Hegemony: A Realist Analysis

Hegemony: A Realist Analysis

Hegemony: A Realist Analysis

Hegemony: A Realist Analysis

Synopsis

Hegemony: A Realist Analysis is a new and original approach to this important concept. It presents a theoretical history of the use of hegemony in a range of work starting with a discussion of Gramsci and Russian Marxism and going on to look at more recent applications. It examines the current debates and discusses the new direction to Marx made by Jacques Derrida, before outlining a critical realist/Marxist alternative. This book employs critical realist philosophy in an explanatory way to help clarify the concept of hegemony and its relation to societal processes. This work contributes to recent debates in social science and political philosophy, developing both the concept of hegemony itself, and the work of critical realism.

Excerpt

The concept of hegemony is normally understood as emphasising consent in contrast to reliance on the use of force. It describes the way in which dominant social groups achieve rulership or leadership on the basis of attaining social cohesion and consensus. It argues that the position of the ruling group is not automatically given, but rather that it requires the ruling group to attain consent to its leadership through the complex construction of political projects and social alliances. These allow for the unity of the ruling group and for the domination of this group over the rest of society. In its simplistic form hegemony concerns the construction of consent and the exercise of leadership by the dominant group over subordinate groups; in its more complex form, this deals with issues such as the elaboration of political projects, the articulation of interests, the construction of social alliances, the development of historical blocs, the deployment of state strategies and the initiating of passive revolutions.

However, this view is still one-sided. In its extreme, this view of hegemony defines it as a purely agential process, that is to say, that hegemony is exclusively concerned with the plans and actions of social agents, groups and individuals. This leads to a Machiavellian view of politics as if hegemony were simply the conscious project or cunning plan of different social groups. The construction of hegemony becomes an intersubjective affair to be worked out by or between different sets of people. If the concept of hegemony is restricted to this agential approach, then a mistaken view of history and politics emerges that sees important social processes as simply the products of significant social actors or groups. By contrast, this book seeks to move away from a purely agential conception of hegemony, although an emphasis on the importance of agency will be maintained. In keeping with the advice of Marx and Engels, it will be argued that although human beings create hegemony through their actions, they do so under conditions not of their own choosing. Two crucial questions immediately arise. First, what are the conditions under which hegemony operates? Second, what makes hegemony a necessary social feature?

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