Speculative Web Space

NUPSA Philosophy Sessions (c) William Pascoe, 2018 (independently written and produced, this content is not owned or provided by UON or any Government or Commercial entity, except externally sourced material)

Home Resources Bibliography


Political Philosophy

How to think about politics, and hopefully make wise observations and choices.

It is a branch of ethics.

For Levinas it is inevitably violent - ethical politics is almost self contradictory.

For Cicero it is the most important part of all ethics and all philosophy.

We often hear angry slogans, but this is philosophy, so lets try to look at the reasons, however breifly it must be.

A good overview of some of the main streams of philosophy and an introduction to strategy so you can make up you own mind, or be empowered to execute your own cunning plan. It is easy when following one flag to ignore and explain away the good arguments of the other side. It is easy when dealing with someone from the other side to forget that they are also human, that they are not simply angry idiots but have arrived or remained in their political camp due to personal circumstances or customs in which their reasoning seems to make sense.

We all have our politics but we are here doing philosophy - love of wisdom. How can we be wise about politics? I hope firstly by trying to understand all its sides, and secondly, how to do it. That way too we can see how it is done to us.

Even if we only want to win against an enemy, good strategy involves predicting their actions which we can only do if we understand their motivations. If we want a conciliation or amicable agreement, we need to understand them, to talk their language to reason on their own terms. If we aim at the truth, the best possible outcome and are willing to change our own mind inviting counter arguments is necessary, in the Socratic style through 'dialectic' (where contrary arguments are invited but not to win at the expense of truth, rather to mutually aim at the truth by subjecting our reasoning to critique).

Know your history.

What are we to base a political philosophy on? Abstract first principles? Rights such as freedom? Is there such a thing as a person outside of or somehow 'before' politics? What about material historic or scientific evidence?

Confucius argues against law making. Anarchists argue against law making. Yet Confucius is conservative, while anarchists are not. The name applied might also not reflect reality, such as nations with 'Democratic Republic' in their title which are by contrast dictatorships. Although historically capitalism has been associated with democracy, more recently some argue that as corporations become richer and more powerful than nations, the term democracy ceases to apply. Notably, Italian fascist Mussolini advocated collaboration among state, trade unions and capitalists - although still proclaiming the myth of freedom and democracy in the fight against fascism and dictatorship, isn't this what we see more and more in the West today? Sometimes strange paradoxes arise - both Anarchists and Friedmanite extreme liberal economists advocate against government interference, they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum - anarchists are far left and Friedman is far right. Fascism and Communism are diametrically opposite, yet to an outsider they both seem to result in a similar kind of dictatorship. If Scandinavia has for so long enjoyed peace, prosperity and a high standard of living, why don't we all just switch to their system? How does this make sense? What if we can't agree but our lives depend on it?

Political Epochs

Some important historical changes that have caused or been caused by changes in political philosophy:

Some political ideologies and systems, and key thinkers

We cannot look at all of these in great detail in this short introduction, so we will look at a few across a broad spectrum, focusing philosophical aspects - ie: what are the concepts and reasons supporting these systems?

The Political Spectrum

Political differences are often described as a 'spectrum'. People in different areas of politics may agree on certain points. For example, a libertarian extremist may agree with conservatives on economic policy but not social policy and agree with anarcho syndicalists on social policy but not economic policy. Fascism and communism are opposites, but their dictators look similar from the point of view of parliamentary democracy.

There are also factions. Sometimes theories agree on many points but disagree on some points which may be minor, or which they may see as vital to the whole agenda. For example, revolutionary communists may disagree vehemently over nationalism. Some see it is as a means to acheive the revolutionary conversion of a nation to communism, some see nationalism as diametrically opposed to communism. Ironically left wing politics advocate unified and collective action yet are often divided by faction fighting. To divide and conquer is an age old strategy to defeat opponents. Hitler noted that regardless of how subtle and nuanced our political views are, when presented to the masses, the more detailed and specific our factional position is, the less amount of people it will appeal to - so propoganda must be as simple as possible to appeal to the broadest amount of people. The Marxist, Gramsci, also saw one of the main challenges for political change based on philosophical reasoning, is appealing to the 'common sense' of the people.

Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin

Birth Places of Chinese Philosophers in the 100 Schools of Thought period.

One of the most basic and well known principles of Chinese political philosophy, is the 'mandate of heaven'. This was introduced by the Zhou dynasty(1046-256 BC) justifying their taking over the Shang dynasty. The mandate of heaven says that heaven only favours rulers who rule well and justly, and if they don't others have a right to rebellion, or a 'mandate' to overthrow them.

At the end of the Zhou dynasty China broke into many small feudal states lead by regional war lords, constantly fighting each other. This began with the Spring and Autumn period (771-476 BC) leading into further chaos in the Warring States period (475 - 221 BC). The period ended with the unification of China under the Qin warlord who defeated all the other states. The Qin dynasty lasted for only one emperor, and was replaced by the Han dynasty which brought stability to China for around 400 years.

This war torn period is also known as The Hundred Schools of Thought because it gave rise to many of China's most famous and influential philosophers, whose thought is still of primary importance today, including Confucius, Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu. Han dynasty historian Sima Qian (135-86 BC) identified 5 main schools of philosophy of this earlier period: Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, Yin-Yan and Logicians. Note that even Taoism which doesn't deal much directly with political strategy can none the less be seen as a response to withdrawal from, or instruction on how to cope with, difficult and danderous times. Three of these schools do offer direct political and strategic advice: Confucianism, Legalism and Mohism.


Emperor Qin, who ended the Warring States period by defeating all his enemies and unifying China favoured the 'legalist' school of political philosophy. He was a relentless, uncomprimising, tyrant. According to Sima Qian he burned books and banned schools of philosophy, including Confucianism, and executed scholars. The legalist school argued that rules should be stated clearly and apply to everyone equally and should be punished uncomprimisingly and is clearly directly oppossed to Confucianism and it's focus on respect for 'rites' and tradition and scholarly virtues including music and poetry. The Book of Lord Shang comes from the thought of Shang, the advisor to Emperor Qin.

Statements in the Book of Lord Shang are shocking when we are used to political points of view appealing to justice, the common good, higher causes, righteousness, and other noble and virtuous things. There is no patience for history or the arts with effort being directed to agriculture and the military. However, they seem to describe the behaviour of a lot of leaders and governments well. Some of these extreme views claim to have a good intention - for example, that by prescribing extreme punishments that are the same for everybody and always carried out without ambiguity or comprimise, nobody will commit crime and there will be no punishment. A fearful and uneducated but hard working population will be a strong one, capable of defending itself and conquering others (much in common with Fascism).

Book of Lord Shang https://ctext.org/shang-jun-shu

Elimination of Strength

If in a country there are the following ten evils: rites, music, odes, history, virtue, moral culture, filial piety, brotherly duty, integrity and sophistry, the ruler cannot make the people fight and dismemberment is inevitable; and this brings extinction in its train. If the country has not these ten things and the ruler can make the people fight, he will be so prosperous that he will attain supremacy. A country where the virtuous govern the wicked, will suffer from disorder, so that it will be dismembered; but a country where the wicked govern the virtuous, will be orderly, so that it will become strong.

A country that has no strength and that practises knowledge and cleverness, will certainly perish; but a fearful people, stimulated by penalties, will become brave, and a brave people, encouraged by rewards, will fight to the death. If fearful people become brave and brave people fight to the death, (the country will have no match); having no match, it will be strong, and being strong it will attain supremacy. If the poor are encouraged by rewards, they will become rich, and if penalties are applied to the rich, they will become poor. When in administrating a country one succeeds in making the poor rich and the rich poor, then the country will have much strength, and this being the case, it will attain supremacy.

Discussion about the People

Sophistry and cleverness are an aid to lawlessness; rites and music are symptoms of dissipations and licence; kindness and benevolence are the foster-mother of transgressions; employment and promotion are opportunities for the rapacity of the wicked. If lawlessness is aided, it becomes current; if there are symptoms of dissipation and licence, they will become the practice; if there is a foster-mother for transgressions, they will arise; if there are opportunities for the rapacity of the wicked, they will never cease. If these eight things come together, the people will be stronger than the government; but if these eight things are non-existent in a state, the government will be stronger than the people. If the people are stronger than the government, the state is weak; if the government is stronger than the people, the army is strong. For if these eight things exist, the ruler has no one to use for defence and war, with the result that the state will be dismembered and will come to ruin; but if there are not these eight things, the ruler has the wherewithal for defence and war, with the result that the state will flourish and attain supremacy.


If the people are stronger than the law, there is lawlessness in the state, but if the law is stronger than the people, the army will be strong. Therefore is it said: 'Governing through good people leads to lawlessness and dismemberment; governing through wicked people leads to order and strength.'


People find it easy to talk, but difficult to serve. A state where, when the laws of the country are applied, conditions for the people are hard and by military service those conditions are eased, so that it attacks with force, will gain ten points for every one it undertakes; but a state where, when the laws of the country are applied, conditions for the people are easy, and by military service those conditions are made hard, so that it attacks with words, will lose a hundred men for every ten that it marches out.


If in the application of punishments, serious offences are regarded as serious, and light offences as light, light offences will not cease and in consequence, there will be no means of stopping the serious ones. This is said to be "ruling the people while in a state of lawlessness". So, if light offences are regarded as serious, punishments will be abolished, affairs will succeed and the country will be strong; but if serious offences are regarded as serious and light ones as light, then punishments will appear; moreover, trouble will arise and the country will be dismembered.


If the people are poor, they are weak; if the country is rich, they are licentious, and consequently there will be the parasites; the parasites will bring weakness. Therefore, the poor should be benefited with rewards, so that they become rich, and the rich should be injured by punishments, so that they become poor. The important thing in undertaking the administration of a country is to make the rich poor, and the poor rich. If that is effected, the country will be strong.


Punishment produces force, force produces strength, strength produces awe, awe produces virtue. Virtue has its origin in punishments. For the more punishments there are, the more valued are rewards, and the fewer rewards there are, the more heed is paid to punishments, by virtue of the fact that people have desires and dislikes.


Opening and Debarring


Therefore, if you govern by punishment the people will fear. Being fearful, they will not commit villainies; there being no villainies, people will be happy in what they enjoy. If, however, you teach the people by righteousness, then they will be lax, and if they are lax, there will be disorder; if there is disorder, the people will suffer from what they dislike.


Indeed, there is no greater benefit for the people in the empire than order, and there is no firmer order to be obtained than by establishing a prince; for establishing a prince, there is no more embracing method than making law supreme; for making law supreme, there is no more urgent task than banishing villainy, and for banishing villainy, there is no deeper basis than severe punishments. Therefore those, who attain supremacy, restrain by rewards and encourage by punishments, seek offences and not virtue, and rely on punishments in order to abolish punishments.


Making Orders Strict


If the state confers office and gives rank according to merit, it may be said to be planning with complete wisdom, and fighting with complete courage. Such a country will certainly have no equal. If a state confers office and gives rank according to merit, then government measures will be simple and words will be few.


Force produces strength, strength produces prestige, prestige produces virtue, and so virtue has its origin in force, which a sage-prince alone possesses, and therefore he is able to transmit benevolence and righteousness to the empire.


Rewards and Punishments


What I mean by the unification of punishments is that punishments should know no degree or grade, but that from ministers of state and generals down to great officers and ordinary folk, whosoever does not obey the king's commands, violates the interdicts of the state, or rebels against the statutes fixed by the ruler, should be guilty of death and should not be pardoned. Merit acquired in the past should not cause a decrease in the punishment for demerit later, nor should good behaviour in the past cause any derogation of the law for wrong done later. If loyal ministers and filial sons do wrong, they should be judged according to the full measure of their guilt, and if amongst the officials who have to maintain the law and to uphold an office, there are those who do not carry out the king's law, they are guilty of death and should not be pardoned, but their punishment should be extended to their family for three generations... If punishments are heavy and rigorously applied, then people will not dare to try (how far they can go), with the result that, in the state, there will be no people punished. Because there are no people punished in the state, I say that if one understands punishments, there is no capital punishment.

With attitudes like this the Qin dynasty was very unpopular and was poisoned. His dynasty was immediately replaced by the Han dynasty, who invoked the mandate of heaven against his tyrannical rule. Lord Shang himself argues that what previous emperors did is not a good guide for the present situation, rather the sage will figure out innovative solutions to new problems, regardless of the conventional wisdom and the mob who point to old examples. With China already united, by rejecting Qin's extreme attitude to punishment and enforcing order, and by using a more balanced and moderate approach the Han dynasty lasted for 400 years and is one of the most celebrated eras in Chinese history.


In stark contrast to the legalist School, Mozi, of the Mohist school, named after him, argues for 'Universal Love'.

14.3 If there were universal mutual love in the world, with the love of others being like the love of oneself, would there still be anyone who was not filial?

For Mozi this love should apply to everyone, not just those close to us. In saying this he argues against Confucius whose filial piety applies to family. Mozi argues we should not prioritise our love because it would create heirarchies which creates envy and trouble - we owe this love to all equally.

If I were to give priority in day-to-day business to loving and benefitting the parents of others, would others subsequently requite me by loving and benefitting my parents? Or if I were to give priority in day-to-day business to hating and harming the parents of others, would others subsequently requite me by loving and benefitting my parents? p161

He acknowledges that 'Universal Love' is not how things work in present reality but provides arguments for how to work towards this state of affairs, primarily by leading by example, since love is typically returned with love.

Nevertheless, nowadays officers and gentlement of the world say: "That may be so. Universal love would, of course, be very good. However in the world it is a difficult matter." Master Mo Zi spoke, saying: "This is only because the officers and gentlemen of the world do not recognise its benefits and do not understand its reasons. At the present time, attacking cities, fighting on the battlefield and sacrificing oneself for fame are all things that the ordinary people of th world find difficult. Still, if the ruler favours these things, then the officers and people are able to do them. By comparison, universal mutual love and exchange of mutual benefit are quite different from these things. If a person loves other then others must, as a result, love that person." p141

These principle of Universal Love extend to politics and Mozi's proposal for making peace in this Warring States period:

When it comes to killing an innocent man, seizing his clothes and fur garments, and taking his spear and sword, the lack of righteousness is greater again than entering another's animal enclosure and taking his horses and oxen... Now when it comes to what is a great lack of righteousness, that is, attacking states, they do no know and condemn it but instead they commend it and say it is righteous...p167

Master Mozi said: "People would view other's states as they view their own states. People would view others' houses as they view their own houses. People would view other people as they view themselves. So the feudal lords would love each other and then there would not be savage battles."p139

Mozi advocates never attacking other states, but instead helping them. This is a strategic choice because the people of those other states, will come to love our own state, and if their leader is unrighteous they will love our state more than their own leader, such that the leader will have no support in attacking our own state. If the leader is benevolent to our own state, we live in peace. Mozi describes the high cost in produce and human life involved in attack, and shows how benevolence and generosity to other states undermines their ability to attack us. The reality is though that some states are agressive, so Mozi advocates a purely defensive attitude to warfare, and provides practical advice on defensive warfare.

Now, if there was one who awas able to establish himself in the world through righteousness and reputation, and attract the feudal lords through virtue, the world's submission would be immediate and expected. The world is wearied by prolonged attack and reduction like a young boy playing at being a horse. Nowadays, if there were feudal lords in the world who were able to establish good faith in their dealings and gave primacy to benefit, then, when a great state was not righteous, they would join in grieving for it. When a great state attacked a small state, they would join in rescuing it. When the inner and outer city walls of a small state were incomplete, they would join in repairing them. If cloth and grain were deficient they would suppy them.... If we calculated the cost involved in raising an army to protect against the evils of the feudal lords, then we would certainly be able to obtain substantial benefit. If we led the people along the right path, established a reputation for righteousness, and invariably acted liberally towards our populace as well as training our forces with sincerity, and in this way supported the feudal lords, then it would be possible to have no enemies in the world. pp196-197

Mozi's philosophy might seem foolishly optimistic, but not how the punishment of Germany after WWI with crippling reparations was a major factor leading to WWII, in contrast to the strategy of rebuilding the economy's of Germany and Japan after WWII, such that they are now benevolent and economic partners with their former enemies. This is not exactly the same since they were defeated militarily, but it is an example of different outcomes from attitudes of benevolence and punishment in the context of 'Realpolitik'. By contrast note how the uncomprimising and arrogant exploitation of oil resources in Iran and Venezuela by the West lead to outright antagonism, highly costly to all parties. Note also how peace is achieved in Pacific island traditions through the drinking of Kava to foster mutual good will. Costa Rica has had no army since 1948 and unlike it's neighbouring nations has not had a civil war since. Bhutan has fostered a reputation for being dedicated to peace and happiness to the extent there would be international outrage if anyone invaded it.


