motorist hegemony

I have been seeking a term for the car dominance of our society that captures how oppressive it is to anyone walking or bicycling. Totalitarian is not it, that implies that walkers and bicyclists would be disappeared and have absolutely no rights. Authoritarianism certain overlaps, but doesn’t really capture it. I saw a term used recently that I think does capture it: motorist hegemony.

Hegemony is the political dominance of one group over all others. Others (walkers and bicyclists) are tolerated so long as they don’t get in the way of or inconvenience the ruling class (which is car drivers, in this case). To be more specific: “In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony is defined as the ruling class’s manipulation of the value system and mores of a society, so that the ruling class perspective is the world view of society; thus, in the relations among the social classes of a society, the term hegemony describes the cultural dominance of a ruling class, which compels the subordination of the other social classes.” (Wikipedia)

What do you think? Do you have other ideas? The War on Cars is a frequently used term, but the irony of this escapes most drivers (it was a term used by a NYC entitled white person to complain about removal of parking for bicyclist facilities).

2 thoughts on “motorist hegemony

  1. Thank you for your article Dan. You perspective is interesting although I don’t see much room for practical application. I’m likewise on a bike several days a week. I avoid sharing the roads with cars as much as possible for obvious reasons. I also drive regularly as my employment requires. This said, perhaps more dedicated and maintained bike trails would be helpful. I’m on the American River Bike Trail regularly and would love to see it cleaned up and maintained…which takes work not rhetoric.

    As for the racial/societal overtones of your article…I see little value pointing out the historical desparities inherent in our culture. Life is spectacularly unfair in any number of ways. If I may quote a source: “man has dominated man to his injury”. These words were spoken by a King who himself would himself prove their accuracy. In the meantime perhaps a War On Nothing would make your next bike ride more enjoyable.


    • I bicycle for transportation, rarely recreation. So every road that is designed for cars and does not accommodate bicyclists, is a road biased against my travel needs. The parkway is great, and sometimes it is part of my trips, but I usually have to go out of my way to enjoy it.

      I always see value in pointing out the racist and classist origins of our transportation system, because these aspects are still with us. There are not just part of the past, they are part of the present, and will be part of the future unless we stand up to racist and classist impulses, and change the design of our transportation system to meet the needs of everyone. And that includes undoing the damage done to low income and high minority communities.


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