AskDefine | Define hegemony

Dictionary Definition

hegemony n : the domination of one state over its allies

User Contributed Dictionary



From (hēgemonia) "supremacy" or "leadership", which comes from hegeisthai "to lead".


  • italbrac RP /hɪˈgɛm.ə.ni/ or /hɪˈdʒəm.ə.ni/
  • italbrac US /həˈdʒɛm.ə.ni/ or /'hɛdʒ.ə.moʊ.ni/


  1. Domination, influence, or authority over another, especially by one political group over a society or by one nation over others (e.g.: internationally among nation-states, and regionally over social classes, between languages or even culture).
    The two political parties battled viciously for hegemony.


domination, influence, or authority over another

Extensive Definition

Hegemony ( (Amer.), /hɨˈɡɛməni/ (Brit.)) () is a concept that has been used to describe the existence of dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group—referred to as a hegemon—acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force. It is used broadly to mean any kind of dominance, and narrowly to refer to specifically cultural and non-military dominance, as opposed to the related notions of empire and suzerainty.
In International Relations, a hegemon may be defined or power that can dictate the policies of all other powers in its vicinity, or that is able to defeat any other power or combination of powers that it might be at war with. Examples of (potentially) hegemonic states in history are the Roman Empire, the British Empire and the united Germany that has existed from 1871 to 1945 and the United States from 1991 onwards.
The processes by which a dominant culture maintains its dominant position: for example, the use of institutions to formalize power; the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and, therefore, not attached to any one individual); the inculcation of the populace in the ideals of the hegomonic group through education, advertising, publication, etc.; the mobilization of a police force as well as military personnel to subdue opposition.


Researchers use hegemony to explain how dominant groups or individuals can maintain their power -- the capacity of dominant classes to persuade subordinate ones to accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms. Antonio Gramsci devised one of the best-known accounts of hegemony. His theory defined the State by a mixture of coercion and hegemony, between which he drew distinctions. According to Gramsci, hegemony consists of socio-political power that flows from enabling the "spontaneous consent" of the populace through intellectual and moral leadership or authority as employed by the subalterns of the State. The power of the hegemony is thus primarily through coercion and consent rather than armed force. Such conceptions are sometimes referred to as "cultural hegemony."
Recently, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe have re-defined the term "hegemony" as a discursive strategy of combining principles from different systems of thought into one coherent ideology.

