Friday, June 16, 2017

Grudging consent

From Grudging Consent by Charles Tilly. A lengthy meditation on the State and the Citizen. Thoughtful, not strident. Here is one passage:
All systems of rule, whether democratic or undemocratic, survive by finding stable supplies of the basic resources it takes to run a government: means of coercion, administration and patronage. Of course, the mix of crucial resources changes over time. For millennia, kingdoms and empires sustained themselves mainly with soldiers, weapons, food, animals, labor power and strategic information. These days, powerful states necessarily add to that array a much richer supply of information, scientific-technical knowledge and communications media. But the principle remains the same: Effective rule depends on the continuous production of crucial resources. If the resources dry up, rulers lose the means of enforcing whatever decisions they make and state capacity collapses. This has happened often in history, as an anthropologist studying Central America or the Near East could readily show us.

The main difference between non- or predemocratic regimes and democratic ones is that the former tend to commandeer resources under threat of coercion, whereas democratic ones draw essential resources mainly from subject populations that have substantial power to accept or reject their demands — populations with what we call “voice.” This is grudging consent at work.
I think the prerequisites for grudging consent are transparency, clarity, accountability, and reliability. If you are missing one or more of these attributes, then the capacity of citizens to extend grudging consent is sharply limited. The weaker the consent, the more precarious the state system becomes.

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