Whaleoil word of the week: ‘Hegemony’

By John Black from rightminds.nz

I’ve had a black hatred for this particular Wanker Word since I first came across it at University. I noticed it used in one of my Poli Sci readings and then it started cropping up in some of my latter Education papers. Even then, when I was just starting my journey towards becoming a ‘right-wing arsehole’ the concept of hegemony struck me as insufferable nonsense.

Hegemony or “Cultural Hegemony” as it is more formally known, is the application of Marxist analysis to culture rather than economics. After Marx’s call for a revolution of the proletariat failed to actually prod said proletariat into any actual revolutionary like behaviour, Marxist types got the hump. One of these was the Italian Antonio Francesco Gramsci.

History seems unsure whether to label Gramsci foolish or a total fool. A hunchbacked dwarf who managed to upset Mussolini and get twenty years in the big house for being a commie, he came up with the idea of hegemony while doing his porridge. “Here I am a bona fide intellectual with the little beard and everything and I’m scrubbing toilets in jail!” he moaned to himself, “Why won’t the masses get with the program, rise up and overthrow their capitalist overlords, and welcome me as their benevolent dictator?” He just couldn’t understand it. Then one day, while taking a nervous but contemplative shower, it struck him “Of course! They’ve been brainwashed!” He almost dropped the soap.

Yes, that’s what hegemony amounts to. The claim that the poor’s uninterest in manning the barricades is due to bourgeois brainwashing. Of course, he ruined it with multi-syllabic terms and vagaries – “the superstructure,” “a war of position,” and “a war of manoeuvre,” but that’s the gist. According to Gramsci, the prevailing cultural norms, political beliefs, language and even common sense in a society flow from the top down. Those poor Proles, they can’t even think for themselves.

Used today it is the ultimate lefty get-out-of-jail-free card. “Why didn’t the Green Party get more votes?” Hegemony. “Why did Trump win?” Hegemony. “Brexit?” Hegemony. Like kids who have learnt a new swear word, post-Gramsci, the term has been applied by lefties to everything commonplace they don’t like. There’s “hegemonic masculinity” – being a dude and acting like a dude, “American Hegemony” – getting pissy at the awesomeness of America, and “racial hegemony” – too many honkys on T.V.

Yes, in its arrogant undermining of the intelligence and agency of the ordinary bloke and blokess, it’s one of the worst words in the lefty lexicon.

And anyone who uses it is most definitely a wanker.


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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