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Hegemony

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By NikitaStephen
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sci“What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural “levels”: the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and “judicial” government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government.” →Antonio Gramsci From Gramsci’s prison note books

Introduction

Hegemony is a concept that has been used to describe and explain the dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group or hegemon acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force. It is used broadly to mean any kind of dominance, and narrowly to refer to specifically cultural and non-military dominance, as opposed to the related notions of empire and suzerainty

Gramsci and Hegemony
The idea of a ‘third face of power’, or ‘invisible power’ has its roots partly, in Marxist thinking about the pervasive power of ideology, values and beliefs in reproducing class relations and concealing contradictions. Marx recognised that economic exploitation was not the only driver behind capitalism, and that the system was reinforced by a dominance of ruling class ideas and values – leading to Engels’s famous concern that ‘false consciousness’ would keep the working class from recognising and rejecting their oppression.False consciousness, in relation to invisible power, is itself a ‘theory of power’ in the Marxist tradition. It is particularly evident in the thinking of Lenin, who ‘argued that the power of ‘bourgeois ideology’ was such that, left to its own devices, the proletariat would only be able to achieve
‘trade union consciousness’, the desire to improve their material conditions but within the capitalist system’. A famous analogy is made to workers accepting crumbs that fall off the table (or indeed are handed out to keep them quiet) rather than claiming a rightful place at the table.
The Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, the General Secretary of the Italian Communist Party a leading Marxist thinker imprisoned for 20 years of his life by Mussolini, took these idea further in his Prison Notebooks with his widely influential notions of ‘hegemony’ and the
‘manufacture of consent’ (Gramsci 1971). Gramsci saw the capitalist state as being made up of two overlapping spheres, a ‘political society’ (which rules through force) and a ‘civil society’ (which rules through consent). This is a different meaning of civil society from the
‘associational’ view common today, which defines civil society as a ‘sector’ of voluntary organisations and NGOs.
Gramsci saw civil society as the public sphere where trade unions and political parties gained concessions from the bourgeois state, and the sphere in which ideas and beliefs were shaped, where bourgeois ‘hegemony’ was reproduced in cultural life through the media, universities and religious institutions to ‘manufacture consent’ and legitimacy.
Like Althusser, Gramsci rejected economism, insisting on the independence of ideology from economic determinism. Gramsci also rejected crude materialism, offering a humanist version of Marxism which focused on human subjectivity.
Gramsci used the term hegemony to denote the predominance of one social class over others
(e.g. bourgeois hegemony). This represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as 'common sense' and 'natural'.

As Gramsci explains, the world is divided between civil society and political society. The components of the civil society are religious institutions, educational institutions, Media even family and friends.
Likewise, the components of the political society are the state,(state apparatus) and the
Government.
The political society dominating the civil society is a necessary condition but the means to achieve it may vary. Domination can be practiced Domination with authority, with consent, with legitimacy is the Hegemony and the biggest contribution to this concept. Antonio Gramsci believed that this hegemony was in the hands of the oppresive Bourgeoise class who used the state and its apparatus as their personal tool to carry out and fulfil their interest.
Gramsci states that the bourgeois class practices hegemony on all the other classes including the proletariat. This sense of legitimacy that is brought upon as a consequence of the capitalist hegemony enables the bourgeois class to carry out their oppresive, exploitative and unfair policies effortlessly and with ease as the bourgeois hegemony ensures the absence of any kind of opposition. Ensures and enfirms the belief that these exploitative policies are fair, natural expected. Thus believe all the classes of the society, all subjugated at the same time without opposition, by the bourgeois class.
The solution Gramsci advocates is 'counter hegemony' that needs to be created by the proletariat class. The proletariat class needs to control the political society to make the civil society and the other classes of the society realize the expoitative nature of the bougeoisie and have their belief on the proletariat ideology and reject the bourgeosie ideology. This again is to be attained but not by force. The proletariats too have to master their hegemony to influence the rest of the society.
So the asnwer to the bourgois hegemony, according to Gramsci is Proletarian hegemony.
The political and practical implications of Gramsci’s ideas were far-reaching because he warned of the limited possibilities of direct revolutionary struggle for control of the means of production; this ‘war of attack’ could only succeed with a prior ‘war of position’ in the form of struggle over ideas and beliefs, to create a new hegemony (Gramsci 1971). This idea of a ‘counter-hegemonic’ struggle – advancing alternatives to dominant ideas of what is normal and legitimate – has had broad appeal in social and political movements. It has also contributed to the idea that ‘knowledge’ is a social construct that serves to legitimate social structures. In practical terms, Gramsci’s insights about how power is constituted in the realm of ideas and knowledge – expressed through consent rather than force – have inspired the use of explicit strategies to contest hegemonic norms of legitimacy. Gramsci’s ideas have influenced popular education practices, including the adult literacy and consciousness-raising methods of Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), liberation theology, methods of participatory action research (PAR), and many approaches to popular media, communication and cultural action.
The idea of power as ‘hegemony’ has also influenced debates about civil society. Critics of the way civil society is narrowly conceived in liberal democratic thought – reduced to an
‘associational’ domain in contrast to the state and market – have used Gramsci’s definition to remind us that civil society can also be a public sphere of political struggle and contestation over ideas and norms. The goal of ‘civil society strengthening’ in development policy can thus be pursued either in a neo-liberal sense of building civic institutions to complement (or hold to account) states and markets, or in a Gramscian sense of building civic capacities to think differently, to challenge assumptions and norms, and to articulate new ideas and visions.

