George D. Contogeorgis
Politics as Phenomenon
The debate over the place of politics as a phenomenon is currently focusing on the pursuit of its particular “objects,” and consequently on a corresponding construction of politics in terms of power or strength in its social environment. The “object” of political science, political power, appears as a given and essentially self-evident, despite the various differentiations concerning its specific aspects, the parameters which are considered together when studied, or the methodological precepts of research. This is the reason that the definition of politics does not present any particular problem.
However, this option presents a fundamental weakness, which consists in the fact that politics is defined in terms of one of its specific structural aspects, i.e. power as a differentiated authority, and not a function of the elements that constitute its nature. The identification of politics with power actually reproduces the reality of the political phenomenon in the context of the modern state, a reality that, despite reflecting the primary anthropocentric phase which the modern world is undergoing, is invested with characteristics of universal originality and of progressiveness by definition. In this context, the past, as a comparative argument, is not recorded among the interests of political science, and, of course, its invocation is attributed to intellectual trends that have a conservative content as far as progress is concerned.
I shall try to demonstrate the non-scientific and, of course, unhistorical foundations of this approach to the political phenomenon, which limit the science of politics to an evaluative role and quite often a legitimizing function in relation to the modern system. At the same time, I shall suggest the direction of an alternative hypothesis on the “object” of political science, and the development that inevitably presages the need for a radical reconsideration of its gnoseological and methodological arsenal.
Is politics a phenomenon or is it an autonomous structure of the global social process?
The 19th century was dominated by the notion that politics is the state and, more specifically, the political power of the state and its actions. The political system is essentially non-existent as a concept, as it is absorbed into the state, to which the essence of politics and, consequently, the content of the public domain are concentrated. Political science appears as a simple complement or a maidservant of the sciences of the state, among which Law is the dominant component. The dichotomy between society and politics is a given. Society is not a part of the state and, as a consequence, of the political system. This is why it does not and should not have any other relation to politics, apart from the strictly defined legitimizing function of the possessors of power.
Since the end of the Second World War, the question posed by the totalitarian changes in the state, the development of anthropology, the acquaintance of the modern world with non-state societies, and the broadening of the political area as a consequence of the gradual encounter of modern societies with anthropocentric values, have cultivated the notion that the equating of politics with political power is rather more effective. Although this concession is not essentially different from the previous approach, it constitutes an interesting development, since it broadens the field of political research. The phenomenon and the dynamics of the political power of the state continue to define the essence of politics. But at the same time, the perimeter of the political process (groups, the political behavior of the masses, etc.), which affects its nature and logic, is being considered. Consequently, political science does not cease to remain hermetically sealed in the fundamental notion that perceives the phenomenon, i.e. politics, not in terms of its nature, but by virtue of its specific structural aspects, i.e. autonomous power. Within the pantheon of sciences, political science is unique from this point of view .
There are many significant weaknesses in this approach to politics. The same holds true for its implications concerning the comprehension of the political phenomenon, the constructions of its content, and the typology of political systems. In the past, the problem was linked mainly to the acknowledgement or non-acknowledgement of the autonomy of politics in the context of the social sciences, and particularly to its subordination to scientific fields such as law, economics, history, etc. Without proclaiming that the tug of war concerning the autonomy of political science has totally subsided, it is obvious that the consensus about its “object,” which is noted nowadays, raises more questions than it resolves.
The focus of interest on the “core” of the problem – which derives from the fact that political science, in contrast to all other social sciences, defines its object on the basis of one of its specific structural aspects (power) and not by virtue of its existence as a phenomenon – poses the following question: Is power ultimately the primary inherent characteristic of society or is it simply politics? Conceding the identification of politics with power, it is obvious that we come to the conclusion – which political science entirely accepts as self-evident – that we cannot conceive of a politically organized society without political power. This political power is autonomous, in terms of monopoly and sovereignty, while nowadays it basically amounts to state power. After all, social man is by nature interwoven with the experience of political power. Consequently, the question focuses on the elucidation of its content, place, and relation to society: should it be registered within the context of despotic or private ownership, of a “representative” regime that provides for an internal institutional balance, or should it be constructed in the context of a socio-political pluralism, where the intermediary forces mark the character of the system?
On the contrary, seeing politics as a phenomenon makes possible, if not inevitable, the proposition – as a working hypothesis – of an alternative question concerning the construction of politics, which will not include power as a component. This question, though rhetorical for the moment, is of fundamental importance, since introducing it completely overturns the philosophic and realistic structure upon which the very existence of the social being is predicated. I cite just one example, liberty. The concept of liberty in political science reproduces the perceptions of the civil society being experienced, and therefore it is exclusively defined as individual. At the political level modern man simply invokes certain rights, which lend social reference or legitimization to political power, and are regarded as capable of preventing its undue autonomy, and a probable threat to individual and social liberties. But the space between a political right and political liberty is undoubtedly chaotic. Political liberty, like any liberty, covers a dimension of individual or group autonomy. Thus it presupposes the self-determined political function, and society’s becoming free of power, or, put another way, the annulment of autonomous power .
This very formulation of the hypothesis – that politics and not power is inherent in society – opens new horizons for the scientific study of the political phenomenon. But the question is to what degree this hypothesis is actually affirmed by the articulation of the political phenomenon beyond autonomous power. On a theoretical, but also on an operational level, the answer to this question refers directly to historical precedent, without, however, ignoring the fact that it refers fundamentally to the future. But tracing it as a historical hypothesis, or as a perspective, makes it necessary to examine the object of politics in connection with its nature, regardless of any structural aspects in time and space.
