The Matrix of Control (MOC) was posted on this blog in summer 2015 as a logical continuation of most of my previous essays that were dealing with false notions of social reality hidden under lies, deception and innuendoes, fantastic constructs of unbelievability, concealed behind fog of unreason furthered by Rousseauesque romanticism of totalitarian chaos, a fake notion of new existential determinism of our life paths.
The MOC essay posited another more ominous take on circulated/promoted social narratives about an organism of stratified society of control in later stage of development when ruling elite is already well established as a social construct i.e. its existence has been acknowledged or even somewhat legitimized within society at large.
However, it was not always that way, in early developmental stages prevalent types of human organization were varieties of incarnations of egalitarian societies where no ruling elite or no formal ruling elite was formed.
The MOC essay ignored an important issue of inception of ruling elites from within society at large:
The issue of emergence of the elite itself is more an issue related to the evolution of our human species and individual advancement processes as well as its conditionality regarding the social development, generally similar across all the higher order species and hence will not be discussed here where the focus is being placed on already developed society.
The Postscript, Part One, particularly focuses on addressing this critical issue, to ask how and why elites are emerging and whether or not they are necessary or even advantageous for complex, non-linear development of overall society.
The Postscript in contrast to my original MOC essay is mostly, but not entirely, devoid of direct references to everyday lives within our society of control and rather deals with compilations, aggregations of multitude of experiences and observations by many authors as well as an attempt of some modest socio-philosophical synthesis.
Elite vs. Society.
Before we go any further let’s ask directly what society or elite really is? So we know what we are talking about here.
It would be instructive here if I put forward [solely for purposes of this writing] what I mean by society and elite itself which definition varies widely and is often confusing.
The society is an abstract social construct of a collective containing at least following four elements:
- Plurality of diverse, variable membership and its attributes i.e. [human, ape etc.,];
- Structure e.g. [hierarchical, object centered, flat or rhizome, etc.,];
- Specific nature of inter-member relations i.e. [elitarian or egalitarian or mixed] and well-defined mechanism of social control i.e. [physical (intimidation), cultural, social, technological, ideological, knowledge based etc.,];
- Adopted abstract social constructs defining or engendering general (societal) rules and objectives on which society is founded e.g. [survival tribes, local or church community, democratic society, military, high society etc.,];
An elite in this context is an abstract social construct, a subset of the society characterized by the same major structural elements [1-4] however containing different content and a subset (or cross-set) of membership and hence different set of rules, norms and objectives, and that includes specific rules and objectives in relation between elite and the society at large, than those expressed by declarative elements [2,3,4] of entire societal body.
In this particular understanding elite is constantly emerging from the society at large, expands and contracts under separate rules converging or diverging from rules of the rest of society along social development path.
Even in early human development, such a differentiation, emancipation or even alienation of elite from the society in itself, would likely develop certain, worldviews, practices and conservative attitudes, namely conservation of physical/political power, control and influence which on the top of superior ability for violence, would likely much later gain certain social, psychological foundation justifying the differentiation between elites and the rest of society, based on what we would call a general philosophy of moral superiority and ethics of control as MOC essay put it about contemporary elites:
..it is all about the binary moral order, the good and the evil, absolute truths and absolute values, incomprehensible concepts to those who don’t belong, those unable to achieve the higher state of consciousness beyond any notion of forethought or petty human concerns. Seen as a matter of the objective reality, ..[by the ruling elite].. law is their will and their morality is their immediate need or benefit, all the other considerations rescinded. They regard themselves beyond any earthly moral insecurities or doubts as an expression of the ultimate justice and absolute truth.
Another important and difficult question is the particular structures of elites due to almost complete lack of hard data and hence any characterization can only be based on conjectures however rational and logical.
However, the basic question here is not who belong to the elite or what are their attitudes to the society at large [issues partially addressed in MOC essay] but what is elite as a social construct and whether or not elites are inevitable components of society or they constitute just a particular branch or path of general development of any society and particularly a human society at some stage.
