There is much public debate in the legacy media about the great tragedies the electoral victory of Donald Trump has revealed about the state of America. There is much discussion by the plebeians of America about how Trump has revealed the man behind the curtain. Some recoil at the revelation, some smile at confirmation of their beliefs, and some shrug their shoulders. The reaction depends on where one falls in the patron-client dynamic in America. All seem to be aware that there is a factional battle within America’s ruling class timed with an obvious decline in its competencies and capabilities.
The new compact and organization that American governance created during FDR’s reign is long in the tooth. It originated with the ascendancy of Harvard-trained communists, massive centralization of power and media, and rule by academics. There was a political formula and an agreed to ruling minority. This ruling class has dominated for decades but is experiencing problems.
A useful lens for understanding the current situation and potential for disruption is to consider the approach of Gaetano Mosca and his work The Ruling Class. While more than 70 years old, Mosca’s writing is very much in touch with the state of Western decay. For Mosca, socialism and democracy were intertwined and ascendant, though in his opinion seeded with failure. He also wrote that social democracy was a threat to Western civilization.
Reading Mosca will feel like talking to a contemporary dissident. He’s explicit in his belief that social democrats represent a new religion incompatible with the Christianity on which Western civilization was founded. The core beliefs of the 19th and early 20th century ideological architects we see failing were Rousseau’s belief that man is born good and only corrupted by society and a misapplication of Darwin’s theories that “every human group can make considerable organic improvements in relatively brief periods of time.” Both are obviously false.
Mosca defined his ruling class as simply the class that “performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings.” The majority, which is governed by this ruling class, defer to but also consent via the political formula. The need for a political formula stems from the “need in man’s nature… of governing and knowing that one is governed not on the basis of mere material or any intellectual force, but on the basis of a moral principle.” We see this today with the never-ending calls for equality and justice. And yet, the properly trained ruling class apparatchiks provide plans to execute these aims in their name.
Mosca notes the use of this political formula by all ruling minorities, but emphasizes the need for it to be based on truth. If based on lies, it is a cudgel for a weak, but rising ruling minority. This political formula is even necessary for bureaucratic administrations, as they must justify “actual exercise of power by resting on some universal moral principle.” The ruling class must combine both an aspirational humanitarian ethos, as well as a national or communal calling. Those who have usurped power will often impose their created political formula on others as a tyrannical absolute, which forces all to bend the knee.
Such a system describes our current ruling class per the mid-20th century assembling of the New Deal Empire, which was also combined with the simultaneous switching of minorities (racial, religious, sexual) and immigrants to the Left. The American Founding Father myth dropped off, and the focus became Ellis Island and Emma Lazarus’ poem, rather than Manifest Destiny and conquering the West. This messaging was successful when American immigration sources were mostly of European stock. However, this messaging is now stretched to an impossible to reconcile justification of not just forcing immigration of distant and alien cultures and religions, but even elevating them to the status of more American than Americans. The post-Hart-Cellar Act and ’86 amnesty immigrants agree with this message, but not core Americans.
This poor messaging is creating problems with the relationship of a bubble-living elite and the masses, which extends across the political divide. After the election of Trump, the GOP has acted as if the legislative process and government policy can operate according to business as usual. But the GOP is in crisis, as its binding political formula of tax cuts and less government intervention in health care has been revealed to be a fraud. Take the case of Obamacare repeal. This situation on both sides creates opportunities for segments of the ruling class to make moves.
Mosca carefully laid out conditions for ruling class disruption, as the ruling class can change in constitution if an element of it can find a way to tap or use newer political forces. These forces may consist of “foreign peoples, forced emigrations, discoveries, wars,” the creation of “new poverty and new wealth” or the spread of “knowledge of things that were previously unknown or…infiltration of new moral, intellectual and religious currents.” These causes all ultimately lead to the masses no longer blindly obeying the rulers, as they have lost faith in the political formula that established the right for the ruling class to govern.
The West has seen many of the above listed events on scales Mosca could have hardly ever imagined. The catalysts listed above have created a situation where ruling class elements can see the shifts of power that make it possible for a reshuffling of the ruling class. Likewise, the existing order very clearly sees the trouble that these events cause and is closing down conceivable alternatives building in the background. Simple actions like not allowing comments on internet news stories is the ruling class defending its false political formula from the pushback of any social force.
This is not the only element at play, since a competent and well-run governing body with a united ruling class will not generate rebellious forces that could threaten it. Mosca was careful to note that “ruling classes decline inevitably…when they can no longer render the social services which they once rendered or when their talents and the services they render lose in importance in the social environment in which they live.” This points to the contemporary accusations of a disconnected elite in the West, which are not solely due to a personality factor or competency factor, but are also a product of the centralization that has continued under the contemporary system.
The continuous centralization of business and government has worked two-fold to destroy the agreement between the governing and governed classes. From a government perspective, centralization has destroyed state government authority, given the Left’s near total victory in the states’ rights battle. Not only that, but the progressive desire to destroy any threat to its control has ruined the private intermediary powers that helped maintain, control, and govern civilization. The intermediaries have been neutered, which places locals at odds with Ivy League-trained rulers writing diktats from Washington. This also breeds a class of competent individuals frozen out of sharing in the ruling class’ prestige. Centralization has also led to more polarization and the erasure of what Americans call purple states.
