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Everyday Metaphors of Power Author(s): Timothy Mitchell Source: Theory and Society, Vol. 19, No. 5 (Oct.

, 1990), pp. 545-577 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/657563 Accessed: 23/10/2008 03:59
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Everyday metaphors of power

Department of Politics, New York University

Across the different disciplines of social science, studies of power and resistance continue to be dominated by a single, master metaphor: the distinction between persuading and coercing. The metaphor seems as clear as the difference between mind and body, to which of course it corresponds. Power may operate at the level of ideas, persuading the mind of its legitimacy, or it may work as a material force directly coercing the body. Max Weber founded his sociology of domination on this Cartesian and Kantian distinction, and the distinction colonized other theoretical territory in which it had been originally placed in question, including that of Marx. The metaphor survives today even in the growing number of works that realize its limitations and formally renounce it.' This essay offers a critique of the metaphor, as a misleadingly narrow approach to understanding modern methods of domination; at the same time, by offering an alternative understanding of those methods, it reveals the metaphor to be their unexamined product. There are at least two reasons for the metaphor's persistence. One stems from the fact that it is indissociable from our everyday conception of the person. We tend to think of persons as unique self-constituted consciousneses living inside physically manufactured bodies.2 As something self-formed, this consciousness is the site of an original autonomy. The notion of an internal autonomy of consciousness defines the way we think of coercion. It obliges us to imagine the exercise of power as an external process that can coerce the behavior of the body without necessarily penetrating and controlling the mind. Power must therefore be conceived as something two-fold, with both a physical and a mental mode of operation. This way of thinking of power in relation to the political subject applies not only to individuals but to any political agent, such as a group or class. Much of the recent theoretTheory and Society 19: 545-577, 1990. ? 1990 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

546 ical writing on resistance and power is intended to bring oppressed or neglected groups to our intellectual and political attention. It does so by revealing, beneath their appearance as anonymous masses, their existence as genuine political subjects.3 This means they must be shown to be self-formed, internally autonomous actors resisting an external domination. The power to which they are subject, it follows, must recognize their status as subjects by having the same two-fold character. A second reason for the metaphor's persistence is that even those who have tried to go beyond these humanist assumptions about the political subject, often in the footsteps of Michel Foucault, and see the autonomous subject as itself the effect of distinctively modern forms of power, have failed to consider something further: these forms of power have also created a peculiar kind of world. Like the modern subject, the world seems to be constituted as something divided from the beginning into two neatly opposed realms, a material order on the one hand and a separate sphere of meaning or culture on the other. No recent exploration of power and resistance, even among those that question our assumptions about human subjectivity, has managed to break with this larger dualism. Nowhere is the dualism that opposes meaning to material reality examined as the very effect of strategies of power, in a manner that would bring to light the limits and the complicity of thinking of domination in terms of an essential distinction between the material and the ideological, between coercing and persuading. The first of these two arguments, relating conceptions of power to conceptions of personhood, can be illustrated by some of the recent contributions to what has come to be called the "moral economy" view of power and popular resistance. The name is taken from the work of E. P. Thompson on the making of the English working class, both a passage in his well-known book4 and a subsequent article entitled "The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century," which together argue that apparently spasmodic acts of popular resistance to authority in eighteenth-century England were often in fact deliberate responses to the violation of a social consensus that required the authorities to maintain an adequate distribution of food in times of scarcity, a consensus Thompson calls "the moral economy of the poor."5The argument was taken up and extended into a general theory of popular revolt in James Scott's influential study of peasant rebellions in colonial Southeast Asia, The Moral Economy of the Peasant.6 The shared theme of these writings is that prior to the triumph of capitalism

547 common people shared an ethic based on reciprocal exchange of gifts and services and redistribution in times of need, rather than individual pursuit of self-interest, and that their consistent actions in defense of this ethic, although seemingly random and unspectacular, entitle them to "be taken as historical agents."7 The more recent contributions to this approach are numerous and diverse. They include for example, among anthropologists, Jean Comaroff's Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance, a study of "implicit" forms of resistance to the South African state among the Tshidi people (where the distinction between physical power and mental resistance is indicated even in the book's title); among historians, the studies of popular resistance in colonial South Asia written by scholars associated with the series Subaltern Studies, published in New Delhi; and among political scientists, a second and well-received study of Southeast Asia by James Scott, Weapons of the Weak:Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance.8 Although these more recent studies have drawn on ideas - including those of Gramsci, Foucault, and Bourdieu - that undermine the "moral economy" view of power and resistance (and indeed while continuing to invoke Thompson's work, they now avoid his famous phrase), they continue to subscribe to it. The reason is that they continue to examine forms of domination and resistance to bring to light subordinate groups that can "be taken as historical agents." In the following pages I offer a critical reading of one of these recent studies, Scott's Weapons of the Weak. My purpose in focusing on this book is neither to provide simply a review essay nor to suggest that it represents a particularly egregious example of the problems I wish to raise. Rather, I have two related aims: first, to explore through a case study of Scott's book some fundamental weaknesses in the kind of dualistic language with which contemporary social science conceives of the question of power and resistance, a language I relate critically to the work of Bourdieu, Gramsci, Clifford Geertz, and other theorists of culture and ideology; second, to present an alternative approach to the understanding of domination, one that not only avoids the dualism of contemporary social scientific writing but, through an analysis of the process I call "enframing," examines how domination works through actually constructing a seemingly dualistic world. In a book entitled Colonising Egypt (1988) I have developed many aspects of this argument at greater length, using historical material from the Middle East. I do not repeat that material here, but show instead how arguments developed from the colonial Middle East can be used to critique and

548 reinterpret the evidence gathered by Scott from a different period and different part of the world. Moreover, by presenting this alternative theory of domination through the critique of an influential recent work, the relationship can be brought to light between the dualism of contemporary social analysis and the larger forms of dualism through which domination is constructed. My critique of Scott forms the first half of this article. The analysis first draws out a contradiction in Weapons of the Weak between the argument that the exercise of power requires, or at least used to require, what Scott calls a "symbolic" or "ideological" dimension and the argument that ideological domination never actually dominates. It then examines two ways in which the book overlooks this contradiction: by invoking the unexpected figure of the rational peasant, and by relabeling several forms of domination as something else. These forms of domination, as a result, are excluded from the analysis of power and resistance. I argue that both the contradiction and the resulting exclusions are caused by the need to understand resistance in terms of the problematic distinction between power as a material force and power at the level of consciousness or culture. The second half of the article draws on the critique of Scott to develop the two arguments introduced above: that the problematic distinction between two dimensions of power is required in order to grant to neglected political groups the status of self-formed, autonomous actors; and that this distinction is especially problematic because an alternative approach to the analysis of domination (which can be illustrated from Scott's account but is not offered there) shows how its methods in fact create the apparently twodimensional world that our everyday metaphors of power take for granted.

