Antonio Gramsci

Last updated
Antonio Gramsci
Gramsci.png
Gramsci in 1916
Born
Antonio Francesco Gramsci

(1891-01-22)22 January 1891
Died27 April 1937(1937-04-27) (aged 46)
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Western Marxism/Neo-Marxism
Main interests
Politics, ideology, culture
Notable ideas
Cultural hegemony, bourgeoisie as the hegemonic group, building a counter-hegemony to challenge capitalist power, war of position, the distinction between "traditional" and "organic" intellectuals

Antonio Francesco Gramsci ( UK: /ˈɡræmʃi/ , [1] US: /ˈɡrɑːmʃi/ , [2] Italian:  [anˈtɔːnjo franˈtʃesko ˈɡramʃi] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist. [3] He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime.

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. American English is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Contents

He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His Prison Notebooks are considered a highly original contribution to 20th century political theory. Gramsci drew insights from varying sources – not only other Marxists but also thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Georges Sorel and Benedetto Croce. The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism, the French Revolution, fascism, Fordism, civil society, folklore, religion and high and popular culture.

<i>Prison Notebooks</i> book series

The Prison Notebooks were a series of essays written by the Italian neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was imprisoned by the Italian Fascist regime in 1926. The notebooks were written between 1929 and 1935, when Gramsci was released from prison on grounds of ill-health. He died in April 1937.

Niccolò Machiavelli Italian politician, writer and author

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period. He has often been called the father of modern political philosophy and political science. For many years he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned by historians and scholars. He worked as secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his best-known work The Prince in 1513, having been exiled from city affairs.

Vilfredo Pareto Italian economist and sociologist

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher. He made several important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices. He was also responsible for popularising the use of the term "elite" in social analysis.

Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci's view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the "common sense" values of all and thus maintain the status quo . Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.

Cultural hegemony Marxist notion of cultural dominance

In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society—the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores—so that their imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm; the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.

Bourgeoisie polysemous French term which denotes the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages

The bourgeoisie is a polysemous French term that can mean:

An ideology is a collection of normative beliefs and values that an individual or group holds for other than purely epistemic reasons. In other words, these rely on basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis. The term is especially used to describe systems of ideas and ideals which form the basis of economic or political theories and resultant policies. In these there are tenuous causal links between policies and outcomes owing to the large numbers of variables available, so that many key assumptions have to be made. In political science the term is used in a descriptive sense to refer to political belief systems

Life

Early life

Gramsci [4] was born in Ales, in the province of Oristano, on the island of Sardinia, the fourth of seven sons of Francesco Gramsci (1860–1937) and Giuseppina Marcias (1861–1932). The senior Gramsci was a low-level official born in the small town of Gaeta, in the province of Latina (in the Central Italian region of Lazio), to a well-off family from the Southern Italian region of Campania and of remote Arbëreshë (Italo-Albanian) descent. [5] [6] Antonio Gramsci himself mistakenly believed his father's family had left Albania as recently as 1821. [7] [8] [9] The Albanian origin of his father's family is attested in the surname Gramsci, an Italianized form of Gramshi, that stems from the definite noun of the placename Gramsh, a small town in central-eastern Albania. [10] The mother of Antonio Gramsci belonged to a Sardinian landowning family from Sorgono (in the province of Nuoro). [11] The senior Gramsci's financial difficulties and troubles with the police forced the family to move about through several villages in Sardinia until they finally settled in Ghilarza. [12]

Province of Oristano Province of Italy

The Province of Oristano is a province in the autonomous island region of Sardinia in Italy. Its capital is the city of Oristano. It has an area of 3,040 square kilometres (1,170 sq mi), a total population of 160,746 (2016), and a population density of 53.7 people per square kilometer. There are 87 municipalities (comuni) in the province).

Sardinia Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of the Italian Peninsula and to the immediate south of the French island of Corsica.

Gaeta Comune in Lazio, Italy

Gaeta is a city and comune in the province of Latina, in Lazio, central Italy. Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 kilometres from Rome and 80 km (50 mi) from Naples.

In 1898, Francesco was convicted of embezzlement and imprisoned, reducing his family to destitution. The young Antonio had to abandon schooling and work at various casual jobs until his father's release in 1904. [13] As a boy, Gramsci suffered from health problems, particularly a malformation of the spine that stunted his growth (his adult height was less than 5 feet) [14] and left him seriously hunchbacked. For decades, it was reported that his condition had been due to a childhood accident—specifically, having been dropped by a nanny—but more recently it has been suggested that it was due to Pott disease, [15] a form of tuberculosis that can cause deformity of the spine. Gramsci was also plagued by various internal disorders throughout his life.

