In "Über der Prozess der Zivilisation", Norbert Elias discusses the "Königsmechanismus", or "king mechanism", which refers to the formation of particularly stable and specialized central organs in a society. In Western societies, these central organs have gained a level of stability and importance as coordinators and regulators of society that is not necessarily accompanied by an increase in their power of control and decision-making. The decision-making power of these central organs can vary over time, with some periods characterized by a high degree of centralization and the concentration of power in the hands of these central organs, and other periods characterized by a more decentralized and diffused power structure.
The central authority figure, or "Zentralherr," gains both increased functional dependence on other parts of society and increased societal strength during the process of state formation. This paradox is due to the ambivalent or multifaceted nature of human relationships; as societies become more interdependent, the interests of different groups become more complex and difficult to reconcile. The central authority figure is able to maintain their power and decision-making ability despite their increased dependence on others due to their ability to coordinate and regulate the various conflicting interests within society. This ability is not a result of their monopoly on military or economic power, but rather the result of a particular configuration of social relationships that grant them a high level of social influence. There are situations in which the existing social system is not functioning well and tensions are high, leading to the emergence of a social actor who is able to gain the support of others by advocating for their interests. This actor is able to take advantage of the ambivalent or multifaceted nature of human relationships in order to gain the upper hand over their opponents. However, the interests of different groups are often in conflict, leading to a fluctuation between cooperation and conflict within society. The decision-making power of the central authority figure is influenced by the balance of power between these different groups and the level of tension between them.
When cooperation among the most powerful groups is easy and their interests are not in strong conflict, the decision-making power of the central authority figure is more limited. However, when the interests of these groups are strongly in conflict and the overall social system is threatened, the central authority figure may be able to gain more power. Understanding these dynamics is key to understanding the changes in the societal strength of central authority figures over time.
The Königsmechanismus, or "king mechanism", refers to the way in which the central ruler or government of a society becomes powerful and maintains their power. This power is not based solely on the ruler's control over military or economic resources, but also on their ability to navigate and manage the complex web of social relationships within the society. The central ruler is able to do this by playing different groups against each other and balancing the interests of various factions. This is possible because social relationships within the society are often ambivalent, meaning they involve both cooperation and competition, and because the different groups within the society are interdependent, meaning they rely on each other in some way. When the central ruler is able to effectively navigate this complex social landscape and maintain a balance of power, they are able to wield a significant amount of influence and decision-making power within the society.
The strength of the central authority, whether it is a monarchy or another form of government, depends on the balance of power between different social groups within society. When there is a high level of tension and conflict between these groups, the central authority is able to exert more control. However, when these tensions and conflicts are less pronounced, the central authority's power is more limited. The optimal level of strength for the central authority occurs when there is a balance of power between different social groups, with none of them being able to decisively dominate the others. Overall, the "king mechanism" is a way of understanding how societies are able to maintain stability and cohesion, despite the presence of conflicting interests and power dynamics between different social groups.