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FRAMES OF STATE: COMMONWEALTH TO LEADERSHIP

GROUNDING TO EFFECT

The state is not some formless thing. Rather, its internal constitution can be anatomized. The Samatars suggest, heuristically, four main elements that make up the state: a commonwealth, a regime, an administration, and a leader. For us:

• the commonwealth provides the underlying grounding;

• a regime promotes emergence;

• a competent administration underlies navigation; and

• able leadership embodies a potentially and ultimately integral effect.

We now consider each in turn.

GROUNDED IN AN ORIGINAL COMMONWEALTH

The primal element of the state is the foundational commonwealth. In its most inclusive sense, this entails the association and spirit of public belonging that is not easily derailed by narrow impulses. We shall see such described in Chapter 3 – by Chancellor Williams, Constituting Africa – as a Natural (Abouleish) Earth element (Pogacnik), embodying Direct Democracy (Herman), accommodating Nature and Community (Lessem/Trans4m).

To create an identity large enough to accommodate kinship with the other, naturally and communally, beyond filial or other exclusive affiliations, is to transmute self into citizen – the oldest of the challenges to the establishment of a political community. Here, then, individual or group interest engages the imperative of a natural and communal bond, characterized in the felicitous expression of Ireland's 19th-century political philosopher, Edmund Burke, "common affections". In fact, and for many in Britain ironically, the chief philosophical champion of what has come to be termed the "Big Society" movement, Philip Blond (2), has been attempting to bring Burke's communal-political orientation back into British public favour, so as to counteract the predominating individualism that is causing no end of societal problems, with more of a sense of an original, and resurrected, Commonwealth.

AN EMERGENT REGIME AS POLITICAL FOUNDATION

Returning to the Samatars, an emergent regime, such as a council of elders, is a constellation of officials assigned to the highest portfolios of executive authority. If a regime is to attain any modicum of acceptance and legitimacy by the larger society, self or factional gain would have to be tamed by a combination of inclusive aspiration, a consciousness of needs, ethical and legal conduct, and effective management. This would invariably involve marrying up elements of tradition and modernity in a particular context.

Thus, members of a successful regime are the custodians of a community's or a society's ideals, of the beliefs it cherishes, of its permanent hopes, of the faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals. The regime cannot limit itself solely to the role of the keeper of tradition and noble ambition; rather, progress depends on the intellect to detect and the courage to articulate the hidden, and even the unutterable, elements of what is often called "vision".

Such a vision would combine the indigenous with the exogenous.

ADMINISTRATION AS NAVIGATION-AND-EMANCIPATION

The administrative frame underscores the infrastructure of the state. Here are located institutions (for example civil service, courts, law enforcement, and educational policy, facilities, curricula and personnel) that carry out the day-to-day assignments and preserve procedures and documents of the operations of the state. This is important for the way a society governs itself – one which presents a test case for a regime to monitor itself, the relative autonomy of offices and institutions, and their competence. Without such a rationally based administration, building on what has come before, there can be no thoroughgoing emancipation. However, if such administration is simply, and bureaucratically, imposed from above, repression will replace emancipation.

In other words, the greater the compliance with authentically derived rules and regulations, that is those which serve to balance out tradition and modernity, the larger the dividends for both a regime's reputation and the viability of public life and order. In contrast, the more the operational organs are tied to the whims of a parochial, self-serving regime interest, the greater the degree of evaporation of the rightfulness of all three frames. This is the ultimate cost of incompetence and corruption, whereby significant and inescapable alienation comes with the momentary victory of one group. Authentic, and would-be integral administration, by contrast, absorbs the divisive fallout from oppositional politics. The result is the return of the state, through sound governance, to societal ownership, a source of competence and an architect of common destiny. Without the prior grounding of a spirit of belonging, and a prior regime able to build on such, particularity becomes the norm – the antithesis of a national project. Nepotism and bureaucratic administration, through the operations of the state, then, is an unavoidable and contradictory activity that at once unveils centrifugal issues and facilitates centripetal ideas and action.

In weighing the balance of the tension between difference and commonality, it is the latter, albeit accommodating the former, that defines the health of political life in a given society. For, beyond the struggle for power, a rather narrow objective that could easily lead to a desolation of the spirit, a polity fit for “symbiotic creatures” is the art of associating men [and women] for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them.

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

The effective leader, then, in the final analysis, and like a Nelson Mandela in the best possible sense, duly revisiting his or her commonwealth of origin, is the individual who immediately and ultimately embodies the state in question. He/she can make a positive difference in his/her time, leaving behind a legacy of competence, constitutionalism and order. On the other hand, the leader can also preside over ineptness, corruption and institutional disarray, whose consequences include an undermining of constructive efforts by others and the killing of civic spirit.

We now turn from frames to forms of state, and introduce – via the noted 20th- century Italian political philosopher, Antonio Gramsci (3) – the notion of the integral state, or polity.

 
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