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Power And Resistance In Human Society Sociology Essay Example
Power And Resistance In Human Society Sociology Essay Example

Power And Resistance In Human Society Sociology Essay Example

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  • Published: August 23, 2017
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'Where there is power, there is opposition, and yet, or instead accordingly, this opposition is ne'er in a place of exteriority concerning power ' ( Foucault, 1978: 95-96 ).

In human scientific disciplines, one of the chief issues has ever been the relationship of opposition to power. Where there is power, there is opposition; power affirms that there exists opposition and vice versa. But before get downing to believe about the opposition, we have to take in head that 'power is no longer considered a unitary, changeless force that emanates from a peculiar societal category or establishment, instead it is seen as a more tenuous cloth of hegemonic signifiers ' ( Constable, 2007: 11 ). Foucault ( 1978: 95-96 ) inquiries our premise that power is ever and inhibitory, he wants to demo how power besides can be positively in a manner that it can bring forth signifiers of pleasance, systems of cognition, goods, and discourses and that it non merely works negatively, by denying, curtailing, forbidding and quashing ( Abu-Lughod, 1990: 42 ). The focal point within surveies of opposition late shifted from large-scale corporate rebellions to more improbable signifiers of opposition such as corruptions and little or local oppositions which do not particularly take to subvert the system and which do non ensue from political orientations of emancipation ( Abu-Lughod, 1990: 41 ).

Hence both constructs have turned to be more complex than ab initio supposed, but this makes it even more interesting and more widely applicable to the assorted state of affairs where people try to build their life within constructions of power.




The term opposition has been used by many bookmen to depict a broad scope of actions and behaviors in all facets of human social life and different scenes. Hollander and Einwohner ( 2004: 534 ) illustrated 'how everything from revolutions to hairdos has been described as opposition '. Consequently following from the diverseness of actions and behaviors which used to be named as opposition, they found in their analysis of the construct that there is a small understanding of the definition ( ibid: 234 ). Therefore it is of import to sketch the scope of features that can be within the construct of opposition.

First of all the graduated table whereat the opposition occurs has non ever the same size; Acts of the Apostless of opposition may be for illustration single or corporate, widespread or limited to local countries. Degrees of coordination are besides variable, in some states of affairs there will be a higher extent to which the obstructionists deliberately act together, than in others. Thereby the marks where opposition is directed to besides differs, they vary from persons to groups and from organizations to establishments and societal constructions. As good the way or ends are variable, while opposition chiefly is understood to be aimed at accomplishing some kind of alteration, sometimes it is possible that the behavior described as opposition purposes to restrain alteration. Finally, while opposition is by and large understood to be a political action, some authors suggest that opposition can besides be identity-based ( ibid: 536-537 ).

Action and Resistance

After holding observed the dimensions

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of fluctuation of opposition Hollander and Einwohner ( ibid: 537 ) tried to depict the nucleus elements of opposition to see how all these phenomena can be described with the same term. They identified action and resistance as two nucleus elements within the treatments of opposition where writers seem to hold on. 'Resistance is non a quality of an histrion or a province of being, but involves some active behavior, whether verbal, cognitive, or psychical, and another constituent common to about all utilizations is a sense of resistance '. After holding identified these nucleus elements, the lines of dissensions became clearer, which made them recognize that several arguments of opposition above all differed in their place on two cardinal issues: acknowledgment and purpose ( ibid: 537 ).

Recognition and Purpose

Acts of opposition are non ever every bit seeable, their fluctuation in visibleness becomes clearer when we analyze 'the contrast between 'everyday ' opposition and more ( and more evidently combative ) signifiers of political mobilisation '. Sometimes the purpose of opposition is to be recognized, while other opposition is purposefully concealed, so recognition depends in portion on the ends of the people who resist ( ibid: 540 ). While Scott ( 1985 ) in his book about manners of mundane opposition among peasant workers argues that opposition need non to be recognized as such and that it may stay comparatively unseeable to the powerful, other bookmen define opposition as needfully arousing acknowledgment and even reaction from others ( Hollander & A; Einwohner, 2004: 541 ).

