Actas del II Congreso de la Región Noroeste de Europa de la Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de América Latina (ALFAL)

8.7.3 Hegemonic Analysis

So far, I have analysed the discourse of the government and the EZLN in their own right, first, in terms of narrative, then in terms of interdiscursivity. Let us now go back to the issue of two competing strategies: a dominant discourse from above and a counter hegemonic response from below. This approach raises the question of hegemony and the present analysis will be based on Laclau and Mouffe's theory on hegemony and discursive analysis. Their view on hegemony is based on Gramsci's work. Gramsci overcame the Marxist class reductionist view on society. He situated hegemonic processes in the superstructure as part of a political field. The outcome is not directly determined by the economic structure, but is the result of political formation of hegemonic blocs. In this process, discourse plays a fundamental role (Gramsci 1971:182-3); Phillipsen and Jørgensen 2002:32). Laclau and Mouffe (1985) further developed the subject, stating that objective society does not exist. The social is never complete. Institutional and social relations, including relations of power, are always open to change. The incentive for social change is not situated in the economy as Marx would have it, but the result of antagonistic forces in the superstructure (Laclau and Mouffe 1985:124-5). The authors see society as a network of antagonistic forces. Therefore they point out the importance of the way in which relations of equality and difference are being settled and rearranged in a particular discourse as will be pointed out below.

Just as the social reality is not fully fixed, the linguistic features that describe and constitute this reality are not fixed either. In fact, Laclau and Mouffe equate discourse to reality. Though they do accept the fact that there is a reality outside discourse, it is discourse that brings meaning to this reality. A temple may be of deep religious significance to a religious person, but just a piece of art to a tourist (Laclau and Mouffe 1985:107, Howarth 2000:104, Phillipsen and Jørgensen 2002:34). For Laclau and Mouffe society is a discursive construct. At some point, when society reaches a level of stability - a spatio temporal fix in Jessop's sense - meaning may be relatively fixed, or objective, as Laclau and Mouffe put it. Linguistic features become politically charged in times of crisis, when there is no consensus and a struggle for competing strategies starts.

This involves a struggle for new hegemonic projects, which implies new articulations at the discursive level. Laclau and Mouffe define articulation as "any practice establishing a relation among elements such that their identity is modified as a result of the articulatory practice" (1985:105). The Articulation of Two Discourses for Competitive Strategies of Social Change

In the case of the dominant discourse studied in this paper, I suggest that "modernisation" is a nodal point, as is "democracy" in the discourse of the EZLN. Around these nodal points there are key signifiers, that gain meaning under influence of the nodal point, as will be shown below. A discourse is not only an issue of fixing meaning. A particular discourse includes a set of ideas, particular values, positioning of subjects, a set of practices and attempts to transform institutions and organisations (Howarth 2000:103). In order to materialize a particular discourse, the achievement of hegemonic acceptance is required. Gramsci defined hegemony as the achievement of social consensus (Gramsci 1971:151). To achieve consensus is, in part, to achieve universal acceptance for a particular point of view (Fairclough 2003:45). It is a matter of achieving objective status for a particular strategy, and discarding other alternatives. At the discursive level this means to achieve acceptance for a particular articulation.

In the discourse of the president, "modernisation" figures as a nodal point. "Modernisation" is the hegemonic strategy that the president has decided on. It is legitimated by an internal and external demand for change. It is a nationalist approach that gives rise to a series of neoliberal social practices, such as the modification of the ejido system, privatisation of state enterprise, etc. It transforms the role of the state from a big, bureaucratic, corporatist state into a small efficient, strong state. It redefines the task of the state: to provide justice and to protect national sovereignty rather than administrating property. It is based on the view of civic nationalism, thus pretending full equality between citizens, who are constructed as one cooperative social subject. Modernisation also requires a series of new attitudes, such as being innovative, imaginative and optimistic (I,138-142). It also implies values, such as solidarity "to give more to those who have less" (I,280).

