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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


ZAAIMAN, Johan. Hegemony and power: A normative reflection as elucidated by a case study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.1, pp.169-183. ISSN 2224-7912.

Hegemony and power are overlapping concepts. Hegemony can be understood as a way of exercising power and as the consequences of exercising power. Limited studies attempted to use the relationship between the concepts to interpret local settings. This article contributes to this endeavour by applying the concepts with a view to explaining power relationships in the Simdlangentsha traditional authority area in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. The establishment of democracy in South Africa was perceived by traditional leaders as an attempt to undermine their power, while civil society experienced it as a liberation from social, political and economic oppression. Traditional leaders remained responsible for local community issues such as land allocation and usage and conflict resolution. However, the authority was exposed to global, national and provincial influences that affected their position of power. The traditional leaders would prefer traditional ideas to dominate local discourses and be accepted as authoritative, while other discourses nonetheless influenced and impacted the local ones. To explain this theoretically in terms of the relationship between hegemony and power, the article distinguishes among systemic, reactive and structuring exercises of power. In the case of hegemony as the systemic exercising of power, the traditional leaders attempted to present their authority as the true cultural products and authority, especially with reference to culture. The article examines this in terms of extant literature that indicates that they attempted to make their cultural authority a hegemony. Around the topic of the hegemony of a reactive exercise of power, the article moves to normative discourse in a greater degree. The systemic exercise of power is not normatively desirable. The article here employs theories that explain that a more suitable hegemony will be one in which citizens participate in its creation. They will react to hegemonies which do notfit their lived experience. This recognition prompts a transformation of traditional authorities in that they should adhere to these external influences. In the case of hegemony as the structuring exercise of power, the normative ideal is that the hegemony will result from an active project among traditional leaders and citizens. In such a project, both parties must be co-players and there should be a positive outcome for all. The article subsequently synthesises these insights to formulate an application framework for the conceptual relationship between hegemony and power. A scale is presented where, on the one end, negative hegemony and, on the other, positive hegemony are located, whereas in between the struggle occurs for these hegemony products. Negative hegemony is the manipulation of truth to ensure dependency and suppress civil autonomy. Positive hegemony is the establishment of a truth system that supports the realisation of shared goals and civil autonomy. The struggles for hegemony occur either towards negative or positive hegemony. Hegemony as the systemic exercise of power will be found towards the negative side, where it is a reactive exercise of power relating to the struggles that centre on it; hegemony as the structuring exercise of power in contrast tends towards the positive side of the scale. To explain the positive ideal of hegemony and what it may mean in the context of the Simdlangentsha traditional authority, the article consults democracy theories. It is concluded that positive hegemony stems from a discourse built on trust that stems from equal, protected and mutually binding consultations. In this case, each citizen is an end in itself as opposed to traditional settings where the whole is more important. This means that, in the case of positive hegemony, receptivity to differences is found along with inclusion, equality, consultation, trust, recognition, dispute resolution, self-control and autonomy. Opponents respect each other and conflict is resolved in legitimate ways with a view to a win-win outcome. This means that the hegemonic ideals of traditional authorities in South Africa should be heard. However, it may not be institutionalised as the only or preferred discourse in a democratic South Africa - also not at the local level. The article provides guidance for further research on this topic. Such research seems necessary. For the consolidation of democracy in South Africa, in-depth reflection and serious debate on positive hegemony is a necessity, certainly also when it comes to the challenges it faces locally.

Palavras-chave : hegemony; power; democracy; traditional authority; local; negative hegemony; positive hegemony; truth; struggle; Simdlangentsha area.

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