How might a religion support a kleptocracy By an alliance 172 Breaking the

How might a religion support a kleptocracy by an

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How might a religion support a kleptocracy? By an alliance
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172 Breaking the Spell between the political leader and the priests, of course, in which, first of all, the leader is declared to be divine, or descended from the gods, or, as Diamond puts it, at least having "a hotline to the gods." Besides justifying the transfer of wealth to kleptocrats, institu- tionalized religion brings two other important benefits to central- ized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are to live together without killing each other—by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self- interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others. At the cost of a few society members who die in battle as soldiers, the whole society becomes much more effective at conquering other socie- ties or resisting attacks, [p. 278] So we find the same devices invented over and over again, in just about every religion, and many nonreligious organizations as well. None of this is new today—as Lord Acton said more than a century ago, "All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely"—but it was new once upon a time, when our ancestors were first exploring design revisions to our most potent institutions. For instance, accepting inferior status to an invisible god is a cun- ning stratagem, whether or not its cunning is consciously recog- nized by those who stumble upon it. Those who rely on it will thrive, wittingly or otherwise. As every subordinate knows, one's com- mands are more effective than they might otherwise be if one can accompany them with a threat to tell the bigger boss if disobedi- ence ensues. (Variations on this stratagem are well known to Mafia underlings and used-car salesmen, among others—"I myself am not authorized to make such an offer, so I'll have to check with my boss. Excuse me for a minute.") This helps to explain what is otherwise a bit of a puzzle. Any dic- tator depends on the fidelity of his immediate staff—in the simple sense that any two or three of them could easily overpower him (he can't go around with dagger drawn all his life). How do you, as a
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The Evolution of Stewardship 173 dictator, ensure that your immediate staff puts its fidelity to you above any thoughts they may very well have about replacing you? Putting the fear of a higher power in their heads is a pretty good move. There is often, no doubt, an unspoken detente between chief priest and king—each needs the other for his power, and together they need the gods above. Walter Burkert is particularly Machiavel- lian in his account of how this stratagem brings the institution of ritual praise in its wake, and notes some of its useful complexity: By the force of his verbal competence [the priest] not only rises to a superior level in imagination but succeeds in reversing the at- tention structure: it is the superior who is made to pay heed to the inferior's song or speech of praise. Praise is the recognized
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  • Summer '16
  • Abergonio
  • Philosophy, DANIEL C. DENNETT

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