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catallaxy in technical exile

Waiting for the numbers to turn nasty

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Andrew Leigh argues that pundits ought to pay more attention to economic models of voting behaviour. According to these models, when unemployment and inflation start rising it’s time for government backbenchers in marginal seats to update their CVs. But in a recent post on Larvartus Prodeo, Christopher Sheil takes issue with that view. He invokes Antonio Gramsci:

Few things drove Antonio Gramsci into more explicitness than the familiar hypothesis that the worse things get economically for voters, the better things get politically for the opposition – the so-called ‘waiting for the recession’ election strategy.

Sheil’s message to comrades is that "Victory will depend, not on waiting for economic ‘automaticity’ to kick in, but on the balance of forces and the quality of the ideological struggle, broadly defined so as to mean the political and cultural superstructure and correspondences."

To many readers, Sheil’s Gramscian terminology might sound like gibberish. But for libertarian writer Sean Gabb it probably sounds more sensible that Leigh’s economic analysis. Gabb argues that the British Conservative Party can’t just wait for the next recession. This is because it is the victim of a "highly effective Gramscian project" which promotes ideas which are hostile to its success:

These ideas may be called a hegemonic ideology. They set the agenda of debate and policy. They determine what questions exist, how they can be discussed, and what solutions may be applied. They provide a whole language of debate. Ideas outside the range of this hegemonic ideology – as especially those hostile to it – either have no words at all for their discussion, or can be discussed only in words that implicitly discredit them in advance. Once achieved within the administrative web, ideological hegemony can be spread, through education and example, to the rest of the population.

The function of ideological hegemony is to legitimise the power and status of the ruling élites in a society, and to marginalise dissent where it cannot altogether be prevented. It supplements – or can even entirely replace – the more overt forms of repression.

Gabb’s not the only libertarian who talks like this. Over the last couple of decades a surprising number right wing commentators have adopted the kind of analysis Marxist writers popularised in the 1970s. They’ve commited themselves to winning the ‘war of ideas’. But unlike Gabb, most of them are probably unaware that they sound like old fashioned communists.

Written by Admin

December 2, 2005 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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