Development of the modern democracy allowed the formation of organization like political parties. Paradoxically, any such organization, when growing in size, also grows in complexity. And inevitably with this growth gradually become less and less democratic.
This process is immanent, objective, and does not depend of quality of leaders or nature of the organization. Several key factors make the process inevitable:
- The growing number and complexity of duties, which obviates direct participation in administrative matters by the membership, requiring instead a specialized and dedicated staff (bureaucracy).
- Problems of coordination that can be solved only by creating a bureaucracy. A bureaucracy, by design, is hierarchically organized to achieve efficiency—many decisions that have to be made every day cannot be made by consulting large numbers of people efficiently. The effective functioning of an organization therefore requires the concentration of power in the hands of a few people.
- Growing number and complexity of issues sharply curtail members take part in general decision making and raise importance of knowledgeable leaders.
- Delegation is necessary in any large organization, as thousands (or hundreds of thousands) members cannot make decisions using participatory democracy. Two factors are in play here:
- lack of technological means that would allow a large number of people to meet and debate;
- issues related to Conformism, Groupthink and the psychology of crowds.
- The delegation leads to specialization: the development of bases of knowledge, skills, and resources among a leadership, which further serves to alienate the leadership from the ‘mass and rank’ and entrenches the leadership in office.
- Beyond a certain size, the number of members prevents direct lateral communication, thus enabling hierarchy with the organization and enabling the leadership to exercise the strategy of divide and conquer.
- Bureaucratization and specialisation create a specialized group of administrators in a hierarchical organization. Which self-organizes and this self-organization of elite effectively guarantee the unchallenged rule of the elite. Typical for bureaucracy rationalization and routinization of decision-making leads both to suboptimal decisions and to suboptimal choices of leaders, a process described by the Peter Principle.
In other words, rule by an elite (i.e. “oligarchy”) is inevitable within any large organization because the level of complexity of managing of large organization (which presuppose existence of hierarchy of “managers”) as well the set objectively existing “tactical and technical necessities” immanent to complex organizations.
Democracy flatters to deceive when it comes to solving, on its own, the tendency towards oligarchy subverting any form of representative suffrage.
“It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures adopted for the prevention of oligarchy.”
Therefore, the very nature of large-scale organisation makes oligarchy within these organisations inevitable. Bureaucracy, by design, promotes the cellularization – if not direct centralization – of power. Structural evolution in the scaling up of the organisation (government, corporation, department, etc) must concentrate power at the very top – or centre, or nexus – of the organization.
As soon as this concentration of power begins, it influences the continued development and organizational goals along an inescapable trajectory:
- meritocracy to meet expediency – responding to the needs of the moment
- power is allocated to people – to direct resources and organize and lead
- power is gained or lost – success and competence versus failure and incompetence
- competition for power inevitably intensifies, especially if scale grows – the selfish want more to slake ambition, the selfless often want to thwart selfish ambitions or simply more power to do good
- the scenarios are myriad, but competition for power results from almost all scenarios
- competition for power leads to lineages of power – lateral, filial, familial, clan, expertise, ethnicity, and so on
- who can you trust?
- who has the skills?
- who won’t threaten your authority?
- who will best fight for your team?
- etc, etc
People initially classified as academics or intellectuals within nascent political organizations, frequently win promotion to leadership positions for their special qualities – a simple matter of what’s most useful for the organization’s goals – and over time, almost without exception, the intellectual become an oligarch. The French and Russian revolutions are fine examples of the rapid descent from intellectual idealism to oppressive oligarchy.
Give it a generation and the power dynamics of any large-scale enterprise – let alone structures around absolute power like governments – will be perverted by emergent clan interests even if no prior allegiances existed.
Emergence Of Global Elite
One of the most recent – in civilisation historical terms – sociopolitical phenomenon is the emergence of a genuine global elite.
Here the “iron laws of oligarchy” – which previously limited themselves to state or degrees of Imperial-ultrastate borders – have broken bounds to operate on a new transnational level. 20th-century technology brought the entire world into a single bluewater of interconnected nations, under a single network of satellite surveillance and instantaneous communication; and instant access to targeted violence (not to mention mutually assured nuclear destruction from the end of the Second World War).
It is represented by-and-large by parts of nations’ financial oligarchy with some additions of employees of international organization (World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), etc), high-tech companies and transnational corporations. It is a confluence of oligarchies, a natural maturation of the corporate state – corporations as immortal human conglomerations, identity more deeply enshrined in law than yours or mine (as individuals).
The terms “Brave New World” or “New World Order” are still misleading cliches, insofar as neither ideas – whether you’re a Huxleyite worrying about techno-eugenics or a conspiracy theory autodidact keenly sifting a million irrelevant details in search of a unifying illuminati (or lizard-shapeshifters or preternatural Jewish politburo).
