33. The Corg
corporate organism. democracy. monarchy.
corporation. Hanseatic League. EU. NAFTA. Niall
Ferguson. John Kenneth Galbraith.
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Essay 33. The Corg
This Essay is closely linked to Essay 32, The Split where I tried to look at the evolution of life and society from the point of view of Ecclesiastes: "there is nothing new under the sun."
The main thesis of this Essay is:
The corg (corporate organism) is a kind of a non-governmental organization. It is a product of a long evolutionary history that has been overshadowed by the history of the national state. Tomorrow the corg may come to the foreground of history as a form of organization competing for power with the government. The corg works as a private business corporation manufacturing social change or its absence. This is the paradox of the corg: it is organized as a corporation but it does not make Things for sale. The corg is a private government outside the public government.
I saw the progress of civilization as development inside predetermined "drawers" (categories, domains, taxons) of human nature. The original drawers are partitioned and sub-partitioned into smaller drawers in the course of evolution, but they remain unchanged. One such primeval drawer is the drive for power. Here I am trying to formulate my impressions of a new arrival to the old curiosity shop.
Is the subject important? My attitude to history is fatalistic: I do not believe we can resist it and if a charismatic personality changes the course of history, it is because the course was about to change anyway. The flow of history is like the great ocean wave: it is capricious, dangerous, and unstoppable, but surfers can ride on it.
I call the emerging form of power the corporate organism, or the corg for short.
The problem with the corg is that it is right in the stage of splitting from the known forms of power. Any such transition can either complete the transformation, or return to the initial state, or take a quite unexpected turn. We see only those evolutionary changes that have already happened, but we overlook the transition states of those changes that had reversed their course so that the new evolutionary development was aborted. I believe that if the corg is a real and viable formation, the future dominant unit of power will be the corg: not the national government and not the individuals. One might too optimistically expect the multitude of choices in a supermarket from capitalist democracy. The political supermarket is more like the food shelves of a pharmacy, where one finds just bare essentials.
we must consider the shape which the perfect embodiments
of Spirit assumes—the State." (Hegel,
Philosophy of History,
A crowd can spontaneously act in a synchronous way—not without dissenters—but only in a very limited number of simple situations. The power of a crowd is diluted over a large volume. This is something known in the physics of quantum objects: the large the area where a micro-particle can be found, the lower its energy. The crowd is efficient when it is an army, business corporation, or cult, with authority localized in a few commanders. And yet: "Society and the State are the very conditions on which Freedom is realized." (Hegel, The Philosophy of History, Introduction). I have to add that Hegel understood freedom as contingent on the willful conformity to the needs of society as a whole—an even more strangely sounding statement.
When we talk about capitalist democracy, the old idealistic notion of this social structure does not reflect the current situation. Democracy is about informed individuals who are aware of all available opinions. Most individuals today do not decide their own fate for at least two reasons: they are not informed and they are powerless unless assembled into an organization with a source of energy. In America their options are crudely cut to just two partisan alternatives. The attitudes of the electorate are outlined by the polls. The power today belongs to the groups who can put the issue to the vote or just enforce it on the public under the gun. It is neither good nor bad, just how it is. Nobody can offer any strong alternative.
In the evolutionary drawer of power we find tribe leadership, monarchy, dictatorship, and a multitude of other forms. It is also divided along such general categories as political power, social organization, and government. They all developed from the original human quest for order in form of domination or submission. The drawer where monarchy used to dwell for thousands of years is even older than the wisdom of King Solomon, himself a monarch, to whom the words "there is nothing new under the sun" are ascribed. A sports and entertainment star is also there: the king of rock and roll, the queen of pop, the movie star, empire of sleaze.
Up to present, the national or multinational state has been the ultimate form of social organization. Its formation from previously independent units—as well as decay and fragmentation—constitutes most of recorded history. Looking back at history, I begin to think that the state came to being with the single mission of providing resources for ultimate concentration of power. For a fresh and colorful view of history in terms of power and money, see APPENDIX 1.