Those were human societies (approx. 250k – 25k B.C.), which were formed via what many would call process of self-organization, or more precisely a process of organization via recognition of physical limits of society dictated by physical environment and basic needs of survival, an approach to formation of a community we shared with higher order animals.
Ape vs. Human Society. A Socio-Evolutionary Branching.
Most of Ape societies developed distinct hierarchical structure mostly dictated by immediate environment they were living in and that included limited but renewable resources within restricted habitat range and fierce competition [among same-species groups] associated with it.
While fossil evidences cannot provide us with clear view of the past Ape societies contemporary ape societies are almost always elitarian [unequal in function and shared benefit] in its nature.
In such an elitarian society elite emerges via physical competition of strength, intimidation and violence and as a result a distinct inheritable leadership is formed that commands most of the resources available to a group and command a form of labor and/or physical and sexual submission of other members of their group but mostly not in exchange of leadership and its responsibilities but parallel to it.
If this is a natural or only possible state of the Ape society is unknown but if it is then it is clearly a results of a close, resource rich environment of jungle/forest that had decisive impact of the social structure requiring holding ground/range in a inter-group ape social competition for natural resources of water and food [any form of sustenance and shelter] and [as speculative but feasible argument has it] this was not common, typical environment of our evolutionary humanoid and later human ancestry.
Some authors posit that apes branched out of pre- or even humanoid evolutionary path that started about 2-3 million B.C. well before 250k years ago when first human genetically identical to us, a Homo Sapiens, appeared on Earth as far as we know it, and that this evolutionary tree branching happened due to specifics of the socio-physical environment similar to that I mentioned above.
In other words one can risk a speculative assertion that the Ape species are devolved pre- or humanoids specifically or partially due to finding relatively close, resource-rich environment as well as development of elitarian societies associated with it.
Divergence of Human Development Path.
There are plenty of evidences that human path of development was quite different, a path of inadequacy, weakness, uncertainty, scarcity of the resources and necessity of wider cooperation* and constant movement from one area to another due to following species of prey, or threat of extinction by other stronger, more survival skilled and adopted species, harsh weather and environmental factors or just temporary exhaustion of local natural resources often due to astronomical seasons.
In the first approx. 150k years the inter-group human interactions were not very common for nomadic tribes that had to limit their numbers in their groups due to element of risk, scarcity, uncertainty and unpredictable amount of resources available in the future and hence inter-human competition was limited.
In such condition, natural hierarchy of extended family based early human societies in most cases likely did not acquire attributes of elitarian structure and human elite did not likely emerged at that time as unnecessary in particular circumstances of lack of need or capabilities of defending a resource-rich territory like it was the case in ape societies.
Well-proven nomadic lifestyle of early humans and lack of evidences that natural group hierarchies (patriarchal/matriarchal) were transformed into elitarian tribes in majority of cases of early human communities, supports assertion of divergent not only human evolutionary path (development of large brain to deal with volatility) but also social development path apart from that of apes.
In other words, certain evolutionary bio-socio-environmental path of human struggle, suffering, uncertainty, deliberative thinking, unifying, sharing, caring as a response to it, is likely what made us into human species in the beginning of our times on earth.
Social Differentiation and Emerging of Human Elites.
While initial approach to formation of the human community stemmed from a hierarchical animal world, humans developed it into a bifurcated stream of hierarchical egalitarian and hierarchical elitarian tribal communities that later achieved status of society i.e. they expanded range of social interests and benefits shared within the community, once basic security and survival needs were met.
Important to note that hierarchical society does not necessary is elitarian although often is. The hierarchy relates more to structure of control and elitism relates more to content of the human relations, to variable, non-uniform division or sharing of outcomes of economic activities as a material foundation of society.
