Essay Example on Conceptualizations of Hegemony and Habitus

Published: 2022-08-26
Essay Example on Conceptualizations of Hegemony and Habitus
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Political science Philosophy
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1547 words
13 min read

The Concept of Hegemony as Suggested by Antonio Gramsci

In his philosophy of praxis, Gramsci principally describes the concept of hegemony as a structure of classes where a hegemonic class imposes its political dominance over subaltern classes through ideologies. Essentially, this concept is a critique of the Marxist theory of state from an anti-economist angle. Gramsci voices his strong disagreement of Marx's postulation that political changes can only be realized by a "relations of force" since reforming socio-economic settings do not create these changes but simply sets the conditions necessary to produce them (Gramsci, 2000). Contrary to this perspective, Gramsci views hegemony as a state whereby the political society exerts dominance over the civil society within a hegemonic structure underpinned by a mutual organic ideology. To exercise this supremacy, the political class implements moral and intellectual reforms on the economic and ethico-political domains that result in a reconceptualization of the hegemonic structures and a change in the initial ideological landscape. Apart from a moral and psychological value, the concept of hegemony presents an epistemological importance through its hegemonic apparatus, which crafts a new ideological terrain and sparks a transformation in consciousness and the ways of knowledge (Gramsci, 2000).

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Pierre Bourdieu's Concept of Habitus

In his approach of power within the framework of the theory of social practice, Bourdieu distinguishes the social world as a marvel presented to a viewer who develops a standpoint that all relations in this realm are predominantly symbolic exchanges. The theory of practice maintains that knowledge is constructed through the "habitus", which is a system of structured structuring points of view developed in practice and always oriented towards realistic functions. This habitus, which entails one's understanding and thoughts of the outside world, offers a way of circumventing the dominant perspective where objectivist idealism rules the world by ushering an individual into practice, a position characterized by products of past practices and symbolized products. Of importance to note, however, is that the internal and external worlds are symbiotic domains where no two people's habitus are similar due to their fluidity. The habitus creates individual and collective practices according to historical schemes of action, dispositions and insights by ensuring an active presence of previous experiences. This structure of dispositions brings forth the principle of regularity and continuity that objectivists view in social norms but are unable to explain them (Bourdieu, 1990).

Ways in which the Conceptualizations of Hegemony and Habitus can be Understood as Critiques of a Structure-Superstructure Description of Capitalist Society

The structure-superstructure definition of the society, as posited by Karl Marx, revolves around the economy and ideology planes whereby the society's economic structure is identified as the foundation of the political and legal superstructure. In this line, Marx postulates that relations of force in the economic structure are solely responsible for social changes. The concept of hegemony is basically a critique of this principle of complex superstructures through the economism hypothesis or theoretical syndicalism. Here, Gramsci splits the superstructure into the political society (the State itself) and the civil society (Non-Governmental Organizations, religious institutions, political parties and trade unions). Practically, Gramsci hypothesizes that economic undertakings belong to the civil society, which should not be interrupted by the State. Nonetheless, from a theoretical dimension, the civil society (a subaltern faction) cannot rise to the level of ethico-political hegemony due to the ruling class's control of the government and economic policies through consent as opposed to forcefulness or coercion (Gramsci, 2000). Likewise, the concept of habitus encompasses connotations presented to an individual to understand their world and develop knowledge. The autonomy of practices guaranteed by habitus functions as an amassed capital maintains the perpetuity of changes in a person and also creates history (Bourdieu, 1990). To a certain degree, Bourdieu recognizes the structure-superstructure angle of a society where economic capital has a considerable effect on the ethico-political and social planes. However, conceptualizations of habitus as a product of one's practices integrate a new school of thought where the social and cultural forms of capital interrelate with economics. To this end, Bourdieu critiques Marxian postulations by arguing that even though economic capital is significantly dominant, it is also figuratively mediated.

