Peace As State Power

The making of war is integral to the formation of the nation state. However, upon closer inspection, it is found that peace-making is what truly gives rise to State power.

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker touts greatly what he considers to be the substantive decline in violence over the course of human history. Of particular importance as it relates to the formation of the State is that Pinker attributes this decline in no small part to the State’s ability to obtain a monopoly on violence, which, given the context, Pinker sees as a positive. However, it should be understood that the peace achieved through the State’s monopoly on violence is a function of the State’s ability to suppress all competition and the pervasive peace that Pinker so fervently extols is in reality the manifestation of a total dominion.

The dialectic between war and peace lies at the heart of the State. As Frederic Lane put it, “governments are in the business of selling protection … whether people want it or not.” (Tilly, War Making and State Making as Organized Crime, p. 175). Even prior to the State, those strongest in the tribe provided protection to the weakest, typically in exchange for greater freedom in the selection of mates or a larger share of rations. At the dawn of modern State formation, “a local lord extended … the perimeter within which he monopolized the means of violence, and thereby increased his return from tribute” (Tilly, p. 185). Greater and greater land bases meant more capital accumulation, which in turn meant greater and greater capacity for war-making to further extend the territory of State control. This cycle of extension and accumulation continued, annexing weaker neighbors until the emerging nation-state encountered another State of similar aspiration with an equal or greater capacity for making war.

As integral as war-making is to the formation of a State, it is not nearly as important as the ability to create peace. The demonstrated ability to put down violence is paramount to the securance of State power, as it is precisely this ability that defines said power in the first place. Having a monopoly on violence requires that no other parties in the State’s territorial sphere of influence can engage in it. The increasing peace to which Pinker refers is a necessary by-product of that monopolization.

Here it is useful to extend the premise of “power as the capability for exercising control” (Soifer, State Infrastructural Power, p. 236) in saying that State power is contingent on the purveyance of peace. This is evident in the understanding that were the State found to be incapable of ensuring peace, it would not be accepted by its constituents as legitimate, for “if the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. When and why do men obey?” (Weber, Politics as a Vocation) They obey only when they are provided protection against perceived enemies, both foreign and domestic.

While peace is clearly a desired outcome, peace as an extension of State power is hardly deserving of the term. Peace as an adjunct of the State’s monopoly on violence is not the same as peace as deliberate intent. However, it has been demonstrated that peace-making is as integral to State formation as its capacity for war, which leaves the door open to the possibility that humanity may someday succeed in advancing a state based on the one thing it really does have a monopoly over, that being self-restraint.

This Election is Proof We No Longer Need a President

I have to admit, in the days following the election of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States, I was depressed. Not that I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton, far from it — I waffled between casting my vote for Gary Johnson or Zoltan Istvan — but because I had always maintained great reverence for the position. See, I grew up in a time when being president meant something. The cast of my politics was forged upon the momentous statesmanship of Ronald Reagan, and my formative years were spent with the disgrace Richard Nixon brought upon the presidency still fresh in everyone’s memory. To this day, I have a 1968 vintage Presidents of the United States book set from American Heritage on my shelf.

No, what troubled me most about the fact that the electorate would even consider someone like Donald Trump, a mere personality, worthy of the greatest office on earth, let alone allow them to hold it, was the insult. The sanctity of the presidency was abolished with Trump’s election. His entry into the White House can only mean that we either subscribe to his primitive ideology, collectively, or we’re living in an idiocracy.

So considering neither of these to be acceptable, I was understandably shaken. Until I realized a third option. That the United States no longer has need for a president.

Now this is not to say that we don’t need a head of state, someone to serve as our chief public representative to the United Nations and other sovereign states. We do — though in that context Donald Trump is even less fit for the job. What it means, rather, is that we have finally realized our true capacity for self-governance. We no longer have need for a central authority.

To be sure, even the staunchest supporter of Donald Trump wouldn’t dream of ceding him power over their personal finances, let alone give him control over their lives. Their message wasn’t that they confer upon him any real confidence or defer to his judgement in any way. That wasn’t what they were trying to say in voting for him. No, the message America sent on Election Day 2016 was that they have no need for Washington D.C. whatsoever.

Personally, I am heartened by this realization, because, while being far from a globalist, I do see the world as a global community. Watching a clip on YouTube about the manned mission to Mars with my two young boys, I was emboldened by the knowledge that over a dozen countries are involved with the operation and maintenance of the International Space Station. With that level of cooperation in space, the likelihood of a terrestrial global military conflagration shrinks to near impossibility.

Indeed, it is only fitting that it was Hillary Clinton who placed the final nail in the presidential coffin, as it was her husband who cemented for Millennials an undermined confidence in the presidency in the first place. Nearly since birth, they have heard it disgraced, discredited, denounced, decried. The only holder of the office for whom they maintain any respect, Barack Obama, is more of a bro than an authority figure. He shares his playlists with them, Tweets, does interviews with Marc Maron and Vice. At least he can relate.

See the thing is, the generations of today don’t need a father figure telling them who they can date, or what they can spend their money on, or that they need to go to war anymore. Each generation since the Baby Boom has become more autonomous, more independent, more confident in their own capacity for self-determination. We don’t need a bunch of old white men, condescending coastal elites, or moneyed power brokers determining the future for us. We didn’t need Donald Trump, and we sure as hell don’t need Joe Biden.

In fact, we don’t need to be governed at all.

Don’t fret friends. We got this.