The Many-Splendored Society. Book 6. "Order and Virtue"  by Hans L Zetterberg.

This work has several parts called Books. This is a draft of Book 6 dated 2009-05-10. It is is open for vetting and comments by email to the author. The file is updated from time to time. You can ensure that you have the most recent version by checking "Current project" at

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Volume  6.



Draft Material for Chapter 22.

The Realm of the Body Politic: A Search for Order

Creating Democracy in Antiquity
Creating Democracy in Modern Times
  Vocabularies Justifying a Modern Revolution
  Creating the Modern Democratic Platform: Rule of Law, Human Rights, Popular Vote, and Freedom of Opinion
  Overview of the Body Politic
        Figure 22.1. Polity in Society
  The State, an Organization Based on Use of Force
Ordnung muss sein

    Order, Anarchy, Spin, and Contentiousness
        Figure 22.2. Semiotics of Order
  Types of Politics
      Revolutionary Rise-to-Occasion-Politics
    Run-of-the-Mill Politics
      Revolutionary Run-of-the-Mill-Politics
 Decisions by Majority Vote

This chapter has not been completed, organized and edited

To be civic-minded is a lifestyle with focus on community organization and politics. The Civic-minded believe it is important to manifest their views and to discuss their views in order to try to keep and shape a social order. They may turn up at a demonstration, but they have many other ways to influence events. They are not averse to working within their movement or party; they will readily plunge into committee work or act as volunteers or functionaries. They prefer to associate with like-minded people who are engrossed in politics and community life, and many of them have little time for small talk. Typically their small talk turns into political conversation.

Creating Democracy in Antiquity

Zeus, the most powerful among the ancient Greek gods, had helped people by giving them many skills: weapons, business acumen, medicine, et cetera. He passed them on to his people with the help of his messenger Hermes.

When people moved into towns, Zeus discovered that they were unable to stay on good terms. They were in mortal peril in their struggles, not only against nature and its wild animals, but in their struggles over one another's resources. The reason for their insecurity and conflicts was that they lacked the art of politics (politike techne).

Zeus then sent his messenger, Hermes, to Athens with two gifts. One, dike, was the ability to sense justice. The other, aidos, was the ability to sense shame when violating public opinion. These two gifts were to be the foundations of political skill and to enable townspeople to live in civic harmony, settling their destiny and disputes by peaceful means.

Before Hermes embarked on his mission, he asked Zeus about the gifts:

“Shall I give them these in the same way as (other) arts and skills are given to them? In delivering them, a few human beings received, for example, the physician's art, and this sufficed to serve a large number of laymen; and the other professions have received their skills in like manner. Shall I now distribute dike and aidos in the same way, or shall I hand them out to one and all?”

What Hermes wanted to know was whether the skills of politics should be granted to the whole people, or to a ruling élite.

“To one and all”, was Zeus' reply.

This story is told by Protagoras in a conversation with Socrates and recorded by Plato. Protagoras concluded: "In politics it is quite correct for your citizens to accept advice from both blacksmiths and cobblers."

 This tale is not told by Socrates, Plato's spokesman in most dialogues, but by one of his adversaries in Athens, a sophist whose conversations Socrates used to enjoy. Plato did not favor democracy but a rule by elites. The tale is sometimes called “the birth of democracy” (Stone 1988, chapter 4). That is perhaps to claim too much; but at least it tells about the birth of justice and public opinion in politics.

Creating Democracy in Modern Times

Vocabularies Justifying a Modern Revolution

Justifying vocabularies in revolutions are a most fertile field of study. A revolution, a full and rapid change of the majority of realms within a society, requires extraordinary justifications. Usually verbal justifications do not suffice and the revolutionaries need spontaneous and organized violence as well. These, in turn, require justifications of a kind we will address in Volume 7 when we deal with coping with violence.

The American Revolution contributed concrete legislative proposals, such as "No taxation without representation," and also lofty formulations, such as the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776 by Thomas Jefferson. The latter states that the Creator has given all men "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". The latter phrase has some well-known antecedents. John Locke had, at the time of the English revolutions, put forth three rights: "life, liberty, and property," or, "life, liberty, and estate." George Mason, Jefferson's fellow-statesman, had written in the Virginia Declaration of Rights about "the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." Jefferson dropped all references to property. He wrote "pursuit of happiness" and added "among these" to the text, implying that there were others. He apparently took liberties in editing the rights he thought given by God. He respected Benjamin Franklin who believed that God helps those who help themselves.

In Jefferson's own life there is little doubt that the pursuit of happiness was an umbrella covering his pursuits of money, power, knowledge, and artistic beauty, as well as his stately family home. His fortune included approximately 100 slaves who served his household, his farm, and a nail factory. He is particularly known for the statement that "the government governs best which governs least," leaving ample room for all non-political pursuits. He clearly wanted to live in a society without hegemony of the body politic. (On this score he apparently would prefer what we call a many-splendored society.) Lincoln modified this into wiser words: the government should do for the people whatever the people cannot do for themselves.

Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence of thirteen of the British colonies in North America constitutes the world’s most famous vocabulary of justification of a revolution. The vocabulary is not the one that we usually associate with uprisings. There is no mention of any “right to revolution.” There is no slogan of “equality” as in the French revolution. There is no explicit “call to arms.” The word “rebellion” is not found the text. The purpose of the Declaration is to cut ties to a kingdom and establish a republic. There is no talk of a “democracy.” Such a word belongs in another generation. But Jefferson avoids also the word “republic” in the text. The central theme is the right to pursue happiness and the right to disobey any authority, such as the British King and Parliament, when they stand in the way of this pursuit.

The Declaration is a short document, and its longest section is a list of oppressions imposed by an increasingly despotic colonial power. The list of twenty-seven grievances against King George III is best understood if we sort them in a different order and give them headings.

The fighting had already begun when the Declaration was written. The following five items deal with the ongoing war; the last one deals with the situation in Canada. It is included in the Declaration as a hint of the King’s strategic goal for the war, as least as it was seen by the thirteen other North American British colonial territories.

Waging war against us (5 items)

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.

The largest number of grievances about the King and the British Parliament deals do with the run-up to the war of insurrection.

Failures to respect the rule of law (5 items):

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

Ruling without consent of the governed and of elected representatives (5 items):

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Failure to sign legislation enacted in the colonies (2 items):

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Failure to respect an independent judiciary (2 items)

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Failure to respect civilian rule over the military (5 items):

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

Obstructing our pursuit of happiness (3 items):

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

Refusal to allow and/or listen to appeals (2 items):

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

The arguments used to justify the American Revolution were, in part, ordinary grievances that normally are dealt with in courts of law, at a Court of Royalty, and in a Parliament. Here we recognize two types:

·        First, violations of practices and norms established both in England and in the American colonies, for example, suspending trials by jury, refusing to consider and sign laws enacted by colonial legislators, and unwarranted closing of legislatures.

·        Second, violation of practices and norms established in England, but without firm tradition in the colonies, for example, imposing taxes without consent of a local legislature, and quartering armies on the territory without consent of colonists. Such abuses came almost naturally to a colonial power.

Several grievances used to justify the Revolution were of a third type and were formulated with the aid of an image of an ideal society. In this type we have justifications derived from utopias:

·        Third, violations of practices and norms of an ideal society, not firmly established, neither in England, nor in the colonies. It is well to remember that the freedom and justice preached by John Locke were far from fully realized in England at that time. But in a new United States of Americas they should apply.

Locke’s ideas were much more celebrated in America than in England: human equality, inalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. The full development by Montesquieu of Locke’s ideas of separation of legislative and executive power to include also judiciary power were also alive among the American Federalists but belonged still in a utopian category of thinking in Europe, at that time not put into practice anywhere. Was it even seriously contemplated by leading politicians as something to be put into practice?

The steam of the American Revolution can be attributed to many factors; one was its successful mixture of justifications based on established practices and justifications based on untried, but promising, ideal practices.

The last two grievances about the refusal of the British King and Parliament to listen to appeals are interesting to us in the effort to study societies ruled by words rather than through violence and new revolutions. First of all, these grievances are instructive when we seek to understand the American Constitution that emerged after the successful revolutionary war. The new country should have many opportunities for citizens to be heard by the government, and it should be easy for citizens to seek redress. Thus, the Americans were given not only a right to vote for their government in general elections, and to sue their government in a court of law, if need be, they also obtained a regulated process to amend their constitution, and a Supreme Court to guard and interpret the constitution.

The ultimate non-violent practice in this process of making a government pay attention to grievances from the citizens is civil disobedience.

Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is an active, polite, and non-violent response to disliked laws. It provides practical actions for persons whose dignity has been offended by laws or authorities and who therefore perceive a right of disobedience in regards to the offending law. In short, it is one way to implement Verdrass' fifth thesis that persons whose dignity has been offended by laws or authorities need not obey the offensive laws or directives[1]. Henry David Thoreau inspired this practice of canceling obnoxious governmental practices. In his essay Civil Disobedience (Thoreau 1849) he presents his reasons for having refused to pay taxes as an act of protest against slavery and against the Mexican-American War.

If the civilly disobedient, "the resistors," are caught by the police, they refuse to move. They may try to make the violence used by the police during their capture visible to the media. If drawn into court, they get new opportunities for verbal protests and for publicity for their cause. The process has been used by movements for independence (India), against laws of racial segregation (American South and South Africa), and against drafts into wars considered unjust (Vietnam).

Civil disobedience is an organized activity that requires knowledge and preparation by the resistors. This is an accepted means of changing norms in a modern society, but only if the resistors, if and when caught, are prepared to assume the complete, prescribed consequences of the existing laws which they want to have abrogated. They must be psychologically prepared, not only for criminal charges, but for the negative opinions that the law-abiding always ascribe to deviants. (We will soon discuss this tendency to assign negative evaluations to those who deviate from norms as Proposition 14:6 "The First Principles of Social Punishment.") However, these individuals may become heroes if their activity ends with the invalidation of the unwanted law.

An outstanding example of this kind of hero is "the mother of the civil rights movement" in the United States, Mrs. Rosa Parks, an African-American seamstress, who had been a secretary to the President of NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. On the 1st of December 1955 she was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for not standing and letting a white bus rider take her seat. Protests lasting eleven months were organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, pastor of a local Baptist Church. On November 13, 1956 the US Supreme Court declared that Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses were illegal, a landmark decision that changed the country.

Creating the Modern Democratic Platform: Rule of Law, Human Rights, Popular Vote, and Freedom of Opinion

The British had formulated some privileges for peers in the Magna Charta of 1215 that regulated relations between the King and the nobility. In 1689, “An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown” extended in the Magna Charta to others, that is, beyond the relation between the aristocracy and the Crown.

John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1690), written at the time of the Glorious Revolution, was the first publication to thoroughly and more convincingly promote the universal human rights. In his version, they were rights of liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. Almost a century later in America, the Declaration of Independence asserted these natural rights, including right to revolution. The new Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted it on July 4 1776.

Thirteen years later, France got a Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizens. A few members of the French National Assembly had drafted the text that also contained a right to revolution. The Assembly did not wait to adopt it; revolution was brewing in Paris in August 1789. For many, the bloody French Revolution has overshadowed the fact that this Declaration contains the rules of law, and is a landmark of civil rights and democracy. The French Declaration concerns all citizens in their relations to their states:

Article 1 establishes that all humans are born free with equal rights, and they remain so throughout their lives. This equality has numerous implications, some discovered early, some generations later. One of the early ones is that the same laws and the same courts that applied to ordinary citizens shall apply to kings and queens, noblemen, priests, generals, and others holding positions of high distinction. This was a great departure from the prevailing order of those days.

Article 2 asserts that organizations of the body politic exist for no other purposes than the exercise and preservation of the inalienable rights of liberty, property, safety, and resistance to oppression. This was a major change in a country were the purpose of the state had been the glory of the King and his court.

Article 3 grounds all sovereignty in the French nation. Note that reference to “nation” in those days refereed, not to ethnic traditions, but simply to “natives,” i.e. born in France . The article implies that ruling the country requires consent of the governed.

Article 4 maintains that there are no limits on a person’s exercise of rights except when they violate the rights of other people, for they too have the same rights. Laws establish such limits.

Article 5 allows laws against any actions that injure society. This turned out to be a rubber clause. In practice, anyone op-posed to the Revolution risked arrest, conviction, and the guillotine when the Jacobins applied this clause. However, a more fundamental juridical advance is also included in Article 5: “Nothing that is not forbidden by Law may be hindered, and no one may be compelled to do what the Law does not ordain.”

Article 6 establishes three principles.  First, all legislation is enacted by general will XE "general will". The general will is manifest by popular vote. Citizens vote directly to choose policies, laws, and leaders, or they take part in a ballot to elect representatives who will handle such decisions. The principle of equality from Article 1 implies that each person has one vote. Second, all citizens shall have equal access to positions in the public sector; the priority of noblemen for top jobs was abolished. Third, merit alone should determine appointments to these positions. The enactment of these principles marked the end of l’ancien ré-gime, a society and a state based on privileges.

Article 7 deals with arrests and detainments. They may only be made in cases prescribed in laws, and, if followed without undue delay by a prosecution according to law. Law officers must act according to laws for enforcements. Any citizen summoned by law must comply; resistance means guilt.

Article 8 states that unnecessary punishments may not be authorized. More important, the Article prohibits retroactive legislation; acts committed prior to the day a law is enactment are not punishable.

Article 9 ascertains that a man is presumed innocent until he is found guilty by law. In time, this important realm norm of the body politic permeated the entire administration of justice. However, the emerging mass media of the Revolutions paid only lip service to this norm. To this day, it is routine that media in effect make suspects seem guilty before any court verdict.

Articles 10 and 11 establish the rights to express opinions freely, even religious ones, in speaking, writing and print. This, as we have argued (page xx in Volume 1) is the lifeblood of civilized societies.

Article 12 deals with police and armed forces and prohibits their officers to use them for private ends, a very important realm norm that puts their use of violence under civilian control.

Article 13 authorizes the state to procure tax money from its citizens for administration and for police and armed forces in proportion to the payer’s ability to pay.

Article 14 states that the citizens shall themselves determine, by themselves or by their representation, the amount of tax, and its use.

Article 15 provides for obligatory public accounting of the use of tax receipts and public funds.

Article 16 tells the world that separation of powers is necessary if a country shall have a constitution worth its name.

Article 17 is the last one in the Declaration. It reiterates the sacredness of property rights, an appropriate signature of its bourgeois authors.

In all, we have in this statement from 1789 a neat bundle of democratic modernity. It establishes rule of law, assumptions of human rights, and legislation by democracy. Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 embody rule of law (Sterzel 2009, 114-15). Articles 2 and 17 proclaim indisputable and universal human rights. Article 3 and 6 establishes popular vote with representative government. Articles 10 and 11 specify the prerequisites of any democracy in the recognition of freedom of opinion. The platform of democracy  rests on these four legs: Rule of Law, Human Rights, Popular Voting, and Freedom of Opinion.

The French Revolution itself went astray into terror and dictatorships. However, during the following two centuries many and, in some instances, all of the ideas in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizens have seeped into constitutions in Europe and beyond.


Overview of the Body Politic

To guide us to the most relevant aspects of the study of statecraft and administration, i.e. the body politic, we elaborate Column 3 in of The Periodic Table of Societal Realms with some additional examples (Figure 22.1). The general categories are familiar from our review of science, art, economy, and religion, but the content is entirely different.


Figure 22.1. Polity in Society


Societal Structures

Societal Functions




inside realms

between realms









Import values




the cardinal value of order



























Execu-   tive offices














Civic organi-zations












Town meetings






with parties and/or politicians



















Civic leaders


















Civic workers









Legal advisors


Power brokers


Public research councils


Public art endown-ments


State churches



Tax authorities


Draft boards


and organi-zations
on the outlook to other realms for some-thing beneficial to polity e.g. social scientists, ideologues









Civic minded


Cardinal Value








Reward System:


 Positions, tributes




Democracy, diplomacy


Type of Freedom:


 Civic liberties


Spontaneous Order


Public opinions


The letters marking the rows are those found in a summary of the various language-products in society called Table of Social Realms in Chapter 9. The letters after "I" continue as columns to make space in the center for some illustrative examples.


A quick glance at this table, including its headings of rows and columns, may give some readers the impression that here is human society. They are mislead. Unfortunately, the contents of many modern text books about society can to nearly hundred percent fit into the categories covered in our table "Polity in Society." The contents of our parallel tables — "Science in Society," "Art in Society," "Economy in Society,"  "Religion in Society" and the tableaux on "Morality in Society" in next chapter — are ignored or treated grudgingly (often even condescendingly or ignorantly) in textbooks in tax-financed schools, i.e. schools with curricula set up by politicians and with educators who are graduates from state-run teachers colleges. 

There have been historians (mostly Germans like Leopold von Ranke) who have claimed that we know everything important about society by going to the archives of the state. He and many political scientists believe that the formations and preservations of states are the most important events in history. The state, as we have learned, is an inclusive organization in the body politic based on a legitimate use of force within its territory. It is actually no more than an organization among many others. Nor is it a network or medium. More important, the body politic is only one societal realm among at least five others.

The State, an Organization Based on Use of Force

The central actors in the body politic are the states.

The state has often been imbued with mystique. Conservative social thinkers of the Romantic era thought that the state embodied the forces, divine and secular, that formed the spirit of the total society. Their opposite numbers, the socialists, made the state equally mysterious by equating their state with the total society, thus believing both that "all is politics" and that "the state fades away."

Reality is much simpler. A state is first and foremost an organization (Kelsen 1934/1967, p. 286-319). It contains all the properties to be found in any organization: leadership (government), norms (laws), and members (subjects or citizens). Then the mystique disappears. The state is not a public, nor a network. It is an organization, an organization capable of interacting with other states and recognized as a state by them. Its norms are coercive. A lion’s share of the state’s norms concern the conduct of its staff (functionaries), not its members. Max Weber, Hans Kelsen, Torgny T. Segerstedt and many others have described what makes this organization different from others. It is, says Weber "a community that legitimately claims a monopoly of the use of physical force." Like some other organizations the state has its defined territory and its permanent population. What is unique for the modern state is its monopoly on the use of lawful violence within its geographic territory. Only the state’s police may lay hand on its subjects, only the courts of the state may deprive them of freedom, only the state may keep armed forces for warfare.

Weber's theory foresaw the modern state’s dependency on a bureaucracy based on rational rules and formal competence, but this dependency is true also of large business corporations, big research laboratories, and the established churches. All big and lasting organizations have staffs and rules of succession to replace generations and other shift in leadership.

A 'guerilla' organization operates within a territory, it uses violence against military and police targets and public property in attempts to take over the government through  paramilitary force. A 'mafia' is an organization (often clan-based) that has its own laws, courts, taxation (extortion), succession rules, and may maintain territorial borders against other mafias – but its use of force is not a legitimate monopoly as is the state's use of violence. It has not been authorized by what Kelsen calls the basic norms, i.e. the rules (constitutions) delineating how to create laws and fill positions of authority. A 'terrorist organization,' like a guerilla and mafia differs from a state in that it lacks legitimacy in its use of violence, and it uses violence against civilians to destabilize societies. 

Within the territorial framework of a state we may find a multiplicity of other civilian organizations: families, associations, corporations, churches, private schools, art galleries, and all the rest of the many-splendored society. Some of these cross state borders and are regional or international. Networks, in particular, are not restricted and and can cross lines of membership set up by states.


Ordnung muss sein

The political sphere is, in a broad sense of the terms, dedicated to seeking order. Order is the cardinal value of this societal realm. However, there are always different versions of the desired order, and the conflicts between them are the stuff of political life.

Order is a cardinal value composed of a body prescriptions. The body politic is full of more or less compelling prescriptions. Its practice includes rules for the juridical system, the bureaucracy, diplomacy, and warfare, as well as a system for gaining the consent of the governed for the (new or old) order. Our Chapter 11, "Vocabularies of Regulation" is thus a basic preparation for the study of the body politic. Likewise, "Vocabularies of Honor" (Chapter 14) is helpful background knowledge for the student of politics.

In Chapter 15 there is a section on "Vocabularies Supporting Order." In Proposition 15:7 some key findings of the social psychology of conformity to prescriptions are summarized.

(a) The more favorable evaluations a person receives in an encounter, the more he his likely to conform to the prescriptions in the encounter.

(b) When a person in an encounter deviates from its customary prescriptions (norms) the others in the encounter tend to articulate the prescription.

(c) The more persons comply with the prescriptions in an encounter, the more favorable evaluations they tend to receive from others in the encounter, and the less they comply the more unfavorable evaluations they tend to receive.

(d) A member of an encounter that violates norms and thereby hurts other members is met by an expectation (a new norm) that requires him to compensate the victims.

(e) The compensation shall be given not only to the victims but also to the victims' significant encounters that have been affected by the violation (restorative justice).

Equipped with insights such as these about prescriptions in small encounters it becomes easier to understand the the prescriptions that shape the cardinal value of order in the big realm of body politics.

Order, Anarchy, Spin, and Contentiousness

A semiotic analysis helps us specify what is order and what is not order. Figure 22.2 tells us to separate Order from Anarchy — top and bottom in the Figure — and separate from both of these what we call Spin (propaganda) and Contentiousness (protest) — right and left in a semiotic square.

The opposite to order is 'anarchy.' The anarchists find compulsive orders, such as the state, so obnoxious that anything else is better. Anarchists want to destroy the state, sometimes without proposing any alternatives, sometimes with alternatives such as a spontaneous order, as argued by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the Nineteenth Century French intellectual who was the first call himself "anarchist." One of his pamphlets had as its title a slogan, "property is theft," which became a common theme among European anarchists.  

Figure 22.2. Semiotics of Order

'Spin' is political doublespeak. It is actually political slang of the late 20th Century that we here elevate to a scholarly term for political propaganda. Propaganda is a too broad term for our purposes since it can be religious, commercial or moral, not only political. Spin is practically built into the character of both democratic and authoritarian politics and politicians; it is better to assume that it is at hand than that unbiased honesty prevails when order is explained and defended.

Potemkin's fakery of villages, constructed in 1789 to impress the Russian ruler Catherine II on her tours of the the newly conquered Crimea, has became a legendary spin. Goebbels is the modern paradigm of a propaganda minister using deceptive, self-serving spin in mass media on behalf of Hitler. Of late, political commentary with less outright lies than Goebbels is commonly called spin. It stands for biased accounts and selective use of facts in political discourse, often with emotive overtones. Spin is located on the right side of the semiotic square analyzing order.

To the the left is 'Contentiousness.' It can be pre-revolutionary and cancerous as Charles Tilly describes it in one of his big histories of popular struggle, The Contentious French (Tilly 1986). Or, it can be more like run-of-the mill politics as he describes in his other big history of popular struggles, Popular Contention in Great Britain, 1758-1834 (Tilly 1995).

The prototype of modern contentiousness is the public street demonstration that includes not only angry young men, but mothers with babies, and some intellectuals, and occasionally a religious leader.

Types of Politics

An important distinction in the study of the realm of polity has been proposed by Sheldon S Wolin (1996, p. 31) between the political and politics. This dissimilarity has been difficult for both laymen and social scientists to use in ordinary discourse. I will therefore phrase it as a difference between rise-to-occasion-politics and run-of-the-mill-politics. 'Rise-to-occasion-politics' (Wolin's political) occurs when “society composed of diversities can nonetheless enjoy moments of commonality when, through public deliberations, collective power is used to promote or protect the well-being of the collectivity.“ In contrast, run-of-the-mill-politics (Wolin's politics) "refers to the legitimized and public contestation, primarily by organized and unequal social powers, over access to the resources available to the public authorities of the collectivity.” Rise-to-occasion-politics is “episodic, rare.” Run-of-the mill-politics  is “continuous, ceaseless, and endless,” says Wolin. 


Some contentious issues may grow into 'social movements'. Social movements tend to develop in harmful situations where an issue creates a concern in networks that spreads to media and organizations so that a situation develops where the same issue concerns organizations, networks, and media. The latter condition is a sine qua non of a social movement and the starting point for rise-to-occasion politics. This can take place in both democratic and non-democratic societies.

Social movements seem to have a natural life cycle in both Western and non-Western societies. Combining the insights in an article by Downs (1972) and a book by Spector and Kitsuse (1977) we can identify six stages.

  1. Pre-problem stage. A harmful situation exists and is observed in some encounters. A spontaneous order of concerned citizens emerges, but it has not yet attracted the attention of party officials, lawmakers, journalists, or the public. Small networks and groups make initial claims and begin to recruit support.

  2. Alarmed discovery and aggressive or euphoric enthusiasm. A dramatic event creates larger public support to solve the problem, such as the 1978 Love Canal Tragedy in the United States or the 2002 Kursk submarine disaster in Russia. There is a mobilizing effect from circular emotive reactions in demonstrations and manifestations.

  3. Official recognition of problem. Established leadership get involved: there may be legislation or a creation of agencies to deal with the harmful situation. This is the moment for rise-to-occasion politics to deliver. The result may be at least some legislation to cope with the issue, such as an act on public building safety, child protection, wildlife preservation, ozone molecules stability, automobile emissions control, or whatever issue was at hand.

  4. Gradual decline in public interest. Recognizing the costs of significant progress and becoming bored with the problem, media attention fades, and the public loses much interest. At this stage the movements will survive only if they find new issues.

  5. Active dissatisfaction in original groups. The groups who made initial claims reemerge and express dissatisfaction with how the harmful situation is being handled. Some who have lost confidence in how the problem is being handled try to create revivals with broader or more radical agendas.

  6. Post-problem stage. In spite of the fact that only limited improvement may have been achieved, the issue at hand is replaced by new problems.

These stages are useful benchmarks in assessing public reaction in modern societies to potentially harmful problems. Knowledge of these stages is also useful in assessing the impact on social change of various movements, or on efforts to lengthen the life of a movement.

A sophisticated observer does not take for granted that a social movement will have its day and blow over. The century-old environmental movement has switched its concerns from issues of conservation and national parks to any recreation on lakes or in mountains and woods, to abatement of noise and congestion in cities, to air and water pollution, to abandoning nuclear energy, to the cleaning-up of poisonous waste, to biological diversity, to an agriculture free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, to global warming. A core of ecology has remained in all these changes. The shifting foci have given environmentalism a much longer life than a typical social movement.

At times, events forces themselves upon populations and their politicians and they must take actions with little room for input from a new social movement. September 11th 2001 in the United States was analogous to Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1940 in that the enemy had reached into “the heart of the eagle,” to use Usama bin Ladin’s expression. The Pentagon, America’s Defense Department in Washington, D.C. was hit by a captured commercial airplane. Another such plane was downed before it hit the White House. The symbol of the American economy, the twin skyscrapers in The World Trade Center in New York, were demolished. The American people were subjected to threats of further indiscriminate violence. Their way of life was under attack. The psychological effects among the general public of the first foreign assaults ever on their native soil were enormous, albeit temporary. The rallying cry “United We Stand!” echoed after September 11th throughout the United States. The politicians who rose to the occasion were Rudolph W. (Rudy) Giuliani, Mayor of New York City, and George W. Bush, President of the United States.

In his election campaign in 2000 George W. Bush had stressed that the United States would not act as the world’s policeman. He warned against having the United States take on the role of nation-builder and criticized his predecessor Bill Clinton for having been too active in Somalia and Kosovo. But then September 11th struck, and the same Bush rose to the occasion by becoming a wartime president. The triggering event was the attack on the American people and the American Creed, but an underlying cause was also awakened. This was an idea born and widely expressed at the time of the American invasion of Cuba in 1898 that the United States had a mission "to make the world safe for democracy and the market economy." Armed with such a vision, the United States had entered the first and second World War, the Korean and Vietnam wars. President Bush took military action to invade Afghanistan and wipe out the Usama bin Ladin’s training camps for for international Muslim terrorists. He was recommended this military response by his vice president, Dick Cheney, and the then White House security advisor Condolezza Rice. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz then promoted an extension of military operations, the Irak war, with a remote relation to the September 11 attack.

Needless to say, there is no assurance that military rise-to-the occasion politics lead to the desired results. Rise-to-the occasion foreign politics may also be diplomatic. In the flow of political news there are now and then items that are called "windows of opportunity." The columnist Thomas L. Friedman takes a few examples from contemporary history:

Anwar Sadat’s heroic overture to Israel, and Menachem Begin’s response, made the Jimmy Carter-engineered Camp David peace treaty possible. The painful, post-1973 war stalemate between Israel and Egypt and Syria made Henry Kissinger’s disengagement agreements possible. The collapse of the Soviet Union and America’s defeat of Iraq in the first gulf war made possible James Baker’s success in putting the Madrid peace process together.

What all three of these U.S. statesmen had in common, though — and this is the second criterion — was that when history gave them an opening, they seized it, by being tough, cunning and fair with both sides.

The handling of such political opportunities decides which events are retold in the history books and not only published in the mass media of the day. In the above example the politicians could have abstained from active responses, but they rose to the occasions.

Revolutionary Rise-to-Occasion-Politics

A 'revolution' is a drastic change in the central zone of a society. Revolutions with rise-to-occasion-politics are fast and the process can be completed in months or a few years. (Revolutions with run-of-the-mill-politics may require decades.) Revolutions have mass mobilization on a larger scale than we met in the six-step cycle of social movements. They result in a regime change in the body politic as well as fundamental changes in the manning and mandate for the economic, religious, intellectual, and cultural elites. Of these changes, at least the regime change is usually marked by violence.

In 1790 Edmund Burke published his book Reflections on the French Revolution. It is both a probing analysis of what happened during the French Revolution and an epochal formulation of that which would become known as a conservative view of society. ("Conservatism" as a concept in the political debate came into general use 40 years later.)

Burke maintained that a domestic historical tradition should take precedence over a foreign, imperialistic power. He therefore defended Ireland against England and the Hindus against the British East Indian Company.

He also defended a historical France against the radical intellectuals who called themselves "Jacobins" and whose members were recruited to form the governing junta of the Revolution. The fact that the Jacobins were Frenchmen and did not represent a foreign power of occupation was irrelevant for Burke. What mattered for him was their assault on the actual structures and values that were France.

The American Revolution wanted freedom for actual living human beings, who had developed customs and rules for living in the New World. The French Revolution did not seek freedom for France's existing aristocrats, priests, burghers and peasants. They sought freedom for a kind of person that did not exist except in a very small number of Jacobins, but who would be formed by the Revolution through upbringing, education, and — if needed — terror.

The American Revolution represented a large interest group in North America. They had a genuine investment in the American society. They loved their America as it was. The French Revolution represented a smaller interest group. They did not love France as it was, but they loved the picture of the France they wanted to create.

In order to create the new France, the Jacobins freed Catholic priests, nuns and monks from their ties to the Church, and instead tied them to the Revolution with a new oath of allegiance. One was to worship reason and virtue as gods, not Jesus and Maria. New, secularized rituals replaced church services, and a new calendar abandoned religious holidays and gave the people new holidays. Sentiments for one's family and kin were considered loathsome; divorces became frequent and simple. The aristocracy was expunged through systematic, rational executions by the guillotine.

In the old French society, rights and property were granted to families and civil associations. Rights and property were thus given to villages, homesteads, estates, guilds, congregations, monasteries, universities, etc. The society resulting from the Revolution gave rights and property only to the state and to private individuals, not to civil associations.

Edmund Burke was bitingly critical of the Revolution's legislation, and he thereby developed a conservative ideology with its defense of the family and of civil associations, religion, and private property. The American Constitution, which defended these institutions, was accordingly spared such criticism, and reaped instead Burke's approval.

The lesson of this is not that Burke's preference necessarily is correct. The scholarly conclusion is that there is an unsurpassable difference between the French and American revolutions and the constitutions that they gave birth to. One should get out of the habit of mentioning them in the same breath.

Revolutions are codified by new or revised constitutions. Constitutions also emerge out of wars and are initially drafted in the peace treaties (Bobbitt 2002). European peace conferences – Augsburg, Westphalia, Utrecht, Vienna, and Versailles – forged the outcomes of wars not only into cease-fire and border agreements but also into constitutions. Through such treaties the princely state was created, then the kingly state, and the various territorial states, such as the imperial state and the nation-states. A decolonization treaty gave the world a new kind of multi-national and multi-ethnic state, for example India.

Run-of-the-Mill Politics

'Run-of-the mill politics' is best defined by an almost endless enumeration and repetition of the political acts of "tax and spend and regulate", the basic trade in stock of politicians. It is based on committee work, close reading of reports and memoranda, decoding and recoding legislative language and administrative instructions, checking issues with colleagues, listening to lobbyists, making estimates for appropriations and budgets, and, in democracies, casting votes in assemblies. This drudgery is far from the Olympian heights of political pronouncements and loud proclamations to the public. The dullness of the every-day chores in run-of-the-mill-politics often disappoint young people and make short their stay in political activities. 

The process of much run-of-the mill politics is rent seeking, i.e., the pursuit of work-free income guaranteed for long periods. It was described when we dealt with the realm of the economy. In politics rent-seeking is the pursuit of favors in the form work-free money for example, subsidies, allowances, and citizen wages. Except in the last case the money involved is given to a smaller number of citizens, but is obtained by taxation and thus collected from all citizens and their businesses.

The decision involved in any event in modern parliamentary, administrative, and court proceedings are documented in protocols. The rationality of the process requires that whatever documentation is related to one and the same issue should preferably be kept in the same file. (to be moved)

In moments of rise-to-the-occasion-politics, leaders with new visions embodied in their party program may ascend to power after free elections in which at least two parties with different visions and versions of social order compete. In periods of run-of-the-mill-politics parties compete by promising and claiming and delivering political favors to their supporters. In both cases the democratic rule requires that the losing side leave the government after an election.

Revolutionary Run-of-the-Mill-Politics

Run-of-the-mill politics can also produce revolutions. This is a slower process that nevertheless drastically changes the composition and mandates of the different élites of the central zone. Critics compare it to a slow cancer, for example, when a political movement, democratic or otherwise, gains dominance in the larger society from having infected its entire central zone. I have watch one such revolution at close range in Sweden where processes in the central zone in the 20th century provide an illustration. The Swedish publicist Svegfors (1981) called it "revolution in small steps."

