Weber II: Justifications of Legitimacy

Weber states that there are three justifications that states use to show that they are the legitimate locus of the sole right to use violence to dominate others.

Like the political institutions historically preceding it, the state is a relation of men dominating men, a relation supported by means of legitimate (i.e. considered to be legitimate) violence. If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. When and why do men obey? Upon what inner justifications and upon what external means does this domination rest?

To begin with, in principle, there are three inner justifications, hence basic legitimations of domination. 

First, the authority of the 'eternal yesterday,' i.e. of the mores sanctified through the unimaginably ancient recognition and habitual orientation to conform. This is 'traditional' domination exercised by the patriarch and the patrimonial prince of yore. 

There is the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace (charisma), the absolutely personal devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of individual leadership. This is 'charismatic' domination, as exercised by the prophet or­­in the field of politics­­by the elected war lord, the plebiscitarian ruler, the great demagogue, or the political party leader. 

Finally, there is domination by virtue of 'legality,' by virtue of the belief in the validity of legal statute and functional 'competence' based on rationally created rules. In this case, obedience is expected in discharging statutory obligations. This is domination as exercised by the modern 'servant of the state' and by all those bearers of power who in this respect resemble him.

The United States of America rejects the first mode entirely. Itself a state borne of revolution, the 'eternal yesterday' is unavailable to it as a form of legitimation. Article I, Section IX, Clause 8 of its constitution forbids titles of nobility. The First Amendment forbids a state religion, which in other states serves the function of tying the temporal leadership to the eternal. At this point the Constitution itself is old enough to almost serve as a kind of 'eternal yesterday' legitimation, but only in an illusory way: all politicians refer to it, profess loyalty to it, but none obey it. 

There are no charismatic individuals in American leadership. Some argue that Donald Trump was one during his tenure, but that is over. No one currently in any position of leadership in the United States government has any sort of charisma or charm. Perhaps this is just as well; in fact, the Founders were quite worried about demagogues of the sort mentioned.

That leaves only the third justification, and it is the one that the United States has traditionally relied upon. The rule of law! Laws and, since FDR, rules created by executive 'experts' are supposed to be obeyed because they were crafted in a process itself supposedly legitimate and enforced evenhandedly upon all. 

Crises of legitimacy have occurred before now. FDR himself experienced one because his rules and rule-making bodies kept being rejected by the Supreme Court. This continued until his court-packing scheme, which although it failed had the practical effect of convincing the court to stop bucking his actions. The current Supreme Court, facing a similar court-packing scheme, seems to be avoiding conflict with the President and Congress pre-emptively. However, FDR paid a big price in terms of legitimacy in the eyes of the American people for this and other acts; had it not been for the Second World War uniting Americans behind his administration, that history might read differently. 

In the previous post I mentioned that we have entered a revolutionary moment on two fronts: 

Nevertheless it should be clear just from what has been said that we are in a revolutionary moment. The government is trapped between a segment that is openly contesting its claim to a monopoly on legitimate force -- or to having the legitimacy to police at all -- and a segment that questions whether the government continues to enjoy a more basic and fundamental legitimacy. The government's response to one side is cowering submission; to the other, an attempt to suppress their concerns rather than to address them. 

The BLM/Antifa faction, allied with the left broadly, has won some early rounds. Policing has become much more limited over the last year as the police withdraw into themselves and their precincts. The consequence is a murder rate that has risen to a degree with no modern precedent, in some cities up half again what it was only a year prior. Revolutions have their cost, though, and this one is not borne by the revolutionaries but by ordinary poor people in bad neighborhoods. As such, the revolutionaries can afford to pay such a cost forever; it does not even come onto their books.

On the right, the movement is outraged precisely by the failure of the law. The IRS in the Obama administration targeted right-wing TEA Party groups to prevent them from being effective politically. (If you Google this, you will learn that the media is telling you now that this was all 'fake news,' except that the government had to pay settlements for their wrongdoing.) The IRS coverup of this, which involved the 'accidental' destruction of many hard drives containing copies of emails, was never punished. The FBI built its whole investigation around the Clintons around clearing Hillary in time for her to become the Democratic Candidate for President; it then turned on the Republican candidate in a stunning fashion, creating an appearance of hostile foreign intelligence activity that enabled them to spy on his campaign, destroy his first National Security Advisor even though the FBI had cleared him during its investigation, and mire his administration in an illusion of scandal for the first two years. The 'interagency' community then arranged for his impeachment, precisely on the grounds of defying the unelected bureaucracy he had been elected to command. 

In the next election, the FBI bent over backwards to hide Hunter Biden's laptop (hey, another 'accidental' destruction!); the Secret Service seems to have worked to cover up his gun crimes. The powers that be turned a blind eye as a self-confessed conspiracy funded by major corporations in alignment with the Democratic party -- the conspiracy that gave an interview to Time magazine after the fact -- unconstitutionally and illegally changed election laws with an eye towards determining the outcome of the election. State and Federal police agencies refused to treat this as the serious crime of election fraud, and our court system refused to hear these cases: Dr. David Clements, a former District Attorney and a law professor in New Mexico, shows that not one single court had an evidentiary hearing at which evidence could be presented. In the news media, composed of more corporate participants, the 'rejection' by the courts was said to have shown that there was no evidence of fraud; in fact, none was allowed to be offered in any court venue.

At this point the United States' "rule of law" is so corrupted by the attempt to consolidate power that even the United States Postal Service is running a clandestine program to spy on Americans' social media activity. If the reports are accurate, they are engaged in domestic spying precisely targeting constitutionally-protected protest activity. This is the sort of thing that would have been rightly mocked as the fever-dreams of the paranoid drug-addled a few years ago.

Meanwhile the National Guard has been tasked to protect the politicians from the ordinary people (yes, the poor Joes are still there), though the violence targeting the Guard seems to be coming from people on the left affiliated with the anti-police movement.

So there is a general collapse of the rule of law associated with the success of the anti-policing movement; and an abandonment of the principle that the law should rule evenhandedly by those seeking to consolidate power. For these twin reasons, the United States government is on very thin ice on Weber's terms.

There remains a secondary source of submission to authority, however, even where legitimacy fails. That will be the subject of the next entry in this series. 

1 comment:

ymarsakar said...

This is a good timeline. WE have high expectations of humanity s performance in these games.

The prophets of old were not drug addled or paranoid. Just.... strange.