Embezzlement is the act of withholding assets for the purpose of conversion (theft) of such assets, by one or more persons to whom the assets were entrusted, either to be held or to be used for specific purposes. Embezzlement is a type of financial fraud. For example, a lawyer might embezzle funds from the trust accounts of their clients; a financial advisor might embezzle the funds of investors; and a husband or a wife might embezzle funds from a bank account jointly held with the spouse.

Pott disease Tuberculosis of the spine

Pott disease, or Pott's disease, is a form of tuberculosis that occurs outside the lungs whereby disease is seen in the vertebrae. Tuberculosis can affect several tissues outside the lungs including the spine, a kind of tuberculous arthritis of the intervertebral joints. The disease is named after Percivall Pott (1714–1788), a British surgeon. The lower thoracic and upper lumbar vertebrae are the areas of the spine most often affected. The formal name for the disease is tuberculous spondylitis.

Gramsci completed secondary school in Cagliari, where he lodged with his elder brother Gennaro, a former soldier whose time on the mainland had made him a militant socialist. However, Gramsci's sympathies then did not lie with socialism, but rather with the grievances of impoverished Sardinian peasants and miners. [16] [17] [18] They perceived their neglect as a result of privileges enjoyed by the rapidly industrialising North, and they tended to turn to a growing Sardinian nationalism, brutally repressed by troops from the Italian mainland, [19] as a response. [20]

Cagliari Comune in Sardinia, Italy

Cagliari is an Italian municipality and the capital of the island of Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy. Cagliari's Sardinian name Casteddu literally means castle. It has about 155,000 inhabitants, while its metropolitan city has more than 431,000 inhabitants. According to Eurostat, the population of the Functional urban area, the commuting zone of Cagliari, rises to 476,975. Cagliari is the 26th largest city in Italy and the largest city on the island of Sardinia.

Northern Italy Place in Italy

Northern Italy is a geographical and cultural region in the northern part of Italy. Non-administrative, it consists of eight administrative Regions in northern Italy: Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. As of 2014, its population was 27,801,460. Rhaeto-Romance and Gallo-Italic languages are spoken in the region, as opposed to the Italo-Dalmatian languages spoken in the rest of Italy.

Sardinian nationalism political ideology

Sardinian nationalism or also Sardism is a social, cultural and political movement in Sardinia calling for national devolution, further autonomy, or even outright independence, from Italy. It also promotes the protection of the island's environment and the preservation of the Sardinian cultural heritage.

Turin

University of Turin: the Rectorate Loggiato.jpg
University of Turin: the Rectorate

In 1911, Gramsci won a scholarship to study at the University of Turin, sitting the exam at the same time as Palmiro Togliatti. [21] At Turin, he read literature and took a keen interest in linguistics, which he studied under Matteo Bartoli. Gramsci was in Turin as it was going through industrialization, with the Fiat and Lancia factories recruiting workers from poorer regions. Trade unions became established, and the first industrial social conflicts started to emerge. [22] Gramsci frequented socialist circles as well as associating with Sardinian emigrants on the Italian mainland. His worldview was shaped by both his earlier experiences in Sardinia and his environment on the mainland. Gramsci joined the Italian Socialist Party in late 1913, where he would later occupy a key position and observe from Turin the Russian revolutionary process. [23]

Although showing talent for his studies, Gramsci had financial problems and poor health. Together with his growing political commitment, these led to his abandoning his education in early 1915, at age 24. By this time, he had acquired an extensive knowledge of history and philosophy. At university, he had come into contact with the thought of Antonio Labriola, Rodolfo Mondolfo, Giovanni Gentile, and most importantly, Benedetto Croce, possibly the most widely respected Italian intellectual of his day. Labriola especially propounded a brand of Hegelian Marxism that he labelled "philosophy of praxis". [24] Although Gramsci later used this phrase to escape the prison censors, his relationship with this current of thought was ambiguous throughout his life.

From 1914 onward, Gramsci's writings for socialist newspapers such as Il Grido del Popolo earned him a reputation as a notable journalist. In 1916, he became co-editor of the Piedmont edition of Avanti! , the Socialist Party official organ. An articulate and prolific writer of political theory, Gramsci proved a formidable commentator, writing on all aspects of Turin's social and political life. [25]

Gramsci was, at this time, also involved in the education and organisation of Turin workers; he spoke in public for the first time in 1916 and gave talks on topics such as Romain Rolland, the French Revolution, the Paris Commune, and the emancipation of women. In the wake of the arrest of Socialist Party leaders that followed the revolutionary riots of August 1917, Gramsci became one of Turin's leading socialists when he was both elected to the party's Provisional Committee and made editor of Il Grido del Popolo. [26]

In April 1919, with Togliatti, Angelo Tasca and Umberto Terracini, Gramsci set up the weekly newspaper L'Ordine Nuovo (The New Order). In October the same year, despite being divided into various hostile factions, the Socialist Party moved by a large majority to join the Third International. The L'Ordine Nuovo group was seen by Vladimir Lenin as closest in orientation to the Bolsheviks, and it received his backing against the anti-parliamentary programme of the left communist Amadeo Bordiga.

