Social Justice Usage
Source: Felluga, Dino Franco. Critical Theory: The Key Concepts. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition, pp. 127–128.
Hegemony refers to the processes by which dominant culture maintains its dominant position: for example, the use of institutions to formalize power; the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and, therefore, not attached to any one individual); the inculcation of the populace in the ideals of the hegemonic group through education, advertising, publication, etc.; the mobilization of a police force as well as military personnel to subdue opposition. Antonio Gramsci extended the concept beyond the traditional concept of hegemony as “political rule or domination, especially in relations between states” (Williams 1977: 108) and redefined hegemony as “a complex interlocking of political, social, and cultural forces” (108), including alternative centers of power, which he sometimes terms “counter-hegemonies.”
Source: Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2012, p. 50.
Hegemony: The imposition of dominant group ideology onto everyone in society. Hegemony makes it difficult to escape or to resist “believing in” this dominant ideology, thus social control is achieved through conditioning rather than physical force or intimidation.
Source: Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2012, pp. 50–52.
Hegemony refers to the control of the ideology of a society. The dominant group maintains power by imposing their ideology on everyone. Recall that ideology refers to the stories, myths, explanations, definitions, and rationalizations that are used to justify inequality between the dominant and the minoritized group. The key element of hegemony is that it enables domination to occur with the consent of the minoritized group—rather than by force. If people believe that they deserve their unequal positions—that these positions are fair and natural—no force is necessary. In other words, the minoritized group accepts their lower position in society because they come to accept the rationalizations for it. Hegemony, then, includes the ability to define and impose self-discipline on others in ways that serve dominant group interests.
New Discourses Commentary
Hegemony is a concept developed by Italian communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci that understands dominant groups in society to have the power to impose its own knowledge and values onto marginalized groups. Gramsci developed the concept in an attempt to answer the question of why people would vote against their interests, and particularly for fascists. In so doing, he took one of the major steps toward developing the philosophy identifiable with the terms “Neo-Marxism” and, though the usage is much more fraught, “Cultural Marxism.”
Hegemony is a development of Marxian thought about the “false consciousness” the working class can experience when they do not realize the system is exploiting them, but also ties in with postmodern concepts of “metanarratives” or “grand narratives” and “dominant discourses.” Social Justice concepts of socialization hold that individuals learn what they consider true from society to the extent that it can be extremely difficult or even impossible to think in any other way or challenge the dominant ideas in society. These ideas are then considered hegemonic. Social Justice theories are largely aimed at challenging hegemony. Social Justice does not consider its own ideas to be hegemonic even though they clearly are.
(See also, critical consciousness, consciousness raising, hegemonic masculinity, hegemonic femininity, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity.)
Cisnormativity; Communism; Consciousness raising; Critical consciousness; Cultural Marxism; Discourse; Dominance; False consciousness; Fascism; Hegemonic femininity; Hegemonic masculinity; Heteronormativity; Knowledge(s); Marginalization; Marxian; Marxism; Metanarrative; Neo-Marxism; Postmodern; Social Justice; Socialization; Systemic power; Theory
Revision date: 2/4/20