By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
We’ve been hearing the term, or rather phrase, “deep state” rather a lot lately, so I thought I’d look into it. Here’s a usage example from the Jerusalem Post:
Sisi regime shows confidence as ‘deep state’ returns to Egypt’s political landscape
The acquittal of former president Hosni Mubarak, his sons, and other close aides demonstrates that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has settled comfortably in power and marks the return of the deep state.
The term “deep state” refers to a group of powerful nondemocratic leaders who, though they may be concealed under layers of bureaucracy, are actually in control of the country.
To be sure, Sisi has smartly led the important Arab state from the depth of riots, terrorist attacks, economic crisis and outside pressures, but the style and makeup, if not the policies, of the government are reminiscent of Mubarak’s regime.
The fact of the matter is that the Mubarak trial was bound to be based not on a strict reading of the evidence but on the wishes of the regime in power.
(It’s interesting that the writer’s definition is at odds with the definition of the originator of the phrase, Peter Dale Scott, as provided in his Glossary of Open Politics, which I quote in part and annotate in the figures below.)
So, yes, I’m
in the market on a quest for a theory of the state, because the state we’ve got doesn’t seem responsive in any way to the voters, except when they want to do what “it” (?) wants to do, and that means the state isn’t working for my values or my interests. As part of that quest, I bought Scott’s The Road to 9/11, but I don’t retain much from it; I spent too much time flipping from the text to the glossary and back to try to make sense of what I was reading.
In this post, I’ll do another manaically close reading to explain why I’ve crossed the “deep state” off my list of candidate theories. If your response is, “Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, what’s your theory?” I’d respond, first, that I don’t like work, so I’d rather somebody else had a more well-defined and supple theory I was happier with, and I would just adopt it, and second, with the little girl from The New Yorker, “I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it,” and it would be spinach whether brocolli had been proposed or not. In other words, I don’t have to provide an alternative. (Readers, however, should feel free to chime in with recommended readings.)
To explain the reasons for my rejection of Scott’s theory of the state, I’m doing to play “the dictionary game” with his “Glossary of Open Politics” [PDF]: I’m going to start with one entry (“deep state, ” Figure 1, below) and then go to the entries mentioned in that entry, and so on. I should also say that I’m not assaulting Scott’s integrity, or saying he’s a pawn in this or that game, or that I hate his political views (what little I know of them); and that I think that Scott and I would like to improve the world in more or less the same ways. The scope of this post is solely Scott’s theory of the state. That said, let’s look at Scott’s definition of “deep state.”
Figure 1: Deep State
Legend: Each entry is numbered with an incoming number at top left like “>1.” Mentioned entries have outgoing numbers like “2>.” So, “2>” means, “read Figure 2 next,” and that entry will have “>2” at its top left. Needlessly complex, perhaps, but I wanted to number the hops in the dictionary game.
So let’s start playing. It’s said that the deep state is a “closed network,” but that’s not defined and is only “said to be” so let’s skip it. (If the metaphor is computer networking, a closed network requires permission to join. So far as I can tell, that would make democracy a closed network. If the metaphor is graph theory, that would make the network heavily interconnected. Big difference, and yes, I’m going to treat the glossary as self-contained, except for explicit references to external sources. I don’t know what that “[A]” is; it’s not in the print version.)
I think we have to assume that Scott’s definition is exhaustive, if only because it would be ridiculous to keep adding on (4), (5), (6), and so on. So let’s look at each of the characteristics in turn.
First, presumably Scott’s oeuvre justifies privileging one type of covert operation, the false flag, over the many other types of covert operation, and also justifies restricting false flag operations to violent ones. That is, if Costa Rica, which has abolished its military, allowed its Fuerza Pública to engage in false flag operations, but not violent ones, it could not have a deep state, by definition. That seems oddly restrictive.
Second, “military and intelligence apparatus” also seems a bit restrictive; I’ll have more to say about this when we look at Figure 2.
Finally, “involves their links to organized crime” seems restrictive as well, in two ways. First, what about “links” to the media? For example, we know that in the run-up to the Iraq War, the White House Iraq Group planted over 50 stories in our famously free press, as part of a secret disinformation campaign. Intuitively, this would be a deep state operation? But wait — the objection comes — just because it’s not part of the definition of the deep state doesn’t mean it can’t be a characteristic of the deep state! To which I would respond: But surely all states from time immemorial have tried to control “the narrative” using the media of their day? What is “linked” and what is not seems arbitrary. Second, what about states in past time? WikiPedia claims that “organized crime” appears only in the 19th Century. Therefore, states before that time — say, the Ming Dynasty — could not be or have “deep states,” by definition. That just seems odd. I mean, surely the Chinese emperors had a military and had intelligence services?
Summarizing, I don’t see why one covert operation is privileged over others, I don’t see why the military and intelligence agencies are privileged over others, and although apparently there can be no such thing as a “deep state” prior to the inception of “organized crime,” that restriction, too, seems completely unmotivated. The whole definition seems simultaneously oddly restrictive and unmotivated, almost as if (to be momentarily unkind) it had been reverse engineered out of current political concerns and hot topics, rather than being based on historical or comparative work.
Again — I hear you say — “Read the whole book and you will understand,” but I think it’s a fair request that a Glossary be a standalone document that answers obvious questions — that’s why readers turn to it in the first place! — that provides a consistent and reasonably complete guide to the important concepts of its subject, with references to what it does not explain. Otherwise, after all, a glossary becomes nothing more than a random list of words with partial and gappy definitions! Perhaps as we move further through the Glossary matters will improve.
Figure 2: Dual State
So, from “deep state” we are told to go to “dual state,” and here we are. I’m a little iffy on that “one can distinguish” as a litmus test, since it would be nice to have way of resolving disagreements between those who can “distinguish” and those who cannot; but let that pass. (I suppose the odd locution “one can distinguish,” instead of the more straightforward “has,” or “comprises,” is put there to handle the limit case where the deep state is so powerful and so covert that it completely absorbs the public state, and so cannot be “distinguished” from it? Or vice versa!
But I said I’d return to “military and intelligence apparatus.” Let’s consider the case of Occupy: We know that there was a 17-state paramilitary operation, coordinated by the DHS, and involving state governors and local police forces. We know there’s a similar Ferguson right now. But “deep state” is defined so as to exclude local police forces, because they are not part of the intelligence apparatus. (In Figure 3: “By the deep state I mean agencies like CIA, with little or no significant public constituency outside of government.” The police are agencies that do have a “significant constituency outside of government.”) So either the Occupy and Ferguson occupations are not deep state operations, which is an odd result, given that these are movements you’d intuitively expect a thing called the “deep state” to suppress, or we have, again, a definition that’s so arbitrary and unmotivated that it excludes obvious actors like the police.
Figure 3: State
From “deep state” and “dual state,” we are told to go to “state,” and so here we are. I won’t quarrel at this point with the dictionary definitions. I will note, however, that in sense two, the state is contrasted to “civil society,” to which the public state is said to be responsive; and civil society is nowhere defined; it seems to produce “shifts in public opinion” to which the public state responds, but the origin and nature of these shifts remains a mystery.
The deep state, by contrast, responds to the “overworld,” to which we will turn after noting that the “deep state” is really not “immune” (whatever that means) to “shifts in public opinion” (whatever they mean). The Nazis, for example, systematically gathered domestic intelligence on “public opinion” and Goebbels adjusted his propaganda campaigns accordingly; the Nazis were by no means “immune.” One reason the KGB was one of the few functional organizations in the old Soviet Union was precisely that it gathered intelligence on “shifts in public opinion”; it was not “immune” either. (Returning to Figure 1 for a moment, the Nazi state seems to meet all the criteria for deep state-hood but the presence of organized crime, and you could view the Nazi Party as organized crime. Anyhow, if the United States in 2014 has a deep state, and Germany in 1933 – 1945 did not, I give up. Dittoez the USSR.)
Note also that in Figure 2 (“dual state”) one “can distinguish,” within the state, between a deep state and a public state; but here in Figure 3 (“state”) deep state and public state are to be treated as “overlapping systems of statal institutions.” I don’t wish to seem churlish, but those relationships are not the same. We might draw ourselves a Venn Diagram and say that the State is 100%, 30% is pure public, 30% is pure deep, and 40% is overlap. Fine, but how is the actual sorting to be done? What are the criteria, especially in that overlapping area? Especially given neither the media nor the police seem to fit into the model?
Figure 4: Overworld
And so, from “deep state,” we come to the “overworld” (a name almost as evocative as “deep state” itself). As “shifts in public opinion” are the unmotivated driver of the public state, so the overworld “influences” the deep state, apparently its members are also members of cliques and cabals.
