Cultural hegemony

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According to Antonio Gramsci, cultural hegemony describes the production of ideas that can be approved.

Concept of power

In bourgeois society , rule is not created by mere coercion, but people are convinced that they live in the "best of all possible worlds": the stable forms of capitalist systems of rule are established through consensus , through " hegemony " in civil society ( societas civilis ) mediated as well as through their hegemony apparatus, such as education , integration and education systems and associations : schools, mass media , churches, charities, for example.

For Gramsci, hegemony means “ that the ruling group will coordinate itself in a concrete way with the general interests of the subordinate groups and that state life is to be understood as a continuous formation and overcoming of unstable equilibria [...], equilibria in which the Ruling group interests prevail, but only up to a point, i.e. H. not up to a narrow economic- corporate interest "

Gramsci first formulated his concept of hegemony on the basis of developments in Italian history, particularly the Risorgimento . Accordingly, the Risorgimento could have taken on a revolutionary character if it had managed to win the support of the broad masses (especially the peasants, who at that time formed the majority of the population). The limits of the bourgeois revolution were that it was not led by a radical party; this in contrast to France, where the rural population who supported the revolution was decisive in the defeat of the aristocratic forces. The most progressive Italian party at the time was the Partito Sardo d'Azione. This, however, did not have the ability to unite the progressive bourgeois forces with the peasants and so did not represent the leading force, because this position was occupied by the moderate forces. This enabled the Cavourans to take the lead in the bourgeois revolution and absorb the radical forces. This succeeded because the moderate Cavourans had an organic relationship with their intellectuals, who, like the politicians, were landowners and industrial tycoons. Most of the population thus remained passive and a compromise was reached between the capitalists of northern Italy and the large landowners of southern Italy.

   „Die Vorherrschaft einer sozialen Gruppe zeigt sich auf zwei Arten, als Beherrschung und als intellektuelle sowie moralische Führung. Eine soziale Gruppe ist dominant, wenn sie die gegnerischen Gruppen unterwirft und die verbündeten Gruppen anführt. Eine soziale Gruppe kann, ja muss sogar vor der Machtübernahme die Führung übernommen haben; wenn sie dann an der Macht ist […] wird sie dominant, aber sie muss weiterhin führend bleiben.“

From Gramsci's point of view, every group striving for domination in a modern society must be prepared to compromise on its economic and social interests, to seek compromises with a large number of political forces and to form alliances with them. Gramsci calls these alliances Historical Block, a term coined by Georges Sorel. This block forms the basis for a social order through which the hegemony of the dominant class is formed and ensured with the help of a link between institutions, social relationships and ideas. In Italy this historical block was formed by the industrialists, the landowners, the middle class and parts of the petty bourgeoisie.

Gramsci noted that in the West, the cultural values ​​of the bourgeoisie are linked to Christianity. Therefore, part of his criticism of the prevailing culture is also directed against religious norms and values. He was impressed by the power the Catholic Church had over the believers and saw the care with which the Church prevented the religion of the intellectuals from becoming too distant from the religion of the uneducated. Gramsci believed that the task of Marxism was to combine the criticism of religion exercised by humanism in the Renaissance with the main elements of the Reformation. According to Gramsci, Marxism cannot supersede religion until it can meet people's spiritual needs, and for that to happen they must perceive it as an expression of their own experiences.

For Gramsci, the experiences of the Russian Revolution could only be transferred to Western Europe to a limited extent: Should there be a fundamental change in social conditions in the industrialized countries, this would have the character of a "positional war" rather than a "war of movement" over the prevailing ideas: It is not only a question of the economic balance of power, but also that in politics and in the mass media. Here Gramsci particularly explored the history and theory of intellectuals with a very broad concept of intellectual: everyone is an intellectual because everyone has the ability to think; but not everyone has the function of an intellectual. Gramsci speaks here of "organic intellectuals" (who can and are allowed to dominate the hegemonic apparatuses).

In the course of its reception history, the concept of hegemony has found its way into many fields of the social sciences:

Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony, for example, is increasingly being taken up in the feminist discussion in order to explain the functioning of gender-specific subordination. The complex structures that are maintained by gender-specific relationships of rule would be aligned with Gramsci's idea of ​​rule by consensus , i.e. H. by internalizing the relations of domination, can be explained far more credibly than with the theory of violence and coercion as the cause of this cultural hegemony. Therefore, the term hegemonic gender relations is also used here.

Gramsci's concept of hegemony was brought into the post-Marxist discussion primarily through Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe . This is due in particular to his criticism of the extreme dualism between material basis and ideal superstructure that prevailed in the Marxist discussion at the time , which he helped overcome with his emphasis on the importance of ideology .

In the area of international relations , the specifically Gramscian concept of hegemony (in contrast to the common, more politico-military) has found a permanent place since the beginning of the 1990s at the latest.

We find a reformulation and further elaboration of the concept of hegemony in Pierre Bourdieu's work on “ Symbolic Violence ”.

The New Right also relies on Antonio Gramsci. Since there are currently no historical circumstances - such as a mass movement - for a desired turnaround, the most important tactical approach of the New Right is the claim to achieve "discourse sovereignty" in social debates and cultural hegemony. The Identitarian Movement in particular refers to Gramsci.


  • Brigitte Rauschenbach: Cultural hegemony and gender as a challenge in the European unification process. An introduction . 2005 online
  • Stephen Gill Ed .: Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations. Cambridge University Press 1993
  • Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe : Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. Verso, London 1985
    • Hegemony and radical democracy. To the deconstruction of Marxism . Vienna 1991

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Prison booklets 7, 1584, cited above. n. ( Mario Candeias (final chapter of the dissertation) ( Memento of March 11, 2006 in the Internet Archive )).