Hegemony: WTF? An introduction to Gramsci and cultural hegemony

Hegemony: WTF? An introduction to Gramsci and cultural hegemony


Hello! My name is Tom and welcome back to
my channel where I talk a little bit about theatre, a little bit about being a PhD
student and a little bit about those two things squished together. So today, the
third episode of What the Theory?, in which I look at the concept of cultural
hegemony. I said at the beginning of this series that I might gradually spiral out
from theatre into some wider cultural and more general theoretical
principles and today, because hegemony is something that I’ve been working with in
my writing and my research quite a lot recently, I wanted to talk about that.
As always, ideas and suggestions are really useful. If you have anything you
particularly want me to do a video about then do leave a suggestion down in the
comments and, if you want to watch more of these videos, then do subscribe. But
here we go with episode three of What The Theory?. The term hegemony stems from Classical
Greece where the term hegemon was used to refer to a state, usually in this case
a city-state, which held political and military
dominance over others. Periods such as the Spartan Hegemony and the Theban
Hegemony referred to times in which those particular city-states held
dominance over all others. And, for much of history the term was used to describe
this kind of physical, geopolitical control. In contemporary scholarship,
however, the term has been developed to refer to control outside of the
relatively simple notion of physical control. The theorist who is mostly to
thank for this development is the Italian Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was a key figure
in Italian communism towards the beginning of the 20th century. As such,
when Mussolini came to power, he was put behind bars and died after 11 years in
prison. While he was there, however, he wrote extensively and some of his ideas
and theories have been incredibly influential ever since. Hegemony, then, was a key component of what Gramsci described as his Philosophy of Praxis,
alongside Ideology and Organic Intellectuals. I won’t go into the other
two here but, essentially, Gramsci used these three terms together to describe
and analyse how social classes come to dominate society. Much like its use in
Classical Greece then, Gramsci’s conceptualisation of hegemony is still
about control. Particularly, he uses it to analyse how the bourgeoisie (the wealthy
and the ruling classes) come to dominate in a capitalist society. Gramsci’s key
development, however, was to acknowledge that such power and such control comes
about not only through physical power but also through cultural domination. To
put it into a relatively simple contemporary example, we might observe
that many media outlets and newspapers are owned by the incredibly wealthy. As
such, they will tends to have an editorial outlook that will support
political parties, policies and programs which legitimise the existence of vast
wealth equality. These papers and media outlets
however do not present this as one side of a many-sided
argument but as a simple, “common sensical” worldview. Gradually then, the
idea that some should be incredibly wealthy while others struggle embeds
itself in society to the point where those whom this kind of thought process
actively harms will actively support it. Neoliberal capitalism, for example, is
often presented as the defacto best way of ensuring technological progress and
individual freedom. And, so deeply is this idea embedded in contemporary society,
that we often find that those who face the more dark side of contemporary
capitalism will also be vocal advocates for it. Cultural hegemony, then, is
something which is often not clear to see but hides itself within and beneath
cultural texts. It’s essentially the idea of a dominant group using culture in
order to legitimize their dominance. To use a slightly different example there
was a time, very recently, where a family, as presented on television or in a film,
would always consist of a mother, a father and their children. Very few of
these programs or films made a big deal out of this. But, once we take them as a
whole and we realise that there is only this image of the nuclear heterosexual
family being presented on our screens, then we can see that this is presenting
that this is what a family looks like and this is only what a family looks
like. Again, this is not an open political debate, but simply cultural texts
supporting a certain status quo. Further examples might include many war films
where we often find the global North and global West engaging in military
intervention in continents such as Africa or South America. And, it’s often shown to be
quite a good thing. Again, these aren’t clear bits of political propaganda, but
they do help to support that status quo Gramsci’s chief biographer famously
described hegemony as ‘predominance, obtained by consent’. In this way, we can
see that cultural hegemony is the idea that power can be exercised and
reinforced as much through cultural texts as through
physical force. Hegemony is a key concept in cultural theory as it implicates
power and politics into cultural texts. It suggests that it does not necessarily
have to be intentional but that most works either support or revoke a
certain state of hegemony. It is the fundamental idea that power is not just
exercised through physical force but is also reinforced through the stories
that we tell and the images that we make whatever form they come in. Thank you
very much for watching this episode of What the Theory?, I couldn’t manage to get
absolutely everything about hegemony into this short video but I hope
it’s a really nice starting point. There’s some great articles out there
which give a really good overview and, if you’ve enjoyed this, then please do
consider subscribing or give it a thumbs up. And, if you’ve got suggestion for
another video, put it down in the comments. Thanks very much and have a great week!

