Hegemony is a ruling class's domination of subordinate classes and groups through the elaboration and penetration of ideology into their common sense and everyday practice; it is the systematic (but not necessarily or even usually deliberate) engineering of mass consent to the established order...In any given society, hegemony and coercion are interwoven.
Todd Gitlin,The Whole World is Watching
From the Greek verb meaning 'to lead', hegemony is often used as a synonym for domination. However, in its subtler sense, it implies some notion of consent and is linked with the writings of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.
Drawing on the works of philosophers such as Machiavelli and Pareto, Gramsci reasons that the dominant class maintains its power not simply by force, or the threat of force, but also by consent.
Through compromises between the ruling class and various other social and political forces, the underclass consents to a certain social order under the intellectual leadership of the dominant class. This hegemony is produced and reproduced through a network of institutions and social relations that are not necessarily within the realm of the overtly political.
As a critical tool, ideas of hegemony have been developed as way to analyse popular culture within the Gramscian tradition. Prominent theorists in the field include Stuart Hall, Todd Gitlin, and others from the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies