Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Structural Analysis & Ideology

Draft—Long Version

Structural Analysis & Ideology
-Vincent Gueco

Part I: Structural Analysis and Political Economy

The concept “structural analysis” came into vogue in the Philippine academic scene during the seventies. It asserts that political and cultural changes can be analyzed by rooting them out in embedded economic structures, and that these changes impacts directly on the said economic structures.

Human activities in the substructures determine human relations in the superstructure; political and cultural activities in the superstructure changes human economic relations in the substructure.

Tightly knit with structural analysis is structuralism.

Structuralism is a general approach in various academic disciplines that explores the inter-relationships between fundamental elements of some kind, upon which some higher mental, linguistic, social, cultural etc "structures" are built, through which then meaning is produced within a particular person, system, culture.

Structuralism appeared in academic psychology for the first time in the 19th century and then reappeared in the second half of the 20th century, when it grew to become one of the most popular approaches in the academic fields that are concerned with analyzing language, culture, and society.

In revolutionary political practice, structural analysis is synonymous with Marxist political economy. Political economy was the original term for the study of production, the acts of buying and selling, and their relationships to laws, customs and government. It developed in 18th century as the study of the economies of states (also known as polities, hence the word "political" in "political economy").

In contradistinction to the theory of the physiocrats, in which land was seen as the source of all wealth, political economists proposed the labour theory of value (first introduced by John Locke, developed by David Ricardo, Adam Smith and later Karl Marx), according to which labor is the real source of value.

In Marxism, the source of wealth are both labor and nature. Political economists also attracted attention to the accelerating development of technology, whose role in economic and social relationships grew ever more important.

Corollary to the labor theory of value is the “law of value”.

The “law of value” pervades all capitalist societies. It refers to a regulative principle of the economic exchange of the products of human labor power-- the relative exchange-values of those products in trade, usually expressed by money-prices, are generally determined by the average amounts of human labor-time socially necessary (e.g., minimum wage) to produce them. Thus, the exchange value of commodities is regulated by their value, where their value is a quantity of human labour.

The labor theory of value and the law of value are key economic concepts in the realm of social production and economic exchange. Karl Marx examined the way humans relate to each other in the realm of production and he posed the correlation of such vis-à-vis the realm of the “legal and and political superstructure” of society. His study on political economy is summarized in his Preface to his “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” written in 1859. He wrote:

The first work which I undertook to dispel the doubts assailing me was a critical re-examination of the Hegelian philosophy of law; the introduction to this work being published in the Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher issued in Paris in 1844.

My inquiry led me to the conclusion that neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the human mind, but that on the contrary they originate in the material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the example of English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century, embraces within the term "civil society"; that the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in political economy.

The study of this, which I began in Paris, I continued in Brussels, where I moved owing to an expulsion order issued by M. Guizot. The general conclusion at which I arrived and which, once reached, became the guiding principle of my studies can be summarized as follows.

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production.

The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.

Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production.

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society.

The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production — antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence — but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation.

On the level of the superstructure, i.e. in the sphere of politics and culture, Marx concluded that the bourgeois state, being a system of class rule through “bourgeois democracy”, amounts to a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” In the same sense, when the workers take state power into their hands, they become the new ruling classes.

The workers, in other words, rule in their own interest, using the apparatuses of the courts, schools, prisons, and police in a manner required to prevent the bourgeoisie from regrouping and mounting a counterrevolution. Marx expected the victorious workers to be democratic and open in dealings with one another. Theirs is to be a dictatorship of and by, not over, the proletariat. On the one hand there is “democracy of and by the bourgeosie”; on the other, “democracy of and by the proletariat”

Based on Marx’s study of the Paris Commune (the socialist government from 18 March to 28 May 1871) and other French political upheavals during his time, after the proletariat would take state power, it will aim to eliminate the old social relations of production, and replace these relations by placing the means of production and state apparatus under proletariat control, thus paving the way for the abolition of class distinctions and a classless communist society.

