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Antonio Gramsci Hegemony Commentary

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Clark chapter.

Antonio Gramsci was born to work parents, he himself worked 10 hour days as a young lad. He was dropped down a flight of stairs as a baby and this made his body look twisted. He went to school on scholarship, he was incredibly bright. As Gramsci was traveling Benito Mussolini went into power in Italy. Gramsci’s work was becoming well known at that time. Mussolini viewed Gramsci as a threat because of this intelligence and thought his theories ma encourage others to challenge dictators. Gramsci was sent to jail, where he died but managed to write and work on 32 notebooks. These notebooks contained valuable ideas and became some of his most famous works.

Gramsci developed the notion of hegemony in his prison notebook writings.  Hegemony is the power or dominance that one social group holds over others. It can be referred to as the asymmetrical interdependence of political-economic-cultural differences between and among social classes within a nation (Straubhaar). The dominance and subordination in the field of relations structured by power. This is more than social power, the power of gaining and maintaining power (Hall).

The ruling class will assert dominance through language, text, media, and this idea of ‘common sense’. Take the mass media, who is it owned by? It is owned by the elite and wealthy. Take the English language as another example, the ruling class has ingrained the idea that in order to excel it is important to know English. Back then and even now elite institutions would not accept students who were not proficient in the language. While the United States does not have an official language, over half the states have made English their official language.

Although it may not look as though the ruling class is using force, force underwrites the appearance of consent. Therefore, because of the experiences and conditions under which subjugated classes struggle, the tension will push subjugated classes into a struggle against ruling class ideas. This results in a revolution. I connect this to quarantine and the black lives matter protests. I remember talking to my older sister Tabitha and asking her ‘why now’? Why is it that people were so fired about to protest for George Floyd? What got them to this point of saying enough is enough? It seemed like a movie at the time, during the nationwide protests. My sister explained the connection of the energy to the isolation of quarantine. People had been instructed to stay inside their homes for everyone’s safety, people were losing their jobs, their “freedom”. On top of that, even during a PANDEMIC, black people could not catch a break in life. Police brutality and the murder of innocent black lives still took place. People had reached their tipping point, wanted to take a stand against those who ultimately make the rules.

I learned of the term hegemony in my education course this semester, which is by far my favorite class this semester. It helps me to connect topics I learn to the present day to get a better idea of the meaning.

Sources: -Book: Gender, Race, and Class in media by Gail Dines & Jean Humez