An endeavor of attaining a social model in which independence of choices reigns and autonomy of acting informed by internal considerations is a challenge and almost impossible. There is no level-play field in this, and the model of any social is a product of dominant groups that exert forces on the nondominant. This paper interrogates the theories of Habermas, Chatterjee and Bourdieu in their conspicuous social theories to expound on this stand.
Pierre Bourdieu is a French sociologist and philosopher who a makes appeal to aesthetic studies to expound on social debates. The angling of his debate rests on the premise that preferences cause fractions in classes resulting from a combination of economic, cultural and social capital. In his classic of ‘The Logic of Practice’, Pierre introduces an abstract concept of the social complexities through the creation of a term habitus that attempts to offer a philosophical solution to the social problem. He states: “The conditioning associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them." (Bourdieu 1984)
Bourdieu does not believe that it is easy to construct a society free from dominance. He starts the first pages of the text with mentioning situations that may pass for non-dominance fields such as newspapers and publishers. He however, mentions that the coherence observed in any field is a constitution of a small fraction of people who dominate, he states, “…For it is certain that on each side of the Channel or Atlantic some things are compatible, others are not’ and the preference of a class or a class fraction constitute coherent systems.” He affirms that the societal attempt to retain sublimity and purity of tastes cannot survive the authoritatively obtrusive fad trends. “The science of taste and cultural consumption begin with a transgression that is in no way aesthetic: it has to abolish the sacred frontier which makes legitimate culture a separate universe…” (pp.6). The implication is that dominance is not only felt circumstantially, but as a forceful reality that changes the standards and boundaries: “This barbarous reintegration of aesthetic consumption into the world of ordinary consumption, abolishes the opposition, which has been the basis of high aesthetics since Kant, between the ‘taste of sense’ and the ‘taste of reflection’, and between facile pleasure, pleasure reduced to a pleasure of the senses, and pure pleasure, pleasure purified of pleasure…” (Bourdieu 1984:6).
Bourdiue paints the picture of a helpless society deprived off it reference; constructing a society free from dominance is almost impossible given the society has to accept new truths or remain devoid of direction. The dominance abolishes the availability of comparison the society has no options and the aesthetic wave of taste offers inviolable purity to the most obscene of acts. From Bourdieu’s text, it is clear that denial and lack of approval of obscenity are an affirmation of superiority of those enjoyers close to profanity. As such, construction of a free society in social tastes and their subsequent consumption cannot fall within the threshold of independence. In this line, culture and art cannot have a construction free from such dominance, which achieves legitimacy, from the ousted tastes and beliefs: “That is why art and cultural consumption are predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfill a social function of legitimating social differences.”
Bourdieu introduces the idea of education domination; this aligns to the argument that a domination free society is impossible to attain; from birth, to the processes of learning, systems and custodians of them stipulate what impacts on a society’s direction. The education sector confers class meanings and stratifies responsibilities creating a distinction between classes. The stratification by the dominating classes excludes responsibilities from some members while imposing others upon others such as the learned who have prestigious titles. It is therefore; clear that academic empowerment does not emancipate one from domination one transforms into a new realm requiring certain fulfillment from an individual: “Escaping petty rules and regulation, it is, by nature freedom. Thus for academic aristocracy, it is one, and the same thing to identify with essence of the ‘cultivated man’ and to accept the demands implicitly inscribed in it, which increase with prestige of the title.”(Bourdieu 1984: 24). The education system is also responsible for creating demeaning social positions some people while espousing others: “This process occurs at all stages of schooling, through the manipulation of aspirations and demands-in other words, of self image and self esteem-which the education sector carries out by channeling people towards prestigious or devalued positions implying or excluding legitimate action.” (Bourdieu 1984).
Pursuing a decision of constructing a society free from domination would indeed end up in futility as clarified in Bourdieu’s assertions. The dominant aesthetic dispositions assert their authority from the early stages of life and entrenches itself within prominent social processes such as education, arts among others.
