Some time ago, I read about a concept called the dialectic method of reigning (or similar). Imagine there is a monarch reigning over an absolutist country. A revolution is going on, and he fears loosing his power. A parlament is formed, and several political parties spring up. What does the monarch do? According to this dialectical method, instead of aligning with one party, he should secretly give support to both left and right wing parties. Cleverly using his connections and his money, he can direct the whole of the state. E.g. if the political system moves to far left, he withdraws support for that party. Due to the constant quarrel, a) the political programs of both parties will tend to the middle, reducing the risk of extreme positions, and b) the state will be in need of a unifying figure, which would conveniently be the monarch.

Now, I think I originally read about this in the context of conspiracy theories. One guy or group is sitting in the background, controlling everything. But of course this concept also works without an actual conspirator (which is actually more interesting).

The main idea is just that you have several competing alternatives that seem very different, but are actually very similar when viewed from a distance. They form a false dichotomy, stabilizing the whole. People are too occupied fighting in the system, preventing them from ever questioning it.

What is this idea called? Where does it come from, and can you give me some literature tips about it?

(Note, the focus is not on the well-known fact that parties in a two-party system tend to converge to the middle (the median voter). Rather, its on the effect of false dichotomies as a dominance mechanism.)

  • 9
    I think the concept of "using money to control all political parties to bend to your interests" is called "Politics"
    – user1530
    Jul 25, 2013 at 18:05
  • 1
    I believe "Playing both ends against the middle" is the term.
    – Compro01
    Jul 30, 2013 at 21:46
  • This reminds me the first (last) trilogy of Star Wars (I mean episodes I to III), so there are similar examples in pop culture (this is not literature, though).
    – Trylks
    Aug 9, 2013 at 23:02
  • 1
    "Hedging your bets." Lobbyists do it all the time. Aug 23, 2013 at 19:08
  • 2
    If the king's secret funding is to pit them against each other to weaken both, then "divide and conquer" is another alternative. Nov 6, 2017 at 22:45

2 Answers 2


Unless the process is completely open and above board I suspect the term you are looking for is constitutional monarchy. :)

There is a saying that every King needs a court, though it isn't necessarily just Kings.

For instance in the UK Lady Diana was a powerful political figure which the press actively courted. If a journalist or pressure group wanted to highlight a cause then bringing it to her attention, through the press that she was known to be favourable to, was a common tactic and one which at least irritated the rest of the Royal household, who maybe took their role of political independence somewhat more seriously. Hence a press campaign to highlight the problem of landmines was successful after winning her backing and arguably led to a ban observed by the British Army as well as many other militaries.

Similarly as the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles exercises control over the Duchy of Cornwall. Whilst the role of the uncodified constitution is unclear any legislation which impacts upon the Duchy or the personal interests of the Queen require their personal approval or risk a veto. Hence due to staff employed, land owned and businesses run most legislation meets this criteria, though it does appear with the Prince that only matters affecting architecture or talking to plants really gain his immediate attention. Hence elements of the press or pressure groups wishing to influence legislation regarding the talk to of plants only need to bring it to Charlie's attention.

Hence in old fashioned terms the court was there in order to be close to the seat of absolute power, to exercise influence over it and to gain access to it. However the King also needed the court in order to influence and communicate without alienating powerful factions which could lead to civil war and the loss of his power.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Note that the terms left and right as applied to politics come from seating arrangements where the defenders of the King's power sat to the right and the revolutionaries to the left in France. The King however could not necessarily side with his own supporters for fear of alienating those who wished for change above order ( which naturally favoured the landowners and those with influence). It was only with the rise of Marxism and labour movements in the early 20th century that the term left was used extensively in wider politics.

Whether left or right though an unyielding monarch is merely a tyrant in the face of political headwinds. As the seat of ultimate power, whether it be constitutional, undefined or ceremonial, vested interests lie in yielding, if slowly, else the only recourse the 'left' ( used in this instance as those who wish change) have is assassination or unseating the monarch.

Sword of Damocles parable or the phrase ,"A tyrant's fear is complete fear" come close to summing up your question, though rather than funds I would say enfranchises those who want change and those who want order.


It is well known fact that in Russia some oligarchs finance (of previously financed) opposing political parties both from left and right of political spectrum, including, say, the Communists and Union of the Right Forces at the same time.

The problem with left-wing parties is that the political system constructed so that the parties need much money for advertisement and participation in elections. So that even Communists have to rely on financial support of businessmen, and as such cannot represent the needs of the workers as intended.

There were also cases where Jewish oligarchs bought Anti-Semitic press in order to control it. For example, Russian-Jewish oligarch Boris Berezovsky bought a virulently Anti-Semitic newspaper "Zavtra" in addition to a set of newspapers of the opposite political shade he already controlled.

  • 1
    This has a long tradition in Russia unfortunately. I belive the original example I read about was even set in tsarist Russia.
    – jdm
    Jul 25, 2013 at 11:18
  • 1
    It is equally well-known that this occurs in the United States as well. It's called "covering your... bets" Jul 27, 2013 at 9:23
  • 1
    Can you provide a reference about Boris purchasing Zavtra?
    – Golden Cuy
    Jul 29, 2013 at 8:53

You must log in to answer this question.

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