Fragmented Society

CIVIL SOCIETY, 10 Feb 2020

Alberto Binder | Opinion Sur – TRANSCEND Media Service

13 Jan 2020 – We want to demonstrate a complex phenomenon that produces the “fragmentation” of most social groups that are treated and treat each other as “discriminated minorities,” that measures or makes it difficult the “constitution” of a “majority” and, thus, produces the political effect of making those majorities have an absolute impossibility of acquiring political hegemony and little possibility of producing social policies.

Fragmentation of society is a strategy of dominant power and fragmented society; is the situation of large part of the population, which not only is far from power, but also affected in its own capacity of building themselves as majority with aspirations of achieving political hegemony.

Fragmentation of society, as power strategy, tries to build or fabricate isolated social groups, “minorities” in the sense of the definition given previously, and wants to generate “war” practices between those minorities, achieving a horizontal social control that involves those same social groups in a relation victim-victimizer, dual and changing. Fragmented society is the condition of our peoples, treated in superficial contradictions, disorientated regarding common objectives. Fragmentation implies disorientation strategies. Fragmented society implies a majority—sometimes an entire people—that has lost the course of its own national cause.

  1. Society Broken into Pieces

We repeat, fragmentation is a strategy of dominant power. This strategy is based on the set in motion of some mechanisms that constitute a true “social disorientation” policy that acts, fundamentally, in three levels: a) atomization of society in groups with little power capacity; b) orientation of those groups towards exclusive and partial ends that do not enlist support; c) annulment of their negotiation capacity to celebrate “pacts.” Generally, the diverse disorientation mechanisms produce effects in the three levels, although there are some specifically directed towards some of those levels in particular.

A fragmentation strategy requires braking the horizon for the totality. This totality horizon constitutes, on one side, the space in which trans-group objectives are projected, that is, that can be shared by other groups; on the other side, it constitutes the space in which political pacts are possible, that is, the scenario where the subjects of the consensus recognize themselves as potential allies (and not as enemies) and where consensus is made effective by agreement.

The first mechanism is the “death of ideologies.” Through such preaching, the totality horizon is broken, as ideology implies an analysis of reality that aspires to give us understanding of society and political practice, equally comprehensive. In the end, there is no interest in demonstrating that it is not true that ideologies have died, or explaining that, on the contrary, the preaching itself consists on an example of one of the most overwhelming triumphs of a defined ideology. Dominant power is not interested in having the death of ideologies engraved in citizens’ conscience, because such idea is not an enough antidote for acquiring a renovated ideology. The virus contained in such preaching tries to generate a partial projection of the future. Every ideology implies assuming a social utopia. And, as such, it is projected over a totality horizon. The repudiation of ideologies is of no interest, but rather that a particular way of thinking and projection of actions of social groups is introduced, where the total space does not exist, it is “fragmented.” This fragmentation of the space where group objectives are projected, favors ways of social non-communication, as the possibility of group’s specific objectives becoming trans-group objectives is affected in its own foundation. Preaching about removing ideology is a mechanism for annulling the capacity of assuming social utopias and eliminating the idea of total space in which they are immersed.

There is another mechanism for destroying the utopian capacity of social groups. The aforementioned tries to annul the totality space. The one we will analyze right now tries to occupy all that space, eliminating it by saturation. We call this mechanism “millennialism.”

Millennialism is presented as a version of history and political development of our societies, according to which there was never an old golden age, where our countries had a good social and economic situation, progress was constant, political classes were cultured and responsible, currency was strong and, in general, we would live an era of prosperity and wellbeing. Each country hay its own millennialist version, according to their own historic and present conditions.

Obviously, it is a fake and simplistic view, but the millennialist strategy, precisely, consists on establishing in social conscience an idea of loss, sensation that we were better before and then we were bad. Such simplification of historic analysis has among its objectives facilitating the fracture required by the rupture of totality:  “We shall forget past sufferings, abandon the genesis of our present, and put an end to old fights that have paralyzed our peoples! It only matters recovering past glory and abundance of old times!” Haven’t we heard phrases like these in many official speeches of our diverse countries? Aren’t these phrases a common place of political analysis done by many or our leaders?

In this way, a new disorientation factor is produced: the present is defined as something new, as a new foundation that has no accounts to settle with the past; but, in turn, it is presented as the restauration of an idyllic time. Millennial strategy tries to appropriate history and with such take ownership over historical conscience, generating an emptying of collective conscience.

That said, if historical conscience is lost, the possibility of defining future also gets lost, as the present becomes the unique free space. And this is precisely what millennialist version wants. Future is already defined and legitimized because it is the restauration of the golden age.

Disorientation mechanism is simple: a) a determined historical moment is chosen; b) it is defined in a simple way, highlighting its virtues; c) everything that has happened since then up to now is a waste, a setback, the destruction of the golden age (that is how national history is presented, as the history of decadence); d) therefore, it is about “minorities” in the sense of the definition given before and it wants to generate “war” practices between those minorities, achieving a horizontal social control that involves those same social groups in a changing and dual relation victim-victimizer. Fragmented society is the condition of our peoples, treated in superficial contradictions, disorientated regarding common objectives, unable to assume collective fights. Fragmentation implies disorientation strategies. Fragmented society implies a majority—sometimes an entire people—that has lost the course of its own national cause. Under this perspective, stating that the true discriminated minorities of our Latin American peoples are the social majorities is a newly rich affirmation for the theoretical analysis and even richer for the political practice.