At the end it is a content of hierarchical system of control that may or may not produce social differentiation in a form of elite subculture. Although, dynamic hierarchical system doesn’t preclude possibility of development of society of nearly equal sharing as probably was initially the case of human species.
Unfortunately, a path to elitarism rather than human native egalitarianism was in many cases likely developed by, what we would call, human “civilization” over last few dozens of millennia.
How this exactly happened is mostly unknown so far but development human language and abstraction, capacity of observations and building complex models of nature, ability of long-term planning and highly effective, deliberate collective actions under variable apriori unknown circumstances as well beginning of deep division of specialized tasks and advanced tools beyond that of apes, made human species successful enough so they settled, as ape societies did, since they could find previously hard to inhabit areas and transform them into semi-permanent or permanent ranges, what we call early agricultural settlements that created acute need to defend them more against other humans and less against other species.
This necessity to defend by standing ground rather than choose to escape as well as deep division of labor (tasks) resulted from surplus agricultural production, was a major factor in development of human elites as natural resource rich range was in ape societies.
What we understand as self-organized, nomadic egalitarian societies, mostly hunters and gatherers’ societies of sharing in its original, initial form have in large part disappeared only very recently in human society “evolutionary” times, just in last 10k years, replaced or complemented with numerous forms of hierarchical elitarian societies liken to Ape societies i.e. new societies of individual hoarding vs. native human societies of common sharing.
These were societies of differentiated hoarding [i.e. accumulation of food or water or other goods beyond immediate need] and a threat of loosing it was a major factor that necessitated emerging of human sociopolitical elites from social hierarchical structures and transformed themselves during last ten millennia into so-called sovereign [Machiavellian] societies, into disciplinary [Foucault] societies, into machinic [Deleuze & Guattari] societies of control that will be subject of second part of the Postscript.
Elite and Trinity of Power.
All those disciplinary societies would not be possible if certain social developments were not occurring over last millennia namely formalization of elite subculture or class as a permanent feature of society in political, economic and cultural/religious realm and unification of fundamental components of a social system into hierarchical structure and mechanism of control namely power of physical intimidation, power of inducement and manipulation and power of economic benefit differentiation i.e. inception of what we would call early sociopolitical divisions within society at large.
As I mention in my other post [Plutus and Myth of Money]; elites over millennia developed a “Trinity of Social Power”: Power of Sword; Power of Money; Power of Word; or “oneness and morality of power” understood by ruling elite as absolutely necessary power tools of control for holding strong and steady grip over subjugated “man” and to control “man’s” perception of himself within society.
Hardt & Negri in their book “Empire” put it this way:
“..[ruling elite] operates through three global absolute means.. bomb, money, [and] ether, .. three means of control are three of tiers of .. power..”
It is interesting to note here that human elite expanded their tools of social control immensely, vastly beyond simple violence and physical intimidation as it was primarily the case in Ape elitarian societies but our big brain allowed for vast expansion of those tools, methods into realm of purely abstract social constructs like money, religion, culture underlain by human language i.e. methods of control via complex soft persuasion techniques alien to Apes.
But to what end? In MOC essay I put it that way:
.. the ruling elite[s] ..have no specific plan of action or even specific ultimate objective to be achieved, short of holding onto the power and expand the limits of control by whatever means available. What they use are .. methods and techniques of manipulating of the population stratified into the casts or classes via propaganda of the abstract concepts of economic development, political process, social policies, law, religion, science, vertical mobility, sports, nationalism, racism etc., and in the cases when it fails they use raw brutality as the ultimate expression of “innate” morality of their power.
Things to Come: What civilization?
While back then there was quite small group of our ancestry that took that path, about 20k to 10k B.C., a human society development path branched into what we would call quasi-sedimentary or proto-agriculture communities, and that led toward what we consider a path to civilization, a path from egalitarian nomadic societies of sharing into elitarian sedimentary, concentrated societies of hoarding at or near unsustainable cities, which within few thousands of years began to dominate population-wise and excel in development of abstract social constructs and hence developed quasi-permanent elites around those constructs. But there was another much more treacherous path our ancestors entered, a path to intra-human wars, wholesale intra-specie killings as integral part not only group survival effort but also a part of foundation our ancient and modern civilization in itself.