The supreme state power varies from ultimate dictatorship to ultimate democracy. While the design of dictatorship is as transparent as some encased in clear plastic telephones and clocks, the mechanisms of democracy can be hidden under the table, disguised, and ambiguous. In fact, both are just the opposite ends of the same scale, like temperature. Dictatorship is on the cold side, crystallized in clear forms, and democracy is where the high temperature makes everything fluid. The strength of democracy is that it could be solidified in the times of war and disaster, i.e., effectively abolished. Its power, paradoxically, is not in the popular vote but in its non-democratic elements, in its ability to draft an army, make a loud noise, to impose regulations, and to punish.
The last decades have been a period of fragmentation of multinational states, as well as economic "federalization" of Europe (EU), with an attempt to do something distantly similar in North America (NAFTA). Something is happening in the ancient drawer labeled POWER. It is time of evolutionary change driven not by politics but by economy, i.e., by the society of Things and humans attached to them, whether physically or emotionally, or symbolically, as the Tramp in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times.
The process had started with the development of capitalism, which took about five hundred years to present. The power has been gradually transferred from the sovereigns who could administer justice, levy taxes, and wage war, to those who were making Things for sale and who found it convenient to entrust the elected government with these functions. The centralized government, in turn, has been evolving further because of the eternal competition for power. It has been assumed that the competition for the seats in the government is the stage of vulnerability where the government can be kept in check, but all the assumptions on a historical scale could only be made for a short time span, until new assumptions take the place of the old ones.
Power has always been a risky business. A single crowned head is vulnerable to an ax, but a public corporation is too diffuse to be sent under the blade.
Today corporate power antagonizes a small part of society. There is an intuitive public feeling that a corporation can inflict immense damage on part of society but the positive effect, whatever it is, can be on a much smaller scale. The underground smoldering of anti-corporate public feelings can be understood, but what should be understood in the first place is that to attack corporations means to attack history, and attack history means to attack human nature from which history grows. I have no intent to denounce corporations in any way, although I feel some aversion toward the digital giants and food and drug companies whose products I know firsthand. To denounce corporate greed is the same as to denounce human need of food or sex. My aversion comes from infringements on my freedom.
The player of current social game is not a king, of course, but neither it is an individual. The unit of power is group. The modern industrial democracy is a group democracy—groupocracy—where groups compete for money and power by converting part of their money and power into means of competition similar to armies, fortresses, spies, alliances, and colonies of the past. The power map of the USA (I know little about Europe) can be imagined as the map of Medieval Europe with its constantly changing and very diffuse borders. The borders between groups today are mostly invisible and not territorial, but the permanent war, hot or cold, goes on. The groups compete for power as the European principalities competed for land. The political "land" is constituency, which does not change sharply over a short time. The economic land is money.
The essence of the historical revolution—transition to modern capitalism—can be expressed in terms of geometry as the transition from the competition for the two-dimensional land to the competition for the one-dimensional money.
Monopoly as a new form of monarchy is still very rare. It is never popular because it is anti-democratic even in groupocracy. Nevertheless, monopoly as form of ultimate domination is in everybody's Freudian depths, although only Government, Inc. has it.
The most conspicuous example of a group is corporation. But I do not mean by the corg any carrier of the legal definition:
A corporation is a business or organization formed by a group of people, and it has rights and liabilities separate from those of the individuals involved.
In the eyes of the law, a corporation has many of the same rights and responsibilities as a person. It may buy, sell, and own property; enter into leases and contracts; and bring lawsuits. It pays taxes. It can be prosecuted and punished (often with fines) if it violates the law.
Common corporation is regulated by the law of the state. The corg runs as a corporation but not of this kind. What I have in mind is any non-democratic organization that uses financial resources to pursue a corporate non-commercial goal.
The corg embodies the principle of privatization of government. It is a private body that shapes the politics and the laws.
The corg is somewhat close to a legitimate corporation bent on social responsibility, law-abiding honest business with a social agenda, congress lobby, political party, non-profit organization pursuing a social or environmental issue, a Christian Right organization, terrorist organization, and ACLU.
The corg, it should be immediately noted, is a form, not a substance, and the categories of good and evil do not apply to it as they do not apply to molecules, flies, monarchy, and democracy. The Nazis in 1933 were in charge of a democracy, which they immediately destroyed.
The corg is just a form and it can be filled with different content—humane, liberal, and progressive, as well as destructive, discriminatory, and inhuman. I have a feeling that the spreading animosity against big corporations is misdirected. It should be directed against substance, not shape and size.