The social dominion in its construction receives articulation from another lens through Chatterjee. He introduces the concepts of postcolonialism. The societies feel the necessity to seek congruence to western trends and fads. The construction of social independence fails desperately from the cumulative instructions afforded by dominant cultures in arenas of social interests such as dress codes, ethical values and moral yardsticks. For instance, former colonies especially African states did attain official independence, but the entrenchment of western dominion remains clearly spelt. Chatterjee 1993: 6 states;
The knowledge of backwardness is never truly comforting. It is even more disturbing when its removal means a coming to term with a culture that is alien. That is the historical destiny of a backward nation. There can be no merit, as Plamenatz gently chides ‘Western critics of nationalism’, in expressing distastes for the falling of this backward people. In a world where the rich people have dominated, and exploited the poor and the weak peoples, and in which autonomy holds as a mark of dignity…
Chatterjee states that the departure of western colonialist energizes countries to pursue and recapture their values, they yearn to rebuild their political institutions along with the nationalistic values; however, the concept of nationhood is a western idea. It is foolhardy to endeavor to build an independent society upon foreign guidance and definitions (Chatterjee 1993:10).
The African states particularly feel the dominance of former western colonial masters through real coercion and moral persuasion, “…it is not just military might or industrial strength, but thought itself, which can dominate and subjugate. It is to approach the field of discourse, historical, philosophical and scientific, as a battlefield of political power” (Chatterjee 1993:10).
Domination by the strong societies persists through colonization of the mind, this is through the assertion of universality and validity of a European framework this framework defines the universality of modernity. Independence frees from a society when pressures mount on the need for modernity. Construction of society satisfying social norms depends on knowledge of such societies, which is dependent on power. Construction of less powerful societies is therefore, through the tastes of the powerful nations: “if not, can there be knowledge which is independent of power? To pose the problem thus is to situate knowledge itself within a dialectic that relates culture to power.” (Chatterjee 1993:11).
Chatterjee focus on India and Mahatma Gandhi’s Romanticism serves best to indicate the challenge encountered in constructing such an autonomous society. Though Gandhi’s political ideology was nonwestern, he enunciates this difficulty since Britons still dominated over India through other arenas. “But the experience of his first political agitation brought Gandhi to a ‘new realization’. He now became aware of the political incompatibility of political action informed solely by a negative consciousness with the procedural norms of a bourgeois political movement, would have to be reconciled with a theory of political obedience.” (Chatterjee 1993:104).
Chatterjee arguments through Nehru’s, resemble Bourdieu’s distinction arguments, he postulates clear distinction between modern and traditional, and elitism and common citizens. He argues that traditionalism persists from domination of colonial masters and that subordinate nation’s cannot achieve social in-dominations since modernity means their adoption of western social and economic models. He however contradicts with Bourdeiu postulating attempt to accumulate capital by arguing on complete spread of capital. Bourdieu also states that construction of a dominance free society is utterly hopeless unless Chatterjee who shows hope through Gandhi.
In any social scientific debate, the contribution of key individuals such as Jurgen Habermas comes in handy. His magnum opus (TCA) Theory of Communicative Action stands out as an inspiration to any work of the social dimension. Habermas's theory on action of communicative rests on the thought that social order is dependent on, the involved actors capacity of recognizing the intersubjective validity, inherent in the different claims upon which social cooperation rests. His conception of cooperation relating to the validity claim, he highlights the rationality and its cognitive character: the recognition of such claims validity operates on the presumption that compelling reasons are a justification in the occasion of criticism. Theory of Communicative Action therefore, points at and is dependent on the justifiable account—its basis is on a theory of discourse or argumentation. Habermas refers to it as communicative action’s reflective form (Habermas 1987).
Construction of a society free from domination features in the context of Hebermas focus on Marx’s theory. He outlines social endeavors of labor and expounds on the domination it capital imposes on the group: “…the subsumption of precapitalist modes of labor and life under the domination of capital, the acts of resistance and struggle of the workers for life more in line with their demands, as well as the formation of processes and conditions of their lives” (Habermus 1987: 39). Workers, being members of a society as such, cannot pursue their goals independently; construction a society with free labor is difficult. The reality of capital domination is alive in many poor nations whose labor-intensive method gets inadequate remuneration and poor market prices. Dominant capital rich nations coerce these societies into conformity with mechanisms that drive the dominant’s agenda. Even within a smaller scale, the rich individual control capital resource, which Marx construes as “mystified form of class relations” (Habermus 1987:40) dominates over the poorer citizens. Modern world enunciates these in the famous EPZs where owners of capital rule over millions of poor societies.
