Rethinking Gramsci

Rethinking Gramsci provides a coherent and comprehensive assessment of
Antonio Gramsci’s contributions to the fields of political and cultural theory.
It contains seminal contributions from a broad range of important political and
cultural theorists from around the world and explains the origins, development,
and context for Gramsci’s thought, as well as analyzing his continued relevance
and influence to contemporary debates.
The volume demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of Gramscian thought
to produce new insights into the intersection of economic, political, cultural, and
social processes, and provides a vital resource for readers across the disciplines
of political theory, cultural studies, political economy, philosophy, and subaltern

Marcus E. Green, Ph.D. (York University) is Assistant Professor of Political
Science at Otterbein University and Secretary of the International Gramsci
Society. He is the author of several articles and book chapters on Antonio Gramsci
and subalternity.

Routledge innovations in political theory

1 A Radical Green Political Theory 10 Ethics and Politics in
Alan Carter Contemporary Theory
Between critical theory and post-
2 Rational Woman Marxism
A feminist critique of dualism Mark Devenney
Raia Prokhovnik
11 Citizenship and Identity
3 Rethinking State Theory Towards a new republic
Mark J. Smith John Schwarzmantel
4 Gramsci and Contemporary 12 Multiculturalism, Identity and
Politics Rights
Beyond pessimism of the intellect Edited by Bruce Haddock and
Anne Showstack Sassoon Peter Sutch
5 Post-Ecologist Politics 13 Political Theory of Global Justice
Social theory and the abdication of A cosmopolitan case for the world
the ecologist paradigm state
Ingolfur Blühdorn Luis Cabrera

6 Ecological Relations 14 Democracy, Nationalism and
Susan Board Multiculturalism
Edited by Ramón Maiz and Ferrán
7 The Political Theory of Global Requejo
April Carter 15 Political Reconciliation
Andrew Schaap
8 Democracy and National
Pluralism 16 National Cultural Autonomy and
Edited by Ferran Requejo Its Contemporary Critics
Edited by Ephraim Nimni
9 Civil Society and Democratic
Theory 17 Power and Politics in
Alternative voices Poststructuralist Thought
Gideon Baker New theories of the political
Saul Newman

18 Capabilities Equality 28 The New Politics of Masculinity
Basic issues and problems Men, power and resistance
Edited by Alexander Kaufman Fidelma Ashe

19 Morality and Nationalism 29 Citizens and the State
Catherine Frost Attitudes in Western Europe and
East and Southeast Asia
20 Principles and Political Order Takashi Inoguchi and Jean Blondel
The challenge of diversity
Edited by Bruce Haddock, Peri 30 Political Language and Metaphor
Roberts and Peter Sutch Interpreting and changing the world
Edited by Terrell Carver and
21 European Integration and the Jernej Pikalo
Nationalities Question
Edited by John McGarry and 31 Political Pluralism and the State
Michael Keating Beyond sovereignty
Marcel Wissenburg
22 Deliberation, Social Choice and
Absolutist Democracy 32 Political Evil in a Global Age
David van Mill Hannah Arendt and international
23 Sexual Justice/Cultural Justice Patrick Hayden
Critical perspectives in political
theory and practice 33 Gramsci and Global Politics
Edited by Barbara Arneil, Monique Hegemony and resistance
Deveaux, Rita Dhamoon and Mark McNally and John
Avigail Eisenberg Schwarzmantel

24 The International Political 34 Democracy and Pluralism
Thought of Carl Schmitt The political thought of William E.
Terror, liberal war and the crisis of Connolly
global order Edited by Alan Finlayson
Edited by Louiza Odysseos and
Fabio Petito 35 Multiculturalism and Moral
25 In Defense of Human Rights Edited by Maria Dimova-Cookson
A non-religious grounding in a and Peter Stirk
pluralistic world
Ari Kohen 36 John Stuart Mill – Thought and
26 Logics of Critical Explanation in The saint of rationalism
Social and Political Theory Edited by Georgios Varouxakis and
Jason Glynos and David Howarth Paul Kelly

27 Political Constructivism 37 Rethinking Gramsci
Peri Roberts Edited by Marcus E. Green

Rethinking Gramsci

Edited by Marcus E. Green

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Rethinking Gramsci / edited by Marcus E Green.
  p. cm. – (Routledge innovations in political theory ; 37)
  Includes bibliographical references and index.
  1. Gramsci, Antonio, 1891–1937–Political and social views. 2. Political
  science–Philosophy–History–20th century. I. Green, Marcus E.
  JC265.G68R48 2011      320.53’2092–dc22

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Gramsci. common sense 53 5 The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony 55 DEREK BOOTHMAN 6 Gramsci cannot speak: Presentations and interpretations of Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern 68 MARCUS E. and cultural criticism 19 PAUL BOVÉ 3 Bloom and Babbitt: A Gramscian view 31 DANIEL O’CONNELL 4 Socialist education today: Pessimism or optimism of the intellect? 39 MARCIA LANDY PART II Hegemony. GREEN PART I Culture and criticism 9 1 Race.Contents Contributors x Acknowledgments xiv Introduction: Rethinking Marxism and rethinking Gramsci 1 MARCUS E. GREEN . culture. and communications: Looking backward and forward at cultural studies 11 STUART HALL 2 Dante. subalternity.

viii  Contents   7 Self-consciousness of the Dalits as ‘subalterns:’ Reflections on Gramsci in South Asia 90 COSIMO ZENE   8 Gramscian politics and capitalist common sense 105 EVAN WATKINS   9 Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism 112 FRANK R. ANNUNZIATO 10 Production and its Others: Gramsci’s “sexual question” 131 NELSON MOE 11 Social forces in the struggle over hegemony: Neo-Gramscian perspectives in international political economy 147 ADAM DAVID MORTON 12 From ethico-political hegemony to post-Marxism 167 RICHARD HOWSON PART III Political Philosophy 177 13 Gramsci. Marxism. and philosophy 179 RICHARD D. MANSFIELD 17 Gramsci’s critical modernity 238 ESTEVE MORERA PART IV On Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks 267 18 Unfinished business: Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks 269 DAVID F. RUCCIO 19 Of Prison Notebooks and the restoration of an archive 275 JOSEPH W. Hegel. from Gramsci to Marx: Historical materialism and the philosophy of praxis 205 WOLFGANG FRITZ HAUG 16 Gramsci and the dialectic: Resisting “enCrocement” 217 STEVEN R. and Gramsci 190 CARLOS NELSON COUTINHO 15 From Marx to Gramsci. CHILDERS . WOLFF 14 General will and democracy in Rousseau.

SPANOS 22 The Prison Notebooks: Antonio Gramsci’s work in progress 301 JOSEPH A. Contents  ix 20 The mammoth task of translating Gramsci 281 PETER IVES 21 Cuvier’s little bone: Joseph Buttigieg’s English edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks 288 WILLIAM V. BUTTIGIEG Appendix 306 Bibliography 308 Index 329 .

Gramsci linguista (2004). Joseph W. 1996. 1992. Poetry Against Torture: Criticism. Buttigieg is the William R. Kenan Jr. He is co-editor and contributor to an edited collection entitled Victorian Prism: Refractions of the Crystal Palace (2007) and. has written extensively on Gramsci. editor of Criticism without Boundaries: Directions and Crosscurrents in Postmodern Critical Theory (1987). Childers is Professor of English at University of California. Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame and a Fellow of the Nanovic Institute of European Studies. Joseph A. along with Jack Amariglio and . He is the author of Novel Possibilities: Fiction and the Formation of Early Victorian Culture (1995). the author of A Portrait of the Artist in Different Perspective (1987). and the Human (2009). 2007). and Japanese. is the author of Traducibilità e processi traduttivi. poetry.Contributors Frank R. Mastering Discourse: The Politics of Intellectual Culture (1992). Paul Bové is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and editor of the journal boundary 2. and co-editor of Gramsci and Education (2002). He has written extensively on culture. In the Wake of Theory (1992). He edited and translated the anthology of Gramsci’s prison writings. A specialist in modern literature and critical theory. He is a founding member and the current president of the International Gramsci Society. his recent work focuses on the relationship between culture and politics. modernity. Annunziato is the executive director of the University of Rhode Island Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Derek Boothman teaches translation at the University of Bologna’s faculty for interpreters and translators (SSLMIT). German. Riverside and the Review Editor for Rethinking Marxism. and is a member of Rome’s Seminario gramsciano. He is a member of the boundary 2 editorial collective. He is the editor and translator of the multi-volume complete English critical edition of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (Columbia University Press. University of Minnesota Press. Portuguese. He is the author of Intellectuals in Power: A Genealogy of Critical Humanism (1986). Spanish. History. Several of his articles on Gramsci have been translated into Italian. 1995). and editor of Edward Said and the Work of the Critic: Speaking Truth to Power (2000). and intellectuals. Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Lawrence and Wishart. Un caso: A.

He is the author of Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity (2005). He is the co-editor and co-translator of the ten-volume complete German critical edition of Gramsci’s prison notebooks. Marxismo e política (1994). he is co-editor of Sublime Economy: On the Intersection of Art and Economics (2009). culture. Canada. He is author of Gramsci’s Politics of Language: Engaging the Bakhtin Circle and the Frankfurt School (2004) and Language and Hegemony in Gramsci (2004). Marcus E. Green is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Otterbein University and teaches political theory and American politics. the founding editor of the German Marxist journal Das Argument. Along with Rocco Lacorte. His research interests include masculinity. His publications in English include Critique of Commodity Aesthetics (1986) and Commodity Aesthetics. He is currently Secretary of the International Gramsci Society and has published several arti- cles on Gramsci’s social and political thought. Gramsci: Um estudo sobre seu pensamento político (1999). as well as several articles on Gramsci published in boundary 2 and Socialism and Democracy. Cadernos do cárcere. His current research investi- gates the politics of so-called “global English” and its role within democracy. post-Marxism. Language and Translation (2010). Ideology & Culture (1987). and hegemony. he was director of the Centre for Cultural Studies. He has published numerous books and articles on Marxism and philosophy. Carlos Nelson Coutinho teaches political theory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). . he has published among other books. From 1968 to 1979. Wolfgang Fritz Haug is a former Professor of Philosophy at the Freie Universität Berlin (1979–2001). Stuart Hall is Professor Emeritus at the Open University and has written widely on politics. He is the author of The Hard Road to Renewal (1988) and Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1997). Australia. and neo-imperialism. Peter Ives teaches political theory in the Department of Politics at the University of Winnipeg. Richard Howson lectures in sociology at the University of Wollongong. globalization. entender a realidade (2003). (1999–2002). His book Philosophizing with Brecht and Gramsci is forthcoming with Brill. Gefängnishefte (Argument. With Andréa de Paula Teixeira. he is co-editor of Ler Gramsci. and along with Kylie Smith. He edited and translated a Portuguese edition of Gramsci’s prison notebooks. he is co-editor of Gramsci. Birmingham. and race. and published a Portuguese translation of Gramsci’s political writings Escritos Políticos (2004). Contributors  xi Stephen Cullenberg. A member of the International Gramsci Society coordinating committee. he is editor of Hegemony: Studies in Consensus and Coercion (2008). feminist theory. 1991–2004). and the editor of Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus (Argument). and Intervenções: o Marxismo na Batalha das Idéias (2006).

historical sociology. He is author of Unravelling Gramsci: Hegemony and Passive Revolution in the Global Political Economy (2007). Mansfield is the Senior Policy and Management Analyst for the Franklin County Ohio Board of County Commissioners in Columbus. He specializes in nineteenth. The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media (2001). Steven R. and development framing modern state formation in Mexico. Italian Style: Screen Performance and Personality in Italian Cinema (2008). She has published widely on film and culture. and Gramsci (1994). which appeared in Telos (Spring 1984). Film. David F. Italian Film (2000). Esteve Morera is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Political Science at York University.” with an introduction. state theory. Economic Representations: Academic and Everyday (2008).xii  Contributors Marcia Landy is Distinguished Professor in English/Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Adam David Morton is Associate Professor of Political Economy and fellow of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) at the University of Nottingham. He is currently working on a series of articles on Marxism and philosophy. His most recent books include Postmodern Moments in Modern Economics (with Jack Amariglio. Among his academic publications is a translation. His next book is Revolution and State in Modern Mexico: The Political Economy of Uneven Development (2011). He is the author of The View from Vesuvius: Italian Culture and the Southern Question (2002). with Livio Alchini. Her books include Fascism in Film: The Italian Commercial Cinema. Ruccio is Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Gramsci Historicism: A Realist Interpretation (1990) and of a number of articles on Gramsci and Vico.and twentieth-century Italian cultural studies. Politics. Columbia University. with a focus on literary and cinematic representations of the South and of the Mafia. . and the United States. with Lucy Fischer (2004). 1931–1943 (1986). and Stardom. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (2005). Stars: The Film Reader. His research interests include Marxist political economy. 1930–1943 (1998). ranging from the analysis of the concept of materialism to human nature and Gramsci’s views about philosophy. Nelson Moe is Associate Professor of Italian at Barnard College. Daniel O’Connell is Emeritus Professor of English at Hobart and William Smith College and author of The Opposition of Critics (1974). His scholarly interests include literary theory and the work of James Joyce. His current research interests include social welfare and health policy. The Folklore of Consensus: Theatricality in the Italian Cinema. and Development and Globalization: A Marxian Class Analysis (2010). Italy. He is a founding member of Rethinking Marxism and served as the editor from 1997 to 2009. 2003). UK. Ohio. He has given talks on Antonio Gramsci and Marxian theory in Australia. of “Gramsci’s Notes on Language.

Spanos is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at SUNY-Binghamton. . 2002). He has published widely on cultural studies and the politics of education. 2009). including America’s Shadow: An Anatomy of Empire (2000). His recent books include Everyday Exchanges: Marketwork and Capitalist Common Sense (1998). American Exceptionalism in the Age of Globalization (2008). Managed Choice. University of London. He has written extensively on the current global capitalist crisis (see www. Herman Melville and the American Calling (2009). Following his long-standing interest in Gramsci. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. Richard D. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He has recently published several articles on gift-giving in Sardinia and a mono- graph on the work of the late Danish anthropologist Andreas F. Capitalism Hits the Fan (2010). Evan Watkins is Professor of English at the University of California. and Who’s Paying Attention? Literacy Work and an Attention Economy (forthcoming). com) including the book. Resnick including Economics: Marxian Versus Neoclassical (1987). and In the Neighborhood of Zero: A World War II Memoir (2010). Class Degrees: Smart Work. and New Departures in Marxian Theory (2006). He has co-authored many arti- cles and books with Stephen A. Contributors  xiii William V. Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR (2002). Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy (1987). He is the author of a number of books. Wolff is Emeritus Professor of Economics. He is founding editor of the journal boundary 2 and author of numerous articles on modern and postmodern literature and theory. W. he is now researching on connections between subalterns/Dalits based on the polit- ical philosophies of Gramsci and Ambedkar. Davis. University of Massachusetts Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. and the Transformation of Higher Education (2008). Bentzon (Dialoghi Nulesi. where he was awarded a PhD in Social Anthropology (The Rishi of Bangladesh. Cosimo Zene is Reader in the Department of the Study of Religions. Said (2009). The Legacy of Edward W.rdwolff.

vol. The idea of this anthology emerged over several years in conversations with David F. 1 no. reprinted by permission of the publisher: Annunziato. 2 (2000) Green.Acknowledgments I wish to thank all of the authors who contributed to this volume and the Association for Economic and Social Analysis (AESA) for granting permis- sion to reprint these articles. vol. vol. Frank R. 1 (2006) Childers. Joseph W. informaworld. Green The publishers and editor would like to thank Taylor and Francis Ltd (www. Joseph A. and Steven R. Carlos Nelson. Of Prison Notebooks and the Restoration of an Archive. Dante. 4 no. The Prison Notebooks: Antonio Gramsci’s Work in Progress. and Cultural Criticism. I want to thank Nicola Parkin and Craig Fowlie at Routledge for taking on and supporting the idea of the book. Gramsci Cannot Speak: Presentations and Interpretations of Gramsci’s Concept of the Subaltern. 20 no. co-sponsored by AESA. 2 (1988) Boothman. vol. Adam David Morton. 18 no. Mansfield provided valuable comments and suggestions at various stages of the project. 1 (1991) Buttigieg. Marcus E. Paul. Marcus E. and Gramsci. 12 no. vol. Gramsci’s Theory of Trade Unionism. The Sources for Gramsci’s Concept of Hegemony. Ruccio and Joseph A. ideas. and its conferences. 2 (2008) Bové. 18 no. vol. Gramsci. I have benefited immensely from their friendship. 14 no. 1 (2006) Coutinho. for granting permission to use the following copyright material from Rethinking Marxism. Jacinda Swanson. Hegel. vol. This book would not have been possible without the rich intellectual community that has developed out of Rethinking Marxism. have provided a venue for the activities of the International Gramsci Society in the United States. 3 (2002) . Peter Ives. The journal’s commitment to critical Marxian theory and analysis has created a forum for Gramsci scholars. and support of the project. General will and democracy in Rousseau. Buttigieg regarding the presence of Gramscian scholarship in Rethinking Marxism. The final completion of the manuscript was supported by a Summer Writing Award from the Humanities Advisory Committee at Otterbein University.

vol. 1 (1994) Morton. William V. vol. 3 (1991) Mansfield. 1 (2006) Spanos. 19 no. vol. 1 (2011) Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders for their permission to reprint material in this book. 1 (1992) Haug. from Gramsci to Marx: Historical Materialism and the Philosophy of Praxis. Richard D. Bloom and Babbitt: A Gramscian View. 6 no. 1 (2006) Landy. 15 no. Socialist Education Today: Pessimism or Optimism of the Intellect?. 6 no. Stuart. Gramscian Politics and Capitalist Common Sense. The Mammoth Task of Translating Gramsci. Fritz Wolfgang. Race. Gramsci. and Philosophy. vol. Self-consciousness of the Dalits as ‘Subalterns’. vol. vol. 18 no. Steven R. 2 no. Cosimo. vol. Marxism. Gramsci’s critical modernity. 2 (2003) O’Connell. Richard. Production and Its Others: Gramsci’s “Sexual Question”. 13 no. The publishers would be grateful to hear from any copyright holder who is not here acknowledged and will undertake to rectify any errors or omissions in future editions of this book. 2 (1989) Zene. Cuvier’s Little Bone: Joseph Buttigieg’s English Edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. Marcia. From Ethico-political Hegemony to Postmarxism. 11 no. 2 (2007) Ives. 1 (2006) Watkins. vol. Unfinished Business: Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. . 1 (2001) Howson. Adam David. vol. 3 (1993) Wolff. 12 no. vol. 3-4 (1990) Morera. Acknowledgments  xv Hall. Evan. Social Forces in the Struggle over Hegemony: Neo-Gramscian Perspectives in International Political Economy. vol. Nelson. 18 no. 1 (1992) Ruccio. David R. Esteva. From Marx to Gramsci. vol. 23 no. 3 no. 4 no. Gramsci and the Dialectic: Resisting “EnCrocement”. 18 no. vol. Peter. 5 no. vol. 2 (1992) Moe. vol. Daniel. and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies. Culture.


which is included in this collection. The project of Rethinking Marxism emerged from the work of Professors Stephen A. non-essentialist class analysis. along with the exploration and articulation of the philosoph- ical positions that shape Marxian analyses. and politics. culture. maintain a “multi. Wolff at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Rethinking Marxism drew upon Louis Althusser’s notion of “over- determination” to bring into focus the intersection of economics. political. society.2 Initially. In rethinking Marxian epistemology and methodology from a non-determinist perspective. and contribute to the development of non-determinist Marxism.1 and the journal’s record of broad and critical focus on Gramscian thought is unsurpassed by any other English-language journal. it has paid considerable attention to the work of the Italian Marxian theorist and activist Antonio Gramsci. Resnick and Wolff (1987) call into question the deterministic theories of knowledge. In their approach to Marxian theory.and cross-disciplinary” focus (8). history. . and society prevalent in orthodox forms of Marxism. Rethinking Marxism has become one of the leading journals of critical Marxian thought in the world. the Editorial Board (1988) explained that the journal would “serve as a forum for the current resurgence of interest in Marxism. Since its founding in 1988. In its project of rethinking Marxian theory from a non- determinist and non-dogmatic perspective. 2008. Recognizing that the concept had already received varied interpre- tations.” particularly in the United States (5).3 However. In the inaugural issue of Rethinking Marxism. The journal has published over three dozen articles on Gramsci’s writings by leading scholars from around the globe. and to the articulation of a distinct Marxian philosophy. the Editorial Board broadly conceived “overdetermination” as a way to move beyond essentialist and deterministic conceptions of political economy by emphasizing the multi-relational aspects of economic and social processes (Erçel et al. The school of non-determinist Marxian thought that developed out of Resnick and Wolff’s work – and out of Rethinking Marxism – has emphasized the analysis of the interconnection of economic. and cultural processes. Green This volume brings together twenty-two seminal essays on Antonio Gramsci previ- ously published in the journal Rethinking Marxism.Introduction Rethinking Marxism and rethinking Gramsci Marcus E. the journal’s focus on the interconnection of social processes drew more heavily from Althusser’s conception of “overdetermi- nation” than from Gramsci’s concepts of hegemony or historical bloc. in an article that appeared early in the project. Ruccio 2009). Resnick and Richard D.

2  Marcus E. Green
Richard D. Wolff argues that Gramsci’s “profoundly important” contribution
to Marxism is the demonstration of “the complex, mutual interaction between
philosophy and epistemology, on the one hand, and politics and economics, on the
other” (1989, 41). For Wolff, Gramsci’s non-determinist epistemology provides
the basis for a non-dogmatic methodological approach to social theory and anal-
ysis that emphasizes the intricate and multifaceted relations among intercon-
nected social processes. In Wolff’s words: “To understand any event means to
grasp how it occurs as the effect of all the other events in its environment and how
it is simultaneously a contributing cause of all of them. Marxist analysis must be,
for Gramsci, the specification of the complex, infinitely sided reciprocity linking
and ceaselessly changing all events” (50).
In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci carries out a systematic rethinking of Marxism
that includes a consistent criticism of positivist and determinist formulations
of Marxian thought. In Gramsci’s view, positivism and economic determinism
deradicalized and distorted Marxism by separating philosophy from practical
activity. In Gramsci’s view, the philosophical basis of economic determinism was
founded upon a method of abstraction that separated social theory from the prac-
tical activity of history, in that it developed transhistorical nomological principles
external to human practice. In Gramsci’s view, abstract formulations that over-
look the specificity of history and politics obscure the phenomena of political life
and, in turn, inhibit radical political activity. Because of these apparent deforma-
tions and deradicalizations of Marxism, Gramsci sought to formulate a historicist
method of social research that separated itself from speculative, metaphysical,
and objectivist notions and focused on the practical aspects of politics and history.
Gramsci conceived the methodology of Marxism as a “philosophy of praxis,”
in which abstract concepts and categories are expressed in historical language
and account for specific concrete situations and activity. Gramsci described the
method of the philosophy of praxis as “living philology,” which signifies “the
methodological expression” of ascertaining and specifying particular facts in their
unique historical individuality and requires a “systematic exposition” of the prac-
tical standards for the research and interpretation of politics and history (Q11§25,
Q16§3; Gramsci 1971, 427–30, 414–15).4 Following this view of Marxism,
Gramsci formulates his theoretical concepts, categories, and generalizations
based upon the investigation and observation of particular, concrete, and prac-
tical events and pieces of information and how they relate to broader relations,
developments, and structures. In other words, Gramsci’s concepts and generaliza-
tions are “historically determined,” meaning that they are founded on concrete
historical practices rather than abstract or speculative notions.
In the current revitalization and rethinking of Marxism, especially after 1989,
Gramsci has emerged as an important figure. It is his open, transdisciplinary way
of thinking – particularly his refusal to replace concrete social and political anal-
ysis with reductionist theoretical models – that continues to generate international
and contemporary attention. As Fabio Frosini (2008) recently remarked, given
the amount of critical literature published on Gramsci in the last twenty years, it
is possible to speak of a “world-wide Gramsci renaissance” (674), and according
to Eric J. Hobsbawm (2010), Gramsci is “perhaps the most well-known and

Rethinking Marxism and rethinking Gramsci  3
influential Italian thinker of the [twentieth] century” (7). In fact, the international
Gramsci bibliography, Bibliografia Gramsciana, maintained by the Fondazione
Istituto Gramsci in Rome, includes nearly 16,000 titles in at least 27 languages on
Gramsci’s life and work.5
The idea of “rethinking Gramsci” in the title of this book is an homage to
Rethinking Marxism but is also intended to evoke the idea of rethinking Gramsci in
various politico-historical contexts, and to the idea of rethinking Gramsci, partic-
ularly in English-reading scholarship, in light of Joseph A. Buttigieg’s project
of publishing the complete English translation of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks.
Gramsci’s contributions to social and political theory continue to draw interest
across political and historical contexts due to the insights they generate in under-
standing the politics of the present. In 1947, when Gramsci’s prison letters were
first published in Italy, Benedetto Croce remarked that Gramsci attempted “to
form a historical and philosophical perspective adequate to the problems of the
present” (86). Even though the circumstances in which Gramsci conceived his
ideas are far removed from the conditions of the present, Gramsci’s method of
analysis provides an example of how to think about the complexities of modern
politics and society. As Stuart Hall pointed out in his influential article “Gramsci
and Us” (1987), it is not that “Gramsci ‘has the answers’ or ‘holds the key’ to our
present troubles,” but rather to “‘think’ our problems in a Gramscian way” offers
insights in analyzing the nature of political life and the specificity of the historical
conjuncture (Hall 1987, 16). However, the point is not – as many chapters in
this volume warn – to transfer Gramsci’s account of politics directly to our own,
but rather to “translate” his philosophical and theoretical insights to the analysis
of the changing conditions of the present. The idea of “translating” theoretical
language conceived in one context to another is Gramscian in itself and requires
a continual rethinking of past and present conditions from one context to the next
and adapting one’s theoretical perspective according to changing socio-political
conditions and circumstances.6 The fact that Gramsci’s ideas continue to elicit
attention and generate analyses of situations that transcend his own context raises
the issue of his status as a classic thinker. As the late Antonio Santucci (2010)
noted, “it is common to regard as a genuine classic that which resists context-
contingency and continues to be the basis of dialogue in subsequent generations,
despite being an expression of another time” (165–6).7
The publication of the complete and critical English translation of Gramsci’s
Prison Notebooks, although not yet complete, has presented the opportunity to
rethink Gramsci in the Anglophone world.8 A philologically accurate translation
of Gramsci’s prison notebooks provides the necessary foundation to see how he
worked, to follow the rhythm of his thought, and to see how he reached his conclu-
sions. As I discuss in further detail below, five chapters included in this volume
address the significance of Joseph A. Buttigieg’s translation of Gramsci’s note-
books. Although many commentators have derided the Prison Notebooks for their
fragmentary, unfinished, and elliptical character, as a text the Prison Notebooks
are in fact the embodiment of Gramsci’s method. Gramsci’s scrupulous attention
to detail and the particular is apparent throughout the Prison Notebooks, and the
complexity and open-ended nature of the Prison Notebooks attest to Gramsci’s

4  Marcus E. Green
methodological commitment. Gramsci’s overarching inquiry into Italian history,
politics, and culture – which includes analyses of Italian customs, cultural prac-
tices, literature, philosophy, common sense, folklore, intellectuals and the relation
between state and civil society – demonstrates his attempt to discern the meaning
of particular social processes in relation to a broader ensemble of social relations.
As a journal, Rethinking Marxism has distinguished itself in Gramscian
scholarship by its record of publishing articles on Gramsci from a variety of
academic disciplines that follow this methodological approach and demonstrate
how particular social processes and events interconnect with a broad ensemble
of social relations. The articles that comprise this collection illustrate the emer-
gence of Gramsci’s importance in the revitalization of Marxism, the multidisci-
plinary nature of Gramsci’s contributions to Marxian theory, as well as Gramsci’s
relevance to contemporary debates in political and social theory. The articles
were written in the period from 1988 to 2010 and address a variety of issues in
Gramsci’s work. Rather than arranging the chapters in chronological order, I have
organized the book in four sections, according to particular themes and applica-
tions of Gramsci’s thought.
The first section of the book includes four chapters on cultural studies, litera-
ture, and criticism. The section opens with Stuart Hall’s chapter “Race, Culture,
and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies.”
Even though he does not explicitly refer to Gramsci’s work in this instance,
Hall describes his innovative Gramscian approach to cultural studies. As Hall
writes, “cultural studies insists on the necessity to address the central, urgent,
and disturbing questions of a society and culture in the most rigorous intellec-
tual way we have available.” The chapters by Paul Bové and Daniel O’Connell
address Gramsci’s observations on literature and criticism. Bové’s chapter focuses
specifically on Gramsci’s reading of Canto X of Dante’s Inferno. Bové shows
that Gramsci’s alternative reading of Canto X provides insights into Gramsci’s
cultural and political concerns regarding representation and leadership. In his
chapter, O’Connell contrasts Gramsci’s views on Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt with
James Joyce’s character Leopold Bloom from Ulysses. Through an examina-
tion of the two characters’ national and class positions, O’Connell sheds light on
Gramsci’s broader comparison of American and European intellectuals, culture,
and political economy. Following Stuart Hall’s suggestion of thinking our prob-
lems in a “Gramscian way,” Marcia Landy rethinks the idea of “socialist educa-
tion” in capitalist societies, utilizing Gramsci’s concept of “common sense” as a
basis to examine existing intellectual positions and practices. As Landy argues,
it is necessary to “explore, identify, and criticize – not prescribe – the various
elements that constitute common sense” in order to initiate the struggle for “good
sense” and to explore the possibilities of alternative political formations.
The second section of the book includes chapters that address the explication and
application of Gramsci’s major concepts. The first chapter in the section by Derek
Boothman provides a meticulous analysis of the sources of Gramsci’s concept of
hegemony, which has been a contentious issue in Gramscian studies, especially
since the publication of Perry Anderson’s article “The Antinomies of Antonio
Gramsci” (1976) and Franco Lo Piparo’s book Lingua, intellettuali e egemonia

Rethinking Marxism and rethinking Gramsci  5
in Gramsci (1979). In my contribution, “Gramsci Cannot Speak: Presentations
and Interpretations of Gramsci’s Concept of the Subaltern,” I provide an expli-
cation of Gramsci’s concept of the “subaltern” within the overall project of the
Prison Notebooks. In his chapter, Cosimo Zene criticizes the Subaltern Studies
project for largely ignoring the experience of Dalits in its rethinking of South
Asian history. In a somewhat similar approach to Landy, Evan Watkins takes up
the Gramscian notion of “common sense” as a way to inventory and begin to
demystify the contradictions in everyday economic practices that are reinforced
by “capitalist common sense.” In “Gramsci’s Theory of Trade Unionism,” which
happens to be the first article Rethinking Marxism published on Gramsci, Frank R.
Annunziato examines Gramsci’s views on trade unionism in relation to his party
activity and the factory council movement. As Annunziato points out, the signifi-
cance of Gramsci’s political activity prior to his imprisonment is often ignored or
minimized in intellectual discussions of Gramsci’s work. In a close reading of the
notes “On Some Aspects of the Sexual Question” from Notebook 22, the thematic
notebook on Americanism and Fordism, Nelson Moe examines “how Gramscian
and feminist approaches to the politics of culture might productively feed off
one another.” In an application of Gramsci’s writings to global politics, Adam
David Morton shows how neo-Gramscian perspectives in international political
economy provide an alternative to mainstream international relations theory by
presenting a critical theory of hegemony that focuses on social forces, relations of
production, the state, and the global economic order. In response to the criticism
that post-Marxism is incapable of producing effective radical politics, Richard
Howson argues that post-Marxists must re-engage with the ethical-political
foundations of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony to develop a national-popular
consciousness capable of transcending the pluralism of identity politics that post-
Marxism often reinforces.
The third section of the book includes articles on Gramsci’s political philos-
ophy and relationship to Marxism. The section opens with Richard D. Wolff’s
chapter “Gramsci, Marxism, and Philosophy,” which I discussed above. This is
followed by Carlos Nelson Coutinho’s chapter. In considering Gramsci’s political
thought within the tradition of modern political philosophy, Coutinho argues that
“Gramsci was in dialogue not only with Marx and Lenin, or Machiavelli (which
is unequivocal), but also, if at times implicitly, with other great names of modern
political philosophy – Rousseau and Hegel in particular.” Coutinho shows how
Gramsci draws upon and overcomes the limits of Rousseau’s notion of “general
will” and Hegel’s notion of “universal will” with the notion of “national-popular
collective will” and the concept of hegemony. The chapter by Wolfgang Fritz Haug
examines Gramsci’s conception of the “philosophy of praxis.” Haug argues that
Gramsci’s interpretation of Marxism as a philosophy of praxis “wipes out [the]
fatalistic evolutionisms, objectivisms, and the false guarantees of a philosophy
of history, which have residually afflicted Marxian thinking and which grew like
mildew on the official Marxisms.” Haug argues that by reintroducing a dialectical
approach to Marxian thinking, Gramsci was able to develop the philosophy of
praxis in coordination with three concrete fields of investigation: the systematic
study of political and cultural foundations, the formation of “popular-national”

6  Marcus E. Green
literature and culture, and the analysis of modes of production, particularly the
analysis of Americanism and Fordism. Through an explication of Gramsci’s
notion of the dialectic and his critique of Benedetto Croce, Steven R. Mansfield
responds to the arguments that, on the one hand, Gramsci retains an essentialist
understanding of politics that limits the articulation of identity and difference, and,
on the other, that Gramsci retained an understanding of the dialectic that did not
transcend Crocean idealism. Mansfield argues that “Gramsci’s dialectics is funda-
mentally different from Croce’s” and that the dialectic of identity and difference
is central to Gramsci’s understandings of hegemony, historical bloc, and political
struggle. Although there appears to be many similarities between Gramsci’s ideas
in the Prison Notebooks and the ideas of various postmodern thinkers, such as
questions concerning knowledge, ideology, and science, Esteve Morera argues
that “Gramsci remained a modern thinker” and retained modernist concepts, such
as epistemological realism, objectivity, and integral history. Morera notes that
his reading of Gramsci differs from Resnick and Wolff’s (1987) reading, and his
interpretation of Gramsci’s epistemology differs from the interpretation that Wolff
presents in the first chapter of this section.
The fourth and final section draws together a group of articles on the translation
and organization of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. The articles specifically address
Buttigieg’s critical English translation of Gramsci’s complete Prison Notebooks
(1992, 1996, 2007). When finished, Buttigieg’s edition will make available for
the first time a complete English translation of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks and
provide a philologically accurate representation of Gramsci’s work in English. The
chapters in this section developed out of a symposium on Buttigieg’s translation
at the 2003 Rethinking Marxism International Conference held at the University
of Massachusetts Amherst. David Ruccio writes that reading the critical edition
of the Prison Notebooks presented “the discovery of a new Gramsci” for him,
the discovery of new concepts, contexts, themes, and applications. In particular,
Ruccio discusses how Gramsci’s concept of hegemony “can be utilized to illu-
minate contemporary issues and problems,” such as the global justice movement
and the Bush administration’s ascendance to power. Joseph W. Childers discusses
how Buttigieg’s translation revives Gramsci’s work and how Buttigieg’s critical
apparatus allows the reader “to see how intimately connected Gramsci’s notes are
– how ideas develop and change over time, and in the face of enormously oppres-
sive material circumstances.” Peter Ives considers Buttigieg’s translation of the
Prison Notebooks in light of Gramsci’s own views on translation. Ives points out
that for Gramsci translation is not merely the transmission of information from
one language to another but is also a metaphor “for political and cultural analysis,
for reading Marx, and for revolution itself.” Thus, as Ives argues, translation in the
wider sense ultimately includes a political project of cross-cultural analysis and
alteration. In his chapter, William V. Spanos focuses on Buttigieg’s discussion of
Gramsci’s method in the introduction to volume 1 of the Prison Notebooks (1992)
to highlight the importance of the “structural principle” of the notebooks them-
selves. In following Buttigieg’s point that the fragmentariness of the notebooks is
not an impediment to be overcome, Spanos points out that the seemingly disparate
topics of Gramsci’s notes are in fact indicative of his open-ended, aporetic, and

Rethinking Marxism and rethinking Gramsci  7
“transdisciplinary mode of inquiry.” In elaborating on this idea, Buttigieg explains
that the fragmentariness of Gramsci’s notebooks does not necessarily distort their
meaning, but rather that the incompleteness of the notebooks themselves illus-
trate the “patently decentered, open, tentative, provisional, exploratory” nature of
Gramsci’s project. It is Gramsci’s openness and attention to particular phenomena,
rather than a desire to define a system of thought, that enriches his work. As
Buttigieg points out, Gramsci viewed philology as the methodology suitable to
the philosophy of praxis, for its insistence on the importance of the particular. In
picking up on Ives’ observation regarding translation, Buttigieg notes that transla-
tion involves a “double move” that implies a rethinking of the text and context:
“it brings the translated author into the present conjuncture, and it simultaneously
brings to bear on the author the discourse of the current reader and interpreter.” As
the chapters in this section demonstrate, Buttigieg’s edition has marked the begin-
ning of a new phase of Gramscian studies in the Anglophone world, in which
scholars have begun to rethink Gramsci, the complexity of his writing, and his
interweaving analyses of economics, society, politics, and culture.The incorpora-
tion of Gramscian insights into the project of Rethinking Marxism demonstrates
his importance in the revitalization of Marxism. The chapters included in this
volume illustrate the multidisciplinary nature of Gramscian thought in the context
of Rethinking Marxism, and how thinking in a Gramscian way can produce new
understandings of the intersection of economic, political, and cultural processes.
As long as Gramsci’s writings continue to generate insight into analyses of the
present conjuncture, he will remain an important thinker. However, such a process
requires a continual rethinking of Gramsci and of the historical materialities of the
past and present.

1 See the list of articles in the Appendix.
2 The historical details of Rethinking Marxism are included in Erçel et al. (2008), which
consists of interviews with Jack Amariglio, the editor of RM from 1988 to 1997, and
David Ruccio, the editor from 1997 to 2009.
3 It is worth noting that Althusser perceived serious theoretical differences between his
understanding of Marxism and Gramsci’s. See Althusser (1969, 1970), Haug (1999a),
and Thomas (2009).
4 The majority of the chapters in this volume adopt the international standard of citing
the critical editions of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1975, 1992, 1996, 2007) by using
the letter “Q” to identify the notebook number and the section symbol (§) to iden-
tify the note number (Q is in reference to the Italian word for notebook, Quaderno).
These references are often followed by specific page numbers. A concordance table
that cross-references the critical edition with the major English-language anthologies
of the Prison Notebooks is available on the International Gramsci Society website:
5 The Bibliografia Gramsciana was created by the late John M. Cammett and currently
edited by Francesco Giasi and Maria Luisa Righi. See Cammett (1991) and Cammett
and Righi (1995). The searchable online version is available at www.fondazione-
6 On Gramsci’s views on translation and on his notion of translatability, see the chapter
by Peter Ives in this volume and Ives and Lacorte (2010), especially the chapters by

8  Marcus E. Green
Derek Boothman and Fabio Frosini. Also see Adam David Morton’s (2007) critique
of austere historicism and of the commentators who claim Gramsci’s relevance is
constrained by his politico-historical context (15–38).
7 On Gramsci’s status as a classic, also see Gerratana (1997) and Buttigieg (2009).
8 As of this date, three volumes of the planned five-volume critical English translation of
the complete Prison Notebooks have been published (Gramsci 1992, 1996 and 2007).
Buttigieg’s edition provides an English translation of the critical Italian edition of the
notebooks, Quaderni del carcere (1975), edited by Valentino Gerratana.

Part I Culture and criticism .


In this latter enterprise. “Cultural Studies” came much more naturally. the students of the enterprise. “Institute. Well. especially in the United States – there’s not a touch of envy about that – where they’ve come to provide a focal point for interdisciplinary studies and research. preferring it to. so to speak. that had a more informal. or where cultural processes anticipate social change. which are always whole ways of life. Our questions about culture – and I won’t attempt to provide any kind of comprehen- sive definition of the term – were concerned with the changing ways of life of societies and groups and the networks of meanings that individuals and groups use to make sense of and to communicate with one another: what Raymond Williams once called whole ways of communicating.” he suggested. There was little of the concern that Richard Hoggart and I had in questions of culture. These were our concerns. the dirty crossroads where popular culture intersects with the high arts. and for the development . Well. culture. It was about as broad as we could make it. that sounded suitably grand and austere. though they refused to name let alone to theorize or conceptualize culture. the English on whom we wished to turn our inquiring. besides. but this was a pretty abstract thing. Social sciences. the two of us. on the other hand. what about “Centre”? Yes. who consti- tuted at that time the entire faculty and indeed. Today cultural studies programs exist everywhere. could not find it in our hearts to take ourselves that seriously. Of course. no such thing as cultural studies yet existed. composed of networks of abstract norms and values. and we settled for that. thereby we ensured that no department in either the humanities or social sciences who thought that they had already taken care of culture could fail to feel affronted by our presence. history. and the fine arts in our faculties of arts were dedicated to the preservation of the cultural heritage. at least. the departments of languages. The question was where to study them? At that time we taught no anthropology at Birmingham and. But to be honest. literature. dealt sometimes with what they were pleased to call the “cultural system”. that place where power cuts across knowledge. and communications Looking backward and forward at cultural studies Stuart Hall When I first went to the University of Birmingham in 1964 to help Professor Richard Hoggart found the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. we succeeded.” I remember sitting in Richard Hoggart’s room discussing what we should call ourselves. seep through by a process of academic osmosis. ethnographic gaze had not yet learned to conceive of themselves as “the natives. rallying-point feel to it.1 Race.

the Americanization of our culture. That is to say. In this last aspect we could see the old imperial dream. at arms length and overseas. It represents something. it represents. and disorderly world. of Britain’s cities. of their social and political existence. Each program. the exposure of the settled habits and conventions and languages of an old class culture to the disturbing fluidity of new money and new social relationships. pushing for new ques- tions. First. though university scholars are not always happy to be reminded of it. urgent. completing the triangle that had connected Africa. It is the sort of necessary irritant in the shell of academic life that one hopes will. Cultural studies. In the after- math of World War II British society and culture were changing very rapidly and fundamentally. of the new black British diasporas of permanent settlement. and disturbing ques- tions of a society and a culture in the most rigorous intellectual way we have available. discordant. Cultural studies was. therefore. of the weakening of the traditional boundaries among the disciplines and of the growth of forms of interdisciplinary research that don’t easily fit. cultural studies constitutes one of the points of tension and change at the frontiers of intellectual and academic life. leading to the formation. the birth of the youth cultures. within the confines of the existing divisions of knowledge. Cultural studies provided answers to the long process of Britain’s decline as a world superpower. above all. argument and debate about a society and about its own culture. sometime in the future. in my view. new models. at last coming home to roost. where everyday social change exists out there. the dilution of the United Kingdom’s very homogeneous social population by the influx of peoples from the new Commonwealth. as yet in my view uncompleted and unrequited in English life. one of the principal functions of a university. and the Asian subcontinent especially. second. of . reflects the rapidly shifting ground of thought and knowledge. and new ways of study. The paradox was that this coming-home-to-roost of the old empire was happening at exactly the moment when Britain was trying to “cut the umbilical cord. produce new pearls of wisdom. indeed. in the first place precisely that. the metropolitan society. and the Caribbean over such a long time. a point of disturbance. As such. inevitably. as is appropriate. Such a vocation is. cultural studies tries in its small way to insist on what I want to call the vocation of the intellectual life. which had been dealt with. the Caribbean. It oper- ates both inside and outside the academy. But. or can’t be contained. a place of necessary tension and change in at least two senses. in each place. cultural studies insists on the necessity to address the central.” and also at the moment when Britain was experiencing the cultural trauma. at the very heart and center of British cultural life. It is an activity of intellectual self-reflection. wherever it exists. the postwar expansion of the new means of mass communication. so to speak. It also investigated the impact of modern mass consumption and modern mass society. joins together a different range of disciplines in adapting itself to the existing academic and intellectual environment.12  Stuart Hall of critical theory. in insisting that academics sometimes attend to the practical life. testing the fine lines between intel- lectual rigor and social relevance. in thrusting onto the attention of scholarly reflection and critical analysis the hurly burly of a rapidly changing.

that we could see. its cultural life. that was the vocation of cultural studies. And nobody. It is not my purpose to review its history nor. indeed. There may undoubt- edly be. That is. Now. let alone right and proper. Of course. the question of race had permeated the whole history of imperialism and the contacts established over five centuries between Britain and peoples of the world. and invisible of objects: the cultural forms and practices of a society. if readers will forgive the simile. or who were experts in colonial history and administration. someone from England trying to tell audiences in the United States about race is a little bit like carrying coals to Newcastle. turned into an act of critical reflection. most delicate. It seemed to have no active purchase as a contempo- rary theme in understanding British twentieth-century culture. general mechanisms in common across the globe that are associated with the practices of racism. But in each society. which has marked my own intellectual development and my own intellectual work ever since. Well. and concep- tual theorization one can muster. in this enterprise. One thing that cultural studies has taught me is. urgent question of race in contemporary English culture at all. That is what cultural studies in Britain was about. the maximum mobilization of all the knowledge. and turned on the most important. not to speak of racism in the singular. and those who had been involved in studying the antislavery movement. culture and communications  13 the loss of an old imperial identity and role and the difficulty of discovering a new cultural and national identity. to comment on the role of the Centre for Cultural Studies. yet. one of the things that cultural studies has taught me is. Nobody thought it worthwhile. was studying this revolution seriously. kaleidoscopic cultural terrain the search light of critical. which is not afraid to speak truth to conventional knowledge. and I think there are. Though readers today might find it hard to believe. a kind of cultural revolution was taking place in front of our eyes. The history of the rise of Britain as a commercial and global power could not have been told without encountering the fact of race. And. which has already . setting up new disturbances. and unique ways. all those sociohistorical changes we could see were profoundly and to the roots transforming English culture: shifting the boundaries that had made the contours of daily existence familiar to people. those who looked at the family fortunes that had made possible the growing revolution of the eighteenth century. and communications. the importance of historical specificity. particular. but of racisms in the plural. Race. In short. indeed. and letting loose those profound anxieties that always accompany radical social change. Perhaps readers will better understand what I’ve been saying if I take an example. to turn on this dramati- cally shifting. and these specificities influence its dynamic and have real effects that differ from one society to another. But I would insist on this starting point. in which I worked for over fourteen years. in the early 1960s when cultural studies began there was apparently no visible. I would insist on the tension characteristic in this work. indeed. racism has a specific history that presents itself in specific. culture. The one I’ve chosen is the work I’ve been involved with in the area of race. critical rigor. But it was very largely relegated to the past and those who studied it: those who studied the Atlantic slave trade. Now. analytic attention. thought. of the specificity of each cultural configuration and pattern.

to the diamond jubilees. a defensive and besieged form. it carried. The way in which English masculinity. in systems of belief. all the conno- tations that racism has had elsewhere: of an alien culture and peoples who are less civilized than the native ones. and sometimes by genetic inheritance. it had also acquired specifically different forms. and so forth – had been orchestrated around the theater. One reason they gave for doing so was that they wanted their children to have a Christian education. they simply regarded Christianity as an essential part of the English cultural heritage. itself. They regarded the Anglican Church as part of the English way of life. as the threads of cotton that kept the cotton mills going. in the media. Christian believers at all.” The ways in which the colonizing experience had. rather like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. not simply on the playing fields of Eaton but in the foothills of Hyderabad or facing down the howling dervishes in the Sudan.” It was the great migrations of the 1950s and 1960s from the Caribbean and from the Asian continent and the formation of black communities at the heart of English experience that brought the theme of racism in a new form to life again.” That is to say. the differences in culture. indeed. And I can give readers an example of what I’m calling cultural racism. was pleased to call. had proved itself. in the new forms of racism that emerged in Britain in this period. defined by race. Two years ago the white parents of a school in Dewsbury in Yorkshire withdrew their children from a predominantly black state school. these earlier forms have been powerfully transformed by what people normally call a new form of “cultural racism. And what one sees here is the fact.” and from other societies. the existence of racism contracting new relationships with a particular form. by color. as the cup of cocoa that sweetened the dreams of every English child – these things had been somehow relegated to the past and suppressed as an active cultural question. The way in which the popular culture of English society – from advertising to the music halls. . And when it emerged. of course. these things had been effectively liquidated from the culture in an active way. what one can only call racism as the cup of tea at the bottom of every English experience. to the heritage industry. as the unstirred spoonful of sugar in every English child’s sweet tooth. as it happens. of a people who stand lower in the order of culture because they are somehow lower in the order of nature. of argument around not “who are the blacks?” but “who are the English?” This question went right to the heart and center of English culture. though it assumed many of the forms we had come to understand by the term “the past. threaded itself through the imaginary of the whole culture. to pageantry. what the then prime minister. They then added that they were not. in ethnic identity and tradition. to celebration. and that have come to define the field in English culture since. now matter more than anything that can be traced to specifically genetic or biological forms of racism. In terms of the way in which the black experience was represented in the culture. “the winds of change. Harold MacMillian. continually reenacted face-to-face with the heart of darkness. the spectacle of empire had been largely forgotten. or the very English drama of corruption and conscience nicely balanced against one another. in ways of life. They had been blown away by. But. to theatrical melo- dramas.14  Stuart Hall been spoken of as “postcolonial. well.

I note a shift. “out there. for example. to coin a phrase. through denial. We wanted to know if the media were simply distorting. of the things that they reflect. and above all. We were alerted to the nature of racial stereotyping. It is not that there is a world outside. I am only able to hint at this transformation here. These provided us with certain methods of analysis and study that were of immense importance to us in the early phase. just pure. as it were. But what cultural studies has helped me to understand is that the media play a part in the formation. the point that I want to make comes across in the ways in which my own understanding of and work on the questions of race and racism have been subsequently transformed by developments within the field of cultural studies itself. through the capacity to say two contradictory things at the same time. It was the silences that told us something. what was apparently unsayable that we needed to attend to. life.” with its twinning and coupling of racial masculinities at the center of its story. what couldn’t be put into frame. “what can content analysis teach you?” well. like “Hill Street Blues” or “Miami Vice. devoured them. So. the repressed content of a culture. borrowed from societies that had confronted these problems much earlier than we had. If you want to ask. invisible form?” You can count lexical items if they’re there.” which exists free of the discourses of representation. like a distorting mirror held up to a reality that existed outside of itself. culture and communications  15 Now. but it is something that I want to do in order to return to my central point below. in England the great society of the understate- ment. in the constitution. we were to discover. as was appropriate then and now. to what people could not say about race. “what about the people who appear to have no content at all – who are just pure form. And cultural studies. The earlier approach led us to ask questions about the accuracy of media representations. and racism were figured and represented in the mass media was one of the problems that confronted us in the Centre for Cultural Studies: how to bring to light the deeper historical traces of race in English culture. What were available to us were principally the models developed in communication studies elsewhere. which worked. and culture. It was what was invisible. in the way in which we understand how the media construct and represent race. rather more like Freud’s dreamwork than like anything else. but you need a different approach if you really want. to the nega- tive imagery of race and ethnicity in the mass media. And that is. to the absence of accounts of the black experience as a central part of the English story. The reality of race in any society is. ethnicity. Every time I watch a popular television narrative. absences – we had to develop a methodology that taught us to attend. to read a society and its culture symptomatically. not only to what people said about race but. What is “out there” is. in part. how to study the many different ways in which these new manifestations of race. which are certainly there. indeed. the surface imagery speaking of an unspeakable content. to the repetition in the mass media of a very simplified and truncated way of representing black history.” And distortions and simplifications of experience. We found that racism expresses itself through displacement. “media-mediated. I have to pinch myself to remind myself . one of the questions you have to ask is. what we had to try to begin to learn to do in face of the logics of racism. Race. constituted by how it is represented. it was what wasn’t there.

All that symbolic and narrative energy and work is directed to secure us “over here” and them “over there. Contrary to the superficial evidence. as myths do. But to gain a privileged access to the dream life of a culture. imperializing power only knows who and what it is and can only experience the pleasure of its own power of domination in and through the construction of the Other. one aspect of racism is. the glances of the Other fix me here. Franz Fanon’s Black Skin. It is not outside. impor- tant books in this field. the attitudes. White Masks: “The movement. that are always refusing to be so neatly stabilized and fixed. It is racism’s very rigidity that is the clue to its complexity. construct the place. the identities. that is the case because its apparent simplicities and rigidities are the things that are impor- tant. we had better know how to unlock the complex ways in which narrative plays across real life.” to fix each in its appointed species place. staggering. And the Other is not out there. My conviction now would be completely different from the conclusion of one graduate student who had come to the Centre to study popular narratives of race. I demanded an explanation. The two are the two sides of the same coin. the trenches. she said. it seems all too simple. the experience.16  Stuart Hall that these narratives are not a somewhat distorted reflection of the real state of race relations in American cities. This is the very profound insight of one of the most startling. nothing . beliefs and conceptions. it masks the complexes of feelings and attitudes. Of course. Once we look at any of these popular narratives which constantly. These narratives function much more. But. You can fight it. My conviction now is that we are only at the begin- ning of a proper understanding of its structures and mechanisms. certainly. there is nothing simple about the structure and the dynamics of racism. light and dark. then we are instantly aware of the complexity of the nature of racism itself. “It’s just so (forgive me) bloody obvious. What they tell us is about the “dream life” of a culture. and chapter seven do. a deep system of defense. primitive and civilized. But you can’t spend a lifetime studying it. There’s nothing more to say. the defensive positions around something that refuses to be tamed and contained by this system of representation. After two years. just say the same thing over again?” I would now give her very different advice from that which I gave her then. it now seems to me. the histo- ries of the different peoples who live within it. colonizing. Once I’ve said it’s a racist text what do chapter five. how necessary “the Other” is to our own sense of identity. and chapter six. but in here. I was indignant. about it. as Claude Lévi-Strauss tells us. It is kind of a waste of time to add another book about a world that absolutely insists on dividing everything it says into good and bad. a black and white symbolic universe. but inside. how even the dominant. in the imagi- nation of a society. symptomatically. They are myths that represent in narrative form the resolution of things that cannot be resolved in real life. And. Its capacity to punctuate the universe into two great opposites masks something else. in the sense in which a chemical solution is fixed by a dye. once you have analyzed or identified this simple logic. that it occupies a world of Manichean opposites: them and us. It is way of marking how deeply our histories actually intertwine and interpenetrate. They are the outworks. The great divisions of racism as a structure of knowledge and representation are also. it is almost too obvious to spend any more time on.

culture and communications  17 happened. its deep ambivalences. to trouble the dreams of those who thought. the good and the bad mother. to know everything about “the different” so that one can control it. the attempt to symbolically expel it to the far side of the universe. unpredictable. the danger. the threat. and of denial. these images represent a fear at the heart of civilization itself of being overrun by the recurrence of a dark savagery. Or. hip undermen who connect Starsky and Hutch to the drug-saturated ghetto. exhibiting this split. madonna and whore – so the representations of Blacks keep. capable of turning nasty or plotting treachery as soon as you turn your back. childlike. The sexually available. a moment ago. of pleasure. Just as so often in the cultures of the West the representation of women has appeared in its split form – the good/bad girl. and hatred implicit in racist representation is not to be denied. At the same time. everything that is different. at different times. the Blacks are simultaneously unreliable. to repress. they are given to singing songs about the prom- ised land. They just won’t be where they ought to be. And side by side with those representations is a discourse that cannot seem to represent nobility or natural dignity or physical grace without summoning up the black primitive. And despite being the object of an infinite benevolence. of playing away. they are. The violence. then. to fix. aggression. of good times. crooks and policemen in any New York cop series. we understand the surreptitious return where that which has been expelled keeps coming back home. given to escaping from us along the freedom trail. as well as the most well-dressed. We come to understand the attempt to suppress and control. Today’s restless native hordes are still alive and well and living as guer- rilla armies and freedom fighters in the Angolan or Namibian bush. For example. How else would they know where to go? The scheming villains and their giant-sized bullyboys of the adventure novel have spilled out into everything that now passes for what we call adventure. the attempt to make what is different an object of the exercise of power. dependent. and undependable. in a society that calls itself Christian. through the symbolic economy of a culture. of defense. And. Devoted. inexplicably in a society predicated on freedom. that differ- ence represents. the attempt to refuse. But we understand very little. The period of nobility of any aging chief or of the natives’ rhythmic force simultane- ously express a nostalgia. Blacks are still the most frightening. in modern advertising. This double syntax of racism – never one thing without the other – is something that we can associate with old images in the mass media. double structure. as yet. a desire in civilized society for an innocence. about its double-sided nature.” We can see in this quotation that in addition to the mechanisms of directed violence and aggression. the tropics. are those other things: the mechanisms of splitting. have become the privileged signifier of the erotic. that they were safe. which are in fact savaged by debt and ravaged by hunger and malnutrition. Race. And so. of projection. They are the necessary fleet-footed. but the problem about the mass media is that old movies keep being made. the old types and the doubleness and the old ambivalence keep turning up on tomorrow’s television screen. which are characteristic of racial stereotyping. an erotic power of the body that has been apparently lost to so-called civilized societies. half-caste slave girl is still . crazy-talking. I burst apart and now the fragments have been put together by another self.

one question. plot treason in the outback and steal away to join ZAPU or the ANC in the bush. and to the production of knowledge that we did not know before. unreliability are always just below the surface. simultaneously also the center of a very special covetous aspiration and admiration. just waiting to bite. . Acknowledgment This chapter is a revised text of a convocation address that I presented in February 1989 on the occasion of having conferred upon me an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. This fear arises as the conse- quence of the fatal coupling of difference and power. But. Tribal men in green khaki. invitations to visit the university. and the societies we live in. though she is. can afford to turn dispassionate eyes away from the problems of race and ethnicity that beset our world. Sri Lanka. for many other people as well. on one hand. And. on this occasion and in the past. the work that cultural studies has to do is to mobilize everything that it can find in terms of intellectual resources in order to understand what keeps making the lives we live. smoldering away on some exotic television set or on the cover of some paperback. the conviction and passion and the devotion to objective interpretation. profoundly and deeply antihumane in their capacity to live with difference. I am particularly grateful to the Department of Communication and to Professor Sut Jhally for providing me. They can still be identified in the faces of black political leaders or ghetto vigilantes around the world.18  Stuart Hall alive and kicking. as is only to be expected. Primitivism. Cultural studies’ message is a message for academics and intellectuals but. savagery. emerges as a lesson for us. to rigorous analysis and understanding. In that sense. I have tried to hold together in my own intellectual life. and no university that wants to hold up its head in the face of the twenty-first century. in that sense. fortunately. to analysis. cunningly plotting the overthrow of civilization. The old country (white version) is often the subject of the nostalgic documentaries on English television: prewar Malaysia. supported by a white chorus line. If you try to analyze racism today in its complex structures and dynamics. the South African veld where hitherto reliable servants. to the passion to find out. on the other hand. old Rhodesia. no doubt. one principle above all. in a sequined gown. I am convinced that no intellectual worth his or her salt. internal fear – of living with difference. It is the fear – the terrifying. guile.