The two orders of domination Weaponsof the Weakis a study of power and resistance in a small ricegrowing village in northern Malaysia, which the author names "Sedaka."The book's declared intention is "to determine to what degree, and in what ways, peasants actually accept the social order propagated by elites."9 In other words, it aims to discover whether power works by persuading peasants' minds of its legitimacy or simply by coercing their actions: it examines "the extent to which elites are able to impose their own image of a just social order, not simply on the behavior of non-elites, but on their consciousness as well."'0 This distinction between

549 behavior and consciousness, body and mind, divides the two main chapters on resistance (6 and 7) and runs throughout the book. On the basis of a careful and richly detailed account of the life of Sedaka, in particular the reactions of poorer families in the village to radical transformations during the 1970s (first by new irrigation schemes and seed varieties and subsequently by the introduction of combine-harvesters and the elimination of opportunities for wage-labor), the book's answer to the question is that elites may control the outward behavior of the poor, but not their minds. "Behind the faCade of symbolic and ritual compliance," we are shown "innumerable acts of ideological resistance."" Although they do their best to drag their feet, pilfer and deceive, the poor find that the "realm of behavior" is where they are "most constrained;" it is "at the level of beliefs and interpretations" that they are "least trammeled."'2 From this evidence it is argued that the notion that domination operates at the level of ideology, in particular Gramsci's explanation of power in terms of "hegemony,"is unhelpful and indeed "likely to mislead us seriously in understanding class conflict in most situations." The concept of hegemony ignores the ability of "most subordinate classes ... on the basis of their daily material experience, to penetrate and demystify the prevailing ideology." 3 This immediately raises a number of questions that need examining. What is meant, first of all, by a "prevailing ideology" if there are doubts about its ability to prevail? If subaltern classes are not persuaded by hegemonic ideas, does power need to operate in this realm, and if so, why? In an earlier section entitled "Material Base and Normative Superstructure," the book argues that, "if it is to work at all," domination "requires" a normative dimension.'4 Thus there is at least a potential contradiction between the claim that so-called hegemonic ideologies are not hegemonic, in the sense that the poor see through them, and the argument that normative superstructures are essential to the functioning of authority. What is their power and in what sense are they essential? This part of Weaponsof the Weakechoes the arguments made earlier in The Moral Economy of the Peasant, although with an important difference. Scott's earlier book was very much a study of the "normative context" of peasant life, a context said to be shaped by "the norm of reciprocity" in the exchange of gifts and services and the "consequent elite obligation (that is, peasant right) to guarantee - or at least not infringe upon - the subsistence claims and arrangements of the peasantry."

550 When the peasant revolts it is because of a "violation of his rights."The moral dimension of peasant life, in other words, was presented not as a framework of ideological domination but as a mutually agreed system of rights that establishes the peasant as a conscious historical agent. "This emphasis on rights ... confers on him a history, a political consciousness, and a perception of the moral structure of his society." ' Weapons of the Weak largely abandons this language of rights and replaces it with the more fruitful notion of "euphemization," borrowed from the work of Pierre Bourdieu.'6 Bourdieu's analysis of patterns of exchange and generosity among Kabyle peasants in Algeria argues not only that such acts of redistribution are constitutive of political authority in a pre-capitalist society (an argument previously made by people like Karl Polanyi and Marshall Sahlins and always drawing, as James Scott and E. P. Thompson draw, on the work of Malinowski);'7 he further argues that to create lasting effects of domination these exchanges must always disguise themselves as moral relations. Domination cannot take place overtly. "In order to be socially recognized, it must get itself misrecognized." 'o achieve this misrecognition, strategies of social and economic subordination need to be transformed by means of gift exchanges, marriages, feast giving, and other practices into relations of kinship, personal loyalty, piety, and generosity. "In a word, they s must be euphenmized." Weapons of the Weak demonstrates a similar process at work in the village of Sedaka, showing how the dependence of the rich on the labor of the poor has traditionally required them to cultivate their loyalty with acts of generosity and the provision of support in times of need. "Where direct physical coercion is not possible and where the pure indirect domination of the capitalist market is not yet sufficient," Scott concludes, powerful local families depend upon "a socially recognized form of domination" achieved by the processes of euphemization and "not simply imposed by force."') This, it would seem, is the "normative dimension" necessary to the functioning of political domination in the village. But how does this fit with the argument that power is essentially coercive since "most subordinate classes" are in fact able "to penetrate and demystify the prevailing ideology"? Bourdieu offers an approach to this sort of problem that Scott does not follow. Instead of assuming an opposition between physical coercion and the "voluntary" acceptance of an ideology, he invents one of his wonderfully hybrid concepts, "symbolic violence." The term refers to the contradictory or "double reality" of conduct that is "intrinsically equivocal." It is intended to overcome the "dualistic representation of

551 the relationship between practice and ideology" by bringing to light the ways in which, for a certain kind of society, sustained coercion "can only take place" in the guise of a voluntary acceptance.2" "Symbolic violence," Bourdieu explains, is "the gentle, invisible form of violence, which is never recognized as such, and is not so much undergone as chosen, the violence of credit, confidence, obligation, personal loyalty, hospitality, gifts, gratitude, piety."2'He adds that "it would be a mistake to see a contradiction in the fact that violence is here both more present and more hidden. Because the pre-capitalist economy cannot count on the implacable hidden violence of objective mechanisms, it resorts simultaneously to forms of domination which may strike the modern observer as more brutal, more primitive, more barbarous, or at the same time, as gentler, more humane, more respectful of persons"22 Weapons of the Weakhandles this seeming contradiction by saying simply that although domination is not necessarily imposed by force, the weaker party must acquiesce "if only publicly."23 other words it relies In on the distinction between a public (and behavioral) acquiescence and a realm of private (and largely mental) autonomy. But if acquiescence in the dominant ideology is feigned ("the poor... hardly find it convincing, let alone hegemonic"), what makes this ideological dimension something essential to the exercise of power? The answer seems to be that it no longer is essential, it only used to be. "The transition to more capitalist forms of production" has rendered ideological domination either ineffective or unnecessary. The book reports of the large farmers that "the basis of their domination has been transformed. Their control, which was once embedded in the primary dependencies of production relations, is now based far more on law, property, coercion, market forces, and political patronage," all of which are to be construed, presumably, as non-ideological.24 Hence compared with their situation in the past, the rich find themselves operating today in "something of an ideological vacuum." They have to argue continually against "the historically given, negotiated moral context of village life."25 This way out of the contradiction between the necessity for ideology and its apparent ineffectiveness leaves two kinds of problem. First of all, the implication remains that before the "historical watershed" of the 1970s, the dominant ideology was accepted.26 The book insists that in the 1970s the village underwent perhaps the most far-reaching economic and social changes in its history.27To use evidence gathered during fieldwork undertaken at the end of such a decade to make an argument, not about the impact of this transformation but about the nature of

552 political domination in general, and to conclude on the basis of it that "most subordinate classes" are able "to penetrate and demystify the prevailing ideology" is far from convincing. Second, even the evidence from the late 1970s, as Scott explains, shows that an important shaping of village discourse is still at work. Despite the changes that have occurred, the vocabulary of capitalism remains unacceptable. Straightforward talk about property rights and profit making "has no moral standing in village life." On the one hand this places wealthy households at a "symbolic disadvantage," with "material consequences', because it obliges them to choose between their reputation in the village and the maximization of their profits. Weaponsof the Weakdemonstrates the important point that hegemonic ideologies always offer significant claims to those they are directed against. "The desire to be thought well of, or at least not despised, is a material force in the village made possible only by the symbolic mobilization of the poor around certain customary values," a mobilization that is strengthened, a footnote adds, by their subversive "threats of violence and theft."28On the other hand the large landowners have much more to gain from this joint mobilization around customary values and the common avoidance of all talk of capitalism. Peasants, we are told, rarely discuss "options that seem out of reach. The smallholders of Sedaka, for example, do not talk about land reform," even though they seem enthusiastic when the author raises the topic. "It was not a subject that ever arose spontaneously." Nor is it raised by either of the two major Malay political parties active in the countryside or by state agricultural officials. Instead, the efforts of the poor are "more realistically focused on the possibility of securing a reasonably tenancy within the existing system of landownership."29 Despite the radical transformation of agricultural life, village politics continues to occur "almost entirely within the normative framework of the older agrarian system.... There is virtually no radical questioning of property rights or of the state and its local officials, whose policies are designed to further capitalist agriculture. Almost everything said by the poor fits easily within the professed values - within the hegemony - of local elites."" Surely, then, there is clear evidence that political domination in Sedaka still works through the shaping of what can be thought and said, by this defining of what presents itself as "reasonable" and "realistic"and this maintaining of an ethic of reciprocity and politeness. Even the one attempt at organized resistance among the village poor, when the women delayed planting rice for landowners who had introduced com-

