What is Hegemony?
Hegemony (eadership, rule) is the indirect form of imperial dominance with which the hegemon (leader state) rules sub-ordinate states, by the implied means of power, rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece (8th c. BC – AD 6th c.), hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state upon other city-states. In the nineteenth century, hegemony (rule) denoted the predominance of one country upon others; from which derives hegemonism, the Great Power politics meant to establish hegemony. In twentieth-century political science, hegemony (dominance) is central to cultural hegemony, a philosophic and sociologic explanation of how, by the manipulation of the societal culture (value system), one social class dominates the other social classes of a society, with a world view justifying the status quo of bourgeois hegemony.
In the praxis of hegemony, the leader state (hegemon) formally establishes indirect imperial dominance (rule) by means of cultural imperialism, which dictates the internal politics and societal character of the sub-ordinate states that constitute the hegemonic sphere of influence. The imposition of the hegemon’s way of life — its language (as the imperial lingua franca) and bureaucracies (social, economic, educational, governing) — transforms the concrete imperialism of direct military domination into the abstract power of the status quo, indirect imperial domination. In the event, rebellion (social, political, economic, armed) is eliminated either by co-optation of the rebels or by suppression (police and military), without direct intervention by the hegemon; the examples are the latter-stage Spanish and British empires, and the unified Germany (ca. 1871–1945).
Antiquity — In the Græco–Roman world of 5th century European Classical antiquity, the city-state of Sparta was the hegemon of the Peloponnesian League (6th – 4th centuries BC); King Philip II of Macedon was the hegemon of the League of Corinth, in 337 BC, (a kingship he willed to his son, Alexander the Great). In Ancient Eastern Asia, Chinese hegemony was during the Spring and Autumn Period (ca. 770–480 BC), when the weakened rule of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty led to the relative autonomy of the Five Hegemons (Ba in Chinese [霸]) who were appointed by feudal lord conferences, and thus were nominally obliged to uphold the imperium of the Zhou Dynasty over the sub-ordinate states. In late 16th– and early 17th-century–Japan, the term hegemon applies to its “Three Unifiers” — Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu — who ruled most of the country by hegemony.
Middle Ages — As a universal, politico–cultural hegemonic practice, the cultural institutions of the hegemon establish and maintain the political annexation of the sub-ordinate peoples; in Italy, the Medici maintained their mediæval Tuscan hegemony, by controlling the production of woolens by controlling the Arte della Lana guild, in the Florentine city-state. In Holland, the Dutch Republic’s 17th-century (1609–1672) mercantilist dominion was a first instance of global, commercial hegemony, made feasible with its technological development of wind power and its Four Great Fleets, for the efficient production and delivery of goods and services, which, in turn, made possible its Amsterdam stock market and concomitant dominance of world trade; in France, Louis XIV (1638–1715) established French hegemony via economic, cultural, and military domination of most of continental Europe.
Twentieth century — The USSR (1922–1991), Nazi Germany (1933–1945), and the USA (1945-present) sought regional (sphere of influence), then global hegemony; Nazi Germany launched the Second World War (1939–1945) in its attempt to gain geographic dominance of Eurasia and Africa; afterwards, the USA and the USSR fought the Cold War (1945–1991) after the Second World War had destroyed the old European empires of France, Britain, Holland, et al. In the mid-twentieth century, the hegemonic conflict was ideologic, between the Communist Warsaw Pact and the Capitalist NATO, wherein each hegemon fought directly (the arms race) and indirectly (proxy wars) against any country whose internal, national actions might destabilise its hegemony. The USSR defeated the nationalist Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and the USA precipitated the US–Vietnam War (1965–1975) by participating in the Vietnamese Civil War (1955–1965) that the National Liberation Front fought against the Republic of Vietnam, the client state of the United States.
Twenty-first century — In the post–Cold War (1945–1991) world, the French Socialist politician Hubert Védrine described the USA as a hegemonic hyperpower, because of its unilateral military actions worldwide, especially against Iraq; while the US political scientists John Mearsheimer and Joseph Nye counter that the USA is not a true hegemon because it has neither the financial nor the military resources to impose a proper, formal, global hegemony.
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