It was by this principle that ancient kings built their empires and subjugated their peoples. But this "reprobated axiom of tyranny" is alive and well in the governing of modern democratic states, where its incisive divisions cut even deeper and wreak even greater misery. [PDF]
Perhaps the most obvious and practical form of divide and rule is its military counterpart divide and conquer. The idea is to make the force of an enemy less effective against you. The method of achieving this is to divide the enemy's force into its natural factions in such a way as to make the factions less able to act in unison. This can be done in two progressive stages.
The first stage is to seek to isolate the factions from each other by attenuating the linkage between them. Communication between them is thereby severely reduced in both speed and bandwidth. This increases the delay between decision and command, making the entire force more sluggish and less responsive. This makes it easier for you to attack and subdue one faction at a time using your whole force.
The second stage is more subtle. You now turn the separated factions against each other. To do this you use propaganda to induce each faction to become suspicious of the others' interests and intentions. Each faction thereby comes to distrust the others. You thereby dissipate a significant proportion of your enemy's externally-directable force through internal conflict of interest.
This leaves him with less force to direct outwardly towards you, making him easier for you to conquer.
The growth of a kingdom is gained by conquering neighbouring territories. This is done through either military force or the threat of military force. However, to be effective, especially at first, the king must divide the lords of his neighbouring territories in order to be able to conquer them. He must set each against the other so that each becomes isolated. He is then able to conquer each, one at a time. He may conquer them militarily. However, if he has managed to divide each against the other sufficiently, each may voluntarily opt to throw in his lot with the king in return for vassal rulership of his original realm.
Notwithstanding, the larger the kingdom grows, the more difficult it becomes to rule. Becoming more relaxed now that they are within the bounds of the kingdom, the vassal lords may, in their own good time, form alliances among themselves that could emerge potent enough to threaten the power of the king himself. To hold onto his kingdom, the king must therefore continue to exercise his strategy of divide and rule.
He must create divisions among his subjects by emphasising and promoting the differences between them. For example, he could encourage regional rivalries. This can take many forms from the mutual ridicule of regional accents to cultural and sporting rivalries. He can also invoke inter-factional jealousy by exercising irrational favouritism and by promoting those who cooperate most with his kingly ambitions. He can also foster distrust between his lieutenants so that their enmity is directed horizontally towards each other rather than upwardly towards him. Lastly, he can encourage and promote frivolous follies in order to dissipate the resources of local vassals that might otherwise be used for raising a force against him.
In the modern sovereign State, a king is no longer in control. In a democracy, which is currently hailed as the right and just political form, it is reputedly we the people that rule. Those in so-called power are deemed to be, at least in name, the obedient servants of we the people, whose job is to realise our will. Sadly, the reality is quite the contrary to what is said in the political propaganda of those who rule modern representative democracies.
The proponents of modern democracy assert that the principle of divide and rule is now obsolete because State Authority is elected and maintained by the consent of the people. Consequently, there is no necessity to divide the people in order to rule them. What the people do not realise is that their consent is manufactured by an elaborate mechanism that moulds their opinions to conform to the wishes of an exclusive elite. The result, ironically, is that the people willingly vote for purveyors of policies that are against their own best interests.
A modern democracy is essentially the same form of hierarchical dictatorship as was the ancient monarchy, in which the king held onto power by submitting to the consensus of his barons. We, the people are thus inevitably ruled by a puppet government that bows to the will of wealth. The elite select and groom their puppet politicians. They bankroll their campaigns. They also own the public media - that vast spin-machine - that drip-feeds the public mind with their rancid policies. And, hey presto, all the turkeys vote for Christmas.
The elitist puppet government then divides and rules the people, as did the king before them. However, the government of a modern democratic State has to divide and rule a population that is enormously larger and more advanced than did the ancient king. Dividing and ruling a few hundred thousand peasants is one thing. Dividing and ruling tens or hundreds of millions of people with access to modern education and communications is quite another. The government of a modern State must divide the people to a much deeper level in order to be able to rule them.
The ancient monarch had to engineer divisions between regions, tribes and social classes. The government of a modern State, however, must create much more detailed divisions and rivalries. It goes onwards, by means of religious, economic and social pressures to divide the community, the neighbourhood and the extended family. Nowadays, career pressures are cracking the seems of the nuclear family itself, severing even the bonds of marriage and parenthood.
But the incision goes further. Today, social and economic pressures even divide the individual, tearing the human mind apart through conflicting allegiances between corporate demand and family responsibility. That is why so many able and educated people today are driven beyond their limit of resilience into the bewildering umbra of madness.