Hegemonies in history

The word "hegemony" originated in ancient Greece and derives from the word hegeisthai (meaning "to lead"). An early example of hegemony during ancient Greek history occurred when Sparta became the hegemon of the Peloponnesian League in the 6th century BC. Later, in 337 BC, Philip II of Macedon became the personal Hegemon of the League of Corinth, a position he passed on to his son Alexander the Great.
The concept of "Hegemony" was also present in ancient China, during the Spring and Autumn Period (ca. 770 BC - 480 BC), when the weakening of the Zhou Dynasty led to increased autonomy amongst the feudal lords of the period. The hegemons, known as "Ba" (Chinese: 霸), were often appointed by conferences of feudal lords, and they were nominally obliged to uphold the supremacy of the Zhou kings and keep order amongst subordinate states.
The term hegemon is also used to describe Japan's three unifiers in the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century. Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu each had different titles (and held many different posts during their lifetimes), but each had in common that they exercised hegemony over all or much of Japan. For ease of reference they are collectively referred to as the three hegemons or the three unifiers.
To the extent that hegemony appears as a cultural phenomenon, cultural institutions maintain it. The Medici maintained their hegemony in Tuscany through control of Florence's major guild, the Arte della Lana. Modern hegemonies also maintain themselves through cultural institutions, often with allegedly "voluntary" membership.
The dominance of the Dutch Republic during the 17th Century (1609-1672) can be considered one of the first instances of a "global" hegemon, with a focus on mercantilism. This was due to its development of wind power and shipping which enabled it to develop as a hegemon because of production efficiency. It then gained a commercial advantage through the generation of the 'Four Great Fleets' and later gained financial dominance, with the emergence of the stock market in Amsterdam.
During much of the rather absolutist reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715), France dominated most of Europe economically, culturally, and militarily. Monarchs imitated his court and style, even paying tribute as vassal status in many cases, while the Papacy could not effect even bishopric appointments, let alone secular politics.
In more recent times, analysts have used the term hegemony in a more abstract sense to describe the "proletarian dictatorships" of the 20th century, resulting in regional domination by local powers, or domination of the world by a global power. China's position of dominance in East Asia for most of its history offers an example of the regional hegemony.
The Cold War (1945 - 1990), with its main avenues of coercion, cooperation, and attraction - the Warsaw Pact, led by the USSR and NATO, led by the United States &mdash, is often referred to as a struggle of hegemons and hegemonies. The details of the parties' respective ideologies have no relevance to whether they were hegemonies: both sides featured superpowers, supported by a coalition and/or alliance of their allies, friends, satellites, clients, and vassals, struggling to achieve dominance over the other, in multiple dimensions and multiple forums, including through military superiority, the arena of hearts and minds, cultural superiority, ideological superiority, and technological superiority, and become the dominant hegemony worldwide. Of course, the details of the ideologies of both parties--and the deeds that that each party did in the service of their respective ideologies--for example, the Soviet intervention into the Hungarian revolution, or the United States intervention into the Vietnamese revolution--did come into play to the extent that they determined the persuasiveness and efficacy of each hegemony.
After the end of the Cold War, some analysts used the term "hegemony" to describe the United States' role as the sole superpower (or, in the words of Hubert Védrine, as a "hyperpower") in the modern world. However, many scholars of international relations (such as John Mearsheimer or Joseph Nye) argue that the United States does not have true hegemony, since it lacks the resources to impose dominance over the entire globe. While the United States has dominance on political-military issues, it is equal to Europe on the economic scale, and has very little influence on transnational relations by non-state actors. Also, China, India, and the European Union are considered by some to be emerging superpowers capable of or already competing with the United States.

Hegemony in fiction

In the fictionary universe Matrix, created by the Wachowski brothers, robots have taken over the entire world. Humans are a subordinate race, in which 99% of humans unconsciously accept their rule, and 1% rebel against the robots and live in Zion. When the rebels grow too strong, "The One" is added to the Matrix to reboot it.
The novel Valis by the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick treats the concept of hegemony as one aspect of what he calls the Black Iron Prison, a totalised system of social control.
In Bulgakov's novel, The Master and Margarita, the imprisoned Christ is told to address the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, as "Hegemon". After a false start, and threats of further corporal punishment, Christ complies with the order.
Ursula K. LeGuin uses the concept of Hegemony to create a rich universe to set her stories and novels. The worlds are bound together by the hegemon which uses diplomacy, education, and patience to win new member worlds.
Orson Scott Card used the title 'Hegemon' to describe the office of world leader taken by the fictional character Peter Wiggin, the brother of Andrew (Ender) Wiggin. The story of Peter's rise to dominance is (partly) told in the science fiction novel Ender's Game, and more fully in the 'Shadow' series. Peter uses his great intelligence and political savvy to manipulate public opinion by publishing under the pseudonym of "Locke". Peter persuaded his sister, Valentine Wiggin, to publish opposing viewpoints that were widely supported by the common people under the guise of "Demosthenes". The educated and political communities, fearing the power Demosthenes held with the common people, consequently supported Locke, a more moderate writer in their opinion. Ironically, once Peter attains the office, he finds that it has little actual power, contrary to what the title would lead one to believe, though he then gains power by acting as a traditional hegemon.
Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos also features an interstellar society called 'The Hegemony of Man'. The Hegemony includes all of the several hundred planets colonized by the human race, as well as space stations and outlying colonies. The Hegemony funds and maintains an interplanetary military/police entity called FORCE, and two hundred or so Hegemony planets are linked together by the farcaster network to comprise the WorldWeb. The TechnoCore and the Ousters are not included in the Hegemony.
Robert A. Heinlein referred several times to the "Chinese Hegemony" in his novel, "Starship Troopers".
In the Joan D. Vinge novel The Snow Queen, the government of civilized planets is called the Hegemony, or the Hedge; they are the remnants of a defunct greater empire.
In Battletech, there is an interstellar government called the Terran Hegemony, lasting from the early 24th century to the late 28th century. The government is more akin to a constitutional monarchy than anything else.
In Star Control 3, the player struggled against the Hegemonic Crux, a hegemony of races dominated by the Ploxis, an intelligent, bird-like race of aliens.
In Star Trek (especially Deep Space Nine), the Breen race is represented by a government called the "Breen Hegemony". In one Next Generation episode, the "European Hegemony" is described as a loose alliance of states in the early 22nd century, and is assumed to no longer exist. Also the Gorn race encountered by Kirk in the original Star Trek series are referred to as having a Hegemony.
In Iain M. Banks's Culture novels, a "Hegemonising Swarm" is a hive-like organism that seeks to make everything in the galaxy a part of it. It is described as one potential Outside Context Problem for the Culture.
The Covenant in Halo (series) is a religious hegemony.
The Hegemony in Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series is one of two global superpowers. The Hegemony borders dominate North and South America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, some of Central Asia, and parts of China. Its counterpart is the Putchkin Alliance, centered around what was known as Russia. Many of the citizens of either superpower feel as though there is one world government with the Hegemony and Putchkin Alliance as two major political divisions.
In Star Wars the Tion Hegemony is a small power set up by the Galactic Empire out of an older state and was left mostly to its own devices until a strong Rebel movement took hold in the Hegemony.

