28 March 2009

Counter-narratives after the collapse

The other side of containment is the duty to lead. Wise leadership must be ready to swallow up cunning leadership, both by demonstrating its own, superior cunning and by showing a willingness to fill the narrative void (the old regime will have left behind) with an alternative cultural context wherein it makes sense for the wise leadership to replace the old, exhausted, cunning leadership.

The development of a counter-narrative is the dimension whereby wise leadership earns its legitimacy. The counter-narrative resides in the nation's diplomatic institutions where ideology and a vision of a bucolic future civilization can take root. The institutions of containment -- the ones that work to stop extractive power -- are the analogue to the state's military services whereas the counter-narrative institutions -- the ones that work to fill the leadership void of a collapsing extractive power -- are the analogue to the state's diplomatic services.

When the old king, who has lost his vigor, is no longer able to lead the nation it is the young prince who will bear the responsibility of any failures unless he takes his father's place and renews the land. The impulse to fill the void with a new and different leadership style of one's own is the mark of a true leader. The task is not so much to wrest power from one vigorous ruler to the next. That is just old-fashioned, great power warfare and realpolitic. The task is to find those moments or places of power vacuum and to fill the vacuum with a new, vigorous leadership propelled by a counter-narrative that has built into it the regular institutional infra-structure of renewal and legitimate autonomy.

We are describing here an entrepreneurial model of power relations. The entrepreneurial start-up does not try to take on the incumbent on his own turf. Rather, he finds the undefended hill and establishes himself there in the marketplace's open niches. He builds a new culture and then waits for the aging incumbent to collapse under his own weight, only applying the coup de grace at the very end when the last vestiges of reactionary power remaining are unwilling to give up the ghost and so they must be inundated under the new regime's creative waters.

The true politics of renewal is able to anticipate the moments and the situations of the incumbent power's impending collapse and to be prepared with counter-narratives and a readiness, willingness, and ability to lead in a new direction. It is a sort of reverse 'shock doctrine' for the benign rather than for the malign political forces in the world today.

Such a entrepreneurially political approach is tailor-made to Israel and its contemporary as well as ancient geo-political situation. That is the logic of the Bible's political posture -- entrepreneurially to find political opportunities that come about from the self-inflicted decline and collapse of the greater powers of the time and the neighborhood, and to have little Israel light the way into the future.

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