553 bine-harvesters the previous season, was conducted obliquely, with an almost embarrassed avoidance of direct confrontation, as demanded by the ethics of hierarchy and dissimulation within the village, and the challenge quickly collapsed.31 To confine political practice and debate within the deferential and dissimulating moral world of the village appears even more limiting when one adds that the combine-harvesters that now "eat the work" (and the wages) of the poor are owned by powerful commercial syndicates in the towns, and that the scarce plots of land that villagers rent are now mostly controlled by large owners living outside the village.32In addition, even landowners within the village are now supported by the coercive external forces of the state. The "element of fear" that results, especially a fear of the "ever-present possibility of arrest at the whim of Bashir," a powerful landowner in the village closely connected with the ruling party and its security apparatus, "is present in the minds of many villagers.... It structures their view of the options open to them."33 Weapons of the Weak is aware of the importance of the ways in which local views are structured by such hegemonic effects, and in fact their detailed description is part of the richness of the work. Rather like a villager in 'Sedaka, however, the book appears to move obliquely, adopting a series of strategies to avoid confronting these effects directly. The strategies are of two sorts: to admit that these effects amount to what is often meant by hegemony but then sidestepping them by insisting on a much narrower field of meaning for the term, at the same time presenting us outside this narrowed field with the unexpected figure of the rational peasant; and to relabel and disguise hegemonic effects under the heading of "givens," or "obstacles to resistance." I illustrate each strategy, and then argue that what motivates these evasions is the need to sustain a distinction between the two orders of domination.

Evading hegemony The concept of hegemony is repeatedly defined so as to be too narrow to fit the evidence from Sedaka. First, it is confined to the sense of domination at the level of ideas, which is not the way Gramsci uses the term. Hegemony, in Gramsci's writings, refers to non-violent forms of control exercised through the whole range of dominant cultural institutions and social practices, from schooling, museums, and political parties to religious practice, architectural forms, and the mass media.34 In

554 his discussion of Gramsci, Scott admits that "hegemony, of course, may be used to refer to the entire complex of social domination. The term is used here, however, in its symbolic or idealist sense, since that is precisely where Gramsci's major contribution to Marxist thought lies."35In other words, the book emphasizes only one aspect of Gramsci's work in order to make the notion of hegemony fit the terms of the question opposing "behavior" to "consciousness." Next, this symbolic sense of the term is further narrowed by equating it with the notion of consensus. "Put bluntly," the book says, "the core assumption of the case for hegemony and false consciousness ... is that, to the extent dominant classes can persuade subordinate classes to adopt their self-serving view of existing social relations, the result will be ideological consensus and harmony."36Consensus, however, is significantly different from Gramsci's term consenso, which refers primarily to the "consent" given by exploited groups to their exploitation.37 The consent reduces the need for the use of violence against them, but may or may not produce consensus in the sense of harmony. Narrowing the meaning of hegemony to refer to the production of such harmony, Weapons of the Weak can show easily enough that in Sedaka it cannot be found. Subordinate groups in the village use the vocabulary of the hegemonic discourse, for example its notions of charity and mutual assistance, to make modest but persistent claims against those who exploit them. Elsewhere the possibility is considered that these observations might support a "more modest view" of hegemony, as the power "to define what is realistic." But the possibility is passed over with the comment that hegemony would then no longer mean the power to create a consensual view of what is just, but simply the ability to shape the villagers' "more or less rational understanding" of what is practical.38This presents two problems. On the one hand, the book has already made clear that the "legally enforced system of private property," for example, is accepted as a "natural"fact, something significantly different from a "rational understanding" of the impracticability of changing such facts (indeed the book admits - but only in a footnote - that this sort of acceptance might amount to "false consciousness").39 On the other hand, to avoid having to construe the power to define what is practical as evidence of hegemony, there now appears the phrase "more or less rational." The phrase rescues the political actors of Sedaka from any hegemonic confinement by endowing them with a faculty of reason that is not shaped by the possibilities of their political and social context, but stands outside that context, "rationally"understanding - and then consciously resigning itself to - its limits. So the argument for hegem-

555 ony is refuted by a final resort, "more or less," to the figure of the rational peasant (indicating how much the moral economists share in common, for reasons we will explore, with some of their supposed opponents, such as Samuel Popkin).4"It hardly needs pointing out, however, that resignation to the fact of private landownership is only "rational" for a given community because of a certain configuration of historical and political forces, and a certain assessment of those forces. Even assuming that these villagers go through the strange process that capitalist societies call rational decision-making, with its constructions of alternative artificial futures, its reduction of life's complexities to a series of isolated variables, and its ideology of the sovereign individual, the rational is never something calculated in a manner that is contextfree.4' The calculation will always depend on estimations and suppositions that are the effect of a set of hegemonic relations. To employ the figure of the rational peasant, Weapons of the Weak is obliged not only to assume such a context-free rationality, but also to provide some of these estimations. The argument that choosing petty resistance rather than direct confrontation is the result of a rational decision depends not only on an evaluation of the situation in Sedaka but on a general historical estimate of where peasant interests lie. It is quite possible to disagree with Scott's estimates and reinterpret his evidence. Christine White, for example, points out that "the tricks of adding stones, straw, etc. to increase the weight of the landlord or the tax collector's share of the harvest can perhaps give peasants the illusion of having more power and manoeuverability than is actually the case - that is, these ineffective but psychologically satisfying forms of resistance could in fact contribute to false consciousness, blinding people to the painful reality of the extent of their powerlessness and exploitation."42 Weaponsof the Weakis able to disagree with such negative assessments of petty resistance (although it concedes - again, only in a footnote - that to the extent that such resistance actually reinforces the larger system of subordination, "the case for ideological hegemony is strengthened")43in part because it begins with the assertion that the alternative of large-scale revolt is "a mixed blessing for the peasantry," given the fact that a successful revolution "almost always creates a more coercive and hegemonic state apparatus,"which is "often able to batten itself on the rural population like no other before it."44 My point is not so much that many peasant households in places such as Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, and Nicaragua might disagree with this comparatively positive assessment of the old social orders they helped overthrow, but that assertions about what is practical and therefore rational in peasant

556 rebellion are always situated interpretations of historical and political experience.45 The book rejects the concept of hegemony, then, by arguing that the term implies some consensual and "internal" acceptance of things, whereas the peasants of Sedaka - and perhaps subordinate groups everywhere - exhibit only an external, rational decision to conform rather than rebel. "The conformity of subordinate classes rests primarily on their knowledge that any other course is impractical, dangerous, or both."46Invoking this rational choice and the unproblematic kind of knowledge on which it depends ascribes their failure to rebel not to any hegemonic shaping of consciousness but to the direct realities of coercive force. "Itis in the immediate interest of most poor villagers to uphold the official realities in nearly all power-laden contexts," the book concludes.47 In other words, the narrowing of the definition of hegemony combined with the device of the rational peasant transform the rich details of hegemonic domination into evidence that the poor, although they may lose their outward physical freedom, retain an internal mental autonomy. The second strategy by which Weapons of the Weakdeals with the evidence of hegemony is by relabelling many of its effects. They are listed under an intermediate category, neither coercion nor consciousness, with a heading such as "givens"or "obstacles to resistance." These explain the limited nature of peasant resistance without expressly analyzing its limits as part of the play of power relations. The book describes at least five such "major givens." The first is the isolating nature of the changes that have taken place: on the one hand, they have consisted mostly of piecemeal shifts in agricultural practice, confronting the poorer villagers only individually or in small groups; on the other, they have tended to remove the poor from the productive process rather than increase their exploitation, so that sites of potential conflict - over such things as rent payments or the distribution of the harvest - have been simply eliminated.48 Second, there is the complexity of class conflict in the village, with no simple distinction to be found between the landless and the landowners. Both rich and poor may rent in plots of land, small landowners (or their children) may work other plots as laborers, and these laborers may find it economical at the same time to rent combine-harvesters for their own plots. The absence of "a decisive single cleavage" along class lines militates against collective action. The absence is complicated by other divisions and alliances that cut across class, such as relations of "kinship, friendship, faction, patronage, and