” In sum. rather. In contrast to such a conceptualizing model. that is. and cultural criticism Paul Bové 1 Antonio Gramsci produced several brief but important remarks on Dante. supremely confident in his “vision. rhetorical and literary.” It means. and misunderstand the importance of the problematic of representation to political thought and action. Attention to language is important because it suggests that efforts to “conceptu- alize” Gramsci. and his writing. to think abstractly about his putative “concepts” – such as those of “leadership” or “party” – will always oversimplify.” A close reading of these remarks illustrates not only the importance of culture (and cultural history) in Gramsci’s politics. Such “conceptualizing” also portrays Gramsci as a systematic political philosopher. Such a reading indicates that those commentators who ignore these concerns misunderstand Gramsci. but also his readers’ obligation to give careful and precise attention to language in retheorizing his thinking. his activity.” “maturation. in addition. always reify and academicize the positionality. that Gramsci’s writing is marked by the problematic of representation does not mean that Gramsci is a politically inactive “metatheorist” of the sort that some critics feel (perhaps partly unjustly) can be found among so-called “deconstructors. interventionary character of his intellectual produc- tion and political struggle. as a “mind. such a procedure narrativizes Gramsci’s work in terms of figures of “development. it pictures Gramsci as a “high modernist” intellectual.” or “deepening. formulations of his writing.” in the neo-Kantian or Cassirean mode. The most important of these are to be found in a letter mailed from prison to his sister- in-law. that Gramsci should be seen as a political man who takes seriously . the tactical.2 Dante. Of course.” instantaneous in his apprehension of truth. Tatiana. a reading of Gramsci’s writings on Dante reveals some of how Gramsci reflects upon the problems of representa- tion – semiotic and political – and also how these troubling theoretical reflections find their place in the linguistic. it either aestheticizes Gramsci as a political visionary or normalizes him as a systematic philosopher thinking conceptually and abstractly about matters that can be represented unproblematically in instrumental language. misunderstand the cultural politics of represen- tation within and about which Gramsci writes. and stylistically self-identified in his writing. in which Gramsci theorizes about “political leadership” in rela- tion to the figural problematic of “paternity” and “pedagogy. In other words. Gramsci.

party. Gramsci’s writing on Dante must be read as an inventory of the historical. Gramsci’s struggles. a politically significant battle against ideological enemies as well as the hegemonic constraints of tradition in the idioms of cultural.1 Indeed. and cultural teaching – as well as the real chance for significant political action in these areas of culture. In other words and more specifically. The pedants. His writings would have to be read as contesting for the politically appropriate deployment of the cultur- ally central resources of a tradition that could either constrain or free the future. and political discourse. as a writer (or “activist”) uninterested either in the consequences of language for political expression or in the burdens of culture inscribed within the language culturally aware political activists and theorists inherit from their pasts. Reading Gramsci in this way has consequences: he would no longer be “read” conceptually. S. cultural history – traces within the effects and systems of genealogically burdened representations – traces that need to be acknowledged and dealt with in the very interventions the political person makes within culture. within the sphere of cultural politics. the intellec- tual.20  Paul Bové not only culture and its institutional forms and traditions. pedagogy – shows Gramsci’s testimony to the cultural and historical complexities that inscribe his thinking about matters central to his politics. itself. culturally “inscribed” forms of verbal representation. to exploit. particularly T. that is. 2 Gramsci’s revision of what he calls the pedantic criticism of Dante’s great poem is important. The force of Gramsci’s commitment to make present. cultur- ally enabled. and to overcome the various traces of this specific political-cultural history can be seen by contrast with other powerful modern readers of Dante. Gramsci appears as a political writer producing interventions into culture which themselves carry the inescapable traces of political. Eliot – whose readings of Dante define the international high modernists’ use of his work – and Benedetto Croce – whose book on Dante presents the most important immediate politico-cultural adversary for Gramsci. but also the politico- theoretical consequences – for action and thought – of culturally burdened. critical. to confront. the highly specialized and academic critics of the academy and other high cultural institutions – teachers. political agon staged by his reading of the Inferno’s tenth Canto. journalists. Seen in slightly different terms. fatherhood. It also shows that this “thinking through” is. cultural. Croce’s text both gives Dante a certain ideologically and culturally material position within fascism and sums and perpetuates (or redeploys) a tradition of Dante commentary whose historical material role within the culture Gramsci confronts in the critical. His writings would have to be read as themselves central places for engaging in a political battle in the politically central sphere of culture. as it were. take place partly and necessarily within the field of representation – and it means he needs to be read in light of this fact of his writing. and political burdens and possibilities haunting and enabling his own thinking about leadership. working through some of the entanglements within the problematic represented by the nexus of figures in his reading of Dante – paternity. the party. priests .

directs his efforts to revising that tradition against Croce rather than the anonymous pedants. for his errors and against his influence. of the cultural system sustained by the anonymous pedants. however. On one level. of course. it must be pointed out that his own writings often stage political contests with the leading figures – in both the biographical and rhetorical sense of that word – of the traditions. and tradition. over what of the past will come to make up the “dominant tradition. the discourses. Gramsci turns his remarks not only into a critique of Croce.” Gramsci offers remarkably important insights into the workings of cultural materiality in its most specific and often anonymous forms. burdens. the ideologies. and political effectivity of a certain image of Dante’s value within both the high culture and the common sense of the Italian tradition. In trying to think through the politically fraught question of the nature of leadership in a democratic political movement. and the parties with which he and his allies must contend. Although Gramsci’s intellectual work provides a crucial model for the detailed study of the materiality of culture. And that is just the case here. but. and their politics. so to speak. in various specific notes throughout the Prison Notebooks. So the critique of Croce is not merely a debate about the “correct” way to read even a culturally traditional text. these are struggles that also show how profoundly “molested” even powerful opposi- tional leaders are by the absolutely inescapable genealogical obstacles – as well as opportunities – already established traditions create even within the very words . and empowerments. Gramsci and cultural criticism  21 – constitute the material. the most impor- tant intellectual of his time. against the kind of figure and position represented by Croce and the tradition to which he belongs. nonetheless compel conflict both within those individuals and their languages – to arrange the traditions’ forces to the desired ends – and between individuals and their positions within the empowered culture – to bring about the desired social ends. one meant to drive at the source. it is also a critique and struggle against his functionality. In such of his writings as the early political journalism. the memory. coming to individuals different by virtue of their class. as it were. It is an essay on the nature of tradition and its ines- capable conflicts. but especially in the essay on “The Southern Question. The critique is of Croce himself. In particular. Gramsci. Class-based political struggles cannot be carried out without struggles over and within the cultural effects of tradition. of its powerful inscription within the dominant culture – or in the way the then-dominant culture takes its tradition – and that inscription’s traces within even the oppositional language and practice of Gramsci himself. indeed. Dante. it is also a revelation of that unacceptable positionality. But the remarks on Dante show Gramsci at a different sort of work. the essay on “The Southern Question” exemplifies how that sort of analysis might be done. their language. but also against the empowered and enabling tropes central to the maintenance of the dominant cultural tradition he hopes to exploit and oppose.” But on another level. Gramsci critiques and struggles to displace a certain functioning notion and positionality of (especially intellectual) leadership and some of the kinds of cultural production upon which the maintenance of that implicitly antidemocratic kind of leadership rests. their knowledge. institutional nexus. politics. their region. It shows the oppositional intel- lectual’s awareness of how traditions. his positionality. these are struggles over who will “control” or “interpret” or “inherit” a tradition.

And there is the “catharsis. precisely because this heretic is damned to know nothing of the future. Cavalcante and Farinata. and Cavalcante. political resistance itself. 3 Gramsci focuses his reading of Dante around Canto X of the Inferno. he interrupts his punishment in action. Gramsci’s reading stresses that Dante’s art is one of action: Cavalcante is the one punished in the circle. one of the important Guelf bourgeois. since every punish- ment is represented in act (1985. when the future ends. to have no knowledge at all. in Canto X. both here- tics and both politicians prominent in the violence that rent Florence for about thirty years or so. that Gramsci builds his reading of Dante – as had most important commentators in the past. one does not see the torment of the damned in that circle being enacted. Gramsci specifically refutes Croce’s then authoritative claim that.” but only “ebbe. In other words. Croce has it that after Cavalcante’s disappearance from the scene. Farinata. insisting that the drama is Cavalcante’s and that Farinata’s “pedagogic” remarks after the former’s fall back into the tomb are necessary to Dante’s representation of the punishment appropriate to this circle: Dante’s silence in response to Cavalcante’s shock at Dante’s “ebbe” comes from his not understanding Cavalcante’s punish- ment and his consequent ignorance of Guido’s fate. The crucial word in the line “Forse cui Guido vostro ebbe a disdegno” is not “cui” or “disdegno. the leader of the Ghibellines. (Gramsci 1985. as epicurean heretics. Dante the pilgrim encounters two dead souls. are punished in the same way: locked forever in tombs of fire.” The “aesthetic” and “dramatic” accent on the line falls on “ebbe. unable to know the present and destined. Farinata’s explanation that. who is now taken quite precisely as the figure of the entire problematic of cultural burden within and against which the oppositional political leader must contend. in the struggle between the imperialist and middle- class factions. Farinata’s role changes to what Croce calls “struc- ture”: he loses his “poetic” status. and does so in a way that depends upon the particular fate of these damned. 156) . It is around this necessary ques- tion. Gramsci reads the canto differently. More important.” Dante corrects himself and takes Cavalcante out of his torment.” and it is the source of Cavalcante’s drama. however. In his reading. arising from paternal love. It is within the space of this awareness that Gramsci’s notes contend with Croce.22  Paul Bové of the oppositional. In this canto. critical. 151). Cavalcante must ask Dante about his son. The structure ought to have led to a more exact aesthetic evaluation of the canto. The canto explicitly involves Dante the pilgrim in the politics of Florence. inter- preted in the stage directions of Farinata. Guido. the drama is Farinata’s. No one has observed that if the drama of Cavalcante is not taken into consideration. they are punished with no knowledge of the present lets Dante see why Cavalcante responded with such horror to Dante’s use of the past tense.

196–203]. Gramsci clearly revises and displaces Croce’s dualistic aesthetic that divides a poem into poetry and structure and. namely. of each canto. Dante. n. Unlike nearly every other modernist critic of continuing importance.” Eliot identifies the “split” between mind and emotion. but can yield only what is in its nature to yield. into modernity. among other things. Cavalcante’s experience in Canto X is. Such objections. and the role of the critic (1986. as in the following quotation. in so doing. S. his representa- tion of intensity in act and drama. For Gramsci. Perhaps the two most telling examples of critics who used Dante as part of an economy of intellectual self-authorization are T. Gramsci’s critics nonetheless object that he errs in preserving Croce’s idealisti- cally derived terms. 212. (Croce 1922. Gramsci and cultural criticism  23 In these and other remarks on Canto X. Of course. With the famous “dissociation of sensibility. things which are external to the poetry and determined by structural connections.” into history. 87). exists only because Gramsci and Eliot have common and traditional ground in their readings of Dante. Frank Rosengarten argues in an extended essay that Gramsci’s remarks on Canto X dialecticize Croce’s terms. By contrast. For Eliot. one who. As Dante would have it. (Since I have treated Auerbach at length elsewhere [Bové. This conflict. thus structure itself has a poetic value” (1973. Many critics claim that Gramsci does not completely escape the Crocean categories in his reading of this canto (1973. The political and intellectual importance of Gramsci’s remarks appears clearly if Gramsci’s difference from much important modern critical commentary on Dante is kept in focus.) T. as he says in his letter of 20 September 1931 to Tatiana: “This interpretation should completely undermine Croce’s thesis about poetry versus structure in the Divina Commoedia. the politics of this figure bring Eliot into conflict with Gramsci in a double way. Eliot and Erich Auerbach. research does not serve either to indicate the particular poetic character. 1986. S. similarly. however. 210). Dante’s poem. from the first “deciphering” of Dante’s language comes “some direct shock of poetic intensity. Eliot represented Dante as epitomizing the imagination and culture of a not yet modern society. or the passage from one poetic situation to another. equates poetry solely with the lyrical: since the structure that we have briefly delineated arises from a didactic and practical rather than poetic motive. 7). every effort made to convert structural reasons into artistic reasons is a sterile waste of intelligence. must be given a newly central place in the culture of the fascist state – and precisely by Croce’s efforts. paradigmatic of Dante’s expressive poetics. miss the fact that Gramsci must necessarily contend with and within the most powerfully authorized terms for the discussion of this politically active and important literary political figure of Italian culture. of course. the division of personality and culture. however. as a “fall into time.” “Nothing but . assuming that there is one. Without structure there would be no poetry. I will focus on Eliot in this chapter. Gramsci did not try to make of Dante a representation of his own intellectual status and function. 90–1) Gramsci’s reading of Canto X is a direct response to Croce’s conclusion.

the Communist worker. for example. it is quite specifically the case that Florentine politics require a nationalist solution and are already tending in that direction when Dante writes his poem. Eliot and Gramsci also both take Dante as a test case for critical intellectual acumen and. personal value of Dante’s achievement in representing Cavalcante’s paternal suffering. of course. the archconservative Anglican classicist. is valuable because it can represent and share in this mind of Europe: . but in these comments on Dante there is nothing to suggest that after any change in sociopolitical realities will a father’s sufferings change or be any less appropri- ately veiled as a representation of human nature. 157). Even though Gramsci’s remarks do not enter into the complex details of Florentine politics his treatment of Dante places him in the factional divisions of the communal warfare of that city as a political intellectual hoping to find some agent that can restore a sort of peace. more important. Indeed. Rosengarten shows how Gramsci stresses the human. and Eliot. a last link with the state of grace represented by the myth of a universal middle ages and its universal language. And it is very convenient to work on this kind of assump- tion: it lets one off the tiring task of individually filtering out and looking closely at the results reached by historical aesthetic criticism” (1985. in its various historical manifestations. That Eliot can read Dante as coming before the emergence of nationalism is an act of misprision that requires some explanation (Eliot 1964. for Eliot.” says Eliot. “can deaden the desire for fuller and fuller knowledge” (1964. needs a Dante who is not only a reactionary but a latecomer. a poem that both emerges from the defeat of his desires and intervenes in the national development – even though a national solution is not reached. visionary. Latin: “medieval Latin tended to concentrate on what men of various races and lands could think together” (201). often speaks of how the shock of Dante’s imagination inspires desire for knowledge of more.24  Paul Bové laziness. Eliot. as a site of utopian. 200). As Gramsci sets up his reading of Dante. aesthetic clichés in lieu of serious intellectual work. a status quo ante. 202). Like Eliot. Eliot can make Dante into a prelapsarian figure because he identifies the dissociation of sensibility.2 Of course. But. an attentive reading of Gramsci’s remarks in the context of his own hopes for a different socialist future suggests that this sort of horrendous suffering might become something of the prerevolutionary past. for example. As Frank Rosengarten’s work usefully suggests. Gramsci. the differences are what matter. as Machiavelli’s efforts testify. in contrast to Eliot’s representative interpretation. by contrast. writes the following: “How nice to be so easily satisfied. Gramsci also tirelessly ridicules Dante’s unresponsive pedant- critics for failing to explore his work fully and for accepting historical. These are among the few some- what surprising common grounds between Gramsci. one effect of Gramsci’s efforts is traditionally humanistic: his reading of Dante preserves a transhistorical capacity for human suffering that. with the development of nationalism. commenting on Vincenzo Morello’s (Rastignac) comfortable assurance that scholarship has solved all the problems in any reading of Dante. something very similar is at work in Gramsci’s interest in Canto X: his reading is personally motivated because there are significant parallels between his situa- tion and that of Cavalcante. and political energy. in part. Dante’s Italian. Eliot. foregrounds something like a universal human quality.

” It is not that Dante’s language is simple or his thought or representations less than complex. because it cuts across the modern division of nationality. learn well from the Dante who is “so easy to read. material embeddedness of modern European languages. or an early moment which is unique. is “easy to read. of shock and surprise. . but for Eliot it is also the harbinger of their neces- sary overcoming by those (poet/critics) who. Dante.” It is rather that words have associations. but which is never repeated integrally. despite Eliot’s own conservative politics. Eliot claims. Gramsci and cultural criticism  25 “and the localization (‘Florentine’ speech) seems if anything to emphasize the universality. Dante. It is not difficult to uncover the rhetorical tactics at work in Eliot’s essay. but the word is lucid. In English poetry words have a kind of opacity which is part of their beauty.” Eliot’s linguistic idealization and universalization of Dante gradually makes him over – not only from a specific historical political figure involved in concrete cultural political practice but also from the mythicized heroic figure of the lost communal past – into an articulation of what Eliot desires in the present and for the future. none the less an Italian and a patriot. … Dante. each is inspirited by the violence of this fantastic recognition: The experience of a poem is the experience both of a moment and of a life- time. I do not mean that the beauty of English poetry is what is called mere “verbal beauty. only those who can read this Dante – only those who are summoned to their own identity as poets – can begin the cultural and political change that will overthrow modernism and nationalism in favor of a new. aris- tocratic order. like Eliot. what is modernist – and so to many unacceptable – about this is his projection of a lost origin (through a restatement of the myth of the fall) upon a premodern and prelapsarian Dante. because they are the growth of a particular civilization … The Italian of Dante … is not in this way a modern language. Eliot’s Dante marks the end of old Europe and the onset of modernist nationalism which fulfills itself. The thought may be obscure. It is very much like our intenser experiences of other human beings.” For Eliot. in the Treaty of Versailles. is first a European. but traditional. has a potentially progressive ideological tendency: The style of Dante has a peculiar lucidity – a poetic as distinguished from an intellectual lucidity. which is a kind of local self-consciousness. for Eliot. (201) It is progressive that Eliot should note the historical. even of terror (Ego dominus tuus): a moment which can never be forgotten. so to speak. Not only is this Treaty the calamitous conclusion of modernization and nationalism. “Reading” Dante in this way is to be taken as an act of “recognition” in which the reader and the poet set each other off – on the one hand as (benevo- lent) father and on the other as (equally benevolent) son. and yet would become destitute of significance if it did not survive in a larger whole of experience. or rather translucent. rather. Dante is “easy to read” because Eliot sees him as a stylist in a way that. and the groups of words in association have associations. There is a first. which survives inside a deeper and a calmer feeling (212).

that it has its importance. Like Vossler. that is. a suspension of critical apparatus and judgment in the name of empathy. or a “mask” reconstructed to resonate with their unhappy but powerful energies. 1985). “What we need. and in terms not far from those of recent literary and linguistic theory. if you will.26  Paul Bové Terror is the ephebe’s experience of the sublime master’s integral alterity by contrast with which his own need for inspiration. namely. all this is a dialectic of self-making. In Eliot’s expressive poetics. nonetheless. This phrase. godmaking. but it is as a representation of a particular modern use of Dante. “a visual imagination” because “he lived in an age when men still saw visions. interesting. it is perhaps best described abstractly as a hermeneutic model of read- erly openness. “is not infor- mation but knowledge: the first step to knowledge is to recognize the differences between [the poet’s] form of thought and feeling and ours” (237). a figure. 225). what Eliot calls “the system of Dante’s organization of sensibility” (235).” We have lost the trick: “We have nothing but dreams. Eliot privileges his master with the capacity of fully developed humanity. and Croce. Dante has. repressions. the ephebe makes himself in the heroic “afterimage” of the projected image of the master (O’Hara. or.3 Of course. distilled from the longer and still unpublished Clark lectures. and disciplined kind of dreaming” (204). the poem projects the poet’s sensibility thus organizing the sensorium of experience in a wholeness. Eliot’s remarks importantly limn the critical allegory in and by which Dante becomes for a number of authorized poets and critics a projected image of anti- and ante-modernist authority. 1–9). it calls for respect for the . Eliot creates retrospectively his own genealogy. R. and in contrast to Gramsci. According to Eliot then. In Eliot’s terms.” Yet there is a progressive moment in this modernist poetics that Jameson’s focus on the totalitarian demands of the putatively privileged sensibility cannot consider. Auerbach. “vision” (de Man 1983.” Eliot writes in a similar way. a persona. power. in the process of which and in the representations that are produced in processu. for Eliot. the poetics of sensibility can lead to a hermeneutics of generosity. Blackmur has it that the critic must always judge and that the road to judgment must always be slow and filled with failures. not historicist. and completion compels the ephebe’s ritual return to the divine and yet natural source of energy in the master. and we have forgotten that seeing visions – a practice now relegated to the aberrant and uneducated – was once a more significant. Bové 1990). but. self-abnegation in interpretation. which momentarily can be taken to epitomize Eliot’s poetics as an expressive theory of individual vision dependent upon and represented by the unique bodily organization of the individual poet’s integral nervous system – this phrase is so ideologically burdened as to lead to Fredric Jameson’s mocking rejection of the authoritarian heterocosms of high modernist writing (1981. and desires (O’Hara 1985. In this long essay on Dante. this is allegory: “clear visual images. its possibility depends upon the hypothetical and residual existence of a premodern imaginative mode. Eliot tells us. And clear visual images are given much more intensity by having a meaning” (204). allegory is a diachronic elaboration of the synchronic. complete and entire: “The smell of steaks in passageways/Six o’clock. Allegorically. P. This herme- neutics is dialogic at best.

There is almost a definite moment of acceptance at which the New Life begins” (237). after having been depicted as heroic in the first part of the episode. And again. a moment of critical humility. again in Blackmur’s vocabulary. of course. Gramsci writes: Here the difference between the two emerges. a reading of some of his remarks on Dante suggests that some of the conventional ways for discussing these matters in political and philosophical circles – is he a Leninist? an anti-Leninist? a Hegelian? and so on – might better be put aside in favor of an approach that treats his writings as dramatized formulations of matters not given to abstract conceptualization and nominalization. has overcome Croce’s singularly dull distinction between poetry and structure. It becomes the Law of critical reading and a moment akin to faith: “We have to learn to accept their forms: and this acceptance is more important that anything that can be called belief. becomes once more a man of politics. originary mastery – which obliges readers to forget the desire to be inspirited by the imag- ined and projected other4 – Eliot crystallizes this “self-abnegation” as a founda- tional moment in the birth of the poet. there are moments in Eliot not so generous as this. his old Dante professor). … Cavalcante’s drama passes subtly. especially upon his understanding of the rela- tionship of political leaders to their followers – just as it does upon his so-called “aesthetics. (1973. there is a revealing gambit on a set of what quickly come to be defining binary oppositions: De Sanctis. drawing the line between Farinata and Cavalcante. Gramsci’s energies do not produce a simulacrum of Eliot’s alle- gory for they have different “imaginings” of that which might come to be. instead. Gramsci and cultural criticism  27 otherness of the text and a (perhaps momentary) concession of right to the text: it requires. attributes it to the fact that Farinata. the Ghibelline hero. becomes in the last half a pedagogue. Needless to say. 208–9) By the end of this letter. In Gramsci’s correction of Croce (in the letter to Tatiana for Professor Cosmo. commenting on the harshness of the tenth canto of Dante’s Inferno. but is marked by an unutterable intensity. are directed toward Guido. of self- abnegation in reading and judgment (1981. Cavalcante’s thoughts. true to his poetic projection of heroic. Farinata. Of course.” Indeed. upon hearing Florentine spoken. in his essay on Farinata. Farinata changes from poetry to structure. Dante. Why so? In La Poesia di Dante . 4 That part of Gramsci’s visionary and utopian energies are at work in his readings of Dante bears upon his politics. Gramsci allegorizes a formative response to Dante and this act aligns him not just with (and against) Eliot but with a wide variety of modern poets and writers. but he has left the other opposi- tion “heroic”/“pedagogic” standing unchallenged. 372). Gramsci. Using Croce’s scheme.

1922. but the “noble fatherland. usually a young boy. of course. He also makes the point that Cavalcante’s punishment – an inability to see the present while being able to see the future. with a look on his face as though he had a great contempt for Hell. Now he makes himself superior to the evils which surround him. all other affection is foreign to him. For Croce. heroism consists in the replacement of all other affections by the love of the fatherland and glory won in political struggle: Cavalcante. 117–18) Cavalcante is contrasted to Farinata: “Then there arose to sight alongside of him a shade. (Croce. to his political ideal.28  Paul Bové (1922). Pedagogo. He is careless of human loves and sorrows. Farinata becomes a “pedagogue” – the term is Gramsci’s not Croce’s – when he becomes structure. vituperated by Ciacco. of events. which is no longer the sower of every vice. which means. of struggles going on in his city. Cavalcante’s unheroic self-presentation suggests that the guiding opposition of hero/pedagogue. the new feeling is admiration for the great and strong men of Florence. 103. as Croce calls him. Rosengarten studies some of the parallels between Cavalcante’s relation to Guido and Gramsci’s relations to his sons. for which one suffers and of which one is proud and which really does stand at the apex of the soul as a sacred thing. the ironically perfect punish- ment for the visionary poet – roughly corresponds to Gramsci’s fulsome state . But Cavalcante is above all for Gramsci a father. nor is he in the least moved by his solicitude and paternal affection. to lead or direct a child. to the city to which he belongs and which for that reason belongs to him. 11: 52–4). of course. visible to the chin: I think he had raised himself on his knees” (Dante. but as a representation of the poet himself. 120). a “pedagogue. of Dante in the most sublime incarnation of human completion. is from paid-agein. Farinata the magnanimous. is weak and so not an adequate representation of the poet’s spirit sublimely full of its power and imaginings. not even just of their identity. But the imagination no longer places before him images of hate. the fatherland that one curses and loves. “a sop to the readers of the theological- ethical romance” (1922. who like a true epic hero completely and wholly the warrior devoted to his cause. His first inquiry is that of the partisan and warrior. the figure in which this sentiment of poetic elevation expresses itself.” of which it is his joy and boast to be a native. Farinata rises up. and does not deign to pay attention to Cavalcante who is close to him. Croce uses the figure of the heroic Farinata not just as a representative instance of the political man. Croce with Gramsci. of images of men. holding his head high. This etymology suggests part of how burdened the figure of Farinata is for Gramsci and the tradition in which he is working. Croce’s reference is to the scene at the begin- ning of Canto X: The mind of Dante is full at this moment of his ideal journey. indeed. if read through its displacing and doubling opposition – political/paternal – contrasts not just two moments in Farinata.” pedagogo. by the standard of the hero. but contrasts Farinata with Cavalcante and finally Dante with Croce. not just of poetry.

needs to be represented as outside representation: both to avoid nonorganic modes of . a story on the verge of political defeat. in turn. “Pedagogue” opens this personal level onto the political and suggests another reading of the “hero”/“pedagogue” binary. of course.” we must recall how often he expresses his anxiety about his sons growing up without paternal direction and how. and both do this in the dynamics of sublime and privileged sensibility. In reading Gramsci’s “pedagogo. by contrast. The pedagogue is Cavalcante whose veiled sufferings are as a father. he tries to provide guidance through his letters to Giulia. suggests two political elements in Gramsci: first.) It is not Farinata’s sublime disdain that represents Dante. comes from personal experience. rather somewhat less than heroically. In contrast to Croce. enacts a drama of authorization and legiti- mation. nor is Dante represented in a simple displacement by Cavalcante’s paternal pedagogy. and of how it involves critical interventions into the hegemonic culture of literary and critical traditions themselves. would be the case with Philip’s bringing Aristotle to tutor Alexander. In both sets of moves these conservative intellectuals assign representa- tive status to themselves and their authorized and authorizing representations. In personal practice and in his reading of Canto X. in a complex game of doubling projection. (Its latent sexism is a larger and more important matter inviting discussion and critique. the director of his son whose fate is unclear to him. of how this. of how it implicitly involves a critique of representation on the level of text and political institution alike. the commonality of experience in pedagogy. one of Gramsci’s notes on Farinata supports this idea: in The Prison Notebooks. This. emphasizes rather differently. who valorizes Farinata only in a reading that figures him as a heroic sublime representation of the lyrical poet singing the politics of the noble fatherland. like the leader himself. the idea of domination as both cultural and political hegemony. of a father. Dante represents and comes to be represented. by what he makes of Farinata as the representation of what Gramsci would have be outside representa- tion altogether: the unseen suffering of Cavalcante. rather than dividing them as. in part. sometimes. but may we not see him as a displacement from the figure of Cavalcante as father? Etymology as well as established tradition bring the father and the pedagogue together in this context. For Gramsci. leadership. for example. (This is. the idea of the political leader as a director figured on the model of the paternal pedagogue. Eliot. Gramsci writes that Dante “wants the knot which prevented him from answering Cavalcante to be untied” (1985. “leadership. second. Gramsci. Farinata. Indeed. and hegemony in opposition to both “heroism” and “poetry” suggests something of the democratic vision of Gramsci’s politics. Dante.) The nature of leadership in Gramsci’s thought has been a problem for his interpreters precisely because. in a double displacement. Croce asserts that Farinata is a mimetic representation of the lyrically ineffable sublimity of the Poet. Gramsci’s representations of paternity. the father and the pedagogue are one for Gramsci. is the pedagogue designated in the text. of course. Gramsci and cultural criticism  29 in prison. of (finally) a democratic leader whose heirs – those who make the future he hopes for – have a most uncertain fate. 153). and in contrast to Eliot whose complex represents Dante as a father in the image of his own needs – in contrast to both of these moderns. of a pedagogue.” itself.

see Bloom (1973). then. 2 Gramsci struggles to align Cavalcante’s anguish with other classical images of suffering such as Timanthes’s veiled portrait of Agamemnon at the moment of Iphigenia’s sacri- fice. for example. This is a move that typically aligns him with traditional conservative idealistic humanists. Notes 1 For a theoretical sense of this problematic which has been very important to criticism’s discussion of modernity. even Eliot’s self-consciously ironic allegory of representation. language. textual comprehension of the politics of representation. see Said (1975). See. the similar gesture in Altieri (1981). 4 See O’Hara (1988) for the best working out of the dialectics of such imagination.30  Paul Bové representative politics and to avoid figuring the leader in either Eliot’s or Croce’s tropes of masterful fathers or vanguard political intellectuals. and government – emerges from Gramsci’s plaintive and enabling obsession with Canto X. with its enabling figure of the privileged sensibility. taken psychoanalytically. fulfills the double logic of representation. . be disempowered precisely by disem- powering the authorizing and authorized workings of representation: indeed. In sum. Gramsci’s concern for a leadership that does not usurp the people’s right and ability to struggle to make their own future (with the use of poets’ visions) is continuous with his experience of paternal loss and his. at least. A critique of representation – as ideology. His hope for a better future. 3 On this structure of relation. for another polity of human relations requires that the disdain of a Farinata which is the desire of a Croce.

as anticipating a future of “paralyzed mediocrity” as a result of these historical forces (1983.” Moretti reads Joyce’s texts as “a monumental autopsy of an entire social formation. The Irish were. but also of the peculiar disadvantages. Moretti’s argument that colonial writers like Joyce can often see hidden aspects of the major culture – in this case. and to distinguish it from its “American” variety. England’s imminent economic decline – seems a valid point. In particular.3 Bloom and Babbitt A Gramscian view Daniel O’Connell The publication of Franco Moretti’s Signs Taken for Wonders in 1983 was part of a shift in critical perspective on the work of James Joyce. In his chapter on Ulysses. the American Babbitt. in developing global capitalism. constitutes a strength in his culture – is “energetic and progressive. as presented by Joyce. Moretti’s claim is that Joyce’s peripheral perspec- tive as an Irishman allowed him a privileged point of view on the coming crisis. Britain. Gramsci was attempting to confront what he designated European Babbittry. Irish) influ- ence on the world economic stage.” in Gramsci’s words – in contrast to his European . less convincing. a movement toward reading the political significance of Joyce’s text – a tendency that by now has become fairly widespread in Joyce criticism. with disastrous consequences for Britain’s relative economic position. by implication. the lagging ideolog- ical development of the British bourgeoisie caused it to hold on to outmoded notions of liberal noninterference by the state in financial matters. My starting point is a series of remarks made by Gramsci in his recently published Cultural Writings on the subject of “Americanism and Babbitt. of societies that find themselves held back by a combination of economic and cultural forces. working in tandem. and continue to be. He characterizes Irish culture. in Moretti’s argument. however.” that of British capitalism (Moretti 1983. Leopold Bloom’s difficulties are a function not only of Ireland’s peripheral participation in “British” economic decline. an even more radical example than their British counterparts of these constraining conditions. which he calls “The Long Goodbye. his conflation of the English and Irish situation is. 189). began at the end of the nineteenth century to fall behind Germany and America because of its inability to adapt itself to the newer economic realities of international capitalism. as I will now attempt to illustrate with the help of some theoretical perspectives provided by Antonio Gramsci.1 As Gramsci saw it. Moretti reads Ulysses as an expression of the imminent decline of British (and. 185).” which continues Gramsci’s discussion of “Americanism and Fordism” in the Prison Notebooks. with all of his faults.

Gramsci appreciated that even a phenomenon like prohibition. more efficient American planned economy. The ideological . Gramsci.” Gramsci observed. the historical dimension of the ques- tion is crucial. From Gramsci’s socialist perspective. 280). What Gramsci called “Fordism. Gramsci’s posi- tion is that Europeans take a false consolation in the Philistinism of Americans like George Babbitt in order to ignore their own limitations.” cultural conditions that he believed acted to keep Europe in an economically and socially backward position.” the Taylorized assembly line and the ideological supports for it that drove American capitalism. in the interplay between cultural and economic levels. it is not a simple matter of European polit- ical cynicism and assumed intellectual superiority versus naive American political optimism and intellectual inferiority. like many left revolution- aries of his generation. historical study is necessary in order that history be “overcome. Opposition to “Americanism. tended to come from Europe’s most reactionary elements (1971. who reflects a weakness in the European context. America had gotten there first. represented simultaneously the highest development of capitalist effi- ciency and alienation and a set of developments that would. Since Joyce’s Bloom and Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt appeared in 1922. A question arises as to whether or not Bloom represents a European Babbitt as imagined by Gramsci. 281). the parallels nonetheless are striking. It seemed that it might be productive to examine the two novels comparatively. In fact. a region that economically speaking had not yet entered the twentieth century whereas. It is char- acteristic of Gramsci’s complex understanding of the causality operating between economic and cultural phenomena that. and no mere “Puritanical” gesture. The particular remark that leads to James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom is Gramsci’s claim that “no European writer has been able to depict the European Babbitt for us” (Gramsci 1985. As an Italian southerner. from impoverished Sardinia. which provided a target of easy ridicule for Europeans. Gramsci was espe- cially sensitive to the fact that he hailed from a “backwater” of Europe. 279. if brought to Europe. abolish the last remnants of what Gramsci called “feudalism. using Gramsci’s analytic categories. he nonetheless insists upon the infrastructural basis of such a phenomenon as prohi- bition. including Lewis’s testimony that initially he planned his novel to be 24 hours in George Babbitt’s life. as compared to America’s rapid development in the economic sphere in the absence of such constraints. and avoids attributing it to merely “moral” intentions. Gramsci observes that Taylorist notions of work- time required the limitation of alcoholic consumption by workers in order that “the whole life of the nation revolve around production” (1971. while never lapsing into economism. there is no question of influence.” for socialism to be realized. The inherent paradox in the position is reflected in Gramsci’s view of American culture. 285). and to pay particular attention to the weakness/strength opposition put forward by Gramsci as the significant difference between the European and American contexts. in the difficult transition from the older European forms of work to the newer.32  Daniel O’Connell counterpart. was a necessary condition for the development of a new kind of Taylorized worker. as Gertrude Stein observed. was profoundly ambivalent about America and what it represented in the context of historical tradition.

As Fredric Jameson has observed. values that the emerging fascist movements were able to take advantage of in the early 1920s. Apart from characterizing the differences between the cultures inhabited by Babbitt and Bloom. neo- Marxist theory. These newer critical concerns indicate a need to reevaluate writers like Joyce and Lewis who have attended to the life experience of such middle-strata personnel. Fascism’s main clientele. Leopold Bloom’s difficulty in making that leap. at least in its early stages. and no more experience with working-class people than Balzac” (1982. 673). The same could be said for Sinclair Lewis. One of the questions that engages Gramsci in his “Americanism and Fordism” essay is how it could be possible. that an ordinary. 134). Although neither Bloom nor Babbitt suffers the Taylorized efficiencies of the industrial assembly line. By contrast. 286). These potential philosophers – and. both experience the nausea of the quotidian. as reflecting the dominance of the repetitive (Lefebvre. have concentrated increasingly upon such middle-strata social groups. 1971). in particular. Henri Lefebvre. administered. were middle- strata personnel and small businesspeople: the class whom both Joyce and Lewis focused upon. Gramsci saw Italian fascism as simply the “latest performance” of the national petit bourgeoisie. Bloom and Babbitt: A Gramscian view  33 differences were epitomized in Gramsci’s remark that “America has the Rotary and the YMCA. and Gramsci in particular. in these spirit- killing circumstances of daily life. and. 309). “Joyce had no more talent for or interest in the representation of aristocrats than Dickens. a tone that permeates both texts. whom James Joyce thought “semi-fanatic” (Ellmann 1959. an artistic choice for which they were attacked by critics of the Left like Lukács and Radek. the French Marxist usually credited with adding the concept of the “everyday” to our critical vocabulary. Europe has Free Masonry and the Jesuits” (1971. it would seem to be the parallels between Bloom and Babbitt. that are most significant. Both writers chose to describe the trivialities of the daily lives of this class rather than either great capitalists or proletarians.3 At this early stage. “Is the worker who spends his day enmeshed in a mechanical process of depersonalized opera- tions likely to soar into philosophical consciousness in his nonworking hours?” (1971. characterizes the nature of the everyday in the modern period as managed. In both of our novels this thematic of repetitiveness is dominant: George Babbitt is intermittently conscious of the repetitive nature of his daily work and expresses some resentment of it. uneducated man could achieve a more philosophical consciousness. either in his internal musings or in his dialogue with the poet and philosopher Stephen Dedalus. along these lines. the two national types also represent the difference between the unproduc- tive and socially parasitic Italian petit bourgeoisie and its very different American counterpart. their common subject matter was the everyday life of the petit bourgeoisie. George Babbitt is scarcely aware that such a leap is possible. is one dimension of his particular pathos. as against the more traditional questions of political ideology. represented by figures like D’Annunzio. for . Gramsci asks rhetorically. Initially. but it is Joyce who most systematically calls attention to this central quality of modern experience in Leopold Bloom’s unconscious reiteration of the travels of Homer’s Ulysses. and on the ideology of everyday life.2 The central values of the class typically involve order and accept- ance of convention.

Both share an interest in effective busi- ness prose and are impressed with imaginative advertising techniques. in the interest of the rationalization of the work process and higher productivity (Gramsci 1971. which was why to see a measure like prohibition as merely American “Puritanism” was to miss its larger historical significance. American capitalism did deliver the goods for millions of Babbitts. 304). must be strictly regulated. cannot afford such a degree of general compassion – one price that America has paid for its relative economic success. Bloom’s would-be genteel speech is a considerable distance from Stephen Dedalus’s ironies. the pub or newspaper office. every man and woman is a potential philosopher – not only belong to the same class but also share the same occupation: they are both salesmen. in Zenith. Babbitt has a brief affair with a widow to whom he has rented an apartment.” especially suited to new and higher levels of capitalist efficiency. a religion of business: . from his Irish perspective. perhaps. for all of their faults.34  Daniel O’Connell Gramsci. 294ff. Both inhabit middle-sized cities. to the condition of various horses. Bloom’s compassion extends from the impov- erished condition of Stephen’s sister Dilly Dedalus and her brother the down- at-heels poet Stephen himself. said Gramsci. American productive and ideological conditions had generated what Gramsci characterized as a “new type of man. not great megalopolises. in the Aeolus chapter of Ulysses. but Gramsci under- stood that America had carried the maxim even further toward its full realization. dogs. Both Bloom and Babbitt engage in feeble revolts. represented “the biggest collec- tive effort to date” to create such a type of human being. For Professor McHugh. for Americans. where the “personal touch” is perceived to be essential to business success. and the rhetorician Professor McHugh.). what Gramsci characterizes as “the romantic tinsel typical of the petit bourgeois” in his Prison Notebooks (1971. the Booster’s club or barber shop. possibly as a function of his more ruthlessly competitive culture. the English represent the summit of efficient modern materialism. Bloom displays an admirable capacity for empathy in relation to a whole spectrum of fellow sentient beings. Joyce is at pains to establish differences among his speakers. for all of the culture’s phil- istinism. Babbitt sold real estate by selling confidence and optimism. to whom Bloom becomes both good Samaritan and surrogate father. and cats whom he encounters during the course of his long day. and Bloom risks an affair by mail with a woman named Martha Clifford. Dublin and Zenith are both still sufficiently human-scale cities as to be representable through relatively intimate social networks: in Dublin. is positively contemptuous of his own colonial English: “I speak the tongue of a race the acme of whose mentality is the maxim: time is money” (Joyce 1986. to the envy of Europeans. Alcoholic consumption. George Babbitt. Bloom advertising space. All of this Taylorization did pay off. Both Joyce and Lewis concen- trate intensively on getting the sounds of their culture’s voices: Joyce’s Dublin dialects and the “brassy assurance” of American Booster club rhetoric are both memorable. although where Lewis fairly revels in the vulgarity of a generalized American businessmen’s speech. America’s official values. Joyce and Lewis provide us with sympathetic portraits of their protagonists. 110). his Boosterist metaphysic provided the ideological center of a worldview. like the sexual instinct. Babbitt sells real estate. America.

the localism of Joyce’s writing is indisputable and his content is his native Dublin’s various human species. free-floating types. Gramsci’s point is that Lewis is in touch with this society and is read by it. But in another sense Gramsci’s description is accurate. a member of the Chamber of Commerce. George Babbitt is a dynamo of activity and efficiency. without roots in a national-popular life” (Gramsci 1985. Bloom and Babbitt: A Gramscian view  35 Just as he was an Elk. When we turn to the case of Joyce. the other aspect of the book’s unacceptability is that Ireland continued to be the kind of culture that Gramsci characterized. a Booster. but the price Bloom pays for his individualism is his relative failure in those practical forms of everyday life at which George Babbitt and his fellow Boosters excel. Bloom’s employer. In contrast to their American counterparts – peri- patetic. Gramsci’s characterization of typical European intellectuals seems apt. Gramsci observed that Babbitt was a great success not only in Europe but eventually in America as well. Lewis became a genuinely “popular” writer. and continues to be. is only partly explained by the formal complexity and high-culture content of a novel like Ulysses. tariff and Germany. the first American to be so honored. in the “takeoff stage” of capitalist development. Although he acknowledges that it is no great work of literary art. but in terms of readership he was. Lewis was offered the Pulitzer Prize by his countrymen and eventually received the Nobel Prize from Europe. like . Gramsci maintains that Babbitt was of great cultural importance to Americans in that the novel reflected America’s self-confidence in its capacity not only to tolerate but even to celebrate a work that exposed some of the culture’s more embarrassing aspects. it is the differences between Bloom and Babbitt that are most significant. It may be an empty and mean- ingless efficiency as compared with the Joycean reader’s perception of Bloom’s Odyssean meanderings. Finally. on Gramscian principles. just as the priests of the Presbyterian Church determined his every religious belief and the senators who controlled the Republican Party decided … what he should think about disarmament. which tormented and galled Joyce during his lifetime. Compared to the inefficient Bloom. largely cut off from his own compatriots. but of his own “classical” significance Mr. not only did Joyce become a citizen of Europe and avoid Ireland for virtually all of his adult life. This indifference on the part of the Irish. the conformist Babbitt is much more representative of the modern mass-person. for a culture aggressively on the move. Bloom is of course blissfully unaware. 279). unanchored in a local context – European intellectuals are seen as having “completely broken loose by making up a caste in themselves. so did national adver- tisers … fix what he believed to be his individuality. 81) As compared to the individualistic and nonconformist Bloom. (Lewis 1980. this description would seem inaccurate for Joyce. Forgivable sins. whose entire commercial accomplishment for the long day of 16 June 1904 is to advise the printer Nannetti on the design of a single advertisement in the Freeman’s Journal newspaper. differences that Gramsci’s analysis of American versus European culture makes visible and intelligible. a kinetic society. Having become confident of its strengths – this is the America of the early 1920s – the American populace was willing to contemplate its weaknesses. At first glance.

there is an inherent meaningfulness in his every action. which will collapse into nothingness the moment the strings are cut which give from outside the appear- ance of motion and life” (1971. Ireland continues to export thousands of immigrants. Ironically. 285). in a memorable phrase. from the Dublin described by Joyce more than fifty years ago. The work rhythms of Leopold Bloom and his fellow Dubliners in Ulysses illustrate Gramsci’s point.” Not only the dominance of the Church but also the underdeveloped economic situation locate Ireland in the category of a relatively “static” culture. however fruitless it may seem on the naturalistic level. for all of his culture’s go-ahead values. apart from forming part of the Irish tourist industry for visiting Americans and Europeans. In fact. one still suffering from what Joyce called “paralysis. Gramsci speaks. but his Boosterist ideology generally allows him to overcome his awareness of it.36  Daniel O’Connell Italy in the 1920s. Stephen expects to be dismissed very soon from his teaching position. in Gramsci’s description. Poor George Babbitt. he is still read less widely in Ireland than in Europe and the United States. and since the reader of Ulysses reads Bloom’s activities through the lens of the literary tradition. Hirsch. 307). the resistance of the Irish to their greatest writer is too well known to reiterate here. is lacking the manipulations of a classically trained puppeteer to provide the sort of meaning that Joyce’s literary Dubliners enjoy. He has not become part of the curriculum in Irish schools as Lewis has been in America for decades. Babbitt values (Gramsci 1971. “a superior kind of puppet. where many become undocumented workers. very few know Joyce as anything but a name. as “feudal. Despite the success of the nationalist movement and the achievement of semi- independent status for the Irish Republic. modeled on the basis of rhetorical predicates. which produces. is getting worse. it is precisely those aspects of Joyce’s texts. Bloom seems to suffer less from such angst. in terms of daily life. who cannot find employment in their own country. neither Stephen Dedalus nor Bloom reflects Taylorist values to the slightest degree. Today. to the United States. Babbitt is intermittently aware of this under- lying nothingness in his life experience. if we are to believe the recent alarms sounded by cultural prophets like Alan Bloom and E. the classical literary and cultural tradition that Joyce tapped in Ulysses is what separates the common reader from his work. and Bloom has little material success to show for his rather frequent changing of jobs. But the philosophical emptiness of the Babbitt-type did not prevent early . absent from the more “popular” and accessible Lewis. of the “gladiatorial futility” of the Babbitt-type. British and Irish workers have proven fairly impervious to appeals for greater productive efficiency. on the other hand. D. it was not capable of tolerating the kind of ruthless scrutiny that Joyce’s texts subjected it to. the tea break or pub stop has not been abandoned in favor of an American work ethic. it produces a relative cultural impover- ishment in Americans which.” Nothing is more striking to visitors to contemporary Ireland than how little has changed. that have appealed to the international audi- ence. it has produced fewer obstacles to social and economic development in “organizing an entire nation around the central role of greater production” – that is. Gramsci’s observation in “Americanism and Fordism” on America’s lack of “great historical and cultural traditions” cuts two ways: on one hand.

has discussed the success of the Italian Fascists in integrating the middle classes ideologically. even though his reference is clearly to the United States and its particular economic and cultural conditions. They should properly be included in Marx’s category of “subsumed” classes. if contemporary advertising is to be taken as typical. in his interest in modern advertising techniques. Babbitt was the face of the American future while Bloom. Bloom and Babbitt: A Gramscian view  37 twentieth-century American capitalism from thriving. In the interest of avoiding a reductionist notion of class. 2 The large and tortured question of class presents itself at this point. such as Leopold Bloom. he consistently uses the former term. Bloom shares that “burden” of history that dogs Stephen Dedalus’s consciousness. Joyce’s contextualization of Bloom in the literary tradition of Europe placed his character in precisely that “burdened” position that. the cultural price paid in Babbittry is rewarded in the rapid development of produc- tive relations. which produces no “nightmares” in his sleep. a “bloody dark horse. As it happens. See the same authors’ Knowledge and Class (1987. have more on their minds than their American counterparts. was typical of the “feudal” relations that helped to keep European nations in a relatively undeveloped social position. we do not feel the weight of the dead generations on the shoulders of George Babbitt. or “groupings. 124ff). among others. I refer the reader to a discussion of the subject by Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff (1986). today’s Babbitts are ironic about their Babbittry. When combined with its colonized history. like Stephen Dedalus. or some combination of the three. as well as the “paralytic” nature of the Irish situation. or even failed intellectuals. Notes 1 I retain Gramsci’s usage of the term American for the United States. From a Gramscian perspective. Lewis’s narrator observes that America’s businesspeople are “like the ruling class of any other country … but more vigorous” (Lewis 1980. Leopold Bloom and George Babbitt qualify on all three grounds in the novels under discussion. Gramsci’s claim that no European writer has depicted the European Babbitt for us is comprehensible in this context.” as the basis for determining class position: property. was an Irish anomaly. by comparison. The authors present three criteria.” In Gramsci’s view. In his own way. a rich historical and cultural tradition actually contributed to Europe’s relative economic stagnation. in Gramsci’s view. Americans have long since absorbed the criticism of Sinclair Lewis. power.” as Joe Hynes says of him in Joyce’s Cyclops chapter. these conditions made it doubly difficult for Ireland to escape its status as what Joyce called a “backwater of Europe. 269). for all of the citizen’s boast that Irish trade will soon revive – “Our harbors that were empty will be full again” – the narrator of the Cyclops chapter of Ulysses is closer to the truth of the Irish reality: “All wind and piss like a tanyard cat” (Joyce 1986. George Babbitt has a very different history and cultural memory. 3 Leonardo Salimini. that American vigor. In an editorializing interjection near the end of his novel. are to be understood in the radically different relations in which the two cultures stand to their respective historical traditions. 311). under the weight of constraining cultural conditions. the native ground of Taylorism. European intellectuals. and appro- priation of surplus labor. in contrast to the relative failure of the . as Gramsci saw it.

. including “an urban dwelling place. See his The Sociology of Political Praxis (1981. In a recent study of Diderot.).” See his Haunted Journeys (1991. in the 1920s. an attitude to work.38  Daniel O’Connell Italian left. Dennis Porter points out that as early as the eighteenth century. a mode of self-representation. 10ff. and a style of life. forms of domestic life. a set of behaviors. the term bourgeois had already designated a whole may of identifiable characteristics. 84ff. a system of values.). an intermediate social status.

at this time of neoconservative hegemony. While in his preprison and prison writings. For example. to identifying those elements in his writings that might map directions for socialist education. Never has socialism. let alone socialist education. including those generated by the Left.” Stuart Hall cautions himself and his readers to be wary of an uncritical appropriation of Gramsci’s work by those interested in countering present challenges to Marxism. it is far more pressing. This is not to say that Gramsci offers his readers a set of prescriptions for social trans- formation but rather that he offers a diagnosis of problems of state and civil society that is instructive for rethinking questions of social and political change through education.4 Socialist education today Pessimism or optimism of the intellect? Marcia Landy The topic “Socialist Education in Capitalist Societies” is formidable. the issues involving education that need to be reconfigured involve conceptions of collectivity and democracy in relation to theory and practice. And in British cultural studies much effort has been expended particularly by the Centre for Popular Culture in Birmingham. not because he was a victim of fascism but because in his writings he offered both an analysis of the totally administered society and tentative suggestions for how to struggle in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles. The massive repudiation of Marxism in the last decades by prophets of both Left and Right has made the task of creating socialism a gargantuan one (see Kaldor 1990). in an attempt to develop a “Gramscian way” of theorizing cultural work. to examine the failure of institutional remedies. this chapter does not presume to offer such a blueprint for a number of reasons: the time is not propitious for such thinking. such proposals were advanced a decade ago and have been assimilated into existing pedagogies with contradictory results. I do believe that we must think our problems in a Gramscian way – which is different” (1988a. “I do not claim that in any simple way. Gramsci’s career in this respect is an exemplary one insofar as his works were geared to resisting a valorization of either theory or practice. Thus. “Gramsci ‘has the answers’ or ‘holds the key’ to our present troubles. My chapter is geared toward situating Gramsci’s work in relation to current cultural/political analyses.” he writes. it seems appropriate to invoke the name of Antonio Gramsci. seemed so remote and yet never has it seemed so imperative. in an essay entitled “Gramsci and Us. Above all. Gramsci attempted to describe alternative educational institutions. at this moment. one that cannot easily be addressed by a circumscribed analysis of pedagogical practices but requires a reexamination of existing intellectual positions and practices. 161). .

The Left is implicated insofar as it continues to hold on to traditional analyses of power and domination in its romanticizing of the subaltern. and its denial. to existing formations. the notion of culture as political and the notion of capitalism itself as confounding the rela- tions between economics and politics. ills of the capitalist world”: gross inequities in economic and political power. Rather than comprising a unified set of ideas that have been assimilated in undiluted fashion from contemporary social institutions. contrary to Gramsci. and ecological crises” (1991. . as false consciousness. knowledge. This notion of knowledge as common sense implies a critique of conceptions of ideology as monolithic. as Stuart Hall writes. More than ever. knowledge of social life is multifarious. 6). the Left’s position as a voice for change is foundering. we should not forget the different. first of all. “merciless repression and death squads. It also involves a rethinking of the term “political. the family. presenting as inevitable the present state of affairs. economic. Gramsci’s notion of common sense seems particularly important. education needs to be reconsid- ered as crucial for the creation of alternative positions that can actively generate alternative political practices by producing new forms of knowledge capable of challenging and altering the exploitation and manipulation of large sectors of the world.40  Marcia Landy A reading of the social text in the “Gramscian way” as a means for charting socialist education in capitalist society entails confronting. both past and present. unemployment. and political relations but involves a painstaking reassessment of the ways in which social knowledge is created and disseminated. Gramsci’s understanding of the “culture of consent” – the ways in which lines between dominant groups in power and the subaltern are not clearly demarcated but interdependent – is a precondition for an understanding not only of resistances to change but for identifying resistances. its Eurocentrism. but very serious. Ideology functions to eradicate the possibility of alternatives. Above all. and the media. As Robin Blackburn writes: “As we address the death-throes of the former Communist world. In the refusal to acknowledge changing historical conditions for the realization of socialism and to develop strat- egies more suited to present conditions. its participation in reformist politics.” Such a study of culture does not yield itself as a mirror of immediate social. that it can speak for and liberate the subaltern groups without their active understanding and participation. In this context. Not only does this knowledge serve to perpetuate existing social practices. it has implications for rethinking the nature and meaning of subalternity away from melodramatic notions of oppressor and oppressed toward a more complex understanding of the ways in which the subal- tern is implicated in existing formations through mechanisms of both coercion and consent. derived as it is from a number of public and private discourses including the law. To describe knowl- edge as common sense is to identify it as fragmented and distorted. and economism. and as completely retrograde. religion. it is in danger of losing any political relevance because. it also contains the potential for different conceptions of society and of subjectivity. more akin to what Gramsci has identified as common sense. schools. Working with traditional models and positions of class.

