all watch the football''

Just to make it clear. I wasn't saying this was the case for the whole working class. I don't see it as one homogenous group. I was trying to show how some people, like us on these boards, see how capitalism is bad. However, there are members of the working class who vote and believe in things against their interests. For example, those in the working class who support the Iraq war, vote Tory etc...

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What, working class people, most of the population of the UK all vote BNP?

Did I say that? But it cannot be denied that the majority of those who vote BNP are working class.

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I might watch the football instead of the news, mainly because the news is depressing

Yes, me too. But I still realise that what is happening in Iraq is more important than football...who sets the agenda for what is important in people's minds? Would you say that the media plays a role in determining what is important in people's lives. For example, if the media didn't splash all of Blunkett's story on the front pages etc, would people have been so angered, and enraged?

Anarchoneilist
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Jan 2 2005 21:48

I wouldn't say that most or at least the vast majority of wc people vote BNP but many wc people are conned into believing in things like patriotism and racism and that the BNP is a working class party.

People are wedded to capitalism/consumerism simply because they offer quick fix solutions. Generally I would agree with Catch, however people can often be contradictory in the amount of democracy they actually belive in.