557 ritual ties." Almost all of these, we are told, "operate to the advantage of the richer farmers by creating a relationship of dependence that restrains the prudent poor man or woman from acting in class terms" (and, one could add, in gender terms). All this is even more true of links beyond the village, where personal ties are formed by kinship rather than by class.49The third "obstacle to resistance" is that the most readily available response to oppression and economic hardship is to leave the village and look for work elsewhere. A few find permanent jobs on rubber and oil palm plantations, in factories, on building sites, or as domestic servants; the majority find only temporary work as contract laborers and must leave their families behind in the village, deprived of the household head and marginalized in village politics. The fourth "given" is "repression and the fear of repression." Attempts to sabotage the combine-harvesters and boycott those who used them, for example, occurred in "a climate of fear generated by local elites, by the police, by the 'Special-Branch' internal security forces, by a pattern of political arrests and intimidation." Fifth and finally, there is "the day-today imperative of earning a living," the process of personal and household survival that Marx calls "the dull compulsion of economic relations." Although not ruling out petty resistance, this economic compulsion "sets limits that only the foolhardy would transgress."50 Listed in this fashion as "obstacles" to resistance, these five sets of factors are conceived as fixed limits rather than modes of domination. This corresponds, of course, to the peasants' own experience of them. Yet other factors experienced in this way, in particular the moral language of the village, are carefully analyzed as part of the mechanism of power. It would seem appropriate to do the same for these five factors. For example, when social cleavages between landowners and the landless are bridged by ties of kinship, this is no coincidence. Kinship is not something "given" that happens to work as an obstacle to resistance, but another of those strategies of euphemization by means of which relations of dependence and exploitation disguise themselves, as they must, in this case in the form of family ties. When the system of poverty installed in the village forces families to send the household head in search of casual employment in the cities, this too is not something given but a mode of operation important to the success of large-scale capitalist agriculture. When combine-harvesting eliminates the sites of face-to-face political struggle this is not simply an inevitable side-effect of mechanization but an answer to the urgent need for more efficient and cost-effective forms of exploitation in the rural areas of the Third World, an integral part of the combine's profitability. When the "dull

558 compulsion of economic relations" inhibits rebellion this is not a restriction imposed by poverty or lack of opportunity but, as the phrase implies, the careful effect of a determined set of relations. Their particular arrangement manufactures this compulsion, again not as a sideeffect but as an internal aspect of their functioning. Finally, when one finds a "climate of fear" generated by the state security apparatus in cooperation with the large landowners, this is not just an obstacle placing limits on "the range of available options." It is a disciplinary mechanism so pervasive and yet largely so unseen that the ordinary individual is persuaded to become involved in the continuous monitoring of his own actions. As Foucault puts it, "he inscribes in himself the power relation" and "becomes the principle of his own subjection."51 If, as the book makes clear, the moral language of the village is not just an obstacle to rebellion but a functioning part of the system of domination, then all these other "obstacles" surely deserve to be analyzed in the same way. Why, in that case, are they treated differently in Weapons of the Weak, as a collection of so many "givens"? The reason for this second strategy, I think, is the same as the reason for the first (the narrowing of the concept of hegemony and the positing of a rational peasant), as well as for the original contradiction (between the need for ideology and its apparent ineffectiveness), which both strategies are attempting to evade. It lies in the fundamental question to which the book is addressed. As we saw, the book's aim is to discover whether domination is exercised in "the realm of behavior" alone, or "at the level of beliefs and interpretations" as well and it takes for granted this distinction between a behavioral and a mental realm.52 The factors listed and left aside as obstacles are effects of power that do not easily fit such a distinction. Kinship strategies, for example, clearly belong to the "realms" of both behavior and belief; a mode of domination that operates by transforming relations of subordination into family ties works upon the physical body, determining how people eat, sleep, work for one another, and reproduce, and yet these practices are inseparable from the shaping of ideas, being the source of identity, loyalty and emotion. The obligation to leave the village in search of casual labor is a coercion that shapes one's view of the world as much as one's place in it. The "dull compulsion of economic relations" operates at the level of such relations, which are equally practical and ideological. Even the extreme case of direct repression fails to fit within the distinction between physical and mental modes of power: Weapons of the Weak phrases its fundamental question by asking about "the relative weight of consciousness, on the one hand, and repression (in fact, memory, or

559 potential) on the other" in a system of domination.53 Consciousness, the mental realm, is placed in opposition to modes of domination that are not purely physical, it turns out, but include the "memory" of past repression and an anticipation of "potential" repressions, both aspects of consciousness. This is no accident of phrasing. Memory and anticipation are not something ancillary to the working of so-called direct repression but part of its every operation. No matter how far one reaches back, away from memory or consciousness or culture in the direction of a purely physical dimension of power, this physical realm will turn out to consist of an inseparable mixture of what we insist on thinking of as the separable realms of behavior and consciousness.54

Meaning and reality? A close reading of Weapons of the Weak has brought to light the limitations of founding the analysis of modes of domination on the distinction between a realm of consciousness or culture and some purely material or physical realm. But there is a larger argument to be developed. On the one hand, I want to show that this problematic mental/ physical dualism is the product of humanist assumptions about political agency, which in turn it seeks to reproduce. On the other hand, I argue, the dualism and the accompanying humanism seem natural to us because they coincide with the apparently two-dimensional order of the world itself. It is through the creation of what appears to us as the larger binary order of meaning versus reality that the effectiveness of modern forms of domination is to be understood. The more simple mind/body dualism of the behavioral approach to social analysis, which is still especially persistent in political science and therefore in accounts of power and resistance, has of course been criticized over the last two decades or more, in particular by the interpretivist theories of social analysis put forward by scholars like Charles Taylor and, most notably, Clifford Geertz.55 My own arguments can best be introduced by showing how interpretivist approaches - and a similar critique could be made of other kinds of critical theory, including Marxist and post-Marxist writings56 - ultimately fail to historicize or even put in question the larger opposition between meaning and reality that seems so obvious to the modern world. Interpretivist theories have argued against the view that sees culture or political consciousness as a private, internal realm of meaning or belief,

560 opposed to a public world of observable behavior. Social interaction, Taylor and Geertz point out, is itself meaningful, for it depends upon the continuous interpretation of what others' actions mean. These meanings are not something private, but publicly shared understandings that constitute, in Geertz's words, "a multiplicity of complex conceptual structures" or public "frames of meaning" in terms of which particular actions are "produced, perceived and interpreted." Culture, it follows, is "ideational" without existing "in someone's head" and "unphysical" without being "an occult entity."57 The common metaphor used to evoke the public and yet not-quite-physical nature of this realm of meaning is to liken it to a written text. The best way to outline a critique of this approach is to try and bring to light the problematic assumptions about meaning versus reality or structure versus practice embodied in this simple metaphor of the text.58 One way Geertz explains what it means to think of culture or social meaning as a text is by introducing, as a further metaphor, a special yet "nicely illustrative sample of culture" - a Beethoven quartet. It is with this further metaphor that we will have to begin. "No one would ... identify [the quartet] with its score," Geertz suggests, "nor... with a particular performance of it or with some mysterious entity transcending material existence." Rather, the quartet is "a temporally developed tonal structure, a coherent sequence of modeled sound - in a word, music."59Such an understanding of music, I would argue, is a peculiarly western one; and, unproblematic as the metaphor may seem to us, in the end commits us to believing in something mysteriously transcendental. It can be shown, as I have argued at length elsewhere,61 that to conceive of music - or texts, or cultural/ideological forms in general - as an abstract structure or model, endowed with a non-particular and unphysical being, existing somehow beyond any "particular performance of it," that is, beyond any particular practical or material occurrence, is ultimately to take for granted a quite mysterious, elusive, and transcendental effect. Its elusiveness begins to become apparent when one ceases adding metaphor to metaphor and starts trying to pin down the nature of this "unphysical" entity. It turns out to be an effect created only out of particular performances, arrangements, and practices. The distinctive nature of the modern "world-as-exhibition" in which we live is that more and more of social life has been so arranged that we mistake these effects of certain coordinated practices for the existence of a

