Political Paths to Tyranny

These are just rough thoughts. The start of some future ramblings.tyranny-or-freedom
I do not like the labels ‘left’ and ‘right’. I think our politics has to change beyond those narrow reference frames. I think the more important continua are:

  • How we regard the world (our communities and the environment on which those communities rely) as a functioning whole to which we belong; or only having regard for self and individual status and power (which the neoliberal creed of selfish utility maximisation actually encourages however much they might not intend to); and
  • The attraction of power and exploitation (which I think has a natural affinity with asocial selfishness and narrow, short-term thinking); or the attraction of decentralised engaged communities.

tyranny-of-free-speechThe figure below provides the range of positions around that framing. Where are we at? Where are the trends and the drivers taking us? Where do we want to be?

I think the trends and belief systems to which we hold in 2016 are highly disturbing. I think that there are only two positions that are stable in the medium-term (Devolved democracy A & the various forms of Tyranny [C]), and that there is only one position that is in any way sustainable in the long-term (A). The other positions (B – Benevolent dictatorship, and D – Self-Centred ‘Democracy’) both tend toward Tyranny (

Glorifying the individual as living outside a community and a planet will always push a system toward Tyranny (C).

Any form of authoritarianism and centralisation will always push a system toward Tyranny (C).



A:     Open Society, Local Democracy, Principles of Resilience (world is uncertain & uncontrollable, with complex effects that go beyond reduction to universal principles), Adam Smith’s Village, Social Democracy, Strong Social functions (‘Social Capital’), Maintain the ‘Commons’ and functioning environment.

B:      Benevolent Dictatorship, Closed Society, Mechanical worldview (world is certain & controllable, & runs on universal principles) – Conflict & Incompatibility. Tends to C.

C:     Neoliberal Corporatism, Feudalism, Absolute Monarchy, Tyranny, Totalitarianism – exploitation of people and place – Closed society, Ultimately Revolutionary – by either the people or the environment tipping.

D:     Self-centred ‘Democracy’, open society with strong pressures to close – Conflict & Incompatibility. Any antisocial ‘me’ creed is in conflict with democratic principles, with community, and with long-run feedbacks loops. Selfish individuals seek power, think short-term, and are focused on the narrow. Unwise, exacerbate rather than avoid long-run environmental and social feedback loops. Tends to C.

If Open, Local Democracy is where we want to be, then there are certain capacities we need to make that effective. The list would include an education system that enlightens and empowers people to think deeply and dialogue for instance.

Where we go from here, I have no idea. I am not sure we will arrest the trend to Tyranny unless something big happens. I do not believe we can think our way out of the current paradigms.


Chris Perley

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1 Response to Political Paths to Tyranny

  1. FHW says:

    Hi Chris – a good topic to pick up and bold of you to model – thank you!

    I say the familiar terms of political reference, be it left/right national/labour, or the continuum of socialist-liberal-conservative, are all left behind in the 20th century. They are super ceded and all of what you describe in the model in terms of corporatism and tyranny are operating concurrently.
    Nation hood and our ability to be governed is being dissolved by free market policies, the trans national companies and increasingly it is said, the international criminal network. These all lie well beyond any democracy as we know it.
    I see positives though in the NGO’s who are also coordinating internationally and have a phenomenal ability to connect people and mobilise movements via social media. Consumer power – ethical buying is powerful. Regionalism this having a resurgence with potential for devolvement of power,,,and yikes, perhaps not too much just yet!

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