Power, Wealth and Status

Essay by luvjohnnydeppHigh School, 12th gradeA, August 2006

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Common to the sociological theories of Gramsci and Baudrillard is a concept of power significantly influenced by Marxist principles. Gramsci and Baudrillard share the Marxist perception of conflict and competition for resources as the basis of society, involving two distinct classes, the bourgeoisie or ruling-class and the proletariat or working-class. This social stratification derives from the relationship between these social groups and the means of production. In capitalist societies, social stratification serves as a mechanism of exploitation by the bourgeoisie, through their ownership of the forces of production, of the proletariat, who own only their labour. (Haralambos, p38-39) The power of the bourgeoisie, obtained through wealth, is evident through their ability to impose their will, despite conflicting interests of the proletariat. Due to this, Gramsci and Baudrillard adopt a zero-sum approach to power, which defines power as constant within society and is exercised by individuals or groups at the expense of others.

Institutions within society, including the media, serve as instruments of ruling class domination, maintaining social status and consequently, their power. (Haralambos, p41)

Despite these similarities, Gramsci and Baudrillard differ significantly their perception of the nature of power and its influence on the superstructure culture and individual identity. Gramsci acknowledges the significance of economic structure in the maintenance of bourgeois domination. However, through his theory of 'hegemony' he extends this to include the equally significant role of cultural leadership exercised by the ruling-class. Inherent in the struggle between social classes is cultural conflict based on differing ideologies. This refers to a system of meanings and values that project the interests of a particular class. Hegemony is a social process that relies on cultural leadership to constitute a negotiated construction of an ideological consensus accepted by both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as legitimate. (Sargent, pp29-31) Termed by Gramsci as...