561 distinct metaphysical realm of structure or meaning that stands apart from what we call material reality.61 In the relatively simple case of western classical music, for example, these would include a whole series of distinctive techniques - including methods of musical notion, the cult of the composer, the apparatus of criticism and musical scholarship, and the theatrics of performance that cumulatively conjure up the unphysical effect of the musical work. By contrast, there are other musical traditions, those rooted in the complex arts of improvisation, whose methods do not create this effect of a composer and his "work,"or of the work as a text-like structure that can be considered to have an existence or nature apart from the repeated and yet always differing performances. A similar argument can be made regarding written texts. I have described elsewhere a literary tradition other than our own, that of the pre-colonial Arab world, which did not share our naive conception of the text as an "unphysical" entity that somehow exists apart from the "physical"process of its oral or written repetition. In fact Arabic scholarship was preoccupied with the arts of continuously recreating written works through repeated recitations and copyings. The text existed and survived only in its always differing performances.62 My argument, then, is that the conception of a people's culture or political consciousness as a text employs a problematic and distinctively modern notion. However much the cultural text is said to "find articulation" in "particular performances," it is assumed to enjoy a separate nature as an unphysical "structure"or "frame of meaning."The distinction between particular practices and their structure or frame is problematic not simply because it may not be shared by non-western traditions but because, as it is the purpose of this essay to argue, the apparent existence of such unphysical frameworks or structures is precisely the effect introduced by modern mechanisms of power and it is through this elusive yet powerful effect that modern systems of domination are maintained. There is a second, related problem with the dualist understanding of meaning or ideology illustrated by the metaphor of cultures as texts, which must be addressed before considering further the question of frameworks, namely the problem of agency. Just as the corresponding western conception of music ties the work to the authority of a composer with a proper name, whose intention supposedly governs all par-

562 ticular performances and yet survives apart from them, this view of culture or ideology as a text-like entity existing apart from a material base implies a sovereign subject (individual or collective) whose intention is the author of the cultural text. "Our formulations of other people's symbol systems must be actor-oriented," Geertz writes. That is, they must be "cast in terms of the construction we imagine [those people] to This constructed text can then be place upon what they live through."63 construed as "a story they tell themselves about themselves."64 Although the interpretive theory of culture rescues us from the closed behavioralist world of private beliefs motivating public actions, its notions of text and authorship keep us in a world of subjects who always author their own collective narratives and whose cultural identities are thus unique and self-produced. Built into the theory, therefore, is the latent notion of a subjectivity or selfhood that pre-exists and is maintained against an objective, material world, and a corresponding conception of power as an objective force that must somehow penetrate this non-material subjectivity. This conception could be illustrated from almost any recent account of power and resistance, whether the theoretical inspiration is behavioralist, interpretivist, Gramscian, or any other. O'Hanlon's sympathetic but critical reading of the Subaltern Studies work on resistance to colonial rule in South Asia, for example, where the strongest theoretical influence is that of Gramsci, shows how assumptions of this sort have tended to govern that research.65Here I illustrate the problem by returning to Weapons of the Weak,and exploring how political agency is constructed in terms of the distinction between a power that operates at the level of objective behavior and power in the realm of individual or collective consciousness. In the first place, this distinction is linked with a series of other oppositions: material versus ideological, actions versus words, observable versus hidden, coerced versus free, base versus superstructure, body versus spirit. Weapons of the Weakand much of the other recent literature on power and resistance construct their objects of study out of these parallel tropes, each of which is dependent on all the others. These correspond to a theory of domination that understands power as something originally and essentially behavioral or material, which seeks to extend itself and work more economically by producing effects that are cultural or ideological. This way of thinking about power corresponds in turn to a certain conception of the human person. In fact it

563 is one demanded by the desire to make the discovery of a self-formed and autonomous personhood the end point of the analysis. The Moral Economy of the Peasant, James Scott's earlier study of peasant resistance, ends with a paragraph that expresses this desire, which Weapons of the Weakis to take up. "It is especially at the level of culture,"the earlier book concludes,
that a defeated or intimidated peasantry may nurture its stubborn moral dissent from an elite-created social order. This symbolic refuge is not simply a source of solace in a precarious life, not simply an escape. It represents an alternative moral universe in embryo - a dissident subculture, an existentially true and just one, which helps unite its members as a human community and as a community of values. In this sense, it is as much a beginning as an end.66

Weapons of the Weakis an attempt to discover and describe such a real place, an embryonic moral universe, a beginning or point of origin, a site of originality, justice, and existential truth. The site is given the name Sedaka, a Malay word of Arabic origin whose usage suggests generosity or social justice - but whose original meaning, it so happens, is "to speak the truth." Having deliberately reduced, as we have seen, many of the more complex modalities of power to the status of givens or "background,"and shown how dominant groups control the villagers' visible, "onstage behavior" (the theatrical metaphor erects an apparent artificiality essential for creating a contrasting sense of something unproblematically authentic), the book moves "behind the scenes" and records, "backstage where the mask can be lifted," a few lines of what it calls "the full transcript" of peasant discourse.67 The author does not claim access to this "unedited transcript of subordinate classes" in its entirety. He admits, for example, that the village poor told him almost nothing about religion, even though it appears that the major form of underground political opposition among these Malaysian villagers takes the shape of "shadowy" Islamic organizations with many thousands of members, two of which were banned during the first year of the author's stay in Sedaka.68(The implications of this silence are left unexplored, as of the fact, mentioned in passing, that the author was living in the house of by far the largest and richest landowner in the village, a position that must surely have shaped his discussions with the poor, no matter how much they took him into their confidence.)69 Nevertheless,

564 Scott clearly makes the claim that there is such a text, such an unedited original, such an inner site of authenticity and truth - "that small social sphere where the powerless may speak freely."7' "Power-laden situations are nearly always inauthentic," the book explains. What it hopes to reveal in this "small social sphere" is a place where the play of power does not penetrate, where discourse becomes authentic. It seeks the voice of an "author"in the problematic, idealist sense discussed above, a collective self that is the author of its own cultural constructions and actions, constituting a "beginning" or point of originality that is embryonic, initially autonomous, and genuine. In this way it hopes to uncover a site of "existential truth."To reveal the nature of power, it is assumed, one must oppose to it a pre-existent self and truth, to which relations of power are wholly external.To do justice to the victims of inequality and domination in the modern world one must prove, in E. P. Thompson's words, that they can "be taken as historical agents," and the means of establishing them as historical agents is to discover their authenticity, their original autonomy.71The consequence is an essentialized notion of the subaltern, of the subject in general and its self-created mentality, and a theory of power that accepts without question the dichotomy between the material and the ideological, a power that coerces and places limits on people's options, rather than a power that works, among other things, through creating truths and subjects and sites of apparent autonomy. Sedaka, one might say in summing up the argument so far, names a desire for the authentic, and it is this desire that subverts the logic of works like Weapons of the Weak.It is this desire that disguises power relations as a list of givens, conjures up the figure of a rational peasant who stands outside the field of hegemonic effects, and elides the impact of historical transformation by developing general theories of power and resistance from evidence gathered at the end of the most profoundly dislocating decade in a people's history.

