SOC 202 Study Guide - Final Guide: Laura Mulvey, Social Fact, Performativity
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SOC 202 Exam Review
Hegemony by James Lull
• Hegemony is the power or dominance that one social group holds over others.
o Refers to the "asymmetrical interdependence" of political-economic-cultural
relations between and among nation-states or differences between and among
social classes within a nation
o It’s a dominance and subordination in the field of relations structured by power
o A method for gaining and maintaining power
• Classical Marxist theory, of course, stresses economic position as the strongest predictor
of social differences.
o Technological developments in the twentieth century, however, have made the
manner of social domination much more complex than before
o Social class differences in today’s world are not determined solely or directly by
o Ideological influence is crucial now in the exercise of social power
• Antonio Gramsci – to whom the term hegemony is attributed – broadened materialist
Marxist theory into the realm of ideology.
o Gramsci emphasized society’s “super structure”, its ideology-producing
institutions, and struggles over meaning and power
o A shift in critical theory thus was made away from a preoccupation with capitalist
society’s “base” and towards its dominant dispensaries of ideas
o Attention was given to the structuring of authority and dependence in symbolic
environments that correspond to, but are not the same as, economically
determined class-based structures and processes of industrial production
o Such a theoretical turn seems a natural and necessary development in an era when
communications technology is such a pervasive and potent ideological medium
o Mass media are tools that ruling elites use to “perpetuate their power, wealth, and
status by popularizing their own philosophy, culture and morality”
Introduces elements into individual consciousness that would not
otherwise appear there, but will not be rejected by consciousness because
they are so commonly shared in the cultural community
Owners and managers of media industries can produce and reproduce the
content, inflections, and tones of ideas favourable to them far more easily
than other social groups because they manage key socializing institutions,
thereby guaranteeing that their points of view are constantly and
attractively cast into the public arena.
• Mass-mediated ideologies are corroborated and strengthened by an interlocking system of
efficacious information-distributing agencies and taken-for-granted social practices that
permeate every aspect of social and cultural reality.
o Messages supportive of the status quo emanating from schools, businesses,
political organizations, trade unions, religious groups, the military and the mass
media all dovetail together ideologically.
o This inter-articulating, mutually reinforcing process of ideological influence is the
essence of hegemony.
• Hegemony is not a direct stimulation of thought or action, but, according to Stuart Hall, is
a "framing of all competing definitions of reality within the dominant class's range
bringing all alternatives within their horizons of thought.
o sets the limits-mental and structural within which subordinate classes 'live' and
make sense of their subordination in such a way as to sustain the dominance of
those ruling over them
o Most potent effect of mass media is how they subtly influence their audiences to
perceive social roles and routine personal activities
The controlling economic forces in society use the mass media to provide
a "rhetoric [through] which these concepts are labeled, evaluated, and
• Hegemony does not mature strictly from ideological articulation.
o Dominant ideological streams must be subsequently reproduced in the activities
of our most basic social units-families, workplace networks, and friendship
groups in the many sites and undertakings of everyday life
o Gramsci's theory of hegemony, therefore, connects ideological representation to
Requires that ideological assertions become self-evident cultural
Depends on subordinated peoples accepting the dominant ideology as
“normal reality or common sense in active forms of experience and
o Because information and entertainment technology is so thoroughly integrated
into the everyday realities of modern societies, mass media's social influence is
not always recognized, discussed, or criticized, particularly in societies where the
overall standard of living is relatively high
Hegemony can easily go undetected
• Hegemony implies a willing agreement by people to be governed by principles, rules, and
laws they believe operate in their best interests, even though in actual practice they may
not. Social consent can be a more effective means of control than coercion or force.
o “The idea of hegemony, in its wide sense, is ... especially important in societies
where electoral politics and public opinion are significant factors, and in which
social practice is seen to depend on consent to certain dominant ideas which in
fact express the needs of a dominant class"
o One class exercises hegemony to the extent that the dominating class has interests
which the subalternate classes recognize as being in some degree their interests
• Relationships between and among the major information-diffusing, socializing agencies
of a society and the interacting, cumulative, socially accepted ideological orientations
they create and sustain is the essence of hegemony.
o Television also has the ability to absorb other major social institutions-organized
religion, for instance-and turn them into popu1ar culture.
o The development of American commercial broadcasting is a vivid example of
how capitalist economic forces assert their power.
Hegemony as an Incomplete Process
• Hegemony is considered fragile.
o Requires renewal and modification through the assertion and reassertion of power
o It is crucial to the concept that hegemony is not a 'given' and permanent state of
affairs, but it has to be actively won and secured; it can also be lost
o Ideological work is the winning and securing of hegemony over time, as ideology
is composed of "texts that are not closed" according to Hall, who also notes that
ideological "counter-tendencies" regularly appear in the seams and cracks of
o Mediated communications ranging from popular television shows to rap and rock
music, even graffiti scrawled over surfaces of public spaces, all inscribe messages
that challenge central political positions and cultural assumptions
• Counter-hegemonic tendencies do not inhere solely in texts. They are formulated in
processes of communication-in the interpretations, social circulation, and uses of media
o Resistance to hegemony is not initiated solely by media consumers
o Ideology can never be stated purely and simple
o Ways of thinking are always reflexive and embedded in a complex, sometimes
contradictory, ideological regress
• Audience interpretations and uses of media imagery also eat away at hegemony.
o Hegemony fails when dominant ideology is weaker than social resistance