The Anarchical Order of Power

"The Anarchical Order of Power," Daedalus, v95 n2 (Spring, 1966): 479-502.


Men continue to belong to political units pretending to independence. Hence, there is no “planetary Society” or “human society” comparable to Pueblo or French society, or to the society of the United States or the Soviet Union.

The examples just to give and illustrate the diversity of “political units” or “societies” of which the state claims to be the sovereign expression. A historian of the school of Spangler or Toynbee would contrast “national societies,” naïvely proud of their originality, with the “intelligible fields” that makes up a whole “civilization,” such as ancient civilization or Western Christian civilization. And a technologist would reply that the truly intelligible field lies below and not above the politically organized society. A state such as the Soviet Union encompasses many ethnic groups or cultural communities whose past, customs, and even creeds remained different in many respects.

We shall, nonetheless,  take the multiplicity of legally sovereign states (according to the charter of the United Nations)  as the characteristic traits of the “8–social society” or the “and–arctic cold order” of mankind. The former expression goes back to Kant;  the latter borrows the notion of anarchy from the banal critique of the system of rival sovereignties. Both seek to emphasize the essential imperfection of “human society,” to assume the existence of a “society” of all mankind, in the sense that the city states and empires of the ancient world and the nation states of Europe constituted one.”