Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gramsci's "Hegemony" as a better restatement of Nietzsche's critique of Good and Bad

Because unlike Nietzsche, Gramsci makes no claims regarding the truth value of doctrines and ideologies.  Nietzsche pointed out that often what we call what's good or bad is simply what the dominant forces in society say is good or bad, but went on to say that meant there was no such thing as good and bad, good and evil, whatsoever, and that it was all socially constructed. Gramsci makes his claim that ideas have hegemony at least in part because they have a large structure of social support behind them, but he says nothing about whether ideology itself is true or false. In fact, as a Marxist, he believed quite strongly that ideologies could be true.

An example of Hegemony is this: why is it that there is no large tradition of Marxist economics and economic research in the United States? Is it because there's no truth value to those ideas at all, or is it partially because Marxist economics don't get supported here whatsoever, while the even the most extreme pro-capitalist doctrines get bankrolled? This situation doesn't mean that Marxist economics are therefore  true automatically, or that capitalist economics are automatically wrong, but it's a sociological explanation for why, when confronted with sophisticated research and presentations justifying capitalism Marxist economists can't really respond with anything at the level of quality of their opponents. In other societies, this is not the case. There is more tolerance for leftist economic research in Europe, and during the Soviet era you had Marxism taught as an official doctrine in every college in Russia, an example of hegemony as well.

 That Marxism was the official dogma of the USSR meant that along with a lot of very bad information produced because of the requirement of ideological conformity, there were also sophisticated interpretations of Marx as well as breakthroughs in the application of Marxism in research that could not have been produced in an aggressively pro-capitalist country.

Unfortunately, in both the USSR and the United States, the dominant elites sought and seek to convince everyone in their societies that because the ideas were well developed, using every advantage at the disposal of society itself,  they were right, and their opponents were wrong.


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