We learn first that the overworld is a “realm,” by which apparently is meant a “scene,” of “successful influence of government by private power.” Trivially, why on earth the weird restriction to “successful” influence? Suppose some executive at Comcast tries to buy a council member in Philly and fails, incredibly. Is that attempt not take place in the overworld? Less trivially, what is meant by “private power”? If “civil society” is meant, then why is the term not used? And what about private individuals? Suppose I call my Congress critter and have them shake loose my ObamaCare form. Does that take place in the overworld?
Second, “the overworld is not a class but a category.” Never mind that “category” of what — influencers, one guesses — goes unstated. Get a load of this, as the most amazing example of wilful refusal to discuss class that I, and quite possibly you, have ever encountered. Quoting again:
The term [overworld] should be distinguished from Frederick Lundberg’s “superrich,” the sixty wealthiest families that he wrongly predicted in his 1967 book Sixty Families would continue to dominate America both as a class and as a “government of money.” The recent Forbes annual lists of the four hundred richest Americans shows that Lundberg’s prediction was wrong on both counts: his richest inheritors of 1967 are mostly not the richest today, and today’s richest are not necessarily those projecting their wealth into political power. .
The argument, or assertion, is, if I understand it, that for the wealthy to be considered a class, as opposed to a category: (1) all the wealthy must “project their wealth into political power,” (2) proportionately to their wealth, and that (3) that yesterday’s wealthy must be both yesterday’s and tomorrow’s. But here again we have oddly restrictive and seemingly unmotivated constraints. If one regards “wealth” as a type social relation between a person and some types of property — an unexceptionable proposition, surely — then the only thing that matters is that the social relation persists over time, as the definition shows it does. Wealth is wealth, whether held by these 60 families or that, and whether held for five years or fifty. Further, only some members of the class of the wealthy need “influence” government for all to benefit, and in any case politics is an art not all do well or choose to practive; it’s again restrictive and unmotivated to imply a direct relation between any one “richest” and their “projection” of “political power.” Now, I’m not sure I’d accept “overworld” as a term anyhow, but I just can’t see any reason to think of overworld players as not a class, if the litmus test for membership in the class is a social relation to wealth.
Finally, the operation of influence is not carried on through “institutions,” at least not “as a rule” (although it would be nice to know what motivates the exceptions). That leaves open the question of what the Bildberg Society, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations are for, if not to serve as channels for influence, another oddly restrictive and seemingly unmotivated constraint, but put that aside. Influence in the overworld is apparently to be carried on through “cabals” and “cliques” — what is this, high school? — to which we now turn.
Figures 5 and 7: Cabal and Clique
So we arrive at “cabal” from “overworld,” and then “cabal” sends us to “clique.”
(I’m not even going to ask what “interventions from the overworld” means.) And now clique:
And so we are back at “network,” still undefined! (A good dictionary game is always circular). One wonders if there are limits to the size, shape, and complexity of the network, given that its “social or bureaucratic base” can be “broad.” Could the entire Democratic Party be a cabal? Certainly the Democrats “sustain top-down rule” and facilitate “interventions from the overworld,” if by that is meant campaign contributions. Is the Democratic agenda “widely known or shared”? Well, that depends, doesn’t it? However, it’s this from “clique” that’s really interesting:
Before the Iraq war the neocons in the Bush administration represented a clique; the faction preparing secretly for war (which included both neocons and veterans of the international petroleum industry, like Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice) represented a larger and more widespread cabal.
Let’s not worry about how a “faction” is different from a cabal or a clique. We have a clique of neocons inside a cabal of warmongers who, in the “overworld” (by definition), have “successfully influenced” (by definition), but not “institutionally” (by definition), “government” on behalf of “private power” (by definition); we have a canonical example of how the deep state is said to work. (Never mind that the media was critical to getting the war on, but can’t be accomodated with the definitions given).
Remember, however, from our discussion of “overworld,” that entry into the “scene” is granted not because Cheney(for example) is a member of a class, but because he exhibits a category. And what is that category? “[V]eteran of the international petroleum industry.” But doesn’t it make for sense to think of Cheney as having “influence” because he’s a representative of a certain economic interest, than because of his job description? I really don’t want to be reductionist here, but surely Cheney had the influence he did not merely because he was a “veteran,” but because he was wealthy in his own right (a social relation) and because he spoke for those who owned the means to drill for and process petrolem (more social relations)? What is “private power” but class?
Figure 6: Milieu
From “overworld” we are directed to “milieu,” the venue where the deal gets done. A classic example of a milieu would be a golf course. And so:
A location (not necessarily geographical) where private deals can be made. Relatively unimportant to proceedings and institutions of the public state
This is probably true. Although Obama, with Eisenhower, does do deals on the golf course, they are “unimportant” put beside the routine processes of governance.
As the programmer said to the documentation specialist: “That code was hard to write. It should be hard to understand!” So for those of you who got this far, but aren’t close reading enthusiasts, I apologize.
Summarizing why I’m crossing “the deep state” off my list of candidate theories of the state, despite the incredible resonance and power of the term itself:
1. The definitions of the key terms that define the concept of the deep state are restricted in ways that seem unmotivated; why are “violent false flag” operations a litmus test, instead of covert operations as such? Can it really be true that no “deep state” existed before the 19th century?
2. When I test the deep state concept against real life examples that I would, intuitively, expect it to illuminate, it comes up short. Example: Suppressing Occupy.
3. When I test the deep state concept against real life institutions that I would, intuitively, expect it to include, it comes up short. Example: The media, the police.
4. The architecture of a “public state” that responds to public opinion, and a “deep state” that responds only to influence through the overworld seems brittle. Surely it’s possibly that the same forces, however named, that shift public opinion can also influence the overworld? If they do, I can’t see a way for the architecture to give an account of it.
5. I don’t buy that it’s more useful and interesting to view the 1% (let’s call them) acting vertically through a myriad of cabals and cliques, as opposed to horizontally in their common or shared interests as a class.
6. Finally, I am unpersuaded that the narratives prominent in deep state permathreads are important or interesting. The biggest story of our age is surely not long-ago elite assassination plots, but the greatest upward transfer of wealth in world history, which happened after the bailouts. However, the deep state concept has nothing to say of this, even though the bailouts were largely done in secret, which you’d think would be catnip for a deep state analyst (though, to be fair, I’m working from a glossary, and there may be a new book out).
In short, I want a theory of the state that helps me to distinguish friend or ally from enemy or neutral, and helps me to pursue the values and interests I share with others like me. “Deep state” analytics focuses shallowly on cabals and cliques. “Deep state” and “overworld” have deep resonance as poetic phrases. But analytical tools must cut as well as gleam. A deeper focus is needed to sharpen our vision.
Readers correct me, or, better yet, propose alternatives. Leave The State for Dummies out of this, though; I’ve already ordered it!
 Here’s WikiPedia’s definition; I’d supply one from a subject matter expert if Google weren’t totally crapified:
False flag (or black flag) describes covert military or paramilitary operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them. Operations carried out during peace-time by civilian organizations, as well as covert government agencies, may by extension be called false flag operations if they seek to hide the real organization behind an operation. Geraint Hughes uses the term to refer to those acts carried out by “military or security force personnel, which are then blamed on terrorists.”
In its most modern usage, the term may also refer to those events which governments are cognizant of and able to stop but choose to allow to happen (or “stand down”), as a strategy to entangle or prepare the nation for war. Furthermore, the term “false flag terrorism” may even be used in those instances when violence is carried out by groups or organizations which, whether they know it or not, are being supported or controlled by the “victim” nation. deHaven-Smith argues that the terminology has become looser in recent years due to the increasingly complex levels of “duplicity” and “international intrigue” between states.
Personally, I think the farther away we get from the original naval operation, where Jack Aubrey would “amuse the enemy” by flying the flag of a neutral, and then unfurl the Union Jack only when the enemy was in range of his cannon, the worse. When “false flag” is used for any form of deception, public or private, it becomes so broad a term is to be meaningless. That doesn’t mean it lacks utility, of course.
 Indeed, how would we know?
 Statal means “of or relating to a national government” (Merriam-Webster). I think “relating to” means “concerning,” as opposed to “related to,” in the sense that a corporation regulated by a government could be said to be related to it, in a highly technical, “closed network” kind of way.
Good review of the “deep state” idea. I’m always happy to see an analysis that really puts the underlying definitions and logic of an idea to the test , and compares the implications of the idea with reality.
Personally, the best description of the state of our current state is Wolin’s Inverted totalitarianism. Chris Hedges did a series of excellent interviews with Wolin on The Real News about this recently. That said, I’m not sure there is a single, encompassing description or theory available. I think that while Wolin’s ideas are very relevant and carry a lot of descriptive power, our current government is really a too varied and complex with elements of many different ideas of state. Yes, we even have real democracy here and there too!
Our real challenge is to make sure the current state of flux moves in the right direction.
Speaking for other close reading enthusiasts, thank you and I’m sorry.
A rational theory of semi-rational primates is necessarily insufficient.