For confucius the state is held together not by rules or obedience but by every individuals personal responsibility and commitment to behaving in the right way. If the lord or emperor behaves badly the state will fall apart. If the scholars and peasants do not behave properly, the state will fall apart. If the king must be harsh and punish people to get obedience they will rebel. If the scholars are corrupt, the people will show no commitment to contribute their work and taxes to the state. If the peasants are lazy and dissolute, the state will have no resources, regardless of how good the king is. The creation and enforcement of laws is only a symptom of the fact the state is collapsing as people are not inspired to do their duty and behave correctly. Everything depends on each and every one of us having integrity. This involves doing our duty and fulfilling our role at whatever eschelon of society in the best way we can, and it involves filial piety - supporting and obeying our parents. The ideal person is a 'gentleman' and this status, for Confucius has nothing to do with birth and everything to do with behaviour.

Confucius is also in favour of following custom and 'rites', where rites means something like traditional rules of politeness as well as ritual practices. The cultivation of arts such as music and poetry contribute to the sensitivity of an ideal gentleman. In particular popular music and poetry is seen as a means by which the emperor or lord can learn the sentiment of the people. As such the ruler should listen but never punish or prohibit such song. Confucius is credited as the collector of one of the oldest surviving anthologies of Chinese poetry.

While much of this might sound reasonable to a foreignor, because Confucius was adopted as the official ideology of Chinese government for thousands of years it has come to mean everything that is conservative about China, and so has historically been felt as oppressive by those seeking change and progress. Mao saw Confucianism as one of the aspects of old China that would need to be removed to bring about a communist state. More recently the communist party is encouraging Confucianism.

Confucius, Analects

2.3 The Master said, "If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good."

2.8 Zi Xia asked what filial piety was. The Master said, "The difficulty is with the countenance. If, when their elders have any troublesome affairs, the young take the toil of them, and if, when the young have wine and food, they set them before their elders, is THIS to be considered filial piety?"

2.11 The Master said, "If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge, so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others."

4.5 The Master said, "Riches and honors are what men desire. If it cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If it cannot be avoided in the proper way, they should not be avoided. If a superior man abandon virtue, how can he fulfill the requirements of that name? The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger, he cleaves to it."

4.14 The Master said, "A man should say, I am not concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known."

4.20 The Master said, "If the son for three years does not alter from the way of his father, he may be called filial."

5.10 Zai Yu being asleep during the daytime, the Master said, "Rotten wood cannot be carved; a wall of dirty earth will not receive the trowel. This Yu! - what is the use of my reproving him?" The Master said, "At first, my way with men was to hear their words, and give them credit for their conduct. Now my way is to hear their words, and look at their conduct. It is from Yu that I have learned to make this change."

5.12 Zi Gong said, "What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men." The Master said, "Ci, you have not attained to that."


Ahimsa - non-violence
Satyagraha - firm truth
Economic policy - independant cottage industry over industrialisation to combat extreme poverty

Bedouin camp near Atlas Mountains

Suleiman The Magnificent (Ottoman Empire, 1556)

Ibn Khaldun, 1332-1406, major contributions to historiography, sociology and economics. He lived and travelled mainly in Islamic north Africa finding clerical work where he could in an unstable time. His retreat to the desert profoundly influenced his thought, expressed in his major work The Muqqadimah - a thorough examination and theorisation of history and the political economy of civilisation.

Ibn Khaldun made many observations on politics echoed much later by other thinkers, such as explanations of the economics of trade, an account of how civilisation emerges from 'savage' peoples or a 'natural' state (as in Social Contract Theory), Machiavelli's observations on the relative difficulties of conquering and keeping states without and without feudal loyalties, and something similar to how Marxist theory of 'hegemony' develops over generations after a dynasty is established by force and become accepted through habit as custom and the 'natural' state of things. He develops his argument methodically with reasoned arguments and cites examples that demonstrate the point - in so doing he anticipates two common approaches to political philosophy - rational ideal argument from premises, and historical materialism, which won't accept theory without evidence from historical events.

His observations on politics remain relevant today especially when considering the situation in the middle east and conflict between the Western and Islamic world. Anyone wanting to understand the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria would be a fool not to study the Muqqadimah. For example:

How did Islamic state, apparently coming out of nowhere as a small military force take over such a vast area and nearly overthrow a well established nation of Syria?

Why is it that successive global superpowers such as Russia, the British Empire and the United States with huge military budgets have never been able to retain control of a relatively small and tribally divided country such as Afghanistan?

Ibn Khaldun, Al Muqqadimah [note the creator of this online version has mucked it up with inserting many auto contents and biblio in wrong places etc, but the text is a good rendition of a hard copy translation I have ]

On history as a branch of philosophy (requiring reasoning of causes and origins):

(Ibn Khaldun, none the less criticises philosophers like Ibn Sina and Aristotelians for failing to recognise the value of mystical experience and for going against Islamic dogma.)


HISTORY is a discipline widely cultivated among nations and races. It is eagerly sought after. The men in the street, the ordinary people, aspire to know it. Kings and leaders vie for it.

Both the learned and the ignorant are able to understand it. For on the surface history is no more than information about political events, dynasties, and occurrences of the remote past, elegantly presented and spiced with proverbs. It serves to entertain large, crowded gatherings and brings to us an understanding of human affairs. (It shows) how changing conditions affected (human affairs), how certain dynasties came to occupy an ever wider space in the world, and how they settled the earth until they heard the call and their time was up. The inner meaning of history, on the other hand, involves speculation and an attempt to get at the truth, subtle explanation of the causes and origins of existing things, and deep knowledge of the how and why of events. (History,) therefore, is firmly rooted in philosophy. It deserves to be accounted a branch of (philosophy).

Critique of a Utopian approach to Political Philosophy, and reasoning from Ideals alone

50. Human civilization requires political leadership for its organization

We do not mean here that which is known as "political utopianism" (siyasah madaniyah).750 By that, the philosophers mean the disposition of soul and character which each member of a social organization must have, if, eventually, people are completely to dispense with rulers. They call the social organization that fulfills these requirements the "ideal city." The norms observed in this connection are called "political utopias" (siyasah madaniyah). They do not mean the kind of politics (siyasah) that the members of a social organization are led to adopt through laws for the common interest. That is something different. The "ideal city" (of the philosophers) is something rare and remote. They discuss it as a hypothesis.

Now, the afore-mentioned rational politics may be of two types. The first type of rational politics may concern itself with the (public) interest in general, and with the ruler's interest in connection with the administration of his realm, in particular.

The second type (of rational politics) is the one concerned with the interest of the ruler and how he can maintain his rule through the forceful use of power. The general (public) interest is, here, secondary. This is the type of politics practiced by all rulers, whether they are Muslims or unbelievers.

On Desert Life and Sedentary Life, Group Feeling ('asabiyyah' عصبيّة) and the Political Cycle.

Ibn Khaldun describes a political cycle from small mobile tribal bedouin or 'desert style' groups held together and motivated by 'group feeling' to imperial dynasties that become sedentary and inevitably decay through oppulence and taxation problems, break apart and succumb to being overthrown by smaller, more mobile tribal rebels.

IT 2 SHOULD BE KNOWN that differences of condition among people are the result of the different ways in which they make their living. Social organization enables them to cooperate toward that end and to start with the simple necessities of life, before they get to conveniences and luxuries.3

... "Sedentary people" means the inhabitants of cities and countries, some of whom adopt the crafts as their way of making a living, while others adopt commerce. They earn more and live more comfortably than Bedouins, because they live on a level beyond the level of (bare) necessity, and their way of making a living corresponds to their wealth. It has thus become clear that Bedouins and sedentary people are natural groups which exist by necessity, as we have stated.

... We 13 have mentioned that the Bedouins restrict themselves to the (bare) necessities in their conditions (of life) and are unable to go beyond them, while sedentary people concern themselves with conveniences and luxuries in their conditions and customs. The (bare) necessities are no doubt prior to the conveniences and luxuries. (Bare) necessities, in a way, are basic, and luxuries secondary and an outgrowth (of the necessities). Bedouins, thus, are the basis of, and prior to, cities and sedentary people. Man seeks first the (bare) necessities. Only after he has obtained the (bare) necessities, does he get to comforts and luxuries. The toughness of desert life precedes the softness of sedentary life.

-3. Bedouins are prior to sedentary people. The desert is the basis and reservoir of civilization and cities

... 4. Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people.

... Sedentary people are much concerned with all kinds of pleasures. They are accustomed to luxury and success in worldly occupations and to indulgence in worldly desires. Therefore, their souls are colored with all kinds of blameworthy and evil qualities. The more of them they possess, the more remote do the ways and means of goodness become to them. Eventually they lose all sense of restraint. Many of them are found to use improper language in their gatherings as well as in the presence of their superiors and womenfolk. They are not deterred by any sense of restraint, because the bad custom of behaving openly in an improper manner in both words and deeds has taken hold of them. Bedouins may be as concerned with worldly affairs as (sedentary people are). However, such concern would touch only the necessities of life and not luxuries or anything causing, or calling for, desires and pleasures. The customs they follow in their mutual dealings are, therefore, appropriate. As compared with those of sedentary people, their evil ways and blameworthy qualities are much less numerous. They are closer to the first natural state and more remote from the evil habits that have been impressed upon the souls (of sedentary people) through numerous and ugly, blameworthy customs. Thus, they can more easily be cured than sedentary people. This is obvious. It will later on 18 become clear that sedentary life constitutes the last stage of civilization and the point where it begins to decay. It also constitutes the last stage of evil and of remoteness from goodness. It has thus become clear that Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people. "God loves those who fear God."

... 6. The reliance of sedentary people upon laws destroys their fortitude and power of resistance.

... Not everyone is master of his own affairs. Chiefs and leaders who are masters of the affairs of men are few in comparison with the rest. As a rule, man must by necessity be dominated by someone else. If the domination is kind and just and the people under it are not oppressed by its laws and restrictions, they are guided by the courage or cowardice that they possess in themselves. They are satisfied with the absence of any restraining power. Self-reliance eventually becomes a quality natural to them. They would not know anything else. If, however, the domination with its laws is one of brute force and intimidation, it breaks their fortitude and deprives them of their power of resistance as a result of the inertness that develops in the souls of the oppressed, as we shall explain.

... When laws are (enforced) by means of punishment, they completely destroy fortitude, because. the use of punishment against someone who cannot defend himself generates in that person a feeling of humiliation that, no doubt, must break his fortitude. When laws are (intended to serve the purposes of) education and instruction and are applied from childhood on, they have to some degree the same effect, because people then grow up in fear and docility and consequently do not rely on their own fortitude. For this (reason), greater fortitude is found among the savage Arab Bedouins than among people who are subject to laws. Furthermore, those who rely on laws and are dominated by them from the very beginning of their education and instruction in the crafts, sciences, and religious matters, are thereby deprived of much of their own fortitude. They can scarcely defend themselves at all against hostile acts.


7. Only tribes held together by group feeling can live in the desert

... The poet thus said: Injustice is a human characteristic. If you find A moral man,39 there is some reason why he is not unjust. Mutual aggression of people in towns and cities is averted by the authorities and the government, which hold back the masses under their control from attacks and aggression upon each other. They are thus prevented by the influence of force and governmental authority from mutual injustice, save such injustice as comes from the ruler himself.

Aggression against a city from outside may be averted by walls, in the event of negligence,40 a surprise attack at night, or inability (of the inhabitants) to withstand the enemy during the day. (Or,) it may be averted with the help of a militia of government auxiliary troops, if (the inhabitants are otherwise) prepared and ready to offer resistance.

The 41 restraining influence among Bedouin tribes comes from their shaykhs and leaders. It results from the great respect and veneration they generally enjoy among the people. The hamlets of the Bedouins are defended against outside enemies by a tribal militia composed of noble youths of the tribe who are known for their courage. Their defense and protection are successful only if they are a closely-knit group 42 of common descent. This strengthens their stamina and makes them feared, since everybody's affection for his family and his group is more important (than anything else). Compassion and affection for one's blood relations and relatives exist in human nature as something God put into the hearts of men. It makes for mutual support and aid, and increases the fear felt by the enemy.


14. Prestige lasts at best four generations in one lineage.82

It should be known that the world of the elements and all it contains comes into being and decays. This applies to both its essences and its conditions. Minerals, plants, all the animals including man, and the other created things come into being and decay, as one can see with one's own eyes. The same applies to the conditions that affect created things, and especially the conditions that affect man. Sciences grow up and then are wiped out. The same applies to crafts, and to similar things.

... This means that all nobility and prestige is preceded by the nonexistence of nobility and prestige, as is the case with every created thing. It reaches its end in a single family within four successive generations. This is as follows: The builder of the glory (of the family) knows what it cost him to do the work, and he keeps the qualities that created his glory and made it last. The son who comes after him had personal contact with his father and thus learned those things from him. However, he is inferior in this respect to (his father), in as much as a person who learns things through study is inferior to a person who knows them from practical application. The third generation must be content with imitation and, in particular, with reliance upon tradition. This member is inferior to him of the second generation, in as much as a person who relies (blindly) upon tradition is inferior to a person who exercises independent judgment.85

The fourth generation, then, is inferior to the preceding ones in every respect. This member has lost the qualities that preserved the edifice of their glory. He (actually) despises(those qualities). He imagines that the edifice was not built through application and effort. He thinks that it was something due his people from the very beginning by virtue of the mere fact of their (noble) descent, and not something that resulted from group (effort) and (individual) qualities. For he sees the great respect in which he is held by the people, but he does not know how that respect originated and what the reason for it was. He imagines that it is due to his descent and nothing else. He keeps away from those in whose group feeling he shares, thinking that he is better than they. He trusts that (they will obey him because) he was brought up to take their obedience for granted, and he does not know the qualities that made obedience necessary. Such qualities are humility (in dealing) with (such men) and respect for their feelings. Therefore, he considers them despicable, and they, in turn, revolt against him and despise him. They transfer (political) leadership from him and his direct lineage to some other related branch (of his tribe), in obedience to their group feeling, as we have stated. (They do so) after they have convinced themselves that the qualities of the (new leader) are satisfactory to them. His family then grows, whereas the family of the original (leader) decays and the edifice of his "house" collapses.

This is the case with rulers who have royal authority. It also is the case with all the "houses" of tribes, of amirs, and of everybody else who shares in a group feeling, and then also with the "houses" among the urban population. When one "house" goes down, another one rises in (another group of) the same descent. "If He wants them to disappear, He causes them to do so, and brings forth a new creation. This is not difficult for God." 86


15. Savage nations are better able to achieve superiority than others The reason is that familiar customs determine human nature and character. Superiority comes to nations through enterprise and courage. The more firmly rooted in desert habits and the wilder a group is, the closer does it come to achieving superiority over others, if both (parties are otherwise) approximately equal in number, strength, and group (feeling) .


16. The goal to which group feeling leads is royal authority This 97 is because, as we have mentioned before,98 group feeling gives protection and makes possible mutual defense, the pressing of claims,99 and every other kind of social activity. We have also mentioned before 100 that according to their nature, human beings need someone to act as a restraining influence and mediator in every social organization, in order to keep the members from (fighting) with each other. That person must, by necessity, have superiority over the others in the matter of group feeling. If not, his power to (exercise a restraining influence) could not materialize. Such superiority is royal authority (mulk). It is more than leadership. Leadership means being a chieftain, and the leader is obeyed, but he has no power to force others to accept his rulings. Royal authority means superiority and the power to rule by force.

... Once group feeling has established superiority over the people who share (in that particular group feeling), it will, by its very nature, seek superiority over people of other group feelings unrelated to the first. If the one (group feeling) is the equal of the other or is able to stave off (its challenge), the (competing people) are even with and equal to each other. (In this case,) each group feeling maintains its sway over its own domain and people, as is the case with tribes and nations all over the earth. However, if the one group feeling overpowers the other and makes it subservient to itself, the two group feelings enter into close contact, and the (defeated) group feeling gives added power to the (victorious) group feeling, which, as a result, sets its goal of superiority and domination higher than before. In this way, it goes on until the power of that particular group feeling equals the power of the ruling dynasty. Then, when the ruling dynasty grows senile and no defender arises from among its friends who share in its group feeling, the (new group feeling) takes over and deprives the ruling dynasty of its power, and, thus, obtains complete royal authority.

