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Under hegemony refers to the imputed or occupied leadership or priority of a social institution (one country , one organization ) or other actors in political , military , economic , social, religious or cultural matters.

Hegemony explicitly means “leadership” and includes (unspoken) acceptance and voluntariness . In contrast, empire explicitly means “rule” or “supremacy” and, on the other hand, implies a coercive relationship based on command and obedience .

Compared to a hegemon , the ruler in the hegemony or (in ancient Greece ) the leader of a federation, other actors in a social system have only limited opportunities to implement their own ideas and interests in practice. The theoretical / legal possibility to do so may be given, but the implementation can fail due to the influence and the overwhelming power of the hegemon.

The adjective belonging to the noun hegemony is called hegemonic , its opposite anti-hegemonic .

Origin of the term

The term hegemony comes from the Greek (from ancient Greek ἡγεμονία hēgemonía - 'army command, hegemony, supreme command'; this from ἡγεμών hēgemṓn - ' leader , leader')

As a technical term for 'domination, supremacy', hegemony was borrowed before the 19th century from Greek hēgemonía (actually 'leadership') and Greek hēgemōn and these in turn derived as a noun agentis to Greek hēgeĩsthai - 'go ahead, lead'.

Hegemony in international relations

There are many examples of hegemonic rulership structures in history, for example Athens and Sparta , Macedonia under Philip II and the Roman Empire in antiquity . Currently, in some circles, the superpower USA in particular is associated with this term, in the sense of an apparently leading role in global politics.

The political theory of neorealism explains the emergence of hegemony from the existence of different capabilities of different states and a supremacy in these very same. Hegemone can lead to a hierarchy of power in the international system; nevertheless, this hierarchy is precarious and subject to criticism from third parties. This instability is justified with the striving of the individual states for relative gains (more or less balanced conditions), according to which the tendency towards the emergence of a power balance leads to a long-term counterpoint to the existing hegemony. According to neorealism, the most stable constellation is the bipolar system. Heinrich Triepel , a teacher of international law, formulated this idea as early as 1938, speaking of dualism .

Since major contributions to the theory of neorealism were made by US scientists and historians, this theory is also assumed to be implicitly, sometimes explicitly, affirming Western, but above all American, hegemony. This assertion corresponds, for example, to the discussion about a possible decline in US supremacy at the beginning of the 1970s, which was discussed in the foundation of the Hegemonic Stability Theory by Charles P. Kindleberger et al. a. culminated in a realignment of US foreign policy. Hegemony is interpreted positively, since the supremacy of a state can guarantee collective goods such as security and prosperity; of course, this results in the subordination of third states. In terms of a reformulated theory of hegemony, theorists such as Robert O. Keohane and Joseph Nye call for a foreign policy based more on cooperation and consensus than on coercion in order to be able to claim recognition within the international system; According to them, the political capital of symbolic politics (so-called soft power ) is a factor that should not be underestimated in the competition between competing concepts of world order (cf. interdependence theory ).

The political implementation of the hegemonic theory takes place at the beginning of the 2020s against the background of a predominantly confrontational foreign and military policy "America-first" course of the US administration. This can also be seen in the struggle for the last still functioning Russian-American treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons New START, for example in the US Compliance Report 2020. Even under changed geopolitical power constellations and the latest technological developments that can be used militarily, a hegemonic American style of politics emerges clearly: The United States does not respond to Russia's arguments and references to specific American behavior in violation of the Treaty. According to their own imperial or hegemonic value standard, (security) political judgments are made about the global contractual partners, but their economic defensive position and conventional military-political inferiority are ignored.

Hegemony in civil society

In a theoretical analysis of the politics and theories of Leninism , Stalinism and Italian fascism , Antonio Gramsci developed a Marxist theory of the multifaceted relationship between political power and hegemony in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in his prison notebooks. In connection with Gramsci, “hegemony” refers to “a type of rule that is essentially based on the ability to define and enforce one's own interests as general social interests”.

Gramsci referred to the places of conflict over hegemony as civil society . His reflections on the translation of ideological views into “ common sense ”, the relationship between traditionally acting intellectuals and parties as “collective intellectuals” and the like result in a concept of a resistive and democratic struggle for “ cultural hegemony ”. According to Gramsci, their gain creates the possibility of political rule, their loss undermines the ruling power. The cultural hegemony according to Gramsci extends into forms of everyday culture and folklore , into superstitions and the like. The fascist dictators made use of a culture of approval in which they made use of sports ( bread and games ). For Gramsci, hegemony is a specific way of exercising power in society.

From the direction of post-structuralism a u. a. Developed a discourse-analytical hegemony theory based on Gramsci , which was largely elaborated by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe . The two move away from the class-theoretical assumptions of the concept of hegemony in Gramsci, and hegemony is interpreted as the “basic principle of social interaction.” Hegemony has become a fundamental mechanism for the creation of identity and the construction of importance. Benjamin Opratko therefore speaks of the ontologization of the concept of hegemony that has taken place.