This degree of acknowledgment besides varies depending on the two different groups of others who can place an act as opposition, to wit marks and perceivers. The first group contains those to whom the act is directed and the 2nd group can consist the general populace, members of the media and research workers ( ibid: 542 ).

After the inquiry 'if oppositional action must be readily evident to others, and if it must in fact be recognized as opposition ', Hollander and Einwohner wonder 'if the histrion must be cognizant that she or he is defying some exercising of power - and meaning to make so - for an action to measure up opposition ' ( ibid: 542 ). Besides on this affair bookmen do non wholly agree, approximately classified Hollander and Einwohner ( 2004 ) separate three different positions. The first group of bookmen believes that the histrion 's witting purpose is a nucleus component to be able to sort certain behavior as opposition. The 2nd group thinks that mensurating purpose is hard or even impossible, as opposition non merely arises in public, but besides in private. Peoples in these instances 'may be witting of subjugation and may mean to defy in some manner ', but this will non be seeable and hence impossible to mensurate. Following to the last group of bookmans we must non concentrate on the purpose, as opposition can happen consciously or unconsciously, concentrating on purpose will pretermit of import signifiers of opposition ( ibid: 542 ).

Types of Resistance

Hollander and Einwohner ( 2004 ) didn't desire to specify the truths and the falseness

among all possible significances and contends of the term opposition. Therefore they decided to analyze the assorted sentiments to see if it would be possible to depict different signifiers of opposition without judging what is incorrect and what is non. They already observed that all bookmen seemed to hold that opposition implied 'oppositional action of some sort '. Leaving strifes about whether opposition must be intended by histrions or whether it must be recognized by marks and/or perceivers. They therefore argue that it is utile to believe of opposition in footings of distinguishable types, each defined by a different combination of histrions ' purpose, mark's acknowledgment, and perceivers ' acknowledgment.

Not all bookmans will hold that all behaviors summarized in Table 1 should be called opposition, but it will assist to stress once more the nucleus elements of opposition.

The first type, open opposition, comprises for illustration societal motions and revolutions, and single Acts of the Apostless of refusal. It is seeable behavior, which is recognized by both marks as perceivers as opposition and is besides intended to be recognized as such.

Covert opposition refers to Acts of the Apostless as chitchat and elusive corruption in the workplace; they are knowing but go unnoticed by their marks. However they are recognized as opposition by culturally cognizant perceivers. These two signifiers of knowing signifiers of opposition are followed by some unwilled signifiers of opposition. The first 1 is recognized as opposition by both the perceivers as the marks but is non meant as such. And the 2nd one contains so called 'self-defined marks ' who may be the lone 1s who recognize certain behavior as opposition ( target-defined opposition ). A separate class contains externally-defined opposition, these are Acts of the Apostless of opposition that are neither intended nor recognized as opposition by histrions or their marks, but are labelled by 3rd parties. The last two signifiers of opposition go to a certain grade unnoticed by others. If recognized by their mark but unrecognised by third-party perceivers, they have called it missed opposition. If an histrion 's knowing act goes unnoticed by both marks and perceivers likewise, it may be classified as attempted opposition ( ibid: 544-547 ).


Understanding the interaction between obstructionists, marks, and 3rd parties plays a cardinal function in the comprehension of opposition. Resistance is socially constructed ; obstructionists, marks, and perceivers all participate in this building ( ibid: 548 ). Of class frequently there is no overall understanding on the inquiry if certain behavior can be seen as opposition or non. What one perceiver ( or participant ) sees as opposition, another may see as adjustment or even domination this does non merely go on between the different participative groups but besides within the parties there is fluctuation. Resistance is a complex set of ideas and behaviors ( Ortner, 1995: 175 ).

Dichotomizing opposition and dominators ignores the fact that there are multiple systems of hierarchy, and that persons can be at the same time powerful and powerless within different systems ( Hollander & A; Einwohner, 2004: 548 ).

