Research Blog Post #5

Ideology, Hegemony, Discourse: A Critical Review of Theories of Knowledge and Power

“For over a century, social theorists have attempted to explain why those who lack economic power consent to hierarchies of social and political power. They have used ideology, hegemony and discourse as key concepts to explain the intersections between the social production of knowledge and the perpetuation of power relations. The Marxist concept of ideology describes how the dominant ideas within a given society reflect the interests of a ruling economic class. In this paper, I trace the movement from this concept of ideology to models of hegemony and discourse. I then trace a second set of ruptures in theories of ideology, hegemony and discourse. Marx and others link ideology to a vision of society dominated by economic class as a field of social power. However, theorists of gender and “race” have questioned the place of class as the locus of power. I conclude by arguing that key theorists of gender and “race”—Hall, Smith, hooks and Haraway—offer a more complex understanding of how our consent to networks of power is produced within contemporary capitalist societies. This argument has important implications for theory and practice directed at destabilizing our consent to power.” -Mark C. J. Stoddart;sequence=1

“Through this work, we see how consent to multiple intersecting networks of power occurs because we adopt the discourses that circulate throughout civil society (the media, schools, family). As 223 Ideology, Hegemony, Discourse we take up ideological discourses, we become gendered and racialized subjects. Through the everyday mundane nature of ideology, we come to accept inequities of class, gender, and ethnicity as immune to radical transformation. However, ideological closure is never completely achieved. As people actively forge political connections among different subject positions, they illuminate the limits of consent and disrupt it. Of the key theorists reviewed here, it is the work of Hall, Smith, hooks and Haraway that present the most useful directions for moving forward as we continue to think about the relationships between culture and economy, knowledge and power, and domination and resistance. If this model of power, domination, and consent is correct, there are also important implications for theory and political practice. In this model, power is discursive, while having material effects. It flows throughout daily life in multiple directions. As such, it is untenable to envision a Marxist style of revolution, which can ultimately overcome power. Instead, we are better off directing theory and practice at destabilizing our consent to these power relations. Social theory might help produce the kind of reflexivity that encourages us to better monitor and manage relations of power. This leaves us with the prospect of an endless project of challenging and minimizing the harmful effects of power relations, through practices like radical democracy or cyborg politics.”

  • subordinate groups socialized to dominant group interests
  • Why is this?

^The Globalization of Corporate Media Hegemony > book with many case studies/ globalization of media in third world countries/ why it happens

^Cultural Imperialism 

  1. Describe how hegemony applies to different aspects of global culture.
  2. Identify the attributes of McDonaldization.
  3. Analyze the ways that local cultures respond to outside forces

Strongly influenced by the theories and writings of Karl Marx, Italian philosopher and critic Gramsci originated the idea of cultural hegemony to describe the power of one group over another. Unlike Marx, who believed that the workers of the world would eventually unite and overthrow capitalism, Gramsci instead argued that culture and the media exert such a powerful influence on society that they can actually influence workers to buy into a system that is not economically advantageous to them. This argument that media can influence culture and politics is typified in the notion of the American Dream. In this rags-to-riches tale, hard work and talent can lead to a successful life no matter where one starts. Of course, there is some truth to this, but it is by far the exception rather than the rule.Marx’s ideas remained at the heart of Gramsci’s beliefs. According to Gramsci’s notion, the hegemons of capitalism—those who control the capital—can assert economic power, while the hegemons of culture can assert cultural power. This concept of culture is rooted in Marxist class struggle, in which one group is dominated by another and conflict arises. Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony is pertinent in the modern day not because of the likelihood of a local property-owning class oppressing the poor, but because of concern that rising globalization will permit one culture to so completely assert its power that it drives out all competitors.

“There are, of course, by-products of American cultural exports throughout the world. American cultural mores, such as the Western standard of beauty, have increasingly made it into global media. As early as 1987, Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times about a young Chinese woman who was planning to have an operation to make her eyes look rounder, more like the eyes of Caucasian women. Western styles—“newfangled delights like nylon stockings, pierced ears and eye shadow”—also began to replace the austere blue tunics of Mao-era China. The pervasiveness of cultural influence is difficult to track, however, as the young Chinese woman says that she wanted to have the surgery not because of Western looks but because “she thinks they are pretty (Kristof, 1987).””

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