In All Societies All Power Is Ultimately Economic Power

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“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...
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