Last week I began with a quote from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, and I think it’s worth going back to. At least the second half of it. When she writes that ‘the human instinct for brutality that is unleashed wherever impunity reigns’ (p. 47), Klein hints at something much deeper than just the application of torture. Or, at least, her statement can be analyzed in that way. Is there ‘a human instinct for brutality’ that is universal, or is its being ‘unleashed’ dependent upon the conditional reality of how/when/and if ‘impunity reigns’? ‘Wherever,’ here, is very important to my analysis, given that it suggests far more than a spatial or geographical location, but an ideological one that is way more terrifying.
Removing the ‘whenever’ from the bounds of the geographical, the meaning of the sentence can be reimagined, or analysed on a much deeper level: If the use of ‘whenever’ infers the temporal, then it is not a constant. More importantly, if ‘whenever’ is extended into the ideological, then the idea that ‘the human instinct for brutality’ exists and is encouraged through the application of ‘impunity’ necessitates the idea that brutality can and should exist, making it – and its imposition and reliance on hierarchy – hegemonic.
Hegemony is domination, to put it bluntly. It is the domination of a state over another. Or, and this is closer to the postmodernist use, one thing over another, including but not limited to: culture, ideology, medicine, language, belief, etc. To simplify, I will say that hegemony is the act of domination by one structure over another. Last week I wrote a great deal about hierarchy and the nature of stratification, an idea that I will be bringing to the context of hegemony through the idea of brutality and bedlam (touched on last week as well) in this week’s post, trying to understand how the idea that bedlam will lead to brutality is, inherently, a hegemonic idea promoted and re-produced through the imposition and socialization of hierarchy.
Hegemony is non-cooperative by its very nature. To say that it is competitive, however applicable, would be misleading (it is much more coercive than that – sometimes the competition is an aspect of the application of hegemony). It can be expressed as a discursive relationship (in that it creates signs and meaning in its interactions, in the Foucauldian sense – as if there was any other!!), making it appear cooperative and competitive at the same time.
Let’s use poverty here as a quick example of a hegemonic relationship.