The theory of cultural hegemony is one of the most famous Marxist ideologies offered by Antonio Gramsci.
In its general sense, this theory evaluates the domination of certain classes and nations over other representatives. At the beginning of the 1900s, the problem of social order was spreading with unbelievable speed and considerable outcomes, this is why the vast majority of political theorists were eager to offer their personal ideas to improve the situation or, at least, to find out the ways and help the society cope with the challenges. Antonio Gramsci was a unique theorist and philosopher; “his stress on the role of individual action and thought in history, his desire that workers create their own cultural institutions through devices like factory councils” (Lears 567) made him a really significant figure, and his ideas continue developing day by day. Nowadays, the concepts of hegemony may be perfectly observed in media as a powerful means to influence people’s minds and actions.
The peculiar feature of hegemony in advertisements is the ability to be masked but still be influential for different spheres of life. In the chosen ad that depicts human dependence on technologies, hegemony is represented as thin but considerable strings, which control human actions and even thoughts; though there is no concrete person, who controls this situation, it still becomes evident that technological progress and people, who are involved into this progress, have a considerable impact on many things.
Main concepts of cultural hegemony and identification of those, who rule. The current state of affairs shows that American culture has already spread over many other countries and got the necessary control over people.
However, the variety of ads and media prove that there is another powerful means that is considered to be more serious, more influential, and more dangerous because it is hard to define from the very beginning. To comprehend what plays a crucial role in our modern life, it is better to address the basics of the theory of cultural hegemony and define what promotes the division of classes and distribution of functions. Gramsci was not satisfied with the failure of the movements, which were raised by the Western European working classes; this is why he made an attempt to define what caused this failure and how the situation could be changed. His works proved that class struggles would exist always and had to present clear ideologies and ideas, which would be able to make, develop, or prevent the revolution. He was not afraid to underline that bourgeoisie due to their economic domination and intellectual leadership were able to control the others and present own rules and conditions to follow.
The reasons of why the image under consideration has been chosen. Among the variety of different ads, it becomes very difficult to define one concrete ad that will be able to depict the true nature of the cultural hegemony and apply this philosophy, taking into consideration all its issues. Nowadays, the problem of class inequality is not that burning as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. People have many chances to get education, find jobs, and earn money.
Of course, there is a certain classification of people in accordance with their financial status, their race, and cultural interests. However, the ideas of the theory of hegemony and class struggles, which are so clearly defined by Antonio Gramsci, can be hardly observed at once. The chosen image of the person, whose hands are bound by white strings, may become a good example of how the concept of hegemony is still inherent to our everyday life. There are no emotions on this man’s face; it also seems that his eyes are closed.
However, his hands move and his lips seem like moving. These movements may be connected to headphones in his ears. Against a background, there are the same images of this man, which may depict the rest of people, who have already made a decision to use those headphones. Another peculiar feature of this image is that all strings have no concrete beginning; all of them are up-directed.
It is impossible to observe who guides these strings and why someone should guide these strings. “Have you become an IPuppet?” – this is the slogan of this image, the question to which is possible to get only after the mysterious leader is defined. Producers of the chosen ad and their intentions in respect to cultural hegemony. The producers of the chosen images are probably one of the companies, who try to compete with Apple.
Inc. and promote people to become free from constant formats and usual sources of music. It is not that important to define their name and functions, the main point of this image is that its producers offer people a new way of life, new opportunities, and new conditions. Modern technologies have already taken leading positions in human lives, and very often, people cannot work and think without these technologies, and those, who produce these technologies, understand how dependent people can be. This case may be regarded as the case of hegemony: one class (the producers of technologies) gets a chance to take leading positions and runs the lives and thoughts of another class (the users of technologies). The intended meaning of the producers is to show the society how it may be controlled, being even unaware about this fact. It is high time to stop this dependence, it is high time to remember about personal freedoms, and it is time to become a meaningful part of this world and this life just like it is described in the theory of hegemony by Antonio Gramsci.
The intended audience that can benefit from this advertisement. It is possible to assume that the intended audience is any person, who uses modern technologies and listens to the music through IPods. This kind of audience will be certainly interested into such ads because they get a good chance to evaluate their own positions and chose something better, something more convenient, and something more interesting, taking into consideration present demands and interests. People should have a choice in this life; they need to be open to different innovations; they should not be divided into classes and be ruled by someone else.
This is the main purpose of the ad, and the audience behind all users of Apple and other common technologies should comprehend that they become usual and similar to each other. But it is wrong; it is boring; and it is possible to change!
“The concept of hegemony encompasses all that exists in a society – ideological notions, works of popular art carried by the media, and so forth. And this makes the analysis of media difficult, because it is hard to put one’s finger on all the things one takes for granted and assumes are simply part of reality.” (Berger 63) This concept cannot be defined as pure monolithic or unified only. It is all about a complex that consists of several social structures.
This very idea is described in the image chosen. There is a person in the middle of the picture, whose actions and conditions attract the attention from the very beginning. Against a background, the representatives of the same class are given. They are illustrated like the copies of the first man – the same movements, the same preferences, and the same technologies. However, there is one more class that can be hardly observed at once. This class is somewhere above; the class that control the movements of the man by means of the strings and the headphones, which serve as informative means. As Gramsci admitted such concepts like personal freedom, diversity, and variations should exist in order to fulfill this life; however, human predisposition to extremes makes all these concepts a bit strange and even dangerous.
The meaning of image in regards to the balance of power between different social classes. In order to have enough chances to continue living in this world, the society has to find out the necessary balance and be able to combine the demands of one class with the demands of another class. In this image, it is clearly observed that right now, ordinary people, the users of the technologies, cannot use their powers to struggle for their freedoms. These people are under some kind of euphoria, where those, who are above watch them and make decisions. Right now, the balance between the powers is not as powerful as it should be.
Inequality of classes and the existed hegemony will be present until the vast majority of people re-evaluate their attitude to this world, their attitude to their lives, and their attitude to the technologies, which make people dependant. The phrase that takes place somewhere behind the person on the image iDont.com symbolizes one of the steps, which have been taken by the society in order to achieve progress.
However, there are still some questions to be posed. Why do the authors of this ad introduce the site, where “i” is not capitalized? Does it mean that a personality still does not deserve to be capitalized and become significant? This ad should be regarded as something more than just an image; it is a message, someone’s call to analyze the balance and define what classes should get more powers.
Gramsci’s theory of hegemony is considered to be one of the most complicated combinations of political, social, and cultural forces that has to be balanced and coordinated frequently. With the help of current advertisement and other types of mass media, people get a chance to observe how the theory that was developed more than a century ago remains to be appropriate and effective for the present time.
The times, when certain social classes have power over other social classes seem to be gone, but still, some imprints may be recognized and show how short-sighted our society can be. The analysis of the image shows that in spite of the fact that people do not try to divide themselves into classes, they still become active participants of the divisions, created by themselves instinctively. Such advertisements help people discover how weak and dependant they can be and start evaluating everything from the very beginning in order to become free once again.
Berger, Arthur, A. Media Analysis Techniques. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.
, 2005. Lears, T.J. Jackson.
“The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities,” American Historical Review 90 (1985):567-93.