The corg is outside the categories of good and evil, but it is capable of both. It is not the goal that makes a group a corg but the type of the goal: power to influence social order, for better or worse. This is why I do not judge any corg by its nature but entirely by its results.
tendencies in the anti-capitalist movements are very
symptomatic. They tell me that a new destructive corg
could be born, if only a source of money could be found.
The anti-abortion forces look to me like a mini-Al Qaeda
and they were weakened by the same means as the maxi
one. Al Qaeda is the purest form of the corg I can name.
It had predecessors in the West European terrorist
movements. There are a whole lot of factors that
make modern destructive corg vulnerable. Its future
survival tactics could only be constructive, at least,
The corg is vulnerable not just because its supply of money can be cut. Unless it is driven by a charismatic personality, the chances of its success are slim. Corg needs a single, preferably, unopposed mind. It must plan for life, not for the term of office. The fate of the corg as group is within the internal world of the leader. The corg may die with its leader.
The corg is right on its way from non-existence to existence and I cannot point to any existing corg in particular. We know very little about Al Qaeda, but there is a much larger list of constructive and progressive pre-corgs, among which I would place even National Public Radio in the US, although it has no political agenda. It is simply in the business of counteracting the flow of ignorance, mediocrity, and Coliseum-style entertainment. Microsoft is also a pre-corg because of its immense financial power and its Orwellian way of controlling the customers. By its very presence, it warps the entire business landscape because it monopolizes the biochemistry of the nervous system of business. The billions of dollars of its humanitarian and corg-free foundation are dwarfed by its effect on the way society deals with information. It is like appropriating human language. It is still impossible to interpret the social effect of Microsoft in terms of good and evil: a common language seems a blessing.
The companies that own network TV are already in the corgial business: they stand between the source of information and its receptors. This digital mesoderm is the sign of time. Modern technology is always the third person in the bedroom (see Essay 15, On ménage a trois in the Stone Age). The corg spins off bias as the spider spins its web.
What is common for the strange new social form that grows like a form of alien life in the petri dish filled with money is that it is centralized, not regulated by any government, controlled by a single person or very few, has an apparatus for procuring financial support, and has modern means of instant communication and information processing. Although most pre-corg organizations have slim budgets, it is the general wealth of American economy that provides the rich substrate.
Greenpeace International had a $145 million budget and offices in 35 countries in 1998. With a budget of 1.45 billion, Greenpeace could have a much higher effect, and with 15 billion it could, actually, rule. It is not the budget, however, but the clever and sharp application of a limited budget on a few sensitive points of society that can make a corg for a while effective. For comparison, budgets of most Religious Right organizations are on a smaller scale, although some are large: Focus on the Family $121 million; Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, $196 million; Campus Crusade for Christ, $360 million, negligible on the Microsoft scale. What the numbers do not tell is how much of it goes to the leaders and the staff. Some of such organizations are characterized as aging empires.
In my imagination I see a blurred picture of a new social animal: a centaur-like hybrid of corporation and individual, a robocop of a kind. Whether this animal exists as I see it, I do not know. But I can see its genetic composition and converging lineages.
The modern national state is a product of the evolution of monarchy. Even democracy can be regarded as a kind of constitutional and elected monarchy, as the American cliché of "the most powerful leader in the world" implies. The king and the elected government are in the same large drawer of power. The corg may reside there, too, in a small compartment, from which it could make inroads into modern history.
An original domain of human nature cannot disappear without evolutionary progeny. If Roman Coliseum evolved into the video store and the gladiatorial fight into the movie Gladiator, what happened to monarchy? Where is it hiding in the modern industrial state? Certainly not in the Buckingham Palace.
The closest Medieval predecessor of the corg is the autocratic leader or the prince, following the English translation of Niccolo Machiavelli's famous book Il Principe (English text ). Prince comes from the word princeps, which is a combination of the Latin primus (first) and ceps (taker; from Latin capere). Today it could be spelled prinCEO.
