Friday, December 11, 2009


The definition of subversion will be based on Antonio Gramsci's social theory of hegemony.

Gramsci defines two important terms in his theory: hegemony and counter-hegemony. Intricately connected to these terms are the concepts of reproduction and reification. Hegemony is the ideological power structure in any given society; the status quo. In Gramsci's Marxism, Carl Boggs describes hegemony as follows:

In Gramsci's view, class domination is exercised as much through popular 'consensus' achieved in civil society as through physical coercion (or threat of it) by the state apparatus, especially in advanced capitalist societies where education, the media, law, mass culture, etc. take on a new role (p.17).

Hegemony, therefore, implies that all aspects of society and culture are tools of the current dominant order, either on a conscious or subconscious/subliminal level. Hegemony, like counter-hegemony, is an organic process. And as an organic process there are occasional shifts. These shifts allow an opportunity for change and involve consciousness, action, history and especially language. A question of language is an indicator that other problems are about to emerge, a possible [End page 131] reorganization (Gramsci, 1985:183-84). Gramsci refers to this process as praxis.

Gramsci (1985) conceived that true liberation required the creation of "a new 'integrated culture'" (p.17). This culture would create a different world-view and thereby change the current hegemony. Counter-hegemony is the force behind true revolution and a counter-hegemonic structure is the only force capable of subverting "the capacity of dominant elites to manipulate attitudes, values, and life-styles through media, education, culture, language, etc. ..." (p.40). Changing societal world-views is not an easy task. Hegemonies have two powerful tools (of which the United States is an expert user), namely, reproduction and reification. Reproduction is simply the propagation of the hegemony; it is carried out through mass culture, folklore, language, the media- all the elements that are used by the dominant hegemony to control the subaltern group, the working class as well as any minority or sub group being dominated by hegemonic powers

A more insidious tool is reification, where the hegemony absorbs counter-hegemonic elements and presents them to the masses as their own. This process dilutes the original revolutionary strength; it dilutes and distorts a new world- view into something more like the old-world view

The term reification has been borrowed from Georg Lukacs and is used interchangeably with rationalization, alienation, and commodification. The reason for relating reification with alienation is that the process takes away the identity of the subaltern group as a group. The process of reification is also closely related to Gramsci's "passive revolution" (p.50).

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