With few interruptions Social Democrats were at the head of Swedish government for seventy years beginning in 1932. Some political skills in crucial circumstances solidified their rule. In the 1930s they successfully piloted the country through the depression. In the 1940s they headed the coalition government that by hook or crock kept Sweden out of World War II. In the 1950s they governed during an economic boom when living standards for the broad masses rose at a remarkable rate. When they took over in 1932 they were suspicious of state power and of the ruling elites in the central zone of those days. The latter had their base in private capital, earned or inherited, in competence defined by colleagues or by university degrees, in government sinecures that guaranteed high salaries and small workloads. The jurists, professors, priests, officers, doctors, apothecaries, families in business and banking, and the country gentlemen had these resources and were independent centers of power and culture, Geld und Geist (money and culture), as the Germans used to say. They constituted the central zone of those days.

In the name of democracy, the Swedish Social Democrats set out to crash this system. They built an apparatus of union leaders and loyal civil servants, and they took control of an extensive network of voluntary associations covering every nook and movement in the land. They succeeded beyond all plans. Half a century later the General Directors of the governmental bureaucracies were loyal servants of the state, but also good listeners to the Social Democratic apparatus, often formal party members. There were hardly any supreme court judges whose careers had not taken the route through a government department run by a socialist politician. The top physicians of the land were practically all engaged in socialized medicine. All these elites, and also professors, priests, teachers, and military officers, had salaries from from the government and/or were taxed by the government so the their incomes did not allow for extensive cultural activities or personal adventures into non-socialist politics.

The change was not swift as when the Swedish King Charles IX in the seventeenth century took over the estates of the elites of his day and decapitated some some central figures of the aristocracy. In the middle of the twentieth century the shift in the Swedish central zone was insidious. The general public hardly realized what was happening, and neither did many in the old elites.

In the year 2000, the lion's share of all Swedish college and university presidents were Social Democrats, and the same applied to bishops, top central bureaucrats, local heads of social agencies, museum and theater directors, in short, to all top positions in society except big business and the judges of the supreme courts. Of course, the level of electoral support for the Social Democrats varied in these groups; for example, it was higher among bishops than generals. The average elite support of Social Democratic Party – once the party of the working class – was as high as seventy to eighty percent. Probably less than half of these Social Democrats had been appointed by a Social Democratic government because they were in tune with the party. The rest were "fellow-travelers" who quite honestly had found the political party of the central zone most congenial. For such is the lure and the workings of central zones.

The spins of slow revolutionary run-of-the-mill politics are many. A Swedish one was to erase the difference between state and society and call the state "society," a speech habit that also most Swedish political scientists use. The Social Democratic Party had a spin machine with holds on the press. Outright lying accompanied some scandals, for example, discoveries that the Party used a  government spy agency to report to its leadership and to labor leaders on citizens in the leftist opposition. Lies, even in Parliament, denied that a Social Democratic minister of justice and other top officials frequented a luxury brothel in Stockholm that also was used by foreign diplomats. These parallels to the Watergate affair in Washington 1972 and the Profumo affair in London 1963 had no political fallouts at all in Sweden, so effective were the Social Democratic spins.

Mexico during the twentieth century adds other lessons of cancerous politics. The Mexican revolution started in 1910. But it was not until 1917 that the country became stable enough to create the new Constitution, which is still in effect. Land reform was an important part of that constitution, resulting in the ejido, or farm cooperative program that redistributed much of the country's land from wealthy land holders to the peasants. The ejidos are still in place almost a hundred years later and comprise nearly half of all the farmland in Mexico. During this period the political party PRI, Partido de la Revolucionario Institucional, was established. Educational and other reforms continued.

PRI came to dominate the central zone of Mexico for 71 years until PAN, Partido Accion Nacional, took over in 2000. Throughout the seven decades of dominance, PRI retained its revolutionary rhetoric, but its actual policies became more and more conservative. Working to preserve as much as possible of the national patrimony for the party bosses and their cronies, the party engaged in vote-buying, control over the news media, intimidation, and outright fraud.

To gain long possession of a central zone changes the de facto agenda of a political party or junta. You may think you rule the central zone and thereby the country, but the joys and privileges of the central zone actually begin to rule you.


Decisions by Majority Vote

Decision-making by casting votes may prevail not only in parliamentary assemblies and general elections but also in juntas, holy seas, board meetings, voluntary private associations, et cetera. It leads to binding decisions in the forms of appointments to offices, rules, programs, legislation, et cetera, as provided by their charters. The process of majority rule sometimes attempts to approximate John Locke’s ideal of a government based on the consent of all governed, and sometimes only to a consent within a group or a governing elite. In the latter cases casting of votes has nothing to do with popular democracy.

The founders of democracy did not limit themselves to the democratic mechanism of casting votes in general elections and in parliaments (representative democracy). They also considered that the public could vote on specific issues (direct democracy). Different systems of voting in direct democracy were developed. In town meetings in Switzerland and New England votes were cast by a show of hands. In the initiatives – called by concerned citizens – and referendums – called by the authorities and politicians – printed ballots are cast at different voting locations.

The growth of cities removed the physical conditions for town meetings, but the referendum became a lasting institution in some places. Politicians in contemporary California and Switzerland are always aware of the possibility of a referendum or an initiative. In other democracies, referendums are rare. They are mostly resorted to in questions regarding the adoption of a new constitutions, the establishment of new boundaries, or the transfer of powers to supranational institutions, such as the European Union. They have occasionally been used to decide issues – for example, the prohibition of alcohol, that have created unmanageable tensions within the party systems, or irresolvable conflicts between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.


Efter 20 år i universitetsvärlden i USA hade jag återvänt till Sverige. Som chef för Sifo, en organisation för survey research, gjorde jag om företaget till en institution för tillämpad samhällsvetenskap. Men vi höll också kvar den ursprungliga produktlinjen av opinionsmätningar och valanalyser, även om de bara utgjorde en handfull procent av omsättningen.

I valrörelsen 1982 diskuterade vi som vanligt de kvartalsmässiga sammanställningarna av de månatliga väljarbarometrarna. De många intervjuerna gjorde att man kunde detaljstudera väljarkåren. Bland annat kunde man se hur anställda i privat tjänst röstade i jämförelse med anställda i offentlig tjänst. De siffror som för alltid fastnat i mitt medvetande från genomgångarna var inte dessa röstetal utan hur många som var anställda i privat och offentlig tjänst; ”basen” för procenttalen som det heter på statistikernas språk. Antalet anställda i offentlig tjänst hade närmat sig antalet i privat tjänst. Och om man lade till dem som var sjukskrivna och arbetslösa eller på annat sätt levde på medel från offentliga kassor så blev de offentligförsörjda en majoritet i väljarkåren. Sådan information om vart Sverige var på väg fanns inte i officiell statistik.

Vi hajade till inför siffrorna. Kunde det vara fel i urval eller tabellering? Nej, allting var rätt. Sverige var på väg in i en situation som varken demokratins fäder eller moderna demokratiteoretiker inom modern statskunskap hade haft anledning att fundera över. Det hade övergått deras tankehorisont att den offentliga sektorn kunde bli så stor. Deras resonemang utgick från att det är en minoritet som bemannar staten och lever av staten. Problemet de sökte lösa gällde hur man skulle kontrollera denna minoritet och få den att ta direktiv från majoriteten, som man förutsatte var försörjd på annat sätt än med statsmedel.

I nästa valrörelse, 1985, följde vi rutinmässigt vad vi började kalla ”sektorsröstning”. Jag tittade också det nya ”skattefinansierade tjänstekomplexet” (SvD 23 juni 1986)

Vi har i Sverige fått ett skattefinansierat tjänstekomplex som skulle få den gamla överhetsstatens ämbetsmän att blekna. För nu finns inte bara jurister, lärare, officerare och präster. Den helt överväldigande delen av de offentliganställda är nybyråkrater och deras underlydande. Här finns arbetsförmedlare, barnstugeföreståndare, energirådgivare, fritidspedagoger, försäkringskassans handläggare av alla slag, jämställdhetsombud, kultursekreterare, skolkuratorer, sjukvårdsbyråkrater, sjukvårdsbiträden, socialassistenter, terapeuter av olika slag ungdomskonsulenter etc. etc. Listan av skattefinansierade yrken som tillkommit efter andra världskriget kunde fylla hela denna tidningssida. 

Det var också värt att analysera skattefinansierade tjänstekomplexets organisationer och nätverk. Här fanns kommunförbund, kommuner och kommunalråd; landstingsförbund, landsting och landstingsråd; nybildade verk och myndigheter (eller nya avdelningar i gamla verk och myndigheter); i komplexet ingick AMS och de offentliganställdas fackföreningar. 

Företrädare för det skattefinansierade tjänstekomplexet dominerar numera på socialdemokratiska partikongresser, de är i majoritet också på vänsterpartiet kommunisternas kongress, på folkpartiets landsmöte, på moderaternas stämma. Det har sedan några år var uppenbart både för den politiska journalistiken och för forskningen att våra politiska församlingar är ockuperade av det skattefinansierade tjänstekomplexets folk — riksdag, landsting, kommunfullmäktige. Det nya på 80-talet är att de offentligförsörjda också dominerar i väljarkåren (ibid).   

De svenska statsvetarna var först skeptiska till att det skulle finas en sektorsröstning som kompletterade röstetalet från socialdemokratins klass- och löntagarröstning. Men så var det.

De konservativas vanliga budskap ”Sänk skatterna!” blir en allt tydligare bumerang när majoriteten av väljarna redan finns i den offentliga sektorn. Sänkta skatter betyder att deras offentliga arbetsplatser får minskad budget, ger sämre service, och framför allt måste dra ned på personal och göra offentliganställda arbetslösa. Skattesänkning som varit ett både sakligt och effektivt argument för de borgerliga i en tidigare era var fortfarande ett sakligt argument men alltmer kontraproduktivt i valrörelser med Sveriges nya sociala struktur i vilken den offentliga sektorn blivit den ofantliga sektorn också i antalet stödröstande. Med ekonomins rationalitet var skattesänkning högst motiverad. Men med politikens rationalitet var den självmål. Man måste lära sig att olika livsområden i samhället har sin egen rationalitet.


Opinion Polls

In the United States, public opinion polls on issues had been launched in 1935 by George H. Gallup and Elmo Roper, working independently of one another. The pioneering pollsters wanted to be relevant both to journalism and to politics. Their polls on issues quickly found a role in the democratic process. They adjusted their reporting by presenting percentages showing majority and minority views in their tables (to this day, polls for the media do not report factor or cluster analyses, nor do they penetrate latent structures of opinions, as is expected in academic research). After seventy years of polling it is well documented that pollsters have at times inspired and facilitated democratic processes and decisions (Lijphart 1999).

Opinion polls and the use of their results in journalism and lobbying leads to knowledge about how people think and feel, and is appropriately called "opinion research." They have no constitutional consequences. But unplanned by the fathers of democracy, polls have become an informal part of the democratic political process

Regular polls of electoral standing – also an innovation of Gallup and Roper – showing support for government and opposition and/or about the public’s confidence in elected leaders keep up the voters’ interest in politics between elections. And they become particularly relevant to elected politicians toward the end of term in office when they face re-election. Regularly the polls inform incumbents in office about the support they and their party have from the voters. These polls prepare the incumbents, if need be, for a most difficult phase in the democratic praxis: to peacefully and in an orderly manner leave office to the political opposition. And in reporting shifts in majority support, they tell the opposition that the time is coming when their rhetoric will face a practical agenda of political compromises, appointments to ministries and agencies, and all the hard work that goes with the business of governing. Without signals from polls the democratic transitions could be very chaotic.

A continuous reporting showing the standing of the government and the opposition in the eyes of the electorate undoubtedly affects the political process. In recent decades, published opinion polls have often impeded both the domestic democratic processes and diplomatic progress by rushing into print and to TV studios with poll results on issues that the public has not yet had a reasonable chance to be informed about and discuss, and about which they have not yet formed mature opinions. Such polls contribute to premature closure of debates and mislead political commentators, legislators, and diplomats (Yankelovich 1996). They are corrupted by the urgency and speed that are the life-blood of journalism, as well as by the built-in limitation of printing space and time slots. Frankly, opinion polls in the mass media and on web pages are nowadays often mere conversation pieces or entertainment for viewers and readers – not useful guidance for politicians and diplomats or good sources for social scientists.

The extent to which politicians in various democracies also use the findings of opinion research on political issues in their legislative work is an entirely different problem. It is an empirical question with different answers in different cases. The modus vivendi of the typical politician in a Western country is to follow their local or regional traditions, their own personal convictions, their party’s platform, but also internal discussions at party caucuses, leads from party activists, reports from government agencies, expert testimony, and suggestions given by lobbyists, as well as information from the media.

In this chorus of stimuli reaching a politician, polls on the public’s view of issues, when available, are but one influence of many. Possibly issue polls may be of increased concern to governing politicians when the electoral standing polls signal that re-election is in danger. Strangely enough, we do not yet have a systematic international research summary of the joint effects of electoral standing polls and issue polls.

It is a popular misconception that issue polls play a decisive role in legislation in democracies. In fact, in most democratic countries there are no polls published on most issues that legislators cope with in their daily work. Even in countries dense in polling, the details of the legislative work are not normally reflected in the published polls. The language of legislation is very different from the language of polling. The power of public opinion hits politics – and other human affairs – on a different level.


Democracy: A Recent but Victorious Form of Statecraft

In the course of the Twentieth Century, many instances occurred in which democracy supplanted other types of regimes, not only the old kingdoms of Europe. Several countries that were characterized by unlimited personal leadership became democratic, for example, Somoza’s Nicaragua. Many nations, such as Franco’s Spain, that once were under “authoritarian rule”, where power was exercised by a dictator through government bureaucracies, became democratic. Even nations that have been under “totalitarian rule” have been replaced by somewhat more democratic regimes. Stalin’s dictatorship through the Communist Party with its unrestrained ideological mission to rule the entire state apparatus is a case in point. Democracy became the victorious form of government toward the end of the 20th century, a winner among most disparate alternatives.

Traces of the old order were, of course, present in different democratic countries. Democratic parlance is not the same as democratic practice. In some nations with democratic constitutions leaders do not necessarily step down if the opposition gains a majority in an election. It is not self-evident to rulers in nations that have recently adopted democratic constitutions to relinquish their positions if the victorious majority contains sizable elements such as unruly students who have not yet grown full beards or illiterate village women. The acceptance of a universal franchise is a democratic virtue that requires time and effort to acquire. And to accept that a majority of voters shall decide who is to resign from office and who shall take office is far from self-evident to any inveterate rulers.

At the time of this writing, a functioning constitutional democracy is not more than a few decades old in most states. Actually, the world has had very brief experience of free and peaceful general elections, and of rulers stepping down when they lose elections, turning over their offices to the winners.

In the United States, democracy can count its age in centuries, at least if one has a generous definition of democracy. In a stricter sense, not all of the southern states have had a functioning system of competing parties in their elections longer than a few decades. In most countries in Latin America the first wave of democracy was supplanted by a period of military dictatorships. In Europe, democratic ideas have not infused the long history of the Continent for more than a century except in England, France, and Switzerland. However, in the latter country women have not had the vote longer than many countries in the Third World. In France, a democratic order was replaced by an autocracy three times. A setback with extreme consequences was the fall of the Weimar democracy that led to Hitler’s dictatorship of the Third Reich.

The world has had very brief experience of free, general elections, and of rulers stepping down when they lose elections. Given the democratic novelty, it is amazing that the system has attained such a universal appeal and legitimacy. We have left much behind us, and we talk of post-industrialism, post-materialism, post-communism, and we call our own era the post-modern. Some have even proclaimed the end of history, and view the present era as post-history. Yet democracy lives on. Hardly anyone in the first decade of the 21st century would speak of post-democracy. There is simply no legitimate alternative to this recent system of ruling countries.

The Constitution of Democracy

In the beginning, democracy was introduced without first clarifying the problem of popular rule. The champions of democracy won the debate anyway, for they could easily show the arbitrariness of the rules that granted certain peoples or groups special positions of power. The defenders of monarchies could be silenced by pointing out how admittedly incompetent, stupid monarchs like England’s George IV and France’s Louis XVI had demonstrated how absurd it was to give so much power to the heir of a throne. The proponents of privileges could be dismissed with the same argument. Why should having forebears who were admitted to the ranks of nobility entitle aristocrats to more power than farmers, tradesmen, and manufacturers who had just as much wealth and equivalent education? Why should workers be denied the franchise the year before they had attained a certain income but be considered to be responsible and entitled to vote when they had reached that income level? Why should women be denied the vote when men had it? All the curtailments of democracy could easily be viewed as tricks of the privileged to retain power and as contradictions in the prevalent electoral system.

The conclusion presented by Herbert Tingsten, a stellar Swedish political scientist and publicist, is valid: “In the debate, the argument for democracy has seemed to be less of an ideology than a critique of ideologies and traditions. This has meant a weakness insofar as democracy could be introduced without reflecting over and discussing its problems” (Tingsten 1945, p ??, italics supplied).