For the prince, the state and society is not external: it is within the boundaries of his own person. The phrase "I am the state" (L'Etat c'est moi), ascribed to Louis XIV, the Sun King of France (1643-1715), exemplifies the personal power. Throughout history the power of the prince was mostly limited in one way or another. The prince always had to expect challenge either from "nobles" or from "people," as Machiavelli noted, and had to control both—a situation somewhat similar to the CEO of a modern corporation. Nevertheless, even democratically elected leaders (Machiavelli, Chapter IX: "where a leading citizen becomes the prince of his country, not by wickedness or any intolerable violence, but by the favour of his fellow citizens") could have power comparable to that of the Sun King and Genghis Khan.
Autocracy had been the standard form of social organization (and, by the way, family) for many centuries. Most of human history has been tied to the lives of pharaoh, prince, king, shah, khan, and czar. Autocracy ruled the earth. What happened to this powerful evolutionary form? What is growing from the ruined or restored imperial palaces?
I see the corg coming from the Medieval aristocracy, the nobles, as much as from monarchy, which is natural because monarchs used to come from aristocracy. The typical noble tries to influence the prince and thus to appropriate part of the royal power. A favor is exchanged for a favor, as in American campaign contributions.
The change I am interested here is very recent: the national state has been transformed from monarchy into corporate society where the main holder of power is corporation: a pool of authoritarian power in the sand desert of democracy, a leader at the top of a small pyramid of power.
Formally, the state power is split between the branches, but the executive power comes closest to that of the prince because it is concentrated in a single person on top of his or her cabinet. The president and prime minister, however, do not have a complete power over what is the very foundation of their activity: money. The nation is not their property. Their right to govern does not come from heaven: it comes from the wealth of the state subjects or citizens and their willingness to be taxed.
"It is necessary to consider another point in examining the character of these principalities: that is, whether a prince has such power that, in case of need, he can support himself with his own resources, or whether he has always in need of the assistance of others." Machiavelli, Chapter X.
This is something the founding fathers of America did not anticipate: concentration of wealth not just in the hands of a few, which is quite natural (see Essay 31, On Poverty) but in groups that mimic the bygone autocratic states and principalities.
As industrial democracy became possible because of accumulation of wealth, the corg comes to historical podium because of the concentration of wealth and because of the amplification of the power of an individual who is the authoritarian head of a group with its own resources. The leader wears his corg as a medieval knight his armor. The modern armor, however, looks more like that of a cyborg.
It seems to me that society is moving toward a new phase where the corporations and corgs play the role of former national states. They fight, conquer, surrender, merge, split, and divide the space of influence. The corporations are engaged in the sphere of production and business, whereas the corgs can pursue a wide and indefinite range of agendas in the sphere of social order. By order I mean thermodynamic order, which simply means a certain order as distinct of chaos or another order. If the individuals can vote at all, it is for a limited number of choices presented to them by the corgs.
I find it strange to speak about freedom of choice if the choices are not my own but are imposed on me. Freedom is my personal vision of it and not somebody else's. I realize that this is an idealistic and impractical view, but freedom is a separate and inexhaustible subject.
By voters I mean not just national or state elections, which are rare and rarely too important, but also voters in various organizations, from corporate boards to government agencies, to Academy Awards votes, to Congress, whenever the decision is not made in an executive mode. The corg has also lobby genes in its genotype. Thus, Hansa was a lobby for Baltic based trade and Al Qaeda seems to be a lobby for the American withdrawal from Middle East.
The corg, therefore, is no different from a manufacturing corporation: it manufactures social change by formulating the choices and beaming them on voters.
The corg—corporate organism—is as related to the great empires of the past as lizards to dinosaurs. Whether the tiny gecko or Komodo dragon, the political descendants of the imperial dinosaurs live happily amidst the capitalist democracy and global porosity of borders, becoming its inherent apparatus, like cellular organelles.
Many lineages produce the final genetic mix of the corg. The corg traces its genes to any formation with social agenda. Among them are political and non-political organizations, from the Jacobins to the Bolsheviks, from Free Masons to the Green Peace, from Jesuits to Henry Ford with his anti-Jewish agenda, from the medieval Hanseatic League in the Baltic to Alfred Nobel with his endowment, from the Fabian Society in England to the Nazis before they took power, from Marx's International to Al Qaeda, and from Yihetuan (Chinese "Society of Righteousness and Harmony" around 1900) to the German Green Party , which is far from the end of the list.
