Category Archives: Antonio Gramsci

‘Unlearning’ hegemony: An exploration of the applicability of Alain Badiou’s theory of the event to informal learning through an examination of the life histories of South African social movement activists

Anne Harley, 2012

This thesis argues that it is both necessary and possible to change the world. Changing the world requires engaging with, to try to understand it from the basis of lived reality, and then acting. Our ability to do this is, however, affected by hegemony, which attempts to convince us that the way things are is either normal and natural and the only possible way they could be, or that it is impossible to change them. Nevertheless, there is always resistance to this, and I suggest that we might learn something useful by examining how this happens.

The thesis thus explores Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, and its applicability to our current world; and also considers resistance to this. I argue that the nature of capitalism has shifted, and discuss how this shift has impacted on hegemony, identifying three current interlocking hegemonic ideologies. I consider current resistance to this hegemony, including the role of social movements. Much resistance, and many social movements, I argued, cannot properly be called counter-hegemonic in that, although it/they may critique the dominant economic system, it/they remain trapped within hegemonic logic. However, it is clear that there is existing truly counter-hegemonic resistance, including some social movements, and I argue that Abahlali baseMjondolo is one such counter-hegemonic movement. Thus it is possible that those who join/align themselves with this movement might be considered to have ‘unlearned’ hegemony and be useful subjects for this study. I thus consider the life stories of seven people who have aligned themselves to this movement, in order to determine whether they have indeed ‘unlearned’ hegemony, and if so, how.

Continue reading


Unlearning Hegemony