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Attenuating Cleavages? The Political-Sociology of Legitimacy and Consent

Amit Avigur
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Amit Avigur
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Open Panel

Abstract

In any modern society numerous cleavages and conflicts exist to the degree that some of them may pose a threat to the stability and viability of the politico-societal system as a whole. Under these conditions, reaching a sufficiently wide public legitimacy to a specific socio-political and economic model acts as means to achieve stability. However, a given model holds different implications for the interests and desires of various social groups. It may be extremely congruent with the interests of some groups while satisfying only partly the interests of others and opposing all together those of yet others. Assuming that most of the time the majority of society does not fall in the first category, this paper seeks a framework to analyze how social cleavages can become attenuated and the interests they rest upon channeled in order to construct political and social legitimacy and consent. I shall argue that looking at the interaction of three "dimensions" assists in explaining the will of a given social group to support or accept a certain system: 1) Material dimension – the degree to which its material interests are met. 2) Ideological dimension – the world view, values and concepts it holds or adopts. 3) Historical context – Specific past experiences and settings inform the environment in which groups act as well as their position and behavior. This paper relies on the conceptual framework introduced by Antonio Gramsci, concentrating on the concept of hegemony. It also demonstrates its theoretical arguments by using the neoliberal model as an empirical case.