Tuesday, March 3, 2020

How does the state remain in power?

Citizens have different demands and desires. Sometimes, the state puts forward its steps not only different but also against the desires of citizens. In those conditions, citizens oppose and strike. But the state seems to remain in power. How and why the state remains in power in those situations? How does the state create hegemony? This is very curious question for all. In this article, I am going to explore the mechanisms of the state to remain in power from Antonio Gramsci's views.

What is hegemony?

Hegemony is the dominance or control over another. We can see, citizens oppose but the state can control over the citizens. The state can go against the interests of citizens being safe from the opposition. Why?  Simply, because the state creates the hegemony. How it is created? According to Gramsci, hegemony is created through the balance of political society and civil society. What is political society? The political society which rules through forces are police and law, army, legal systems, etc. What is civil society? The civil society which rules through consent are private organizations, such as a church, schools, unions, human right organization, media, culture, etc. There is a balance that helps to create hegemony. Without balance, no hegemony can be created even though the state is powerful. 
Strike of citizens

Karl Marx's theory.

To understand the Gramsci's theory of hegemony, we have to understand the Karl Marx theory. Marx argues society consists of two parts; the base, and superstructure. Base refers to the means of production like materials, tools, resources, etc. which fulfill the basic human needs. Superstructure refers to all the other aspects like art, culture, religion, etc. which do not directly related to production. Marx argues that the power of the ruling class is based on the economic base or means of production. He relates all the human activities and thinking to economic status. According to Marx, power can be gained through the control of economic bases.

But Gramsci does not agree with the notion of Marx that the ruling class gains power only because they have economic control. He argues power is not just limited to the economic base. According to Gramsci, hegemony is exercised from the super-structure, i.e. from the cultural and ideological spheres through the manipulation of civil society by framing all within their horizons of thoughts to persuade the subordinate class that their rule is legitimate. Marx focuses on the base while Gramsci focuses on super-structure. The power gained through superstructure remains for a long. Gramsci argues power mechanisms should be understood through the superstructure.

The ruling class uses mass media hugely. They popularize their philosophy, strategy, morality, etc. in such a way creating illusion to subordinate allowing them to rule. So, the subordinate accept the prevailing ideology as a natural reality. Ruling class promotes their culture all around which maintains the cultural supremacy. They transfer their beliefs, norms, values through culture, making them easy to rule. Subordinate begin to feel superior to adopt the ruling class culture thinking that their own culture is inferior. They think ruling class culture is only the right culture, highly civilized culture.

The ruling class radiated their history and systems through educational organizations. They mastermind the activities of unions and human rights organizations to align with their ideology. Finally, they legitimize all their desires and activities in the mind of subordinate unconsciously. According to Gramsci, through these different mechanisms, there is a balance of forces and persuasion or the balance of political and civil society which helps to create hegemony. So despite being opposed by many citizens, the state or ruling class remains in power. Their opposition has no remarkable effect on the state. 

Gramsci theory is very influential to understand the mechanism of state power exercised through the super-structure. He does not limit the power of the ruling class to only bases as done by Marx. He argues hegemony is created by balancing the political society and civil society. 

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