The international financial collapse of 2008 completely revealed the contemporary high culture of leadership. The undeniably world-class leaders of the biggest financial corporations in world history, along with the political leaders of the most powerful nations in world history, could think of nothing better than to use any means at hand to get back to the way things were before, as quickly as possible, all the while denying all responsibility for any problems. Creative reform for accountability and transparency was ridiculed as impractical.
As such a fresh and vivid example illustrates, what keeps the whole social system working, including the economic functions, is mainly imitating what was done previously, habits repeated unthinkingly, traditions, sometimes encouraged by appeals to popular misconceptions such as “we’re all in this together”, “people reap what they sow”, “our political representatives have our best interests at heart”, or “there is a meritocracy of the most competent people in control”. However, even more important than habit, tradition, and popular misconceptions, is the interconnectedness of intrinsically rewarding human attachments learned within the female-managed nexus of first-language acquisition, child nurture, play, unconditional love, practical support and care, sharing, and mutuality. Please see below, blog posting 9, October 25, 2011, Political Considerations for some elaboration of nurture culture. Those are the binding forces of social systems, a framework within which ordinary individuals work at building interesting and sustainable lives, and in doing so keep production and support systems working. Recognition of these foundations of societies is the root system of left-wing political thinking and the reason it can be described generally as “bottom-up” politics.
It is remarkable then, that the extraordinary cultural emphasis on leadership reveals a worldview in which it is a superstructure of leaders who hold the social and economic system together. In the discourse of management/ professional ideology, it is leadership which brings a community together and makes it function, and in doing so sustains and benefits everybody to the degree possible given the specific powers and impediments that individuals bring with them. The leader is presented as bringing people into effective accord by displaying superior energy and dedication, hard work and a work ethic, optimism, self-confidence, self-knowledge, communication and visioning skill, prudent judgment, strategic plans, in sum a tower of strengths upon which others can fix their gaze and be inspired together. This ideology of leadership is the taproot of right-wing political thinking, and the reason it counts as “top-down” politics. That this is an especially alpha-male cultural product reveals that the key to differences between leftist and rightist policies is not class war based on wealth inequality but instead it is gender culture.
There is a deeper layer to the culture of leadership. There is an assumption that leadership is so essential and effective that it brings into being a sort of singularity, a version of the idea of divine power, a power of sovereignty. In the case of sovereignty, the divine entity is “the nation”, “the people”, a social collective united into a “more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” creature, superhuman and even supernatural, meriting privileges, powers, and licenses that no individual can claim on his or her own, such as sending people to death in war, or deliberately exposing them to dangerous living and working conditions generally. Sovereignty is an extraordinary abstract power imagined to reside in a supra-individual social entity, and it is often invoked to create a warm glow of uncritical belonging in residents of a geographical area, sometimes with a uniformity of culture, language, and ethnicity, but more often not. (In appealing to the warm glow of interconnectedness, leaders are stealing credit for the nexus of first language acquisition, which is really created by people who nurture children.) For achieving the magisterial feat of leadership, the stars of the system take credit for creating legitimate power over life and death, and entitlement to act beyond law and morality to whatever extend they may wish.
People talk about “rising above” or “getting beyond” the political division between the left wing and the right wing, but beneath that division are profound conflicts which are standard features of human communities. Due to the revolutionary writings of Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedrich Engels (1820-95) there is elaborate ideology basing the left-wing orientation in the working class of industrial societies. Left-wing political activists do their best to represent the interests of people who must earn a living by working for wages. However, placing exclusive emphasis on the worker – capitalist relationship is a vast oversimplification, and has been used to cast leftist ideals into disrepute as merely the politics of envy.
Certainly there is an opposition between those families who can live from ownership and those who must live from working for wages. Working for wages is a life-warping burden. However, a far more pervasive and longstanding conflict is between an especially masculine trophy culture and an especially feminine culture of child nurture. There is also a structural conflict between generations, between people old enough to be approaching the last stages of life in opposition to those in the first stages of life. Young people generally are still carrying memories of the female managed culture of nurture, and without having been bent out of shape by irresistible incentives and rewards, have little but an innate sense of justice to guide them.