I assign less relevance to institutions and relationships as these are concerned with how things happen rather than why. Knowing why people do things is the key to understanding their objectives and whether they are friend or foe, and for that I begin with Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Once we become aware of the “higher barbarians” we see how they’re able to wield such power over political systems and institutions.
“Theory of the Leisure Class”
My vade mecum.
“I’m not sure there is a single, encompassing description or theory available.” I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment! The difficulty lies in the fact that individual people are complex, inconsistent creatures who act from motives that are often indiscernible to outside observers. That being said, I think Lambert makes a very important point: “I don’t buy that it’s more useful and interesting to view the 1% (let’s call them) acting vertically through a myriad of cabals and cliques, as opposed to horizontally in their common or shared interests as a class.”
When I overhear a snatch of conversation at a Dean & DeLuca, and three days later something appears in “the news” that supports my impression that a certain media outlet has been fed a certain piece of disinformation that is useful to a powerful individual, that’s just an observation about one moment under kleptocratic rule. It is far more important to connect all the dots– and to understand the general trend of a transnational elite that is using a wide variety of mechanisms throughout the world to continue this massive upward concentration of wealth, into fewer and fewer hands.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and deliberately ignore the many instances where secret power is exercised to achieve all kinds of nefarious ends. In particular we should be very skeptical of the dominant MSM narrative on pretty much every issue!
If you’ve ever been close to power of any kind at any level–you would know that cliques and conspiracies abound. Start by reading the classical historians. Again ignorance of this is a result of American Exceptionalism.
Lots of people are “close to power of any kind.” It’s called being citizen. I don’t think anybody ever denied that cliques (and cabals) abound, and perhaps even — on the “evidence of things not seen” theory — conspiracies “abound.” The issue is whether they are worth the weight that Scott gives them, which is important, because his theory of the state gives the primary importance.
Speaking of “reading the classical historians “. There’s a very interesting “moral of the story” in the “Tower of Babel”. The POWER of language in definite common purpose and the synergy it creates…and the threat of solidarity and who or what is threatened, and how that threat is mitigated. I guess it depends on who or what you believe God to be. It seems to me that even a common language (e.g. English) can and does become “babelized”. WE can find definite common purpose in coalescence or babble-on in acquiescence.
you kin call de Boogey Man witchever you want but he still de Boogey Man.
This is a far trickier proposition than I think you imagine it to be, since, in many cases in modern society, people who share your class interests in fact are quite often rendered complicit, by a variety of means, in the very behaviors/policies/quid non that oppress both you and them. To that effect, any theory of the state, to my mind, has to account both for its institutional constituents, the most common approach, as well as its means or affordances.
PR/propaganda is a good example of what I mean: it’s not necessarily produced by any one particular group–all institutional constituents, as well as “private sector” entities, propagandize to one extent or another–but it is a necessary component of how the state pulls the wool over people’s eyes and, as above, seduces them into being complicit in, or at least indifferent to, the state’s shenanigans. Additionally, there is the question of access (to politicians, to institutions, etc.) which is codified both by explicit rules (silly things like laws and regulations) but also by standards and practices (and winks and nods) that are well known only to those who use and abuse them on a daily basis. It is unclear to me whether access makes of one a constituent of the state or, by being somehow already involved, one acquires access.
I have a theory: America is in an empire in terminal decline. There are many historical examples of empires in decline where the ruling elites become insular and do lots of stupid stuff, sometimes for centuries, before the empire suffers catastrophic collapse. If we need a name for the process, let’s call it “entropy”. Entropy can be held at bay by utilizing energy/resources from external sources for a time (a working explanation for the activities of empire) but eventually all resources are exhausted and the system goes dark.
As you may have noticed, things like “democracy” and “accountability” play no part in the largely mechanical process described above, and that is exactly what we see today. If the internal proletariat (for example, Occupy) does something that threatens to activities of empire, they will be suppressed by any means necessary with no other consideration given. That’s all.
I note that the term “deep state” comes from Turkey, yet many Turks would argue that the “deep state” doesn’t exist, being rather a set of authoritarian tendencies from Ottoman culture, the ill-informed reliance on the military as “guardians of democracy,” and Sunni puritanism. The Italians sometimes speak of “i misteri d’Italia,” another set of mythical deep-state causes / effects. But i misteri d’Italia don’t explain much.
In short, the Deep State may be more Pynchon-style paranoia than political fact.
While we are on definitions, I’d like a definition of kabuki (as used by liberalish commenters). I’d say that the only people allowed to use “kabuki” in a comment should also be required to define “onnagata” and demonstrate some knowledge of the Japanese theater tradition (dare I ask for a definition of butoh?).
This is why I prefer to use the term “kayfabe,” which doesn’t suppose any deep knowledge of Japanese culture, but is rather derived from the world of televised “professional wrestling” here in the U.S. Adversaries in the ring pretend to real enmity and profound differences outside of the ring, just like members of the corporatist uniparty, the Republicrats!!
Wily Odysseus speaks the truth. I prefer kayfabe, too, which is a term that I learned right here at Naked Capitalism from an explanation by Yves Smith.
Thanks, but I guarantee Lambert used “kayfabe” here first!
“Kayfabe” was appropriated by NC commenter Tom Allen on March 18, 2013, picked up by NC commenter Montana Maven on the same day, and then amplified by lambert later that same day. And kayfabe ain’t what it used to be.
I had just read the term “kayfabe “over at Ian Welsh’s site by commenter “4” and was determined to start using it instead of kabuki even though I am a theater major. The commenter used it without defining it, so I had to look it up. I liked the idea of being trapped forever in the audience of a Kabuki play with obvious artiface and suspending disbelief in order to participate. But the more American word for wrestling fakery appealed to me as it seemed fresher, so I thought I ‘d try it out with the smart folks at NC and see if lambert and friends liked it. Again, I also used the word without defining it. I knew Lambert would look it up. He did And it took wings. That’s why I love this sight. We are in it together.
Kabuki is a good word for Washington, but it got overused. A new word makes
people stop for a moment and rethink.
Wolin’s book is my favorite modern explanation of our state of affairs. The Hunger Games movies are my favorite modern visuals of our current state. It gives a new generation a reminder of Versailles and why there was a French revolution. Fresh!
Also, kayfabe, being U.S. slang, points directly to the American problem, which is that much of our politics is “televised profession wrestling,” all highly profitable for those involved.
Indeed, the very lowbrowness of the term ‘kayfabe’ is prophylactic of descent into unhelpfully obfuscatory learned digression.
I don’t like the use of kabuki as a derogative, either. Not all that fond of kayfabe, though. Great concept, ugly little word. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
So it isn’t just me.
thanks – I’ve been wondering just what it meant.
Interesting bit of sophistry. By trying to narrowly define anything we always come to paradox. Deep State, for me, is a metaphor and not a building somewhere in Washington called “Deep State.” It is a series of networks built up over time that is not a top-down hierarchical system.
Elements of the Deep State are everywhere and nowhere. Let’s show a fictional example. A little network of insider traders operates on Wall Street–through one method or another, an office within the CIA finds out about it and offers the Wall Street conspirators an offer they can’t refuse and thus become involved in activities to their mutual benefit–they interact with one or two people and that’s it–neither party may know the ultimate goal of any operation but they remain a network.
Also, you assume too much when you say the Deep State wanted to suppress Occupy. Why would they want to do that? Occupy was no real threat to anything and any person aware of culture mythology would tell you that Americans don’t like bohemians who stay too long on stage–they never have. Occupy was doomed from the start by its own internal contradictions–but that is another argument.
Since you want to test the idea of a Deep State I invite you to look at the assassinations of the sixties. Here there are mountains of evidence clearly stated and forensically based. Yet, the mainstream media refuses to discuss the issue and you will not discuss it either. I’ve asked you, for example, to reply to the most obvious little tidbit among the stunning amount of evidence around these events and you have never answered and much depends on answering these factoids. The autopsy of RFK determined that RFK had been killed by bullets fire at point blank range from behind and, in addition, analysis or the audio showed there were 13 not 9 (which Sirhan’s revolver held) shots. Sirhan fired from the front at no closer than two feet according to all witnesses–who also described the shots as sounding like a firecracker–no one can fire shots that fast (sound analysis also shows the shots came on too fast for any one person to fire). So if there was another shooter and the government suppressed this then what does that imply? You cannot if you are a person that believe is reason ignore such events or see them as irrelevant because it implies the existence of a Deep State.
How would this work? Somebody powerful would call the LAPD and tell them what to do–anyone who thinks the LAPD operates on the high moral standards presented by TV shows like Dragnet ought to read or see the movie LA Confidential. That “somebody” would be part of the relatively informal network that anybody would know about had they seen any informal networks in operation. I’ve seen it on the “the street” (not Wall Street but the informal association of petty criminals I knew in my youth) where somebody let’s it be known not to mess with so and so–and we all knew what that meant–we knew there was a pecking order and didn’t need an organizational chart or an elaborate description. We knew that if we stepped over that line we would get a beating–if we stepped over that other line over there we would be killed. The same sort of informal network existed within various organizations I was a part of or worked with as well as across organizations.
