After (post) hegemony

Abstract

Hegemony is one of the most widely diffused concepts in the contemporary social sciences and humanities internationally, interpreted in a variety of ways in different disciplinary and national contexts. However, its contemporary relevance and conceptual coherence has recently been challenged by various theories of ‘posthegemony’. This article offers a critical assessment of this theoretical initiative. In the first part of the article, I distinguish between three main versions of posthegemony – temporal, foundational and expansive – characterized by different understandings of the temporal and logical implications of hegemony. I then offer a critical assessment of the shared presuppositions of these theories, including their ‘pre-Gramscianism’, their indebtedness to Laclau and Mouffe’s formulation of hegemony, and their characterization of hegemony in terms compatible with modern theories of sovereignty. I conclude by arguing that the contradictions and oversights of the debate on posthegemony encourage us to undertake a reassessment of the real historical complexity of hegemonic politics and its different traditions of conceptualization.

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Acknowledgements

A previous version of this text was presented at the conference ‘Egemonia e modernità: Il pensiero di Gramsci in Italia e nella cultura internazionale’ in Rome in May 2017. I am grateful to the participants at this event for critical reflections and suggestions. I would also like to thank Gavin Arnall, Anxo Garrido, two anonymous reviewers and the editors of Contemporary Political Theory for comments that helped me to clarify the nature, focus and limits of my argument.

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Thomas, P.D. After (post) hegemony. Contemp Polit Theory (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41296-020-00409-1

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Keywords

  • Posthegemony
  • Hegemony
  • Gramsci
  • Laclau and Mouffe
  • Latin America
  • Sovereignty