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~On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth~ chronicles the growth of political power throughout the ages and explains how the powers welded by modern Parliaments and Presidents would be the envy of medieval kings. Bertrand de Jouvenel has a colorful past and was once snared by the etatism of his native France. After WWII, he produced this astute and trenchant analysis of political power and tracing its natural history and growth through the ages. Political power has reached a crescendo in the past century. Monarchs of yesteryears could only dream of the power welded by Presidents and Parliaments. Bertrand opens with a chapter entitled the Minotaur (who is analogous to the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler) and proceeds to document and trace the growth of state power through the ages. He addresses varying theories of sovereignty and the resulting practical effects of those theories in practice. He astutely captures the corrupting influence of Rousseau with amazing clarity and iconoclastically tackles that sacrosanct creature 'democracy' which Bertrand de Jouvenel rightly characterizes democracy as a child of war. He fittingly features a chapter entitled 'Totalitarian Democracy' as the book comes to a close. When the rule of law was held in high esteem, then efforts were made to check and prevent the concentration of power. Nonetheless, the dubious theories about the 'general will,' or similar theories purporting an infallible will of the people, seemed to take hold and gave way to legitimizing a succession of demagogues and dictators with unbridled power. The era of demagogues usually climaxes into an age of total war as these powers clash swords.Read more ›
"On Power" could not be more aptly named by the author, Bertrand de Jouvenel, because in this book he brings together all dimensions and aspects of what constitutes Power, which he always capitalizes to clearly indicate that it is a specific, sustained force throughout history, as contrasted with power as a general, descriptive term. It is an intellectual work of the first magnitude. He details how the human intellect and emotions, mostly emotions, have guided the forces and servants of Power from its genesis in pre-history through classical Greece and Rome, the feudal and monarchy periods up through the democratic period, particularly during the Nineteenth and the first half of the Twentieth centuries. This latter period is where the growth of Power begins to approach its ultimate end state, counter intuitively during a democratic period, of the State achieving absolute authority by eliminating individuals' uniqueness and therefore their liberty. He demonstrates using historic presidencies the inevitability of Power's growth based directly on largely consistent, unswerving human ego driven attitudes and reactions.
As the author surely intended, throughout the book the reader will become progressively more aware of the reasons for and methods of Power’s growth. It is unlikely that the reader will not experience eye-opening instances where the author’s analysis of history gives the reader a different understanding of the unfolding of past events and answers questions previously unsettled in the reader’s own personal and historic experience. It is not a chronology (history) of Power’s growth and minor retreats but, as he states, is an analysis of issues in society and politics that allows properly piecing together conclusions about Power and its growth.Read more ›
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