Friday, December 18, 2015 | By: Furqon Abdi

The Three Levels of Hegemony

In the present time, the concept of Hegemony by Gramsci is more developed. It is rarely noticed that Gramsci speaks of three different levels, or types, of hegemony. However, Femia in his book Gramsci’s Political Thought already makes an explanation that hegemony is divided into three types. The first type, the highest level, of hegemony is integral hegemony. He explains that “in paradigm case, which we can call integral hegemony; mass affiliation would approach unqualified commitment” (1981: 46).

The second type of hegemony is called decadent hegemony. It happens when the ruling classes are not fully controlling the ruled classes. Femia explains it:
But in modern capitalist society, Gramsci claims, bourgeois economic dominance, whether or not it faces serious challenge, has become outmoded (no longer is it capable of representing or furthering) everyone's interest. Neither is it capable of commanding unequivocal allegiance from the non-elite: "as soon as the dominant group has exhausted its function, the ideological bloc tends to decay. Thus, the potential for social disintegration is ever-present: conflict lurks just beneath the surface. In spite of the numerous achievements of the system, the needs, inclinations, and mentality of the masses are not truly in harmony with the dominant ideas. Though widespread, cultural and political integration is fragile; such a situation might be called decadent hegemony (1981: 47).
Femia then called the third level of hegemony as the “lowest form of hegemony ... [which is labeled] minimal hegemony” (1981: 47). He adds that “this type of hegemony rests on the ideological unity of the economic, political and intellectual elites along with ‘aversion to any intervention of the popular masses in State life’” (1981: 47).

The lowest level of hegemony is formed because the ruling classes start to lose their domination toward the ruled. In order to maintain their last control, the ruling classes have to give an extra intention to the ruled class. This action will minimize the ruled classes’ protest. Sometimes, the ruling classes have to invite the ruled classes to work together with them or to do something that will make the ruled class believe that the ruling classes are good people and caring to them.

Femia then adds:
The dominant economic groups do not 'accord their interests and aspirations with the interests and aspirations of other classes'. Rather, they maintain their rule through trasformismo, the practice of incorporating the leaders - "cultural, political, social, and economic" - of potentially hostile groups into the elite network, the result being 'the formation of an ever broader ruling class. The inducements used may range from mere flattery to offers of employment in administration to the granting of substantial power in decision-making (1981: 47-48).
It can be concluded that hegemony is the acts of dominant class to control their domination towards the ruled class without using forces. They maintain their domination through economic, education, politic and ideology. The ruling class or the dominant class is divided into two kinds of people. The first one is called the State. The state is people who are in charge in the government. They control the society of ruled class using their power in the government. Their actions are dominated in political aspects of domination. The second ruling class is civil society who maintains their domination using another aspect, especially economic.

The three levels of hegemony are Integral hegemony, decadent hegemony and Minimal hegemony. Integral hegemony can be seen in a society which shows the superpower ruling class rule the other society without having resistance from them. The decadent hegemony shows the hegemony where the ruling class has to give some spaces for the ruled class to do what they want in order to maintain their domination. The third level of hegemony, minimal hegemony, can be seen when the ruling class gets resistance from the ruled class continuously.

Femia, Joseph. Gramsci’s Political thought: Hegemony, Consciousness, and The revolutionary Process. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.


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