Briefs on Hegemony and Power

According to Gramsci, hegemony is “either this (a complex interlocking of political, social and cultural forces) or the active social and cultural forces which are its necessary elements” (Williams 108). That being said, in either way, hegemony is closely tied with social and cultural influences, and beyond. It forms the sense of ‘an ideology’ applied to the actual consciousness of both dominant and subordinated classes (Williams 109).

In Fresh Fruits, Broken Bodies by an anthropologist Seth Holmes, the author examines the everyday lives of the Mexican migrants on farms of Washington state in our contemporary system. These Mexican migrants trespass the border for labor camps, picking berries in large farms. There, I found the two classes: dominant and subordinate, bounded in their ideologies and formed a hegemonic system of violence. When the author interviews the farm owners, they say they are under the pressure of structural violence and the markets, that they have no choice but to share their anxiety and burden onto their workers. The Mexican migrants, on the other hand, are convinced that this is how the society works; they perfectly understand that they are the oppressed people under the social structure. I am not saying that they are satisfied with this lowest status in a developed country, but they truly internalize this ideology of “white supremacy” as its consciousness. That is one way of how power relations work.

What’s more, even though they do feel they are under the structural violence, these migrants are so scared to even lose their positions as the bottom of this power chain. In other words, their consciousness rests on the first stage. This phenomenon also confirms what Williams claims: “It (hegemony) thus constitutes a sense of reality for most people in the society, a sense of absolute because experienced reality beyond which it is very difficult for most members of the society to move, in most areas of their lives” (Williams 110). These migrants are bound to their experience of reality as a type of “culture” to step out of The System.

On the contrary, “another version, has this ideology imposed on its otherwise different consciousness, which it must struggle to sustain or develop against ‘ruling-class ideology’” (Williams 109). And that is how a lot of social movements start with: the epiphany of different ideologies apart from the ones produced by the controlling. Black Lives Matter, Me Too Movement, Gay rights, just to name a few, fight against the haunting “normative” culture in the society. Even though the power relations in Holmes’ recent research seem depressing, there is progressive growth of equality and elimination of absolute power of one social group over another. Thus, “[a] lived hegemony is always a process…It does not just passively exist as a form of dominance. It has continually to be renewed, recreated, defended, and modified. It is also continually resisted, limited, altered, challenged by pressures not at all its own” (Williams 112). It is always changing, and hopefully to the right direction.

However, what is the ultimate goal in a society in relations to power? Is it what McLennan writes that “the good society is almost defined in terms of the complete absence of power relations”? (McLennan 277) That, is my question of the day.

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