From this point of view, politics as a phenomenon is defined at two levels: one focuses on the nature of politics itself, i.e. on the social dynamic framed by an assumption of universal energy, in the context of which the cohesion, legitimization or the domination, movement, or rupture, and consequently the disputation or the function of order and, subsequently, of the society as a whole will be achieved . The other refers to the breadth of the organic correlation of politics with the integration of social man, i.e. its global autonomy, which includes freedom. This correlation may be non-existent, as in the case of a typical despotic cosmosystem. In the context of the anthropocentric cosmosystem, freedom as an individual-social autonomy is covered primarily by the “operational” or “structural” dimension of politics, in the context of the civil society. The point in question here is the indicator of the productive or “structural” effectiveness of politics in the environment of balances that ensure a minimal anthropocentric achievement, in relation to the corpus of individual and social rights. But freedom, as an overall self-determining project, although it presupposes individual and a related social autonomy, presents the social and political potential for self-determination as the main point in question. Freedom, as a measure of integration of anthropocentrism, irrespectively rejects dependence or coercion, both at the social (dependent or hired labor) and at the political level (the subordination of the individual and of the group to a power system). Thus, the political right recognizes the fundamental role of power, which it attempts to place in a context of social reference and legitimization. On the contrary, political freedom totally rejects the authority structure of politics, which it regards as absolutely revoking the overall freedom of the individual, and subsequently of the deeper anthropocentric nature of society .
Apart from the integral value of the above definition, it is obvious that the disassociation of politics and power weakens the position that is held on the “relations of forces” concerning the formation and function of the political process. Indeed, the equating of politics with power is combined with a virtual equalization of power with force. This equalization, which teaches that politics reflects the relations of power at the level of social dynamics, completely ignores the other dimension of politics – the outcome of its profoundly dialectical nature – which as we know from the case of the polis mainly combines the “rhetoric” relation with the dynamic of the vote, at the level of the agora. To the degree to which the concept of the “political agora” is absent, its position is taken up by the “economic agora” and, by extension, the one-way reduction of economic power to political power . However, the equalization of force with power is generally conceived as arbitrary and specifically is seen in the environment of power systems. Power is the institutionalized decisive potential in politics, beyond the social body. The possession of the political process by individuals or forces which are differentiated from the society as a whole constitutes the concept of political power, while the simple ease in exercising influence or force, i.e. direct or indirect coercion exerted on the political process, does not turn its holder into a holder of power. Power presupposes the absorption of the political process, its appropriation, or its seizure (authoritarianism) . Power may be accompanied by a sufficient force substructure, or it may be stripped of it, and so we have either a power vacuum or legitimized power.
The consequences of this approach to the political phenomenon are also reflected in its typology, and, furthermore, in the typology of the political system. The equating of politics with power reveals an extremely restricted typological horizon. If we accept that politics has just one dimension, that of power, then the typology of the political system is defined exclusively by it. All political systems have as their foundation the sovereign political power, and are classified according to its partial differentiations: absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy, the different expressions of the representative system of government (such as the presidential, the parliamentary, the pluralistic, etc.), the authoritarian, or the totalitarian regimes, etc. On the contrary, the adoption of the hypothesis that power constitutes a structural aspect of the general political phenomenon leads to the conclusion that the sum of political systems driven by its rationale are ascribed to the same typological category, while its more particular impressions in time and space constitute simple morphological parameters . But this conclusion creates the need to indicate the other typological manifestations of the political phenomenon, or at least to point them out as working hypotheses.
In any case, the disassociation of the political phenomenon from its one-way link to power necessitates, beyond anything else, the search for the causal basis of this approach.
The Foundations of the Power Approach to Politics
A cross-reference of the conclusions included in a publication of UNESCO, in 1950 – in which a recording of political science was attempted for the first time – with its recent evaluation, which has just been completed under the auspices of the European Union and the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris , leads to the conclusion that significant progress has been made in the direction of the autonomy of the field. . But it is also unquestionable that the concept of the political phenomenon remains essentially unchanged – with whatever that entails.
Political science continues to be subject to a historical partiality, since it remains basically the science of the political system that gave birth to it. I hasten to emphasize that the link of modern political science to the realities of the nation-state does not make the latter responsible for the weaknesses of the former. However, it acknowledges the reflective effect of the limited depth of its political system upon political science. Linked to this horizon, it was natural for political science to project its conclusions concerning the modern political system into a rule with claims of universal application. Thus, as the rule is projected in time, the comparative step is destined to serve the fundamental working hypothesis, compelling the historical phenomenon to bend. In this sense, the content of the rule serves as a model: our age is interpreted as the outcome of a centuries-old historical process, linearly defined. Any precedent, meaning, that is, before the start of modern history, is evaluated as a lesser historical achievement, as “traditional” , since today’s world constitutes the most perfect thing humanity has to demonstrate. In this context, for instance, the approach of politics as a right predominates over politics as liberty, which, in fact, as a premise will indeed be equated with totalitarianism . “New” liberty, although it does not surpass private life, or certain social and political rights, will become an anthropocentric achievement, superior to any previous one, even that of “Greek” political society . This same approach declares the superiority of the modern political system, which is based on sovereign power, compared to the previous political systems of humanity, including democracy. Finally the typology of the political phenomenon, in its historical dimension, justifies the force argument, given that the historical periods are determined by the succession of Hegemonies . The concept of the cosmosystem and its typology are, as we shall see, totally absent.
To the degree that the cognitive object of political science is focused, as we have seen, on the logic and the structure of the political phenomenon, as this is manifested by the modern political system, it is unable to function as a science of universal interpretative reference. However, on this point it is interesting that modern political science feels sufficiently adequate and secure to deny its qualification to the historical dimension of the political phenomenon. Its comparative approach covers principally the present, consumed with the manifestations of the political phenomenon in the modern world . The past belongs to history. History, in turn, does not have any reason to differentiate from this point of view.
