3
$\begingroup$

Y'all remember that old adage about how knowledge is power? When that knowledge is magic, specifically the type of magic that can do almost everything, the adage becomes a lot more practical than metaphorical.

Since magic, despite having a genetic component, is something that takes years of study, entire Universities have been created to advance its study. These Universities tend to become major civic centres because it's kinda hard to sack a city whose inhabitants can turn an entire army to toads. And since Wizards are quite aware of the political power their powers can command, they often take over or influence politics to suit their own interests. Whether as individuals or as groups.

Now of course, this means they must have certain power structures. My instinct was to make the Universities said power structures instead of making the strongest wizards Kings or nobles while the Universities do their own thing. The idea is that Wizards already have this institution to coalesce around, so that's what they would use. But then I realized that Universities are hardly the most efficient structures to rule a country with, considering their structures basically just consist of teachers and accountants, with a Dean to set curriculum and other minor policy.

So my question is, can Universities become the government and do government stuff like raising armies, collecting taxes, making laws, setting up courts etc etc?

If they can, my idea was that the Board of Directors become the Legislature of the state, the Chancellor becomes the President-equivalent, and the Judiciary can be independent systems of magistrates appointed by the Chancellor. Does that make sense?

$\endgroup$
3
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ "their structures basically just consist of teachers and accountants, with a Dean" is, uh, not a great summary of academia, modern or otherwise. $\endgroup$ Apr 20 at 13:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In history, monasteries became financial powerhouses but not governments. Bishops became governments and ran things like the Papal States. The people who are attracted to being in universities are not the same type of people who like to be in government. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Apr 20 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ What kind of government are you wanting? Monarchy, dictatorship, democracy? Depending on the overall structure I can see a path from lobbiest/courtiers -> political party / para-state political power like church -> ruling party / power structure. Perhaps wizards previous ran education in general or directed religious activities so that the university already fed people and influence into a major part of society. $\endgroup$
    – N Brouwer
    Apr 20 at 19:20

5 Answers 5

11
$\begingroup$

Running a country is a full-time job, and teaching students is a different full-time job.

Yes, in an ironic way and not seriously, one might say that Oxford and Cambridge and Eton run England (and not so long ago they ran the entire world), or that the École nationale d'administration (nowadays called the Institut national du service public) runs France. But the reality is that they don't.

Because running a country is a full-time job.

So what actually happens is that the jobs of running the country and teaching students will alway be separate. Some people love to be bureaucrats, some people love to be politicians, and some people love to teach, and very rarely will one find a person who is good at all three.

Yes, graduates from the university will run the country, or man the civil service. But the university itself will always be a university, dedicated to research and to teaching students who will eventually graduate and move on to run the country and man the civil service. Sometimes they may come back to their old professor and seek advice, which they will then proceed to apply or to ignore as they will see fit.

$\endgroup$
12
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that in this case, said Universities are the biggest concentration of military and scientific power in the world. $\endgroup$
    – Thales
    Apr 20 at 8:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, they are, in the first five minutes. But then those who like to give orders and to obey orders will form their own separate organization and will name it the Army. (And I don't understand what's the problem with scientific power. In many countries universities are the foremost scientific powers, think MIT or CalTech or Berkeley. And in those countries where universities are not the foremost scientific powers, the foremost scientific powers are Institutes, such as the Fraunhofer Institutes or Max Planck Institutes, which are basically universities with no undergraduate students.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 20 at 9:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Thales: Yes, some universities teach military officers how to be a military officer. For example, West Point or Annapolis in the United States. Nevertheless, the Military Academies do not actually run the military. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 20 at 9:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Thales: You are confusing the weapon with the command. In the real world, commanding an army is a very highly skilled job. Turning metal into cannon or tanks is another, different, highly skilled job. Operating the cannon or the tank is yet another different job. A wizard who can turn himself into a cannon and shoot iron balls at the enemy is an enlisted man, not an officer and much less a commander. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 20 at 9:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Thales knights and their equivalents were traditionally considered rather dangerous, but the ability to personally stab people is not quite the same as leadership or governance, and not intrinsically useful if you're up against someone who can persuade a half a dozen of their associates to some and stab back. $\endgroup$ Apr 20 at 15:01
7
$\begingroup$

From a very lazy point of view, the existence of powerful and effective magic-wielders has the potential to tip the balance of the whole "authority equals asskicking" mode of rulership from "person who can put you and your friends to the fire and sword if you don't do as you're told" to "person who can turn you and your friends into pigs and thence into sausages if you can't do what you're told".

