Hegemony (UK: /hɪˈɡɛməni, hɪˈdʒɛməni/, US: /hɪˈdʒɛməni/
( pronunciation (help·info)) or /ˈhɛdʒəˌmoʊni/) is
the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one
state over others. In ancient Greece (8th century BC –
6th century AD), hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of
a city-state over other city-states. The dominant state is known as
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
In international relations theory, hegemony denotes a situation of (i)
great material asymmetry in favour of one state, who has (ii) enough
military power to systematically defeat any potential contester in the
system, (iii) controls the access to raw materials, natural resources,
capital and markets, (iv) has competitive advantages in the production
of value added goods, (v) generates an accepted ideology reflecting
this status quo; and (vi) is functionally differentiated from other
states in the system, being expected to provide certain public goods
such as security, or commercial and financial stability.
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
contrast to authoritarian rule, cultural hegemony "is hegemonic only
if those affected by it also consent to and struggle over its common
Ancient Greece under the hegemony of Thebes, 371–362 BC
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.
2 Historical examples
2.1 8th–1st centuries BC
2.2 1st–14th centuries AD
2.3 15th–19th centuries
2.4 20th century
2.5 21st century
3 Political science
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
League of Corinth
League of Corinth hegemony: the Kingdom of Macedonia (362 BC)
(red) and the Corinthian League (yellow)
From the post-classical Latin word hegemonia (from 1513 or earlier)
from the Greek word ἡγεμονία hēgemonía, meaning "authority,
rule, political supremacy", related to the word ἡγεμών
8th–1st centuries BC
In the Greco–Roman world of 5th century BC European classical
antiquity, the city-state of
Sparta was the hegemon of the
Peloponnesian League (6th to 4th centuries BC) and King Philip II of
Macedon was the hegemon of the
League of Corinth
League of Corinth in 337 BC (a kingship
he willed to his son, Alexander the Great). Likewise, the role of
Athens within the short-lived
Delian League (478–404 BC) was that of
a "hegemon". Ancient historians such as
the first who used the term in its modern sense.
In Ancient East Asia, Chinese hegemony existed during the Spring and
Autumn period (c. 770–480 BC), when the weakened rule of the Eastern
Zhou Dynasty led to the relative autonomy of the Five Hegemons (Ba in
Chinese [霸]). They were appointed by feudal lord conferences, and
thus were nominally obliged to uphold the imperium of the Zhou Dynasty
over the subordinate states.
1st–14th centuries AD
1st and 2nd century Europe was dominated by the hegemonic peace of the
Pax Romana. It was instituted by the emperor Augustus, and was
accompanied by a series of brutal military campaigns.
From the 7th century to the 12th century, the
Umayyad Caliphate and
Abbasid Caliphate dominated the vast territories they governed,
with other states like the Byzantine
Empire paying tribute.
In 7th century India, Harsha, ruler of a large empire in northern
India from 606 to 647 AD, brought most of the north under his
hegemony. He preferred not to rule as a central government, but left
"conquered kings on their thrones and contenting himself with tribute
From the late 9th to the early 11th century, the empire developed by
Charlemagne achieved hegemony in Europe, with dominance over France,
Italy and Burgundy.
In The Politics of International Political Economy, Jayantha Jayman
writes "If we consider the Western dominated global system from as
early as the 15th century, there have been several hegemonic powers
and contenders that have attempted to create the world order in their
own images." He lists several contenders for historical hegemony.
Portugal 1494 to 1580 (end of
Italian Wars to Spanish/Hapsburg
assimilation of Portugal). Based on Portugal's dominance in
Holland 1580 to 1688 (1579 Treaty of Utrecht marks the foundation of
Dutch Republic to the Glorious Revolution, William of Orange's
arrival in England). Based on Dutch control of credit and money.
Britain 1688 to 1792 (
Glorious Revolution to Napoleonic Wars). Based
on British textiles and command of the high seas.