Among tactical debates within the party, Gramsci's group was mainly distinguished by its advocacy of workers' councils, which had come into existence in Turin spontaneously during the large strikes of 1919 and 1920. For Gramsci, these councils were the proper means of enabling workers to take control of the task of organising production. Although he believed his position at this time to be in keeping with Lenin's policy of "All power to the Soviets", his stance that these Italian councils were communist, rather than just one organ of political struggle against the bourgeoisie, was attacked by Bordiga for betraying a syndicalist tendency influenced by the thought of Georges Sorel and Daniel DeLeon. By the time of the defeat of the Turin workers in spring 1920, Gramsci was almost alone in his defence of the councils.

In the Communist Party of Italy

Julia Schucht with sons Julia Schucht with sons 1930s.jpg
Julia Schucht with sons

The failure of the workers' councils to develop into a national movement convinced Gramsci that a Communist Party in the Leninist sense was needed. The group around L'Ordine Nuovo declaimed incessantly against the Italian Socialist Party's centrist leadership and ultimately allied with Bordiga's far larger "abstentionist" faction. On 21 January 1921, in the town of Livorno (Leghorn), the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d'Italia – PCI) was founded. Gramsci supported against Bordiga the Arditi del Popolo , a militant anti-fascist group which struggled against the Blackshirts.

Gramsci would be a leader of the party from its inception but was subordinate to Bordiga, whose emphasis on discipline, centralism and purity of principles dominated the party's programme until he lost the leadership in 1924.

In 1922, Gramsci travelled to Russia as a representative of the new party. Here, he met Julia Schucht, a young violinist whom he married in 1923 and by whom he had two sons, Delio (born 1924) and Giuliano (born 1926). [27] Gramsci never saw his second son. [28]

Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque, Mokhovaya Street 16, Moscow. The inscription reads "In this building in 1922-1923 worked the eminent figure of international communism and the labor movement and founder of the Italian Communist Party ANTONIO GRAMSCI." Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque Moscow.jpg
Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque, Mokhovaya Street 16, Moscow. The inscription reads "In this building in 1922–1923 worked the eminent figure of international communism and the labor movement and founder of the Italian Communist Party ANTONIO GRAMSCI."

The Russian mission coincided with the advent of fascism in Italy, and Gramsci returned with instructions to foster, against the wishes of the PCI leadership, a united front of leftist parties against fascism. Such a front would ideally have had the PCI at its centre, through which Moscow would have controlled all the leftist forces, but others disputed this potential supremacy: socialists did have a certain tradition in Italy, too, while the Communist Party seemed relatively young and too radical. Many believed that an eventual coalition led by communists would have functioned too remotely from political debate, and thus would have run the risk of isolation.

In late 1922 and early 1923, Benito Mussolini's government embarked on a campaign of repression against the opposition parties, arresting most of the PCI leadership, including Bordiga. At the end of 1923, Gramsci travelled from Moscow to Vienna, where he tried to revive a party torn by factional strife.

In 1924 Gramsci, now recognised as head of the PCI, gained election as a deputy for the Veneto. He started organizing the launch of the official newspaper of the party, called L'Unità (Unity), living in Rome while his family stayed in Moscow. At its Lyon Congress in January 1926, Gramsci's theses calling for a united front to restore democracy to Italy were adopted by the party.

In 1926, Joseph Stalin's manoeuvres inside the Bolshevik party moved Gramsci to write a letter to the Comintern in which he deplored the opposition led by Leon Trotsky but also underlined some presumed faults of the leader. Togliatti, in Moscow as a representative of the party, received the letter, opened it, read it, and decided not to deliver it. This caused a difficult conflict between Gramsci and Togliatti which they never completely resolved. [29]

Imprisonment and death

Gramsci's grave at the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome Antonio Gramsci Grave in Rome01.jpg
Gramsci's grave at the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome

On 9 November 1926, the Fascist government enacted a new wave of emergency laws, taking as a pretext an alleged attempt on Mussolini's life several days earlier. The fascist police arrested Gramsci, despite his parliamentary immunity, and brought him to the Roman prison Regina Coeli .

At his trial, Gramsci's prosecutor stated, "For twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning". [30] He received an immediate sentence of five years in confinement on the island of Ustica and the following year he received a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment in Turi, near Bari.

