Sunday, 26 February 2017

Presentation on Hegemony

What is Hegemony

This word is derived from the Greek verb hegeisthai, which translates as “to lead.” Early leaders who were able to exert control and influence over a group of people might be referred to as hegemons. A hegemon had to have the support from at least one dominant class of people to keep the population as a whole from rebelling against the leadership.
Historically, this term often referred to a city-state or country that exerted power over other city-states or countries indirectly rather than through military force. Modern uses of "hegemony" often refer to a group in a society having power over others within that society. For example, the wealthy class might be said to have hegemony over the poor because of its ability to use its money to influence many aspects of society and government.

Hegemony more often refers to the power of a single group in a society to essentially lead and dominate other groups in the society. This might be done by controlling forms of communication, by influencing voters or by influencing government leaders. Some lobbying groups, for example, might have hegemony status over leaders in congress. Rules that would prohibit or limit political spending by special interest groups are designed to reduce their dominance and allow individual voters to have more control.

Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci, was a leading Marxist thinker, he rejected economism, insisting on the independence of ideology from economic determinism. Gramsci also rejected crude materialism, offering a humanist version of Marxism which focused on human subjectivity.
Gramsci used the term hegemony to denote the predominance of one social class over others. This represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as 'common sense' and 'natural'. Commentators stress that this involves willing and active consent. Common sense is 'the way a subordinate class lives its subordination’.
 Gramsci emphasizes struggle. He noted that 'common sense is not something rigid and immobile, but is continually transforming itself’. As Fiske puts it, 'Consent must be constantly won and rewon, for people's material social experience constantly reminds them of the disadvantages of subordination and thus poses a threat to the dominant class... Hegemony... posits a constant contradiction between ideology and the social experience of the subordinate that makes this interface into an inevitable site of ideological struggle’. References to the mass media in terms of an ideological 'site of struggle' are recurrent in the commentaries of those influenced by this perspective. Gramsci's stance involved a rejection of economism since it saw a struggle for ideological hegemony as a primary factor in radical change.

Cultural Hegemony

Cultural hegemony is the philosophic and sociological concept, originated by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, that a culturally-diverse society can be ruled or dominated by one of its social classes. It is the dominance of one social group over another, e.g. the ruling class over all other classes. The theory claims that the ideas of the ruling class come to be seen as the norm; they are seen as universal ideologies, perceived to benefit everyone whilst only really benefiting the ruling class. For example : 

In "advanced" industrial societies hegemonic cultural innovations such as compulsory schooling, mass media, and popular culture had indoctrinated workers to a false consciousness. Instead of working towards a revolution that would truly serve their collective needs, workers in "advanced" societies were listening to the rhetoric of nationalist leaders, seeking consumer opportunities and middle-class status, embracing an individualist ethos of success through competition, and/or accepting the guidance of bourgeois religious leaders. In India, Cultural hegemony can b seen through the condescending trend of professions such as engineering and medicine over other professions. 

Cultural Hegemony

Five Dimensions of the Concept of Hegemony

There are at least five basic dimensions to the concept of hegemony, ranging from gross and obvious to more subtle. Hegemony is much more than simple domination because of its more subtle dimensions found later on this list.

Five Dimensions of the Concept of Hegemony

1. Military

The hegemon has the strongest military in the world, significantly stronger than any of its rivals. Its military alliance system is significantly stronger than any rival military blocs.
military hegemony

2. Economic

The hegemon has the largest and most technologically advanced economy in the world. It is a major trading partner of most of the nations of the world, including most of the major powers.

Economic Hegemony

3. Political

The hegemon has a wide range of political allies, and friendly relations with most nations and major powers.

Political Hegemony

4. Institutional
The hegemon, working with its allies, makes most of the rules that govern global political and economic relations. The hegemon, along with its allies, usually controls most of the international institutions. Thus, most of the policies of the international institutions favor the hegemon and its allies. 

Institutional Hegemony 

5. Ideological
The hegemon largely determines the terms of discourse in global relations. Marx once wrote, "The ruling ideas of any age are the ideas of the ruling class." Today, the predominant ideas about globalization are the ideas of hegemon. 


Besides money, other forms of influence can be used by one group to dominate others. For example, control of the media can influenced things such as what shows get aired or canceled and the degree to which a television station covers or does not cover certain news stories. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, however, this dominance was reduced because the Internet gave individuals and small companies more access and control over different forms of media, such as news and music.

People became able to self-publish music, videos, texts and other works of art rather than being under the control of broadcasting, publishing or other types of corporations. In addition, a greater variety of these works became available to consumers. News came to be disseminated through blogs and social networking websites in addition to traditional media outlets. All of these things reduced the hegemony of large corporations in the news and entertainment industries.

