BY BLESSING JONA
In this presentation, this scholar seeks to solidify that indeed hegemony can be seen as the dissoluble unity between political, moral and intellectual leadership. Through an analysis of the concept of hegemony as outlined by Antonio Gramsci, the scholar seeks to show how Zimbabwe’s media terrain reflects this concept. All this is in support of the assertion that hegemony is not simply a question of class alliances, but the manifestation of a dialectical relationship between coercion, consent, force and persuasion. This scholar begins by deconstructing the concept of hegemony by Antonio Gramsci, to show that it is a dissoluble unity between the political, the intellectual and the moral, in which there is a dialectical relationship between coercion, consent, force and persuasion. After demystifying the concept in this manner, the scholar then proceeds to highlight examples from Zimbabwe’s media terrain.
Classically arguing, Gramsci's "hegemony" refers to a process of political, moral and intellectual leadership through which dominated or subordinate classes of post-1870 industrial Western European nations consented to their own domination by ruling classes, as opposed to being simply forced or coerced into accepting inferior positions. Gramsci defines hegemony as a form of control exercised by a dominant class. For Gramsci, the dominant class of a Western European nation of his time was the bourgeoisie, defined in the Communist Manifesto as the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production as well as employers of wage-labour. According to this manifesto the crucial subordinate class was the proletariat; the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, were reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live. Gramsci's use of hegemony cannot be understood apart from other concepts he develops, including those of "State" and "Civil Society."
For Gramsci, hegemony was a form of control exercised primarily through a society's superstructure, as opposed to its base or social relations of production of a predominately economic character. Williams (1985) identifies three ways in which "superstructure" is used in the work of Karl Marx, including:
(a) legal and political forms which express existing real relations of production; (b) forms of consciousness which express a particular class view of the world; (c) a process in which, over a whole range of activities or men [sic] become conscious of a fundamental economic conflict and fight it out (77).
These three senses direct attention, respectively, to institutions; forms of consciousness and political and cultural practices. They also show that hegemony, as exercised primarily through a society’s superstructure, also incorporates within it issues of consent, persuasion, coercion and force.
For purposes of analysis, Gramsci splits superstructure into two major levels. The first one is the civil society, which is the ensemble of organisms commonly called 'private.’ The second one is the political society or the State. The civil society includes organisations such as churches, trade unions, and schools, which as Gramsci notes are typically thought of as private or non-political. A major piece of Gramsci's project is to show that civil society's ways of establishing and organising human relationships and consciousness are deeply political, and should in fact be considered integral to class domination (and to the possibility of overcoming it). According to Golding (1992;45) civil society corresponds to hegemony, while political society or...