Functions of the capitalist state

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By MATHEUS SILVEIRA DE SOUZA*

We must not forget that the historically reactionary discourse of a section of the Brazilian population is stronger than we would like and this is a factor to be considered

The discussion on the functions of the State occupies a large space in social and political debates in Brazil, focusing on two main positions. On the one hand, the rhetoric in favor of a minimal, non-interventionist State, typical of neoliberal thought. On the other hand, the defense of a welfare state, which intervenes in the economy and implements public policies, with the aim of mitigating social inequalities. This debate, although essential to current struggles, does not touch on the central functions of the State in capitalism: the reproduction of ideology and the creation of a social consensus.

Among the different theories about the State in Marxist thought, there are those that highlight its repressive and ideological role, played by state apparatuses[I]. The State would have the main function of exercising violence over individuals and, moreover, from an ideological veneer, guaranteeing legitimacy to this violence, creating a consensus among the subjects.

In this way, the State does not exercise naked violence, but makes use of its ideological role to legitimize physical force and produce a consensus among the dominated social classes in relation to the need for state political domination.[ii] At this point, we must remember that ideology is not limited to the field of ideas, but has direct material ballast in individual conduct, shaping the set of social practices.

Looking at the concreteness of social life, we can say that the monopoly of violence is not enough for the State to criminalize poor and black youths, it is also necessary that people's subjectivity internalize a consent - conscious or unconscious - about the need for this violence. violence.

But what do some Marxist authors mean when they talk about State apparatuses? Where are these devices located? Ideological apparatuses are not limited to those that have an eminently public character, but also other fields, even if they have a relatively private character. In this way, we can include the church, schools, media, culture, etc. as ideological apparatuses of the State.[iii]. The repressive apparatuses, in turn, have as their main function the exercise of legitimate violence, such as the army, the police, the courts, prosecutors, etc.

The performance of the military police in the peripheries – whose search and seizure warrant is the “foot in the door” -, the genocide of the black and poor population in the country and the mass incarceration facilitated by a drug policy that differentiates user and dealer according to the CEP and skin color seem to show the repressive role played by the State. As we can see, state violence is not just a function restricted to theory, but rather a materiality that crosses the lives of millions of Brazilians. However, this problem seems to have less to do with the subjective evil of a police officer and a closer relationship with a structuring State policy, which induces the reproduction of such practices by security agents.

Law itself guarantees an essential contribution to the reproduction of capitalism and the practice of state violence. You autos de resistance, for example, serve as a legal instrument that institutionalizes and makes possible the genocide practiced by the military police. The drug policy, which does not differentiate between users and dealers with objective criteria, allows middle-class white young people to often be classified as users and young black people from the periphery, frequently, to be considered drug dealers. In other words, for peace to reign in the elite neighborhoods, war must be present in the favelas.

This violence relies on the ideological function to guarantee its legitimacy. It is not by chance that we rarely see the discussion of this Brazilian genocide broadcast by the mass media or by the speeches of religious leaders. When such facts appear in the media, they are exposed in a subjective and isolated way, and never as a structural policy. To confirm the idea, I will run the risk of repeating myself: it is not enough for the State to have a monopoly on force. It is also necessary to create a consensus among social classes on the legitimacy of this violence.

It is worth remembering that the State, by placing individuals as subjects of law, holders of formal equality, creates an estrangement between the different economic positions. In short, individuals see themselves as citizens, not as members of different social classes.

According to Poulantzas, there is not such a clear dividing line between ideological and repressive apparatuses, as such functions are interchangeable, depending on the material context they are interacting with.

An example of this is the role of the army in military dictatorships, which not only performs repression, but also the function ideological-organizing, as a political party of the ruling class. The Brazilian dictatorship illustrates this point well. Similarly, the ideological role played by initially repressive apparatuses, such as the police and the courts, is evident. the rise of lawfare in Brazil, this dual role of judges is wide open, both repressive and ideological. If words have some symbolic power, let us remember that part of judicial decisions are not handed down by any court, but by the court of “justice”.

Bolsonaro's steps, bringing reserve and active military into the government, demonstrates well the role that the Armed Forces can play at the organizational level of the Executive. In addition to the role of (dis)organization that the army has been playing at the moment, reflexively, there is always the impression that, if something goes very wrong and tensions intensify, a part of the gun owners will be inside the government.

The discourse of eliminating the opponent - so rooted in Bolsonarism and inherited from Mussolini's fascism - which places the left, political institutions and Marxism as the source of all the evil in Brazilian society is a full plate for hate speech. If human beings have a need for violence inherent in their psychic formation[iv] – internalized or externalized – unifying this violence and shifting it to a specific social group seems to be a good strategy for uniting people. In other words: if violence is typical of human beings, unleashing it on a cursed group is a good way to exorcise one's own demons. After all, when there is a common enemy, it is easier to create consensus among those who disagree.

An impeachment, the impeachment of the ticket or the 2022 elections could put an end to the Bolsonaro government. However, there is a factor present in Brazilian society that does not have a certain expiry date and must last for some time. We are talking about Bolsonarism. Even if the 30% that support the government drastically decreases in the coming months, it is unlikely that part of these voters will migrate to progressive camps, as there will be a variety of conservative movements and leaders available: Mbl, Lavajatismo, Dória, Janaína Paschoal, PSL, etc. All these fronts, although they are momentarily against the government, will have their agendas in common in the coming years. These guidelines are unified by the discourse of criminalization of poverty and class public security, that is, the practices that guarantee the veneer of legitimacy for the extermination of black and peripheral populations.

It is evident that the anti-racist movements in the USA and Brazil, added to the current manifestations in favor of democracy, are a hope for the creation of new types of sociability. However, we must not forget that the historically reactionary discourse of a section of the Brazilian population is stronger than we would like and this is a factor to be considered in the construction of struggle and mobilization strategies.

*Matheus Silveira de Souza holds a master's degree in State Law from the University of São Paulo.

 

References

[1] ALTHUSSER, L. Ideological State Apparatuses. Rio de Janeiro, Grail

[2] POULANTZAS, Nicos. The state, power, socialism. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2015.,

[3] FREUD, Sigmund. The malaise of civilization. São Paulo: Pinguin Classics Companhia das Letras, 2011.

 

Notes

[I] ALTHUSSER, L. Ideological State Apparatuses. Rio de Janeiro, Grail

[ii] POULANTZAS, Nicos. The state, power, socialism. São Paulo: Peace and Land, 2015.

[iii] POULANTZAS, Nicos. The state, power, socialism. São Paulo: Peace and Land, 2015.

[iv] FREUD, Sigmund. The malaise of civilization. São Paulo: Pinguin Classics Companhia das Letras, 2011.

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