He viewed the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as only an intermediate stage, believing that the need for the use of state power of the working class over its enemies would disappear once the classless society had emerged.

Over time, the proletariat more and more equates with humanity because the anarchy in capitalist production and market hurls the middle class and sections of the bourgeoisie into proletarian ranks.

As Marx summarized it his “Theses on Feuerbach”, 1845:

Thesis 10

The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.

Thesis 11

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.

Mode of Production, Capitalist Crises and Revolution

A mode of production (meaning “the way of producing”) is a specific combination of:

1)productive forces: these include human labor-power, tools, equipment, buildings and technologies, materials, and improved land

1)social and technical relations of production: these include the property, power and control relations governing society's productive assets, often codified in law, cooperative work relations and forms of association, relations between people and the objects of their work, and the relations between social classes.

As examples, Marx described during his time certain modes of production such as : modern bourgeois or capitalist, feudal, ancient and Asiatic modes of production.

Productive forces, "productive powers" or "forces of production" refers to the combination of the means of production with human labor power. All those forces which are applied by people in the production process are encompassed by this concept, including those management and engineering functions technically indispensable for production (as contrasted with social control functions). Human knowledge can also be a productive force. Together with the social and technical relations of production, the productive forces constitute an historically specific mode of production.

The means of production are physical, non-human, inputs used in production. This includes factories, machines, tools and materials, along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital -- in other words, the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital or labor.

On labor-power, Marx wrote in Das Kapital: "By labour-power or capacity for labour is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description."

Relations of production refers to all kinds of social and technical human interconnections involved in the social production and reproduction of material life. As a social relation, relations of production equals property relations—i.e., class relations, such as capitalists-workers relation (or bourgeois-proletariat relations) in a capitalist mode of production.

The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. The capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production.

However, capitalism is prone to periodic crises. Over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labor. Since surplus value appropriated from labor is the source of profits, the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression in which certain sectors of the economy would collapse.

We see evidences of this in the capitalist crises of overproduction, over- accumulation of capital (e.g., collapse of “bubble economies” as in the Asian financial crisis of 1987), and the immizerization of the proletariat through scandalous poverty figures on a world scale. During such a crisis the price of labor would also fall, and eventually make possible the investment in new technologies and the growth of new sectors of the economy.

There are short-term or cyclical capitalist crises (so-called “boom and bust” business cycles or “recession” that last for some months), and there are secular or long-term capitalist crises, or “depression” that can last for years. Secular capitalist crises warn that the means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production.

(For example, we develop a new technology, such as the Internet, and only later do we develop laws to regulate that technology). For Marx this mismatch between (economic) base and (social) superstructure is a major source of social disruption and conflict, such as the such as the Great Depression that struck the capitalist world from 1929 up to the 30s, and the subsequent inter-capitalist wars of World War II.

The cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would be punctuated by increasingly severe crises. Moreover, the long-term consequence of this process was necessarily the enrichment and empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. Were the proletariat to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, and a system of production less vulnerable to periodic crises.

In general, a peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable, and that a revolution would in general be required, because the ruling class would not give up power on a silver platter. As Marx wrote in his "Critique of the Gotha Program", "between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other.

Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat," that in practice means fighting it out for proletarian hegemony, and improving the lot of the working peoples and humanity.

The establishment of a socialist system as a political transition—or the articulation of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” or “democracy for the proletariat” on a temporary basis--means passing a period where the needs of the working-class, not of capital, will be the common deciding factor.

In actual practice, there are no hard and fast rules, no absolute models, in pushing for a socialist system, which is possible to build on a national, regional or even international scale.

Our concrete particularities in time and space defines the duration and extent by which socialism can be built. For example, there are socialist models in societies with advanced economies where the law of value freely operates; wealth, however, is redistributed via the state through a redistributive taxation system.

