University of Limerick
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ZANU-PF’s long reign: a gramscian perspective on hegemony and historic blocs

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posted on 2022-10-07, 11:45 authored by Hamadziripi Munyikwa
This thesis seeks to account for the nearly four decade-long rule of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) using the methods of Antonio Gramsci’s historical political economy, particularly his concepts of historical blocs and hegemony. Gramsci’s theories provide useful tools for explaining Zanu-PF’s and by generalisation other similarly entrenched regimes across Africa by employing an ontology, an epistemology and a method that incorporates historical, economic and ideological factors. Gramsci’s theories help us analyse dynamics of structure and agency, modes of production and ideology, as well as consent and coercion in the creation and maintenance of long lasting political dominance. The Gramscian concept of the historical bloc supplies a conceptual continuum between the base, a society’s mode of economic production and reproduction, and the superstructure, the dominant ideologies and political institutions. The thesis identifies three post-independence historical blocs in Zimbabwe, the 1980 era’s ‘corporatist/welfarist’ or ‘compromise state’ historical bloc; the attempted neo-liberal Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) historical bloc and finally the crisis hegemonic bloc which corresponds with the Third Chimurenga and the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. The thesis considers that this last bloc includes the period of the Government of National Unity Between 2009-2013 and has to the present. Hegemony is understood as the continuum between ‘intellectual and moral leadership obtained by consent’ and the strategies employed on the terrain of ‘relations of force’ in achieving and maintaining political dominance (Gramsci, 2000, p. 202). The thesis concurs with the observation by Gramscian scholar David Moore that Zanu-PF has never enjoyed leadership based solely on intellectual and moral leadership without the threat of violence. Neither, however, is it the case that the party has ruled entirely by force without claiming to derive its authority from a higher ideological and moral source. The thesis will therefore seek to make explicit at which points either consent or coercion has been primary in maintaining the party’s dominance within each historical bloc. In applying Gramscian theories to Zimbabwean history and politics the thesis remains sensitive to the conundrums at the centre of Gramsci’s and indeed wider Marxian theory. Firstly, the question of whether politics and ideology can be read off an analysis of a society’s mode of production and reproduction? Secondly whether scholars and political actors can develop accurate analyses or political strategies bound by relations of consent and coercion based off the analysis of production and the class structures it creates? The above theoretical questions notwithstanding; the primary concern of the thesis is to understand how Zanu-PF (and by generalisation other similarly entrenched African regimes such as those for instance in Algeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia) has used varying combinations of consensual and coercive measures within the framework of history defined by economic and ideological factors. The abovementioned theoretical concerns must be considered if reductionism and subjective voluntarism about base or superstructure, structure and agency or the dominance of either consent or coercion, are to be avoided. However the resolution of the theoretical questions will not be the core aim of this thesis. The dissertation applies the Gramscian method to address the question of Zanu-PF’s rule rather than using the Zimbabwean case to refine Gramscian theoretical debates. The methodological approach holds that Zimbabwe’s turbulent history is determined as much by modes of production as it is by ideology, politics and methods of representation and that Zanu- PF’s maintenance of power has relied on both coercion and consent. Gramsci’s theories provide useful heuristic tools to understand these dynamics and their deep historical roots in a manner that equally considers structural factors as it does key moments of agency and strategic decisions by important political leaders.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Lodge, Tom





Department or School

  • Politics & Public Administration

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