90 Comments

  1. Tom Nicholas says:

    If you want to read a bit more about Cultural Hegemony then this article on the Marxists Internet Archive is a really great starting point particularly as it links hegemony to some of Gramsci's other key concepts: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/theoretical-review/1982301.htm

    Thanks for watching all!

  2. Kieran Cutting says:

    I love the Prison Notebooks. They're not too dense, in my opinion, but they still provide a lot of suggestions towards a grounded praxis that is still really relevant to our current political environment.

    Something that I feel is a tad underexplored is the implications of hegemonic powers/ideologies: what is consent in an hegemonic system? What does it mean to form an identity, or to have 'free will', if the freedom isn't freely given?

    Keep doing What the Theories – they're so accessible, and make it super easy to explain some of what I'm working with to my friends 😛

  3. Jake Pointer says:

    Great video mate, although I'm doing Sociology not Theatre it was still great! A thumbs up and a subscription from me!

  4. Tom Nicholas says:

    Cheers for watching all! If you liked this, you may want to check out a video I put out more recently on social class, particularly looking at Marx and Bourdieu: https://youtu.be/7eWLDuWnEbw

  5. Iphigenia 1986 says:

    Great work. Keep it up!

  6. Murat Comert says:

    IN Italian, unlike "sch", "sci" is pronounced as "shi" ("gramshy" as opposed to "brousketta")..

  7. Kiran Rohit says:

    would you please help in postmodern theory and understanding Habermas,lyotard and baudrillard

  8. Barri B says:

    Thanks Tom–your talk really helped me to get a better handle on Gramsci and cultural hegemony. Taking my comps for my Masters in Communication this week!

  9. Takar Bapu says:

    Nice lecture but too fast…….

  10. Jevesh Chauhan says:

    make video on man of position

  11. Disco Baw says:

    Very Helpful Tom, i currently about to start my research proposal. I am looking to research what prevents people from taking part in revolutions and ideological shifts. Any reading you can recommend to help with this would be useful thanks 🙂

  12. Clara Ianni says:

    Just got to know your channel! Amazing effort you are doing here. Thanks – from Brazil!

  13. Mina Hunt says:

    Well spoken with good examples. Thanks.

  14. AsMoose Alter says:

    Thank you very much for this video.
    Btw. his name is rather pronounced “Gramshi”.

  15. Albin John says:

    well done keep it up.

  16. turbogg100 says:

    Wow, that was really helpful. Very clear in every way. Your theater background has obviously emphasized the importance of good pacing and diction.

  17. WithLove Sevil says:

    Thank you I hope I pass my exam tomrrow

  18. Joshua Marcial says:

    Gramsci and Kant ♥

  19. Sarah Hollinsworth says:

    Revising for my exam for the 2nd year of uni and couldn't grasp hegemony and this video really helped thankyou!!!

  20. fesser100 says:

    Thanks for the help. Hopefully ill pass my communication theory exam on monday!

  21. Nick Good says:

    I waited one minute for the germane content to start and gave up. Rather get to the point IMMEDIATELY and stick the other crap at the end.

  22. MR BIG STUFF says:

    First off Tom I watch YouTube coz I hate the sectarian nepotistic London metropolitan elite clique on BBC and channel 4 who wave their hands about like a bunch of tick tak men at a race course. I have an increasing gratitude for the nuns who used to make us stand up and talk at school and would wrap us on the hands with a brass tipped yard rule for fidgeting. You talk with your mouth not your hands and I will listen with my ears.KISS. Cut out the tv style intro stuff, this is YouTube, then you won't have to rabbit like a speed freak. Thanks I'll sub.

  23. Thomas J. Hennigan says:

    There is the nuclear and the extended family and by nature, the creator has set it up so that men and women are complementary and capable of procreation of offspring. Raising children is a huge and difficult task which takes many years and involves great sacrifices. If a society doesn't want to screw itself up, as the present one is with so called "alternative families" thanks to divorce and other evils such as the false idea of "gay marraige", which is neither marriage or gay, the society will inevitably collapse.

  24. Tony says:

    Are you sure that capitalist neoliberalism is the culturally predominant ideology? I'd say it's cultural marxism BY FAR.

  25. Michael Burtt says:

    Really solid video, I enjoyed it…. but not sure about your case studies/examples…. The simpsons, Family guy and Team America could in some respects be considered as critiques of cultural hegemony not reinforcements of it (they are all satirical after all)…. + Team America — critiques the traditional definition of hegemony… There are plenty of non-satirical shows that would have made your argument stronger, I think. Cheers! Mike

  26. Luke Lucky says:

    good idea to attach english subs

  27. Cultural Politics 101 says:

    The right calls him a "cultural Marxist". I read T.J. Jackson Lears' essay in American Historical Review entitled, "The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities"… good stuff. Gramsci is inspirational.