In her article about opposition and the construct of debrouillardise ( a manner of

societal use ) used by Auvergnat husbandmans in rural France, Deborah Reed-Danahay ( 1993: 223 ) depict how Kondo ( 1990: 221 ) based on her research in Japan besides emphasizes the intertwining of power and significance, so that 'no one can be 'without ' power '.

Everyday Resistance

After naming the different types of opposition, it is necessary to take a first glance into possible signifiers of opposition among undocumented migrators to see on what sort of signifiers we have to go on concentrating. First of wholly, it is obvious that undocumented migrators won't take part in any open signifier of opposition ( i.e. presentations ) because it likely endangers their unstable state of affairs. Therefore it is non really likely that the mark of the opposition will acknowledge their Acts of the Apostless as such. It will besides change if the Acts of the Apostless are intended as opposition. Consequently, it is more likely that possible signifiers of opposition among undocumented migrators will be: covert opposition, attempted opposition and externally-defined opposition.

Particularly the first two signifiers of opposition are familiar to Scott's construct of mundane opposition. He describes:

What mundane signifiers of opposition portion with the more dramatic public confrontations is of class that they are intended to extenuate or deny claims made by superordinate categories or to progress claims vis-a-vis those superordinate categories. Where institutionalised political relations are formal, open, concerned with systematic, de jure alteration, mundane opposition is informal, frequently covert, and concerned mostly with immediate, de facto additions ( Scott, 1990: 32-33 ).

Scott points out different looks of mundane opposition: pes dragging, deception, false conformity, smuggling, etc. He refers to these patterns as concealed transcripts ( Scott, 1990 ) that are non easy seeable in 'official transcripts and those on-stage behaviors controlled by elites ' ( Reed-Danahay, 1993: 222 ). He described the being of a excessively strongly concentrate on official and public transcripts of civilization ensuing in an underestimate of subordinated people and argued for a expression into the unofficial transcripts to see the assortment of signifiers of opposition taking topographic point in this country of societal life ( ibid: 223 ). Though, Reed-Danahay ( ibid: 223 ) points at a, ly to her, 'disturbing simplification [ by Scott ] by depicting opposition as something which can be found in the concealed transcripts of the weak while merely conformance becomes seeable in the public transcripts of both the weak and the strong. ' This derives from the fact that he sees political orientation as a consistent message, while there is contradiction and ambiguity in any discourse ( ibid: 223 )

Everyday Practices

Similar to Scott 's 'everyday opposition ' is Michel de Certeau 's ( 1984 ) construct of 'everyday patterns '. He divides 'strategies ' and 'tactics ' and explains why many mundane patterns are non strategic but tactical in character.

A scheme is 'the concretion of force-relationships which becomes possible when a topic of will and power can be isolated from an 'environment ''. Schemes possess their ain topographic point which forms a get downing point from where dealingss with the exterior can be generated. Tacticss on the other

manus, do non possess their ain topographic point, so the other can non be singled out as a seeable entirety. Tacticss invariably manipulate events to turn them into chances.

De Certeau ( ibid: nineteen ) describes:

'A tactic insinuates itself into the other 's topographic point, fragmentarily, without taking it over in its entireness, without being able to maintain it at a distance '.

Everyday patterns are a assemblage of 'ways of operating ' characterized by 'victories of the 'weak ' over the 'strong ' and dwelling of clever fast ones, cognizing how to acquire away with things, 'hunter 's cunning ', tactics, polymorphous state of affairss, etc ' ( De Certeau, 1984: nineteen ).

Tacticss produce a certain motion within the system. They show to what extent it is possible to utilize intelligence to associate power within the day-to-day battle. Schemes, on the contrary, have a instead equivocal relation with power. They use the instruments of the power for their ain intents. Hence, the construction of power where the schemes compete against at the same clip sustains them ( De Certeau, 1984: eighteen ).