This fact and, of course, the questioning of the autonomy of political science acknowledge that politics as a phenomenon started to be released from the closed circle of state power and its options just after the Second World War. The study of politics belonged previously, and continues to belong, to a significant degree to the priorities of the sciences of the state (of law, etc.), since the field of politics is highly restricted, and still controlled by those who possess the mechanisms of political sovereignty. This is the basis for the ascertainment that political science, and anthropocentric political praxis before it, is undergoing nowadays – despite assurances of the opposite – an early “protogenetic” phase. This ascertainment poses, of course, the question of the criterion on the basis of which the indicator of evolution is formed and evaluated. Personally, I accept that this indicator within human societies cannot have but man as its measure, and more precisely his degree of integration with respect to liberty and prosperity.
Indeed, we discern two great typological categories of systems concerning the global constitution of the world, or in other words, two cosmosystems: the despotic one, which reflects societies of subjects, and the anthropocentric one, which regards man as the primary component and aim of social being . The modern world belongs to the anthropocentric sphere. But its historical depth continues to be highly restricted, and the elements that compose its anthropocentric constitution anemic. There is no need to recall, as a comparative presupposition, the global integration or autonomy of man, in order to ascertain that the liberties that modern vanguard societies enjoy are essentially insufficient and subject to any number of limitations and presuppositions . Indeed, the anthropocentric homogenization of the modern world is not an achievement of the second half of the 20th century. The process of anthropocentric transition itself, though a long one, appears to be penetrating rudimentarily into the problem of the “Declaration of the Rights of the Individual” and the political emergence of the cultural globality of the “nation”. The European peoples invoked “human rights” against the feudalistic society of subjects, and the political entity of the nation, in order to construct their anthropocentric political environment as an offset of feudalistic despotism, which was based on an absolute proprietary approach to politics (power). In creating, to a large extent, the nation, the state defined, in the final analysis, the new social globality within which the transition from the despotic to the anthropocentric cosmosystem would take place. Nation, politics, political system, are all reduced to the state, are confused, and indeed somehow comprise a tautological category. The history of the nation is entirely the history of the state. The public area is recorded as a concept identified with the state, which is called upon to manage the political power of the state in a sovereign and monopolistic way. The general will is essentially the will of the nation, whose unique and authentic voice is the vehicle of the political power of the state, not society.
This catalytic gathering of all parameters of politics within the state must be attributed to the fact that, although the legitimizing reference of the agent of the political system was transferred to the field of the social body, the nature of politics, and, consequently, of the political system, has not changed . For political science, politics will continue to constitute the exclusive field of state power in opposition to the society which is regarded as a private body, politically unemancipated. To the degree to which society is placed out of the political system and the public sphere is formed beyond society by the state, which embodies the political system.
However, whether we regard the state as a class one or not, once it is defined as a public sphere, it ceases to constitute a despotic parameter. It is called upon to function in ‘representative’ terms, and to ensure the elementary “human rights,” so that, in time, they can become a positive premise of individual and social liberty. During the 20th century, political rights (mainly the legitimizing vote and the civil right of speech, which would constitute the passport of formal ‘citizenship’) would be introduced, while “mass” or indirect politicization and the interjection of intermediary interest groups between private society and political power would follow. This new balance would be denoted with the concept of the civil society, which is specified politically with the premise of pluralism, or, in other words, by the meeting of intermediary social forces with political power .
Although, as we have seen, the individual – as a shadow citizen of the state – is categorically excluded from the political system, to which his relationship is articulated at an intermediary level, state power with reference to the nation draws a supplementary advantage of differentiation against social will . The exclusion of the citizen from the political system was ascribed, on the one hand, to the limits imposed by the great political scale and, on the other hand, to the insufficiency of society’s political self-consciousness. The latter needed, at the beginning, a powerful and centralized state of anthropocentric reference, which could invoke the monopoly of political power, in order to face the reactions and the centrifugal force of feudalism . The elevation of political forces, first of all of political parties , would be the justifying base of this system, as they would assert their political legitimacy in the name of liberal or socialistic anthropocentric integration. The premise of social liberation, the entire social question, which for more than a century would focus its interest on property and the protection of dependent labor, would not for a moment call into doubt the nature of the political system. But it would constitute, to a great extent, the causal basis of the class and ideological political parties in Europe, and one of the justifying foundations of the authoritarian or totalitarian political powers during the period between the two world wars. The political dilemma – multiparty or single-party mediation, multiparty or single-party appropriation – would be resolved partially with the military defeat of the Axis . But this does not refute the fact that also within the context of multiparty mediation the political question would scarcely preoccupy the social body in Europe until today. The political party would function simultaneously as representative, as educator, and protector of its social clientele. In exchange, it would be left alone to administrate state power in terms of political sovereignty which imposes the concept of the post-feudalistic political system.
Although since the 1980’s a cosmogony of changes ultimately leading to the decline of the “ideological” political parties has been underway, the questioning of political science and certainly of broader political thought is not substantially far from its original positions: either vis-à-vis the object of politics, or even more, the nature of the political system. The rivalry with the “real socialism” had already compelled the liberal school of thought and ideology to move from the classical ‘representative’ principle, introducing after the Second World War the concept of pluralism . In fact, however, the pluralistic principle, the concept of the civil society itself, acknowledges that the political system had long ago ceased to ensure the equilibrium at the level of power , so that it fell to the discretion of the leading core of the political party that has the election “majority.” Before the dilemma of ‘partytocracy, which is elevated to a political system, “democracy” is henceforth evaluated in direct relation to the degree of development and expression of the intermediary groups which act within the environment of political power. I do not enter into the whole paradox of our times, which insists on defining democracy on the basis of its exact opposite, i.e. sovereign power, invoking the unhistorical argument that its political personnel are elected and indeed they are only legitimized by the social body. If nothing else, democracy – within the cosmosystemic area in which it was born- was foreseen as the very opposite of the power system, including the representative system, which had preceded it . But I note that this trend, which prefers “pluralism” to “representation” as a field of correlation between politics and society, in fact overturns it and indeed opposes it, since it revives, at the level of state power, the feudalistic principle, which entrusts management of the state to the interrelations of power, and, in another sense, to property . In each case, the pluralistic period of “democracy” elevates strength as an equal partner of power, and consequently to the equivalent of politics. Political science, defining in turn the political phenomenon in relation to power and strength, is inevitably led to co-identifying them. Power and strength constitute identical concepts, precisely because they are defined by their common parameter, politics, which they reflect .