There are also models in countries keen on capital accumulation to hasten the development of their productive forces; the law of value or the the supply-and-demand market mechanism are allowed to operate in certain segement of the economy. Still, there are more rigid models where the state consciously stifles the law of value, regulates the market, and holds a tight grip on finance capital; in most of the actual cases, the productive forces become stunted, and bureaucratization animates public and political life.

Part II: State and Ideology

Friedrich Engels, Marx’s colleague, asserted that the State did not come from without, but arose out of society but placed itself above it, or as product of economic development that split society into classes. He wrote in his “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”:

"The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it 'the reality of the ethical idea', 'the image and reality of reason', as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel.

But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of 'order'; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state."


"The state, then, has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies that did without it, that had no idea of the state and state power. At a certain stage of economic development, which was necessarily bound up with the split of society into classes, the state became a necessity owing to this split. We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these classes not only will have ceased to be a necessity, but will become a positive hindrance to production.

They will fall as they arose at an earlier stage. Along with them the state will inevitably fall. Society, which will reorganize production on the basis of a free and equal association of the producers, will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong: into a museum of antiquities, by the side of the spinning-wheel and the bronze axe."

The state is the thus the product of society’s split into antagonistic classes, an institution that seems to stand above the whole of society and has the power—as state power-- to check class antagonisms by way of ensuring the hegemony of the dominant class (i.e., the bourgeois or capitalist class, in the contemporary era). The state exercises hegemony both in the coercive and ideological way, i.e. by force plus consent.

What signals the state’s alienation from the rest of society is when the state produces ideology to hegemonize the rest of society. Nationhood, for instance, can produce reactionary ultra-nationalist ideologies; patriotism can be born out of national liberation struggles.

Spirituality can take on reactionary forms as in the Spanish colonization of the Philippines through the Roman Catholic Church. Monarchs and emperors can fool their subjects to believe that they are offsprings of gods on earth. Ideological hegemony succeeds once it becomes the dominant political culture.

Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxists developed the concept of hegemony into an acute analysis to explain why the “inevitable” socialist revolution predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century.

Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the “common sense” values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which working peoples identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and thus helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

The working-class needed to develop a culture of its own—counter-hegemony--which would overthrow the notion that bourgeois values represented “natural” or “normal” values for society, and which would attract the oppressed and intellectual classes to the cause of the proletariat.

Gramsci maintained that that culture is not only “ancillary” to political objectives, but is fundamental that cultural hegemony is first achieved to the attainment of power. Any class that wishes to dominate in modern conditions has to move beyond its own narrow “economic-corporate” interests, has to exert intellectual and moral leadership, and has to make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces. Gramsci calls this union of social forces an “historical bloc” (a term taken from the syndicalist Georges Sorel).

For example, Gramsci stated that, in the West, bourgeois cultural values were tied to Christianity, and therefore much of his polemic against hegemonic culture is aimed at religious mores and values. He was impressed by the power Roman Catholicism had over men's minds and the care the Church had taken to prevent an excessive gap developing between the religion of the learned and that of the less educated.

Gramsci believed that it was Marxism's task to marry the purely intellectual critique of religion found in Renaissance humanism to the elements of the Reformation that had appealed to the masses. For Gramsci, Marxism could supersede religion only if it met people's spiritual needs, and to do so people would have to recognize it as an expression of their own experience.

Part III: Against Elite rule, Against Capitalism, Against Patriarchy

EDSA State Elite Democracy: A Neoloberal-Oligarchic Anti-Development State

Elite democracy’s acquiescence to neoliberalism, their fervent restoration of pre-Martial law oligarchy, and penchant for patrimonial plunder precisely makes it a neoliberal-oligarchic state.

Elite democracy is driven by the narrow interests of capitalists, feudal remnants and rent-seekers. Just like any other state, elite democracy is enforced through both coercive and cultural hegemony.

