”Nationalismen är det modernas tecken” (SvD Kultur)

I dag medverkar jag med en understreckare i Svenska Dagbladet. Ta det för vad det är: en sammanfattning av Gellners nationalismteori plus lite lösa spekulationer om vad perspektivet innebär för förståelsen av den svenska samtiden.

I korthet: man har fel om man tror att nationalism – definierat som önskan att politiska gränser bör sammanfalla med ett språk och en kulturell identitet – är en atavistisk tendens som vi ”moderna” människor med lite politisk vilja kan slänga på historiens sophög. Tvärtom är de ekonomiska och sociala villkor som genererar nationalism typiskt moderna, och fullt verksamma även idag, men väl såklart i konkurrens med faktorer som skapar globalisering och internationell utbytbarhet.

Gellner om våldsmakt, koordinering och legitimitet

The effectiveness of coercion depends on the cohesion of the agents of coercion. Any single one of them is generally weak: to be really effective, it is necessary that there be a number of them, often quite a large number, and that they stick together and maintain discipline. But what exactly makes men stick together, especially in perilous situations, in which betrayal and abandonment of a group — if that group is about to lose — may be by far the best strategy? Among the considerations liable to induce an individual to remain loyal, one of the most important is the conviction that others are also remaining loyal to the group, so that it will continue to be a numerous, disciplined and effective force. If the others are about to desert, it is very wise to do the same; if no one else will do so, it is most unwise to constitute the one exception, who will then be conspicuously punished, by way of example to all the others.

But how does one know, in situations which often involve geographical dispersal and lack of quick and reliable communication, whether this or that group or leader will continue to attract loyalty? One good criterion is whether that group or leader or cause is, by the recognized standards of the culture, ‘legitimate’. This consideration does not sway the individual waverer because he is necessarily a fanatical adherent of the locally held doctrines concerning what is and is not legitimate. It sways him because he thinks that others are also swayed by it, perhaps in the same opportunist spirit as he is, and so, in the interest of his own safety, he wants to stay on the ‘legitimate’ side because he expects it to win.

For this kind of reason, those who control the symbols of legitimacy thereby also in some considerable measure control the crystallization of social cohesion and loyalty, and thus exercise great power, even if they are not themselves direct possessors of weapons or practitioners of coercion.

Referens: Gellner, Ernest. 1995. Anthropology and Politics. Wiley-Blackwell, s. 165–66.

Ibn Khalduns definition av staten

Ett av de skäl som fick mig att börja läsa Ibn Khaldun var en passage i Ernest Gellners Plough, Sword and Book, där Gellner beskriver Khalduns definition av staten som “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself” (1989, s. 239).

Här den relevanta passagen som jag hittat hos Khaldun:

Evil qualities in man are injustice and mutual aggression. He who casts his eye upon the property of his brother will lay his hand upon it to take it, unless there is a restraining influence to hold him back. The poet thus says:

Injustice is a human trait. If you find
A moral man, there is some reason why he is not unjust

Mutual aggression of people in towns and cities is averted by the authorities and the government, which hold back the masses under their control from attacks and aggression upon each other. They are thus prevented by the influence of force and governmental authority from mutual injustice, save such injustice as comes from the ruler himself (1967, s. 97).

Referenser:
Gellner, E. (1989) Plough, Sword and Book. The Structure of Human History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Khaldun, I. (1967) The Muqaddimah. An Introduction to History. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Biografvärdarnas legitimitet

En artikel i dagens Sydsvenskan handlar om arbetsmiljön på Malmös biografer. Ett problem är att biljettvärdarna utsätt för allvarliga hot när de försöker upprätthålla ordningsreglerna, särskilt 15-års-gränsen på vissa filmer. Denna lilla nyhet fick mig att bläddra i Ernest Gellners Plough, Sword and Book, för jag minns att han där använder just biografvärdar som ett exempel på hur legitimitet fungerar i alldeles vardagliga sociala situationer. 

