Relational Materialsim and
Chapter Three -
This is the sixth and final part of Chapter Three.
The purpose of this part is to rectify and dispel what John Searle refers to as ‘the paradox of government.’ By doing this, I hope to shed further light on some of the topics we have been discussing in Chapter Three as well as setting up the beginning of Chapter Four.
Searle’s paradox, emerging during his discussion of the ontological status of our social reality, is stated as follows:
“(G)overnmental power is a system of status functions and thus rests on collective recognition or acceptance, but the collective recognition or acceptance, though typically not itself based on violence, can continue to function only if there is a permanent threat of violence in the form of the military and police.” (Searle, ‘Building the Social World, pp. 163).
The paradox is this: The legitimization of government authority explicitly depends on (rests on) the collective recognition of the state as the state by the citizens, but the recognition of its legitimate status is not enough to maintain the vitality of state power over time. To sustain itself, there needs to be a permanent and recognized perpetual threat of violent means for the state’s functional ends.
The paradox hinges on the necessity for non-violent collective recognition of state power and necessarily violent state power maintenance. Thus, the legitimacy of state power both rests and does not rest purely on collective recognition. Recognition is necessary but not sufficient, yet recognition needs to be both necessary and sufficient to legitimize the state.
Does a paradox exist within the basic frame of our social apparatus? And do the mechanisms of state authority necessarily require a continual threat of violence from the state towards its citizens to maintain their legitimacy? This is certainly a concern.