In short, the actual arrangements I described are obscure and it is that obscurity which makes them robust. Finally, there are important “meta” organizations that do operate in secrecy who are not accountable and have an official history of assassinations, government overthrows and skullduggery of every kind and that is the CIA and the intel-community. I repeat–these organizations are not accountable de facto if not de jure.
Again, the left in the U.S. refuses to engage in understanding what I have described and through that fact has removed itself from the realpolik that is a requirement for power.
“” It is a series of networks built up over time that is not a top-down hierarchical system.
Elements of the Deep State are everywhere and nowhere. Let’s show a fictional example. A little network of insider traders operates on Wall Street–through one method or another, an office within the CIA finds out about it and offers the Wall Street conspirators an offer they can’t refuse and thus become involved in activities to their mutual benefit–they interact with one or two people and that’s it–neither party may know the ultimate goal of any operation but they remain a network. ”
This is pretty close to Oglesby’s definition in “The Yankee And Cowboy War”.
Why don’t we just say “invisible stuff that does shit”?
Ogleby’s book, which I read in the day, was exactly the same sort of hairball Bangor has done Scott the disservice of turning his book into.
Does anybody not see how disempowering this is? Leads right down the cul de sac of cultural change is the only thing, since there’s no way to actually locate or address power structures, which have become an invisible 21st Century sky god.
What do you want it to say?
I don’t think it is at all disempowering. It is the way the world is. We have a clearly visible cultural problem–we can’t deal with the implications of the end of modernism and the birth of that nether state some call post-modernism. The basis of power is community–those that have some sense of connection and community have something to base power on–those that don’t are out in the cold. So, we on the left must start from scratch and allow ourselves to be grounded in community and then take action–can’t have one without the other at this historical period–other historical periods were different. The Civil Rights and Labor Movement worked because they were grounded in their communities and people were willing to take a risk knowing they had those around them to support them.
Reminds me a little of the book Definitely Maybe by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky.
If we believe that it is possible to understand and confront the power structure, we can choose to do so- or not.
If it seems some invisible 21st Century sky god/ alien/secret force, then we feel we have no choice and anger is transformed into apathy, passivity, surrender.
And of course, feelings of disempowerment benefits those in power.
I just knew you’d redefine it (“the deep state, for me….”). Bonus points for “sophistry.” It takes real chutzpah to claim “trying to narrowly define anything we always come to paradox”* when I use the author of the term’s very own glossary.
NOTE * Read the whole comment, including the “long-ago elite assassination plots.” I don’t see a paradox, unless it’s that “everywhere and nowhere” bit.
Shorter Banger: The state has secret bits. That means people don’t know about them, at least not right away. Some of them are historical. The end. For that I spent $25.95? Dear Lord.
I kinda like the phrase “deep state”, if one takes it as more poetic than prosaic. It evokes powerful visual imagery, a dark stable core close to the center of power and differentiates that from the public political process–the brightly lit, “democracy show” that makes the shadows darker.
I agree with Lambert though that it has its limitations used prosaically or as a term of high precision.
Really? That’s all you got?
Secret bits? Like some cast off piece of toast I just found in the cushions of my couch? Really?
These little bits have serious weapons and they use them and they have used them to kill a lot people and overthrow and alter the fate of nations. Italy, Greece, Iran, Guatamala and so on starting in the immeadiate post-WWII era and continuing to countries around the world. Seems pretty heavy duty to me. You ignore my definition of networks–surely as an IT guy you’ve studied the ideas that came out of Systems Theory! Networks are, for me, and evidently not for you, a better description of the politics of our time than hierarchies based a static set of arrangements. These networks exist no matter who is in power in Washington. Now some in a network will have more power than other parts (nodes) due to their having more connections (more connections then more power particularly if those connections are with other major nodes)–but that can change–however the network remains even when the person dies or has fewer connections and therefore less power. Networks evolve and adapt to changes including cultural changes.
“Deep State” is not a term with an exact definition that is commonly recognized except as it applies to specific situations as in Turkey and Egypt. And yes to narrowly and precisely seek a definition does lead to paradox as we have seen with particle/quantum physics and we have seen with “modern” philosophy which led Wittgenstein to throw up his hands and define (to oversimplify) philosophical definitions as “word games” and therefore a function of culture.
It’s all I need.
Look, my approach was to go the glossary and read it.
Your approach is to redefine your pet phrase as a metaphor.
Hey, it’s a free country, but let’s not take “deep state” seriously any more as concept, mkay?
I love this. Banger writes:
Which would explain, of course, why Peter Dale Scott wrote a glossary that included it.
Did I miss the warning label on the glossary cover that said “This material not to be taken seriously?”
What network has grown since conception in power while the nations wealth has declined? Perhaps the creator of debt money.
“The question is” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is : said Humpty Dumpty, “which is the master–that’s all.”
This interchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty reveals an ongoing tension between commetariat members of this blog as to whether to accept the proposition that how we linguistically frame a slice of experience is never totally determined by the experience itself.
By highlighting the often unexamined role of conceptualization and categorization one may get greater insight into the world that we take for granted.
Banger, from my perspective, may be largely correct when he states “trying to narrowly define anything we always come to paradox.”
Why is such a result likely. Because when you are dealing with any conceptualizations the paradox results from an act of conceptual slicing geared in a certain way. If you enlarge the framework of analysis a paradox does not have to result.
What is crucial to notice is that there is always a choice or decision made to cut a particular horizon of analysis in a particular way..
There always has to be a decision to have a problem in the first place–and not just to devise a solution for the problem.
Again, to have such paradox is the result of an antecedent choice or decision about where to “cut” one’s focus. The fact that there is a choice involved in order to situate a problem to begin with suggests that the language of problem identification is also metaphoric. It does not transparently reflect a situation that exists independently of our conceptual formulations.
Both the creation of a paradox and the dispelling of a paradox is the result of a “conceptual slicing maneuver that each of us may engage in and is not intrinsic to the circumstances of a particular case.
The politics of various conceptual slicing maneuvers(once they are admitted) is where we get down to the nitty-gritty.
Ya know, if we were talking about the Fed, we’d never start slinging vague shit like “conceptual maneuvers,” and “ongoing tensions,” and let alone “trying to narrowly define anything we always come to paradox” (a paradox Banger never demonstrated). Not in a million years. And I’m an English major!
But as soon as — just let me lash myself to the mast and put the beeswax in my ears, here — somebody utters the mystic cadence “deep state,” I swear, people just go weak in the knees and their critical faculties desert them.
It’s the distinction between people who like to kick tires before they buy, and people who like to sell cars because, well, cars are really metaphors. Harry Frankfurt wrote a book on the latter sort; I recommend it.
The problem with Scott’s book is that it tells us nothing we can use. The terms in which he “defines” the structure of this deep state are so nebulous as to be metaphysical. A good answer will generate at least as many questions as it solves, allowing us to incrementally add to our knowledge; Scott leaves us banging into walls with no idea where to go next. How can one continue an inquiry when there’s no way to tell the difference between a cabal, clique or faction, or why this is a deep state and that isn’t?
“The problem with Scott’s book is that it tells us nothing we can use.”
Exactly. The whole concept is disempowering. (That doesn’t mean it’s false, of course, but I think it means that we should look at it very carefully. As I in fact did, to which the response has been to redefine, or further blur, the concept.)
RE: “The problem with Scott’s book is that it tells us nothing we can use.”
Yep. I said the same thing about the term itself when, more than a week ago, I posted a comment recommending that the term either be explicitly explained (somewhere handy) by those who employ it or, failing that, dropped as a useless bit of “woo”.
The trouble with the term’s use is that it isn’t clear what those using it mean by it. But, it is useful as a vague term which comes pre-loaded with myriad implications about any and all sorts of real or imagined occult goings on in a government or other power structure. That’s why it’s apparently so beloved of people who are too ready to see a conspiracy going on even where, without any need for one, the facts indicate otherwise.
When people posit a conspiracy–and there are always many undetected conspiracies at work–they should explain clearly how and why their posit presents a positive gain in better understanding than the available facts themselves do without the resort to the conspiratorial theory.
Interesting article connecting many of the threads discussed on NC; Wall Street ruling class corruption, Military Industrial Complex incentives and the collusion of elected officials. Lofgren, a former Washington insider, provides a good functional description of the American Deep State and the key stakeholders it comprises.
Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State:
February 21, 2014
by Mike Lofgren
“The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.”
I don’t have a theory. The historical metaphor that helps me is city-state Venice. Despite it’s form of government, it was owned by oligarchs, deeply corrupt and extremely dangerous for those who crossed the wrong people.