Scott 's construct of mundane opposition, dwelling of patterns as pes dragging, deception and smuggling tends to be more similar to schemes than to tactics. While De Certeau 's construct of ways of operating ( or everyday patterns ), like 'knowing how to acquire away with things ', are more tactical in character. We could state that schemes aspire to sabotage the constructions of power and therefore are more concentrated with a impression of opposition, whereas tactics non merely take to defy, but besides comprise an accommodating constituent.


Despite their differences, De Certeau and Scott are concerned with the same sort of behavior. Reed-Danahay ( 1993: 222 ) presupposes to utilize the construct of 'cunning ' to mention to this behavior. ly to her, Detienne and Vernant 's ( 1978: 3-4 in Reed-Danahay: 1993: 222 ) description of the Greek quality of mA“tis summarizes accurately the significance of craft:

[ it ] combine ( s ) genius, wisdom, premeditation, nuance of head, misrepresentation, resourcefulness, watchfulness, self-interest, assorted accomplishments and experience acquired over the old ages. It is applied in state of affairss which are transeunt, switching, confusing, and equivocal, state of affairss which do non take themselves to precise measuring, exact computation, or strict logic ( 1978: 3-4 ; quoted in Scott 1990: 164 in ibid: 222 ) .

Besides De Certeau ( 1984: nineteen ) is witting about the connexion between mA“tis and his 'ways of operating ' . Together with craft, mA“tis refers to the thought of Goffman 's construct of 'making do ' in hard state of affairss and get the better ofing adversities ( Reed-Danahay, 1993: 223 ) . ly to Reed-Danahay, 'resistance suggests a mechanical metaphor of solid organic structures coming into contact. ' Unlike opposition, cunning includes some fluidness in societal life, go forthing room for drama or use ( ibid: 223 ) .


Reed-Danahay hence speaks of a more complex impression of power and opposition, where signifiers of power lay both with agents of the dominant civilization and with the defying people themselves ( ibid: 224 )

. In her fieldwork in a mountain vale in the Auvergne part of cardinal France she describes how people from a topographic point fictionally named Lavialle have 'adopted a stance of 'resistance ' to agents who threaten their cultural liberty ' . She shows how these husbandmans use the Gallic construct of debrouillardise as a mode to speak about societal use showing adjustment, opposition, cunning, ways of 'making out ' and ways of 'making do ' ( ibid: 221 ) . Debrouillardise connotes both defying domination and other signifiers of societal use or even partial adjustment. It is a signifier of mundane opposition and it is a manner of taking advantage of a state of affairs that presents itself. Debrouillardise has a double nature, it consist of both 'making out ' and 'making do ' and is associated with both defensive positions and get bying schemes in mundane life ( ibid: 224 ) .

The ethnographic literature besides contains illustrations of positive values associated with behaviors interpreted as mundane opposition when no 'native ' term or vocabulary for it is present. ( 223 )

Even while defying power, persons or groups may at the same time back up the constructions of domination that necessitate opposition in the first topographic point. Assorted writers have referred to this complexness as adjustment ( e.g. , Sotirin and Gottfried, 1999 ; Weitz, 2001 ) , ambiguity ( Trethewey, 1997 ) , complicity ( Healey, 1999 ; Ortner, 1995 ) , conformance ( St. Martin and Gavey, 1996 ) , or assimilation ( Faith, 1994 ) .These writers stress that a individual activity may represent both opposition and adjustment to different facets of power and authorization ( Hollander & A ; Einwohner, 2004: 549 ) .

However it is easy to romanticise opposition as Abu-Lughod says, to see its signifiers as marks of ineffectualness of systems of power and of the resiliency and creativeness of the human spirit in refusal to be dominated, to concentrate on successful signifiers of opposition and neglecting to see adjustment, passiveness or acquiescence adequately ( In: Constable, 2007: ? ? ) . It is merely valuable if we can happen a manner between romanticising opposition and portraying immature migrators as inactive laden victims.