I would put on the list of related (not exactly corgs!) entities Enron, George Soros (not on the negative side of the moral spectrum; George Soros is one of modern prophets for whom I feel great respect), Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, today commonly referred to as the Koch brothers, AOL-Time Warner (promises to become another Microsoft). IMF, Sierra Club, FoxNews, and even the gang of Robin Hood. The reason why I do not mention the Saudi government, Taliban, and American President, all of whom create strong gravitation fields in world politics, it is because corg is never a part of government. The corg creates a kind of power field that could strongly distort—for better or worse—the national attitudes and warp the political and economic landscape. But the corg never belongs to establishment. It is a form of opposition, which is one reason why it can draw sympathy.
I would say that pre-corgs even coexisted with the kings, and the best example is Papacy, as well as other influential religious movements, not as everlasting, however, as the Catholicism. Even within the Church there were corg-like religious orders, the most eminent of them the Jesuits. The independent corg-like character of Jesuit organizations even brought them into conflict with the Catholic lay powers.
When I use the Present Tense, I am looking into the future.
What makes a
corg a corg is that:
it does it not by ideas, persuasion, and
eloquence but by hard work and spending,
In short, corg is an evolutionary alternative to centralized government. The society of corgs marginalizes both the populus and government because only the corgs have real power coming from independence and money. It is the informal status of the corgs that positions them outside the government regulations. They reap the fruits of capitalist democracy. They are similar to viruses, not necessarily harmful, and some are useful symbionts.
The corg is a mini-state: not a state within a state, but a state in the sphere of ideas and agendas beyond geographical borders. The corg has a source of money and it transforms its energy into work on a change of the existing social order, not always radically—but definitely not on production for profit, unlike business organizations. The corg is the industrial unit of social change: it produces bits and pieces of change like a manufacturing company produces watches, a Hollywood studio produces movies, Microsoft produces software, and a political party pushes legislation.
For most of history, social order was the prerogative of the government. The corg takes it over. The government becomes a gauge of the balance of influence between the corgs. The most profound and lasting effect of Al Quaeda is not even the terror and destruction but the way it changes the governement functions of the leading superpower on earth.
I see this evolutionary move as the cooling of the turbulent human history full of wars, violence, and conquest. The society of individuals is half utopia and half illusion, and Friedrich Nietzsche made this a point of his own agenda. Power is powerful only when it is concentrated. A single voter in democracy is powerless because the outcome of his or her vote depends on how other—completely alien—people vote. A single person who wants to make a difference must not only join a group but also support and direct this group, which an individual can do, as an exception, by eloquence and, as a rule, by the brute force of money. Nobody hears any eloquent appeal if it is not in the media. It was possible in class societies of the past where aristocracy or even democracy could be all gathered if not under a single roof, then on a single floor.
Corg is a new, fragmented and particulate form of previously solid authoritarian power. Of course, it is not completely new in its substance. It is its relation to national state which is new. It looks like the corg has absorbed all the juice of autocracy lost by the dried off monarchs, princes, khans, and glorious bandits of the past. Corg is a charismatic, ambitious, and dominant personality that controls an army equipped with the modern weaponry of sophisticated finances, production, and communication. The new circumstance is that the corg could be incomparably smaller than the state. It uses the amplifying power of the state, its media and mass psychology, to produce a lot of bang for a buck. Moreover, the corg is not strictly territorial: it has no national borders and no exact spatial borders at all.
If not exactly corporation, then what is corg—corporate organism—and what makes it organism? It is exactly what makes us organisms: central nervous system, code, and coordination of functions with the external world and each other. The corg has all the physiology a good Prince was endowed with as a mortal human. It eats, moves, plans, and remembers.
The corg combines properties of corporation and individual. This is why I regard it as organism.
Another property of the corg that makes it an organism was noticed by Albert Speer, the Nazi minister and Hitler's friend who at the Nuremberg trial (there are links only to a small number of documents) after WWII outlined the universal principles of the totalitarian mechanism, see APPENDIX 3. This property of turning an employee or volunteer into a robot is the general corporate trend. Modern corporation, always fighting for its survival, recruits an army of people trained not to ask questions.
