dimanche 7 novembre 2010

Where autocracy comes from?

We men-women are not adapted to the life in big societies. Our normal social environment is small groups, be it families, peer groups, kins or small tribes. In these groups there is no need for formal regulation of social relations, no need for strict etiquette, law and law enforcement. In big societies we need a lot of formal rules, otherwise these societies cannot function properly. In fact, they fall apart, become just loose assemblies of such smaller groups. Often people tend to look on the society as if it were a small group. Sometimes a small group can effectively seize power in a society, sometimes its leader becomes the leader of a big tribe, of a nation. He cannot rule just by himself, he needs the support of his close entourage, his own small group. Here, the relations are not formal. Stalin, Hitler nor Saddam Hussein had their own kins, peer groups, politbureaus and used these to seize power and secure their hold of it. And they tried to rule a nation, a country as a small group, ignoring formalities, ignoring the existence of different views, interests and personalities. There are many types of autocrats from paternalistic father-figures like the Estonian president Päts to paranoid dictators as Stalin or Saddam. But, in my opinion, their common feature is a kind of atavistic tendency not to accept the real complexity of a society, but to try to rule it as if it were simply an extended family or a tribe. The secret of their success seems at least partly to be due to our inborn, instinctive disposition to assume a role in a small group, most often the role of a subject, of somebody who obeys the alpha-individual, sometimes even the role of a slave. But some of us are well ready to assume the role of a leader, of an alpha-male. Which is analogous to the role of a father in many traditional families or the role of the leader in a male peer group. In my childhood, our ruler was a man often called Father, Leader or Teacher. Thus, comrade Stalin assumed a couple of age-old traditional roles, in fact degrading the whole Soviet society to the role of his descendants, his children, subordinate members of his peer group or his pupils.

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