Developed by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in the 1930s, hegemony refers to the ability of dominant groups in society to exercise control over weaker groups not by means of force or domination, but by gaining their consent, so that the unequal distribution of power appears to be both legitimate and natural. In other words, hegemony operates not by forcing people against their better judgment to submit to more powerful interests, but rather by actively seeking the spontaneous cooperation of subordinate classes to maintaining social relationships that continue their subordination. Hegemony, significantly, is never total, but operates in constant struggle with newly emerging forms of oppositional consciousness. It works not by crushing those forces, but by a constant process of negotiation. See also Close-Up box 2.2 in textbook.
The term derives from the Greek: hegemon = ruler, often an alien ruler. Its use today is mostly that of Antonio Gramsci, who did not limit its use to direct political control, but used it to describe an overall dominance, leading to enduring ways of seeing the world which are accepted as normal by most people, because they have grown up with these ways, and feel it would be absurd to doubt or question them. Section 2.1
Hegemony (pronounced or ) is the dominance of one group over other groups, with or without the threat of force, to the extent that, for instance, the dominant party can dictate the terms of trade to its advantage; more broadly, cultural perspectives become skewed to favor the dominant group. The cultural control that hegemony asserts affects commonplace patterns of thought: hegemony controls the way new ideas are rejected or become naturalized in a process that subtly alters notions of common sense in a given society.