H is for Hegemony

| May 5, 2014

H is for Hegemony

The first time I read the word “Hegemony”, I had little idea what it meant. First impressions bring about images of “hedges” and “matrimony”… Perhaps the marriage of hedges?

Actual definitions:

Merriam-Webster: influence or control over another country, a group of people, etc

Wikipedia: an indirect form of government, and of imperial dominance in which thehegemon (leader state) rules geopolitically subordinate states by the implied means of power, the threat of force, rather than by direct military force

The source I first came across the word hegemony was in Peter McLaren’s Life in Schools, where he writes:

“Hegemony is a struggle in which the powerful win the consent of those who are oppressed with the oppressed unknowingly participating in their own oppression.”

Marx uses the term “Cultural Hegemony” to describe the domination of the culture by the ruling class; in dominating the culture, the class is able to control the worldview of others and thus control “cultural norms”.

I still don’t know much about the topic, but I definitely am able to see McLaren’s and Marx’s ideas about blind oppression relevant to today’s society. Unless people are put into places of critical thought (whether that is independently or through the guidance of others), it is difficult to critique one’s own culture. I believe this is a big part of what some authors (Helguera, Ranciere, Bishop) have touched on this semester and the domain of Critical Pedagogy is attempting to assert.

Conservative philosophers of education focus their work on assimilating future generations into the existing system; even progressive thinkers such as Dewey were wary of curriculum that heavily questioned the foundations of older generations. In Democracy and Education, Dewey writes, “The assimilative force of the American public school is eloquent testimony to the efficacy of the common and balanced appeal”; although Dewey believe in experiential learning and teaching the whole child, he was no revolutionary when it came to educating students.

The idea of hegemony is an interesting one that I am just beginning to uncover, but I know that it will continue to play an important role in how I approach the classroom and what questions I present to my students.