An equally valid specimen of legitimation is something as humdrum as a cinema usherette, who leads the ticket holder to his appointed place, and without whom audiences would be inconvenienced by chaos. The capacity to assign a place without being challenged is the paradigm of legitimacy (Gellner 1989: 18). 

Exemplet är visserligen daterat eftersom biljettsystemen fungerar annorlunda, men jag tror fortfarande att det fyller Gellners syfte: att uppmärksamma hur många företeelser i det sociala livet som bygger på denna typ av legitimitet, av accepterandet av lokala och situations-specifika auktoriteter, en acceptans som gör det möjligt att lösa många samordningsproblem, hålla transaktionskostaderna nere, etc. Värt att fundera vidare på, inte minst på grund av mängden av rapporter om liknande problem för tågvärdar, busschaufförer och biljettkontrollanter. 

Gellner, E. (1989) Plough, Sword and Book. The Structure of Human History. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Marknadspriset som värdemätare

Igår hade Sydsvenskan en artikel om problemen för combitransporterna, alltså godstransporter som involverar fler än ett trafikslag. I det här fallet gäller det lastbil/tåg, där godscontainrar färdas långväga på tåg för att därefter lastas över på lastbil. Den dåliga lönsamheten har nu gjort att CargoNet lägger ner verksamheten.

Kombitrafik är en väldigt bra idé. Jag har kört en del kombigods tidigare, framförallt åt bryggerier och grossister som säljer till Systembolaget. Med tanke på den vikt och de stora volymer det handlade om så skulle det ha känts väldigt korkat om godset hade åkt långväga på bil till vår terminal.

Men det är varken personliga erfarenheter eller det fiffiga med kombitransporter som är ämnet för detta blogginlägg. Snarare är det att skälen till nedläggningen tydliggör en intressant frågeställning angående marknadspriser.

Den avgörande orsaken är att banavgifterna för tågtrafiken har höjts, vilket gör att priset måste höjas, och därmed att rena lastbilstransporter blir ett billigare alternativ. Peter Wadman, vd för Tågoperatörerna, säger:

– Det här visar hur politiska beslut lätt kan förskjuta konkurrenssituationen.

När jag läste detta slog det mig det slog mig att transportbranschen tydligare än andra uppvisar förhållandet mellan politik och marknad, och därför kan användas som exempel på att ”marknadspriset” aldrig är en ren produkt av marknadskrafter och konkurrens, och följaktligen att det inte bör ges någon aura av auktoritet som objektiv mätare av värde eller effektivitet. Transportbranschen, framförallt genom att konkurrens sker mellan olika trafikslag, är ett tydligt exempel, eftersom det är uppenbart att de statliga investeringarna i infrastruktur (och sätten som staten försöker få in medel för dessa) är helt och hållet avgörande för vilka priser som sedan sätts på marknaden för transporter. Alltså kan marknadens utslag (priser) inte kan tillskrivas det mått av auktoritet som det har fått inom vissa ideologier och ekonomiska teorier.

Det slog mig helt enkelt, jag erkänner att det är långsökt, att detta kunde vara ett sätt att tydliggöra Ernest Gellners långt mer generella och filosofiska resonemang kring de gamla idéerna om ”rättvisa priser” och uppkomsten av den moderna idén om marknadspriset:

The agrarian world is oriented towards stability and hierarchy. Its ideological apparatus endeavours to confer stability on its institutions. All this is reflected in its attitude to economic activity. Just as, for instance, Aristotelian physics envisage a rightful place for objects, towards which they tend to move, so the characteristic economic theory of the age […] was naturally attracted to the notion of a ”just price”. In a later age, this idea was much decried. […]

Those deeply imbued with the merits of a free market mechanism tend to scorn what seems to them the spurious moralism of the just price and just wage concept. R. H. Tawney, interestingly enough, shared this vision sufficiently to call Karl Marx the last of the scholastics. […] The denigration of the ”fair price” concept is part and parcel of the general rejection of metaphysics and superstition by the Enlightened mind. The whole idea, it is suggested, had clearly been based on the infantile expectation that God, or Nature, or some other Authority, sends objects into the world with labels attached, specifying their price. […]