Re a theory of the state. I strongly recommend Why Nations Fail: the Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Acemoglu & Robinson.
They propose that countries can be classified into a range running from ‘extractive’ to ‘inclusive’. By extractive they mean countries which are effectively controlled by a narrow elite who run it for their own benefit with trickle down largely limited to the bureaucrats and military etc. that serve their purpose. Law is an instrument of top-down control, not of justice. The government may be left wing like the Soviet Union or right wing like banana republics or personality cult like North Korea. Empires are by definition extractive with respect to their colonies and dependencies.
Inclusive countries in contrast are ones which are run – more or less – for the benefit of a much wider section of society because, they suggest, several different elite groups have achieved a balance of power between themselves so if any one group gets too powerful it is smacked down by the combined forces of the other groups. In such circumstances the law has an important function for dispute resolution so all elite factions support it as a neutral arbiter and the law is indeed a means of justice – the Rule of Law.
Both exclusive and inclusive systems have internal dynamics by which they tend to sustain themselves but conversion from one to the other is possible if infrequent.
The book is highly readable and packed with examples from around the world. If I have a criticism it is that the authors seem to take it as read that the US and UK are examples of inclusive countries whereas I would say that they are transitioning rapidly to extractive as a result of the complete collapse of left/liberal/progressive (choose your own preferred term) opposition.
This is a repost – WordPress ate the first attempt .
Another reason why we should stick close to home. Sorry, but Venice as more than a city-state. Check a map of the Mediterranean around 1550. The government was an oligarchy but broad enough to be inclusive. The doge was elected through a complicated system to ensure some fairness. The oligarchy recognized that the middle class, people in the trades, and the “working class” had to have chances to make money and to rise. In fact, when Napoleon invaded in 1798, one of the main sources of opposition were the arsenalotti, the workers in the Arsenale (state-owned) who had produced a ship a day for many years using an assembly line. The Serenissima was notoriously unfriendly to the pope and papal ambitions. The civil service had a system of double signatures to ensure that money was spent properly. And even though there were judicial horrors, Venice was considered a place where one could get some justice.
[insert doge joke here], also [insert doge-coin joke here].
Thanks for this comment.
Getting a bit wooly for me, is it the preference for Portugeis water dogs? I’ll admit if you lived in SF you might think that canine selection precedes procreation. snark left in toggle mode
Such link. Wow.
The Serenissima has a fascinating and complex history. Venetian power was tremendously important all over the late medieval and early modern Mediterranean world. Yet I think calling its government “broad enough to be inclusive” after the Serrata at the end of the 13th c. is an overstatement. Imagine if tomorrow the law was changed– so that no one in the U.S. could run for statewide or national office except those who could prove they had ancestors who held political office, at that level, in the U.S. before the civil war. Many thousands of people would still be eligible to run, but would you call such a regime “broad enough to be inclusive?!!?”
Ulysses: You truly want to have a dispute over the closing of the Golden Book? I’d say this: In the context of the times, the aristocracy was more broad-based than any other in Europe. And they certainly were a talented, dogged, and savvy group. Venice was remarkably cohesive (just compare its famous “rival” Genoa). And the aristocracy, the merchant class, and the tradespeople (a group of both men and women) knew that they had certain benefits in sticking with the Serenissima. The Venetians even were pretty good at empire–four hundred years in Crete and Cyprus. Surely, that doesn’t come only from that famous cool, calm Venetian personality and a talent for making white polenta?
No dispute here! I guess I would never have chosen to use the word “inclusive” for any sort of aristocratic regime. However, if what you’re saying is that the Venetian aristocrats were more liberal and supportive of bourgeois, non-noble interests than many other oligarchic regimes that have existed, sure!
BTW, the reports home of Venetian diplomats, from foreign courts and capitals, are some of the finest primary sources for European political history ever created!
IMO, what is needed is truthfulness about the situation.
How about going to the head of the rotten fish and calling them the Fortune 100 of trust fund sociopaths since they are the ones who’s “deep state” is the myth that keeps the rest of us from talking about inheritance and accumulating private ownership of property.
Even though this would severely damage the interests of some of my own relations I firmly believe that we need to drastically increase estate taxes in the U.S. Much social good would come of not allowing any one person to inherit more than (to pick a somewhat arbitrary number) $1 million. We could perhaps make some exceptions, to allow for the inheritance of family farms, but only if the heir is obliged to preserve the farm as an agricultural concern.
Lambert, I think I love you. This is brilliant. My roshi refers to this kind of action as weeding the garden of the mind. I bow in your virtual direction.
I’m guilty of adopting DS without having fully examined it. It’s so damn poetic, and fits my prejudices to a t. Much obliged for the clarification.
I want to find that one thread in this dystopia that both ties it all together and will unravel it when pulled. Is there such a thread? Don’t know for sure, but I’ll go on looking just the same.
ISTM this kind of mistake – seeing purpose and intentional design where it doesn’t exist – has a name, but I can’t think of it. Is it related to teleology?
Lambert has been working hard. There’s more to it than just doing the job. I think he’s getting into flow, and it’s something to watch.
enough of the people on one day is all one needs to keep the bedlam from reaching into its own soul and finding the power is in its hands. One does not need to oppress and control 24-7…all that is needed is to disrupt at key times and places. Although there are internal perpetual competitions amongst the roman senators, there is no question there is an over reaching need to insure the walls are secure at all times from uninvited quests to the party.
We are all victims of our experiences and knowledge base and the meme we have created in the spirit of our human hosts. For me the “deep state” is anything to do with the kreepy krawleez of black and red land from the ghelan org which formed the base for the CIA and the Vlassovs inside the KGB. The internal strife and warfare from 62-64 inside the KGB looks more like an attempt by Nazi’s to take over mother russia and remove Kruschev then just a disagreement amongst Bareaites…There were Nazi’s helping egypt after ww2 making peace with Israel a weeeeee bit difficult…We are all told to avoid looking too deeply at the sun as it might blind us…the same goes for reading anything that might have been a speech given by the devil himself, that little austrian painter with the Chaplin mustache…the little munchkin knew there was no real chance to win the second world war and was prepping his little robots to prepare for “the next phase” of the regime…but having come from Ithaki…where our little guy with a mustache, Metaxas, in October of 1940 gave his version of the 101st’s “nuts” to Il Dupe when he said “Alors, c’est la guerre”, it is bashed into our little minds, our little meme, with that great yogi-ism…it aint over till its over…the world is full of former duchy’s and principalities, lost cities and forgotten empires, where bushido is no longer a concern…there will always be someone who thinks they are more equal than others…the key is not to be surprised and shocked when it slaps you in the back of the head.
Lofgren’s essay remains pretty convincing for me. He isn’t suggesting some omniscient cabal coordinating their efforts toward a defined goal. That would be hard to credit. Rather, his Deep State, as I read it, is a collection of government agencies and mega corporations populated by people of a similar authoritarian or bureaucratic mindset that gravitate naturally toward the same deeply undemocratic decisions, out of hubris, greed, lust for power. I think any of us who have worked in any organization of size can see the same principals at work on a small scale. The American mentality — self-centered, self-confident, short-sighted — seems especially prone to this syndrome, an amalgam of qualities that led first to sensational, widely-shared economic success but now has become so bloated and top-heavy that it oppresses not only its own population but that of much of the world.
Fair enough, but I’m not seeing much of a value-add to common sense.
This is pretty much my interpretation of DS.
What I remember taking away from PD Scott’s “Deep Politics and the Death of JFK” was pretty much what Lofgren says. So maybe Scott’s thesis has changed? Basically he was saying that an assassination plot was born out of a confluence of interests between some of the most vicious elements of the military, intelligence agencies (compartmentalized to the point nobody knew who was working for whom) ideological fanatics, big business and mafias. Which is pretty much the same bunch that tried to orchestrate a coup against FDR (not a controversial episode, if vastly under reported) If Scott meant to prove that some streamlined “deep” organization was behind it (run by a guy with a white cat?) I guess he didn’t stress that enough.
“pretty much the same bunch”
Just once I would like to see somebody try to use the deep state concepts without having to insert epicycles of qualification. If I were color coding this thread…
About 35 years ago, think tanks appeared which offered jobs to former administration officials and cabinet secretaries. The rationale was that they couldn’t make enough money working for the government to compensate their power and brilliance, so provide that after they left government. Our friends, the Saudis, funded several such think tanks. Soon, many of these people learned another way to cash in was investing in companies doing business with the government, and influencing those relationships through their connections. There, in a nutshell, is the deep state. Mainly they suckled at the sow of the Defense department, but now these rent seekers have expanded their influence with privatizations of other government services. No, they don’t run the whole show, but they are a burden to carry for the taxpayers.