Habermus explores the social constructions difficulties arising from political bottlenecks imposed upon the majority citizen’s political elites. He notes that even in the process of seeking freedom, there is an exercise of exclusivity. Emergent social structures as a result, whether favorable or otherwise is devoid of entire social contribution. The domination of political elites presents the most prominent hindrance of emancipation. “…the political system produces mass loyalty in both positive and selective manner… selectively through excluding themes and contributions from public discussions.”(Habermus 1987:46). On the other hand, Herbamus indicates that breaking from domination is even harder by extending capital domination to various fields. Majority social welfare programmes meant to offer this freedom fail and capital encroaches on larger fields. This is because social programmes attempt to further socially inclusive gains within a capitally structured society pursuing capital accumulation: “the dilemma consists of the fact that the social welfare state is supposed to head off immediately negative effects on the life world of a capitalistically organized occupational system…” (Habermas 1987:47).
Habermas states that construction is not impossible with proper understanding of knowledge amongst various players. He speaks against rejecting modernity since it has its rational aspects and content relating to the future. Communication is powerful in achieving freedom from domination; by questioning tastes justice and truth. The results are that, “Cognitive ethics separate off problems of the good life…so that what remains from the Good is only the Just” (Habermas 1987:97).
Perhaps Bourdieu’s distinction stands out as the most prominent in reinforcing an argument that a dominion free society is impossible. His assertions that class fractions are the teachers of aesthetic preferences to the young and the shapers of socially acceptable and excellent attributes, by dominating classes emphasize the freedom limit a society which must operate within the confines of this dominion. The solution to domination through Bourdieu’s eyes seems to be the extinction of social stratifications, which would ensure common pursuit of autonomy. A new direction of thought is his proposal since the effects are from birth (Bourdieu 1984).
Habermas's, in contrast to Bourdieu’s and Chatterjee’s proposals, his theory is quite abstract, and the emphasis he lays on the issue of language appears somehow confined to a general approach of social capital. He best contributes to the solution by educating the society on the role as a source of social capital in action to the life world. Its impact to the society, as a normative action not arising in self-conscious automatic ways from individuals who deeply internalize, and share their beliefs of the proper role of society, is a guide to constructors of the autonomous society. He is opposed to Chatterjee proposal of Gandhi’s anti-capital accumulation, summation of theories and dominance of reason. He quips that capitalism is akin to modernity, which is better than traditional system, as such, capitalism should persists for productivity but, getting rid of colonization should be central. He is also out of congruence with Chatterjee’s solution of reason, stating that a society has a non-reason part, which is equally significant (Habermas 1987).
It is the conclusion of this paper that it is difficult, or almost futile to construct a domination free society, given Chatterjee argument on postcolonialism and the subsequent western influence over the colonial nation’s political and economic systems. The definitions of modernity, social structures derive their legitimacy from congruence to western settings. Societies as a result, face dominion from the superior super powers. Modern days witness US domination over Middle East countries that alter the social land such a people. Libya uprising and the French domination on ousting President Muamar Gadaffi shows the influence. However, the achievement lays not in suppression or acquisition of transient knowledge that Gandhi termed as the reality of the present. Chatterjee states, “No matter how skillfully employed, modern states-craft and the application of technology cannot effectively suppress the real tensions which remain unresolved (Chatterjee 1993:169).
Chatterjee offers that the answer lies in the utilization of reason in the face of dominance and capital, “Reason, as we said before, has not exhausted its cunning” He proposes that the society must be active participants of the social construction and should interrogate all issues and harmonize their conscious efforts. “…connect the popular strengths of those struggles with the consciousness of a new universality, to subvert the ideological sway of a state which falsely claims to speak on behalf of the nation and to challenge the presumed sovereignty of a science…” (Chatterjee 1993:170). Nehru also offers instrumentalization of Gandhi’s ideology/leadership as a solution, leading to a nation that upholds reason. He rejects capitalism in the sense of the western ideology but superior spirituality; his romanticism is an insightful solution albeit with is faults. In summation, Chatterjee proposes a solution through construction of a society centered on consciousness.