Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hegemony and class

"Conspicuous indignation" that empathising tool used by conservatives to gain the support of the extreme religious-right and to attempt to hijack society's shared mores, is not a method used exclusively by the "right".

This debate is being had over at Troppo Armadillo, with Mark Bahnisch arguing that
A large part of the difficulty is that the discourse of the populist Right is also often characterised by irrationalism and hyperbolic abuse.
Quite a while ago, in fact, during the Thatcher-Regan era, there developed the authoritarian populism that is now the dominant ideology of neo-conservatism, a potent combination of:
anti-bureaucratic, individualistic sentiment with nationalism and social conservatism; a politics which appeals to everything in common popular sentiment which resonates with an authoritarian political agenda.
(Stuart Hall, Bob Jessop, Kevin Bonnet, Simon Bromley and Tom Ling are best sources for the hegemony of AP. New Labour in Britain has not significantly reversed the authoritarian populism trend in my view.)

The argument that the left has controlled the debate in public-political discourse is a ridiculous furphey. Mass media and the journalists and intellectuals which are employed and published subconsciously (or consciously) censor themselves (if they hold liberal, left-views), or are active proponents of a right-wing world view. Charges of "armies of political correctness, liberal media and feminazis" venture into the realm of fantasy-- the same realms which hold onto notions of Jewish conspiracies, Freemasonic New World Orders and Soviet-era tectonic plate-technology-- in short, incredible, untrue and bigotted.

We can see that public discourse and "common-sense" is currently held (although contested) by conservatism simply by asking to what "extent that it offers an integrated system of values and beliefs that is supportive of the established social order and which project a particular set of class interests as the general interest." Clearly, I think, the answer is that conservative (that is, ruling-class) forces have set their own interests as "general interests" above those of subordinate classes.

As Mark (and Tim Dunlop) points out, the left has thus far failed to "control" the debate due to:
the incoherence of many on the Left's beliefs about the world and politics, and the inability of postmodern Left thought to generate truth claims and a universalism to counter the hegemonic discourse of "there is no alternative", as Maggie Thatcher famously put it.
Consensus and the "common-sense" world view is always contested however. Pressure by moral forces and the success of notions of human rights meant that after the failure of Bush's likkudist ideology to gain global (or even national) support, he was forced to fall back to pleas of avenging Saddam's human right's abuses and restoring (/imposing) democracy when justifyin the Iraq War.

As Chris Shiel has pointed out, it is a war of position, and that war occurs within the left as well.

I mentioned above that "conspicuous indignation" was not used exclusively by the right. In my view, "conspicuous indignation" is a method by which moral forces attempt to dominate a particular field. In fact, "conspicuous indignation" is essentially moralistic and furthermore, a political tactic of the altern classes. Crises and splits occur within as well as between classes. The early (pre-Marx) socialists were largely from wealthy backgrounds; their form of socialism was moralistic, that is, utopian, judging, reforming and based upon historically obsolete superstructure. Thus, the left today is filled with moralising forces, making use of the same "conspicuous indignation" employed by conservative forces (they are, afterall, drawn from the same social class).

So, what does this mean?

Basically, that we are witnessing a period of re-adjustment in social forces. Subordinate political forces are being subjected to a negotiated process of accomodation in order to secure the altern-group's rule. Symbols, rhetoric and tactics are appropriated through the accomodation in a manner intended to not seriously upset the social order. That there is still conflict and tension within the particular social class indicates the fact that any re-adjustment or shift of the "historical bloc" can never be absolute or complete, nor will it resolve the crisis.

Remember, class matters kids.


  • At January 17, 2005 1:13 am, Blogger mark bahnisch said…

    Nice post, Alex.

    I wonder about this, though:

    "Thus, the left today is filled with moralising forces, making use of the same "conspicuous indignation" employed by conservative forces (they are, afterall, drawn from the same social class)."

    Can you provide any contemporary examples of what you're thinking of here?

  • At January 17, 2005 11:06 am, Blogger Alex said…

    In my opinion they are "lefties" such as environmentalists, animal rights activists, liberal-Christians, etc. That is, people with a left ideology, but whose class origin is largely from the ruling-class (petit-bourgeois or bourgeois).

  • At January 17, 2005 1:42 pm, Blogger mark bahnisch said…

    Ok. Gotcha now.


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