What makes the new form of social life possible? What makes a corporation a corg? Money, of course, but there has been always concentration of money and power throughout history. The new factor is something else: instant communication between members. This is the property that made humans biologically possible: they convey messages through speech, and if they are at distance, through radio waves. Corporation acts as a single organism governed by mind. This ability of instant coordinated action of many people makes the corg comparable in its effect with military forces. It was telephone and radio that made the world wars devastating and dictatorship stable.
The corgization begins with communication. Communication dramatically increases the probability of improbable events. This change of probability, equivalent to a lot of physical work, is achieved at a low energetic cost. An army must move, provide logistics, and burn fuel. Communication does the same on shoestrings.
The corg is recognized by what it produces. The product of the corg is changes in culture, social and political relations, and social norms. Of course, a corg does not start from scratch, but tries to modify what exists. Corg is a tool working on civilization in the same industrial way as any machine. It cuts, bents, drills, and stamps away social forms. As Emile Durkheim would say, corg manufactures social facts. This kind of goods may be just a byproduct of making cars, computers, and drugs.
Corg is an evolutionary machine designed to control, direct, and speed up immaterial structure. It not just instills fear, hope, cruelty, compassion, learning, faith, and vandalism, but aims at changing the existing order. The Jacobins in France and Bolsheviks in pre-revolutionary Russia were evolutionary predecessors of the corg.
Most social genes of the modern corg come from monarchy. Initially, the king had all the rights and no responsibilities. The absolute leader reported only to God. Other examples are Medieval merchant guilds, for example the Hansa (see APPENDIX 4), created for the protection of trade. They were displaced by craft guilds, engaged in both manufacturing and trade of a particular range of products.
Curiously, craft guilds suppressed competition, advertisement, and innovation. In turn, they later surrendered their functions to the central government or were swept away by capitalism.
The modern vestige of guild can be found in the tenure in American universities which are turning into competitive businesses right before our eyes.
1. Is not elected by the people and is not accountable to them.
2. Uses internal mechanisms and infrastructure of existing national form to grow and function.
3. Corg, unlike the king, does not need the whole country to arm and feed its men and its horses. It does not need either a regular army or a country with land, agriculture, and industry to support an army.
4. Pursues a social or political goal.
5. May act across national borders.
6. Is financed by contributions of supporters, not necessarily enthusiastic ones, by its own productive earnings, or by extortion.
7. Corg is as vulnerable as the rest of society because of centralization, communication, and financing, but mostly because it has enemies and does not have national resources.
8. Corg creates permanent instability of society, contributing to the general pace of evolution.
9. Corg is driven by the will of a single person, possibly, an oligarchy. It is an authoritarian or totalitarian structure, a descendant of monarchy.
10. Corg, similarly to organism, manifests practically instant internal communication.
11. Corg competes with the government for power, using the main natural law of democracy: maximization of customer base and constituency. You want to be elected? Give me an IOU for a slice of power.
12. It may seem a paradox, but the corg does not dictate the society what the people instinctively abhor. The corg always picks up a trend and a mood of a substantial part of the population. This is why the corg does not contradict democracy and is compatible with it. A king and a dictator can oppress his people. The corg is their voice. It is true about ACLU, Christian Coalition, Greenpeace, and even Al Qaeda.
I see corg in terms of social thermodynamics. Thermodynamics in general operates with a limited number of concepts: energy, work, entropy, temperature.
The corg returns part of its financial power to society in the form of social work. The work is highly selective and can be destructive, as well as constructive. Work is meant here in the thermodynamical sense: selective change of order, as opposed to heat, which is a general and indiscriminate decrease of order. Work produced by the car engine makes the car move in a certain direction, as opposed to chaotic jerking and shaking.
The function of the sovereign was to direct the life of the subjects in an organized way and prevent chaos. Democratic government does the same. So does corg.
Therefore, corg competes with government (sometimes buys it or takes hostage). The corg becomes an interface, or amplifier, or a screen, or a funhouse mirror between the people and the government. The development of society in the direction of additional interfaces and mediators instead of immediate contact is a general trend and it could be seen even in the individual development of organisms (see Essay 15, On ménage a trois in the Stone Age).
Using free energy in the form of money to counteract the external political order, the corg cannot bring down the entire political system, as a revolutionary movement would do. Moreover, it does not pursue any such goal. It simply acts as a mini-government in its own interests. The corgs are like medieval principalities from which the European national states grew.
