re: more productive discussions

Sun, 13 Apr 1997 13:16:26 -0700 (MST)

Much of the debate on hegemony that has preceded the current one has
really been concerned with the term hegemon(e), a term that has some of
its origins in political science and is often used as a proxy for the big
power or some such vulgar idea [there are major exceptions that prove this
rule, especially the new book, The State of Terror with the foreword by
Gunder Frank and the work of Richard Ashley]. One of the uses of hegemony
is much more interesting and potentially useful.

The concept of hegemony often has been used simply as a synonym for
domination sometimes with obscure references to Signor Antonio Gramsci de
Sardegna or even Foucault. This use is at once too narrow and too
vacuous, and reminds many of us as name-dropping or the mis-use of icons.
At least, we can differentiate between a state's "war of position" and
"war of maneuver." Gramsci conceives the war of position in terms of the
role of the state in civil society. It is a slow, protracted struggle
that involves diverse means which include "non-violent" aspects of civil
society. Gandhi's anti-colonialist resistance in India exemplifies a war
of position. Most importantly, Gramsci suggests how people produce the
material structures and objective conditions of social existence which
appear before them as external forces and natural laws beyond their making
or control. Civil society is characterized by private relations within
private organizations, whereas political society is characterized by the
state's use of coercive force to shape society so that it will conform,
e.g., to production (reproduction is not explicated, but is fundamentally
important). A war of maneuver comprises a strategy of direct, typically
obvious violence and speedy confrontation, e.g., the 1848 revolutions in
Europe and the Russian revolution of 1917. Of course, the Gulf War fits
here and there is an interesting debate over the situation in Chiapas
with part of the analysis fitting here and the rest in the war of position.

Even if the concern is who was or is dominate in the world system, the
concept of hegemony might produce a more precise and richer analysis.
However, at a PEWS meeting years ago Wally Goldfrank responded to me in a
session where this issue emerged that probably no one is listening.
Wally, at least, the whole world is some sense.

Sun, 13 Apr 1997, Bruce R. McFarling wrote:

> On Fri, 11 Apr 1997, Richard K. Moore wrote:
> >
> > Example: "U.S. hegemony is not yet a fiction". Your mere statement is
> > supposed to stand as a refutation of my argument. This is not discussion,
> > this is a case of "Yes it is. No it isn't. Yes it is. ...". My argument
> > was that even though obvious US hegemony is prominently displayed before us
> > in the daily news, it is a fiction because it is not really _US_ hegemony,
> > but elite _corporatist_ hegemony we are seeing, with a corporate-dominated
> > US serving as a corporatist agent. Hegemony isn't a fiction - the "US
> > Interests" part is.
> > ...
> etc.
> It might clarify the discussion if there was a specification of
> the definition of hegemony being used by the participants. According to
> the definition I have recently seen (a preeminent position in the
> international economy in production *and* distribution *and* finance), it
> seems fairly clear that the US position in the 1950's and into the 60's
> was hegemonic, and the US position today is not. On other definitions,
> results might vary.
> Of course, this does not address the question of which would be a
> stronger contribution to WNS: clarifying the discussion or dropping it.
> But it seems to me that discussions that are going nowhere fast as
> participants trade characterizations of each other's arguments (as in
> dlj's ability to hear the tone of voice of an e-mail message -- I'd like
> to have the e-mail program that lets you do that!) will, on occasion,
> benefit if they put the same effort into clarifying their own argument.
> Virtually,
> Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW