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May 24, 2013 / compassioninpolitics

Micropolitics Fails Evidence/Card

Micropolitics fails – it breeds inaction and nihilism – action towards structures has been empirically successful to reduce oppression
Collins, 97
(Dr. Patricia Hill, professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland; “Fighting Words”; p. 136-7)

In this sense, postmodern views of power that overemphasize hegemony and local politics provide a seductive mix of appearing to challenge oppression while secretly believing that such efforts are doomed. Hegemonic power appears as ever expanding and invading. It may even attempt to “annex” the counterdiscourses that have developed, oppositional discourses such as afrocentrism, postmodernism, feminism, and Black feminist thought. This is a very important insight. However, there is a difference between being aware of the power of one’s enemy and arguing that such power is so pervasive that resistance will, at best, provide a brief respite and, at worst, prove ultimately futile. This emphasis on power as being hegemonic and seemingly absolute, coupled with a belief in local resistance as the best that people can do, flies in the face of actual, historical successes. African-Americans, women, poor people, and others have achieved results through social movements, revolts, revolutions, and other collective social action against government, corporate, and academic structures. As James Scott queries, “What remains to be explained…is why theories of hegemony…have…retained an enormous intellectual appeal to social scientists and historians” (1990, 86). Perhaps for colonizers who refuse, individualized, local resistance is the best they can envision. Overemphasizing hegemony and stressing nihilism not only does not resist injustice but participates in its manufacture. Views of power grounded exclusively in notions of hegemony and nihilism are not only pessimistic, they can be dangerous for members of historically marginalized groups. Moreover, the emphasis on local versus structural institutions makes it difficult to examine major structures such as racism, sexism, and other structural forms of oppression.
Social theories that reduce hierarchical power relations to the level of representation, performance, or constructed phenomena not only emphasize the likelihood that resistance will fail in the face of a pervasive hegemonic presence, they also reinforce perceptions that local, individualized micropolitics constitutes the most effective terrain of struggle. This emphasis on the local dovetails nicely with increasing emphasis on the “personal” as a source of power and with parallel attention to subjectivity. If politics becomes reduced to the “personal,” decentering relations of ruling in academia and other bureaucratic structures seems increasingly unlikely. As Rey Chow opines, “What these intellectuals are doing is robbing the terms of oppression of their critical and oppositional import, and thus depriving the oppressed of even the vocabulary of protest and rightful demand” (1993, 13). Viewing decentering as a strategy situated within a larger process of resistance to oppression is dramatically different from perceiving decentering as an academic theory of how scholars should view all truth. When weapons of resistance are theorized away in this fashion, one might ask, who really benefits?


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