Over 11 years in prison, his health deteriorated: "His teeth fell out, his digestive system collapsed so that he could not eat solid food... he had convulsions when he vomited blood, and suffered headaches so violent that he beat his head against the walls of his cell." [31]

An international campaign, organised by Piero Sraffa at Cambridge University and Gramsci's sister-in-law Tatiana, was mounted to demand Gramsci's release. [32] In 1933 he was moved from the prison at Turi to a clinic at Formia, [33] but was still being denied adequate medical attention. [34] Two years later he was moved to the Quisisana clinic in Rome. He was due for release on 21 April 1937 and planned to retire to Sardinia for convalescence, but a combination of arteriosclerosis, pulmonary tuberculosis, high blood pressure, angina, gout and acute gastric disorders meant that he was too ill to move. [34] Gramsci died on 27 April 1937, at the age of 46. His ashes are buried in the Cimitero Acattolico (Non-Catholic Cemetery) in Rome.

Thought

Gramsci was one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century, and a particularly key thinker in the development of Western Marxism. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. These writings, known as the Prison Notebooks , contain Gramsci's tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as well as some ideas in Marxist theory, critical theory and educational theory associated with his name, such as:

Hegemony

Hegemony was a term previously used by Marxists such as Vladimir Lenin to denote the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution. [35] :15–17 Gramsci greatly expanded this concept, developing an acute analysis of how the ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – establishes and maintains its control. [35] :20

Orthodox Marxism had predicted that socialist revolution was inevitable in capitalist societies. By the early 20th century, no such revolution had occurred in the most advanced nations. Capitalism, it seemed, was more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also through ideology. The bourgeoisie developed a hegemonic culture, which propagated its own values and norms so that they became the "common sense" values of all. People in the working-class (and other classes) identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

To counter the notion that bourgeois values represented natural or normal values for society, the working class needed to develop a culture of its own. Lenin held that culture was ancillary to political objectives, but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that cultural hegemony be achieved first. In Gramsci's view, a class cannot dominate in modern conditions by merely advancing its own narrow economic interests; neither can it dominate purely through force and coercion. Rather, it must exert intellectual and moral leadership, and make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces. Gramsci calls this union of social forces a "historic bloc", taking a term from Georges Sorel. This bloc forms the basis of consent to a certain social order, which produces and re-produces the hegemony of the dominant class through a nexus of institutions, social relations, and ideas. In this way, Gramsci's theory emphasized the importance of the political and ideological superstructure in both maintaining and fracturing relations of the economic base.

Gramsci stated that bourgeois cultural values were tied to folklore, popular culture and religion, and therefore much of his analysis of hegemonic culture is aimed at these. He was also impressed by the influence Roman Catholicism had and the care the Church had taken to prevent an excessive gap developing between the religion of the learned and that of the less educated. Gramsci saw Marxism as a marriage of the purely intellectual critique of religion found in Renaissance humanism and the elements of the Reformation that had appealed to the masses. For Gramsci, Marxism could supersede religion only if it met people's spiritual needs, and to do so people would have to think of it as an expression of their own experience.

Intellectuals and education

Gramsci gave much thought to the role of intellectuals in society. He stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. [36] He saw modern intellectuals not as talkers, but as practically-minded directors and organisers who produced hegemony through ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a traditional intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks organically. Such organic intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but instead articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. To Gramsci, it was the duty of organic intellectuals to speak to the obscured precepts of folk wisdom, or common sense (senso comune), of their respective politic spheres. These intellectuals would represent excluded social groups of a society, what Gramsci referred to as the subaltern. [37]

In line with Gramsci's theories of hegemonic power, he argued that capitalist power needed to be challenged by building a counter-hegemony. By this he meant that, as part of the war of position, the organic intellectuals and others within the working-class, need to develop alternative values and an alternative ideology in contrast to bourgeois ideology. He argued that the reason this had not needed to happen in Russia was because the Russian ruling-class did not have genuine hegemonic power. So the Bolsheviks were able to see through a war of manoeuvre (the 1917 revolution), relatively easily, because ruling-class hegemony had never been fully achieved. He believed that a final war of manoeuvre was only possible, in the developed and advanced capitalist societies, when the war of position had been won by the organic intellectuals and the working-class building a counter-hegemony.

The need to create a working-class culture and a counter-hegemony relates to Gramsci's call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, whose task was not to introduce Marxist ideology into the consciousness of the proletariat as a set of foreign notions, but to renovate the existing intellectual activity of the masses and make it natively critical of the status quo. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil, and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon. For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci an important voice to this day. [38]

State and civil society

Gramsci's theory of hegemony is tied to his conception of the capitalist state. Gramsci does not understand the 'state' in the narrow sense of the government. Instead, he divides it between political society (the police, the army, legal system, etc.) – the arena of political institutions and legal constitutional control – and civil society (the family, the education system, trade unions, etc.) – commonly seen as the private or non-state sphere, mediating between the state and the economy. However, he stresses that the division is purely conceptual and that the two often overlap in reality. [39] Gramsci claims the capitalist state rules through force plus consent: political society is the realm of force and civil society is the realm of consent.

