Divide and rule
In politics and sociology, divide and rule (or divide and conquer) 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.
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 War (Dell'arte della guerra), 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, but not the phrase, applies in many ancient cases: 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). Strabo also reports in Geography, 8.7.3 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.
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, which summarized the thesis of The Federalist #10: "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).
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.
In the workplace
Military and civilian prisons use this strategy to eliminate leaders.
- 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.
- At the same time the Mongols imported Central Asian Muslims to serve as administrators in China, the Mongols also sent Han Chinese and Khitans from China to serve as administrators over the Muslim population in Bukhara in Central Asia, using foreigners to curtail the power of the local peoples of both lands. Pakistan and India were also divided with this policy.
- Romans entered Macedonia from the south and defeated King Perseus of Macedon in the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Macedonia was then divided into four republics that were heavily restricted from relations with one another and other Hellenic states. A ruthless purge occurred, with allegedly anti-Roman citizens being denounced by their compatriots and deported in large numbers.
- During the Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar was able to use a divide and rule strategy to easily defeat the militarily strong Gauls. By the time the Gauls united under Vercingetorix it was already too late for them.
- Following the October revolution, the Bolsheviks engaged at various times in alliances with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, some anarchists, and various non-Russian ethnic nationalist groups, against the White movement, Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, and other anarchist and ethnic nationalist groups. This was done to establish the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (the Bolshevik party) as the sole legal party in the Soviet Union. Similar shifting alliances were played out amongst various dissident factions within the CPSU, such as the Workers Opposition and Left Communists, with Joseph Stalin and his supporters gaining absolute power within the party by the mid-1920s.
- The Salami strategy of Hungarian Communist leader, Mátyás Rákosi.
- Alliances with various parties played a role in the Nazi Machtergreifung and Gleichschaltung, the seizure and consolidation of total power by the National Socialist German Workers Party. The Enabling Act, which banned the Communist and Social Democratic parties, was supported by the Nazis' coalition partner, the German National People's Party, as well as by the Centre Party. Several months later, all political parties in Germany were banned except for the NSDAP.
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.
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- The dictionary definition of divide and rule at Wiktionary