In light of that it is only appropriate to ask a question whether or not that branching out of human society development path constitutes a main path of development of human species as a whole as we all want to believe or yet another dead-end branch, as many authors posit, already happened multiple times within over 250k years of existence of human race.
They postulate that left over debris of other dead-end human “civilization” branches [not alien but human or humanoid like Neanderthals] lasting possible several thousand years scattered via massive epochal climate change [like ice age 40k B.C. and others] that caused enormous erosion processes and hence perhaps have not been confidently located so far.
In other words it is unclear if development of elitarian structure of society as we know it, comprises a progressive or regressive [dead-end] change. Or whether or not what we call civilization constitutes a progress or regress of development of human society, a society that [approx. 100k B.C.], well before this branching occurred developed basic societal support structures considered today as “progressive” as I wrote in [Plutus and Myth of Money];
Fortunately, [back then] only a small fraction of the tribal societies went through this type social deprivation process [elitarianism] fueling deep social inequality, while the vast majority held on to their egalitarian principles and refused to render assignment of a value to a human being based on a subjective or capricious psychological judgment of the elites while continue embracing some elements of the division of labor of equals. These were stable and economically successful societies based on the cooperation, mutual responsibility, respect, dignity and overarching interest of the community, that invented a revolutionary concepts of the socially beneficial welfare, value of intergenerational learning, compassion and support for sick or injured in order to return them to the society as valued members, despite their possible long-term disabilities. It was a precursor to the ancient learning and healing or health care systems, surviving today on fringes of the society but rejected, criminalized and forsaken by the rulers of modern technological states. In contrast, the elitist societies [of the past and today] promoted abandonment of the weak and sick as useless to the society, while encouraged and valued solely highest individual physical [technocratic] or military prowess [as well as loyalty and submission including sexual, in a way liken to Apes].
In such a context we must question the utility of our “civilization” as a human achievement, which actually could be in last 10k years, reduced just to massive development of complex elites and associated elitarian structures, advanced mechanisms of societal control and intensive natural resources exploitation under guise of technological development, necessary only due to complete absorption of political power and concentration of economic activities, as this type of basic civilizational model is inherently not self-sustainable.
So are elites, as we know them, really needed in human development?
Well such a question seems no longer be academic, especially in face of already happening economic collapse, ongoing ecological catastrophe, massive resource (water, oil etc.,) depletion and approaching and even beginning [or returning in modern era] massive climate instability, threatening people safety in shelter, food supplies etc.
And therefore more and more heard, are desperate calls for profound civilizational change of how we all live, how we see ourselves in the natural world and most of all calls demanding drastically lowering energy footprint and overall sustainability of human development, ironically all the concepts and implementations that have been appreciated and developed already at least 25k years ago, of course in a context of several order of magnitude smaller population.
Such calls seem to support the thesis of civilizational dead-end and inevitable conclusion that for our own survival elites must be dislodged and new social organization, in much more egalitarian form, must prevail otherwise we will have to face unprecedented in the history of humanity [possibly] terminal extinction of human species.
if collapse of advanced agro-industrial civilization, we begin to experiencing now, would not be immediately terminal for all, it would be an intriguing question to ask what actually awaits those of us who perhaps survive longer if we continue on this seemingly dead-end path chartered by the ruling elites, as I mull over it in the upcoming part two of the Postscript to the Matrix of Control series entitled “RISE OF SOCIAL MACHINES”.
So in the end we come back to the same question. Do we, as human species, even need social/political elites ?
Human survived over 200k years without them, so far only 10k with them endangering life-sustaining environment for most species on the top of extinction threatening natural geo-climatic processes. Do the math and make up your own mind.