That said, the calcifying of a transnational corporate-oligarchy is real and, in part organic, in part driven by market forces, in part an inertia of capitalism playing out across the world, there is a New World Order coalescing. Decades of cooperation between the powerful nation states, multinational globalism insinuating itself into the inextricable well-being of all countries – rich poor and middling – irrespective of political system. 8 billion human beings. Supply chains for every important product stretching across at least 3-4 continents. Exploitation of individual populations of consumers or workers or rent-seekers or slaves. Stability (for the corporate-oligarchy) is critical; as is being unaccountable to meddling politicians, unregulated by interfering ombudsmen, free to do the business of doing business.
Neoliberalism is the current best-fit political ideology for the global elite corporate-oligarchy – and membership of its intertwined mechanisms of governance (national government executives, legislatures, highest courts, megacorp boards, traditional finance kingpins, some monarchies, some autocratic lineages) are concentrated on top echelons of extant elites of G7 countries with exceptional part-included not yet full integrated power players like Putin in Russia and Xi in China the intense focus of the G-oligarchy: can they integrate, without sharing out too much authority, without risk of unsettling home populations, without polluting the neoliberal market power dynamics, etc etc?
The G7 is the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy. Formed in 1975, it is a less dominant group economically in 2020 but nonetheless retains 64% of the world’s wealth and accounts for 46% of global GDP. In the global elite oligarchy, the G7’s elites perceive themselves as the world’s super-elite.
With the introduction of the euro as a major global currency in 1999, the G7 was expanded to become the G20, adding China, European Union (eurozone), India, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Turkey, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Indonesia. G20 accounts for 88% of global wealth and 85% of global GDP, two-thirds of the world’s population.
Financial oligarchy proved to be different from other types of oligarchy: from the very beginning it is transnational and as such is inclined to betray the interests of home country population. Unlike other parts of oligarchy in the particular county, financial elite it is more parasitic and exists mainly as an additional tax layer for the population.
Despite the claims made by paid cheerleaders of megabanks, too big to fail financial institutions (TBTF) extract huge taxpayer subsidies. This capture of the countries by a parasitic transnational financial elite is a new development, and it changes the applicability of the law of oligarchy in a very unexpected way: the emerging clique of super-rich financial moguls are practically becoming their own nation, buying houses and keeping assets outside their country of primary residence.
Elected politicians from both sides of the duopoly aisle [or any colour of the liberal-conservative spectrum] will swear to protect the well-being of the middle class and say their policies and proposals are all designed for its betterment. And yet the state of the middle class continues to deteriorate; and the lower classes are living hand to mouth, closer and closer to the edge.
The public–undereducated, overburdened (by debt, or conscience)—are kept mesmerized by artificially divisive social issues or perpetually off-balance by manufactured crises, preying on natural fears and trust and habit. Meanwhile, the oligarchy is extracting as much wealth as possible from the accessible lower and middle classes, methods growing more sophisticated as required (i.e. a more educated middle class requires more complex grift).
Why is this?
It is not because of the predominance of a “right” or “left” ideology of taxation and deficits and austerity. It’s not because of a perversion of “democratic” gospel, as if predetermined by prosperity in a society. These talking points are propagandist bullshit we’ve heard before. It’s not because–in our comfort–we’ve lost the sense of the imperative of common cause.
The despair of the middle class is a symptom of the advancing corruption of power. Specifically, the amoral cynicism of thoroughly modern political actors, managers and their ringfence of hireling advocates; the worship of power and personal wealth as ends unto themselves, as the sole arbiter of worth in the game of life.
The practical allure of cartels, monopolies, and proximity to monied interests drives day-to-day activity of the oligarch class and its aspirants. Corrupt political bargains are de rigeur; the only way to advance oneself in a field of opponents seeking to do precisely the same.
Oligarchy is the subornation of perjury on a massive scale. It’s rooted in the unscrupulous servility to power of those who have sworn to uphold and protect the law.
“What is truth?”
“Whatever suits us, whatever we say it is, by whoever has the power and the craft to define we.”
Don’t be suckered by conspiracy theories of grand unified organised action. It’s not the triumph of evil that creates corrupt oligarchy so much as the systemic deselection of anyone likely to be pro-active (i.e. disruptive) from a personal sense of the good, honour, honesty, simple common decency.
The reality of society’s inertia moves slowly—especially from the perspective of a successfully distracted population–but the subversion of oligarchy without widespread violence is marked by the daily subverting of the law—as a matter of convenience, practicality and service to the insatiable few–and the personal ambition, ignorance, and fear driving the craven choices of their enablers.
Oligarchy is as natural as community. It is the will to power made manifest, the elevation of ascendant sociopaths in a system that allows it; then supports it; then rewards it above all else.
“Greed is good. Whatever works for me is my law. And the enemy? The opponent is all that is not mine, and the enemy is everyone not of the self; which is the other. And where there is nothing sacred to exploit, the people perish. When the people start to perish, some day—one day, today—the person will be you.”