... 17. Obstacles on the way toward royal authority are luxury and the submergence of the tribe in a life of prosperity.

The reason for this is that, when a tribe has achieved a certain measure of superiority with the help of its group feeling, it gains control over a corresponding amount of wealth and comes to share prosperity and abundance with those who have been in possession of these things (for a long time). It shares in them to the degree of its power and usefulness to the ruling dynasty. If the ruling dynasty is so strong that no one would think of depriving it of its power or sharing (its power) with it, the tribe in question submits to its rule and is satisfied with whatever share in the dynasty's wealth and tax revenue it is permitted to enjoy.

... As a result, the toughness of desert life is lost. Group feeling and courage weaken. Members of the tribe revel in the well-being that God has given them. Their children and offspring grow up too proud to look after themselves or to attend to their own needs. They have disdain also for all the other things that are necessary in connection with group feeling. This finally becomes a character trait and natural characteristic of theirs. Their group feeling and courage decrease in the next generations. Eventually, group feeling is altogether destroyed. They thus invite (their) own destruction. The greater their luxury and the easier the life they enjoy, the closer they are to extinction, not to mention (their lost chance of obtaining) royal authority. The things that go with luxury and submergence in a life of ease break the vigor of the group feeling, which alone produces superiority. When group feeling is destroyed, the tribe is no longer able to defend or protect itself, let alone press any claims. It will be swallowed up by other nations.


Chapter III

1. Royal authority and large1 dynastic (power) are attained only through a group and group feeling.

THIS 2 IS BECAUSE, as we established in the first chapter, aggressive and defensive strength is obtained only through group feeling which means (mutual) affection and willingness to fight and die for each other. Now, royal authority is a noble and enjoyable position. It comprises all the good things of the world, the pleasures of the body, and the joys of the soul. Therefore, there is, as a rule, great competition for it. It rarely is handed over (voluntarily), but it may be taken away.

2. When a dynasty is, firmly established, it can dispense with group feeling.

The 3 reason for this is that people find it difficult to submit to large dynastic (power) at the beginning, unless they are forced into submission by strong superiority. (The new government) is something strange. People are not familiar with, or used to, its rule. But once leadership is firmly vested in the members of the family qualified to exercise royal authority in the dynasty, and once (royal authority) has been passed on by inheritance over many generations and through successive dynasties, the beginnings are forgotten, and the members of that family are clearly marked as leaders. It has become a firmly established article of faith that one must be subservient and submissive to them. People will fight with them in their behalf, as they would fight for the articles of faith. By this time, (the rulers) will not need much group (feeling to maintain) their power.

... 5. Religious propaganda gives a dynasty at its beginning another power in addition to that of the group feeling it possessed as the result of the number of its (supporters).

As 16 we have mentioned before, the reason for this is that religious coloring does away with mutual jealousy and envy among people who share in a group feeling, and causes concentration upon the truth. When people (who have a religious coloring) come to have the (right) insight into their affairs, nothing can withstand them, because their outlook is one and their object one of common accord. They are willing to die for (their objectives). (On the other hand,) the members of the dynasty they attack may be many times as numerous as they. But their purposes differ, in as much as they are false 17 purposes, and (the people of the worldly dynasty) come to abandon each other, since they are afraid of death. Therefore, they do not offer resistance to (the people with a religious coloring), even if they themselves are more numerous. They are overpowered by them and quickly wiped out, as a result of the luxury and humbleness existing among them, as we have mentioned before.18

... 9. A dynasty rarely establishes itself firmly in lands with many different tribes and groups.

The 51 reason for this is the differences in opinions and desires. Behind each opinion and desire, there is a group feeling defending it. At any time, therefore, there is much opposition to a dynasty and rebellion against it, even if the dynasty possesses group feeling, because each group feeling under the control of the ruling dynasty thinks that it has in itself (enough) strength and power.


11. When the natural (tendencies) of the royal authority to claim all glory for itself and to obtain luxury and tranquility have been firmly established, the dynasty approaches senility.

This 66 can be explained in several ways.

First: As we have stated, the (royal authority), by its very nature, must claim all glory for itself. As long as glory was the common (property) of the group, and all members of the group made an identical effort (to obtain glory), their aspirations to gain the upper hand over others and to defend their own possessions were expressed in exemplary unruliness and lack of restraint. They all aimed at fame. Therefore, they considered death encountered in pursuit of glory, sweet, and they preferred annihilation to the loss of (glory). Now, however, when one of them claims all glory for himself, he treats the others severely and holds them in check. Further, he excludes them from possessing property and appropriates it for himself. People, thus, become too lazy to care for fame. They become dispirited and come to love humbleness and servitude.

The next generation (of members of the dynasty) grows up in this (condition). They consider their allowances the government's payment to them for military service and support. No other thought occurs to them. (But) a person would rarely hire himself out to sacrifice his life. This (situation) debilitates the dynasty and undermines its strength. Its group feeling decays because the people who represent the group feeling have lost their energy. As a result, the dynasty progresses toward weakness and senility.

Second: As we have said before, royal authority by its very nature requires luxury. People get accustomed to a great number of things. Their expenses are higher than their allowances and their income is not sufficient to pay for their expenditures. Those who are poor perish. Spendthrifts squander their income on luxuries. This (condition) becomes aggravated in the later generations. Eventually, all their income cannot pay for the luxuries and other things they have become used to. They grow needy. When their rulers urge them to defray the costs of raids and wars, they cannot get around it (but they have no money). Therefore, (the rulers) impose penalties on the (people) and deprive many of them of their property, either by appropriating it for themselves or by handing it over to their own children and supporters in the dynasty. In that way, they make the people too weak (financially) to keep their own affairs going, and their weakness (then reacts upon the ruler and) weakens him.

Also, when luxury increases in a dynasty and people's income becomes insufficient for their needs and expenses, the ruler, that is, the government, must increase their allowances in order to tide them over and remedy their unsound condition. The amount of tax revenue, however, is a fixed one. It neither increases nor decreases. When it is increased by new customs duties, the amount to be collected as a result of the increase has fixed limits (and cannot be increased again). And when the tax revenues must go to pay for recently increased allowances that had to be increased for everybody in view of new luxuries and great expenditures, the militia decreases in number from what it had been before the increase in allowances.67

Luxury, meanwhile, is still on the increase. As a result, allowances become larger, and the militia decreases in number. This happens a third and a fourth time. Eventually, the army is reduced to the smallest possible size. The result is that the military defense of the dynasty is weakened and the power of the dynasty declines. Neighboring dynasties, or groups and tribes under the control of the dynasty itself, become bold and attack it, and God permits it to suffer the destruction that He has destined for (all) His creatures.

Furthermore, luxury corrupts the character. (Through luxury,) the soul acquires diverse kinds of evil and sophisticated customs, as will be mentioned in the section on sedentary culture.68 People lose the good qualities that were a sign and indication of (their qualification for) royal authority.69 They adopt the contrary bad qualities. This points toward retrogression and ruin, according to the way God has (planned it) for His creatures in this connection. The dynasty shows symptoms of dissolution and disintegration. It becomes affected by the chronic diseases of senility and finally dies.

Third: As we have mentioned,70 royal authority, by its very nature, requires tranquility (and rest). When people become accustomed to tranquility and rest and adopt them as character traits, they become part of their nature. This is the case with all the things to which one grows used and accustomed.

The new generations grow up in comfort and the ease of luxury and tranquility. The trait of savagery (which former generations had possessed) undergoes transformation. They forget the customs of desert life that enabled them to achieve royal authority, such as great energy, the habit of rapacity, and the ability to travel in the wilderness and find one's way in waste regions. No difference remains between them and ordinary city dwellers, except for their (fighting) skill 71 and emblems. Their military defense weakens, their energy is lost, and their strength is undermined. The evil effects of this situation on the dynasty show themselves in the form of senility.

People, meanwhile, continue to adopt ever newer forms of luxury and sedentary culture and of quiet, tranquility, and softness in all their conditions, and to sink ever deeper into them. They thus become estranged from desert life and desert toughness. Gradually, they lose more and more of (the old virtues). They forget the quality of bravery that was their protection and defense. Eventually, they come to depend upon some other militia, if they have one.

An example of this is the nations whose history is available in the books you have. What I have said will be found to be correct and admitting of no doubt. In a dynasty affected by senility as the result of luxury and rest, it sometimes happens that the ruler chooses helpers and partisans from groups not related to (the ruling dynasty but) used to toughness. He uses (these people) as an army which will be better able to suffer the hardships of wars, hunger, and privation. This could prove a cure for the senility of the dynasty when it comes, (but only) until God permits His command regarding (the dynasty) to be executed.

This is what happened to the Turkish dynasty in the East. Most members of its army were Turkish clients. The (Turkish) rulers then chose horsemen and soldiers from among the white slaves (Mamelukes) who were brought to them. They were more eager to fight and better able to suffer privations than the children of the earlier white slaves (Mamelukes) who had grown up in easy circumstances as a ruling class in the shadow of the government.

The same was the case with the Almohad (Hafsid) dynasty in Ifriqiyah. Their rulers often selected their armies from the Zanatah and the Arabs. They used many of them, and disregarded their own people who had become used to luxury. Thus, the dynasty obtained another, new life, unaffected by senility. God inherits the earth and whomever is upon it.


33. The different importance of the ranks of "the sword" and "the pen" in the (various) dynasties.

It 542 should be known that both "the sword" and "the pen" are instruments for the ruler to use in his affairs. However, at the beginning of the dynasty, so long as its people are occupied in establishing power, the need for "the sword" is greater than that for "the pen." In that situation, "the pen" is merely a servant and agent of the ruler's authority, whereas "the sword" contributes active assistance. The same is the case at the end of the dynasty when its group feeling weakens, as we have mentioned, and its people decrease in number under the influence of senility, as we have stated before.543 The dynasty then needs the support of the military. The dynasty's need of the military for the purpose of protection and defense is as strong then as it was at the beginning of (the dynasty) for the purpose of getting established. In these two situations, "the sword," thus, has the advantage over "the pen."

44. Once senility has come upon a dynasty, it cannot be made to disappear.

... Senility is a chronic disease that cannot be cured or made to disappear because it is something natural, and natural things do not change.

Many a politically conscious person among the people of the dynasty becomes alert to it and notices the symptoms and causes of senility that have affected his dynasty. He considers it possible to make that senility disappear. Therefore, he takes it upon himself to repair the dynasty and relieve its temper of senility. He supposes that (senility) resulted from shortcomings or negligence on the part of former people of the dynasty. This is not so. These things are natural to the dynasty. Customs (that have developed in the dynasty) prevent him from repairing it. Customs are like a second nature. A person who, for instance, has seen his father and the older members of his family wear silk and brocade and use gold ornaments for weapons and mounts and be inaccessible to the people in their salons and at prayer, will not be able to diverge from the customs of his forebears in this respect. He will not be able to use coarse dress and apparel and mingle with the people. Custom would prevent him (from doing that) and expose him if he were to do it. Were he to do it, he would be accused of craziness and insanity for his brusque disregard of custom. There is the danger that it would have bad consequences for his government.

... At the end of a dynasty, there often also appears some (show of) power that gives the impression that the senility of the dynasty has been made to disappear. It lights up brilliantly just before it is extinguished, like a burning wick the flame of which leaps up brilliantly a moment before it goes out, giving the impression it is just starting to burn, when in fact it is going out.


47. How a new dynasty originates.


It should be known that when the ruling dynasty starts on the road to senility and destruction, the rise and beginning of the new dynasty takes place in two ways: (The one way is) for provincial governors in the dynasty to gain control over remote regions when (the dynasty) loses its influence there.


The other way is for some rebel from among the neighboring nations and tribes to revolt against the dynasty.


ISIS preparing for battle in Homs https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/latest-isis-propaganda-video-shows-deadly-battles-syrian-army-homs-18-graphic/ Note 'desert life' and 'group feeling'.

Citadel of Aleppo, Syria. Note flag and image of Bashar al-Assad, and luxury cafe attached to ruins.

On Tax

36. Taxation and the reason for low and high (tax revenues).

It 648 should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments.

The reason for this is that when the dynasty follows the ways (sunan) of the religion, it imposes only such taxes as are stipulated by the religious law, such as charity taxes, the land tax, and the poll tax. They mean small assessments, because, as everyone knows, the charity tax on property 649 is low. The same applies to the charity tax on grain and cattle, and also to the poll tax, the land tax, and all other taxes required by the religious law. They have fixed limits that cannot be overstepped.

When the dynasty follows the ways of group feeling and (political) superiority, it necessarily has at first a desert attitude, as has been mentioned before. The desert attitude requires kindness, reverence, humility, respect for the property of other people, and disinclination to appropriate it,650 except in rare instances. Therefore, the individual imposts and assessments, which together constitute the tax revenue, are low. When tax assessments and imposts upon the subjects are low, the latter have the energy and desire to do things. Cultural enterprises grow and increase, because the low taxes bring satisfaction. When cultural enterprises grow, the number of individual imposts and assessments mounts. In consequence, the tax revenue, which is the sum total of (the individual assessments), increases. When the dynasty continues in power and their rulers follow each other in succession, they become sophisticated. The Bedouin attitude and simplicity lose their significance, and the Bedouin qualities of moderation and restraint disappear. Royal authority with its tyranny, and sedentary culture that stimulates sophistication, make their appearance. The people of the dynasty then acquire qualities of character related to cleverness. Their customs and needs become more varied because of the prosperity and luxury in which they are immersed. As a result, the individual imposts and assessments upon the subjects, agricultural laborers, farmers, and all the other taxpayers, increase. Every individual impost and assessment is greatly increased, in order to obtain a higher tax revenue. Customs duties are placed upon articles of commerce and (levied) at the city gates, as we shall mention later on. 651 Then, gradual increases in the amount of the assessments succeed each other regularly, in correspondence with the gradual increase in the luxury customs and many needs of the dynasty and the spending required in connection with them. Eventually, the taxes will weigh heavily upon the subjects and overburden them. Heavy taxes become an obligation and tradition, because the increases took place gradually, and no one knows specifically who increased them or levied them. They lie upon the subjects like an obligation and tradition.

The assessments increase beyond the limits of equity. The result is that the interest of the subjects in cultural enterprises disappears, since when they compare expenditures and taxes with their income and gain and see the little profit they make, they lose all hope. Therefore, many of them refrain from all cultural activity. The result is that the total tax revenue goes down, as (the number of) the individual assessments goes down. Often, when the decrease is noticed, the amounts of individual imposts are increased. This is considered a means of compensating for the decrease. Finally, individual imposts and assessments reach their limit. It would be of no avail to increase them further. The costs of all cultural enterprise are now too high, the taxes are too heavy, and the profits anticipated fail to materialize. Thus, the total revenue continues to decrease, while the amounts of individual imposts and assessments continue to increase, because it is believed that such an increase will compensate (for the drop in revenue) in the end. Finally, civilization is destroyed, because the incentive for cultural activity is gone. It is the dynasty that suffers from the situation, because it (is the dynasty that) profits from cultural activity

On The Role Of Government In Trade (why governments shouldn't make money by commerce)

38. Commercial activity on the part of the ruler is harmful to his subjects and ruinous to the tax revenue.

Sometimes, the ruler himself may engage in commerce and agriculture, from desire to increase (his) revenues. He sees that merchants and farmers make (great) profits and have plenty of property. (He sees) that their gains correspond to the capital they invest. Therefore, he starts to acquire livestock and fields in order to cultivate them for profit, purchase goods, and (enter business and) expose himself to fluctuations of the market. He thinks that this will improve (his) revenues and increase (his) profits.

However, this is a great error. It causes harm to the subjects in many ways. First, farmers and merchants will find it difficult to buy livestock and merchandise and to procure cheaply the things that belong to (farming and commerce). The subjects have (all) the same or approximately the same amount of wealth. Competition between them already exhausts, or comes close to exhausting, their financial resources. Now, when the ruler, who has so much more money than they, competes with them, scarcely a single one of them will (any longer) be able-to obtain the things he wants, and everybody will become worried and unhappy.

Furthermore, the ruler can appropriate much of (the agricultural products and the available merchandise), if it occurs to him. (He can do it) by force, or by buying things up at the cheapest possible price. Further, there may be no one who would dare to bid against him. Thus, he will be able to force the seller to lower his price.