Unphysical frameworks I now want to turn to look at this historical transformation more closely, and to trace in it the appearance of those "unphysical frameworks" first mentioned above in the discussion of Clifford Geertz. The appearance of such frameworks, I argue, is the elusive yet powerful effect through which modern systems of domination are maintained. This

565 argument was developed through a study of political and social transformation in colonial Egypt,72 but I want to show here how the same analysis of modes of domination can be made through a reinterpretation of the material Scott presents on Southeast Asia. Weapons of the Weak offers a very rich account of how large landowners, with the intensification of large-scale capitalist agriculture in Malaysia, are becoming increasingly dependent on what we call the state, while their dependence on the labor and ideological acquiescence of the poorer villagers decreases. The state itself, Scott argues, has never needed the latter's ideological acquiescence, at least in the twentieth century; not because its power relies solely on physical or economic coercion, but because the majority of villagers are "irrelevant" to its appropriation of surplus rice, given that three-quarters of the region's marketed paddy is produced by the richest eleven percent of its cultivators. One can find several discrepancies in this line of argument. The production figures, first of all, are from the late 1970s, after the introduction of new seed varieties and a second growing season had increased yields of rice by more than fifty percent.73 State regulation, moreover, has for a long time played a role in agricultural life, in particular through fixing low prices for rice so as to facilitate feeding and pacifying the urban population - resulting in rural protests on more than one occasion.74 Price controls affect not only the income the poor receive for what little they sell, but the wages they get for planting and harvesting the rice of the richer farmers. State regulation has also played an active role in preventing villagers from switching to other, more profitable crops, and in enforcing the grossly unequal distribution of land, which ensures that the rich have surplus rice to market, leaving the bulk of the rural population living below the poverty line. This unequal distribution can itself be seen as a state-enforced "appropriation." Indeed the book explains at the beginning that "the state ... is now a direct participant ... in nearly all aspects of paddy growing. Most of the buffers between the state and rice farmers have fallen away."75 why So does the book subsequently insist on minimizing the relation between the state and the peasantry? It does so, I think, to make its central argument about the absence of ideological hegemony more plausible. Weapons of the Weak needs to show that an older authority negotiated within a shared moral world of face-to-face encounters has given way to a kind of power that is essentially impersonal, intractable, and remote - and thus in no particular need of ideological support. Scott portrays the local experience of this

566 transformation in tremendous detail. I draw on these details to construct an alternative account of the new forms of power. Far from being less ideological, I argue, they operate by inventing the apparent distinction between material and ideological realms, in all its supposed simplicity, that every modern theorist of power takes for granted. The transformation in modes of power can be described, of course, in economic, social, and political terms. It occurs in each of these spheres. In every sphere, however, it involves what I have called elsewhere (borrowing a term from Martin Heidegger), the process of "enframing."76 By enframing I mean a variety of modern practices that seem to resolve the world's shifting complexity into two simple and distinct dimensions. Such practices - which I illustrate from the case of Sedaka - give rise to the effect of a purely material world, opposed to and given order by what now appears as a free-standing, non-material realm of meaning. We name this realm "culture"(or the symbolic, or the ideological, or in some contexts simply "the state") and believe it to exist, metaphysically, as something apart from what we call the physical world. The new modalities of power work, at least in part, by means of this binary effect. I should stress that in describing this world as two-dimensional, I am not invoking the unity of some antecedent life where, as Bourdieu says (following Weber), the world was not yet "disenchanted"; where, as Foucault says, words were not yet detached from things; or where, as Marx says, the values of things were not yet detached from their uses. Rather, it is the invention of this two-dimensionality that makes it possible to imagine such an antecedent unity, such enchantment, and such attachment of meanings to their objects and of uses to things. A first way of describing the transformation is that villagers find themselves subject to powers whose source seems increasingly removed from their own world. The terms of their agricultural life, Scott explains, "are now decisively set by social forces that originate far outside the village sphere. Everything from the timing of water supply, and hence the schedule of transplanting and harvesting, to the cost of fertilizer and tractor services, the price of paddy, the cost of milling, the conditions of credit, and the cost of labor is so much an artifact of state policy and the larger economy that the sphere of local autonomy has shrunk appreciably."77The local powers of dominant village households are not simply an autonomy being eliminated, however. They are patterns of domination that, in typical fashion, are becoming the con-

567 duits of these larger forces. Power relations continue to acquire their hold over peasants' lives as something local and immediate, at work in forms of landowning and employment, the supply of seeds and irrigation water, or the demands of kinship and personal loyalty. The difference is that the articulation of these local powers into larger networks now creates the effect of power as a system of demand that exists as something external to ordinary life. This articulation, moreover, takes several forms. The larger networks are not only those of the state, but also large-scale commercial syndicates and powerful landowning interests outside the village. Nor are they encountered only in the form of persons or groups. The new combine-harvesters, for example, are experienced as mechanisms of external demand, which ignore the villagers' need for employment in the name of an external capitalist accounting and transfer the money previously paid as wages within the villages to the commercial consortia from whom the machines are rented and the companies in Australia and Japan who manufacture them.78 In the second place, these new forces create an effect of fixity and permanence. The earlier, less coordinated forms of domination seemed always unstable. To maintain them required the innumerable techniques of euphemization, and the periodic acts of violence, by which relations of subordination were continuously created and recreated. The new forms of domination, by contrast, appear fixed and enduring. The negotiated and flexible modes of authority have given way to patterns of power that seem to reproduce themselves. Weapons of the Weak offers several illustrations of this. The book shows, for example, how a series of relationships that were the subject of negotiation have become determined and nonnegotiable. Thus, the way land is rented has changed from a system of "paddy rent" to one of cash rent. Previously tenants paid the landowner his rent at the end of the season, after the harvest, in a quantity of the harvested paddy (or its cash equivalent, according to its price that season). Now most rents are required in cash in advance. So the rent can no longer be bargained up or down on the threshing floor according to the number of sacks of threshed paddy. The payment carries no reference to those sacks - to the amount and value of what the land has produced.79 The site where competing economic needs were established and negotiated season by season has been eliminated, replaced by a predetermined and inflexible demand.

568 There are many similar transformations described. The price of paddy is set by predetermined external forces, meaning government policy and the international market, rather than by local or regional need. The patterns of transplanting and harvesting no longer vary with the monsoon rains, as was mentioned, but are fixed according to an official irrigation schedule. The government control of milling, marketing, and the distribution of fertilizer and credit are further aspects of this pervasive programming of rural life. The local offices of the Agricultural Development Authority have each spawned a Farmer's Association, through which the larger farmers acquire a disproportionate share of credit. Villagers are increasingly dependent on credit to purchase the large amounts of fertilizer required for green-revolution agriculture.8"Control of the land has become more rigid as the enormous profits of the green revolution and combine-harvesting cause ownership to be concentrated among fewer families, leaving less available for rent or for distributing as dowries to children. Marriage, as a result, has become more difficult.81 The fixed, self-reproducing power is also evident in a far greater control over dishonesty and delinquency, achieved with less surveillance and supervision. Both cash rents and mechanical harvesting have contributed to this more efficient exercise of power. Under the old system of "paddy rents," Scott explains, the tenant could use a number of careful ploys to decrease the owner's share of the crop, from quietly harvesting a little of the rice the night before the official harvest, to making spurious claims of crop damage in order to bargain for a reduced rent, or deliberately leaving unreaped paddy on the stalk to be collected later when gleaning.82With rents for the land fixed and paid in advance, the landowner places all the risks of cultivation upon the tenant, thus guaranteeing himself a larger profit at the same time as he frees himself from the need to exercise any surveillance over the harvesting. Similarly with the introduction of combine-harvesting, Scott points out, the machine relieves the farmer of the task of recruiting laborers and supervising them in the field. It also enables him to harvest and store his entire crop in a single day, thus removing the opportunity for the poor to steal an occasional sack of the harvested paddy left overnight in the fields.83 All such transformations in the agricultural life of the village make its system of exploitation more effective, more economical, more inflexible, and more permanent. Patterns of domination that before had to be continuously established and re-established are now built into the functioning of economic and social practices.