106). Third. Socialist education today  41 Basically. 242) 1 Hall’s words strike a chord for me as I rehearse my own historical involvement with teaching as a radical practice. As he wrote: “no social formation disappears as long as the productive forces which have developed within it still find room for further forward movement [and] … that a society does not set itself tasks for whose solution the necessary conditions have not already been incubated” (1971. and cultural realities. they were marked by a lack of understanding of “passive revolution” in the Gramscian sense. in retrospect I have realized that these encounters were marked by a naiveté about the pervasive and innovative strategies of late capitalism in mobilizing popular consent in the face of political and economic crises. Above all. As someone involved in the particular femi- nist and anti-imperialist struggles of the late 1960s and early 1970s. cultural. Fourth. They were also marked by a naiveté about popular movements. revealed that there was clearly room left for this “forward movement of the productive forces” and that there had been no incubation for “necessary solutions. it has attached itself to a definition of how change occurs in society which in no way accurately reflects the actual social composition of the class forces and social movements necessary to produce it or the democratic realities of our society. it is no longer able to politicize and develop the majority experiences and dispositions of the popular forces which the left must enlist. and strategies for political transformation. economic retrenchment. with their emphasis on the ideology of excellence. . of how the impetus toward “reformism” is inex- tricably linked to counterstrategies of containment. and strategic unity to become an active force in history – for “itself” – is wholly foreign to it. The question of what constitutes a political practice became incredibly more complicated as it became clear that the neoconservatives had adopted the familiar strategies of protest employed by oppositional groups. (1988a.” It also made me aware of how socialist education cannot be theorized without rethinking the role of culture and of intellectuals in relation to new conceptions of politics. Although my students and I did confront questions of social class. I seized on the classroom as an opportunity to politicize the study of literature and film. and the instrumentalization of changes concerning literacy. it is wedded to an automatic conception of class. I began to confront the dizzying array of questions that bore the name “theo- retical practice” in an attempt to develop a more stringent critique of taken-for- granted practices about the role of intellectuals. The early 1970s. gender. though “Marxism” as a sort of magic invocation is constantly on its lips. devoid of any sense of the ways in which power works. thus complicating further the question of effective political practices in the name of socialism. Marx’s formidable distinction between a class “in itself” and one which has developed sufficient political. race. models of learning. Second. and imperialism. whereby the economic conditions can be transposed directly on to the political stage. econom- ic. that model has committed us over the years to an analysis which no longer has at its centre an accurate description of contemporary social.

to name a few – who understand and struggle with current political theories and practices as they relate to questions of gender. Matthew Tinkcom. in particular. mass culture. Baudrillard. and above all. has offered in its genealo- gies of power. the complex nature of hegemony. while critical of traditional Marxism. The political dimensions of these theories. representation. and the need to configure the nature of subjectivity and intersubjectivity. (2) the ways in which capitalism seeks to manage these crises. indebted as they are to some form of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Foucault. Likewise. and (3) the need to see these subjectivities in rela- tion to economic and political formations rather than in solely psychological and affective terms. its interrogation of classical notions of institutional hierarchies and of victimage. In our readings of Marx. connections among economics. we have sought to make bridges between Marxist and poststructuralist concerns. and the . the Frankfurt School. With a few exceptions. The work of Foucault. I have more often learned from my students rather than faculty colleagues. requisite for a rethinking of Marxism.42  Marcia Landy This work has not been done in isolation. complicated – and at times problematic – theories concerning the relationship between subalternity and social institutions. 2 Our studies have explored the ways in which poststructuralism has raised ques- tions concerning language. The figure of Gramsci has remained for us a crucial barometer in our quest to understand configurations of subalternity. textuality. This form of subversion differs from traditional forms of protest politics in fundamental ways. In my recent expe- riences in teaching I have been extremely fortunate to have as my guide a group of students – Amy Villarejo. Joy Fuqua. Mhadava Prasad. and Gayatri Spivak. Antonio Negri. What follows is an attempt to review some of our investigations. Barbara White. to a critique of existing pedagogical practices. history. have raised the hitherto marginalized issue of the formation of gendered and sexual subjects. to reexamine Marxism in the light of the serious questions that have been raised by poststructuralism concerning the role of the intellectual in the period of late capitalism. recalling Gramsci’s discussions of coercion and consent. subjectivity. politics. and culture. Sally Meckling. sexu- ality. and modernity that have a political potential but need to be evaluated in relation to theories of learning and change and also in relation to how they can be translated and assimilated into existing pedagogies that are geared toward maintaining traditional forms of behavior. since it is geared first and foremost to the creation of political alignments based on an understanding of (1) existing antagonisms which are the creation of new subjectivities whose consent can no longer be negotiated and whose position is dictated by a recogni- tion of the perpetual crisis nature of capitalism. among others. The courses we have shared are predicated on the need to rethink traditional forms of political discourses. and to seek new strategies and tactics that can constitute effective forms of political subversion that do more than serve prevailing institutional interests which can easily deflect oppositional strategies by incorporating and silencing them. the Althusserian focus on ideology has allowed for a more complex entry into the difficult question of the persistence of dominant ideological practices. sexuality.

it is clear that the divide between theory and practice is symptomatic of one major form of resistance to change. The recent media dramatizations over “political correctness” and the role of theory as the Bad Other indicates. family. The efficacy of this critique can in part be validated by neoconservativism’s militant invocation of traditional representations of nation. they explore and challenge notions of representation as constitutive of the real and seek to undermine the social imaginary. racial and ethnic groups. the positions of gendered and sexual subjects. Socialist education today  43 relationship between civil society and the state. too. continue to be uneasy about how such theories are deployed in the interests of inhibiting change. This attack seems to represent the other side of the 1960s’ assault against more familiar and direct forms of political practice. of specific civil institutions. the theories themselves are deeply concerned with exposing resistances to change. Even though the reception of these theories has tended to neutralize their radical political potential by placing them in the service of reading competen- cies and formalism. among other things. religion. Also. has helped to call into question the persistence of modes of totalizing thought that have character- ized Western speech and writing. the legitimacy of juridical. Derrida’s critique of logo- centrism. a process of stressing formal competence and narrow disciplinary skills has served to block moves to interrogate the means and ends of traditional forms of learning. 117) While not offering prescriptions for or affirmations of revolutionary struggle and transformation. the need for intelligibility and the rule of law. (1987a. permit me to invoke Spivak’s words: At a time when a rage for order defeminates the academies from every side … I am interested in the theory-practice of pedagogic practice-theory that would allow us constructively to question privileged explanations even as explanations are generated … What I look for … is a confrontational teaching of the humanities that would question the students’ received disciplinary ideology (model of legitimate cultural explanations) even as it pushed into indefiniteness the most powerful ideology of the teaching of the humanities: the unquestioned explicating power of the theorizing mind and class. rights of the unborn. medical. oppressor and oppressed. and academic discourses. A most important mode of enquiry has evolved in the last decades from an interrogation of the role of media – as exemplified by such diverse critics as Raymond Williams and Paul Virilio . and individualism. patriotism. That this attempt at recuperation of knowledge has taken place in no way invali- dates the seriousness of the poststructuralist critique. that there is a recognition of the subversive dimensions of contemporary theory. especially in its attacks on the subject and on totalizing modes of historicizing. even current theory has been appropriated in the service of more narrowly instrumental and disciplinary ends. In fact. poststructuralisms do invite a radical critique of the power of the state. In either case. deeply inflecting the way we think and act. though critics such as Edward Said. particularly of the tendency to maintain and hierarchialize strict divi- sions between center and margins. and as a counterposition to any division between theory and practice. wanting to maintain a space for political activism. In education.

though not all function in professional terms as such. mass culture. 75–88). a period he termed Fordism.” the affirming aspects of mass culture generative of fascism. with implications for notions of education and social change. one that does not make total- izing assumptions about subalternity but rather poses it as a complex problematic which directly concerns the issue of socialist education. the figure of Gramsci intervenes and introduces different meth- odologies and practices. and value without interrogating media representations. has more cogency now than ever. 3 There is a Marxist history to this concern with intellectuals.44  Marcia Landy – on the central role played by media in social representations and the transmis- sion of knowledge. His notion that. workers are not bereft of a conception of the world. the study of media has veered largely toward formalist or psychoanalytic directions in which questions of subjectivity are either neglected or considered apart from other social formations. For example. These conceptions of modernism and postmodernism challenge us to reex- amine issues of production and consumption. production and consumption. has pointed to the necessity of rethinking the ways in which we perpetuate cultural value. and power which is often elided or derided by contemporary critical theory as we have explored in our readings. represented by such theorists as Lyotard and Baudrillard. Thus. This work has made it clear that one cannot discuss such questions as ideology. however. Are we doomed to be consumers. education that claims to be socialist needs to contend with what Baudrillard has termed the “political economy of the sign. subject positions. education. The writings of Adorno and the Frankfurt School were preoccupied with what was termed “the culture industry. invites a different set of speculations about the nature of the subaltern. His statement that all people are intellectuals. Antonio Negri.” to examine the trans- mission of images in complex ways that challenge conventional oppositions between total domination and total autonomy and provide better modes of under- standing reception and dissemination. wants to mark a rupture between Fordism and late capitalism through positing a change between what he calls the “mass worker” and the “socialized worker” (1989. even under Taylorized modes of production. and social transformation. This work. The work of Walter Benjamin was character- ized by a recognition of the importance of addressing mass culture as affirming but also oppositional. His postmodern “socialized worker” . trapped in the science fiction world of technologically transmitted images? What do we mean by consumerism and the role of the consumer? Are responses to mass media so monolithic? In this context. Gramsci’s conception of traditional and organic intellectuals especially deserves elaboration in the context of notions of postmodernity. not as an issue subsidiary to economic transformation but as a central facet of modern life which needs to be addressed if change is possible at all. with the exception of Gramscian-oriented forms of media study as exemplified by British critics (and some US critics) of mass culture. despite his writing at an earlier moment of Western industrialism and modernization.

Both writers understand that. bureaucratic. However. Gramsci’s elaborations on the wars of siege and maneuver are not merely clas- sificatory and descriptive but intimately linked to a specific and local analysis of existing antagonisms and of ways of exploiting them in the interests of new and more efficacious alliances. and the wars of siege and maneuver. a rereading of the nature of the political in relation to the economic. Eurocommunist. . and merely additive. attentive to the need to understand culture and social institutions from a historical materialist position. and above all. A major difference between Gramsci’s position and Negri’s resides. The most blatant misreading of his work comes from attempts to interpret his conception of “bloc” in abstract terms as general. in the phrase employed by the Third International. the analysis of hegemony springs from certain basic assumptions concerning preconditions for organization. if not anti-Marxist. Negri’s work is also an attempt to account for the “innovativeness” of capitalism.” Its reversal for Negri implies a refusal to settle for voluntarism. institutional- ized in Bolshevism: “pessimism of the intellect/optimism of the will. his work none- theless remains within a Marxist orientation. Gramsci has variously been transformed into a Crocean. or authoritarian but an effective instrument in the creation of socialism. humanist. without acknowledging historically incompatible positions. what gets empha- sized in totalizing fashion are his notes on hegemony. one can argue that Gramsci’s notions of hegemony have often been read (like his Notebooks generally) in totalizing ways against the back- ground of traditional interpretations and practices. If Gramsci’s work written in prison under the fascist regime was in large part an attempt to account for the rehegemonization of the bourgeoisie. spontaneism. Socialist education today  45 is theorized on the basis of the subsumption of contemporary civil society into the political. by assuming that working to broaden existing institutions is sufficient to guarantee change. shorn of their historical specificity and of his struggles to create a notion of a party that is not elitist. in discussing relations between civil society and the state. and an ongoing concern to understand. Neither his historical analysis nor his conception of materialism fits the mold of a master narrative of the realization of class conflict or of scientific socialism.” ending often in reformism which in the name of eclecti- cism or pluralism assumes the possibility of “negotiating” difference without the hard work of distinguishing between workable and unworkable alliances. however. for a blind belief “against the dictates of reason. If Gramsci’s Marxism was critical of Bolshevism. and on education. Gramsci’s work charts rather than prescribes. In the recent reappropriation of Gramsci. the work toward change can be retarded or advanced. In Gramsci. and also on the general availability of knowledge formerly denied to the mass worker. a corresponding recogni- tion of the civil as the terrain of struggle. through Marxist theory and through an under- standing of the crisis nature of capitalism and the means used to either suppress or capitalize on crisis. and vulgar materialism. the nature of hegemony and counterhegemony. confusing the popular and populism to which it becomes erroneously linked. on culture. Hegelian. This reading ignores the important element in Gramsci of the role of understanding history as a means for identifying existing antagonisms and specific social groups as a preliminary step to producing new social transformation. In this sense. as Negri himself admits. on intellectuals.

challenge. his comments about the nature of the passive revolution.46  Marcia Landy not prescribe. rethinking Gramsci in Hall’s terms requires. Such critical work benefits from a Gramscian perspec- tive. Negri’s analysis of contemporary society rather than displacing Gramsci’s offers a way of extending Gramsci’s abiding concerns with the transformations wrought by mass society. it has to be situated not only within the larger concerns posed by many of the poststructuralists concerning the formation of subjectivity but as it is implicated in capitalist and imperialist structures and as it stands in relation to the forma- tion of social movements. as Gramsci himself continu- ally suggests. Thus. In other words. and to acknowledge the importance of cultural politics both in creating new forms of hegemony and in challenging existing hegemonic formations. Thus. These are all attributable to a specific set of historical convergences but open to a translation into more contemporary problematics: the changing nature of work. the nature of subalternity. so too Gramsci’s work requires a rereading in a much less continuist vein – not only because his writings as prison notes are fragmentary and tentative (Buttigieg 1990) but because his arguments are. like all positions. The implications of this type of analysis are far-reaching. a protag- onist” (Gramsci 1971. 337). it would entail a rethinking of the notion of the subal- tern in ways suggested by Gramsci’s notion of intellectuals. for aligning knowledge with existing class antagonisms. and the changing nature of knowledge/power. of common sense. the crucial role of civil society in retarding or enhancing change. the need to historicize the notion that “if yesterday the subaltern element was a thing. and of history away from the sense of determinism but also from the notion of a linear conception of progress toward the realization of revolution.” and his preoccupation with the building of hegemony suggest possibilities for a dynamic and differentiated and differenti- ating understanding of mass culture. unified articulation but as disjointed. subject to historical interrogation. what are the historical dimensions of the present that transform the subaltern from thing to “person”? It would seem that socialist education in a capitalist society. Nowhere has Gramsci been so misread as in the notion of hegemony which does not signify either a simple set of oppositions between dominant and subaltern . and revision. if one follows Gramsci. and their implications for producing new forms of political practice and. today it is no longer a thing but an historical person. in particular. Though Gramsci was rightly skeptical about the growing power of the mass media. His work conveys the imperative to face the resilience of capitalism. Much as Negri returns to his Marx (as Althusser had done earlier and for different ends) to read texts not as a continuous. his concerns for what he termed the “national popular. The efficacy of Gramsci’s investigations depends then on their translatability to present conditions. extending beyond the notion of media programs of study and challenging socialist educators – as Hall in The Hard Road to Renewal has done – to come up with new strategies and tactics capable finally of confronting these new forms of knowledge and power. is a means toward this transformation. If cultural analysis is to be more than another form of intellectual consumption. the nature of the consumer society. the always menacing nature of the nuclear state.

is a major means toward mobilizing acceptance of and compliance to things as they are. cinema. Socialist education today  47 nor a fusion between the two but rather a complex relationship (not prescribed but negotiated) among various subaltern groups. 382–3) This note which is embedded in his concerns to explore the need to overhaul traditional rhetorical and oratorical forms in the schools and universities acknowl- edges the power of these new modes of dissemination. and radio. his insistence on the multi- layered nature of popular articulations as developed in his conceptions of folk- lore and common sense are effective in combatting the monolithic interpretations concerning social texts and their reception. beat all forms of written communication. Gramsci’s purpose “in mapping popular taste” was. In his examination of popular literature. 344) These comments touch on a number of issues central to a rethinking of the importance of Gramsci for current political and cultural study. not in depth. Most particularly. not to produce a static descriptive picture but rather to explore the relations between dominant and subaltern cultural forms in dynamic terms as they act upon each other historically. issues that concern the theorizing of cultural forms. 4 From comments in his Notebooks. In the struggle to create new hege- monic formations. spoken communication is a means of ideological diffusion which has a rapidity. with its loudspeakers in public squares. and an emotional simultaneity far greater than written commu- nication (theatre. In his concern with developing a complex sense of struggle on both the cultural/politica1 as well as economic fronts. He states: The art of printing … revolutionized the entire cultural world … allowing an unprecedented extension of educational activity … Even today. Yet it appears that while he is critical of their “superficiality.” he is aware not only of their power but of the need to understand their role within the culture. rather than of pure coercion. he sees popular cultural forms being “raised” into the dominant “artistic” literature. it can be seen that Gramsci was aware of the communications revolution. In this respect. magazines. Gramsci’s writings on education and mass culture provide a starting point for examining the more complex ways in which consent is shaped in late capitalist society. Gramsci’s conceptions . Gramsci’s emphasis on intellectuals is central. Just as folklore contains the sediments of earlier dominant cultures that have seeped down into subaltern cultures. since consent as mobilized in the name of pleasure and profit. (1984. a field of action. according to David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. news- papers and newspapers posted on walls) – but superficially. including books. (Gramsci 1984. so Gramsci sees in the popular literature residues of earlier dominant literary forms … By a converse practice.

as heterogeneously formed rather than as unified. Common sense creates the folklore of the future.” the transformation of the rela- tionship between students and texts into a form of personal encounter that erases the complexity of determinations involved in the construction of the “personal. paying specific attention to what has been displaced or elided. as oppositional and as alternative.” By contrast. Every philosophical current leaves a sedimentation of “common sense”: this is the document of its historical reality.” Common sense would seem to be the term to describe this multiplicity. in relation to the reading of popular novels and film. as he saw individuals and groups. and criti- cize – not prescribe – the various elements that constitute common sense. 40–2). a relatively rigidified phase of popular knowledge in a given time and place. According to Gramsci. science. what appears as residual and as emergent. socialist education must explore. He also recognized the importance of grappling with this form of knowledge in order to develop a basis from which to elaborate new forms of organization based on an understanding of both resistances and already emergent positions. but is in continuous transformation. but saw cultural texts.48  Marcia Landy of common sense as a key to popular thought can be related to the processes of deconstruction with their emphasis on multiplicity and the transgressive nature of social discourses. indicative of the existence of the very common sense Gramsci identifies. in developing ways to discuss texts. involves a critical understanding of . and the philosophy. Also. and are. (1984. These terms are also indicative of the presence in the classroom of what Spivak has termed “pop psych” or “babysitting. identify. In talking about the human subject. and economics of the scientists. he sees conceptions of the world as “disjointed and episodic” and the individual as belonging “simultaneously to a multiplicity of mass human groups. education. 420–1) These comments on common sense are important because they indicate that Gramsci was not working toward a monolithic sense of cultural artifacts. Every social class has its own “common sense” and “good sense” which are basically the most widespread conception of life and man. in fact. Gramsci’s notes on common sense have been most useful in British cultural studies in breaking down resistances to examining popular culture and. becoming enriched with scientific notions and philosophical opinions that have entered into common circulation. in Gramsci’s terms. Multiplicity and heterogeneity have in fact become code terms for eclecticism. Gramsci’s conception of common sense suggests that in order to understand the ways in which individuals operate within cultural constraints and possibilities. “Common sense” is the folklore of philosophy and always stands midway between folklore proper (folklore as it is normally understood). personal agency. more particularly. Common sense is not something rigid and stationary. The emphasis on hetero- geneity would seem to align itself with current reading practices in the teaching of reading and writing that valorize heterogeneity over unity. in order to work toward more critical/ political formulations (Williams 1980.

Socialist education today  49
the political uses of antagonisms and contradictions rather than their pacifica-
tion through confessional narratives (Foucault 1980a, 58–68). A common-sense
reading of texts – the students and the cultural text under consideration – would
rather seek to explode the genre of confessional and to confound the quest for
origins and for simplistic historical explanation and focus rather on locating the
various articulations that appear to approximate the “way things are.”
In his acknowledgement of the sedimented and disjointed nature of experiences
as expressed in cultural production, Gramsci’s position would seem to diverge
from those formalist conceptions that seek to classify and differentiate categories,
measuring communication against some abstract norm. Also, and more impor-
tantly, it would seem that Gramsci, while an advocate of a classical education,
recognized the importance of identifying and enhancing the possibilities for a
popular culture as well as understanding the nature and limits of mass culture.
His broad concerns involve questions concerning the struggle for hegemony
against existing hegemonic formations. In other words, the struggle for “good
sense” is a matter “of a struggle of political ‘hegemonies,’ and of opposing direc-
tions, first in the ethical field and then in that of politics proper” (Gramsci 1971,
333). Gramsci’s views on the struggle for good sense are based on the notion that
workers are neither bereft of awareness of their condition nor passive in the face
of these conditions. Like Negri, he sees the history of the working class as marked
by antagonisms inherent to capitalism, but antagonisms that must be seized and
made revolutionary and that are too often channeled into reformism. The problem
for both Negri and Gramsci is to understand and work with these antagonisms.
Thus, Gramscian “good sense” begins with an awareness of the need to account
historically for the continuing success of traditional political positions despite
poststructuralist critiques. In this process of rethinking, it is necessary to rethink
conceptions of subalternity not as monolithic but in terms of the different ways in
which resistance is a possibility – in relation to gender, race, sexuality, and class.
Common sense becomes a metaphor for mapping the palimpsest, the layering
of archaic and contemporary positions that need to be disarticulated in order to
rethink both the relations of force as well as those of consent. In this process, it
is imperative to distinguish the “conjunctural” from the “organic” since a major
problematic of much political thinking involves the misrecognition of strategy and
tactics. “This leads,” Gramsci says, “to presenting causes as immediately opera-
tive which in fact only operate indirectly, or to asserting that immediate causes
are the only effective ones. In the first case there is an excess of ‘economism’, or
doctrinaire pedantry; in the second, an excess of ‘ideologism’” (1971, 178).
In the case of “economism,” the danger lies in developing reductive and linear
analyses of events which in no way allow for a questioning of cause-effect rela-
tions necessary to rethinking positions nor allows for addressing the interrelation-
ship between economics and politics, questions of civil society and the state, the
important question of the formation of the subaltern subject, and the multiplicity
of determinations. In the case of “an excess of ideologism,” Gramsci seems to be
wary of “an exaggeration of the voluntarist and individual element,” the placing of
too great a burden on a form of historical analysis that does not take into account
the “disposition of social forces” that would include economic determinations.

50  Marcia Landy
Such distinctions are to be read in relation to social texts from the past but also in
relation to the present and future and are crucial elements in the consideration of
pedagogical practices that are aimed at developing criteria and methodologies for
an understanding of cultural phenomena.

Gramsci’s concern with intellectuals, culture, and education suggests a mapping
of still other concerns that involve education, namely, the role of media as an
increasingly important source for the production and dissemination of knowledge
and the role of the teacher in selecting texts and in the methodologies for under-
standing the nature of these texts. Much of the “reading” of film and television
texts has served the interests of disciplinary ends and has overshadowed the polit-
ical implications of the works. While the study of media has found its way into
school and college curricula, the study of film and television often takes the direc-
tion of formalism and aestheticism to the detriment of developing accounts of
textual reception, questions of production, alternative media, alternative readings
of media, and their relation to questions of imperialism and power. Too often, film
and television studies reproduce single-text readings that stay within the bounds
of a given culture and do not address the ways in which media are part of a global
network that is involved in changing traditional notions of center and margins.
Furthermore, in contrast to the traditional curriculum which assumes that students
must become literate, one can claim that a certain degree of literacy already exists
through the accessibility of mass media, though in the form of common sense
rather than of “good sense.” Therefore, the teaching of media would seem to
require pedagogical strategies that are able to identify the multifarious ways in
which these mass texts are sites of pleasure as well as of antagonism, the ways
in which they depend on a wide array of spectators and draw on a wide array of
cultural lore. Hence, examinations of media need also to be cautious of both econ-
omism and ideologism in accounting for the complex ways in which these texts
are neither simply dystopian nor utopian, national popular or univocally interna-
tional, but are, like common sense, comprised of numerous sediments that attempt
to fuse the local and the national, the national and the international, private and
public spheres, past and present. The challenge is to disarticulate these different
layers in order to see their heterogeneity rather than seeking to reinforce a totality
of interpretation which only rehearses clichés about communication and refuses
to confront the nature of the political impact of media as mass culture.
Another area, related to the study of media, one addressed by Gramsci in his
notes on education and the need for specialized education as opposed to tradi-
tional pedagogy, involves the role of technology. On one hand, recognition of the
importance of technology seems to be uncontested and has been institutionalized
in most areas of teaching. On the other hand, critical work on the nature, uses, and
implications of technology is not as well developed. Stanley Aronowitz and Henry
Giroux in Education Under Siege warn that “We are in for a heavy dose of the new
technization of the curriculum” (1985, 63). For example, technocrats have moved
into the teaching of writing. In literature departments, we have our counterpart

Socialist education today  51
to the social science functionaries, that goes under the name of composition and,
at one extreme, computer methodologies have come to play a dominant role in
the teaching of composition and are, in part, responsible for producing a new
literature concerning the history, aims, and subjects of literacy and for standard-
izing elements of the composition curriculum. While the reawakening of literacy
concerns can be traced to the 1960s, an examination of the routes this concern has
taken reveals yet another instance in which antagonisms arising from social ineq-
uities have been channeled and contained through a number of different factors,
among which are the following: academic “deregulation” and tightening of state
funds; the adoption of the model of the sciences in its emphasis on grantsmanship;
the marketing of computer hardware; the hegemony of the conservatives and the
routing of the Left; the need to appease different political constituencies; and the
reintroduction of requirements into the curriculum in the interests of skills and
competencies rather than of developing and enhancing cultural analysis.
Apart from the technological impetus, another source for this pedagogical
transformation has come from an appropriation of the language of poststructur-
alism in the service of creating a “pedagogy of literacy”: the aims and methods
of such “pedagogy” involve bringing critical theory to bear on the ways in which
students think and write. In the name of cultural diversity, feminism, decoloni-
zation, new subject formations, the composition “pedagogy” has personalized,
psychologized, and functionalized teaching. Barthes, Foucault, Bahktin, Derrida,
and other critical theorists are invoked as pedagogical models in the emphasis on
self-shaping. On one hand, these concerns seem to have a political concern at their
base, the liberal concern with addressing the “culturally disenfranchised,” but on
the other hand, the form of this enfranchisement is dependent on modes of endless
self-reflection and of eclecticism which obscure the constituencies and the very
differences that such programs claim to address, bereft as they are of any sense of
history and of critical analysis.
While English departments can claim greater longevity and more students
(owing to requirements) and larger graduate programs as a consequence, programs
have, in fact, become quite standardized and orthodox in their strategies for reading
and writing. Insofar as they have produced discontents, they have functioned to
further call into question liberal social projects. Insofar as they have succeeded,
they have reinforced the ideology of competence and the interests of power and
social containment of conflict. One aspect of a Gramscian analysis would be to
understand the contradictory position of this movement, to see what interests it
serves, to expose its cooptation of the language of change in the form of “pop
psych,” but also to identify, in the vein of common-sense analysis, what residual
elements it reinforces and what emerging discourses it seeks to circumvent.
Another area of concern for socialist pedagogy has been that of cultural studies,
with its emphasis on theory, comparative methodologies, and interdisciplinarity. It
appears that cultural studies, like issues of mass culture, technology, and literacy,
have had to contend with similar problems. The concern for interdisciplinary
work may have arisen from the necessity of addressing issues of cultural represen-
tation with the help of more adequate methodologies and with an awareness that
disciplinary boundaries are more than artificial: they obscure the interrelationship

52  Marcia Landy
of the natural and social sciences and other cultural discourses. The notion of
interdisciplinarity was developed out of the need to examine critically the regimes
of truth as purveyed through the various disciplines, and might be construed as a
mode of exposing mystifications that have been constructed around technology,
specifically in relation to technologies of gender, sexuality, race, and so on.
Interdisciplinarity could serve to introduce connections among politics, philos-
ophy, and cultural production.
But, here too it is possible to instrumentalize the process, to see the move to
breaking down boundaries in formalist terms as one of methodology to the exclu-
sion of a questioning of interests, positions, and powers. In practice, interdisci-
plinarity has become a way of maintaining disciplinarity rather than a means for
interrogating (1) the genealogy of “disciplines,” the conditions for their appear-
ance; (2) the episteme to which they gave rise; (3) their present position within the
changing conceptions of information, science, and technology; (4) their relation
to existing modes of production; and (5) the availability of more adequate modes
for accounting for social formations and transformation. If, for example, these
reformulations address non-Western cultures but fail to address the ever-shifting
discourses of exploitation and commodification, the economic and political
dimensions of global relations between “centers and margins,” their implications
for the female and male workers in the world market, their historical formations
and deformations, the interested positions of commentators, and the persistence of
the ethnographic investigation now in the form of the “post-colonial subject” and
the discourse of “postcoloniality,” then knowledge will continue to serve the very
ethnographic interests that a socialist pedagogy would seek to question.
In short, socialist education is confronted by the difficult task of undoing much
traditional thought concerning history, behavior, science, the human sciences, and
the role of culture. Socialist education at the present time involves a recognition
of the need to confront the challenge of poststructuralist positions and particularly
of theories of postmodernism in the political terms first raised by Gramsci in his
identification of the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of Fordism but
further problematized by the “post-Fordist” concerns raised by Negri and others.
Gramsci raised many of the problems; it is imperative that intellectuals concerned
with the viability of socialism explore the possibility of solutions for the present
and for the future.

I want to thank Paul Bové for his careful reading of the manuscript, his chal-
lenging comments, and his continuing commitment to intellectual struggle.

Part II

Hegemony, subalternity,
common sense

5 The sources for Gramsci’s
concept of hegemony
Derek Boothman

This chapter attempts to single out key sources, avoiding any unilateral attribu-
tion, for the concept of hegemony as developed by Antonio Gramsci throughout
the entire course of his prison writings. Among these sources one may point to
the well-established (albeit usually ignored) use of the term by Italian social-
ists when Gramsci was a young journalist. Later, when he was a member of the
Comintern Executive in Moscow (1922–3), the term circulated freely among
leading Bolsheviks (Lenin included), as Bukharin confirms explicitly, and shortly
afterward began to appear in Gramsci’s letters and other writings. Major inputs,
as seen from the Prison Notebooks, also stem from Benedetto Croce and from
various aspects of Machiavelli, including language. Gramsci’s university linguis-
tics studies also proved important, with the questions of linguistic substrata (which
foreshadow later sociolinguistic notions) and the dialect/national language rela-
tion being crucial. Overriding all, however, is Gramsci’s reading of the concrete
In this chapter we attempt to identify the principal theoretical origins, about
a half-dozen of them including a strong linguistic input, that converged to influ-
ence the concept of hegemony as subsequently developed by Gramsci throughout
the whole of his prison notebooks, from its first appearance there, where “lead-
ership” and “political hegemony” are used synonymously. Not all sources are
explicitly stated as such in the notebooks, but they may be traced by assessing
both Gramsci’s comments there and his experience before prison. Shedding light
on this subject is helpful for challenging often unilateral or debatable interpreta-
tions of the concept, whether by friendly commentators, who sometimes overlook
or deny economic and class factors, or by hostile ones, who neglect consensual
aspects. Both sides, too frequently, also ignore hegemony’s essential role as the
component that transforms Marx’s somewhat static structure/superstructure meta-
phor into Gramsci’s more dynamic metaphor of the historical bloc.

The starting point for the concept of hegemony
Gramsci’s notion of hegemony rests, as he himself states, on a fundamental text
of Marx’s, the 1859 preface to A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy,
which he translated in a part of Notebook 7 set aside for such work (Gramsci
1975, 2358–60).1 A literal English translation of the main lines of interest reads:

” The kernel idea of the fight among conflicting forces on the ideo- logical terrain is what indeed is developed throughout the notebooks. the word was in current use among Italian socialists. it may be observed that. political.” This concept. which then implies the question of the relations between such forces: that is.” and so on. Echoes of this are found in Q2§89 (Gramsci 1992. on how US power was created (Q2§16. Gramsci 1996. Venice was under Austria. a first question of importance to be asked regards the use of the word and concept “hegemony” in socialist and then in communist circles in the years before his imprisonment. so it is no surprise that there were polemics about who was “entitled” to what. a recognizable and easily readable Venetian “pan-Italian” functioned as a Mediterranean lingua franca in a striking example of linguistic hegemony. with its references to “irredentism” and the “special form assumed by the national question in Trieste and in Dalmatia (for the Italians). respectively). In observing such upheavals one must always draw a distinction between a material overthrow of the conditions of economic produc- tion. religious. Gramsci 1992. artistic. Italian socialist usage First of all. . Gramsci 1995. 171. then the major theoretical organ of the Italian social- ists. on whose terrain men become aware of this conflict and resolve it. At this time. 177. passing later into Tito’s Yugoslavia. of hegemony as the system of power relations between competing – or between dominant and vassal – states is found in the Notebooks in sections. and 1971. the whole question of hegemony. For most of the sixty-odd years from the collapse in 1797 of the Doges’ republic to the foundation of the kingdom of Italy. but before this it had for centuries controlled much of Dalmatia (the coastal zone of today’s Slovenia and Croatia). 222–3). Left concepts of “hegemony” before the Prison Notebooks In order to trace Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. 260–5) and on the history of subaltern states explained by that of hegemonic ones (Q15§5. and the juridical. to see articles on “wars of hegemony. control of the northern and eastern Adriatic was highly sensitive from an Italian nationalist perspective. for example. which is to be faithfully ascertained by the methods of the natural sciences.56  Derek Boothman “With the change in the economic base the immense superstructure is over- turned more or less rapidly. 331–2).” “Italo-Serb relationships for hegemony in the Adriatic. just how the “superstructures” are related to the structure itself is “the crucial problem of historical materialism” (first draft) and is a problem that has to be “accurately posed and resolved if the forces which are active in the history of a particular period are to be correctly analysed” (second draft) (Q4§38 and Q13§17. or philosophical forms: in a word. stemming from ancient Greece.2 The breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire saw the largely Italian- speaking Istrian peninsula of the northeastern Adriatic come under Italian rule. in the decade he spent in Turin. It is sufficient to leaf through the 1916–17 numbers of Critica Sociale. and feeds into the concept of hegemony. the ideological forms. then.

The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony  57
However, it was another sector of the Left that provided a greater input for
Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. For him, the principal contemporary architect
of the modern theory of hegemony was Lenin who, as a theoretician, had on “the
terrain of political organization and struggle, and with political terminology …
reappraised the front of cultural struggle and constructed the doctrine of hegemony
as a complement to the theory of the State-as-force and as a contemporary form
of the 1848 doctrine of ‘permanent revolution’” (Q10I§12; Gramsci 1995, 357).
In other words, the leadership of the proletarian forces had to be developed inde-
pendently on all fronts “in opposition to the various tendencies of ‘economism,’”
as Gramsci writes in the same paragraph in commenting on Lenin’s position.3
Especially in light of an internationally influential, but sometimes flawed, article
of Norberto Bobbio’s on Gramsci, where “hegemony” is claimed to be more char-
acteristic of Stalin (Stalin 1934, 361–2) than Lenin, whose “habitual language” is
said not to have included gegemoniya (Bobbio 1969, translated as Bobbio 1988),
it is doubly worthwhile examining the input from Lenin. Some of the main poli-
cies advocated by Lenin for leadership over both allied and oppositional classes
are outlined in this subsection.
The concept and practice of “hegemony” – but not necessarily the word –
are present under various guises in his work from long before the Bolshevik
revolution. The word gegemoniya makes an early appearance in the classic
1902 pamphlet What is to be Done? whose standard English translation,
however, contains not “hegemony” but a gloss. Advocating strategies mirrored
in Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, Lenin says the Bolsheviks had a “bounden
duty” in the struggle to overthrow the autocracy to guide the activities not only
of the urban proletariat, but of other “opposition strata” (Lenin 1967, 84). In
the same decade, the concept also comes into Lenin’s writings on the Paris
Commune, where he notes that the “socialist proletariat” could achieve “demo-
cratic tasks to which the bourgeoisie could only pay lip service” (1931, 18), a
task similar to that he later faced regarding agrarian reform. This leadership role
is also shown in his observation on Engels, who, “in calling the Commune a
dictatorship of the proletariat had in view … the ideological leading participa-
tion of the representatives of the proletariat in the revolutionary government”
(59; emphasis in original).4 The innovative elements to note are, in the first case,
the role of one class (the proletariat) which, by carrying out tasks classically
assigned to other classes, potentially was able to weld together a class alliance;
in the second case, other classes spontaneously recognizing the proletariat’s
ideologically superior positions, judged by Gramsci as essential to hegemony.
Later, in the first period of the Bolshevik government, one main problem was
the modus vivendi between the Russian proletariat and their former masters and,
in May 1918, we find Lenin defending the need to use the former capitalists to
run state industry since they were the only ones with the necessary expertise
(1968, 21–2); the hegemonic aspect emerges here in the exercise of power by
the proletariat over an antagonistic class. Subsequently, his 1919 article “The III
International and its Place in History,” written just a month after the foundation

58  Derek Boothman
of the Communist International (Comintern), does in fact contain the word
egemonia three times in the Italian translation that Gramsci published (Lenin
1976, 245–6). In the international movement, hegemony – here a recognized
leading position – passed to the German socialists after 1870, while Kautsky
in 1908 said it could pass to the Slavs, before it did actually go to the Russians
after 1917.5 Other Marxists seem to have used the word in the official documents
of the First Congress of the Comintern, notably Bukharin and Eberlein in their
“Platform” of the International and also, possibly, the Russian drafter Obolensky
(Ovinsky) of the theses on the international situation and the Entente (The Third
International 1980, 42, 54); in the latter case, the English translation has “leading
position” where the Italian has egemonia. A particular concept of hegemony and
the word itself were, then, as Anderson describes in a widely quoted essay (1976,
15–18), in use by Marxists, including Lenin, in the whole period up to the foun-
dation of the Comintern.
Just after Lenin raised the question of relations between antagonistic classes
in postrevolutionary Russia, a rather different aspect of hegemony was posed by
another politico-economic issue – namely, the nature of the democratic dicta-
torship of the proletariat and the peasantry, especially in the transition from
“war communism” to the New Economic Policy (NEP). In order to rule, the
urban proletariat had to come to terms with a backward agricultural system
based on the various strata of the peasantry and reach an understanding with the
majority of these latter (Lenin at the Tenth Congress of the R. C. P, quoted in
Carr 1966, 277). Carr goes on to note that small producers and cultivators, the
great majority of the Russian population, were present in almost all countries
and, according to the Bolsheviks and the International, “the chief question of the
revolution” consisted in the struggle against them. They could not be expropri-
ated like the capitalists but, at least in Russia, the NEP fulfilled the purpose of
maintaining “the alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry, in order that the
proletariat may keep the role of leadership and state power” (Lenin, speech at
the Third Congress of the International, quoted in Carr 1966, 278). The peas-
antry was therefore simultaneously both the object of struggle and an essential
ally; the two aspects – dominance and leadership, involving force and consent,
respectively – that for Gramsci were to characterize hegemony are thus present.
Lenin’s innovative policy toward the peasantry is well known and requires no
further comment, but his theses on the agrarian question at the Second Congress
of the International are of equal originality and shot through with the notions
of hegemony while the word itself is not actually used (The Third International
1980, 113–23).
It matters little if the term gegemoniya was, as Bobbio claims, used little by
Lenin. Nowhere in the Prison Notebooks does Gramsci ascribe the actual use
of the word to Lenin but, as seen, it is in the original Russian of What is to be
Done? and it is present in other writings (Two Tactics, The Electoral Struggle
in St. Petersburg and the Mensheviks, and even, as regards the banks, in his
Imperialism) as well as in the Italian translation of the Third International article.
More important, what Gramsci would develop as “hegemony” is, as indicated,
ever present in Lenin’s political practice.

The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony  59
Use by other Bolsheviks and communists
The above is consistent with what Anderson (1976) writes, but his statement that
“in the aftermath of October, the term ceased to have much actuality in the USSR”
needs qualification. In his lectures on Lenin’s contribution to the revolution,
Bukharin (1925, 44–9), for one, begins by observing that Lenin was “the most
outstanding existing among Marxists.” Precisely on the working class-peasant
alliance, he goes on to say that in the dual struggle against “liberal Marxism”
and the Narodniki, “the radical Narodniki always placed the peasantry first.
The liberal Narodniki stood for an alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, which
was to have hegemony over the peasantry”; thus, “it was the problem of an ally
of the working class that was being solved … this problem was connected with
yet another deep-rooted problem which had to be acknowledged both theoreti-
cally and practically – this was the problem of the hegemony of the proletariat”
(emphases in the original). Attention should be paid to what Bukharin says shortly
afterward: it is “superfluous to speak here about the hegemony of the proletariat
and the role of the working class as leader, because this is a theoretical point about
which we are already acquainted and which does not need any commentary.” In
other words, the term gegemoniya was well enough known not to require any
further explanation; were the word used the normal one for leadership (rukovod-
stvo), there would of course be no need for his comment. In the whole of this part
of the lectures, hegemony is present as a word and the concept, prefiguring one
Gramscian sense of it, is ever present in his reasoning.
This general currency of the term among the Bolsheviks is also demonstrated
by reference to Trotsky. In the 1904–6 period, when the democratic dictatorship of
the proletariat and peasantry, or even, as he says, of the “proletariat, peasantry and
intelligentsia,” was still something of the future, he asked, “who is to wield the
hegemony on the government itself, and through it in the country? And when we
speak of a workers’ government, by this we reply that hegemony should belong to
the working class” (Trotsky 1986, 72, repeated at 109). Some twenty years later,
in a speech to a Party Central Committee in May 1924, now in some anthologies
of his Literature and Revolution, he notes that “the task of the proletariat is that of
bringing the peasants to socialism, maintaining a complete hegemony over them”
(Trotsky 1973, 491–511). In the introduction that same year to his First Five Years
of the Communist International, he discusses “the question of the hegemony of
the Communist Party in the workers’ movement” and, in his Military Writings, in
relation to interstate relations, he observes that US hegemony had supplanted that
of Britain on the seas (Trotsky 1981).
Somewhat confusingly, “hegemony” is used in English translations of Lukács,
referring to the rule of a class in power in the essay “Class Consciousness” – but
readers should be warned that the original German is Herrschaft, not Hegemonie
(Lukács 1971, 52–3, 65–6; 1970, 129, 148) – and to the “hegemony of large-scale
capital” in his “Blum Theses” of the late 1920s (1972, 248).
The predominant sense of hegemony as the political leadership of an actual
(or potential) governing class seems, on the whole, not to have changed until
Gramsci’s prison writings began to appear in Italy in the late 1940s.6 Summing

60  Derek Boothman
up, after taking into account linguistic and translation problems, it is clear that
the germ of the idea that was to become “hegemony” in his prison reflections was
current among communists in the turbulent atmosphere of the 1920s.

Hegemony: The working class in the metropolis and the colonies
After the Russian Revolution, including the period Gramsci spent in Russia, other
important subjects were discussed and decisions taken within the International
connected with the relationship between proletarian and peasant forces. These
included the problems at a world level of burgeoning nationalism and the growth
of anti-imperialist movements. In determining where alliances were advisable and
where lines of distinction and demarcation were to be drawn, important issues
regarding what constitutes the hegemony of the proletariat were posed. In this
context, the word seems to have gained some international currency so that in a
speech on his return from the Fifth Comintern Congress, the Scottish communist
Bob Stewart could assert the need to “establish the complete hegemony of the
working class by linking the workers of the colonies with the workers of this
country” (in Murphy et al. 1924, 9).7 He apparently felt no need to simplify his
language by using a gloss for “hegemony,” presumably meaning “political leader-
ship,” thus providing a hint that the word was comprehensible to his politicized
audience albeit maybe not in everyday use even among party leaders.
The successful resolution of relations between workers in the metropolitan
and in the colonial countries runs through the Comintern debates throughout the
1920s, including those at the 1928 Sixth Congress. While Gramsci was at that time
already imprisoned, some comments on the positions adopted up to and including
the Congress (naturally from a fascist viewpoint), and even direct quotes from
some Congress resolutions, were included in articles that attracted his atten-
tion (Q5§89; Gramsci 1995, 118; 1996, 343–4, citing Gabrielli 1929: 375–84).
Inklings thus trickled through to him of the substance of the Congress debate,
whose concluding resolution on the colonies declared that in bourgeois-demo-
cratic revolutions the “basic strategical aim of the Communist movement” was
“the hegemony of the proletariat” (Communist International 1929, 26; emphasis
in original), and that, without this, “an organic part of which is the leading role
of the Communist Party, the bourgeois-democratic revolution cannot be carried
through to an end, not to speak of the socialist revolution” (21). “Hegemony,” as
used in the resolution, involved allying with bourgeois forces and even “patri-
archal and feudal chiefs and rulers” who opposed foreign oppressors, while not
excluding struggle by the working class against them as the situation demanded,
a conflictual relation not far from Gramsci’s concept.

Hegemony: The first decade after the October Revolution
What emerges from the handful of publications cited is that the term “hegemony,”
in its several guises, was current in the theoretical and policy elaborations of
Communist leaders in the 1920s. From the instances quoted here, “hegemony”
often seems used to indicate a leading role of the proletariat in class alliances

The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony  61
involving consent, as contrasted with the “domination of the capitalist system”
defined in the documents of the Sixth Congress of the International. The emer-
gence of an independent working-class force in the colonies “directly opposing
itself to the national bourgeoisie” led to a struggle with this latter “for hegemony
in the national revolution as a whole” (Communist International 1929, 8, 20, 30).
Why a minority can dominate ideologically did not seem widely discussed except
in the work of individuals like Lukács; the fallback position, not further devel-
oped, seems to have been Marx’s dictum that the dominant ideas of an epoch
are those of the ruling class. Just how this may be challenged is a key area of
Gramsci’s prison reflections.
The documents of the various Bolsheviks cited here suggest, schematically
as may be, the following breakdown to be plausible. For Stalin, “hegemony of
the proletariat” is “proletarian leadership of the masses” (Stalin 1934, 361–2, on
successive lines). Trotsky uses the term across various contexts, including its orig-
inal, ancient Greek one of military leadership, and, like Gramsci, recognizes the
necessary role in the exercise of hegemony of what he calls the intelligentsia, here
at times exaggerating somewhat. In his appreciation of Lenin, Bukharin uses the
term “hegemony” very widely in the context of building alliances and, indeed, his
biographer claims, probably relying on positions such as those of Bukharin’s 1925
booklet, that, going beyond the political, he “hoped for Bolshevik ‘hegemony’ in
economic, cultural and ideological life” (Cohen 1971, 208). However, there is no
clear indication that anyone, apart from Lenin himself, gives the term a meaning
extending beyond a synonym for “political leadership.” In all this, from summer
1922 to autumn 1923, Gramsci was in Russia and abreast, health permitting, of
writings, debates, and developments as a member of the Comintern Executive and
delegate at its Fourth Congress. Shortly afterward, indeed, the word “hegemony”
appears in the letters he wrote to the Italian party from Vienna, before his elec-
tion to Parliament, the concept being subsequently elaborated on and having its
contours sharpened in the Prison Notebooks.

The Crocean input
Besides Marxist and other leftist sources, an important and quite different type
of input consisted in the idealist philosophy of Benedetto Croce, who functioned
for Gramsci rather like Hegel did for Marx. Just as Marx had to stand Hegel’s
dialectic on its head in order to extract its rational kernel, Gramsci had to reinter-
pret certain aspects of Croce’s discourse in order to translate them into his own
paradigm of the philosophy of praxis.
And it is one element in particular of Croce’s speculative philosophy – his
concept of “ethico-political history” – that is indeed translated by Gramsci for
use in his own paradigm of the philosophy of praxis as a basis for the notion
of the expansion of hegemony, especially after a successful revolution. Gramsci
draws specifically on two of Croce’s essays from the first half of the 1920s, which
introduce “ethico-political history” viewed as the history of “moral or civil life,”
the history of the complex of moral institutions in the broadest sense, as opposed
to histories that consider “economic life as the substantive reality and moral life

62  Derek Boothman
as an appearance,” or “merely military and diplomatic” ones (Croce 1946, 67–77,
especially 67, 71–2, 125–30). For Gramsci, Croce’s “ethico-political history”
represented merely “an arbitrary and mechanical hypostasis of the moment of
hegemony, of political leadership, of consent in the life and development of the
State and civil society.” This side of history was not, however, excluded by the
philosophy of praxis which “in its most recent stage of development consists
precisely in asserting the moment of hegemony as essential to the concept of
the State and in attaching ‘full weight’ to the cultural factor, to cultural activity,
to the necessity for a cultural front alongside the merely economic and political
ones” (Q10I§7; Gramsci 1995, 343, 345). Where Gramsci differs from Croce is
in his refusal to reduce history to “ethico-political history”; this is amplified a
few pages later in the observation that Croce completely neglects the moment
of force in history, essential instead in the formation of a state. Is it possible,
Gramsci asks rhetorically, to conceive of nineteenth-century European history
without “an organic treatment of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic
wars” or “without dealing with the struggles of the Risorgimento” in Italy? By
leaving out the moment when one system of social relations disintegrates and
another is established, Crocean history becomes “nothing more than a fragment
of history” which, in the European case, was, in a phrase that Gramsci borrows
from Vincenzo Cuoco, the “‘passive’ aspect of the great revolution which began
in France in 1789,” making its effects felt right up to 1871 by “a ‘reformist’ corro-
sion.”8 On Italy he adds that the hegemonic system was maintained “and the
forces of military and civil coercion kept at the disposal of the traditional ruling
classes” (Q10I§9; Gramsci 1995, 348–50). His well-known generalization of this
is that hegemony is consent backed up by coercion: that is, in a classical parlia-
mentary regime, “the ‘normal’ exercise of hegemony … is characterised by the
combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without
force predominating excessively over consent” (Q13§37; Gramsci 1971, 80 n.
49). Gramsci takes one term of Croce’s discourse but radically alters it to render it
compatible with his own paradigm – that is, to translate it, analogous to the opera-
tion he carries out on Cuoco’s “passive revolution” factor.9

The stimuli provided by Machiavelli

Machiavelli’s “centaur”
The combination of coercion and consent within hegemony can also quite
evidently be traced to Machiavelli, whose centaur, “semi-animal, semi-man,”
indicates “that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that one without
the other is not durable” (Machiavelli 1950, 64). This dual nature represents for
Gramsci “the levels of force and consent, authority and hegemony, violence and
civilization, of the individual moment and the universal moment (‘Church’ and
‘State’), of agitation and propaganda, of tactics and strategy, etc.” (Q13§14;
Gramsci 1971, 170, whose first draft, Q8§86, explicitly refers to Croce’s “Church
and State” essay; see Croce 1946, 125–30). This description comes very close to
his metaphorical one of Jacobins, “imposing themselves” on adversaries (force:

The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony  63
see Q1§44 and Q19§24; Gramsci 1992, 147 and 1971, 77, respectively) at the
same time that they built consent by stimulating the “active intervention of the
great popular masses as a factor of social progress” (Gramsci 1995, 341). Indeed,
Gramsci portrays Machiavelli as a Jacobin avant la lettre (Q8§35).

Machiavelli: Negotiation and language
Benedetto Fontana has taken the argument regarding the Machiavellian source
of hegemony one step forward by noting that, for a stable state, Machiavelli
required that the “Prince” and the people should negotiate and share common
goals. The precondition for this is that individuals should be converted from a
“multitude” (multitudine sciolta in Machiavelli’s phrase), in which each member
looks to his or her private interests or bene particulare, into a collective subject
or a “people” (populo) with a public interest or bene commune: that is, the
people are created as a potentially hegemonic force in a “public space” where
the moment of force is transcended through dialogue and agreement is reached
between prince and people, leaders and led (Fontana 1993, 130–1). In contempo-
rary terms, this means that the sides come together as equals with, for Gramsci,
an interchange of personnel between the “prince-as-party” and the people so that,
tendentially, substantial differences become erased and fusion between them is
obtained. Gramsci explains that “in the hegemonic system there exists democracy
between the leading groups and the led to the extent to which the development
of the economy and hence legislation … favors the molecular passage from the
led groups to the leading [sc. ‘governing’] ones” (Q8§191): that is, promotion of
individuals of the subaltern classes into the ruling class, analogous, as he says, to
Roman citizenship being possible for conquered peoples. Making the link back
to Machiavelli, without the “public space” that allows dialogue and, as seen here
for Gramsci, formation of a collective leadership, the alternative for a nondemo-
cratic leadership based purely on force is, according to Machiavelli’s Discourses,
to “build fortresses” and “keep a good army always ready to take the field” or to
“scatter, disorganize and destroy” the people as a collectivity and reduce them
to individuals (1950, 363). However, “to hold one’s own country, fortresses are
injurious,” he concludes (368).
Machiavelli’s transformation of multitudine into populo, by way of a “public
space” for arriving at a common position, finds its equivalent in Gramsci’s striking
metaphor of an orchestra whose single instruments produce a cacophony in tuning
up, “yet these warm-ups are the necessary condition for the orchestra to come to
life as a single ‘instrument’”; again, unless people are bound by a sense of respon-
sibility (Machiavelli’s populo), they can act like a crowd (the multitudine) forced
to take shelter “under a roof during a downpour,” a situation in which “individu-
alism not only is not overcome but is driven to an extreme through the certainty of
impunity and irresponsibility” (Q15§13 and Q7§12; Gramsci 1995, 16, 275). In
this transformation, leaders cannot resort to old-style rhetoric and flights of oratory
but must instead convince through reason (Q11§41 and Q10II41ii; Gramsci 1995,
297–8, 406, respectively; also Q11§25; Gramsci 1971, 429). Further, while “the
popular element ‘feels’ but does not always know or understand, the intellectual

Florentine as a national language had become “the language of an exclusive caste which has no contact with a historical spoken language” (Q1§73. Indeed. had taken issue with Alessandro Manzoni. Only then. 126). cited in Fontana 2000. did “not believe in cultural hegemonies by decree. the standard Florentine dialect. for whom speech and language are the principal means for realizing a culture. did “not believe in linguistic hegemonies enacted by legal decree. not supported by a deeper and more necessary national function” (Q23§40. This approach then assumes even greater importance in Gramsci.’” Gramsci instead looks forward to the situation in which relations between “intellectuals and people-nation. In other words. Gramsci 1992.” thus one “brings into being the shared life … one creates the ‘historical bloc. on a national scale. 418. language informs Gramsci’s reflections on and develop- ment of the concept of hegemony. was fairly widespread among these linguists (Lo Piparo 1979. Ascoli. i. 179). Gramsci 1992. between the rulers and the ruled” become cohesive to the extent that “feeling-passion becomes understanding and thence knowledge” (Q11§67. One of Machiavelli’s models was the Greek philosopher Isocrates whose dictum. 305). as Gramsci continues. the notion of “linguistic hegemony” or “cultural hegemony. after the decay of medieval Florence. which concluded that this language should be created by teaching. the Italian linguist Franco Lo Piparo examined in depth the dialect/national language question.e. or. in order to show how it feeds into the subaltern/hegemonic relationship. In a path-breaking book.’” The language input in this aspect of hegemony is not to be underestimated. Italy’s foremost nineteenth-century novelist and presi- dent of the parliamentary national language commission. 173). both as it transpires in the Notebooks and in terms of how linguists studied by Gramsci at university had considered it. 179). or “speech and language are the ruler and guide of all things” (Fontana 1993. Manzoni’s purely rationalistic approach to language reform represented linguistic “force” rather than “consent” in using state means to impose from above a linguistic “Florentine hegemony.” regardless of both the absence of trained personnel to teach the language and . Gramsci 1985. then. numbered less than 3 percent of speakers of the Florentine that solely among the “educated classes” functioned as a national language. “more historicist” than Manzoni. Italy. without a supporting economic-cultural structure” (Q1§73. The university linguistic input In various ways. according to the first draft. on the other hand. is found in Machiavelli’s insistence on language as the medium for reaching agreement (pace Wittgenstein).” with hegemony often replaced by near synonyms such as “prestige” or “primacy” and even “dictatorship” (sic). For Gramsci. 106–8). Graziadio Isaia Ascoli. divided linguistically into scores of dialects. But the role of language in hegemony does not stop there. Indeed. Gramsci 1971. One in particular.64  Derek Boothman element ‘knows’ but does not always understand and in particular does not always ‘feel. can the relationship be “one of representation” with the “exchange of individual elements. on unifi- cation. logos hegemon panton. between the leaders and the led.

historical devel- opment. The overall conclusion to be drawn on language’s input to hegemony is that Gramsci is influenced partly by the linguists he studied at university but. Here one may detect the influence of Francesco De Sanctis. Ascoli’s linguistic “substrata” here showing their influ- ence. Lo Piparo is right. characteristic of the human part of the centaur. What may be done when considering its principal uses in the Notebooks is to bear in mind the multiple origins of the concept. The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony  65 even local variations around Florence. Gramsci’s full-fledged position sees language as the mode of expression of the culture characteristic of a class or other group of the population (cf. Gramsci 1985. through language as “ruler and guide of all things. then. especially 33–6). different linguistic codes thus being one aspect of the conflictual relationships between subaltern and hegemonic cultures. second. as Dante Germino remarks. in his position as a speaker of the Sard language. he brings together language. 74. 183–4).10 but also through his contacts with the cultures and dialects from all over Italy present among Turin’s automobile workers. and politics. it assumes different contours according to the situation. For him language and culture. dialect cannot deal with the grand themes of world culture for which a national language – with all its flexibility. through Isocrates. a position that foreshadows sociolinguistic ideas of class language developed only decades later. also by Machiavelli’s insistence. to maintain that an important input to the subaltern/ hegemonic relationship comes from the dialect/national language dyad. may be called “substrata” of the population and their use of language. language is to be “understood as an element of culture. as with other concepts of his.” The main sources of hegemony There can be no definitive word on the Gramscian concept and use of hegemony since. concluding that “every time the question of language surfaces. in other ways. first. Gramsci 1996. depth. yet again. Ives 2004a. 143). including the culture on which a politics is based. on consent. culture. comparing when necessary the early uses . 366). it was in continual evolution and.” each language constituting “an integral conception of the world” (Q3§76 and Q5§123. and capacity of expression – is needed. The whole question is summed up in Gramsci’s very last notebook where. Gramsci had to confront the dialects and minority language versus national language ques- tion. For Gramsci. as Gramsci observes. 27) and. for it affects the way people think about power” (1990. Dialect is generally limited to a narrow cross-section: usually but not always the subal- tern classes and strata. Here. in terminology borrowed from Ascoli.” other questions – most notably that of the reorgan- ization of “cultural hegemony” – are being posed (Q29§3. “in a vital sense language is politics. as Fontana has shown. are more than just closely linked: in one way. sometimes closer to dialect forms found elsewhere. Italy’s greatest literary historian and critic and minister of education in the (bourgeois) left government subsequent to that of the “historic right” of Manzoni’s reforms: dialects were linguistically positive factors for pupils if due attention were paid to the elements of similarity between them and the budding national language (Dardano 1984. Here Gramsci is dealing with what.

Croce. however. respectively. a key factor here being Jacobinism. 144. The author wishes to thank the University of Wollongong for the invitation to participate in the doctoral seminar “Hegemony: Explorations into Consensus. the early international commu- nist movement. for the words quoted). Not the popular dialect as such but the Venetian language. 156. Lingue e Culture (SITLeC) of the University of Bologna. 106. where the notion becomes more fleshed out. The examples quoted here from Lenin’s practice illustrate the fact that hegemony’s range goes wider than the merely political field. as well as the paper’s referees for their criticisms and suggestions. and economic planes. the part number (in Roman numerals) for Notebook 10. national. which is extended metaphorically by Gramsci from the French revolutionary movement to other experiences. Maurice Dobb uses the word in a volume first published in 1946 but whose gestation dates back to the mid-1920s (Dobb 1967. Coercion and Culture. 155. was the language of government in territories under Venice’s sway. always posing the subaltern/hegemonic relationship. and. as such. Machiavelli. thus recognizing the compromises necessary in a hegemonic relationship. 4 On that same page. and international political. social. the language question. the English translation (Lenin 1972) has “leadership. Gramsci 1996. 5 In these three uses of egemonia. 3 The emergence of the concept in Russian Marxism before Lenin is due to Plekhanov who. based on a Latin model (Q3§76. 13. with a page number for long paragraphs. 37.” which provided the stim- ulus for the article..e. bound up as it is with the culture of societal groups and classes.” 6 A rider has to be added here. in his words. together with the published translation in English where such is available. The reference on page 13 to challenges to hegemony has a particularly . and his linguistics studies including. The present reconstruction suggests that the inputs to the concept include Marx. 385). Acknowledgments The background research for this chapter was supported by a grant to the Dipartimento di Studi Interdisciplinari su Traduzione. 40. In quoting the crit- ical edition of the Notebooks (Gramsci 1975) we will give the number of the notebook. Notes 1 Gramsci’s translation includes the crucial central part of the preface. and for the warm hospitality encountered there. in and after the central monographic Notebooks 10–13 on philosophy. 2 Testimony to this are late-sixteenth-century letters in Dubrovnik’s ethnological museum authorizing Dalmatian sea captains to seek food elsewhere in the Mediterranean during food shortages. Last but by no means least comes his own reading of history and social reality. on the intellectuals. the Italian socialists. 17–18. cultural.66  Derek Boothman with those found later on (i. “never left a clearly worked-out definition of hegemony in his writings” (see Lester 2000.” collaborating within the Commune. and the paragraph number. The original articles date to 1908 and 1905. Lenin notes the leading position both of members of the First International (IWMA) and of “some of the avowed enemies of the International. 75). One of Gramsci’s central achievements is to have developed and woven together all these various strands of hegemony for its innovatory application on the civil. and on Machiavelli).

