A ‘political technology’ is manoeuvrable interpersonal human relationship aiming to bring about some desired political change or action. A man can act on his own based on his drives, motives or understanding. However, many other devices can activate him also.
Tools used for inducting political changes:
(i) Invoking authority of constitutional structures,
(ii) Enforcement of statutory laws,
(iii) Use of coercion and
(iv) Appeal on moral and spiritual grounds.
Their separation and relationship with political technologies should be made out clearly.
1. Constitutional Structures:
Normally a Constitution is an agreed form of the exercise of social and political power. Each Constitution provides many structures of power and gives in some cases details of their working by which power is generated, exercised, transformed, transferred and devolved. These structures and procedures attached with them aim at making of a particular form of polity.
The Constitutional Structures are captioned here as ‘Basic Structures’, ‘Basic Technologies’ or ‘Basic Political Technologies’ (BTs and BPTs). A constitution can be considered as the storehouse of such commonly ‘accepted’, ‘agreed’, ‘legitimised’, ‘constitutionalised’, ‘basic’, or ‘first-level’ political technologies. Inclusion of these Basic Structures in the Constitution provides form, structure, location, distribution and direction to the power of State.
The Constitution provides many legitimate, neutral and non-political structures along with their processes, viz. Government, Supreme Court, Reserve Bank, Election Commission, Armed Forces etc. Behind them, there is consensus of the people who render tacit obedience to them, even accept their coercive and non-coercive sanctions as normal.
Nevertheless, these structures also require and necessitate the prescription of mode, way and form of exercising that power. This is done through and by providing Next or Next-to-next Level Structures or some specific technologies in the Constitution itself. It can be seen in the unified structure of judiciary or bureaucracy. In some cases, procedural details to operate Basic or Next-level structures are also given in the Constitution.
But, the selection of type, style, mode, and method of their exercise is left in the hands of political leaders. The latter determine the mode, method, and direction of the exercise of the power of basic and next-level structures. In a democracy or rule of law government, they operate over and above every type of political technology.
2. Statutory Laws:
Below Basic Structure level, there are statutory laws passed by the Legislature. They are subordinate additions to the above-mentioned constitutional structures made by the ruling political party or group of political parties in a coalition government. Often they are made in terms of promises stated in its agenda or election manifesto. Laws passed according to an established constitutional procedure, are not considered part of active or day-to-day politics.
They become part of impersonal laws of governance. However, they are outcomes of majority voting on the floor of the House, and a new majority after the formation of another government can change or modify those laws. Until that moment arrives, those laws continue to display people’s consensus and represent legitimacy of the regime.
These Basic and Next-level Structures are found in the Constitution of every country. Statutory laws passed by the Parliament are separate from political technologies. They are different from political technologies as those permanent or basic structures, which were originally ‘political’, but had gone out of the field of active politics, rivalry and opposition. They largely attained legitimacy earned on grounds of consensus and common acceptance over a long period of duration. Now they happen to control modes of politics.
Nevertheless, politics can demote a Basic political structure or a Next-level structure or statutory laws again to the level of political technologies. It can also promote the latter two to upper levels. All the four: Basic Structure, Next-level Structures, Statutory Laws and Political Technologies may clash against or co-operate with each other from time to time around demands of politics.
Gaining more and more consensus, the number of Basic or Next-level structures, due to deference of the people to them, may increase. Their number would decrease with the spread of dissent, dissatisfaction, estrangement and rebellion. Even maintenance and continuation of Basic technologies (BTs) depends upon availability and proper exercise of political technologies.
Ignorance, lack of knowledge, experience and skill, neglect and misuse of political technologies may ultimately result in the erosion of the effect of basic structures of a Constitution, and weakening of the democratic system. However, Basic and Next-level structures of the Constitution and Statutory laws are not permanent fixtures of a democratic system, and their form, scope and authority can change under pressure of politics.
Politics is largely the result of exercise of free will and influence. However, coercion and morality also play the role in the operations of democratic politics. Political technologies may make use of any one of them or all together.
3. Use of Coercion:
In order to ensure compliance on a continuous basis, political leaders both motivate the people, and also advance allurements and deprivations to them in many ways. There can be milder or harsh forms of threats and coercion.
All political technologies, exercising mild or severe form of coercion in favour of democratic values, are considered ‘political’. Conventionally, when the form of coercion is either absent or is mild, it comes under the category of ‘Political’ technology. However, there can be ‘coercive’ or ‘coercion-based’ political technologies.
Quantum of coercion in them is comparatively more harsh or severe. Still their use is considered political and permissible in democracies. In democratic systems, the use of Non-coercive Political Technologies (NPTs) and Coercive Political Technologies (CPTs) are found subordinate to the demands of popular opinion and democratically elected institutions.
Therefore, after exhausting all political and legal avenues, sometimes even before that, the use of force or power is considered permissible within the parameters of the democratic system. Coercion in democracy can be used, with the approval of the consent-giving majority, against the hostile and non-complying elements.
4. Appeal on Moral and Spiritual Grounds:
Identification with common grounds of mores, norms or values also activate humans, including a deep desire to tread on the path of salvation. Gandhi, in the pre-independence era, created such technologies based on his understanding of metaphysics and his sense of morality, which he regarded as a way to salvation.’
In this sense, his technologies of ‘satyagraha’ appear ‘moral’ and ‘apolitical’ or ‘non-political’. He claimed to have developed a science of ‘satyagraha’.’ However, his ultimate goal was to be realised by launching those technologies to attain Swaraj (Self-Government), for redressal of the grievances of the peoples of South African colonies, and, for the people of India against the British Rule. The Goal of independence was attained in his lifetime. Therefore, all the Gandhian methods are put here under the category of either ‘Non-coercive Political Technologies’ or ‘Gandhian political technologies’.
After spelling out the concept of ‘political technology’ and ascertaining its relationship to and difference from other tools of political operations, it can be feasible to identify political technologies out of the raw material of past politics of the developing countries, including India. For this, we have to make search for raw material, devise a plan to make and apply them, and calculate the cost of investment.