History of Power: Religion, Reason, Domination and Social Control

By Marta Nunes da Costa.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Hegel has left us with the ideal of history as a ‘march’ or self-actualization of Reason. Marx has understood this self-actualization of Reason as (political) action, embodied in the revolutionary class, namely, the proletariat. This self-actualization reveals the potential of being alienated, i.e., of not accomplishing what one ought and what one is supposed to accomplish. Ultimately, this would bring us to the importance of the concept of Authenticity in Heidegger, when one (individual) discovers oneself as being thrown in the world and having to return, in a dialectical way, to one’s original way of being. This ‘original’ state is not a ‘coming back’ nor a ‘regression’; rather, it is a ‘coming further’, a ‘progression’. In this progression, one overcomes the boundaries that the concept of Reason imposes upon us. Notwithstanding, Reason becomes the adopted reference according to which one can attribute meaning of and to things. However, reason can be used in a rational or irrational way. As Hannah Arendt says: “It is the use of reason that makes us dangerously irrational.”
In this article I will explore the dynamics between domination, violence and social control, establishing a bridge between the history of power (of) religion through the figure of Reason. Having Herbert Marcuse, Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault as main interlocutors, I will argue that the degree of a free society is measured through several political, religious and social institutions and more precisely in the way these use technology to escape the living contradictions between master and slave implied in the bureaucratic systems. I will define the boundary between consent and manipulation, democracy and tyranny (of thought and action), modes of freedom and modes of repression. Finally, I will show how the submission of the writing and making of a philosophy of history under the concept of Reason ultimately leads to a technological rationality where democracy appears as the most efficient system of domination. It is in this context that power, violence and domination must be understood – in its dialectical movement of identity, contradiction and integration. Given the unpredictability of man’s actions this movement can shape history and power in such a way that it escapes any possible control of its effects.

Keywords: Power, Social Control, Domination, Religion, Democracy, Foucault, Arendt, Marcuse, Freedom, Ideology, Dialectics

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.107-118. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.216MB).

Marta Nunes da Costa

Post Doctoral Fellow, Centro de Filosofia, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Lisboa, Cascais, Cascais, Portugal

I did my Ph.D. in Political Science with a dissertation entitled:Redefining Individuality – reflections on Kant, Adorno and Foucault. My M.A. was in Philososophy with thesis entitled: Moral autonomy and political freedom in Kant. Both degrees were at the New School for Social Research. My field of expertise is moral and political philosophy and I develop a personal research agenda governed by the concern of individual autonomy in its several aspects. Currently I am doing my Post-Doctoral Degree in Political Science-Philosophy, and I explore the multiple manifestations of autonomy in the social and political spectrum. I am particularly interested by questions on democracy, education, multiculturalism, identity, culture, globalization, new technologies, among others.


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