Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lessons from History: Fear for the Future

Jerry Monaco writes
One of my conclusions from my study of the Roman Republic and of its historical memory during the imperial period is the following: The lingering memory of Roman Republican electoral politics, the identification of the Roman multitude with the Emperor, acted as justification for imperial sovereignty and warning against the loss of such sovereignty.
This is an interesting finding, and one which resonates with my own concerns about electoral politicals and the Imperial-manque presidency: the more that people dissassociate from "dirty politics" -- both the mass of voters disappointed with the options and the social/economic elites disappointed with the voters -- the more the "unitary executive" becomes a plausible alternative. It's considered somewhat trite to compare Rome and the US, but one of the most disturbing features of the transition to Imperial rule, for me, was the retention of Republican institutions to maintain the veneer of participation and democracy. It was not a revolutionary movement, but an evolutionary (not all evolution is improvement, just adaptation, after all) decision...

Jerry Monaco also writes
There was an old Firesign Theater joke from the late sixties that the Fascists won World War II but nobody noticed. We should never forget that great powers never fight wars to bring peace, democracy, and civilization to the poor and benighted. They never fight wars to end atrocities. Great powers fight wars to extend the power of the narrow domestic interests of those who run the state and own society. If the other side is evil, as the Nazi's certainly were, they will use the atrocities committed by the current enemy to justify their war and cover-up their own atrocities.
I would qualify that somewhat: "peace, democracy and civilization" are sometimes of sufficient value to those elites -- war, dictatorship and chaos often being bad for business or dangerous neighbors -- that they are in fact something close to the real reasons for war. But his larger point about atrocities and the tendency of states to find people who commit atrocities more useful than atrocious is well taken.


Jerry Monaco said...

Thanks very much for this notice. I haven't been blogging as much as I should lately mostly because I am in the midst of trying to gather notes for an outline of a book on kinship and law in ancient city-states. My weblog is mostly notes for things I wish to think about in the future, or things I am too angry about to ignore in the present.

You have a nice little weblog here.

Ahistoricality said...


I'm a firm believer that there's no "should" in blogging; my posting follows a pretty similar model to yours. It's what you find, or what you think, and people can read it or not as the case may be.... I am glad that the carnivals exist to help bring things together.