Iron Law of Institutions: Retain Power at All Costs

There are people who prefer to rule over a heap of ruins a thousand times more before they recognize that their administration is not doing well, and the iron law of institutions describes this phenomenon very well. SEE BELOW.

    The Iron Law of Institutions

    Jonathan Schwartz in 2007 described the Iron Law of Institutions, which postulates that the people who control a particular organization he is more concerned with preserving his power within the institution itself than with the power of the institution itself. That is to say, according to this law, people who have acquired an important position in a certain organization or who chair it prefer to keep their place, although this would lead to the ruin of the institution, before ceding power someone fitter.

    This phenomenon is not at all strange. It is very common to see it in all kinds of human institutions, from elementary schools, to medium and small businesses and, at a very high level, to large corporations, political parties and governments of sovereign states. This is something that has always been history and, for better or for worse, will continue to happen forever.

    Origin of the concept

    Schwartz first used this term to refer to Nancy Pelosi’s management within the Democratic Party. Pelosi, who is currently the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, had problems in 2007 trying to resolve the opinion of left-wing voters on the issue of the Iraq war. The left was very opposed to the conflict, but the Democratic Party, supposedly on the same spectrum, seemed to be in favor.

    Nancy Pelosi was reluctant to consult this issue with other fellow Democrats, who wanted the conflict to end or be better handled, a useful slogan in her career as President of the United States. It appears Pelosi feared that by giving her voice and vote to other Democrats, she would lose her position in front of a candidate closer to the average American left-wing voter.


      Let’s look at some examples of the iron law of institutions.

      Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party

      A more recent case in American politics where you can see how cruel the iron law of institutions is in the case of the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election. In those same elections , Democrats lost the presidency, winning Republican candidate Donald J. Trump.

      Bernie Sanders stood out among Democrats for his truly leftist views, Critical with issues such as Palestine-Israel, civil rights and wages. This ideology was particularly controversial for Democratic leaders, who, although allegedly left and liberal, saw Sanders as a threat to their power within the party.

      Sanders was growing in popularity, prompting other Democrats, such as Neera Tanden and David Brock, to take the initiative to discredit and denigrate Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

      The struggle to retain leadership and hierarchy within the organizationPreventing Sanders from climbing up and becoming the party’s leading candidate instead of Hillary Clinton was crucial to the Democratic Party’s collapse in the 2016 election.

      The rest is history. Hillary Clinton did not win the election as the new President of the United States and Bernie Sanders ran for the United States Senate as an independent senator, not limited to the Democratic Party.

      The purges of Stalin

      Another case is that of Joseph Stalin. Soviet dictator order to carry out purges within the Red Army, Kill many capable officers who had militarily strengthened the Soviet Union, in addition to ensuring the security of the federation. When assassinating them, Stalin caused a serious problem in the Union, since this one was very weakened, being at the mercy of Adolf Hitler when this one tried to invade the Soviets.

      Difference from the iron law of the oligarchy

      There is another law whose name may be confusing with the one stated in this article. We speak of the iron law of the oligarchy and it describes a phenomenon that is more or less linked to that of institutions, although it is not the same.

      This law was proposed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in 1911, in his book Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie (On the sociology of parties in modern democracy). stipulate that within a political party, it is inevitable that an oligarchy will appearThat is to say a group of power which is above the others and which manages it in a more or less authoritarian way, whatever the degree of democracy of the institution at its beginnings.

      Michels came to this conclusion when he saw that, in complex institutions, it was very difficult to run a direct democracyThat is to say that each of its members gives his voice and votes without intermediaries. To speed up the process and make the organization work, a few would sooner or later be responsible for managing the whole institution.

      Over time, in any organization, whether it is a political party as it is described by Michels in his book, like any other type of less political institution, a ruling class will form. This same ruling class will be responsible for controlling the flow of information within the organization, enabling them to retain power and prevent the emergence of dissenting opinions.

      The difference between this law and the law of institutions is that the second describes how the ruling class prefers to retain power, even if it would be detrimental to the organization, while that of the oligarchy is the one that describes how it is formed. this ruling class within the organization, and what it does to continue to retain power.

      Bibliographical references:

      • James L. Hyland. Democratic theory: the philosophical foundations. Manchester, England, United Kingdom; New York, New York, United States: Manchester University Press ND, 1995. p. 247.
      • Robert Michels, Political parties: a sociological study of the oligarchic tendencies of modern democracy, 1915, trad. Eden and Cedar Paul (Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, 2001), 241,

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