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Nation of Devils

Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience

STEIN RINGEN
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkrq5
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  • Book Info
    Nation of Devils
    Book Description:

    Oxford University political theorist Stein Ringen offers a thought-provoking meditation on the art of democratic rule: how does a government persuade the people to accept its authority? Every government must make unpopular demands of its citizens, from levying taxes to enforcing laws and monitoring compliance to regulations. The challenge, Ringen argues, is that power is not enough; the populace must also be willing to be led. Ringen addresses this political conundrum unabashedly, using the United States and Britain as his prime examples, providing sharp opinions and cogent analyses on how the culture of national obedience is created and nurtured. He explores the paths leaders must choose if they wish to govern by authority rather than power, or, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, to "maintain order in a nation of devils."

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19901-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE: THE FUTILITY OF POWER
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 THE POWERLESSNESS OF POWERFUL GOVERNMENT
    (pp. 1-11)

    “If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be.” So said Max Weber, the greatest of German political thinkers, in a famous lecture at Munich University in 1919 under the title “Politik als Beruf.”¹ That might seem cynical, like a eulogy for dictatorship, but it is nothing of the kind. Serious governments want to rule. But also their populations want them to rule, to rule appropriately, of course, but therefore clearly to rule. Hence, in the American Declaration of Independence, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” We citizens...

  5. 2 HOW TO DO IT WELL AND BADLY
    (pp. 12-34)

    The ingredients of analysis are thereby in place. The question is how governments rule. The business of government is the public good. The problem is obedience. (I will eventually redefine it to loyalty, but for now obedience will do.) Obedience must be extracted from the dominated. That is done by pull, that of good governance, and by push, that of robust institutions.¹ When these influences come together, there is settlement and order. In a democracy, government is for the people. They then owe their governors obedience. But that obedience must still be earned, and is earned when governors with effect...

  6. 3 HOW TO USE POWER
    (pp. 35-58)

    The New Labour story is confusing. This was a government with power that for all its activism was of little consequence. It may also be difficult to come to grips with the Korean story, or at least my interpretation that it was not power but a particular and in some ways restrained use of power that accounts for success. This does not make sense. Powerless governments are inconsequential but powerful ones rule. Is that not so by definition?

    Not necessarily. The British experience is not even all that unusual. On taking up the American presidency in 1977, Jimmy Carter enjoyed...

  7. 4 HOW TO BE A GOVERNMENT
    (pp. 59-75)

    Governments do one thing and one thing only: they give orders. No other output or product comes from a government at work. And even that is to put it too strongly. Sometimes their orders are so meek as to be mere requests, for example when a government asks the legislature to give it a budget, or just suggestions, for example when it advises people to maintain their health by not smoking. We might have said that all they do is tospeak. They tell the legislature what laws to pass. They tell their civil servants what laws and budgets to...

  8. 5 HOW TO GIVE ORDERS
    (pp. 76-97)

    Ministers do not have much of a repertoire to play on. They cannot spend money, they cannot deliver services, they cannot build roads. All they can do is to tell people—others, as always—to do things in the hope that they get off their backsides and cooperate enough for action to be set in motion resulting in money being spent, services delivered and roads built.

    Government orders are commands or signals. That dichotomy makes for a complete classification of orders by the kind of order. When a government gives an order, it is either commanding or signalling, or combining...

  9. 6 HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
    (pp. 98-115)

    New Labour in Britain was not only a government with power, mandate and money, it was a competent government with all those advantages. Yet its rule was a litany of failure. Its problem was not in getting policies made; rather it had it too easy on that front. Where it stumbled was in making workable policies. Good intentions are not enough. Competence is not enough. When a government has power and can make policy, its next problem is to avoid mistakes. You might think it a truism to advise governments to make good decisions. Sadly, it is all but.

    George...

  10. 7 HOW TO MAKE OFFICIALS OBEY
    (pp. 116-139)

    A minister issues an order. The order hits an official. When that happens, the default response is no response at all—nothing. Civil servants are people and, like most people, proud and selfish. The order tells the official to go out of his way and do something he has not been inclined to. His selfishness tells him to avoid that. It deprives him of freedom by subjecting him to the will of someone else as the servant of a master. His pride tells him to oppose that.

    This is not to say that no response is the expected response. It...

  11. 8 HOW TO MAKE CITIZENS OBEY
    (pp. 140-183)

    The government has brought to heel the officials, who then carry its orders out to the citizens. By “citizens” I mean ordinary folks: workers, taxpayers, business tycoons, political activists, teachers, philanthropists, trade union bosses, bankers, women, parents (and sometimes children). Why should those people obey what their government says?

    The short answer is that they don’t and they shouldn’t. Citizens have rights. Ministers cannot lord over them in the way they can instruct those who on the job have given up some of their freedom by putting themselves in their employment. Look to any proper democracy and you will see...

  12. 9 GOOD GOVERNMENT
    (pp. 184-218)

    In a democracy, we control our governors and they rule us. Those of us who idealise democracy are much concerned with the former. We should temper our romanticism and be equally concerned with the latter. Democracy is to make rule safe, but the need for rule is not diminished by democracy. Our representatives are in our place, our betters—and they make us obey, or so they should. If they are lucky, their system is workable and they can get on with it. If they are unlucky, they inherit a dysfunctional system and should go back to base one and...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 219-230)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 231-240)
  15. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. 241-242)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 243-250)