The Positive Functions of Poverty Herbert J

This paper utilized a neo-Gramscian perspective and interpretation of International Relations (IR) and International Political Economy (IPE) to critically examine the role of globalization in the human security problematic, especially the increase in economic insecurity in many states. Gramsci uses hegemony as a key concept to underscore the power of material capabilities, ideas, institutions, and other socio-economic and cultural forces in ensuring legitimacy for the ruling class vis-à-vis the subordinate class. When a consensus, or form of consent between the two is fully fashioned, a hegemonic order is said to be in existence. When this hegemonic order is firmly in place, it develops into a "historic bloc" which is the solid structure that is produced by an existing hegemonic order (Gramsci, 1971). Its role is to cement or bind together all the other segments of society into a relationship characterized by common political, economic, and cultural practices.

The works of Gramsci have been especially applied by the "Italian School" to analyze global politics through an emphasis on concepts like hegemony and historic bloc which are viewed as corresponding to political and economic internationalization. Both concepts are equally manifested in global 'norms' and expectations about political-economic interactions, which constitute a kind of global 'common sense,' or popular beliefs, institutions, and assumptions. In particular, Robert Cox (1993) argues that the global community is subject to impositions about how the global and/or national political economy should operate . These global hegemonic impositions often originate from forces within a powerful state or from a crisis/challenge within the previous hegemonic order. Once a hegemonic order is consolidated, its dominant mode of production coalesces with other subordinate modes of production. The outcome is the establishment of an international civil society characterized by adherence to homogenous rules and regulations as well as the strengthening of links between the social classes of the countries that comprise the historic bloc.

A Gramscian framework is relevant in the analysis of globalization's impact on human security because the benefits, or lack thereof, of international economic liberalization is a question of power relations among states in the international system. Moreover, while a Gramscian analysis underscores the analytical relevance of power relations, it also emphasizes the pertinence of culture to hegemonic contestations. In other words, for a hegemony to be consolidated, religious and political values which include institutions must be entrenched within an ideology or reflect both elite and mass values in order for the institutions produced by that ideology to be successful. Ideology is defined in Gramscian analysis as organic cement or social glue that integrates institutions as well as societal and state apparatuses, as opposed to a system of ideas. From a neo-Gramscian or transnational historical materialist perspective, globalization and its human security impact on developing countries reflects the cultural and moral as well as economic dominance of the hegemonic states which constitute a ruling class within international society made up of developed and developing states. The ongoing process of globalization, especially its economic component, reflects a particular set of class interests (those of the advanced industrial states) as the general interest.

In Gramscian analysis, hegemony is viewed as a negotiated process because dominant groups must secure the consent of subordinate social forces in order to guarantee the legitimate rule of the former. When challenges to the hegemonic order erupt from the subordinate groups, the dominant groups attempt to accommodate such challenges through material concessions, co-opting the discourse of challengers, and integrating moderate groups into the coalition of the hegemonic bloc while marginalizing more radical elements. All these methods ensure that no fundamental changes in social relations occur between the dominant and subordinate groups.

In addition to hegemony being negotiated and therefore not completely stable, it is also characterized by dynamism in the sense that changes in markets, technologies, relative power positions, or ideologies can undermine the stability of an historic bloc by introducing crisis triggered by challenges to the existing alliances and arrangements. The organizational competence and political will of subordinates determine whether the historic bloc maintains hegemony through "passive revolution" (granting concessions, co-optation) or undergoes a more profound social change from below in which subordinate groups replace existing cultural expressions and social institutions with new ones which eventually undermine the historic bloc (Gramsci, 1971). The Gramscian concept of hegemony thus suggests that globalization does not translate into an unchallenged drive toward economic and political internationalization where the nation state becomes a mere vehicle for the transmission of global capital, but rather a highly contested process in which nation states may experience disintegration due to the lack of a "social contract" or increasing insecurity/misery on the part of individuals, groups, and entire societies.

Transnational historical materialism underscores the role and functions of international institutions such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Economic Forum, the Trilateral Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, among others, as constituting a transnational hegemonic bloc which binds together both developed and developing states and both elite and masses. In combination, they constitute a global alliance of capitalists, state managers and intellectuals characterized by common material and ideological structures. Their goal is unrestricted internationalization of markets and trade interactions in general. While the role of transnational capital is central in the construction of this transnational hegemonic bloc, the national state is seen as playing a major mediating role. The dominance of the transnational hegemonic bloc is ensured because the nation-state is willing to or "coerced" into adopting the fiscal and monetary policy necessary to maintain economic stability and social control. It is only through the successful integration of the international and national realms can capitalist internationalization be effected. However, in the alliance between the national and the supranational, the national state clearly assumes and plays a subordinate role.

Robert Cox (1987) describes the role of the state in the internationalization of global capital this way:

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Associating poverty with positive functions seems at first glance to be unimaginable

The Functions of Poverty - Sample Essays

By dealing primarily with the realm of manifest functions, with the keyproblem of whether deliberately instituted practices or organizations succeedin achieving their objectives, the sociologist becomes converted into anindustrious and skilled recorder of the altogether familiar pattern ofbehavior.