It doesn't necessarily follow that the people or organizations that teach the transmute-human-to-pig trick are going to be the ones in charge, any more than the people who can teach medieval princes to ride and to swing a sword were going to be the ones in charge either.

That said, the skills and politicking required to rise to the top of some institution are also skills that are useful in commanding some other institution, like a city or state.

Obviously, finding real-world examples here is tricky. Obviously, theocracies exist, but they're not quite so close to the sort of thing you're after, I think. Consider though the existence of Prince-Bishops in history. They're not conventional princes, inheriting wealth and military power from their family, but clergy. The catholic church was also the source of a great deal of education and many universities came from ecclesastical sources in the first place. So here we have an organization based around non-worldly power, providing education and also wielding decidedly worldly powers involving tithes and taxes, courts (eg. consitory courts) and even military force (including, famously, military orders).

This seems like it might be a model for the sort of thing you're thinking of. It isn't strictly a university-derived power structure, but that's because I think you're looking at things the wrong way around... univeristies arise out of an existing power-structure, and its that sort of power-structure that'll be in charge. The dean-equivalent may end up a prince-bishop equivalent, but they'd be at the top of a much more general "thaumarchy" of which the university is but a part, I suspect.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I can certainly imagine a world where a wizard university / school takes over as some kind of authoritative body in an emergency situation, and, with the "right" people at the top of the chain, wanting to remain exactly as they are, or some variation thereof.

I'd guess that they would increase their courses to cover things public servants need to know, and thus have direct control of who works for them, by requiring any aspiring public servant to attend their courses. This would, in turn, allow them to focus on their studies and teaching, with them only coming together to decide about topics they deem important, and having the rest of the governing done by people they themselves instructed, maybe even requiring some kind of magical oath of those to not attempt to overthrow the leaders of the university.

This would lead to some area being entirely run by people under control of the university, which, in my opinion, is the best fit between your concept and having the universities operate in their original sense.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ An emergency situation precipitating things is a good idea. Perhaps a "designated survivor" type scenario, where all other leaders get decimated. Whose left? Well, the only institution left is wizard U, let's let them run things for now. $\endgroup$
    – N Brouwer
    Apr 21 at 15:58
0
$\begingroup$

Wizarding is resource-intensive, so controlling the government assures the flow of resources.

If spell casting and/or arcane research require lots of resources, then taking the reigns of government may be necessary to assure that vital resources are available for students and faculty. Every med student gets their own cadaver; perhaps every student-mage needs multiple bodies during their studies, human or otherwise. What better way to assure this than being in charge of the army and waging wars? The ruling elite no longer have the stomach for human sacrifice, but necromancery is by far the most popular elective and fresh bodies are needed to talk to the dead. The wizards keep it legal. Divination is becoming an increasingly scientific discipline? Run experiments by deciding where to send ships, which crops to plant, which minorities to oppress. The head of the university manages proposals from different departments depending on enrollment, what the hottest research is, etc and implements public policy to make it happen.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

If magic produces enough money.

Pure firepower isn't enough. Even if they are very powerful in their colleges, how can they control distant places with no relationship or care to them? Money is the answer.

Just as real life universities have large endowments of billions and could be described as financial organizations that dabble in education, these universities have even more. They have huge alchemy, scroll making, monster hunting, magic smithing areas and use items extensively to make more powerful magical items.

Everywhere in the world is dependent on the magical products they produce with their great knowledge, and they are dependent on the outside world for vast stocks of animal parts, plants, minerals and other magical resources that grows across the world.

If the locals cause problems teachers and students will be sent to fix things

If some local tyrant interrupts the flow of goods they'll cut off the flow of magical goods and send some students with a professor to resolve the issue. Conquering a country for the university could earn them class credits which could help in getting better access to rare knowledge and resources.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .