In this recent volume by Pluto Press, Eric Wilson (Monash University) has assembled an all-stars team of politologists with the objective of changing the face of social analysis. This effort stems from the urgency to redefine the conceptual spaces within which we perforce corral our daily experience as citizens of what has become, in fact, an international polity of overwhelming, as well as highly disquieting, complexity. This is not at all to say, however, that the project limits itself to adding "epicycles," as it were, to the Ptolemaic vulgate of British constitutionalism--i.e., the standard model of the "Liberal State"--which has imposed itself as the sole lens through which one is to contemplate the social dynamics for every single political reality of this world. Government of the Shadows (GOS) represents in this regard an honest and brave swerve away from the mainstream in two fundamental respects. First, it wishes to rethink political science entirely, by rejecting definitively the puritanical dichotomization of society into its predominant and "clean" edifice versus the latter's more or less corrupt "covert netherworld" (p. 228)--the prescriptive implication of conventional analysis being that delinquents need only be jailed, and their activities repressed, as the given regime is in the meantime steered (hopefully) toward the eventual and complete assimilation of Liberal institutions, which will naturally cure it of the criminal deviancy. Second, and no less important, this project seeks to re-endow the movement for social justice of a unity of intent and of thought, which has lately been shattered by an excessive methodological preoccupation with multiplicity and diversity. By denouncing with reason and cogency the inequities suffered by a majority of innocents--throughout our recent history and all over the world--at the hands of identifiable, responsible parties within the power apparatuses in connivance with the world's mafias, and by ordering all such phenomenological mass into theory, this book, as a collective endeavor, acts as a vigorous reminder that realistic sociological analysis is also very much an instrument of pacific dissent. In this sense, GOS stands as a first and decisive installment of a modern anti-oligarchic theory.
To compass the reality of modern power games in its full spectrum, GOS innovates by proposing the new discipline of "parapolitics," defined in Robert Cribb's introductory as "the study of criminal sovereignty, of criminals and sovereigns behaving as criminals in a systematic way" (p. 8). The idea issues from the need to embed in conventional analysis the insuppressible evidence of the last fifty years of Pax Americana, which has conclusively shown thus far that high-level political matches, rather than through the official channels of diplomacy and institutional exchange, are actually played out by clans of vested interests whose (transversal) range of allegiances and objectives often seem to transcend the strictly nationalist agendas of their host countries. In its quest for a modern theory of power, GOS thus identifies the actual modus operandi of incumbent power systems as one reliant on hidden State-mandated maneuvers carried out by an unholy connivance of Intelligence nuclei and crime syndicates. In other words, it attempts to single out the so-called "strategy of tension" as one of the chief instruments of world governance in our epoch. This pattern is seen as sealing de facto a capital and essential alliance between the oligarchs of the modern "democracies" and the entrepreneurial delinquents of skid row for the twofold purpose 1) of keeping the middle- and low-cohorts under control (by means of drugs, prostitution, and gaming), and 2) of thwarting regenerative forces of progressivism or unwanted nationalist orientations in a colonial environment via the destabilizing tactics of terror, which are perpetrated by low-class desperadoes according to scripts penned by the screen wrights of psyop divisions.
This bold work of sociological investigation is effected by organizing its treatments in two sections: part I of GOS is devoted to theory, part II to special case studies, which unfold as persuasive illustrations of the conceptual argumentations. The program is evenly distributed: six general essays, dealing in sequence with the ontology of governance, the institutional conundrum of the "dual state," globalised crime, money laundering, and the geography of parapolitics; followed by six individual country/region analyses -of Sicily, Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Philippines, and Italy.
This balancing act of facts and ideas in support of a novel model succeeds. The heuristic power of the original formula of parapolitics is especially felicitous in Eric Wilson's scholarly tour de force on the notion of governance--which he strips, expands, and recomposes in the course of an exploration of several centuries of jurisprudential and political speculation; as well as in Ola Tunander's clearly argued piece on the physiognomy of the "deep" pattern of State-sponsored subversive activity for the sake of reinforced social control. Because of its conspicuously fettered and highly heterogeneous social development, whose landscape has offered to the clinical eye of the sociologist the crucial species of the Mafia and of the Strategy of Tension, the centrality and inspiring force of the Italian experience to this new field of inquiry is duly acknowledged with three essays entirely devoted to these themes. Part II is rich in stories, names and intrigues, and of extraordinary interest are the respective pieces of what are, in fact, two of the revered pioneers of "deep politics": these are Peter Dale Scott's article on the collusion between the CIA and Mexico's intelligence and drugs traficantes, and Alfred McCoy's captivating account of gambling as a key source of power brokering in post-colonial Filipino history.