Hegemony

From Academic Kids

Hegemony 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; or more broadly, that cultural perspectives become skewed to favor the dominant group.

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 written by the cultural 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 [1] (http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/late_antiquity_imp_image.html))
Contents

Theories of hegemony

Theories of hegemony attempt to explain how dominant groups (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 its coercion combined with hegemony; 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".

Hegemonies in history

The word "hegemon" 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.

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.

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.

Geography of hegemonies

Geopolitics influences hegemonies. Ancient hegemonies developed in fertile river valleys (an example of hydraulic despotism): Egypt, China and the succession of states in Mesopotamia. 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.

Long-lived hegemonies (China, Pax Sinica; Rome, Pax Romana) offer a contrast to shorter dominations: the Mongol Empire or Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

to be written: the idea of "hegemony" in Marxist theory.

See also

External links

de:Hegemonie he:הגמוניה nl:Hegemonie no:hegemoni zh:霸权主义 sv:Hegemoni

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