- A clever trick, ploy, or stratagem to achieve a desired end, esp. by unorthodox, irregular, or time-saving means; a dodge; a tip.
noun (and oxymoron; overall though, really more of a term than a word).
From Franz Neumann’s Behemoth: the Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933-1944:
[A]ll the conceit of the old feudal lord, with few of his virtues, [and] little of his regard for loyalty or culture. He represented a coalition of the army, the bureaucracy, and the owners of the large estates and factories for the joint exploitation of the state.
This portraiture by the Frankfort School-expat writing for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (what became / was subsumed by the C.I.A.) reminds me of what the Victorian fabulist George MacDonald wrote about clever people (in a passage called “An Old Garden” eerily reminiscent of Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There):
[…] We do not half appreciate the benefits to the race that spring from honest dullness. The clever people are the ruin of everything.
As citizens we should want the State to be dull, but as 21st century consumers and perpetual audience members we want our State to be clever. Against this algebra however, how do we account for Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil,” or David Foster Wallace’s notion that corruption can hide in the great wide open under the t-shirt and shorts of dry, opaque tedium?