What Is Cultural Hegemony?

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Demands that we defund and abolish the police, the New York Times’ 1619 alternative history project, open calls for Marxism, Robin Diangelo’s book White Fragility, and a myriad of other seismic cultural shifts rely upon a concept sometimes called “cultural hegemony.” It is vital that as Christians we understand this concept. Before we can determine an acceptable response to these issues, we must understand what is being said and whether it is biblical.

Cultural hegemony is a technical term used by academics. Ordinary people commonly refer to the same concept as “the Man,” or “the system.” It is the dominant power in our culture—the ruling class who manipulate the values and traditions of the society in order to intellectually dominate the social classes outside the hegemony with an imposed worldview.[1] According to one sociologist, “Cultural hegemony refers to domination or rule maintained through ideological or cultural means. It is usually achieved through social institutions which allow those in power to strongly influence the values, norms, ideas, expectations, worldview, and behavior of the rest of society.”[2]

Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) created the theory of cultural hegemony in his effort to understand why the masses failed to overthrow capitalism according to the ideas presented in Carl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Gramsci determined that Marx erred in assuming that the economy would mobilize the masses to restructure society, concluding that it is the culture that will mobilize the masses. He advocated an intellectual and cultural struggle wherein Marxists would increase class consciousness (meaning the oppressed will pit themselves against the oppressor), teach revolutionary theory to overthrow the oppressor, critique history, and generally foster an anti-capitalist value system that counters the cultural hegemony.[3]

Gramsci believed that “by manipulating the dominant ideology (cultural values and mores) of the society, the ruling class can intellectually dominate the other social classes with an imposed worldview that ideologically justifies the social, political, and economic status quo of the society as if it were a natural and normal, inevitable and perpetual state of affairs that has been so.”[4] This ruling class in America—our cultural hegemony—is said to consist of white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, native-born Americans. Everybody who does not match these traits is classified as a minority and is a victim of the cultural power structure established by white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, native-born Americans.[5] Everybody who does not match these traits is necessarily at war with those who do because they are the ones in power who are manipulating culture and oppressing everyone else by their very existence.

Gramsci’s ideas were reformulated in 1967 by the German student movement leader, Rudi Dutschke, with the phrase “the long march through the institutions.” He believed the working class would eventually produce their own organic intellectuals and culture which would replace those imposed by the hegemony—the dominant power.[6] In America this means replacing a culture fundamentally rooted in biblical principles with a culture opposed to God’s will and ways.

Not all aspects of the stated hegemony in America are biblical. God’s created order has nothing to do with race or the color of one’s skin, and it is wrong for any race to assign moral value to another race based solely upon the color of one’s skin. To assume any race deserves to be in power over another defies the Bible’s teaching that every human being is created in the image of God. However, those who decry the role of whites in America’s hegemony are ultimately calling for renouncing all white culture—not just seeking a diversification of leadership.

To resist the cultural hegemony in America is to resist white culture—including most of Western history, the biblically-based principles of a representative government, and much of church history. To resist the cultural hegemony in America is to resist any form of patriarchy in which men are the primary leaders and protectors. To resist the cultural hegemony in America is to resist God’s sexual design for humans—both in sexual function and identity. To resist the cultural hegemony in America is to resist God’s purpose for establishing nations. In short, to resist the cultural hegemony in America is largely to resist God’s created order and ethics revealed in the Bible.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of Christian churches and ministries are embracing the belief that in order to reach people with the gospel message, we must repent of our role in belonging to the cultural hegemony. We can reject racial divisions, injustice, and oppression without embracing Marxism and its distorted view of power in America. As Christians we cannot permit this Marxist and anti-biblical ideology of hegemony to influence our worldview. Christian churches and ministries that embrace the theory of cultural hegemony and repent of it are largely repenting of their adherence to God’s created order and ethics. This is nothing short of treason toward their Creator and King.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. “Cultural Hegemony.” Wikipedia, last modified July 23, 2020, 20:49 p.m. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony.

2. Founders Ministries. “Cultural Marxism | Dr. Voddie Baucham.” YouTube video, February 21, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=GRMFBdDDTkI.

3. “Cultural Hegemony.”

4. “Cultural Hegemony.”

5. Founders Ministries, “Cultural Marxism | Dr. Voddie Baucham.”

6. “Cultural Hegemony.”

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