A corg does not know competitors because the corg monopolizes the objective. It is its single pursuer by definition. But it competes for the same energy and matter as anything else alive on earth and it can have enemies. Corg is not just about money, as any business corporation is. It is about power. The power is used to create chaos (terrorism) or create work (protection of animals).
Any business corporation is a potential corg if it pursues a goal not stated in its business program, produces unanticipated social effects, or simply accumulates large excess of money not involved either into business cycle or into employee compensation. Privately owned wealth, like nuclear materials, has a critical mass: above a certain value it generates a social effect (often constructive) well beyond its nominal dollar equivalent.
There must be a very simple reason why corg is emerging from the democratic state. Corg is impossible without democracy and liberalism. It needs freedom and the low transition barriers of capitalist democracy to grow and to cause big changes by small actions. It needs the lazy bureaucracy to attach the monetary tentacles and to crawl under the fences: one cannot buy the king.
When I was young, I was looking into the future with hope. I expected a better life, new exciting inventions, and new captivating art. As a historical fatalist, I am aware of the age effect : the old people evaluate the future in terms of old standards and they are mostly disappointed. I believe that history is always right because it grows from human nature. Nevertheless, my attitude toward the future has a tinge of aversion. I want to believe that this is because my individualism is much stronger than my fatalism.
Freedom is not the freedom of choice, I begin to think. It is the freedom of inventing the choice.
let us look somewhat farther into the future. One of the
main ideas of my Essays is that our civilization is
driven by the evolution of Things, in which humans more
and more play the role of enzymes. What can come next
after the Things in the leading position? I
believe it is ideas materialized as corgs. Ideas are as
old as Things. The time may come when they take over.
More about corg: Essay 35. Crowds and Elites, Bottlenecks and Demons
John Kenneth Galbraith was among the first to note the new historical role of large corporations, see APPENDIX 5.
An extraordinary, stimulating, heretic, and skeptical book on the historical aspects of power and money: Neill Ferguson, The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000, New York: Basic Books, 2001. Neil Ferguson, in his The Cash Nexus, among others, describes the fundamental historical transition from royal War State to democratic Welfare State, the origin of taxation and its role in the emergence of bureaucracy, and, most relevant to the corg problem, the politics that has become corporate business, which is just another way to explain what corg is. There is much more food for thought.
It is necessary to consider another point in examining the character of these principalities: that is, whether a prince has such power that, in case of need, he can support himself with his own resources, or whether he has always need of the assistance of others. And to make this quite clear I say that I consider those who are able to support themselves by their own resources who can, either by abundance of men or money, raise a sufficient army to join battle against any one who comes to attack them; and I consider those always to have need of others who cannot show themselves against the enemy in the field, but are forced to defend themselves by sheltering behind walls. The first case has been discussed, but we will speak of it again should it recur. In the second case one can say nothing except to encourage such princes to provision and fortify their towns, and not on any account to defend the country. And whoever shall fortify his town well, and shall have managed the other concerns of his subjects in the way stated above, and to be often repeated, will never be attacked without great caution, for men are always adverse to enterprises where difficulties can be seen, and it will be seen not to be an easy thing to attack one who has his town well fortified, and is not hated by his people. (X)
A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. (XIV)
Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavor only to avoid hatred, as is noted. (XVII)
Hitler's dictatorship was the first dictatorship of an industrial state in this age of modern technology, a dictatorship which employed to perfection the instruments of technology to dominate its own people... . By means of such instruments of technology as the radio and public-address systems, eighty million persons could be made subject to the will of one individual. Telephone, teletype, and radio made it possible to transmit the commands of the highest levels directly to the lowest organs where because of their high authority they were executed uncritically. Thus many offices and squads received their evil commands in this direct manner. The instruments of technology made it possible to maintain a close watch over all citizens and to keep criminal operations shrouded in a high degree of secrecy. To the outsider this state apparatus may look like the seemingly wild tangle of cables in a telephone exchange; but like such an exchange it could be directed by a single will. Dictatorships of the past needed assistants of high quality in the lower ranks of the leadership also—men who could think and act independently. The authoritarian system in the age of technology can do without such men. The means of communication alone enable it to mechanize the work of the lower leadership. Thus the type of uncritical receiver of orders is created.
A critical receiver of orders in a corporation would not work for long.