  1. Democracy and Fragmentation

It seems that the description of a fragmented society can come close to the definition of a democratic society. In it, there also exists a myriad of social groups and the own democratic life favors the creation and maintenance of groups with common, though partial, interests or objectives. One can even say that the life of a stable democracy is nurtured from the interaction of these base social movements and groups.

Which is the difference, then, between one and the other? If there are coincidences in the definitions of democracy and fragmented society, it is because there is a profound relation between them that produces a mirror effect: fragmented society is, precisely, the structural and profound version of “anti-democracy;” it is precisely the social base of “formal” democracy.

A democracy can be formal and restricted for diverse reasons. Many times, external pressures exist to establish that (for example, pressure of external sovereign debt); in other occasions, the survival of anti-democratic power factors in its own core generates restrictions and constraints (for example, political pressure or armies); other times, lack of political experience of own leaders, makes democracy loose in depth, despising its content for corrupt practices (what common people accurately call “politicking”). However, all these circumstances are transitory and changeable: none of them signals a structural phenomenon of society that might generate a decrease in the own possibility of democratic life. On the contrary, fragmented society is the structural condition of a social base compatible with restricted democracy, being both because it is submissive to her or lacks the possibility of changing it.

A society with organized social groups that can cooperate, negotiate, and pact, where political hegemony can be achieved through the daily exercise of power, it is a society that may or may not have a social and participative democracy, but hold the conditions for building one. On the contrary, a society where there are many organized social groups but that are isolated from one another, have lost the capacity of establishing alliances or pacts, and, thus, are in the absolute impossibility of building political hegemony, do not develop ways of cooperation among them, but rather are embarked into a deaf war, where they mutually attack and exchange their roles of victims and victimizers, where they do not have possibilities for building effective defense strategies, and thus, live submitted to ways of social discrimination, such is a fragmented society. One that, as such, does not live in a democracy or it adapts perfectly to political characteristics of restricted democracies, that is, those where democratic freedom is more a declamation than a reality, tolerance is a practice reserved for certain notorious circles and popular power is a vague aspiration.

There is a surprising coincidence in the dependency logic: Latin America walks, at the same time, towards democracy and towards fragmented society. There are, at the same time, democratizing strategies together with fragmentation strategies, the ones we talked about before. Thus, we discover a crucial political problem: real and profound democracy, when it is a poor democracy, where millions of people do not live as dignified beings, for its own essence (general will) necessarily becomes a transforming democracy and, why not?, revolutionary. For that reason, a dependent democracy must assure that it will not turn into a transforming democracy. To achieve such objective, dependent democracy must be sustained in—and generate at the same time—a fragmented society.

We can remain immobile before a pessimist vision of our future. If our peoples are being attacked at such a primary level, is there any concrete possibility for providing nascent democracies with a transforming profile? Or rather, the fragmentation of society, the political-cultural process of domination that turns everybody, or almost every social group into discriminated minorities, with the aggravating factor that discrimination processes are produced by themselves, is in such strength position that, for the time being, there is no popular power capable of opposing her? Even though it is hard to admit, or it hurts us, it seems that socioeconomic process in Latin American countries will walk through that path for a while, in an irreversible way. However, as well as social processes can only be interpreted within the longtime of history, real political life of peoples is projected in a future, at least as long as history itself.  If can be objected that this last affirmation is an act of faith, as a scatological vision. Nothing can respond to such objection, unless all projection onto the future—and there is no politics without such projection—implies a determined quota of faith.

  1. Towards a Policy of Reunion

Therefore, the first resistance act against fragmentation strategies is recovering the future as space for politics. The second step, linked with the first one, consists on the recovering of historical analysis that allows us a genetic interpretation of our present. Every genesis, at least at the level of human life, talks us about a process and opens the gates for the future. The third “step-act of resistance” is recovering the capacity for reunion: at a personal level, it implies the revalorization of personal spaces for dialogue, the primary but central idea that life is unthinkable and inviable as an isolated and individual act; therefore, at group level, the rescue of social popular organization, as the more properly human vital horizon; and last, at collective level, recovery of spaces for intergroup pact and consensus, that is, recovery of essence of politics. All that implies a “reunion pedagogy,” that is faced, with the same mirror effect, with fragmentation strategies. She will allow us to overcome the millennialism, death of ideologies, plague, light life, wreck culture, horizontal social control, and so many other phenomena that require assuring capitalist appropriation of interpersonal space, capacity for making pacts, building consensus, and achieving political hegemony. For the dominant power, it is already secured the appropriation of working force, also the appropriation of the consumption forces is not at risk, it only remains the appropriation of the own force.

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Selected paragraphs of a text published in the magazine Pasos Especial Nº 3-1992 

Opinion Sur is a non-governmental, nonprofit group from Argentina dedicated to promoting sustainable economic and social growth in developing countries. Opinion Sur creates original ideas and strategic action plans to share with policy makers, entrepreneurs, academics, NGOs, and the public through advisory services, and a series of products: two monthly online publications – Opinion Sur and Opinion Sur Joven. Through Opinion Sur Journal, a free and non-partisan online publication, it circulates ideas that contribute to the sustainable development of countries in the Southern Hemisphere. This publication, which is also available in Portuguese and Spanish, focuses on three complimentary areas: Development; Geopolitics; and Transformations. Currently, there are more than 70,000 subscribers spanning across the five continents. More…

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