Discussion of the influence on Gramsci of Bartoli’s glottology course appears in an article in the proceedings of the International Gramsci Society’s 2007 conference. received in Cambridge copies of all Gramsci’s letters to his sister-in-law directly from her. He was British CP representative in Moscow in 1923–4. in comparative research on Latin-based languages. without attempting to argue fully. as modified. . the section of this chapter on the starting point for hegemony). in a slightly revised form. the Neapolitan patriot and leading member of the short-lived Parthenopean Republic (1799) and.   7 Stewart was important especially in the first two decades of the British party. The sources for Gramsci’s concept of hegemony  67 Gramscian ring (cf. especially 107–11. with whom Dobb collaborated on the former’s edition of Ricardo. including those of spring 1932 on Croce that use egemonia explicitly. 111–36). and.   9 This brief subsection of the present chapter summarizes. 102–19. in Boothman 2004. used fundamentally to mean a ruling class’s tactic of conceding just enough from above to head off demands for radical measures. He himself was arrested three days into the general strike of May 1926. Giulio Matteo Bartoli. and an indirect influence due to Piero Sraffa cannot be excluded since Sraffa. the positions developed by Boothman (2002.   8 This “‘passive’ aspect” is taken by Gramsci from Cuoco. then acting Party General Secretary in 1925 when twelve top leaders were jailed on trumped-up charges. 10 As such he aided his linguistics professor.

even when they rebel.1 In later notes. From the notes included in the Selections. §54). In Notebook 3. In his first notebook (1929–30). In Notebook 4. in regard to positions of subordination or lower status. he uses the term figuratively. Gramsci makes an interesting entry regarding the issue of how to study Marx’s unfinished works and notes edited by Engels after Marx’s death.6 Gramsci cannot speak Presentations and interpretations of Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern Marcus E. Gramsci’s conception of the subaltern is often misunderstood and misappropriated. is related to his investigation of the Risorgimento. colonels. §48. and generals (Notebook 1. The Selections include only a few of Gramsci’s notes on the subaltern and.” It . The main reason for such misunderstanding is that many English-reading scholars and critics of Gramsci’s work have relied heavily or exclusively on Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith’s Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Gramsci 1971). He writes. §14. like many of his other concepts. and the relation between state and civil society. Gramsci’s notion of subaltern social groups does not immediately appear in the prison notebooks as a clearly defined concept. as a concept. It is in this figurative or metaphorical sense that Gramsci uses the term “subaltern” when referring to subordinate social groups or classes. toward the end of Notebook 1.” it appears that Gramsci’s interest in the subaltern. “Subaltern classes are subject to the initiatives of the dominant class. Gramsci does not question Engels’s “absolute personal loyalty” to Marx. while in fact Gramsci’s interest in the subaltern is a part of his overarching inquiry into Italian history. Gramsci develops the concept over a period of time. it is not apparent or even suggested that Gramsci wrote many notes on the subaltern or that he devoted an entire notebook to the concept. §1). Gramsci first uses the term “subaltern” with regard to social class. culture. In fact. Green Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern. but raises the issue that Engels is “lacking in theoretical skills (or at least occupies a subaltern position in relation to Marx)” (Notebook 4. referring to noncommissioned military troops who are subordinate to the authority of lieutenants. is often referred to and appropriated by others but rarely defined or systematically analyzed within Gramsci’s own work. in nonmilitary instances. For instance. politics. Gramsci uses the term “subal- tern” in the literal sense. Gramsci states that the “[Church] is no longer an ideolog- ical world power but only a subaltern force” (§139). they are in a state of anxious defense. because the notes appear in a section with some of Gramsci’s notes on the Italian Risorgimento and fall under the title of “Notes on Italian History.

Gramsci wrote several notes referring to subaltern groups in his notebooks that contained miscellaneous notes. 3:2279–94). In this sense. Gramsci produced his work in a subaltern or subordinate position. But since the notes are not complete. and that he was interested in producing an actual history of subaltern groups. one should keep in mind that Gramsci’s notes on the subaltern. They are fragmentary. thoughts. Nevertheless. Because Gramsci took the time to organize and rewrite the notes in a separate notebook. History. unfinished. Between 1929 and 1930. he was subject to the prison authorities and the Fascist government and could not work freely.3 His historical focus includes ancient Rome. and cryptic. This threefold approach creates a nexus where a variety of Gramsci’s concepts converge. In this sense. In an investigation of Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern. one must recognize the fact that Gramsci was unable to finish his inquiry. entitled “On the Margins of History (The History of Subaltern Social Groups). and a political strategy of transformation based upon the historical development and existence of the subaltern. what sociopolitical relations caused their formation. Gramsci’s interest in the subaltern was threefold. and strategies of radical sociopolitical transformation. one should attempt to understand Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern within the totality of the prison notebooks and general trajectory of his thought. a history of the subaltern classes. Many of the notes that comprise the sixteen pages of the Notebook are extensive. and when he was able to proceed with the materials that were available to him. and the proletariat as subaltern social groups (Gramsci 1975. and the modern state as well as a discussion of the bourgeoisie as a subaltern group that transformed its sociopolitical position after the Risorgimento. Gramsci cannot speak  69 is in this sense that subaltern groups are subordinate to a ruling group’s policies and initiatives. different races. he was under surveillance and in poor health. Gramsci did not have access to the books and historical records he required. while others provide short memoranda and bibliographic references to work that Gramsci most likely planned to read or re-read in the process of his research. that he planned to expand his work. how they are represented in history and literature.” thematic notebook devoted exclusively to the subaltern. in turn. Gramsci is interested in how the subal- tern came into being. regroup. In order for one . he began to copy. religious groups. the medieval communes.” In this Notebook. In 1934 he began Notebook 25. the concept of the subaltern interrelates with Gramsci’s other concepts. and expand the notes from his earlier notebooks. it is clear that he was interested in producing a methodology of subaltern historiography. politics. which was a “special. Therefore. women. peasants. one can assume that his thoughts and ideas on the subaltern were developing. are exactly that: they are notes. Gramsci identifies slaves. rewrite. even though Gramsci did not write his last word on the subaltern. what political power they hold. and cultural practices are all under consideration in his analysis of subaltern history. as with all his prison notes. as with most of Gramsci’s writings. and how they can transform their consciousness and. Due to his incarceration. From his notes. but they nonetheless contain great insights. he left a substantial amount of writing that can provide one with a partial under- standing of the concept as he viewed it. their lived conditions.2 In Notebook 25. literary criticism. In his notes.

441–62). cultural. who are connected to the rural bourgeoisie. isolating Gramsci’s notion of the subaltern as a separate concept from the rest of his thought is a difficult. his interest in the condition of subalternity is apparent in his pre-prison writings. religious. find support for their reactionary views and antipathies toward the peasantry.” Through Gramsci’s analysis of the integral state. such as Giustino Fortunato and Benedetto Croce. In the “Southern Question. In fact. disassociate themselves from the cultural roots of the South and the interests of the masses. specifically with the func- tion intellectuals fulfill in perpetuating the interests of dominant social groups. Through this extended investigation. if not impossible. essay before his arrest.70  Marcus E. Gramsci contends that the “Southern peasants are in perpetual ferment. especially in his final. Because the great intellectuals have such a tremendous influence. philosophical. middle-ranking intellectuals.” Gramsci describes the South as a “great agrarian bloc. but … incapable of giving a centralized expression to their aspirations and needs” because they are politically linked to the big landowners through the mediation of intellectuals (1978. Fortunato and Croce were able to ensure that the approach to the Southern question “did not go beyond certain limits [and] did not become revolutionary” by steering Southern intellec- tuals away from rebellion toward “a middle way of classical serenity of thought . which in turn support the status quo. His analysis of the subaltern is interwoven with his political. Gramsci expanded his analysis of intellectuals and redefined his conceptions of state and civil society. 454). In the essay “Some Aspects of the Southern Question. 454. he thought of it as a continuation and elaboration of his thesis in the “Southern Question. task. Green to understand how Gramsci understood the subaltern. intellectual.” but extended to include practically all aspects of Italian society and history (Buttigieg 1995. and the big landowners and great intellectuals” (Gramsci 1978. In Gramsci’s view. Gramsci’s definition and understanding of “subalternity” is directly linked with his concep- tions of hegemony and state and civil society (or integral state).” Gramsci’s analysis focuses on the social and class structures of the Italian South with regard to Southern intellectuals. who represent European high culture and universal views. yet unfinished. literary. many key concepts begin to emerge in his prison notebooks. which he viewed as an unified “integral state. Because of their influence. the intellectuals of the petty and medium rural bourgeoisie. 24–5). social. “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” (Gramsci 1978. When Gramsci conceived his project of study after his arrest. For instance.” In many ways. Gramsci attributes the calming down of the radical tendencies of the South to the influence of Fortunato and Croce. disintegrated mass of the peas- antry. including “hegemony” and “subalternity. 456). while in prison. this has occurred because the great Southern intellec- tuals. and economic analyses.” “of extreme social disintegration” that is divided into social layers: “the great amorphous. one must understand how the subaltern relates to Gramsci’s thought as a whole. Political society + civil society = “integral state” Although Gramsci did not develop the concept of “subalternity” until he was in prison.

coercive power and leadership (Gramsci 1977. he has secured their absorption by the national bourgeoisie and hence by the agrarian bloc” (Gramsci 1978. In several of his prison letters to his sister-in-law. “Benedetto Croce has fulfilled an extremely important ‘national’ function. “In this sense.” A little over two years later. As Gramsci explains to Tatiana: The research I have done on intellectuals is very broad … At any rate. This change in focus provides Gramsci with the basis to expand his concept of the “state” and to develop his notion of “hegemony.” Gramsci writes. etc. The significance of Gramsci’s analysis in “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” is that he becomes aware of the integral function that intellectuals perform in political leadership: they provide a noncoercive element of consent in political domination that the state cannot fulfill on its own. which now included an expanded notion of the “state.” This study. Gramsci described the work in his notebooks and the topics he planned to study.” as the realm in which ruling or domi- nant social groups maintain their power and compel society to conform to their conception of the world and way of life through legitimized. Gramsci cannot speak  71 and action” (Gramsci 1978. I greatly amplify the idea of what intellectual is and do not confine myself to the current notion that refers only to the preeminent intellectuals. and the “southern question. the formation of Italian intellectuals.” Gramsci moves away from the view that power is concentrated in the state and the view that the goal of revolutionary struggle is to capture state power.5 In early February 1929. intellectuals provide a noncoercive reinforcement of the state and the power and authority of dominant groups. In a 19 March 1927 letter. 73–4). he tells Tatiana that he would like to begin a study that is fur ewig (forever) that would include “a study of Italian intellectuals. would include an expanded develop- ment of his thesis in “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” (Gramsci 1994a. That is.” which he undertakes in his prison writings. Tatiana Schucht. 459–60). This expanded notion of the state provides an explanation for the role of intellectuals in the political process and their relation- ship to the dominant group’s political position of power. a study of the development of the Italian bourgeoisie. among other things. and through this culture. Gramsci wrote to Tatiana describing the progress of his study. their groupings in accordance with cultural currents. This discovery moves Gramsci away from his limited and instrumentalist conception of the state that he held prior to writing “Some Aspects of the Southern Question. 1: 82–5). Gramsci began his first notebook with a list of sixteen main topics that included. My study also leads to certain definitions of the concept of State that is usually under- stood as political society (or dictatorship. 460).” In his previous writings. He has detached the radical intellectuals of the South from the peasant masses. forcing them to take part in national and European culture. or coercive apparatus meant to mold the popular mass into accordance with a type of production and economy at . Gramsci notes.4 In “Some Aspects of the Southern Question. and their various ways of thinking.” which he refers to as an “integral state”: the notion that the state constitutes both political society and civil society. their origins. Gramsci typically views the state as the “protagonist of history.

§38). etc. l50–60). pre-prison writings. (Gramsci 1994a.). Croce. were “syndicalist” and not integral because the government. still remains an instrument of class domination. Gramsci’s conception of civil society is distinct from both Hegel’s and Marx’s conceptions in that civil society for them designates the sphere of economic relations. churches. on the other hand. Moreover. Political society. in Gramsci’s view. the judiciary. the state.72  Marcus E. cultural clubs. constitutes the voluntary organizations within society. and it is within the civil society that the intellec- tuals operate (Ben. also see Morera 1990. in this instance. Civil society. §15. consists of both political society and civil society. the police. political society and civil society are a single entity” (Notebook 4.6 In metaphorical terms. exer- cised through the so-called private organizations.” The Communes. pure political domination is a necessary requirement for ruling social groups to maintain power. for they are both elements of modern society. in concrete historical life. 2: 66–7) Gramsci goes on to say that this conception of intellectuals explains one reason for the fall of the medieval Communes. the schools. lacked hegemony within civil society (67).’” such as trade unions. That is because. and so on. in its expanded integral meaning. Political society in many ways represents Gramsci’s notion of the “state” in his earlier. Gramsci insists that political society and civil society are not two separate spheres: they comprise an organic unity. 167). for example. and civil society is superstructural but. Thus. newspapers. “that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called ‘private. 1995. the superstructure is determined by both economic and political forces (Notebook 13. §1. 12). even in its expanded integral meaning. According to Gramsci’s analysis. the state. and the like (Notebook 12. domina- tion. the unions. However. but it is . In modern society. political society and civil society constitute an organic unity. For Gramsci. is not pure juridical or political domination. 1971. such as the Church. §17. in this sense. in broad sociohistorical analysis. “the distinction [between political society and civil society] is purely methodological and not organic. the public and govern- mental institutions of political society exist alongside private organizations of civil society. was “unable to create its own category of intellectuals and thus exercise hegemony and not simply dictatorship. as an economic class. as we will see below.). in this sense. 177–85. publishers. the military. They are two aspects of one social organization and. In reality. as in the case of the limited notion of the state. political society and civil society are both existent. although in power. is a sort of lay pope and he is a very effective instrument of hegemony even if from time to time he comes into conflict with this or that government. economic relations are structural and political. Green a given moment) and not as a balance between the political Society and civil Society (or hegemony of a social group over the entire national society. whereas Gramsci views the economic structure as the underlying form of both political and civil society (Notebook 10 II. etc. 1971. political parties. comprises the elements of the limited notion of the state or the idea of a juridical-administrative state: government. the state in many ways controls the development and organization of civil society. The government. in concrete life. Gramsci writes.

“operates without ‘sanctions’ or compulsory ‘obligations. hegemony is protected by coercion and coercion is protected by hegemony. In this sense. Gramsci understood the reciprocal rela- tionship between political and civil society through his own personal political experience. he writes. and rights of asso- ciation and assembly illegal. 1971. His imprisonment by Mussolini’s Fascist government illustrates the extreme measures a ruling group will undertake in the attempt to protect its authority and hegemony within civil society. civil society is not entirely a domain of free expression or organization. 195). §84.” (Notebook 13. 1994b. 12–13). Ruling groups that control political society. must also exercise a degree of hegemony in civil society in order for subaltern groups to consent to their own subordinate position and to the authority of the ruling groups. 1971. §7. 230–3). It contains the cultural elements of conformity. and they both protect the dominant group’s political and economic positions. §1. A ruling group can declare a countergroup’s party. for Gramsci. In many ways civil and political society have a reciprocal relationship. their ideology. by using the coercive apparatus of the state to physically stop leaders and intellectuals from counterhegemonic strug- gles. in Gramsci’s view. In fact. The hegemony within civil society supports the leading group’s authority over political society. civil society is viewed as a nongovernmental realm of freedom whereas. They support and reinforce each other. the integral state is not only political society + civil society but also “dictatorship + hegemony” (Notebook 6. either passively or actively. 1971. and the juridical apparatuses of political society protect the dominant group’s hegemony within civil society through coercive measures. “it should be remarked that the general notion of state includes elements which need to be referred back to the notion of civil society (in the sense that one might say that state = political society + civil society. etc. §88. can discipline those groups who do not consent. Civil society. 262–3). 285–92. to the ruling group’s power and hegemony (Notebook 12. in other words hegemony protected by the armor of coercion)” (Notebook 6. such as the law. as Gramsci explains. in which a dominant group’s values and ideology become the predominant values throughout society. In this sense. press. ways of thinking and acting. as the Fascists did to the Communists (see Gramsci 1978. Ultimately. The coercive apparatuses of political society. and so forth. is the sphere of the integral state where ruling or dominant social groups manufacture. his notion of the integral state is an elaboration and extension of his earlier analysis. Civil society. In basic terms. and maintain consent by promoting their hegemony – that is. 242–3). courts. civil society is a realm of hegemony (Buttigieg 1995). As he wrote in 1919. “to create a social conformism which is useful to the ruling group’s line of devel- opment” (Notebook 6. as quoted . Gramsci’s conception is quite distinct from the liberal conception. 239) or. organize. Gramsci’s conception of the integral state is not inconsistent with regard to his earlier conception of the state. 1971. according to Gramsci. § 117. civil society is just as polit- ical as political society. as in the liberal conception. In liberal ideology. morality. Law is basically a coercive instrument to direct civil society. ways of life. Gramsci cannot speak  73 not sufficient. philosophy.’ but nevertheless exerts a collective pressure and obtains objective results in the form of an evolution of customs. in this regard. Rather. 1971. and police.

” “pure. In this sense. and how others . and observations. 171–3). As Gramsci writes in Notebook 25 with regard to his study of subaltern groups: The historical unity of the ruling classes is realised in the State. in which ruling social groups form a unity in an attempt to main- tain their power and supremacy through the coercive “organs” of the state. But it would be wrong to think that this unity is simply juridical and political (though such forms of unity do have their importance too. political power is not only force but force + consensus. Gramsci approaches the study of the subaltern in a similar way. Green above. in which he attempts to support his theoretical concepts and general conclusions with particular facts and elements that correspond to “real historical development” (Notebook 9. As Joseph A. §32. making reality conform to an abstract scheme” because.74  Marcus E. The theoreti- cian’s task. The type of “theoretical language” Gramsci has in mind is founded upon “historically determined” categories that are formulated from concrete historical developments and account for actual social practice rather than “arbitrary. His method is somewhat similar to Machiavelli’s in the sense that he analyzes history in an attempt to find evidence of certain norms. and lineage of the subaltern. Civil society. concretely. as he points out. in its integral conception.” or “abstract” schemes that are completely separated from historical reality (Notebook 10 II. Gramsci incorporates particular events. In this sense. development. tendencies. in order to support and formulate general conclusions and theories (Buttigieg 1992. attempting to understand the subaltern as a historically determined category that exists within particular historical. the fundamental historical unity. how some survived at the margins. He attempts to understand the process. §5. 1971. is “to ‘translate’ the elements of historical life into theoretical language. and cultural contexts. results from the organic relations between State or political society and “civil society. 52) Gramsci’s method and methodology of subaltern historiography Like most of Gramsci’s other concepts and ideas. he viewed the state as the “protagonist of history” and the instrument of class struggle. “Reality will never conform to an abstract scheme” (Notebook 3. 1971. Gramsci explains. Gramsci states in Notebook 3 that it is the theoretician’s task to incorporate and account for new particular pieces of evidence in his or her theory and. how they came into existence. the theoretician should alter the theory. 200–1). and their history is essentially the history of States and of groups of States. pieces of information. throughout the notebooks.” (Notebook 25. Buttigieg points out in his intro- duction to the Prison Notebooks. if the evidence does not conform to the theory. political. he analyzes the subaltern in their particular historical contexts. §48). social. but not vice versa. and patterns. the unity of political society and civil society. economic. 48). and not in a purely formal sense). accomplishes the same ends through the means of hegemony and consensus. Gramsci has a nondogmatic and open-ended methodological approach. §63. 1995.

As Esteve Morera points out. but within the old framework. The first topic he listed was a “Theory of history and of historiography” (Notebook 1). 3 the birth of new parties of the ruling class to maintain control of the subaltern classes. In short. he wants to understand how the conditions and relations of the past influ- ence the present and future development of the subaltern’s lived experience. Gramsci cannot speak  75 succeeded in their ascent from a subordinate social position to a dominant one. Gramsci’s development of meth- odological criteria for studying the subaltern can be viewed as a contribution to the fulfillment of this proposed plan. 5 the political formations that assert the autonomy of the subaltern classes. and he states: “The historian must record. On the first page of his notebooks. In Notebook 3. From this statement one can deduce that these six phases do not just represent the methodology of . and their descent from other classes that preceded them. §5. Gramsci’s theory of integral history grasps “the totality and complexity of the historical process. It is the goal of the integral historian to analyze particular events in order to conceptualize the processes of historical development and understand the way in which the processes relate to peoples’ lived experi- ences. 52). formations of a limited and partial character.7 This is not a complete. Gramsci listed sixteen main topics that he planned to address in his notebooks. According to his methodology. 4 the formations of the subaltern classes themselves. In Gramsci’s view. he contends that it is necessary to study the following: 1 the objective formation of the subaltern class through the developments and changes that took place in the economic sphere. etc. the extent of their diffusion. 6 the political formations that assert complete autonomy. §90. 1971. from the tendencies of the economic structure to the forms of popular culture that shape … the conscious- ness of the masses” (Morera 1990. each step indicating an area in which the integral historian should study the subaltern. the line of development towards integral autonomy. their efforts to influence the programs of these formations with demands of their own. the “integral historian” is not just a historian who documents historical developments in some sort of positiv- istic manner but is one who understands the socioeconomic. 2 their passive or active adherence to the dominant political formations. starting from the most primitive phases” (Notebook 25. or essentialist methodology since Gramsci contends that these phases of study could be more detailed with intermediate phases and combinations of phases. that is. and cultural implications of such developments – how particular historical events relate to broader sociopolitical contexts. ahistorical. and discover the causes of. Gramsci lays out his “Methodological Criteria” for the historical research of the subaltern in six steps or phases. Many of these notions come across in Gramsci’s notes on the subaltern when he refers to “integral history. 61). political.” His idea of integral history is interwoven into his method of historical analysis.

of their posi- tion within the prevailing social relations. because the farmers would be less likely to leave evidence documenting their activity or have their activity documented by others. individually or collectively. the subaltern group either adheres (passively or actively) to the new dominant political formations or the group attempts to influence the new formations with its own demands. There are a number of instances in the Prison Notebooks where Gramsci’s terminology reflects the idea of subalternity in degree. 1985. In this notion. This notion also implies that groups that are undeveloped or unorganized socially or politically are harder to research in historical records than groups that have organ- ized political parties or other institutions that represent their views. and some groups exercise more autonomy and initiative than others. Second. expresses its autonomy and its will to participate in the established political framework. the phases represent the sequential process in which a subal- tern group develops and grows into a dominant social group or. in Notebook 14 in his discussion of Alessandro Manzoni’s novel The Betrothed. §39. In order to illustrate this point. or nearly impossible at the very least. 294). to study the subaltern for there would be no evidence . such as trade unions. the subaltern group realizes its interests will not be met within the current sociopolitical system so it organizes its own social and political formation that will eventually replace the existing one. subalternity exists in degrees or levels of development: some groups maintain higher levels of political consciousness and organization than others. This group of farmers would tend to be more difficult to trace than. Third. An example in this instance would be a political party working within the established political framework. but also represent the phases in which a subal- tern group develops. in which the farmers are not conscious. the subaltern group realizes that the new social formations. a trade union or political party organized by urban proletarians.76  Marcus E. there is a change in the economic sphere. parties. An example in this instance would be a revolutionary party that attempts to transform the state and its correlating social relations. in other instances. For example. If this statement pertains to all subaltern groups. which is somewhat consistent with the situations in Italy that Gramsci addressed. relegating a social group to a subordinate social position. which alters the organization of society. illustrates that subaltern groups are not equivalent. Gramsci states that the subaltern “‘have no history’: [that is to say] there are no traces of their history in the historical documents of the past” (Notebook 14. from a “primitive” position of subordination to a position of autonomy. then Gramsci’s methodology for subaltern history would be meaningless for it would be impossible. That is. such as a change in property relations. the subaltern group organizes a polit- ical formation that represents its concerns. let us say. Fifth. is stopped in its ascent to power by dominant social groups or political forces. that they are differ- entiated by their level of political organization. I shall paraphrase each step as if it were a stage in development. the domi- nant social group creates new parties or government programs to maintain control of the subaltern groups. and institutions do not account for its needs so it forms its own organizations. A group of unorganized peasant farmers could perhaps represent an example in this instance. This example. First. Fourth. Green the subaltern or integral historian. Sixth.

From this note. intellectuals.” One could say that groups with these characteristics fall into the first phase of subaltern development. especially. in Notebook 3.” What this illustrates is that at the time when Gramsci wrote notes 14 and 48 he recognized that the subaltern develop in degrees or levels of varia- tion. In the same note.” In this instance Gramsci explicitly states that unification – hence the movement toward victory – occur in “provi- sional stages. Gramsci writes. but this is the least conspicuous aspect. Tracing the subaltern: Ideology. in his discussion of spontaneity and conscious leadership in Notebook 3. with an example that corresponds to the sixth phase of development. albeit in provisional stages. Because of this.” Gramsci discusses the difficulty in producing subaltern history and the difficulty in tracing the “fragmented and episodic” elements of subaltern development. he writes: One may say that the element of spontaneity is … characteristic of the ‘history of subaltern classes’ and. and it was not until note 90 that he established his six-point “methodological criteria. and it manifests itself only when victory is secured. in the activity of these classes there is a tendency toward unifica- tion. and that they can be studied in a historical approach according to these phases. Gramsci cannot speak  77 of their existence. while others have “advanced” to the point where they have the ability to come to power. §14. these groups do not leave evidence of their activities in historical records. in a more obvious instance prior to the previous note. He writes: “The ‘spontaneous’ movements of the broadest popular strata make it possible for the most advanced subaltern class to come to power. of the most marginal and peripheral elements of these classes. and representation At the end of the note “History of the Subaltern Classes: Methodological Criteria. meaning that they have not achieved political consciousness of their position or attempted to organize politi- cally. “The history of subaltern classes is necessarily fragmented and episodic. it becomes clear that there are “marginal” or “peripheral” elements of the subaltern that are not developed. §48.” which correspond to the various levels of development. However. which makes the groups difficult to “trace. Gramsci provides another example of the degree in variation of subaltern development. From this one can conclude that subaltern groups have phases of development. who have not attained a consciousness of the class per se and who consequently do not even suspect that their history might possibly have any importance or that it might be of any value to leave docu- mentary evidence of it. As .8 Finally.” The distinction of the words “marginal” and “peripheral” in the former quota- tion and the word “advanced” in this later quotation point to the subtlety with which Gramsci identified variations in subaltern development. Some groups lack consciousness and political organization and thus leave no traces of their develop- ment. this is not an inconsistency on Gramsci’s part for.

When the people failed to obtain desired reforms from the commune authori- ties. most of the common people possessed arms.9 In other. §2. consolidated their ranks.” When the authorities failed to meet the people’s desired reforms. Gramsci not only cites but paraphrases and details the information in books and articles that contained evidence of subaltern historical development. then. which was originally intended to protect the commune from external forces. Through their activity in the military forces. this kind of history can only be dealt with monographically. with the support of prominent individuals from the commune. §16) . to award jurisdiction to the captain of the people. In a number of his notes on the subaltern. and giving rise … to a whole legislative authority … The people succeeded. Through this concentration and organization of power. created councils. §16. and the purpose of the military. in Notebook 3. For instance. In this particular instance. the people entered the sixth phase of development. (Notebook 3. Green he explains in Notebook 25. In doing this he refers to an article by Ettore Ciccotti (trans. Gramsci describes the development of the medieval commune. and after forming an independent assembly they began to create their own magistracies similar to the general systems of the commune. the common people became aware of their strength. in which they demanded emancipation and participation in the major public offices. The phases in which the people gained power and eventually created their communes is consistent with Gramsci’s six phases of development. at first in practice and later formally. and to make decisions on their own authority. 55). and “[they] formed themselves into a real political party.78  Marcus E. more substantial notes. Gramsci merely cites the bibliographic information from books and articles which he most likely thought contained “traces” of subaltern activity. Due to the wars among the communes during the period. they seceded. Consequently. “Every trace of independent initiative on the part of subaltern groups should … be of incalculable value for the integral histo- rian. the common people in the communes of Siena and Bologna gained enough political power to overcome the power of the nobility. however. the common people held most of the power in the military. In the thirteenth century. The significance of Ciccotti’s article for Gramsci is that it provides an historical case study of how a subaltern group can become a dominant group. and each monograph requires an immense quantity of material which is often hard to collect” (1971. what gave the common people the opportunity to gain power and liberate themselves was directly related to the fact that the majority of them held arms. seceding from the commune completely.” The people. overwhelming the previous ruling class. “Elements of ‘truth’ and ‘certainty’ in the historical tradition”). In some instances. unified. and appointed officers (the fourth phase of development). began to grow and include the protection of the people from the nobles. came to dominate the commune. Eventually the people entered the fifth phase of devel- opment. Gramsci may not agree with a particular author’s views but utilizes the author’s work for its evidence of subaltern activity. in forcing the inclu- sion into the general statutes of the commune of provisions that previously applied only internally to those registered as “People.

Gramsci sees both Lombroso and Barzellotti as contributing to a broader custom of the time in which Italian intellectuals tended to neglect the historical origins of an event and provide “narrow. polit- ical. is the way in which Lazzaretti and his movement are portrayed and represented by Italian intellectuals. The point that interests Gramsci. However. even when traces of the subaltern exist in the historical records. on the day Lazzaretti ceremoniously came to present himself to thousands of his supports as the messiah and to proclaim his establishment.” not as a member of a marginalized group.” such as finding “the protagonist to be a madman” (Notebook 3.10 he does insist that Ciccotti’s references to the development of the popular class in the communes merit “special attention and separate treatment” (Notebook 3. He worked with his father as a carter and volunteered in the national army in 1860. however. This note also illustrates Gramsci’s desire and ability to trace the subaltern in various texts or “monographs. In 1868 he experienced religious visions and underwent a spiritual conversion. who were mostly peasants. Barzellotti did not consider the socioeconomic. individual.11 Lazzaretti and his movement represent an attempt by a subaltern group to estab- lish a new state and conception of the world based upon various religious. §12).” Although Gramsci does not agree with all aspects of Ciccotti’s work. which later became the first note in the “special” thematic Notebook on the subaltern. and he established a number of congregations and commu- nist colonies. political. 65–73). Lazzaretti (1834–78) was a commoner in the southeastern corner of Tuscany. this is an example of how a subaltern group that was subordinated to a dominant group gained power and eventually became the new dominant group. yet failed in its political ascent due to the power of the state. In Notebook 3. pathologic. §16). the interpretations and representations of the subal- tern may be misinformed or ideologically influenced. His religious-political visions attracted many supporters. This creates an additional . explanations of single explosive incidents. in which Bulferetti discusses a number of different books on David Lazzaretti and his political movement. on the other hand.” viewed Lazzaretti as a psychologically abnormal “madman. who was known for his view that criminality was biologically determined and whom Gramsci often described as a “positivist. In Gramsci’s view. etc. or historical conditions Lazzaretti and his movement confronted. Gramsci refers to an article by Domenico Bulferetti. §12. Cesare Lombroso. he was shot and killed by military police (Hobsbawm 1965. Giacomo Barzellotti. Gramsci cannot speak  79 From Gramsci’s perspective. Gramsci’s critical analysis of the authors who wrote on Lazzaretti further illus- trates the difficulty in tracing the subaltern for. viewed Lazzaretti’s movement as purely religious and not political. His visions revealed to him that he was a descendant of a French king and that a prophet would liberate the people from the despotism and misery of their conditions. What interests Gramsci in this note is not only Lazzaretti’s political movement but how the movement is interpreted and represented by Italian intellectuals. and economic principles. The case of Lazzaretti also represents an instance in which a subaltern group was politically organized and historically traceable. Eventually Lazzaretti convinced himself and his supporters that he was the messiah of a new moral and civil order and that he was going to establish a republic of God that included land and crop redistribution.

like that of a ‘society for the protection of animals. portraying the people as humble and the nobles as enlightened was symptomatic of Italian intellectuals. his focus is not art per se. “It is like the relationship between two races. and social criticism. Italian intellectuals did not see themselves as having a mission toward the people or believe that the people must be freed from their “humble” positions. Gramsci focused on the work of Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873). 289–91). or subordinated positions is to show that such work actually reinforces the positions of the subaltern and contributes . 291). Only the nobles have an inner life. 1985.” In this regard. The significance of Gramsci’s focus on literature that depicts the subaltern in passive. humble. Green obstacle in tracing and producing a subaltern history for the integral historian since he or she has to critically engage and analyze the evidence of the past.” Although Manzoni positions common people as the principal characters in his novel. Manzoni was interested in creating a portrait of the common people. in Gramsci’s view. Like Gramsci. one considered superior and the other inferior. as exemplified in the cases of Lombroso and Barzellotti. like the relationship between adult and child in the old schools or.’” It was in this sense that Gramsci was concerned with how literary representations of the subaltern reinforced the subaltern’s subordinated positions (Notebook 21. §51. For Gramsci. worse still. Although Gramsci is engaged in a form of literary criticism. §51.” meaning peasants. What interests Gramsci in Manzoni’s work is the way in which Manzoni presents the common people. Gramsci was not displeased with Manzoni’s interest in and focus on “the humble”. Gramsci points out that in Manzoni’s historical novel The Betrothed. Gramsci’s analysis of intellectuals and his interest in constructing a subaltern history are related to his analysis of popular literature. he is engaged in cultural. which Manzoni referred to as “humble classes. Unlike Dostoyevsky. servants. Gramsci sees Manzoni’s work as comparable to Shakespeare’s in the sense that Shakespeare “sides with the upper classes” and presents the common people in a “scornful or repugnant manner” (Notebook 23. especially with the devel- opment of the historical novel and its representations of subaltern activity. Gramsci describes Manzoni as having an “aristocratic” and Catholic disposi- tion because of his “jocular sympathy” and “caste attitude” toward the common people. he was interested in the greater significance of how and why Manzoni portrayed the common people the way he did. rather.80  Marcus E. villagers. He is attempting to destroy certain beliefs and attitudes towards the world and life that are presented as truth but are in fact “narrow and impoverished” (Notebook 23. 293–4). Italian intellectuals traditionally separated themselves from the people in a superior and paternalistic manner. 1985. artisans. “there is not one common person who is not teased or laughed at … They are depicted as wretched and narrow people without an inner life. However. 1985. this is a circumstance Gramsci was very well aware of and actually addressed in a number of his writings regarding literary criticism. in a critique of social life. Rather. espe- cially with regard to how Manzoni’s conceptions of the world and history influ- enced his descriptions of common people in his novels. For instance. the subaltern classes. for instance. political. he portrays them as not having an “inner life” or “deep moral personality. Rather. §3. and so on – in Gramscian terms.

passive. and thus help rectify the elitist bias characteristic of much research and academic work in this particular area” (Guha 1982. but their actual lived experiences may prove the contrary. First. Books and articles claiming to be inspired by Gramsci have been published on the activity and history of subaltern groups in India.” which is not only a critique of the method and focus of Subaltern Studies but also a critique of the notion of Europe as a Subject and political representation in the work of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. In other words. and depicted in literary and historical documents. In historical or literary docu- ments. South America. §7. they have the ability to transform their subordinate social positions. Gramsci cannot speak  81 to their further subordination. In this sense. even if it was an arduous task. Fourth. subaltern studies has become a very popular enter- prise. it is clear Gramsci believed that it was possible to produce a history of subaltern classes. the point of the collective is to challenge elitist . the transformation of the subaltern’s subordinate social position was Gramsci’s ultimate goal and. but their references and representations of the concept are limited in scope due to the fact that they rely heavily on the presentation of the notes included in the Selections from the Prison Notebooks. and Ireland. social. the integral historian has to analyze critically the way in which intellectuals represent the conditions and aspirations of the subaltern (Notebook 25. The current popularity of subaltern analysis stems mostly from Ranajit Guha’s Subaltern Studies collective and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s famous article. The dissemination of such views contributes to the consciousness and common sense of the masses to an extent that they do not question such views and accept them as facts rather than opinions. Texts or “monographs” depict the subaltern in a variety of ways. Ranajit Guha states that the aim of the collective is “to promote a systematic and informed discussion of subaltern themes in the field of South Asian studies. and economic relations that produce marginalization and prevent group autonomy. In fact. In the preface to Subaltern Studies I. cultural. or ignorant. 238–41). Second. Both Guha and Spivak refer to Gramsci’s conception of subaltern social groups. This is an aspect of research that the integral historian has to take into account in his or her research of the subaltern. which the historian has to take into consideration. presented. although subaltern groups face many difficulties. he argued that subaltern groups develop in various degrees or phases that correspond to levels of political organization. Following Gramsci’s analyses. vii–viii). the subaltern or integral historian has to analyze not only the historical events of the subaltern but also the historical processes in which the subaltern are perceived. and the historian has to understand the implications of these depictions for they will influence the historian’s own opinions. several conclusions can be drawn regarding his interpretation of subaltern groups and their activity. he formulated a political strategy for such a transformation. Recent interpretations and appropriations of the “subaltern” Within the last twenty years. “Can the Subaltern Speak. through his analyses. subaltern groups are faced with an ensemble of political. the subaltern may be presented as humble. Hence. Third. 1985.

gender. According to Spivak. Guha defines subaltern groups as “the people” or “nonelite. Guha states that he hopes that “the range of contri- butions to this series may even remotely match the six-point project envisaged by Antonio Gramsci in his ‘Notes on Italian History’” (vii–viii). 284–5).” In Weberian fashion. Although this project is appreciated. age. Green historiography and to illuminate aspects of subaltern history as they relate to class. and so forth. if the subaltern are represented at all. because representations of the subaltern are embedded within the dominant discourse. in contrast to Gramsci’s defini- tion.” Guha writes. he categorizes the elite into three ideal categories: dominant foreign groups. nationalist. Related to Spivak’s understanding of Gramsci’s conception of the subaltern is the issue of representation that she raises with regard to the work of Foucault and Deleuze. Spivak contends that the idea of defining the subaltern “as a difference from the elite” and attempting to “investigate.’ as in politics. In German. identify. and colonialist records to research and validate their work. and measure the specific” is “essentialist and taxonomic” (Spivak 1988. caste. 275–7). Spivak contends that Foucault and Deleuze confuse these distinct types of representation with the notion of a unified European Subject. or if he believes that subaltern groups develop in varying degrees that correspond to the six points. Following Marx’s definition of class as a descriptive and transformative concept in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (where Marx points out that class is an economic condition that can be transformed through organized political representation). dominant indigenous groups. The major problem with such a project is that it requires one not only to know the conscious- ness and position of the subaltern but also to represent that consciousness. for Marx recognizes that class is a condition but that classes are not unified (276. while in Marx the distinction is apparent with regard to the concept of class. 279). In Spivak’s view the subaltern leave little or no traces of their existence within elite. “to investigate. it is not clear how Gramsci’s six-point project is to be used: if Guha views Gramsci’s six points purely as methodological criteria. one should realize the distinc- tion between the double sense of representation in an attempt to avoid subjective essentialism and to understand that macrological representations (Darstellung) affect political representations (Vertretung). “It is the task of research. and regional and local groups that act on the behalf of the other two groups.’ as in art or philosophy” (1988. Spivak points out that there are two types or senses of representation: “representation as ‘speaking for. She writes that . and representation as ‘re-presentation. these two different senses are distinguished by two different words: Vertretung refers to political representation and Darstellung refers to aesthetic representation or the concept of staging as representation (278). In her critique of Guha’s approach to rewriting Indian colonial history from a subaltern perspective. Gramsci’s concept of subaltern groups is not defined or discussed further. It is in this sense that the subaltern cannot speak. according to Spivak. identify and measure the specific nature and degree of the deviation of these elements from the ideal and situate it historically” (8). This problem is illustrated in the fact that the subalternists rely on British. they are represented as the Other within dominant.82  Marcus E. In fact. elite ideology. With the exception of a short quotation. colonial docu- ments and.

Gramsci does not use the term “subaltern” in his essay “Some Aspects of the Southern Question. 279) Following her discussion of representation. 443). he is concerned with the intellectual’s role in the subaltern’s cultural and political movement into hegemony. (283) In this instance. (Spivak 1988. by the epistemic interference with legal and disciplinary definitions accompanying the impe- rialist project. Such theories cannot afford to overlook the categories of repre- sentation in its two senses. She makes one short comment on Gramsci’s conception of subaltern classes.” Gramsci considers the movement of historical-political economy in Italy within what can be seen as an allegory of reading taken from or prefiguring an international division of labor. In texts such as “The Southern Question. agents of power – Vertretung.” paternal proxies.” but he does follow Marx’s “class-position/class-consciousness argument” from The Eighteenth Brumaire in that Gramsci states: “The proletariat can become the leading [dirigente] and the dominant class to the extent that it succeeds in creating a system of class alliances which allows it to mobilize the majority of the working population against capitalism and the bourgeois State” (Gramsci 1978. Perhaps because Gramsci criticizes the vanguardistic position of the Leninist intellectual. it is not clear how Gramsci’s “account of the phased development of the subaltern is thrown out of joint when his cultural macrology is operated.12 However. it seems clear that Spivak does not agree with Gramsci’s notion of phased development. it appears that Spivak is only considering Gramsci’s notion of the subaltern with regard to the proletariat and peasants. They must note how the staging of the world in representation – its scene of writing. “legal and disciplinary” functions of the state. This movement must be made to determine the production of history as narrative (of truth). however remotely. To move toward such an accounting one must move toward theories of ideology – of subject formations that micrologically and often erratically operate the interests that congeal the macrologies.” as Spivak claims. She may think that Gramsci’s focus on the subaltern is too macrological because he situates the subaltern within an ensemble of social rela- tions: relations of production. Gramsci cannot speak  83 the relationship between global capitalism (exploitation in economics) and nation-state alliances (domination in geopolitics) is so macrological that it cannot account for the micrological texture of power. Yet an account of the phased development of the subaltern is thrown out of joint when his cultural macrology is operated. My view is that radical practice should attend to this double session of representations rather than reintroduce the individual subject through total- izing concepts of power and desire. its Darstellung – dissimulates the choice of and need for “heroes. The reason for this . Spivak moves on to discuss the nature of the subaltern. At any rate. and relations of hegemony within civil society. Antonio’s Gramsci’s work on the “subaltern classes” extends the class- position/class-consciousness argument isolated in The Eighteenth Brumaire.

§2. and ideological and political bias in writing a text and representing marginalized groups. just class-formation questions were not going to solve anything. since Gramsci uses the term in many other historical contexts. 45–6). she states: Now. The subaltern is all that is not elite. organization alone will not resolve group marginalization. In Gramsci’s conception. the word “subaltern” as one knows is the description of a military thing. the subaltern are not just the oppressed. One knows that Gramsci used it because Gramsci was obliged to censor himself in prison. since a subaltern group can exercise some level of political organization without any level of hegemony and therefore still be subject to the activity of dominant groups (Notebook 25. In two of Spivak’s interviews (1992. In contrast. For her. 1992.” In a 1992 interview. In an interview. Green is that she defines the subaltern differently than both Gramsci and Guha.84  Marcus E. For Spivak. as I have tried to show above. 2000). for the subaltern historian has to always question an author’s interpretations. Spivak’s definition and political understanding of the subaltern are at odds with Gramsci’s conception. For her. Spivak’s analysis of subaltern representation by others is definitely consistent with Gramsci’s approach. disor- ganization is an element of subalternity but not the determining element. 90–l. It is in this sense that she contends that the proletariat is not a subaltern group because it is organ- ized in most instances (Spivak 1990b. meaning that they do not represent themselves politically or textually. “the women of the urban sub- proletariat and of unorganized peasant labour” (Spivak 1985a). This conception is quite distinct from Gramsci’s conception in that it lacks specificity. For Gramsci. representation and organization are key to subalternity and once they are achieved the subaltern cease to be subaltern. because he was talking on southern Italy. the subaltern are not merely the nonelite. sitting in prison in Italy. the subaltern are unorganized and do not often speak. as stated above. and I also question that Gramsci changed his use of the word just in relation to “class formation” in Southern Italy. they are “the paradigmatic victims” of the international division of labor – namely. only the transformation of the relations of subordi- nation will resolve group marginalization. And so then the word “subaltern” became packed with meaning. 1971. Gramsci used the word “subaltern” literally and figuratively in many instances. However. but the trouble with those kinds of names is that if you . 45) I do not question that Gramsci had the issue of the Southern question in mind when he was writing in prison and thinking of subaltern groups but. she insists that Gramsci used the term “subaltern” in his prison notebooks out of the necessity to censor himself from using the word “proletariat. 55).13 I question the notion that the term is a euphemism for “prole- tariat” or anything else. One also knows that the word changed in its use when Gramsci presciently began to be able to see what we today call north-south problems. motivations. she states: I don’t think that I declare myself to be allied to the subaltern. For Spivak. (Spivak 1992. the subaltern are those people that are so displaced they lack political organization and representation.

Gramsci’s revolutionary project for subaltern liberation As I stated above. (Spivak 1990a. 310).” For Gramsci. organize. to sharpen the fighting ability of individual members and of the organization as a whole. as quoted by Buttigieg 1992. Study of culture. 266) . For Gramsci. §27. That’s what class consciousness is in the interest of: the class disappearing. So what I’m interested in is seeing ourselves as namers of the subaltern. a “philosophy of praxis. an actual history of subaltern social groups. Gramsci’s interest in the subaltern is threefold: he is interested in creating a methodology of subaltern historical analysis. theory. In Gramscian terms. 465). 20. there is not merely a unity of theory and practice but a unity of historical analysis. “When a line of communication is established between a member of subaltern groups and the circuits of citizenship or institutionality. Gramsci is consistent with the doctrines of historical materialism. Gramsci cannot speak  85 have any kind of political interest you name it in the hope that the name will disappear. for it is historical analysis that informs theory and theory that informs practice. the subaltern has been instituted into the long road to hegemony” (1999. cf. What politically we want to see is that the name would not be possible.. 1971. thank God. but in her most recent book she writes. As he explained in his L’Ordine Nuovo article entitled “The Party School. Gramsci 1994b. the subaltern is not a subaltern any more. for us.” in our ranks one studies in order to improve. In this sense. to better under- stand the positions of our enemy as well as our own so that we are better able to adapt our day-to-day action to these positions. and from these two projects he is interested in formu- lating a revolutionary and practical political strategy that will liberate subaltern groups from their subordinated existence. and practice or. establishing “a line of communication” and being “instituted into the long road to hegemony” require political struggle. [is] nothing other than theoretical knowledge of our immediate and ultimate goals. since organiza- tion and representation alone will not transform the relations of subordination. and of the manner in which we can succeed to translate them into deeds. they do for Gramsci. Although these aspects of subaltern activity may not signify the idea of phased development for Spivak. if the subaltern are organized and represent themselves. But does this mean that they have somehow transformed themselves into dominant groups within society? Does it mean that the subaltern have transformed the social and political relations of subordination that caused their marginalization? In Spivak’s earlier works it would be difficult to find answers to these questions. one studies history in all its various facets with the purpose of informing historical political analysis and formulating revolutionary political strategy (Notebook 11. 158) In this sense. as he says. (Gramsci. Subaltern groups have to become conscious of their social posi- tion. and struggle to transform their social positions. they are no longer subaltern. If the subaltern can speak then.

and if the dominant social groups are the organizers and founders of the current state. 1971. In Gramsci’s view. Essentially the task of the integral historian or subaltern intellectual is to contribute to the form and development of concrete political strategies founded upon socio- historical analysis. morality.” For Gramsci. Because subaltern groups exist in varying degrees of political organization. then the prevailing social relations will represent those dominant groups’ values and norms. Green Gramsci viewed socio-historical-cultural analyses as partial ends in them- selves (for instance. male. For example. 55).” in his analysis. prior to creating a new state. a self-aware and historically informed conscious leadership combined with the spontaneous political activity of the people is the “real political action” of subaltern groups (Notebook 3. 185). even when they rebel and rise up: only ‘permanent’ victory breaks their subordination” (Notebook 25.86  Marcus E. to justify particular actions. subaltern groups first have to become a counterhegemonic force capable of challenging dominant cultural values and winning control over civil society. the development of a new state based upon egalitarian social rela- tions can be achieved through a broad alliance of subaltern social groups. he concluded that the liberation of subal- tern groups necessarily requires a transformation of the state and its oppressive social relations. if the dominant social groups are bourgeois. social relations. and tactics (Notebook 13. is the transformation of the oppressive state and the formation of a new “ethical State.” “[T]he State. which they portray as “neutral” and “universal” and the subordinate social groups accept as “truth” and “common sense. religion. more organized groups have to become intellectual and moral leaders and attempt to create a subaltern class alliance that would be capable of presenting a new set of cultural values. §2. and Manzoni. §10. From Gramsci’s historical analysis. Lombroso. “manifests itself in two ways. it then can obtain the power and legitimacy to dominate other social groups. maintain control of the state through a hegemonic hold over civil society. §48). Barzellotti. in this sense. 1971.” Gramsci writes. 244). since subaltern groups can only cease being “subaltern” once they have transformed the relations of subordination that cause their marginalization. For Gramsci. Dominant social groups. but ultimately Gramsci utilized his analyses for the purpose of informing practical political activity. “[T]he supremacy of a social group. and so on – as seen in the work of Croce. “Permanent victory. who have the capacity to win the struggle for hegemony. cultural values. Gramsci compares the superstructures of civil society to “a powerful system of fortresses and earths” that protect the state and economic structure from falling or . customs. 1971. as ‘domination’ and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’” (Notebook 19. and they maintain their hegemony over civil society through the promotion of their ideology.14 Therefore. “is the entire complex of practical and theo- retical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance. Catholic. a particular race. but manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules” (Notebook 15. for instance. and a new conception of the state. §24.” in this sense. 1971. and have an aristocratic disposition. social practices. If a social group can successfully pro mote its values as the domi- nant values of society. ways of thinking. §17. initiatives. “Subaltern groups are always subject to the activity of ruling groups. 57). with the purpose of writing books).

etc. §16. if the subaltern are going to promote a new hegemony and attempt to create a new state. 238–9). while other members continue to promote a counterhegemony (Notebook 3. a democratic state that disallows the domination of one group by another. which requires “infinite masses of people” (Notebook 6. In other words. 235. is the struggle for hegemony. In short. 1971. The state Gramsci has in mind is the formation of an “ethical State. §138. Such a project requires a revolutionary transformation of the state and society. as a party. 52). and assert subaltern autonomy and political power. a hegemonic transformation that includes a coalition of all subaltern social groups with a common political aim. “[T]he social group that poses the end of the State and its own end as the target to be achieved can create an ethical State – i. As illustrated in the fifth and sixth phases of subaltern development and in previous historical examples. situations. a subal- tern political party is the practical political organization that can provide intel- lectual and moral leadership for the subaltern and act as the embryo that will develop into a state. Once the hegemonic struggle is won. 349). they become the cultural leaders of society. §179. the government. and eventually become the state (Notebook 25. 259). which is the creation of a state and . 238). they have to historicize and conceptualize the relations that cause their subordination and attempt to transform the relations and systems of power that created and maintain the relations. a subaltern war of position is not merely an ideolog- ical struggle but also a practical political struggle in which the subaltern organize political formations that represent their views. in this sense. §5. §44. subaltern social groups have to look beyond their current subordinated identities. The war of position. promote their conception of the world. in which the members of the party who are the personnel of the old state become the personnel and leaders of the new state. Therefore. obtaining positions as the personnel of the state. and to create a technically and morally unitary social organism” (Notebook 8.e. they have the potential to become the next dominant social groups and found a new state. and the struggle for hegemony requires subaltern groups to construct a sociocultural force of their own that is capable of uniting the masses in a common political struggle (Notebook 10. what Gramsci has in mind is a postsubaltern state. subaltern social groups do not merely seek legal protections from the state to overcome their subordination. and conditions. and other institutions. The subaltern. they have to become a governing body and political and intellectual leaders within the old society before winning power.” a state that can transform the oppressive state and transform the relations of subordination that created and perpetuated group marginalization. §119). 1971. Gramsci insists that subaltern groups engage in a “war of position” in which the subaltern promote a new set of social values as a counterforce to the dominant group’s values in an attempt to take control of and promote a new conception of civil society. If subaltern groups are successful in this struggle. according to Gramsci’s analysis. 1971. For Gramsci.. organize a political party. can work within the established political formations (fifth phase). become the new dominant social groups. one which tends to put an end to the internal divisions of the ruled. In this strategy. 1971. the “war of movement” or sixth phase of development begins. Gramsci cannot speak  87 being attacked (Notebook 7. Ideally. therefore. 1971.

refers to the earlier notes as “A texts. Gramsci’s study and conception of the subaltern are transformative. 50–5). social. Buttigieg’s critical English edition of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1992. I wish to thank Esteve Morera and Joseph A. Buttigieg for many conversations on Gramsci’s work and for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. cultural. Acknowledgments This chapter was presented at the Rethinking Marxism 2000 conference held at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. culture. Ultimately. Buttigieg’s critical English translation of the notebooks (1992. how they are represented in literature. and ideological roots of everyday life. 1996) have been published thus far. Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern creates not only a new terrain of struggle but also a methodological criterion for formulating such a struggle founded upon the integral analysis of the economic. §2 and §5 (1971. all the notes from Notebooks 1 and 3. will attempt to overcome their subordina- tion through a broad struggle that will affect every aspect of society and. political. However. and social positions. historical. have been published in the first two volumes of Joseph A. vols. 52–5). 238–41). and he sees this transformation occurring from below. I provide the notebook number and note number (§) in my references. the stages of their development in history. who are subordinated and do not hold any sociopolitica1 power. However. Gramsci views the struggle for subaltern transformation occurring in a hegemonic fashion. and so on. Thus. note number (§). . Gramsci’s study of the subaltern reveals not only the difficulties involved in subaltern analysis but also the many factors that contribute to group marginalization and the elements which prevent groups from overcoming their marginalization. I provide the notebook number. political. 2 As of this date. which appear in the later notebooks. 1996). as “C texts” (Buttigieg 1992. Green society that is founded upon the principles of equality and democracy. 1 and 2. Buttigieg. in turn. 21–4 September 2000. and cultural transformation that will produce human liberation.” and their revisions. and so forth. in Gramsci’s analysis. 1992. Notes 1 To be consistent with the standard reference practice that is being adopted in relation to the critical editions of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1975. literature. 366). and §7 (1985. date. Because political power rests within the state but is reinforced within social and cultural practices. xv. 1996). He is interested in the integral relationship between their economic. Therefore. Gramsci is undoubtedly interested in a historical.88  Marcus E. he attempts to capture the totality of subaltern existence. their significance in cultural forms. since only note- books 1 through 5 of Joseph A. meaning that subaltern groups. following Valentino Gerratana’s critical Italian edition (Gramsci 1975). free from subordination and exploitation in all spheres of life. their social being. only four of the eight notes in Notebook 25 have been translated into English from the original Italian: §1 (1995. philosophy. and page number to all other English translations of Gramsci’s notebooks. which Gramsci wrote between 1929 and 1930. in which a new conception of society is not only presented in politics but throughout the superstructural realms of ideology. Prison Notebooks.

After nearly six months from when he started writing the draft. 13 For instance. §90. §48. §98.   5 Gramsci worked on the draft of “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” between September and November 1926.” Marx explains this in the preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (Marx 1987. §14. §38. the special notebook on subaltern groups. 170–1. 10 For example. Gramsci contends that the proletariat has the capacity to be a leader in creating a “system of class alliances. see “The Sexual Question” (1992. §139. §90. the proletariat has the potential to lead a “system of class alliances. He was arrested on 8 November 1926. they do not represent a difference in meaning for Gramsci. Notebook 4. §132. 52).   4 Also see Gramsci (1977.” . 12 For Gramsci (1978. Therefore.   6 Also see Morera (1990. §95. that Gramsci made a number of revisions when he copied these notes to Notebook 25. 180–1). §59. there are some differences between the earlier and later notes that comprise Notebook 25. §57. §99. Notebook 6. such as “On the Jewish Question” and German Ideology. Notebook 1. Gramsci (Notebook 3. 14 In his essay “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” (1978. Notebook 3. 460–2). Therefore. Gramsci cannot speak  89 in some citations of Notebook 25. But such an alliance of subaltern groups requires a mass of Left intellectuals that is capable of expressing the aspirations and needs of the alliance. but he later replaces the term “civil society” for “relations of production. 180) and Simon (1991. For Gramsci’s view on women. quoted from Notebook 3. 56). Gramsci uses the words “subaltern classes. Notebook 3. §95. §1. 39–40. 70–3). §49.   8 The idea that subaltern groups develop in various degrees or levels is very similar to Gramsci’s discussion of the development of political forces in “various moments or levels” (see Gramsci 1971. although the terms are different.” When Gramsci rewrote the note in Notebook 25. §5 (Gramsci 1971. It is worth noting that Marx’s conception of civil society appears in his early works. he uses the terms “subaltern classes” and “subal- tern groups” interchangeably. 71–2). §48. however. §90. 460–2).” which includes peasants. Compare this A text with the C text as it appears in Notebook 25. §18. Notebook 4. I should point out.” 11 Hobsbawm (1965) provides details of the socioeconomic conditions for the region of Lazzaretti’s movement. 443. 261–6). §12.   3 Also see Gramsci (1996). 294–7) and his review of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” (1985.   7 In this earlier A text form of the note. §66. I make reference to the original and earlier “A texts” as they appear in Buttigieg’s translation and provide other references where appro- priate. §117. see Notebook 1.   9 See for example. and he sees these intellectuals developing within the proletariat. §53. 1971. §95. 1994a. §18. he wanted to expand the focus of the chapter. §15) refers to Ciccotti’s historical materialism as “very superficial” and a “very positivistic sociology. 443. §158.

though containing relevant intuitions. literary. religious. xiii). intellectual. 264) In this chapter I reflect on Gramsci’s category of the “subaltern. Gramsci found himself in a position of “subalternity” which gives his notes an often indicative and fragmentary perspec- tive. Besides not concluding his project. Giorgio Baratta (2007. The latter. particularly those offered by Joseph A.7 Self-consciousness of the Dalits as “subalterns” Reflections on Gramsci in South Asia Cosimo Zene Becoming “Dalit” is the process through which the caste subaltern enters into cir- cuits of political commensuration and into the value regime of “the human.” Anupama Rao (2009. 3). and economic analyses” (Green 2002. transcribed. There is little doubt that the enquiry into the “Subaltern Question” in India today cannot ignore the “Dalit Question” as “the political unconscious of India society” (Rao 2009. Buttigieg (1998). philosophical. Green (2002). Having made several comments in the Notebooks regarding the subalterns.” taking into consideration recent contributions to this topic. 2). Significantly. Gramsci and the subaltern: Methodology and historiography Green’s systematic analysis of the concept of the “subaltern” underlines abuses and misconceptions of this category in the Anglophone world. Green points to the need to interpret this concept as “interwoven with his political. where – under the title “On the Margins of History (The History of Subaltern Social Groups)” – he copied. allows me to return to Gramscian sources so as to carry out a radicalization of Gramsci’s positions with reference to the experience of “Untouchables”/Dalits in South Asia. showing that the passage of the term from a literal to a figurative usage is already evident by the end of Notebook 1 (Green 2002. The case study referring to the Rishi-Dalits of Bangladesh accentuates still further the precarious position of these groups as subalterns. 2008) and Marcus E. We might say that Gramsci was interested in developing a multidisciplinary approach to the study of subalterns. and developed the notes of Notebooks 1 and 3. cultural. social. in 1934 Gramsci embarked on writing Notebook 25. . but also their aspira- tion to overcome subalternity. besides presenting an eloquent critique of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s article Can the Subaltern Speak? (1988).