On the other hand, although “pluralism” as a concept is placed at the center of the political process, modern schools of political thought entirely sidestep the major question about the existing chaotic differentiation between the formal and the true political system. I am referring to the fact that the institutionalized political sphere has been virtually neutralized , while at the same time the field of politics (the theme, the agents, the media, etc.) has acquired quite a breadth diffused in the direction of society. The diffusion in this context between the social body and politics, though it is estimated that in the long-term it will have beneficial effects on the restructuring of the relationship between society and politics, at present does not seem to contribute directly to the restriction or the control of what goes on behind the scenes, where the “sensitive” decisions of power are dictated. I am not hinting so much at the action of the official pressure groups, but rather at that of the private (individual or collective) interests, which inevitably develop behind the scenes, with their strength as their guide and measure. Although the reality of what goes on behind the scenes has great historical depth, and coexists to a great extent with the nature of autonomous politics, the conditions of publicity that surround the political system nowadays, and, of course, the broadening of the political field, pose in a most compelling way the question of the re-evaluation of its position within the political system .
The new political field, which is substantially created by the catalytic development of the communication system at the level of the territorial state, is translated, with a significant re-evaluation of politics, into the system of values, and, consequently, in relation to the social problem. This re-evaluation, whose dimensions in real and in ideological terms go beyond the scope of this study, re-introduces the question of a new conceptualization and methodology of politics.
The conception of politics, on which we concluded, disengages the phenomenon from the state, political power or strength, placing it in its natural domain, the political system. If politics is absorbed partially or totally into state power (and perhaps into other forms of power, such as local or regional government), or if, through being a hostage of power, politics really reverts to the social forces (pressure groups or behind-the-scenes forces), it is another question, which does not refer to the concept, but to the constitution of the social totality, and consequently to the typology of the political system. So the re-approach of the concept of politics does not deny its institutionalization in terms of power, or the strict autonomous nature of the modern political system vis-à-vis society. But it poses the question of the historicalness of the political phenomenon, both as to its typology (i.e. the transformations of the political system in terms of power or the negation of power), and as to the nature of the social phenomenon in general, and of the parameters of development. Thus, it introduces questions that refer also to the prospect, to the future of politics. It is extremely important to note that the re-evaluation of the perceptions of politics and its parameters is of great interest in the Greek case, to the extent that it has suffered more than any other the distorting effect of the restricted horizon of social science, and its attachment to the ethnocentric paradigm .
The disengagement of politics as phenomenon from political power and the state reveals the autonomy of the political system, which attains a primary position within the political process. This indicates that the state, under any conditions whatsoever, is not the dominant and autonomous component of the political totality, but the vehicle for the support of the political system. The discovery that the political power dominates the modern political system is in itself important. It reveals the nature of the political system, as a strictly hierarchical one, in which the role of the citizen is restrictively legitimizing. It has no controlling, harmonizing, revocatory, and, of course, no sovereign authority . Furthermore, political power is strictly personalized and exclusive. Besides, as we have just seen, the same argument of socio-political pluralism admits that the system of institutionalized counter-powers, which was foreseen as a foundation for the demonarchization’ of the state, belongs to the distant past inasmuch as the possessor of the electoral majority indivisibly controls the totality of political power and the mechanisms of the state. At the same time, it proposes the attachment of the institutionalized or noninstitutionalized social interrelations that go on behind the scenes to the political process of the state .
So the dilemma is whether politics should be regarded as a diffused phenomenon, inherent in the social body, which consequently is transformed into an active agent of the political process, or as a dynamic for assessment or allocation of power interrelations at the level of the political power of the state. The latter case, which reflects the concept of the civil society , discerns the democratic character of the political system in the dynamic encounter of groups with political power. According to that view, it is precisely there that the representative function of politics is also expressed. The dialectical relationship between society and politics, the absorption of the political into the social – and consequently the integration of the social whole into the political process – or at least the dynamic dimension of the field of politics, do not exist even as a working hypothesis, and therefore are not registered among the interests of political science. The dichotomy between society and politics, and subsequently the marginal political role that is reserved to society by the theoretical leaders of “democracy” is clearly revealed by the elevation of the “nation” to the supreme aim of the state. The political definition of the “nation” constructs, as we have seen, the basis of the primacy of the state, and legitimizes the simply supplementary position of social will in relation to political power . On the contrary, the primacy of the political system, rather than of the state, directly connects (representative) political power to the will of society, which functions as the unique legitimizing partner and beneficiary of its choices.