The second piece is the centralization of the economic realm–yet another factor in the polarization problem. As business has scaled up, so has the link between federal contracts and big business. Centralization of business has created the phenomenon of major cities being tent poles of economic activity in states; winning random senate seats in distant lands matters more to the largest of firms headquartered in Silicon Valley or New York City. This centralization feeds the govern/governed disconnect by creating an environment where the governed feel as if those who govern are vampires or parasitic.
The claims that contemporary Western elites are disconnected and out of touch is just a new phase in the cycle of a ruling class as it is constituted. With the American national unity of the post-war era in tatters, there is not much to hold the political body together, let alone the relationship between the ruling and governed classes. Trends toward economic and political centralization exacerbate this problem to a perilous level.
Mosca carefully writes how the disconnected elite eventually become soft and cannot govern. As he writes, this ruling class’s intellectual drift and mood will be shaped by those who “lose habit of dealing with people of the lower classes and commanding them directly. This state of affairs generally enables frivolousness, and a sort of culture that is wholly abstract and conventional, to supplant a vivid sense of realities and a sound and accurate knowledge of human nature. Thinking loses virility. Sentimental and exaggeratedly humanitarian theories come to the fore, theories that proclaim the innate goodness of men.”
Centralization has allowed for our ruling class to forget the “ruggedness of human nature,” which renders it vulnerable to crumbling “at the first appreciable shock from the outside foe.” These are apt descriptions of the Western elite that falls back on the same cliches and platitudes at any terrorist act, at protest by the uninformed and illiterate, and at reasonable pushback from policy opponents.
Contemporary pundits note that the Americans of 1776 revolted over far less tyranny, but in doing so, these pundits hide the reality of our political arrangement. Mosca knew too well what had changed in the game of revolt or political arrangements from the twilight of feudalism and the emergence of the absolute bureaucracy. There is neither any accountability, nor any way to restrain the forces within the ruling class.
Mosca was very clear that when a single political force has predominance, it will degenerate into despotism. As he wrote:
When the leaders of the governing class are the exclusive interpreters of the will of God or the will of the people and exercise sovereignty in the name of those abstractions in societies that are deeply imbued with religious belief or with democratic fanaticism, and when no other organized social forces exist apart from those which represent the principle on which sovereignty over the nation is based, then there can be no resistance, no effective control, to restrain a natural tendency in those who stand at the head of the social order to abuse their powers.
This effectively describes progressive control of the academic and media realms as a means to silence any outright opposition and to label anything outside of their defined Overton Window as not just heretical and unorthodox, but as evil. Those actions by the media and academia are merely to maintain the control the usurpers have and to defend it from any challenges that would rise via credentialed avenues and institutions with legitimacy.
There is no simple means of taking out such a bureaucracy via the quaint and folksy methods of a tea party storming a Bastille or killing the right governor. It is not simply a matter of grabbing shotguns and AR-15s and fighting government forces because the ruling class that controls those forces also controls the education and propaganda channels. Even if one were to rid the nation of a bad apple, the bad barrel would remain.
There is a situation that could be forming now across the West. The current ruling class has its Low (see HLvM) of socialist religious devotees and client minorities. The middle is being hammered, and increasingly, the middle is simply natives of the countries and small-to-medium-sized businesses or businesses without progressive approval. With the rise of the forces that backed Trump and back what some call the International Nationalist Right, there could be a new client Low: non-progressive natives.
Mosca notes that when those who are governed are isolated, within that governed group, isolated groups can form a directing minority of their own. This plebeian leadership, as Mosca called it, would be “antagonistic to the class that holds possession of the legal government.” The key is that these leaders form associations, create hierarchies, accrue status, build institutions, and form almost a state within a state of the larger body. The allegiance the governed will feel towards them will surpass anything towards the centralized government.
This group of organized competent governed individuals now becomes a Low that a high within the ruling class can use to change the existing order. Mosca notes that an overthrow of the existing order is not as much a revolution, but a change within the ruling class in form, function, and even membership. As he writes, this section of the ruling class, “whether because of conversion to a new political formula or for some other reason, always seeks the support of the lower classes and these readily follow its lead when they are hostile or indifferent to the established order.”
The faction within the ruling order will seek allies that they believe they can control via a new political formula to reshape the entire political organism.
Mosca wrote that an answer to what ailed the centralized bureaucracies would be massive decentralization to provincial bureaucracies. Mosca did not shy away from the need to restrain the press, as he saw that journalists’ opinions held too much power in terms of electing leaders and narrowing the selection down to acceptable picks. Strung throughout his work is also the deep truth that the paeans contemporary politicians make to ancient inheritance from Greece and Rome is a sham. The Greeks and Romans did not have the universal suffrage that modern Western civilization has granted, nor were those ancient political bodies in any way close to the large states of the modern West.
Mosca’s work from the 19-20th century still fits today because it is timeless in describing how basic human organizations function. A ruling minority will always arise within an organization, and there must be a message or political formula that will bind it and allow for the governed to agree. The 21st century West has been thrown into a brief moment where the formula does not fit. The Left has entirely given up on arguing that the message has a rational basis and has switched to merely shouting that it must happen, that it is inevitable, and that the West deserves it. The right-wing of the last half century has been exposed as a fraud.
Almost every cause for a re-calibration of the ruling class, political formula, and political organism as a whole has been set off deliberately by progressive policy or simply economic innovation. Mosca’s writing himself is an example of it. No one would even think to buy his books, had it not been for the ruling class flooding Western nations with Third World arrivals and watching as these new arrivals bring a civilizational decline unavoidable to anyone watching.
No one would be looking for alternative political theory and arrangements if the West had a strong, virtuous ruling class.