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Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The dominance or leadership of one social group or nation over others the hegemony of a single member state is not incompatible with a genuine confederation to say they have priority is not to say they have complete hegemony the consolidation of the United States' hegemony over a new international economic system

(Greek: γεμονία hēgemonía, English: [UK] /hɨˈɡɛməni/, [US]: pronounced /hɨˈdʒɛməni/; "leadership" or "hegemon" for "leader") is a form of political dominance wherein one great power can exercise its influence to pressure other states into changing their external and internal policies by utilizing a combination of military force, technical strength, economic coercion, and active cooperation. Hegemony is internally reinforced by a set of common values and institutions, and the external manifestation of hegemonic power can take many forms: from the acquisition of material resources to social domination, from consensus to coercion (Agnew 2005:20-21; Destradi 2010:912-913; Watson 2007:80-81). While initially referring to the political dominance of certain ancient Greek city-states over their neighbors, the term has come to be used in a variety of other contexts, in particular Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony.

History of hegemony

As the modern world-system emerged in the sixteenth century, so did the modern model of hegemony. This period was one of unprecedented expansion of European scope and power, as the New World was first incorporated and long-distance maritime trade routes with the Americas and East Asia became increasingly vital to the propagation of power (Black 2008:27-29). During this struggle for control of the now greatly expanded world market, Portugal and Spain emerged as early leaders, especially after the union of the Habsburgs. Jeremy Black and Herman Schwartz suggest that while Portugal, Spain, Britain, France, and Holland all had claims to maritime dominance, the Portuguese came forward as a proto-hegemony after their economic expansion into the Indian Ocean (Black 2008:29-30; Schwartz 2010:65). The Dutch quickly replaced the Portuguese as Habsburg Portugal succumbed to external pressures after years of war with Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire (Schwartz 2010:65-73).

Thus, around 1580, the Dutch began the first full-fledged, widely recognized hegemony of the modern world-system. The Dutch thrived as imperialistic mercantilism flourished among the great European powers, and dominated the world economy through overt control of trade routes throughout the Baltic and the East Indies (Black 2008:49-63). Schwartz suggests that as a hegemon, the Netherlands did not rely solely on military might, but rather controlled the world-system intellectually and economically; while the Dutch did control as many as half of Eurasia's warships, their dominance depended on heavy importation of raw materials and sheer purchasing power (Schwartz 2010:73-75). Sandra Destradi states that this reliance on the marketplace society over martial prowess is an important component of the hegemon--while it possesses the capacity to dominate through sheer force, it also has the ability (and perhaps the responsibility) to abstain from using this power (Destradi 2010:913).

After the erosion of the Dutch hegemony due to a period of warring from 1688-1792, Britain emerged as a new hegemon. Britain, much like the Netherlands, depended on overwhelming naval power and possessed the military security to control the maritime economy (Schwartz 2010:74). However, where the Dutch relied upon consensual dominance, Britain originally took a more militaristic approach. In this way, the British hegemony manifested itself geographically as an empire (Agnew 2005:20). Distinction between hegemony and empire can be difficult, but Agnew suggests that the main differences lie in the hegemon's wont to persuade or reward subordinates instead of promptly coercing them, along with its lack of dependency on purely territorial power (Agnew 2005:22-23). Britain held an intermediate position, remaining both empire and hegemon. But as the British industrial revolution moved forward, Britain settled into a much more Gramscian position of hegemonic power, relying on the culture of technology to unite the new British society (Schwartz 2010:84). Production boomed as iron and cotton textile manufactures were industrialized, and Britain began to flood the global market with exports. British efficiency proved itself to be the hegemon's most valuable commodity, and by 1860 Britain's modest population--2 percent of the world population--was producing 20 percent of the world's manufacturing output (Schwartz 2010:84-85). Industrialization normalized the often-disparate British populations, becoming a vital part in the institutionalization of British culture throughout the empire's vast expanses of territory.

Even with these massive advantages in the economic sector, the British hegemony was not without resistance. Most notable is that of France during the Napoleonic Wars, as Napoleon pursued his own colonial goals within Europe while Britain's focus remained outside of Europe. Napoleon's campaigns throughout mainland Europe, while never reaching British soil, directly challenged Britain's dominance in the European sphere. According to Black, Napoleon's ultimate failure to thwart the ascent of British hegemony was due to a lack of vision, as he never fully understood the dynamics of large-scale commercial trade and never possessed a comprehensive strategic goal (Black 2008:90-91). The British knowledge of market society proved to be its greatest weapon, as Britain held a huge resource advantage and was able to win the struggle for alliances (Black 2008:91-93).