Obviously it is about an essentially different approach, which, even within the environment of the power system, creates new data concerning the way of dealing with the political phenomenon and its parameters. In this context, “general interest” – which more or less concealed a relationship to “national interest”- henceforth refers to the will of a relatively integrated “civil society.” Indeed, it faintly projects the alternative perspective of “common interest,” which, however, as a democratic matter, refers to the long term, since it presupposes the detachment of the concept of “public domain” from the state and its ascription to society. But also nowadays, the concept of “public domain,” though it continues to be essentially identified with the state, becomes more flexible, while politics becomes disengaged from the strict demarcation of state power. The dynamics of the self-government of the political sphere by the state results in the concept of “public domain” being linked to “social interest,” and, further, the course of diffusion of the political into the social, coinciding with the concept of “common”. The “social contract” at the present time makes sense as a legitimizing reference or adherence to a regime of political sovereignty of state power, where the latter is exclusively qualified to define authentically the content of “general” or “national interest.” Gradually, however, it relinquishes its position to the active political balance, which is articulated, beyond the typical political system, in the concept of a dynamic field of politics and subsequently in an idea of legitimization, with an ungraded scale of continuous contestation. The prospect of the “political society” is a question of concord (“omonoia”), which does not, however, come to terms with the presupposition of the “civil society,” the dividing line between (private) society and politics (public domain). In any case, even within the environment of a system of political sovereignty of power, the question of whether the interest will focus on the indicator of political “consensus,” i.e. the accession of the social body to the choices of the state, or whether we will accept the detachment of the state from the political process, regarding the state as the political perimeter of the whole society, the dominion, and ultimately the supporting mechanism of the political system, is not just of rhetorical significance.
Finally, the equating of politics with power (and furthermore with strength) leaves, as we have seen, little space for the elaboration of thought concerning development with a typological content. On the contrary, the approach of politics as a phenomenon introduces the alternative possibility of a non-power composition of politics. So, the political system is enriched with a real typological parameter, which renounces power. Thus, the criterion for the typological classification of the political system is in this instance not the morphology of power, but the relationship between society and politics, and more precisely the position of the social whole within the political process. In simple terms, the question is how politics is structured, and who possesses it.
The power structure of politics connotes that it may entirely exclude the political aspect of the social body. This is the despotic system, which is manifested more specifically as “private” or as “state” feudalism . But it is probable that the political system which is based on power may give to the social body an arbitrating political right. In that case the modern political system of the state-nation, which emerges as the main ingredient of the civil society, is registered. The structure of politics, which is based on non-power in its absolute version, implies the total identification of society and politics. A more moderate version is the consent to the power phenomenon, the expediter or “therapeutic agent” of the political function of the social whole. In every case, we refer to a transition from the civil society to the political society , whose fundamental trait is the choice of political liberty instead of the simple political right. It is not necessary to indulge excessively in history to ascertain that the hypothesis of political society is affirmed by the integrated version of the polis, and coincides with democracy. It is, however, necessary to note that modern political science, while it seems to be unaware of the political category of non-power, cannot discern the political phenomenon as a dialectical procedure, other than the correlations of force and power. That is why it places a crucial phase of human history outside its field of research, and, more importantly, of the political function of society . Therefore, this fact does not constitute a simple hypothesis, as we stated from the start in order to facilitate our line of reasoning, but a major choice which is absolutely decisive for the investigation, and, of course, for the breadth of the political phenomenon.
The Methodological Dead End
The restricted, as well as distorting, horizon of modern political science becomes more apparent through its methodological choice to approach the political phenomenon synchronically and, by extension, to approach the diachrony in linear terms. This methodological approach presents at least three fundamental weaknesses:
(a) It functions in an evaluative manner, elevating the partial, in this instance the modern, to a value of general reference, capable of functioning as a measure for a spherical interpretation of the political phenomenon. Consequently, comparative politics as a methodological approach is acknowledged only within the modern cosmospace. The modern political paradigm is considered too “complex” to be compared and to draw conclusions from the historical precedent.
(b) It regards social evolution as totally progressive, in the sense that every subsequent stage is classified at a much higher level than the previous one. From a typological point of view, we discern the pre-industrial or rural, the industrial and the technological age. But within the context of the pre-industrial age, feudalism is considered a more evolved stage in relation to the so-called slavery period of humanity, including the Greek polis system . And so forth.
(c) Even when the formation of a spherical impression of the political phenomenon in its diachrony is attempted, the approach remains fundamentally correlative and encumbered with the ethnocentric argument. Besides, as we have seen, the historical typology of the political phenomenon is characterized in principle by the ethnic characteristics of the Power that forms the political domination within the cosmospace. The nature of the cosmospace, to which the relations of hegemony are surely also ascribed, passes unnoticed.
A different approach to diachrony, from the standpoint of political typology, introduces, in place of the default model – which is the modern world – the strict comparative analogy between the various historical paradigms. The evaluation of evolution in view of progress does not function in a self-evident way in favor of one or the other historical parameter. It presents as a principle the conceptual clarification of its criteria, with which the historical context will be cross-referenced. Indeed, the historical precedent teaches that evolution does not coincide by definition with progress. Progress as a human situation is defined in relation to the whole content of social life, i.e. to the dimensions of liberty and of prosperity in terms of justice. Although the present accumulation of prosperity cannot be compared to any historical precedent, the question of justice compels a serious cautiousness. The same goes for liberty. Nowadays liberty is highly limited, as an individual and partially social situation, while it is absolutely unknown as social and political autonomy. The modern anthropocentric reality is surely progress, compared to the feudalistic period which preceded it. But is it scientifically reliable to claim that feudalism (as a despotic cosmosystem) constitutes a higher stage than that of the polis (as an anthropocentric cosmosystem)? And, furthermore, to claim that the present anthropocentric development (as a civil society) is a higher stage than the anthropocentric development of the polis (in its integrated form as political society)? And in any case, can we ignore the fact that the modern world is just undergoing an early statocentric stage, where the principle of state sovereignty is still the main parameter?
