Response – Williams



Response: Williams



“Above all we have to give an account [of hegemony] which allows for its elements of real and constant change. We have to emphasize that hegemony is not singular; indeed that its own internal structures are highly complex, and have continually to be renewed, recreated and defended; and by the same token, that they can be continually challenged and in certain respects modified. That it why instead of speaking simply of ‘the hegemony,’ ‘a hegemony,’ I would propose a model which allows for this kind of variation and contradiction, its sets of alternatives and its processes of change.” (1428)


This passage reflects what Williams had stated earlier about the concept of “the base” as the reality of social conditions and experiences. He emphasized the complexity of the processes and the relationships, and asserted that the “metaphorical notion of ‘the base’” (1425) was reductive and only obscured the complicated and dynamic reality of its processes and the way that they come to constitute and organize the overall structure of a society. I see what he means here: the metaphors of “structure” and “foundation” suggest something stable and static, something that is built and endures in that particular form with only cosmetic (not structural) changes possible after its construction.

Williams’ comment that “when we talk of ‘the base’, we are talking of a process and not a state” (1425) seems to apply to the concept of ‘the hegemony’ in precisely the same way: a model that assumes something static and solid will miss the mark. Hegemony is “a whole body of practices and expectations” (1429); it is “not… in any sense a static system” (1429). Further, Williams posits that it is shaped internally by what he calls “selectivity” (1429), which I might gloss as “cognitive dissonance reduction.”

One thought on “Response – Williams”

  1. Jessica, I, too, could envision his metaphor which seemed more valid to me than that of Althusser (hopefully I understood him correctly). He seems to be saying that as thought, even perspective, changes over time, so does the idea of hegemony. He makes it a much more fluid idea. Toni

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