It is clear that Gramsci has in mind “subal- tern groups” both in Italy and in Europe. who “‘have no history’: [that is to say] there are no traces of their history in the historical documents of the past” (Q14. so that. §48). as he specifies in Notebook 25. in order “to ‘translate’ the elements of historical life into theoretical language” (Q3.” Theirs is a history consid- ered so marginal and peripheral that they “have not attained a consciousness of the class per se and … consequently do not even suspect that their history might possibly have any importance or that it might be of any value to leave documen- tary evidence of it” (Q3. In Notebook 3. in which the “integral histo- rian” is able to perceive “the totality and complexity of the historical process. cultural. 9). in Green 2002. and observations” (Green 2002. Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  91 Within this methodology. women. §90 Gramsci offers a methodological process divided into six progressive phases which should be further developed to include intermediate phases. already at a methodological level and perhaps inten- tionally. and to understand these “conditions and relations of the past. pieces of information. his methodology is based on “particular events. and religious dynamics. their “philosophy. In summary Green writes. and the proletariat. 48). Buttigieg 1992. “He wants to understand how the conditions and relations of the past influence the present and future development of the subal- tern’s lived experience” (Green 2002. 8). and discover the causes of. Despite Gramsci’s interest in proposing a theory für ewig and formulating general theories and conclusions. In order to prove the Gramscian thesis on phases of development. 61. §5: “The [integral] historian must record. §39).” including slaves. where a process of colonization was already taking place even prior to the development of a territorial colonialism outside Europe.” In order to accomplish a translation into theoretical language. There is a remarkable closeness between the two expressions “State as Protagonist of History” and the definition of subaltern groups as being “On the Margins of History. socio-economic.” their understanding of reality or. 9). §48).” Gramsci appeals to “integral history” as a versatile workshop which takes into account political. religious groups.” since this affects what Gramsci calls their “common sense. the line of development towards integral autonomy. peasants. we need to take into account the development of the Gramscian concept of the sovereign state as “the protagonist of history” in relation to the “integral State” where both political and civil society intervene to preserve power for dominant groups through the hegemony of consent and coercion. 8. from the tendencies of the economic structure to the forms of popular culture that shape … the consciousness of the masses” (Morera 1990.” It is noteworthy that in the transition from Q3 to Q25. starting from the most primitive phases. I return below to the “subaltern’s lived experience. This example points towards the famous note of Q3 where Gramsci analyzes the “element of spontaneity” as “characteristic of subaltern classes. Gramsci uses the expressions “subaltern classes” and “subaltern groups” interchangeably (Green 2002. Green refers to other passages in the Notebooks where Gramsci discusses Manzoni’s position in relation to subalterns. Those who have conducted research among Dalits have experienced the difficulty of proving the researcher’s genuine interest in . different races.

” “In the novel The Betrothed. §51). serious scholarship remains sensitive to this problematic issue (Rao 2009). §14).” towards the so-called “humble classes. possessed. people not dissimilar to the Lazzaretti personage exam- ined by Gramsci (Green 2002. Certeau returns continuously to the idea of “traces as inassimilable fragments of alterity” which spring up time and again “to importune” the interpretative apparatus of centers and institutions of learning and knowledge (Certeau 1988). and each monograph requires an immense quantity of material which is often hard to collect. etc. leaving them incapable of “an inner life. this is History with a capital “H. Gramsci analyzes the conditions and the historical processes that have determined subor- dination. While Dalit scholars might question the validity of “outsiders” producing insightful accounts on Dalits. mystics. Yet “official History” – although a fabrication – contains “traces” that the hegemonic historiography is unable to eliminate. 79): heretics. 65–73). (3) the hegemonic context in which subalterns find themselves (the political. who seems to validate Gramsci’s thesis in relation to the methodological criteria used by Gramsci to retrace even those minimal signs of initiative found amongst subaltern groups. These traces reveal the tactics – as opposed to the “strategies” of power – used by groups which find themselves “at the margins of history” and which occupy “zones of silence” (Certeau 1988. 13. with refer- ence to Michel de Certeau. this kind of history can only be dealt with monographically.92  Cosimo Zene their history and their life. explanations” (Q3. thus preserving traces of “small histories” if only to contradict them. individual. According to Certeau. §12). He displays even more sarcasm when commenting on Manzoni’s “caste attitude. pathologic. Differently from the interpretation given by Italian “intellectuals” (Lombroso and Barzellotti) who presented “narrow. social. I advocate a historiography of a more recent kind. In his famous note of Q25. Consequently. Nevertheless. Hobsbawm 1965.” in lower case.” thus preserving the authority of official history and achieving a kind of hegemony. Only the nobles have an inner life” (Q23. Green summarizes the Gramscian position thus: (1) it is possible to produce a history of the subalterns. Certeau explains the production of historiography as “operation” and “fabri- cation” of texts by the “circles of writing” and “institutions of power” which transform findings through the “practice of interpretation” into a “science.” Gramsci writes. Gramsci cannot avoid noticing that the official interpretation of the subalterns offered by Italian intellectuals does not rest merely on a narrow definition but strikes at the very heart of their personhood as human beings. economic.” As a conclusion to his analysis. and . as Certeau defines them. despite the fact that their history is “necessarily fragmented and episodic” (Q3. “there is not one common person who is not teased or laughed at … They are depicted as wretched and narrow people with no inner life. (2) these groups evolve according to phases or degrees of political organization. §2.” since all others are “small histories. Gramsci writes: Every trace of independent initiative on the part of subaltern groups should … be of incalculable value for the integral historian.

Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  93
cultural milieu) promotes and strives to maintain the situation of subalternity; and
(4) despite these difficulties, subaltern groups are able to transform their social
subordination (Green 2002, 15).
At this point, Green examines recent trends in publications by the Subaltern
Studies collective, headed by Ranajit Guha, which taking inspiration from
Gramsci has disseminated the term “subaltern” internationally. In his analysis,
Green includes Spivak’s article (1988) and prefaces his argument by maintaining
that both Spivak’s and Guha’s reading of Gramsci is based almost exclusively
on Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Gramsci 1971) and therefore offers
a very restricted interpretation of the Gramscian concept of the “subaltern.” Yet
whilst Guha’s reference to Gramsci seems motivated by an acknowledgement of
Gramsci’s relevance to the Subaltern Studies project (Guha 2009), Spivak’s inten-
tions seem to be different, as I demonstrate below (Buttigieg 1998, 56).
The shortcomings of Guha’s approach is emphasized also by Spivak, who
defines as “essentialist and taxonomic” Guha’s description of subalterns as
“different from the elite.” According to Spivak, the discourse of Subaltern Studies
is intrinsically flawed because it relies on British, nationalist, and colonialist docu-
ments, in which subalterns leave minimal traces. If the representation of subal-
terns finds itself “inscribed” into the dominant discourse, Spivak concludes “the
subaltern cannot speak.” Clearly, this position dissociates itself from a Gramscian
approach when referring to the search for “traces” offered by the subaltern.

Can the subaltern speak? Not merely a rhetorical question
Taking into consideration Green’s meticulous analysis, I want to propose a further
reflection on Spivak’s question Can the Subaltern Speak? which “has gone around
the world” (Baratta 2008) and never ceases to challenge our intellect.
Spivak does not seem at all interested in deepening a reflection on the Gramscian
discourse on the subaltern, as she herself has pointed out (Spivak 2004).1 Rather,
Spivak underlines at various stages that her critique of both the occidental “desire”
to problematize the subject and the way in which the “third-world” subject is
represented in Western discourse, finds pertinent and ample support in Marx and
Derrida, thus making Gramsci – presumably – redundant. She maintains that the
occidental intellectual production colludes with the international economic inter-
ests of the West, a position with which I am in complete agreement. What leaves
me perplexed is not so much her proposal of an alternative analysis of relations
between “Western discourses” and the possibility of “speaking of (or for) the
subaltern woman” (Spivak 1988, 271), and not even so much her choice of case-
study – the abolition of the “widows’ sacrifice” (sati) by the British in India – but
more the process she adopts to reach this end.
It seems clear that Spivak is interested not only in exposing the deficiencies
of “the Western subject,” but she is also interested in taking an explicit position
within the struggle for “intellectual supremacy” in the West. At a time when on
the US intellectual scene the alternative choices are between the poststructuralist
positions of Foucault/Deleuze or Derrida, Spivak sides with the latter. Indeed,
this is apparent when she states that her essay was written “whether in defence of

94  Cosimo Zene
Derrida or not” (291), or when she affirms that “this is not an apology” (292). The
counterposition Foucault-Derrida is most noticeable at the beginning of part three
of her article, where Spivak writes with perceptible dissent referring to the choice
of US academics and students who prefer Foucault to Derrida (Spivak 1988, 291).
This critique had already been raised in an apparently harmless note:

It is important to note that the greatest “influence” of Western European
intellectuals upon US professors and students happens through collections
of essays rather than long books in translation. And, in those collections, it
is understandably the most topical pieces that gain a great currency. (Spivak
1988, 309)

No objection can be raised to this argument, except that Spivak is accusing
her North American colleagues of operating in the same way she has in relation
to Gramsci. I confine myself here to the substantial acknowledgment by Spivak
of the advantages of deconstruction as a methodology appropriate to resisting the
assimilation of Alterity, as this happens in the imperialist formation of the colo-
nial subject. In more specific terms, Spivak maintains that even efforts carried
out by anthropology, history, political science, and sociology “will, in the long
run, cohere with the work of imperialist subject constitution, mingling epistemic
violence with the advancement of learning and civilization. And the subaltern
woman will be as mute as ever” (1988, 295).
Perhaps we should deduce that, precisely because Derrida’s text does not
contain the word “woman,” the latter becomes an inaccessible absence and for
that very reason inassimilable by Derrida’s text and hence not exposed to logo-
centrism. This motivates Spivak’s choice to propose for reflection the silence of a
woman (her grandmother’s sister) who, in 1926, hanged herself in her own father’s
house in Calcutta. Ten years after her death, it was discovered that Bhuvaneswari
Bhaduri – this woman – was part of a group supporting independence and, unable
to carry out a political assassination assigned to her, killed herself. For Spivak this
suicide becomes “an unemphatic, ad hoc, subaltern rewriting of the social text of
sati-suicide” (308), given that at the end “the subaltern as female cannot be heard
or read.” (ibid.).2 Spivak’s critique, both against British imperialism in its intent
to carry out a civilizing mission, and against fanatical nationalism, is impeccable
both from historical and literary perspectives. The analysis of texts leads Spivak
to conclude that sati is the result of a “grammatical error,” thus stressing once
again the impossibility of recovering the subaltern woman as a subject. In her very
last paragraph, Spivak reiterates once more the supremacy of Derridian decon-
struction – “which I do not celebrate as feminism as such” (308) – over the posi-
tions of Foucault and Deleuze.
I fully concur with Spivak that Derrida’s radical critique has had a decisive
impact in exposing “the danger to appropriate the other by assimilation.” I also
share her view that Derrida provides us with useful analytical tools with which to
contest the violent supremacy of the occidental Logos-subject. But I also main-
tain that Derrida is not the only theorist within Western thought to question the
subject and to motivate ethical responsibilities that resist the assimilation of the

Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  95
Other. I believe a return to Gramsci’s thesis on subaltern groups is imperative to
avoid mystifying traps: Gramscian theory, always directed towards praxis, is no
less demanding.
Without diminishing the value of Spivak’s reading of events, we could perhaps
put forward a more radical critique meant to contrast both Western imperialism
in India and the persistence of colonialism within postcolonial India. The orig-
inal title of Spivak’s article was “Power, Desire, Interest” and as such it awakens
possible Gramscian reflections. There are, indeed, a few questions which need
to be addressed. The first would be: why did the British feel the need to abolish
the “widows’ suicide” (sati) and, judging it an abhorrent tradition, try to justify
their colonial enterprise as a “civilizing mission”? Why did the abolition of
“Untouchability” not receive the same consideration by the colonizers? In a sense,
Untouchability more than sati would seem to include Western ideological imperi-
alism connected with colonial economic exploitation, as Spivak rightly maintains.
Whilst the practice of sati had been formally abolished in the Presidency
of Bengal in 1829, only as late as 1833 did the British Parliament approve the
“Slavery Abolition Act.” In South Asia today, Dalits represent the quintessence of
this reality, not only from an economic and social point of view, but also from an
ontological perspective, touching the order of being and of human personhood. Our
main concern is that at the basis of their subalternity there lies an ideology defining
them as less-than-human, which is then translated and ramified in very concrete
terms in the daily life of Dalits. For them subalternity becomes a spatial/territorial,
economic, social, educational, and, above all, religious/ontological segregation.
This is also the poignant and powerful meaning of the word “Dalit” – “broken,
downtrodden.” The adoption of the term Dalit as self-designation springs out of
the awareness and perception of the oppression/humiliation (Guru 2009) they have
to endure: the real subaltern in Gramscian terms. When the word Dalit is spoken
by a non-Dalit it might have the character of a derogatory remark. Yet for Dalits
themselves the term has become a place of resistance and a reason for struggle.
The question thus returns – making today an ever more urgent appeal – for
the subaltern-Dalits of South Asia: “Can the subaltern speak?” If Derridian
deconstruction of the occidental subject prevents us from hearing the cry of the
subaltern, then Gramsci becomes indispensable in calling the Western subject to
its ethical responsibilities, because this is an ethical question. If upholding the
sati tradition can be ascribed to a grammatical error, then which grammatical
error is it that allowed Untouchability to exist and persist in South Asia? If it is
true that the Western subject has imposed an imperial domination through the
“violence of episteme,” which episteme and what different epistemology validate
the continuity of Untouchability? Besides the Manusmirti there is also the inter-
pretation of these scriptures by the “centers of knowledge” and the creation of
apparatuses – including mythologies (Zene 2007) – which further validate caste
and Untouchability. We witness here the confluence of hegemony employed by
civil society – in different ways within South Asia – with hegemony exercised
by the State (Buttigieg 1998, 59–60) in a concurrence that preserves caste and
Untouchability, notwithstanding the fluidity of these concepts and their different
construal from the precolonial through the postcolonial period.

96  Cosimo Zene
I do not stand in opposition to the feminist stance adopted by Spivak. My
proposal is in fact to radicalize Spivak’s position even further. If a young woman
belonging to a high caste kills herself without explanation and that gesture is inter-
preted as the “silence of the subaltern,” my reply is that Dalit women are doubly
subaltern, both as women and as Dalit. Not only does the Dalit woman speak and
talk, but she wants to be listened to through words, poetry, singing, dancing, and
working – and more precisely the always underpaid extra-work. Often the Dalit
woman finds herself compelled to subtract a handful of rice from the family dinner,
sell that rice, and pay for her daughter’s education, so that the latter will not, like
her, be illiterate, but will learn to defend herself from within and outside the group
(Zene 2002). Besides inspiring a different understanding of “dalitness” within their
own communities, Dalit Women have also motivated feminist scholarship to chal-
lenge Brahmanical feminism (Rao 2003; Tharu 2003; Rege 2004, 2006; Narayan
2006), to address anew the “Caste Question” (Rao 2009) and to postulate the Dalit
as a “new political subject” (Rao 2008). There are thus many reasons – around 200
million reasons in fact, equal to the number of Dalits in South Asia – that compel
me to radicalize our reflection, in this sense Gramscian, on the subaltern.

“Learning to learn from the subaltern”
In more recent interventions (Spivak 1990b, 1993, 1999, 2000), especially a
keynote address delivered at the UCSB (Spivak 2004), Spivak reaffirms some
key concepts when, for instance, she says: “No one can say ‘I am a subaltern’ in
whatever language.” She reiterates well-known positions, such as her dedication
to theoretical study, asserting clearly that she is not a political activist, and that
she proposes to recuperate the role of abstraction when upholding concepts such
as the State and secularism.
In her UCSB communication, Spivak maintains that the “old subaltern” is replaced
by a “new subaltern,” asserting that she “read Gramsci separately.” This “new subal-
tern,” however, highlights Spivak’s own trajectory: by way of her commitment (“my
fieldwork”) during the past 15–20 years promoting education among tribal groups
(Adivasis) in North Bengal, Spivak has discovered multiple levels of subalternity.
The “new subaltern” appears to her as “very permeable” and thus exposed to the risk
of being not only represented, but also exploited by the global market. Through this,
Spivak has reached a conclusion that leads her to a pedagogic philosophy: “learn
from the subaltern,” and more precisely “learn to learn from below.”
For this to happen we must acknowledge that subalterns are in fact able and
allowed not only to speak and to talk but also “to teach.” She makes references,
for instance to the pertinent “logic” used by Adivasis, insisting that “logic is not
the property of Europe.” Once again, I believe that Derrida is not alone in high-
lighting the problematic character of the occidental subject and that a deconstruc-
tivist position leaves us insolvent until a manifest ethical stance intervenes to
urge the Western subject to become accountable and responsible. Spivak’s inten-
tion of “learning how to learn from the subaltern,” can be put into practice when
this ethical subject is ready “to learn how to listen to, in order to learn from the
subaltern.” This pedagogy seems eminently Gramscian to me, in that it looks at

Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  97
“integral history” as an “integral historian,” ready to listen and to search for those
“traces” that will allow us to recognize elements of resistance.
In her speech at Santa Barbara, Spivak hints at personal details – she belongs to the
Bengali middle class, she is an “old socialist,” a non-believer and so does not consider
herself Hindu – all reasonable standpoints and irreproachable personal choices.
However, when these choices are pushed to the extreme, they prevent Spivak from
seeing reality through the eyes of the integral historian. The fact that she does not
consider herself Hindu does not mean that a great part of the hegemonic Indian civil
society has renounced considering itself Hindu. In renouncing to be a Hindu, Spivak
does not seem to feel the need to discuss in depth the presence in India of the caste
system as a direct consequence of Hinduism at a social level. Once again, this does
not acknowledge that for many the caste system constitutes a most “painful” reality.
As a consequence, she prefers to talk, even in Marxist terms, of social class. However,
given this premise, I think that one cannot avoid taking caste into consideration, even
when one proposes a discourse on class consciousness. It appears impossible not to
perceive that this hegemonic religious ideology justifies an apparently immutable
stratification of society, hence providing a validation for the presence of subaltern
groups within the caste system. Moreover, we need to move “beyond caste” in order
to identify those human groups who are not even considered worthy to belong to the
castes and are thus defined as “Outcastes,” and hence “Untouchables.”3 This is so
because some religious-legal texts deem them to be permanently “impure” (asuci), as
defined by those who regard themselves as “pure” and want to remain so.
If, on the one hand, the choice of those who do not share a caste ideology seems
commendable, on the other, it represents a blind choice from the point of view
of “integral history,” given that castes do not disappear simply by being ignored,
and that the subjugation of Dalits and others still persists. The latter, for instance,
lament that when they adhere to left-wing movements and parties, they are still
treated as Untouchables by leaders and “intellectuals” who belong to high castes
(Bandyopadhyay 2008).4
Returning to Spivak, but also to Gramsci, I would like to point out: (1) If we
wish to propose for South Asia a prototype of subaltern who embodies those
characteristics expressed by Gramsci, we cannot but think of the Dalits or, more
precisely, of Dalit women. (2) The categories used by Spivak to identify the “new
subaltern” clearly point back – in addition to a different comprehension of this
reality by Spivak – to the phases proposed by Gramsci for subalterns. The diverse
groups of Dalits in South Asia reflect this Gramscian classification of phases of
subalternity, precisely because they are compelled to progress from the lowest
possible level of non-humanity. (3) Gramscian terminology, which contemplates
not just “subaltern classes” but also “subaltern groups,” allows us to open up to
different circumstances and scenarios, such as those present in South Asia. (4) In
their history these Dalit groups manifest moments and “traces” of self-conscious-
ness of their subaltern condition and they offer palpable examples of resistance
and a willingness to overcome subalternity – at different levels and to varying
degrees – despite the persistence of “disaggregation, multiplicity and juxtaposi-
tion.”5 (5) Gramsci invites us to consider “integral history” as an effective meth-
odology employed to discover those “traces” present in the history of Dalits. It

98  Cosimo Zene
is a history that takes into account how Dalits express themselves, in order to
manifest and overcome their subalternity through their own means and their meta-
language: folklore, popular religiosity, so-called “superstitions,” tales and myths,
proverbs, music, dance, theater, figurative arts, or what Boninelli (2007) calls
“indigestible fragments” or, more poetically, “Gramscian paths.”
No one can be prevented from choosing and defending secularism or agnosti-
cism, as the affirmation of a humanism free from “absolute” ideologies. But we
cannot avoid asking ourselves why for subalterns, in this case for Dalits, religion
represents an important reality, expressed through both their adherence to various
reformist movements within Hinduism (Bhakti, Vaisnava, Sanskritization) or their
conversion to other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity (Zelliot
2004). Even prior to judging whether their commitment to these movements and
religions has effectively resolved their condition of subalternity, we must question
the reasons behind their choices and seek to understand their ultimate motivations
(Díaz-Salazar 1991).
In a socio-historical context that defines human beings in terms of their ability
to relate to and get closer to the divine, it seems obvious that for those who are
excluded, ostracized, and effectively denied this choice, there remains no alterna-
tive but to demonstrate their ability to achieve proximity to the divine, if only in
a polemical manner. If “religious language” is reserved by hegemonic powers to
maintain the subaltern’s subjugation, then it seems logical – even when different
from Western logics and epistemology – that subalterns use this very language
to reaffirm themselves and their human dignity.6 In other words, if to possess
Dharma – which we commonly translate as “religion,” but which also implies
law, moral code, and duty – means to be human and hence capable of practising
dharmikota (religiosity/religiousness) and of taking upon oneself the range of
implied responsibilities, then it is evident that Dalits, deprived of the possibility
of achieving Dharma, will do everything in their power to prove and assert their
dharmikota. If this is what is asked of me in order to attest to my “being a person,”
then I will consider all possible mechanisms and will use every means to attain
this. I have no alternative but to use the existing language-code also as a meta-
language in order to “announce” (to speak and to talk) that I too am human. And
there is nothing more “Gramscian” than this. Following Eleanor Zelliot’s lead,
recent scholarship in India has emphasized the socio-religious and cultural dimen-
sions present in the Dalit-subaltern experience (Bhagavan and Feldhaus 2008a,
2008b; Zelliot 1996, 2004).

“We too are humans” (Amrao je manus)
The question of “humanity” seems to be at the core, even in Gramscian terms,
when summing up all other concerns that affect the life of Dalits. This is the issue
taken up by Baratta in his reflection on the subaltern when he asks, “What is a
human being?” thus combining the Gramscian enquiry with a Heideggerian slant
on the “sense of being” (Baratta 2004, 128). If Dalits in South Asia experience
a negation of their being as “humans” – not just as a social practice but from an
ontological perspective (“the ontological hurt endured by untouchables”: Gheeta

Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  99
2009, 107) – then we must conclude they have been placed at the lowest degree of
subalternity. Furthermore if, once they have reached the far end of “non-being,”
they continue to tell us “I am a human being, too!” then it becomes a duty for the
integral historian to retrace their journey – perhaps together with them – so as to
discover those “traces of resistance” that their history offers.
I share Spivak’s pedagogical philosophy according to which we need to “learn
how to learn” from the subaltern, a philosophy I find most Gramscian: learning
how to be taught and how to understand, hence to experience how to merge
theory with practice, to then return to “my initial theory” in order to purify it
from the many trivialities that are burdensome, so as to make it more human
and humanizing. I share this position also because I have experienced it myself,
while conducting research in Bangladesh among the Rishi, ex-Untouchables
and Dalits.7 In my historical-anthropological research, I contacted various Rishi
groups distributed in the south-west region of Khulna. Some of these groups
have, since 1856, converted to Christianity. My research took me also among
those who had not converted and were “affiliated” with Hinduism. One evening
during 1989 while in Chuknagar, a missionary who had resided with the Rishi
for several years organized a meeting so I could interview their headmen. After
exchanging views on the general situation of the group, our conversation turned
to the issue of “conversion,” since the missionary had not wanted to “accept”
them into Christianity. According to the missionary, they were not yet ready. The
headmen insisted, but all their remarks received equally “logical” replies from the
missionary. After a long pause, the eldest among them got up and before leaving
said to the missionary: “Remember, Father, we too are human beings” (Amrao
je manus – Zene 2000). Those words have never left me and still motivate my
present research. The elder headman was teaching us to understand his experience
as Untouchable-Subaltern and to recognize his desire to define himself differently
from the way others identified him.
During my stay among the Rishi, I came to verify how those words translated
into a common praxis within the group, a praxis “necessarily fragmented and
episodic” (Notebook 3, §14), but still containing traces of opposition to hege-
monic power. For example, when at election time a local candidate promised to
provide a tube-well or build a road for the Chuknagar Rishi in exchange for votes,
they asked instead for a small temple, at the center of their quarters, where their
rituals could be celebrated. Besides challenging those who drive them “out of the
temple,” they were also making a statement to all others that, if the divine was in
their midst, they too must be humans. This choice, well beyond “Sanskritization”
or against religious ostracism, reveals a desire to obtain socio-religious and polit-
ical visibility, as the following example shows: likewise during election time,
the big Rishi electorate in Dumuria was divided among three different polling
stations, so that they could not unite their votes to elect their own candidate, but
they nevertheless gained a small majority. Again, the Chuknagar Rishi, hired by
the caste-Hindus to play for the Durga Puja, played their drums throughout the
night in celebration of Narajan, one of the lesser divinities, always with the inten-
tion of showing that they too knew how to be in touch with the divine. The last
example comes from the successful Rishi community of Tala, who have become

these Rishi found themselves in East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and the Belgian Jesuit Fr.” They refused the invitation of the caste-Hindus to celebrate the Durga together with them. where Gramsci discusses “Pirandello’s Theatre. their comments were a reflection of what others – caste-Hindus. (2) The Bangladeshi Dalits constitute a substantial minority. The Jesuits. Initially. neither the partition of India (1948) nor the independence of the country (1971) were sufficient to guarantee equality for Dalits. . soon after the partition of India. we will obtain an even more radical perspective. teachers – would say about them. at the beginning of 1900. and in a more precarious position compared to Indian Dalits.” inscribed within the histories of colonial powers or in missionary diaries. For instance.” These examples correspond to the traces left by these “groups without history. refused the invitation of the Calcutta Jesuits to convert to Christianity.100  Cosimo Zene agriculturalists and are no longer “cow skinners. (3) Only ten years ago. in 1937 they sent a delegation to Calcutta to invite the Jesuits back in order to be “protected” from the police and the many lawsuits made against them. in fact. However.” I also remembered a passage in Notebook 14. However. There are many more examples relating to the history of the Rishi that could be cited as a commentary on this “struggle to become what one wants to become. missionaries. into the education of younger generations. Muslims. but to survive. and instead did so on their own. understood that the “conver- sion” of the Rishi was a slow process entailing a great deal of bargaining and. while negotiating with Catholics. spending lavishly and showing great pride. Rishi. in 1947. All these “Hindu”-Rishi groups have put much effort. it became easier to ask them how they saw themselves. I was re-reading Heidegger at that point and I had in front of me the clearest example of the “futurity of being. Muslims.” introducing there a variation on the question “what is the human being?”: “It seems to me that ‘one’s real nature’ is determined by the struggle to become what one wants to become” (Gramsci 1985. the Rishi tried to achieve benefits for themselves. and others subsequently. Koster helped them carry out their activity as smugglers. Muchi. particularly when taking into account certain factors: (1) “Untouchability” should not be part of the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh. according to this logic. The Rishi of Baradal. At times I judged their statements false. with the help of missionaries. After much time spent among these Rishi groups. Later. Hindus. until I realized that they were projecting a vision of themselves in the future. and Protestants (Zene 2002). Only later did they feel at ease to let me know what they thought about themselves. the Rishi used different names in their entries – Chamar. not to enrich themselves. From “untouchables” to Dalits If we broaden our reflection to include other Dalit groups in Bangladesh. police. They had been accused of carrying out “illegal activities” and had been threatened to be registered under the Criminal Tribes Act (1871). in response to the Census Reports from 1850 onwards. 145). not just as they were seen by others but most of all as they “wanted to be” seen. and also Kristan (Christian) – thus confusing the officials in charge of logging the census data.

e. This confirms an unmistakable emergence of self-awareness among Bangladeshi Dalits and a decisive will to make their status as subaltern firstly recognized and then transformed. The whole endeavor confirms that these subaltern groups do experience different degrees of self- consciousness and find themselves at different stages. whereas Dalits means “the oppressed people. but it also represents the effort to overcome those limitations.” … [I]t carries more stigmas for people to label themselves Harijans. a person without a father (born of a prostitute or sexual worker).” However. In 2001 the asso- ciation Bangladesh Dalits’ Human Rights (BDHR) was created. as Spivak recognized. In other words. to the difficulties that await them on the road towards full conscious- ness of their identity and to the ability to implement possible political choices. these groups just as other subalterns. thus inaugurating a series of meet- ings of Dalit organizations in the country. At present. … Now there is a conflict because the elderly have always identified themselves as Harijans. in order to assess the situation of Dalits in Bangladesh. always considered impure and Untouchables. AITPN 2009). NU and IDSN 2009. . This self-awareness made them realize it was not enough to gain “small victories” but they had to have an impact at national level. ( BDHR – IDSN 2006. their interlocutor needed to be the State itself. are exposed to manipulation by unscrupulous “entrepreneurs” – the “jackals of development” – who see them as exploitable assets on the international market. with the participation of UN and other international dele- gates. Conclusion The present moment seems to be particularly favorable in the history of Gramscian studies. to prepare a detailed proposal on the presence and consistency of Dalit groups and the creation of an association of these groups. in the process of overcoming their subalternity. declared themselves “ready for strike-action. The representatives insisted that Dalits should take upon themselves the responsibility of the leadership. BDERM. including South Asia. Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  101 the word “Dalit” was scarcely used by Bangladeshi Untouchables (BDHR – IDSN 2006). In 2006 the BDHR network organized a consultative meeting. Another suggestion established how Dalits who worked on their own would be free to help fellow Dalits. 21) This quote contains many “traces” referring to the precarious internal cohesion of Dalits. in Gramscian terms. and in 2005 the Network for Socially Excluded Communities. Dalits in Bangladesh are creating networks both at regional and national levels and seeking collaboration with international organizations (IIDS – IDSN 2008. they still needed to solve internal problems regarding their Dalit identity: either keeping the old name of Harijan or adopting instead the name of Dalit: Naming someone Harijan implies that the person is a “son of God” i. There is no doubt that Gramsci’s ideas have reached places of prestige as well as remote corners of all continents. The sweepers. However.

Yagati 2003. by revealing the many spheres in which subalternity is present. 2006). Jervolino 2008). 2007). Liguori e Voza 2009) and on translation and translat- ability (Boothman 2004. which finally will be available in a complete English edition (Buttigieg 1992. in 1927. Shah 2001. Prior to this. such as the Prison Notebooks. To the renowned creativity of the Dalits who express their experience through singing. while prompting them to enter Hindu temples. in his own way. along with a large number of “Untouchable” Mahars. Narayan 2006). about whom he too.102  Cosimo Zene These reflections have been favored by recent translations of his writings. a great number of new reflections and publications have now been added. 1996. Webster 2007) addressed to current topics in the processes and devel- opments of contemporary Dalit movements (Hardtmann 2009). and the “beating of drums” (Clarke 2000). It extends into the political. Jenkins 2003. there has been a real osmosis between Gramscian studies outside Italy and new reflections within Italy. had already spoken. My own efforts also take this direction. These efforts are consolidated by the use of the Internet by concerned scholars as well as by Dalits themselves who find it a valuable means to convey their ideas and programs of action (Seminar 2001. Gorringe 2004. together with his followers.” towards the mobilization of consciousness as a “transforming agent” of subalternity. dance. the Dalit leader Ambedkar (Zelliot 2004) converted to Buddhism. offer feasible solutions to over- come it. Yadav 2002. This new line of thought. Today’s satyagraha is a challenge to the Hindu mind. and hence towards a new path taking them from “desperate cries” to liberating action. Valangkar. Chatterjee 2004. During the past few years a major change has been taking place: the emphasis seems to have shifted from Dalits’ mere awareness of their “oppression. both in the shape of detailed monographs discussing Dalits’ experiences (Charsley and Karanth 1998. he exhorted them with these words: It is not true that entry into Hindu temples will solve your whole problem. social. in a last desperate attempt to recover his humanity. and Ambedkar (Chatterjee 2004) – addresses the formation of methodological concepts which. Many of the authors quoted here suggest ways to recover and put to good use a Gramscian methodology that recognizes the presence of the subaltern in new contexts and at times different from those analyzed by Gramsci himself. Moreover. Our task will be to recover those “traces” present in the fragmented history of these groups so as to detect the vital elements that will assist them in overcoming their subalter- nity. where the novelty of “Gramsci beyond Gramsci” (Baratta 2007) confronts itself with well-established critical-philological studies on the Gramscian lexicon (Frosini e Liguori 2004. publicly burned copies of Manusmirti. Anand 2005. as I try to make Gramsci “readable” and translatable for the Dalits of South Asia. and in 1930. Today. A few months before his death in 1956. Ambedkar. more than ever. religious and economic spheres. music. Periyar. and more general studies (Bhatt 2005. Shah 2002. in addition to regaining the historic figures of the “Dalit question” – such as Jotirao Pule. Our problem is very broad. Gramsci 1992. Das 2004. poetry. . the Dalits of South Asia are able to express their resist- ance to oppression through media to which in the past they had no access.

but as a whole Dalits are now more committed than ever before to what . Self-consciousness of the Dalits as subalterns  103 From this true satyagraha we shall see whether Hindu society is ready to treat us as human beings.” available online at http://readerswords. civil society. Fabio Gironi. Marcus (accessed 18 November 2010). Universitat Pompeu Fabra. the Dalit is an inaugural political subject. and from the point of view of the subaltern?” (Buttigieg 1998. reveals a certain failure of the “democratic State. political force. then how is it possible to write an account of India’s [and South Asia’s] political modernity without engaging with the problem of Dalit freedom and emancipation?” (Rao 2008. 12–13 February 2009). Tullio Lobetti.” according to which “within the definition of subalternity as such there is a certain not-being-able-to- make-speech acts that is implicit” (1993. Antonio Deias. Notes 1 Spivak affirms that: “I was just beginning to read the Subaltern Studies then and I was therefore dependent upon that group’s reading of Gramsci’s notion of the subaltern. open and still unanswered: “Which conclusions could an analysis of civil society reach. defined as the “most populous democracy in the world. 290). particularly of Dalits. from the point of view of our reflection: “if. the existing presence of subaltern groups. Or. wordpress. 3 The authors of Subaltern Studies have often uncritically adopted the position of Louis Dumont (1970) with regard to the interpretation of the caste system. Sergio Targa. At this point the question – the Gramscian question – returns to mind as signifi- cant as ever. However. specific. Giorgio Baratta. when accomplished today in a Gramscian style – hence an analysis which is critical. Francisco Fernandez Buey and the participants at the Congreso Internacional “Gramsci y la Sociedad Intercultural” (Barcelona. Carla Tronu Montané and one anony- mous RM reviewer for their pertinent comments. 25). 55). for Gramsci. Acknowledgments I wish to thank Annamaria Baldussi and the participants at the Convegno Internazionale “Gramsci in Asia e in Africa” (Universitá di Cagliari. In my essay I made it clear that I was talking about the space as defined by Ranajit Guha” (Spivak 1993. 5 “It may remain a practical impossibility to organize Untouchables as a single. she never felt the need to return to Gramsci: “I think the word ‘subaltern’ is losing its definitive power” (ibid. “hegemony and civil society remit to unequal power relations” and that Gramsci “highlights the limits of modern democracy” (Buttigieg 1998. All this prompts us to consider how. 2 Spivak refers to the subtle distinction between “to speak” and “to talk. I am also grateful to Joseph Buttigieg. David Ruccio. and hegemony. all-India. concrete.” invites us to think critically and rigorously about those categories so intertwined with the grasp of “subalternity”: state. 290–1).” The situ- ation of Dalits in contemporary India. 62). indeed.8 For many countries in South Asia. 4 See “Feminist Narratives of Indian Left. 288). 3–5 December 2009). Anne Sassoon.

and musi- cians by trade and share the fate of the Chamars present all over the Indian Subcontinent (Zene 2002). Ambedkar. Instead. 3). economic and political conditions” (Green and Ives 2009. R. in Nashik (Maharashtra).’ worldview and language is a political detriment. 7 The (Muchi)-Rishi of Bengal and Bangladesh are leather-workers. social. 1). skinners. what is required is a deep engagement with the fragments that make up subaltern historical. 6 “We argue that. 2 March 1930. 8 From the speech of Dr. impeding effective political organiza- tion to counter exploitation but that such fragmentation cannot be overcome by the imposition of a ‘rational’ or ‘logical’ worldview. for Gramsci. .000 Dalits. at the Kala Ram Mandir.104  Cosimo Zene they increasingly recognize as their common struggle” (Mendelsohn and Vicziany 1998. in the presence of 15. fragmentation of any social group’s ‘common sense. B.

We need to understand better how Gramsci understood the ensemble of relations linking economic and cultural practices in specific historical moments. in all their complexities. rather than trying to parse them cleanly across some unequivocal divide between the politically progressive and the politically reactionary. Gramsci’s writings do involve lengthy critiques of economism. Some of that work is now being done. however. That “something” wasn’t always a matter of overt political challenge by any means. means that much interpretive work still remains to be done on Gramsci’s texts. Gramsci was no simple populist imagining one could find radical wisdom just by listening to the true “voice of the people. .” These passages have assumed a great deal of importance for a number of different reasons. involves thinking about economics and economic issues in the context of a far more typically studied and commented on series of passages in the Notebooks regarding “common sense. In some of the early and heavily ethnographic work produced at the Birmingham Center. But some of it is far-fetched indeed. as against many different versions of economism that would seem to ignore fields of culture altogether. that rarely if ever line up coherently. often in the same statement. his discussions of common sense emphasize that there always are many voices to be heard. The existing imbalance of attention. We need to follow up early and pioneering essays that pointed out the importance of economics for Gramsci and the impor- tance of what Gramsci had to say about economics.8 Gramscian politics and capitalist common sense Evan Watkins “Gramsci” is a name that has been used for a long time by a lot of people to authorize political attention to cultural practices. and I certainly don’t want to deny its force and value by trying to sidestep for the moment the interpretive dilemmas it raises.” he also emphasized that something always happened to those leading ideas in the multiple spaces of everyday behaviors. for example. Gramsci’s remarks provided a rationale for taking seriously how people understood their everyday behaviors in ways that couldn’t be reduced to some top-down theorizing of ideological indoctrination. since I think it’s rather difficult to read much of the Notebooks while trying to sustain the idea that economics was only a secondary interest or concern for Gramsci. however. For while Gramsci recog- nized that such everyday common-sense making was keyed around a complex of culturally dominant “leading ideas. My more limited immediate interest. The generative insight for this cultural studies work involved the importance of registering all voices. Some of that borrowed authority is of course legitimate enough.” Indeed.

even contradictory character of common sense yields a significantly different picture than the image of some vast.106  Evan Watkins In more general terms. the equiv- ocal.” only with the narrative values reversed from millennial blessing to millennial monster. Thus. “the economy” seems a massive. I do think it is consistent with his discussion of common sense to imagine a specific complex at work that we might call a capitalist common sense – a range of everyday prac- tices. as J. determinate. Gibson-Graham does in The End of Capitalism (as we knew it) (1996). unidirectional force of the economy. Left theo- rists.” Without going very far into the formidable interpretive difficulties posed by Gramsci’s remarks on common sense. and Gramsci’s discussions of common sense have contributed a great deal to that understanding as it has been realized in so much recent cultural studies work.” Gramsci often makes this polemical point in the Notebooks. It is indeed important to recognize and understand the material effects of complex cultural relations. often seem to be telling virtually the same story as “The Triumph of Capitalism. stable. values. But one unfortunate fallout from this emphasis on cultural relations is a retreat from any comparable attempt at rethinking the complexities of economic relations. In contrast to such a monumental demonizing of “the economy. that is. two things at least seem clear. Common sense also becomes a material force insofar as it imposes parameters of constraint on what is possible politically at any given moment. beliefs.” and though I know of no such usage of adjectival modifier in Gramsci’s own writing. K. and so on that foregrounds specifically economic relations. stable. say. The much-publicized “collapse of Communism” and the corresponding percep- tion of a now completely global “free-market” system make Fred Block sound almost prophetic toward the beginning of Post-Industrial Possibilities. behaviors. and often contradictory character of common sense at any given historical moment makes it available to be mobilized in the service of potentially very different political directions. It doesn’t seem to me much of an exaggera- tion to claim. multiform. He’s been . I want to explore briefly some hopeful possibilities – and some dangers – in pursuing my Gramscian-inspired figure of a capitalist common sense. it is altogether unlikely that any direction can be realized that doesn’t in some way engage itself deeply with some determinate aspect of that multiform common sense in the present. On the one hand.” On the other hand. common sense can become a material force not despite but because of its “incoherence. In what follows. a more generic “economic” common sense – would recognize what both left and right imaginaries mythologize into the omnipresence of global capitalism. The choice of “capitalist” as an adjective – rather than. in challenging political leaders who attempt to ground their assertions in what “everybody knows” as just “common sense. these passages in the Notebooks seemed to a great many theorists an almost paradigmatic instance of how Gramsci demonstrated the mate- rial effects of a complex cultural ensemble of relations. that for left theorists no less than for the hymnists of the global triumph of capitalism. But linking the adjective to a Gramscian understanding of the multiform. and omnipresent force – no hope there for initiating radical political change. That is. they could be played straight into the image of “Gramsci” as “cultural theorist.

He’s not interested in . nevertheless often projects the self-image of a return to what conservative commentator James Glassman (1996) succinctly labels “good old unfettered capitalism.” Even the now quite elaborately realized corporate vocabulary of flexibly specialized production. and find ourselves in the eye of a hurricane rather than in the midst of a historically constructed space of political direction.” by which I understand him to mean more specifically a kind of neoclassical economics that seems relatively untouched by Keynesian assumptions. Peters sums up his marketing philos- ophy with what he claims is the essential question to ask. The vacuum metaphor seems to imply that we’ve been hit by a natural disaster. that much of the corporate thinking associated with flexible specialization. in often surprisingly intricate detail. Nevertheless. Gramscian politics and capitalist commonsense  107 talking about what he calls the “popular understanding” of society when he adds: “In our own period it is economic ideas – and. to this complex of ideas as pre-Keyne- sian. the dismantling of the welfare state (with the corollary that any attempt to establish economic direction and control through state-directed formulation of specific policies is a mistake from the begin- ning) simply seems to have walked around Keynesian arguments into some much earlier form of thinking about the “proper” relation between the state and “the market. ironically.” And not surprisingly. as Block suggests. The capitalism that during the cold war. Perhaps even more tellingly. from newspaper letters to the editor to citizen voices at city council meetings and the admonitions of small business associations in local communities. it is possible to find similar currents of ideas in a whole range of publicly expressed opinions. 2). Likewise. often signified simply the ideologically desirable alternative to communism. for whom. have something of the explosive force of a return of the repressed – justifying everything from the familiar downsizing and outsourcing of work forces to the prodigies of effort to which Gates drove his Microsoft employees in the devel- opment of Internet Explorer 3. as the ostensible successor to the Fordist mass production Gramsci examined. I’m not completely comfortable with the terms of this formulation. And I don’t think “social theory” has been all that silent by any means. it doesn’t seem to me entirely far-fetched either to say. Yet there is much to support in Block’s designation of this complex of common- sense currents as predominantly “pre-Keynesian. quite rightly. now appears in a great many multiple ways in a number of different discourses. for example. Crude ideas of competition. and with what Rifkin (1995) calls just-in-time employment – the now widespread practice of outsourcing work to temporary workers – often sounds instead like at least some versions of a “post”-modern form of reasoning. the marketing message spread by motivational guru Tom Peters and others should certainly have a familiar “post-” ring to it. gener- ating seemingly endless debates over whose capitalism. While Block could point. for example. As Jack Amariglio and David Ruccio explain in “The Transgressive Knowledge of Ersatz Economics” (1999). professional economists are likely to treat everyday discourses with disdain. pre-Keynesian economic ideas in particular – that have filled the vacuum left by the silences of contem- porary social theory” (1990. for example.0. economics and economic issues have now become common parlance. Yet Block’s insight seems to me a useful way to begin filling out a notion of what capitalist common sense might involve.

in effect a kind of complacent common sense of intellectual critique that has perhaps become all too comfortable. “invisible. Smith’s famous “hand” after all is. give no particular emphasis to what now so often appears as the operative. to the despair of would-be state planners. don’t ever expect some hidden harmonies to emerge. he says. What seems to me post-like about Peters’s argument is his delight in parading an assumption of fundamental weirdness throughout – what you see is what you get. there seems to me some considerable danger in a potential tendency to freeze Gramsci’s characterization of common sense into an intellec- tual formula. contradictory. The subjectivities engaged in market activities are explo- sively different. going back to Adam Smith. or manipulate the result of marketing surveys. because it is this corollary that assigns a crucial and potentially insurrectionary . dissonances. even contradictory currents. is. If you’re lucky. find whatever weirdnesses you can in the culture around you and market them). chaotic. or whatever. The essential question to ask yourself before marketing anything. In my context. people are still mystified into an acceptance of a uniform and omnipresent capitalism as natural. this would translate into the assertion that while upon inspection capitalist common sense may well evidence multiple. normal. even desirable.” not an exoskeletal precision of organization laid out in front of you. Gramsci’s work yields a useful answer to this apparent puzzle of how wide- spread economic ideas could appear simultaneously pre-Keynesian and post- modern. He’s been explaining how to produce weirdness faster than anyone else. For Gramsci’s familiar characterization of common sense as equivocal. Any such “advance” would have to be recognized instead as having proceeded in fits and starts. and multiform suggests that we should hardly be surprised to find such contradictory currents within a specifically capitalist common sense. common sense nevertheless always seems to make sense to those caught within its interstices. If. “is it weird enough?” Peters may sound like he’s acting out a version of our familiar intellectual formula of capitalist appropria- tion (i. I’ve called such an assertion a tactical corollary to Gramsci’s discussion. precisely. Such a Gramscian-inspired recognition of multiple currents of capitalist common sense in the present – for which I’ve used “pre-Keynesian” and “postmodern” labels as a conveniently dramatic contrast – seems to me one good way to begin the kind of critique of ideas of a monumentalized global capitalism that Gibson-Graham finds so necessary for left politics. silences. It’s certainly true that “classical” formulations of market capitalism. no leading direc- tion could emerge except by mobilizing within these multiple currents of common sense. Gramsci’s own discussions. after all.e. Nevertheless. and so forth. they won’t. but he’s not really into co-opting cultural stuff in that sense. have emphasized that markets always appear disorderly.108  Evan Watkins old-fashioned attempts to manufacture consumer desires. tactical corollary to his characterization of common sense: whatever gaps. and always vulnerable to interruptions and coun- termobilizations of different currents of common-sense practices. even contradictions seem apparent to critical analysis in common-sense formations. then there’s reason to question an image of implacable capitalist advance around the globe. as Gramsci always argued. reshaping itself differently on different occa- sions and in different locations.

and even contradictions? To expect neither coherence nor telic security? To revel in (as Peters does) the pleasure of weirdnesses exploding everywhere from so many differently inflected vectors of subjectivities and desires? Or. indeed. What if the emergent formation of capitalist common sense that I have sketched. And in my experience of late. that multiple currents of capitalist common sense in a late-1990s United States work by a similar process of masking incoherencies. the pieces don’t really fit together”? Rather than galvanized to political action. Demystification. allowing one to behave as if acting on a coherent set of assumptions when they were in fact – sometimes radically incoherent. “Hey folks. Gramsci taught us to look for equivocal. And if they don’t. business-as-usual practices. most of us have come to treasure those class- room moments when some student or another explodes with the sudden realiza- tion that utterly incommensurable imperatives lurk within the bland facade of familiar. if capitalist common sense somehow always manages to legitimize even the most brutal forms of economic exploitation. but he never implied that we should expect this multiply realized common sense always and everywhere to work in exactly the same way. by pointing to its impacted logjams of pre-Keynesian and postmodern currents. or with the importance it assigns to an intellectual’s task of critical demystification of common sense. contradictory currents of common sense. as a critical chal- lenge to the monumentalizing of global capitalism. a surprising . that is. Wouldn’t it then seem little more than redundant to such a working version of capitalist common sense to “demystify” it by announcing. however. to be content with a cynical passivity of clean knowledge that the “invisible hand” has disappeared entirely? Suppose. I see no reason to assume automatically. Gramsci’s discussions of common sense seem to me usefully extended toward a notion of capitalist common sense. I think it is reasonably accurate to say that looking at common-sense formations in 1930s Italy. Gramscian politics and capitalist commonsense  109 role to critical intellectuals: the task of ideological demystification. like myself. My guess is that. partialities. On the whole. it’s worth questioning the value of assuming some process of intellectual demystifica- tion as a primary political task. As I suggested above. who simply dump the smelly chair they’ve picked up and continue on to the syncho beat of their mini- malist German music. alternatively. perhaps melodramatically. Gramsci did often suggest that common sense seemed mystified. the process of making visible the incoherence of what common sense takes at face value. our task as critical intellectuals begins in the demonstration of the fundamental incoherence of that legitimizing efficacy. capitalist common sense in our present circumstances in the United States works by this double process of familiarizing contradiction and encouraging cynical passivity rather than by masking contradictions and projecting some image of immanent and always hidden coherence. works instead by accustoming us not only to recognize but to be at home with such contingencies. But for a number of reasons I’m not comfortable at all with this tactical corollary. one might imagine a common-sense response to such intellectual demonstration as resembling the actions of the driver and passenger in that inimitable Volkswagen commercial.” Thus. is the primary means by which intellectuals can begin to bring “good sense” out of “common sense.

and constant irritation. or ecstatically (like Peters) – you play. they bring less and less in their wake. and perhaps the more difficult insofar as they now appear as. the immanent demystification promised by critical intellectual work just doesn’t seem to me to offer an effective diagnosis.110  Evan Watkins number of these bursts of awareness have arrived in relation to economic issues. Or perhaps more exactly. among other things. like the hope inscribed on the cryogenically frozen body. any form of cool. After all. But against the pedagogies of ecstasy and cynicism in existing currents of capitalist common sense that proclaim global capitalism to be the only game in town. Historically. part of everyday common sense rather than confined to disengagé intellectuals. Alternatives of any kind have simply disappeared.” There is no auto- matically radical set of economic practices around any more than there is some authentically populist “voice of the people” in common sense. it’s not always the case by any means that goods or services produced in recognizably capitalist ways are also marketed in capitalist ways. projected outward. So – cynically. remains imposed by an absent future – without anything else going on at all. global capitalism is now the only going game around. the disturbances they generate are subsumed within what seems almost an equilibrium – a permanent condition of constant stress. precisely. any of a wide range of goods – from craft goods to show dogs – might well be sold in a familiar capitalist marketplace while evidencing little or no signs of a capitalist-organized form of production. contradictory or not. But if you treasure such moments. and why capitalism in any form is not always the only game in town. mobile – and “flexible” – production techniques with marketing that seems in contrast downright feudal. how. The forms such knowing cyni- cism seem to me to have taken in a capitalist common sense in the present are no exception. projected inward. the much-ballyhooed internationalization of both goods production and finance capital is in fact restricted to relatively few corpo- rate players and countries. It’s a condition that. regardless. knowing passivity has always posed a particularly difficult challenge to left activism. I think we’d be much better off by. As Gramsci always warned in speaking about common sense. cynical. trying to show where. So-called black markets in even the most “developed” countries often combine the most high-tech. today’s classrooms are likely to be increasingly frustrating. And on closer examination. But surely it should be possible to recognize also that such cynicism arises in part at least from a perception that. there is no reason to infer in speaking about these multiform ensembles of actually existing economic practices that revolution is just around the comer if we would only recognize a “truly radical economics” going on “out there. and you’re likely to leave the classroom feeling more like a smelly chair than a political catalyst. the vast and always expanding service sector should give pause to anyone who thinks local markets are doomed to be absorbed in a relentlessly global market system. at least as Gramsci understood it. it seems to me worth shifting our focus from the now familiar . Not because the moments of student awareness are rare – or becoming even rarer – but because as they seem to me to multiply. Rather than continuing to refine the efforts of demystification in these circum- stances. However viral these symptomologies of irritation and stress. Conversely. Meanwhile.

unless you remember why Gramsci was interested in common sense at all. while economics in contrast appears an alien. no matter how well you read him. now applied to economic matters. Correlatively. In order to understand Gramsci’s analysis of common sense. global Enemy controlled by international financiers and legitimized by the arid discourses of professional economists. the separation functions to reinforce a dominant common- sense perception of a now global capitalist marketplace that permits no possible alternative. As always in reading Gramsci. it’s altogether possible that we’ll all be condemned to an economic futures market weird enough for Peters and company to take to the bank. at least potentially open-ended and involving everyone. the point is that interpretation is only part of the work involved. The separation of economics from the ostensibly everyday world of cultural practices thus appears in this context as a profound critical mistake for any left politics of cultural studies today. When you assume that cultural practices are everyday. On the one hand. . contradictory currents of common sense and the many conflicting appeals to common sense in Fascist Italy. I don’t mean to suggest. however. Either way. it is necessary to reconstruct what he found in the multiple. Gramscian politics and capitalist commonsense  111 practices of ideological demystification of common sense to a pedagogy that might make more headway by mobilizing and extending alternative economic practices already emergent in any number of locations. it results in interminable and insoluble debates over the respective importance of economic conditions and cultural factors in determining the real configurations of power relations. you must forget a great deal of Gramsci in the process. I would justify my perhaps melodramatic sketch of how capi- talist common sense functions today in the United States as a way of emphasizing that Gramsci can’t tell you how to do the necessary work now. that the “answer” lies in some direct “return” to Gramsci’s thinking about common sense. however. the separation is doubly debilitating. But it’s folly to expect to transfer his account directly into our present – to expect that common sense in the present functions exactly like the common sense Gramsci observed. And on the other. if perversely.

9 Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism Frank R. In the process of building these trade unions. (1965. that is. The struggle. now assumes a political characteristic whereby the workers constitute themselves as “a class for itself” and develop class consciousness. assessing the historical ascendancy of capitalism. political. the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the char- acter of collisions between two classes. 173) Trade unions. this mass becomes united. The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation. 31) . and constitutes itself as a class for itself. (1963b. they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Marx states that trade unions historically help to end the competition among workers in establishing wage rates. arise in history to end competition among the workers in order to maintain wages. although mecha- nistic theme: Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers. He also advances a more revolutionary. of which we have noted only a few phases. Annunziato The Marxist tradition has long recognized the importance of the trade union in the development of an economic. Here and there the contest breaks into riots. class against class. but not yet for itself. ever more rapidly developing. Thereupon the workers begin to form combinations (Trade Unions) against the bourgeoisie. makes their livelihood more and more precarious. they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages. One of Marx’s earliest formulations on trade unionism can be found in his 1847 polemic against Proudhon. at first defensive. In this work. or combinations. This mass is thus already a class as against capital. The Poverty of Philosophy. In the Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels view trade unionism as an early response to the imposition of capitalist relations of production: The unceasing improvement of machinery. the workers encounter “repression” from the capitalists. common interests. and ideological strategy for social trans- formation. In the struggle.

the prosaic world of the trade unions: “Intellectuals. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  113 The theme is clear: trade unions are theorized again to be defensive institutions created by workers to assist in keeping up their wages. but an important critique is added: the trade union need not be revolutionary. However.1 A fuller theoretical understanding of the historical role of the trade union awaited the second generation of Marxists. and indeed is not revolutionary. Price and Profit. in progressive movements throughout the world. do not develop class consciousness: Trade unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachments of capital. we may ask what are the conditions under which these trade unions develop class consciousness? After the death of Marx and Engels. This debate continues to this day. from his 1865 speech to the General Council of the First International. While Marx never fully develops this idea. More importantly. is the role these trade unions play in the development of capitalist relations of production. the leader of the Italian Communist Party. (1976a. it nonetheless reappears in both his and Engels’s later writings. the theme of the trade union as a defensive institution is stressed. unless it seeks the abolition of capitalism. What is not clear. The names of several of the workshops held at a conference at the University of Massachusetts in 1987 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Gramsci’s death could not be more removed from what seems. by comparison. because his life’s work was devoted to the gigantic discoveries of Capital. and to refer to the second theme of The Poverty of Philosophy. notably Lenin2 and the subject of this chapter. 62) Again. It is also clear that histori- cally workers formed trade unions prior to the birth of Marxism. Over the last two decades. that is to say. both within and outside of the Marxist tradition. Stars – Three Media Wars”. consciously or not. much has been written about Gramsci’s views on culture. instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class. and “‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’: Can musicologists understand jazz?” Since the publication of the Quaderni many scholars. these unre- solved issues created a divisive debate in the Second and Third Internationals concerning the role of the trade union in a strategy for social transformation. Lightnings. from a theoretical/political perspective. Organic to Artificial”. democracy. later entitled Value. ideology. and polit- ical science. Trade unions are therefore organizations with an ideological memory that predates Marx’s philo- sophical revolution. have . however. in and of themselves. Antonio Gramsci. “Trenches. the ultimate abolition of the wages system. Marx never fully explored the dimensions of this debate. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system. The focus of Gramsci’s Marxism The idea that Gramsci developed Marxist theoretical knowledge of trade unionism may sound strange. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. literary criticism. we learn that trade unions.