Further, when agricultural products such as corn, silk, honey, sugar, and other kinds of agricultural products, or goods of any kind, become available, the ruler cannot wait for a (favorable) market and a boom, because he has to take care of government (needs). Therefore, he forces the merchants or farmers who deal in these particular products to buy from him. He will be satisfied only with the highest prices and more. (The merchants and farmers, on the other hand), will exhaust their liquid capital in such transactions. The merchandise they thus acquire will remain useless on their hands. They themselves will no longer be able to trade, which is what enables them to earn something and make their living. Often, they need money. Then, they have to sell the goods (that they were forced to buy from the ruler), at the lowest prices, during a slump in the market. Often, the merchant or farmer has to do the same thing over again. He thus exhausts his capital and has to go out of business.658

This becomes an often repeated process. The trouble and financial difficulties and the loss of profit which it causes the subjects, takes away from them all incentives to effort, thus ruining the fiscal (structure). Most of the revenue from taxes comes from farmers and merchants, especially once customs duties have been introduced and the tax revenue has been augmented by means of them. Thus, when the farmer gives up agriculture and the merchant goes out of business, the revenue from taxes vanishes altogether or becomes dangerously low.

Were the ruler to compare the revenue from taxes with the small profits (he reaps from trading himself), he would find the latter negligible in comparison with the former. Even if (his trading) were profitable, it would still deprive him of a good deal of his revenue from taxes, so far as commerce is concerned. It is unlikely that customs duties might be levied on (the ruler's commercial activities). If, however, the same deals were made by others (and not by the ruler), the customs duties (levied in connection with them) would be included in the tax total. Furthermore, (the trading of the ruler) may cause the destruction of civilization and, through the destruction and decrease of (civilization), the disintegration of the dynasty. When the subjects can no longer make their capital larger through agriculture and commerce, it will decrease and disappear as the result of expenditures. This will ruin their situation. This should be understood.

How Unjust Governments Destroy Themselves

41. Injustice brings about the ruin of civilization

It 676 should be known that attacks on people's property remove the incentive to acquire and gain property. People, then, become of the opinion that the purpose and ultimate destiny of (acquiring property) is to have it taken away from them. When the incentive to acquire and obtain property is gone, people no longer make efforts to acquire any. The extent and degree to which property rights are infringed upon determines the extent and degree to which the efforts of the subjects to acquire property slacken. When attacks (on property) are extensive and general, extending to all means of making a livelihood, business inactivity, too, becomes (general), because the general extent of (such attacks upon property) means a general destruction of the incentive (to do business). If the attacks upon property are but light, the stoppage of gainful activity is correspondingly slight. Civilization and its well-being as well as business prosperity depend on productivity and people's efforts in all directions in their own interest and profit. When people no longer do business in order to make a living, and when they cease all gainful activity, the business of civilization slumps, and everything decays. People scatter everywhere in search of sustenance, to places outside the jurisdiction of their present government. The population of the particular region becomes light. The settlements there become empty. The cities lie in ruins. The disintegration of (civilization) causes the disintegration of the status of dynasty and ruler, because (their peculiar status) constitutes the form of civilization and the form necessarily decays when its matter (in this case, civilization) decays.6

The importance of the flow of trade, rather than stagnation and hoarding. Also, government and society as 'form' of the 'material', which depends on this flow.

This secret should be understood, because it is not known to the people. It should be known that these are related matters: The strength and weakness of a dynasty, the numerical strength of a nation or race, the size of a town or city, and the amount of prosperity and wealth. This is because dynasty and royal authority constitute the form of the world and of civilization, which, in turn, together with the subjects, cities, and all other things, constitute the matter of (dynasty and royal authority).139 The tax money reverts to the (people). Their wealth, as a rule, comes from their business and commercial activities. If the ruler pours out gifts and money upon his people, it spreads among them and reverts to him, and again from him to them. It comes from them through taxation and the land tax, and reverts to them through gifts. The wealth of the subjects corresponds to the finances of the dynasty. The finances of the dynasty, in turn, correspond to the wealth and number of the subjects. The origin of it all is civilization and its extensiveness. If this is considered and examined in connection with the (various) dynasties, it will be found to be so.

Profit is generated by labour, not the commodity or product, and the role of money

When (a person) does not use (his income) for any of his interests and needs, it is not called "sustenance." (The part of the income) that is obtained by a person through his own effort and strength is called "profit." ...

It should further be known that profit results from the effort to acquire (things) and the intention to obtain (them). ...

Everything comes from God. But human labor is necessary for every profit and capital accumulation. When (the source of profit) is work as such, as, for instance, (the exercise of) a craft, this is obvious. When the source of gain is animals, plants, or minerals, (this is not quite as obvious, but) human labor is still necessary, as one can see. Without (human labor), no gain will be obtained, and there will be no useful (result).

Furthermore,9 God created the two mineral "stones," gold and silver, as the (measure of) value for all capital accumulations. (Gold and silver are what) the inhabitants of the world, by preference, consider treasure and property (to consist of). Even if, under certain circumstances, other things are acquired, it is only for the purpose of ultimately obtaining (gold and silver). All other things are subject to market fluctuations, from which (gold and silver) are exempt. They are the basis of profit, property, and treasure.

European's encounter with many different people around the world, living in many different ways, combined with a knowledge of republics, democracies and dictatorships in classical times made it ever more clear that any one system of government, including their own isn't necessarily a natural consequence of human development, and isn't the only way society and government may be organised. In particular Europeans saw American Indians and Africans as living at a stage 'prior' to the development of cities and so closer to the 'natural' state of humanity. They wondered what this natural state would be like - what it would be like to live without or prior to the introduction of government, and from that to draw conclusions about how government forms and what is the best kind of government to form, as if reasoning from 'first principles'. They wondered what 'rights' are inherently natural to humans, what rights are 'inalienable', and what forms of government can be justified. In what is now known as 'social contract theory' philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau pondered how and in what capacity humans can make an agreements to live together, or agree to a contract, on how to behave towards each other, what liberties they would give up for security, and what powers a ruling entity can and should have.

These ideas developed in social contract theory form the basis of subsequent European political thought and the general ideas most people still have about politics - about dictatorship, liberalism, equality and left and right wing politics that remain in the West, and due to colonisation and globalisation, throughout the world.

A conventional course in political philosophy at a Western University typically includes Social Contract Theory as a major component. Those people who govern us who have a good education, will have this somewhere in their minds. Whether you are for or against them then, it's worth knowing something about it. Because it is one of the main roots of the left wing vs right wing beliefs that dominate common political beliefs and positions so it is worth understanding the arguments behind them - to understand why people, including ourselves think what we think.

In putting this together it occurs to me that one way to be 'wise' about these theories is, with the benefit of hindsight, to not try to figure out who got it right, or to figure out which is the best political system. Rather, we could see each of these as a remedy for different situations. Each of these theories starts from a premise that without government we will be living in some situation, such as a violent anarchy or in perfect freedom and so on. The reality is that politics always changes as new situations arise. Even stability can be a problem as stagnation occurs. So we could see the following as a remedy for different changing situations - if there is a violent anarchy, the only solution (as for Hobbes and Legalism) is a harsh dictatorship; once this peace is established people long for more liberty, so a more liberal situation of free trade and relaxed laws apply; but as this leads to excesses of exploitation and poverty, a more egalitarian response is required; and so on, such that it is not a question of which is the best utopia to be implimented for all time, but which is the best political system to deal with our particular change in circumstance.

Old book plate, title page of Hobbes Leviathan, showing a king made out of little people, towering over a landscape and town, holding a sword and a sceptre.

For Hobbes our 'natural' state is one of war of every one against every one, each of us alone. We each have the natural capability to kill each other, so there is no natural peace. What inclines us to peace is fear of death, desire for things that help us live and the hope of getting them. This leads to 'laws of nature' by which he doesn't mean physics but agreed upon 'laws' that it is in our nature to agree upon.

Because we are all in a state of war against each other, yet everyone of us also seeks peace, even though we have a natural right to everything and to do anything, we relinquish this in an agreement among each other to give up our rights - as much liberty as we would not want someone to have against us, we give up ourselves. So for example, I would not want to be murdered so I give up my liberty to murder. I would like my furniture to be at home when I return, so I give up my liberty to take things in other people's houses.

We then seek to live in a 'common-wealth', ie: to seek what is good for us all. Hobbes adds that following these 'contract's by which we give up rights in order to live in peace has no effect unless there is some threat for those who break the contract. As he puts it, "And Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all." Without threat of punishment the agreement is just empty words and we are actually returned to a state of 'war', always afraid of what others might do. For this reason we give power to punish and administer justice to a sovereign, with control over the 'commonwealth', and we give up any right to go against the will of the sovereign. If we didn't give up that right, our contracts would have no force. The only way this contract with the sovereign is made void is if they are actually unable to protect our safety, both within the state and from foreign powers, because we would then have been returned to a state of war.


Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there bee found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himselfe any benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himselfe.


From this equality of ability, ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our Ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which neverthelesse they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their End, (which is principally their owne conservation, and sometimes their delectation only,) endeavour to destroy, or subdue one an other.


There Is Alwayes Warre Of Every One Against Every One Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man.


Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.


To this warre of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be Unjust. The notions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice have there no place. Where there is no common Power, there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice. Force, and Fraud, are in warre the two Cardinall vertues.


The Passions that encline men to Peace, are Feare of Death; Desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a Hope by their Industry to obtain them. And Reason suggesteth convenient Articles of Peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These Articles, are they, which otherwise are called the Lawes of Nature: whereof I shall speak more particularly, in the two following Chapters.



Naturally Every Man Has Right To Everything

And because the condition of Man, (as hath been declared in the precedent Chapter) is a condition of Warre of every one against every one; in which case every one is governed by his own Reason; and there is nothing he can make use of, that may not be a help unto him, in preserving his life against his enemyes; It followeth, that in such a condition, every man has a Right to every thing; even to one anothers body. And therefore, as long as this naturall Right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man, (how strong or wise soever he be,) of living out the time, which Nature ordinarily alloweth men to live.

The Fundamental Law Of Nature

And consequently it is a precept, or generall rule of Reason, "That every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of Warre." The first branch, of which Rule, containeth the first, and Fundamentall Law of Nature; which is, "To seek Peace, and follow it." The Second, the summe of the Right of Nature; which is, "By all means we can, to defend our selves."

The Second Law Of Nature

From this Fundamentall Law of Nature, by which men are commanded to endeavour Peace, is derived this second Law; "That a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himselfe he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himselfe." For as long as every man holdeth this Right, of doing any thing he liketh; so long are all men in the condition of Warre. But if other men will not lay down their Right, as well as he; then there is no Reason for any one, to devest himselfe of his: For that were to expose himselfe to Prey, (which no man is bound to) rather than to dispose himselfe to Peace. This is that Law of the Gospell; "Whatsoever you require that others should do to you, that do ye to them." And that Law of all men, "Quod tibi feiri non vis, alteri ne feceris."



The End Of Common-wealth, Particular Security

The finall Cause, End, or Designe of men, (who naturally love Liberty, and Dominion over others,) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, (in which wee see them live in Common-wealths,) is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of Warre, which is necessarily consequent (as hath been shewn) to the naturall Passions of men, when there is no visible Power to keep them in awe, and tye them by feare of punishment to the performance of their Covenants, and observation of these Lawes of Nature set down in the fourteenth and fifteenth Chapters.

Which Is Not To Be Had From The Law Of Nature:

For the Lawes of Nature (as Justice, Equity, Modesty, Mercy, and (in summe) Doing To Others, As Wee Would Be Done To,) if themselves, without the terrour of some Power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our naturall Passions, that carry us to Partiality, Pride, Revenge, and the like. And Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all. Therefore notwithstanding the Lawes of Nature, (which every one hath then kept, when he has the will to keep them, when he can do it safely,) if there be no Power erected, or not great enough for our security; every man will and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art, for caution against all other men....


The Generation Of A Common-wealth

The only way to erect such a Common Power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of Forraigners, and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort, as that by their owne industrie, and by the fruites of the Earth, they may nourish themselves and live contentedly; is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or Assembly of men, to beare their Person; and every one to owne, and acknowledge himselfe to be Author of whatsoever he that so beareth their Person, shall Act, or cause to be Acted, in those things which concerne the Common Peace and Safetie; and therein to submit their Wills, every one to his Will, and their Judgements, to his Judgment. This is more than Consent, or Concord; it is a reall Unitie of them all, in one and the same Person, made by Covenant of every man with every man, in such manner, as if every man should say to every man, "I Authorise and give up my Right of Governing my selfe, to this Man, or to this Assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy Right to him, and Authorise all his Actions in like manner." This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a COMMON-WEALTH, in latine CIVITAS. This is the Generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather (to speake more reverently) of that Mortall God, to which wee owe under the Immortall God, our peace and defence. For by this Authoritie, given him by every particular man in the Common-Wealth, he hath the use of so much Power and Strength conferred on him, that by terror thereof, he is inabled to forme the wills of them all, to Peace at home, and mutuall ayd against their enemies abroad.


The Different Formes Of Common-wealths But Three

The difference of Common-wealths, consisteth in the difference of the Soveraign, or the Person representative of all and every one of the Multitude. And because the Soveraignty is either in one Man, or in an Assembly of more than one; and into that Assembly either Every man hath right to enter, or not every one, but Certain men distinguished from the rest; it is manifest, there can be but Three kinds of Common-wealth. For the Representative must needs be One man, or More: and if more, then it is the Assembly of All, or but of a Part. When the Representative is One man, then is the Common-wealth a MONARCHY: when an Assembly of All that will come together, then it is a DEMOCRACY, or Popular Common-wealth: when an Assembly of a Part onely, then it is called an ARISTOCRACY. Other kind of Common-wealth there can be none: for either One, or More, or All must have the Soveraign Power (which I have shewn to be indivisible) entire.



Liberty What

Liberty, or FREEDOME, signifieth (properly) the absence of Opposition; (by Opposition, I mean externall Impediments of motion;) and may be applyed no lesse to Irrational, and Inanimate creatures, than to Rationall. For whatsoever is so tyed, or environed, as it cannot move, but within a certain space, which space is determined by the opposition of some externall body, we say it hath not Liberty to go further. And so of all living creatures, whilest they are imprisoned, or restrained, with walls, or chayns; and of the water whilest it is kept in by banks, or vessels, that otherwise would spread it selfe into a larger space, we use to say, they are not at Liberty, to move in such manner, as without those externall impediments they would. But when the impediment of motion, is in the constitution of the thing it selfe, we use not to say, it wants the Liberty; but the Power to move; as when a stone lyeth still, or a man is fastned to his bed by sicknesse.

What It Is To Be Free

And according to this proper, and generally received meaning of the word, A FREE-MAN, is "he, that in those things, which by his strength and wit he is able to do, is not hindred to doe what he has a will to." But when the words Free, and Liberty, are applyed to any thing but Bodies, they are abused; for that which is not subject to Motion, is not subject to Impediment: And therefore, when 'tis said (for example) The way is free, no liberty of the way is signified, but of those that walk in it without stop. And when we say a Guift is free, there is not meant any liberty of the Guift, but of the Giver, that was not bound by any law, or Covenant to give it. So when we Speak Freely, it is not the liberty of voice, or pronunciation, but of the man, whom no law hath obliged to speak otherwise then he did. Lastly, from the use of the word Freewill, no liberty can be inferred to the will, desire, or inclination, but the liberty of the man; which consisteth in this, that he finds no stop, in doing what he has the will, desire, or inclination to doe.


Artificiall Bonds, Or Covenants

But as men, for the atteyning of peace, and conservation of themselves thereby, have made an Artificiall Man, which we call a Common-wealth; so also have they made Artificiall Chains, called Civill Lawes, which they themselves, by mutuall covenants, have fastned at one end, to the lips of that Man, or Assembly, to whom they have given the Soveraigne Power; and at the other end to their own Ears. These Bonds in their own nature but weak, may neverthelesse be made to hold, by the danger, though not by the difficulty of breaking them.