Geography of hegemonies

Hegemony does not leave geography untouched. Henri Lefebvre's theory of space, as articulated in "The Production of Space", insists that space is not a passive locus of social relations and that space is trialectical. That is space is comprised of mental space, social space and physical space. This said, hegemony can be read as a spatial process. (See Edward Soja, David Harvey, Chantal Mouffe)
Geopolitics influences hegemonies. Ancient hegemonies developed in fertile river valleys (an example of hydraulic despotism): Egypt, China and the succession of states in Mesopotamia. In China during the Warring States Era the state of Qin created artificial waterways (such as the Chengkuo Canal) in order to give itself an advantage over its neighboring rival states. Hegemonic successor states in Eurasia tended to cluster around the Middle East for a period, using either the sea (Greece) or the fringe lands (Persia, Arabia). The focus of European hegemony moved west to Rome, then northwards to the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire. The Atlantic seaboard had its heyday (Spain, France, Britain) before the fringes of the European cultural area took over in the twentieth century (United States, Soviet Union).
Some regions show continually fluctuating areas of regional hegemony: India, for example, or the Balkans. Other regions show relative stability: northern China offers a case in point.
Long-lived hegemonies (China, Pax Sinica; Rome, Pax Romana) offer a contrast to shorter dominations: the Mongol Empire or Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Resistance and survival

Conrad Phillip Kottak, in Window on Humanity (2004), explains hegemony in terms of ideologies that offer explanations about why the existing order is in everyone's interest. Many things are promised, but are said to take time and patience in order for them to happen.


hegemony in Bulgarian: Хегемония
hegemony in Catalan: Hegemonia
hegemony in Czech: Hegemonie
hegemony in Welsh: Hegemoni
hegemony in Danish: Hegemoni
hegemony in German: Hegemonie
hegemony in Esperanto: Hegemonio
hegemony in Spanish: Hegemonía
hegemony in Estonian: Hegemoonia
hegemony in Persian: هژمونی
hegemony in Finnish: Hegemonia
hegemony in Galician: Hexemonía
hegemony in Hebrew: הגמוניה
hegemony in Icelandic: Forræði
hegemony in Italian: Egemonia
hegemony in Japanese: 覇権
hegemony in Korean: 헤게모니
hegemony in Lithuanian: Hegemonija
hegemony in Dutch: Hegemonie
hegemony in Norwegian Nynorsk: Hegemoni
hegemony in Norwegian: Hegemoni
hegemony in Polish: Hegemonia
hegemony in Portuguese: Hegemonia
hegemony in Russian: Гегемония
hegemony in Simple English: Hegemony
hegemony in Serbian: Хегемонија
hegemony in Swedish: Hegemoni
hegemony in Ukrainian: Гегемонія
hegemony in Chinese: 霸权主义
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1