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Hegemony (pronounced hə'dʒɛ.mə.ni or 'hɛ.dʒəˌmo.ni) (greek:ηγεμονία) is the dominance of one group over other groups, with or without the threat of force, to the extent that, for instance, the dominant party can dictate the terms of trade to its advantage; more broadly, cultural perspectives become skewed to favor the dominant group. Hegemony controls the ways that ideas become "naturalized" in a process that informs notions of common sense.
Throughout history, cultural and political power in any arena has rarely achieved a perfect balance, but hegemony results in the empowerment of certain cultural beliefs, values, and practices to the submersion and partial exclusion of others. Hegemony affects the perspective of mainstream history, as history is written by the victors for a sympathetic readership. The official history of Christianity, marginalizing its defined "heresies", provides a richly-exampled arena of cultural hegemony.
Jás Elsner, in Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (1998), has written:
- "Power is very rarely limited to the pure exercise of brute force.... The Roman state bolstered its authority and legitimacy with the trappings of ceremonial — cloaking the actualities of power beneath a display of wealth, the sanction of tradition, and the spectacle of insuperable resources.... Power is a far more complex and mysterious quality than any apparently simple manifestation of it would appear. It is as much a matter of impression, of theatre, of persuading those over whom authority is wielded to collude in their subjugation. Insofar as power is a matter of presentation, its cultural currency in antiquity (and still today) was the creation, manipulation, and display of images. In the propagation of the imperial office, at any rate, art was power." (quoted at )
Theories of hegemony[edit | edit source]
Theories of hegemony attempt to explain how dominant groups or individuals (known as hegemons) can maintain their power -- the capacity of dominant classes to persuade subordinate ones to accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms. Antonio Gramsci devised one of the best-known accounts of hegemony. His theory defined the State by a mixture of coercion and hegemony, between which he drew distinctions; according to Gramsci, hegemony consists of political power that flows from intellectual and moral leadership, authority or consensus, as distinguished from mere armed force.
Recently, critical theorists Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe have re-defined the term "hegemony" as a discoursive strategy of combining principles from different systems of thought into one coherent ideology. An example of this is the American project of discoursively tying together democracy, liberalism, freedom of trade and war on terror into one coherent bundle.
Hegemonies in history[edit | edit source]
The word "hegemony" originated in ancient Greece, and derives from the word hegeisthai (meaning "to lead"). An early example of hegemony during ancient Greek history occurred when Sparta became the hegemon of the Peloponnesian League in the 6th century BC. Later, in 337 BC, Philip II of Macedon became the personal Hegemon of the League of Corinth, a position he passed on to his son Alexander the Great.
In ancient China during the Eastern Zhou dynasty the Zhou kings appointed hegemons (known as "Ba"). This was due to the increasing chaos that resulted from the weakening of Zhou authority. The hegemons - initially from the powerful state of Jin - were men with sufficient strength to impose Zhou rule. In return they got prestige and legitimacy they would not otherwise enjoy. The office of hegemon had vanished by the time the last Zhou king was deposed in 256 BCE.
The term hegemon is also used to describe Japan's three unifiers in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu each had different titles (and held many different posts during their lifetimes), but each had in common that they exercised hegemony over all or much of Japan (and in Hideyoshi's case much of Korea at one point). For ease of reference they are collectively referred to as the three hegemons or the three unifiers.
To the extent that hegemony appears as a cultural phenomenon, cultural institutions maintain it. The Medici maintained their hegemony in Tuscany through control of Florence's major guild, the Arte della Lana. Modern hegemonies also maintain themselves through cultural institutions, often with allegedly "voluntary" membership: the law abiding citizens or, arguably, the Teamsters in states without "right to work" laws — one might adduce countless modern associations.
The dominance of the British Empire during the 19th Century can be considered the first emergence of a global hegemon whose influence reached all over the globe. The hegemony, or dominance, of Britain during this period stemmed not only from its large military power on the seas, but also from its financial and ideological power in both its Empire (the colonies) and elsewhere.
In more recent times, analysts have used the term hegemony in a more abstract sense to describe the "proletarian dictatorships" of the 20th century, resulting in regional domination by local powers, or domination of the world by a global power. China's position of dominance in East Asia for most of its history offers an example of the regional hegemony.
The Cold War (1945 - 1990), with its main avenues of coercion — the Warsaw Pact led by the USSR and NATO led by the United States — often appears as a battle for hegemony. The details of the parties' respective ideologies have no relevance to whether they are hegemons: both sides featured superpowers (supported by their clients) battling to dominate the arms race and become the supreme world superpower. The details of the ideologies do come into play to the extent they determine how persuasive or efficient each hegemon is.
Since the end of the Cold War, analysts have used the term "hegemony" to describe the United States' role as the sole superpower (the hyperpower) in the modern world. However, some scholars of international relations (such as John Mearsheimer) argue that the United States does not have global hegemony, since it lacks the resources to impose dominance over the entire globe. Also, China is at least partially a superpower itself, and is capable of competing with the U.S.
Hegemony in Fiction[edit | edit source]
Orson Scott Card used the title 'Hegemon' to describe the office of world leader taken by the fictional character Peter Wiggin, the brother of Andrew (Ender) Wiggin. The story of Peter's rise to dominance is (partly) told in the science fiction novel 'Ender's Game', and more fully in the 'Shadow' series. Peter uses his great intelligence and political savvy to manipulate public opinion. Initially through Locke, his alter ego, and Demosthenes, that of his sister Valentine Wiggin.
Geography of hegemonies[edit | edit source]
Geopolitics influences hegemonies. Ancient hegemonies developed in fertile river valleys (an example of hydraulic despotism): Egypt, China and the succession of states in Mesopotamia. In China during the Warring States Era the state of Qin artificially created waterways (such as the Chengkuo Canal) in order to give itself an advantage over its neighbouring rival states. Hegemonic successor states in Eurasia tended to cluster around the Middle East for a period, utilising either the sea (Greece) or the fringe lands (Persia, Arabia). The focus of European hegemony moved west to Rome, then northwards to the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire. The Atlantic seaboard had its heyday (Spain, France, Britain) before the fringes of the European cultural area took over in the twentieth century (United States, Soviet Union).
Some regions exhibit continually fluctuating areas of regional hegemony: India, for example, or the Balkans. Other regions show relative stability: northern China offers a case in point.
Resistance and Survival[edit | edit source]
Conrad Phillip Kottak, in Window on Humanity (2004), explains hegemony in terms of ideologies that offer explanations about why the existing order is in everyone's interest. Many things are promised, but are said to take time and patience in order for them to happen.
One good way to keep the people away from oppression would be by telling people that they will eventually gain power in the near future. In most cultures it is seen that the young respect their parents; therefore they let their elders decide what they want to do because of the great respect they have towards them. Another great example would be Solitude: separating soldiers and making them talk by torture.
See also[edit | edit source]
Hegemony[edit | edit source]
- Hegemony or Survival, a book by Noam Chomsky
- Spartan hegemony (404 BC - 371 BC)
- Theban hegemony (371 BC - 362 BC)
Power[edit | edit source]
Other[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Open Directory Project: Hegemonism
- Stuart Hainsworth, "Gramsci's hegemony theory and the ideological role of the mass media"
Mike Dorsher, Ph.D., "Hegemony Online: The Quiet Convergence of Power, Culture and Computers"