Hegemony is the political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups.
It requires the consent of the majority to keep the dominant group in power. While initially referring to the political dominance of certain ancient Greek city-states over their neighbours, the term has come to be used in a variety of other contexts, in particular Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony. The term is often mistakenly used to suggest brute power or dominance, when it is better defined as emphasizing how control is achieved through consensus not force.
Since the 19th century, especially in historical writing, hegemony describes one state’s predominance over other states (e.g. Napoleonic France’s European hegemony, the United States’ NATO hegemony). By extension, hegemonies denotes the policies the great powers practice in seeking predominance, leading, then, to a definition of imperialism.
In the early 20th century, Italian political scientist Antonio Grimace developed the concept of cultural hegemony by extending political hegemony beyond international relations to the structure of social class, arguing that cultural hegemony showed how a social class exerts cultural “leadership” or dominance over other classes in maintaining the socio-political status quo. Cultural hegemony identifies and explains domination and the maintenance of power and how the (hegemony) leader class “persuades” the subordinated social classes to accept and adopt the ruling-class values of bourgeois hegemony.