Cultural Hegemony


Culturalhegemonyrefers to a state whereby one culture dominates over the others,either intentionally or by the merit of having innate superiorcharacteristics. The dominant culture exerts excessive pressure tothe rival minor cultures regarding the way they should carrythemselves on matters concerning economic and political valuesaspirations. The cultural consent that influences the generaldirection that the population takes is determined by both prestigeand the consequent dignity the leading group holds in the productionworld (Lears 568). Antonio Gramsci, an Italian scholar, popularizedthe philosophy, in the 19th century. He defined cultural hegemonyoccurs when a given group of people acquires instant consent to ruleor dominate over others because the society deems its culturalideology powerful than the alternatives available (Lears 570). Thegroup controls majority of the social institutions thereby, itshapes the daily behaviors, thoughts, and expectation of an entiresociety through controlling the regular beliefs, ideas, and valuesthat shape ideologies of a given society (Lears 572).

Accordingto Gramsci, cultural theory occurs in societies where individualshave both consent and force to dominate a society. However,subsequent researchers contrasted with his definition as they gaveprove that some cultures become dominant through monopolizing powerinstruments. Although the researchers agree that consent andcoercion can co-exist in a cultural hegemony setting, one of the twois often dominant (Lears 573).

Culturalhegemony origin

Culturalhegemony dates back to the Ancient Greece. The city-state that hadthe most power military and political power often controlled theweaker cities. For example, King Philip II of Macedon founded TheHellenic League, a Greek city-states confederacy in 338 BC. He aimedat using the Greek military power to conquer Persia (Lears 575).

TheEuropean colonialism in the 19th century was a cultural hegemony.Unlike the ancient times when dominance was determined by havingstable political ideologies and military, nineteenth century hegemonyinvolved acquiring control of countries in Asia, Americas, and Asia(Lears 577).

Bythe twentieth century, cultural hegemony had expanded to includecultural control established by certain people in power that involvessocially diversified community. The ruling class uses intellectualphilosophies to manipulate the beliefs of the lower social groups.This implies that the ruling class develops ideologies for justifyingthe economic, social, and political status quo existing in thecommunity (Lears 589).

Howcultural hegemony is used

Presently,cultural hegemony occurs in a diverse social structure such as abusiness environment, media, language, economic, political, andculture. For example, the United States is focused on enhancingcultural hegemony as it provides a gateway for expanding its businessinterests into emerging societies. Similarly, the US has been usingprint, music, television, and movies entertainment to attract othersocieties to adopt its customs. However, the central argumentthroughout history is that cultural hegemony is voluntary.

InTheGreeks: History, Culture, and Society,the authors cover various forms of social hegemony in the ancienttimes. One of them includes slavery. During the eighth century B.C,the population increased by 100% since food production increasedwhile the death rate decreased. However, overcrowding in cities suchas Argos and Athens forced some Greeks to embark on emigrationtowards the east coast of Sicily from 734 B.C. The emigrants thatcould not get unoccupied lands seized displaced the indigenoussettlers or even enslaved them. Slavery was a common culturalhegemony in the ancient Greek society, which involved extremeoppression. In fact, the emigrating Greeks managed to establish newcolonies in Southern Italy and Sicily because they had highermilitary and economic power than the neighboring civilizations(Morris and Powell 78).

Originally,the Greeks migrating to form new colonies had come from AegeanPoleis. The emigrants formed independent colonies from the mothercity, and they often became richer. The vast land and wealth in thecolonies attracted people from the mother city thereby, making thecolonies become bigger and richer than Aegean poleis. The colonies’appeal to attract new settlers was a form of cultural hegemonyenhanced by the strong economic capacity of the cities. For example,the Sparta invaded Messenia, occupied its entire territory, andenslaved the people who initially occupied it. “Aftera long struggle, the Spartans annexed Messenia, enslaved itspopulation, and divided its land among themselves(Morris and Powell 79).”

TheGreeks required bigger pieces of land by the eighth century. However,the increased desire to increase land under cultivation made thewealthy people establish policies to concentrate big pieces of landunder their ownership. This was a form of cultural hegemony becausethe landless people would be forced to provide labor to the wealthyindividuals’ land to earn a living. Initially, the seized land wasdistributed equally among the people in the colonies, but the wealthyrealized that the poor concentrated on farming their lands. Thisimplies the wealthy could not cultivate big farms as the poor Greekswere not available to provide labor. “Ifthe rich could concentrate all land in their own hands, the poorwould have to work for them if the land could be distributedequally, the poor could support themselves(Morris and Powell 80).”

Lastly,the poets commanded high respect among the Ancient Greeks. In fact,the Greeks initially invented alphabets because they wanted a methodthey could use to preserve the poems. The poets were highly respectedamong the Dark-Age Greeks as they were often the most educated andknowledgeable people. In fact, the society looked up to the societyfor solving various problems because they were the most educated.“Poetswere to the Greeks as prophets were to the Hebrews, of priests to theEgyptians, defining culture and its values(Morris and Powell 89).


Lears,T. Jackson. “The Concept of : Problems andPossibilities.” TheAmerican Historical Review,90.3. (1985): 567- 597. Print.

Morris,Ian, and Barry B. Powell. TheGreeks: History, Culture, and Society.2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.