For students of world history, and of world-historical thought, hegemony is one of the Sesame keys: from ancient Greece, to the Italian city-states of the early Renaissance, to the Netherlands of the 17th century, to imperial Great Britain, to todays’ United States of America, the presence of “great powers”, and among them that of a “hegemon”, one country or nation state for a while dominating the others, has been the backdrop of western history.
From Wikipedia: “Hegemony is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one state over others. In Ancient Greece (8th century BCE – 6th century CE), hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states. The dominant state is known as the hegemon.
In the 19th century, hegemony came to denote the “Social or cultural predominance or ascendancy; predominance by one group within a society or milieu”. Later, it could be used to mean “a group or regime which exerts undue influence within a society.” Also, it could be used for the geopolitical and the cultural predominance of one country over others; from which was derived hegemonism, as in the idea that the Great Powers meant to establish European hegemony over Asia and Africa.
The Marxist theory of cultural hegemony, associated particularly with Antonio Gramsci, is the idea that the ruling class can manipulate the value system and mores of a society, so that their view becomes the world view (Weltanschauung): in Terry Eagleton’s words, ‘Gramsci normally uses the word hegemony to mean the ways in which a governing power wins consent to its rule from those it subjugates’.
In cultural imperialism, the leader state dictates the internal politics and the societal character of the subordinate states that constitute the hegemonic sphere of influence, either by an internal, sponsored government or by an external, installed government.”
From Giovanni Arrighi “The Long Twentieth Century”:
“A dominant state exercises a hegemonic function if it leads the system of states in a desired direction and, in so doing, is perceived as pursuing a general interest. It is this kind of leadership that makes the dominant state hegemonic. But a dominant state may lead also in the sense that it draws other states onto its own path of development… This second kind of leadership can be designated as ‘leadership against one’s own will’ because, over time, it enhances competition for power rather than the power of the hegemon.”
From Christopher Layne (“The Peace of Illusions”):
“When World War II ended, the Soviet Union was the only obstacle to US global hegemony, and in the first postwar decade Washington’s principal grand strategic goal was to secure that hegemony by removing the Soviet Union as a peer competitor. The United States emerged from the war in a position of unparalleled geopolitical preeminence, and the scope of America’s interests expanded concomitantly, and indeed, had done so while the war was still ongoing. Once the war ended, Washington’s perceptions of the Soviet threat to those interests began to grow. As a result, US and Soviet interests collided… in Europe, the Middle East, and Northeast Asia, which contributed to the intensification of postwar Soviet-American tensions that culminated in the cold war… America’s main grand strategic aim was to secure its global hegemony by bringing these potential poles of power [Germany and Japan] into its orbit and thereby prevent them from emerging as challengers to US predominance.”
While reading through this post, I realised I had already written on the subject, for last year’s challenge! Which shows either (or both) my lack of imagination, or continued interest in the subject…