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Re: Physical relation

Posted by R. Berg on April 13, 2003

In Reply to: Re: "Substitutes" posted by Miri Barak on April 13, 2003

: : : : : : "The actual exercise of physical violence substitues for the psychological relation between two minds, which is of the essence of political power, the physical relation between two bodies, one of which is strong enough to dominate the other's movements."

: : : : : : This is another complicated sentence and I'll be much obliged to you if you can rephrase it or explain it more clearly.
: : : : : : "which is of the essence ..." I have a difficulty with this "of", can you rephrase it?
: : : : : : does mind refers to souls, consciousness, thoughts...?
: : : : : : "the physical relation between two bodies..." is it a definition of the political power?

: : : : : : Thank you very much
: : : : : : miri

: : : : :
: : : : : Where do you find these Miri? This is a diabolical sentence. It's very unclear and convoluted, however I'll have a try at interpreting it.

: : : : : It seems to me he trying to make a point about politics by comparing it to the relationship between individuals. When he says "which is of the essence ..." He's saying that the essence of political power is the ability to use physical violence to achieve one's aims rather than needing to rely on persuasion (the psychological relation between two minds), much in the way that one body, an adult for example, is able to dominate another person, perhaps a child, through overwhelmingly superior strength.

: : : : : I am thinking part of the confusion may stem from the fact that he wants to use the analogy of the relations between individual to explain a point about politics, but doesn't really feel confident that he can do this without implying some motive. So if, for example, he compared political power to a relationship in which a man physically dominates a woman, the reader might infer that he thinks political power is inherently oppressive. He tries to get around this problem by using the phrase,"the physical relation between two bodies..." because he thinks this is a more neutral way of making the point.

: : : : : That's my best pre-coffee effort, but I'd be very interested to see what others think.

: : : : : Best wishes,

: : : : : Camel

: : : : "A is of the essence of B"means "A is essential to B." Without A, B would not exist or would be very different.

: : : : The sentence says that the relation between two minds is essential to political power, but the writer may not have meant that. He or she may have meant that violence is essential to political power (a point that other writers have made) and may have used "which" in a way that makes the point unclear. The rest of the sentence suggests that this happened. I can't know without a larger quotation.

: : : : "The psychological relation between two minds" refers to whether, for instance, person A trusts person B, wants to please B, is easily persuaded by what B says, regards B as an authority figure, is inclined to follow commands from B. Suppose that B is the leader of a nation and A is one of the citizens. Then it's clear what this "psychological relation" has to do with political power. An extreme example would be brainwashing of the citizens by a government, by means of propaganda.

: : : Camel and Berg, Thank you so much for trying to figure this out.
: : : This is something I have to translate as an exercise (I study translation from English into Hebrew). It is called "Political Power".
: : : Perhaps I had to furnish my question with a more wider context and I will do it now: the whole passage, if you please:

: : : "Political power, however, must be distinguisehd from force in the sense of the actual exercise of physical violence. The threat of physical violence in the form of police action, imprisonment, capital punishment, or war is an intrinsic element of politics. When violence becomes an actuality, it signifies the abdication of political power in favor of military or pseudo-military power. In international politics in particualr, armed strength as a threat or a potentiality is the most important material factor making for the political power of a nation. It it becomes an actuality in war, it signifies the substitution of military for political power. *The actual exercise of physical vioence substitutes for the psycholigical relation between two minds, which is of the essence of political power, the physical relation between two bodies, one of which is strong enough to dominate the other's movements.* It is for this reason that in the exercise of physical vioence the psychological element of the political relationship is lost, and that we must distinguish between military and political power."

: : : This is the whole passage, if you have the patience to read it.
: : : Still I don't understand how the last part of the sentence above that is: "...the physical relation between two bodies..." is connected to the whole sentence. (In meaning of course).

: : : it will be great if you put your mind into it.
: : : And I send you my deepest thanks.
: : : Miri

: : Perhaps the word "substitutes" is causing a problem. The whole passage contrasts military power with political power. Political power operates through people's minds. It is based on the THREAT of violence. People understand a threat using their minds. For instance, one nation may control another by using the second nation's fear of war. Military power operates through people's bodies. It is based on ACTUAL violence. Violence, such as war, affects people's bodies directly.

: : The sentence "The actual exercise . . ." says that acts of violence substitute the physical relation for the psychological one. Violence takes away the psychological relation and puts the physical one in its place.

: Thank you Berg. I think you did a much better work than the author.
: According to your explanation: "The physical relation between two bodies, one of which is strong enough to dominate the other's movements" is the outcome of or the equivalent to exercising physical violence. I hope that is the meaning of this vague phrasing.

: My deep regards and thanks
: miri

The "physical relation" between two bodies that the author is talking about is simply that one body is stronger than the other (or, on a larger scale, one nation has more weapons or a bigger army). This difference in strength makes an act of violence possible. It isn't the outcome of violence; it's the basis of violence. At least, that's what the author is saying. Reality might be different. Two men of equal strength can beat each other up.