Britain 1815 to 1914 (
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna to World War I). Based on
British industrial supremacy and railroads.
To this list could be added the hegemony of
Habsburg Spain in 16th
century Europe. However, after an attempt by Phillip IV to restore
it, by the middle of the 17th century "Spain's pretensions to hegemony
had definitely and irremediably failed."
In late 16th and 17th-century Holland, the Dutch Republic's
mercantilist dominion was an early instance of commercial hegemony,
made feasible with the development of wind power for the efficient
production and delivery of goods and services. This, in turn, made
possible the Amsterdam stock market and concomitant dominance of world
In France, King Louis XIV (1638–1715) and (Emperor)
(1799–1815) attempted French hegemony via economic, cultural and
military domination of most of Continental Europe. However, Jeremy
Black writes that, because of Britain, France "was unable to enjoy the
benefits" of this hegemony.
After the defeat and exile of Napoleon, hegemony largely passed to the
British Empire, which became the largest empire in history, with Queen
Victoria (1837–1901) ruling over one-quarter of the world's land and
population at its zenith. Like the Dutch, the British
primarily seaborne; many British possessions were located around the
rim of the Indian Ocean, as well as numerous islands in the Pacific
Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Britain also controlled the Indian
subcontinent and large portions of Africa.
In Europe, Germany, rather than Britain, may have been the strongest
power after 1871, but Samuel Newland writes:
Bismarck defined the road ahead as … no expansion, no push for
hegemony in Europe. Germany was to be the strongest power in Europe
but without being a hegemon. … His basic axioms were first, no
conflict among major powers in Central Europe; and second, German
security without German hegemony."
The early 20th century, like the late 19th century was characterized
Great Powers but no global hegemon.
World War I
World War I weakened
the strongest of the Imperial Powers, Great Britain, but also
United States and, to a lesser extent, Japan. Both of
these states' governments pursued policies to expand their regional
spheres of influence, the US in Latin America and Japan in East Asia.
France, the UK, Italy, the Soviet Union and later Nazi Germany
(1933–1945) all either maintained imperialist policies based on
spheres of influence or attempted to conquer territory but none
achieved the status of a global hegemonic power.
After the Second World War, the
United Nations was established and the
five strongest global powers (China, France, the UK, the US, and the
USSR) were given permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council, the
organization's most powerful decision making body. Following the war,
the US and the USSR were the two strongest global powers and this
created a bi-polar power dynamic in international affairs, commonly
referred to as the Cold War. The hegemonic conflict was ideological,
between communism and capitalism, as well as geopolitical, between the
Warsaw Pact countries (1955–1991) and NATO/SEATO/
(1949–present). During the
Cold War both hegemons competed against
each other directly (during the arms race) and indirectly (via proxy
wars). The result was that many countries, no matter how remote, were
drawn into the conflict when it was suspected that their governments'
policies might destabilise the balance of power. Reinhard Hildebrandt
calls this a period of "dual-hegemony", where "two dominant states
have been stabilizing their European spheres of influence against and
alongside each other." Proxy wars became battle grounds between
forces supported either directly or indirectly by the hegemonic powers
and included the Korean War, the Laotian Civil War, the Arab–Israeli
conflict, the Vietnam War, the Afghan War, the Angolan Civil War, and
the Central American Civil Wars.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 the United
States was the world's sole hegemonic power.
Various perspectives on whether the US was or continues to be a
hegemon have been presented since the end of the Cold War. The
American political scientists
John Mearsheimer and
Joseph Nye have
argued that the US is not a true hegemon because it has neither the
financial nor the military resources to impose a proper, formal,
global hegemony. On the other hand, Anna Cornelia Beyer, in her
book about counter-terrorism, argues that global governance is a
product of American leadership and describes it as hegemonic
The French Socialist politician
Hubert Védrine in 1999 described the
US as a hegemonic hyperpower, because of its unilateral military
Pentagon strategist Edward Luttwak, in The Grand Strategy of the Roman
Empire, outlined three stages, with hegemonic being the first,
followed by imperial. In his view the transformation proved to be
fatal and eventually led to the fall of the Roman Empire. His book
gives implicit advice[according to whom?] to Washington to continue
the present hegemonic strategy and refrain from establishing an
In 2006, author Zhu Zhiqun claimed that China is already on the way to
becoming the world hegemon and that the focus should be on how a
peaceful transfer of power can be achieved between the U.S. and
China. Though others have disagreed.