What you’re describing is Wing Nut Welfare, and yes, it happened more or less as you describe. It’s not clear how a Republican think tank in the ’80s could have assassinated JFK in the 60s, but perhaps the Thing That Is Deep has added time travel to its many other mysterious attributes.
There is no connection, of course, unless seen from the perspective of someone who presents as bipolar, perhaps. Another explanation is someone just blowing smoke. I especially liked the phrase, “People don’t want the facts,” when that came up in a response about 9/11.
Excellent! Insightful and witty. Thanks.
This is an important debate that we probably should’ve had long ago.
Well I’m going to chime in because I’ve had a running ‘debate’ (in air quotes because it barely resembles a debate – more like persistant jumping up and down followed by my objections) with Banger about the Deep State.
My oft-issued objection with ‘Deep State’ is that it is simply futile and self-defeating to make that a focus of discussion. I don’t disagree that something like “Deep State” exists (an amorphous but shiny object) but as a concept it can be used to bludgeon dissent. It channels thinking along what I would term “the Banger axis”: We are controlled by a Deep State => Fear the Deep State! => only the ‘overworld’ (oligarch supported ‘factions’, mostly) can influence the Deep State => democracy & protest is useless => submit to the oligarchs.
“FEAR THE POWER!” is used in conjuction with (generally) oligarch-led initiatives that offer HOPE (one might consider Obama as an oligarch-led hopeful initiative?!?). Too often this ‘hope’ is false because a) the ‘spin’ doesn’t tell the whole story; or b) it is actually a pretense or controlled opposition; and is ‘spotlighted’ so as to appear to be more than it really is, as in Banger’s: hey ‘REALISTS’ are being listened to! – except not really.
There is another important disarming mechanism that tags along with this FEAR and bullsh!t HOPE. That is blame the victim. You see it at every turn of TPTB (and from time to time in Banger’s writing). But ordinary people and are NOT complicit in the current order as much as they are dupped.
Banger says (above) that ‘The Left’ ignores the Deep State and won’t engage in real politick to counter it (or accomodate it). IMO Banger often attacks “the Left” when his intent is to attack the ‘progessive left’ (a moniker that the sellouts try to co-opt/conflate with their agenda). Here Banger has tripped over himself as it is clear that the Democratic Party *HAS* made accomodations with the Deep State (note Obama’s dissembling regarding NSA, support for neocons, and covert ops).
H O P
Yep. Though I don’t see how one can “ignore” a metaphorical, amorphous concept.
WordPress is eating all my attempts to comment today so I’ll go with the shorter version: Read Acemoglu and Robison’s Why Nations Fail. Easy to read, well documented and a convincing theory.
I found the idea that nations fail because of internal ‘cultural institutions’ to be laughable. They usually fail because of external factors such as global capitalism or other economic factors, not because of ‘institutions’. I couldnt stand reading that book.
It’s about a lot more than ‘cultural institutions’; perhaps a more careful reading would have been worthwhile.
Wow, you must have written this because Banger has gotten DEEP under your skin the last few months Lambert.
“Deep state” is all over comment threads like kudzu, not just here. If it’s meaningful, let’s use it. If it’s vague, poetic, metaphorical handwaving, let’s deal with it in those terms. I’m been moderating for ten years on a daily basis. I have the hide of a rhinoceros.
This was great Lambert. The title of your essay raises the most important question: If the deep state is so deep how is it they have screwed everything up so bad? Especially when you consider that deep-stating is a continuous process that evolves. But more importantly it makes plans decades in advance and it wants to maintain a general direction. I don’t think it’s all that hard to parse out what the direction is, especially if I assume that what happens was planned to happen. (Otherwise why so many obvious cover-ups?) But I’m more paranoid than you are. I remember reading PD Scott in the early 90s seeking clues to JFK’s murderers’ motives and I also flipped back and forth to the glossary. So you make me smile. I got a little weary, but not with the edge you have. I finally thought PDS and his little magazine and book club “Prevailing Winds” were high level disinformation themselves. I still suspect it. But he was eloquent if you assumed you were dumb and he was smart. I do think something along the lines of the deep state is alive and well, and confused 49% of the time.
I think we’re all in agreement that “something along the lines of” is at work. The issue is: Is there a theory of the state here? Compare Scott’s definitions to the thinking of something like the Federalist Papers, or Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks.
When I’m gardening, I don’t want “something along the lines of” a yellow, round vegetable — although that is sufficient for a poet or an artist. I want a squash.
Haven’t seen or read the book, but I’m curious, did Scott at any point claim he was presenting a ‘theory of the State”? Why not talk about the critically important elements of history he relates, not about what appears to be a simple guide for the non-expert reader to aid with understanding the thrust of his arguments, or a ‘theory of the State’ he doesn’t claim to be writing?
The fact is Scott has done some excellent work (eg., The Road To 9/11) where he counterposes the Official Narrative to what happened to the evidence, facts, research etc., that either failed to make it into those Official documents or were altered prior to incorporation or removed prior to publication. His demonstration, for instance that the 1993 World Trade Centre bombers and plan were known to the FBI and others, but they neither stopped it, nor did they pursue a couple key players who would late figure prominently in the 2nd attack, is hardly without value to anyone concerned with the truth.
This is logic chopping. Scott proffers a definition of the “deep state” in his Glossary, which includes examples of its (putative) operation, and then goes on to use those definitions in the body of the text. Where I come from, that’s called a theory of the state. There are many, and Scott’s is one.
“Why not talk about” etc.” Er, because that wasn’t the topic of the post? Reminds me of the critic who panned a book about penguins because it wasn’t about sea lions. There are probably many good reasons to read Scott’s book (I did actually buy it, you will note) but his theory of the state is not one.
Good question. Perhaps the members of the “deep state” (whatever that is) or oligarchy have actually achieved their most important goal: The privileged people remain privileged.
A question a lot like “Can God make something to heavy for Him/Her/It/They to lift?”
And by “a lot,” I mean exactly, given that the subject matter in each has exactly the same status.
” I don’t see why the military and intelligence agencies are privileged over others,”
I do: because “Political power comes out of the mouth of a gun” – Mao, in case you’ve forgotten. He should know.
Granted, there are other sources – the “consent of the governed” – but violence is the final arbiter, and the monopoly on violence is the definition of “state.”
Sorry if this double posts; I’m having trouble getting it to post at all. Is it me, or is there a problem with the system?
In the model? That’s like modelling the Chinese Community Party without including the propaganda arm. Which would be absurd.
I don’t think I understand you – but then, I don’t think I understood the model, either, especially once it was deconstructed.
Final resorts are extremely important – more important than propaganda, actually.
“State” is the name given to the process of the governance of others, by consent or coercion, whether such governance is formal or informal. For you to influence this process you must have sufficient resources – whether human or otherwise – to demonstrate that you can either assist (or harm) the process if your demands are (or are not) met. It is, unfortunately, impractical, though not impossible, for most individuals to obtain the resources necessary to influence the process.
OK, I didn’t read closely, but believe the “Deep State” concept resonates simply because public policy is tough to get right. Experts are few and far between, and the entire concept of democracy, or even democratic republics, requires a public educated enough to understand the costs and consequences of public policy decisions.
What the U.S. has had (until roughly Reagan, although one could certainly quibble about that) was a public policy apparatus that hid many of it’s “trivial” decisions from the public, but produced better public economic outcomes, while favoring the elites who were willing to stomach unions, etc. as a way of keeping the population quiet.
So…one example of a significant change in public policy that was too tiny to attract much public notice: Reagan’s 86 tax law removed the depreciation write-off from rentals owned by limited partners — even for existing buildings. This may sound obscure, but its consequence was that it removed a significant subsidy for rentals (therefore making housing more expensive), while *retroactively* removing a subsidy that made rental projects have a positive yield.
You’ll note that many organizations that dealt with the homeless had their origins shortly after this decision.
This de-emphasis of real estate as a tax shelter meant a) investors fled and did not invest in more rental property, driving rents up, b) existing projects failed (I know of none that survived in my vicinity), and c) the S&L scandal worsened as a consequence. Stocks improved, however, and the scandal made available lots of foreclosed assets for the vulture capitalists to pick up on the cheap. (Sound familiar? Looks like the rehearsal for the more recent sub-prime / derivatives meltdown to me.)
Anyway, this is kind of the eternal problem of public policy in democracies / republics. Once you have an economy with as many moving parts as the modern one, some “public servant” is likely to be lobbied to take advantage in one way or another.
David Cay Johnston’s recent Alternative Radio broadcast describes the current income inequity as the product of repeated skimming by the politically connected. His example is tax deductions on paychecks. Did you know employers get to keep that money, and at least get the benefit of the “float” until it’s due? Only a few percent advantage, but in context of the national economy, billions of dollars of advantage to someone.
Johnston points out that if you measure the real, inflation-adjusted income gains to the bottom 90% for the last 30 years as one inch, then the top 1% has received 161 feet of gain, and the top 0.1% has received something like five miles worth of increase. The public policy advantage adds up.
