||The capacity of a dominant group to exercise control, not through visible regulation or the deployment of force, but rather through the willing acquiescence of citizens to accept subordinate status by their acceptance of cultural, social, and political practices and institutions that are unequal and unjust. Current use of the term is derived from the prison writings of Antonio Gramsci (1971), incarcerated by the Italian Fascist state between 1928 and 1935. Like other critical intellectuals, including members of the Frankfurt School, who lived through the rise of totalitarian governments in formerly (if weakly) democratic states, Gramsci reflected on the problem of social order, on how citizens might willingly lend their assent to forms of government that curtailed their freedoms and denied other democratic ideals (cf. democracy).
Hegemony incorporates more than the ideology of a dominant elite, the values and beliefs which it disseminates. It also includes the sedimentation of these values and interests in everyday practices and institutional arrangements. It is, therefore, \'a lived system of meanings and values â€” constitutive and constituting â€” which as they are experienced as practices appear as reciprocally confirming\' (Williams, 1977, p. 110). Buried in everyday life, hegemonic processes become taken-for-granted and \'natural\'. As a result, popular culture plays a significant theoretical and political role in the achievement of hegemony â€” or, indeed, resistance to it.
Members of the Frankfurt School played a key part in disseminating awareness of the hegemonic properties of post-1945 consumer culture (cf. consumption, geography of). One of the most powerful challenges was presented by Herbert Marcuse (1964) in his influential unveiling of a one-dimensional society, a critique that was a leading manifesto of the student and counter-cultural movements of the 1960s. Equally significant, initially in France, have been the idiosyncratic works of the Situationists, a small avant-garde collective who drew attention to, and constantly sought to destabilize, what they saw as the society of the spectacle (Debord, 1969), a totalizing presence of consumer culture and mass media that led, in Orwellian fashion, to the passivity and entrapment of citizens beneath the seductive spells of consumer gratification. \'The spectacle\', wrote Debord (1969, para 21) \'is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep\'. Despairing of the continuing revolutionary potential of the working class, the Marxian intuition that was one of the formative influences upon the Situationists sought other emancipatory moments in street pantomime and cultural interventions to disorient and thereby awaken a critical awareness in receptive members of society. The task of the Situationists to denaturalize an entrenched cultural hegemony in the society of the spectacle has carried over into recent critical assessments of the cultural project of postmodernity.
Hegemony has growing salience in political geography and geopolitics, where it similarly refers to the \'dominant representations and practices\' (Agnew, 1998, p. 6) of Ã©lites and power blocs who maintain the \'dominant story lines\' that help to consolidate existing relations of power. Geopolitics can be interpreted as a succession of hegemonies where dominant powers, for example, Britain in the nineteenth century and the United States in the twentieth, define and enforce the prevailing \'rules of the game\' (Agnew, 1998, p. 7: also Taylor, 1996). This usage, closely aligned with Gramsci\'s thinking, is replacing an earlier and much looser deployment of the term that included also more conventional expressions of power that were explicit and coercive.
The concept of hegemony has proven valuable more broadly in cultural studies, and in a new cultural geography examining the reproduction of domination by Ã©lite groups. In an interpretation of North American Chinatowns, Anderson (1988, 1991) has noted how the use of race as a dominant colonial discourse impregnated the routine practices of the state and reproduced the marginal status of \'the oriental\'. \'Chinatown\' as a category, rather than as a place, was not innocent in the fabrication of this cultural fiction. Indeed there are many rich applications of the concept of hegemony within the colonial project, where rule, though finally undergirded in the force of the military cantonments, was constituted on a daily basis through a never-ending (and never fully successful) practice of training and persuasion (Myers, 1998; cf. Guha, 1997). In a different context, Duncan (1990) has detailed the contribution of a ritualized palace landscape and its supportive meanings to sustain royal power in pre-colonial Kandy, Sri Lanka. Resistance to the centralized and often tyrannical role of the king by an oppositional Ã©lite proceeded by denaturalizing his building projects. This deconstruction of the king\'s landscapes was simultaneously a challenge to the king\'s power and right to rule.
These examples introduce two additional developments of the concept of hegemony. First, although presented by Gramsci primarily in the context of historical materialism with its characteristic focus on class relations, hegemony is applicable to the interpretation of other sources of domination, such as racism, colonialism (as we have seen above) and patriarchy. Indeed, at whatever site a dominant culture emerges, the naturalization and routinization of its values and practices provide the ground for the unequal deployment of power. Second, the penetration of dominant values into the \'whole social process\' does not mean that its terms are not negotiated, nor indeed resisted. Beginning with the Frankfurt School\'s uncompromising depiction of the culture industry, and continuing through Debord\'s society of the spectacle to current representations of a single and oppressive postmodern culture, there has often been a tendency to treat hegemonic forces as systemic and total, as a static and paralysing presence, with their effects assumed rather than demonstrated. Such a theorization negates Gramsci\'s view of cultural hegemony as \'a moving equilibrium\', dynamic, evolving, yet oscillating around a consensual form. More empirically accountable studies tend to show that the achievement of hegemony requires sacrifice and compromise, vigilance and hard work by elites (Mitchell, 1996; Myers, 1998). One of the contributions of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies has been to document the \'rituals of resistance\' of a number of working-class, youth sub-cultures to mainstream norms (Hall and Jefferson, 1976). In these instances, resistance has often been symbolic; that is, the subculture has assumed a style of dress or ornament (a safety pin, for example) intended to subvert the pervasive and accepted forms of the dominant culture (Warren, 1996). The rapid onset and departure of many of these sub-cultures underscores the constantly changing and renegotiated nature of cultural forms. Gramsci noted that such fluidity might also exist within the elite itself, a point well-illustrated in the jockeying for power by competing groups in the Kandyan Kingdom.Â (DL)
References Agnew, J. 1998: Geopolitics: revisioning world politics. London: Routledge.Â Anderson, K. 1988: Cultural hegemony and the race definition process in Chinatown, Vancouver. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 6: 127-49.Â Anderson, K. 1991: Vancouver\'s Chinatown: racial discourse in Canada, 1875-1980. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens Press.Â Debord, G. 1970: Society of the spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red.Â Duncan, J. 1990: The city as text: the politics of landscape interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Â Gramsci, A. 1971: Selections from the prison notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Â Guha, R. 1997: Dominance without hegemony: history and power in colonial India. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Â Hall, S. and Jefferson, T., eds, 1976: Resistance through rituals: youth subcultures in postwar Britain. London: Hutchinson/Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.Â Marcuse, H. 1964: One-dimensional man. Boston: Beacon Press.Â Mitchell, K. 1996: Visions of Vancouver: ideology, democracy, and the future of urban development. Urban Geography 17: 478-501.Â Myers, G. 1998: Intellectual of empire: Eric Dutton and hegemony in British Africa. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88: 1-27.Â Taylor, P.J. 1996: The way the world works: world hegemony to world impasse. Chichester: Wiley.Â Warren, S. 1996: Popular cultural practices in the \'postmodern city\'. Urban Geography 17: 545-67.Â Williams, R. 1977: Hegemony. In Marxism and literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 108-14.
Suggested Reading Anderson (1988).Â Lears, T.J. 1985: The concept of cultural hegemony: problems and possibilities. American Historical Review 90: 567-93.