Antonio Gramsci


Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was an Italian intellectual who, influenced by Marxism and Critical Thinking, theorised on Hegemony as a cultural construct in which media plays a large part.
Gramsci's theory of Hegemony posited that the powerful maintain their power through a combination of coercion and consent which serve together to reinforce existing power structures. Naomi Rockler-Gladen, former Colorado State University media studies professor, explains this using the example of American patriotism; If the government was to force it's citizens to fly flags or to stand and remove their hats during the anthem, such impositions on personal freedoms would likely see them removed from power. However by simply allowing those who are already patriotic to fly flags above their homes, presenting the removal of hats during the anthem as respectful and sponsoring the celebrations of America's Independence Day, the government is able to propagate such patriotic feeling within the wider community (Rockler-Gladen, 2008).
In particular, the media plays a large role in creating and reinforcing such consent. Hegemon-reinforcing outlets present the dominant ideology as natural and normal, and may alienate or denigrate opposing ideologies. In contrast, counter-hegemonic outlets can do the opposite and encourage the audience to question the dominant ideology or be more accepting of alternatives. In other words, "Pop culture and the mass media are subject to the production, reproduction and transformation of hegemony through the institution of civil society which cover the areas of cultural production and consumption" (Strinati, 1995, p.168).

Rockler-Gladen gives further examples of this:
    • A news report that shows strong support for a controversial foreign policy decision can be said to hegemonically support the government.
    • A home improvement network that makes it seem "normal" to own high-end granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances can be said to be hegemonically supporting the capitalist economic system.
    • A game show that shows scantily-clad women passively standing still until the host tells her to "open the case" can be seen as hegemonically promoting patriarchy.
(Naomi Rockler-Gladen, 2008) Gramsci's theories were made in relation to the available media and the specific situation of his particular context. Nonetheless, he influenced many writers and thinkers, where we can view reflections of his theories in the works of Foucault, Althusier, and others. While not always implicitly agreed with, his ideas form part of the basis of many aspects of media studies and media theories.