Liberty Of Subjects Consisteth In Liberty From Covenants

In relation to these Bonds only it is, that I am to speak now, of the Liberty of Subjects. For seeing there is no Common-wealth in the world, for the regulating of all the actions, and words of men, (as being a thing impossible:) it followeth necessarily, that in all kinds of actions, by the laws praetermitted, men have the Liberty, of doing what their own reasons shall suggest, for the most profitable to themselves. For if wee take Liberty in the proper sense, for corporall Liberty; that is to say, freedome from chains, and prison, it were very absurd for men to clamor as they doe, for the Liberty they so manifestly enjoy. Againe, if we take Liberty, for an exemption from Lawes, it is no lesse absurd, for men to demand as they doe, that Liberty, by which all other men may be masters of their lives. And yet as absurd as it is, this is it they demand; not knowing that the Lawes are of no power to protect them, without a Sword in the hands of a man, or men, to cause those laws to be put in execution. The Liberty of a Subject, lyeth therefore only in those things, which in regulating their actions, the Soveraign hath praetermitted; such as is the Liberty to buy, and sell, and otherwise contract with one another; to choose their own aboad, their own diet, their own trade of life, and institute their children as they themselves think fit; & the like.


Liberty Of The Subject Consistent With Unlimited Power Of The Soveraign

Neverthelesse we are not to understand, that by such Liberty, the Soveraign Power of life, and death, is either abolished, or limited. For it has been already shewn, that nothing the Soveraign Representative can doe to a Subject, on what pretence soever, can properly be called Injustice, or Injury; because every Subject is Author of every act the Soveraign doth; so that he never wanteth Right to any thing, otherwise, than as he himself is the Subject of God, and bound thereby to observe the laws of Nature.


In What Cases Subjects Absolved Of Their Obedience To Their Soveraign The Obligation of Subjects to the Soveraign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no Covenant be relinquished.


Mony The Bloud Of A Common-wealth

By Concoction, I understand the reducing of all commodities, which are not presently consumed, but reserved for Nourishment in time to come, to some thing of equal value, and withall so portably, as not to hinder the motion of men from place to place; to the end a man may have in what place soever, such Nourishment as the place affordeth. And this is nothing else but Gold, and Silver, and Mony. For Gold and Silver, being (as it happens) almost in all Countries of the world highly valued, is a commodious measure for the value of all things else between Nations; and Mony (of what matter soever coyned by the Soveraign of a Common-wealth,) is a sufficient measure of the value of all things else, between the Subjects of that Common-wealth. By the means of which measures, all commodities, Moveable, and Immoveable, are made to accompany a man, to all places of his resort, within and without the place of his ordinary residence; and the same passeth from Man to Man, within the Common-wealth; and goes round about, Nourishing (as it passeth) every part thereof; In so much as this Concoction, is as it were the Sanguification of the Common-wealth: For naturall Bloud is in like manner made of the fruits of the Earth; and circulating, nourisheth by the way, every Member of the Body of Man.

And because Silver and Gold, have their value from the matter it self; they have first this priviledge, that the value of them cannot be altered by the power of one, nor of a few Common-wealths; as being a common measure of the commodities of all places. But base Mony, may easily be enhanced, or abased. Secondly, they have the priviledge to make Common-wealths, move, and stretch out their armes, when need is, into forraign Countries; and supply, not only private Subjects that travell, but also whole Armies with provision. But that Coyne, which is not considerable for the Matter, but for the Stamp of the place, being unable to endure change of ayr, hath its effect at home only; where also it is subject to the change of Laws, and thereby to have the value diminished, to the prejudice many times of those that have it.

Thomas Hobbes Leviathan 1651 Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm

Locke's thought was influential on the American declaration of independence.

For Locke, the 'state of nature' is not a violent one, 'nasty, brutish and short' but a peaceful one where there is none the less the possibility of transgression of the 'law of nature'. That law is that anyone may defend themselves from others. Anyone may defend themselves from any other persons attempt to take away their life, property and liberty. They may defend their liberty, since loss of it means they lose any guarantee over their life. He adds that anyone may defend the life, property and liberty of another. Locke argues that in the state of nature everyone, equally, has the 'executive power' of the law. Ie: anyone may punish anyone else for transgressions.



Sect. 4. TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.


Sect. 6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of licence: though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for it. The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Sect. 7. And that all men may be restrained from invading others rights, and from doing hurt to one another, and the law of nature be observed, which willeth the peace and preservation of all mankind, the execution of the law of nature is, in that state, put into every man's hands, whereby every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree, as may hinder its violation: for the law of nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world be in vain, if there were no body that in the state of nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders. And if any one in the state of nature may punish another for any evil he has done, every one may do so: for in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do.




The difference in principle to Hobbes though is that the state of nature is one of complete liberty, and so of complete peace, though it may be transgressed. The violent, 'nasty, brutish and short' life described by Hobbes, Locke calls a 'state of war', which stands in contrast to the state of nature. It is a situation where laws are transgressed and through disagreement and conflict, two or more people declare their intent to attack one another's life and liberty. If one person shows their intention to take another's life and liberty, by natural law, they allow the other to take their life and liberty in defence, because everyone has a right to destroy that which threatens themself with destruction.

Because this tends to place people in an ongoing state of war, in the absence of any appeal to an authoritative earthly judge, people seek society and an end to the state of nature and of war.


OF THE STATE OF WAR. Sect. 16. THE state of war is a state of enmity and destruction: and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man's life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other's power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the commonlaw of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.


Sect. 19. And here we have the plain difference between the state of nature and the state of war, which however some men have confounded, are as far distant, as a state of peace, good will, mutual assistance and preservation, and a state of enmity, malice, violence and mutual destruction, are one from another. Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature. But force, or a declared design of force, upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war: and it is the want of such an appeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, tho' he be in society and a fellow subject.


Sect. 21. To avoid this state of war (wherein there is no appeal but to heaven, and wherein every the least difference is apt to end, where there is no authority to decide between the contenders) is one great reason of men's putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature: for where there is an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there the continuance of the state of war is excluded, and the controversy is decided by that power.

These different principles lead Locke to very different conclusions. For Hobbes the way out of the state of nature was surrendering all rights to an absolute sovereign, for Locke our liberty cannot be removed from us - our freedom is inalienable. But for Locke what it means to be 'free' is not that I can do whatever I like at any time, since then we would all most likely be in a state of war and rather than being free, be vulnerable to other's attacks. For example, it makes no sense for us to be 'free' to murder each other, since we wouldn't be 'free' from murder. Rather 'freedom' means that we are all subject to the same laws and authorities and there is no-one exempt from them, or 'above' them. We are all equal before the law. If we are to be free no-one can be subject to the arbitrary will of another.



Sect. 22. THE natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule. The liberty of man, in society, is to be under no other legislative power, but that established, by consent, in the commonwealth; nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact, according to the trust put in it. Freedom then is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us, Observations, A. 55. a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws: but freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man: as freedom of nature is, to be under no other restraint but the law of nature.

It's worth noting that Locke, so vital to founding Western political systems, acknowledges indigenous sovereignty and property, against the 'terra nullius' argument that aboriginal people were not making use of the land (as European's were only able to percieve, or willfully misspercieved, indigenous land management use because it was not in the European settled mode). For Locke what transforms something to property is labour. This is the principle. It is easy to see though, how misunderstandings about cultivation lead to misinterpretation that only cultivated land had been laboured on and so made property, such that squatters and the British parliament saw Australia as a place that could be arbitrarily owned. Yet this still contradicts Locke's view of 'consent of all his fellow-commoners' since Aboriginal people, fellow-commoners, did not provide that consent. Wasteful misuse of resources is also an offence against common law of nature.

Sect. 26. God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience. The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being. And tho' all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of nature; and no body has originally a private dominion, exclusive of the rest of mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state: yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man. The fruit, or venison, which nourishes the wild Indian, who knows no enclosure, and is still a tenant in common, must be his, and so his, i.e. a part of him, that another can no longer have any right to it, before it can do him any good for the support of his life.


Sect. 35. It is true, in land that is common in England, or any other country, where there is plenty of people under government, who have money and commerce, no one can inclose or appropriate any part, without the consent of all his fellow-commoners; because this is left common by compact, i.e. by the law of the land, which is not to be violated. And though it be common, in respect of some men, it is not so to all mankind; but is the joint property of this country, or this parish. Besides, the remainder, after such enclosure, would not be as good to the rest of the commoners, as the whole was when they could all make use of the whole; whereas in the beginning and first peopling of the great common of the world, it was quite otherwise. The law man was under, was rather for appropriating. God commanded, and his wants forced him to labour. That was his property which could not be taken from him where-ever he had fixed it. And hence subduing or cultivating the earth, and having dominion, we see are joined together. The one gave title to the other. So that God, by commanding to subdue, gave authority so far to appropriate: and the condition of human life, which requires labour and materials to work on, necessarily introduces private possessions.


Before the appropriation of land, he who gathered as much of the wild fruit, killed, caught, or tamed, as many of the beasts, as he could; he that so imployed his pains about any of the spontaneous products of nature, as any way to alter them from the state which nature put them in, by placing any of his labour on them, did thereby acquire a propriety in them: but if they perished, in his possession, without their due use; if the fruits rotted, or the venison putrified, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished; he invaded his neighbour's share, for he had no right, farther than his use called for any of them, and they might serve to afford him conveniencies of life.

... Sect. 40. Nor is it so strange, as perhaps before consideration it may appear, that the property of labour should be able to over-balance the community of land: for it is labour indeed that puts the difference of value on every thing; and let any one consider what the difference is between an acre of land planted with tobacco or sugar, sown with wheat or barley, and an acre of the same land lying in common, without any husbandry upon it, and he will find, that the improvement of labour makes the far greater part of the value. I think it will be but a very modest computation to say, that of the products of the earth useful to the life of man nine tenths are the effects of labour: nay, if we will rightly estimate things as they come to our use, and cast up the several expences about them, what in them is purely owing to nature, and what to labour, we shall find, that in most of them ninety-nine hundredths are wholly to be put on the account of labour.

Sect. 41. There cannot be a clearer demonstration of any thing, than several nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in land, and poor in all the comforts of life; whom nature having furnished as liberally as any other people, with the materials of plenty, i.e. a fruitful soil, apt to produce in abundance, what might serve for food, raiment, and delight; yet for want of improving it by labour, have not one hundredth part of the conveniencies we enjoy: and a king of a large and fruitful territory there, feeds, lodges, and is clad worse than a day-labourer in England. ...

Sect. 45. Thus labour, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever any one was pleased to employ it upon what was common, which remained a long while the far greater part, and is yet more than mankind makes use of. Men, at first, for the most part, contented themselves with what unassisted nature offered to their necessities: and though afterwards, in some parts of the world, (where the increase of people and stock, with the use of money, had made land scarce, and so of some value) the several communities settled the bounds of their distinct territories, and by laws within themselves regulated the properties of the private men of their society, and so, by compact and agreement, settled the property which labour and industry began; and the leagues that have been made between several states and kingdoms, either expresly or tacitly disowning all claim and right to the land in the others possession, have, by common consent, given up their pretences to their natural common right, which originally they had to those countries, and so have, by positive agreement, settled a property amongst themselves, in distinct parts and parcels of the earth; yet there are still great tracts of ground to be found, which (the inhabitants thereof not having joined with the rest of mankind, in the consent of the use of their common money) lie waste, and are more than the people who dwell on it do, or can make use of, and so still lie in common; tho' this can scarce happen amongst that part of mankind that have consented to the use of money.

Sect. 46. The greatest part of things really useful to the life of man, and such as the necessity of subsisting made the first commoners of the world look after, as it doth the Americans now, are generally things of short duration; such as, if they are not consumed by use, will decay and perish of themselves: gold, silver and diamonds, are things that fancy or agreement hath put the value on, more than real use, and the necessary support of life. Now of those good things which nature hath provided in common, every one had a right (as hath been said) to as much as he could use, and property in all that he could effect with his labour; all that his industry could extend to, to alter from the state nature had put it in, was his. He that gathered a hundred bushels of acorns or apples, had thereby a property in them, they were his goods as soon as gathered. He was only to look, that he used them before they spoiled, else he took more than his share, and robbed others ...

Sect. 49. Thus in the beginning all the world was America, and more so than that is now; for no such thing as money was any where known. Find out something that hath the use and value of money amongst his neighbours, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge his possessions.

Sect. 50. But since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men, whereof labour yet makes, in great part, the measure, it is plain, that men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of, by receiving in exchange for the overplus gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to any one; these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor. This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the bounds of society, and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing in the use of money: for in governments, the laws regulate the right of property, and the possession of land is determined by positive constitutions.

A concise statement of an assumption we have in Western political society:



Sect. 95. MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.

Sect. 96. For when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority: for that which acts any community, being only the consent of the individuals of it, and it being necessary to that which is one body to move one way; it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority: or else it is impossible it should act or continue one body, one community, which the consent of every individual that united into it, agreed that it should; and so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority. And therefore we see, that in assemblies, impowered to act by positive laws, where no number is set by that positive law which impowers them, the act of the majority passes for the act of the whole, and of course determines, as having, by the law of nature and reason, the power of the whole.

Sect. 97. And thus every man, by consenting with others to make one body politic under one government, puts himself under an obligation, to every one of that society, to submit to the determination of the majority, and to be concluded by it; or else this original compact, whereby he with others incorporates into one society, would signify nothing, and be no compact, if he be left free, and under no other ties than he was in before in the state of nature.

So for Locke, as for Hobbes, we willingly consent to obediently submit to authority, but only for the preservation of life, liberty and property, as freedom from the arbitrary will of others through equality before the law, rather than surrendering all our liberty to the arbitrary power of an absolute sovereign out of fear of the violent state of nature of Hobbes.

Sect. 128. For in the state of nature, to omit the liberty he has of innocent delights, a man has two powers.

The first is to do whatsoever he thinks fit for the preservation of himself, and others within the permission of the law of nature: by which law, common to them all, he and all the rest of mankind are one community, make up one society, distinct from all other creatures. And were it not for the corruption and vitiousness of degenerate men, there would be no need of any other; no necessity that men should separate from this great and natural community, and by positive agreements combine into smaller and divided associations.

The other power a man has in the state of nature, is the power to punish the crimes committed against that law. Both these he gives up, when he joins in a private, if I may so call it, or particular politic society, and incorporates into any commonwealth, separate from the rest of mankind.

Sect. 129. The first power, viz. of doing whatsoever he thought for the preservation of himself, and the rest of mankind, he gives up to be regulated by laws made by the society, so far forth as the preservation of himself, and the rest of that society shall require; which laws of the society in many things confine the liberty he had by the law of nature.

Sect. 130. Secondly, The power of punishing he wholly gives up, and engages his natural force, (which he might before employ in the execution of the law of nature, by his own single authority, as he thought fit) to assist the executive power of the society, as the law thereof shall require: for being now in a new state, wherein he is to enjoy many conveniencies, from the labour, assistance, and society of others in the same community, as well as protection from its whole strength; he is to part also with as much of his natural liberty, in providing for himself, as the good, prosperity, and safety of the society shall require; which is not only necessary, but just, since the other members of the society do the like.

Sect. 131. But though men, when they enter into society, give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of by the legislative, as the good of the society shall require; yet it being only with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse) the power of the society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to extend farther, than the common good; but is obliged to secure every one's property, by providing against those three defects above mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy. And so whoever has the legislative or supreme power of any commonwealth, is bound to govern by established standing laws, promulgated and known to the people, and not by extemporary decrees; by indifferent and upright judges, who are to decide controversies by those laws; and to employ the force of the community at home, only in the execution of such laws, or abroad to prevent or redress foreign injuries, and secure the community from inroads and invasion. And all this to be directed to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people.

... Sect. 135. Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being, or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth; yet:

First, It is not, nor can possibly be absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people: for it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person, or assembly, which is legislator; it can be no more than those persons had in a state of nature before they entered into society, and gave up to the community: for no body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself; and no body has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another.

... Sect. 136. Secondly, The legislative, or supreme authority, cannot assume to its self a power to rule by extemporary arbitrary decrees, but is bound to dispense justice, and decide the rights of the subject by promulgated standing laws, and known authorized judges:* for the law of nature being unwritten, and so no where to be found but in the minds of men, they who through passion or interest shall miscite, or misapply it, cannot so easily be convinced of their mistake where there is no established judge: and so it serves not, as it ought, to determine the rights, and fence the properties of those that live under it, especially where every one is judge, interpreter, and executioner of it too, and that in his own case: and he that has right on his side, having ordinarily but his own single strength, hath not force enough to defend himself from injuries, or to punish delinquents. To avoid these inconveniences, which disorder men's propperties in the state of nature, men unite into societies, that they may have the united strength of the whole society to secure and defend their properties, and may have standing rules to bound it, by which every one may know what is his. To this end it is that men give up all their natural power to the society which they enter into, and the community put the legislative power into such hands as they think fit, with this trust, that they shall be governed by declared laws, or else their peace, quiet, and property will still be at the same uncertainty, as it was in the state of nature. ...

