Faith as a political capital

4 m.   |  2020-03-11

P olitical authority is a public phenomenon and in case of electoral democracy it is based on voters’ confidence and trust. It has a religious basis, as it is a key part of the authority’s evolution. Political speech and program are directed to the future and it is logical that faith is a necessary condition for the future and central to the formation of power which Faith is a political capital’s key category.

Last year’s revelations was the “Chernobyl” TV series, depicting Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant disaster, one of the biggest catastrophes of the Soviet Union. In one episode, Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPRC, calls his subordinates to form a comprehensive plan of actions and immediately eliminate the consequences of the disaster. He mentions in his speech: “…we are the power, as long as we have an idea of being in power”. This episode, perhaps best reflects the power as the essence of the public phenomenon. Therefore, perceptions of power and the belief in power in society derive from its actions and are the necessary sources of political-public authority. 

Political capital, as a key component of power, is kind of a symbolic capital (authority, name), a unique loan, through which citizens grant power to a specific individuals or group of people (political party) and recognize them as the bearer of that power. In addition, it is about the objectified authority, which can and is materialized in the form of people’s status (position, rank), objects (throne, crown and wand) and other symbols.

From various mythologies gods, which people believed in and made sacrifices towards, were powerful as long as people’s faith and trust in them were maintained. In short, forgetting about the power is the end of the god’s maintaining their power. Symbolic power is a type of power, within the framework of which the subordinate endows power to the implementer. It is noteworthy, that “Credit, credo” words originate from the root Credere, which means “to put, to invest”. When talking about the faith, Italian philosopher Agamben mentions, that the word pistis is its Greek equivalent, meaning faith, repeatedly used in the New Testament. In Modern Greek, pistis is used in the sense of loan, bank loan.

Symbolic power in this way resembles the divine and religious authority, which needs to “believe”, “to put faith” in himself, so that the bearer can spread his care to all those who believe in him, that is endowed with authority. The vivid evidence of what was said in the Armenian environment is the RPA slogan for the parliamentary elections in 2012 “Let’s Believe, to Change”. Referring to the party’s program, S. Sargsyan stated at the 13th congress of RPA on March 10, 2012:

...Let’s believe so that to be able to change us and our country. Let’s change the culture of internal political struggle. Let’s change to be able to trust people and the law. Let’s change so that streets, ministries, universities, villages and towns, parliament and backyard become ours, become better. As long as we don’t change and don’t believe, they do not belong to us, to us all. If you don’t trust your member of the parliament, it means you don’t have one; if you don’t trust your judgment, it means you don’t have one; if you don’t believe in your country, it means you don’t have one. Through this self-negation we have inflicted great damage on our own home. This will take us nowhere. We must believe to be able to change.

Let’s repeat, that the very faith and confidence are the source of the power of the politician, which the citizens and the voters “credit” him. The politician is linked with his trustees with a unique rational contract (political program) and acts as a holder of trust. Political capital based on the faith depends on the citizens perceptions and beliefs about the politician. It becomes clear why the politicians are particularly vulnerable to suspicion, fraud and slander (which are, by the way, one of the explanations of the power of the media). This volatile capital can be maintained through continuous work and acts, in terms of both loan accumulation and its maintenance. Here comes the special attention of politicians to their image: demonstration (or imitation) of transparency, accountability, sincerity and selflessness, through which they seek to increase their faith, transforming it into a political capital.

To sum up, it may be stated, that being purely a “religious” notion, the faith is transformed into a political capital during the transformation from religious to political power. Taking into account the electoral programs, political parties and politicians ask for power from citizens with an emphasis on faith to bring the future plans to life.