STATE, CIVIL SOCIETY AND SOCIAL CHANGES
Fernando Alcoforado *
Many people naively believe that the purpose of the state is the pursuit of the common
good. This is a mistake because, since the state has emerged throughout history, its role
has been to serve the interests of the dominant social classes in their various historical
periods. The Parliament and, even more, a government, however democratic capitalist
state that appears to be, is subordinated to the interests of the dominant classes,
especially the financial system by tying strings that take the name of public debt. More
than ever, today, no government could last more than a month without knocking the
banks to pay their expenses. If banks refuse to finance the budget deficit, the
government would be led to bankruptcy. The increase in public debt results from the
fact that the government spends more than it collects, whose public deficit grows
continuously. The government obtains funds through the financial system remunerating
them at high rates, a fact that makes it highly dependent on the financial system.
The public deficit is also the result of taxes do not come daily in the public coffers,
revenues concentrating on certain periods of the year and the expenses to be continuous.
It thus appears that the short-term debt. Public debt is a difficult problem because all
modern capitalist states spend more than they receive. This is the origin of the debt to
which banks and financial institutions lend money to states with high interest. Here is a
direct and immediate connection, a daily loop, between State and High Finance. The
Brazilian government, for example, committed half of its budget with the payment of
the public debt service blocking that can meet the demands of the population and the
productive sector and their most basic needs.
Throughout human history, the state has always been at the service of the ruling classes.
The social progress made by mankind so far as, for example, the reduction of working
hours, the right to strike, universal suffrage, among others, resulted in concessions from
the dominant social classes to cool the struggles undertaken by workers in various parts
of the world. The State of Social Welfare deployed in several European countries after
World War II resulted own struggles and those also of the purpose of the ruling classes
of Western Europe to avoid the socialist revolutions in their territory after the
establishment of the socialist system in Eastern Europe. But in essence, the state has
never ceased to be an instrument in the service of the ruling classes throughout history.
People need to understand that, historically, the state has not always existed [See
MANDEL, Ernest. Teoria Marxista do Estado (Marxist Theory of the State). Lisboa:
Edições Antídoto, 1977] . The birth of the State is the product of the social division of
labor and division of society into exploiting and exploited classes. In primitive
communities, as this social division of labor was only rudimentary, all members of
society exercised all social functions. There was no rule or special state functions. One
of these functions, the exercise of arms, was taken collectively by all members of the
early community. In the primitive community, all its members (and sometimes women)
walk around armed to defend themselves against wild beasts or enemies outside the
community setting. With the advent of the State, that became, ultimately, nothing more
than a body of armed men. In a society with the presence of the state, the concept of
bearing arms constitute the sole prerogative of an institution called the army, or police,
or military agents of various types, which did not exist in primitive communities.
Another function as the practice of justice belonged to the primitive community. At this
time, there was no written code of laws. Battles were decided by households or by
individuals in group meetings that had the power to pronounce judgments. Therefore, in
primitive communities, before being divided into social classes, certain functions, such
as the arms or the administration of justice, were collectively exercised by all adult
members of the community. Only when this society develops more in the moment they
appear social classes, is that these functions are removed from the community and
reserved for a minority (ruling classes) which shall exercise them in a special way.
In primitive communities, the relations of production were based on collective
ownership of the means of production and, in the first place, the earth. And because it
was so low the level of the productive forces, which did not allow to obtain the
necessary livelihood alone. In such circumstances, the men were forced to live and work
together and work together generated the common ownership of the means of
production and the fruits of labor. What the men obtained jointly belonged to the
community. Has not had any idea of private ownership of means of production, the
exploitation of man by man, nor of social classes. Primitive Community system is a
universal stage of human history, which means that every people had to go through this
stage, that society is divided into classes not starting but that was constituted over the
ruins of the primitive Community scheme.
Marx and Engels, the founders of Marxism, pored over the early history of problems in
various works such as A Origem da Propriedade Privada e do Estado (The Origin of
the Family, Private Property and the State) published by LaFonte in Brazil, and A
Ideologia Alemã (The German Ideology) published by Boitempo Editorial in Brazil,
which report that in the early days of human society, when men lived by hunting,
fishing, agriculture and the creation of primitive cattle, was the property of the tribe, the
collective ownership that dominated. The era of primitive herd succeeds the system of
clans, whose peak is usually accompanied by matriarchy, equality between man and
woman. Finally, the development of productive forces, the birth of grazing, cultivation
of land by the plow and processing of metals (bronze, iron) mark the beginning of an
era in which the first germs of exploitation of man by man arise and property private.
Matriarchy is replaced by patriarchy and democracy clan becomes a military
democracy, which prepares the ground for the foundation of the State.
In the early era, the war, though casual, existed on a small scale. The need to obtain
agricultural products may have induced pastors tribes to impose by force on other
farming communities. The accumulation of wealth - livestock, land etc. - resulted in the
decrease of population due to wars. With the development of trade between
communities, some of them members began accumulating more wealth than others,
appropriating communal surplus or the best part of the loot obtained through the wars.
