Harun was the caliph reputed to have condemned Scheherazade to death, who so charmed him with her stories from evening to evening for a thousand nights that he delayed her execution and eventually married her. This story is a famous image of despotism, a system of order created by conquest, resting on fear, and issuing in caprice.
Dynasties rise and fall according to what the Chinese used to call "the mandate of heaven", but life for the peasant changes little.
In Europe, the desire for despotic power must disguise itself. Europeans have sometimes been beguiled by a despotism that comes concealed in the seductive form of an ideal - as it did in the cases of Hitler and Stalin.
There is no parliament, no opposition,no free press, no independent judiciary, no private property protected by law from the rapacity of power, in a word, no public voice except that of the despot. Such powerlessness is, oddly enough, the reason why despotisms are notable generators of spiritual enlightenment.
Politics only survives so long as this overarching structure of public law recognizes its own limits.
Slogans such as “the personal is the political” are proposals for action disguised as truths about the world. The meaning of such slogans is often obscure, but they contain sleeping implications which may awaken in new circumstances and demand policies which affront other cherished values, such as individual freedom. It is said that the price of freedom is vigilance, and an important form of vigilance is attention to political rhetoric, which often reveals how things are going.
From Christianity and the barbarian kingdoms of the west emerged the medieval version of politics from which in turn evolved the politics of our modern world.
When concepts are stretched too far, they snap and lose their usefulness.
Whoever seeks a kind of immortality in history goes into politics.
Revolutionaries are the grafﬁti artists of history.
Universal suffrage is, of course, a form of inﬂation which has diminished the value of a vote, but it remains essential to our conception of what it is to be a proper human being.
Contemporary intellectual fashion does indeed reject the idea of progress, and emphasizes how much we bear the imprint of our place and time; it afﬁrms that one culture is the equal of another. (This has the appearance of a form of scepticism liberating us from the arrogance of our ancestors, for it seems to reduce our opinions to the same level as those of everyone else. That appearance is an illusion. Contemporary scepticism is a fake humility, masking a dogmatic conviction that our very openness makes our relativist humanism superior both to the dogmatism of the past and the intolerance of other cultures.)
There is no form of understanding and imagination which has not taken politics for its theme.