More on Gramsci and Hegemony

Hegemony is when the people at the top of society decide things and manage to make everyone else accept them simply as a matter of course. People are given concessions to keep them in place and people rarely challenge the hegemon (those at the top).

The two ways to attain hegemony according to Gramsci are COERCIVE CONTROL (controlling through force) and CONSENSUAL OR IDEOLOGICAL CONTROL (controlling through convincing people that the way things are makes sense). See more in the previous post here.

What purpose do these serve? 

The ‘common sense’ ideas that ‘make sense’ are not necessarily rational thought but everyone accepts them. The hegemon pushes these ideas to keep people in their place where they no longer question why they think the way they do.

The media is a battleground – eventually people can challenge the hegemon and get some ideas through. Their ideas  may then be acknowledged as common sense but the hegemon still has the power to undermine.

e.g. ‘health and safety gone mad’, ‘political correctness has gone too far’ – these are terms we all know off by heart and yet we don’t really know why/ they aren’t actually rational. Health and safety is there for a reason to stop people from potentially dangerous situations and surely Political Correctness is fairer for all etc etc.

While the hegemon may undermine the ideas, Gramsci’s theory is a more positive view of the media than of those of the C&CT group or the Frankfurt School because we have the ability to fight back.

How can we win? By educating ourselves and talking about it.

We’re always subjects of hegemony but if we’re aware we can tell someone else and fight against the ‘norm’ so to speak. If we all see the world differently together (and not conforming) then something is likely to change. 


How are subversive elements nullified? 

  • labelling and categorization: by giving names to undesired behaviours we label the behaviour as ‘deviant’. e.g. ‘homosexuals’, ‘football hooligans’, ‘terrorist’ in the media.
  • trivialisation: absorbing subversive ‘threats’ into the mainstream by mocking them.

Why could the western political system be described as a hegemony, rather than a democracy?

  • media concentration puts power in the hands of a few wealthy and powerful individuals.
  • politicians can only reach the voters by using the mass media which is controlled by the few in line with their views.

What do you understand by the term ‘token’ dissenters? 

  • dissent is merely reduced to ‘tokenism’.
  • few individuals are tolerated in a way that presents them as ‘talented eccentrics’.
  • They are patronised or made a joke of in mainstream media.
  • having ‘token’ dissenters allows the media to show ‘balanced’ views however there will be more shown to represent the ‘common sense’ idealogy of the hegemon, rather than the dissenter.


These notes are from year two semester two lectures and seminars. The image is from:



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