In order to substantiate its evaluative approach, modern political science invokes the quantitative argument. The small scale of the polis cannot be compared to the large scale of the modern territorial state. Although the territorial state does not constitute a modern discovery, one could accept the comparison to the extent that it was total, was presented in terms of analogy, and proposed as a common reference point the anthropocentric component of both paradigms. In this context, we conclude that the society of the polis had undertaken a clearly integrated evolutionary course, since within it the civil society became the political society and on its cosmosystemic level it left behind the statocentric legacy to evolve into a cosmopoliteian ecumene . On the contrary, I think it is generally accepted that the modern state-nation is still experiencing a simple primary form of civil society, with a strictly personalized and, of course, monarchical-type autonomy, i.e. sovereign political power. So its analogy, with which the comparison is feasible, is not, therefore, democracy, in this instance the democracy of the classical period, but the pre-democratic representative system of the polis (i.e. aesymneteia). Democracy presupposes the negation of the constitution of the political system on the basis of power, which would take place through the transition to the political society, i.e. the universal (social and political) autonomy of the citizen in the context of the polis. Thus, democracy pertains exclusively to the political society, while representative power constitutes a system of the civil society.
These few above remarks make obvious that: first, the comparative method is not validated through its synchronic expression and the linear approach to historical evolution. It serves a particular system and at the same time it does not interpret, but cultivates the “image” of the model, as to the past, and of integration, as to the future. Second, the question of scale is not a quantitative one, as they attempt to oversimplify it, but a qualitative one. This means that, on the one hand, both the small as well as the large anthropocentric scale are subject to the evolutionary process, and, on the other hand, the comparative step between these two scales is feasible, provided that the condition of analogy is employed. The attempted reduction of the partial (i.e. the political system of the state-nation, at the present stage) to a total parameter, and its function as a model simply deflects our reasoning from the question, which is the structuring first of the total typological paradigm, and subsequently the recording of the particular cases in it.
The dynamics of the economic process constitute an indicative example, especially in relation to whatever has to do with its industrial version, which is regarded as the turning point of human history . Judging the economy of a country, such as the U.S.A., in quantitative terms, we conclude that there is no field of comparison with the past. Dealing, in turn, with this economy in relation to the consequences its dynamic has on the social process of this particular territorial entity, we ascertain that it hardly suffices to mobilize the basic parameters of a primary civil society. It goes without saying that the ideological concepts of society (liberties, etc.) pertain to the stage of this civil society. If for a moment we go back to Athens of the 5th century BC, the question we are called upon to answer refers to the size of the economy required to produce the socio-political result of the political society. We will then ascertain that the elements of the communication system (the economy included), on the small scale of Athens, had to mobilize hypo-multiple energy, in order to produce dynamics with multiple effects, in comparison to the large scale at the social and political level .
I sidestep the question concerning the communication system as a methodological category , in order just to stay with the fundamental hypothesis that has led us, since 1972, to associate the proto-genetic evolution of the political system – and, by extension, the transition to democracy – with the changes that have taken place in the workplace. In the polis, democracy as a process of protogenesis concurs indeed with a series of new phenomena that lead to the integration of the political society. Among them is also that of the gradual “rejection” of dependent labor . The “rejection” of dependent labor constitutes a different conceptual component from “unemployment,” and is ideologically expressed by the concept of “schole” (leisure). “Labor” during the classical period is defined in opposition not to “unemployment” but to “scole”, i.e. it is “a-scholia.” The citizen of leisure is not the unemployed, or even the idle citizen, but the socially free citizen. To the extent, on the other hand, that the “kalos scholazein” (the ‘good living’ in terms of leisure) is also the precondition of political liberty or autonomy, it constitutes at the same time a condition of democracy. Thus leisure’ is associated with the rejection of important aspects of economic labor – and basically aspects of dependent or paid labor, which is regarded as compulsion and slavery, regardless of its institutional immunity – and with the elevation of other forms of work,’ such as politics, culture, etc .
This transition became partially feasible, in the context of the state-centric system of the polis, thanks to the concurrence, as we have seen , of the “human machine”. The transplantation of this paradigm into the system of the large anthropocentric scale leads us to the conclusion that the evolution of the present political system from the strict system of power to democracy – from the civil society to the political society – could be dealt with only under an analogous total transformation of the cosmosystem, an element of which would be the rejection of labor. The faint (re-) appearance of this phenomenon since the 1980s has already drawn the interest of social science, which, surprised, hastened to proclaim the ‘end of work’ . The characteristic feature of all these approaches to the ‘end of work’ is that they do not belong to a broader comparative perspective, nor do they basically issue from their economic environment (e.g. the problem continues to be treated as unemployment – i.e. on the basis of the working society – and, in any event, as if its social, ideological and political parameters, such as the new liberty, were absent) . For this reason they are linked to the argument about the “end of history” , and not to the transition of our time from the working society to the leisure society. But they correctly consent to the view that the modern reality in the world of labor is formed under the influence of the intelligent environment which technology has given birth to.
The delineation of the political phenomenon makes more compelling the total presentation of the world it concerns. The introduction of overall typological categories, for the approach to the universal structure and function of the world, sets the social and political parameters of the subgroups that constitute the world, and, obviously, their evolutionary course, on a new basis. The concept of the cosmosystem precisely defines the universal and self-contained social environment, in the context of which the particular human societies are structured, function and evolve. At the same time, a cosmosystem is distinguished by a set of primary constitutional references (anthropocentric or despotic cosmosystem), a set of fundamental constant and variable parameters (economic, sociological, institutional, ideological, etc.), and finally a set of relations and dynamics that signal the course of evolution .
