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Power and self-selection

He who is active in politics strives for power either as a means in serving other aims, ideal or egoistic, or as ‘power for power’s sake,’ that is, in order to enjoy the prestige-feeling that power gives. —Max Weber

20131006-121513.jpgThe “crisis of our times” is that those driven by ideals and those driven by ‘power for power’s sake’ have self-segregated. They have specialized, but their respective specialties hold vastly unequal shares of influence on society’s direction. The result for those who strive for power for its own sake is that they tend to get it (as a category of self-selectors; obviously to varying degrees and not in every individual case). For the sake of a short post, I’m going to skip those who are serving egoistic aims (for the moment) and discuss only those who are serving ideal aims (but, of course, the two are not neatly separable). In this pattern of self-segregation, these folks get to surround themselves with others who share their ideals. They get to express those ideals together, often punctuated with creative collective rituals, but without much realistic hope—perhaps not even the desire—for ever arming their ideals with power.

One category gets to play the field, while the other gets to critique the game from the sidelines.

Of course, this is a simplification. Weber might call these two categories (i.e., power-seekers and idealists) “ideal types”. Many shades between exist in the real world. We need more of those shades between, i.e., more ideal-driven people who refuse to cede power to the powerful.

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