For the EZLN, the nodal point would be: democracy. This redefines the role of civil society; citizens are supposed to define the new governmental structure. Democracy implies a new definition of power: "to rule, obeying the will of the majority". It aims at a pluralist society and it defines a new form of nationalism: pluri- ethnic rather than civic. Sovereignty has its base in civil society rather than in the state. It implies a series of values, such as dignity, sincerity and justice. These are attributed to members of the EZLN and to civil society. The attempt to reach a pluralist democracy has led to new social practices: the convocation to the CND, MLN and FZLN. These are the podia where discussion should take place to decide on the political future of the country. In other words, it is through these podia that the EZLN sought to set up a counter hegemonic bloc, strong enough to bring the political system to an end. The Logic of Equivalence versus the Logic of Difference

Antagonism is a central concept in Laclau and Mouffe's theory. Contradictory forces shape society. These forces construct social reality in different ways. In this context they have distinguished the logic of difference from the logic of equivalence. The former accentuates difference, whereas the latter subverts it. For instance, in the West, black became synonymous to non-white. People from Africa, Pakistan or any other non-white country, were put together in one category: black. But it is possible that some antagonistic group, for instance a social movement, restores the difference and absorbs one or more of the different elements in their own discourse, to defend the rights of, for instance, the African people. In this sense it is interesting to observe how a particular discourse deals with difference. Fairclough (2003:41-2) has distinguished five general ways in which texts potentially deal with difference, varying from consensus and bracketing of difference to a polemic approach in which difference is accentuated. The data present extreme examples of each, in the sense that the hegemonic discourse completely suppresses difference, whereas the discourse of the EZLN is based on difference. The theory of Ruth Wodak and her colleagues from the Vienna School (1999) helps to recognise the discursive strategies that texture these relations of equivalence and difference. In their analysis of the construction of a national identity in Austria, the authors have distinguished a series of discursive strategies that are either constructive, transformative or dismantling (Wodak et al. 1999:32-42). Though they discuss specifically the construction of national identity, the same general strategies apply to the construction of the imagination of the social that is at stake in the discourses discussed in this paper. In my view, the hegemonic discourse is constructive in the sense that it constructs a hegemonic view on society. This requires the promotion of unification, identification and solidarity. Unification is expressed to the extreme in the discourse of the president. It presupposes absolute, undisputed hegemony. It is full of ideological assumptions, such as the assumption that there is one voice of change, one road coming from the past, one road leading toward the future and one united people with one general will. It deletes existing tensions as well as cultural differences. Within this general strategy, the following forms of realization are present in this discourse: emphasis on positive political continuity as the narrative analysis has demonstrated. It subverts difference by strategies of depersonalisation and suppression of agency. The world depicted by Salinas is not run by human agents, but by vitalised, inevitable social events such as change and modernisation that require one particular response: transformation.

The discourse of the EZLN breaks this chain of equivalence, by accentuating difference. It is a polemic text that launches a fierce attack against the government. It does so through the strategy of discrediting opponents (the party state system), by contrasting a negative presentation of (corrupt) others to a positive presentation of (dignified) self. It is oriented toward disruption (to provoke a political crisis and to achieve a radical transformation). It dismantles the myth of the government being the inheritors of the Mexican Revolution. On the contrary, they present themselves as the only true inheritors of Mexico's nationalism and they claim not only that national symbols should rest with the people, but also national sovereignty.

The discourse of the EZLN breaks the unified image of the Mexican population constructed by the government, and emphasise the many different groups that form this society (see appendix 4). Seen from a discourse analytical point of view, the EZLN disrupts the chain of equivalence and absorbs most of its - now discursively dissolved - members in their own discourse. The groups mentioned in the Third Declaration are supposed to join the EZLN through the participation in the CND or MLN. Through these procedures the ultimate goal of the EZLN should be achieved: pluralist democracy, in which its leaders will carry out the will of the people.

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Volumen 22 (2005)
ISSN: 1139-8736