Divided Lives: The Economic Foundation of Women's Inequality
Strategies of opposition are bidirectional and reflexive. The strategies and shortcomings of opposition are similar no matter what level of socio-economic standing one has, and each strategy is a tool that can be used by one's opposition. The tools of expression are not different between dissent and simple opposition. However, dissent is still a more specific term than opposition. So, what really is characteristic of dissent?
I recognize that I want dissent to be special and righteous. However, I have to recognize there are significant similarities to the tactics on all sides of the conflicts examined in this program. Maintaining power was a central goal of all sides of the conflicts examined, such as the struggles to maintain power by both agribusiness and the unions. The "entering wedge" strategy was used by and proved useful to both corporations and progressives. A strategy to divide and conquer was useful to the Federalists against the Middling and Plebeian factions of the Anti-Federalists but was also used against the owners of agribusiness by the United Farm Workers. The strategy of presenting a polemic decoy in conjunction with a false compromise creates a "lesser of two evils" dilemma for opposition in modern day California and also was a dilemma faced by the Federalists over the extreme Plebeian agenda and the moderate Middling demand for amendments to the Constitution in exchange for ratification. The tactic of framing the opposition as reprehensible, in order to dismantle popular support, was useful across many of the conflicts, including the dehumanizing of the African-Americans and the Native Americans in the Early Republic, but was also used against the South during the period surrounding the Civil War and Reconstruction. Therefore, if the tactics of opposition are reflexive and bidirectional, then one cannot determine what qualifies as dissent by the methods used for expression. This leaves only that dissent is a minority opposition viewpoint expressed with an intent to change.
In other words, dissent may simply be the critical expression of people who lack institutionalized power. Institutionalized power is structural political power and socio-economic advantage. The dialectic between revolution or evolution of the institution of power wasn't something that we investigated in this class, but it's an important thing to keep in mind. This conflict is contained within dissent, and can partially be see in the conflict between the Plebeian and the Middling elements of the Anti-Federalists. During the period of radical labor organizing, this was a major unsurfaced element of the conflicts. The bidirectional and reflexive strategies of opposition are within the framework of institutionalized power, so this begs the question of whether the institution itself should be maintained. Is it better to work within the system, and risk merely ameliorating institutionalized exploitation, or trying to change the system itself, and risk merely re-creating another exploitive regime?
Apparently, the most effective formula for dissent has been to work within the system, attempting to convince and coerce power to conform to demands for equity as far as possible without becoming reprehensible. These gains are inherently ephemeral since they are concessions of power, not actual power. This implies a balance between concession and solidification in addressing power inequity. Dissent attempts to dismantle power by forcing concessions, and these can be both protected and undermined. The strategy of decoy suggests that a dissenting movement within the structural system of power could be more effective if it is coordinated with a more reprehensible dissenting voice, but this requires a level of coordination that may not be available. The function of maintaining power implies a constant undermining counter-force to gained concessions, so the question has to be asked whether the function of dissent within the structural limitations of powerlessness is ultimately effective. Dissent expressed without an eye to distribution of institutionalized power will fail to have a lasting impact.