Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Galbraith, Anatomy of Power, and Democracy in Iran- Second Edition

Sam Ghandchi

گالبریت، آناتومی قدرت، و دموکراسی در ایران - ویرایش دوم




Long time ago the critical topic of *protection* of democracy in periods of existence of democratic state in Iran, including the time of government of Dr. Mossadegh was discussed (1). To better address this issue, it is useful to understand what *power* is, what its *sources* are, and with what *forms* it is exercised.  John Kenneth Galbraith's Anatomy of Power is a worthwhile reading in this respect.



Max Weber, noted by Galbraith himself, had defined power as "the possibility of imposing one’s will upon the behavior of others”, and power as such, was known long before Weber, when Sun Tzu wrote “knowledge is power", and this is not what is new in Galbraith.  What is new in Galbraith is his dissecting of power, defining *sources* of power, *forms* or instruments of power, and studying these different elements and their interactions.  Galbraith sees a close relationship between *sources* of power, namely Personality, Property, and Organization; and the *forms* or instruments of power, that is Condign, Compensatory, and Conditioned Power. 



1. Personality: *Personality* means things like personal charisma of a leader. 


2. Property: *Property* can be slaves, land ownership, factories, etc.


3. Organization: *organization* means organizational status. For example, when a manager gets to lay-off employees, during business downturns, source of his power resides in his position in the company’s organizational structure.  Or grandparents deciding for the extended family results from their status in the family hierarchy of a traditional society.



1. Condign Power: *Condign* form of power means exercising power through physical force.  For example, if a teacher uses a stick to get the student to listen, s/he is using a condign power.  In more backward societies, this form of power has been the most commonplace, using personal or organizational coercion.  The ones who had more swords or guns were more powerful.  Even in the advanced modern democratic societies, the police force still uses condign form of power.


2. Compensatory Power: *Compensatory* form of power means exercising power through rewards. For example, when parents tell their kid that if the child does not finish homework on time, 10 percent of the kid's allowance will be taken away, they are using a compensatory form of power.  This form of power is the way power has been exercised in the more modern societies using property and other sources of power.


3-Conditioned Power: *Conditioned* form of power means exercising power through conditioning the people, whether by personal charisma, property, or organizational status.  Conditioned power for Galbraith means more like *conditioning power* and includes power thru media, public opinion, and mass communications, which have grown tremendously in the modern times.  For him, *conditioned power* is exercised using organizational status, property, and even personal charisma.  Conditioned form of power is similar to what authors like Richard Dawkins call *memes*, memes which control the social psyche, and are mostly sublime, in contrast to *condign*  and *compensatory* forms of power and an example they used to mention was the tapes sent around by Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 Revolution when a saying of "all these things are just cassettes" was common in reaction to the those events in Iran. 



Mossadegh was very successful in establishing democracy, but was not effective in *protecting democracy*, because controlling people in dictatorship, was primarily thru condign form of power, and the reduction of use of condign force by the state during Mossadegh, allowed the vigilantes to use  their own ultra-state sources of coercive power to use *condign* form of power, to kill Mossadegh's chief of police Afshar-toos and to scare people.  More than a decade after that murder, personally I remember in 1963 when I was 12 years old and for surgery my father took me to Najmieh Hospital of Tehran to remove my appendix, and Professor Adl and Dr. Kiafar operated on me, there were talks about the room where Afshartoos apparently was taken to when he was assassinated and I could see that room in the hospital which had blue walls. In other words, the fear caused by that extrajudicial murder at the time of Mossadegh was still remembered. CIA used money as property source to use*compensatory* form of power, giving bribes to government officials, clergy, and vigilantes to undermine Mossadegh.  Ayatollah Kashani and the U.S. used conditioned power to organize anti-Mossadegh discontent. And finally using all three forms of condign, compensatory, and conditioned power,  Mossadegh's government was overthrown and Shah's dictatorship of 1953-1979 was established.


Conditioned power of Khomeini's tapes in early days of the Revolution, was quickly replaced with the whole complex of IRI power structure, with condign form of power at the top.  And soon the widespread torture and murder of opponents was started.  Khomeini 's fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie was when he no longer could rely on conditioned power, and it was the best illustration of IRI's shift, to rely more and more on *condign power*, with the police and vigilantes running the show.  Although the propaganda on TV and radio has increased, the conditioned power of IRI had become less and less effective, and the heinous force of violence, has made the condign power, the main form of IRI rule in Iran, which accompanied by compensatory power of bribes and government handouts, has drawn the map of a dark era, for over 20 years in Iran.



Considering the anatomy of power, it is not hard to understand how naive it is to think that to protect democracy, one can just drop *condign* form of official government's power, that is the police, and to hope for democracy to win by advice.  In other words, just talking nice and so-called exercising democracy, allows the dictatorial forces to use condign, compensatory, and conditioned forms of power to win back the state, which is what we has been the story of Islamic Ku Klux Klan in the last 40 years especially in suppressing the women who refuse to wear hijab in Iran (3). If Iranian pro-democracy forces get a chance to win power again, all sources of power, that is personality, property, and organization, should be used; with a focus on compensatory and conditioned forms of power, to strengthen the new founded democracy, and one should also be clear that the condign form of power of police, will have to continue for some time, and cannot be dropped the next day after establishing democracy.


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

May 22, 2018

*The first version of this article was published on Feb 22, 2005.




1. Problem is *Protection* of Democracy, Not Being Pro-Democracy
مسأله *حفاظت* از دموکراسی است، نه دموکراسی خواهی


2. Memes and an Analysis of Iranians' Dilemma

نظريهء «میمز» و تحليل مسئلهء ایرانیان


3. درک عمق فاجعه تحمیل حجاب توسط کوکلاکس کلان اسلامی و ماجرای زهرا خانم چراغی
















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