So…maybe it’s not “deep,” but such policy decisions are something kept secret to the advantage of the plutocrats. Something hidden is going on, and to the extent the “deep state” is concealing its existence, then there’s at least an ad hoc conspiracy to keep the public in the dark.
Recommended reading: Nomi Prins All the Presidents’ Bankers and Ellen Brown’s The Public Bank Solution
Probably the most sinister manifestation of this plutocratic bias toward concealment is the state of economics education. One British economist calls a conventional economics education a “£9,000 lobotomy.”
Agnotology…not just for the clueless any more.
It’s a dessert topping, it’s a floor wax… It can do anything, serve any purpose, because it is ill-defined, secret, and all-powerful….
It’s fair to say that most Americans are not very concerned about politics, and only participate in the political process at election times (if then). Opposed to them you have a whole slew (but still a minority) of special interests with intense concern about subjects that are only of vague interest to the vast majority, and who are working daily to manipulate the political process to their advantage. Is it any surprise that over time the special interests prosper at the expense of the vast majority? Especially in recent decades, where the “government is the problem” philosophy has discouraged that majority from participating in politics in any way?
I describe it as a rake that is mobilizing the DNA to sift through the isotopic conundrum that will be the result of human resort to inter-atomic energy–nuclear power via war and so-called peaceful uses accidents and stupid or not disposal methods.
[waves hands] <-- you forgot that part.
our perspectives leave us waving our hands
RE: “closed network”
From wikipedia (though, I have read it myself, wiki was the quickest method of obtaining the exact quote, rather than my memory), regarding Carroll Quigley’s TRAGEDY AND HOPE:
“In 1966, Quigley published a one-volume history of the twentieth century entitled Tragedy And Hope. At several points in this book, the history of the Milner group is discussed. Moreover, Quigley states that he has recently been in direct contact with this organization, whose nature he contrasts to right-wing claims of a communist conspiracy:
This radical Right fairy tale, which is now an accepted folk myth in many groups in America, pictured the recent history of the United States, in regard to domestic reform and in foreign affairs, as a well-organized plot by extreme Left-wing elements…. This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the Radical right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other group, and frequently does so. I know of the operation of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies… but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.:949–950”
The pertinent sentence is “There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network…” Which is definitely a closed network. Elsewhere, he says that they exported the organization to America early on, with the “outer circle”, here, represented by the CFR.
Interesting. Random notions mapped to your conclusions.
1. Scott seems to be hewing closely to the original Turkish concept derin devlet, which probably did not exist before 1947. Those organizational features are peculiar to CIA’s customary means of coercive foreign interference, and CIA (properly defined to include all its cutouts and inter-agency billets) also applies them here at home. So right, “deep state” would flop as a building block of political philosophy at the level of say, state or body politic – it’s a product of particular historical circumstances.
2. Doesn’t take a deep state to engage in conduct like rights derogation and repression. Any mile-wide, inch-deep state can do that. There’s an old unfashionable concept in industrial organization called the Structure-conduct-performance hypothesis, and it would be nice if we had that for politics, but the deep state evidently isn’t it.
3. Local police forces are not part of the intelligence apparatus? Can’t blame you for thinking so, because the COG and COOP guidance is classified, but pul-eeeze. Tell that to Dave Cohen, or his lower-profile counterparts in dozens of US cities. Under COG, CIA dispersed to collocate with population centers. That’s helpful in the early trans-attack countervalue stage of a nuclear war, but it’s also handy for constituting a monolithic secret police apparat.
4. Right, the distinction shouldn’t be so categorical, if it’s meant to be. Gore Vidal described it better in an essay about that Iran/Contra hearing where Ollie North sat congress down and said, more or less, lemme explain how the world works, this is what we do and this is how we do it, and in the meantime till we do it, you guys go ahead and do your legislative thing. Scott describes the deep state as the people who can pull the override switch and bypass all the institutional crap like presidents and congress. At one time it included Cheney, Meyers, and Rumsfeld because they broke the glass and pulled the lever and here we are.
5. Cabals v. class. In the days of yore they used to talk about pluralism, which is still a useful concept, but nowadays it pertains solely to elites. As the repressive capacity of the state increases, the stakes rise and class interests are cross-cut by factionalism.
6. Did Scott not talk about the bailouts? That would be bad. Waiting for the new one, The American Deep State, so we shall see. Hell, there’s no point having a deep state if you can’t loot the fisc with it. The significance of assassination plots is simply this: JFK was the last president who didn’t know he was a puppet ruler. After him, all presidents were tools of CIA and by extension, of its most influential client. By client I mean, for example, the factions described in Cowboys v. Yankees – extractive industries and mercantile interests, respectively.
Thanks for these comments. A few responses:
I think that the local police are obviously part of the intelligence apparatus, but the deep state as defined by Scott doesn’t include them; a reductio ad absurdum.
The “over-ride switch” is Schmidt’s state of exception. Scott may describe that in his works, but he doesn’t do so in his glossary. So I conclude it’s not essential to his thinking.
Yes, I remember reading Yankees and the Cowboys. It was so much fun in the beginning, and then it turned into a hairball. Sad.
And it’s not a matter of Scott not “talking about” the bailouts. It’s a matter of his glossary not having a place for them if you take his definitions seriously, which obviously none of the so-called deep state’s defenders here do.
Oh, if we are generous enough in our definitions, we can make the bailouts fit. All you have to do is see the banksters as organized crime. But since to my knowledge none of the Deep State advocates have made that connection, I don’t think they get to appropriate a save we made up for their benefit.
We live in a world where parliamentary systems can’t control always control their spy agencies. This is a little dis empowering.
Lambert per the discussion on another thread about the lack of Classical revision, stuff like this would seem to offer a more substantiated observation[s.
“Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is a popular interdisciplinary undergraduate/post-graduate degree which combines study from the three disciplines. The first institution to offer degrees in PPE was the University of Oxford and this particular course has produced a significant number of notable graduates such as David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ed Miliband, the current Leader of the Opposition, and Tony Abbott, the current Prime Minister of Australia,. In the 1980s, the University of York went on to establish its own PPE degree based upon the Oxford model; the University of Warwick, the University of Manchester, and other British universities later followed. According to the BBC, it “dominate[s] public life” (in the UK). It is now offered at several other leading colleges and universities around the world.”
Skip…. one could consider it a sort of grooming… the product is quite uniform imo.
PPE was established at the University of Oxford in the 1920s, as a modern alternative to Classics (known as Greats at Oxford) because it was thought that a course in Philosophy and Ancient History was no longer relevant for those entering the civil service. It was thus initially known as Modern Greats. Christopher Stray has pointed to the course as one reason for the gradual decline of the study of classics, as classicists in political life began to be edged out by those who had studied the Modern Greats.
Dario Castiglione and Iain Hampsher-Monk have described the course as being fundamental to the development of political thought in the UK, since it established a connection between politics and philosophy. Previously at Oxford, and for some time subsequently at Cambridge, politics had been taught only as a branch of modern history.
The programme is rooted in the view that to understand social phenomena one must approach them from several complementary disciplinary directions and analytical frameworks. In this regard, the study of philosophy is considered important because it both equips students with meta-tools such as the ability to reason rigorously and logically, and facilitates ethical reflection. The study of politics is considered necessary because it acquaints students with the institutions that govern society and help solve collective action problems. Finally, studying economics is seen as vital in the modern world because political decisions often concern economic matters, and government decisions are often influenced by economic events. The vast majority of students at Oxford drop one of the three subjects for the second and third years of their course. Oxford now has more than 600 undergraduates studying the subject, admitting over 200 each year.
Oxford PPE graduate Nick Cohen and former tutor Iain McLean consider the course’s breadth important to its appeal, especially “because British society values generalists over specialists”.
Geoffrey Evans an Oxford fellow in politics and a senior tutor critiques that the Oxford course’s success and consequent over-demand is a self-perpetuating feature of those in front of and behind the scenes in national administration, in stating “all in all, it’s how the class system works”. In the current economic system he bemoans the unavoidable inequalities besetting admissions and thereby enviable recruitment prospects of successful graduates. The argument itself intended as a paternalistic ethical reflection on how governments and peoples can perpetuate social stratification.”
Skippy… File under “creating reality” one unit at a time thingy….
Not sure of your point. The issue is not whether there are dense personal networks among people the crass might call members of the ruling class; of course there are. That’s what Oxbridge is for. The issue is whether the “deep state,” as defined by Peter Dale Scott in his Glossary, is a candidate for being a theory of the state that this writer (and other contributors, possibly) might wish to adopt. I don’t think it is, for reasons stated. Others do, for its use as metaphor and poetic resonance. Which is fine if you’re a poet; it’s a big Internet.
When pockets are deep enough their group bias can be codified [see above].
