The stuff of politics is power.
A political process is the means by which conflicting attempts to obtain power can be reconciled; it seems a truth of human nature (as well as of other animals) that there is always someone who wants the individual currently with any power not to have it.
Subject to this, there are then different types of power.
The brute force of physical coercion is subject to who has control of military and civil police forces.
The power of formal language, backed ultimately by coercion, is the stuff of law and the justice system.
The ability to make allocations of scarce resources is the essence of economics and social policy making.
And perhaps until recently there was the control of information.
The state and the media determined who knew what, and when.
Even now there are politicians and media folk who believe that a "command and control" approach to communications is still unproblematic: the internet and the ability to move and publish huge amounts of data are mere details to be addressed by more regulation.
In Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell extrapolates certain themes of the mid 1940s and posits them in the mid 1980s. Some of these he gets right, even now on the eve of 2012.
Big Brother is watching us more than ever.
However, Nineteen Eighty-four accepts that there would still be a "command and control" approach to communications. Winston Smith amends and censors the news record, and Times editorials are exemplars of Newspeak.
One wonders what Orwell would have made of a future where communication was not the monopoly of the elite.
Would Orwell have seen that as just another problem to be managed by the totalitarian?
Or would he not have been able to imagine a totalitarian regime without complete control of the means of communication?
But what is clear is that the government and media elite cannot casually control information flows is something relatively novel in modern politics.
(It is tempting at this point to make a comparison with the Reformation where - some historians tell us - there was a movement against the established churches because people could read the scriptures for themselves, in the vernacular. However, against this lazy caricature is the fact that many still relied on their religious leaders for interpreting scripture: there were just new interpretations and new leaders.)
Will there need to be a new politics in response to the inability of the state and the media elite to now keep complete control over information flows?
Will there be a utopia of informed citizen politics?
Is it going to go all participatory?
The answer probably lies in the other probable truth of human nature (as well as of other animals) that there are always many individuals who don't want power themselves, whoever else gets it.
Those seeking power will usually be a small minority; and the better power-hunters will adapt more successfully to new circumstances.
For example, it was political geniuses such as Disraeli and Salisbury that realised that the new mass electorate in late Victorian Britain could actually be exploited by a popular and well-organized conservative party.
What will happen will be that those seeking power - either in politics or in the media - will now just become more adept at sailing their ships with no full control over the buffeting of the waves.
The best politicians and media leaders will now harness the energy of those willing to spend time synthesizing and interpreting data; there will be a general realisation that the key political skill in respect of information flows will be opportunism, and not management.
Those wanting power - over coercive force, and over law-making and allocation decisions - will still be there. They will still be watching us and intruding on our autonomy.
But - to invoke Orwell again - they will no longer be be able to insist easily that two plus two is five.
They will instead leave it for us to work out whether that is correct for ourselves.
And, sadly, one suspects few of us will.
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