The exact timeframe of Britain's loss of hegemonic status is controversial, but most scholars place it somewhere between 1890 and 1945. Peter Hugill claims that the United States began its push for hegemony as early as 1860, but that this American hegemony was never fully realized until post-World War II (Hugill 2010:403-404). The rise of industry in Germany and the United States proved the main contributing factor in the slow decline of the British hegemony, especially with the advent of heavy rail accelerating the resource allocation in North America and Central/Eastern Europe (Black 2008:137-138). International transportation and international communication had become the means of power in the now-global world-system, and naval dominance could no longer compete (Hugill 2010:404-405). This slow decline then met with catastrophe, in the form of World War I and the Great Depression. Monetary crises, a failure to grasp continuous-flow production, and the inability to maintain control over trade networks led to the eventual collapse of the British hegemony in the 1920s and 1930s (Schwartz 2010:165-177).

Where Britain failed to embrace a changing world market, the United States excelled. By building its economy on the automobile, petroleum, the assembly line, and standardized commodities, America was able to continuously expand its productivity throughout the early 20th century (Schwartz 2010:177). By the close of World War II, America had cemented itself as a hegemonic power, having dominated the technological development in the fields of international transportation and communication. Throughout the Cold War era, a starkly Gramscian mass culture emerged in the United States as multinational companies began to thrive. American hegemonic expansion has long been "characterized not by the acquisition of new territories, but by their penetration," and these multinational companies are perfect examples, even when their interests do not line up with the interests of the state (Hugill 2010:421). While some scholars maintain that America's advance was due to the inherent coercion and imposition of World War II, the rise to hegemony was much more likely a function of America's technological superiority and authority over transportation, communication, and oil.

Theory of hegemony

The theory of hegemony harkens to the work of Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who theorized that cultural and social relations, along with economic supremacy, are key to the success of a hegemon (Destradi 2010:913; Agnew 2005:20). Agnew refers to this process as "consensual dominance:" the conquest of a culture through the establishment of a universal ideology determined by the experiences of a dominant state or social group (Agnew 2005:20-22). This Gramscian view of hegemonic power involves the subversion of the citizenry to the point where "subordinates believe that the power rests upon the consensus of the majority," even when this may not be the case (Destradi 2010:913-914). The homogenization of the populace ensures social domination and state consolidation, allowing force and coercion (while always present) to largely go unused (Agnew 2005:20-21, 25; Watson 2007:80-81). In this way, hegemony is enough to "ensure conformity of behavior in most people most of the time" (Destradi 2010:913).

The ability to craft alliances, along with similar cooperative strategies, are extremely important tools possessed by the hegemon. Through consensual domination, hegemonies not only internally control their populations, but also influence the external policies of subordinate states (Black 2008:91). Robert Keohane argues that hegemonies are able to influence the political landscape by supervising the relationships between subordinate states, effectively controlling hierarchical power and directing economic markets (Keohane 2005:44-45). Keohane admits that this influence and the cooperation of the hegemon and its secondary states is an inherently fragile bond, as it will inevitably lead to a core-periphery confrontation. Uneven development ensures that cooperation is incomplete and tenuous, although not necessarily without benefits for each state involved (Keohane 2005:44). Adam Watson labels this structure of dubious cooperation as the "dynamic equilibrium" of hegemony--a system subject to continuous change, where the constancy of the hegemon's principles and practices works to fortify alliances and provide coherence within the hegemon's community of allies .

One persistent question throughout this latest hegemonic cycle has been whether hegemony is necessary for the success of the world-system. This concept of hegemonic stability implies that the hegemon possesses such vast material and productive capabilities that it can singularly affect the world economy (Destradi 2010:914). Keohane states that this would require control over raw materials, sources of capital, markets, and production of highly valued goods--in essence, nearly owning the free world market (Keohane 2005:32-35). The evidence for the validity of hegemonic stability is sparse, and thus the theory is "suggestive but by no means definitive"--concentrated power alone cannot stabilize the international economic marketplace (Keohane 2005:38). The global market relies on cooperation above all else, and it is impossible to prove that a hegemon is necessary for cooperation between modern states. In fact, Destradi states that the model of "benevolent hegemony" is intrinsically flawed because of the hegemon's primary goal of following its own interests and, in doing so, establishing a stable environment only for itself.

Debate over the emergence of the next hegemon

While debates over hegemonic stability rage on, the most contentious issue surrounding hegemony continues to be the question of who will be the next hegemon. Some scholars argue that the United States is in a long period of decline, and must soon relinquish its seat of power, while others argue that the American hegemony has no end in sight (Black 2008:232-233; Lee 2009:40-41). Some point to Japan, the European Union, China, or India, while others believe that the contemporary manifestation of the world-system no longer supports the concept of hegemony at all (Clark 2009: 35-36). Perhaps the rhythm will continue, or perhaps it will fade away. In either case, the unprecedentedly rapid globalization in the past twenty years has drastically changed how the world-system functions, and the cycle of hegemony must adapt quickly or be swallowed into a newly structured world. The hegemon of the past--that which affects policies through force, technology, economics, or diplomacy--may need to evolve once more to remain viable in the future.

