No, it’s not what you think it is. This isn’t a title about day-to-day life of animals in the animal kingdom nor is it an appreciation of David Attenborough’s soothing voice while narrating a scene about the hierarchy of power among ants. The inspiration for this article is not because of my love for animals but perhaps drawn from the simplest yet widely pervasive word used today i.e., Power.
Invoking his Italian forebear Machiavelli, Pareto distinguished between two categories of elite rulers. He referred to the first group as “foxes,” and they rule primarily by combinazioni (plural for “combination”), which includes trickery, cunning, manipulation, and coercion. Decentralization, plurality, and skepticism characterize their authority, and they are wary of using force. On the other hand, “Lions” are more traditional. In contrast to the cunning foxes, they place a greater focus on unity, homogeneity, established ways, established faith, and governance through compact, hierarchical bureaucracies.
This see-saw political game of Lions and Foxes tell us that man indeed is a social as well as a political animal and the examples are plentiful. Military coups, assassinations of rival political leaders in any organized governing political system are evident of the earlier stated fact.
The game of Lions and Foxes in a modern democracy is different. Westphalian system has made modern states sovereign. Through the power of franchise people are able [though in some cases people are not able] to choose a leader from among the masses.
In the olden times organized political authority consisted of Empires. This was where the game of Lions and Foxes was at its peak. The Roman Empire, The Mughal empire, The Qing Dynasty were empires to be reckoned with. Empires expanded through military conquests and alliances. But as history tells us most of these Empires have perished and only their remnants remain.
So, what Pareto implies is that history is the gradual transition from one elite group to another, from foxes to lions and back again.
But why is the theory of Lions and Foxes so important? It is important because this theory addresses the dynamics of social equilibrium and the evolution of economic institutions.
In 2016 when Trump was elected as President, he was the Fox Pareto described and more inclusive parties and candidates like Biden can be termed Lions.
Through Pareto’s theory of circulation of power, we are able to put into perspective the defining characteristics of our world leaders and the institutions they derive their power from.
I shall end this writing with one of Aesop’s Classic Fables:
An old Lion, whose teeth and claws were so worn that it was not so easy for him to get food as in his younger days, pretended that he was sick. He took care to let all his neighbours know about it, and then lay down in his cave to wait for visitors. And when they came to offer him their sympathy, he ate them up one by one.
The Fox came too, but he was very cautious about it. Standing at a safe distance from the cave, he inquired politely after the Lion’s health. The Lion replied that he was very ill indeed, and asked the Fox to step in for a moment. But Master Fox very wisely stayed outside, thanking the Lion very kindly for the invitation.
“I should be glad to do as you ask,” he added, “but I have noticed that there are many footprints leading into your cave and none coming out. Pray tell me, how do your visitors find their way out again?”