Anglo-American Absolutism

Patriot Acts and attempts to convince people to give up more privacy and liberty for security are nothing new. The theory that absolute power in the hands of the sovereign is a necessary condition for a well-ordered state is very old. Well-ordered world is a recent addition to it.

Exemplifications of this theory in the Oriental societies of antiquity, as in the tyrannies of classical Greece and Rome, are too many and too well known to detail. Yet it was only with the rise of modern absolutism in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that this theory of political organization received its clear philosophical statement. 21st century absolutist regimes in the US and UK are now giving the same theory the much sought for legitimacy over the last few years.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the national state was becoming the typical and paramount political institution in Western Europe. The monarch was coming to be viewed as the supreme earthly power, divinely instituted as ruler, and representing in his person the will and interest of the state. Actual political tensions most frequently took the form of conflicts between the governing power of the sovereign, on the one side, and the several individuals and institutions within the nation, on the other.

Democracy is now sold as the final outcome of struggle for a perfect governing system. A closer look reveals that the countries who are out on a killing spree for imposing their will in the name of democracies abroad have hardly overcome the tension and tendencies to dominate through lies and deception which the earlier monarchies faced in Europe.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was one of the most remarkable and influential political philosophers of early modem Europe. He had no illusions about the immediate needs of Italy, in which unity could be achieved and maintained, he believed, only through the vigorous and ruthless rule of a strong man – The Prince – after whom he named his most famous work.

Bush and Blair are not called kings or princes today. Nevertheless, they have put Machiavellian philosophy into practice in the 21st century more than anyone since Machiavelli. To him cruelty, bad faith, deception, and other modes of conduct that are clearly vicious when practiced by private citizens may be essential for the security of the Prince rule. If their use does result in the stability and prosperity of his reign and the greater well-being of his subjects, then the Prince is deeply justified in resorting to such practices. A realistic analysis of his work, the Prince, would show as if the 21st century despots in US and UK have followed Machiavelli’s work to the letter as a manual.[1]

Later on, Hegel and his followers were motivated by factors similar to those that had influenced Machiavelli and Bodin so many years before-and, indeed, Hegel referred to Machiavelli as a true political genius. They were the Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis of that age. Like the neo-cons seeking justification in the work of academic GIs, both communists and fascists borrowed elements of the philosophy of Hegel. The same elements are obvious in the approach of Bush and Blair’s justifications for their crimes against humanity and their consolidation of police states at home and abroad.

Regurgitation of freedom and democracy is not something new, nor does frequent use of these terminologies turns a tyrant into a noble leader. Tyrant or their philosophical backers never claim they are against freedom. Hegel, too, made his argument presentable on the advocacy of freedom. He argued: “The true State is the ethical whole and the realization of freedom. It is the absolute purpose of reason that freedom should be realized.”[2] Yet he supported the idea of absolute monarch, such as the absolute presidents and prime ministers of the modern world.

Hegel argued: “It is often maintained against the monarch that since he may be ill-educated or unworthy to stand at the helm, it is therefore absurd to assume the rationality of the institution of the monarch.” To him this was a false “presupposition.” In his view, “one must not therefore demand objective qualification of the monarch; he has just to say ‘yes’ and to put the dot upon the ‘i.'” This is exactly what the forces behind the throne in imperial Washington expect from puppets like Bush to do.

Worse still is the deadly embrace of irrationalism by Bush, Blair and their promoters which defy every logical and objective analysis. Their policies and proposals urge the abandonment of intellect as the ideal ruling faculty in political affairs and its replacement by some nonintellectual function. Myths and slogans are preferred over explanation and analysis. "Sentiment" for our way of life, "inspiration" from the myths of an imaginary enemy, "passion" for combating evil, "intuition" as a justification for going to war, "force" as the only solution and "will" to achieve the pre-determined objectives –” all have served as names for the dynamic but non-rational director of political activity believed appropriate by followers of the Bush-Blair school of thought.

The clearest expression of political irrationalism in the past is found in the works of Georges Sorel, whose doctrine of the social myth has had great influence upon fascist philosophy in the twentieth century. A true myth, said Sorel, does not aim to provide a rational conception of a future society but is a vision, a dream, a great emotional force that can inspire violent activity. Such myths are not to be subjected to scientific analysis or rational discussion. To the contrary, Sorel held that their nature puts analysis out of the question and that their advocates must refuse to engage in any intellectual discussion of their virtues. The function of a myth, above all, is mass inspiration; "the myths are not descriptions of things," Sorel said, "but determinations to act."[3]

From the myth of Al-Qaeda to the ‘US under attack’, ‘they hate our freedoms’, to the myth of ‘poisonous interpretation’ of Islam being responsible for the attacks on the US and UK, Bush and his company are doing exactly the same thing: avoiding real discussion and showing determination to act. Instead, foreign secretary, Liam Fox, called George Galloway, a “sad and twisted but ultimately irrelevant politician” when he said in clear terms that it is the occupation of Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq and support of the oppressive dictators throughout the Muslim world that drives people to react. To Fox, Galloway’s “self-righteousness is matched only by his stupidity.” Galloway’s like attempts at shattering the myths spread by modern day tyrants is considered “quite ridiculous."[4]

Same is the attitude towards the truth diggers and critics of Bush policies in the US. These are characteristics of antirational approach. Bush is hardly acting different from Mussolini, who gloried in his inconsistencies and claimed: "My program is action, not thought." Bush, too, was told by God to go to war and so he did. There is no scope for discussion on this issue any more. The time is not far away when Bush’s followers would respond to all intellectual criticism of the Bush movement in the words of Mussolini’s followers, who had learnt to reply, ‘We think with our blood."

Compare the “our way of life” and “our values” rhetoric from Bush and Blair with what Mussolini at last could say: "We have created our myth; it is a faith, a passion. . . . It is a reality by virtue of being a spur, a source of courage. Our myth is the nation, the greatness of the nation. And to this myth, this grandeur. . . we subordinate all the rest." So if 21st century fascists go to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill hundreds of thousands of people to impose their way of life, it is perfectly ok. Yet if others don’t even claim a war on Bush and Blair’s way of life, just a criticism of their policy is enough to be criminalized as extremism because it ‘indirectly’ supports a war on their ‘way of life’ which is nothing but Anglo-American absolutism.


[1]. See The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Trans. by W. K. Marriott. Everyman’s Library edition. Published by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. and used with their permission and that of J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., London.

[2]. Hegel: Selections, edited by J. Loewenberg. Copyright 1929 Charles Scribner’s Sons; renewal copyright 1957.

[3]. G. Sorel, Letter to Daniel Halevy. Copyright 1950 by The Free Press, a corporation. These passages are from Reflections on Violence, originally written in 1906, translated by T. E. Hulme and J. Roth.

[4]. “Galloway says Blair and Bush ‘have blood on their hands’,” Guardian, Press Association, Friday August 5, 2005