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What does “hegemony” mean, and why is it an important concept for studying intercultural communication?

Hegemony is a term that can be used to describe different situations in which one group or country dominates others by controlling the economic, political, or social life of a region or country (Nye, 1990). Once a hegemony is established, it can be difficult for other groups or countries to challenge or resist it. In the intercultural context, hegemony can help researchers understand how the dominant culture can come to control the subordinate culture’s ideology and values through cultural imperialism, whereby the dominant culture imposes its own values and beliefs on the subordinate culture (Rogers, 2006). This phenomenon can be seen in the way that the dominant culture can control the media and education in a society and can also be seen in the way that the dominant culture can dictate what is considered acceptable and normal behavior. Hegemony is a key concept in understanding intercultural communication because hegemony can help individuals understand global power dynamics, why some cultures are more successful than others, and how to improve intercultural relationships.

What does “hegemony” mean, and why is it an important concept for studying intercultural communication?

Kinds of Hegemony

Hegemony can manifest in several ways, including economic, political, and cultural domination.

Economic hegemony refers to controlling a society’s means of production and distribution (Apple, 2012). A country with a strong economy, for instance, may use its economic power to influence the policies of other countries. This control can be exerted by a government, a corporation, or an individual. It can be used to maintain power, create wealth, or control the economy (Apple, 2012). Economic hegemony can be a positive force if it is used to benefit the people, but it can also be a negative force if it is used to exploit them. For instance, economic hegemony may lead to economic inequality and social injustice by limiting economic growth and opportunity.

On the other hand, political hegemony refers to the control of the government and institutions in a society (Cox, 1983). This control can be exercised through economic, social, or military means to maintain or extend power to new areas. In order to maintain this kind of hegemony, a state must have a strong economy, a well-trained military, and a supportive social structure (Cox, 1983). As an illustration, a country with a powerful military may use its military might to coerce other countries into complying with its wishes. As such, hegemony often leads to inequality and oppression of the dominated group.

Cultural hegemony refers to the dominance of one culture over another (Cole, 2020). Internationally, this kind of hegemony can manifest in several ways, such as the imposition of cultural values and norms or the marginalization of certain groups. A country with a dominant culture may try to impose its values on others, for instance, by banning certain practices or prohibiting the use of certain languages. This imposition can lead to tension and conflict between cultures. Within a nation, cultural hegemony is often used to explain why certain groups can maintain power in society. For example, in a capitalist society, the wealthy class is able to maintain their power by controlling the means of production (Block, 2021). This situation allows them to control the economy and political system and impose their cultural values on the working class. The working class is unable to challenge the dominant culture because they lack the power to do so.

Hegemony and Intercultural Communication

There are three primary reasons why the concept of hegemony is important for understanding intercultural communication:

First, hegemony can lead to an understanding of the global marketplace’s power dynamics. The global marketplace is incredibly complex because there is a multitude of different cultures, each with their unique values, beliefs, and customs (Donnelly, 2022). In such a complex environment, it can be difficult to understand the power dynamics at play. Hegemony can help researchers understand the power dynamics at play by providing a framework for understanding how one culture can come to dominate another. Hegemony theory suggests that the most powerful culture in the global marketplace is the one that is able to impose its values, beliefs, and customs on other cultures (Moulaert et al., 2007). By being able to discern such a trend, hegemony is a useful concept for making sense of the complex web of international power relationships that shape today’s global economy.

Second, hegemony can help researchers and decision-makers understand why some cultures are more successful than others in the global marketplace. As mentioned above, the global marketplace is incredibly complex, and it can be challenging to understand why some cultures are more successful than others in such a complex environment. Hegemony theory posits that cultures that are more successful in the global marketplace can exert power and influence over other cultures (Moulaert et al., 2007). When a culture can exert its power and influence over other cultures, it can dictate the terms of trade and commerce and set the standards for what is considered acceptable in the global marketplace. This ability to set the standards and dictate the terms gives the culture a competitive advantage and allows it to be more successful in the global marketplace.

Third, hegemony can help workers understand how to create more successful intercultural relationships. Intercultural communication is essential for businesses that operate in multiple cultures. In order to create successful intercultural relationships, it is essential to understand the power dynamics at play. By understanding the distribution of power within a culture, individuals can identify areas where they may need to adjust their behavior to be more effective in that culture while navigating interactions with other cultures and avoiding potential conflict (De Long et al., 2000). Additionally, hegemony can help people understand the expectations and values of a culture, which can help create more successful relationships (Rosamond, n.d.). For example, many cultures place a high value on family, and knowing this can empower individuals to be more understanding and supportive of people from that culture.


Hegemony is a term used to describe the dominance of one group or culture over another. In the context of intercultural communication, understanding hegemony is crucial to enhancing understanding and cooperation between cultures. Hegemony can shed light on the global power dynamics at play, the reasons for some cultures’ greater success than others, and how these differences can be mitigated. By understanding hegemony, business owners can develop more effective intercultural communication and collaboration strategies.


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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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