8 thoughts on “Power and Authority – Emilio Mordini

  1. malcolmoz June 21, 2015 / 8:41 am

    Thanks Jacques. The separation the polity from the ability to govern of is sadly true worldwide as Emilio observes, at least in the democracies. The digital economy has exacerbated a process that has been under way for a long time now: in my view the turning point was the Reagan – Thatcher period but they in turn may have simply been the agents delivering what was going to happen anyway.

    The causes seem to be immensely complex but seems to be linked to the rapidly decreasing ability of any national government to control its borders (for people, resources and information) which is the essential pre-requisite to the ability to govern.

    The means of re-joining the two are very unclear indeed. In the Industrial Revolution, it took the union movement and revolutions against the state to deliver change. What is the equivalent now with such porous borders? Dare I say it, but it may include some form of more effective global governance rather than more effective national governments.

    More specifically, the Data Protection Regulation will struggle in its complexity let alone the hybrid enforcement regime.


    • Emilio Mordini June 21, 2015 / 7:03 pm

      Thanks Malcom and Jaques for your helpful and mindful comments. My point is twofold. First I argue that the “translation imperii”, the transfer of the authority, from political elites to financial and economic elites, has been an epochal, long term, event, that cannot be easily reversed because it has been driven by many, powerful, and deep social dynamics. They emerged in the second half of the XIX century, then they grew up till the second half of the XX century. One could even read the three XX century dictatorships (Fascism , Nazism, Communism) as the extreme, desperate, tentative of the political to keep the authority against the economic. I agree with you that the 1980s, Reagan and Thatcher and the end of the Communism, were probably the tuning point in which political elites eventually gave up. Today political elites keep some powers (sometime less, sometime more) but they are no longer able to drive the “souls” of their citizens. Everywhere the way in which the public opinion is formed is due only minimally (if ever) to political elites, which are totally incapable to provide visions and perspectives, and to shape their citizens’ tastes, way of living and thinking. My second argument is that as political elites are slow as they think to compensate their lack of authority by over legislating. This is stupid and dangerous. Governing by over legislating ends up by multiplying the effects of the lack of authority (that is to say, the gap between civil and political societies) and additionally it threatens the effectiveness of statutory laws. The Magna Charta is 4928 words, the US Constitution is 4500 words, Do you know how many words is the EU Data Protection directive? It is made up by 52680 words, more than 10 times the US Constitution or the Magna Charta.
      Now the debate will focus on this or on that close, but it is actually almost immaterial what it is written in those 201 pages, because more than ever the message is the means. The EU legislation on data protection is not only hilarious, but it is a sad sign of EU parochialist irrelevance, which makes me upset being myself European.

      Liked by 1 person

      • malcolmoz June 22, 2015 / 4:30 am

        The word counts alone make a powerful point!


  2. digitrusteu June 21, 2015 / 9:07 am

    Luciano Floridi made comments and remarks concerning this issue of un-governability. He used the term Multi Agent Systems (MAS) to indicate that in a world of ever powerful multi-national companies we need to built governing systems that include international enterprises and also international civil organisations.
    I was surprised to see some weeks ago that also Madelin Albright pleaded in a television interview to bring the multi–national enterprises in the governing system.

    Of course the multi-nationals started the undermining of the borders, but the Internet has speeded it up dramatically. There are answers in the UN, EU, …, but this is not enough, as enterprises are just lobbyers there and often in an opaque way, and civil organisations have much less power at that levels.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. digitrusteu June 21, 2015 / 7:41 pm

    Emilio, I can follow you on this. Nevertheless it leaves me with the unsatisfactory feeling that you conclude that we can do nothing.
    Accepting the argument means that indeed we must include the financial and economical actors in the governance process in a democratic way, not is the sneaky way it has been developing until now, leading to the financial crisis, as there is no sensible counter balance keeping them in check.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Emilio Mordini June 21, 2015 / 9:33 pm

    Jacques, my argument implies that financial and economical actors are in full control of governance processes because they control social practices, although they do not control – at least not entirely – the legislative (but the legislative is infinitely less important than social practices). . So, the point is not that we have to include them, but that we should provide them with good reasons to include us. It is us, those who are outside, who should ask them to be invited to participate in the govern of the digital society. Don’t dupe ourselves to think that we have more power than we actually have.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. digitrusteu June 21, 2015 / 9:40 pm

    That I understood. I prefer to look from the positive or constructive side. The question is how we can help getting it done.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. malcolmoz June 22, 2015 / 4:41 am

    This is a really insightful series of comments. I agree with Emilio that while a turning point may have been Reagan & Thatcher, they were probably the agents of a bigger and longer term process as he suggests.

    The only thing I can think of now is whether the perspective of the wider populace can be brought to bear. It was possible in the first half of the 19th C in England including through the union movement but not exclusively so (less so in Continental Europe, hence the only recourse was often revolution??). Is expression of the wider will possible again? How? The internet after all is supposed to be liberating; indeed it has been in certain circumstances.

    Arguing against that thought and calling again on Ancient Rome, the Emperor utilised bread and circuses to appease the masses. Is the same happening now – sport and the associated tribalism; all the addictive processes of the internet including social media etc? If so, will this thrill of the internet wear off and people begin to see more clearly again? Can we find a way to accelerate this?


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