In a civilized state, political decisions require a broad base of "consent of the governed," and this may take some time to achieve. To avoid delays, decisions can be taken without full consensus by a majority of citizens. This was done in assemblies of all the citizens in some ancient Greek city-states.

In more recent centuries a different mechanism came into use: representatives of the citizens, but not each and every one, take decisions on behalf of all citizens. To repeat what we all know: in a modern democratic nation-state, domestic political issues are settled through legislation by representatives elected by majority rule whose decisions in the legislature also are based on majority rule. An open debate with guaranteed rights of free expression, both in the electorate and in the legislature precedes all decisions. Legislation is administered by government agencies and is enforced in independent courts of law. All this is formalized in a constitution.

Thus, elections with majority rule, representation, rule of law (not of men), division of powers, entrenched rights, and a written constitution are the cornerstones of the United States of America; its charter, drafted in 1787, had provisions for all this. The American Revolution, like the French, was carried out in the name of republicanism, not democracy. Revolutionary zeal was directed at the European kingdoms, and the achieved new order was democracy. This modern version of democracy is an original development, not a copy, or even an adaptation, of an ancient Greek order.


Public opinion polls on issues have found a role in the democratic process. Following the lead of George H Gallup, pollsters working for mass media adjust to the system of majority rule by reporting percentages showing majority and minority views in their tables; they do not produce factor or cluster analyses, nor do they penetrate latent structures of opinions like academics. Most of the time polls on issues facilitate democratic decisions. Sometimes pollsters impede the process by rushing to mass media with poll results on issues that the public has not yet had a chance to inform themselves about and discuss, and about which they have not yet formed mature opinions (Yankelovich 1996).

Unplanned Underpinnings of Democracy

Only when democracy was tried in practice, did we realize that it depended on underpinnings that were not parts of its original constitution.

The democracies existing in reality require, for example:

Rule of law. Government by law, not by men, must be in place for democracy to function. Legislators may be democratically chosen, but unless their laws are enforceable in professionally operated courts where the accused can meet his accuser, democracy may be as arbitrary and unjust as any other system of rule.

Guaranteed public openness of government operations.

Guaranteed private sphere for every citizen.

Voluntary associations. A plethora of groups and networks, located in society between the state and the households, in which people can form and express opinions without censorship is an underpinning of democracy. Of special importance are the associations and clubs with democratic bylaws that allow people to practice rule by elections in civil society before they practice it in general elections and in the legislature.

Political parties. The U.S. Constitution did not mention political parties. Nowadays most writers add a multiparty system among the prerequisites of a democracy. Freely established parties are voluntary associations that provide opportunities for hammering out alternative policies sheltered from the government commissars and thought police. They train people in politics and provide candidates for office.

Free media. A free discussion without censorship repression, not only in private settings, but also in public media is a prerequisite for an informed electorate. The free establishment of media requires a free market of all the goods and services that are needed for the free formation of opinion – printing presses, paper, radio and TV stations, Internet, etc.

Compulsory universal education based on enlightenment so that popular rule does not become mob rule. It is unreasonable to ask a population steeped in superstition and magic to take responsibility for a modern government.

Public opinion polling.

The last item, public opinion polls, is not normally found in the lists of requirements of democracy (see, for example, Lipset 19??). Unplanned by the fathers of democracy, polls have become an integral part of the democratic political process.


As we have seen, there is more to democracy than dike and aidos. But their tale is a beginning of man’s effort to understand the role of public opinion in human affairs. Ancient Athens had a prerequisite for rule by public opinion in that it abandoned the habit of citizens to bear swords by its. Ballots rather than bullets is the modern version of this credo. The hope of mankind is that organized violence (armed forces) should be restricted. However, a moment of reflection may make us conclude that organized violence may be used in rebellions against and wars against governments and groups who deny freedom of speech and opinion or those who use freedom of speech to entice violence against others.

Democracy and Education

Democracy in our western sense, as we have repeatedly said, is a very young variant of the art of governance. Only a handful of states can claim to have had a democracy that is centuries old, and many nations must still count their democratic governments in years, not decades. The expansion of democracy has been paralleled by the expansion of popular education. S.M. Lipset (1959, Chap. 2) was the first to empirically investigate a large amount of international material showing how the educational level is one of the prerequisites for and pillars of democracy.

The connection has, however, long been clear in democratic doctrine. General elections presuppose that citizens have a reasonable amount of knowledge of the issues. The franchise without education results in mob rule, not in democracy. A basic public education and the franchise go together.

This is the ideological background to why the education of children and young people in a democracy are obligatory and financed by taxes. There are, however, variations. The American Constitution forbids the use of taxes to finance schools under religious aegis. In England private schools do not receive any public funding; they exist on student fees and philanthropic donations. In countries such as Sweden and Denmark, private schools are financed through public means by a system of vouchers.

Providing Political and Civil Service Education in Schools

“The citizens of a state shall be educated in a way that is suitable to the constitution of the state,” wrote Aristotle in the Introduction to Book 8 of his utopia, The Republic. Above all, "the lawmakers shall pay attention to the education of youth, for if it is neglected the constitution will be harmed.” For education in the service of the city-state, differs depending on whether it is an autocracy, an oligarchy, or a democracy, according to Aristotle.

Whoever thinks that a scientist and philosopher like Aristotle would view the education of youth primarily as the acquisition of knowledge preparatory to further studies at has own (or Plato’s) academy would be entirely wrong. He saw education from the point of view of the state; entrance requirements and the selection of students for academic studies were details he does not even consider.

In our days, a basic public education and the franchise of a democracy go together. Democracy requires educated voters and thus education of children and young people in a democracy are obligatory and, whenever necessary, financed by taxes. There are, however, some variations. The American Constitution forbids the use of taxes to finance schools under religious aegis. In England private schools do not receive any public funding; they exist on student fees and philanthropic donations. In countries such as Sweden and Denmark, private schools are financed through public means by a system of vouchers. Students and their parents take the vouchers to the school or their choice, and if approved, the school gets a prescribed amount of money from the local government. The amount is somewhat less than the average cost per pupil in a public school, and the private school is not allowed to supplement it by student fees.

Modern democracy presupposes a firm belief in the value of every human being and in inviolable civil rights. In democracies people are agreed that force may only be exercised by the police and military, in accordance with law and the conventions of war. They are tolerant of the opinions of others, of free discussions, they have respect for minorities and for the laws that have come into being according to a democratic constitution with a multiparty system and majority rule in elections. And citizens in democracies have a workable knowledge of their constitution.

The United States is probably the only country where serious and systematic schooling in the Constitution is century-old and a self-evident subject in elementary schools. European countries do not have nearly such a detailed study of the histories of their constitutions and their contemporary manifestations.

The educational system in a real-life democracy must keep advanced training available in three areas that together make up a real-life democracy:

  1. legal training for implementing  the rule of law by police, courts, and correctional institutions,

  2. political training for use in the representative system that controls legislation, and

  3. negotiation training for use in diplomacy and international treaty-making. 

In La démocratie en Amérique (1835-1840) Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that voluntary associations were schools for democracies. If his idea is still valid, schools ought to encourage students to participate in all kinds of democratically run clubs and other voluntary projects. They would, ideally, take place during the students’ extra-curricular time, not school time. But schools could schedule classroom hours to describe rules for the election of officers, the notification of meetings, and the establishment of an agenda for a meeting. They could show how democratic meetings are conducted, the election of a chair and determination of the order of speakers. They could teach the difference between points at issue and points of order. The students could practice setting up an electoral register and the order of voting between different motions and amendments. They could learn how to write and check minutes, read an auditor’s report, grant discharge.

Such practices in using the rules of democracy is a far more solid – and probably more boring – experience for students than used exercise of school democracy, i.e. allowing students to freely criticize the school administration and listening to whomever yells the loudest about which theme or project should be included in the curriculum. Or, a practice in writing “Letters to The Editor” to newspapers or compose protest fliers to pass around. When you ask a 15 year old what a democracy is common answers are "elections" and "demonstrations." Such answers indicate a very one-sided view that shows that both teachers and students are more influenced by what TV can dramatize than by political science.

Do schools in democratic countries rear citizens trained in democracy? Yes, of course, the schools rear pupils who can read, write and count, and they bring up pupils who cooperate with and show consideration for one another, and children who try to reason rationally. But schools in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes have also done so. However, if the question is limited to the rearing of democratic citizens in a stricter sense that is defined by constitutions and political practices, the answer for the United States would be a qualified Yes, for Europe, on balance, a qualified No. 


Specifying a Problem

In classical works of social science, public opinion is usually conceived as a property of a collective, an expression of the collective’s conception of itself and its role in history. Individuals could have a more or less correct interpretation of this volonté générale, to use Rousseau’s term. If their interpretations were too deviant, they became viewed as being stupid, unaware, false, insane, or, at worst, criminal and a danger to society.

Eliminating the metaphysical qualities of volonté générale but otherwise following the lead of Rousseau, opinions divide into two well-known categories:

opinions we must express in order to be in a collective and represent it to others, and

other opinions that we may express without being disliked by, isolated in, or exiled from our collective.

The first category provides a basis for determining the consensus of opinion, for example, a national creed, a common religious confession, an oath of allegiance to the state. The second category provides the fuel for the differentiation of opinions, e.g. the cleavages on the issues of the day.

The amplification of the latter category has led to two phenomena. First we have the mechanisms of decision-making by casting votes in parliamentary assemblies and general elections. This voting leads to binding decisions in the form of legislation. This process of majority rule approximates John Locke’s ideal of a government based on “the consent of the governed,” a system believed to be the most cost effective and humane form governance.

Second, we have opinion polls and the use of their results in journalism and political lobbying. They give us knowledge about how people think and feel, and they are appropriately called "opinion research." This knowledge does not bind anybody as elections and voting do under democratic constitutions. But it is useful in decision-making and has achieved prominence in the life of modern democracies.

Rationalities in the Body Politic

The Civil Service: Keepers and Brokers

Civil Service and Street-Level Bureaucracies

Among the administrative bureaucrats we can distinguish a qualified category of "public officials"  who are well-educated and legally accountable. We have described them as administrative bureaucrats and professional technocrats.

In the welfare states, however, Brokers are also found in so-called street-level bureaucracy. This grants more extensive powers to its functionaries, mostly in the handling of case decisions (Lipsky 1980). We believe it to be a general problem affecting, among others, the welfare sector that the traditional role of the public official in welfare states has for some decades now been replaced by lower administrative bureaucrats who carry out political decisions with less regard to competence, objectivity, impartiality, and self-control.


The Era of the Takers

In our terminology, the Makers in the economy and the Keepers in the body politic, that is, Weber’s capitalists and bureaucrats, dominated the first quarter of the twentieth century, but the Brokers and, even more, the Takers, have increasingly dominated the rest of the twentieth century, particularly in Western societies.

As we entered the twenty-first century, the 1900s were called the “century of the common man.” Others have called it the “the century of democratic man,” and cite the many entitlements people have won as the principal sign of progress in our time. The advances of political democracy, women’s liberation, the solidarity of the welfare state with the weaker members of society, and aid to poor nations are usually cited as examples to back up this claim. An indicator of the unprecedented position given to the common man is the proliferation of opinion polls.

A first analysis of the progress of the Takers was presented as early as 1929 by the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset under the title La rebelion de las masas. Since the beginnings of agriculture mankind has known that as ye sow so shall ye reap. The first generations of Europeans who left their farms, built colonial empires, and introduced industrialism were energetic, individualistic spirits who took charge of their own destinies. But the majority of Europeans of the twentieth century turned out differently. The average persons in modern society Ortega called the mass men. They and those below average he called “unqualified masses.” They did not demand much of themselves, but demanded all the more for themselves.

In Ortega y Gasset’s view, these people are ignorant about what the creating, conserving, and mediating institutions have done for their societies. In other words, they usually exist in blissful ignorance of all the efforts, investments, and systems that have given us a life full of comforts and freedom of choice. They seldom recognize that these blessings of civilization are the fruits of enterprising spirits, of their knowledge, techniques, and social innovations, which in turn depend on the energy, foresight, and resoluteness of these forerunners. Instead, they demand priority in receiving such blessings, as if they were theirs by right. The unqualified do not necessarily desire to become qualified; they only want the advantages of the qualified.

The unqualified masses consider that they have a natural right to receive the good things in life. The declaration of the rights of man of the United Nations (which was not in existence when Ortega y Gasset wrote) is a consummate catalogue of rights to the good things in life. But irrespective of whether rights are formalized or not, the unqualified masses insist that their comforts be provided, their wishes and impulses fulfilled.

Ortega y Gasset’s term “unqualified masses” has a negative connotation, and so has his notion that the masses have a psychology that is reminiscent of that of a spoiled child. I prefer to call them “Takers.” They are, objectively speaking, the takers of the cardinal values of society, including virtues and aspirations to ethical and good living. Brokers gained the most when democracy was introduced. They have been much repressed in earlier centuries, and their rise to prominence in the twentieth century is easy to defend. However, in terms of cardinal values, the other groups – Makers and Keepers – contribute more than do the Takers and Brokers.

This discrepancy leads inevitably to a conflict and debate on how much weight one should give to polls reporting overall majorities. Books like Robert Weissberg’s Polling, Policy and Public Opinion. The Case against Heeding the "Voice of the People" (2002) are bound to appear. Weissberg singles out polls on expanding social and medical welfare to the general population as unusable guides for politicians who are in the process creating a welfare policy. He argues that an expansion of welfare in the amounts supported by polls oversteps the borderline where the cost exceeds the benefit to society.

In a period when Takers reach visibility, the Brokers also rise in importance, particularly the helping brigades, who serve the Takers. At the height of the expansion of the Danish welfare state this phenomenon was analyzed by Jorgen C. Rich (1973) in a book he – without being too facetious – called The Ruling Class. The new ruling class consists of state employees in the social sector, higher education and the health services. Like all ruling classes they command a great deal of the resources of society. Their power is based, not on ownership, but on their capacity for creating a compelling social ideology of radical egalitarianism with roots in a humanitarian ethic of support to "all the weak in society." Elements in their ideology in Denmark included a rejection of manual work, fear of unemployment, illness, and death. It manifests itself in perfectionism and universal appeal ("we may all be weak one day"), and a social criticism that protects the interests of the helping classes through good salaries, limited work effort, and a prodigious expansion of the public sector.

It is in the nature of the case that Takers should love publicly financed welfare, and when asked, they naturally want more of it. The costs of all their combined wishes could force governments to raise taxes and /or borrow money to a level that the Keepers and others think is unsafe. It is actually not very safe for politicians to heed a solo voice of Takers when it comes to welfare policy. I hope that pollsters some day can learn to sample and report separately the opinions in the four groups. A quartet of these four voices, Makers, Keepers, Brokers, and Takers, is more worth listening to than a unison national majority dominated by the ubiquitous Takers.

A reasonable guide to policy from a public opinion poll may be at hand when a policy is supported by the majority of all interviewed, as well as majorities within Makers, Keepers, Brokers, and Takers.

I hasten to say that this is a suggestion for the future reporting of polls, not a suggestion to amend democratic constitutions. A wise democratic government should not need directives in a constitution to listen to the quartette of these voices; it knows that it must hear and respect them all. Unfortunately the democratically elected rulers are sometimes ignorant of how their societies actually function; the public notices this particularly during the initial time in office of the newly elected. No nation, democratic or not, can survive without paying attention to the minorities who are Makers, Keepers, and Brokers.

To insure that these minorities can fulfill their essential functions, a society may, of course, develop constitutional politics so that it becomes governed by a parliament of four chambers, each representing a grand function: Makers, Keepers, Brokers, and Takers. Four estates of a different kind, the Nobility, Clergy, Burgers, and Peasants, once ruled Europe. This worked well for several centuries, particularly in countries that gave also the Peasant estate some voice on taxation.



Political Accords within States

Before looking at the process of achieving international political accords with support of public opinion, let us briefly review the more familiar process of achieving domestic accords with public support.

In a civilized state, political decisions require a broad base of “consent of the governed,” and this may take some time to achieve. To avoid delays, decisions can be taken without full consensus by a majority of enfranchised citizens. This was done in assemblies of the citizens in some ancient Greek city states.

In more recent centuries a different mechanism came into use: representatives of the citizens, not their full number, take decisions on behalf of all citizens. In a modern democratic nation-state, domestic political issues are settled through legislation by representative politicians elected by majority rule whose decisions in the legislature also are based on majority rule. An open debate with guaranteed rights of free expression, both in the electorate and in the legislature precedes all decisions. The legislation is administered by government agencies and is enforced in independent courts of law. All this is formalized in a constitution.

Thus, elections with majority rule, representation, rule of law (not of men), division of powers, entrenched rights, and a written constitution are the cornerstones of the United States of America; its charter drafted in 1787 had provision for all this. The American Revolution, like the French, was carried out in the name of republicanism, not democracy. The revolutionary zeal was against the European kingdoms, and the achieved new order was democracy. This modern version of democracy is an original development, not a copy of or adaptation of an ancient Greek order.