569 Outside the sphere of agricultural production there have been similar increases in the efficiency of surveillance and control. A generation ago, Scott reports, when the region was more sparsely settled and included large areas of uncleared brush and forest, and its population was more mobile and less actively policed, there were many groups who escaped the surveillance and control of the large landowners and the authorities, including bandits and rustlers now remembered as popular heroes. Since then, the government-organized spread of irrigation canals, agriculture, roads and police stations has eliminated the places of refuge and opened up the countryside to permanent supervision. Today, says Scott, "all the land around Sedaka is flat and cultivated and the police ... are far more numerous, mobile, and well armed."84So alongside the programming that tends to enfix rural life is a pervasive and everyday policing. The area does not suffer from the mass arrests and government death squads common elsewhere in Southeast Asia or in places such as Central America. Instead there is an Internal Security apparatus that prevents effective political organizing, and an efficient system of "everyday repression" maintained by "diligent police work."'5The result is not a system of terror but rather a continuous effect of fear and insecurity that guarantees a relatively efficient self-reproduction of authority.8"

The frame of meaning These various features of the new techniques I have described combine to produce the common effect of enframing. The new modes of power, by their permanence, their apparent origin outside local life, their intangibility, their impersonal nature, seem to take on an aspect of difference, to stand outside actuality, outside events, outside time, outside community, outside personhood. Hence they appear, not as something given, as Scott would have it, but rather as something other, something non-particular and unchanging - as a framework that enframes actual occurrences. Although it is constituted, like the rest of the social world, out of particular practices, this framework appears as somehow nonparticular and non-material, that is, as something ideal, and comes to seem as though it were its own, transcendental dimension of reality. Numerous examples can be found in Weapons of the Weak of this novel, metaphysical effect. Take, as the most straightforward illustration, the new system of rents explained just above. One way the villagers express the difference that

570 comes with pre-paid rents is in terms of the "living"and the "dead."87 The old rents were carefully related to what was grown in the rented fields, hence the name "live rents."The new rents, fixed in advance, are "dead," no longer a part of what grows and fluctuates, but abstract, non-living, arbitrary. This disconnection makes the rent into a scale that stands apart, an absolute measure against which the success or failure of the harvest must now be measured. The measure is unaffected by what it measures, like a container holding a certain contents. Rent now appears to stand in relation to agricultural life as this inert container, this framework that is somehow of a different order from the sorts of practice it enframes. Of course the fixing and paying of rents are social practices like any other part of the life of the village. But the new principle that governs them creates the effect of a life no longer made up of interrelated practices, but rather consisting of a framework and the practices it enframes, as though these were two different orders of existence. As the economy of Sedaka is converted to the use of cash, there are several other ways in which money becomes an example of this kind of intangible, inorganic measure of things. Scott explains that before the economic transformation the measurement of a family's resources was immediate and tangible. "The wealth of a paddy-growing family could in the past have been inferred from the amount of paddy stored in the granary."The tangibility of resources made it relatively easy for the poor to importune their richer neighbors for loans, for which the traditional medium "was, fittingly, paddy or polished rice (beras), the basic food staple" (not to mention the fact that by prying apart the boards of a granary at night the poor could surreptitiously help themselves to additional supplies). Now, however, "the widespread use of cash marks a shift to a village in which wealth is more easily hidden." The resources of the rich become transformed into something inaccessibly other, something inorganic and non-material, outside the realm of what can be borrowed, begged, or otherwise appropriated. Indeed "the poor appear to believe that the sale of paddy for cash is, in part, an attempt by the wealthy to avoid being importuned for loans."88 In such ways, the surplus from the fields is converted into what seems an abstraction, something that stands outside the play of personal relations and local demand. Capital, which is no more than a practical set of relations, creates the impression of a world now absolutely divided, between a realm of the tangible and material and a realm of the abstract and enduring.

571 When one is told that for the peasants of Sedaka, "the basic contours" of the country's capitalist economy have become "for all practical purposes a given,"this should not be read, I would argue, as implying simply an extension or redefinition of the boundaries of the natural landscape of the village - as the word "given" implies.89 Economic forces now appear as contours in a literal sense, like abstract lines on a map. However much they may be taken for granted, the new economic practices create an order that seems to stand apart from the natural landscape, the way a map does, as a plan that gives the world a dimension of order. Starting with strategies as everyday as the payment of rent in advance or the selling of rice paddy for cash, the new social and political practices all contribute to creating the effects of enframing. These effects are not limited to the economic. "The very process of cultivation," to repeat an example mentioned above, is now "largely determined by the schedule of water release fixed in advance."9?The controlling and distributing of irrigation waters are practices like any other part of social life. But with their distance from local influence, their regularity, and their repetitive uniformity, practices of this sort create once again the effect of something that is not a part of social practice, something that seems to exist outside the practical world as a program governing particular practices. It is the effect, once again, of enframing. Government plans and official policies, all the self-reproducing methods of controlling and policing described above, all the new effects of fixity, legal regulation, and structure, create this effect of the program. The provision of what is labeled "infrastructure,"such as roads, electricity, piped water, clinics, schools, and mosques, a process that has "touched virtually every village in the country," is a further aspect of the pervasive process of enframing.91 Working through the techniques of enframing, power will now appear as something essentially law-like. It will seem to be external to practice, as the fixed law that prescribes a code against which changing practices are then measured. This transformation occurs, moreover, at precisely the point when power in fact becomes most internal, most integral, and continuously at work within social and economic practices. So it is not simply that, as Foucault says, power inserts itself and, "arranges things in such a way that the exercise of power is not added on from the outside, like a rigid, heavy constraint, to the functions it invests, but is so subtly present in them as to increase their efficiency by itself increasing its own points of contact."92It is that this occurs at precisely the same moment when, and by precisely the same detailed methods as, power

572 presents itself for the first time as "law"or "the state," as though it were somehow merely an external framework that keeps things and behaviors orderly. None of this is to be understood as simply the superimposing of order and regularity where previously there was disorder. The life of the village and the countryside, needless to say, had its own complex methods of order, some of which still endure. Nor is it to be understood simply as the creation of structures or institutional frameworks where none existed before, unless those terms cease to take for granted the problematic process of enframing, the technique that gives rise to the effect of structure or institution - or state. What is new is not a set of structures, frameworks, or programs, but a set of practices that continuously create the effect of structure, frame, or program, the effect of an unphysical realm of order that stands apart from the world of practice. This apparently separate realm seems to stand as the abstract opposed to the concrete, the unchanging versus the changeable, the hidden versus the visible, and the ideal versus material. It follows that it appears at the same time - like a text in relation to the real world, to reinvoke our problematic metaphor - as a separate realm of "meaning"in relation to "reality." This final aspect of the transformation is perhaps the most profound, and can be illustrated once again by particular innovations. The new social practices include the building and running of government schools and mosques, the provision of agricultural expertise, and the ideological work of local party organizations. These innovations are connected with the shrinking importance of a locally-produced imaginative life: village entertainments, small feasts, games, religious events, and no doubt much else, are all becoming less frequent or disappearing altogether.93The replacement of these diverse creative and imaginative practices by the modern techniques of education, organized religion, government expertise, and official ideology is not simply a replacement of local learning and cultural life with nationality regulated forms. The new practices, unlike the old, are expressly concerned with programming. Modern schooling, for example, opposes itself to life, offering a kind of operating code or "instructions for use" to be mastered before one takes up, so to speak, the thing itself; organized religion, official expertise, and party ideology set themselves apart in similar ways, as programs to govern life. Once again, like the life they program, these methods of programming consist of nothing more than particular social practices; but they are set up and regulated in such a way as to appear