Appeals to “family values” sound like bottom-up politics, but in fact refer to family values as perceived by the alpha-male focused patriarchal family. The female managed first-language-nurture culture tends to ignore family separations and instead creates informal collectives pragmatically with any willing mothers in the vicinity. It is the culture of predatory masculinity which insists on using family groups as rigid stand-alone cells, reminiscent of the alpha-male harem social organization of gorillas, for example. Again, gender culture illuminates the political alternatives.
Groundwork of Political Dualism
The domestic nexus of first-language acquisition is in some ways a conservative force since stability is necessary for nurturing children. However, it doesn’t value wars, gambling, or radical inequality, the worst plagues on humanity, which are treasured by the alpha-structure. In addition, the domestic nexus always had a competitive alpha-structure to struggle against. The agenda of that trophy-winning superstructure has always been to use the commonality of people to fight wars, cook, clean, work plantations, mines, and assembly lines; and to have them part with their wages to borrow money, land, or a roof. Problems with that result from the retrograde culture of norms and values cultivated by the alpha-structure. The gender culture of novelty seeking masculinity could be progressive, but is exactly the opposite because of historical courses of development.
Alpha Trophy Ideology
The most glamourous culture of masculinity has its source in the ancient life of nomadic animal herders, a variety of cowboy. Ever since human communities began to abandon the nomadic life of gathering and hunting and created surpluses of vital resources, wonders of physical culture, and records of wisdom, their outlying surroundings of still nomadic peoples were drawn in to loot. An important part of the attraction of looting is to avoid having to live by daily work. A whole system of masculine pride was founded on living by other people’s work. It was the high point of accomplishment to murder rival males, destroy what property could not be used and take the rest, including women. Looting is inseparable from mass murder, rape, and enslavement, and those are still attractions of war. Empire building is nothing more than sustained looting. A remnant of the romance and pride of looting exists in the glorification of trophies won in competitive sport, and fortunes won from financial speculation.
Nomadic tribes that devised ways of surviving by animal herding often turned that parasitic technique onto communities of human farmers and city-dwellers. The cowboys became aristocrat estate owners. Social control by aristocracies, warrior-estate families, derives from that innovation. It was capitalism within the context of a rural agrarian production system. Settled aristocracies had the same values as the nomadic herders from whom they descended, values limited to maintaining a life of manly fun, competitive pride, pleasure, power, and risk-braving-adventure, not much different from capitalist elites. We see in ‘crime families’ of the mafia the identical cultural pattern still being re-created. Some families conceive extraordinary ambition and devote their energies to achieving ever more control of resources by whatever means they can get away with. In pre-modern times ambitious families controlled private armies to enforce their possession of lands. Armed violence was their source and refuge. Their focus was protecting and expanding their private property by organized and cultured violence. Their culture was built around organizing subordinated persons into gangs to carry out looting and destruction of other peoples property as well as assaults, murders, and enslavements for the purpose of exercising possession. Other humans were often simply a feature of geography to these families, to be used or removed as needed. Such military families named themselves aristocratic and noble. The use of the term “crime family” here is a means of balancing the usual academic tendency, derived from an art-history “golly-wow” approach, to admire and project positive value on whatever was dominant and powerful, the glorification of winning and wealth as such. That approach is not objective or value-neutral, and merely accepts without question that victors are privileged voices in the telling of history.
The narrative at the core of crime family culture is that the senior members of the family are natural and legitimate authorities and supervisors, and that no authority is superior except possibly supernatural power. All other authorities are merely rivals and threats to the family’s power. Your family is “us” and everyone else is “them”. The vast resources of the family are there to reward and assist those who dedicate themselves loyally to protection and advancement of the family as envisioned and declared by the patriarch. The prizes are high status and influence in the family hierarchy, conspicuous and intimidating wealth, gestures of subordination from everyone, power over others, and immunity from criticism.