Gramsci proffers that under modern capitalism the bourgeoisie can maintain its economic control by allowing certain demands made by trade unions and mass political parties within civil society to be met by the political sphere. Thus, the bourgeoisie engages in passive revolution by going beyond its immediate economic interests and allowing the forms of its hegemony to change. Gramsci posits that movements such as reformism and fascism, as well as the scientific management and assembly line methods of Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford, respectively, are examples of this.

Drawing from Machiavelli, he argues that The Modern Prince – the revolutionary party – is the force that will allow the working-class to develop organic intellectuals and an alternative hegemony within civil society. For Gramsci, the complex nature of modern civil society means that a war of position, carried out by revolutionaries through political agitation, the trade unions, advancement of proletarian culture, and other ways to create an opposing civil society was necessary alongside a war of manoeuvre – a direct revolution – in order to have a successful revolution without danger of a counter-revolution or degeneration.

Despite his claim that the lines between the two may be blurred, Gramsci rejects the state-worship that results from identifying political society with civil society, as was done by the Jacobins and Fascists. He believes the proletariat's historical task is to create a regulated society and defines the withering away of the state as the full development of civil society's ability to regulate itself.

Historicism

Like the early Marx, Gramsci was an emphatic proponent of historicism. [40] In Gramsci's view, all meaning derives from the relation between human practical activity (or praxis) and the objective historical and social processes of which it is a part. Ideas cannot be understood outside their social and historical context, apart from their function and origin. The concepts by which we organise our knowledge of the world do not derive primarily from our relation to things (to an objective reality), but rather from the social relations (economic, for Marx) between the bearers of those concepts. As a result, there is no such thing as an unchanging human nature. Furthermore, philosophy and science do not reflect a reality independent of man. Rather, a theory can be said to be true when, in any given historical situation, it expresses the real developmental trend of that situation.

For the majority of Marxists, truth was truth no matter when and where it is known, and scientific knowledge (which included Marxism) accumulated historically as the advance of truth in this everyday sense. In this view, Marxism (or the Marxist theory of history and economics) did not belong to the illusory realm of the superstructure because it is a science. In contrast, Gramsci believed Marxism was true in a socially pragmatic sense: by articulating the class consciousness of the proletariat, Marxism expressed the truth of its times better than any other theory. This anti-scientistic and anti-positivist stance was indebted to the influence of Benedetto Croce. However, it should be underlined that Gramsci's absolute historicism broke with Croce's tendency to secure a metaphysical synthesis in historical destiny. Although Gramsci repudiates the charge, his historical account of truth has been criticised as a form of relativism. [41]

Critique of "economism"

In a pre-prison article entitled "The Revolution against Das Kapital ", Gramsci wrote that the October Revolution in Russia had invalidated the idea that socialist revolution had to await the full development of capitalist forces of production. This reflected his view that Marxism was not a determinist philosophy. The principle of the causal primacy of the forces of production was a misconception of Marxism. Both economic changes and cultural changes are expressions of a basic historical process, and it is difficult to say which sphere has primacy over the other. The belief from the earliest years of the workers' movement that it would inevitably triumph due to historical laws was a product of the historical circumstances of an oppressed class restricted mainly to defensive action. This fatalistic doctrine was to be abandoned as a hindrance once the working-class became able to take the initiative. Because Marxism is a philosophy of praxis, it cannot rely on unseen historical laws as the agents of social change. History is defined by human praxis and therefore includes human will. Nonetheless, will-power cannot achieve anything it likes in any given situation: when the consciousness of the working-class reaches the stage of development necessary for action, it will encounter historical circumstances that cannot be arbitrarily altered. However, it is not predetermined by historical inevitability or destiny as to which of several possible developments will take place as a result.

His critique of economism also extended to that practised by the syndicalists of the Italian trade unions. He believed that many trade unionists had settled for a reformist, gradualist approach in that they had refused to struggle on the political front in addition to the economic front. For Gramsci, much as the ruling class can look beyond its own immediate economic interests to reorganise the forms of its own hegemony, so must the working-class present its own interests as congruous with the universal advancement of society. While Gramsci envisioned the trade unions as one organ of a counter-hegemonic force in capitalist society, the trade union leaders simply saw these organizations as a means to improve conditions within the existing structure. Gramsci referred to the views of these trade unionists as vulgar economism, which he equated to covert reformism and even liberalism.

