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Quigley on top: On the importance to society of dissent and the unimportance of ideology or labels.

April 20, 2015

Carroll Quigley believed that social arrangements, including governments, although they may begin by pursuing valid social goals, gradually become institutions serving their own purposes and needs. Without constant reform, those institutions eventually disintegrate.

In a prior post, I mentioned Quigley’s conviction that protection of minority rights may be even more important to a society than suffrage because suffrage not only is often less than universal but, even where it is broad and inclusive, groups other than the majority of the voters routinely wield the actual power. It is, he argued, minorities seeking their place in society that ultimately engender change and reform in a society.

In 1970 during the height of the chaos of the counter-culture movement and the terrors of cold war, Quigley was invited by a concerned Department of Defense to lecture at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy) on the nature and impact of dissent.

As shown in the quotes below, in that lecture he demonstrates the necessity of dissent to an organized society if that society is to remain capable of reforming itself to meet the challenges of the ever-changing and evolving environment which it must constantly confront and adapt to if it is to survive.

He also argues that ideology or labels are not significant determinants of the nature of the dissent but convenient tools for its expression (fashions if you will). As an example, the US Communist Party, first funded by Wall Street and then by the US government for their own purposes nevertheless still functioned as a mechanism of dissent, even against their paymasters.

“First of all, allegiance and dissent, it seems to me, are opposite sides of the same coin. We cannot have organized society without allegiance. A society cannot continue to exist without loyalty. But, I would further add, a society cannot continue to exist that is incapable of reforming itself, and the prerequisite to reform is dissent.

Allegiance is absolutely vital. But so is dissent. To me, allegiance means devotion to symbols and organizational structures, both of which are necessary in any society. Dissent, it seems to me, is the opposite side of the coin. It implies a critical approach to the symbols and to organizational structures of society.”
Presentation to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on 24 August 1970

“No society can stand still. Its institutions must constantly adjust and evolve, and periodically undergo reform, because the needs they are supposed to serve are themselves constantly changing. And institutions cannot grow and reform unless the people whose needs they fail to serve, or serve badly, can make their dissatisfaction felt in short, unless they can actively dissent from things as they are. If dissent is stifled and denied redress, it builds up like a head of steam. Many people assume that dissent and the demand for reform are the first step toward revolution. They are mistaken. My study of history shows pretty generally that revolutions do not come from dissent. They come from a failure to reform, which leads to breakdown. It is quite true that misguided reforms which fail to attack real problems may also result in breakdown. But dissent, and reform responding to dissent, do not lead to revolution. They lead away from it.”
Ibid

“The Communist Party in this country was destroyed… It is extremely likely that by 1960 one of the chief sources of funds for the Communist Party in this country was the FBI spies who had joined it. And, the chief financial support of the Communists from about 1920 to about 1950 was Wall Street. Why? I do not know. If you’re interested, look up the story of The Institute of Pacific Relations; it was financed by Lee Higginson & Company of Boston, Frederick Vanderbilt Field of New York, and other big money interests.

When these people cut off this money, about 1949, the Communists were pretty much finished. Their only other source of money was Moscow, and Moscow has never been generous with funds for local Communist Parties, which they believe should support themselves. According to an FBI estimate, I believe, the Communists in this country are down to about 15,000 members. Take Angela Davis. She is emotionally alienated from our society, and for good reasons, but this has little to do with communism, even if she is a member of the Party. This is why I say ideology is not really important in dissent. People become Communists not because they like the ideology, but because they wish to demonstrate their opposition…”
Ibid.

Quigley maintained that preservation of minority rights and dissent are two of the principle elements that make up “inclusive diversity,” perhaps the foundation on which our society rests and which he fears was being eroded and will over time lead to the shattering of our society*.

*NOTE: In this lecture over 40 years ago, Quigley predicts the potential rise of a movement in the United States from the disaffected and frightened lower middle class, (much like the Tea Party) that “…holds the key to the future. I think probably they will win out. If they do, they will resolutely defend our organizational structures and artifacts. They will cling to the automobile, for instance; they will not permit us to adopt more efficient methods of moving people around. They will defend the system very much as it is and, if necessary, they will use all the force they can command. Eventually they will stop dissent altogether, whether from the intellectuals, the religious, the poor, the people who run the foundations, the Ivy League colleges, all the rest.

It can be inferred from his comments that allegiance to what he calls the symbols, artifacts and organization of a society are more pronounced among those who have both a “future preference,” that is, are willing to make current sacrifices for future benefit and most threatened by the possibility those benefits will not exist when needed.

That group does not include the truly working poor who for the most part see little possibility of future preference or risk of falling further economically. What this group fears more is those whose social status may be even lower than theirs, blacks, Mexicans, poor immigrants surpassing them. (I was once told by a someone making less than a living wage for his family but more than the minimum wage that he supported the raising of the minimum wage as long as it was not raised as high as what he was earning.)

These latter, the working poor, are often male, bitter, despise the other classes, often racist and bear scant allegiance to society’s organizations or artifacts and only slightly more to its symbols. If they do join the disaffected lower middle class in something like the Tea Party, it can be fairly certain they will be the ones bringing the guns.

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From → Carroll Quigley

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