573 to stand outside ordinary practice. They correspond to the methods of enframing already described, all of which contribute to this impression that life's meanings constitute a program or text that exists apart from the practical world. The binary world constructed by the new forms of power includes a series of novel practices that appear to create outside the world itself a separate realm of intentions, ideology, or meaning. The effects of externality, fixity, and permanence achieved by the new modes of domination coincide, therefore, with the more general effect of the existence of meaning as a distinct order of being, opposed to what it will now be possible to call mere reality, a merely "material"world. It can now be seen how the binary world of modern techniques of order and domination, far from being brought to light by analyses like Weapons of the Weak,works itself into the very vocabulary with which we speak of power. Like most of the work of the moral economy sort, and indeed virtually all contemporary literature on power and resistance, Weapons of the Weak approaches the question of domination in terms of an essential distinction between physical coercion and ideological persuasion. The approach is inevitably blind to the possibility, argued in the preceding pages, that power now works through novel methods of creating and recreating a world that seems reduced to this simple, two-dimensional reality. It represents a way of writing in which such two-dimensionality is merely reproduced. As I argued in the first half of this essay, the complexities of domination never quite fit the terms of the opposition between a physical and mental form of power. Many forms of exploitation and control cannot be reduced to this binary form. The attempts to make them fit seem to arise from a desire to present certain political groups as self-formed political subjects, meaning subjects who preserve against an essentially physical coercion a space of mental autonomy. This binary and essentializing view of the political subject is what connects the weaknesses of prevailing approaches toward the study of power to the alternative understanding of domination advanced in the second half of this essay. This is because the opposition between a subject and an object-world that this view implies depends on taking for granted the fundamental distinction opposing an ideal realm of existence to a material realm. The latter corresponds to the broader distinction we take for granted between the realm of meaning and the real world. Rather than being fundamental to the nature of power, this larger opposition turns out to

574 be a metaphor that imitates, but fails to see, the very distinction through which modern effects of domination are produced.

Acknowledgments Many people read and commented on an earlier draft of this article. I am particularly grateful to Lila Abu-Lughod, Nathan Brown, Wendy Brown, and Bertell Ollman. I would also like to thank Jim Scott for his willingness to discuss my criticisms of his work, and for the graciousness with which he did so.

1. For example, Jean Comaroffs study of power and resistance among the Tshidi of southern Africa criticizes the acceptance of such "stubborn dichotomies" as the distinction between "the symbolic and the instrumental," but her critique is limited to showing the "interdependence" between these "two distinct orders of determination" rather than questioning the nature of the distinction. Jean Comaroff, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 3-4, 262. 2. The political invention of the modern notion of mind or consciousness, and its relationship to modern theories of power as essentially coercive or repressive, are examined in the work of Michel Foucault, especially Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon, 1977), and The History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon, 1978). I have explored this process in a colonial context, and contrasted it with pre-modern theories of personhood, in Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). On the contrast with classical understandings of body and soul, see also Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979). 3. See Rosalind O'Hanlon's critique of studies of resistance to colonial rule in South Asia, "Recovering the Subject: Subaltern Studies and Histories of Resistance in Colonial South Asia," Modern Asian Studies 22/1 (1988), 189-224. 4. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Gollancz, 1963), 59-68. 5. E. P. Thompson, "The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century," Past and Present 50 (1971), 79. 6. James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976). 7. Thompson, "Moral Economy of the English Crowd," 76. 8. Ranajit Guha, editor, Subaltern Studies: Writingson South Asian History and Society (Delhi: Oxford University Press,1982-); James Scott, Weapons of the Weak. Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985). 9. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 41. 10. Ibid., 38-9.

11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. Ibid., 304. Ibid., 322. Ibid., 317. Ibid., 307. Scott, Moral Economy of the Peasant, 188-189. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977). Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957 119441; Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine, 1972). Bourdieu, Outline, 191. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 307. Bourdieu, Outline, 179. Ibid., 192. Ibid., 191. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 307. Ibid., 310-312. Ibid., 184-185. Ibid., 147. Ibid., 139. Ibid., 234-235. Ibid., 325-326. Ibid., 336. Ibid., 250-251. See John R. Bowen, "The War of the Words: Agrarian Change in Southeast Asia," Peasant Studies 14/1 (1986), 61. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 274. See Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Gramsci and the State (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1980). Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 316. Ibid., 335. See Joseph Femia, "Hegemony and Consciousness in the Thought of Antonio Gramsci," Political Studies 23/1 (1975), 32-35. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 326. Ibid., 49. Samuel L. Popkin, The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979). On the relations between artificial futures and capitalist agricultural practices, see Pierre Bourdieu, "The Disenchantment of the World," in Algeria 1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979). Christine White, "Everyday Resistance, Socialist Revolution and Rural Development: the Vietnamese Case," Journal of Peasant Studies 13/2 (1986), 56. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 287-288. Ibid., 29. For Malaysian peasants, this experience might include memories of "strategic hamlets," "free-fire zones," and other innovations developed by an occupying British army to suppress the long communist insurgency in post-war Malaya, innovations that were subsequently transferred by British military advisers to South Vietnam. Scott's assessment of Malaysians' propensity to rebel makes no mention of this historical experience. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 320.

42. 43. 44. 45.


47. 48. 49. 50. 5 1. 52. 53. 54. Ibid., 321. Ibid., 242-243. Ibid., 244-245. Ibid., 246-247, citing Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970), 737. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 202-203. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 322. Ibid., 40. These ideas about violence are further developed in Timothy Mitchell, "The Representation of Violence in Writings on Political Development: The Case of Nasserist Egypt," in Farhad Kazemi and John Waterbury, editors, Peasant Politics and Violence in the Recent History of the Middle East (forthcoming). Charles Taylor, "Interpretation and the Sciences of Man," The Review of Metaphysics 25/1 (1971), 3-51; Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973). For example, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985) calls for a postMarxist abandoning of the "discursive/extra-discursive dichotomy" and the "thought/reality opposition" (110). But like the work of Foucault on which they draw, they fail to explain how and why the construction of what I have called "the world-as-exhibition" has made these oppositions, despite their elusiveness, so powerful and so seemingly obvious. See Timothy Mitchell, "The World as Exhibition," Comparative Studies in Society and History 31 (1989), 217-236. Clifford Geertz, "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture," in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 7, 10, 28. Recent criticisms of Geertz's work fault it for failing adequately to distinguish the natives' cultural text from the interpretive text of the anthropologist (a difficulty Geertz himself admitted from the beginning). They do not tend to question what is meant by a text. See, for example, Vincent Crapanzano, "Hermes Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description," in James Clifford and George E. Marcus, editors, WritingCulture The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California, 1986) and Mark Schneider, "Culture-as-Text in the Work of Clifford Geertz," Theory and Society 16/6 (1987), 809-839. Geertz, "Thick Description," 1 1-12. Mitchell, Colonising Egypt. See Mitchell, "The World as Exhibition." Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, 142-154. Geertz, "Thick Description," 14-15. Clifford Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight," in The Interpretation of Cultures:Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 448. Rosalind O'Hanlon, "Recovering the Subject." Scott, Moral Economy of the Peasant, 240. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 48, 287-288, 329. Ibid., 288n, 334-335. Ibid., 2. Ibid., 330. Cf. O'Hanlon, "Recovering the Subject." Mitchell, Colonising Egypt; see also Timothy Mitchell, "The Effect of the State,"





59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72.

paper presented at the SSRC workshop on State Creation and Transformation in the Middle East, Istanbul, September 1989 (publication forthcoming). Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 312-313. Ibid., 52, 56. Ibid., 56. Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, 44-48, 79, 92-94. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 48. Ibid., 162. Ibid., 72-73, 151-153. Ibid., 82-84. Ibid., 237. Ibid., 152-153. Ibid., 156,269. Ibid., 266. Ibid., 274. Ibid., 277. Ibid., 104. Ibid., 142-143,268. Ibid., 48. Ibid., 56. Ibid., 54-55. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 206. Scott, Weapons of the Weak, 149.

73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93.