Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Marx and Hegemony

Last semester, I took a course titled as Continental Political Thought. In that course, we read three of Marx's articles as well which are On the Jewish Question, Theses on Feuerbach ve The German Ideology. In one of the articles, The German Ideology, I came across a paragraph in which Marx was talking about the concept of hegemony, and I thought that it would be useful to add it here. I think it is a good text through which one can develop an idea about the similarities and differences between the Marx's and Gramsci's usage of the concept of hegemony. Actually there are one or two articles which talk about the origins of the concept of hegemony, but I don't remember that they were referring to that paragraph from The German Ideology.

"For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones. The class making a revolution appears from the very start, if only because it is opposed to a classs, not as a class but as the representative of the whole of society; it appears as the whole mass of society confronting the one ruling class. It can do this because, to start with, its interest really is more connected with the common interest of all other non-ruling classes, because under the pressure of hitherto existing conditions its interest has not yet been able to develop as the particular interest of a particular class. Its victory, therefore, benefits also many individuals of the other classes which are not winning a dominant position, but only insofar as it now puts these individuals in a position to raise themselves into the ruling class. When the French bourgeoisie overthrew the power of the aristocracy, it thereby made it possible for many proletarians to raise themselves above the proletariat, but only insofar as they became bourgeois. Every new class, therefore, achieves its hegemony only on a broader basis than that of the class ruling previously, whereas the opposition of the non-ruling class against the new ruling class later develops all the more sharply and profoundly. Both these things determine the fact that the struggle to be waged against this new ruling class, in its turn, aims at a more decided and radical negation of the previous conditions of society than could all previous classes which sought to rule. This whole semblance, that the rule of a certain class is only the rule of certain ideas, comes to a natural end, of course, as soon as class rule in general ceases to be the form in which society is organized, that is to say, as soon as it is no longer necessary to represent a particular interest as general or the 'general interest' as ruling." (p. 174)