Intra-Elite Competition: A Key Concept for Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Societies 

Moderate intra-elite competition need not be harmful to an orderly and efficient functioning of the society; in fact, it’s usually beneficial because it results in better-qualified candidates being selected. Additionally, competition can help weed out incompetent or corrupt office-holders. However, it is important to keep in mind that the social effects of elite competition depend critically on the norms and institutions that regulate it and channel it into such societally productive forms.

Excessive elite competition, on the other hand, results in increasing social and political instability. The supply of power positions in a society is relatively, or even absolutely, inelastic. For example, there are only 435 U.S. Representatives, 100 Senators, and one President. A great expansion in the numbers of elite aspirants means that increasingly large numbers of them are frustrated, and some of those, the more ambitious and ruthless ones, turn into counter-elites. In other words, masses of frustrated elite aspirants become breeding grounds for radical groups and revolutionary movements.

Another consequence of excessive competition among elite aspirants is its effect on the social norms regulating politically acceptable conduct. Norms are effective only as long as the majority follows them, and violators are punished. Maintaining such norms is the job for the elites themselves.

Intense intra-elite competition, however, leads to the rise of rival power networks, which increasingly subvert the rules of political engagement to get ahead of the opposition. Instead of competing on their own merits, or the merits of their political platforms, candidates increasingly rely on “dirty tricks” such as character assassination (and, in historical cases, literal assassination). As a result, excessive competition results in the unraveling of prosocial, cooperative norms (this is a general phenomenon that is not limited to political life).

Source: Peter Turchin Intra-Elite Competition: A Key Concept for Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Societies – Peter Turchin

 A Year of Living Dangerously 

The managers have vacated their offices, the bankers have all flown the coup; fantasy tours for the hyperelite in Dubai or other dystopian cities of the future without outlet, caged environs, desert islands surrounded by skulls. While we, the nameless, the dejected, the forgotten are left in the midst wondering what will come next… Of course the only thing that can come: a revolt against the very terms of the game. A great refusal. If we stop playing the game will the world suddenly rock to a silent stand still, will the earth shake and fall into oblivion. NO. Like anything else we’ve ever done on this planet, and who is to say it will ever change? And what is change, anyway? Do we have a will to change? And what about the conditions that would make it possible for us to change? And most of all: what kind of change do we want?

Source: Slavoj Zizek – A Year of Living Dangerously | southern nights

The radical gospel of Martin Luther King 

While the popular rendering of King is one of a civil rights leader who now enjoys widespread acceptability in American public discourse, his radical politics and his rough-edged critique of U.S. imperial adventures have been smoothed over. The real King was committed to a democratic socialist vision that germinated from his black church roots. Specifically, there are three pillars of the radical gospel of Martin Luther King Jr. that we should not allow holiday remembrances to whitewash: democratic socialism, transnational anti-imperialism and black prophetic Christianity.

Source: The radical gospel of Martin Luther King | Al Jazeera America

John Lewis, Donald Trump, and the Meaning of Legitimacy 

John Lewis represents Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, one vote of four hundred and thirty-five. He is also the singular conscience of Capitol Hill. Lewis is a dismal institution’s griot, a historical actor and hero capable of telling the most complex and painful of American stories—the story of race. That is his job, his mission. With Dr. King and Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker long gone, Lewis remains nearly alone in his capacity to tell the story of that era as a direct witness and, because of all that he has seen and endured, to issue credible moral judgment.

Source: John Lewis, Donald Trump, and the Meaning of Legitimacy – The New Yorker