In any given social control system (state, religious, cultural), there are 3 types of people who are experts:

The high functioning member: These individuals maintain the vitality of the system by their active participation and by pursuing an active leadership role. They are deacons, councilmembers, senators, priests and so on. They are the ones who either deliberately or unwittingly promote the mythical narratives that instill and justify norms and values for the system. They are pillars of the community, the compromisers, deal-makers and enforcers of the status quo, who would rather see us happy for now than rock the boat or threaten the system to solve future problems. They are both short term and long term oriented, but their focus is on the integrity of that system and sustaining it in the closest iteration to it’s original for as is possible. They are, or aspire to be, the elders of our tribes. You could also label them the establishment.

The critics and scholars. These people serve as refiners of that system, and they come in two forms: Intellectuals, who raise the questions in public society that allow for a common discourse which leads to the improvement of that system, and intelligentsia, who are the mythmakers and technocrats that enable social control to function by active dissemination of those value systems through various media. These experts are directly involved with education, journalism, culture studies, and various methods of social engineering which fine-tune the nature of the establishment; in medieval  times they would have been the scribes, who did not rule but enabled the ability of others to rule effectively.

RadicalThe third type of expert is the revolutionary.  They stand in direct opposition to the status quo in several ways; either by direct action which actively dismantles the system, interference with the normal functioning of social control methods, ideological opposition, or merely disseminating knowledge that run counter to the value systems promoted by high functioning members and created by scholars.  Whereas the establishment and the people who cooperate are considered reactionary, revolutionaries are radical and propose drastic changes to the way our society operates. This may be an introduction of new ideas or old ones based on norms and values unfamiliar to the status quo. As such they challenge the establishment and are most often considered a threat, even when revolutionaries merely take the role of reformers, who have adopted controversial positions which may have arisen from the work of scholars.

Then there’s everybody else; they are maintained or served by the system. According to game theory these people are intellectual free riders, little cogs in the big machine whose participation  justify it’s existence.

Now, one of the big problems in social control systems today, in this postmodern era, is several converging ideas about fragmented audiences, eliminating the importance of social stratification in power distribution, and increased democratization among better educated peoples. This has speed up the breaking down of traditional notions of orthodoxy and also made traditional governance more transparent in it’s flaws and favoritism towards elites. People are more likely to reject mores and norms if they feel those regulations don’t suit them. They will pack up and move to a different church, they will yell and fuss if the government upsets them, and they will join nudist colonies if they think it’s important enough.

One of the greatest dreams of an egalitarian is to believe that each person can become a high functioning participant of whatever social control system in which they’re involved. We’d all love to feel as though we were all educated on the issues, or we’d each  truly studied the hierography we say we treasure. If that really were the case, such expertise among laypersons would suggest we could each be as capable to be part of the governing process. Our collective expertise would create a form of democracy nearly akin to anarchism – because knowledge and expertise removes you from the position of a layperson.


What are we learning from ourselves?
What are we learning from ourselves?

However, there are a lot of roadblocks to that idealized society. Here’s one interesting example:

Foucault argues that the bureaucratic systems that regulate society extend the Panopticon of subtle social control deep into the inner most reaches of our psyche. (Foucault, 1975) The basis for this need to control and organise society finds its roots in the concepts of ownership and possession, the ability to accrue and control wealth and assets above and beyond that of others, and to then retain that control…

In order to accept the control of faceless bureaucracies utilising surveillance as a tool for the furtherance of freedom and justice it is necessary to view the state as a benevolent god-like body that can be trusted with the interests of all and which has an inherent sense of right and wrong with which all of the population agree. It is also necessary to think of the ‘criminal element’ of society as separate social strata which must be controlled and exemplified as a failure to conform.

This dissertation aims to investigate how technology has aided the growth of bureaucratic systems in developing their internal structures whilst extending the effectiveness of the surveillance systems that underpin their powerbase, in contrast with the initial ethics and ideals that contributed to the development of the information technology revolution using London as a microcosm of a contemporary capitalism ruled by bureaucracy, extending its power through surveillance.

It’s probably an good paper, though I didn’t read the whole thing, but I was more intrigued by this: the  idea of a new media and social media as the latest method in which society can develop a positive feedback loop of  examining and comparing our behaviors and our thinking with others, to subconsciously check those against existing norms. This would help promote conformity and lend to the example of the Panopticism – besides being isolated from the other prisoners, but able to see the guard watching you, it adds a central component to the cell – a mirror in which to judge yourself by the prison standards.

A panopticon-style prison