Critique of materialism

By virtue of his belief that human history and collective praxis determine whether any philosophical question is meaningful or not, Gramsci's views run contrary to the metaphysical materialism and "copy" theory of perception advanced by Engels, [42] [43] and Lenin, [44] though he does not explicitly state this. For Gramsci, Marxism does not deal with a reality that exists in and for itself, independent of humanity. [45] The concept of an objective universe outside of human history and human praxis was analogous to belief in God. [46] Gramsci defined objectivity in terms of a universal intersubjectivity to be established in a future communist society. [46] Natural history was thus only meaningful in relation to human history. In his view philosophical materialism resulted from a lack of critical thought, [47] and could not be said to oppose religious dogma and superstition. [48] Despite this, Gramsci resigned himself to the existence of this arguably cruder form of Marxism. Marxism was a philosophy for the proletariat, a subaltern class, and thus could often only be expressed in the form of popular superstition and common sense. [49] Nonetheless, it was necessary to effectively challenge the ideologies of the educated classes, and to do so Marxists must present their philosophy in a more sophisticated guise, and attempt to genuinely understand their opponents' views.

Influence

Gramsci's thought emanates from the organized left, but he has also become an important figure in current academic discussions within cultural studies and critical theory. Political theorists from the center and the right have also found insight in his concepts; his idea of hegemony, for example, has become widely cited. His influence is particularly strong in contemporary political science (see Neo-gramscianism). His work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies in which many have found the potential for political or ideological resistance to dominant government and business interests.[ citation needed ]

His critics charge him with fostering a notion of power struggle through ideas. They find the Gramscian approach to philosophical analysis, reflected in current academic controversies, to be in conflict with open-ended, liberal inquiry grounded in apolitical readings of the classics of Western culture.

As a socialist, Gramsci's legacy has been disputed. [35] :6–7 Togliatti, who led the Party (renamed as Italian Communist Party, PCI) after World War II and whose gradualist approach was a forerunner to Eurocommunism, claimed that the PCI's practices during this period were congruent with Gramscian thought. It is speculated that he would likely have been expelled from his Party if his true views had been known, particularly his growing hostility to Stalin. [32]

Bibliography

Collections

Essays

See also

Related Research Articles

Leninism political, social, and economic theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

In political science, Marxism–Leninism was the official state ideology of the Soviet Union (USSR), of the parties of the Communist International, after Bolshevisation; and is the ideology of Stalinist political parties. The purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the revolutionary transformation of a capitalist state into a socialist state, by way of two-stage revolution, which is led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, drawn from the proletariat. To realise the two-stage transformation of the state, the vanguard party establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat, which determines policy through democratic centralism.

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. "Praxis" may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas. This has been a recurrent topic in the field of philosophy, discussed in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Francis Bacon, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Paulo Freire, Ludwig von Mises, and many others. It has meaning in the political, educational, spiritual and medical realms.

Nicos Poulantzas Greek-French philosopher

Nicos Poulantzas was a Greek-French Marxist political sociologist and philosopher. In the 1970s, Poulantzas was known, along with Louis Althusser, as a leading Structural Marxist and, while at first a Leninist, eventually became a proponent of eurocommunism. He is most well known for his theoretical work on the state, but he also offered Marxist contributions to the analysis of fascism, social class in the contemporary world, and the collapse of dictatorships in Southern Europe in the 1970s.

Antonio Labriola Italian philosopher

Antonio Labriola was an Italian Marxist theoretician. Although an academic philosopher and never an active member of any Marxist political party, his thought exerted influence on many political theorists in Italy during the early 20th century, including the founder of the Italian Liberal Party, Benedetto Croce and the leaders of the Italian Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci and Amadeo Bordiga.

Libertarian Marxism economic and political philosophies that emphasize the "anti-authoritarian" aspects of Marxism

Libertarian Marxism refers to a broad scope of economic and political philosophies that emphasize the anti-authoritarian aspects of Marxism. Early currents of libertarian Marxism such as left communism emerged in opposition to Marxism–Leninism and its derivatives such as Stalinism and Maoism, among others. Libertarian Marxism is also often critical of reformist positions such as those held by social democrats. Libertarian Marxist currents often draw from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' later works, specifically the Grundrisse and The Civil War in France; emphasizing the Marxist belief in the ability of the working class to forge its own destiny without the need for a revolutionary party or state to mediate or aid its liberation. Along with anarchism, libertarian Marxism is one of the main currents of libertarian socialism.

Blanquism refers to a conception of revolution generally attributed to Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805–1881) which holds that socialist revolution should be carried out by a relatively small group of highly organised and secretive conspirators. Having seized power, the revolutionaries would then use the power of the state to introduce socialism. It is considered a particular sort of "putschism"—that is, the view that political revolution should take the form of a putsch or coup d'état.

Counter-hegemony refers to attempts to critique or dismantle hegemonic power. In other words, it is a confrontation and/or opposition to existing status quo and its legitimacy in politics, but can also be observed in various other spheres of life, such as history, media, music, etc. Neo-Gramscian theorist Nicola Pratt (2004) has described counter-hegemony as "a creation of an alternative hegemony on the terrain of civil society in preparation for political change".

