Cultural Studies Terms/Hegemony*

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(pronounced [hə.ˈdʒe.mə.ni])
Leadership or dominance; a form of power; social group struggle to achieve a kind of dominance in both thought and practise over others.

Definition: . Hegemony is a concept that has been used to describe the existence of dominance of one social group over another. Hegemony is a form of power based on leadership by a group in many fields of activity at once, so that its ascendancy commands widespread consent and appears natural and inevitable.

Antonio Gramsci, chief theorist of hegemony, displaced the notion of domination by that of hegemony and reduced Marx connection between power and knowledge to class power and interests, but took this thought farther and explained that social groups struggle in many different ways, to win the agreement of other groups to gain dominance in thought and practice over them. He states that the power is controlled by the upper class. Hegemony means that a diverse culture can be ruled or dominated by one group or class, that everyday practices and shared beliefs provide the foundation for complex systems of domination. Hegemony is portrayed as a complex layering of social structures. Each of these structures have their own “mission” and internal logic that allows its members to behave in a way that is different from those in different structures.Through the existence of small and different circumstances, a larger and layered hegemony is maintained yet not fully recognized by many of the people who live within it. According to Gramsci, since power in a democracy is as much a matter of persuasion and consent as of force, it is never secured once and for all. Any dominant group has to acknowledge the existence of those whom it dominates by winning the consent of competing or marginalized groups in society. He points out that hegemony is never permanent or reduced to one class model of society.

Related terms: Power/Knowledge; ideological domination

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