Raewyn Connell introduced the term “ hegemonic masculinity ” into research on men .


  • Perry Anderson : Hegemony. Conjunctions of a term. Translation by Frank Jakubzik . suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-518-12724-7 .
  • Barbara Bauer u. a. (Ed.): Atlas of globalization. TAZ, Berlin 2003 (Le Monde diplomatique), ISBN 3-9806917-6-4 .
  • Mario Candeias : Neoliberalism -High-Technology-Hegemony. Outlines of a transnational capitalist mode of production and life. A criticism, In: Argument, special volume NF AS 299, Argument, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-88619-299-7 (also dissertation at the Free University of Berlin 2003).
  • Ludwig Dehio: balance or hegemony. Reflections on a basic problem in modern history. Krefeld / Zurich 1948 (new print 1996)
  • Iris Dzudzek, Caren Kunze, Joscha Wullweber (eds.): Discourse and hegemony: Perspectives critical of society. Transcript, Bielefeld 2012.
  • Antonio Gramsci: Prison Notebooks . Edited by Klaus Bochmann and Wolfgang Fritz Haug , 10 volumes. Argument-Verlag, Hamburg 1991–2002.
  • Wolfgang Fritz Haug , Alastair Davidson: Hegemony. (pdf) In: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism . Volume 6.1, Argument-Verlag, Hamburg 2004, Sp. 1-29.
  • Robert Keohane : After Hegemony. Princeton University Press, Princeton / NJ 1984.
  • Ernesto Laclau , Chantal Mouffe : Hegemony and Radical Democracy . On the deconstruction of Marxism (original title: Hegemony and socialist strategy translated by Michael Hintz and Gerd Vorwallner). In: Passages Philosophy. Passagen, Vienna 2000 (first edition 1985), ISBN 3-85165-453-6 .
  • Ulrich Menzel : The order of the world. Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-518-42372-1 .
  • Dieter Nohlen (Hrsg.): Lexicon of politics. Volume 1: Political Theories. Munich 1995, pp. 174-180.
  • Benjamin Opratko: Hegemony. Political theory according to Antonio Gramsci. 3rd expanded edition. Münster 2017, ISBN 978-3-89691-681-5 .
  • Stefan Robel: Hegemony in International Relations. Lessons from the failure of the “theory of hegemonic stability”. Dresden Working Papers International Relations, DAP-2, Dresden 2001.
  • Brendan Simms : Struggle for Supremacy. A German History of Europe from 1453 to Today. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2014.
  • Heinrich Triepel : The hegemony. A book by leading states [with a foreword by Gerhard Leibholz from 1961]. 2nd reprint of the 2nd edition Stuttgart 1943, Scientia, Aalen 1974, ISBN 3-511-00096-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Hegemony  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Germany's New Power Politics: Cooperation or Hegemony? In: DWN interview from February 26, 2020 with Erhard Crome.
  2. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary . G. Freytag Verlag / Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Munich / Vienna 1965.
  3. See term hegemony. In: Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary. 23rd, extended edition, Berlin / New York 1999, p. 363.
  4. ^ Heinrich Triepel: Hegemony. Stuttgart 1938.
  5. ^ Theodore Cohn: Global Political Economy. 6th edition, Pearson 2012, pp. 62ff.
  6. Cf. Charles P. Kindleberger: The world economic crisis. Munich 1973, p. 321.
  7. See Compliance Report June 2020 ; Translation a. d. Engl. By Rainer Böhme, report of the United States Department of State to the Congress of June 2020 (German: “Compliance with and compliance with agreements and obligations on arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament”). In: Arms control in discourse. DGKSP discussion papers , Dresden 2020, July, Appendix pp. 63–170 ( online ).
  8. See synopsis on the discourse on compliance - Russia vs. United States (2017-2020). In: Arms control in discourse. Regulatory Compliance and US Compliance Report. Translation ad Russ. and Engl. by Rainer Böhme, DGKSP discussion papers , Dresden 2020, July, pp. 3–62 ( online ).
  9. ^ Ulrich Brand, Christoph Scherrer: Contested Global Governance. Competing forms and contents of global regulation. P. 6. (PDF; 507 kB)
  10. Victoria de Grazia: The culture of consent. Mass organization of leisure in fascist Italy. CUP, Cambridge 1981, ISBN 0-521-23705-X .
  11. ^ Arnd Krüger : Strength through joy. The culture of consent under Fascism, Nazism and Francoism. In: James Riordan , Arnd Krüger (Ed.): The International Politics of Sport in the 20th Century. Spon, London 1999, ISBN 0-419-21160-8 , pp. 67-89 .
  12. Cf. Benjamin Opratko: A theoretical universal key? On the ontologization of the concept of hegemony in Laclau and Mouffe. In: Iris Dzudzek, Caren Kunze, Joscha Wullweber (eds.): Discourse and Hegemony. Socially critical perspectives. Bielefeld 2012, p. 69.
  13. a b Benjamin Opratko: A theoretical universal key? On the ontologization of the concept of hegemony in Laclau and Mouffe. P. 70.