Power is a concept that is at the core of issues regarding social stratification (Scott & Marshall, 2009). Therefore there have been many debates regarding what this concept of power actually means. For Gramsci, power needs to be considered legitimate by those who are subject to it, and the legitimacy of power is gained through the manipulation of social norms (Scott & Marshall, 2009). This manipulation of social norms, links to Gramsci’s notion of ideological hegemony. Gramsci uses hegemony to show how the state and civil society produce and maintain consent to the existing status quo and the system of capitalism in general (Stoddart, 2007).
Gramsci’s concept of ‘hegemony’ is rooted in his distinction between coercion and consent as alternative mechanisms of social power. Coercion refers to the states capacity to use violence and force over individuals in society who refuse to comply with the ideologies of the dominant class (Stoddart, 2007). Whereas consent involves hegemonic power, that “works to convince individuals and social classes to subscribe to the social values and norms of an inherently exploitative system” (Stoddart, 2007:201). Hegemonic power is a form of social power that relies on persuasion and legitimation that make the ideas of the ruling class acceptable to the subaltern class.
By definition, the state is the only institution that can legitimately exert force over individuals in society, that is, coercive power is exclusive to the state. However, institutions of civil society such as the church, schools, and mass media are largely responsible for producing and distributing hegemonic power (Gramsci, 1971). It should be noted that for Gramsci the state was made up of both political society and civil society, “in other words hegemony is protected by the armour of coercion” (Gramsci, 1971:263). We can thus note, that for Gramsci power/hegemony was rooted in the state, in both political society (government, courts, police and the army) and in civil society (schools, churches, and mass media) (Bates, 1975).
For Foucault power has multiple aspects, which means the state does not have a monopoly over power. Foucault re-thinks the notion of power, and links it to knowledge. That is, knowledge should be seen as the foundation of the exercise of power. For Foucault power is not merely an instrument of repression, and argues that one needs to stop thinking of power in negative terms, and rather see power as something productive, “it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production” (Foucault, 1995:194).
Foucault’s notion of power is based on the shift from sovereign power to disciplinary power. Foucault examines changes in penal regimes, that is, “from the regulation of the body to the regulation of the soul” (Scott & Marshall, 2009:263). The strategies of confinement in the prion eventually became the model for the whole of...