« The Project of Hegemony | Main | Process of Hegemony »

Some Thoughts to Hegemony: H and Dominant Ideology

It occurs to me we are left with at least 3 different ways of thinking about hegemony. I will add a fourth (though see Amy's 2-17 post for a movement model for hegemony). IT is worth making sure we understand what those ways are and what the stakes are when going in one direction as opposed to another.

1) hegemony is the name of how cultural/politcal resources organize a common sense (a consenus) to support a dominant ideology (a world view that supports current asymmetries in power relationships between nominal groups). At times, as Gunn and Treat recenly pointed out in QJS, hegmony in critical rhetoric/communication often takes the place of ideology, tout court, in an effort to distance hegemony from the overly deterministic connotations of ideology as determination. And, as one might notice in Cloud, ideology and hegemony get very close to one another. However, in the hands of someone like Dana Cloud Or Todd Gitilin, this approach to hegemony, explains how the dominant ideology reproduces itself, and protects itself from being challenged. Though, to be honest, hegemony and dominant ideology become so fused in Cloud's analysis that they are nearly substitutable. ( Pedegogically, I would suggest that this substitution effect should be avoided, and as an editor for journals I demand it :.)

2) what might this mean for rhetoric. I want to answer this question by following what I take to be, following the writings of Leff, Gaonkar, Charland, the central challenge of contemporary rhetorical studies; namely the relationship between rhetoric as stratetic intervention/as cultural practice of persuasion and rhetoric as rhetoricality, a general process that describes the linguistc character of all human institutions, including, humans.

a) as stragegic intervention: the view of hegemony as s a consensus/common sense toward a dominant ideology potentially divides all cultural/politcal documents into two camps: those that support the dominant ideology (hegemonic texts) and those that do not support the dominant ideology ("counter-hegemonic" texts?). Dominant ideology, therefore stands in as something that is known or must be explained, but the strategic intervention (the text, as a philosophically loaded shorthand), is read for how it constructs the common sense, or adherence to, the dominant ideology.

From such a standpoint, it becomes necessary to describe what textual charctersitic links the text and the dominant ideology. In other words, what is important is how the text "speaks" promotes the dominant ideology. For example, Cloud's case on Oprah, the link is the "Rhetoric of Tokinism." Tokinism is a judgement about the narrative logic of the Oprah Texts she describes, She borrows the concept of tokinism from sociology, and gives it a rhetrorical character ("rhetoric of") by essentially turning Tokinism into a way to classify a host of different texts (a meta genre, if you will). So what we thought was, for example, a biography (a literary genre) is given a "rhetorical" dynamic by the way it partakes in a broader rhetorical/sociological classification, tokenism.

One important point needs to be made. In none of Clouds examples are we dealing with the traditional rhetorical text or genre (perhaps epidiectic would be the best way to describe the Oprah texts that she discusses, especially, the tribute show but, she does not use these classical rhetorical concepts). At the very least, her examples are not political examples in the sense of an effort to persuade an audience to make a judgement about a particular policy issue. They are genres associated with the terrain of popular culture. At which point, the question is what makes her project about rhetoric. My point is that her object domain should not be automatically imagined as a "rhetorical" object. For her to do so, she needs to align rhetoric with a general process that can be given a rhetorical character. The general process is hegemony and the concept that links these texts to the general process of hegemony is "a rhetoric of tokinism." a classification of fragmented multigeneric texts into a unified whole. ( a discursive articulation, to use L/M langauge)

As an aside: lots of folks deal with this slippage between the classical forms of rhetoric (epideictic,deliberative forensic) and contemporary forms of rhetoric like seriel television shows, by using the concept "cultural rhetoric" to describe the latter. According to Mailloux, "cultural rhetoric means taking on the study of the political effectivity of trope and argument in culture" (Rhetorical Power 59). (of couse, at this point, we are already beginning to move away from intentional efforts at persuasion to make a judgement in a situation, to a more subtle forms of persuasion as influence with or without worrying about specific situational moments that require judgement. In fact Mailloux fully belongs to a vision of rhetoric as general process ( where would their not be the political effecticity of trope and argument in culture, especially, after we textualize culture?) Back to Hegemony as common sense/consensus

b) as general process. In the Hegemony as consensus to dominant ideology approach, therefore, rhetoric becomes a general process to the extent that hegemony takes place accross the cultural/politcal sphere and this sphere has a linguistic character. Hegemony, almost by definition, has a rhetorial character, because it manifests itself in linguistic forms throughout a social fromation. We turn rhetoric into a general process to the extent that key concepts (like hegemony) are said to have a rhetorical character. The only limits, then, on the rhetorical, is the limits of the concept that has been re-made as rhetorical. For example, for Cloud, it is hard to know what text would not be either "hegemonic" or "counter-hegemonic" . Is it even possible, to have an ahegemonic text? Though, it should be noted, that attaching rhetoric to hegemony, does not necessarily, mean that we would talk about the general process in the radical sense the L/M suggest, For Cloud, rhetoric (in the first sense) either promotes or challenges power relationships (those relationships may not all be imagined as rhetorically constituted)

3. Some Critical implications:

a) A hegemony as consensus or common sense approach requires that you provide an account of the dominant ideology that your texts are said to be hegemonizing (that, is building consensus toward)

b)Try to minimize the easy substitutablity between hegemony and ideology. For example, in a phrase like hegemonic masculinity, do we mean a commons sense about masculinity that supports or changes a particular dominant ideology ( a world view that supports an asymmentrical relationship of power- Patriarchy) or do we mean that hegemonic masculinty is a dominant ideology about masculinity. In which case, what is the name of that dominant ideology. We should all be careful about this conceptual slippage effect. If you mean for hegemony to mean a common sense to a particular idea of x such a view is neutral to its relationship to power, unless you make specific claims about how that common sense harms or disadvantages particular groups or how that common sense gives a history to the dominant ideology. IN other words, if patriachy is the dominant ideology you are studying, how does patriachy change due to changing notions of our common sense about masculinity.

