Sunday, November 11, 2012

Networks in seamless transitions between "isms"

Whether you look at feudal, communist, or capitalist systems, a seamless link that runs among the practices of these various forms of governing is the power held by networks of the power elite, and the transference of power within kinship ties.

The power elite continue their rule over generations not simply by coercion but by manufacturing systems, processes, and strategies that work to propagate their power.

This inbuilt power enables the movement of their future generations into the structures of power. This inter-generational transfer of power works both communicatively and materially, being symbolically perpetuated through the rules, tools, and requirements of entry into symbolic spaces of privilege.

The effectiveness of the power elite in ruling spaces is precisely tied to the access of the power elite to resources through which they can perpetuate their power and control.

The dominance of the power elite plays out across generations, ascertaining specific forms of entry into the world of resources.

In the Indian context for instance, the power elite with access to resources can ensure that they can buy education, entry into elite schools, and subsequent entry into elite jobs.

Networks of privilege are also networks of influence in this sense, perpetuating power through informal communication channels, through recommendations and referrals, and most importantly, through access to information-based resources. The lack of privilege therefore is also the lack of access to information and communication resources regarding the strategies and tactics for entry into the elite classes and to the rituals/codes that serve as gatekeepers of entry into elite sections of power.

Tacit rules and expectations are established that ensure that the power elite continue to benefit from these rules and expectations, especially in the context of  retaining resources in their hands.

What I am intrigued by is the similarity among the US, India, and China in how privilege plays out in these nation states and in their spaces of access, in circulating various forms of kinship-based power. Power seems to flow across generations, guaranteeing the wealth and social standing of future generations. Kinship-ties play critical roles in enabling access and in privileging opportunities for participation, recognition, and representation to the power elite.

In sum, the political and economic elite enjoy immense power through their access to the networks of power that connect them, serve as communicative avenues for circulating their privileges, and for retaining as intact the positions of power and privilege among the elite.

This posting therefore is a preliminary attempt at understanding some of the everyday practices through which networks of power exert and circulate themselves.

Take for instance, access to education as an entry point for elaborating further on the networks of privilege.

The Indian educational system (left or right of center) continues to be dominated by Brahminized privilege. Leading Indian elites and scholars of critical theory are themselves Brahmins (we need a Chaterjee or a Chakravarty or a Mukherjee to teach us the idioms of critical theory), writing about the politics of the poor from their Brahminized positions of privilege (As pointed out by JT). What then are the possibilities of social change when the positions of privilege and the radical positions of opposition are subsumed within these very networks of power and their intertwined relationships that determine and frame (in)access? 

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