Sect. 137. Absolute arbitrary power, or governing without settled standing laws, can neither of them consist with the ends of society and government, which men would not quit the freedom of the state of nature for, and tie themselves up under, were it not to preserve their lives, liberties and fortunes, and by stated rules of right and property to secure their peace and quiet. It cannot be supposed that they should intend, had they a power so to do, to give to any one, or more, an absolute arbitrary power over their persons and estates, and put a force into the magistrate's hand to execute his unlimited will arbitrarily upon them. This were to put themselves into a worse condition than the state of nature, wherein they had a liberty to defend their right against the injuries of others, and were upon equal terms of force to maintain it, whether invaded by a single man, or many in combination. ...

Sect. 141. Fourthly, The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands: for it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others. The people alone can appoint the form of the commonwealth, which is by constituting the legislative, and appointing in whose hands that shall be.

"A child is born with no state of mind, blind to the ways of mankind" - Grandmaster Flash.

The Social Contract Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1762

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.


I suppose men to have reached the point at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature show their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal of each individual for his maintenance in that state. That primitive condition can then subsist no longer; and the human race would perish unless it changed its manner of existence.

But, as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive power, and cause to act in concert.

This sum of forces can arise only where several persons come together: but, as the force and liberty of each man are the chief instruments of his self-preservation, how can he pledge them without harming his own interests, and neglecting the care he owes to himself? This difficulty, in its bearing on my present subject, may be stated in the following terms—

"The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before." This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution.

The clauses of this contract are so determined by the nature of the act that the slightest modification would make them vain and ineffective; so that, although they have perhaps never been formally set forth, they are everywhere the same and everywhere tacitly admitted and recognised, until, on the violation of the social compact, each regains his original rights and resumes his natural liberty, while losing the conventional liberty in favour of which he renounced it.

These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one—the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others.

Moreover, the alienation being without reserve, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no associate has anything more to demand: for, if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.

Finally, each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.

If then we discard from the social compact what is not of its essence, we shall find that it reduces itself to the following terms—

"Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole."

At once, in place of the individual personality of each contracting party, this act of association creates a moral and collective body, composed of as many members as the assembly contains votes, and receiving from this act its unity, its common identity, its life and its will. This public person, so formed by the union of all other persons, formerly took the name of city,[1] and now takes that of Republic or body politic; it is called by its members State when passive, Sovereign when active, and Power when compared with others like itself. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizens, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the State. But these terms are often confused and taken one for another: it is enough to know how to distinguish them when they are being used with precision.



Again, the Sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither has nor can have any interest contrary to theirs; and consequently the sovereign power need give no guarantee to its subjects, because it is impossible for the body to wish to hurt all its members. We shall also see later on that It cannot hurt any in particular. The Sovereign, merely by virtue of what it is, is is always what it should be.

This, however, is not the case with the relation of the subjects to the Sovereign, which, despite the common interest, would have no security that they would fulfil their undertakings, unless it found means to assure itself of their fidelity.

In fact, each individual, as a man, may have a particular will contrary or dissimilar to the general will which he has as a citizen. His particular interest may speak to him quite differently from the common interest: his absolute and naturally independent existence may make him look upon what he owes to the common cause as a gratuitous contribution, the loss of which will do less harm to others than the payment of it is burdensome to himself; and, regarding the moral person which constitutes the State as a persona ficta, because not a man, he may wish to enjoy the rights of citizenship without being ready to fulfil the duties of a subject. The continuance of such an injustice could not but prove the undoing of the body politic.

In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimizes civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses.


Each member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all the resources at his command, including the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and becomes property in the hands of the Sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable, without being any more legitimate, at any rate from the point of view of foreigners. For the State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights; but, in relation to other powers, it is so only by the right of the first occupier, which it holds from its members.



If the State is a moral person whose life is in the union of its members, and if the most important of its cares is the care for its own preservation, it must have a universal and compelling force, in order to move and dispose each part as may be most advantageous to the whole. As nature gives each man absolute power over all his members, the social compact gives the body politic absolute power over all its members also; and it is this power which, under the direction of the general will, bears, as I have said, the name of Sovereignty.

But, besides the public person, we have to consider the private persons composing it, whose life and liberty are naturally independent of it. We are bound then to distinguish clearly between the respective rights of the citizens and the Sovereign,[1] and between the duties the former have to fulfil as subjects, and the natural rights they should enjoy as men.

Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign is sole judge of what is important.

Every service a citizen can render the State he ought to render as soon as the Sovereign demands it; but the Sovereign, for its part, cannot impose upon its subjects any fetters that are useless to the community, nor can it even wish to do so; for no more by the law of reason than by the law of nature can anything occur without a cause.

The undertakings which bind us to the social body are obligatory only because they are mutual; and their nature is such that in fulfilling them we cannot work for others without working for ourselves. Why is it that the general will is always in the right, and that all continually will the happiness of each one, unless it is because there is not a man who does not think of "each" as meaning him, and consider himself in voting for all? This proves that equality of rights and the idea of justice which such equality creates originate in the preference each man gives to himself, and accordingly in the very nature of man. It proves that the general will, to be really such, must be general in its object as well as its essence; that it must both come from all and apply to all; and that it loses its natural rectitude when it is directed to some particular and determinate object, because in such a case we are judging of something foreign to us, and have no true principle of equity to guide us.




He, therefore, who draws up the laws has, or should have, no right of legislation, and the people cannot, even if it wishes, deprive itself of this incommunicable right, because, according to the fundamental compact, only the general will can bind the individuals, and there can be no assurance that a particular will is in conformity with the general will, until it has been put to the free vote of the people. This I have said already; but it is worth while to repeat it.




There are indeed times in the history of States when, just as some kinds of illness turn men's heads and make them forget the past, periods of violence and revolutions do to peoples what these crises do to individuals: horror of the past takes the place of forgetfulness, and the State, set on fire by civil wars, is born again, so to speak, from its ashes, and takes on anew, fresh from the jaws of death, the vigour of youth. Such were Sparta at the time of Lycurgus, Rome after the Tarquins, and, in modern times, Holland and Switzerland after the expulsion of the tyrants.

But such events are rare; they are exceptions, the cause of which is always to be found in the particular constitution of the State concerned. They cannot even happen twice to the same people, for it can make itself free as long as it remains barbarous, but not when the civic impulse has lost its vigour. Then disturbances may destroy it, but revolutions cannot mend it: it needs a master, and not a liberator.


THE PEOPLE (continued)

As nature has set bounds to the stature of a well-made man, and, outside those limits, makes nothing but giants or dwarfs, similarly, for the constitution of a State to be at its best, it is possible to fix limits that will make it neither too large for good government, nor too small for self-maintenance. In every body politic there is a maximum strength which it cannot exceed and which it only loses by increasing in size. Every extension of the social tie means its relaxation; and, generally speaking, a small State is stronger in proportion than a great one.


The same laws cannot suit so many diverse provinces with different customs, situated in the most various climates, and incapable of enduring a uniform government. Different laws lead only to trouble and confusion among peoples which, living under the same rulers and in constant communication one with another, intermingle and intermarry, and, coming under the sway of new customs, never know if they can call their very patrimony their own. Talent is buried, virtue unknown and vice unpunished, among such a multitude of men who do not know one another, gathered together in one place at the seat of the central administration. The leaders, overwhelmed with business, see nothing for themselves; the State is governed by clerks. Finally, the measures which have to be taken to, maintain the general authority, which all these distant officials wish to escape or to impose upon, absorb all the energy of the public, so that there is none left for the happiness of the people. There is hardly enough to defend it when need arises, and thus a body which is too big for its constitution gives way and falls crushed under its own weight.




There is but one law which, from its nature, needs unanimous consent. This is the social compact; for civil association is the most voluntary of all acts. Every man being born free and his own master, no-one, under any pretext whatsoever, can make any man subject without his consent. To decide that the son of a slave is born a slave is to decide that he is not born a man.

If then there are opponents when the social compact is made, their opposition does not invalidate the contract, but merely prevents them from being included in it. They are foreigners among citizens. When the State is instituted, residence constitutes consent; to dwell within its territory is to submit to the Sovereign.[1]

Apart from this primitive contract, the vote of the majority always binds all the rest. This follows from the contract itself. But it is asked how a man can be both free and forced to conform to wills that are not his own. How are the opponents at once free and subject to laws they have not agreed to?

I retort that the question is wrongly put. The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition, and even those which punish him when he dares to break any of them. The constant will of all the members of the State is the general will; by virtue of it they are citizens and free.[2] When in the popular assembly a law is proposed, what the people is asked is not exactly whether it approves or rejects the proposal, but whether it is in conformity with the general will, which is their will. Each man, in giving his vote, states his opinion on that point; and the general will is found by counting votes. When therefore the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will and it is in that case that I should not have been free.

Reflections On The Revolution In France, Edmund Burke, 1790

The very idea of the fabrication of a new government is enough to fill us with disgust and horror. We wished at the period of the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we possess as an inheritance from our forefathers. Upon that body and stock of inheritance we have taken care not to inoculate any scion alien to the nature of the original plant. All the reformations we have hitherto made have proceeded upon the principle of reference to antiquity; and I hope, nay, I am persuaded, that all those which possibly may be made hereafter will be carefully formed upon analogical precedent, authority, and example.

Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Carta...

You will observe, that, from Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our Constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity,—as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means our Constitution preserves an unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown, an inheritable peerage, and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection,—or rather the happy effect of following Nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission, without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of Nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges, in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of Providence, are handed down to us, and from us, in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the order of the world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts,—wherein, by the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old or middle-aged or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of Nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never wholly new, in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete.

You [France] had all these advantages in your ancient states; but you chose to act as if you had never been moulded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you... Respecting your forefathers, you would have been taught to respect yourselves...

... —by following wise examples you would have given new examples of wisdom to the world. You would have rendered the cause of liberty venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in every nation. You would have shamed despotism from the earth, by showing that freedom was not only reconcilable, but, as, when well disciplined, it is, auxiliary to law. You would have had an unoppressive, but a productive revenue. You would have had a flourishing commerce to feed it. You would have had a free Constitution, a potent monarchy, a disciplined army, a reformed and venerated clergy,—a mitigated, but spirited nobility, to lead your virtue, not to overlay it; you would have had a liberal order of commons, to emulate and to recruit that nobility; you would have had a protected, satisfied, laborious, and obedient people, taught to seek and to recognize the happiness that is to be found by virtue in all conditions,—in which consists the true moral equality of mankind, and not in that monstrous fiction which, by inspiring false ideas and vain expectations into men destined to travel in the obscure walk of laborious life, serves only to aggravate and embitter that real inequality which it never can remove, and which the order of civil life establishes as much for the benefit of those whom it must leave in an humble state as those whom it is able to exalt to a condition more splendid, but not more happy. You had a smooth and easy career of felicity and glory laid open to you, beyond anything recorded in the history of the world; but you have shown that difficulty is good for man.

Compute your gains; see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors, and all their contemporaries, and even to despise themselves, until the moment in which they became truly despicable. By following those false lights, France has bought undisguised calamities at a higher price than any nation has purchased the most unequivocal blessings.

What is the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor of metaphysics.

The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science; because the real effects of moral causes are not always immediate, but that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation, and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects it produces in the beginning. The reverse also happens; and very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions. In states there are often some obscure and almost latent causes, things which appear at first view of little moment, on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may most essentially depend. The science of government being, therefore, so practical in itself, and intended for such practical purposes, a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.

These metaphysic rights entering into common life, like rays of light which pierce into a dense medium, are, by the laws of Nature, refracted from their straight line. Indeed, in the gross and complicated mass of human passions and concerns, the primitive rights of men undergo such a variety of refractions and reflections that it becomes absurd to talk of them as if they continued in the simplicity of their original direction. The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity: and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature or to the quality of his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade or totally negligent of their duty. The simple governments are fundamentally defective, to say no worse of them. If you were to contemplate society in but one point of view, all these simple modes of polity are infinitely captivating. In effect each would answer its single end much more perfectly than the more complex is able to attain all its complex purposes. But it is better that the whole, should be imperfectly and anomalously answered than that while some parts are provided for with great exactness, others might be totally neglected, or perhaps materially injured, by the over-care of a favorite member.

The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes; and in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in governments are their advantages; and these are often in balances between differences of good,—in compromises sometimes between good and evil, and sometimes between evil and evil. Political reason is a computing principle: adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally, and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral denominations.


Adam Smith

John Stuart Mill (see the one on Ethics)

Ayn Rand

Milton Friedman

Kant, Was Ist Das Aufklarung? What is Enlightenment? http://www.columbia.edu/acis/ets/CCREAD/etscc/kant.html

Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's own mind without another's guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) "Have the courage to use your own understanding," is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

This enlightenment requires nothing but freedom--and the most innocent of all that may be called "freedom": freedom to make public use of one's reason in all matters. Now I hear the cry from all sides: "Do not argue!" The officer says: "Do not argue--drill!" The tax collector: "Do not argue--pay!" The pastor: "Do not argue--believe!" Only one ruler in the world says: "Argue as much as you please, but obey!" We find restrictions on freedom everywhere. But which restriction is harmful to enlightenment? Which restriction is innocent, and which advances enlightenment? I reply: the public use of one's reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.

On the other hand, the private use of reason may frequently be narrowly restricted without especially hindering the progress of enlightenment. By "public use of one's reason" I mean that use which a man, as scholar, makes of it before the reading public. I call "private use" that use which a man makes of his reason in a civic post that has been entrusted to him. In some affairs affecting the interest of the community a certain [governmental] mechanism is necessary in which some members of the community remain passive. This creates an artificial unanimity which will serve the fulfillment of public objectives, or at least keep these objectives from being destroyed. Here arguing is not permitted: one must obey. Insofar as a part of this machine considers himself at the same time a member of a universal community--a world society of citizens--(let us say that he thinks of himself as a scholar rationally addressing his public through his writings) he may indeed argue, and the affairs with which he is associated in part as a passive member will not suffer. Thus it would be very unfortunate if an officer on duty and under orders from his superiors should want to criticize the appropriateness or utility of his orders. He must obey. But as a scholar he could not rightfully be prevented from taking notice of the mistakes in the military service and from submitting his views to his public for its judgment. The citizen cannot refuse to pay the taxes levied upon him; indeed, impertinent censure of such taxes could be punished as a scandal that might cause general disobedience. Nevertheless, this man does not violate the duties of a citizen if, as a scholar, he publicly expresses his objections to the impropriety or possible injustice of such levies. A pastor, too, is bound to preach to his congregation in accord with the doctrines of the church which he serves, for he was ordained on that condition. But as a scholar he has full freedom, indeed the obligation, to communicate to his public all his carefully examined and constructive thoughts concerning errors in that doctrine and his proposals concerning improvement of religious dogma and church institutions.


The touchstone of all those decisions that may be made into law for a people lies in this question: Could a people impose such a law upon itself?


Above all, nonage in religion is not only the most harmful but the most dishonorable. But the disposition of a sovereign ruler who favors freedom in the arts and sciences goes even further: he knows that there is no danger in permitting his subjects to make public use of their reason and to publish their ideas concerning a better constitution, as well as candid criticism of existing basic laws. We already have a striking example [of such freedom], and no monarch can match the one whom we venerate.

But only the man who is himself enlightened, who is not afraid of shadows, and who commands at the same time a well disciplined and numerous army as guarantor of public peace--only he can say what [the sovereign of] a free state cannot dare to say: "Argue as much as you like, and about what you like, but obey!" Thus we observe here as elsewhere in human affairs, in which almost everything is paradoxical, a surprising and unexpected course of events: a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people, yet at the same time it establishes insurmountable barriers. A lesser degree of civic freedom, however, creates room to let that free spirit expand to the limits of its capacity. Nature, then, has carefully cultivated the seed within the hard core--namely the urge for and the vocation of free thought. And this free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.

Historical Materialism: rather than reason from abstract principles, political theory should be based on material historical evidence, and the mode of production determines ideology and political systems. Eg: agrarian societies will have different value systems and politics (peasants and lords) to industrialised ones (workers and capitalists). Changes to the mode of production drive ideological and political change. The ideology develops to reinforce the social heirarchy, not vice versa.