The term Deep State seems to be the same metaphorical device used as Lizard People, probably just narrative spinning to keep consumers wrong footed.
skippy… personally see it as the same mob that blew it self up in the GD going for the brass ring one last time as the writing is on the wall.
Before the poetic and powerful-sounding ‘Deep State’, the term used was ‘undemocratic elements’.
AFAIK, this is still used when describing ‘Deep State’-like structures of foreign governments.
The ‘Deep State’ NEEDS the cover of legitimate government.
If the ‘Deep State’ has grown powerful it is because legitimate government (as practiced by the major/corporate parties) has grown weak.
The problem of the ‘Deep State’ is addressed most effectively via Tax Reform (to reduce inequality) and Campaign Finance Reform (to reduce undue influence)
Banger never spells out what progressives should – DO – about the ‘Deep State’. Making it a campaign issue is self-defeating as voters focus on visible issues/concerns (by any definition, Deep State institutions and ‘networks’ are not visible).
H O P
‘Draining the swamp’ is the most realistic way to deal with the ‘Deep State’ and it requires NO extraordinary measures as Banger seems to be urging. Just good policy, clearly articulated. IMO, to address the ‘Deep State’ problem in any other way is counterproductive.
Responding to Paul Tioxon (below) and others by expanding on my remarks.
‘Draining the swamp’ will not eliminate the ‘Deep State’ but it would dramatically curtail it, preventing the worst abuses. I think most large states find some use/need for ‘Deep State’ actors – but that must be limited and controlled. The reason we are talking about the ‘Deep State’ is chiefly due to the fact that inequality has increased the power of Oligarchs, and caused the concomitant weakening of the real State. When the State is weakened, then powerful non-State actors will take advantage.
Although the US is pretty far down the rabbit hole of inverted totalartarianism, extremely low government approval ratings and incidents like Ferguson and Occupy show that people are becoming more aware and are really upset by what they see.
NB Banger would have us cozy up to and thereby enhance the power of the Oligarchs as a counter to the ‘Deep State’. But a careful analysis shows that the problems of Inequality and the ‘Deep State’ are intertwined. Oligarchs can not save us – they are part of the problem.
The Deep State and The Dual state are both names for analysis of power. Much could be learned from the social sciences from the people who do research this. As always, refer to the site – Who Rules America? by William Domhoff. Not because he has his research, but also he has in intro to an overview of competing schools of thought. But on to Peter Dale Scott’s work. For a long time, there was a simple view of power, who had it and how it was used. The Assassination of JFK, the Viet Nam War and The Nixon Police State brought from the margins of academia the ‘Arcana Imperii’.
We were lied to regularly about so much, that as we became more educated and critically aware as individuals and as a culture at large, the vast extent of the lies, blind loyalty, denial and shameful cowardice to believe our own eyes, exploded into a rage against the betrayal of the ideals we were spoon fed like ice cream. We were to told that we were a just society, an egalitarian people and did the right things that led to consequences that would make us and the world we lived in better. When we started to use the education to point out official corruption as young adults concerning the lies about the Viet Nam war, the racist Southern Jim Crow laws and the Huston Plan signed by Nixon that set up the secret police state of the FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, IRS, USPS with corporate collusion of AT&T, and his political charged Executive Order to found a new national police agency, The DEA, what was once the secret and unaccountable methods of the state were surfaced for the first time in its broad outline. The Deep State surfaced.
At the same time that an invisible state operated without the knowledge of the American people, and even most high elected representatives, including the president, the state that operated the schools, built and repaired the highways, picked up the trash, lock up the criminals, and saw to the mundane chores of urban management and renewal continued. Everyone knew the police regulated public behavior for the most familiar laws against violence or harmful actions from driving drunk or some other willful negligence resulting in anti social activity. But a secret society, that operated secretly, is not something a citizen can have a relationship with, because while it may know you, its secret nature prevents you from knowing it. That is the second of the dual states that operates without our knowing when it is operating before our eyes.
Together, using public and secret methods, the state exists and sustains itself from one generation to the next, beyond the fickle opinion of this week’s talk show host rants or PR guided opinion to make a lasting dent over time. There has been a dual state for a long time, that has evolved in the West and is most prominent where the people seek to influence the outcomes of the decisions of the rulers and administrators. Machiavelli explains this quite clearly, but people don’t understand, because some people can ride chaos and diametrically opposed sets of organized networks of people operating against one another in what is supposed to be the same civil society, but they can not do so with telling the one opposing set one thing and the other opposing set the exact opposite.
The people at large point to the politician and say they are being lied to and the other people are being catered to at their expense. And then they spit and say politicians practicing politics, they are lying to us all. They have to, when everyone is lying to themselves and everyone else around them. Politics is keeping the whole intact from being torn to pieces by its parts. And it starts with convincing all to join into the nation building story that we are united. And it ends when you can only gather people together at gunpoint. The Deep State is the gunpoint kept mostly secret, aimed mostly outside the nation, across the Rubicon. But sometimes it is used when internal politics fails.
This analysis rings true to me. When you say “Politics keeps the whole intact from being torn to pieces by its parts” it makes more sense than trying to define Deep State directly. Like in order to define the Deep State we have to defocus our eyes a little. I do think the Deep State is the “gun” too but more in the sense that when all else fails, violence can work temporarily. And also like the military maintains control so it doesn’t have to use violence. And should it happen that events get out of control, everybody makes their best guess. Which is when we find out, too late, that even Deep Staters aren’t all that sure of things. They also realize that that vegetable in the garden is really only a round yellow thing. :^)
A big problem that I have with the “Deep State” theory is that I’ve largely seen it used as an excuse by Democrats to explain why Democrat politicians largely deliver the same results as Republican politicians. Left-wing Democrats assume that Democrat politicians want to do all kinds of wonderful things for them but the “Deep State” keeps them from doing so. This kind of theorizing largely consists of evidence-free speculation. Peter Dale Scott does a lot of this.
Some years ago now, PBS ran a drama called “A Very British Coup.” In it, an elected left-wing government was overthrown by a combination of the military and the “permanent government” – apparently in Britain the civil service extends considerably higher in rank than in the US. The result is that permanent bureaucrats make policy and have a lot to lose in major changes.
It was pretty horrifying, although it didn’t go into the aftermath. I think this is the model most people have in mind when they talk about a “deep state,” especially if you throw in the more political elements of the plutocracy.
Granted, this isn’t all that different from common sense. Yes, government has a lot to hide; there are shadowy actors behind the scenes (ever wondered who was rnning the government when Reagan was president? He had Alzheimers the whole time. Then there’s W – but he had Cheney and Rmmy.).
Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.
The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon
‘National Security and Double Government’ by Michael J. Glennon
Article in Harvard journal
National Security and Double Government
Interesting article by Ola Tunander “Democratic State vs Deep State: Approaching the Dual State of the West”in: Government of the Shadows, Pluto Press London ISBN 978-0-7453-2623-8.
From the first paragraph “in a 1955 study of the US State Department, Hans Morgenthau discussed the existence of a US ‘dual state’. According to Morgenthau. the US state includes both a ‘regular state hierarchy’that acts according to the rule of law and a more or less hidden ‘security hierarchy’- which I will refer to here as the ‘security state'(also known in some countries as the ‘deep state’) – that not only acts in parallel to the former but also monitors and exerts control over it. “
Want a rigorous theory of state? RTFM! – particularly Chapter II, Attribution of Conduct to a State, Articles 4-9. Scott clearly knows about this framework, since he was a dip. Why didn’t he use it? Maybe he didn’t want to destroy any chance of having somebody somewhere ever read his book. But really, there’s no escaping the Draft Articles when you want to think hard about state responsibility for crime. Applied to the law of state duties, it defines the sovereign state.
Trying to make Scott’s ‘glossary’ the basis on which to judge his book is really a shame. His audience is the broad public, not the Harvard Faculty of State Studies or Council on Foreign Relations, or any elite body of any import. Any ‘review’ that completely ignores the content, the evidence, the facts, the claims, etc., put forward in the book, but rather focuses on the supposed deficiencies of what sure looks to me like a simple framework intended for non-expert readers (i.e., the public) is odd to say the least – like throwing away a street map someone sketched to get you from here to there because it didn’t delineate the utilities, parking, trees, dogs and cats.
I don’t need Scott to make my arguments, but now I’m going to read the book.
Well, like I said, I missed the warning label on the Glossary that read “Not to be taken seriously.”
If the concepts were clear in Scott’s mind, he would have been able to express them crisply in a glosssary; that’s what glosssaries are for.
And you did read the post, right? I’m not judging or reviewing Scott’s book; I’m evaluating Scott’s “deep state” as a theory of the state. There’s a reason people who try to use Scott’s concepts end up either redefining them or creating a hairball: The concepts just aren’t clear. There’s no law against producing a fun book that’s a conceptual hairball; happens every day.