Crime families or warrior-estate families were serious organizations who based collective ambition for wealth and power on a core of blood relations aided by carefully selected servants of various ranks and functions. These organizations recognized no outside supervisory authority. They were powers and a law unto themselves, competing with other families of a similar kind for the greatest possible control of people and resources. In ancient Rome the patrician family patriarch was the sovereign law within the bounds of his estates, with power of life and death over his family, servants, slaves, and tenants. The only help or protection possible for any individual was from one family or another. Royal families of Medieval Europe were later examples of this type of cultured family. Their willingness to make war is an illustration of the normalization of violent assault in their culture, and much of the war and business they practiced was conducted covertly by spies, assassins, and agents provocateur. These were the families for whom Machiavelli’s The Prince was written. Another modern version is the capitalist or investor family, hoarding important capital wealth. The hoard is the central value, and the need to protect the hoard inclines such families to distrust whatever they do not control. The origin and continuing main support of the political right-wing is that crime family.
In the anarchy after the Romans abandoned the western regions of their empire, two groups wanted control of resources on a vast scale, including control of populations. The first was the collection of warrior-estate families, and the other was the organization of Christianity. Both were alpha-male culture pods, still carrying the alpha-glorifying cult of looting. Since the personnel of the Church were nominally celibate males without children, the upper offices of the hierarchy were recruited from warrior-estate families, and so the two cultures had a lot in common. Radical inequality was the focus of the former and collective belonging was the focus of the latter. Crime families and religious cults will always be the winners from anarchy, and both will be leader-centric, animated by the alpha-male legacy of looting culture, rallying people to devote their efforts for the ultimate benefit of the looters.
Warrior-estate families formed a league that combined brutal rivalry with the cultivation of inter-marriages and mutual support. In the middle ages the families who would eventually make a reality of sovereign power were working out their techniques. They were social fetuses which would grow into modern government. The focus of the collective based on this narrative is capital concentration and control, private property and a security apparatus for protecting the privately concentrated capital. Behind it all was still the culture of alpha-type males proceeding with continual war against all other alpha-type males, principally for the fun of it. Their families carried the culture of war and there was no limit to their cruelty in pursuit of supremacy. The general practice in medieval warfare was for armies to break into small units to carry out a widespread looting and burning of villages and crops in a deliberate creation of famine and disease. Sovereignty was focused on private property and securing its ownership by force.
The other cultural entity with aspirations toward total ownership of populations was the Christian Church, based most powerfully at Rome. The main focus of that theocratic engine of sovereignty was control of individual religious belief and obedience to dictates of the Church. Organizational unity over vast expanses, in addition to a grip on fundamental and universal fears, enabled the Church to attempt a theocracy in Medieval Europe. However, the Church was not strong enough to exercise sovereignty on its own. It required alliances with particular crime families and generally with the collective of crime families, the class of aristocrats. That combination developed, especially during the crusades, a military-Christian culture known as Chivalry, which provided great advantages to both groups. Patriarchs of religious ceremonies were from time immemorial more bookish than the captains of horses and chariots. In Medieval Europe the clergy still carried the developing culture of book knowledge. Their literary and mental skills were indispensable, keeping records of costs, products, properties, distributions, and consumption. That uneasy alliance between religious and military cultures in the exercise of sovereignty is very ancient.
Historical Arc of Crime Families
The historical arc of crime families began with control of productive land by brute force, terrorism, and extortion. The power exercised by crime families went through a process of sanctification in the post-Roman history of Europe. Even before the full elaboration of chivalry, the Roman Church had a policy of placing bishops in the households of crime families to organize and advise, and enforce recruitment to the Church of everyone under the family’s power. That supernatural association had a legitimizing effect for the chosen families. The bond between Roman Christianity and power-families became deeply fused by the Crusades. The looting aristocracy of Europe created a new brutality in holy wars against the Islamic middle-east. That brutality was brought back to Europe fused with an outward enamel of religious ritual and pageantry.
