Emerging Countries:
The Marxism-Institutionalism Controversy
Sergio Ordóñez
Marxist Response ( ...continuation )

This new solution to the social conflict as a key element of a new societal project, and the capacity to incorporate historical interests and objectives of other social classes and groups precisely constitutes the hegemony of the ruling group, or its capacity to convince the rest of society of its historical goals. This hegemonic process will not be carried out until the ruling group becomes dominant, also, through the power of the State.

Hegemony supposes a capacity to generate a common concept and vision of the world, in keeping with the goals of ruling classes and groups. In other words, a philosophy, with a developed and general way of understanding the world, and a common culture, understood as the capacity to make multiple wills come together around a common way of thinking, feeling and acting that, as a result, brings about a framework or common way for subjects to act, revolving around a shared vision of reality.

Up to this point, it seems that the Gramscian concept of transformational actions of subjects or agents, in the framework of class warfare with a new hegemonic project or social “utopia” that “supposes a common vision of the future that the subject is actively committed to in his actions,” may bring with it that formation of new social structures that create a new action framework, which would imply, in terms of the Institutionalist critique, a “methodological individualism” on this level that, as a result, rejects the “methodological collectivism” to which Marxism ascribes. The “operative forces” of the process thus lie in the hegemonic capacity of ruling classes and groups, measured by the extent to which hegemony can unleash a political “catharsis” for society, that is, the political mobilization of individuals in this new social “utopia” or societal project, that will take place insofar as the “utopia” involves expectations of the individual’s aspirations or interests. As a result, what determines a change in an agent’s behavior, in relation to the structure’s previous conditions, is not the psychology, as in Institutionalism, but rather the policy, understood as the mobilization of the individual and his capacity to convince the rest to attain a common conscious goal, although hegemony as a new culture implicit in social utopia supposes its own ethic and psychology, critical of the past.18

Once hegemony is historically achieved, combined with the ruling groups and classes’ seizure of power from the State, culture as a shared vision of the world is what makes up the set of social schemes hat determines the individual behavior of the agent.19 The social scheme is thus constructed in the framework of a historical block, that is, the set of alliances, agreements and commitments between diverse classes and social groups regarding a historical project hegemonized by the ruling classes and groups (which are now also dominant), which translates in a continuous and repeated set of diverse political, cultural, ideological, scientific, philosophical, etc. social and individual practices (both theoretical and practical), revolving around a common historical project, contributing to its constant realization and development. In the framework of the historical block, institutions are the result of the crystallization of determined social practices (set of shared individual practices) in formal and informal organizations that become new references for social actions and the individuals that tend to reproduce these actions. As a result, the nature of agglutination and cohesion of social actions of institutions is related with its role in carrying out this common historical project, and as such, in the more or less direct realization of the hegemonic function that makes it up and sustains it, which makes the institutions mediators, more or less, of the hegemonic function.20

We can differentiate various levels of contribution to the realization of the hegemonic function and its reach in the capacity for agglutination and cohesion of social and individual action from the institutions, which correspond to different types of intellectuals due to the scope and dimension of activity. In this sense, the state is the most developed institution: (1) institutions that bring together and make more cohesive one social class with other classes and social groups in terms of the historical block, to which organizational and connective actions correspond to organic intellectuals; (2) institutions that bring together and make more cohesive one social class with itself; and (3) institutions that bring together and make more cohesive a social group, beyond the class determinants of the individuals that make it up, with organizational and connective actions of the traditional intellectuals corresponding to types 2 and 3 (Ordóñez, 2007).21

18 Hegemony as a new culture implies an ethical character or ideal model of man, according to historical objectives that this proposes, which in Freudian terms implies a super-ego (must-be), which in relation to its ego, forms an id or an unconscious, and this triple relationship is the study of psychology. In this sense, a new hegemony implies a new psychology.

19 The concept of custom for Institutionalists, as the result of the interrelationship between behavior, habit, emotion and rationalization (Hodgson, 2006), is the closest concept to culture in Gramsci, and this concept is derived from that of institutions, given its foundation in habit (see above).

20 From that perspective, the Gramscian concept of those institutions constitutes, in and of themselves, organizations (formal and informal) and not the culture in general as Institutionalists tend to conceive them (set of rules that structure social interactions), and as such, its role is not only more limited “regardless of how important the role of the business, universities, unions or other organization-institutions may be for social reproduction, but also is derived from the very social practices of the historical block framework. Institutions are thus organizations and a result of social action that comes together and forms a new social action within the historical block, and organizations are not a specific form of institutions, as authors like Hodgson write of them in his argument with North (see Hodgson, 2006).

21 Organic intellectuals are those capable of articulating and projecting the interests, vision and activities of a social group or class in a historical project, to link that class or social group with the rest in a hegemonic position. Traditional intellectuals are, by contrast, those that generalize, articulate and project the interests, visions and activities of a social group or class, contributing to the creation of an identity (Gramsci, 1932-1935, C. 12, pp. 1513-14, 1550-51).