Open Marxism Marxist Doctrines

Open Marxism is a school of thought which draws on libertarian socialist critiques of party communism and stresses the need for openness to praxis and history through an anti-positivist (dialectical) method grounded in the "practical reflexivity" of Karl Marx's own concepts. The "openness" in open Marxism also refers to a non-deterministic view of history in which the unpredictability of class struggle is foregrounded.

Ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

The ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was Marxism–Leninism, an ideology of a centralised, planned economy and a vanguardist one-party state, which was the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Soviet Union's ideological commitment to achieving communism included the development socialism in one country and peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries while engaging in anti-imperialism to defend the international proletariat, combat capitalism and promote the goals of communism. The state ideology of the Soviet Union—and thus Marxism–Leninism—derived and developed from the theories, policies and political praxis of Lenin and Stalin.

Marxist schools of thought

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that frames capitalism through a paradigm of exploitation, analyzes class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. While it originates from the works of 19th century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Marxism has had several different schools of thought.

<i>LOrdine Nuovo</i>

L'Ordine Nuovo was a weekly newspaper established on May 1, 1919, in Turin, Italy, by a group, including Antonio Gramsci, Angelo Tasca and Palmiro Togliatti, within the Italian Socialist Party. The paper was the successor of La Città futura, a broadsheet newspaper. The founders of L'Ordine Nuovo were admirers of the Russian Revolution and strongly supported the immediate creation of soviets in Italy. They believed that existing factory councils of workers could be strengthened so that they could become the basis of a communist revolution. However, Amadeo Bordiga, who would become the founder of the Communist Party of Italy, criticised the plan as syndicalism, saying that soviets should only be created after Italy had come under communist control.

Marxist humanism school of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marxs earlier writings, esp. the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 on alienation, as opposed to his later works, concerned with a structural conception of capitalist society

Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx's earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx espoused his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural conception of capitalist society. The Praxis School, which called for radical social change in Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia in the 1960s, was one such Marxist humanist movement.

Marxist philosophy Philosophy influenced by Marxist political thought

Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly divided into Western Marxism, which drew out of various sources, and the official philosophy in the Soviet Union, which enforced a rigid reading of Marx called dialectical materialism, in particular during the 1930s. Marxist philosophy is not a strictly defined sub-field of philosophy, because the diverse influence of Marxist theory has extended into fields as varied as aesthetics, ethics, ontology, epistemology, theoretical psychology and philosophy of science, as well as its obvious influence on political philosophy and the philosophy of history. The key characteristics of Marxism in philosophy are its materialism and its commitment to political practice as the end goal of all thought. The theory is also about the struggles of the proletariat and their reprimand of the bourgeoisie.

False consciousness False consciousness

False consciousness is a term used primarily by Marxist sociologists to describe ways in which material, ideological, and institutional processes are said to mislead members of the proletariat and other class actors within capitalist societies, concealing the exploitation intrinsic to the social relations between classes.

Orthodox Marxism body of Marxist thought that emerged following the death of Karl Marx which became the official philosophy of the socialist movement

Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxism thought that emerged after the death of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and which became the official philosophy of the socialist movement as represented in the Second International until the First World War in 1914. Orthodox Marxism aims to simplify, codify and systematize Marxist method and theory by clarifying the perceived ambiguities and contradictions of classical Marxism.

Western Marxism body of various Marxist theoreticians based in Western and Central Europe

Western Marxism is a current of Marxist theory arising from Western and Central Europe in the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the ascent of Leninism. The term denotes a loose collection of theorists who advanced an interpretation of Marxism distinct from that codified by the Soviet Union.