With the evolution of the relations of production, private ownership of the means of
production was extended to land and finally to the worker (slave). One of the economic
institutions of the State in Ancient Greece and Italy (in fact the basis of the production
system) was the existence of an employee - commodity: the slave.
The transformation of communal economy to slave economy was due to the
development of productive forces within the primitive community, especially when men
began to use metal tools. After the domestication of animals and the dawn of
agriculture, it has become possible employment of the workforce of prisoner of war
who could be forced to work for the community or the particular owner. The work of
these enslaved people came to support the community, together with agricultural or
pastoral activity practiced by the conquerors. In slave society, the means of production
(land, tools, slaves, etc.) were owned by the lord. At the time of slavery, relations that
existed in society were relationships of domination and subjection. A small number of
gentlemen fiercely exploited the mass of slaves deprived of all rights.
Feudalism arose between the ninth and tenth centuries in Western Europe replacing
slavery including the period of the Middle Ages from the decentralization of the Roman
Empire. Feudal institutions persisted in Europe until the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. In the feudal system there were no trade relations that were based on
exchanges of products, and all production was sent to the local livelihood. Labor
relations were between the feudal lord, master of the land, and across the serf or
peasant, who was subordinate to the feudal lord. The servant working on the lord's land
and paid a "rent" for their use, in addition to working three days a week for free for
feudal lord. The servant owes gratitude to the Lord for the work and protection, this
relationship of dependence and gratitude gives the name of vassalage. During this
period there was employed, which resulted in a social dependency between master and
The functions of arms and the administration of justice shall be done especially when
the feudal system becomes dominant in Europe. The feudal lord, and he alone, was able
to exercise throughout your domain all functions of primitive communities (weapons
and administration of justice). The feudal lord is absolute master of its territory. It is the
only one to carry the classical functions performed by the state, as we know it today.
Later, there was an evolution. While the state is moderately small, the functions of the
State are rudimentary feudal lord and nothing complicated. As the exercise of those
functions will not take away too much time to the feudal lord, he can handle the
situation and exercise them personally.
With the increase in size of territory and population, the areas of responsibility of the
feudal lord become increasingly complex, more detailed and more stressful. It is
impossible for one man to exercise all these functions. What then does the feudal lord?
Delegate part of its powers to people completely under your control: the servants, who
are part of his household staff. During the Middle Ages, political power in Europe was
controlled by the various feudal lords, which generally yielded to the Holy Roman
Emperor and the Pope. At this time, there were no centralized national states. The crisis
of feudalism led to the dissolution of the feudal system in the sixteenth century and
paved the way for the introduction of capitalism. The earth is no longer the only source
of wealth. The trade expanded bringing major economic and social transformations.
Some servants accumulated economic resources and freed - up of the feudal lords and
migrated to the cities.
The expansion of trade has contributed to disorganization of the feudal system, and the
bourgeoisie, which was linked to trade class, became increasingly wealthy and powerful
and conscious that society needed a new political organization. For the bourgeoisie keep
progressing needed stable government and an orderly society. In this sense, it would be
necessary to end the constant wars and endless conflicts between members of the old
feudal nobility which undermined trade, reduce the amount of taxes levied on goods by
the various feudal lords and reduce the large number of regional currencies, which
hindered the business. In the last phase of the medieval period, the political and military
power possessed by the feudal lords, was transferred into the hands of an absolute
monarch, King. The progressive bourgeoisie and nobility sought to strengthen the
authority of kings in order to build national monarchies able to invest in the
development of trade, the improvement of transport and communications security.
This historical process has led to the emergence of the Absolutist State, which formed in
opposition to regionalism of feuds and cities that generated the political and
administrative fragmentation and the universality of the Catholic Church (and the Holy
Roman Empire), which spread its ideological and political power over different
European regions based on Christianity. Winning medieval universalism and
regionalism, the Absolutist State was engaged in the formation of national society. The
whole concentration of power came to be termed monarchical absolutism. In turn,
resulted in the Liberal State promoted by the bourgeoisie abolished the feudal society in
Europe from the French Revolution of 1789. The Liberal Capitalist State broke with the
hierarchical order of corporations, blood ties and privileges and created a political
power structure able to maintain and expand their conquests.
An institution that today seem democratic, for example, Parliament, clearly reveals the
class nature of the Liberal Capitalist State. Thus, in most countries where
parliamentarism, only the bourgeoisie had the right to vote was established. This
situation lasted, in most western states until the late nineteenth and even early twentieth
century. Universal suffrage is a relatively recent invention in the history of capitalism.
How to explain this? In the seventeenth century, when British capitalism proclaimed:
"No taxation without our representation" was just a representation of the bourgeoisie
that he had in mind, because the idea that the people who had nothing and paid no taxes
could vote it seemed ridiculous and absurd.
Originally, the parliament was created with the purpose of controlling government
spending made with taxpayers' money. For the English bourgeois parties, parliament's
role was to oversee budgets and expenses and only those who pay taxes can supervise.
