Antonio Gramsci – Ideology & Hegemony

Antonio Gramsci – Ideology & Hegemony


Antonio Gramsci was a leader of the Italian Communist Party He was imprisoned by the Mussolini Regime in 1926 and remained there for 20 years. During this time he wrote extensively in what is now famously known as “The Prison Notebooks.” These are essays by Gramsci that total thousands of pages, historical analysis, philosophical treatises, covering a wide range of topics. One of the most important concepts to come out of these notebooks is Gramsci’s contribution to the theories of ideology, and importantly, this concept of ‘hegemony.’ So, this video will cover a few of Gramsci’s contributions to ideology. The definition for how Gramsci considers ideology is pretty simple to understand I think. I’m going to give you a quote from, this is written by Bates from the reading “Gramsci and the Theory of Hegemony” written in 1975. He says, “The concept of hegemony is really a very simple one. It means political leadership based on the consent of the led, a consent which is secured by the diffusion and popularization of the world-view of the ruling class.” So, according to Gramsci, all of the proletariat, to use Marx’s term, consents to being ruled by the ruling class. And, this is the process of hegemony, this consent. Most people use “hegemony” as the process by which the ruling class disseminate their ideas and gain the consent of the lower classes. You might sometimes hear this term “hegemonic process” or something like this. That’s the process by which the ruling class goes through in order to get the consent of the lower clases. Now, of course, this isn’t formal overt consent, right. You don’t have to sign a consent form or something like that. But Gramsci says that just by living their daily lives the working-class is consenting to being ruled by the ruling class. As a result of this process of hegemony. Now I’m going to read you another quote about Gramsci’s theories. This comes from the reading “Ideology, Hegemony, Discourse: a Critical Review of Theories of Knowledge and Power.” So he says, “Among the advances made by Gramscian Theory is the attention to hegemonic power as often implicit, common sense. Rather than a coherent body of thought which is inherently unfinished and historically contingent. it is the embodiment of hegemony in everyday common sense, through the mundane activities connected with work, school, the family, and the church, that secures the consent of capital’s subaltern classes.” So just as a result of us living our daily lives, of the lower class living their daily lives, they are consenting to being ruled by the ruling class. And what’s crucial for Gramsci and his process of hegemony is that this is never-ending; this is an on-going process. That is happening every second of every day of every person’s living life. As they work; as they go to school; as they go to church; as they consume the media; as they do all of these things they are consenting to being ruled by the ruling class. It’s important here to point out the difference between consent and coercion because often times these, sort of when we imagine ideology and how the ruling class comes to adopt, I’m sorry how the working class comes to adopt the ideas of the ruling class we sort of view it as being imposed on them through force and the Gramscian theory of hegemony, it’s crucial to point out that this isn’t coercion. This is consent. It’s not as if the ruling class is using their military to impose these values and ideas on the lower class. They’re using consent. So they’re not using violence, which would be coercion. It’s much more subtle than that. And it’s voluntary on the part of the working class. In fact, there’s not much opposition on their part to these ideas. He talks about also the importance of what he calls “counter-hegemony.” It’s important to point out that, for Marx, in his conception of ideology, the battleground between the two classes is in the mode of production. So, as we’ll discuss later on in our conversations, the mode of production that promotes the bourgeoisie to be at the top is capitalism. Marx argues that the mode of production of communism will be a result in which the working class will take power. But, the battleground is in this economic system; it’s in how members of society produce and reproduce their means of existence and that’s where the fight takes place. For Gramsci the fight takes place at the ideological level. Hegemony is the battle and the battle is whose ideas become widely accepted in society. So, for Gramsci the working class must enter into that ideological battle, must enter into the hegemonic process so that their ideas can become more powerful than the ideas of the ruling clas. And like I said, this is a never-ending process. That the, he calls them “subaltern” is an important term for Gramscian Theory, the subaltern classes must take social power, ideological power, normative power, they must enter into this battleground and contest with the ruling class at the ideological, the hegemonic, level. That’s crucial. Also, for Gramsci there’s never a total, all-encompassing sort of final set of ideologies, that this is always a battlegound, that there is never a fully sort of ‘finished’, fully all-encompassing set of ideas. That there will always be a conflicting ideology in socitey. There will always be some ideology, oppositional ideology in any given society. So, the big term from Gramsci here is “hegemony,” this consent that the subaltern classes sort of provide to the ruling class, subjecting themselves to the rule of the ruling class. Hegemony being sort of the process, the battleground at which this takes place. So the hegemonic process would be the process by which the ruling class sort of gets the consent of the subaltern classes, for them to adopt their ideas as their own. And the battleground itself is this hegemonic process, the ideas themselves are what are conflicting with one another and the subaltern class and their ideas conflict with the bourgeois class and their ideas rather than in the Marxist conception when the battleground is the economic system, the material reality itself. So that’s, in a nutshell, Gramsci’s idea of hegemony and how it relates to ideology.

12 thoughts on “Antonio Gramsci – Ideology & Hegemony

  1. I just have one question, based on Gramsci's work, how exactly would it be useful in discussing inequality? I'd really appreciate your opinion, thanks in advance

  2. This reminds me of observations Chomsky made about how consent is manufactured by constant propogandizing

  3. very interesting indeed . please keep posting and I a definitely subscribing and giving a thumbs up.
    please help me on this though. Is it true that communication , ideology and hegemony share common space in the structure of any society or country? Discuss

  4. I've had a trouble with the term (Consent) since i have first discovered Gramsci's thoughts.
    when you say consent, it gives you this impression of a clear agreement.
    for example, i consent upon the law of "whatever".
    A law in this case, needs to be written, a clear type of agreements.
    consenting needs to have a clear content. but in this case it has never been clear, but on the contrary it has been always unclear, hidden and derived constantly by using ideologies and propaganda and etc..
    i would use the word "comminute" over "consent".
    a child of the working class does not have a "consenting ability" but he rather "comminute" with whatever surrounds him.
    as a contrast,
    we do not consent upon power, but we rather find ourselves attached to the social machinery. in such case the "normal" social condition is the "consenting" condition.
    Normal here, means the only enlightened "episteme", that our consciousness can spot and focus on.
    so a revolution in this context means, discovering a new episteme that can advocate change, hopes and better lives.
    as an ending,
    Gramsci's thoughts are not "wrong" for me, but they give this deluded expression of what is going on psychologically inside the oppressed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *