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CHAT: the seven forms of governance

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 23, 2004, 21:45

This query is perhaps better suited for the conculture list, but I'm
not subscribed. So I thought I'd ask it here, since many of you are
subscribed. I did put CHAT in the subject heading, so you've been

At the end of chapter 33 of _The Shadow of the Torturer_ by Gene Wolfe
(the first volume of _The Book of the New Sun_) we read:

"Severian, name the seven principles of governance." ...

At last I began weakly "Anarchy..."

"That is not governance but the lack of it. I taught you it preceeds
all governance. Now list the seven sorts."

"Attachment to the person of the monarch. Attachment to the bloodline
or other sequence of succession. Attachment to the royal state.
Attachment to a code legitimizing the governing state. Attachment to
the law only. Attachment to a greater or lessor board of electors, as
framers of the law. Attachment to an abstraction conceived as including
the body of electors, other bodies giving rise to them, and numerous
other elements, largely ideal."

"Tolerable. Of these, which is the earliest form, and which is the

"The development is in the order given, Master." ...

Master Malrubius leaned forward, his eyes burning brighter than coals
of the fire. "Which is highest, Severian?"

"The last, Master?" ...

"Of what kind, Severian, is your own attachment to the Divine Entity?"

"The first, if I have any."

I am wondering if there are any antecedents in political theory to
these seven forms of governance, or if Wolfe made this up himself. I've
done web searches, but I find mostly commentaries on the New Testament
book of Revelations, where the seven heads of the beast are interpreted
as seven forms of Roman government: i) kings, ii) consuls, iii)
decemvirs, iv) dictators, v) triumvirs, vi) emperors, and vii) popes;
or websites for home school materials which list types of government
like "monarchy", "oligarchy", "representative democracy", etc. None of
those lists seem to line up well with Wolfe's.

Does Wolfe's list ring any bells for anyone?


Dirk Elzinga

Grammatica vna et eadem est secundum substanciam in omnibus linguis,
licet accidentaliter varietur. - Roger Bacon (1214-1294)