Resistance and survival

In Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (2004), Conrad Phillip Kottak elucidates hegemony ideologically — that an ideology explains why the extant order (politico-military and socio-economic) is in the best interest of everyone; the ideology promises much, and asks the ideologue's (believer's) patience (time) for the promises to be fulfilled

Hegemony takes place in variety of ways…

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 itssocial 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.

Cultural Hegemony: Gramsci’s theory

For Karl Marx, a capitalist society’s economic recessions and practical contradictions would provoke the working class to revolution in deposing capitalism — and then to restructuring the existing institutions (economic, political, social) per rational, socialist models; thus, beginning the transition to acommunist society. In Marxist terms, the society’s dialectically-changing economy determines its cultural and political superstructures, i.e. its social and economic classes. Despite Marx and Friedrich Engels having predicted this eschatological scenario in 1848, decades later, the workers — the economic core of an industrialised society — had yet to effect it.

To understand this, Gramsci posits a strategic distinction, between a War of Position and a War of Manoeuvre. The war of position is intellectual, a culture war in which the anti-capitalist educators, agitators and organizers seek to have the dominant voice in the mass media, other mass organisations, and the schools (and actively conduct ideological subversion). Once achieved, this position will be used to increase class consciousness, teach revolutionary theory and analysis, and to inspire revolutionary organisation. On winning the intellectual war of position, communist leaders would then have the necessary political power and popular support to begin the war of manoeuvre — the armed insurrection against capitalism.

The phrase "the long march through the institutions" is used in Marxist speech to refer to a war of position, alluding to the Long March of the Chinese Red Army in the 1930s. The phrase does not originate with Gramsci, though it is widely attributed to him. Rather, it was coined by German student movement leader Rudi Dutschke in 1967 as „Der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen“, as his reformulation of Gramsci's ideas, using language influenced by then-current interest in Maoism.

Although cultural domination was first analysed in economic class terms, it is broadly applicable tosocial class. Gramsci suggested that prevailing cultural norms must not be perceived as either “natural” and “inevitable”, but, that said cultural norms (institutions, practices, beliefs) must be investigated for their roots in societal domination and their implications for societal liberation.

Cultural hegemony is neither monolithic nor unified, rather it is a complex of layered social structures (classes). Each has a “mission” (purpose) and an internal logic, allowing its members to behave in a particular way that is different from that of the members of the other social classes, while also coexisting with these other classes. Because of their different social missions, the classes will be able to coalesce into a greater whole, a society, with a greater social mission. This greater, societal mission is different from the specific missions of the individual classes, because it assumes and includes them to itself, the whole.

Likewise, does cultural hegemony work; although each person in a society meaningfully lives life in his or her social class, society’s discrete classes might appear to have little in common with the life of an individual person. However, perceived as a whole, each person’s life contributes to the greater society’s hegemony. Diversity, variation, and freedom will apparently exist, since most people “see” many different life circumstances; but they are incapable of perceiving the greater hegemonic pattern created when the lives they themselves witness coalesce into a “society”. Through the existence of minor, different circumstances, a greater, layered hegemony is maintained, not fully recognized by most of the people living in it.

In a layered cultural hegemony, personal "common sense" maintains a dual structural role. Individuals utilize this "common sense" to cope with daily life and explain to themselves the small segment of the social order they come to witness in the course of this life. However, because it is by nature limited in focus, common sense also inhibits the ability to perceive the greater, systemic nature of socio-economic exploitation that cultural hegemony makes possible. People concentrate their attention upon their immediate concerns and problems in their personal lives, rather than upon the fundamental sources of their social and economic oppression.

Although the concept of cultural hegemony has primarily been used by leftists, organized conservative social organizations (movements) also have used it in their politics. An example, in the US of the 1990s, were the efforts of evangelical Christian organizations to win election onto local school boards in order to have the power to dictate curricula aligned with their religious interpretation of what constitutes a proper publiceducation. To wit, in 1992, at the Republican Convention, the rightist politician Patrick Buchanan addressed the conventioneers using the term Culture War in describing his perception of [[US politics], as being the socio-political struggle between US conservatism and US liberalism.

Alain De Benoist and others from the European New Right movement have also been known to follow and appreciate Gramscian notions and ideas.

As a theory, cultural hegemony has deeply influenced Eurocommunism, the social sciences, and activist politics. In the social sciences, its theoretic application in examining major discourses (e.g. those posited by Michel Foucault) is an important aspect of anthropology, political science, sociology, and cultural studies; moreover, in education the concepts of cultural hegemony led to the development of critical pedagogy and the technique of communist ideological subversion of Western democracies.

Prepared by Biju P R,Assistant Professor in Poltical Sceince,Govt Brennen College,Thalassery

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