Main article: Cultural hegemony
NATO countries account for over 70% of global military
expenditure, with the
United States alone accounting for 43% of
global military expenditure in 2009.
Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), the theoretician of cultural hegemony
In the historical writing of the 19th century, the denotation of
hegemony extended to describe the predominance of one country upon
other countries; and, by extension, hegemonism denoted the Great Power
politics (c. 1880s – 1914) for establishing hegemony (indirect
imperial rule), that then leads to a definition of imperialism (direct
foreign rule). In the early 20th century, in the field of
international relations, the Italian
Marxist philosopher Antonio
Gramsci developed the theory of cultural domination (an analysis of
economic class) to include social class; hence, the philosophic and
sociologic theory of cultural hegemony analysed the social norms that
established the social structures (social and economic classes) with
which the ruling class establish and exert cultural dominance to
Weltanschauung (world view)—justifying the social,
political, and economic status quo—as natural, inevitable, and
beneficial to every social class, rather than as artificial social
constructs beneficial solely to the ruling class.
From the Gramsci analysis derived the political science denotation of
hegemony as leadership; thus, the historical example of
Prussia as the
militarily and culturally predominant province of the German Empire
Reich 1871–1918); and the personal and intellectual
Napoleon Bonaparte upon the French Consulate
(1799–1804). Contemporarily, in
Hegemony and Socialist Strategy
(1985), Ernesto Laclau and
Chantal Mouffe defined hegemony as a
political relationship of power wherein a sub-ordinate society
(collectivity) perform social tasks that are culturally unnatural and
not beneficial to them, but that are in exclusive benefit to the
imperial interests of the hegemon, the superior, ordinate power;
hegemony is a military, political, and economic relationship that
occurs as an articulation within political discourse. Beyer
analysed the contemporary hegemony of the
United States at the example
of the Global War on Terrorism and presented the mechanisms and
processes of American exercise of power in 'hegemonic governance'.
Academics have argued that in the praxis of hegemony, imperial
dominance is established by means of cultural imperialism, whereby the
leader state (hegemon) 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. The imposition of the hegemon's way
of life—an imperial lingua franca and bureaucracies (social,
economic, educational, governing)—transforms the concrete
imperialism of direct military domination into the abstract power of
the status quo, indirect imperial domination. Critics have said
that this view is "deeply condescending" and "treats people […] as
blank slates on which global capitalism’s moving finger writes its
message, leaving behind another cultural automaton as it moves
Suggested examples of cultural imperialism include the latter-stage
Spanish and British Empires, the 19th and 20th century Reichs of
unified Germany (1871–1945), and by the end of the 20th century,
the United States.
Culturally, hegemony also is established by means of language,
specifically the imposed lingua franca of the hegemon (leader state),
which then is the official source of information for the people of the
society of the sub-ordinate state. Writing on language and power,
Andrea Mayr says, "As a practice of power, hegemony operates largely
through language." In contemporary society, an example of the use
of language in this way is in the way Western countries set up
educational systems in African countries mediated by Western
Another example of this is found in the way language helped "diminish
the traditions" of African Americans in the US.
1954 Guatemalan coup d'état
Balance of power
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of
Capitalism (1916), by Lenin
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Look up hegemony in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
"Hegemony". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). 1911.
Hegemony at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Mike Dorsher, Ph.D.,
Hegemony Online: The Quiet Convergence of Power,
Culture and Computers
Hegemony and the Hidden Persuaders – the Power of Un-common
Parag Khanna, Waving G