Who does not pay tax has a tendency to increase spending because it does not meet any
expenses. Later, the bourgeoisie began to face the problem in another way. With
universal suffrage emerged universal tax that increasingly taxes on the workers. It was
thus that the bourgeoisie restored "justice" inherent in the system worldwide. The
parliamentary institution is a typical example of the very direct link between the domain
of the ruling class and the exercise of state power. Today only the most naïve believe
that the executive and parliament govern in fact, they are masters of the state, based on
This process shows perfectly that the proclaimed political equality is more apparent
than real and that the citizen's right to vote is nothing more than a mere right to vote at
certain times. The law goes no further, nor (especially) reaches the actual centers where
decisions are made and power is exercised. Monopolies seizing Parliament. In fact, it
was only in the Parliament that the common denominator of the interests of the
bourgeoisie could determine. The capitalist groups could only join in an orderly fashion
in Parliament. It is the Parliament that a line can be drawn to express the interests of the
capitalist class as a whole.
The question that arises for the vast majority of the population today in the world is how
to implode the current process that makes the executive and parliament to act as
instruments of the ruling classes to transform, in truly democratic organizations acting
on benefit of the entire population. There is only one way to transform the state of the
capitalist class in State of the whole people which is the strengthening of civil society
organizations. Objective reality shows that the election of people's representatives to the
executive and parliament is not enough to change the character of the governments that
will always remain in the service of the ruling classes.
Gramsci developed the expanded state theory, establishing the concepts of political
society, like all state apparatus of coercion (the mechanisms by which the ruling class
imposes its domination, achieved a monopoly of force, such as the executive and
bureaucratic apparatus forces police and military) and repression of civil society,
formed by private apparatus of hegemony (those responsible for the formulation and
circulation of different ideologies such as political parties, trade unions, the church, the
schools, the media of social organisms mass, etc.) [See GRAMSCI, Antonio.
Maquiavel, a Política e o Estado Moderno (Machiavelli, Politics and the Modern
State). Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira, 1991].
For Gramsci , the state is "the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with
which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance, but manages to
win the active consent of the governed". Political domination is not seen only as vertical
coercion by the apparatus of power, a one-way street, but how widespread the whole of
civil society relationship, whereby the dominated not appear as mere passive agents
because, at various times assume as its dominant ideology or, conversely, organize
resistance and opposition to it. Thus, private apparatus of hegemony cannot be
identified only as breeders dominant discourse because it gives them-even though on a
reduced scale, the same ideological struggle that rages throughout society.
As a fundamental consequence of these considerations is the realization that the struggle
for power requires hard work and persuasion to convince the broad popular strata by the
social group that aims to conquer it. In this sense, Gramsci developed a theory that
enables creation of methodical and systematic occupation by workers of existing
strategic spaces, in an expansion of the sphere of civil society to political society
organized around the state, enabling the conquest of political power process. According
to him, in Western societies, the proposed fight for radical transformation of the
capitalist system and the conquest of state power by the workers would not take over
exclusively by insurrectionary means in the strict sense, ie the seizure of power as a
sharp and explosive war of movement (taking over power) as occurred in Russia of the
Tsars in 1917.
All countries that have adopted the war of movement with the power to assault launched
by the Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia failed in building socialism. The
alternative proposed by Gramsci pointing out that it would take a prolonged war of
position in which the revolutionary party would seek to exercise hegemony between
social sectors for which the structural change of society is needed. According to
Gramsci, hegemony would be the ability of a social group to unify around their broader
political project not homogeneous block. The group or class that leads this block is
hegemonic because it can go beyond their immediate economic interests, to keep
articulated heterogeneous forces, an essentially political action, preventing the eruption
of the contrasts between them. Hegemony is something you earn through political
leadership and consensus and not by coercion. The path proposed by Gramsci is what
would enable the realization of social change in every country in the world which can
only be achieved to the extent that civil society in each country is strong enough to take
the state and turn it democratically for the benefit of all the people.
Alcoforado, Fernando, engineer and doctor of Territorial Planning and Regional Development from the
University of Barcelona, a university professor and consultant in strategic planning, business planning,
regional planning and planning of energy systems, is the author of Globalização (Editora Nobel, São
Paulo, 1997), De Collor a FHC- O Brasil e a Nova (Des)ordem Mundial (Editora Nobel, São Paulo,
1998), Um Projeto para o Brasil (Editora Nobel, São Paulo, 2000), Os condicionantes do
desenvolvimento do Estado da Bahia (Tese de doutorado. Universidade de Barcelona,
http://www.tesisenred.net/handle/10803/1944, 2003), Globalização e Desenvolvimento (Editora Nobel,
São Paulo, 2006), Bahia- Desenvolvimento do Século XVI ao Século XX e Objetivos Estratégicos na Era
Contemporânea (EGBA, Salvador, 2008), The Necessary Conditions of the Economic and Social
Development-The Case of the State of Bahia (VDM Verlag Dr. Muller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. KG,
Saarbrücken, Germany, 2010), Aquecimento Global e Catástrofe Planetária (P&A Gráfica e Editora,
Salvador, 2010), Amazônia Sustentável- Para o progresso do Brasil e combate ao aquecimento global
(Viena- Editora e Gráfica, Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, São Paulo, 2011) and Os Fatores Condicionantes do
Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (Editora CRV, Curitiba, 2012), among others.