Ideological or cultural hegemony is practiced through the use of select laws, schools, newspapers, radio, television, old mores, language and other information media, including via other cultural institutions. Included in this category is the promotion of patriarchy as well as the belief that only the state has the sole and legitimate monopoly of the use of force. Ideological or cultural hegemony seeks to ingrain in the citizenry that the neoliberal and oligarchic set-up is “common sense”.

Hegemony through coercion requires the systematic employment of military and police powers to suppress dissent against neoliberalism and oligarchy. Other facets of state coercion include waging wars against insurgents, the prisons, and other institutions like the death sentence. Coercion is the state’s ultimate weapon against the section of the citizenry that is immune to the opium of ideological hegemony.

By oligarchy we mean a political arrangement wherein all or almost all of political power is effectively in the hands of a small fraction of the population. Patrimonial plunder is a constant end of oligarchy in our society. Oligarchs are usually the most powerfull, i.e., based on wealth, family, military strength, capacity for violence, or political influence.

The patronage system is the cultural veil by which oligarchic rule is implemented in our society. Cronyism, nepotism, patrimonialism, bureaucratism, bossism through the employ of “guns, gold and goons” are prime examples of the current patronage system besetting national and local politics.

Post-Marcos Philippine elite democracy is neoliberal due to the blind surrender of our economic and political policies to the whims neoliberal institutions and conservative interest groups, like the World Trade Organization, the paleoconservatives and neoconservatives in Washington, and the IMF-WB combine.

Globalization was born out of the capitalist technological revolution, which intensified even more trade and financial wars among the largest capitalist economies. The era of globalization has jeopardized the survival of economies with least technological capacities in production. These societies are concentrated most in Asia, Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe.

Neoliberalism in our society is highlighted by the incompetence and anti-development stance of our bourgeois oligarchs. Due to the “free market” dictum inherent in neoliberalism, Philippine oligarchs exhibit no decisiveness in developing the capacity of the state to directly engage in the development of our productive capacities, especially in key industries and agricultural enterprise.

It is no accident, therefore, why our economy is stunted, and various poverty indices all point to the prevalence of scandalous poverty in our society. In politics, elite democracy’s neoliberalism is demonstrated by all of the EDSA state regime’s dependence on the policies and international interest of the most powerful nations, chiefly the US.

Stunted Capitalism and Highly Inequitable Distribution of Wealth

Neoliberal-oligarchic rule have wrought havoc on our labor force and income distribution for more than two decades. Aside from encouraging labor outmigration, a seeming irreversible stratification can be observed in the anatomy of Philippine labor.

Employment survey by major industry group in 2006 presents a totally different landscape if compared to early 1970s data.

The common perception during the 1960s and early 1970s was that the peasantry comprise around 70% or more of the labor force, and non-farm workers (in industry) consists of around 15%.

Recent data released from the National Statistics Office (NSO) paint a following picture:

Total labor participation:………………………...32.4 million

Agriculture (including hunting and forestry):… 36.54%
Industry: ………………………………………… 15.08%
Service Sector: …………………………………..48.39%

The ratios above have nor changed much for more than five years. A cursory look at the data shows that:

1) the percentage of labor participation in industry remained stunted at around 15%.
2) participatioin in agriculture sharply fell to around one-third (1/3) of the labor force.
3) at nearly 50%, the service sector now dominates labor force participation.

In terms of industry output (see Tabel 2 below: Industry Output 1988 vis 1994), Industry dominated output in 1994 [no data yet for the year 2006]:

Agriculture (including hunting and forestry):… 14.4%
Industry: ……………………………………….… 47.0%
(Others) …………………………………………. 38.6%

While capitalist industries outpace other sectors in terms of output, the service sector appears to be catcing up. Stunted capitalism is also mirrored by the contant percentage of industrial workers (~ 15%) and the rise of the service sector.

