In philosophy and in sociology, the term cultural hegemony has denotations and connotations derived from the Ancient Greek word ἡγεμονία (hegemonia) indicating leadership and rule. In politics, hegemony is the geopolitical method of indirect imperial dominance, with which the hegemon (leader state) rules subordinate states, by the threat of intervention, an implied means of power, rather than by direct military force, that is, invasion, occupation, and annexation.
The etymologic and historical evolution of the Greek word ἡγεμονία, and of its denotations, has proceeded thus:
In 1848, Karl Marx proposed that the economic recessions and practical contradictions of a capitalist economy would provoke the working class to proletarian revolution, depose capitalism, restructure social institutions (economic, political, social) per the rational models of socialism, and thus begin the transition to a communist society. Therefore, the dialectical changes to the functioning of the economy of a society determine its social superstructures (culture and politics).
To that end, Antonio Gramsci proposed a strategic distinction, between a War of Position and a War of Manœuvre. The war of position is an intellectual and cultural struggle wherein the anti-capitalist revolutionary creates a proletarian culture whose native value system counters the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie. The proletarian culture will increase class consciousness, teach revolutionary theory and historical analysis, and thus propagate further revolutionary organisation among the social classes. On winning the war of position, socialist leaders would then have the necessary political power and popular support to begin the political manœuvre warfare of revolutionary socialism.
The initial, theoretical application of cultural domination was as a Marxist analysis of "economic class" (base and superstructure), which Antonio Gramsci developed to comprehend "social class"; hence, cultural hegemony proposes that the prevailing cultural norms of a society, which are imposed by the ruling class (bourgeois cultural hegemony), must not be perceived as natural and inevitable, but must be recognized as artificial social constructs (institutions, practices, beliefs, et cetera) that must be investigated to discover their philosophic roots as instruments of social-class domination. That such praxis of knowledge is indispensable for the intellectual and political liberation of the proletariat, so that workers and peasants, the people of town and country, can create their own working-class culture, which specifically addresses their social and economic needs as social classes.