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From my studies, I’ve come with a personal view that power has its own nature; a set of behaviors that it typically follows with little deviation. Or rather, it creates a secondary human nature that overwrites people’s natural proclivities towards empathy and cooperation (in a similar way that addiction does). Power, from what I understand, has both a micro nature and a macro nature, one affecting the behavior of an individual, and the other affecting groups/classes in society.
On the personal level, when someone obtains the power to dominate and control another, they expose themselves to a high probability of becoming addicted to that power. The greater the power, the greater the chances of someone becoming addicted. Once addicted, their nature becomes similar to that of a drug addict, willing to do many harmful things in order to maintain the “high” of exercising power, becoming numb after a while to their current level and needing more in order to maintain the same “high”, overreacting to being deprived of their “high” (sometimes to the point of violence), and suffering withdrawal when deprived of it. A variety of psychological and sociological factors can play into someone’s “tolerance” to withstand the addictive influences of power, and how one acts under its influence. Basically, power has drug-like effects on the brain, and so those under its influence tend to exhibit drug-addict-like behaviors, except people can’t “overdose” on power.
On the societal level, my studies have led me to believe that power has its own behavioral “nature”, which follows what I like to call “prime directives.” These directives are, in order of importance:
- Sustain its current level (of power).
- Enhance influence and scope of action over current subjects (expansion by depth).
- Expand influence to other subjects (expansion by breadth).
One thing I’ve found regarding the nature of power is about how easily it flows through the political, economic, and social spheres. Formal hierarchies (political & economic) reinforce informal hierarchies (social) and vice versa. When a hierarchy in one area becomes threatened, that hierarchy tries to adapt and flows into other areas, or even changes hands. For example, when the landlords of China had their power threatened, the enormous economic hierarchies adapted and went from their hands to those of the CCP. When worker power in the US saw its peak during the post-war boom, that economic power flowed into the political and social spheres, where we saw the second Red Scare and the rise of the third KKK.
I imagine I’m preaching to the choir at this point, so I’ll go into how it relates to the asymptotes and new configurations. From how I see it, as dominant capital pushes against the asymptote of power of the current economic system, that power attempting to spread within the economic sphere spills over to the social and political spheres. This is manifesting in the rise of far-right authoritarianism, the “CRT” scare, increasing racial segregation, the incel movement, and other reactionary movements from those on the top of the socio-political hierarchies of the US. It is these shifts that we can track new power configurations in real time.
As for looking towards the future, I can foresee two paths in which the US’s dominant capital can transcend the current asymptotes of power:
- The domination/absorption of the state by dominant capital (corporate oligarchy/dictatorship), which I call the “Wall-E” path.
- The synthesis of the state and dominant capital (fascism).
By obtaining the power of the state, dominant capital is able to transcend the limits of modern American capitalism by being able to do away with petty obstacles like “the law” and “popular consent”. Unlike Leninists who believe fascism is capitalism in decay, I’d argue that fascism is capitalism transcending its social, political, and economic power asymptotes. The next, if not final step in its evolution.
Knowing the trajectory as well as learning from history definitely can be a guide for resisting its shift. I share a similar approach to Nitzan & Bichler when it comes to careful injections of radical democracy. Our approaches need to be comprehensive and attacking multiple hierarchies simultaneously. Using that simultaneous approach is, in my opinion, the best way we can successfully decentralize power within society. Additionally, I also believe social hierarchies must be directly confronted in order to successfully combat them. The only way I see radically democratic prefigurative institutions becoming absorbed & incorporated is if those institutions abandon radical democracy.
And finally, for the theoretical limits, I believe there are two absolute limits. One is feasible with current technology and the other can exist only if technological advancement allows it to. The first is the cannibalistic end-goal of fascism; the ultimate display of domination is the murder of the dominated. In Fascism, there will always be an enemy to conquer, a people to dominate, a population to eradicate. Only when there is one remaining fascist left can they proclaim their final victory and their mission fulfilled as they celebrate and despair in their palace of bones. The other is if technology allows for people to turn others into automata, allowing the controller to exert domination over not only the body, but the very minds of the dominated. I can’t really imagine anything beyond those two limits.
If I got anything wrong or if anyone would like to correct me, go right ahead.