The previous post was a brief introduction to cultural supremacy as a concept, and in case you missed it, but want to establish a connection, you can read it here!
In this, I will take you through a couple of words that are more prominent than ever before, that relate to cultural supremacy. You might have scrolled through Instagram lately and come across terms like hegemony and White Man’s burden, owing to the recent Black Lives Matter movement. If you’re unsure what they really mean, you’re not alone. Read on to find out!
Hegemony and imperialism are few of the buzzwords around cultural supremacy. These are synonymous to supremacy, and often used as substitutes. Hegemony refers to the normative dominance of one group over the other. It was derived from the Greek word hēgemonia, to portray the relationship between city-states. It was not a part of popular discourse, until philosopher Antonio Gramsci was interested in how hegemony, or domination is exercised. When one thinks about dominance, ideas of coercion and force automatically come into play. However, as Gramsci interestingly observed, a large part of the ruling class’ power and authority was actually exercised with the help of consensus. This consensus was achieved through manipulation of value systems as explained in the previous post, by prescribing the class values as social and moral values for everyone. A very prominent example of hegemony in the realm of world politics were the two blocs during the Cold War- the Eastern or USSR Bloc and the Western or Capitalist Bloc. Can you think of any other example?
Imperialism is a type of dominance where a powerful, more resourceful country exerts control over a relatively weaker one through trade relations, military control or other political means, and uses its resources for the dominating country’s benefit. The British Empire stands to be the biggest testimony to this theory till date, that extended its rule across the world through rampant colonisation. Not only did the British manage to exert cultural supremacy during the time of their rule, but successfully continued several years even after the colonies were free. The infamous “apartheid” policy in South Africa reflects how deep rooted such value conditioning may be, that not only creates norms for an entire people to live by, but normalises them to an extent that they’re followed for decades to come.
Thus, one can conclude that supremacy doesn’t always have to be exercised through violent means. In fact, it is most effective when a cognitive approach is taken, by conditioning people to believe in things that the powerful entity wants them to believe in. So comment below to let me know what’s on your mind! Stay tuned for the upcoming post, where I decode a few more concepts that are highly relevant to culture and supremacy.