The Reason why William Roseberry Modifies Antonio Gramsci's Hegemony as a "Hegemonic Process"

Roseberry purports that concentrating on language improves a person's awareness of the infinite obscurities involved in communication. Nevertheless, overemphasizing language makes an individual oblivious of the larger social picture. To intellectualize language in the social context, Roseberry first draws reference from Stedman Jones' conjecture of language of class, where a class is taken to be a component that is ingrained in the language fabric. He then rebuts a sequential ordering of the linguistic constitution by insisting on viewing language as an activity that occurs in history, which is also an endless social process. This interplay between language and the social can be further understood by contextualizing the correlation between the society's experience of class and its knowledge of class in the events that transpired during the Los Angeles riots. Events such as the publicized battering of Rodney King, the court trial and exoneration of police officers who mauled Rodney in addition to the nasty expressions of fury materialized from the intricate and relatively unstable discursive fields and social fields (Wilmsen, McAllister & McAllister, 1996).

Trying to distinguish the social and discursive fields may prove to be a futile exercise going by their complex nature and the dynamic tension between them. The relations between policemen and Latinos and African Americans in the Los Angeles' incident above reveal inadequacies in Gramsci's concept of hegemony as seen in the gap existing between the overriding social comprehensions of the professional suburbanites, the Whites, Latinos, Black Americans and the underemployed or unemployed suburbanites. Therefore, Roseberry tries to bridge this gap by approaching hegemony as a hegemonic process that involves the development of sociopolitical consent or the acceptance of dominance by subaltern societies (Wilmsen et al., 1996).

How Gramsci's Concept of Hegemony can facilitate the Understanding of the Los Angeles Protests and how this Understanding can be Complicated Further by Roseberry's Hegemonic Process

Roseberry considers the complex and unstable social fields of force and discursive fields as the main cause of the Los Angeles rage (Wilmsen et al., 1996). For an analysis of these protests, the social fields of force encompass the relations between policemen, Latinos and African Americans, the rise of intricate racial, cultural and class maps since the 1960s, social displacement and the 1980s' economic boom. On the other hand, the discursive fields include the broadcasting of Rodney's videotape, live broadcast of the elements of fury such as destruction of property and beatings and the emergence of contradicting cases of racism and police brutality. This listing denotes a multifaceted construal of the "knowledge of the social" and the "social" since most aspects in the list need to be considered as parts of the field of force and discursive force. The concept of hegemony may ameliorate the understanding of the issues presented in both fields by incorporating its characteristic viewpoint of the ruling and subaltern classes. The Los Angeles protests exemplify a society ailing from a deep rupture due to class divisions that are unable to make their specific interests to look like those of a broader collectivity. For instance, if the Latinos and African Americans subjected to police brutality are categorized as subaltern classes, their unity will only be realized if they become a State. However, this unification may be a pointless exercise owing to the dominance of the ruling class.

On the contrary, Roseberry's hegemonic process will complicate the understanding of these protests. Wilmsen et al., (1996) acknowledge that the conceptualization of discursive fields as State projects instead of accomplishments introduces a multidimensional social map meant to inform the construction of social fields of force. This intricacy stems from the premise that the hegemonic process emphasizes the point of rupture thereby introducing a compound evaluation of the development of domination.

James Scott's "Everyday Forms of Resistance" and its Characteristics

James Scott posits that evaluations of open political action dominate explanations of political conflict. Arguably, the most informative assessments of conflict are specifically developed to reveal the conditions that prompt social conflicts to result in political action. Such analyses take into account how historical practices, ethnic values, State structures and social systems lead to the rise of political action. In this line, Scott brings forth the concept of everyday forms of resistance, which he describes as a fundamental component of the fragile arsenal of powerless factions. These forms, which include arson, poaching, false compliance, sabotage, desertion and anonymous threats, are essentially typical ways of "first resort" or class struggles in the common historical contexts where clear insubordination potentially leads to deadly repercussions (Scott, 1989). Furthermore, if members of a powerless class use these forms of resistance against the State or ruling class, they may result in disproportionate collective implications on their normality when taken into account individually. On the same note, the everyday forms of resistance are defined by three characteristics. First, there is no condition that resistance should assume the form of joint action. Secondly, numerous intentional acts of resistance may go wrong and bring about unforeseen ramifications. Finally, ideological resistance is a vital element of class-based resistance and, thus, class conflicts are, simply, struggles over the appropriation of assets, levies, production and labor (Scott, 1989).

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