Divide and rule

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In politics and sociology, divide and rule (or divide and conquer) (derived from Greek: διαίρει καὶ βασίλευε, diaírei kaì basíleue) is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up.

The maxims divide et impera and divide ut regnes were utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the Corsican emperor Napoleon. The example of Gabinius exists, parting the Jewish nation into five conventions, reported by Flavius Josephus in Book I, 169-170 of The Wars of the Jews (De bello Judaico).1 Strabo also reports in Geography, 8.7.32 that the Achaean League was gradually dissolved under the Roman possession of the whole of Macedonia, owing to them not dealing with the several states in the same way, but wishing to preserve some and to destroy others.

In modern times, Traiano Boccalini cites "divide et impera" in La bilancia politica, 1,136 and 2,225 as a common principle in politics. The use of this technique is meant to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule. Machiavelli identifies a similar application to military strategy, advising in Book VI of The Art of War3 (Dell'arte della guerra),4 that a Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.

The strategy of division and rule has been attributed to sovereigns ranging from Louis XI to the Habsburgs. Edward Coke denounces it in Chapter I of the Fourth Part of the Institutes, reporting that when it was demanded by the Lords and Commons what might be a principal motive for them to have good success in Parliament, it was answered: "Eritis insuperabiles, si fueritis inseparabiles. Explosum est illud diverbium: Divide, & impera, cum radix & vertex imperii in obedientium consensus rata sunt." [You would be insuperable if you were inseparable. This proverb, Divide and rule, has been rejected, since the root and the summit of authority are confirmed by the consent of the subjects.] On the other hand, in a minor variation, Sir Francis Bacon wrote the phrase "separa et impera" in a letter to James I of 15 February 1615. James Madison made this recommendation in a letter to Thomas Jefferson of 24 October 1787,5 which summarized the thesis of The Federalist #10:6 "Divide et impera, the reprobated axiom of tyranny, is under certain (some) qualifications, the only policy, by which a republic can be administered on just principles." In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch by Immanuel Kant (1795), Appendix one, Divide et impera is the third of three political maxims, the others being Fac et excusa (Act now, and make excuses later) and Si fecisti, nega (when you commit a crime, deny it).7

Elements of this technique involve:

  • creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
  • aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
  • fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
  • encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending

Historically, this strategy was used in many different ways by empires seeking to expand their territories.

The concept is also mentioned as a strategy for market action in economics to get the most out of the players in a competitive market.

Examples

Africa

The divide and conquer strategy was used by foreign countries in Africa during the colonial and post-colonial period.

  • Germany and Belgium ruled Rwanda and Burundi in a colonial capacity. Germany used the strategy of divide and conquer by placing members of the already dominant Tutsi minority in positions of power. When Belgium took over colonial rule in 1916, the Tutsi and Hutu groups were rearranged according to race instead of occupation. Belgium defined "Tutsi" as anyone with more than ten cows or a long nose, while "Hutu" meant someone with less than ten cows and a broad nose. The socioeconomic divide between Tutsis and Hutus continued after independence and was a major factor in the Rwandan Genocide.
  • During British rule of Nigeria from 1900 to 1960, different regions were frequently reclassified for administrative purposes. The conflict between the Igbo and Hausa made it easier for the British to consolidate their power in the region.citation needed8

Europe

Indian subcontinent

The strategy of "Divide and Rule" was employed by most imperial powers in Indian subcontinent. The British and French backed various Indian states in conflicts between each other, both as a means of undermining each other's influence and consolidating their authority.

Middle East

Mexico

See also

References

External links








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