The US Constitution did not mention political parties. Nowadays most writers add a multi-party system among the pre-requisites of a democracy.

The slogan of democracy “the people shall decide” must be followed by the question “Who are the people?” The answer may be: “Those who have domiciliary rights within these boundaries.” The boundaries are set by geography, history, and often by war. The limitation of democracy as a mechanism to solve conflicts is its inability to determine the boundaries that are its base. Rational democratic order must therefore be complemented by the rules for diplomacy, war, the writing of treaties that enable territories for new constitutions.

Public opinion polls on issues have found a role in the democratic process. Pollsters adjust to the system of majority rule by reporting percentages showing majority and minority views in their tables; they do not produce factor or cluster analyses, nor do they penetrate latent structures of opinions like academics. Most of the times pollsters facilitate democratic decisions, sometimes they impede them by rushing to TV with poll results on issues that the public has not yet had a chance to inform themselves about and discuss, and about which they have not yet formed mature opinions.

The Central Zone and Democracy

Democracy can be viewed as a protest against the domination of the central zone. Democracy demands that the citizens, and only the citizens, be the ruling class. The rules of democracy concern political power: other parts of the central zone are not directly affected by election results. Political scientists today reject all alternatives to democracy. They may talk about post-modern societies and post-materialist societies and post-nation-state societies, but they are reluctant to consider post-democratic societies.

When Edward Shils, the inventor of the concept “central zone,” heard someone say “political scientist” he used to interject “with the scientist understood as in Christian Scientist” (Epstein 1997, p. 2). In the church of democracy, political scientists are priests, per se an honorable calling. However, the theory of the central zone is a science in the true sense of the word; it concerned a confirmed proposition, a law of nature. The practice of democracy must be modified if it is to survive when the force of nature called and the central zone impacts collide with the ideology of democracy. And this, in my view, is what has happened. Unanimity about democracy holds firm only so far as agreement that no one ought to rule against the will of the people. After that, opinions diverge.

The oldest line of thinking asserts that in a democracy governments ought to follow the will of a majority of the electorate. This is still is stated in many schoolbooks. But political scientists are contemptuous of this view; they call it “Gallup democracy” or populism.

Political scientists’ first reframing of the idea of democracy as a realization of the will of the people follows this reasoning: society changes and is modernized; new classes, needs, and interest groups emerge; political activists in these groups form their own political demands; they organize into parties; democratically elected politicians then implement the activists’ ideas, through, for example, reorganizations, subsidies or benefits in legislation. The leader is not supposed to be a commander but rather a chairman who “listens to his party.” If the government has its own agenda, its issues must first receive consent in the party organization before they can be implemented. Many political scientists have abandoned this view of the democratic process, but when politicians also do so they can run into trouble, and the political activists may claim that “they no longer recognize their party.”

A second way of thinking about the functions of democracy was put forth by the economist Josef Schumpeter (1942). He saw democracy as a competition among élites, with the electorate acting as the jury. The main contents of politics are decided by the ideas of the élites, that is, the ideas of the central zone, not by the jury. This notion fitted particularly well in the European scene in the last century when a landed aristocracy defended their privileges, the clergy guarded moral values, agrarians advocated protectionism, industrial and business élites championed free trade, and strong labor movements demanded welfare rights and a greater share of the national patrimony. When a country becomes democratic, the public becomes the jury in these struggles and decides which élite is to rule.

A third line of thought has been developed by several current historians, political scientists, and sociologists. The title of the book Bringing The State Back In reveals the theme (Evans, Rueschemeyer, Skocpol, 1985). Research on mature democracies shows that the decisive élite is the politicians themselves together with government servants. The state, the staffs of governmental departments and the recruitment of their heads influence politics more than anything else. Political change would thus depend less on changes in popular will, or on how elites in business, science, religion and the arts think, and more on how the government itself develops and influences the party apparatus and the situation of government employees. This is where concrete political innovation takes place. Democracy is redefined to mean an acceptance of this state of affairs, but with the requirement that the results of this innovation be submitted to the electorate in periodic general elections.

Even such minimal forms of democracy have some value. As Karl Popper (1997) has pointed out, they lead to peaceful transfers of power.



Political Accords between States

The process of domestic rule by consent of the governed may seem slow and cumbersome. Compared to international political decision-making the process of making decisions within a nation-state is fast and well organized. International political issues are not settled by legislation. On the international political scene, issues are settled by treaties negotiated by diplomats who are appointed by states. A treaty between sovereign states cannot be achieved by majority rule, it requires consensus. While usually based on a negotiated compromise, the treaty is concluded by the full consensus between the parties on the content; a majority vote will not due. A treaty is negotiated behind closed doors without public transparency and debate. A treaty between states is implemented by some form of intergovernmentalism.

Diplomats, and ministers and bureaucrats in charge of rules for domestic fishing, may meet with colleagues from neighboring countries around a common sea. They negotiate a treaty on fishing quotas to ensure future fishing. If the treaty on fishing in an international waterway is to be supervised by the ministers in the treaty-making powers, the meetings of these fishing ministers are the intergovernmental process. If they set up a committee with staff to regularly review and report on the issues of the treaty this committee becomes the intergovernmental agency. The supervision of a treaty, if any, is thus usually handled by some ad hoc arrangement between states, Only occasionally it is entrusted to a permanent organization such as the International Atomic Energy Agency for the non-proliferation treaty of atomic weapons.

The extent of intergovernmentalism is the best measure we have of the globalization of the body politic.

Treaty-making is the counterpart to legislation on the international level. Short of war, it is the only way we presently have to globalize the body politic. The interpretation of treaties may be facilitated by international courts. The settling of controversies over treaties may be aided by mediations. Most international treaties, however, are unenforceable. They depend for their survival on an understanding among the signatories that it is in their own long-term national interest to stick to the treaty (cf. Blix 1960).

Treaty-making is a slow and uncertain process. So far, the polity of the world does not keep pace with the globalization of economy, science and technology, and the popular arts.

Figure 22.2. A comparisons of democratic law making and international treaty making


Domestic Legislation

International Treaty Making

Rules for decision making

Majority rule both to and within the legislature

Consensus between all diplomatic teams involved


Open debate

Closed doors


Freedom of expression

Diplomatic immunity


Domestic bureaucracies

Intergovernmental agencies


Independent courts available for most issues

Mediation, international courts for a few issues

Speed of process

Reasonably slow

Very slow

The Twentieth Century was the century of domestic democracy. The Twenty-first Century starts as a the century for international diplomacy. Such is the logic for the body politic during  the globalization process.

The European Union

Changes in the body politic to cope with global issues seem quite slow compared to the change in economy, science, and art. However, regional economic and political networks are reaching into several countries. The European Union takes on several features of a state, and may perhaps some day be called a "market state" since it is formed around a common market. Politics, however, remains essentially national. Opinion formation is by en large national and the often tenuous legitimacy of international political institutions is by enlarge based in the nation states.

Furthermore, the time seems to have passed when it took the resources of a state to destroy another state. With modern weapons of mass destruction a borderless international terror network can probably do what was once the exclusive power of a state. /To be moved/

The most important post-war political process in Europe which resulted in the European Union did not follow the rationality of democracy. The Coal and Steel Union, like its successors the EEC and the EU shaped by the Treaty of Rome of 1957, were the fruit of the rules of diplomacy, not those of democracy. The father of the European integration process, Jean Monet, did not believe one could achieve European integration through democratic elections and parliamentary decisions. He developed a different model.

A commission was appointed to implement a foreign policy agreement on European cooperation and to develop it further. If the commission’s developmental proposals are approved by the Council of Ministers from the countries that are party to the agreement, it becomes law in the countries that belong to the Union. A special court has jurisdiction over questions that concern the application of the law. National parliaments cannot change the law. A democratic deficit was built into the EU from its very inception.

In the 1980s there were strong efforts to change the EEC into a more federal form: the so called Werner plan for an economic and monetary union, the Davignon plan for a common defense, and the Tinderman plan for European integration of social welfare. But the EU remains a confederation with strong federalist components. A European Parliament was added to give the construction a democratic decoration. By the turn of the century, it has got its milk teeth in the form of co-determination with the Commission, but its elections are often fiascos; as a rule, turnout is low, and its election campaigns are dominated by domestic issues, not EU issues.



Debunking Magic in the Body Politic

Nothing prevents rulers and parties steeped in magic and myths to have full use of modern technology, including weaponry. The Nazi ideology was full of magic. With missiles on London and gas chambers for Jews and Gypsies, the Nazis lived out their myths to devastating effects. Ernst Cassirer himself , the pioneer student of mythical thinking ended his life in the United States as a refugee from Hitler. He felt called upon to explain to his new country why his high German culture had succumbed to Nazism. His posthumously published book called the Myth of the State (1946) showed how Nazis lived by myths containing a mixture of the magic of race, hero worship, and old Germanic gods. Defensive bilge against Jews, disdain of humanitarian values, and spumatic rituals such as “Heil Hitler” were added to the brew. Cassirer argued that Friedrich Hegel's conception of the omnipotence of the state and the insignificance of all other realms of society had opened the gates for this nonsense. If so, an antidote is a conception of a many-splendored society in which the body politic is no more significant than are other realms: economy, science, morality, religion, and art.

The fifth principle of magic, formulas for quick fixes, abound in politics. Georges Sorel (1850) proposed "the general strike" that would bring the old society to a stand-still and create conditions for a new society with higher morality in which the working classes hold power. Jeffrey Sachs (1994) expected that "chock therapy" practically overnight would create wealth for all in Poland. This is an economic policy that involves an immediate withdrawal of the state from all ownership of business, from any subsidies to branches, from control of prizes and currencies, from restrictions on imports, and from charging customs and other fees related to trade.

We shall deal with the military use of violence in Book 3. But we may already here note that politicians who believe in magic are particularly dangerous if they get modern weapons. When weapons nowadays are more effective than the bombs over London and Dresden ever were in World War II, one may have reason for a firm new policy. For the sake of humanity, any leadership believing in magic must be stripped of weapons of mass destruction.

Civic Freedom

The Glorious Revolution in England established an unwritten constitution that the king was no longer above the law. Taxes could not be imposed without the consent of parliament. None could be deprived of their freedom of movement and/or property without judicial proceedings under the law. No deprivation of freedom whatsoever was permitted for the purpose of stifling peaceful opposition. Freedom of the press and religious toleration were to prevail. Certain principles were to be inviolable, although from other points of view their violation might appear beneficial. Regulations prescribed by the authorities and law courts were thus to be maintained, even in cases where they favored Crown opponents and the accused. In other words, the main thrust was directed against all forms of arbitrary government. Emergent English liberalism stood for what we nowadays call the rule of law, civic rights, and freedoms.

Democracy specified the political freedoms. There must be freedom of information so that citizens can keep informed, and, through discussion and debate, be able to decide whether they want a change in government. In a democracy elections must therefore take place in an environment where there is freedom of speech, of assembly, and the right to demonstrate. Each adult is to have a vote and one vote only. The ballot is to be secret.

From Public Opinion to Laws

There are few documented steps between polled opinion and legislation in democracies. Some steps in the linkage between polls and legislation that have and have not been subject to research are:

The extent and trend with which political issues on the agenda of a legislature have been subject to political opinion polling (No research known to me). Most legislation in most democracies concern topics that have probably not been preceded by any polls.

The extent and trend with which polls published as news becomes cited by editorial writers (e.g. Holmberg 19xx for Sweden), columnists (No research known to me), and intellectuals (No research known to me).

The extent and trend with which polls are invoked in messages by candidates in their campaigns for political office (No research known to me). There may be no explicit such references to polling results even in campaigns by candidates or parties who have used polls in preparing their campaigns.

The extent and trend with which polls are cited in memoranda preparatory to legislation in political think tanks (No research known to me) and in party headquarters (No research known to me).

The extent and trend with which poll findings are invoked in debates or hearings in the US Congress (Traugott 2000) and in Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland and new Zeeland (Hardmeier et al. 2005).

The overlap of opinions in polls of voters for a party in the electorate and opinions in polls of the members of the parliamentary party (e.g. Holmberg 1974 for Sweden).

The perception of legislators of the opinion among their constituencies (e.g. Hedlund et al. 1972 for the United States).

The extent and trend to which voting by members of US Congress is congruent with polling results among their constituents (e.g. Miller & Stokes 1963).

The extent and trend to which final legislation enacted agrees with national public opinion polls (e.g. Brettschneider 1995 in Germany for the period 1949-90) and comparatively in 36 countries with somewhat different democratic systems (e.g. Ljiphart 1999).

Hopefully, this list will soon stand corrected and the many references (No research known to me) will be exchanged to (Author Year).

Steps 8 and 9 above, so called “congruence studies,” are the most common research projects in this area; they are popular topics for doctoral theses. Few authors, however, realize that a mere congruence between poll results and legislation does not imply that polls showing “the will of the people” have been a cause of the laws passed by Congress or Parliament. The same events in the outside world may have caused both the poll responses and the legislative response. To talk about causal links from polls to laws we need to have research on intermediate steps, if any, between the polled opinions and the laws enacted by the politicians.

Public Opinion and Treaty-making

Public opinion research has rarely dealt with treaties. One exception is the treaties on Panama Canal between Panama and the United States. In Panama CID-Gallup, a Central American affiliate of the Gallup Organization in Princeton NJ, polled for the newspaper El Panama America. In the United States many pollsters besides Gallup had surveys. They all indicated that majorities of the US respondents were against turning over control of the Canal Zone to Panama.

One early poll was discredited for poor home work in writing the questionnaire; every fifth question in a 1977 survey of the Panama Treaty contained factual errors (Smith & Hogan 1987). The episode indicates that opinion research requires extra effort both by pollsters and respondents. Diplomatic issues are complicated, often inadequately published in popular media – as we noted, the give and take of negotiations are secret – and thus unknown to the public.

The rejection of the Panama Canal Treaty by the public bothered Cyrus Vance, U.S. secretary of state from 1977 to 1980, under President Carter, who had been instrumental in negotiating the Treaty. Along with Daniel Yankelovich he had founded Public Agenda in 1975 and served as chairman of its board. This organization pioneered in methods to make polls useful to politicians. The researchers at Public Agenda went to a local community, took an initial poll on the Treaty and got the expected negative results, then presented local papers and associations with material on the treaty and its history, and arranged some public discussions of the pros and cons among the local citizens. At least some parts of the community became aware of the issues faced by the diplomats in the secret negotiations. A new poll at the end of the project indicated majority support of the Treaty in this community. A sense moral may be that polls on treaties are meaningful only if the public is retrospectively informed about the positions and turns in the negotiations, not only of the final outcome (Yankelovich 1991).

Polling for the negotiators to aid the treaty making process itself is rare. Such polls are secret as are the negotiations. Georg Baron von Stackelberg, founder EMNID in Germany, had some major victories as a political consultant. For example in 1955, when the long-standing issue in European politics on the future of Saarland, which had been administered by the French since the war, was negotiated between Mendes-France of France and Adenauer of West Germany, von Stackelberg provided his country with a secret weapon. What the people of Saarland wanted was a wide-open question, but in France it was generally held that they felt at home with the French and had most of their economic ties with the French. von Stackelberg quickly and confidentially organized carloads of interviewers from West Germany checking the popular preference in Saarland. At the negotiating table Adenauer could comfortably agree to a referendum. Armed with EMNID’s secret poll, he knew that such a solution would favor his country. (von Stackelberg 1975, pp 73-75.)

The work by Colin Irvin (2002) on the settling of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland stands out as ground-breaking. He polls confidentially for both parties in peace negotiations, and the results are used to ease frozen stands and build courage to take compromise positions among the negotiators.

Federations: Intergovernmentalism inside a Sovereign State

The terms "confederation" and "federation" were once synonymous, denoting simply a league of peoples united by treaty for some purpose. In the history of the United States, the meanings of the two words split in 1789. Up to that date the region was usually called a confederation, a union of colonies, each with its provincial government. After that date it was more often called a federation; it became an ever closer union of provincial states bound together by a common federal government, in addition to the still existing strong provincial governments of member states. Even after the revolution, one could argue – following the lead of Jefferson – that states had the right to opt out of laws and programs enacted by the United States Congress. This right was not definitely abandoned until Lincoln defeated the southern states in the civil war. Then one could truly speak of the United States, the federation.

The majority in a federation cannot insist upon full majority rule. It must make clear to the minorities that they are so valuable that they, as collectivities, have the same rights as the majority – and sometimes even the right of veto over the majority. Thus the constitution of the United States gives each state in the union, regardless of its size, two senators. The electoral college, a federal institution, grants the presidency to a candidate that meets the rules of federalism, not the rules of total popular vote. Henry Steele Commager, the American historian, maintained that no form of government is as difficult as that of a federation. The difficulties were manifested for all to see when the Union was sundered by the Civil War and by the inability of the confederation formed by the South to survive. The success of the United States as a federation is a greater achievement than the Pax Americana and is a far more complicated process than the creation of America’s fantastic wealth.

The complications of federations can increase further by giving members unequal rights. In post-Franco Spain, for example, Catalonia is less tightly tied to Madrid than is Andalusia.

