the hegemony of discontent



This article discusses the political significance of common sense, an issue originally broached by Gramsci. It has two objectives: first, to develop a theoretical concept of common sense that recognizes its emotional dimension; and second, to show that commonsense thought and feeling need not tranquilize a restive populace but can even incite violent, if contained, rebellion. The discussion is grounded in a detailed case study of an election and riot in the Brazilian city of São Luís. In São Luís, a profound ambivalence toward superiors pervades a common sense of power arising in the social domains of family, religion, and work. This volatile common sense of power is the cornerstone of São Luís' hegemony of discontent, a cognitive and emotional universe permitting ambitious politicians to mobilize popular outrage against rivals but thus far precluding challenges to the clientelistic structure within which political competition occurs. [Brazil, politics, hegemony, rebellion, common sense]