Annunziato become familiar with. and regularly employ what has now become a specialized Gramscian lexicon: hegemony. war of maneuver. Gramsci and economism As a preliminary matter. in fact. and so on. Further. From 1917 to 1926. in the first instance. the trade union. civil society. revolutionary organizations? What is the relationship between the economic reforms that trade unions advocate. He sought to transform these human institutions for the defeat of capitalism and for the establishment of a new socialist order. within a strategy for social transforma- tion. Yet what is forgotten. From his early days as a young militant writing for the Socialist Party news- papers Avanti and Il Grido del Popolo. Antonio Gramsci actively and powerfully intervened in this debate to advance Marxist theoretical/political practice. both within the Italian Socialist Party and within the trade union bureaucracy of their . within the framework of Marxist theory. For some scholars. political society. Gramsci worked incessantly with trade unionists throughout Italy and throughout the world. war of position. and ideologically. to his direct activities on behalf of the Torino factory councils while editor of Ordine Nuovo during the biennio rosso of 1919–20. and socialist transformation? These represent just a few of the questions raised in this debate.”3 For others. as the head of the Italian Communist Party. organic intellectuals. that the brilliant and exciting insights of the Quaderni represent the understandings Gramsci reached in analyzing his real experiences on behalf of the political party. economically. like higher wages and improved working conditions. like the trade union. What kinds of organizations. One can say. of the Italian Communist Party.” fascinated with the organization of the modern autocratic factory developed by Frederick Taylor. trade unionism. Gramsci is portrayed as an original Marxist thinker in such areas as “power. General Secretary. what are the forms such intervention should take? Are trade unions. Gramsci’s political and theoretical relationship with the Italian trade unions of his era must be understood in the broader context of the recurring debate (mentioned earlier) within the Marxist tradition concerning the role of organizations. are the trade unions? Are trade unions appropriate sites for socialist political interven- tion? If they are appropriate sites. some of the major ideo- logical positions that Gramsci and his allies advanced against the riformisti. and finally as a founder and later capo. as a leading personality in the Communist Third International. 69–70). in and of themselves. Gramsci is perceived to be a “productionist. What did Gramsci contribute to a Marxist understanding of trade unionism?4 To answer this.” “dominance” and “democracy. politically. and therefore “puritanical and contemp- tuous of popular traditions” (Clark 1977. Gramsci’s political practice prior to his imprisonment in 1926 was based almost exclusively upon three sites of human activities: the political party (first the Italian Socialist Party and later the Italian Communist Party). passive revolution.114  Frank R. one must understand. or at least not sufficiently emphasized in all of this is that Gramsci as a Marxist theoretician. and the factory council. devoted his whole life to the creation of socialist revolution. and the factory council.

The modern liberal state did not need to be “over- thrown” or “smashed” because. who taught that socialism could be accomplished through parlia- mentary and trade union means exclusively. The institutions of . they have fallen in the error of the psychology of the liberal economists: they believe in the perpetuity of the institutions of the democratic State. that the socialist state cannot come about from the institutions of the capitalist state. Gramsci wrote in 1919: The Socialists have often. called more positively “evolutionary socialism” by its principal theoretician. He actively fought against the riformisti within the Italian Socialist Party. we will arrive at a Gramscian theoretical position on trade unionism. on their knees. 163–4) Contrast Bernstein’s words from 1899 to what Gramsci wrote in 1919: We are convinced. within the structure of liberal capi- talist democracy. with its unbending organizations and corporations. and ideological revolution. according to Bernstein: Feudalism. and Germany. here and there touched over. According to them. and d’Aragona. Gramsci urged this strategy in large measure because of his belief that socialist transformation could be accomplished only through an economic. Economism. Gramsci emphasized that communist militants must participate simultaneously in three kinds of organizations: the trade union. had to be destroyed nearly everywhere by violence. in their fundamental perfection. Edward Bernstein. Hungary. but only to be further developed. the factory council. Treves. if not with respect to the history of the proletariat. (1955. became a powerful movement within the Second International. At the end of this ideological and brief historical excursion. but is a fundamentally new creation with respect to them. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  115 era. but not necessarily a revolutionary dictatorship. and capable of change and development. after the revolutionary experiences of Russia. For that we need organization and energetic action. 16) In this theoretical fight against what Lenin called “economism” in What Is to Be Done? Gramsci allied theoretically and politically with Lenin in Russia. and Daniel DeLeon in the United States. and the political party. (1975. accepted the historical reality produced by capitalist initiative. Rosa Luxemburg in Germany. but must be fundamentally respected. like Turati. Bernstein argued that the attainment of parliamentary democratic rights and the legitimation of trade unions in Europe and the United States meant that socialism could be achieved peacefully in modern capitalist liberal democracies through what we would call today the collective bargaining activities of trade unions (the site of economics) and through the election of socialist representatives to parlia- ment (the site of politics). They do not need to be destroyed. and manifested itself in socialist parties everywhere. the form of the democratic institutions can be corrected. The liberal organizations of modern society are distinguished from those exactly because they are flexible. political. Throughout his political life.

or ideological. and ideology are separate and distinct sites of human activity. the bourgeoisie is broken down into an infinity of strata with contrasting interests. This assumption represented a fundamental departure from the dialectical materialism of Marxism. 53). but it is the state of transition which has the task of suppressing competition by the suppression of private property. and neither the one nor the other can be separated from the ideological struggle” (1971b. Gramsci wrote: The schism between economics and politics is an intimate necessity of capi- talist civilization. Socialism is perceived to be a total change in social. classes. (1955. changing the personnel in the institutions of the capitalist state. but. with grave and dangerous consequences. economics. “cannot be separated from the political struggle. be it economic. political. can be separated from any other site of human activity. but must also be understood as a phenomenon which has acquired as well political and ideological hegemony. the theoretical basis of economism consisted in its philosophical assumption that politics. Each site acts and interacts with all other sites and. This separation of politics from economics and ideology arises with the hegemony of capitalism as a world system. and the national economies: this task cannot be accom- plished by parliamentary democracy. through this dynamic and contin- uous interaction. The socialist state is not yet communism. each site contains within it the causes and effects of itself and of all other sites. “The economic struggle. changes the other sites and is changed as well. and cultural relationships that will not only include all “oppressed classes. must be replaced. “The revolution which acts to destroy the bourgeois state apparatus and to construct a new state apparatus will interest and involve all the oppressed classes of capitalism” (1955. rather. 136). 17) The young Gramsci positions himself clearly in the camp of the Leninists within the socialist movement by his condemnation of the strategy followed by the “econ- omists. (quoted in Paggi 1970. according to Gramsci. no site of human activity. as Bernstein said. The theoretical underpinnings of economism For Gramsci. will also excite these groups so that they will enthusiastically participate in the transformation. The theoretical position taken by the “economists” fails to recognize that the capitalist state cannot just be developed. In truth. .” namely. Annunziato the capitalist state are organized for the purpose of free competition: it is not enough to change their personnel to channel their activity in another direc- tion. that is.” Gramsci wrote. all sites contain within them tensions and contradictions arising from all other sites. the implementation of solidaristic economic customs and practices. In Gramsci’s discourse. whence the authoritarian state which balances and regulates these activities. polit- ical.” but from an important strategic point of view. and is alone the synthesis of the entire class.116  Frank R. 65) Capitalism is not merely an economic phenomenon in human history.

Theoretically. by the success of the October Revolution. and soldiers. to reconstruct the traditional Italian workers’ organizations. peasants. He wrote in 1919: The Soviet has demonstrated itself to be immortal as a form of organized society which adheres flexibly to the multitudinous. They refused to apply abstract formulae to societal realities. 8) . until this [collective will-FRA] becomes the driving power of the economy. the society of men. As an organization of workers. This task took a partic- ular twist when the young Gramsci was inspired. The concrete historical proof that socialist transformation was possible within an economically backward country like Russia compelled Gramsci to believe that. in which he praises the Bolsheviks as the antithesis of these “Marxists”: They are not “Marxists” in the sense that they have not compiled from the works of the master a foreign doctrine of dogmatic and undiscussible affirma- tions. such understandings are revolutionary. by extension. the “economists” had established the “fixed stages” theory of human history. The Russian Revolution also provided Gramsci with a model for the new socialist state. through feudalism. the soviet eliminates the bifurca- tion between politics and economics which Gramsci held was created by capitalist society. to slavery. and adapt them to their will. 70) The Bolsheviks actively engaged in Marxist political and theoretical practice. Positing the primacy of economic development in human history. and vital needs (economic and political) of the Russian people and which incarnates and satisfies the aspirations and hopes of all the world’s oppressed people. but man. as well as against the economism which had dominated the socialist movement. permanent. such a revo- lution was also possible in an economically backward country like Italy. the molder of objective reality. men who develop a social and collective will. including but not limited to the economic realm. the soviet. the Bolsheviks sought to understand these social realities. Gramsci attacks this attitude in his essay La Rivoluzione Contro il Capitale. not ugly economic facts. the Russian Revolution also meant a decisive defeat for the econo- mism of the Second International which had interpreted Marx to mean that socialist transformation was only possible in advanced liberal democratic countries.5 Socialism. They live Marxist thought. like many other revolution- aries of his era. And that thought always poses as the most important factor in history. as the antithesis of the capitalist democratic state. (quoted in Macciocchi 1974. from primitive communism. in a more or less linear way. (1955. can only reach its historical moment after a society’s economy has moved. and then to capi- talism. and. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  117 Gramsci and the Russian Revolution Gramsci’s theoretical/political task as a socialist revolutionary struggling against capitalist hegemony. from their perspective. and understand the economic facts. with an unswerving belief in economic determinism. that which will never die. especially the trade union. in Marxist theory. judge them. For Gramsci. led him to rethink. to reanalyze.

Gramsci describes this distinction from liberal capitalism: Since the workers’ state is a moment in the process of human development which tends to identify its relationships of political life to the technical rela- tionships of industrial production. the mines. but actively encourages the formation of new institutions which unite both realms. the soviet involves workers directly and intimately in the new kinds of political and economic questions and decisions created by the newly transformed socialist society. the system of soviets with the Paris Commune. Does there exist in Italy. to elaborate the idea of the soviet. which participates in its nature? Something which will allow us to affirm: the soviet is a universal form. to trace the line of action from their party. an inkling. Gramsci posed the following question to Italian revolutionaries. Based upon the revolutionary success of the Russian soviet system. a hint of soviet government in Torino? (1955. Gramsci’s theoretical understanding of socialist society not only debunks such a separation. He described the Bolsheviks who. 147) Gramsci’s response to the inquiry was “yes. not just a Russian institution … does there exist a germ. as in capitalist liberal democracies. Marx had described the revolutionary government established by the Parisian workers and their allies: “It was essentially a working class government. the farms. Included for the first . 142) Unlike capitalist ideology.118  Frank R. (1955. the work yards. The Russian soviet system exemplified for Gramsci the twentieth-century equivalent of the Paris Commune. as an institution of the working class. the internal committee. but on the organic formations of production: the factories. the arsenals. The institution of the Russian soviet system also represented for Gramsci the fulfillment of the theoretical and political strategy that Marx discussed in his analysis of the Paris Commune of 1870–1. Annunziato As a state model based upon production rather than geography. which says that the realm of the political does not extend to production. the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class.” Gramsci would also state in the same article: “the industrial nature of the Commune would be utilized by the Russian communists to under- stand the soviet. “following in the footsteps of Karl Marx had reunited the soviets. 148). and to become the party of government” (1955. some- thing which can be comparable to the soviet. 60). the workers’ state is not founded on territo- rial circumstances. these words of Marx established the litmus test for socialist revolution: the unification of the political with the economic through the establishment of a workers’ govern- ment whereby the producing class assumes political and economic hegemony over the appropriating capitalists.” a hint of the soviet system existed in the form of la commissione interna. including himself: It was necessary to study what was happening within the midst of the working masses. For Gramsci. the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor” (Marx 1976b.

They were not intended. gas. politically and economically. rubber and other ancil- lary feeder industries (Gradilone 1959. workers at the departmental level would elect delegates to a factory (a generic term for Gramsci meaning all work sites) council.” Gramsci was convinced that the new socialist state must be based. Political power would be established at the point of production and democ- racy would be direct and immediate. the eve of the biennio rosso. As organizations of “producers” the factory councils will be of a different nature than the kind of organization that summons workers together as “wage-slaves. to be involved with either production or distribution questions.” the trade union. the factory council is of a class and social nature. The factory council is the first cell of this organization. in the division of society in classes. at the point of production. In his conception. the Italian autoworkers union had established internal committees in virtually every department and branch of Fiat. Its raison d’être is in labor and in industrial production. 143). “All power to the Soviets. and in the metal. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  119 time in their collective bargaining agreement with the automaker Italia in 1906. along with councils elected in a similar manner from the agricultural regions. and accompanies. factory council delegates could be recalled at any time by the workers if their interests were not being served. in a transitory fact which will be overcome. the success of socialist transformation. and not in wages. would meet to form the new socialist workers’ govern- ment. slaves of capital. and certainly not with the fundamental issues involved with socialist workers’ control of industry. the Italian equiva- lent of the soviets. Gramsci urged as a rallying cry for the Italian revolution. (1955. 36) The transformation of the internal committees into factory councils is then for Gramsci a radical event which is both necessary for. In the Gramscian paradigm. as Gramsci and his comrades would later urge. “All power to the State of workers’ and peasants’ councils!” This cry is remarkably similar to the slogan of the Bolsheviks. the largest automaker in Italy. By 1918. which is a permanent fact. The dictatorship of the proletariat can only come to life in a new type of organization which is specific to the proper activities of producers and not of wage-earners. The political task for Gramsci and his revolutionary comrades was to transform ideologically these internal committees into factory councils. Since in the council all the branches of labor are represented proportionally to the contribution which each craft and each branch of labor gives to the creation of the object which the factory produces for the collec- tive. For example. This assembly of delegates elected from the entire factory would in turn elect delegates to a citywide factory council. or more than a decade prior to the 1919–20 Torino insurrections. factory coun- cils from throughout Italy. . the internal committees were established by the Federation of Italian Metalworkers to inter- vene in worker disciplinary and discharge claims and their function was clearly limited to this area.

The old capitalist world and the new socialist order are possible and present within the same institution. the internal committees provided the potential for such transformation because they represented histori- cally a successful effort by the Italian workers to seize from their bosses the exclu- sive prerogative to discipline and fire workers. these internal committees were controlled by the trade unions with close political. Gramsci. Annunziato Tensions and contradictions Some of the difficulties inherent in Gramsci’s strategy for socialist transforma- tion now become apparent. however. and impose upon its actions those ends which are affirmed by their definition” (1955. understood that all human institu- tions were fraught with contradictions. is how to understand and influence these contradictions so that their unraveling will be in a revolutionary direction. the utility of the two institutions which the riformisti relied upon authoritatively in their theory of social transformation. was to under- stand the trade union and trade unionism. whose birth and very existence depended upon the Italian trade union movement. On the other hand. and on the other hand. The first step in pulling off this ideological trick. now. the factory council. to his great theoretical genius. .120  Frank R. In addition. economic. instrumental to his theory of social trans- formation.” he wrote. contains the remnants of past lives and the seeds of future incarnations. truly bursting forth from the shell of the old. the birth of socialist society. For Gramsci. Gramsci’s call for and agitation on behalf of a new Italian socialist state based upon factory councils represented for many of the riformisti a direct theoretical/ political attack on their organizational hegemony. to capi- talism. the internal committees were created and nour- ished under the reign of capitalism and specifically by another institution. The ideological trick for Gramsci. therefore. assumes a determined historic form when the strength and will of the workers who compose it. however. the trade union. in a very real sense. if successful. the factory council. for Gramsci. “There is no specific definition of a trade union. Each institution. He had selected as the Italian equivalent of the soviet an institution. the time has arrived for the birth of a new institution within the new socialist order. on the one hand. the trade union and the parliamentary system. from their theoretical perspective. and ideological ties to the riformisti wing of the Italian Socialist Party. In this historic victory. The factory council manifests. 131–2). the trade union – as progenitor of the internal committees – has played under the reign of capital an important role in the history of the workers’ movement. the internal committees were correctly the “germ” of the new kind of socialist state where presumably all decisions would be made and implemented directly and immedi- ately by the workers. Gramsci sought support for a counter-institution. eliminated. “the union becomes a determined definition and. impress upon it a direction. and indeed for the Marxist movement throughout history. On the one hand. Like all human institutions. would be radically reduced at best. and at worst. the remnants of capitalist society. the internal committee. through the development of these contradictions and in relationship with natural processes. which also owes its birth and existence.

An hour later. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  121 trade unions are created by and. like Gramsci. Gramsci argued that the “whole” bureaucratic mechanism of the trade unions was set in motion to prevent the workers in the rest of Italy from following the example set by the Torino autoworkers. changes as the will of the workers who compose it changes. depending upon the will and the strength of the workers. which had concentrated in their hands the entire mechanism for a mass movement. according to Gramsci. The trade union. One cannot discuss any human institution without analyzing it within a specific and concrete historical context.000 workers throughout their facto- ries within one hour. in turn. that the trade union is a site for socialist theoret- ical and political agitation. The trade union becomes a site for socialist political work. but also from the trade union bureaucrats who were ideologically tied to the riformisti. (1955. the Factory Councils mobilized without any preparation. the industrial capitalists to make an all out attack upon . to the terrain of revolutionary struggle. In fact. must work within these trade unions to change the workers’ attitudes. but. 184) Gramsci noted that the revolutionary movement not only met “ruthless” resist- ance from the industrial capitalists. the proletariat army rushed to the center of the city like an avalanche and swept away from the streets and the piazzas all the nationalistic and militaristic elements. 120. Gramsci explains the purpose of its editors: Various problems of the revolution were discussed in the columns of this weekly newspaper: the revolutionary organization of the masses who must conquer the trade unions to the cause of communism. This theoretical perspective carries with it important strategic and tactical consequences: if a trade union is subject to change. the transformation of the trade union struggle from its narrow corporatist and reformist outlook. as a historical and human institution. led him and a group of comrades to establish Ordine Nuovo.6 This agitational work was successful. to the control of production. then socialist revolutionaries. Thus. The workers throughout Fiat rallied to establish the factory council. not just because it is a workers’ organi- zation. more importantly. This trade union hostility to the factory council movement encouraged. a newspaper dedicated to the principles of the factory council movement. create history. to the dictatorship of the proletariat. because it must be transformed into a revolutionary organization. the Factory Council was placed on the workers’ agenda. Lessons of the Torino general strike Gramsci’s theoretical outlook. Gramsci describes their organizational power in an event which took place on 3 December 1919: Behind the orders of the socialist sections.

begun by the Fiat autoworkers. (1955. cannons and machine guns surrounded the city. the directors of the Party and the Confederation mocked the Torinese workers and did everything possible to restrain the workers and peasants throughout Italy from any revolutionary action with which they could show their solidarity with their Torinese brothers to bring them effec- tive support. In March and April 1920 Torino became a battlefield of armed police. Gramsci’s work within the unions was both theoretical and practical: theoretical. Annunziato the Fiat autoworkers. In other words. must be intensified. The autow- orkers occupied the factories and for 30 days the city was under siege. The strike. while the workers fought on alone without any help either from the direc- tors of the Socialist Party or from the General Confederation of Labor. and through the collective bargaining activities of the trade unions in winning concessions from the employers. By its conclusion.122  Frank R. in that he hoped to educate the workers of their responsibility to create a new order. His political work within the trade unions was to fight strenuously against the trade union bureaucrats (whom he sarcastically called i mandarini. and practical. the state of the factory councils. all industries closed. the industrial capitalists were successful and the movement was broken: The Italian capitalists used all their power to suffocate the Torinese workers’ movement. soon became a general strike of the whole Piedmont region. on behalf of socialist transforma- tion. in the sense that workers must also be educated to fight the employers for better conditions in order to preserve their organization and strength at the workplace. all communications paralyzed. To Gramsci the exclusive reliance of the riformisti upon collective bargaining was an obstacle to the ideological struggle necessary for the transformation of the will of the workers to socialism because it “taught” the workers to accept the capitalist relationships . more than half a million workers were mobilized and almost four million people directly involved in the strike’s day-to-day activities. trade union political work consisted overwhelmingly in the day-to-day struggles for economic victories through collective bargaining. For the riformisti. the defeat of the Torino general strike convinced him that ideological work within the trade unions. 177) Instead of convincing Gramsci to abandon the trade union as a site for theo- retical/political work. and to prepare the workers to fight for better working conditions under capitalism. Revolutionary or reformist trade unionism The strategic consequence of Gramsci’s theoretical outlook can be contrasted with the attitude of the riformisti for whom trade union work was the political conse- quence of their theoretical assumptions that capitalism could be “directed” through the election of socialists to parliament. all the means of the bourgeois state were put at their disposal. In the end. however. the mandarins) in order to educate the workers to the importance of worker control of production and distribution. On the contrary.

As a Marxist. who thought that the collective bargaining activi- ties of trade unions led to socialist transformation. while performing this task. then the trade union will be a revolutionary instrument. The attainment of industrial legality was a great victory for the working class. now turned away from wanting the workers to respect industrial legality. If the trade unions’ functionaries considered industrial legality as a necessary compromise. However. will be disciplined revolutionarily. Workers form unions to receive a better price for their special commodity. class. The winning of economic reforms. that is. necessary and surplus labor. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  123 of production. 132) Gramsci recognized the important historical role that the trade unions have played under the reign of capitalism. which was necessary to accomplish. and because it failed to lead the ideological campaign to win the workers to socialism. (1955. In response to the riformisti. and which will be neces- sary to support as long as the relationship of forces remains unfavorable to the working class. or the winning of economic concessions. the trade union grants ideological hegemony to capitalist relations of production. surplus value. where labor-power is a commodity to be bought and sold. including the right to trade union recognition which Gramsci termed “industrial legality. which tends to realize in the interest of the proletariat the maximum price for labor-power and to realize a monopoly of this commodity in the national and international arena. but it has not been attained definitively: industrial legality has improved the conditions of material life for the working class. and pencils. Gramsci wrote: We have begun to demonstrate that it is absurd and puerile to support that the trade union possesses in itself the ability to overcome capitalism: the trade union is nothing more than a commercial society. under the reign of capitalism. 382) . the trade union undertakes this task under specific historical conditions. and yet. then the trade union. but only a first step. but it is no more than a compromise. Just as important. if they directed all the means which the trade union has at its disposal to improve the relationship of forces in favor of the working class. Gramsci did not advocate that trade unions abandon collective bargaining. he saw such activi- ties as part of a strategy for social transformation.” represented an important first step to socialist transformation. like food. carpets. Gramsci understood terms like labor-power. and class process. the trade union grants ideological hegemony to the capitalist theoretical reductionism of human beings to that of mere possessors of the commodity labor-power. if they directed all their work towards the necessary spiritual and material preparation so that the working class can at a determined moment begin a victorious offensive against capital and subju- gate it to its laws. However. labor-power. Rather. (1966. Gramsci also understood this contradictory aspect of the trade union: it strenuously seeks to achieve the best possible arrangement for the sale of labor-power. but not perpetual. but not the exclusive strategy. of a type purely capitalistic.

” Gramsci wrote. and only able to be formed by workers. 36). (1966. at the best possible price granted social conditions. in questions concerning production or distribu- tion.” Gramsci asserted (1955. for Gramsci. a competitive organization. of a creator of history” (1955. or sellers of commodities produced elsewhere.124  Frank R. the councils would be able to become involved with questions of production and distribution within the new society. because as organizations elected by the workers directly at the point of production. “gives the workers the direct respon- sibility of production. The commodity? Labor-power! Trade unions. 38). “The existence of the factory council. as collective merchants. Annunziato Later. not communistic. Since the trade union as collective merchant capitalist can only be created by workers. 382) Gramsci’s comment about the class composition of the trade union movement of his era has not been granted its rightful place as one of the great discoveries of the Marxist tradition. because of the task it undertakes.” Gramsci offers as an alternative to this competitive mode of the trade union. creates the psychology of a producer. it is. again in keeping with his general theme that the trade unionism of his era ideologically enforces capitalist work relationships: The trade union is different from merchant capitalism only subjectively. Not only are the trade unions theorized to be capitalist institutions. “Only with this type of organization. but Gramsci specifies that they are merchant capitalists. uninterested. between trade unionism and the factory council. leads them to improve their work. The factory council changes the economistic conception of the worker from a means of production within the . in fact. in that being formed by workers. The factory councils are theoretically different from the trade unions. “will the unity of labor become aware of its capacity to produce and to exercise sovereignty (sover- eignty must be a function of production) without need of the capitalist” (1955. it tends to create the consciousness among the workers that within the realm of trade unionism it is impossible to achieve industrial autonomy as producers. “The nature of the trade union is competitive. This point is particularly important: for Gramsci the trade union has limited its role merely to seeking higher economic status within the realm of capitalism. the labor-power possessed by workers. engage in selling to industrial capitalists. The trade unions for Gramsci were organizations for competition – by which he meant capitalism – whereas the factory councils were organizations for communism. in the same article Gramsci stated explicitly the nature of this “capitalistic” institution. because to do so would eliminate one of the necessary conditions of existence for the merchant-capitalist trade union to continue its activities. The workers learn that they cannot assume control over production. the difference between it and other merchant capitalists is viewed by Gramsci as ideological. The trade union versus the factory council On precisely the point of industrial autonomy rests the principal difference. 29).

“The choice of trade union leaders never occurs on account of the criterion of industrial competence. people from the imperial Chinese court. because they are “public. however. his/ her role under the reign of socialism. to adopt this attitude also means that the mandarin trade . as the point where socialist transformation will unite the economic with the political. Of course. preventing workers from assuming control over the production process. he bitterly and repeatedly attacked the riformisti. the nonrevolutionary trade union leaders. bureaucratic. are not voluntary organizations. oppose a specific kind of leadership. to Gramsci. men of a higher social caste. The trade union and the political party are for Gramsci private organiza- tions which people will join or drop out of as their role as wage-slaves changes. dirty. It is correct that after the defeat of the Torino factory occupations. The factory councils. and demagogic skills” (1955. “In the Factory Council. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  125 capitalist and competitive relations of production to the solidaristic conception of the worker as producer and creator within a new world where the means and rela- tions of production have been communalized. 42). of his position and his function in society. Gramsci’s attitude must be understood as an attack against a particular theoretical and political incar- nation of leadership. to citizen-worker.” Gramsci wrote. theorized to be a merchant capitalist organization. and must be controlled by a wiser and better-educated leadership. as a result of his universal character. However. 150). and superstitious” (1966. The trade union. “but rather on account of purely legal- istic. These skills are qualitatively different than the skills necessary to run industry and. that is. cannot make critical decisions. Gramsci did not theoretically oppose the concept of leader- ship either within the factory council or within the trade union movement.” We can understand Gramsci on this point by referring once again to his theoretical perspective: the factory council. Gramsci called these reformist trade union leaders manda- rini because “the trade union reformist leaders are just like the mandarins. “the worker takes part as a producer. 207). his/her role under the reign of capitalism. requires leaders who possess those skills necessary to achieve the highest possible price for the sale of the commodity labor-power. as the new proletarian state. The societal role of the worker now changes from wage-slave. He did. while expert on collective bargaining questions. in fact. they are antithetical to them. who disdained their subjects as ignorant. To digress briefly. The trade union is controlled by technicians and bureaucrats who. the workers at the departmental level so that the producers would democratically make decisions concerning production and distribution. are not involved with production and distribution issues. in the same manner which the citizen takes part in the democratic parlia- mentary state” (1955. and be directly accountable to.” Trade unions and political parties are voluntary organizations because they are essentially private in nature. Gramsci insisted that factory councils must be comprised of. This is not a voluntary role: all workers will be citizen-workers. However. replaces the bourgeois parliamentary system. Gramsci also distinguishes between the trade union and the factory council on the basis of what he calls “voluntarism. The mandarin trade union leader assumes that workers cannot do anything for themselves.” Gramsci writes.

Civilized society will know no such ridiculous thing as geographic constitu- encies. Annunziato union leader accepts the present state of affairs of capitalist relations of produc- tion because the workers would never be competent enough to seize control over production. also as a revolutionary union in opposition to the ideological reformism of the AFL. executive. not of Congressmen from geographic districts. DeLeon. but as functionaries. In this work. the only guarantee that their trade union functionaries will not become mandarins is the control of the Communist Party which has demonstrated its ability to expel its own big shots [pezzi grossi.126  Frank R. which wanted to leave the “reactionary” workers’ unions. but of representatives of trades throughout the land. Gramsci urged socialist revolutionaries to continue to work within traditional unions in order to transform them into communist institutions and not to organize explicitly radical trade unions. The parliament of civiliza- tion in America will consist. this tactic was “fundamentally wrong and consists of . Dual unionism Even though Gramsci remained increasingly frustrated with the trade union leaders of his era. DeLeon wrote in 1904. DeLeon. as a leader of the Socialist Labor Party. 157) DeLeon was one of the first organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World. He told the workers after he became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Italy that communist trade union leaders would not act as mandarins. To Lenin. had previously founded the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance. Daniel DeLeon. the Bolshevik leader attacked the German Communist Party. he never urged the workers to abandon their reformist unions or to create new and more radical unions. In this regard. therefore. who died before the Russian Revolution. they act like mandarins in assuming legislative. (1977. an explicitly revolutionary union founded in 1905 to fight the business unionism of the well-established American Federation of Labor (AFL). Gramsci maintained that reformist trade union leaders seek to control the workers in the interest of capitalist relationships of production and that. “The only guar- antee of freedom and security for the workers. and administrative control over workers and their trade unions. Gramsci’s theoretical position was much closer to Lenin’s 1920 pamphlet. in Italian]” (1966. Unlike DeLeon. it is necessary to point out that in this quotation the party is seen as a means of insuring membership control over the trade union and as a deterrent to the establishment of bureaucratic dominance. his theoretical perspective differed from the American. While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to analyze Gramsci’s analysis of the political party. 209). In this regard. whom Gramsci respected as one of the earliest Marxist theoreticians to advocate the establishment of the socialist state at the point of production. was one of the early Marxists to understand that socialist transformation meant that a new kind of workers’ political and economic state structure had to be estab- lished. “Left- Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder. It will only know industrial constituencies.

In support of Lenin’s position. (1971b. The question for Gramsci was not whether to work within these organizations. He condemned the reformist socialist party leadership for ignoring Marxist theory. the political party. from the Communist Manifesto. Lenin urged that communist militants remain within the so-called reactionary unions to carry on the campaign for socialism. In all the capitalist countries the trade union movement has developed in a determined sense. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  127 nothing but empty phrasemongering” (1969. the trade union. Gramsci echoed similar sentiments: We are as a matter of principle against the creation of new unions. “the will of the masses corresponds to instincts and to acquiesce to instincts is to acquiesce to bourgeois ideology. and with the benefit of revolutionary experi- ence throughout the world after the death of DeLeon. Which site is more important? It would be a major theoretical error to assume that Gramsci held the factory council. the workers’ political party represented for Gramsci the site where communist militants would engage in political and theoretical practice in order to help shape. or any institution to be more or less important for socialist work. For Marxists to propose to abandon such sites can only mean to leave them in the ideological control of economism. and with the modes of thought of the great majority of the proletarian masses. He accepted and respected the relative autonomy of . 246). 40). and thereby supporting. capi- talist ideology: “The Communist Party struggles to pull the workers away from bourgeois ideology and to carry them to the terrain of the revolutionary struggle” (1971b. and ideological. but rather what kind of political work should be done. Since socialist transformation was understood to be political. the traditions. which has come to life with the history. economic. the customs. 247). that trade unions arrive in history at determined moments is reconfirmed: workers have formed and will form trade unions as defensive institutions. and coordinate the theoretical and political course of the workers’ struggle. For example. Nor did Gramsci advocate the subordination of the trade union or the factory council to the political party. since in contemporary society the first ideology is always bourgeois ideology” (1971b. intentionally or not. 3) Marx and Engels’s thesis. This ideological struggle is necessary for Gramsci within all sites of human activity because. All attempts previously made to organize the most revolutionary trade unionists into separate organizations have failed and have only benefited the hegemonic position of the reformists in these great organi- zations. all worker organizations were appropriate and necessary as sites for the work of socialist revolutionaries. mold. Gramsci responded based upon his under- standing of a strategy for social transformation and the level of development of such transformation. creating the site for the birth and the progressive development of a determined great organization.

Trade unionism. the strategy was clear: communist militants must be prepared to wage an unrelenting ideological struggle against the bourgeois ideology which controlled the workers’. to subject to theoretical scrutiny – the so-called common sense and instinctual notions that had penetrated the workers’ movement. In one of the few comments about trade unionism from the Prison Notebooks. and subordinated to its leadership. (1971. “Theoretical activity. Theoretical work for Gramsci. For example. as a central locus of the Italian workers’ movement. 71). minds and hearts. into socialist revolu- tionary organizations. For these reasons. is always political and. through the factory council movement. that is the struggle on the ideolog- ical front. He theorized the trade union as a human institution. Gramsci concluded that one of the essential components in the struggle for socialism in the Italy of his historical moment was to reassess and reevaluate – put another way. became therefore a central locus for Gramsci’s theoretical reevaluation. Gramsci wrote: Must the unions therefore be subordinate to the party? This is not the right way to pose the question.128  Frank R. has always been neglected in the Italian workers’ movement” (1971b. whatever his position or responsibilities. that means that the union freely accepts the directives of the party. Therefore. as with Lenin. is still a member of the party. Annunziato all three sites. all practical endeavors have theoretical underpinnings. The problem must be posed in the following terms: each member of the party. or as Gramsci called it. hence freely accepts (indeed desires) the control by the party over its officials. was perceived as a historic victory for the Italian workers. industrial legality. Similarly. for the Marxist movement. without a specific definition. There cannot be subordination between union and party: if the union has spontaneously chosen as its leader a member of the party. not industrial legality. . The goal still remains socialist transformation. both for Marxist theory and for any theory. Gramsci stated. the strategic emphasis of economism upon parliamentary reforms and trade union industrial gains represented for Gramsci the practical consequences of consciously or unconsciously held theoretical assumptions concerning both the primacy of economics in human history and the separation of the site of politics (parliament) from the site of economics (the workplace/trade union). In looking at the trade unions of his specific moment he concluded that they were merchant capitalist and competitive institutions which must be transformed. there- fore necessary in any struggle for social transformation. 226) Conclusions and consequences In 1925. but only a compromised victory. Collective bargaining. Gramsci’s theorizing led him to conclude that the riformisti had made peace with capitalist relationships of production by their theoretical acceptance of industrial legality as an end in and of itself. All theoretical positions for Gramsci have practical political consequences. except as imposed upon it in a historical sense by the workers who comprise it. and their leaders’. born under the reign of capitalism.

in fact. More than sixty-five years have passed since the aborted Italian revo- lution of 1920. this historic victory of the workers.” In a letter dated 7 September 1931 to his sister-in-law. n. the American Marxist movement has greatly neglected theoretical work in general. the economic gains achieved through collective bargaining. theorized as part of civil society and part of the state. helps to establish and continue capitalist relationships! Trade union officials become Gramscian intellectuals who organize the consent of the governed. and most specifically. and ideology. My study also leads to certain definitions of the concept of State that is usually understood as political society (or dictatorship. (Gramsci 1994a. Both of these. and indeed comprise. While impris- oned. the courts. political and civil society. . are necessary for. 2: 66–7) Capitalist relations of production endure. The Marxist movement must come to terms with this theoretical necessity. At any rate. Certainly there exists a great deal of scholarly material. and it was suggested by Althusser (1971. Gramsci’s theory of trade unionism  129 One final point must be made on the ideological consequences of Gramsci’s industrial legality. the unions. the schools. theoretical work concerning the most recent historic incarnations of organizations like the trade union. the army). such as the Church. and the election of friendly government officials are necessary and sufficient components within a strategy for socialist transformation. In all this time. More than fifty years separate our historical moment from the death of Gramsci in 1937. Gramsci writes: The research I have done on intellectuals is very broad and in fact I don’t think that there are any books on this subject in Italy. In some very real senses. Hegemony is maintained through what Gramsci calls political society (official government’s repressive and controlling activities) and civil society (the ideological and educational activities of private and quasi- private institutions). but it is scattered in an infinite number of reviews and local historical archives. the police. the prisons. politics. abso- luteness.). Tatiana Schucht. and appropriateness of capitalist economics. the modern bourgeois state. The trade union. Gramsci conceptualized the trade unions as part of what he termed “civil society. exercised through the so-called private organizations. has been transformed through the success of bourgeois ideology into a vehicle for bringing the workers to believe in the rightness. 142). I greatly amplify the idea of what intellectual is and do not confine myself to the current notion that refers only to the preeminent intellectuals. it may have regressed substantially with our all- too-quick acceptance of common-sense notions that trade union organizing victo- ries. or coercive apparatus meant to mold the popular mass into accordance with a type of production and economy at a given moment) and not as a balance between the political Society and civil Society (or hegemony of a social group over the entire national society. not only through the repressive activi- ties of what is commonly thought to be the State (official government. The questions about trade unions and worker organizations that Gramsci both asked and answered are as important and neces- sary today as they were in his time. and. our theoretical understanding has not advanced since Gramsci’s era. etc. The achievement of industrial legality.

The Italian Socialist Party was a member of the Third International. Gramsci’s analysis of the General Strike was accepted and praised by Lenin. . the Italian Communist Party. My collaboration for this is no less than Gramsci himself. that is. but its leadership was controlled by the riformisti faction. as well as for the citations from several secondary Italian sources. 176–86). 233) 6 In July 1920 Gramsci sent an analysis of the April Torino General Strike entitled. 289–90. and later General Secretary of. contains some of Gramsci’s writings while an activist in. the postula- tion of the primacy of the economic in human history. 4 This research utilizes three primary sources for Gramsci’s writings from the period 1919–26: Gramsci 1955. however. 1971b. I am the translator for all citations in this chapter from the above-cited three volumes. over the objections of the Italian Socialist Party leadership. 54) and Marx and Engels (1942. and not all economic determinists are “economists. that both “economists” and economic determinists manifest the same deviation from Marxism. The third volume.130  Frank R. his major work while imprisoned for 11 years by Mussolini’s brutal regime. 5 Objections may be raised to an assumption which can be inferred in my statements here that economism and economic determinism are somehow the same thing. Not all “economists” are economic determinists. All descriptions of the April 1920 General Strike in this work has been taken directly from Gramsci’s report. (1971. of course. his two most important works which extensively discuss trade unionism. La Costruzione del Partito Comunista. The first two of these volumes are compila- tions of Gramsci’s writings while editor of the Torino Socialist Party newspaper Ordine Nuovo (the New Order) and contain the bulk of Gramsci’s thoughts on the topic of trade unionism. 3 See Sassoon (1982) for a series of essays on Gramsci. the Prison Notebooks. 420–1). Annunziato Notes 1 The reader is referred to Marx (1984. I refer the reader to an observation Gramsci made on Rosa Luxemburg’s pamphlet The General Strike: She in fact disregarded the “voluntary” and organizational elements which were far more extensive and important in those events than – thanks to a certain “economistic” and spontaneist prejudice – she tended to believe … This view was a form of iron economic determinism.” I believe. None of these three volumes has been published unabridged in English. Che peccato! He only refers to trade unionism sporadically and briefly in the Quaderni. “The Torinese Movement of the Factory Councils” to the leaders of the Third International in Moscow. 1919–21. 2 Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? and “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder are. 1966. while he was directly involved with the revolutionary activities of the Torino autoworkers to construct the socialist state of the factory councils. as it appears in Gramsci (1955. with the aggravating factor that it was conceived of as oper- ating with lightning speed in time and in space. some would argue.

10 Production and its others Gramsci’s “sexual question” Nelson Moe Over the past three decades the writings of Antonio Gramsci have come to form an integral part of the discourse of leftist cultural analysis in Great Britain and the United States. distinguished for their insights into the production of political subjects within ideology and culture. The appearance of substantial portions of his Quaderni del carcere in English in 1971 helped to inaugurate a new epoch of cultural criti- cism in these countries which continues to this day. Feminist criticism a term I use in the most general sense to indicate a vast and heterogeneous group of writings – has emphasized the gender of political subjects. It was in fact Gramsci who elaborated the concept of “cultural politics. and politically more significant than heretofore imagined.” This section is one of the few texts in the Quaderni that simultaneously concerns itself with sexuality and with women. have proved so impervious to one another?3 In the following pages I will attempt to clarify this question by examining the status of sexuality. investigated human sexuality as a sphere of power relations. one of no less significance for the political analysis of culture. like Gramsci’s thought. feminist criticism has been particularly attentive to questions of desire and pleasure and. then.). the question of hegemony as a form of power based not on domination but consent. has Gramsci’s thought proven so resistant to an engagement with feminist thought? Why is it that two modes of analysis. and “woman” in one section of Gramsci’s Americanism and Fordism (Notebook 22) titled “Some aspects of the sexual question. more dynamic.” of “history. sexual difference. the slogan of an entire critical generation. the political role of the intellectual. But it was Gramsci who had already raised and discussed many of the issues that became key ones for cultural studies in the 1970s and 1980s: the status of popular culture and its relation to “high” culture. in complex ways. the best feminist writings have complicated the field of cultural analysis. In this work. in a sense. Certainly the role of Louis Althusser – who followed Gramsci’s example in exploring “civil society”1 – was fundamental in directing attention to the realm of ideology. Why. . showing it to be denser.” etc. in its infinite variations (the politics of “theory. always works as a differential of power. to become the title of choice for publications in the 1980s and.” of “style.”2 destined. and examined culture as the domain in which the subject is constituted in terms of a sexual difference which. interrogating and extending the concept of culture itself. During these same decades another critical discourse has come into being.

it is an elision that. In particular. desire. in Gramsci. To put it in terms of the discussion that will follow. the task at hand involves a careful reading of the Gramscian text. with its “causes” – the hostile reception of psychoanalysis among Italian intel- lectuals in the first decades of its existence. which became a bone of contention between them – Gramsci’s discussions of sexuality and woman can be counted among the “effects” of his anti-psychoanalytic orientation. that is. psychoa- nalysis: Gramsci’s relationship to psychoanalysis and the crucial role of psychoa- nalysis in the development of contemporary feminist thought.5 Gramsci’s texts on the one hand. By contrast. This simple heading marks out the beginning and end of Gramsci’s discussion of the question. and “leisure. written in different languages. Gramsci had read very little psycho- analysis and tended to be relatively suspicious of it. Kristeva. Recent feminist thought is steeped in the discourse of psychoanalysis. not to mention of the desiring political subject in general. too. it is equally a product of the territory it cannot represent” (Kipnis 1989. Foucault et al. one factor in the dialogue manqué between Gramsci and feminism must be mentioned. 152): a terri- tory comprising sexuality. The absence of a theory of the unconscious. for while the ultimate aim of this investigation is to approach an understanding of how Gramscian and feminist approaches to the politics of culture might productively feed off one another. woman. Obsession with the sexual question and dangers of that obsession. and pleasure in Gramsci is inti- mately related to his inability to offer an organic conceptualization of sexuality and woman. For though this passage is drafted twice by Gramsci. pleasure. It seems.132  Nelson Moe While we have grown accustomed to this elision of sexuality and woman in texts by male authors. psychoanalysis has dominated the work of those French intellectuals who have become the key reference points in contemporary feminist thought both in the United States and Great Britain: de Beauvoir. Irigaray. is full of theoretical implica- tions which have yet to be carefully analyzed. the “reconnaissance” that is the prerequisite for any future “war of position. the fact that Gramsci’s exposure to it came not so much through reading as through his wife’s treatment. and a great share of feminist texts on the other are. of drives. that this endeavor must necessarily be of a preliminary nature.6 Gramsci sets out upon his most elaborate discussion of the “sexual question” in the Quaderni with this incipit. in effect. Though the present reading will not concern itself with the reasons for this attitude towards psychoanalysis. Cixous. one that does a good deal more than inform the reader of the subject to be discussed. My primary aim in this chapter is therefore to open discussion on the question of sexuality and woman in Gramsci. desire. beginning where these issues converge in a few pages of the Quaderni. however.” 1 Some aspects of the sexual question.”4 Even before approaching this specific text. Marxism’s tendency to view psychoa- nalysis as a bourgeois pastime. in notebooks 1 and 22 – thus suggesting that it was an issue that . the discursive field in which the concept of production is constructed “is structured by its absences and repressions.

Gramsci assesses two forms of sexuality. 1971. between what stands on either side of the colon in this sentence. grammar. The second part of this heading. It is here that the first significant elision occurs in his discourse. feed into other arguments.” then. unbridled passions he next turns his atten- tion to the countryside: there. with “animality” and “bestiality. The first two paragraphs of “Some aspects. 1971. Just why the sexual question in Gramsci’s view of it is obsessional and dangerous is obviously bound up with what he intends by the term “sexual. that in industrial life the sexual instincts must be “regulated. with the creation of a new myth of the ‘savage’ on the basis of sexuality. Turning for further elucidation to the 1917 theater review titled “In the beginning was sex. as we shall see below. against those who base their social progressivism on “sexual liberation. “Obsession with the sexual question and dangers of that obsession. “the most numerous and barbaric sexual offenses take place” – bestiality. conceived as one “element” of the subject. in however desultory a fashion.” we can surmise that for Gramsci sexuality is not. 296). The “sexual question” spills over. By examining them here in some detail we can concretely observe the way issues of gender are devalued in . Gramsci thus employs “sexual” in a restricted. non-Freudian sense to mean “sex” and the “sexual instinct. While seeming generally to accept the idea that repression is inherent to indus- trialized society. argue against a nonregulative form of sexuality. 2150. he writes.” something that his exposition in “Some aspects” makes only partially clear.” And with this compartmentalization the sexual tends to be set up in opposition to intelligence and logic and associated. 1971. pederasty. Production and its others  133 concerned him throughout his years of prison writing – its concerns do not branch out into other areas. between sexuality and woman. a prescription for what he calls a future “sexual ethic which conforms to the new methods of production and work” (1975.” situating his discussion in relation to psychoanalysis. 2148. He thus presents “‘psychoanalytic’ literature” as “a way of criticizing the regulation of sexual instincts in a sometimes ‘Enlightenment’ fashion.” Gramsci criticizes the opposition of “natural” instincts and “unnatural” social regulation. 294–5). something that invests the human subject in its entirety. It is rather regional. The “sexual question” is not just any question: it is an instance of obsession and danger. or should not be. into a few other areas of Americanism and Fordism. 295). The punctuation. and syntax of Gramsci’s prison writings have not received the critical attention they warrant.” In order to further critique “utopian” notions of innocent. only two lie outside Americanism and Fordism. 2148.”7 In the opening of “Some aspects of the sexual question” Gramsci focuses on the question of “repression. With this phrase Gramsci adds a connotation to the previous denotative statement.” takes this rhetorical act of containment a step further. and without asserting a positive position of their own.” At the end of this text Gramsci will argue quite explic- itly for “sexual regulation. at most. in the way so many of his other discussions do. and is absent from all but a few of Gramsci’s other texts: of the fifteen entries indexed under “la questione sessuale” in the Einaudi critical edition.” but before arriving at this proposition. The paragraph begins: “Sexuality as reproductive function and as ‘sport’: the ‘aesthetic’ ideal of woman oscillates between ‘brood mare’ and ‘plaything’” (1975. incest (1975.

What relationship obtains between these two types of sexuality construed as real social phenomena and this oscillating “‘aesthetic’ ideal”? And what does “‘aesthetic’ ideal” really mean? If it implies. in fact. Gramsci does not linger long on the question of “sporting” sexuality. each clearly separated from the others by headings. notebooks. to describe it. The whole status of this sporting form is clearly secondary. we see just such “play” between the two phrases on either side of the colon. which is to say between sexuality and the figure of woman. verbless construction provides no syntactic relation with the paragraph that precedes it. within sentences. while . even the most focused notebooks are still. The colon indicates some form of correspondence between the two concepts on either side of it – it seems. For.” Our conceptual access to sexuality is evidently through the figure of woman.134  Nelson Moe Americanism and Fordism. It creates what a mechanic would call “play. Because the Quaderni take the form of “notes and observations. nevertheless. however. set in quotation marks. disjunctions to be formulated between concepts.” there is a tendency in these texts towards a form of discursive parataxis. Especially in the early notebooks – some. The point I want to make here. the representation of some “real” thing. His minimization of its importance is signaled not only by his brief treatment of it in the text but also by his use of a foreign. entitled “Miscellaneous” – the sequence of topics from section to section appears quite disjunctive if not random. And yet. and even. to condense it in the figure of woman. Between the individual sections of notebooks. is that this paratactic structure of discourse is not limited to the rhetorical cornices separating sections from one another. To speak of sexuality. of this correspondence are unclear. then what is its specific modality of representation? These are questions that them- selves are clearly “oscillating” in Gramsci’s text here. The textual effect of this discursive protocol is to allow for a plurality of possible connections. But let us first consider the contrast between Gramsci’s treatment of “sporting” sexuality and reproductive sexuality. If we consider the paragraph quoted above – “Sexuality as reproductive function and as ‘sport’” – we can see how this incomplete. a movement of thought not via subordinating conjunctions but by juxtaposition and apposition.” and a postmodern philosopher “undecidability. in fact. conjunctions. but that this tends to be the mode of argumentative progression between paragraphs. and terms. English term. existing in the form of citation and reported speech. a symmetrical correspond- ence: to the two types of sexuality correspond two “‘aesthetic’ ideals” of woman. then. Later notebooks would be organized according to a topic so that material in them would have a certain thematic cohesion. and the movement from section to section is not hierarchical and subordinate. It also makes space for the formation of theoretically nonexplicit – and perhaps unjustified – relationships. a field of almost poetic free-association. We will consider some of the implications of this equation below.8 Returning to the sentence quoted above. But. is to speak of woman. But the nature. this is readily apparent. Implicit in Gramsci’s text seems to be the following equation: reproductive sexuality/“sporting” sexuality: woman as “brood mare”/woman as “plaything.” between paragraphs and concepts. as we shall see below. one effect of this loose correspondence is quite determinate: to equate sexuality with woman. as it seems to. between sentences.

He notes. la donna è tentatrice]” and “who’s got nothing better. in the concrete terms of economics. Gramsci views the economics of reproduction in terms of the balance of different age groups in society and in the family. 295). is strangely neuter. and finally hegemony. Echoing his earlier demystification of the idea of a corrupt. immigration. unnatural city and an innocent. A series of displacements has thus occurred: sexuality has been reduced to sex. 2148. 296). 2149. as we shall see below. is finally stripped of its female specificity. 1971. Reproductive sexuality. the gendered quality of the sexual disappears. the work force. the sphere of reproduction. articulating that form of sexuality in terms of sexual difference: “man is a hunter. evocative rendering of “sporting” sexuality he employed the two heterosexual popular sayings cited earlier. natural countryside. But before we can understand the relationship between sexuality and hegemony it is necessary to note one other thing about Gramsci’s conceptualization of sexuality in the reproductive-economic mode. From the outset of his treatment of this “aspect” Gramsci emphasizes the widespread importance of reproduction and its relationship to the economic – its significance both as a “general fact which concerns the whole of society in its complexity” and as a “‘molecular’ fact. a void at the economic base which must be filled by immigrant labor. is the “economic function of repro- duction” – more than half of “Some aspects of the sexual question” is devoted to it. does not so much tell us what “sporting” sexuality is as how it is viewed. in his brief. 2146. the “anti-economic consequences” of a low urban birth rate in certain countries where industry must undergo great expenses to train immigrant labor from the country. woman a tempt- ress” and “whoever’s got nothing better goes to bed with his wife. however. creating. va a letto con la moglie]” in order to show “how widespread the conception of sex as sport is even in the countryside and in sexual relations between members of the same class” (1975. and in terms of the way improvements of hygiene have increased life expectancy. internal to the smallest economic aggre- gations like the family” (1975. “brings with it a continual mutation of the city’s socio-political composi- tion. sporting sexuality in Gramsci’s summary treatment of it is not so much analyzed as evoked in terms of the popular conception of it.” In Gramsci’s discussion of the economic function of reproduction. What primarily concerns Gramsci.” Then. via sexuality. 1971. a process that. but Gramsci implies that this feminine sexual activity is . Gramsci cites the two popular proverbs “man is a hunter. in France. In his divi- sion of sexuality into the reproductive and the “sporting. Both recreational and reproductive sexuality were initially inflected towards the feminine. goes to bed with his wife [chi non ha di meglio. then. Gramsci. framed in terms of demography. woman a temptress [l’uomo è cacciatore. then. thus continually changing the terrain on which the problem of hegemony is to be posed” (1975. the problem of hegemony.” and analyzed. We have thus come. moreover. life expectancy. 1971.” Gramsci represented these two sexual modes through the two feminine aesthetic ideals of “brood mare” and “plaything. Gramsci writes. to the crucial issue in Gramscian thought. Production and its others  135 reproductive sexuality is a “function. 295). but somehow that sphere so traditionally asso- ciated with woman. and sex to woman.

The end of the paragraph concluding the discussion on reproduction and the beginning of the text’s final paragraph read as follows: The low birth-rate in the cities imposes the need for continual massive expenditure on the training of a continual flow of new arrivals in the city and brings with it a continual change in the socio-political composition of the city. just after Gramsci raises the question of hegemony. does not have any status of its own. became not so much a sexual question as an economic one. between the problem .10 In Americanism and Fordism it is production that is “business as usual” and that requires the excision (“regulation” and “rationalization”) of orgasmic pleasure from the reproductive orbit. but exists solely as reproduction – as production’s supplement or. It is then this “operation” in Gramsci’s argument. has woman simply vanished from Gramsci’s discourse? It was she who defined and figured the sexual at the beginning of his discussion.136  Nelson Moe restricted to sport. this cleansing of the concept of the reproductive of all traces of the sexual and feminine. falling out of sight. 2149–50. 297). if you will. better. that leads Gramsci to his bold conclusion at the end of this text. 1971. thus continually changing the terrain on which the problem of hegemony is to be posed. as reproduction became neutered/neutralized. She does. however. This concluding statement represents an unusual moment of economism in Gramsci’s thought or. in brief. 296) It is again crucial that we examine this sequence of thoughts – the connection between these two paragraphs. productionism. the same process by which he reduces woman to sexuality and displaces sexuality (and woman) from the field of the political. an excess which must be brought under control to keep business going as usual” (1987a. the relationship. And he has reached this point by splitting off the sexual from the reproductive. the statement of the necessity “to create a new sexual ethics which conforms to the new [Fordist] methods of production and work. however. in which the forces of production themselves seem to have an ultimate determination. handmaiden. reappear. In Spivak’s view the clitoris can be figuratively seen as “a short- hand for women’s excess in all areas of production and practice. The formation of a new feminine personality is the most important ques- tion of an ethico-civil order connected with the sexual question. 82).9 It is possible to view this discursive operation in “Some aspects of the sexual question” as a variation on the act of figurative clitoridectomy described by Gayatri Spivak. 1971. 2150. And yet. the sexual question will remain full of unhealthy characteristics and caution must be exercised in proposals for new legislation. while reproductive sexuality is not really sex at all. Until women can attain not only a genuine independence in relation to men but also a new way of conceiving themselves and their role in sexual relations. (1975. rather startlingly.” the assertion “that the new type of man required by the rationalization of production and work cannot develop until the sexual instinct has been suitably regulated and until it too has been rationalised” (1975.

Gramsci moves towards the problem of hegemony by way of urban demographics. the formation and mutation of the working class – a politics of the base. unable to grasp the full significance of women as productive political subjects. marks out masculine and feminine via the articulation of base and superstructure. Production and its others  137 of hegemony and the question of woman. that ushers in the last mention of woman. woman’s place in the hegemonic seems limited to the superstructure. ‘sexism [maschilismo]’ can only in a certain sense be compared to class dominion. an example? Or does it conceptually move in another direction? It seems actually to do both. a question of legislation.12 in theoretical terms. conversely. 2286). however.” to a problem of ideology – of self-image – and finally of legislation. He continually reiterates the necessity of making the world of production and work “the point of reference for the new world in gestation” (1975. As Gramsci suggests in another notebook. without a basis in the daily work existence of women. and its duality is related to the duality of hegemony.”11 And it is hegemony. falls precisely on the ethico-civil domain of control exercised by a dominant class. he moves from the problem of hegemony to the “formation of a new female personality. 863). . unfounded. Does “the most important question of an ethico-civil order” fall under the category of hegemony. And his professed support for “woman’s liberation” is. in the world of custom: “The question of the importance of women in Roman history is similar to that of subaltern groups but only up to a certain point. woman appears in terms of an “‘aesthetic’ ideal” and a “way of conceiving oneself. as in most other cases. approached from the base. he is unable to liberate woman from the conceptual ghetto of the ethico-civil. and cultural stereotypes. But there seems to be a discrepancy between what happens on either side of the “problem of hegemony. is parliamentary-legislative poli- tics. a notably unrevolutionary form. At both ends then of a discussion of sexuality from which woman is displaced. repeatedly marks out the terrain of the productive base versus superstructure (or the ethico-political) via the figuration of woman and. Gramsci staunchly supports woman’s liberation. then. So in some sense to speak of the most important ethico-civil question related to the sexual question is to speak of the sexual question as having the greatest bearing on the problem of hegemony. His program for revolution “rooted within productive life itself” is thus limited to one-half the political subjects – the male workers. The accent of the concept of hegemony here. unrooted “within productive life itself. But woman does not possess full enfranchisement to the concept of hegemony.13 Gramsci. up there with sexuality. Another way of putting this problem is that Gramsci brings a split theoretical vision to the prospect of revolutionary social change and woman’s role in it.” between the issues that lead up to it and those that follow from it. If it is true that hegemony is a concept that deconstructs the traditional base–superstructure opposition. it has therefore more importance for the history of social customs than for socio-political history” (1975. if not in the home. the only one mentioned here. literally. woman’s historiographical place is. The type of politics appropriate to her. But he treats the “woman’s question” as a primarily ethico-civil issue.” In “existential” terms. as his eloquent and passionate praise for Ibsen’s Nora demonstrates. making this next paragraph a kind of subset.

If we compare this sentence with the way it was first drafted at the end of Quaderno 1. only affects the working masses superficially or affects them sentimentally because it depraves their women folk” (1975. in that it depraves their women folk” (1975. Sentiments may rank relatively low in Gramsci’s hierarchy of political effectivity in Americanism and Fordism. production and its Other. their point of access to it: it is a “superficial. lets it under the surface. however much it diminishes the force of the subject on the object. one passage from Americanism and Fordism sheds further light on this genderization of production and productivization of gender. Insofar as they were rendered “other. most of all the meaning of superficially and sentimentally and the relationship between them. were given a form.” as they represented an antagonism or “resistance” to produc- tion. or it can affect them indirectly.” “indirect” experience for them. the female and sexual – defined in terms of one another – took form. 138. For if superficially unequivocally keeps the working masses at one remove from the libido. Here Gramsci writes: “the crisis of libertinism occurs … which. Indeed this one sentence lines these terms up unequivocally. sexual Other. And yet sentimentally gives rise to a slight ambiguity. still allows it a way into the working masses. The two adverbs shield the working masses from its libidinal force. on the other side of the skin. serves as yet another occasion to distinguish between male and female (sexuality). senti- mentally. in the guise of historical periods of unbridled passions. in a relation- ship of exteriority and contingency to the acting subject. with the apodictic force of the unspoken: the “working masses” are as surely male as they are impervious to the sexual. 299). on the surface. to sexual “depravation. “the crisis does not affect the working masses except in a superficial manner. In another section that concerns sexuality.” Women. we find another semantic layering to this question. 2 We have seen how at various points in Americanism and Fordism Gramsci defines production in terms of its female. 2162. another question arises. however. A lot is unclear in this sentence.14 And thus. But alongside this composite Other. however. clearing up this point and editing out the sentiments. acts directly upon “their women”). emphasis added). are the conduit of sexuality for men. in the second draft Gramsci reduces the relationship between the libido and the working masses to an effect of the surface. For it seems in the nature of others to have an abyssal structure – if the first term in . and yet the sentiments are still those of the political subject. 1971. Here the question of sexuality. the crisis of libertinism (which.” Gramsci describes what he calls various “crises of libertinism. Both adverbs place the object. “But. While it is not possible to cite all the instances of this discursive process in Gramsci. under their skin.” when the powerful mechanisms of coercion or repression give way to some form of profligacy.” he writes.138  Nelson Moe It seems just as difficult for Gramsci to think gender outside the framework of production and its Other as it is for him to think this latter opposition outside the framework of gender. in fact. titled “Animality and Industrialism. the working masses.