References

  1. "Gramsci, Antonio". Oxford Dictionaries . Oxford University Press . Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  2. "Gramsci". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  3. Haralambos, Michael and Holborn, Martin (2013). Sociology Themes and Perspectives. 8th Ed. pp. 597–598. Collins. ISBN   978-0-00-749882-6.
  4. Atto di nascita di Gramsci Antonio Francesco Archived 9 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "IGSN 9 – Nuove notizie sulla famiglia paterna di Gramsci". www.internationalgramscisociety.org. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  6. "Italiani di origine albanese che si sono distinti nei secoli | Il Torinese | Quotidiano on line di Informazione Società Cultura". www.iltorinese.it (in Italian). 8 January 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  7. Pipa, Arshi (1989). The politics of language in socialist Albania. Boulder: East European Monographs. p. 234. ISBN   978-0-88033-168-5. "I myself have no race. My father is of recent Albanian origin. The family escaped from Epirus after or during the 1821 wars <of Greek Independence> and Italianized itself rapidly." Lettere dal carcere (Letters from Prison), ed. S. Capriogloi & E Fubini (Einaudi, Turin, 1965), pp. 507–08."
  8. International Gramsci Society
  9. Genealogia dei Gramsci
  10. Manzelli, Gianguido (2004). "Italiano e albanese: affinità e contrasti". In Ghezzi, Chiara; Guerini, Federica; Molinelli, Piera (eds.). Italiano e lingue immigrate a confronto: riflessioni per la pratica didattica, Atti del Convegno-Seminario, Bergamo, 23-25 giugno 2003. Guerra Edizioni. p. 161. ISBN   9788877157072. "Antonio Gramsci, nato ad Ales (Oristano) nel 1891, fondatore del Partito Comunista d'ltalia nel 1921, arrestato nel 1926, morto a Roma nel 1937, portava nel proprio cognome la manifesta origine albanese della famiglia (Gramsh o Gramshi, con l'articolo determinativo finale in -i, è il nome di una cittadina dell'Albania centrale)."
  11. Dante L. Germino (1990). Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New Politics. Louisiana Press University. p. 157. ISBN   978-0-8071-1553-4.
  12. Gramsci 1971, p. xviii.
  13. Gramsci 1971, pp. xviii–xix.
  14. Crehan, Kate (2002). Gramsci, Culture, and Anthropology. University of California Press. p. 14. ISBN   0520236025.
  15. Markowicz, Daniel M. (2011) "Gramsci, Antonio," in The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory, ed. Michael Ryan, ISBN   9781405183123
  16. Gramsci 1971, p. xix.
  17. Antonio Gramsci, Dizionario di Storia Treccani. Treccani.it (8 November 1926). Retrieved on 2017-04-24.
  18. Antonio Gramsci e la questione sarda, a cura di Guido Melis, Cagliari, Della Torre, 1975
  19. Hall, Stuart (June 1986). "Gramsci's relevance for the study of race and ethnicity". Journal of Communication Inquiry (Sage)
  20. (in Italian) Gramsci e l'isola laboratorio, La Nuova Sardegna. Ricerca.gelocal.it (3 May 2004). Retrieved on 2017-04-24.
  21. Gramsci 1971, p. xx.
  22. Gramsci 1971, p. xxv.
  23. Deiana, Gian Luigi (23 June 2017). "The Legacy of Antonio Gramsci".
  24. Gramsci 1971, p. xxi.
  25. Gramsci 1971, p. xxx.
  26. Gramsci 1971, pp. xxx–xxxi.
  27. Picture of Gramsci's wife and their two sons at the Italian-language Antonio Gramsci Website.
  28. Crehan, Kate (2002). Gramsci, Culture, and Anthropology. University of California Press. p. 17. ISBN   0520236025.
  29. Giuseppe Vacca.Vita e Pensieri Di Antonio Gramsci.Einaudi.Torino 2012
  30. Gramsci 1971, p.lxxxix.
  31. Gramsci 1971, p. xcii.
  32. 1 2 Jones, S. Gramsci (Routledge Critical Thinkers), p.25. Routledge: 2006. ISBN   0-415-31947-1
  33. Gramsci 1971, p. xciii.
  34. 1 2 Gramsci 1971, p. xciv.
  35. 1 2 3 Anderson, Perry (November – December 1976). "The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci". New Left Review . New Left Review. I (100): 5–78.
  36. Gramsci 1982, p. 9.
  37. Crehan, Kate (2016). Gramsci's Common Sense: Inequality and Its Narratives. Duke University Press. ISBN   978-0-8223-6219-7.
  38. Mayo, Peter (June 2008). "Antonio Gramsci and his Relevance for the Education of Adults". Educational Philosophy & Theory. 40 (3): 418–435. doi:10.1111/j.1469-5812.2007.00357.x.
  39. Gramsci 1982, p. 160.
  40. Gramsci 1982, pp. 404–407.
  41. Leszek Kolakowski – Main Currents of Marxism – Its Rise, Growth and, Dissolution – Volume III – The Breakdown. Oxford University Press. 1978. pp.  228–231. ISBN   978-0-19-824570-4.
  42. Friedrich Engels: Anti-Duehring
  43. Friedrich Engels: Dialectics of Nature
  44. Lenin: Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
  45. Gramsci 1982, pp. 440–448.
  46. 1 2 Gramsci 1982, p. 445.
  47. Gramsci 1982, pp. 444–445.
  48. Gramsci 1982, p. 420.
  49. Gramsci 1982, pp. 419–425.
  50. "Gramsci – Everything That Concerns People (1987)". bfi.org.uk.
  51. Andrew Russeth (2 July 2013). "Thomas Hirschhorn's 'Gramsci Monument' Opens at Forest Houses in the Bronx".

Cited sources

Further reading