A federation breathes through intergovernmentalism, through domestic diplomacy and negotiations between its semi-independent provinces. In a federation there are not only the usual consultations between a chief executive, his or her cabinet, the leaders of political parties, and parliamentary delegations. Regular meetings are also held between the provincial chiefs (called governors or prime ministers), and between the executive of the federation (called president or prime minister) and the provincial chiefs. At a lower level there are continuous meetings between department heads, work groups, and individual civil servants from the various governments.

Accountability to the electorate and transparency to the public of the decision process are difficult in simple democracies. In a federation with developed intergovernmentalism they are formidable problems. They easily create the feeling among the public that there is a democratic deficit.

The delicate balance of power in a federation is threatened by a bull in the china shop, the modern practice of national opinion polls. Publication of nationwide poll results, may make the decisions reached at the federal level appear devious and undemocratic. Pollsters who like to think of themselves as servants to the political process need to mend their ways in reporting opinions in federations and routinely publish their findings also at the regional level.

Intergovernmental Ecology

Very rarely do opinion polls reach into intergovernmentalism. A paradigm of an international poll of an issue crossing national borders is The Health of the Planet Survey (Dunlap et al. 1993). It is also called the George H. Gallup Memorial Survey because it was conducted in honor of Dr Gallup who had died in 1984 and members of Gallup International donated one million dollar worth of field work to its execution. But it differs from the early international Gallup polls in that it is not a scattering of topics of journalistic interest, but a broad piece of social research with the entire questionnaire devoted to one and the same public issue. This survey encompasses environmental concerns in 24 major nations, 11 classified as high income nations by the World Bank and 13 covering the remaining categories of medium, and low income nations. Previous opinion research on environmental issues stemmed mainly from Europe, North America and Japan and created and supported a conception that only publics in rich and highly educated countries developed deep concerns about the environment.

The interviewing began with the classical George Gallup question —
 before respondents were aware of the survey's particular emphasis on environmental issues —
 "What do you think is the most important problem facing our nation today?" The publics thus define the issues, not the researchers and their sponsors. Among the industrialized nations, the percentages volunteering environmental problems as their nation's most serious problem ranged from a low of 3 percent in Great Britain to a high of 39 percent in the Netherlands. There were no such high numbers in economically developing nations, but most of them showed more widespread concern for the environment than the British.

Another mark of quality questioning is the qualifying of public priorities by taking into accounts not only their appealing consequences but also other less appealing consequences and negative results. Most everybody is otherwise against war, for clean air and water, et cetera. In the Health of the Planet Survey respondents were asked whether "protecting the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of slowing down economic growth," or whether "economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent." Here the percentages choosing environmental protection exceed those choosing economic growth in every nation except Nigeria, and majorities choose environmental protection in all but Nigeria, India, and Turkey. There is not a major difference between the industrialized and the developing nations in emphasis on environmental protection over economic growth. The widespread assumption that residents of poor nations are willing to accept environmental degradation in return for economic growth is not supported by the survey. Overall, the researchers conclude, that citizens of the developing nations are only slightly less enthusiastic in their support for environmental protection at the expense of economic growth. Pluralities in fifteen nations (absolute majorities in seven) said that government has the primary responsibility to protect the environment. The exceptions are Poland, Korea, the Netherlands, and Finland where the publics assigned primary responsibility for environment to business and industry, and in Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, and Switzerland, where primary responsibility was assigned by pluralities to citizens and citizens groups.

The international characteristic of many environmental problems was illuminated by questions on educational and technological assistance between countries. Most interesting is that majorities of citizens in both industrialized and developing nations support the establishment of an international agency to set environmental policy with authority to rule over national policy, Residents of the developing nations are only slightly less favorable toward such an agency than are those living in the industrialized nations. Only in Brazil did a majority reject this intergovernmentalism.

Here we see a qualification of the rule of thumb that no one wants to be ruled by strangers, everyone prefers to be ruled by their local kind. The general public will accept rulings from intergovernmental bodies on issues involving the survival of the globe as we know it. Here remains, however, the resistance from the built-in reluctance of national governments to international schemes that reduces their authority.

Rewards in the Polity

In the contemporary polity, the reward pattern cen­ters on symbols of position, such as titles and uniforms, on constant publicity and evaluation by mass media, on approval from cheering masses, on ceremonial rights and decorations. Successful men may also have cities, roads, bridges, public buildings, acts of legislation, and the like named in their honor; they may have statues, portraits, and memorial plaques created to commem­orate their deeds. An ultimate evaluation, here as in other fields, may be the judgment of future historians.



Chapter 23

The Realm of Morality: A Search for Virtue

This chapter is incomplete and unedited and needs reorganization

The Compassionate are welfare-minded people who practice a lifestyle of doing welfare and doing good. They are reformers with ethics and virtue as their lodestars. Or, they are Good Samarians acting spontaneously to help when they see sufferings. Their self-image is that of a person who aims to act decently, support acts of decency, and who, in return, has a clean conscience. Humanitarian movements, social welfare agencies, voluntary organizations and religious or secular charities are the anvils for their good deeds, not to speak of the many sacrifices made to aid members of their own families.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition morality is a part of religion and ethics a branch of theology. In Greek and Roman civilization ethics was a branch of philosophy.

The slow development of an independent life sphere of morality represents an apparent weakness in the modern Western social fabric. One cannot claim that morality is as well developed as art, science, religion, business and governance. In large measure morality in Europe and its former Christian colonies still exists within the confines of religion.

The entire Western world is now trying to make up for this deficit of strong independent institutions of morality. Ethical committees at hospitals and research institutions, ethical watchdogs at financial markets, ethical ombudsmen at corporations and the media, ethical codes for the professions – all are under way. But the latter are mini-ethics adjusted to be embedded in other life spheres, not the realm of morality in its own right for the creation of virtue. In the growing concerns for welfare, environment, animal rights, and peace we may, however, sense the emergence of genuine sphere of morality. The contours of a realm of morality is apparent, and it comes out organized under the same categories as other realms based on language. (Figure 23.1)

Figure 23.1. Morality in Society


Societal Structures

Societal Functions




inside realms

between realms









Import values




the cardinal value of virtue

























 Civil organiza-tions


Institutions for  sick,    handi- capped,  elderly,   child care


Guidance agencies






 Donors of time and money


Moral movements for
peace environment, charity, etc.










Creators of high norms for inter- personal relations, for health care, for dangerous tech-nologies, for environ-ment









Carers of
sick, elders, children



Decent people



Ethics counce-lors



Persons and organi- zations on the outlook to other realms for something beneficial for morality from religious leaders, politicians










Cardinal Value








Reward System:








Type of Freedom:


 Freedom of conscience


Spontaneous Order


Unplanned civilities


The letters marking the rows are those found in a summary of the various language-products in society called Table of Societal Realms in Chapter 9. The letters after "I" continue as columns to make space in the center for some illustrative examples.

Figure 23.2. Semiotics of Virtue


Hypocrisy is the homage which vice renders to virtue. [Fr., L'hypocrisie est un hommage que le vice rend a la vertu.] - Francois De La Rochefoucauld ..

Bo Anderson (2005) argues effectively that the concept of "virtue" is more important than contemporary social scientists admit. It has had several meanings in the course of history. Plato's word for virtue is arete. It means excellence in important pursuits, doing well. It slides easily into being good at achieving any cardinal value. But the Greeks includes also physical achievements in being virtuous. Plato does not restricted the term to humans; the brave soldier and the good cook have arete, but also animals may respond to fear by standing their ground and fighting, thus showing arete. In the same vain, Aristotle thought that much of what we call courage in human beings is also shown by animals. But adult humans have also what animals do not, proairesis, a capacity for deliberate choice into which one can also take others than oneself into account. Wherever this faculty of deliberate will is involved we can talk about specific human virtues.

Machiavelli may seems to equate virtue with the characteristics of great leaders that make them prevail. His term “virtue” does not always easily map into the “arete” of Plato, or "proairesis" of Aristotle. Sometimes, says Anderson, it seems to mean no more than “manly strength,” particularly in coping with unique historical opportunities when rise-to-occasion politics is called for.

The search for virtue has often ended in enumerations, which was the simplest way our intellect can bring order out of chaos. In Plato's Republic (the fourth book) the four classical virtues were Wisdom, Justice, Courage, Moderation. This list was enlarged by Christianity with the three Pauline virtues:  Faith, Hope, and Charity, making a total of seven.  They were counterbalanced by the seven deadly sins:  Pride, Avarice, Lust, Anger, Envy, Gluttony, and Sloth. One can follow the fate of the seven virtues and sins through the art and history of ideas from the Middle Ages and up to the present time.  They are portrayed in words and in images. Rising our sight to other civilizations than the European, the enumeration of virtues gets longer. For example, from Confucius we learn the virtues of Li: filial fidelity, benevolence, and fellow feeling. From Lao Tze we learn the virtue of Tao, the unperturbed poise at all turns in life, somewhat similar to the stoic virtues of Antiquity.

Moses on the Mountain of Sinai

In the Jewish religious myth Moses steps down from the mountain Sinai carrying a tablet with God’s Ten Commandments. These rules applied to all Israelites. They addressed the problems of a relatively undifferentiated nomadic people traveling through a desert landscape dreaming of a land of milk and honey.

But do they apply to all people at all times? In the 1970s, professor Jan Kerkhofs SJ of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium began planning for a study of European values to be carried out in the ten states that at that time were members of the European Union (EEC). He was less interested in avant garde values and more interested in how much of the European heritage of values from Jerusalem remained relevant, and whether any alternative meanings had replaced those of Christianity. He literally set out to read to representative samples of European respondents each one of the Ten Commandments and ask whether it was applicable today. He received funding from a wealthy Catholic business family, and could set up a separate European Value Systems Study Group Foundation with his Dutch colleague Ruud de Moor. The survey was a success and was developed and repeated with additional countries, also non-European, in four waves before the turn of the century. By that time an umbrella organization headed by Ronald Inglehart, The World Values Surveys, was in place at the University of Michigan. By then the researchers had more trivial priorities.

In Figure 23.2 are the results of the interviewing on the Decalogue by Kerkhofs' team of opinion researchers. The numbers are percentages of adults who say that the command applies fully today.

Figure 23.3. Acceptance of the Ten Commandments in Western Europe in 1979













1. You shall have no other gods before Me












2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God












3. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy












4. Honor your parents












5. You shall not murder












6. You shall not commit adultery












7. You shall not steal












8. You shall not bear false witness












9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife












10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house
























Religious commandments (1,2,3)












Family morality












Civil commandments












Source: First European Values Survey.

The first three commandments have religious content. They deal with monotheism, incantation, and Sabbath. They had very low acceptance outside of Catholic Italy and Ireland. The numbers confirm that in the second half of the twentieth century France and Sweden were the most secular countries in Europe.

The fourth, sixth, ninth, and tenth commandments deal with family and household morality. They are fully accepted but a sizable minority, every third person in Western Europe at time did not agree. In short, they are too controversial to be called universally accepted norms.

The fifth, seventh and eighth commandments concern civilized living and are grounded not only in morality but also in the legal order: you shall not murder, steal, or lie. Here the acceptance was highest and the dissenters fewest. Appeals to these thus have special force in public discussions. These three commandments are candidates for a universal ethic. The others are candidates for special ethics.

Solon on the Rock of Acropolis

Let us join those who have created another myth with Solon stepping down from a rock in Athens — a budding city state with the exceptional clear skies of his days that promote clear thinking — to the agora with laws for the people of Athens. The Athenians did not live solely for their gods, but also for beauty and knowledge. They were the most successful businessmen at the times in the Mediterranean. Their armies were victorious. One of the constitutions they tried was called democratic. Solon could not possibly have fitted his commandments on a single tablet. He would have to carries three tablets, balancing them precariously: one with rules for the state’s politicians administrators and warriors, one for the business community, and a third one with rules for the rest of society. The remarkable thing is that the text on the three tablets had different contents. In this society we find only a few rules, a constitution, that applied to all.

Some of the commandments from Sinai could be codified as rules for Athens' civil society. They were and have continued to be fundamental for individual development before one could rightly become a person in the state or in business. The other two tablets addressed the guardians and businessmen. In Book 1 of The Republic Plato reviewed their dictates in Socrates' dialogue with a circle of people discussing that which is "right," in some translations called "justice," that is, the commandments that concern the different parts of society. Socrates asked Cephalus, a businessman of the third generation, who had created a larger fortune than the one he had inherited, what was the greatest blessing that his money had brought him. Cephalus, an aged man, looks back on his life in business, and says he has not had any reason "to lie to or cheat others, whether inadvertently or deliberately." These are the thoughts of a man who suggests that throughout his life he has entered business deals based on honesty and voluntariness, that he has always kept his part of agreements and has repaid all debts. He can therefore meet death with peace of mind.

Socrates thought that this was well put, but was still not satisfied with the answer. Not because he doubts Cephalus or suspects that he is just a cheap crook, but because answers from the business community cannot be generalized to hold for all of society. He gives an example that which shows that good business ethics do not always apply.

“justice, what is it? — to speak the truth and to pay your debts — no more than this? And even to this are there not exceptions? Suppose that a friend when in his right mind has deposited arms with me and he asks for them when he is not in his right mind, ought I to give them back to him? No one would say that I ought or that I should be right in doing so, any more than they would say that I ought always to speak the truth to one who is in his condition“.

Faced with this difficulty, Cephalus thought it best to leave the conversation. But the gathering agreed that "a friend should always do good to his friend and never do him harm." Plato had thus revealed that moral dictates in the economy are not only different from those in the micro-world of friends, but that some of those dictates can conflict with those based on friendship. We can generalize this in modern terms to mean that the discovery of the basic social norms of the business world differ from and in some cases conflict with those of the civil society. Here I use the term "civil society" in its present meaning to connote family life, social circles, associations and clubs, religious and cultural life. In antiquity, "civil society" meant something quite different that was more in line with the area of body politic.)

The dictates of the guards also differ from others. Socrates asks: "Is then the best (man) to watch the camp the one who can sneak into the enemy's camp?" The gathering responds, "Of course:" For a guard, stealing the enemy's plans is honorable.

Plato's norms for statecraft and business have been updated by Jane Jacobs (1992). Like her antique model, Jacobs uses the form of a dialog. She regards the problem of whether or not to return the deposited weapon as a gulf between the commercial moral syndrome and that of the guardians: not to return the weapon is seen “as a form of policing” (p.30). Jacobs is forced to this conclusion inasmuch as she does not acknowledge that civil society has its own moral syndrome, which differs from the syndromes of both the guardians and businessmen. A revised version of Jacobs that includes also civil norms from Moses is given in Figure 22.3. Under the heading "Civil Society" are listed the three universal candidates from the Decalogue and a typical Western norm of sociability: "Be sociable, do not withdraw ignoring others!"

Figure 23.3 Some Norms in Ancient Athens

Maintain order
Use force effectively
Maintain discipline
Respect the power hierarchy
Be loyal, promote the loyalty of others
Do not enter into business deals
Use information selectively
Be generous in order to attain goals
Enjoy pomp and circumstance
Stand up for your rights and honor
Be courageous

Create wealth
Reach voluntary agreements that are advantageous
Respect contracts
Never use force
Be open to all information
Cooperate with foreigners
Take initiative and be enterprising
Look for innovations and inventions
Invest in effective production and trade
Be industrious

Do not lie
Do not steal
Do not kill
Be sociable, do not withdraw ignoring others

The oppositions between the norms of the civil society, the state, and business are usually not apparent, but they are obvious to an inquiring Socrates.

In the civil society love and devotion are to rule, not the dictate of business to compete. In the civil society one shall not lie or kill, but in the name of the state the soldier is commanded to deceive and kill his enemy. Such conflicts, as familiar as they are irreconcilable, have always plagued sensitive young people in differentiated societies.

Sophocles’ drama Antigone, presented the Athenians with a clear example of the clash between the ethical syndromes of the civil society and the state. Oedipus’ daughter Antigone follows the moral dictates of the civil society and wishes to give her fallen rebellious brother Polyneice a worthy funeral. Thebes’ ruler Creon follows the dictate of statecraft to strip the enemy of all honor and wishes to throw the body to the dogs. The conflict cannot be resolved: the tragedy is built into the structure of the differentiated society.

Despite the built-in opposition between the civil society and the state it is obvious that the civil society cannot function well if the state does not keep peace and order. Nor can the state function effectively without the trust and support of the civil society: it would be too cumbersome to try to replace civil obedience with police force. The two parties, state and civil society, may be in conflict, but they also need each other.

The same applies to the state and business. Some of the elements in the conflict between the ethical rules of statecraft and those in business life are insurmountable. State authorities shall not compete. A citizen may be able to appeal a case to a superior court, but not to a rival court. Politicians are not supposed to strike business deals or accept bribes. If they were to make money by virtue of the arms at their disposal they would turn into a gang of robbers or a mafia.

However, without recourse to force, politicians can see to it that others can make business deals and compete. Laws about property rights and legal guidelines for the interpretation of contracts are needed if the market is to work. The business community also needs the trust in other people that a spirited civil society can create.