The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All. : sociology

In other words, globalization and its adverse effects on individuals, groups, and entire societies threaten human security in all its ramifications, since any outbreak of civil strife affects not just physical security but environmental, political, and other securities as well.

Ethnopolitical conflicts and other types of organized violence by rebel groups could often be interpreted as efforts by, and an alliance of, the deprived, dissatisfied, and other groups supportive of revolutionary change. Such struggles for hegemonic control underscores the relationship of civil society to the state and the relationship of politics, ethics, and ideology to production. In neo-Gramscian terms, the developing society is today an internationalized entity in the sense that the administrative, executive, and coercive apparatus of developing state governments are in effect constrained by the hegemony of advanced industrial countries, and the leading classes (beneficiaries of globalization) within them.

Most of the human insecurity that continues to affect developing countries is, in fact, related to the dual nature of power (consent and coercion) in both national and international politics. Hegemony is prevalent to the extent that the consensual aspect of power binds together both state and external actors. Coercion as an aspect of power is often used as a last resort and is often applied only to deviant entities, or rogue states. Relations of dominance an subordination thus persist because hegemony is often sufficient to ensure political, economic, and social conformity of behavior in most nation-states and population groups, most of the time. Hegemony thus cements unequal actors at all levels: local, national, and global.

Human insecurity is likely to continue in most developing countries because of the lack of any effective civil society that, in Gramscian military analogies, can initiate wars of movement and of position. In many developing states a weak civil society, coupled with a lack of bourgeois hegemony, results in incapacity for meaningful adaptation and effective resolution of human security problems. In many developing countries, in other words, the state and its external sponsors, are still very powerful vis-à-vis a weak civil society. In the West, where globalization processes and developments emanate, the state often confronts a sturdy and powerful civil society. The many civil wars that erupt in the developing world end up causing more misery and disrupting entire societies. These wars (Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Angola, and Democratic Republic of Congo) are often ethnic based and premature attacks on the state and the new historic bloc, and therefore end up being defeated and entrenching state hegemony vis-à-vis weak civil society.

The developing nations are societies which have either imposed on themselves and/or had a new order thrust on them from abroad, without the old order having been displaced. These societies are at times caught up in a dialectic of revolution-restoration which tend to become blocked as neither the new forces nor the old could triumph. The introduction and effect of globalization as changes have had a passive effect on developing societies. The consequence is an historic bloc characterized by more individualism and competition, less government, existential insecurity and anxiety on the part of individuals, groups and entire societies.

The equality, exclusion, and rampant globalization unfolding in developing societies is a result of the political and economic acquiescence of developing state governments to external impositions. In the maquiladoras of Mexico, many of the impoverished workers blame their economic and health struggles on the Mexican state which has crushed union movements and allowed companies to violate national and international laws (Stackhouse, 1999). The state thus becomes an instrument of transnational capital and the local implementation of the new hegemonic order. In Ciudad Juarez the adverse effects of globalization are seen in the dusty and smog-shrouded shantytowns, and people living in squalor and abject poverty. The standard of living is progressively degenerating as poverty increases. For example, in 1995 one day's minimum wage in Mexico could purchase 44.9 pounds of tortillas or 2.24 gallons of milk. In 1999 the new minimum wage could buy only 16.9 pounds of tortillas or 1.4 gallons of milk (Stackhouse, 1999).

In sum, the evidence from other regions and countries of the developing world indicates that globalization is associated with a serious maldistribution of wealth generated by global markets. So far, the evidence shows increasing inequality and growing poverty and a widespread lack in the basics for a decent life.

Clearly, then, poverty and the poor may well satisfy a number of positive functions for many nonpoor groups in American society.

How can poverty have positive functions for society? - Fluther

"We have come to see that statistical notions of 'normality' are no real help in giving psychological meaning to mental health and illness: they beg the question or fail to come to grips with it. We have become suspicious of the once regnant concept of adjustment, as it has fallen into disrepute at the hands of social critics and moralists (e.g., Riesman, 1950) who see it as a pseudoscientific rationalization for conformist values, and of psychological theorists (e.g., White, 1959) who are challenging the sufficiency of the equilibrium model in which it is rooted. And from many quarters we encounter the call for a more positive view of mental health than is involved in the mere absence of manifest mental disorder. Since the appearance of Jahoda's useful book (1958) that reviewed the considerable array of proposals toward such a conception of optimal human functioning, the flow of suggestions has not abated" (Smith, 1961, p. 299).

Posititve Functions of the Undeserving Poor: Uses of …

"Experiences that induce positive emotion cause negative emotion to dissipate rapidly. [do they really?] The strengths and virtues function to buffer against misfortune and against the psychological disorders, and they may be the key to building resilience. Thus, positive psychology may become still more important in times of trouble, even though a bleeding nation may not easily see that, in the long run, building strength and virtue effectively stanches wounds" (Seligman, 2003, p. xii).

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"The various lists of criteria that have been proposed for positive mental health reshuffle overlapping conceptions of desirable functioning without attaining agreement—or giving much promise that agreement can be reached" (Smith, 1961, p. 299).