Forty percent (40%) of the population live on less than US$2 per day. Data from the World Health Organization states that in 2003, about 3.97 million families were living below the poverty line, where the annual per capita poverty threshold reached P12 267 (US$ 220.64) in 2003, up by 7.1 percent compared with the 2000 level of P11 451 (US$ 205.96). The World Bank cites 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Since 1985, the advent of the People Power revolt, inequities in income distribution kept on widening. The sharp class divisions in Philippine society can be gleaned from scandalous disparities in income distribution. According to the Asian Development Bank in its report, “Income Poverty and Inequality in the Philippines” (03/02/05):

The Philippines exhibits a highly inequitable distribution of income. Despite a very slight improvement in overall distribution since 1997, in 2003 the share of income accruing to the richest 10% of the population was still more than twenty times the share of income of the poorest 10%.

Since 1985 the richest quintile [fifth] of the population has consistently commanded more than 50% of total family income in the country, with the poorest quintile at less than 5% (see Table). Despite major fluctuations in economic performance during the period 1985–2003, income inequality while very high has remained relatively stable.

The overall income distribution trend from 1985 to 2003 shows a slight deterioration, with an increase in the Gini coefficient from 0.447 in 1985 to 0.466 in 2003. [The Gini coefficient measures inequality, where a coefficient of 0 represents perfect equality and 1.0 would be perfect inequality. The higher the coefficient the more unequal the distribution.]

However, this broad trend masks mild fluctuations over the years. The Gini was at its highest in 1997 (0.487) and has been on a very slight downward trend since that time. The decrease is minimal and should not be taken to be significant. Table [below] presents the percentage distribution of total family income, by income decile, for each FIES year (1985–2003).

When income distribution is highly unequal, as in the Philippines, there are many families at the bottom of said distribution. As a result, poverty measures become very sensitive to where the poverty line is placed, and small changes in the poverty threshold can result in large changes in the population identified as poor.

This was demonstrated above with the international poverty lines of $1 and $2 a day, but is also noticeable in the national poverty lines. The 2003 Methodology reduced the poverty line by P6 per person per day. This minimal change, less than $0.14 per person per day, resulted in a 5.3% reduction in the headcount of families in 2000, or a reduction in the number of poor people by 4.3 million.

Patriarchy as an Ideology of Elite Democracy

Of special interest in our employment of political-economy and cultural analysis and counter-cultural hegemony is patriarchy.

Patriarchy is asserted to be the basis on which most modern societies have been formed. It is the root of gender oppression as it institutionalizes power relations between the sexes. In a sense, it is also the basis of the first division of labor, i.e. between male and female, and the subsequent rise of various conflicting class relations.

In anthropological terms, patriarchy is a sociological condition where male members of a society tend to predominate in positions of power; with the more powerful the position, the more likely it is that a male will hold that position.

In a more radical and pro-feminist sense, it is a relationship of dominance, or cultural hegemony, and it simultaneously intersects with different types of oppression such as class, and which may include, but are not limited to the following: gender, race, ethnicity, perceived attractiveness, sexuality, and ability.

The term patriarchy is also associated used in systems of ranking male leadership in certain hierarchical churches or religious bodies, stark examples of which are the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches. Thus, patriarchy connotes a seemingly immobile and sclerotic political order.

In political-economy, thus, patriarchy is normally viewed as the ideological superstructure of feudalism or remnants of the feudal order. Feudalism is a social system based on personal ownership of resources and personal loyalty between a landowners(suzerain) and a peasant (vassal or subject), plus a hierarchical social structure ideologically buttressed by religion to reinforce the landlord-peasant production relations.

More radical feminists (like Emma Goldman) view patriarchy as the first manifestation of hierarchy in human history; thus, it precedes feudalism and is the first form of oppression that occurred in the dominance of male over female. This line of thinking concludes that if feminists are against patriarchy, they must also be against all forms of hierarchy, and therefore must reject the authoritarian nature of the state and capitalism.

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