Gramsci: Domination (Hegamony)June 26, 2021
Sovereignty (Hegemony) was a concept previously used by Marxists like Lenin to designate the leadership of the working class in a democratic revolution, but was developed by Gramsci with a keen analysis of why the ‘inevitable’ socialist revolution envisioned by orthodox Marxism did not happen in the early 20th century. According to Gramsci, hegemony; education, church, political parties, unions, etc. It is based on a durable and independent civil society that gives autonomy to the “private institutions” that form the source of consent, such as
Capitalism, it seemed, was even stronger than it had ever been. According to Gramsci, capitalism ruled not only through violence, political and economic coercion, but also ideologically through the dominant culture in which bourgeois values became the ‘common thought’ of all. Thus, a culture of compromise was developing, and the working class people identified their own well-being with the well-being of the bourgeoisie, and, far from opposing it, helped to maintain the status quo-existing situation.
The working class needed to develop its own culture. Thus, the notion that bourgeois values represented ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ values for society would be destroyed and the oppressed and intellectual classes would be drawn to the cause of the proletariat. For Lenin, culture was ‘aid’ to political ends, but for Gramsci it was the basis of power and cultural sovereignty had to be achieved first. In Gramsci’s view, the class that wanted to win in modern conditions had to take intellectual and moral leadership, acting beyond its own narrow ‘economic-collective’ interests in order to achieve alliances and compromises with various forces. He called this union of social forces the ‘historical bloc’, a term he borrowed from Georges Sorel. This block forms the infrastructure of consent for a certain social order. It reproduces and reproduces the domination (hegemony) of the dominant class through institutions, social relations and the bond of ideas. Gramsci developed a theory that stressed the importance of a superstructure that perpetuates and breaks up infrastructure relations.
Gramsci noted that bourgeois cultural values in the West were linked to Christianity, so most of his polemics against the dominant culture were about religious norms and values. He was impressed by the power of Roman Catholicism in the consciousness of the people and the Church’s effort to bridge the widening gap between the religion of the educated and the less educated. He believed that it was the task of Marxism to combine the purely intellectual critique of religion in Renaissance humanism with the mass-reflected elements of the Reformation. According to Gramsci, Marxism could replace religion only if it met the spiritual needs of the people, and to achieve this it had to recognize religion as the expression of their lived experience.