On OAC, a smart young scholar named Toby Locke has started a thread on Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. Being no expert on Gramsci, but knowing we have one here, I reproduce his opening statement below, in the hope that Carl will offer some more informed answers than I am capable of.
I have been examining Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. There are a few areas of this idea that I am unsure of and would like to hear others opinions on the meaning of this concept and its physical manifestations. The below quote comes from Gramsci’s prison note books:
“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.”
Now, in referring to hegemony my understanding is that he is referring to the ideologies and morals of any given society; the ideas which are common most world views and thought patterns of individuals within a collective group. He appears to be implying that the hegemony is somehow a construction and tool of the ruling classes which enables the perpetuation of power over the masses. When this method fails judicial action is used. He also seems to be stating that the intellectual culture of the time is instrumental in the development and utilisation of hegemony.
Asides from the Marxist context, is there a distinct difference between hegemony and Durkheim’s collective consciousness?
Can something like hegemony, which to me would appear to have a cyclical relationship between itself and society, really be used as a tool of domination? Or is it beyond the control of the ruling classes? Obviously the advent of mass media changes the likely answer to this somewhat.
Are all intellectuals architects and actors of hegemony? Surely they are in the same cyclical relationship: hegemony influences and acts upon their work and visa versa.