Business firms, on the other hand, shall only make deals that are voluntary, without resort to coercion by force. Not only are physical violence and the force of arms prohibited, but also the coercion exercised by a monopoly. A firm that uses force in order to do business is a band of gangsters, a “mafia.” A private monopoly is a form of exploitation, just like a state monopoly.

The principal lines of reasoning in the dialog The Republic, led Plato to believe in a state in which the guardians, traders, and slaves were kept strictly separate. The guardians had a monopoly on political power and the right to bear arms, but were excluded from commerce and the right to make money. The tradesmen were excluded from the use of force but had the right to make money. The slaves had no rights at all. Plato, like many later philosophers, considered working for the state preferable to doing business. He reserved all higher education for civil servants.

Plato’s subsequent reasoning reveals a weakness. In spite of the evidence of the differences and oppositions he discovered between the fundamental social norms in the state, business life, and the civil society, he persisted in asserting that there is only one common justice. He argued that the republic is just if governed by the philosophers-guardians, if tradesmen work, and if slaves slave. Plato formulated an intellectual defense of the idea that such politicians ought to govern all of society, not only the political sphere. This is, as Karl Popper has shown, not a reasonable concept of justice but simply a recommendation for a totalitarian order.

We can accept Plato’s basic idea that different realms in society have different fundamental norms and that the norms in one realm may contradict the norms in another. But we cannot accept the conclusions he drew in respect to the assignment of power in society to philosopher-kings, not even if extended to philosopher-queens. There is no reason to elevate the political realm to be the ruler of all there is in a society.

Temperance: A Universal Virtue of the Many-splendored Society?

Of the four classical virtues, Moderation is the one that best supports a many-splendored society.

An attitude toward life with a focus on temperance, setting limits, self-discipline and a sound lifestyle was developed in classical antiquity; it has taken many forms and has contained different emphases. Homer used the Greek concept sophrosyne to describe persons who can withstand the temptation to succumb to pride and fight against the gods, the temptation to live carelessly and frivolously, the temptation to indulge in drinking. In the spirit of sophrosyne, the Delphic Oracle warned against excess in everything. As we know, the major Greek tragedies often told of the disaster that strikes the hero who refuses to set limits for his ambition and lust. In Cicero's rhetoric and philosophy, sophrosyne became temperantia in Latin and was colored by a closely related local value, modestia.

Rationalities in Morality

In the nineteenth century many maintained that society would degenerate if a sufficient number of children were not born to the elite. Friedrich Nietzsche held that the process of civilization was turning out to be a victory for the majority, which was composed of weak people, over the minority of perfect, strong people. In the wake of Charles Darwin, biologists focused on the theory that our heritage conceals a dormant potion of cruelty and bestiality that could one day mean the fall of civilization. Had not certain European royal lineages become genetically bankrupt? Criminologists such as Cesare Lombroso explained rising crime rates as a result of increasing atavism, that is, a return in new generations of hidden primitive genetic dispositions. There were many speculations about the demise of civilization: Untergang des Abendlandes was the vignette common to them all. The main and broad consensus among intellectuals that the primary reason for the degeneration was that the lower classes had more children than the middle classes.

All these ideas were crazy at the time and remain without ground in our contemporary scientific knowledge. The spread of these ideas among an earlier generation of intellectuals is an object lesson that a wide consensus among them is no guarantee of their accuracy. Nor is the argument legalizing euthanasia acceptable to contemporary juridical reasoning that takes pride in separating descriptions of crimes judgments of value, and the prescriptions in law.

Gunnar Myrdal and his wife Alva adopted one of the thoughts current at the time as part of their welfare program for nativity, namely large-scale sterilization of the retarded. For some women, this meant they would not be able to have any children at all. In their 1934 book Kris i befolkningsfrågan (Crisis in the Population Question) they wrote:

In certain respects sterilization has a very large impact on society. This is particularly true from the point of view of genetic hygiene; especially since the sterilization of the mentally defective when done to a sufficient extent will lead to a decrease of the frequency of mental deficiency in the population. The sterilizations that are done for social reasons are also very important from the point of view of society since they prevent the birth of children who would otherwise grow up under very unfavorable conditions. From a purely objective point of view, the interests of society and of the individual must coincide in most cases of sterilization on the grounds both of genetic hygiene and social factors, since sterilization is aimed to prevent social misery." (Myrdal & Myrdal 1934, p.? , translated by Greta Frankel)) 

Legal sterilization was carried out in Sweden between 1934 and 1976. More than 60,000 women were sterilized. Most sterilization was done 1948, the year after the introduction of the general governmental child allowance to all mothers with children under 16. Apparently, some women should be physically altered so that they would not be eligible to receive these allowances.

By all accounts, the women's own consent to undergo sterilization was illusory. Today, according to the statutes of the International Court of Justice, compulsory sterilization is considered a crime against humanity. The Swedish state has given financial compensation to survivors from the time when sterilization was allowed.

The conclusion to be drawn from this period in Swedish history is not that Sweden was conducting Nazi racial policies at the time, nor that the Myrdals misunderstood the position of science at the time, nor that Swedish Social Democracy embraced Social Darwinism. The lasting lesson to be learned from this, as I see it, is that social policies in general and family policies in particular cannot be conducted exclusively on the basis of the rationalities that exist in the realms of science and body politic. The real that we call morality — and is promoted by civil society — must also be included in decision-making.

There are varieties of ethics in the relm of morality. An ethics based on social utilitarianism (Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill) might conceivably defend a sterilization program in accordance with the Myrdals' reasoning "to prevent social misery." An ethic based on each person's own value (Immanuel Kant) could not defend a sterilization program that exploits and mutilates people as means for the ends of others. Christian ethics sees a sterilization program as incompatible with the thought that all people are God's children, irrespective of the genes they may carry and the ethnic environment of their formative years.

In any discussion of ethics — for example, in respect to human rights, the family, welfare, or foreign policy — it is not enough to speak of ethics in general; one must specify which ethics one is referring to.

Rewards in Morality

In morality, Western culture has not developed any elaborate reward pattern, and the badges of moral rectitude are few. While virtue is, of course, appreciated, to do it visible honor is, strangely enough, widely thought to cancel it out. Such is the workings of the Law of Jante. Only history can tell whether this lack in Western culture will prove significant or not.

Providing Flows of Virtue from the Realm of Morality to Other Parts of Society

The societal realms of science, art, economy, religion, and polity need to embed elements from the realm of morality. In all cases they need to import virtue to cope with the area of the semiotic square for their cardinal value that lies between "What seems to be" and "What is not." In other words, to keep magic out of science, to keep kitsch out of art, to keep swindles out of economy, to keep pious pretense out of religion, to keep spin out of polity — in all these efforts they need to embed virtue, the cardinal value of morality. See figures Figures 17.1, 18.1, 19.1 20.2, 21.1, and 22.1 and their adjoining discussions.

Providing Moral Education in Schools

Aristotle asserted that if you practice virtue you will become virtuous. Ethics is not only a theoretical subject, but one that is learned by doing, a “character subject” as it is sometimes called today. There is, however, a dearth of examples for lessons. It is not enough to have the students vote on ethical questions. Freedom of conscience should prevail, and an ethical discussion can never be said to be decided by a majority decision (Gutmann & Thompson 1996).

There is a proposal that ethics be studied as a core curriculum in the gymnasium or junior college, that is, that it be taught in all subjects. This would be acceptably in alternative (free) schools – the students’ choice of school is also a choice grounded in ethics. However, Europe’s compulsory schools would do well to avoid an ethics sanction by the state, whether it be Social democratic, Christian democratic, or something else. What we have so far seen of proposals for an ethical core subject has been a mishmash of equality, feminism, pacifism, radical environmentalism, and other trendy issues. The more fundamental values in our civilization that the new humanists sought in their school with its emphasis on antiquity — civility, dignity, honesty, courage, temperance, et cetera – are largely absent from the debate on including the subject on ethics in the curriculum.

Nowadays people try to program themselves to attain a desired performance, body, shape, and state of mind. The life area of physical activity is represented in schools in the form of sports and systematic physical exercises.

The focus on physical performance, health and fitness in today’s society resonates in the discussions on schools. The increasing obesity and immobility among pupils is said to be causes by a lack of exercise and gymnastics in the curriculum. The advocates of fitness also complain about the fatty and unbalanced diet served in school cafeterias. But the problem in some places may be that students do not eat the food served in the school cafeteria but prefer junk food from vending machines or nearby markets.

Public and Private Welfare as Moral Institutions

Welfare in the sense of taking care of needy and social outcasts is fundamentally an ethical problem. It may be economically worthwhile to help the ill to regain their health, so that they may be useful again. But there are few purely economic reasons for looking after the chronically ill, the disabled, deformed infants or sufferers from senile dementia. We do so for ethical reasons, not economic ones. Human dignity is a treasure that lacks market price. On the scale from faithfulness to pragmatism human, dignity is found at the pole of faithfulness where bargaining and compromise are forbidden.

When the state assumes moral responsibility for children, elderly people and outcasts, the citizens' responsibility is reduced to financing such care, i.e., paying taxes. Ethical responsibility is transformed into an obligation to pay. Tax evasion becomes the equivalent of sneaking away from the suffering victim at the roadside and not providing help as a compassionate Samaritan. As an unplanned consequence, a large measure of fiscal moralism therefore accompanies the European welfare states.

The responsibility for the young, the old, and the sick/disabled have been lodged mostly in the households and families and neighborhood. In the history of the West, responsibility for social and health care has been assigned here, there and everywhere: to the extended family, the cooperative bodies of the local community, the church, the guild, the feudal lord and his household, the charitable establishment run by the industrial magnate (or his wife). Only when these tasks are transferred to the state we obtain a welfare state. When they are predominantly lodged in civil society we can talk of a 'welfare society,' not a 'welfare state' (Robson 1976).

Welfare Populations

"Welfare" entails three recurrent problems found in every society. How are we to take care of children before they can look after themselves? How shall we take care of the elderly who can no longer look after themselves? And how are we to take care of the sick and disabled who cannot work or feed themselves, or, do everything else that is normal for adults in their prime?

To the three universal welfare populations many societies must add special groups that fare particularly poor in that particular society.

War widows and war veterans become a special welfare population in warring societies. In Paris the tourist guide will point out the Hôtel des Invalides in the very midst of the city, a housing project to honor those who lost a limb or an ability in the nation's war. The United States in the 20th century had a full-fledged welfare mini-state in the Veterans' Administration with tax-financed education, housing, and health programs. The easiest way to describe the European welfare state to Americans at that time was to say that every citizen here has typical VA entitlements.

The most common special welfare populations in the market economies in modern societies are not the veterans but the unemployed. Healthy and able persons of working age routinely lose their jobs and salaries in a dynamic market economy. Unemployment, as you know, is at present running very high in Europe, and the share of long-time unemployed is much higher than in the United States. In Denmark in the 1980s the unemployed formed their "union" to claim benefits for their special population much like the veterans' associations do in the United States.

The responsibility for the special welfare populations has also been assumed by the governments of the welfare states. Since only states wage military wars I think it is entirely appropriate that they also take care of their needy veterans. For the unemployed the argument must be different.

Business is the main beneficiary of being able to restructure and hire and fire according to need. I think it is reasonable that the employers should be responsible for the lion's share of an unemployment insurance, both the financing and the administration. An EMO (employment maintenance organization) is as feasible in a market economy as an HMO (health maintenance organization). Both can conform to the rules of a market economy.

Contemporary Welfare Models

In the United States, where one tends to thinks of welfare as schemes that temporarily enter into some people's lives. A typical North American book title on this topic is Protecting Soldiers and Mothers (Skocpol, 1992). Welfare policy in the United States emerged when the state helped returning veterans of the Civil War and foreign wars, and when widowed (or single) mothers received a kind of temporary state pension so that they did not have to leave their small children and go to work.

In Europe one usually thinks of state welfare as permanent schemes that are a part of all people's lives, and therefore they qualify better as bases for societal creeds. A typical book title on European welfare is Not for The Poor Alone (Kahn & Kamerman 1975). European welfare policy emerged around the needs of male breadwinners, primarily industrial workers, who, unlike their American cousins, were considered less able to fend for themselves in times of adversity. Within this start Europe has developed three different systems of welfare, the Anglo-Saxon, the Continental, and the Nordic systems (Cf. Esping-Andersen 1990).

The Anglo-Saxon system provides uniform local bureaucracies for welfare, housing, and health. The central government has a key role in their financing and control. Charities supported by business and private gifts play a part. The market also offers many choices in the Anglo-Saxon system, but not as many on the British Isles as in the United States and some other former colonies. The goal of the Anglo-Saxon welfare state is human decency. It is not financed to maintain income levels when adversity strikes, as in the Nordic system, but it gives a good helping hand. A consensus on welfare which is required to make it an effective societal creed has been promoted by the Liberals and Labour, but not always by the Conservatives. A break allowing some opt outs from parts of the system came in the 1980s from the Thatcherites. New Labour has in theory promoted a three-pronged welfare order in which the responsibility for welfare is formally shared by the state, the civil society, and the market, but in practice the system is still state-dominated and state-run. A societal creed does support the Anglo-Saxon system, but it does not seem to be quite as strong a creed as the ones supporting the Continental and Nordic systems.

In the Nordic system, financing, decision-making, and implementation are matters for the government. The system is huge, comprising about half of the public budget. It represents both a flight from the community and a flight from the market into the supposedly more equitable aegis of government. In the name of "justice" and "egalitarianism," the state, and the state alone, is seen as responsible for individual welfare from the cradle to the grave. The goal of the Nordic welfare state is equality, meaning equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity as in the United States. When sickness strikes, when a child exhibits asocial behavior, when a job is lost, when grandfather is not getting enough nourishment, the citizen is not expected to turn for assistance to his family, to his parish, to his neighbors, to volunteer agencies, or to his own insurance provider. According to the Nordic societal creed, it is the government that is to remedy such ills. The system nowadays generally presumes a two-income family. State-supported paternity leaves are expected to be shared between father and mother. Employment of both spouses is also a requirement to provide enough tax revenue to run the system. A strong societal creed supports the Nordic system.

The European Continental system, like the Anglo-Saxon, has national welfare programs, but more sizeable ones than the Anglo-Saxon system. True to its historical start by the conservative Fürst Bismarck in the 1880s, the continental welfare system has been pungently supported by the political right, but is well received also by the left, a fact that promotes it as a feature in a societal creed. Most welfare decisions on the European Continent, however, are taken at lower levels than the central government, and welfare services are normally co-opted by the financial and legal involvement of the civil society or local community. The implementation of national welfare schemes thus rests not only with local governments, but also with legally established roles for unions, churches, and community agencies. Or, it rests on subsidized insurance plans for health care, sick pay, and pensions that may be specific for major occupational groups. Thus the complex system has many roots; it is not necessarily run by government employees as is the Nordic system.

In 1995 Germany introduced an old age insurance that illustrates the combined efforts of the state, the civil society, and the marketplace to meet the demands of a growing group elderly in the population. The insurance becomes due when a person needs care for a minimum of one and a half hours per day. Relatives and other caregivers are paid for their services and receive four weeks' vacation. The elderly can chose the home care services they want within the framework and fees of the insurance system. The insurance pays for wheelchairs, special beds, and other aids to daily living. The three types of service for the elderly – home care, service residences, and nursing homes/hospices – are available on three levels. The form and level that the insurance plan entitles one to is determined by a physician, not by local politicians or civil servants. Even if they have different care needs, married couples are kept together as far as possible. The form of service granted can be upgraded by the recipient. For example, a person who has been granted home care can move to a service residence by paying the difference out of his own pocket.

In 2004 two million Germans availed themselves of old-age insurance. More than anything else, the qualification that a person requires care a minimum of an our and a half daily affects the extent to which the insurance is can be utilized and make it affordable for the sorely pressed official treasuries. Germany's capacious social insurances are partly financed through the federal and constituent states, but it is not implements by them. Approximately 85 percent of Germans have placed their sick insurance in the public system (Gesetzliche Krankenkasse or GFV). Others carry private insurance. The efficiency of the system benefits from the competition that exists between insurance companies that vie to deliver GFV's sick care. They are known by their three-letter abbreviation: AOK, BEK, BKK, DAK, KKH, TKK, among others.

The German old-age insurance is automatic for all members in the public system, GKV, and is obligatory for all others. The cost is 1.7 percent of wages/salaries (split evenly between employer and employee), and 1.7 percent of the pensioner's income. The above mentioned insurance companies either buy the practical implementation of the policies or handle it themselves. Unlike the Nordic arrangement whereby counties and municipalities implement the insurance plans, in the German welfare state, voluntary association, churches and unions have traditionally carried out the practical aspects of the plan. They can provide home care and service residences as well as out-patient treatment and some hospital care. In Germany there are rules governing the division of responsibility in the public sphere between the state, industry and business, and the civil society. All is not relegated to either the market, the state, or the civil society.

Another difference between Germany and the Nordic countries in respect to their welfare systems is the German voter's tendency to associate German welfare policies primarily with the conservative Christian Democrats, whereas Scandinavian welfare policies as mainly viewed as a project of the Social Democrats.

