Hegemony: Political, Cultural and Contingent/Lenin, Gramsci, and Laclau
Hegemony: Marx and Lenin
Marx discussed hegemony in his original writings about capital and power. Hegemony is power. Hegemony is dominant influential power, or that is what it was originally meant to describe.
The US military through its navy, air force and marines has hegemonic power in its dominance of the global oceans and seas. It power is felt everywhere and influences everything. This is hegemony.
Marx saw capitalism and its connection to large national powers as having hegemonic power to influence events and ideologies in the western world. Lenin saw this hegemony as being produced through control of the government, military, economy, education, and other state-controlled institutions. The Russian Revolution sought and succeeding in overthrowing the Tsarist monarchy that ruled Russia prior to the revolution. With this political power Lenin and the Russian communists felt that they had acquired hegemonic control over the Russian population.
Culture Hegemony: Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci wrote the Prison Notebooks from an Italian prison during the Second World War. Gramsci saw hegemony, the power to influence and control the public, as coming less from state controlled power and more from the influence of media, arts, literature, film. He rejected a vision of hegemony that was dictated by authoritative, coercive means, and saw hegemony as following from influential cultural sources.
Gramsci believed that the route to power lead through education, persuasion, art and culture, not through violent and coercive methodologies. He wanted to teach people to become Marxists. Teach the people, then take control of the government and economy. Lenin had sought to do it the other way. Lenin had taken control of the government then sought to control and influence the people.
Contingent Hegemomy: Laclau
Laclau does not see hegemony as being a complete world dominating reality. The US may dominate the world’s oceans through military, but the world’s oceans are only one thing. Laclau sees hegemony as being present only temporarily in time and space. The US may dominate the seas today, but it did not in the past, and it will not at some time in the future. Power changes with time and exists only within certain contexts and places.
Laclau sees contingency as always creating the possibility of change. This creates, from his perspective, the possibility always for people to have power and influence things in their worlds.
Argument against Laclau: Zizek
Zizek would argue that contingent (and particular) powers are not hegemonic. Laclau argues that all things are particular and the universal is built only of combined particulars.
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I would agree with Zizek that hegemony must have the power to dominate and influence thought and action in some substantial way. It may be more pragmatic to seek to win many battles as a method to winning a war, but to win a battle is not to win the war, it is only one thing.
Laclau sees the world as being too divided into so many different realities and identities that he sees no way of creating hegemonic power that could lead to universal revolution/change, so he chooses instead to support improving the lives of people in smaller/particular situations.
This influence may be beneficial/good, but is it hegemonic?
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