Modern political science brings to the focal point of its research the specific social paradigm that directly controls, in this instance, the fundamental political subsystem of the territorial state, while comparative analysis is limited to the apposition of simply similar, synchronically determined, social paradigms. The cosmosystemic whole is completely absent and along with it the broader typological categorizations. The political system of present-day France is compared to that of modern Germany, and so forth . This view reflects the realities of the first anthropocentric period, in which the state is perceived as sovereign and self-sufficient, while the inter-state relationships make up the compulsory parameter of coexistence. Thus, however, the comparison is focused on certain secondary differentiations of morphological character, leaving the lines of large capacity or the successions of long duration out of the scope of research possibilities and the speculation of political science. We have already ascertained above that the study of the historical phenomenon or the reference to history is made in terms of morphological assimilation, and, in any event, within the context of a constant commitment to the pragmatological material from the linear argument.
The reduction of the social paradigm to a cosmosystemic category presents, as I have already implied, two fundamental typological dimensions of the cosmosystem. The despotic (with the typological expressions of the ‘private’ and ‘state’ feudalism or despotism) and the anthropocentric one . The first and unique anthropocentric cosmosystem that can be traced historically is the Greek one, which was originally formed during Cretomycenaean times and crystallized in the late Mycenaean period .
The cosmosystemic constitution of Hellenism regards the ethnocentric approach to Greek development as absolutely erroneous. Greek history is not at all the history of “Greece” or the history of one nation which is defined politically by the state, as the dealers of various ethnocentric “schools of thought” naively suppose, with the contradictory claim that the nation is a political creation of modern times, and indeed of the territorial state. The history of the Greek nation coincides in principle with the history of its cosmosystem. In the ethnocentric approach to Hellenism substantial links in its development are absent, while the ‘periodology’ of the Greek phenomenon, which is taught by history, remains purely morphological and focused on the “ethnotic” reference of central political power: the history of Hellenism until the 4th century BC is that of Greece, which is followed by the “Hellenistic,” the “Roman,” the “Byzantine,” and the “Ottoman” period.
The reconciliation of Greek development with its cosmosystemic nature inevitably leads to a typology of Hellenism consistent with its cosmosystem. In this context we discern: (a) the statocentric period of the polis, and (b) the ecumenical or cosmopolitaean period. Their order refers to two typologically distinct phases of the Greek anthropocentric cosmosystem. In this sense, the second period constitutes a typological section in relation to the first, as a transcendence and succession, but not as a cosmosystemic rift, as would have happened if the Greek vital space had reverted to the despotic cosmosystem.
The foundations of the Greek cosmosystem remain virtually unaltered during both of its periods: the monetary economy and the polis. The monetary economy as a system is the preeminently constant and fundamental parameter of the anthropocentric nature of Greek societies. The polis, as a constitutive political core of the statocentric type (the polis-state) initially, and of a cosmopolitaean type (ecumene) afterwards, encapsulates the premise of the whole society. The principle of the polis, as a politically autonomous entity in the context of the ecumene, also more or less rules the central political system of the cosmopoliteia. The political system of the metropolis is projected in the whole of the political system of the cosmopolis. From this point of view, Byzantium is the most integrated expression of the ecumenical cosmopoliteia. The Ottoman Period traces the compromise between a conquering totalitarian state of an Asian type with the Greek ecumenical cosmosystem of the polis .
The argument that the premise of the autonomous polis, as this was gradually formed from the Alexandrian Period, was the foundation and the political vehicle of the small-scale anthropocentric cosmosystem until the dawn of the 20th century, does not simply call upon social science to re-evaluate its views on Hellenism. It mainly presents a more general interest in the systematic approach of the socio-political evolution of the world, and more specifically in the understanding of the large-scale anthropocentric cosmosystem, which ultimately leads to the procedure of refuting cosmosystemic despotism and to the entrance of its societies – starting from Europe – into the sphere of the Greek anthropocentric cosmosystem . In this sense, the modern anthropocentric cosmosystem constitutes the third typological component of the overall anthropocentric cosmosystem, which followed the two previous typological categories of the Greek period. This third anthropocentric category, to the extent to which it is recorded as an expansion of the geographical limits of the anthropocentric environment but also as a transition from the small to the large scale, constitutes progress. But to the extent to which it begins, for reasons that are not discussed here, from a zero socio-economic and political starting point, it constitutes regression. Regression, because the fundamental socio-political achievements of the Greek statocentric period (e.g. social liberty as “apophasis” [negation] of dependent labor, political liberty itself, and subsequently democracy) were lost, and so was its ecumenical dimension. Thus we understand why the social and political legacy of the polis could not be dealt with, and subsequently presented as a whole with a comparative reductive claim against the modern political reality of the state-nation. But also as a “local” autonomy it did not inspire the modern political project, not because it did not correlate with the new conditions, but simply because the ideological premise of modern societies was far different from the legacy of the mature Greek cosmosystem. This is why the identification of the polis with the local administration was attempted.
The reference point of the new anthropocentric premise was from the beginning the constitution of the body of fundamental rights and liberties, which compose primary individuality: the elementary personal and social liberties, in which the institutionalization of the labor relations environment, the objectification of law and the conferring of justice (the “state” of law), the “social” welfare, political rights, etc., are also included . The liberties of political society, which introduce the entire refutation of dependent or paid labor, the ideology of leisure, and furthermore, political autonomy, continue to be an absolutely unknown field for modern societies. This remark has a paradigmatic meaning because, although it does not denote deterministically the direction of evolution in the field of the ethnocratic system, it does constitute an extremely interesting research challenge for self-understanding, which opens a very broad field for comparative penetration in terms of analogy into the “sanctum” of the political phenomenon and its typology.
The acknowledgement of the different starting point from which Greek society entered the area of the large scale of the state-nation acquires special significance in this context, with broader dimensions. But it is also proved necessary in relation to whatever refers to the understanding of the Greek singularity nowadays. Ignorance of this singularity of the Greek society constituted the source of various distortions of the interpretation of the Greek paradigm, first of which is its classification in the “periphery” of the vanguard of modernity. It is precisely this that once likened it to the cases of the countries of Latin America, and sometime to those of the Mediterranean perimeter, which, in contrast to Greece, have not just recently exited from a simply authoritarian parenthesis, but entered, actually for the first time, into an anthropocentric political sphere .
