Early theories posited by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (1998) stated that the ideas of the ruling class would predominantly be the ruling ideas of the society. This concept was further explained by the idea of ‘false consciousness.” Croteau et al. (2012) explain the concept well when they describe false consciousness as a worldview that is embraced by subordinate classes, despite the fact that is serves the interests of others (p. 158). This is the basis for hegemony, although it was Antonio Gramsci (2006) who is attributed to broadening the idea and attaching it to ideology and culture. Again, Croteau et al. (2012) explain Gramsci well, by noting that he turned a theoretical eye on the idea that not only will the ruling class dispense its ideas, they will also impart their ideology and culture so that a norm of behavior and values is set. It is a subtler process than that of false consciousness. Hegemony is creating a ‘common sense’ world that imparts certain ideologies as normal (pp. 159-160). As mass media developed and became more integral to society, it was a natural progression to see hegemony revealed in “such a pervasive and potent ideological medium.” (Lull, 1995, p. 62) Media regulate what we see, when we see it, and how much of it we see. When we engage with media, much of what is presented as normal is just the continuous reinforcement of someone else’s idea of normal. Who? The people that produce media and the people with the money to influence what is produced, in other words- the ‘ruling class’ of today.
Croteau, D., Hoynes, W., & Milan, S. (2012). Media/ society: Industries, images, and audiences. (4th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Gramsci, A. (2006). (i) History of the subaltern classes; (ii) the concept of “ideology”; (iii) cultural themes: ideological material. In M. Durham & D. Kellner (Eds.) Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Blackwell.
Lull, J. (1995). Media, communication, culture: A global approach. New York and Chichester, UK: Columbia University Press.
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1998). Ruling class and ruling ideas. In J. Storey (Ed.), Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader (p. 191). Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia