Like the proverbial rough, uncut diamond pulled from the earth having spent centauries dormant beneath the surface, we as humans upon our birth have no assumable ideological shape or clarity. Like the uncut diamonds we too are mined from the belly of our mothers, thrust into her bosom to be shaped, molded and have our seemingly rough edges smoothed out for inspection then consumed by the masses. Like the scintillating diamond, human beings absorb culture and reflect it. Carved and shaped by ideologies, beliefs, behaviors, social and traditional normative frameworks engrained in civil and political society. If no two diamonds are the same, though cut from the same origin stone, how much of our cultural reproduction can be attributed to ideological hegemony? If identity is shaped through culture, what then shapes culture? If those whom are the dominant class define culture, how then has their ideology been able to embed itself amongst even the lowest in the proletariat? If the diamond as self is the self-reproducing culture and ideology, then identity is merely the consenting of the self to reject all things foreign, to ensure the reproduction of identity is not tainted. It is through this subconscious notion of what Gramsci calls consent that the “relations of dominance and subordination” begin to provide an ideological hegemonic framework from which cultural hegemony stems (Cox 1993, p. 52).
The influence of European culture may not be as blatantly obvious as that of its American, Russian or Oriental counterparts, however European culture has a certain gene se qua. Like a fine diamond, the cuts, clarity and shape are difficult to ascertain from a distance, however when one observes the diamond up close the true extent of the craftsmanship can be fully appreciated. One could propose that 21st century European cultural and ideological hegemony is directly attributed to the advancement of diplomatic and economic relations with war the great motivator for peace. The advancement in diplomatic relations and the nullification of conflict through economic prosperity, rather then the use of force has attributed to the international European community taking global cultural leadership (Said 1978, p. 7). The process of unification has heralded a new era in European prosperity with multiple political and economic spheres amalgamating through the creation of democratic, diplomatic and economic theatres such as the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank. It is through the institutionalisation of modern European infrastructure that the cultural hegemonic influences of Europe can be found to reverberate around the world.
In this article I will address Edward Said’s (Said 1978, p. 7) notion that Europe exists as a cultural hegemony both in and outside Europe by arguing that through European imperialism and Hobbesian notions of self-preservation through the implementation of covenants under a commonwealth structure, Europe has continued its tradition of ideological and cultural leadership. Having laid the historical foundations, the modern international political sphere is the direct result of European cultural hegemony. Secondly I will address European hegemony as built on the theoretical principle of ‘soft power’ relations rather then on ‘power politics’. Discussing the necessary incremental changes prevalent to the continued cultural hegemonic dominance of Europe through the creation of legal, economic, cultural and institutional precedent setting. While providing the debatable example of the Barcelona process of 1998, which resulted in the institutionalisation of 28 sovereign countries under the banner of the Union of the Mediterranean (UfM) as to the success of European normative frameworks (Hollis 2013, p. 349). While finally delving into the role that dominance and subordination plays in shaping cultural hegemony. Finally successfully concluding that this essay will convince the avid reader that yes indeed, Europe not only exists as a cultural hegemony both inside and outside Europe but it is through this very cultural hegemony that modern society has come to carry the torch of the second age of enlightenment.
The autonomy engrained in modern European institutions such as the European Union is undoubtedly reflective of the hegemonic influences still prevalent in the post-imperial era. Imperial hegemonic dominance is not a forgotten concept in Europe, nor is it a relic tittering on the brink of extinction. The Hobbesian theoretical frameworks for social contract theory, requiring covenants for the enforcement of laws created to ensure the protection of all men in the state of nature (Jus Naturale), under the over arching commonwealth structure is reflected in the modern international political sphere (Hobbes 1996). Though grounded in laws and covenants for the interaction and protection of sovereign states, the theoretical underpinnings are exactly the same. Sovereign countries in the anarchic geopolitical sphere, whom were once left to there own devices and free to interact without fear of consequence, are now bound by international law which is created and ratified by national representatives. Historic imperial autonomy and cultural hegemony have paved the way for the modern international system; Cox (1993, p. 59) calls this the ”Intellectual stratum, which picks up ideas originating from a prior foreign economic or social revolution”. Thus to discount the significance of imperial Europe would be to undermine the process from which the modern hegemonic dominance and influence of Europe has its origins (Rosecrance 1998, p. 22 & Smith 2005, p. 247 & p. 248). It is through European autonomy that the notion of dominance and submission are engrained in the culture of the region, thus placing modern Europe in a position of cultural and political hegemony (Cox 1993, p. 52). Ironically in a exert from Rosecrance (1999, p. 22) he states, “The continent which once ruled the world through the physical impositions of imperialism is now coming to set world standards in normative terms.” Whether a reflection of the perceived superiority of European culture or the natural evolution of self-preservationist tactics through diplomatic, legal and economic institutionalisation, Europe is at the forefront of ideological hegemony globally (Gramsci 1971, p. 116 & Smith 2005, p. 249).
European unified efforts to compete with both Russia and the United States militarily has been one of tactical regression, instead focusing primarily on ‘soft power’ approaches. With ‘soft power’ defined as economic institutionalisation, international legal frameworks and institution building as a means of containing conflict (Hollis 2013, p. 347). Though lacking the military power central to Hedley Bull’s concept of 1980’s ‘power politics’, European decision making bodies chose instead to recreate the normative frameworks from which international governing bodies would interact (Manners 2002, p. 236). It is from the institutionalisation of legal, economic and political norms that modern Europe has been able to exert its own cultural and ideological dominance. The unification of numerous disjointed Westphalian sovereign nations into a political powerhouse as the European Union, has reinvigorated Europe by creating a competitive hegemonic power on the international stage. It is through the mechanism of “civilian power relations” and democratic norms that Europe has come to encompass a dominant hegemony in the globalized political realm (Manners 2002, p. 235 & 241 & Galtung 1973, p. 34). Ideological domination through cultural leadership, independent thinking, cross cultural integration, political unification, scholarly achievements, technological advancements, economic prosperity, peace and global influence through agenda setting, have all been hallmarks of modern European autonomy (Galtung 1973, p. 33). It is through these traits that the European Community has shaped its image as the diamond of preference from which all others, though striving to mimic, have struggled to replicate (Smith 2005, p. 4).
There have been a number of European declarations that have worked towards bringing those states on the periphery into the bosom of the EU (Galtung 1973, p. 41). The Barcelona Process of 1995 resulted in the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in 2008. Encapsulates one such example of European cultural and political hegemony (Hollis 2013, p. 349). The driving factor for the creation of this international organisation is access to trade routes and the implementation of legal and political normative frameworks. The ‘soft power’ expansionist ideology manifests itself through free trade agreements on the premise of economic development (Hollis 2013, p. 347). The economic strength of the Euro, the collective bargaining power of the EU, the pre-established legal frameworks and the stabile decision making structure of the organisation, puts Europe in the ascendency during negotiations. Hollis (2013, p. 349) states “the EU set the pace, at least in terms of trade relations, while the partner states feared exposure of their fragile domestic industries to European competition”. This example clearly exhibits the ideological ‘soft power’ normative frameworks from which Europe hopes to continue its cultural hegemonic dominance in the region. However it is not only ‘soft power’ at play in the creation of the UfM, there is a symbolic aspect to the attempts by the EU to replicate its organizational structure using the smaller Mediterranean countries. Thus to understand the concept of Europe as cultural hegemony both inside and outside of Europe, one must understand that it is essential to achieve success through ‘soft power’ hegemony, so as to counter that of the current dominance of ‘power politics’.
Pierre Bourdieu’s and Antonio Gramsci’s notions of symbolic dominance and subordination are inherent to the concept of hegemony. Cultural hegemony cannot exist without one party as power sender and the other, power receiver, this connection is integral to understanding how and why Europe exists as a cultural hegemony both inside and outside Europe (Smith 2005, p. 246 & Galtung 1973, p. 35). Bourdieu understands symbolic power as “the relation between those who exercise power and those who submit to it”. The notion of submission plays just as integral a role in defining ‘the other’ and how the other is characterized by the dominant in their relations (Rupert 1993, p. 67). In the Barcelona process and Union of the Mediterranean example, the role of Europe as dominant and the 28 states in the Mediterranean as subordinate is not one of forceful coercion but rather of ideological influence. Rather then one of alienation, a relationship built on subtle persuasion through cultural leadership (Rupert 1993, p. 67 & Said 1978, p. 7). Europe proved the aspiration to achieve social solidarity and economic prosperity through ideology, institution building, legal and economic frameworks possible (Manners 2002, p. 243). The symbolic nature of law, order and economic prosperity engrained in the EU and the potential positive outcomes from the UfM project constitute the ‘soft power’ approach as a political reality (Manners 2011, p. 252). The nation states embodying the UfM represent the uncut diamond which European hegemony has begun cutting and shaping through its growing dominance. The allure of a united Mediterranean region, modelled on that of EU could be the landmark precedent from which the movement from ‘power politics’ to ‘soft power’ normative approaches takes flight. Reiterating not only Europe’s ideological dominance in the region but also Europe as bearers of the second age of enlightenment.
In concluding this article I have provided but a brief account of what constitutes modern Europe. Though enshrined in the institution building, social solidarity, legal normative frame works and the all-encompassing economic spheres that modern European hegemony has come to represent. It is the notion of a united Europe, which carries with it the hallmarks of symbolic hope for many struggling nation states. Modern Europe having arisen from the ashes of two of the most significant conflicts in recent history has shown great leadership to learn from the mistakes of the past and to redefine their approach to international relations. It is then from this reinvigorated approach that Europe has shaken the shackles of negative behavioral and institutional behaviors to redefine itself in the eyes of history. Like the scintillating diamond glimmering from its place firmly placed in its gold bezel setting, so too does Europe shimmer with vibrant hope that the cultural hegemonic influences which have lead to the pacification of conflict on the continent, will one day trickle into the spheres of influence of those whom seem to struggle with keeping gun in holster.
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