chapter  3
17 Pages

The limits of dominance

ByDaniel Miller

This chapter is intended to be complementary to several others in this book which take as their central concern the various conditions and mechanisms which favour the construction, reproduction and maintenance of dominance. By dominance I refer to the condition in which a set of ideas or practices, usually favourable to a particular minority within a society, appear to hold sway over the whole of that society and act to reproduce this same condition. Dominance may be exercised through sufficient coercive force as to be independent of the acquiescence of the dominated population, but more commonly it relates to principles of ideology and underlying discourses which structure both the construction of the subject and the subsequent acknowledgement by that subject of at least some of the legitimation claims made by the dominant group. Dominance therefore tends to be hegemonic, pervasive, exclusionary and conservative. Despite the dynamic and diachronic emphases of the foundational social theory developed by Marx, academic works which attempt to characterize dominance in a particular instance may have a tendency to deny change, especially when constructed in the absence of any consideration of the limitations of dominance. This is often the result of a simple process through which the naturalization of authority passes quite easily from the analysed to the analysis.