Home Economy Tolstoy on Written and Unwritten Guidelines

Tolstoy on Written and Unwritten Guidelines



I’ve written earlier than about discovering the concepts of economics in works of fiction. I’ve additionally described how I discover F. A. Hayek’s distinction between legislation and laws to be a key perception in understanding how the world works. On this system, laws is the written, articulated, intentionally constructed rule ebook, whereas legislation is the unwritten, advanced, unarticulated (however not inarticulate!), tacitly understood guidelines which information conduct.

So are there any examples of this distinction to be present in fiction? Delightfully, sure. Leo Tolstoy wrote about it effectively in his novel Battle and Peace. He describes a scene the place a younger lieutenant, Boris, is coming to talk to Prince Andrei, who’s the son of a well-known common and serving as a captain within the military. Tolstoy writes:

When he entered, Prince Andrei, his eyes drooping contemptuously (with that peculiar expression of well mannered wariness which plainly says ‘if it weren’t my obligation I’d not speak to you for a second’), was listening to an previous Russian common with decorations, who stood very erect, virtually on tiptop, with a soldier’s obsequious expression on his purple face, reporting one thing.

“Very effectively, then, be so good as to attend,” mentioned Prince Andrei to the overall in Russian, talking with the French intonation he affected when he wished to talk contemptuously, and noting Boris, Prince Andrei, paying no extra heed to the overall who ran after him imploring him to listen to one thing extra, nodded and turned to him with a cheerful smile.

At that second Boris clearly realized what he had earlier than surmised, that within the military, in addition to the subordination and the self-discipline prescribed within the navy code, which he and the others knew within the regiment, there was one other, extra essential system, which made this tight-laced, purple-faced common wait respectfully whereas Captain Prince Andrei for his personal pleasure selected to talk with Lieutenant Drubetskoy. Greater than ever Boris resolved to serve sooner or later not based on the written code, however underneath this unwritten legislation. He felt now that merely by having been really helpful to Prince Andrei he had already risen above the overall who on the entrance had the ability to annihilate him, a mere lieutenant of the Guards.

Right here, in discovering the existence of this “different, extra essential system,” Boris was discovering how the unwritten legislation of the navy was completely different from the written laws present in official guidelines and rules. The legislation wasn’t one thing that could possibly be regarded up in a ebook, and it wasn’t ever explicitly described and even absolutely understood by everybody. And the legislation had a flexibility and evolving character to it which the official rules lacked. Boris realized that one of the best ways ahead for him was to behave in accordance with the unwritten legislation, somewhat than the written laws.

Having spent almost a decade within the Marine Corps, this undoubtedly displays my expertise. As you acquire expertise within the navy, you begin to acknowledge the distinction between what the rules say, and the way issues are literally carried out. A standard supply of amusement was laughing on the expense of “boots” (a moniker often signifying somebody contemporary out of boot camp with no actual expertise) who nonetheless do every thing “by the numbers” – that’s, who do every thing based on the official guidelines and rules.

If you come out of boot camp, you’ve had these guidelines and rules drilled into your head, and it’s in all probability not an exaggeration to say no one is aware of the official guidelines higher or extra completely than somebody freshly graduated from boot camp. And that is additionally why boots have been considered as being comically ignorant – as a result of all they knew have been the written guidelines, which in actuality meant they knew nothing. To very badly paraphrase John Stuart Mill, he who is aware of solely the official guidelines of a system is aware of little of that.

After all, this isn’t distinctive to the navy. In each job I’ve had since then, there have all the time been unwritten guidelines permeating the background. Studying and understanding these guidelines have all the time proved essential to being profitable. Chances are high you, expensive reader, have additionally observed one thing related in your experiences as effectively. If that’s the case, do share some examples within the feedback – it’s all the time fascinating to have the ability to see what’s behind the veil.




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