But we have learnt to separate distinct questions, and to see things as they are. We separate that which is in them and that which is our construct or projection, and we recognize that things do not have any such value place in the scheme of things, there being no such scheme. […] So prices, and rewards generally, are not prescribed. They reflect the satisfaction things and services give, and their scarcity, and their negotiable flexibility is precisely what encourages innovation, progress, growth. […]

The ”market” theory of validating value is the crucial point at which the economic and cognitive transformations of mankind meet. The new economy is to be justified in terms of notions which assume a homogeneous atomized world. Value or merit attach to things only as a function of the satisfaction they give. […] Thus only does value enter the world.

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is somewhat more complex. […] The Enlightened mind was not quite as enlightened as it complacently supposed: it committed and exemplified the very error which it castigated. Certainly, the notion of a just price, inscribed into the nature of things, is a superstition. There is indeed no nature of things, and it is not given to assigning value-labels. But, alas, there is no market price either. The apotheosis of the market price, its endowment with an aura of independence, authority and legitimacy, is simply a more subtle repeat performance of the very same old superstition. Enlighteners, enlighten yourselves. The more-enlightened-than-thou spirit in which you preach your vision is a little comic, for thou art a damned sight less enlightened than thou confidently supposest.

The market can only determine the price within a given institutional coercive context. That context is not given either, any more than a ”just price” could be given. Inevitably, it is historically specific. Such contexts vary a great deal, and are the result of imposition or of a particular historical compromise. The illusion of a self-maintaining market as an objective oracle arose because the particular institutional and cultural context into which it first emerged seemed fairly self-evident to those who lived within it. […] Early industrialism and an early extended market economy were relatively modest in their infrastructural and technological requirements compared with developed industrialism. […] They could consequently seem to be parts of a reasonably natural, and not too idiosyncratic, order of things. A natural illusion perhaps in its context, but an illusion nonetheless. […]

In any one given political context, the market will give a unique verdict. If the legitimate political context can also be uniquely defined, the oracular market verdict is also unique. It stands at the end of a chain of reasoning, untarnished by arbitrariness at any point, so it can be revered.

One could specify the ”correct” political background by saying that the political interference should be minimal; this was he famous theory of the minimal, ”nightwatchman” state. The theory has actually been revived in our time, when in fact the tremendous size of the required infrastructure renders it absurd. The theory had its plausibility then, because the state really could be rather small. The society in which a generalized market order merged was so well equipped with the kind of culture and institutional framework required for the expanding market that initially the state was not required to help out a great deal. […]

Now all that has changed. Highly developed productive technology requires an enormous, centrally maintained infrastructure. Its cost, in developed societies, has come to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of half the national income. Without such an infrastructure, both the production and the consumption of a modern industrial machine would seize up. A modern motor car industry could not dispose of its products were it not for the fact that the political agencies of society ensure the existence of an enormously elaborate and expensive system of roads.

Once the political framework of the market is so conspicuous and large, and is seen to have so many different possible forms, it can no longer be dissimulated as a kind of neutral or innocuous minimum. It can no longer be presented as a mere necessary precondition, one which merely enables that impartial oracle to function, without interfering with or prejudging its verdicts. Such an illusion is no longer possible.

Once this is plain, and it ought now to be plain, the pronouncements of the oracle lose whatever aura they may once have possessed. They cannot be presented as coming objectively from outside the system, without prejudice, reflecting nothing but the tastes and preferences of men, and the manner in which, given the distribution of resources, they can best be satisfied. Once the enormous weight of the political input into the alleged verdict is seen, we are no longer free to use the market as our economic and neutral arbiter. We make the political order. Hence we are responsible for its verdicts. The market verdicts are but its echo.

All this is not in conflict with the claim that, within a politically chosen framework and set of principles of distribution, all further details are best left to ”the market”.

Gellner, Ernest (1989), Plough, Sword and Book. The Structure of Human History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), s. 182-89.