The Lions and the Foxes

In the last part of his Treatise , Pareto attempts to show how the distribu-tion of residues in a population is related not only to its belief systems andintellectual life, but also, and most importantly, to the state of the polity andof the economy. Here Pareto deals only with the first two residues, those of"combinations" and of "persistence." Residues of the first type impel men tosystem making, that is, to elaborate pseudo-logical combinations of ideas. ClassI residues lead men to manipulate various elements found in experience. Theyare at the root of magical practices to control, as the case may be, the weather,the course of a disease, or the love of a maiden. At more complex levels, ClassI residues lead people to engage in large-scale financial manipulation--tomerge, combine, and recombine enterprises. At still more complex levels, theyexplain the urge of politicians and statesmen to join and fuse political forces, tomake political deals, and to build political empires. Men primarily moved byClass I residues are like Machiavelli's "foxes," capable of experiment, innova-tion, and departure from common use, but lacking fidelity to principles and tothose conservative virtues that insure stability.

The conservative forces of "social inertia" are represented by men in whomthe second class of residues (persistence of aggregates) predominate. Suchmen have powerful feelings of loyalty to family, tribe, city, and nation; theydisplay class solidarity, patriotism, and religious zeal; and they are not afraidof using force when necessary. These are Machiavelli's "lions."

In the world of his day, more particularly in Italy and France, Pareto be-lieved that the foxes were in the ascendancy. The political and economic scenewas dominated by political wheelers and dealers, by unscrupulous lawyers andintellectual sophists, by speculators and manipulators of men. Pareto's concernwas that if this condition were to remain unchecked, social equilibrium wouldbe fundamentally upset and the social order would totter. Yet he felt that thechances were high that, as had so often happened in the past, men of conser-vatism and persistence would finally rise, sweep the reign of foxes aside, andmake sure that stability could again come into its own. Faith, patriotism, andnational honor would once again claim the allegiance of all.

After a certain period of time, the foxes will again infiltrate into the seatsof government, for their mental skills and expertise cannot be dispensed withfor long. They will slowly undermine the certainties that the lions uphold, andtheir corrosive intelligence will undermine the uncomplicated faith of themilitant lions. As a result, the wheel will come full circle and a new age ofdeceit and manipulation will dawn.

All belief in progress or evolution was for Pareto so much nonsense.Human society was bound to repeat forever the same cycle from rule by lionsto rule by foxes and back again. It is characterized by a continually shiftingbut ultimately unchanging equilibrium. There is nothing new in history; it isonly the record of human folly. Utopia is, literally, nowhere.

From Coser, 1977:395-396.

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