  28. Aleah Benjamin says:

    if you don't have one already can you make a video about edmund burke's major works and conservation in the political philosophy area?

  29. Lun L says:

    Wow…thesedays, I am happy that I found many good philosophy contents on Youtube. I don't have to put lots of my efforts to read all boring and hard books. I can focus on my career while I can still satisfy my desire to know about philosophy and the world. Brief and clear explanation! Thank you!

  30. 于越 says:

    informative

  31. DubZenStep says:

    I'm Italian and I have to thank you for this job. There's no educational material that straightforward in Italian on YT, and this is a total shame.
    Maybe it's because of the egemony of the ruling class hahahah. Thans again, and keep doing your thing!

  32. Soora Areh says:

    Thanks alot it was awesome! please make videos about postmodernism, orientalism

  33. sumanta roy says:

    Hey man, it was a nice video. Can you please suggest some good readings on it like the way you have represented.

  34. Alex Foote says:

    Hi Tom. This was a good video thank you. Are you able to share the names of some of those articles that give good overviews as you mentioned?

  35. Badre L says:

    So here i am, sleep deprived , 2 hours away from taking my final exam ,and the only information i have on the topic is whatever you said in this video. If i ever pass this exam i'll know that i am a living legend and you are fit to be a college professor.

  36. Aayushi Shah says:

    great video! Thanks 🙂

  37. Marty martmartin says:

    Why are the Simpsons and that puppet show not considered clear bits of political propaganda in this video?

  38. jbcrafty says:

    Really like your channel. Since you also have a focus on theater, I would love to know your thoughts on Ioniesco's Rhinoceros in relation to the concept of hegemony.

  39. Habib ullah Nawab says:

    Great explanation of Gramsci and cultural hegemony….

  40. Jarred Allison says:

    is there any difference between Gramsci's cultural hegemony and Althusser's ideological state apparatus?

  41. Natanael Alencar says:

    thanks tom, i'm preparing a class to brazilian students about cinema as a cultural hegemony agent and your video helped me to remember and sumarize some gramsci ideas.

  42. pinkie ncube says:

    i really enjoyed the video and it has so much detail and allows for better understanding. i have a question, Is it true that communication, ideology, and hegemony share common space in the structure of any society or country. please assist on this one.

  43. ANISHA DAS says:

    A good video – deals with the prominent Gramsci ideas. Nice. 🙂

  44. Pyrophosphate says:

    I've been watching your videos and they really helped me a lot. Thank you!

  45. Kyle Townsend says:

    It seems like cultural hegemony is only a threat in the face of dependent thinkers

  46. Diego Payan says:

    great content lad!

  47. Muhammad Ilfan Zulfani says:

    You do the great explanations of the theory! I'm a Sociology student from University of Indonesia, greetings! 🙂

  48. Mathias Ipsen says:

    Thank you so much for the video! Just a quick question; how does hegemony fit in with Foucaults work on discourses? Isn't it more or less the same?

  49. artwelve22 says:

    You look and sound like you could be related to Daniel Radcliffe

  50. Hujaifa Mahmud says:

    Thanks man!!great job!
    Make a sequence on orientalism of edward w said..

  51. isbsey says:

    Thanks, Tom. Well done young man. You're going to go far. I wish you well. Man (I don't mean males, man in general) is all about control. Every war from back garden boundaries to Hitler's attempt to make an Arian race is about control with side generals in there for monetary gain. We cannot change the aspirations of man. Whenever a utopian ideal is thought up someone or some people will see a way of controlling it and or becoming wealthy through it. I was a bit woolly about hegemony and this cleared up some things.

  52. Karimah Mohammed says:

    This was so useful, thanks Tom

  53. Karen Campbell says:

    Nicely done!

  54. Rogerio Campanhol says:

    Excellent! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  55. Karen Campbell says:

    Really pleased to find your videos — recommending to students. 🙂

  56. Roman Borky says:

    Thanks for the video Tom! Been returning to this concept a lot through my studies now. I was wondering what are some of the critiques on Antonio's concept of hegemony or authors that criticized his concept? Also when can you tell that a particular narrative is the result of a ruling hegemony and when is it just a matter of choice? And last question; does the co-existence of different variation of narratives disrupt the hegemony and is it possible to talk about hegemony in that case even if some narratives are majority present and others not as much?

  57. CreatorForLife says:

    This is fucking mint bruv.

