Gramsci used the term hegemony to denote the predominance of one social class over others (e.g. bourgeois hegemony). This represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as 'common sense' and 'natural'. Commentators stress that this involves willing and active consent. Common sense, suggests Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, is 'the way a subordinate class lives its subordination' (cited in Alvarado & Boyd-Barrett 1992: 51).
However, unlike Althusser, Gramsci emphasizes struggle. He noted that 'common sense is not something rigid and immobile, but is continually transforming itself' (Gramsci, cited in Hall 1982: 73). As Fiske puts it, 'Consent must be constantly won and rewon, for people's material social experience constantly reminds them of the disadvantages of subordination and thus poses a threat to the dominant class... Hegemony... posits a constant contradiction between ideology and the social experience of the subordinate that makes this interface into an inevitable site of ideological struggle' (Fiske 1992: 291). References to the mass media in terms of an ideological 'site of struggle' are recurrent in the commentaries of those influenced by this perspective. Gramsci's stance involved a rejection of economism since it saw a struggle for ideological hegemony as a primary factor in radical change.
Criticisms of Althusser's theory of ideology drew some neo-Marxists to Gramsci's ideas.