Student Question

What is hegemony and why is it important in understanding religion and popular culture?

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Hegemony is a term used to describe the dominance of one social group or country over all others. This dominance can be political, economic, or military. For example, for many years after the Cold War, it was said that the United States was a hegemony. The US achieved hegemonic power due to its unchallenged political, military, and perhaps even cultural dominance.

Understanding hegemonies can help us understand religion and popular culture in a variety of ways.

Hegemonic powers often attempt to shape popular culture and religion in their image. This has been happening for thousands of years. It occurred when the Romans brought together disparate kingdoms and lands. It happened in England during the Norman Conquest. More recently, both the United States and the Soviet Union tried to use their powerful statuses to shape the world in the name of their respective ideologies.

One of the primary tools that hegemonic powers use in the current age to shape religion and culture is schooling. Schools are where young people are molded into future contributing members of society. A forward-thinking power will institute curriculum guidelines that serve the power's interests. This could include teaching students a specific religion, showing them what is and isn't acceptable culturally, and shaping their general view of the world and themselves.

Understanding the power hegemonies wield can help us understand why we're where we are as a society. It can also give us insight into where we're going.

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