  58. Au bord'eau says:

    Good but, Why "Gram-skea"?

  59. Julie Rnlt says:

    I have an International Relations Theories’ final tomorrow and wow thank you, you’re a better teacher than my actual teacher. Everything is very clear and well exemplified ! I’m probably going to watch all your videos tonight and if I get a good grade tomorrow it’ll be thanks to you ahah!

  60. Miguel Deitos says:

    Woah! I just found your channel today. And it was the best video i had watched on YouTube by weeks! Thanks!

  61. Pavan Vyas says:

    Indian non-violent struggle and success in deriving independence from harsh British colonial rule is also an example of Gramscian theory : way of position.

  62. Claire Briggs says:

    I've been struggling to understand hegemony, you've managed to explain it to me in a way I can understand easily. Thank you

  63. Laura Hartmann says:

    thanks for the video! that really helped

  64. Natanael Lopez says:

    Who's here from psu (:

  65. P Sanna says:

    Thank you . useful for me

  66. Sophie Thomason says:

    thank god for this video! i had absolutely no idea what my uni teacher was on about and now i do so thank you!

  67. Annajma Istiqlali says:

    great explanation! thank you sooo mucccchhh<3

  68. Kadija George says:

    THANK YOU!!! I know you said 'there are some really good articles /essays' out there – I don't think it would be a good idea if as a 'part 2' you suggested one that you found that you thought were good and why as you do this really well. Ta!

  69. L. Shannon says:

    Awesome!! Thank you!!

  70. AR Overanalysis says:

    Here after researching on presidential canidate pete buttigeig

  71. Olin A. says:

    Thanks to this, it really helps me a lot. But will do a video explaining about neo-marxism? Thank you so much again!

  72. GURUDAS ROY says:

    Love and respect from India. It was very helpful.

  73. Laura Tate says:

    Very accessible explanation. I am going to show it to an undergraduate class that I am teaching on gentrification, including some of the cultural aspects of this process, including the assertion of middle class hegemonies. Thanks so much, and keep up the good work!

  74. Mason Barclay says:

    Thanks for clearing this up! I can now write my essay exam tmrrw!

  75. Patrick Levine says:

    I enjoyed your informative video. None the less, I'm still struggling to establish whether Gramsci's 'cultural hegemony' refers either to social control more generally or if it refers to social control over the nation-state.

  76. Nelson OShaughnessy says:

    home run explanation of hegemony

  77. Big Maristuff says:

    God save the Queen would be an excellent example of cultural hegemony in the UK.

  78. Adrian Newington says:

    Hi Tom. Clearly you have a broad & well defined grasp of this subject, and well done for sharing these understandings.
    To further enhance your good efforts, I would recommend to slow down your delivery a tad, and include some little pauses occasionally, and to also consider the use of more photos to supplement your topic of interest rather than video snippets as they can be a distraction amid your rapid fire delivery.
    Keep up the good work, and don't stop learning, and don't stop sharing.

  79. rugpogjrn aug says:

    Do a video on eco criticism maybe?

  80. MrAidenRule says:

    you sir, are a hero

  81. frankem51 says:

    Other examples of cultural hegemony were the personality cults of the totalitarian Marxist regimes of Stalin and Mao.

  82. Joe Jones says:

    maybe do a video on Erich Fromm?

  83. Yagami Raito says:

    One week until my "Introduction to Cultural Studies" exam and I know absolutely nothing. LET'S FUCKIN DO THIS BABY!

  84. maru0330 says:

    Thank you so much for the video! It helped me a lot understanding the concept before writing an essay about it

  85. tanzverbot says:

    Thanks for this video, that's very pedagogical. However when I discuss this subject I am often asked for concrete examples. How could I find an example of a news paper article that presents this inequal wealth distribution as being of common sense?
    I have read many things about Cultural Hegemony today and I have not yet found any example. Is that not a clue that Gramsci theory appeals to common sense itself?

  86. Adetola Wahab says:

    You're a brilliant person. Thanks a lot for this video.

  87. Betty Boo's Sister says:

    I was one of your very first subscribers I'm so happy that you have got the audience you very much deserve…great channel awesome content ….thank you

  88. asher Rospigliosi says:

    Thanks Tom, I have watched several of your WTF guides recently and enjoy your pithy and clear examples. I was one of the early team at FP and wonder if I can try a hegemonic reading of your shirt? That comic and sf (retro) culture is a mark of the nerd, a reified thoughtful flaneur of contemporary media culture 🙂

  89. Itachi Uchiha says:

    Great video! I find theory like this utterly important. Especially in this day and age

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