This is not fable but history. The power vacuum, created by first bloating and then abandoning the Roman empire in western Europe, was filled by two groups: confederacies of crime families and the organization of Christianity, headquartered at Rome. In the course of the crusades those groups formed a partnership under the title Chivalry, superimposing symbols and pageants of divinity on the mechanisms and practices of lethal brutality, thus hatching the military-spiritual engine of sovereignty, gradually downloading the mechanisms of power to increasingly independent regional dynasties. Hierarchies of crime families and Christianity wanted populations to be devoted entirely to the systems which generated wealth, power, and a sense of superiority concentrated in the hierarchies. Crime families needed people to work the land and the mines, and the Church needed sinners to threaten and punish into begging for divine intervention, tweaking their odds by donating from the little they had. Each had their pageantry of superiority. Because the medieval alpha structure wanted populations to be totally devoted to serving the wealth and grandeur of the alpha-structure they did not want the commonality of individuals to be inwardly self-possessed through the creativity of their own subjectivity. Such a condition would distract from devotion to the very outward work of the hierarchies and possibly hatch rival organizations of effort and discourse, diverting energy, grandeur, and celebrity from the established order.
Such is the value nexus that established the culture of sovereign power and social control which we still take for granted as government. The two medieval groups supplying incumbents in power were replaced, in the course of the nineteenth century, by captains of business, finance, and industry as the economic organization of wealth came to base itself on energy from combustible minerals instead of on muscle-force from animals. The new captains remodeled sovereign culture slightly into the modern military-spiritual-industrial state. Captains of industry are much the same as their medieval counterparts, maintaining and elaborating systems of pageantry depicting their special importance and superiority. However, industrial captains could not claim divine appointment, and so had to arrange some fig-leaves of legitimacy through gestures of being accountable to the governed and being constrained by law. The ideology of sovereign control remained much as it was in medieval times. The notion of institutional hierarchy as the primary organizing principle of life is still a staple of market-society, and originates by direct lines of imitation from the ancient crime family.
The alpha-structure devises an economic and political agenda so that wars can still be fought, transferrable wealth funneled upward and concentrated, the gambling addiction of the finance industry celebrated, and the privileges and pleasures of unlimited wealth can be undisturbed. It accepts that the commonality of people are more usable, compliant, obedient, and manageable when kept in a vulnerable psychological state and guided within certain boundaries of experience. The alpha-structure craves economic and political control and the fruits of control, and psychological manipulation is simply an essential aspect of that control. Employment is structured as a systematic psychological confinement. The reality-distorting demands of the alpha-stratum superstructure (detailed in blog posting 10, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Employment as a Force-Field of Distorted Reality) suppresses self-possession as a psychological and cultural commonplace. It isn’t that the alpha-structure knows anything about the creative freedom of subjective intelligence. It does not intend its strategic agenda specifically to deny that experience. Subjective intelligence is the blind spot of the alpha-stratum. The alpha-stratum acts as it does because it is immersed in the age-old culture of masculine pride and the value alpha-male trophy culture assigns to public displays of adulation. The history of leadership is in the refinement of a caricature of masculinity, pageantry of divine immunity proved by bravado displays of risk-defying, daredevil feats and victories, acting out sufficient contempt for personal danger to call up gasps and cheers of adoration from the crowd.
Between the assassination of JFK in 1963 and the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, there were beginnings of what promised to be real cultural change. However, whenever there was a life-style experiment which began to broaden the orientation grid of the commonality of people, such as the French Revolution of 1789 or the Baby-Boom Revolt of 1963-74, there has been a mighty backlash mounted to roll back the advances, so that wars can still be fought and transferrable wealth concentrated upward. There is nothing authentically transcendent in that masterly style-of-life. It has nothing to teach the commonality. It just needs to interfere in order to cling to its own sense of specialness. That alpha-structure sense of superiority is the only thing threatened by general self-possession. A luxurious and opulent style-of-life for a few is certainly not the problem. The problem is that the stratum which celebrates wealth addiction imposes an agenda of strategic control and interference with the discourse of the commonality of people.
By contrast, the history of nurture culture is in the chain of generations joining linguistic communities and getting on with life. To break the death-grip of war and refined forms of looting, to remove the disincentives and barriers to basic self-awareness, a way has to be found to limit the legacy of looting culture and greatly enlarge the influence of the nurture culture practiced by women. It will be necessary to devise a civil society and government based on nurture instead of on looting.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.