Moreover, these interpretative categorizations of the Greek paradigm do not explain why a society of the “periphery,” such as the Greek one, demonstrates the oldest representative/parliamentary system in terms of universal suffrage , has the highest – to a multiple degree – indicator of direct political participation, really did not ever go through the phase of class, ideological or liberating political parties, did not experience at all a fascist type movement. At the same time it did experience more intensely than anywhere else the domination of ‘party-tocracy,’ and certainly was from the beginning motivated by the (re)distributive social premise. These sample questions can be summarized in the following simple query: Can the theory of the ‘periphery’ or of ‘underdevelopment’ adequately explain the phenomenon of the political overdevelopment of the Greek society or certain aspects of the social process (e.g. the approaches to labor)? Can it answer why institutions and political practices, which the modern Greek political system has experienced from the beginning, are being introduced into the countries of the “modern” vanguard one or one and a half centuries later? How does it interpret the fact that precisely these institutions and practices were evaluated by the scientific community – and besides this by the ruling strata of Greek society – as the chief disdaining characteristics that comprised and continue to comprise the Greek “lag”?
It is obvious that Greek social science attempted more to harmonize the modern Greek case with the modern rule than to interpret the phenomenon according to its evolution or its manifestations. This is easily explainable and to some extent understandable, to the extent to which the Greek scientific community, since the constitution of the modern Greek state, lost any autonomy of thought and was subjected to its aim – the convergence with the modern cosmosystem – the essential gnosiological and methodological condition for the interpretation of Greek society. Thus, not only will it undertake an ethnocentric adaptation of the pre-ethnocratic Greek evolution, but it will also perpetually refuse to attribute its distinctive features to the different origins, from which the European “rule” (from feudalistic despotism) and the Greek society (from small-scale universal anthropocentrism) entered the modern anthropocentric world . Thus, these distinctive features, apart from being regarded as the fundamental source of Greek misfortune, will not be developed as an alternative paradigm for the approach of the modern world and the formation of the scientific argument.
I leave these questions unanswered, since dealing with them goes beyond my intentions here, which focus on the search for a speculative context capable of contributing to political science, so that it will be liberated from the bondage of early anthropocentrism, and furthermore, from that of the established, dominating, and basically pre-democratic rule. However, I hold to the basic finding that modern political science, entrapped in this early anthropocentric paradigm, approaches its object in terms of aversion towards its nature. To the extent that it is self-determined in direct relation to the structural expression of politics in the environment of the system that gave birth to it, it appears simultaneously as its vindicator. This is a fundamental weakness that does not allow it to conceive the political phenomenon in its totality, to constitute overall categories and a suitably methodological arsenal, while at the same time restricts it to the service of political choices or ideological aims.
So, the problem of political science in relation to anything pertaining to the demarcation and the institutional development of its fields is fundamentally connected to a broader identity problem. Its confirmation as a science of the state-nation determined its object in relation not to the nature of the political phenomenon, but to its specific institutionalization in the context of this new political structure. Politics, as the state or, even, as political power, regardless of the fact that it has started timidly introducing the perimeter of political dynamics into its interests – poses the question whether power or politics is inherent in society. Whether, in other words, the shaping of politics beyond or in opposition to power and the modern ethnoctatic paradigm is feasible. The adoption of this hypothesis, which lies within the paradigm of the cosmosystem, means that political science can not only stand critically against the existing political system of the state-nation, but also to articulate a way to re-approach and re-demarcation of its object. In each case, the reformulation of the gnosiological and methodological arsenal of political science is of vital importance in the transition from its excusatory and restrictively legitimizing role in the context of the state-nation to the formation of another paradigm for politics, the political system and evolution.
The problem is posed with considerable pointedness in the Greek case, since the overall attachment of social science to the ethnocentric rule – which occurred with the collapse of its cosmosystemic environment – functioned prohibitively to every undertaking that would present the terms of a different approach to evolution. Here the Greek paradigm was called upon to pay the price of the default attachment of modernity to progress, and, furthermore, of treating the concept of “different” as a peripheral deviation, and of the historical past as simply traditional.
From the above it becomes obvious that the re-evaluation of the “object” of politics dramatically broadens the field of interest of political science, allows the constitution of more general interpretative categories, and places the modern period in the historical cosmospace in terms of comparative analogy. In other words, it sets the content of its gnosiological and methodological arsenal on new foundations. At the same time, political science is distanced from its direct experiential environment, becoming in time a critical advocate of political power as a sovereign and largely unique political phenomenon, and not just of its specific applications and of its policies.
In this sense, the established structure and the content of the studies of political science, the directions of political research – including the Greek paradigm – become oppressively limited, distorting, and surely inadequate in relation to anything pertaining to the development of an overall thinking about evolution, the question of the comparative placing of our era within the long historical span, and of course the perspective of the world, in view of its entrance into the third millennium. A period which according to all indicators will be marked in the long-term by the internal questioning of state sovereignty – with the transition from the civil society to the political society, from the principle of the minority to the premise of autonomy, from the political systems of power to democracy. And in another sense, with the transformation of the statocentric structure of the world so that the principle of state sovereignty can leave in favor of a comprehensive linking of the cosmosystem with other fundamental factors, such as the economy.
- Διατηρείται το δικαίωμα αναδημοσιεύσης του παρόντος άρθρου σε οποιοδήποτε μέσο, με απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση να αναγράφεται η παρούσα ιστοσελίδα και ο συγγραφέας ως πηγή. -