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Logocracy

Logocracy

Logocracy is the rule of, or government by, words. It is derived from the Greek λόγος (logos) - "word" and from κράτος (kratos) - to "govern". The term can be used either positively, ironically or negatively (see examples below).

Historical examples

America is described as a logocracy in Washington Irving's 1807 work, Salmagundi. A visiting foreigner, "Mustapha Rub-a-dub Keli Khan", ironically describes it as such, by which he means that via the tricky use of words, one can have power over others. Those most adept at this are termed "slang-whangers", while Congress is a "blustering, windy assembly". Mustapha describes how:
"unknown to these people themselves, their government is a pure unadulterated LOGOCRACY or government of words. The whole nation does every thing viva voce, or, by word of mouth, and in this manner is one of the most military nations in existence [...] In a logocracy thou well knowest there is little or no occasion for fire arms, or any such destructive weapons. Every offensive or defensive measure is enforced by wordy battle, and paper war; he who has the longest tongue or readiest quill, is sure to gain the victory - will carry horrour [sic], abuse, and ink shed into the very trenches of the enemy, and without mercy or remorse, put men, women, and children to the point of the - pen!

The Soviet Union has been seen by some, such as Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz, as a logocracy. It was for example, according to Christine D. Tomei, a "pseudo-reality created by mere words". Moreover, after the revolution Luciano Pellicani describes how a "language reform plan" was introduced by Kisselev. In it he "stressed that the old mentality would never be overthrown, if the structure of the Russian language was not also transformed and purged." This process led to a Soviet language that George Orwell would later dub "neo-language" a precursor to his novel 1984's newspeak. This in turn created an 'orthogloxy', a "stereotyped jargon consisting of formulas and empty slogans, whose purpose was to prevent people from thinking outside the boundaries of collective thought" - i.e. from being an individual. Janina Frentzel-Zagórska, however, queries the importance of language in the USSR, saying that "the old ideological "newspeak" had completely disappeared in the Soviet Union long before" the fall of Communism, therefore making the logocracy theory "inadequate".

Totalitarianism, according to political theorist Hannah Arendt, can be considered a logocracy, since in it ideas are no longer important, just how they are expressed.

Academic Yahya Michot has referred to (Sunni) Islam as a "popular" or "laic logocracy", in that it is government by the word (i.e. the Koran) for the people.

See also

  • Videocracy - the power of the image, and therefore the potential opposite of a logocracy

Notes and references

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