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In All Societies All Power Is Ultimately Economic Power Essay Sample

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In All Societies All Power Is Ultimately Economic Power Essay Sample

“In modern societies, all power is ultimately economic power” Power is an essentially contested concept and there is no agreed definition of it. Different understandings of this term, different concepts produce different theories about the distribution of power in the society. For example, Marxism is a vast body of social analysis which contains a number of different perspectives on society and power. In this essay I will consider the differences between humanist and structuralist Marxism perspectives on the sources and basis of power and I will try to determine which concept is more applicable to modern societies. Structuralist Marxism proposes that the ultimate source of all power in any society is the ownership and control of the means of economic production. Power is used to further the interests of the powerful at the expense of powerless. (Zero sum game).

One of the structuralists, Althusser, stated that there are two major mechanisms that insure the maintenance of the power, i.e insure that people within accept the “status quo”: the RSA (Repressive state apparatuses) that enforce behaviour directly, such as police and criminal justice, and ISA (Ideological state apparatuses) that generate ideologies which individuals internalise and act according with. ISAs include schools, family, politics. Rather similar concept can be found in the work of the humanistic Marxist Gramsci. He took Marx’s basic division of society into an economic base and superstructure further when he divided the superstructure into those institutions that were overtly coercive (political society that includes government, police) and this is the equivalent to the Althusser’s RSA, and institutions that were not coercive (civil society that includes churches, schools, political parties) and this “part of superstructure” is equivalent to the Althusser’s ISA. These two concepts of Gramsci and Althusser are both relevant to modern societies in which not only economic power matters, but also some connections with significant people, which have power that is founded not on wealth, but on their knowledge and skills.

However, Gramsci refused the economic determinism of Marxist structuralists. He was convinced that in order to get legitimacy dominant class saturates civil society with its morality, customs and political practices, that means it presents its interests as the interests of all (hegemony). Hegemony in this sense might be defined as an ‘organising principle’ that is diffused by the process of socialisation into every area of daily life. Hegemony is moral and political leadership. It is completely different from domination which is associated with coercion and state. In modern societies capitalist hegemony is prevailing. The pursuit of economic wealth, of building career and the idea that “with money you can buy anything”, all these notions are included in the socialisation of the modern human. Structuralist and humanist Marxists have different views also on the development of the society, to be precise “the change” of power.

Structuralists considered that some political leaders would occur who will help proletariat to break up with bourgeois ideas and overthrow capitalists. So, that capitalists will be deprived of means of economic production and will lose economic power and thus all power at all. While Gramsci based his idea on the developed the concept of organic intellectuals (not traditional intellectuals like academics and philosophers), whose social function is to drive ideas and aspirations of the class to which they organically belong. Gramsci saw the role of the intellectual as a crucial one in the context of creating a counter hegemony. He was convinced that the “power of ideas and consciousness” does matter. In fact, Gramsci took a deeper insight, as now people do not actually trust some political leaders that in the majority of cases only claim that they will help in some way, people start to believe those who are near them, who want to improve their life. Thus, it can be concluded that various ideas of both humanists and structuralists Marxists are applicable to some aspects of reality of modern societies.

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