What exactly is the meaning of "hegemony"?

"...Dominant groups in society, including fundamentally but not exclusively the ruling class, maintain their dominance by securing the 'spontaneous consent' of subordinate groups, including the working class, through the negotiated construction of a political and ideological consensus which incorporates both dominant and dominated groups."

A class had succeeded in persuading the other classes of society to accept its own moral, political and cultural values;
The concept assumes a plain consent given by the majority of a population to a certain direction suggested by those in power;
However, this consent is not always peaceful, and may combine physical force or coercion with intellectual, moral and cultural inducement;
Can be understood as "common sense", a cultural universe where the dominant ideology is practiced and spread;
Something which emerges out of social and class struggles, and serve to shape and influence peoples minds;
It is a set of ideas by means of which dominant groups strive to secure the consent of subordinate groups to their leadership;


Hegemony is readjusted and re-negotiated constantly. Gramsci said that it can never be taken for granted, in fact during the post-revolutionary phase (when the labour class has gained control) the function of hegemonic leadership does not disappear but changes its character.

However, he describes two different modes of social control:

Coercive control: manifested through direct force or its threat (needed by a state when its degree of hegemonic leadership is low or fractured);
Consensual control: which arises when individuals voluntarily assimilate the worldview of the dominant group (=hegemonic leadership).


Most American specialists in international relations (and many of their European counterparts) believe in the theory of hegemonic stability.  Simply stated, this theory argues that the hegemonic power plays a crucial role in maintaining stability and order in the world system.  In other words, the hegemon is the most benign power in the global system.  Because the hegemon is the power that benefits most from the existing world system, the hegemon has the greatest stake in keeping that system functioning.  The military power of the hegemon keeps the peace, discouraging challengers to the global order.  The economy of the hegemon is the engine that drives international economic growth and development.  In order to preserve its network of alliances, the hegemon is the political broker who moderates disputes between other powers, thus keeping them from escalating into serious conflict.  The hegemon seeks to bind other states into the global order and thus plays a leading role in developing global institutions that manage international security and economic relations.  The hegemon is often the source and usually a propagator of ideas about world order and security.  For example, current concepts of “globalization” are shaped largely by American intellectuals.  In the words of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the hegemon is “the indispensable nation…(the one) that walks tall and looks forward.”

On the other hand, the theory of hegemonic instability argues that hegemony is a destructive force in the global system.  The hegemon uses its military power to impose its will around the world, raising the level of violence associated with regional political conflicts.  The economy of the hegemon sucks resources from less developed economies and twists development around the globe to fit its insatiable appetites rather than benefit the peoples of the world.  The alliance system of the hegemon virtually guarantees that peoples and states excluded from the hegemon’s councils will be forced into a series of counter-hegemonic alliances.  Conflict between the hegemonic alliance system and the counter-hegemonic alliance system was the source of the two world wars and the Cold War.  The military competition between the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic alliances turns many otherwise manageable political disputes into violent conflict.  The rules and values of the international institutions constructed by the hegemon are blatantly unfair.  The hegemon represents its own narrow national interests as the interests of global society, while in fact global institutions serve to expand the power and wealth of the hegemon.  Just as a dictator within a nation proclaims himself the protector and voice of the people while actually suppressing and exploiting the people, the hegemon claims to be the protector of international order and the driving force of global prosperity, but in truth the hegemon spreads disorder, repression, and exploitation.

Hegemonic Instability

Hegemony and the Media
Gramsci believed the media have always played a key role in teaching people to do things in their everyday lives that support the power structures. In media studies today, people look at how the media support power structures such as government, capitalism/corporations, and patriarchy. For example:
A news report that shows strong support for a controversial foreign policy decision can be said to hegemonically support the government.
A home improvement network that makes it seem "normal" to own high-end granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances can be said to be hegemonically supporting the capitalist economic system.
A game show that shows scantily-clad women passively standing still until the host tells her to "open the case" can be seen as hegemonically promoting patriarchy.
Media can also be seen as being counterhegemonic. An episode of a sitcom that questions traditional women's roles, for example, might be seen as counterhegemonic. So might a documentary that questions the government's involvement in a war.

Antonio Gramsci's conceptualization of hegemony has become an important part of the media studies discipline and media studies classes around the world. This concept has contributed a valuable vocabulary for discussing the relationship between media and power.

Hegemony and the Media

In conclusion , the vast concept of hegemony can be summarized as

Conclusion on Hegemony