Class Consciousness: Marx thought the natural development from Industrial revolution and capitalism would be that workers would recognise the ways they are exploited by capitalists and reject the ideology and politics that enforce it, resulting in socialism where people are not exploited but contribute to and benefit from the public good, without private property: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". However this could not happen until working people, the 'proletariat', attained 'class consciousness' being aware of their status in the class system, how it comes about and recognising thereby that they can change it and become the 'ruling class'. In an age of mass production, it seemed to Marx

Alienation: workers are alienated from the 'fruits' of their labour as capitalists profit. Capitalists seek to extract as much profit as possible. Workers spend what they get (buying food and shelter and entertainment with wages), while Capitalists get what they spend (through capital investment that yields returns). The more profound point of 'alienation' is that workers must objectify themselves as a commodity - it is their labour for sale on the market. Thus they are rewarded in wages, for the effort they sell. Workers are alienated from themselves in transforming themselves into an objectified commodity. (Ever feel like you were 'just a cog in the machine'?)

Commodity Fetishism: Fetishism is where an object is valued for or instead of what it represents. For example where a sculpture or religious idol is taken as a real manifestation of the god or spiritual quality it represents. An example I notice in myself is when I buy a book and never get around to reading it - it remains only a symbol of enjoyment and intellect, without me ever actually getting or experiencing it. In sexual fetishism, because something is associated with sex, or which 'means' sex, that thing becomes erotically arousing even though it is not sex itself. Common examples in our world is when we buy a brand of car or clothing that signifies wealth or luxury, to show others or to ourselves feel wealthy. Or when we buy fitness products and garments when we want to get healthy, rather than exercising more. For Marx then, a capitalist society all social interactions are dominated by commercial exchange, where we trade money and things. In this process we start to fetish money, rather than what we can buy with it - ie: we want to have money, rather than whatever value we could obtain over it. Also, we come to acquire products because of what they signify. Also people start to regard the objects themselves as inherently having value, rather than the people and the effort that they put into them, and rather than realising that value is what the object is for - satisfying hunger, feeling healthy, being in love, travelling from place to place, being admired and respected by others and so on.

Marx believed that capitalism would naturally evolve into socialism. Later Marxists noted that this wasn't happening, and if anything Capitalism was becoming more and more widespread and extreme. Some saw Fascism as Capitalism taken to an extreme (see the end of Walter Benjamin's The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction, and Gramsi in the next section on Hegemony). Communists such as Lenin argued for revolution to bring it about.

It's commonly noted that communism fails - people life in poverty and feel the constant oppression of the secret police. The Soviet Union collapsed, the Berlin wall fell and eastern Europe all became capitalist democracies. China is allowing private enterprise. North Korea is struggling and Venezuala very quickly descended into desperate poverty and civil war after Chavez. But, after hundreds of years of theorists each contributing their own nuances, there are many, many kinds of Marxism. Many Marxists would argue that Communism is not the same as Marxism, nor Socialism. Some say that Trotsky's form of Communism would have succeeded if only it had a chance.

It can sound like a lot of poor excuses for a failure that history has amply demonstrated, but it's worth remembering that history has demonstrated some successes of Marxism. As a student noted, the West, and the world economy remains dependant on a communist country, China. Some might say this is because it has allowed free trade capitalism, but this is only under the Communist government, but it has been for a long time that so many of the worlds manufactured products have been 'made in China' and outcompete other economic entities. Scandinavian democracies have the highest living standards in the world not because they have extremist US style liberal capitalism, but because their policies are more socialist. If the West has achieved high living standards it is only because the Marxist trade union movement tempers the excesses and extremes of capitalism, as can be seen by the very low standard of living whereever there have been and are no unions. If there have been successes of Capitalism, it doesn't mean that everything it does is good, and as an ideology we should remain critical of it and do something about it's problems (such as its inherent profligate tendency, including wasteful and destructive use of the environment - see the concept of Jevons Paradox from Jevon's 'The Coal Question', 1865, which I hope to put under 'economics' below at some point, or just Google it).

Marx was very influential on later thinkers. It's impossible in a lifetime to work through all the Marxism there is, ranging from a religious like treatment of Marx as dogma, to simply using adapting and building on concepts that he introduced, or adopting a Marxist methodology to critique new circumstances. Some useful insights I've found have come from Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, and Gayatri Spivak.

Walter Benjamin

In 1935, Walter Benjamin described Fascism as a consequence of extreme, unchecked capitalism.

Walter Benjamin The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

If the natural utilization of productive forces is impeded by the property system, the increase in technical devices, in speed, and in the sources of energy will press for an unnatural utilization, and this is found in war. The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ, that technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society. The horrible features of imperialistic warfare are attributable to the discrepancy between the tremendous means of production and their inadequate utilization in the process of production—in other words, to unemployment and the lack of markets. Imperialistic war is a rebellion of technology which collects, in the form of “human material,” the claims to which society has denied its natural material. Instead of draining rivers, society directs a human stream into a bed of trenches; instead of dropping seeds from airplanes, it drops incendiary bombs over cities; and through gas warfare the aura is abolished in a new way. “Fiat ars—pereat mundus,” says Fascism, and, as Marinetti admits, expects war to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of “l’art pour l’art.” Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

Gayatri Spivak - Postcolonialism and Subalterns

Spivak develops the idea of 'subaltern' from Gramsci. In her essay Can The Subaltern Speak? she discribes the situation and problems related to individuals without a political and asks whether they can speak with their own voice. She makes the point that people cannot act politically without a political identity. If someone on a farm breaks a machine it might be because they are angry with the boss for some personal reason, because they are crazy, or it could be an act of revolution and be a symbolic gesture sparking a group walk out and so on. What makes the difference here is not the act itself, but the whether it is done and articulated as a political act. Without some political belonging, the act can only ever be personal, and is easily dismissed as such, rather than being emblematic of widespread problems that people have in common. Subalterns are people without a political identity. There may be peasants, and there may be coal miners, and they may be suffering but they are recognised as a certain group, and so can be at least recognised as a political entity. Policies may be made that affect that group, and they may act collectively.

Spivak notes that the term 'subaltern' then is problematic in itself, since it seems to name, and create a group identity for these people who, by definition don't have a group identity. She critices the way in which this then becomes a talking point for academics, media, government and anyone forming an opinion about them, when they themselves have no voice. At the same, time, and probably the main point of Spivak's essay, when a subaltern takes some action (in her essay she uses the suicide of a woman as an example) their action, even if they state directly what they mean and why they did it (in her example the suicide left a note) their action is interpreted by others only in political terms - in an attempt to explain the causes and understand the action it is transformed into an act related to the politics and group identities that are already available, rather than paying attention to the individual and their circumstances - eg: she did it out of honour according to tradition, or she did it due to the oppression of women.


Gramsci noted that Marx's prediction of an inevitable development from capitalism to socialism had not happened. Rather it had developed into Fordism in America an ever growing Fascism in Europe. While held in prison by Mussolini's Fascist party he wrote extensively on a range of political topics. In particular he adapted the term Hegemony from meaning simply the political, economic and cultural dominance of one country over others (such as the hegemony of Athens over neighbouring states, without actually having conquered them or being declared their ruler). Hegemony comes to mean the way that the ideology that reinforces power imbalance within a society becomes accepted as 'natural' or as 'common sense'.

0 An example I can give is how capitalist ideology has become 'common sense' when we accept as natural and obvious that everything, all activity in life, is governed by the 'laws' of supply and demand, or that capitalism is the same as freedom and democracy, or that no activity can be undertaken without a budget demonstrating its profitability, or that taking people's land and livelihood is good because it 'creates jobs' which are given back to them while multinational companies profit from their labour, or that everyone is free to choose not to accept a job at lower pay - when we say things like, "What are you complaining about? You don't have to do the job. If you don't like it you're 'free' to leave. Count yourself lucky to even have a job." when in fact there are many things forcing us to stay, such as the need to feed, house and clothe our family, and the lack of choice of any alternative employment. Such desperation and lack of liberty intensifies in a spiralling fashion, as people through unchecked competition accept lower wages, and businesses are compelled to lower wages, to lower costs otherwise they will cease to exist as their product is outcompeted on price in a competitive market.

The 'normal' exercise of hegemony on the now classical terrain of the parliamentary regime is characterised by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without force predominating excessively over consent. Indeed, the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the consent of the majority, expressed by the so called organs of public opinion newspapers and associations which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied.

Gramsci notes that all our philosophising, considering all complexity, reasonably, often has little affect on 'common sense'. Although both philosophy and common sense can be critical of authority, materialistic and skeptical, and they are both practical they are opposed in other ways. A common sense attitude is likely to reject philosophy as 'mumbo jumbo' just as it would spiritualism and political propoganda. However, common sense is susceptible and accepting of the particular propoganda or 'hegemony' that it has accepted as 'common sense'. One difference is that philosophy typically critices recieved knowledge that 'common sense' accepts. The attitude of someone with 'common sense' is to reject reasonable and rational arguments, or philosophy, as if they were a complex confidence trick, like from a used car salesman, in favour of faith in an argument that they once heard and stick by. The attitude of philosophy is always to rationally criticise and so philosophy, including political debate, remains ineffective against prevailing 'common sense'.

The real practical challenge for a political philosopher, and for a Marxist ("The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." - Marx) is to find some way to transform philosophy into common sense - to create a kind of counter-hegemony. Also, to bring people to understand that they are already philosophers, and so bring to accept a philosophical attitude. Without this all our high falutin theories amount to nothing. Gramsci wants to say, "Look mate, philosophy doesn't buy bullshit any more than the next bloke, but can't you see these jokers are pulling the wool over your eyes?"

We see this in Australia perhaps more than other countries and cultures which have a tradition of respect for intellectual achievement and philosophy. Traditional Australian culture, especially with cultural cringe and the tall poppy syndrome, there is nothing but contempt for such things from all quarters - working classes, wealthy, business, political classes. Everything is bullshit and academics are a waste of bloody oxygen.

The following is a good account of Gramsci's view of what 'people' with 'common sense' accept as 'true'. This description rings true for me and it's not hard to see how this attitude is manipulated by the media and politicians.

Gramsci, Selections From The Prison Notebooks

Imagine the intellectual position of the man of the people: he has formed his own opinions, convictions, criteria of discrimination, standards of conduct. Anyone with a superior intellectual formation with a point of view opposed to his can put forward arguments better than he and really tear him to pieces logically and so on. But should the man of the people change his opinions just because of this ? Just because he cannot impose himself in a bout of argu- ment? In that case he might find himself having to change every day, or every time he meets an ideological adversary who is his intellectual superior. On what elements, therefore, can his philo- sophy be founded? and in particular his philosophy in the form which has the greatest importance for his standards of conduct?

The most important element is undoubtedly one whose character is determined not by reason but by faith. But faith in whom, or in what? In particular in the social group to which he belongs, in so far as in a diffuse way it thinks as he does. The man of the people thinks that so many like-thinking people can't be wrong, not so radically, as the man he is arguing against would like him to believe; he thinks that, while he himself, admittedly, is not able to uphold and develop his arguments as well as the opponent, in his group there is someone who could do this and could certainly argue better than the particular man he has against him; and he remem- bers, indeed, hearing expounded, discursively, coherently, in a way that left him convinced, the reasons behind his faith. He has no concrete memory of the reasons and could not repeat them, but he knows that reasons exist, because he has heard them expounded, and was convinced by them. The fact of having once suddenly seen the light and been convinced is the permanent reason for his reasons persisting, even if the arguments in its favour cannot be readily produced.

More Gramsci:

Gramsci, Selections From The Prison Notebooks

It is essential to destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is a strange and difficult thing just because it is the specific intellec- tual activity of a particular category of specialists or of professional and systematic philosophers. It must first be shown that all men are "philosophers", by defining the limits and characteristics of the "spontaneous philosophy" which is proper to everybody. This philosophy is contained in: i. language itself, which is a totality of determined notions and concepts and not just of words gram- matically devoid of content; 2. "common sense" and "good sense"; 1 3. popular religion and, therefore, also in the entire system of beliefs, superstitions, opinions, ways of seeing things and of acting, which are collectively bundled together under the name of "folklore".

Having first shown that everyone is a philosopher, though in his own way and unconsciously, since even in the slightest manifestation of any intellectual activity whatever, in "language", there is con- tained a . specific conception of the world, one then moves on to the second level, which is that of awareness and criticism. That is to say, one proceeds to the question — is it better to "think", without having a critical awareness, in a disjointed and episodic way? In other words, is it better to take part in a conception of the world mechanically imposed by the external environment, i.e. by one of the many social groups in which everyone is automatically involved from the moment of his entry into the conscious world (and this can be one's village or province; it can have its origins in the parish and the "intellectual activity" of the local priest or aging patriarch whose wisdom is law, or in the little old woman who has inherited the lore of the witches or the minor intellectual soured by his own stupidity and inability to act) ? Or, on the other hand, is it better to work out consciously and critically one's own conception of the world and thus, in connection with the labours of one's own brain, choose one's sphere of activity, take an active part in the creation, of the history of the world, be one's own guide, refusing to accept


A work like the Popular Manual,** which is essentially destined for a community of readers who are not professional intellectuals, should have taken as its starting point a critical analysis of the philosophy of common sense, which is the "philosophy of non-philosophers", or in other words the conception of the world which is uncritically absorbed by the various social and cultural environments in which the moral individuality of the average man is developed. Common sense is not a single unique conception, identical in time and space. It is the "folklore" of philosophy, and, like folklore, it takes countless different forms. Its most fundamental characteristic is that it is a conception which, even in the brain of one individual, is fragmentary, incoherent and inconseqential, in conformity with the social and cultural position of those masses whose philosophy it is. At those times in history when a homogeneous social group is brought into being, there comes into being also, in opposition to common sense, a homogeneous — in other words coherent and systematic — philosophy. 64

What was said above does not mean that there are no truths in common sense. It means rather that common sense is an ambiguous, contradictory and multiform concept, and that to refer to common sense as a confirmation of truth is a nonsense. It is possible to state correctly that a certain truth has become part of common sense in order to indicate that it has spread beyond the confines of intellectual groups, but all one is doing in that case is making a historical observation and an assertion of the rationality of history. In this sense, and used with restraint, the argument has a certain validity, precisely because common sense is crudely neophobe and conserva- tive so that to have succeeded in forcing the introduction of a new truth is a proof that the truth in question has exceptional evidence and capacity for expansion.

Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that 'territory' is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the 'right' to use violence. Hence, 'politics' for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

For Weber this is a description, not a justification or argument about the way things should be. Note that he describes that

He says there are three ways states try to legitimate themselves - tradition, charisma and legality. He reduces these to 'fear and hope'.

It is understood that, in reality, obedience is determined by highly robust motives of fear and hope--fear of the vengeance of magical powers or of the power-holder, hope for reward in this world or in the beyond-- and besides all this, by interests of the most varied sort. Of this we shall speak presently. However, in asking for the 'legitimations' of this obedience, one meets with these three 'pure' types: 'traditional,' 'charismatic,' and 'legal.'

Max Weber, 1919 http://anthropos-lab.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Weber-Politics-as-a-Vocation.pdf

Governor Davey’s [sic – actually Governor Arthur] Proclamation to the Aborigines, 1816 [sic – actually c. 1828-30]. (The governor's attempt to explain it has a monopoly on violence.) black and white photo of Hell's Angels on bikes with a motorbike cop. Hell's Angels, 1965 Lucky Luciano, Mafia, 1930s. Soviet Army Ukraine Riots 10,000 armed police in China's western Xinjiang region Flower Power by Bernie Boston. Taken October 1967 US planes carpet bombing Phnom Penh after carpet bombing. Christine Spengler - The bombing of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 1975 Some of the more than a million victims of the killing fields, Cambodia, Tuol Sleng Museum Citadel of Aleppo, Syria

Note that the appeal to fear works across many levels which is why fascist tendencies can easily take hold in politics. Fear is one of the most basic emotions, easy to appeal to and is a feeling we all have in common. It establishes an 'other' that we are afraid of (Jew, Islamic, American, Communist, whatever) which helps to define our own culture and identity. Because it is our culture and identity that feels threatened we come to focus on it. We want to defend it, so are willing to fight for it, together in this shared identity. We feel that everyone should be in this fight (total war), such that you are either with us or against us. Because we are threatened we want to restore ourselves to the position of strength that we have lost. - Appeal to fear supports all features of Fascism.

See also:

Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.

We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.

We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.