” It situates sexuality in the context of the worker’s relationship to production. his on. Now we must seek to articulate that wider sphere of “resist- ance” which sexuality and woman metonymically represent. resist. rather – which he may caricature and trivialize. 304) This helps to fill out Gramsci’s relegation of “sporting” sexuality to the margins of the social in “Some aspects of the sexual question. Fordist production is posited as the unquestioned “process of development” to which all other areas of the social can at best react. The othering process. He writes: Someone who works for a wage. spreading everywhere.” With the phrase “la caccia alla donna” Gramsci constructs an image of sexuality as debauchery. what concerns him most is what happens outside the factory. The same observation can be made about sexuality. The sexuality represented in this passage is thus “disorderly. In the above discussion we took Gramsci. Though his reference point is the sphere of production. the “private life” of workers and its relationship to the sphere of produc- tion proper.” . is one. with fixed hours. As this outside is primarily viewed in terms of resistance to produc- tion. then.” which is also the title of that section.” But it is not so much the form of economic organization itself that interests Gramsci as the “problems [arising] from the various forms of resistance to this evolution encoun- tered by the process of development” (1975. The exaltation of passion cannot be reconciled with the timed movements of productive motions connected with the most perfected automatism.” “an exaltation of passion. 1971. Production and its others  139 the relationship. “Womanising” demands too much “loisirs” … It seems clear that the new industrialism wants monogamy: it wants the man as worker not to squander his nervous energies in the disorderly and stimulating pursuit of occasional sexual satisfaction.” reading sexuality and woman as the primary others of production. That is. threatening the very existence of the self-identical host. The employee who goes to work after a night of “excess” is no good for his work. in some sense “literally. Americanism and Fordism is unique among the prison notebooks in that its self-proclaimed object of analysis is a form of economic organization. At the outset of Americanism and Fordism Gramsci thus inscribes the structure of production and its Other which will be explored through the rest of the notebook. he singles out production’s two main “enemies”: alcohol and sex. the Other is potentially infinite.and off-hours. 1971. 279). In this section I will be considering the expansion of the Other of production from its figuration in sexu- ality and woman to other areas of the social totality.” an act of “squandering.” “occa- sional. as “excess. In section 11 Gramsci examines the question of “the rationalization of produc- tion and work. 2167. (1975.” He sets up sexuality as a straw man – or woman.” “excessive.” But let’s consider the two expressions that Gramsci employs to indicate sexuality and leisure: “la caccia alla donna [womanizing]” and “loisirs [leisure]. linking it to the question of “loisirs. does not have time to dedi- cate himself to the pursuit of drink or to sport or evading the law. 2139. the self-identical subject. The prob- lems to be examined in it are seen as “links of the chain marking the passage from the old economic individualism to the planned economy. apparently works like a tumor.

those categories that figure negatively in his map of politico-economic effectivity in that text. too. trade. which is to say a concept of recreational free time with a certain popular diffusion. but that can be seen as intimately related to the questions considered thus far: that of domestic work. And we can readily speculate that one of the main pitfalls of this process of discrimination is that in setting restrictions on what is viewed as productive it restricts as well one’s vision of the field of hege- monic.140  Nelson Moe Corresponding to this “excessive” image of sexuality Gramsci posits an excessive “loisirs.16 Thus in Americanism and Fordism the conceptualization of production as factory work which “creates and accumulates new goods” empties a wide range of other domains of positivity and determinative force – sexuality and female subjec- tivity. can. however. Gramsci resorts to the French “loisirs” with a distinctively aristocratic ring. and counter-hegemonic.15 And it is the figure of woman that is loaded with this function. as with his undervaluation of “interme- diary functions. 1971.” by not conceiving of labor in the domestic sphere as a form of . proper to them. and the male subject’s off-hours existence. to note one category that Gramsci doesn’t treat. he reduces leisure to “loisirs. or as an “exces- sive” positivity. Only the parasitic upper classes can afford leisure. This nonvaluation of domestic work has numerous implications for the theorization of production in general.” Which is to say that he conceives of the sphere outside of work either as an empty reverse of work.” Gramsci thus insinuates through the use of another. a negativity. 285). with representing this excessive complex. 285). By restricting the full valorization of work to factory work “which produces new goods. as well. politics: “Hegemony [under Fordism] is born in the factory and requires for its existence only a minute quantity of professional.17 And. and transport which he sees being favorably reduced in America “to the level of a genuinely subordinate activity of production” (1975. to establish a divide between it and its other (here referred to as “semi-parasitic”). 1971. afford an unconscious. It excludes from the purview of production not only the production/reproduction of social subjects but also the administra- tion of consumption over which women have traditionally presided and which makes possible the ever-increasing levels of consumption that are the necessary condition for the Fordist regime. we see the type of exclusion involved in Gramsci’s attempt to specify the productive. indeed. administering consump- tion.” he labels “intermediary functions”: activities like commerce. This concludes the series of production’s primary “others” in Americanism and Fordism. In this instance the Italian language itself seems to contribute to this operation. his leisure. political and ideological intermediaries” (1975. For in these same pages Gramsci denies full politico-productive status to another economic sphere which. I think it important.” Gramsci also precludes the recognition of the work that primarily women perform in the domestic sphere: raising children. But the list of devaluated domains extends even further. 2146. 2145. can afford sexuality. managing and maintaining a household. can afford alcohol. Here. foreign tongue that these activities are not native to the Italian working class. in his discussion of “il mistero di Napoli.” Just as Gramsci reduces sexuality to excessive debauchery. As with the labeling of sexuality as “sport” in “Some aspects. Lacking the word and concept for leisure.

domains. questions related to these five cate- gories have assumed ever-greater significance within diverse fields of intellec- tual inquiry. more precisely. and more importantly. women have had a privileged perspective from which to theorize their expansion within contemporary society.” “loisirs.” and the domestic in the West today. production within the factory. to offer some idea of the socio-critical matrix out of which my interpretation of Gramsci in this chapter has taken form.” Gramsci neglects the politics of that sphere and the possi- bilities for political mobilization within it. The familiar feminist dictum that “the personal is political” thus signals women’s awareness of the need to rethink a whole series of relationships (between public and private. and “production.” “woman. often in relation to each other. taking form out of an exchange between the discourses of Gramsci and feminism. Production and its others  141 production and by not attending to the nexus amongst domestic work. political and subjective. or. productive and nonproductive) which have undergone extensive transformations in recent decades. in Americanism and Fordism. implicitly. The ascendency of these categories in critical discourse is no doubt related to the increased importance of the subjects. the rise (and fall) of the welfare state. since World War II the West (or “Euramerica”) has witnessed the massive expansion of “intermediary functions” (the so-called service sector. I have suggested moreover that this exclusion of the nonproductive. would engage with the productivity of the categories of “sexuality. telecommu- nications.” and. Gramsci articulates a heterogeneous ensemble of categories (“sexuality. the domestic sphere) which exist in some form of resistance to the primary site of economics and politics. the issue of abortion in the United States). and the emergence of sexual politics as one of the key sites of politics in general (e. this rendering of production’s “others.” “woman.” the “intermediary. the female condition. 3 I have been arguing that. Having been the figures for and subjects of those categories conceptualized as nonproductive for so long. and the domestic sphere. and activities indi- cated by them within society itself. In the fifty-odd years since Gramsci’s death. .” not only significantly affects Gramsci’s definition of production but conditions the forms of politics that can be implicitly derived from it as well. To cite just some of the most relevant exam- ples. first. I thus hope to offer evidence of the urgent need for an encounter between Gramsci and feminism. “intermediary” economic activities. for a critical approach which. Given women’s particular relationship to these transformations.” “loisirs.g. from the Gramscian grid of “production and its others” to the configuration of these five categories in the present. it is hardly surprising that feminism has had much to say about problems associated with sexuality.” “inter- mediary functions. the mass media. But secondly. consump- tion. transport). In the concluding section of this chapter I wish to shift perspective from Gramsci’s texts to the contemporary scene. By turning to the present I wish. leisure. the massive entrance of women into the “official” (extra-domestic) work force.

Of course. The particular critical approach I wish to outline here is that which endeavors to investigate the social processes and mechanisms through which the subject is “gendered” and desire formed. Though the etiology of this recent historical condition. or “leisure” activity that escapes the market and its commodification of human experience. the corporation must represent its product. and to explore the specific sites where these processes of desire formation and subject constitution take place. “Loisirs” has been swallowed up in the market of leisure. and domains indicated by these five categories have become “hyperreal” or “simulacral” à la Baudrillard. “intermediary” economic activities. and that for too long the Left has ignored this terrain and left it to corporate market researchers to study (which they have done with the utmost diligence and profit). A key aspect of the critical approach I am outlining therefore involves the vigorous scrutiny of the effects of the media upon these five areas and upon their role in contemporary processes of production. We have come a long way indeed from Gramsci’s assertion that “hegemony is born in the factory and .142  Nelson Moe This feminist awareness of nothing less than a crisis in the theoretical models used to analyze social reality has articulated itself in the most diverse forms of intellectual production. or that the media provide the only perspective from which to view them. marketing. This is what we might call pure “postmodern” economics. aesthetic. The advertiser must thus actively involve itself in the formation of consumer desire. Let us take. We can begin to appreciate the crucial political interest of television advertising when we consider the television screen as an interface between the advertising corporation and the spectating subject.19 On one hand. it is made for repre- sentation. At the same time it must be acknowledged that in recent decades these five areas have been transformed by the media in some unprecedented way. a desire that. the female condition.18 What distinguishes such investigations from the greater part of previous work on ideology and situates them within the parameters of the contemporary moment is that they do not conceive of “ideology” and “culture” as secondary or supplemental to the “hard” world of production but rather as integral elements of the productive process itself. the case of television advertising. otium assimilated to negotium. staging it on a scene whose sole purpose is to engage the spectating subject. for the screen has become a key site in the exercise of capitalist hegemony. surely one of its main “causes” is the revolution in the mass media and telecommunications. in complex ways.” is complex. The product by no means precedes its representation. processes. and distribution of the product can no longer be viewed as posterior to the product “itself” but rather as integral stages in its production. in narrowing down this discussion of sexuality. and the domestic sphere to the question of media I do not wish to imply that the subjects. adver- tising. seen by many as “post- modern. and billions of dollars must be spent to ensure that subjects are produced who will purchase these products. is always politically inflected and sexually differen- tiated. They recognize that such activities as the design. and representation on the other. leisure. for example. Conversely. but it is equally “postmodern” hegemonic politics. styling. They take stock of the unprecedented symbiosis that has been achieved in recent decades between commodity production on the one hand and the spheres of the aesthetic. the cultural. there is no cultural.

From this critical exchange. while the subject is ideologically inscribed (or. a certain . those of sexuality and sexual differentiation. in order to re-examine them in light of their centrality to the processes of production and hegemony at work today. in the domestic space of his or her phys- ical. and about the possibilities for leftist poli- tics in the 1990s. all viewed within the more general context of her/his daily and domestic existence. the subject who. and the domestic sphere. “intermediary” economic activities. but included. 285). And thus if one part of the analytic task proposed here involves analyzing the productive process and the exercise of hegemony through the media from the “corporate” perspective. we surely have much to learn: about Gramsci and Marxism. more than ever before. it requires a re-elaboration of his analytical priori- ties. and of Marxist theory generally. is no doubt Gramscian – to under- stand the hegemonic moment in contemporary society so that counter-hegemonic spaces and practices can be cultivated. essential. organization. Notes 1 See Althusser (1984. then. Gramsci is the only one who went any distance in the road I am taking. leisure. part is of course the telespectator.20 But the advertising corporations and their media productions are only one part of the story. seeking in them moments of antago- nism and resistance.” and the domestic from the shadows of Gramsci’s thought.” the “interme- diary. Such a critical endeavor will involve a constant shuttling between Gramsci and feminism. a mutual exchange in which each discourse interrogates and contributes to the other. 24). a retrieval of the categories of “sexuality. the other crucial part involves examining the subject’s active position in this process. a generalization of ‘politics’ to spheres which hitherto the Left assumed to be apolitical” (1988b. in this emblematic case.” “woman. to say it with Althusser. 2146. Its aim. Such a critical orientation would offer little hope for leftist political strategy if its operating hypothesis weren’t that. to open up these “other” spaces to critical examination. “far from there being no resistance to the system there has been a proliferation of new points of antagonism. as he put it. still in its early stages. But. “politics” to this “new” scene of production. at the same time that this approach fruitfully draws upon Gramsci. consequently. and “ideological” reproduction. 16): “To my knowledge. 1971. her/his desires and pleas- ures are not wholly reduced to an “effect” or “function” of them. potentially.” “loisirs. the mechanisms and modalities of which are. new social move- ments of resistance organized around them and. is at home. self-expression and. which is to say the dynamics of desire and pleasure at work in the subject’s experience of the media. Production and its others  143 requires for its existence only a minute quantity of professional political and ideo- logical intermediaries” (1975. about feminism. The subject brings considerable capacities for choice. The other. The aim of the type of analysis briefly sketched out here is. As the neo- Gramscian Stuart Hall puts it. He had the ‘remarkable’ idea that the State could not be reduced to the (Repressive) State Apparatus. affective. and inspiration. “interpellated”) by and materially situated within the media-saturated structures of late capitalist production.

Gramsci (1975. 2193. Unfortunately. 875). all the other possibilities. 9 A striking analogue – and precedent – for this theoretical distinction between unproduc- tive female sexuality and desexualized male reproduction can be found in nineteenth- century French political economy as described by Joan Scott (1988. 139–63).” Mancina convincingly argues for the potential utility of Gramsci’s reflections on “conformism” “to those today – and. Antonio Gramsci. elementary. as to examine the ways in which the questions of sexuality. In her essay “Teoria dell’ identità e questione femminile. 144–6). I would mention that of Emma Fattorini. see also Mancina (1987b) for a consideration of the relationship between psychoanalysis and Gramsci’s concept of “conformism. 2147. “By locating sexuality in women’s bodies … [political economists] established a gendered contrast: between work and sex. his categories. 122). Gramsci did not systematize his intuitions. the trade unions. the processes of identity transformation” (1987a. 3 Anne Showstack Sassoon’s reflection on her attempt to connect feminist analysis and Gramscian thought is indicative of this lacking encounter between the two approaches: “Although it was possible to relate the work I had done on the Italian Marxist. fused together. You see instead that this doesn’t happen. you see that new forces come into play. I do not so much endeavor to assess the usefulness of Gramscian categories for feminist analysis.” 2 See. . as in the preceding example. 16). 1971. we have just begun to explore the possible graftings between Gramsci and feminist thought. it was far from obvious to see how one could think about women from a Gramscian perspec- tive” (1987b. For an annotated edition of this notebook I refer the reader to Gramsci (1978b). and “woman” function within his thought. etc. 294). My question in this chapter is somewhat different from hers.” 6 Gramsci (1975. in my view. that it becomes a kind of seductive magic” (1982. 874). there have already been a few significant contributions to this line of inquiry. 4 Though. He concludes: “Man has worked tremendously to reduce the sexual ‘element’ to its proper limits. which remained in a state of acute but fragmentary notes. certainly not of spiritual elevation. among these.144  Nelson Moe number of institutions from ‘civil society’: the Church. that “reproduction was a synonym for production”. discipline and indul- gence. the Schools. 1985. and that the two concepts. 7 In this review of a performance by the actress Lyda Borelli. sexual difference. There. 5 On the question of Gramsci’s relationship to psychoanalysis. nonlogical ones occur in its place. Gramsci inveighs against those individuals (women apparently) in whom “the sexual ‘element’ has so over- whelmed … all the other attributes. To let it expand again to the detriment of the intellect is proof of bestialization. Scott observes that “according to political economy.’ if he is understood properly” (19). Teresa de Lauretis (who takes as her point of departure Adele Cambria’s “Nonostante Gramsci”). instinctual forces. Besides the work of Anne Showstack Sassoon. in fact. you would expect another to occur which would be the logical consequence of the first one. When an English translation exists for a citation of Gramsci’s I will include the date and page number of the English edition after those of the Italian edition. imponderable in the calculation of probability” (1982. 193). She continues: “Did his approach. productivity and wastefulness. first of all women – who are seeking to understand and possibly govern. and that Gramsci’s remarks in “In the beginning was sex” may. for example. have anything to offer a feminist analysis? The answer was ‘yes. were represented as a male activity. male and female” (1988. describe the reader’s experience of Gramsci’s “Some aspects of the sexual question”: “Given as presupposed a certain fact. and Claudia Mancina. reproduction was an economic concept not a biological function”. to the debate which was taking place about the state and about ideology.” 8 One has the suspicion moreover that the disjunctive character of this specific text is not unrelated to the “obsessional” and “dangerous” quality of the subject matter under consideration. see Stone (1984). and that other.

150–3). store. Production and its others  145 10 For Spivak’s discussion of clitoridectomy. Gramsci’s whole discussion of female sexualization and of woman’s “prevalent function” in the creation of “ever- greater margins of social passivity” in this passage can be interestingly read alongside the following observation by Michel Foucault: “It is worth remembering that the first figure to be invested by the deployment of sexuality. Fordism. quite in contrast to Marxist thought. those who produce more than pieces of new humanity and voluptuous shivers of sexual pleasure” (1977. 33). women who work. 1985. under- stood as a historically specific “articulation between process of production and mode of consumption” (Aglietta) would be jammed. 2160. see also (1987a. Stuart Mill (slavery as based upon juridical inequality) and not in the manner of Fourier–Engels–Lenin (slavery as based upon the existence of domestic work)” (Fattorini 1987. by the time he has reached the reproductive-economic stage of the discussion the prov- erbs disappear. however. one of the first to be ‘sexualized. 13 While exploring the pitfalls of Gramsci’s ethico-civil articulation of the “woman’s question. locates the politics appropriate to her in the realm of legislation: “One should also study the origins of the legislation in the Anglo- Saxon countries which is so favorable to women in a whole series of questions relating to ‘sentimental’ or pseudosentimental conflicts” (1975. 17 In his “Consumption and the Concept of the Household. 12 This theater review is an essential text for considering Gramsci’s relationship to the question of sexuality and woman and merits much further critical attention. without unpaid women’s work. 18 The work of critics like Laura Mulvey. in introducing the woman’s question as one of female identity “Gramsci goes far beyond the Engelsian framework of The Origin of the Family (and its Marxist derivations) insofar as there is no assimilation between sexual oppression and class oppression. save one concerning. clean. Mancina (1987a). 2149. I would add. production of new goods. 1971.” John Kenneth Galbraith argues that in the modern era “the conversion of women into a crypto-servant class was an economic accomplishment of the first importance … critical for the expansion of consumption in the modern economy. 11 Gramsci’s own discourse apparently mirrors the conceptual level he is addressing: writing of the ideological and popular conceptions he uses proverbs to make his point. 14 In the section that precedes “‘Animality’ and industrialism. and Teresa de Lauretis in the area of media studies offers an approximate idea of the kind of feminist critical perspective I am describing here.’ was the ‘idle’ woman” (1980a. transport. As Emma Fattorini notes. writing as he does of “proletarian women. 121). which is not valued in national income or product].” Gramsci also associates the “sentimental” with woman and. And yet. the possibility of increasing consumption would be severely limited. 15 See Gramsci’s comment “that the ‘unconscious’ begins only after an income of so many tens of thousands of lira” (1975. repair. production remains strictly inflected as factory production. 295). 16 See also Gramsci’s suggestive remarks on “idle women” and “deluxe mammals” at the end of Americanism and Fordism (1975. again. The strengths of Gramsci’s ethico- civil orientation to the problem have been suggested by C. 1971. maintain. even in this formulation. that the approach outlined here . Tania Modleski. 346. 306).” Fattorini also cites a related observation of Franca Pieroni Bortolloti: “It is curious that Gramsci discovers the ‘question’ in the manner of J. 297–8). service. In Gramsci there is not a theoretical derivation of sexual conflict from class conflict. 72). all forms of household consumption would be limited by the time required to manage such consumption – to select. 1833). again. 2–3). 2169. In other words. 1971. protect and otherwise perform the tasks that are associated with the consumption of goods” (1973.” That is. “if it were not for this service [the unpaid labor of women in administering consumption. woman: “a mother raises a hundred chil- dren and a hundred children can’t maintain a mother” (1975.” it is also important to bear in mind the degree to which his approach to the question represents a break with the previous economistic Marxist considera- tions of it. prepare. From this review it might be argued that Gramsci does ground his views of women’s libera- tion in productive life.

. Worth quoting along with this figure is the Bureau’s estimate that. 19 Corporations know full well that the television screen is the quickest way to the hearts and minds of the consumer. who is never the consumer of just a commodity but equally of the commodity’s text and ideology … the commodity-text far exceeds the mere function of advertising the commodity and instead legitimates both it and its underlying mode of production” (1989. Paul Smith’s description of “a context in which capital’s claims for the legitima- tion of contemporary social and economic structures are made largely at the level of the consumer. and that 98. According to the Nielson Ratings for 1987–8. 20 Cf. there will be two television sets for every household in America.146  Nelson Moe is only in part a description of work already done. the average American household had its television turned on for an average of seven hours per day (Television Advertising Bureau 1989. 3). 139). in 1990. it is equally a proposal for future areas of investigation.2 percent of households will have a television.

among others. It therefore “does not take institutions and social and power relations for granted but calls them into question by concerning itself with their origins and whether they might be in the process of changing” (Cox 1981. and an appeal to universal validity – debate shifted toward a critical theory of hegemony. 129). .3 Although overlaps may exist. As such. but it does remain wary of the assimilatory calls for synthesis that emanate from mainstream exponents. institutions. 129. notably springing from the dialectical possibilities of change within the sphere of production and the exploitative character of social relations – not as unchanging.1 Rather than a problem-solving preoccupation with the mainte- nance of social power relationships.2 The critical impetus bears a less than direct affiliation to the constellation of social thought known as the Frankfurt School represented by. how norms. as they are not mutually exclusive enterprises. Yet. more recently. 32). In contrast to mainstream problem-solving routes to hegemony in international relations – that develop a static theory of politics. Theodor Adorno or. a critical theory develops a dialectical theory of history concerned not just with the past but with a continual process of historical change and with exploring the potential for alternative forms of development (Cox 1981. the aim here is to pursue a critical theoretical route to questions of hegemony. or social practices therefore emerge. an abstract. the work of Max Horkheimer. ahistorical conception of the state. and what forces may have the emancipatory potential to change or transform the prevailing order. This critical theory of hegemony thus focuses on interaction between particular proc- esses. world order and historical change. 133–4). instead of contrasting the concerns of these competing approaches. a crucial break with neorealist mainstream international relations approaches emerged by the 1980s in the work of Robert Cox.11 Social forces in the struggle over hegemony Neo-Gramscian perspectives in international political economy Adam David Morton Introduction Situated within a historical materialist problematic of social transformation and deploying many insights from the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. it is specifically critical in the sense of asking how existing social or world orders have come into being. Jürgen Habermas (Cox 1995a. ahistorical essences but as a continuing creation of new forms (132). a critical theory of hegemony directs atten- tion to questioning the prevailing order of the world. This move does not necessarily foreclose dialogue between problem-solving and critical theory.

for Cox. systematic. Althusser sought to design an ahistorical. The “scientific” char- acter of Marxist knowledge was customarily asserted by Althusser (1970.148  Adam David Morton The emergence of this problematic can also be situated within a reaction to the more scientific or positivistic currents within historical materialism. By discerning different modes of social relations of production. Not unlike neorealist problem-solving approaches. 1983. Gramsci 1971. Finally. A critical theory route to hegemony. world order. from the start. It is not confined to the production of physical goods used or consumed. patterns of production relations are the starting point for analyzing the operation and mechanisms of hegemony. The first section of this chapter therefore outlines the conceptual framework developed by Robert Cox and what has been recognized (see Morton 2001a) as similar. 163). and historical change. 419–72). It covers the production and repro- duction of knowledge and of the social relations. and universal- istic epistemology that amounted to a “Theological Marxism” in its endeavor to reveal the inner essence of the universe (Althusser 1969). Similarly. 4). but diverse. It is well known that Antonio Gramsci himself reacted against the crude reasoning of Nikolai Bukharin in the “Popular Manual” that sought to establish historical mate- rialism as a positive science or sociology (Bukharin 1969. attention will turn to situating the world economic crisis of the 1970s within the more recent debates about globalization and how this period of “structural change” has been conceptual- ized. neo-Gramscian perspectives in international political economy that constitute a distinct critical theory route to considering hegemony. various controversies surrounding the neo-Gramscian perspectives will be traced before elaborating in conclusion the directions along which future research might proceed. it is possible to consider how changing production relations give rise to particular social forces that become the bases of power within and across states and within a specific world order (Cox 1987. 39). Yet. a historical mode of thought was brought to bear on the study of historical change as a reaction to the static and abstract understanding of capi- talism associated with Louis Althusser. These patterns are referred to as modes of social relations of production. world order. 132) in contrast with Cox’s divergent. historical materialist insistence on considering the ideational and material basis of social practices inscribed in the transformative struggles between social forces stemming from productive processes (Cox 1981. morals and institutions that are prerequisites to the production of physical goods” (Cox 1989. which encapsulate configurations of social forces engaged in the process of production. 133. this should not be taken as a move that reduces everything to production in an economistic sense: “Production … is to be understood in the broadest sense. Subsequently. It is argued that the reciprocal relationship between production . The objective of outlining different modes of social relations of production is to question what promotes the emergence of particular modes and what might explain the way in which modes combine or undergo trans- formation (103). and historical change According to Cox.

a framework is developed that focuses on how power in social relations of production may give rise to certain social forces. 33. . encompassing the totality of social relations in material. in relation to each other. consisting of historically contin- gent state/civil society complexes. In this case. referring to accumulated resources. This framework revolves around the social ontology of historical structures. and world orders. institutional and discursive forms that engender particular social forces. For example. Bieler and Morton 2001a). 55–9. and the point of departure to explain the historical process may vary. which not only represent phases of stability and conflict. A social ontology merely refers to the key properties that are thought to consti- tute the social world and thus represents claims about the nature and relationship of agents and social structures. made by collective human activity and transformed through collective human activity” (4). 26). the point of departure could equally be that of forms of state or world orders (153 n. forms of state. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  149 and power is crucial. Three spheres of activity thus consti- tute an historical structure: the social relations of production. but permit scope for thinking about how alterna- tive forms of world order might emerge (Cox 1981. understood as intersubjective meanings as well as collective images of world order. If considered dialectically. linked to changes in production. operate within and across all spheres of activity. as the main collective actors engendered by the social relations of production. To examine this relationship. 2000b. Within each of the three main spheres it is argued that three further elements reciprocally combine to constitute an historical structure: ideas. An attempt is therefore made to capture “the reciprocal relationship of structures and actors” (Cox 1995a. which are Social relations of production Forms of World state orders Figure 11. 135–8). and how this might shape world order. how these social forces may become the bases of power in forms of state. material capabilities. Through the rise of contending social forces. the social ontology of historical struc- tures refers to “persistent social practices. then it becomes possible to represent the historical process through the particular configuration of historical structures. Social forces. These are represented schematically in Figure 11.1  Dialectial relation of forces. There is no unilinear relationship between the spheres of activity.1 (138). there may occur mutually reinforcing transformations in the forms of state and world order. and institutions.

These are dimensions that escape conventional Ideas Material Institutions capabilities Figure 11. Hence the importance of incorporating an intersubjective realm within a focus on hegemony. class. These again are represented schemati- cally in Figure 11. and ideology. forms of state. then. then consideration has to turn to how a hegemonic social or world order is based on values and understandings that permeate the nature of that order (Cox 1996b. economy. 139). gender. 396–8). supported by material resources and institutions. but it refers more to a consensual order so that “dominance by a powerful state may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition of hegemony” (139). The crucial point to make. “hegemony is a form in which dominance is obscured by achieving an appearance of acquies- cence … as if it were the natural order of things … [It is] an internalized coherence which has most probably arisen from an externally imposed order but has been transformed into an intersubjectively constituted reality” (1994: 366). 252). “‘Reality’ is not only the physical environ- ment of human action but also the institutional. and it is at this stage that a discrete notion of hegemony begins to play a role in the overall conceptual framework. 151). Within a world order.2  Dialectical moment of hegemony. If hegemony is understood as an “opinion-molding activity” rather than as brute force or dominance. moral and ideological context that shapes thoughts and actions” (Cox 1997. The aim is to break down over time coherent historical structures – consisting of different patterns of social relations of production. culture.150  Adam David Morton amalgams of the previous two elements. which is initially established by social forces occupying a leading role within a state but is then projected outward on a world scale. hence to how intersubjective meanings – shared notions about social relations – shape reality. . Hegemony thus becomes more than simply state dominance. In this sense the point of departure for Cox is that of world order. is that hegemony filters through structures of society. ethnicity.2 (136). and world order – that have existed within the capitalist mode of production (Cox 1987. It appears as an expression of broadly based consent manifest in the acceptance of ideas. a situation of hegemony may prevail “based on a coherent conjunction or fit between a configuration of material power. the prevalent collec- tive image of world order (including certain norms) and a set of institutions which administer the order with a certain semblance of universality” (Cox 1981. Hegemony is therefore a form of dominance. As Cox has put it.

between the leaders and the led. 153 n. Therefore. although there might exist common ground or points of contact between the distinct and separate subjectivities of different. 2000a. 16). but also intellectual and moral unity … on a ‘universal’ plane” (Gramsci 1971. A historical bloc refers to the way in which leading social forces within a specific national context establish a relationship over contending social forces. As a result. consideration is given to the historical construction of various forms of state and the social context of political struggle. they conflate the two forms of power. This is accomplished by drawing upon the concept of historical bloc and widening a theory of the state to include relations within civil society. Rather than reducing hegemony to a single dimension of dominance based on the capabilities of states. In this sense Cox refers to civilizations as different realms of intersubjectivity. It does so by broadening the inquiry to include an intersubjective realm as well as encompassing a focus on the social basis of the state. coexisting civili- zations (Cox 1996a. Indeed. the neo-Gramscian perspective developed by Cox broadens the domain of hegemony. it is also possible to begin appreciating alternative conceptions and different understand- ings of the world. The conceptual framework outlined above considers how new modes of social relations of production become established within distinctive forms of state. It is more than simply a political alliance between social forces represented by classes or fractions of classes. necessarily implies the existence of hegemony. 181–2). is provided by an organic cohesion … Only then can there take place an . 2001). and how world order conditions may impinge upon these other spheres. Hegemony would therefore be established “if the relationship between intellectuals and people-nation. 27). the rulers and the ruled. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  151 international relations routes to hegemony that simply equate the notion with state dominance. how changes in production relations give rise to configurations of social forces upon which state power may rest. It indicates the integration of a variety of different class interests that are propagated throughout society “bringing about not only a unison of economic and political aims. rather than taking the state as a given or preconstituted institutional category. This applies as much to the maintenance of a hegemonic situa- tion as it does to bids for counterhegemony that aim to challenge and transform a prevailing hegemony. The latter key development will now be discussed in a little more detail. Rival forms of capitalism are tied up with struggles between different civilizations or ways of life so that the challenge is to articulate shared ideas that can bridge the different realms of intersubjectivity (Cox 1995b. Attention within this alternative route to hegemony therefore moves beyond simply defining hegemony in state centric terms. By including the intersubjective realm within a theory of hegemony. [and that] hegemony is one possible form dominance may take” (Cox 1981. The very nature of a historical bloc. This part of the discussion will also begin to indicate the role played by some of Antonio Gramsci’s pivotal concepts. 123) has outlined. the “universal plane” that Gramsci had in mind was the creation of hegemony by a fundamental social group over subordinate groups. as Anne Showstack Sassoon (1987a. There is a failure to acknowledge that “there can be dominance without hegemony.

Instead of underrating state power and explaining it away. 418). the state was not simply understood as an institution limited to the “government of the functionaries” or the “top political leaders and personalities with direct governmental responsibilities. What we can do … is to fix two major … “levels”: the one that can be called “civil society.152  Adam David Morton exchange of individual elements between the rulers and ruled. 10). beyond the political society of public figures and top leaders: “the state is the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance. and the modus operandi of state action. 268). and can the shared life be realized which alone is a social force – with the creation of the ‘historical bloc’” (Gramsci 1971. what contradictions may be contained within a historical bloc upon which a form of state is founded.” that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private. it becomes possible to analyze the social basis of the state or to conceive of the historical “content” of different states. Overall. The notion of the historical bloc aids this endeavor by directing attention to which social forces may have been crucial in the formation of a historical bloc or particular state. 178. by considering different forms of state. taken together. the raison d’état for a particular state” (Cox 1987. 105).e. this relationship is referred to as the state/civil society complex that. A particular configuration of social forces defines in practice the limits or parameters of state purposes. the state presents itself in a second way. 128). This second aspect of the state is referred to as civil society. In short. For Gramsci. i. are principally distinguished by “the characteristics of their historic[al] blocs. but manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules” (244). in other words.” These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domina- tion” or command exercised through the state and “juridical” government. they combine to produce a notion of the integral state. attention is given to social forces and processes and how these relate to the development of states (Cox 1981.” and that of “political society” or “the state.” The tendency to concentrate solely on such features of the state was pejoratively termed “statolatry”: it entailed viewing the state as a perpetual entity limited to actions within political society (Gramsci 1971. leaders … and led. defines. state centric approaches in international relations succumb to the tendency of “statolatry.” However. according to Gramsci. Considering different forms of state as the expression of particular historical blocs and thus relations across state/civil society fulfills this objective. and what potential might exist for the formation of a rival historical bloc that may transform a particular form of state (409 n. the configurations of social forces upon which state power ultimately rests. The realms of political and civil society within modern states were inseparable so that. clearly. (Gramsci 1971. as Cox notes. A wider theory of the state therefore emerges within this framework. It could be argued that certain neorealist. owes an intellectual debt to Gramsci. 12) . These issues are encompassed within the focus on different forms of state which.

not just as the apparatus of government operating within the “public” sphere (government. or thing in itself. Thompson (1968. therefore occurs when a leading class transcends its particular economic-corporate interests and is capable of binding and cohering the diverse aspirations and general interests of various social forces. 355–7. The state is not unquestioningly taken as a distinct institutional category. “the general notion of the state includes elements which need to be referred back to the notion of civil society (in the sense that one might say that state = political society + civil society. nationalist. 1996e. the notion of hegemony is therefore extended and more fully developed than in conventional approaches in international relations. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  153 The state should be understood. 57). then. as Overbeek (1994) has added.The construction of hegemony. Hegemony is understood. not prima- rily as a hierarchy of states. Once again. the majority of the population. in other words hegemony protected by the armour of coercion)” (Gramsci 1971. This means that class identity emerges within and through historical processes of economic exploitation. as a form of class rule. or the propagation throughout society of a comprehensive concept of control. It can therefore be argued that the state in this conception is understood as a social relation. 8–9. It evolves through a series of compromises in which the fractional. At an analytical level. sexual – with the aim of addressing how. religious. media. as E. for at least a specific period. political parties. 1978) has argued. Hence class identity is captured within the broader notion of social forces. (Van der Pijl 1984. but conceived as a form of social relations through which capitalism and hegemony are expressed (Poulantzas 1978). from a neo-Gramscian perspective. as it should be” (Ste. P. these derive from a common material basis linked to relations of exploitation (Cox 1992. class is viewed as a historical category and employed in a heuristic way rather than as a static analytical category (Cox 1987. out of particular historical contexts of struggle rather than mechanically deriving from objective determinations that have an automatic place in production relations. gender. and at once class struggle is in the forefront. “Bring back exploitation as the hallmark of class. but those are not reducible to class. Other forms of identity are included within the rubric of social forces – ethnic. military) but also as part of the “private” sphere of civil society (church. In either . education) through which hegemony functions (261). For Cox. the construction of hegemony is sometimes referred to as a comprehensive concept of control. class-consciousness emerges. “special” interests are arbitrated and synthesized. 35). It is this combination of political and civil society that is referred to as the integral state through which ruling classes organize intellectual and moral functions as part of the political and cultural struggle for hegemony in the effort to establish an “ethical” state (258. 271). Class identity is inscribed in social forces. then. 57). As such. A concept of control represents a bid for hegemony: a project for the conduct of public affairs and social control that aspires to be a legitimate approxima- tion of the general interest in the eyes of the ruling class and. Within some neo-Gramscian perspectives. Croix 1981. 263). 7)4 Reference to the construction of hegemony. at the same time. like class. may be interchangeable.

107). 12) has noted in relation to this passage. The way in which world hegemony may consolidate itself locally within a different national setting is illuminated by the following passage: “It is in the concept of hegemony that those exigencies which are national in char- acter are knotted together … A class that is international in character has – in as much as it guides social strata which are narrowly national (intellectuals). It is within a particular historical bloc and form of state that hegemony is initially constructed. such as the Rotary Club. 1987. the struggle for hegemony therefore involves “translating” particular interests. in Gramsci’s time. beyond this initial consolidation. or the Roman Catholic Church that had an “international” character though rooted within the state. 243) referred to as the “internal and international organizational relations of the state”: that is. this was born out by the expansion of Fordist assembly plant production beyond the United States which would lead to the growing world hegemony and power of “Americanism and Fordism” from the 1920s and 1930s. it is also within other different countries and particular forms of state that struggles may develop as a result of the introduction of new modes of production. A historical bloc therefore implies the constitution of a radical and novel reconstruction of the relational nature and identity of different interests within a social formation (Nimni 1994. emphasis added). is therefore a national phenomenon and cannot exist without a hegemonic social class. and organizations. “A world hegemony is thus in its beginnings an outward expansion of the internal (national) hegemony established by a … social class” (Cox 1983. The outward expansion of particular modes of social relations of production and the interests of a leading class on a world scale can also become supported by mechanisms of international organization. Cox (1983. The “national” point of departure. Yet the hegemony of a leading class can manifest itself as an international phenomenon insofar as it represents the development of a particular form of the social relations of production. 181–2). 168) adds. It indicates an organic link between a diverse grouping of interests that merge forms of class and cultural identity. The construc- tion of a historical bloc. to paraphrase Gramsci (1971. Yet. 171). For instance. By doing so it can connect social forces across different countries. remains vital. from a particular form of state into forms of expansion that have universal applicability across . As van der Pijl (1989. as hegemony begins to be asserted internationally. it may expand beyond a particular social order to move outward on a world scale and insert itself through the world order (171.154  Adam David Morton case. Hegemony can therefore operate at two levels: by constructing a historical bloc and establishing social cohesion within a form of state as well as by expanding a mode of production internationally and projecting hegemony through the level of world order. 149–50). Social forces may thus achieve hegemony within a national social order as well as through world order by ensuring the promotion and expan- sion of a mode of production. movements. voluntary associations. the process involves the “most purely political phase” of struggle and occurs on a “‘universal’ plane” to result in the forging of a historical bloc. Once hegemony has been consolidated domestically. and indeed frequently even less than national: particularistic and municipalistic (the peasants) – to ‘nationalize’ itself in a certain sense” (241. This is what Gramsci (1971. however.

These are the liberal international economy (1789–1873). the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. although world-economy and world- political conditions materially influence the prospects for such an enterprise … [T]he task of changing world order begins with the long. With this emphasis. 219–30). and the Bank for International Settlements. prior to outward expansion on a world scale. and increasing the international division of labor through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). There was a compromise between certain domestic social groups (i. and the neoliberal world order (post-World War II) (Cox 1987. three successive stages of world order are outlined by Cox within which the hege- monic relationship between ideas. tariff reductions and inter- national free trade.e. and the office of presidents or prime ministers (Cox 1987. It is within this context that hegemony is initially constructed. 79–80). In particular. 86). established labor seeking stability and protection from economic and political vulnerabilities) and the interests of multilateral institutions in the “G-7 nexus” with the aim of encouraging comparative advantage. finance ministries. foreign trade and investment agencies. Concentrating on the third era. in a move to transform various state structures. 109). “The national context remains the only place where an historic[al] bloc can be founded. international organizations can play a key role in adjusting subordinate interests while facilitating the expan- sion of the dominant economic and social forces (172–3). and it is within this context that strug- gles unfold in contesting hegemony. These institutions.” Keynesian demand management was promoted alongside Fordist techniques of mass production (Gill and Law 1988. The role of the state was to act as a mediator between the policy priorities of the world economy and domestic groups. Such arrangements lent priority to central agencies of government that maintained links between the national and the world economy – to wit. In the countries of advanced capitalism. Hence the importance of the “national” point of departure. along with the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized countries. the prevailing form of state was based on principles of “embedded liberalism” (Ruggie 1982). Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  155 a variety of different states. institutions. 145). This was generally maintained through social relations of production known as tripartite corporatism involving government–business–labor coalitions. and during which different forms of state and patterns of production relations prevailed. world hegemony can be attained when international insti- tutions and mechanisms support a dominant mode of production and dissemi- nate universal norms and ideas. laborious effort to build new historic[al] blocs within national boundaries” (Cox 1983. and material capabilities varied. 174). the era of rival imperialisms (1873–1945). involving the intersubjective realm. They have estab- lished mechanisms of surveillance to ensure the harmonization of national poli- cies in the attempt to reconcile domestic social pressures with the requirements of a world economy (Cox 1981. have been collectively referred to as the “G-7 nexus” (Gill 1995a. Within this form of state of “embedded liberalism.5 This situation was eventually accentuated . As indicated above. known as pax Americana it is contended that a United States-led hegemonic world order prevailed that was maintained through the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates and institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

supply side economics. ch. Structural change. This contention is based around twin proposi- tions linked to the internationalization of the state and the internationalization of production. unionized state sector toward the promotion of private business interests and the creation of favorable condi- tions for internationally and transnationally oriented business (Cox 1987. due to foreign penetration of the national economy. the ongoing changes stemming from the context of 1970s structural change have been far from uniform. the form of state during the post-World War II period of United States-led hegemony was generally based on principles of neo-mercantilist development. Hence a period of structural change unfolded in the 1970s during which there was a tendency to encourage. albeit alongside prolonged social struggle. This involved the encouragement of social rela- tions of production based on enterprise corporatism. and the logic of competitiveness – began increasingly to estab- lish.156  Adam David Morton following the world economic crisis of the 1970s and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system during a period of “structural change” in the world economy. the rising priorities of enterprise corporatism – among others. and production relations The world economic crisis of 1973–4 followed the abandonment of the US dollar/ gold standard link and signaled a move away from the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates to more flexible adjustment measures. corporatist- type relations between government–business–labor. it is argued that the forms and functions of United States-led hegemony began to alter during a phase of “structural change” in the 1970s (see Morton 2003b). As Craig Murphy has noted. There would therefore be overlaps between different modes. 196). Nevertheless. the consolidation of new priorities. alternative forms of state. a “hegemonic aura” throughout the world order during the 1980s and 1990s often referred to as the Reagan– Thatcher model of capitalism (Cox 1991/1996. gave way to a restructuring of the social relations of production. through different state/civil society relations. such production relations did not encompass the whole economy. 8). including enterprise and tripartite corporatism as well as subsistence agricultural production. This entailed more state-directed leadership that sought autonomy over the national economy and growth through a model of import substitution industrialization. Yet. It is commonly argued that these developments precipitated moves toward the phenomenon that is now recognized as globalization. The crisis involved oil price rises initiated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and heightened inflation and indebtedness within the countries of advanced capi- talism. organized within a hierarchical arrangement (230–4). However. The post-World War II “embedded liberal” world order based on Keynesian demand management and Fordist industrialism. In the “embedded liberal” and “neo-mercan- tilist” forms of state. leading a shift in the coali- tional basis of various states away from a secure. however. involving tripartite. but in . Elsewhere in the emerging global political economy. in countries of periph- eral capitalism. This form of state was characterized by state corporatist social relations of production. “adjustment to the crisis occurred at different rates in different regions. monetarism.

under- pinned by the internationalization of production and the thrust of globalization. Besides the transnational mana- gerial class. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  157 each case it resulted in a ‘neo-liberal’ shift in governmental economic policy and the increasing prominence of financial capital” (1998a. Weiss 1998). it is argued here that the internationalization of production has profoundly restructured – but not eroded – the role of the state. both of the world economy and of social power within various forms of state. 159). Taking advantage of differences between countries. central banks – have gained precedence over those agencies closest to domestic public policy – ministries of labor and . those state agencies in close contact with the global economy – offices of presi- dents and prime ministers. has been explained as the result of two particular tendencies: the internationalization of production and the internationalization of the state that led the thrust toward globalization. While some have championed such changes as the “retreat of the state” (Strange 1996) or the emergence of a “border- less world” (Ohmae 1990. 147). along with the Trilateral Commission and other forums. as well as elements of financial capital (involved in banking insurance and finance) have been supportive of this internationalization of production. have been transmitted through the policy-making channels of governments. including small. partly because of the political goods and services which it supplies to capitalists and the institutional autonomy it possesses. As a result. The notion of the internationalization of the state captures this dynamic by referring to the way transnational processes of consensus formation. treasuries. Since the erosion of pax Americana principles of world order in the 1970s. at the apex of an emerging global class structure. other elements of productive capital (involved in manufacturing and extraction). there has been an integration of production processes on a transnational scale with transnational corporations promoting the operation of different elements of a single process in different territorial locations. then. the social basis across many forms of state altered as the logic of capitalist market relations created a crisis of authority in established institutions and modes of governance (see Morton 2003b). state officials. by a “transnational manage- rial class” (Cox 1981. These institutions. During this period of structural change in the 1970s. Hence there has been a rise in the structural power of internationally mobile capital supported and promoted by forms of elite interaction that have forged common perspectives among business. After all. 1996). This overall crisis. The stance of the state towards freedom of enterprise … is at the heart of this issue” (Gill and Law 1989. 480). and others have decried the global proportions of such changes in production (Hirst and Thompson 1996. and representatives of international organizations favoring the logic of capitalist market relations (Gill and Law 1989.and medium-sized businesses acting as contrac- tors and suppliers and import/export businesses. have ensured the ideological osmosis and dissemination of policies in favor of the perceived exigencies of the global political economy. there has been an increasing internationalization of production and finance driven. 484).6 The network of control that has maintained the structural power of capital has also been supported by an “axis of influence” consisting of institutions within the G-7 nexus (see above). “the state as an institutional and social entity … creates the possibility for the limitation of such structural power.

31). the global restructuring of production along post-Fordist lines is located within a context of structural change in the 1970s. conditions have emerged for the consolidation of a transnational historical bloc. Since the 1970s. it is added that certain social forces have become prominent and have attempted to achieve transnational hegemony. It has been argued that this tendency in the transformation of the state and the role of transnational elites (or a nébu- leuse) in forging consensus remains to be fully deciphered and needs much more study (30–1). This bloc brought together fractions of productive and financial capital and elements within state apparatuses to form a transatlantic political community. the new constitutionalism of disciplinary neoliberalism. 412). across the different forms of state in countries of advanced and peripheral capitalism. 276). new constitutionalism involves the narrowing of the social basis of popular participation within the world order of disciplinary neoliberalism. Yet Gill departs from Gramsci to assert that a historical bloc “may at times have the potential to become hegemonic. It involves the hollowing out of democracy and the affirmation. forging links and a synthesis of interests and identities not only beyond national boundaries and classes but also creating the conditions for the hegemony of transnational capital. The case of the European Economic and Monetary Union is analyzed within the terms of a transnational historical bloc (Gill 2001. Elsewhere it is added that the consolidation of neoliberalism within such a bloc is based on supremacy rather than hegemony. the work of Stephen Gill has greatly contributed to understanding this process as part of the changing character of United States-centered hegemony in the global political economy. While there is reluctance to presume that tran- snational hegemony has thus been attained. It is therefore argued that dominant forces within the contemporary transnational historical bloc of neoliberalism practice a politics of supremacy (Gill 1995b. policy credibility and competitiveness. established in the post- World War II period and centered in the United States but expanding on a world scale. According to Gill. the overall argument concerning the internationalization of the state was based on a series of linked hypotheses suggestive for empirical investigation (Cox 1996d. in matters of political economy. 400. Nevertheless. 31). it is argued that supremacy prevails when a situation of hegemony is not apparent and when dominance is exercised through a histor- ical bloc over fragmented opposition. Similar to Cox. It is “the move towards construction of legal or constitutional devices to remove or insulate substantially the new economic institutions from popular scrutiny or democratic . discipline and confidence.158  Adam David Morton industry or planning offices (Cox 1992. 40). It was in this period that there was a transition from what Gill recog- nizes as an international historical bloc of social forces. the general depiction is that the state became a transmission belt for neoliberalism and the logic of capitalist competition from global to local spheres (Cox 1992. Indeed. notably in his detailed analysis of the role of the Trilateral Commission (Gill 1990). Although the thesis of the internationalization of the state has received much recent criticism. 54–5).” implying that hegemony need not prevail for a historical bloc to emerge (Gill 1993. and the concomitant spread of market civilization. 402. of a set of macroeconomic policies such as market efficiency. Again drawing in principle from Gramsci.7 This politics of supremacy is organized through two key processes.

within the global political economy (Holman 1996). In sum. The overarching concept of supremacy has also been used to develop an understanding of the construction of US foreign policy toward the “Third World” and how challenges were mounted against the US in the 1970s through the New International Economic Order (Augelli and Murphy 1988). As Murphy (1994. 2003). mechanisms of surveillance have supported the market civilization of new constitutionalism in something tentatively likened to a global “panop- ticon” of surveillance (1995c). 399). the latter involves leading allied groups. as ‘domination’ and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’” (1971. In addition to the neo-Gramscian perspectives discussed so far. 8) outlines in a separate study of industrial change and international organization. Extending this analysis. 2000). This includes. based on individualism and free trade. neither should the notion of supremacy suffer the same fate. Within the global political economy. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  159 accountability” (Gill 1991. there has also been consideration of struggles between social forces in the United States over the North American Free Trade Agreement and globalization (Rupert 1995b. 1992. supremacy defines the posi- tion of a leading class within a historical bloc and can be secured by hegemony as well as through domination. Where the former strain of supremacy involves subjugation by force. Overall. There has also been a recent return to under- standing forms of US foreign policy intervention within countries of peripheral capitalism. among others. 57). particularly Spain. and Ryner 1998. Shields 2001. just as hegemony itself should not be equated with domination. disciplinary neoliberalism. Bieler and Morton 2001b. Stienstra 1994. van Apeldoorn 2000. Whitworth 1994). 295 n. Rather than simply equating supremacy with dominance. It results in an attempt to make neolib- eralism the sole model of development by disseminating the notion of market civilization based on an ideology of capitalist progress and exclusionary or hier- archical patterns of social relations (1995b. Overbeek. an account of the historically specific way in which mass production was institutionalized in the United States and how this propelled forms of American-centered leadership and world hegemony in the post-World War II period (Rupert 1995a). As Gramsci himself states. This has included analyzing the promotion of polyarchy defined as “a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation in . Holman and van der Pijl 1996. and market civilization are supported by the politics of supremacy rather than hegemony. assured American supremacy through the 1970s and was recon- structed in the 1980s. Augelli and Murphy argue that supremacy can be maintained through domina- tion or hegemony (132). it is argued by Gill that these features of new constitutionalism. There have also been analyses of European integration within the context of globalization and the role of transnational classes within European govern- ance (Bieler 2000. “the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways. and analysis of international organizations. Yet this projection of supremacy did not simply unfold through domination. the internationalization and democratization of Southern Europe. including the role of gender and women’s movements (Lee 1995. It is argued that the ideological promotion of American liberalism. 165). there also exists a diverse array of similar perspectives analyzing hegemony in the global political economy. Holman.

46. 4–5. A minimal foundationalism is therefore implied. as Steve Smith (1995b) has forewarned. 2003a. or low-intensity democracy. Chile. as too lacking in Marxist rigor. The next section outlines some of the criticisms leveled against such perspectives and indicates in what direction current research is proceeding. other commentators have alternatively decried the lack of historical materialist rigor within neo-Gramscian perspectives. 275). Other recent research has similarly focused on the promotion of “democ- racy” in Southern Africa (Taylor 2001) as well as the construction and contesta- tion of hegemony in Mexico (Morton 2002. and transitory universalism that combines dialogue between universal values and local definitions within historically specific circumstances (Booth 1995. 106–7. neo-Gramscian perspectives have been criticized as too unfashionably Marxisant or. in relation to criticisms. 14.160  Adam David Morton decision-making is confined to leadership choice in elections carefully managed by elites” (Robinson 1996. Cox 1995b. alternatively. is there- fore analyzed as an adjunct of US hegemony through institutions such as the US Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy in the particular countries of the Philippines. They are seen as unfashionable because many retain an essentially historical materialist position as central to analysis – focusing on the “decisive nucleus of economic activity” (Gramsci 1971. Beneath the surface impression of claims to openness. There are clearly a variety of neo-Gramscian perspectives dealing with a diversity of issues linked to the analysis of hegemony in the global political economy. Rengger and Hoffman 1992). which leads to a degree of diffidence about the foundations for knowledge (see Neufeld 1995). it is incum- bent upon such perspectives to remain self-reflective about possible weaknesses. it seems that. Yet. contingent. and Haiti. rather than succumbing to this problem. the fallibility of all knowledge claims is accepted across neo-Gramscian perspectives. Welcome debate: Controversies surrounding neo-Gramscian perspectives Since the challenge of neo-Gramscian perspectives to mainstream problem- solving approaches in international relations. therefore. Nicaragua. . This has involved closer scrutiny of the neo- Gramscian perspectives themselves from a variety of viewpoints. Hence the accusation that analysis remains caught within modernist assumptions that take as foundational the structures of historical processes deter- mining the realms of the possible (Ashley 1989. aspects of neoliberalism and cultural hegemony have been dealt with in a study of mass communications scholarship in Chile (Davies 1999). Cox 2000b. 2003b). However. and tentatively extended with reference to the former Soviet bloc and South Africa. 49). 161) – but without succumbing to expressions of econ- omism. a politics of forgetting has persisted. In broad outline. 101. Linklater 1998.8 Elsewhere. based on a cautious. This section will therefore outline a series of criticisms made against the perspec- tives as well as highlight issues of disagreement with such criticisms. Yet. a more recent period of intellectual and political ferment has arisen. Furthermore. Polyarchy. there has been rare engagement with such criticisms.

“ideologies are anything but arbitrary. This leads to a supposed reifi- cation of the state as a “thing” in itself standing outside the relationship between capital and labor (Burnham 1997. The production of intersubjective meanings within this theory of hegemony is therefore also under- valued. 2000). it is argued. rooted in central organizing principles. Additionally. they are real historical facts which must be combated and their nature as instruments of domination exposed” (Gramsci 1995. the function of intellectual activity across state/civil society relations and the role of consent as a necessary form of hegemony should not be overlooked. capital. While Burnham’s critique does rightly point to the danger of overstating the role of ideas within neo-Gramscian perspectives (Bieler 1996). be developed that is attentive to the relations between labor. 1999. 24). Indeed. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  161 According to Peter Burnham (1991). the contradictions of the capital relation are blurred. Hence there is an inability to grapple with the dynamics of globalization because the categories of state and market are regarded as opposed forms of social organization that operate separately. To what extent this “totalizing” approach results in a unified view of labor and a heroic vision of the working class as an undifferentiated mass is. akin to arguments elsewhere. After all. the neo-Gramscian treatment of hegemony amounts to a “pluralist empiricism” that fails to recognize the central impor- tance of the capital relation and is therefore preoccupied with the articulation of ideology. resulting in “a slide towards an idealist account of the determination of economic policy” (81). it was outlined earlier in the chapter how the social relations of production are taken as the starting point for thinking about world order and the way they engender configurations of social forces. 76) argues that the account of hegemony developed across neo-Gramscian perspectives “is barely distinguishable from a sophisticated neo-realist account. which facilitates recognition of the ideology and normative element underpinning a perspective. an open question. and the state. Although a fully developed theory of the state is not evident. Therefore. rather closer to Burnham’s own position than he might admit. the state is treated as an aspect of the social relations of production so that questions about the apparent separation of politics and economics or states and markets within capitalism are promoted (see Burnham 1994). 395). there clearly exists a set of at least implicit assumptions about the state as a form of social relations through which capitalism and hegemony are expressed. Burnham (1991. it is possible from within a neo-Gramscian perspective to raise questions about how different forms of state are established and how – through the contradictions of capital – the functions of the state are revised and supplemented (Holloway and Picciotto 1977). The point is therefore not to take the position of “Theological Marxists” who focus .” Yet this undervalues a critical theory route to hegemony and the insistence on an ethical dimension to analysis in which “ques- tions of justice. Ideas are accepted as part of the global political economy itself. the state is not treated as an unquestioned category. In specific response to these criticisms. By granting equal weight to ideas and material capabilities. however. By thus asking which modes of social relations of production within capitalism have been preva- lent in particular historical circumstances. it is recommended that a “totalizing” theory. Instead. legitimacy and moral credibility are integrated sociologically into the whole and into many … key concepts” (Gill 1993. in external relationship to one another.

