Definition of Hegemony
(noun) The authority, dominance, and influence of one group, nation, or society over another group, nation, or society; typically through cultural, economic, or political means.
Examples of Hegemony
- The cultural influence of the United States on the rest of the world spread through movies, music, and television.
- The cultural and societal definitions of acceptable femininity and masculinity.
- American English – /hi-jEm-uh-nee/
- British English – /hi-gE-muh-nee/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /həˈdʒɛməni/
- British English – /ˈhɛɡᵻməni/
- Plural: hegemonies
- A dominate leader is referred to as a hegemon.
- It is easy to associate hegemony synonymously with domination but it is more nuanced. Hegemonic power works by consent, not coercion caused by force or violence; thus it is not questioned. Hegemony supports the status quo and solidifies the idea that “how it is” represents “how it should be.” Therefore, hegemonic power becomes “common sense” and normalized within a society, facilitating compliance.
- The Marxist theory of cultural hegemony (also called ideological hegemony) developed by Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) explains how the dominant class has the power to control not only a society’s economic and political institutions, but also to influence the intellectual and moral basis of society whereby their own superior position is considered in the best interest of all. Cultural hegemony allows the dominant class to create and transfer beliefs, mores, and values to the subordinate class.
- Hegemony is an example of soft power.
- Sociologist study numerous forms of hegemony such as hegemonic masculinity and media hegemony.
- A (noun) hegemonist exerts (adjective) hegemonic control to (adverb) hegemonistically create (noun) hegemonism.
- “[A]lthough true equality of opportunity is probably not possible, the myth of meritocracy in America is itself harmful because its legitimation of inequalities of power and privilege rests on claims that are demonstrably false” (McNamee and Miller 2013:19).
- “The crisis creates situations which are dangerous in the short run, since the various strata of the population are not all capable of orienting themselves equally swiftly, or of reorganizing with the same rhythm. The traditional ruling class, which has numerous trained cadres, changes men and programmes and, with greater speed than is achieved by the subordinate classes, reabsorbs the control that was slipping from its grasp. Perhaps it may make sacrifices, and expose itself to an uncertain future by demagogic promises; but it retains power, reinforces it for the time being, and uses it to crush its adversary and disperse his leading cadres, who cannot be be very numerous or highly trained” (Gramsci 1971:304).
- “Discourses of underdevelopment and development emerged in the 1940s and became institutionalized in the context of decolonization, the Cold War, and the United States’ struggle for hegemony. A specific blueprint for planned social change (modernization overcoming traditionalism), shaped by Western notions of social evolution, was promoted by the North, adopted by elites in the South, and underpinned the newly established global institutions. These included the United Nations, the development institutions established by the Bretton Woods Agreement signed in July 1944, which became operational in 1946 (the World Bank, made up of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association, and the International Monetary Fund [IMF]), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). That blueprint was articulated around the notion that Third World countries would ‘catch up’ with the First World through economic growth, technological transfer, and Westernization” (Flora and Flora 2007:496).
- “Many societies were founded on misogynist ideas that women were not full human beings. Because of their supposedly innate inferiority women were excluded from all the fun stuff—celebrations, rituals, sports, power, and glory—as well as a lot the hard stuff—paid work, military service—that was then glorified as exclusively masculine” (Kaufman and Kimmel 2011:102).
- “The major impetus for the creation of national education systems lay in the need to provide the state with trained administrators, engineers and military personnel; to spread dominant national cultures and inculcate popular ideologies of nationhood; and so to forge the political and cultural unity of burgeoning nation states and cement the ideological hegemony of their dominant classes” (Green 1990:309).
- “To enforce its power and sustain its privileges, the dominant ethnic group employs certain tools, which can be subsumed under the categories of prejudice and discrimination. Widely held beliefs and values regarding the character and capacities of particular groups are necessary to assure the long-range durability of ethnic inequality. These beliefs and values take the form of prejudices, that is, negative ideas expressing the superiority of the dominant groups” (Marger 1985:45).
- Word origin of “hegemony” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Abu-Lughod, Janet L. 1989. Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250–1350. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Agnew, John. 2005. Hegemony: The New Shape of Global Power. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
- Agnew, John, and Stuart Corbridge. 1995. Mastering Space: Hegemony, Territory and International Political Economy. London: Routledge.
- Boothman, Derek, ed. trans. 1995. Antonio Gramsci: Further Selections from The Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence & Wishart.
- Chomsky, Noam. 1969. American Power and the New Mandarins. New York: Vintage.
- Chomsky, Noam. 2003. Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. London: Hamish Hamilton.
- Clark, Ian. 2011. Hegemony in International Society. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Cox, Robert W. 1987. Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Davidson, Alastair. 1977. Antonio Gramsci: Towards an Intellectual Biography. London: Merlin Press.
- Femia, Joseph V. 1981. Gramsci’s Political Thought: Hegemony, Consciousness, and the Revolutionary Process. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Gill, Stephen. 1989. American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Gilpin, Robert. 1981. War and Change in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Edited and Translated by Q. Hoare and G. Nowell-Smith. New York: International.
- Ives, Peter. 2004. Language and Hegemony in Gramsci. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
- Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 2014. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. 2nd ed. London: Verso.
- Levin, David Michael, ed. 1993. Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Flora, Cornelia Butler, and Jan L. Flora. 2007. “The Sociology of Development.” Pp. 496 in 21st Century Sociology: A Reference Handbook, edited by C. D. Bryant and D. L. Peck. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
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Cite the Definition of Hegemony
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “hegemony.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 5, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/hegemony/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
hegemony. (2015). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/hegemony/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “hegemony.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 5, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/hegemony/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“hegemony.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 5 Jun. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/hegemony/>.