Name for a current political phenomenon?
February 26, 2017 6:54 PM   Subscribe

I've never studied poli.sci and I'm sorry if ask.mefi is the wrong place for this question, but I actually have a legitimate query here.

As I understand it, a U.S. court struck down the president's attempt to block certain people from entering that country. Nonetheless, border agents have a lot of leeway, and have been blocking a lot of people anyway – media have been full of such stories in recent weeks.

I know "dog whistle" is one phrase, but is there any other terminology for this tendency for underlings to enforce the wishes of a leader harder and with more zeal than has been legally formulated? In world history you'll see leaders saying after the fact "I didn't know this was happening on my watch" although it's difficult to be certain whether these leaders knew they had given implicit permission for subsequent abuses to occur.
posted by zadcat to Law & Government (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Definitely a thing in history. Is it 'anticipatory obedience'? This term is used by historian Timothy Snyder in his how-to on preventing tyranny. The underlings infer what the Leader's 'will' is without being told explicitly, and act upon that inference. (This concept, though, doesn't have specifically to do with going beyond legal requirements.)
posted by bertran at 7:29 PM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Plausible deniability?
posted by XMLicious at 7:31 PM on February 26, 2017

I think your phrase 'implicit permission' is actually a pretty good summary. You might look at the 'See also' section of the Wikipedia article on Overton Window (itself not quite the phenomenon you're trying to describe) and following links from there.

You might want to think about whether you're looking at the phenomenon as an individual (psychological), group (sociological) or specifically political (political science) behavior.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:33 PM on February 26, 2017

Best answer: A related phrase that Wikipedia is offering me is "Working Towards the Führer".
posted by XMLicious at 7:37 PM on February 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

Plausible deniability?

Plausible zealotry.
posted by Dashy at 7:49 PM on February 26, 2017

Best answer: Yup, as touched on above, in the German discussion of the Third Reich the technical term used is 'vorauseilender Gehorsam' (anticipatory obedience).
posted by The Toad at 7:52 PM on February 26, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Public administration has the concept of 'street-level bureaucrats', including police officers. Corruption (eg bribe-taking) is frequently discussed in this context, but more interesting is the idea of 'innovating within institutional boundaries' - for example, withholding or pretending not to have access to information in order to exercise power in a particular way ('I didn't get that minute'); or believing they know better than Those Desk Jockeys In Washington and bending or just flat out breaking rules.

In a way, they use the system to bypass the system in order to implement or enforce their own vision of how the system could work. The system often incentivises them to do this, for example, by setting performance targets, or establishing organisational structures that promote self-reinforcing cliques and cultures of corruption.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think you're conflating two things that are usually considered distinct tho related - anticipatory obedience and plausible deniability. (The appearance / possibility of the former is one form of the latter)
posted by PMdixon at 10:23 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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