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Gramsci And Hegemony Essay

4985 words - 20 pages

Gramsci on Ideology and Hegemony

According to Gramsci, the supremacy of a social group or class manifests itself in two different ways: ‘domination’ or ‘coercion’ and ‘intellectual and moral leadership’. The intellectual and moral leadership is what constitutes hegemony. Social control is external as well as internal, that is, besides influencing behaviour and choice externally, through rewards and punishments, it also affects them internally by moulding personal convictions into a replica of prevailing norms. Such internal control is based on hegemony, which refers to an order in which a common social ...view middle of the document...

Gramsci claimed that his definition of civil society was taken from Hegel. For Hegel, civil society was the complex of commercial and industrial life, the totality of economic instruments and relations, together with the public services needed to maintain order within them. For instance, civil courts, police etc. For Gramci, civil society referred to ideological superstructure, the institutions and technical instruments that create and diffuse the thought. Gramsci was inspired by those passages in The Philosophy of Right where Hegel included in the realm of civil society the corporations or trade associations, which through their educative functions mediate between the civil society and the state. For Marx, civil society was related to ‘commercial and industrial life’, which in the capitalist market economy reduces human beings to acquisitive and predatory egotists who relate to one another in the purely contractual or instrumental terms. Gramsci was not satisfied with Marx. For him power was of its very nature asymmetrical and exercised by subordinate over subordinate classes. Gramsci says capitalist does not turn us into rational calculators, pursuing our objective interests in an ethical vacuum. For we necessarily define our interests in terms of our ideals and values. These ideals and values may be false or class based but we can never detach ourselves from some moral perspective or the other. These heterodox ideals form the basis of the concept of hegemony, Gramsci’s main contribution to political theory. Therefore, Gramsci departed both from the Hegelian usage as well as from the Marx equation of civil society with the material substructure.
Gramsci posed a question while writing in 1930’s that why capitalism survived when the objective conditions existed for a transition to communism. He gave the answer which he refers to in the superstructure which comprises of civil society and political society. Therefore, Gramsci’s study of the role of intellectuals in society led him to break the superstructure into what he described as “civil society” and “political society”. Civil society refers to private and political society refers to state. These two levels correspond on the one hand through the function of hegemony which the dominant group exercises through society and on the other hand through domination or command exercised through the state and juridical government. Civil society is composed of all those “private organisms” such as churches, political parties, trade unions, university, press, publishing houses and voluntary associations – all of which contributes to the formation of social and political consciousness” These institutions disseminate the ideology of dominant class, thus ensuring its cultural and spiritual supremacy over the subordinate classes, who consent to their own subordination. Political society is composed of those public institutions such as government, courts, police and army which exercise “direct domination. It is...

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