“The nightmare shared by many people,” I said, “that some day the nations of the world may be dominated by technology—that nightmare was very nearly made a reality under Hitler's authoritarian system. Every country in the world today faces the danger of being terrorized by technology; but in a modern dictatorship this seems to me to be unavoidable. Therefore, the more technological the world becomes, the more essential will be the demand for individual freedom and the self-awareness of the individual human being as a counterpoise to technology. ... Consequently this trial must contribute to laying down the ground rules for life in human society."
Dazzled by the possibilities of technology, I devoted crucial years of my life to serving it. But in the end my feelings about it are highly skeptical.
What was the Hanseatic League (or Hansa, German: Hanse)?
I found a good reference on the Web and because I am afraid it will disappear, I want to quote it. True, this page will disappear, too.
In historical research, the Hansa had a long shadowy existence, for when interest concentrated on princes, powerful realms and heroic battles, a loose community of towns mainly inspired by mercantile considerations attracted little attention.
Its definition was a problem already under discussion in its time. After having deteriorated since the middle of the 15th century, English relations with the Hansa reached their lowest point when in the summer of 1468 English ships were seized in the sound by Danish vessels. The Hansa was suspected to have at least shared responsibility for that. King Edward IV straight away imprisoned the Hanseatic merchants in London and confiscated their goods in order to compensate the English merchants. The Hansa, he explained, was a society, cooperative or corporation, originating from a joint agreement and alliance of several towns and villages, being able to form contracts and being liable as joint debtors for the offenses of single members.
According to a widely held opinion, the Hansa was a community of low German towns whose merchants participated in the Hanseatic privileges abroad. Where politically convenient it stressed the solidarity of its merchants, and at the latest since the Lübeck meeting in 1418 there were repeated efforts to obtain a firm federal constitution. On the other hand, the Hansa was lacking the essential legal elements of a federation. There was no pact of alliance, no statutes, no obligation for certain economic and political aims, no chairman with representative authority, and no permanent official, until Dr. Suderman became Hanseatic syndic in 1556. And there were no means to punish disobedient members apart from exclusion, whereas instruments to be used externally were blockade, embargo and even war. So the Hansa in some way resembled a federation, but it was more a legal community as to its privileges abroad.
Prof. Rainer Postel, Bundeswehr Universität, Germany
5. John Kenneth Galbraith, Annals of an Abiding Liberal, New York: The New American Library, 1979. First and last Essays.
The modern corporation internationalizes its income and wage standards as entrepreneurial industry never did. It also creates an international civil service— men who, like the servants of the Holy Church, are at home in all lands, who differ only in owing their ultimate allegiance not to Rome but to IBM (p.17).
The competitive and entrepreneurial firm seeks services from the state; seeks protection from competition, as just noted; is subject to regulation; pays taxes. This is a familiar and limited relationship. This firm never, by itself, competes with the state in the exercise of power. The modern large corporation, on the other hand, has a far wider range of requirements from the state. It also brings its power directly to bear on the instrumentalities of the state — both the bureaucracy and the legislature. Its needs, since they are put forward by the technostructure — an influential and articulate sector of the population — have a way of becoming public policy. Americans have recently had a substantial education in the way the financial resources of the corporation have been deployed for the purchase of politicians and political influence. (p. 18)
And much more there. Gailbraith has a rare ability to make his ideas look naked while dressing them in exquisite eloquence.
That was (and still is) the fuzzy state of corg genesis.
Galbraith used the term power without definition. He thought that large corporations diffused power because nobody personally had it: power is delocalized (using the language of physics) among management, bureaucrats, specialists, and services.
I believe that corg is always small (even if part of a larger body) and it amplifies personal power. It fits the sharp distinction Galbraith draw between small ("entrepreneurial") companies and large corporations. There is always an entrepreneur inside the corg. What is new is the challenge of the state (and, possibly, even large corporations) by a political entrepreneur.
But what is power?
of the Nation-State. By Jean-Marie Guehenno.
Translated by Victoria
Webpage created: 2002 Revised: 2016
Essays 1 to 56 : http://spirospero.net/essays-complete.pdf
Essays 57 to 60: http://spirospero.net/LAST_ESSAYS.pdf
Essay 60: http://spirospero.net/artandnexistence.pdf