To think of hegemony as common sense, has builit into it the problem between product and process, I would suggest thinking hegemony is the process, commons sense is the product. The question is, what is the rhetorical character of that process that reveals a common sense (its product). The second step is to argue that the product (common sense) is bad or good for power relationship between folks. At which case, we may or may not need to concept ideology.

c. I we will return to ideology as a concept, but, I would encourage folks to follow Condit's lead and seperate hegemony from dominant ideology, they are two different concepts ( a future post will explain the implications and assumptions I find in Condit's approach). In fact, we have reasons to keep hegemony, but abandon ideology, dominant or otherwise (See Deluca on L@M). At the very least, we need to return to whether or not we should be thinking of ideology as a terrain as opposed to a product/thing (Protestantism). A concept like dominant ideology presupposes that ideology be imagined as a thing/product. As we will begin to explore next week, ideology can also be described as a process of interpellion, that makes subjects. so the relationship bewtween hegemony and ideology is not easily worked out without an idea of the difference between the two concepts and the relationship between the two concepts.

Let me know if any of this was helpful, seems wrong, seems to need amendment/clarity.


Thanks for setting a path for us to really try to clarify this usage of hegemony in L&M and make sense of how the concept might be deployed differently by other theorists.

I've tried to outline the ways L&M could differentiate their notion of hegemony from Cloud, Gramsci and Conduit. Do ya'll think these differences are accurate? What else needs to be added?

1. For Cloud; hegemony collapses into dominant ideology. Two obvious differences witb L&M
a. For L&M hegemony is a process ( “how cultural/political resources organize a common sense�) not the product (ideology).
b. For L&M hegemony is not always in service to the dominant ideology. (However, it seems in most usage of hegemony outside of L&M hegemony is associated with the dominant ideology, though it seems they argue that was not the case for Gramsci)

2. For Gramsci, the “hegemonizing task� was the process of overturning an ideology that favors the interest of the bourgeoisie to one that favors the interests of the working class (whom Gramsci thought to be “the fundamental class�).
a. It seems that where L&M credit Gramsci here is that unlike the thinkers of the Second International and Lenin who thought that ideology only changes in response to changes in the mode of production and such production changes were destined by laws of history, Gramsci saw ideology as something that changes only through political struggle. Gramsci starts to escape economic determinism as he sees the hegemonizing task as having something to do with articulation – changing the meanings/sense that supports the interest of the ruling class. This political task is contingent in that its outcome is not assured by laws of history.
b. I believe L&M grant Gramsci’s thinking another level of contingency. It seems he believed that individuals’ political actions were not determined merely by their class interest, or their “real interest.� For him, political struggle made it possible for at least some bourgeoisie, peasants or other to accept the interests of the proletariat.
c. However, Gramsci never fully escaped economic determinism, thus his political task was not entirely contingent because the possible outcomes were determined ahead of time as choices by a set of possible modes of production (you either have feudalism, capitalism, communism, or mere intermediary stages). The limits of Gramsci’s contingency had two connected reasons.
i. Small reason; For Gramsci the only way to advance politically was through a revolution that favored the interests of one class, the working class (his “fundamental class�)
ii. Big Reason: Political articulation for Gramsci was limited in that it could not produce new identities (what L& call “subject positions�, with class being the most relevant kind of identity for Gramsci), nor did it affect change in the “real interests� of each class. Thus, a proletarian hegemony would not represent any sort of compromise between the different classes that would work together to achieve it. Rather the proletarian hegemonizing task was to produce a new kind of ideology in which the all classes would be co-opted into accepting a system of belief favoring the interests of the working class, in the same way as ideology previously co-opted all everyone into accepting beliefs favoring the ruling class. So at the root of Gramsci’s thought, the identities and real interests of members of society are not contingent; there structure is determined by the economic base

3. For, Conduit hegemony is not the result of any sort of hegemonic task on behalf of any political group. Rather for her, hegemony is the result of a process by which a compromise is worked out between different interests and groups. Here hegemony is a concordance, a product, though she emphasizes how it is the result of a complex process. This isn’t always a fair compromise, in that some groups have more power than other and thus can bend the compromise in a way that disproportionately favors their interest, but for her, unlike both Cloud and Gramsci, hegemony is not a winner-take-all contest of interests between different groups. What is the status of contingency for Conduit?
a. The accepted interests of groups can change through the hegemonic negotiation process.
b. There is murkiness for her on just what is contingent, what is open to change. What we do know changes for Conduit through hegemonic negation is the “accepted interest� of different groups. But do “subject positions� change? And are there “real interests� that exist prior to articulation for her? To some extent, she suggest that something like real interests actual change when the negotiation process starts to be something akin to Habermassian deliberation, where “public reason� realigns real interests, rather than lulling people into a false consciousness. However, other times it seems she think the negation process leads to a kind of ideological equalibrium which results in accepting a comprised amalgamation interest that only partially matches the real interest of each group.