Laclau and Mouffe
The most influential ‘new social movements’ theorists comefrom Left and Marxist backgrounds and retain much of theirearlier ‘radical’ and ‘progressive’ goals. But they reject what theyunderstand to be central tenets of Marxism: that the working class would playthe primary role in progressive change;thatsuch change was synonymous with the struggle againstcapitalism; that capitalism as a system based on the exploitationof surplus labour was the fundamental and overarching cause of oppression; and that history was somehow on the side of Marxism and its success was ‘inevitable’. In 1985, with theirbook Hegemony and Socialist Strategy
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe were some of the first theorists to explicitly present such a post-Marxist perspective through an appropriation of many postmodernist and post- structuralist ideas. As Alan Keenan hasrecently remarked, ‘The importance of new social movements forLaclau and Mouffe’s overall argument, and for their conceptionof radical and plural democracy, can hardly be overstated.’ Laclau and Mouffe’s work is an important focus since it hasbeen among the most influential theoretically and draws significantly from
Derrida, Foucault and the linguistically orientedpoststructuralism discussed above. Gramsci plays a prominentrole in their trajectory out of Marxism into post-Marxism andtheir ‘radical democratic’ theory of new social movements.

Laclau and Mouffe totally agree that the society is domintaed by the bourgeois class and the means to fulfil this domination is hegemony. They use hegemony to get their way and the other ruled class don't even realise their being subjugated. Bourgeois class is thus very much using hegemony and practising exploitative policies.
But on the answer of counter hegemony Laclau and Mouffe part their ways on Gramsci on the question of who will bring about counter hegemony. As per Gramsci, it is the sole responsibility of the proletarian ideology i.e antibourgeoisie and to make the other classes believe in it. Laclau and Mouffe are against the focus and emphasis on the proletarian class that are being dominated by the bourgeosie and for all the oppression is the same and the oppressed are more than one. Then why should it be a "proletarian hegemony" to replace the bourgeois hegemony. Why should such a big section of the society completely ignored.
There is definitely a need for an alternate ideology to replace the capitalist bourgeois ideology but there is no need to have the proletarian ideology as the default ideology as the "ideal" alternative. All the sectional classes of the society should be given due and equal priority. The opinions and ideology of all must be taken into account and one common-good for all- ideology must be penned down that represents and cares for the majority if not all. It should not necessarily be a proletarian ideology as advocated by Gramsci. All the opressed classes must come together to develop an all representing ideology and that ideology should be the very inevitable counter of the bourgeoisie ideology. Coming from all oppressed classes will emerge a democratic hegemony. This concept of democratic hegemony is brought about by
Laclau and Mouffe.
This ideology would seek to break down the ongoing exploitative bourgeoisie hegemony. This will be the ideology derived from the the majority and will be much more democratic in nature.
The society that will emerge based on this democratic ideology will be marked by identity where the Marxists are of the opinion that the relationship in production based economy will never change. A bourgois will always remain a bourgeois.
But Laclau and Mouffe say that an identity is not permanent. This identity may and will undergo a radical change. A peasant may upgrade himself to a bourgeois or his condition may deteriorate. There is a continous change of identity.
In this society when all the oppressed will come together to throw away the oppressor the inequalities will wither away. This society will have all classes coming together for a purpose and in the process the inequalities among the classes will fade away and this society will thus be marked with a different consciousness – a sense of equivalence. This equivalence is not to be perceived in economic sense. This sense of equality comes as they all being repressed will come together and will be levelled shoulder to shoulder thus will be enlightened with the fact that they are equal in terms of identity with equal rights. This equality will be based on collective will against the oppressor. Thus this Radical democracy will come up to society where identities going on a continuous change will result in an equal society.
"Radical democracy" means "the root of democracy." Laclau and Mouffe claim that liberal democracy and deliberative democracy, in their attempts to build consensus, oppress differing opinions, races, classes, genders, and worldviews. In the world, in a country, and in a social movement there are many (a plurality of) differences which resist consensus. Radical democracy is not only accepting of difference, dissent and antagonisms, but is dependent on it. Laclau and Mouffe argue based on the assumption that there are oppressive power relations that exist in society and that those oppressive relations should be made visible, re- negotiated and altered. By building democracy around difference and dissent, oppressive relations of power that exist in society[clarification needed] are able to come to the forefront so that they can be challenged

References
· Toimey and Tan Shen - Key Thinkers From Critical Theory to Post-Marxist Laclau and Mouffe: Towards a Radical Democratic Imaginary Publisher Chennai, Sage Publication 2006

· Laclau and Mouffe - Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Publisher Verso (New Left) Publication date 1985

· Peter Ives - Language and Hegemonyin Gramsci Fernwood Publishing, First published 2004 by Pluto Press

· Toni Negri-"Reading Gramsci Anew" , Historical Materialism Book Series, vol. 24, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2009 - published in il manifesto, 19 February 2011, p. 11

· Thomas R. Bates- "Gramsci and the theory of Hegemony", Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 36, No. 2, Apr. - Jun., 1975 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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