Monday, February 6, 2006

Convention

The classics always get the juices flowing. I've just been listening to a reading of Machiavelli's The Prince. (I think I have 3 anthological copies in my library but don't seem to have the attention for reading.) Machiavelli writes there are principalities that are hereditary, where one family rules out of custom, and novel principalities where a family has come to power by another means. It is not my intention to defend or offend any of Machiavelli's ideas or writings, but this was merely the catalyst for the thought.

I assert that both types of principalities get their strength from custom. To make it more timely, and hopfully more profound, all power is rooted in convention. The difference in the two principalities is the 'level' of the customs being depended upon, how abstract the custom is.

To link this to darwinism, the fit survive and encourage convention that will hold their place in the palace. Monarchs sell their name, magnates entrench their industries. Doing this is a type of insurance on their power, or perhaps more aptly put: ransom. This way to upset their power would be to upset the way of life that has been built around them. These new conventions are more abstract, in that they are a synthesis of the old ones. Interestingly, these new conventions will determine the fitness of the coming generations.

But as we all know history is not only about building, there are many chapters about tearing stuff down. Some conventions slow rather than encourage effectiveness. Then those pockets from the old order that do not recognise it progress faster and crush the new order.

It has happened many times, with many different permutations of building and tearing down. But we are here. We are all part of something larger than ourselves. It seems like we are building faster than we are tearing down.

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Links: Project Gutenberg

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