We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice. from Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto

Fascism sees in the world not only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as an individual, standing by himself, self-centered, subject to natural law, which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it sees not only the individual but the nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which suppressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher life, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which the individual, by selfsacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest, by death itself, can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as a man consists.


In the Fascist conception of history, man is man only by virtue of the spiritual process to which he contributes as a member of the family, the social group, the nation, and in function of history to which all nations bring their contribution. Hence the great value of tradition in records, in language, in customs, in the rules of social life. Outside history man is a nonentity. Fascism is therefore opposed to all individualistic abstractions based on eighteenth century materialism; and it is opposed to all Jacobinistic utopias and innovations. It does not believe in the possibility of “happiness” on earth as conceived by the economistic literature of the 18th century, and it therefore rejects the theological notion that at some future time the human family will secure a final settlement of all its difficulties. This notion runs counter to experience which teaches that life is in continual flux and in process of evolution.

- Mussolini, Docrine of Fascism

Patriotism, a film by celebrated Japanese writer, fascist and cutting fetishist Yukio Mishima. Mishima famously attempted a military coup, was laughed at by troops and committed ritual suicide:

Anarchism has many forms. It can mean simply a situation where there is no government, usually implying a violent situation. Some criminal organisations such as Bikie gangs advocate anarchy, specifically using violence to exercise freedom from the law, embracing 'outlaw' as being beyond the law, rather than 'criminal'.

One of my the best expressions of anarchism I ever heard was told by an old lady at an open mic night telling the story of when she first immigrated to Australia with her 16 year old daughter. The government placed them in a house that had a particular reputation in the neighbourhood. For some reason, there was a tradition that anyone living in that house would be harassed and bullied by all the kids and gangs and any one at all in the local area. People would shout at them and throw stones at the roof. She complained to the police and to government officials and nothing happened. When they started threatening her daughter going to and from the house she was very worried. She told the police again and still nothing happened. When they started threatening to rape her daughter she bought a gun. One day, there was a mob at the gate, shouting and throwing stones, threatening to come inside. She told them if they came in the gate she'd shoot them and got her gun. They taunted and taunted and one of them slowly opened the gate and started coming up the path. She shot at him and took off his finger. Nobody bothered them after that. She ended her story by saying, "You don't need a goverment. You need a gun."

Most people you will meet who call themselves anarchists in a political sense are 'anarcho-syndicalists'. This is a form of socialism and of anarchism. To simplify it, all forms of government and institutions are seen as violent and oppressive. The highest form of organisation should only be the 'syndicate' - a small group of people, at the scale of a gang, or the people involved in working a farm, or factory, who are each able to personally discuss and reach an agreement and who never give up an sovereignty or accept punishment, but may cooperate or leave at any time according to their own will. At levels of organisation above this, authority and punishment and so exploitation and oppression start to occur.

The founder of anarchism as a school of thought is Bakunin, who knew and spoke with Marx, and agreed with him on some points but disagreed on others. Anarchism became popular mainly in Russia, especially with nihilists. Nihilism was popular with Russian students, and put simply, involves the belief that there is no ultimate meaning to life, especially not through church and state. The only value we can get from life is what we take in this moment. The Russian state started to attack and imprison people they saw as a political threat, which drove anarchists and nihilists to greater extremes. They began committing acts of violence against the state (Alexander II was assassinated by anarchists in 1881) for two reasons. Firstly, as a direct attempt to bring down and destroy institutions and power, and secondly to throw people into a state of terror so that they would lose confidence in the state to protect themselves, ending their dependance on them, so that they would also be awakened to the ultimately meaninglessness and futility of working for these institutions, and start living for themselves. These acts of violence are how anarchism came to be associated with terrorism. Most anarcho-syndicalists today preach pacifism.

Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread is a popular articulation of Anarchism. Some of his ideas are summarised in Law and Authority:

Kropotkin Law and Authority https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-law-and-authority

In existing States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. If the road between two villages is impassable, the peasant says: — “There should be a law about parish roads.” If a park-keeper takes advantage of the want of spirit in those who follow him with servile observance and insults one of them, the insulted man says: — “There should be a law to enjoin more politeness upon park-keepers.” If there is stagnation in agriculture or commerce, the husbandman, cattle-breeder, or corn speculator argues, “It is protective legislation that we require.” Down to the old clothesman there is not one who does not demand a law to protect his own little trade. If the employer lowers wages or increases the hours of labour, the politician in embryo exclaims, “We must have a law to put all that to rights,” instead of telling the workers that there are other, and much more effectual means of settling these things straight; namely, recovering from the employer the wealth of which he has been despoiling the workmen for generations. In short, a law everywhere and for everything! A law about fashions, a law about mad dogs, a law about virtue, a law to put a stop to all the vices and all the evils which result from human indolence and cowardice.

We are so perverted by an education which from infancy seeks to kill in us the spirit of revolt, and to develop that of submission to authority; we are so perverted by this existence under the rule of a law, which regulates every event in life — our birth, our education, our development, our love, our friendship — that, if this state of things continues, we shall lose all initiative, all habit of thinking for ourselves. Our society seems no longer able to understand that it is possible to exist otherwise than under the reign of Law, elaborated by a representative government and administered by a handful of rulers; and even when it has gone so far as to emancipate itself from the thraldom, its first care had been to reconstitute it immediately. “The Year I. of Liberty” has never lasted more than a day, for after proclaiming it men put themselves the very next morning under the yoke of Law and Authority. ...

But times and tempers are changed since a hundred years ago. Rebels are everywhere to be found, who no longer wish to obey the law without knowing whence it comes, what are its uses, and whither arises the obligation to submit to it, and the reverence with which it is encompassed. The rebels of our day are criticizing the very foundations of Society, which have hitherto been held sacred, and first and foremost amongst them that fetish, law. Just for this reason the upheaval which is at hand is no meet insurrection, it is a Revolution. ...

The critics analyse the sources of law, and find there either a god, product of the terrors of the savages, and stupid, paltry and malicious as the priests who vouch for its supernatural origin, or else, bloodshed, conquest by fire and sword. They study the characteristics of law, and instead of perpetual growth corresponding to that of the human race, they find its distinctive trait to be immobility, a tendency to crystallise what should be modified and developed day by day. They ask how law has been maintained, and in its service they see the atrocities of Byzantinism, the cruelties of the Inquisition, the tortures of the Middle Ages, living flesh torn by the lash of the executioner, chains, clubs, axes, the gloomy dungeons of prisons, agony, curses and tears. In our own days the see, as before, the axe, the cord, the rifle, the prison; on the one hand, the brutalised prisoner, reduced to the condition of a caged beast by the debasement of his whole moral being, and on the other hand, the judge, stripped of every feeling which does honour to human nature, living like a visionary in a world of legal fictions, reveling in the infliction of imprisonment and death, without even suspecting, in the cold malignity of his madness, the abyss of degradation into which he has himself fallen before the eyes of those whom he condemns. ...

Finally, they see the gaoler on the way to lose all human feeling, the detective trained as a blood-hound, the police spy despising himself; “informing,” metamorphosed into a virtue; corruption, erected into a system; all the vices, all the evil qualities of mankind countenanced and cultivated to insure the triumph of law.

All this we see, and, therefore, instead of inanely repeating the old formula, “Respect the law,” we say, “Despise law and all its attributes!” In place of the cowardly phrase, “Obey the law,” our cry is “Revolt against all laws!”

Only compare the misdeeds accomplished in the name of each law, with the good it has been able to effect, and weigh carefully both good and evil, and you will see if we are right. ...

But as society became more and more divided into two hostile classes, one seeking to establish its domination, the other struggling to escape, the strife began. Now the conqueror was in a hurry to secure the results of his actions in a permanent form, he tried to place them beyond question, to make them holy and venerable by every means in his power. Law made its appearance under the sanction of the priest, and the warrior’s club was placed at its service. Its office was to render immutable such customs as were to the advantage of the dominant minority. Military authority undertook to ensure obedience. This new function was a fresh guarantee to the power of the warrior; now he had not only mere brute force at his service; he was the defender of law. ...

“Do not steal,” says the code, and immediately after, “He who refuses to pay taxes, shall have his hand struck off.”

Such was law; and it has maintained its two-fold character to this day. Its origin is the desire of the ruling class to give permanence to customs imposed by themselves for their own advantage. Its character is the skilful commingling of customs useful to society, customs which have no need of law to insure respect, with other customs useful only to rulers, injurious to the mass of the people, and maintained only by the fear of punishment. ...

It will, perhaps, be objected that, during the last fifty years, a good many liberal laws have been enacted. But, if these laws are analysed, it will be discovered that this liberal legislation consists in the repeal of the laws bequeathed to us by the barbarism of preceding centuries. Every liberal law, every radical programme, may be summed up in these words, abolition of laws grown irksome to the middle-class itself, and as an extension to all citizens of liberties enjoyed by the townships of the twelfth century. The abolition of capital punishment, trial by jury for all “crimes” (there was a more liberal jury in the twelfth century), the election of magistrates, the right of bringing public officials to trial, the abolition of standing armies, free instruction, etc., everything that is pointed out as an invention of modern liberalism, is but a return to the freedom which existed before Church and King had laid hands upon every manifestation of human life.

Thus the protection of exploitation directly by laws on property, and indirectly by the maintenance of the State, is both the spirit and the substance of our modern codes, and the one function of our costly legislative machinery. But it is time we gave up being satisfied with mere phrases, and learned to appreciate their real signification. The law, which on its first appearance presented itself as a compendium of customs useful for the preservation of society, is now perceived to be nothing but an instrument for the maintenance of exploitation, and the domination of the toiling masses by rich idlers. At the present day its civilising mission is nil; it has but one object, to bolster up exploitation.

This is what is told us by history as to the development of law. Is it in virtue of this history that we are called upon to respect it? Certainly not. It has no more title to respect than capital; the fruit of pillage; and the first duty of the revolutionists of the nineteenth century will be to make a bonfire of all existing laws, as they will of all titles to property.

Economics - essential to politics and governs our day to day living and our life, and war, but we tend not to be aware even of the basics - who understands marginal utility? Fiscal policy?

- as ideology, the ECON 101 'law' of international trade vs the reality. No such thing as a free market - either there is no intervention and it is coerced manipulated and corrupted, or there is intervention to enforce 'freedom'.

Jevons, the coal question


Freedom is situated.


Sun Tzu

Game Theory


Sometimes seems senseless - how are they going to attract people to their cause by blowing them up? How do they think one explosion will win? Why would they give their own life for such a futile act? How can they conscience killing innocent civilians? If Russian or American planes carpet bomb and kill your family and so many in your neighbourhood, of course you're natural reaction is to want to kill the people that did that, and many people see things simply - that it is Russians' or Americans or Westerners, especially if that's what leaders are saying. That much is not hard to understand, though wrong. Perhaps the best defence against it is to educate people in politics, so that people place their feelings of vengeance at least in the right place. Another reason is that the state itself is practicing terror, which warrants terror in retaliation - eg: Russian oppression of serfs.

State Terrorism - The Reign of Terror. The Taliban. Deserted streets of Algiers - nothing could be so opposite as Morocco and Algeria at that time.

Nihilism and Terrorism

The aims of terrorist action.

- strategic targets.

- polarisation of populations on their terms to bait the powers that be into reprisals, ultimately to create a war or revolution. See Battle of Algiers.

Christchurch killings.

Terrorism - State. Individuals who are naive pawns. The strategy - sometimes direct, like inverse panopticon, but most importantly to divide the world on their terms... So Australian Nazi and ISIS are the same, and so Bin Laden and George Bush are enemies but best enemies.

Battle of Algiers


Machiavelli tends to break the problem down into types and consider each case, which is better, or how to handle the different case differently etc.

In saying that it is cheaper and more effective to send a small colony to occupy a territory rather than to maintain order by force of arms Machiavelli writes: "In conclusion, I says that these colonies are not costly, they are more faithful, they injure less, and the injured, as has been said, being poor and scattered, cannot hurt. Upon this one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot..." p19

I answer that the principalities of which one has record are found to be governed in two different ways: either by a prince, with a body of servants, who assist him to govern the kingdom as ministers by his favour and permission; or by a prince and barons, who hold that dignity by antiquity of blood and not by the grace of the prince... The examples of these two governments in our time are the Turk and the King of France... Therefore, he who considers both of these states will recognise great difficulties in seizing the state of the Turk, but, once it is conquered, great ease in holding it... The contrary happens in kingdoms like that of France, because one can easily enter there by gaining over some baron of the kingdom, for one always finds malcontents and such as desire a change. Such men, for the reasons given, can open the way into the state and render victory easy; but if you wish to hold it afterwards, you meet with infinite difficulties, both from those who have assisted you and from those you have crushed. pp31-33

Whenever those states which have been acquired as stated have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold them: the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute and establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it freindly to you. Because such a government, being created by the prind, knows that it cannot stand without his friendship and interest, and does is utmost to support him; and therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than in any other way. -p39

Yet it cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may gain empire, but not glory. -p69 Machiavelli


All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.

Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen. There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack - the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?

By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be divided. We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy's few. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

When the enemy is close at hand and remains quiet, he is relying on the natural strength of his position. When he keeps aloof and tries to provoke a battle, he is anxious for the other side to advance. If his place of encampment is easy of access, he is tendering a bait.

Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers will be constantly on the qui vive; without waiting to be asked, they will do your will; without restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving orders, they can be trusted.

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

Romance Of The Three Kingdoms

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the 4 canonical classics of Chinese prose literature. It's a historical epic based on the Three Kingdoms Period following the Han dynasty. It's heros are brilliant military strategists and the plot centres on their ingenious manouvres, often illustrating Sun Tzu style strategy. Eg: In one of the most famous episodes Zhuge Liang has offered his services as a general to the South but must prove his worth and is in competition with the other generals. The enemy is on the other side of the river and a naval battle is coming soon but the South is short of arrows. The ten days it will take to make them will be too late. Zhuge is given responsibility for getting the arrows, and his rivals in the South hope he will fail. Zhuge uses his knowledge of the weather to predict a fog in 3 days. He orders ships to be made ready and loaded with straw. When the fog arrives he orders the ships with only a few sailors aboard to go within range of the enemy. He knows his enemy will not want to fight on water in fog as the South is known for naval skill and the enemy is not. The enemy, seeing a naval attack through the fog, unleash a rain of arrows on them, which get stuck in the straw bales. Thus Zhuge arms the South with arrows - turning disadvantage to advantage by using knowledge of water and air, knowledge of his enemy's mindset, and by appearing strong when weak, and to attack when not attacking.

In this clip from a TV version of Three Kingdoms we see two of it's main generals discussing their different philosophies. Note the Confucian appraisal of the situation from Liu Bei, the good minister, and the uncompromising strategic stance of villain, Cao Cao.

Mao Tse Dong was well read and used strategies from Sun Tzu and Hero's of the Marsh to win against larger richer armies of the Goumindang.

Chairman Mao, The Long March

One of the most important things we learn from game theory is how not to treat everything as a 0 sum game. Most people we encounter in the world are argumentative and seem to assume that another person's win is their loss, especially in an argument. Undertanding game theory can help not only win, but to achieve compromise where both parties benefit, or to recognise that this is not even worth getting into an argument about since you have nothing to lose worth the cost of an argument. It can help us not get involved in a losing game, particularly when being provoked. Also, we can recognise that some situations we find ourselves in are lose - lose, or that whatever strategy we follow there are only losing outcomes - and so we can better resign ourselves to that, make a difficult choice, knowing we have done the best we can, and move on. It is good strategy not to persist in a losing game, as it will waste resources, even if that is only our physical and emotional energy.

Although game theory is technical it can help with life in general. If you spend some time, time we don't have here, working through the types of game you can recognise these situations much more easily in daily life, and rather than being confused and distressed, quickly analyse the situation and figure out what to do. Bear in mind that understanding or percieving the problem usually doesn't solve the problem as if with a snap of the fingers. Often we see the solution, but it is a solution that will require a lot of hard work, years of work. You may find yourselve losing at life and see that although a change risks losing the only thing you care about, the possibility of improvement is better than the certainty of spiralling losses.

Also just because you don't have an opponent embodied in a person, it doesn't mean you aren't in a strategic situation, a game. Anywhere you can analyse the situation as involving choices can be treated as a 'game' and understanding the theory of it can help you make good life decisions - Is it worth fighting the institution over this? Should you quit a dead end job that makes you miserable and risk not being able to support your family? Should you change career? Should you follow this order, reject it, or say you will but not follow through?