The general goal of the Continental welfare state is human dignity, which is inspired by Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, social doctrines. Throughout most of the twentieth century the system provided levels of support to its clients that were even sufficient to provide for a housewife with no income of her own, i.e. a support for a patriarchal household.



Please send your comments on this chapter by email to the author.




Coda over Societal Realms: Ambitions for National Hegemony and Global Reach

This section is incomplete and unedited and needs reorganization

When the societal realms of economy, polity, science, art, religion, and morality are free and equal and joined together so that no one rules over the others, we have a many-splendored society. Like other societies, the many-splendored one has a central zone where elites from the six societal realms meet formally and/or informally. In the central zone of a many-splendored society the elites from all societal realms meet as equals.

Already at the outset we may state one of our conclusions: A many-splendored society is not a guaranteed social structure. It survives at the mercy of the ability of its central zone to withstand attempts to hegemony from its strong societal realms and to uphold the autonomy of the weak realms in its own society, and at the same time resist the imperialism of foreign realms.

Intellectual Enemies of Many-Splendored Societies

Hegel and his student Marx, as we have seen, are poles apart in many respect. One more difference between the two should be noted. Each points to one realm in society as the leading one, but they differ in their choice.

In Hegel's world there are only two societal realms, the state (Der Staat) and the civil society (Die bürgerlische Gesellschaft). In the latter he included family life, trading, farming, and manufacturing (small-scale in his days), as well as artists, priests, and professors. Hegel's firm conviction was that the state held the decisive role in developing a region and a civilization. Hegel's body politic is an imperialist realm and runs the risk to develop cancerous politics. A many-splendored society in which the body politic was just one societal realm, equal in importance to several others, was unthinkable to him. No wonder his name often turns up when we search the intellectual roots of Nazism and other recent totalitarian ideologies. A many-splendored society would succumb to state hegemony if and when Hegel's philosophy dominates in its central zone.

Marxian theory assumes extraordinary power in the economic realm of a society. In Marx' world there are only two realms: the the economic "base" and its "superstructure." The main trends in politics, art, science, religion, and morality are shaped by the economy; it is what we call an imperialist realm. Everything, particularly in a market economy, becomes a commodity and gets a price: friendship, beauty, knowledge, virtue, and salvation. Science becomes applied and is used mostly for economic calculation. Art becomes window-dressing of the rich. Religion is seen as an opiate to keep the poor contented. It is striking that in Marxian thinking the body politic is also determined by its economic base. A government of a country is thus seen as an executive arm of the richest class. Therefore, a many-splendored society in which different realms, such as science, art, religion or morality, have separate and independent developments is ruled out in Marxian analysis. A many-splendored society succumbs to economic hegemony if and when Marx's philosophy dominates in its central zone.

Let us us emphasize that one should not accept a claim that a realm has hegemony in advance of proof. To be sure, money rules supreme in business firms, particularly in a capitalist economy. Nor is there any argument about the fact that a church, a museum, a university, a government agency also have incomes and expenditures. However, this fact does not determine the direction of their efforts as it does in business where you above all want to make money. In capitalist business you also make more money with the money you have, sometimes to the exclusion of anything else.

In the other societal realms than the economy, wealth is not set as the goal of your efforts, it is only one among the several resources that enable you to reach the goal. Marxism fails to see that the moneyed class is not the lord of every modern realm. Hegelianism fails to see that the power of the state is not the determinant of all history. It is easier to fathom the parallel conclusion about scientific knowledge; it is used in every realm to facilitate its efforts. But this does not make scientists lords of the entire society.

This said, I do not argue that we shall stop reading Hegel and Marx. We need them for many insights and also to see the perfection of the broader notion of a many-splendored society.



Once we have presented the grand social realms — science, economy, polity, art, religion, and morality — two topics become interesting: how they seek hegemony within their society, and how they obtain a global reach. These two topics require first a study of the domestic competition between realms, and second, a study of international competitions of societal realms. The latter gets us to the heart of current globalization debate with the intriguing perspective that the actors of globalization are nothing but the societal realms.


Struggles Among Societal Realms Inside a Society


The societal realms of science, economy, polity, art, religion, and morality are all language products. They share the need of training children in speaking, reading and writing. Some social realms such as science and economy, are also dependent on mathematics. Thus in all advanced societies there is firm backing of the three Rs, reading, writing, and arithmetic as mandatory learning for children. In addition there is a commitment to civilized living, i.e. that children should learn to settle their conflicts by words, not fist fights or weapons. This is an agenda for the young that families and elementary schools may share.

Beyond this consensus there are many concerns within different societal realms about education. There is in fact a continuous struggles between societal realms over education in any advanced society. Education of the youth is an arena where different social realms compete for influence. Who shall own the schools? And who shall decide the curriculum of a school? Who shall train the teachers? Who shall be educated? We can assume that education will differ depending on which societal realms prevail in a society. All have sought to colonize the schools. For a long time the battle over the curriculum was about the place that various academic specialties would occupy. How many hours should be allotted to the natural sciences, to classical languages, modern languages, geography, history, et cetera. Now, the battle is between the various areas of life. How many hours should schools for children and young people devote to train a student suitable for advanced studies? A citizen? A professional with his/her own income used for rational consumption? A person with aesthetic sensibilities and opinions? An ethically conscious individual? A physically fit person? A young adult and prepared member of the family and household which he or she wants to create?

Today’s schools impart not only documented knowledge, but other values as well. Thereby The Enlightenment’s ideal that all schools should essentially be schools of learning has been undermined.

Schools and their teaching plans are arenas where the different demands from the various institutions in the society as a whole meet and compete. In the process, most schools seem to lose their autonomous character. Their teachers become influenced by all manner of external forces.

The main reason for this is not a lack of confidence in the school administration, but lies in the general development of society. All life areas in the West, with the exception of religion and family life, have expended quickly during the last centuries. The driving force for change in the schools as been the rapid development of life areas at the same time as the shortcomings of the primary groups have been on the rise. Then the higher authorities enter the arena and try to steer. The imperative decision of the local and state governments, the demands of business and industry, and the desires of the scientific community all made an impact on the schools. And they did not always agree.

A superficial but visible symptom of the colonization of schools in Sweden is to be found in the interviews we conducted with 100 teachers in the last two classes of the elementary school and 100 teachers in the gymnasium. All were teachers in core subjects. They were asked “Have you had a visit in your school from.../the local government, a company, a trade union, a college or university/ participate in teaching?” The question was not whether an external source supplied teachers with teaching material for lessons – which is very common – but whether these representatives from outside life areas had personally assisted in or taken over the role of teachers.

Table 26:1. External Teachers in Swedish Schools

Andel lärare som haft medverkan i undervisningen från:


Lärare på högstadiet

Lärare i gymnasiet

Kommunen eller landstinget



Privata företag



Kommunala och statliga företag



Fackliga organisationer



Högskolor och universitet  



Källa: ValueScope, fältarbete Sifo, september 2000

At the gymnasium level, 68 percent of the teachers had had assistance in teaching from colleges or universities, 64 percent had been assisted by representatives from private business companies, and 43 percent by representatives of unions. Every fourth teacher, 25 percent, reported that a representative from a local government had assisted in the classroom, and 27 percent said that they had been assisted by representatives from state or municipal companies. In the last three years of elementary school representatives from the municipality or district participate in classroom work as frequently as in the gymnasium, but participation from the other groups is lower.

Many people are horrified at the sight of these and similar statistics showing how the schools are colonized by different societal realms. I am not one of them. The total society has developed to such a degree that the different realms in considerable measure need to conduct their own education. I am instead concerned that politicians in the state or local governments will alone through majority decisions determine the content in school education, to the detriment of science, business and industry, art, religion and ethics, and of political minority opinions.

The Many-Splendored Society and Its Enemies


In the limited historical time that approximations to many-splendored societies can be found, the main threats to their survival has come two directions: from from the expansions of religions onto monotheistic theocracies and from cases of cancerous expansions of the body politic. In recent times when science has grown into a full-blown societal realm we can also identify some social scientists as enemies of the many-splendored society.

Rushing to Resolutions of a Problem Outside the Realm with the Problem

Fallacies made by searching all remedies for a societal problem outside its societal realm are common. The great Depression of the 1930s provides a telling example.

In the United States of the 1930s there was no lack of nourishments in the soil, no lack of machines in the factories, no lack of agricultural labor, factory workers, or engineers. But starvation and poverty and general misery spread because important parts of the economic system had collapsed. “Mr. Sociology“ of that time, Robert S. Lynd, the professor who was known inside and outside the universities for his studies of Middletown, looked for a solution. In an influential book called Knowledge for What? Lynd wrote: “For it is the intractability of the human factor, and not our technologies, that has spoiled the American dream; and the social sciences deal with that factor“ (p 4). The social sciences had not done their job. They had simply accepted the assumptions about society prevalent in American capitalism. “This over-ready acceptance of the main assumptions of the going system has been a source of confusion and embarrassment to the social sciences as that system has become highly unmanageable since the World War, and particularly since 1929“ (Lynd 1939, p 3).

Lynd’s advice was to abandon the economic theory of the invisible hand and develop a theory of social and political planning. “There is no way in which our culture can grow in continued servicability to its people without a large and pervasive extension of planning and control to many areas now left to casual individual initiative“ (s 209). Many agreed, and a new research tradition emerged at Columbia, Lynd’s university. We got celebrated dissertations on Roosevelt’s great piece of social engineering, the Tennessee Valley Authority , on agrarian socialism in Canada , and on the European Coal and Steel Community (Selznick 1939, Lipset 1950, Lister 1960).

Nowadays we know that it is questionable whether large-scale central economic planning can cure economic depressions in advanced economies. There is a fairly extensive research literature on the Depression of the 1930s . Roughly speaking, it was not a lack of economic planning, but a lack of money that pushed the depression forward. (Friedman 1956) The expansion of economic activity had long since outstripped the expansion in the mining of gold. The gold standard strangled economic activity by limiting the money supply (Eichengreen 1992) This was accompanied by political decisions on protectionism and less government spending, which further weakened business activity.

You should not go to the realm of politics to find the root cause of the economic Depression and rush to recommend the use political planning as the remedy. The root cause was economic, the shrinking money supply. Politicians, to be sure, made the matter much worse by retrenching state budgets and raising trade barriers. Reversals of those policies became part of the remedy. But the keys to the solution were economic: reducing or abandoning the gold standard for currencies and increasing capital, credit limits, and lending by the banks.

Threats from Use of Organizational Forms Borrowed from Other Realms

Grotesque misunderstandings have arisen from inability to separate the main show of a societal realm from its embedded side-shows.

Inappropriate Forms from Polity

The rules of democracy require equality among citizens at the polling place, where all voices are worth the same, they require equality in law courts, where the upper and lower reaches of society, the good and the wicked, are judged by the same law. They require the same treatment in public insurance plans and the same right to health services and care for children and the aged according to public decisions. These are huge steps forward in modern polity. Of course equality shall prevail and the rules of the polity shall govern here. However, there are many other realms where the democratic forms of majority rule and equality are irrelevant. (Irrelevant is a polite way of saying balderdash.) It is and will continue to be a mistake to automatically demand democracy outside of the political sphere.

Grotesque misunderstandings arose from myopic conceptions of realm embeddings. As the victory for political democracy progressed over the world in the 20th century, democratic organizational forms sector also spread to sectors others than political one. Employees received "democracy at the workplace," pupils gained "democracy at school," and students received "democracy at the universities."  Popular movements and political parties democratic by-laws that had turned into oligarchies —  as they tend to do according to Michels (19xx) and become governed by non-elected life-time administrators in head offices — began to revive their democratic practices. Unions that were ruled by bosses looked over their internal democracy.

My country of Sweden took an extreme stance in this process. Eminent jurists, learned political scientists, and experienced politician joined hands in giving the Swedes new basic laws in the 1970s that encouraged the trend of copying the state's democratic procedures and ideals in the rest of society. The first chapter, second paragraph, of the Constitution states that "government shall see to it that the ideas of democracy become guidelines in all the areas of society." Yes, it states all areas. For example, the Lutheran state church got a democratically elected assembly with authority in administrative and theological matters over the bishops!

The authors of the sentence that "government shall see to it that the ideas of democracy become guidelines in all the areas of society." were apparently incompetent consultants on organization. Or, more likely, they were zealous promoters of the hegemony of the body politic over all other realms. In any case, they were enemies of the many-splendored society.

Political problems do, indeed, have democratic solutions. But in all essentials the problems of business have economic solutions, problems about knowledge have scientific solutions, problems about spirituality have religious solutions, problems of art and literature have aesthetic solutions, and moral problems have ethical solutions. Sometimes democratic ideas can contribute to these solutions, but as soon as you move out of the political sphere, they seldom become essential parts of any solution.

Inappropriate Use of Organizational Forms from Business

Toward the end of the 1900s, a trend was apparent in Europe to the convert many government-run activities limited liability companies. This was called privatization. The activities involved were electric and thermal power stations, water power stations, street and road networks, the post office, telephone networks, railroads and other traffic. Often it did not go farther than that a division of a large public administration became smaller corporations in which the state and municipality kept all the shares. In large cities municipalities have brought together their various companies into a concern, the highest form of business organization.

It was the hope of neo-liberals that this breakup of large public administrations into smaller limited-liability  companies would lead to greater efficiency and lower prices for the taxpayer. We do not know if this has happen. The accounting practices before and after the break have been too inadequate to reveal such figures.

In local government agencies reorganized into corporations owned by the government it became easier to demand the high salaries current in the business world for former public officials. It became also easier to provide generous golden parachutes for top management, to give bonuses, to distribute credit cards with generous rules for their use, to find jobs and assignments for old friends. Not surprisingly, the result was a number of scandals about corruption and perhaps also a decline in civil service morale.

If the business world's language of buy and sell suited the public administrations, it would have been better to privatize them full out and list them on the stock exchange. This has, for example, been done in Europe's telecommunications. If the business world's language does not fit – which was discovered in a number of cases – the line of work should be returned to public administration.  It is a mistake to require the formation of limited liability companies outside the sphere of business.

Different realms need different forms for their line of work. It is not only a question of different rules for politics and business. It is a fact that realms such as science, art, religion, or ethics are not served either by the ideals of the market economy or the ideals of politicians if they are to flourish. They have their own ideals.

To force the rules of democracy on cultural life, on the churches, on the schools and universities and on research, and think it contributes to a better society. Nor has the right really understood that the distinctive character of the realms needs protection. It lets loose the rules of the market in cultural life, in churches, schools, welfare institutions, the universities and research, and thinks it has benefited them.

A political and judicial order cannot be replaced by the spontaneous order of the market, at least not all of it. The parliament and the courts cannot be split into companies. There are more specific restrictions regarding the formation of a company.

A company will never succeed without a real market for it products. Many newly formed companies in the public sector do not have more customers (which is preferable in our definition of a market), but just the one, the local government. They remain half-baked as companies; they have names that connote independence, but they are not independent financially. A similar dependency can be found among some suppliers to large companies.

XXXX the organizational form of firms may prove ineffective. This can occur, for example, when customers do not pay the best market price but rather a standard rate determined by an authority. It would not benefit a private school to chose conversion into a business corporation as long as charging tuition is prohibited and its only source of income would be the sum of tax money decided by the community council. It would also be pointless for a hospital to work as a business corporation as long as the socialized medical establishment is its only customer. It would only be of interest if many insurance companies and other firms were to become its customers.

Enterprises that do not give top priority to profitability cannot enjoy all the advantages of articles of a business corporation. If the key figures that are used to measure a firm's success are other than profit and capital increments, the form of organization would give incorrect signals and turn secondary factors into main concerns. The measure of a pupil's education is more important than the school's profitability. The originality of basic research is more important than the surplus of the department or university.

The measure of a patient's health is more important than the value increase of the hospital. The quality of the defendants’ defense is more important than the profit margin of the law firm. An individual’s adjustment to society is more important than the profit of a social service agency. A criminal's rehabilitation is more important than the prison's surplus. Of course, one can point to single cases where such enterprises in the form of limited companies have been successful, but this usually is because the personnel have worked according to their own professional ethics, not primarily to maximize the profitability of the organization.

Enterprises for which thinking in terms of profitability is disturbing should not be limited companies. This comprises different forms of contemplation. The search for worldly wealth can inhibit the search for spiritual riches and deep aesthetic experiences. At present, the market's forces are drowning us in a materialistic culture of the senses, and the acting out of violent passions. They crowd out the more exacting exercises of ideational culture. Both progressive and conservative critics argue that not only the spiritual virtuosos but also individuals who seriously want to test the possibilities and limits of the culture of the senses are crowded out. And they are right.

[Given these longues conjonctures, I distrust the present attempt to write a constitution for the European Union that contains no serious checks on the vested interest of the Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the Court to expand the superior power of the Union. In the long run any European constitution must match the Grand Differentiation of Europe and grant a fuller independence of other life spheres from the political sphere. The attempted constitution treaty for the European Union with its French-inspired political centralism of everything European is bound to be a short-lived episode. (See also the section entitled "What Unique Aspects of European History Should Shape a Constitution for a European Union?")]

End of Incomplete Draft of Book 6. To an Incomplete Draft of Book 7.