Monday, April 18, 2022

Cultural Hegemony

Antonio Gramsci has been on my mind since I have been 1% Sardinian (passim). Actually it was Steve B who reminded me that Gramsci was born on the island but I am happy to take the credit.

Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony is a useful tool for helping us to understand Russia I think.

The war in Ukraine is presented to us as if Vladimir Putin was Ernst Stavro Blofeld; a solitary mastermind issuing incontrovertible orders as he strokes his white, blue-eyed Persian cat. Not good enough.


Cultural hegemony refers to domination or rule maintained through ideological or cultural means. It is usually achieved through social institutions, which allow those in power to strongly influence the values, norms, ideas, expectations, worldview, and behavior of the rest of society.

Cultural hegemony functions by framing the worldview of the ruling class, and the social and economic structures that embody it, as just, legitimate, and designed for the benefit of all, even though these structures may only benefit the ruling class. 

Consider, for example, Aleksandr Dugin (passim) and his unholy marriage of Russian irredentism and a Slavic manifest destiny. Or the Russian word NAROD that Rod M gave me for what I considered a word missing in English; a sort of triangulation of people, nation, and folk.  Orwell's Newspeak is not far away as we embed the notion of former Soviet states as the "near abroad" (Russian: ближнее зарубежье) in the language as Russia's legitimate sphere of influence.

Finally, at least for this morning, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. The ongoing war for “Holy Russia,” he has informed us has “metaphysical significance,” and the conquest of Ukraine a matter of is a matter of "eternal salvation." Marx and Engels saw religion as a conservative force which prevented social change by creating false consciousness. Putin agrees but thinks that is a good thing.
As ever I go back to my dear old Dad. "I never thought I would see that in my lifetime," he once said to me when a substitute made the sign of the cross as he came on for Russia in a football game.

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