Further. and unfinished. planning. The point that globali- zation is authored by states is thus overlooked by developing the metaphor of a trans- mission belt from the global to the national within the thesis of the internationalization of the state (Panitch 1994. Whereas capital tends towards universality. and the use of coercive capacities by the state” (1995b. It has been added that this is a one-way view of internationalization that respectively overlooks reciprocal interaction between the global and the local. The role of the state. following Cox. there is a focus on transnational networks of production and how national governments have lost much autonomy in policymaking. It will be recalled from the above discussion that the point of departure within such an approach could equally be changing social relations of production within forms of state or world order (Cox 1981. but also how states are still an integral part of this process. overlooks mutually reinforcing social relations within the global political economy. The overall position adopted on the relationship between the global and the national. and global levels. 1999. following Panitch’s (1994. 422). 2000). Moran 1998).162  Adam David Morton on the “law of value” and the “law of motion of capital” as absolute knowledge rather than as hypotheses (Cox 1996c. legitimation. 74) argument. it is argued that neo-Gramscian perspectives fail to identify and engage with these contradictions of capitalism. he is still interested in analyzing attempts to constitutionalize neoliberalism at the domestic. As Gill puts it. is still determined by struggles among social forces located within partic- ular social formations. even though social forces may be implicated in transnational structures. Instead. “there is a growing contradiction between the tendency towards the globality and univer- sality of capital in the neoliberal form and the particularity of the legitimation and enforcement of its key exploitative relations by the state. Baker 1999. or between hegemony and historical bloc. the national context is the only place where a historical bloc can be founded and where the task of building new historical blocs. developing. must begin. they may be distinguished within it (Smith 1996). Alternatively. Yet. Leo Panitch has argued that an account unfolds which is too topdown in its expression of power relations. Like attempts else- where to grapple with globalization (Radice 1998. 2000). assuming that globalization is a process that proceeds from the global to the national or the outside-in. the emphasis should not be misunderstood. these issues are not necessarily beyond the scope of a neo-Gramscian conceptual framework. the point is to follow the spirit of Raymond Williams (1977. it cannot operate outside of or beyond the political context. Therefore. A different series of criticisms have separately centered on the thesis of globaliza- tion and the internationalization of the state proposed by neo-Gramscian perspec- tives. and involves. though Gill tends to take a different tack on the application of notions such as historical bloc and supremacy. Therefore. regional. 3–4) and remain open to a body of thinking that is active. may differ from one . though neo-Gramscian perspectives cannot be separated from historical materialism. Rather than upholding a fixed notion of historical materialism. as the basis for counterhegemony to change world order. 153 n. In particular. Indeed. or ignores class conflict within national social formations (Ling 1996. 26). Cox’s focus has been on historical blocs underpinning particular states and how these are connected through the mutual interests of social classes in different countries. 176).

301. This emphasis was presaged in an earlier argument warning that the incorporation of Gramscian insights into international relations and international political economy ran “the risk of denuding the borrowed concepts of the theoretical significance in which they cohere” (Smith 1994. Such demonstrations might even precipitate the realization that globalization is class struggle. and “riots” during the European Union summit at Nice (December 2000). once such tasks are undertaken. It is therefore perhaps important to admit the significance of taking a “national” point of departure – following Gramsci – that involves focusing on the intertwined relationship between “international” forces and “national” relations within state/civil society relations that react both passively and actively to the mediation of global and regional forces (Sassoon 2001). and Prague. It is therefore important. see also Gareau 1996). The final and most recent criticisms arise from the call for a much needed engagement by neo-Gramscian perspectives with the writings of Gramsci and thus the complex methodological. protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank (Washington. To be sure. “must give way to more active sorties against transnational neoliberalism. However. and the analysis of concepts of control must beget original concepts of resistance” (1994. In . and contextual issues that embroiled the Italian thinker (Germain and Kenny 1998). then.9 The demonstrations during the “Carnival Against Capitalism” (London. the peculiarities of history within specific national historical and cultural contexts should not be overlooked. such criticisms and warnings have rightly drawn attention to the importance of remaining engaged with Gramsci’s own writings. as well as the G-8 meeting at Genoa (July 2001). notes André Drainville. epistemological. would all seemingly further expose the imperative of analyzing globaliza- tion as a set of highly contested social relations. November 1999). To commit the latter error could reduce scholars to “searching for gems” in the Prison Notebooks in order to “save” international political economy from pervasive economism (Gareau 1993. In such ways. mobilizations against the World Trade Organization (Seattle. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  163 neo-Gramscian perspective to the next. Analysis. 147). to avoid overstating the coherence of neolib- eralism and to identify materially grounded opportunities for counterhegemonic action. it is clear that problems do arise with some of the key claims made by Germain and Kenny (Morton 2003c). as Paul Cammack (1999) has added. April 2000. ontological. June 1999). the demand to remain (re)engaged with Gramsci’s thought and practice was a necessary one to make and well overdue. All too often. a host of questions related to counterhegemonic forms of resistance are left for future research. Hence the importance of focusing on move- ments of resistance and addressing strategies of structural transformation that may be seen as the formation and basis of counterhegemony (Morton 2002). Further criticisms have also focused on how the hegemony of transnational capital has been overestimated and how the possibility for transformation within world order is thereby diminished by neo-Gramscian perspectives (Drainville 1995). but it is usually driven by the purpose and empirical context of the research. 125). Yet. noting the above concerns. Germain and Kenny also rightly call for greater sensitivity to the problems of meaning and understanding in the history of ideas when appropriating Gramsci for contem- porary application. September 2000).

Rupert 1998). it is better to appreciate that the point of departure for Gramsci was “national” which involved a focus on how social forces within this realm were intertwined and shaped by the dialectic of global and local social forces (Murphy 1998b. once the demand to historicize and develop a wider theoretical and practical reading of Gramsci is taken seriously. 176). as argued above. Yet. 282. these claims are revealed to be somewhat hollow (see Morton 2007). the line of development is towards interna- tionalism. was certainly limited to “relations within society” – involving the development of productive forces. civil society. rather than an unduly narrow and restrictive reading of Gramsci. the level of coercion. The notion of historical bloc. Conclusion To summarize.164  Adam David Morton particular. they have claimed that concepts such as hegemony. 269–71. 79–82. they have asked whether the concept of hegemony can sustain explana- tory power beyond the national context and thus withstand the way hegemony has been “internationalized” within a neo-Gramscian framework (Germain and Kenny 1998. this argument has pursued a critical theory route to hegemony that provides a distinctive alternative to mainstream international relations theory as well as so-called structural Marxism that has little practical applicability to . After all. sovereignty and independence that constitute “the combinations of states in hegemonic systems” (Gramsci 1971. 127). 1996. and international public and private organizations that had an “international” character while maintaining a presence within the “national” realm (Gramsci 1977.” Yet constant references were made by Gramsci to hegemony based on “relations between international forces” – involving the requisites of great powers. To be sure. Indeed. 1992. and historical bloc “were used exclusively” in the grounding of national social formations by Gramsci (20). voluntary associations. 17). Gramsci himself discussed features of world hegemony and made reference to the “hegemony of the United States” and “American global hegemony” while also discussing identity movements. but the point of departure is “national” – and it is from this point of departure that one must begin. within Gramsci’s “national” point of departure there was a constant and dialectical juxtaposition between the national and international realms.: 240) Moreover. Also. 89–93. 354–5. Once again the pivotal issue is the “national” point of departure. or relations between political parties that constitute “hegemonic systems within the state. Yet the perspective is international and cannot be otherwise. 291. Gramsci commented on the dynamic of hegemony and treated “both the Renaissance state system and politics within the twentieth century within the same framework and with the same concepts” (Augelli and Murphy 1993. Therefore. (Ibid. 318–20). 167–70. [T]he internal relations of any nation are the result of a combination which is “original” and (in a certain sense) unique: these relations must be understood and conceived in their originality and uniqueness if one wishes to dominate them and direct them.

Attention is thus drawn towards the raison d’état or the basis of state power. As a result. in terms of further research directions. forms of state and world order. At a more explicitly theoretical level. Analysis can be pushed into further theoretical and empirical areas by addressing some of these criticisms. and material capabilities interact in the construc- tion and contestation of hegemony. recognition of the . there is a rejection of objectivist or empiricist claims to value-free social enquiry dominant throughout the academy. however controversial it may be. First. by demonstrating how various neo-Gramscian perspectives have developed a particular historical materialist focus on and critique of capitalism. In a separate section. Social forces in the struggle over hegemony  165 concrete problems. such as the Movimento (dos Trabalhadores Rurais) Sem Terra (MST: Movement of Landless Rural Workers) in Brazil and the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN: Zapatista Army of National Liberation) in Chiapas. Second. a critical theory of hegemony was developed that was not equated with dominance and thus went beyond a theory of the state-as- force. Mexico (Morton 2002). benefit could be gained by directly considering the role of organized labor in contesting the latest agenda of neoliberal globalization (Bieler 2003). the thesis of the internationalization of the state and the internationalization of production was outlined within which. by recognizing the different social purpose behind a critical theory committed to historical change. about underlying premises. This entails reflection on the process of theorizing itself and includes three traits: self- awareness. including the social basis of hegemony or the configuration of social forces upon which power rests across the terrain of state/civil society relations. a series of criti- cisms was also outlined concerning the neo-Gramscian perspectives. Therefore. this route to hegemony poses an epistemological challenge to knowledge claims associated with positivist social science. as much as possible. there is an emancipatory basis to research. it was argued that the conceptual framework developed by such neo-Gramscian perspectives rethinks prevalent ontological assumptions in inter- national relations due to a theory of hegemony that focuses on social forces engen- dered by changes in the social relations of production. Finally. additional work could also be conducted in revealing Gramsci’s theory of the state and then situating this within a wider discussion of state theory (Bieler and Morton 2003). the forms of world hegemony were altered in a period of structural change in the emerging global political economy of the 1970s. institutions. This means that. With an apprecia- tion of how ideas.10 It is also important to problematize the tactics and strategies of resistances to neoliberalism by giving further thought to autonomous forms of peasant mobilization in Latin America. a case was made for a critical theory of hegemony that directs attention to relations between social interests in the struggle for consensual leadership rather than concentrating solely on state dominance. it was also possible to pay attention to issues of intersubjectivity. It was highlighted how this route to hegemony opens up questions about the social processes that create and transform different forms of state. Subsequently. linked to the rejection of such empiricist and positivist knowledge claims. it was argued. greater emphasis is also accorded the principle of theoretical reflexivity. The overall theoretical and political consequences of such research can be ascertained from two angles. For example. Notably.

see Cox (1998). can be included within mainstream. 1978. 15). 1990. 1998).   3 For useful discussion of the contradictory strands and influences between Frankfurt School critical theory and critical international relations theory. as well as that of Robert Keohane. Joseph Buttigieg.: T026271041).166  Adam David Morton inherently politico-normative dimension of analysis. see Wyn Jones (2000). concepts of control. Tickner 1997. see Picciotto (1991).   9 For further initial attempts to deal with issues of resistance. arising from political action within new workers’ organizations known as Factory Councils in Turin during the biennio rosso (1919–20). but competing. can be found in Gramsci (1977. 1999.” this precedent is not followed. 173–4. Katzenstein. 1989a). see Overbeek (1990. The financial support of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship is also acknowledged (Ref. What ultimately matters.   4 For further perspectives developing this notion of hegemonic. “is the way in which Gramsci’s legacy gets interpreted. Notes   1 While differences exist. see Cox (1999) and Gill (2000. though theory is itself a form of political practice.   5 It is worth noting that though the state form of “embedded liberalism” is referred to by Cox as the “neoliberal state. interpretation. then. 1998. or comprehensive.”   6 For a similar. problem-solving international relations approaches to hegemony (see Waltz 1979. transmitted and used so that it [can] remain an effective tool not only for the critical analysis of hegemony but also for the development of an alternative politics and culture” (Buttigieg 1986. and the anonymous reviewers for reading and commenting on previous versions of this chapter. 1998. Keohane 1989a. 1986. A version of the former is available in Spanish. Weber 1994). the neorealist work of Kenneth Waltz. Keohane. . 10 Many of Gramsci’s own insights on the conflict between capital and labor. David Ruccio. Acknowledgments I would like to thank Andreas Bieler. which he calls “hyperliberalism. and Krasner 1998. it is not sufficient – hence the importance of instilling a greater degree of invigorated social engagement within and beyond the practice of theory to encompass the realm of everyday life. This is because confu- sion can result when using his term and distinguishing it from the more conventional understanding of neoliberalism related to processes in the late 1970s and 1980s. 1989b. 2001). The classic critique remains that by Richard Ashley (1984). Also see the engaging discussion in Schecter (1991). 40–1). 1994b). and an affirmation that judg- ments about the merits of contending perspectives can be made in the absence of “objective” criteria (Neufeld 1995. However.   2 The call for synthesis has been an abiding concern among many advocates of main- stream international relations theory (see Baldwin 1993. It can be regarded as a principal tactic in allocating the terms of debate and settling competing ontological and episte- mological claims (see Smith 1995a. 1993) or van der Pijl (1998).   7 The same argument is also apparent in Gill (1998).   8 These issues are usefully surveyed in George (1994). Keohane 1984. 2000. The advantage of theoretical reflexivity is that an opportunity is left to explain the emergence and social purpose of a particular perspective and one’s own political position.

As Farley spoke and became more impassioned about the possibilities for a “National Strategic Alliance” and. pseudo-scientific metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.” In other words.” This type of alli- ance. would represent an important step toward building a framework for social justice that could extend beyond the rural problem and into the broader Australian community.” post- Marxism’s engagement with Gramsci moves it toward a practical politico-social ontology. Rick Farley. development of rural and regional infrastructures. . In this chapter. a significant voice for the Australian indigenous people who also held the position of executive director of the Australian National Farmers Federation between 1988 and 1995. farmers. Understood through Gramsci (1971. and environmental- ists in what he referred to as a “National Strategic Alliance. through it. spoke of the diverse problems that faced rural Australia. it seemed to me that this aspiration represented precisely a shift from common sense to a “good sense” approach to addressing the problems associated with balancing diverse interests. and ongoing environmental exploitation and degradation. 348). far from being “just theory. Jacques Derrida. the ethico-political. What has happened through this disengage- ment is that post-Marxism has been imbued with the poststructuralism of Jacques Lacan. and post-Marxism is developed by focusing on two of post-Marxism’s key concepts: antagonism and equivalence. the ethico-political. To this extent. and Michel Foucault. a new leadership. common sense is a way of thinking about causality unconcerned with “fancy quibbles and pseudo- profound. Farley does not call upon metanarratives of class struggles and Utopias or speculative philosophy to explain the reasons for rural diversity or solutions for tension. Farley impressed upon the audience the imperative for today’s rural community to bring together the indigenous people. These included self-determination and access to land for the indigenous peoples. At the Public Forum session of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference in 2003.12 From ethico-political hegemony to post-Marxism Richard Howson Recent literature on post-Marxism has neglected a direct and strong engagement with Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. It argues that. he argued. the nexus between hegemony. That has rendered it incapable of becoming a theory that can engage the social as well as the political. This chapter attempts to reengage with Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and to bring back both the political and the social by focusing on a key aspect of the concept of hegemony – that is.

but the project would be different. but that as an aspiration toward good sense. It is the reso- nance a commonsensical approach to concrete sociopolitical issues has with sociopolitical theory that gives rise to the issue to be addressed by this chapter. this answer is of some considerable importance because whatever the Gramscian project is or gives us. belong to fields of discursivity [and thus practices] that are external to Marxist categories – given. Perhaps it might have developed. the reasons for diversity and tension are both social and historical and are expressed in the discussions occurring in pubs. and workplaces across rural Australia. Polemics and Academics. that their very presence is what puts Marxism as a closed theoretical system into question. Most important. However. In the context of the foregoing discussion and the issue to be addressed. For post-Marxism to ensure it connects with a social ontology. and leads to the postulation of new starting points for social analysis” (Laclau and Mouffe 1985. While the history of Marxist intellectual development has always incorporated a post-Marxist component (see Sim 2000). without Gramsci. In this way common sense becomes “good sense. Laclau and Mouffe do not refer to their work as post-Marxist although they accept the label if it is used in the sense of “reappro- priation” and “going beyond [Marxism]. In this text. especially. ix). In effect. its more contemporary manifestation began with the seminal text Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (1985).168  Richard Howson Instead. homes. Many social antagonisms. Laclau suggests that. it needs to ensure a clear and strong grounding in Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. it resonates with the innovative and radical ideas presented within the broadly post-Marxist project. it is nothing if not a way to analyze the opera- tion of power and leadership in social relations. On the other hand.” This is because post-Marxism “cannot be conceived just as an internal history of Marxism. a solution to this rural tension must incorporate recognition of the diversity of antagonisms by ensuring that the particularity of each antagonistic identity and its interests develops a sense of equivalence about their situation through alliance. the post-Marxist project is one that radicalizes democracy in a way that emphasizes the importance of “recognition” as well as “re-distribution” (xviii). many issues which are crucial to the understanding of contemporary societies.” Bowman began by claiming that post-Marxism appears to be as much about “Derrida. newspapers.” Further. and Foucault as it is about Gramsci. Gramsci offers an understanding of power as leadership that becomes the mechanism connecting the various interests within a national-popular collective will. what aspect of the post-Marxist project can challenge the critical inter- pretation of it as a project of speculative philosophy that is unable to exercise real social and political efficacy? Of course an explanation for the charge of speculation and disconnection from real sociopolitical change can perhaps be understood in terms of a question Paul Bowman (1999) asked Ernesto Laclau in an interview on “Politics. the whole intellectual project of post- Marxism becomes impossible. Further. Lacan. “could post-Marxism have emerged without Gramsci”? Laclau’s reply was “no.” The importance of Farley’s argument to this discussion is not simply that it expresses a common sense approach to the rural problem. this imperative must not .” In fact.

Yet. Thus. so far. 70. However. In other words. this chapter will further argue that a crucial aspect of the theory of hegemony for the concrete efficacy of post-Marxism is the concept of the “ethico- political” because it enables a social ontology that emphasizes the “primacy of the political dimension” (see Howarth. Thus. 27–35) articulation of the “dialectic of distincts” where “distincts” can be understood as “the radical antagonists of the thesis” but whose disarticulated challenge can only ever produce a program that “tends to enervate the antithesis” and produce reformism. 1946. it must bring to the fore the aspirational qualities that produce consensus over coercion on the basis of moral and intellectual leadership. This leadership is taken up by the “preeminent” social group that is capable of producing alli- ances and then assuming control and direction of civil society (Fontana 2002. Fontana 2002. 371–2). how these two aspects are played out to produce a hegemonic situation that is ethico-political remains difficult to pin down. 148) argues.” From dialectic to the ethico-political Consensus and coercion have become axioms of contemporary understandings of hegemony (see Sassoon 2000. so much so that it unifies the collection of thoughts that form the theory of hegemony. while Hegel (1967. this marks the moment of a “crisis of authority” (Gramsci 1971. 35–60. content and form. In this context. As Bobbio (cited in Finocchiaro 1988. the nature of hegemony emphasizes the rejection of a speculative approach because the dialectic of knowledge engages knowledge as practice to produce self-knowledge. 48). which can then become an active element of progressive . the dialectic represents a central theme of the whole structure of the Prison Notebooks. to begin to understand this operation the concept of dialectic is crucial. Bobbio goes on to argue that. What becomes evident even in this simplified. Instead. 28–9). Norval. and Stavrakakis 2000) within a broader progressive “social logic. 376–7) pushes the social logic of the dialectic beyond Croce’s (see 1921. the logic of the Gramscian dialectic presents as a scenario where consensus and coercion will always operate together through leadership (Sassoon 2000. where the balance between coercion and consensus leans toward coer- cion. However. superstructure and structure. However. 70). Rather. emphasizes the importance of applying it to the historical reality of everyday life. 48. Further. From ethico-political hegemony to post-Marxism  169 simply emphasize hegemony as a static form of domination based on coercion over consensus. following Marx. 29). the dialectical operation in hegemony is always based on the historical and contingent nature of social groups operating within the shifting balance between consensus and coercion. syncretic scenario is that consensus and coercion do not operate in a straightforward unilinear or unilateral movement to produce synthesis. In the Prison Notebooks Gramsci’s articulation of the dialectic is based on its appropriation from the Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis model (see Gramsci 1995. 34–5) applied it at the level of idea- tion. Gramsci. the dialectic has not received the attention its importance demands. the dialectic is invested with social logic. Laclau 2000. Gramsci (1995. 276) and opens up the possibility for critique and struggle by subaltern groups to ensure that their particular interests will be addressed (Laclau 2000.

176).” In it he argued. Hegemonic logic then always aspires toward the achievement of an ethico- political or social logic which. or moral and intellectual reality. 179–80). create the “hegemony of the proletariat” rather than a dictatorship as Lenin did. 219–20). incorporates not just the synthetic organi- zation of the economic and political blocs with the social bloc to produce the historical bloc but. the ethico-political historical bloc allows Gramsci to incorporate moral and intellectual leadership in the synergy of structural (that is. through the dialectic. in turn. This is precisely the moment when. the dialectic produces a social logic that rejects the apri- orism of speculative knowledge and the determinism of the politico-economic over the moral and intellectual. expresses an interest in trying to understand the influence that Ricardo’s economic theory played in the dialectic of historical materialism. In this way. Gramsci (1973. Instead. the “historical bloc” emerges (Gramsci 1971. among other things. knowledge and. one that is premised on the “dialectic between the intellectuals and mass” (Gramsci 1973. It also represents the synthesis of social. Key to such an endeavor is the imperative to go beyond the specificity of Ricardo’s theory of value so as to iden- tify its “synthetic (that is. the idea of “popular” is key here because through it Gramsci eschews the idea that a single dominative identity or speculative philosophy can act as the aprioristic determinant of hegemony. or moral and intellectual knowledge and practice with political and economic knowledge and practice. 334). 448) began to articulate the importance of ethico-political for hegemony in his essay “Some Aspects of the Southern Question. However. 366) and consensus supersedes coer- cion to produce an ethico-political hegemonic situation (see Gramsci 1985. most important. 125–33). this ethico-political historical bloc enables Gramsci (1985. Further. most important. social or moral and intellectual) aspects of hegemony (Adamson 1980. both are never privileged over the social. For Gramsci. the crucial aspiration of the hegemonic dialectic for Gramsci is to free the national-popular from an articulation based on an aprioristic specula- tive epistemology and a dogmatic politico-economic determinism. self-knowledge are not simply about the phenomenology of “distincts” but engagement with a dialectic that produces an ethico-political epistemology the emphasis of which is hegemony in which politics is never privileged over economics and further. This becomes evident in a letter written to Tatiana Schucht on 30 May 1932 where Gramsci (1988. understood in its broadest sense (Gramsci 1971. 206–12) to set a new “popular” and “national” character-imperative to hegemony. in so doing. This shift began a real attempt to engage the dialectic and an ethico-political historical bloc . Therefore. 106) that is representative of the highest synthesis in the political relations of force (Gramsci 1996. hegemonic logic is always social logic and thereby drawn from the culture and its people. bound up with the intuition of the world and the manner of thinking)” contribution and not merely its “analytical (in relation to a particular doctrine. In this way.170  Richard Howson critique (Gramsci 1973. economic and political) and superstructural (that is. that the project of the Northern proletariat must incorpo- rate recognition of the Southern peasant’s interests and. 370–1). however fundamental)” objective. having already written the great bulk of the notebooks.

Specifically. On the other hand. From ethico-political as aspirational hegemony to post-Marxism The theory of hegemony as shown in the above discussion on its dialectic and ethico-political aspects indicates the unorthodox approach Gramsci took to the concept of hegemony (see also Sassoon 2000. 185–95). 45). an ethico-political hegemonic situa- tion is always grounded in unstable equilibria. 341–3). historical bloc. Hegemony that is ethico-political must transcend reformism produced from the revolution-restoration process. The conse- quence of these radical displacements is that knowledge and self-knowledge. Failure to recognize this instability leads to crisis that. is a synthetic construction that incorporates leadership as the symbolic representative of the mass which represents the plurality of interests played out across the social. ethico-political. in other words. From ethico-political hegemony to post-Marxism  171 within a nascent theory of hegemony. Overcoming the determinism of structure and moving to the overdeterminism of the dialectic and an ethico-political hegemonic situation occurs through “catharsis” or the moment of “the superior elaboration of the structure into superstructure in the minds of men” (Gramsci 1971.” Gramsci (1971. and national-popular. hegemony as representative of an ethico-political histor- ical bloc produces a national-popular consciousness that. He then argued that ideology has a broad material nature that undermines its epiphe- nomenalistic nature. 29–31) that constrains the superstructures to structure and civil society to political society. where it fails to express an overdetermination. it produces the undia- lectic “passive revolution. It must go beyond the simple recognition of inter- ests already in existence while overlooking those continuously being activated from within civil society. 181–2). are grounded within the social (see Gramsci 1971. but proceeds to actively . where hegemony fails to achieve ethico-political unity or. in the final analysis. in the final analysis.” the consequence of which is “revolution-restoration” (see Gramsci 1995. the group and the individual. 111) who in turn recognize its concep- tual roots in psychoanalysis (see Freud 1974) and later appropriation by Althusser (1969). 366). In other words. the theory of hegemony as it developed in prison incorporates concepts such as dialectic. Throughout the Prison Notebooks and in particular the essay “Analysis of Situations: Relations of Force. 97. First. In other words. Gramsci set aside the idea that the superstructure is simply determined by the base. This results in the entrenching of a “dominative hegemony” (Howson 2005. 31–2) as the expression of an ethico-political hegemonic situation achieved by moral and intellectual leadership directing a progressive organic revolution capable of putting into place unstable equilibria. 175–85) further elaborated this position by effectively displacing three founda- tional Marxist tenets centered on the base/superstructure model. The cathartic moment produces “aspira- tional hegemony” (Howson 2005. The third and key displacement involved the setting aside of all reductionistic interpretations of ideology (Mouffe 1979. alters the nature of hegemony by imposing regression within a restorative cycle (Gramsci 1971. 360) in a way that enables a resonance with the concept of “overdetermination” as employed by Laclau and Mouffe (1985.

and most important. What is important about these brief points abstracted from the corpus of Geras’s critique is that while they imply the speculative. the political discourse analyses of Laclau (1996. 1) that extends and elaborates hegemony in a way that gives a new recognition to the current pluralism that marks Western liberal democracies. therefore. 393) spontaneism through a dictatorship of class. that there are structural tendencies toward the unifica- tion of the working class and that this class has a privileged connection with the struggle for socialism. Thus. Laclau 1996. the ethico-political as hegemonic enables post-Marxism to develop a universality that goes beyond the pluralism of iden- tity politics and thereby eschew the inevitable consequences of its corporatism . 2000). determinism and apriorism are rejected if hegemony is to reach its highest synthesis. Its critical moments may be summarized around Luxemburg’s (1970. As Norman Geras (1987. From this point. post-Marxism continues to develop the operation of consensus and coercion in a way that does not completely negate them. in turn. for Gramsci hegemony could never be understood outside of a social logic that is always informed by history. and nonhistorical nature of post-Marxist ideas. ix) point out. but neither does it construct them as independent or as dichotomized. or an aspirational aspect based on consent. and more recently. the post- Marxism of Laclau and Mouffe (1985). In this approach. it is the theory and method employed by the post-Marxist project to advance contemporary politics that critics read as a wholesale rejection of the Marxist doctrine and. Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and the significance of the ethico-political. though.172  Richard Howson subvert their original meanings by challenging the conceptual boundaries of each so as to make them more relevant to what he saw as changing circumstances. Today this project represents a well-established theoretical position (Sim 2000. the contradictory class positions in Wright’s analytical Marxist approach. However. Kautsky’s (1964) social democracy. and provided through moral and intellectual leadership. and Stavrakakis 2000) in which equivalential logics are further explored and developed. This negation of determinism and apriorism in the theory of hegemony is taken up by the post-Marxist project. which. antimat- erialist. Frankel 1997). This is because the ethico-political sits central to a post-Marxist social logic where the emphasis is on recognizing and analyzing the plurality of antagonisms within the social and developing them in such a way as to promote a progressive organic movement. 43–4) puts it. reflected either a dominative aspect expressed as power over. as achieving only the status of speculative philosophy (see Geras 1987. This movement is based on the sense of equivalence that exists between antagonisms (see Laclau and Mouffe 1985. it is the theory of hegemony and the significant expansion of new concepts put forward by Gramsci that repre- sent the starting point for their post-Marxist project. the impetus to challenge such determinism and apriorism has always been an active part of Marxism (Sim 2000). The consequence is that hegemony could no longer be interpreted as a static moment but a complex process premised on a social logic. as Laclau and Mouffe (1985. Norval. 2000) and others (see Howarth. that politics is secondary and ideology epiphenomenal- istic. that the base has explanatory primacy. post-Marxism rejects standard Marxist positions such as that structural class position is the historical determiner of social and political identities. In effect. However.

it can never be determined aprioristically. A particularly important example of an antagonism that failed to find and articulate equivalence is second-wave femi- nism. to develop a progressive organic strategy. among others. or indigenous people) that does not make some appeal to the discourse and principles of self-determination in the construction of its identity. Identity politics can also be understood as “pure particularism” (Laclau 1996. if it is possible to imagine a situation where. but at the same time remain identified to their own interests. a particular antagonism is always a contingent construction emerging from its supplemental relation to the system. This is precisely the central aspiration in Farley’s argument for a National Strategic Alliance: to develop in each antagonism an “equivalential” status that. middle-class. In fact. post-Marxism emphasizes that it is not enough to simply recognize the existence. What is overlooked in this . Butler 1984). heterosexual. of these excluded antagonisms because what is crucial for the achievement of social justice in the contemporary situation is to articulate these antagonisms through logics capable of reconfiguring their identity so that they express a sense of equivalence. From ethico-political hegemony to post-Marxism  173 and reformism (Wenman 2003. or even alliance. There can be no particular antagonism (for example. through equivalential logic. 25–7). 60–8. First. desires. As a conse- quence. in turn. Second. it takes its starting point as the challenge to the oppression of democracy under neoliberalism and the concomitant negation of antagonisms. more specifically. this relationality is regulated by ideologically constructed principles organized into discourses that transcend any and all antagonisms – for example. makes profoundly problematic the achievement of equiva- lence. particular antagonisms emerge and interact agonistically. post-Marxism ensures a rejection of the individualism and corporativism that are inherent to contemporary identity politics. The logic through which this operates is referred to by Laclau and Mouffe (1985) as equivalential and its product as a “chain of equivalences. 57–8). Thus difference as expressed in hegemony exists always already with an equivalential. then the implication is that there is only recog- nition of the differential and relational aspect of each antagonism to the system. In all complex societies. Further. universalizing social logic. Anglo women (see hooks 2005. feminism today operates as a social and political antagonism that strug- gles with. emancipation for white. Further. Laclau offers two reasons for the post-Marxist rejection of pure particu- larism that highlights this self-defeating impulse. in turn. elaborates consensus and coercion into a new ethico-political dialectic where the various antagonisms are able to assume a collec- tive and collaborative unity. Therefore. and aspirations (Laclau 2000. in the first instance. 26). which. which in turn simply reproduces the status quo (26–7). Post-Marxism offers an important elaboration of the ethico-political aspect of hegemony. it developed into a form of identity politics that emphasized the woman question and. itself. Specifically.” This movement toward equivalence is politico-social and effectively undermines the critique of post-Marxism as speculative and nonpo- litical. While it represented one of the most significant antagonisms to emerge in the postwar period. pure particularism has a resonance with Gramsci’s critique of Croce’s dialectic of distincts in that both lead to a politics that is ultimately self- defeating. the discourse that articulates the right to self-determination (see Laclau 1996. environmentalist. 302). in Farley’s National Strategic Alliance of farmer.

174  Richard Howson initial moment is that difference in hegemony is always based on power (qualified by the balance between coercion and consensus) so that by projecting antagonism as “mere particularity. but rather. It must alter the identity of each antagonism. 301–3) of this chaining process occurs through the development of the “general equivalent. The consequence is the exclusion of one group – say. In much the same way. 23) of the dominative hegemonic system and the interests of an aspirational antisystem chain. In order for equivalential logic to chain antagonism effectively. Following Laclau’s logic. It is impossible for antagonism and. creating a sense of collective will while maintaining the interests of individual groups. However. discourse in the post-Marxist project is not understood simply in specu- lative and symbolic terms. From equivalence to the “general equivalent” A key elaboration by Laclau (2000. worse.” an important consequence of which is that it develops within the post-Marxist project a sense of universality or collective will that is organized under a leadership group as the symbolic repre- sentative of the chain. to acquire meaning. 82–4) or praxis. more important. acts to negate antagonism (Laclau and Mouffe 1985. it remains prima facie a positive differentiation because indig- enous people may well understand wealth in terms of spirituality and access to land. for example. this situation may well represent subordination of the latter to the former – certainly in terms of the capitalistic accumulation of wealth. there is created the potential for equivalence. these principles are systematically being ignored. power expressed as the oppressive potential of economic corporativism is overlooked in the differential relationality between Northern proletariat and Southern peasant in Gramsci’s Italian context. but rather. In the relation between farmer and indigenous people. too. However.” the nature and operation of power are ignored or. but more. Thus. through its synthetic application to the construction of power in concrete practices (82). oppression. Therefore. this situation does not produce oppression and antagonism but. in fact. coherence. antagonism produced through a discur- sive subversion does not develop simply on the basis of knowledge as an analytic mechanism. The positive subordinate differentiation between dominant and subordinate groups is now subverted. the movement to equivalence. understood by the subordinate group. which is always already part of a hegemonic situation. 153–4). and legitimacy from some point outside discourse. The conceptual importance of the frontier is that. Discourse becomes key to the chaining of equivalences because through it a subordinate actor is able to articulate antagonism but so. it must produce more than simply a system of alliances between differentially related identities. without it operating as a delineative marker between opposing demands and . the general equivalent begins at the “frontier” (302) or the space that exists between the “hegemonic principles” (see Howson 2005. The positivity of this situation will remain so long as there is not a discourse whose principles influ- ence the identities of both the dominant and the subordinate actors. making the dominant group’s activity. the indigenous people – from access to the full realization of the principles set out in the discourse. taken for granted. as a mechanism that enables the dialectical construction of the symbolic with the practical into a new synthetic totality (Laclau and Mouffe 1987.

From ethico-political hegemony to post-Marxism  175 interests. the post-Marxist project seeks to develop in all antagonisms recog- nition of their position and operation. it seeks to develop recognition of the existence of all antagonisms as legitimate. negated by the general equivalent because this would undermine the ethico-polit- ical nature of its existence and aspiration – that is. in situations where the frontier becomes more obvious. there is always the possibility that antisystem interests will be unevenly imbricated upon the dominative hegemonic principles. Further. More so. the number and nature of antisystem antagonisms increase and become more diverse. it cannot appear aprioristically and impose itself as the determining logos. This development brings into play a hegemonic social logic that moves beyond contemporary identity politics and highlights its inability to develop a sense that a particular antagonism shares with all other antagonisms an incomplete status. the attachment of the general equivalent to its own corporatist interests is transformed so as to enable the broad diversity of interests to become part of its own identity (304). 287) self-determination with its own interests. the leadership of the general equivalent is always based on the logic of equivalence. farmers. the chain of equivalences cannot display its presence simply through the “incidental substitutability” of each antag- onism. Crucially. and environmental- ists share a distance between their own interests and the universalizing princi- ples that enable self-determination. It must produce a “general equivalent” that can “crystallise symbolically and practically” the universality of antisystem identities and represent the chain as a whole in the face of system demands (304). the general equivalent assumes a position of unstable and incomplete achievement of ethico-political action within hegemony. For example. the general equivalent must not attempt to universalize its interests as the preexisting. because the internal logic of equivalence demands the expres- sion of both the particular and the universal. The moment that one particularity attempts to “radically invest” (Laclau 2004. 15). As a result. transcendent determiner of the ethical to which people accede (Zerilli 1998. In this context. In this context. Rather. This logic operates in the service of a dominative hegemonic system to obfuscate the frontier and undermine the potential for movement to an equiva- lential logic. . indigenous people. However. Further. as the chain of equivalence becomes more complex. worse. as well as that of the other in the polity. Thus. the activities of the dominant group to protect the system by protecting its own hegemonic principles are also made clearer. ossifying logic of difference to a logic of equivalence that is ethico-political and aspirational. 77). antisystem activity can never be completely subsumed into or. thus enabling hegemony to move from the constraints of a regressive. Such an equivalent can only emerge from within the hegemony or chain of equivalence and its underlying equivalential logic. equivalence through plurality. This results in the blurring of antisystem interests and leads to what Gramsci referred to as the enervation of the antithesis. which for Laclau (304–5) is expressed in the activation of a logic of difference. the result can only be alliance without the equivalential logic necessary to alter antagonism and produce equivalence. In this way. which dissolves the hierarchization of antagonism and emphasizes the potential of all particular antagonisms to be equivalent symbols of struggle (Mouffe 1993. though.

there can be no equivalential logic and no challenge – only logics of difference. the theory and practice of addressing particularity and the tensions they produce is not some ill-conceived speculative adventure embarked upon by post- Marxists. is not simply to describe these differences and tensions but to find strategies or wars of position that will enable these antagonisms to coexist and challenge the system in an organic movement. for the post-Marxist project the first step is to recognize antagonism because. The task. but a very real issue for people located very much in the concrete world. Further. in other words. of course. and ultimately. obfuscation.176  Richard Howson Conclusion This chapter has shown how Gramsci’s dialectic and conception of the ethico- political nature of hegemony influence the way we can understand the post- Marxist project. Beginning this chapter with a very real situation and aspiration shows that the proliferation of antagonisms does exist and does produce new tensions. without the enabling of antagonism in hegemony. this understanding makes problematic the interpretation of post-Marxism as a speculative project that is ineffective in producing a politics capable of change. More specifically. . Thus. domination. it is evident that the aspiration or.

Part III Political philosophy .


16). as in Perry Anderson’s general approach. Anderson stresses that “Western Marxism” tragically shifted its focus from concrete revolutionary politics and economics to a “revival of philosophical discourse proper. is to miss a profoundly important component of Gramsci’s contributions to Marxism: precisely the complex. Here they become more than Gramsci intended and more than his remarks can warrant. to ignore. Wolff The interpretation of Gramsci offered here may invite a criticism that I would like to anticipate.” or that I have imposed an epistemological position on Gramsci’s rather more dispersed arguments. itself centred on questions of method – that is. and philosophy Richard D. Indeed. He understood it to be precisely a completely political and urgently needed intervention in the class struggle. the same applies to the philosophical and epistemological writ- ings of other Marxists. on the one hand. downplay. It may be said that I have given more precise shape and purpose to Gramsci’s work in philosophy and epistemology than “it really displays. 85–238) or by the latter in his two volumes (on Hegel and Marx) entitled The Ontology of social Being (Lukács 1978. no finished. Marxism. They comprise minor points within strategic debates in which Gramsci took contentious positions. This opposing of “epistemological versus substantive” theory demonstrates that disregard and denigration of epistemological inquiry which Gramsci opposed. Indeed. Yet how many Marxists and non-Marxists have studied Lenin and Lukács while missing the distinctive epistemological positions argued by the former in his “Conspectus on Hegel’s Logic” (Lenin 1972b. Gramsci’s explorations in philosophy were fragmentary. technical sense this criticism is partly valid. In a narrow. on the other. mutual interac- tion between philosophy and epistemology. it may be argued. Gramsci did philosophize in some sense “incidentally” to his strategic concerns as a Marxist leader. that does not justify taking Gramsci’s epistemological comments less seriously than anything else he wrote.13 Gramsci. However. or dismiss the philosophy and epistemology. Gramsci’s formu- lations changed with the ebb and flow of rapidly altering political conditions. 1–68)?1 . and largely incidental to specific criticisms of specific political tendencies in Italian and European Marxism. crafted monograph on philosophy or epistemology ever appeared (Buttigieg 1987. more episte- mological than substantive in character” (Anderson 1983. 3–6). and politics and economics.

However. The issue was. certain philosoph- ical and epistemological themes running from Marx through Lenin and Lukács to Gramsci. Broadly speaking. 464)2 The second problem which has provoked Marxists to undertake systematic epistemological reflections concerns the positions promoted by leading bourgeois . epistemological standpoint. Gramsci opted for the latter by insisting that Marxist theory is an integral and original philosophy which opens up a new phase of history and a new phase in the development of world thought … [and] goes beyond both traditional idealism and traditional materialism … while retaining their vital elements. (Gramsci 1971. Their various ways of thinking about the world. In short. specifically Marxist. In recapitulating those contributions I admit having incorporated. most Marxist philosophers. and truth. and so on. the Marxist tradition has included people deeply committed to the practice of philosophy. largely implicitly. science. To alter such ways of thinking has required a theory of how and why they become established in people’s minds and how they change. a cause that has attracted significant tenden- cies within Marxism for a long time. writers. and often the greatest such as Gramsci. what epistemological position is appropriate for Marxism? The choice was between a variant of the conventional options dominant in Western society for centuries – empiricism (or positivism) and rationalism – and some alternative. their structures of common sense have often made them impervious and/or hostile to the persuasive strategies of Marxist organizations. (Gramsci 1971. this reading of Gramsci permits me to organize and situate his contributions within that complex web of prior Marxist philosophy which opposed the dangerous splitting off of philosophy and epistemology from social theory. From Marx through the present. university professors. 435) Its originality lies not only in its transcending of previous philosophies but also and above all in that it opens up a completely new road. Gramsci made major contributions to the cause of integrating philosophy and practical revolutionary politics. have been more practically oriented in their daily lives. Thus. and so forth. Wolff It is partly as a result of a long tradition of disinterest in or ignorance of major Marxist statements on epistemology that Gramsci’s contributions to a distinctive Marxist position in philosophy have been so widely missed. Such theories necessarily presuppose epistemolog- ical positions – notions or working definitions of perception. Marxists have had to develop theories of ideology. two kinds of concrete problems have provoked philosophical position-taking by Marxists. knowledge. Some of these Marxists have been professional philosophers – schoolteachers.180  Richard D. renewing from head to toe the whole way of conceiving philosophy itself. consciousness. They turned to philosophy when concrete problems of socialist transformation also demanded philosophical rethinking for their resolution. their religions. The first problem has concerned the philosophies of the masses.

Gramsci. Those epistemological positions were thus theoretical . 170–1). He also believed that Marxists had largely failed – with some impor- tant but neglected exceptions – to construct such an epistemological position. It has become necessary to respond to their episte- mological positions too. into the discard bin of falsehoods. It holds that there exists an objective reality. Hindess 1977. ethics. and rationalism as epistemolo- gies that provided important conditions of existence for capitalism by dismissing the claims of Marxism. One epistemological position has been prevalent not only in bourgeois society but also within Marxism (Rorty 1979. and so on.” This reality presents itself to all human brains as a complexity of which the essential structure and dynamic. Gramsci aimed to undercut the hegemony of bourgeois social institutions and the theoretical conceptions which both sustained and were sustained by them. the truth is found through the sifting of empirical data which will reveal the regularities and relationships comprising the underlying structure and dynamic of the world. Not only has it been necessary to counterpose Marxist arguments to the arguments of those bourgeois philosophers in the realms of social theory. Gramsci 1971. To progress toward this one truth. For them. are accessible if certain protocols (“scientific methods”) of knowing are strictly followed. Other Marxists embrace instead rationalist epistemology and its protocols. Diskin 1988). for example. the truth is found in deducing logically the relationships implied necessarily by the fundamental. is presumed to be the goal of all reasonable people. which is as singular as the objective reality of which it is the truth. its truth. 435–45. Gramsci and Marxism’s prevalent epistemologies Gramsci is among those Marxists who rejected these epistemological positions as incompatible with their understanding of Marxism. Marxism and philosophy  181 philosophers. positivism. For them. the individual.4 His grounds for this rejec- tion were several. axiomatic structure of the world. This had risked the success of its revolutionary projects every bit as much as the uncritical acceptance of bourgeois concepts of. Marxists comfortable with this epistemological position disagree only on which precise scientific protocols will produce progress toward this truth and which other proto- cols will deflect us into error.3 Instead they had relied on the prevalent bourgeois epistemologies absorbed more or less uncritically into the Marxist tradition. the state. and equality would have done (Gramsci 1971. a singular world “out there. Lecourt 1975. He saw empiricism. Some Marxists are enthusiasts of the particular protocols of empiricism and positivism. He thus understood that the Marxist tradition required a counter-hegemonic philos- ophy of knowledge and truth – an epistemological position – as urgently as any of the other components of a successful strategy for social revolution (Annunziato 1988. aesthetics. 162). The reason for this has been the prevalent commitment of bourgeois epistemologists to concepts of knowledge and truth which logically consigned Marxist arguments. among others. This underlying structure of the world is accessible to human beings through the most rigorous application of reason to ascertaining the presumed logic of life.

This is the issue for Gramsci. Wolff obstacles to the hegemonic project of Marxism. ideologies comprise world- views. all shared the features against which Gramsci focused his theoretical resources. social consequences. one concept . What concerns him is which ideology holds sway or reigns hegemonic and with what precise political and. Their presence within Marxist thinking also undermined its chances of political success by substituting “objec- tive” and statistical laws of society for the power of active mass political initia- tives (Gramsci 1971. more broadly.182  Richard D. The prevalent epistemological positions among Marxists were virtually iden- tical to those prevalent among non-Marxists: empiricism. 171 and 428–9). Gramsci argued for a radically different epistemological position because it implied a new conception and appreciation of culture and ideologies (worldviews) among Marxists. What is far less well known is the epistemological dimension of his concern. One might say “ideology” here. positivism. but on condition that the word is used in its highest sense of a conception of the world that is implicitly manifest in art.5 He saw this as vital to the success of Marxism’s hegemonic project: “the theoretical-practical principle of hegemony has also epistemological significance” (1971. in economic activity and in all manifestations of individual and collec- tive life. His aim to reassert dialectics as a unique and specifically Marxist epistemology motivated his critique of Bukharin’s defini- tion of dialectics: But if the question is framed in this way. He understood ideologies as synonymous with the philosophies in and through which people make sense of their environments and themselves. His interest in epistemologies – which are always components of ideologies – resulted from his recognition of their different consequences in and for the capitalist society his Marxism sought to transform. He is not much interested in “scholastic dispu- tations on the truth or accuracy” of this or that ideology. Ideologies differ in the support they provide for alternative forms of social organization. daily formulations of citizens. in law. which is relegated from its position as a doctrine of knowledge and the very marrow of historiography and the science of politics. 435) As is well known. (Gramsci 1971. For Gramsci. Despite their differences. understood as a particular epistemological position. different ideologies cope with life in different ways. Gramsci was explicitly concerned to rescue dialectics. they are a means of actively coping with life. from what most Marxists had reduced it to – a kind of formalistic logic. (Gramsci 1971. More to the point. All hold that the truth is singular. one can no longer understand the importance and significance of the dialectic. to the level of a sub-species of formal logic and elementary scholastics. and ration- alism. 328) Whether elaborated in the formal systems of professionals or articulated in the common sense. Gramsci concentrated much attention on the difficult issues of ideology. 365).

Gramsci understood clearly that in modern capitalist soci- eties. Given the availability of truth – or a closest possible approximation to it – through the particular epistemological protocol preferred. Hence Gramsci concluded that the active critique of those epistemological positions was a necessary task for Marxists. even if the man who shares it is indif- ferent to religion. 445) An implication of the view of truth as singular is the corresponding designation of alternative worldviews as false. Gramsci rejected these affirmations of the external world’s objectivity as secular residues of an old religious viewpoint: In fact the belief is of religious origin. it becomes a kind of pathology for any person to affirm any of the alternatives. This truth is then no longer merely one among alternative modes of coping with life. . those epistemological positions could provide conditions for the social prevalence – hegemony – of bourgeois individualism as against Marxism. and/or rationalism as Marxist or at least compatible with Marxism. (Gramsci 1971. as the means to arrive at the truth. (Gramsci 1971.” Their varying protocols are all justified in the same manner. Speaking of the “sterilization of Marx’s doctrines by the positivist socialists” (Buttigieg 1987. Instead the true worldview is counterposed to the others which are correspondingly designated as false. and/or ration- alism with individualist social theories enabled the elevation of the latter to the status of “the truth” while denigrating Marxism to the status of falsehood and perversity. has found that this is the truth. positivism. The latter are then either disdained as superstitions of the ignorant or persecuted as the perversities of the evil-intentioned. In short. science. the prevalent anti-Marxist ideologies would find an important support in such epistemologies.” “objectively. Marxism and philosophy  183 or set of concepts which is most in conformity with how the singular world out there “really is. 441) It can indeed be maintained that here we are dealing with a hangover of the concept of God. the “scientific” approach. For Gramsci this represented the theoretical fifth column inside Marxism. Revelation or its modernized form. and the truth. Hence holding alternative views is proof of ulterior motives extraneous and hostile to the community of those committed to science. precisely in its mystic form of a conception of an unknown God. The combination of empiricism. positivism. reason. 21–2). a major obstacle to achieving that development of Marxist social theory which he saw as a condition of existence for social revolution. Gramsci. especially since he found that most of them had uncritically adopted forms of empiricism. That prevalence was in turn a condition of existence for the hegemony of the capitalist class structure within the social formation. Epistemological positions which share this view of truth’s singularity serve nicely to elevate one – the true one – of the several worldviews in any society to an exalted status.

The connecting link was his own specific formulation of a distinctly Marxist epistemological position. Gramsci’s epistemology requires not only the recognition of alternative view- points but the constant examination of them. Whichever theory has the extra-theoretical resources and supports to gain the upper hand in these debates seeks to vanquish and eliminate the others through denunciation of their supporters’ perversity or ulterior motivations in hewing to “proven error. that is to say a dogmatic system of eternal and absolute truths” (Gramsci 1971. Marxism degenerates into the flat uniformity of intoning one position. singular. Each worldview includes its own standards for the acceptance or rejection of propositions and claims about the world: its criteria of truth. It follows for Gramsci that the drive to make the truth standard of one world- view governs all other and opposed worldviews is a dogmatic aggression against them. Gramsci recognized his own as one such apprehension. The multiplicity of worldviews implies the multi- plicity of truths. positivist. Dogmatism is supported and encouraged by any epistemological position with such absolute claims for the standing of its particular propositions. right versus wrong. Wolff Epistemology and dogmatism In addition to attacking the epistemological positions that were prevalent inside and outside the Marxist tradition as a strategic urgency in the class struggle. “his” world (1971. It follows for Gramsci that the search for the true worldview makes no sense. The debates about alternative theories within the Marxist tradition are shut off as theorists declaim against each other in terms of truth versus falsity. Their differences include the irreducibly different truth standards they erect and honor. Gramsci argues. This degeneration into dogmatism represents a great danger to Marxism’s vitality in Gramsci’s view. No overarching. not singular as in the epistemological positions Gramsci opposes. This comprises a distinctively Marxist epis- temological standpoint. He seeks to contribute to the internal renewal of Marxism by exposing the epistemological roots of dogmatism and by proposing an alternative Marxist epistemological position which would undercut dogmatisms of all kinds. accuracy versus error. They represent active social forces within the world as Gramsci sees it. . dogmatism is sustained by the prevalence of empiricist. and/or rationalist epistemological positions. Gramsci’s attack on the notion that there is “one real world” led him to recog- nize the many ways in which “the world” is seen and apprehended. It aims to sweep them into the category of error and falsehood by subjecting their substantive propositions to a truth standard erected by a different and opposing worldview. Such a posi- tion influences Marxism “to become an ideology in the worst sense of the word.6 Gramsci connected his critique of bourgeois epistemologies to his attack on dogmatism. Truths are plural. His commitment to Marxism imposes on him the investigation of the ever-changing alternative worldviews in the societies he seeks to understand and change.” Instead of the ebb and flow of contestation among the ever-changing theoretical formulations juxtaposing their conceptualizations of their worlds. Gramsci also did so because of his deep antagonism toward dogmatism. Within Marxism. “the world” exists in the irreducible multiplicity of its apprehensions.184  Richard D. 406–7). universally accepted standard of truth reigns over all worldviews. 446).

The need for debate among worldviews lies in Marxism’s need to confront critically all other theories to identify whether and how it can appropriate and reconceptualize certain of their truths while rejecting and opposing others. The historical dialectic is replaced by the law of causality and the search for regularity. reciprocity. the effect can never transcend the cause or the system of causes. and therefore can have no development other than the flat vulgar development of evolutionism. multifaceted relations between persons and events in history. normality and uniformity. However. when Marxists join anti-Marxists in espousing epistemological views which divide theories between the true and false. and the ensemble of relations The general approach of most non-Marxists as well as Marxist thinkers to causality excited Gramsci’s intense criticism as much as the prevalent epistemologies did. Dogmatism risks losing for Marxism the insights obtainable from some alterna- tive theories and thereby weakening Marxism. Marxism and philosophy  185 Gramsci’s Marxist theory is itself partial and relative. The separation of events in time and place into causes and their effects struck him as unacceptably one-sided. Gramsci. Dogmatism and its epistemological supports within the Marxist tradition also play disastrously into the hands of dogmatism among the anti-Marxists. Thus. they also need to be supplemented by the partial insights gained in and through alterna- tive theories. and Lenin. Engels. and contrary to what he read and approved of in Marx. they inadvertently buttress an either/or mentality which is far more likely to view them as the false than to view bourgeois theories that way. the “overthrow” of praxis? In mechanical terms. the resources available to anti-Marxists to purvey their dogma- tism far exceed the resources of Marxists to purvey theirs. 366 and 352). He insisted on a many-sided approach to what he presumed to be the complex. Causality. He viewed as a distortion the reduction of these relations into sets of cause and effect dichotomies. its truths can and need to be asserted against those theories that would deny or dismiss them. But how can one derive from this way of seeing things the overcoming.” (Gramsci 1971. One could reconstruct the history of the problem of the single ultimate cause and demonstrate that it is one manifestation of the “search for God. The chances for Marxist theories to be given a serious hearing and to exercise desirable social effects would be far greater if a Gramscian epistemological posi- tion could be advanced rather than the absolutist and dogmatic epistemological positions against which he polemicized. narrow. a tendency he repeatedly linked to European reli- gious traditions. At least in the capitalist countries. In . 437)7 The key terms for conveying his alternative to cause and effect logics were “reciprocity” and “ensemble of relations” (Gramsci 1971. It is in that sense that he advanced his epistemological arguments as a way to defend against dogmatism and defeat within Marxist ranks.

Rather.8 Gramsci’s critique of cause and effect logic applies not only in the field of social theory. Gramsci’s chief example of the sort of cause and effect analysis he opposed was economic determinism or what he often referred to as economism. utopian yearnings. Gramsci’s arguments about reciprocity and the ensemble of relations approach the notion of a distinctive Marxist epistemology different than and opposed to both empiricism (and positivism) and rationalism. He attacked those theories within the Marxist tradition that held the economy as a whole or some economic aspect such as class to be the cause or determinant of the rest of society. Knowledge is likewise caused by all the processes of the mind: logical reflections. To understand any event means to grasp how it occurs as the effect of all the other events in its environment and how it is simultaneously a contributing cause of all of them. In simplest terms. in the manner of empiricism. Considering knowledge as a cause. unconscious meaning systems. Considering knowledge as an effect. it applies as well to epistemological matters. as in empiricism. it follows that broadly different subsets of events within an environment – different subsets of sensory stimuli and modes of reasoning – can and do engender different knowledges and truths. in various ways by all the data pouring into all the senses: both those which the analyst can recognize and measure and those which are ignored. Knowledge is not the effect of an ultimate cause: neither reason nor factuality. Marxist analysis must be. In such a notion – developed by other Marxists before and after Gramsci – formulations of proposi- tions in knowledge are events functioning simultaneously as causes and effects in a reciprocal ensemble of relations with all the other events in their environment. They must be known genetically. 353). infinitely-sided reciprocity linking and ceaselessly changing all events. Wolff Gramsci’s version of a Marxist worldview. From this standpoint. to mere effects of sensory stimuli. Our various conceptualizations of life cannot be reduced. Through this kind of logic. in the movement of their forma- tion” (Gramsci 1971. flights of fancy. Nor can matters be reversed. its qualities. Gramsci articulated elements of an epistemological position which affirmed . Knowledge and truth can no longer be conceived as caused by empirical factuality acting on brain proc- esses. Marxist analysis is a process of locating any event within the complex ensemble of relations which give it its existence. in the manner of ration- alism. emotional conflicts. the specification of the complex. focused on reciprocity and the ensemble of rela- tions. without incurring Gramsci’s criticism again: truth cannot be understood as the effect uniquely of processes of reasoning. and its meanings. knowledge is caused by all the stimuli in the environment. They are not the effects caused by a singular real world out there having its impact upon us through passive sensory receivers. and so on. “It is not enough to know the ensemble of relations as they exist at any given time as a given system. for Gramsci. it likewise follows that different knowledges contribute to correspondingly different sensory and reasoning events. Gramsci had to reject the designation of events as causes or effects as a logical reduction that was fundamentally unacceptable in principle.186  Richard D. all events occur simultaneously and are universally linked as causes and effects of an infinity of other events. to different paths of social development.

debate. To his way of thinking. In Gramsci’s view. The result. enriching.” He criticized those positions by offering his alternative epistemological position. and criticism. Instead. The first concerned the extent to which Marxists were still committed to pre-Marxist and anti-Marxist philosophical principles. Marxism and philosophy  187 multiple knowledges and their truths reflecting the different ways in which human beings sensed and reasoned in the world. and ration- alism – involved reductions of complex relations into simple and simplistic cause and effect dichotomies. Social life was not viewed as the scene of diverse. Gramsci. The epistemological positions Gramsci attacked had deftly removed theoretical struggle from center stage. He argued that such reductions were neither necessary nor desirable from a philosophical/epistemological standpoint. they had been taken in and had endorsed and reproduced a hostile epistemological position as if it fit unproblematically into Marxism. for Gramsci. A Marxist position in philosophy Gramsci undertook his intense studies of philosophy for the same reasons that had motivated Lenin earlier. Instead. to posit some singular. including sensory reception (the facts) and modes of reasoning. all reasonable people were presumed to be striving in harmony – except for the ulteriorly motivated and perverse – to move along the path of science toward the truth. positivism. He had discovered that his disagreements with other Marxists over strategies and tactics had roots in basic and often unacknowledged philosophical differences. Gramsci problematized philosophical principles of knowledge (i. espe- cially in the theory of knowledge. mechanical singularity of the truth achieved through the scientific method: knowledge as the effect uniquely of empir- icist or rationalist processes. was an unacceptable and politically dangerous blindness to the ways in which all other processes contrib- uted to knowledges and the ways in which knowledges simultaneously shaped all processes. the Marxists had failed to recognize this epistemological ploy as the secularization of the old religious impulse to teleolog- ical order and harmony.e. He challenged his fellow Marxists to worry about the fact that their uncritically absorbed episte- mologies were identical to those of their adversaries in the bourgeois camp. . contradictory worldviews confronting. and changing one another. In seeking to specify the philosophical differences and their relation to matters of Marxist political strategies and tactics. This fit Gramsci aimed to explode. Such a positing reduced the difference and multiplicity of human thought to the flat. over-arching knowledge or truth denied the infinite play of difference in the world as Gramsci understood it. and that this situation cried out for discussion. that his Marxist contemporaries took as somehow “natural” and thus “necessary” and “above matters of political difference. They had likewise failed to see how such an epistemo- logical position prepared the way for the “scientific” exclusion of fundamentally dissenting worldviews such as the Marxist worldview. epistemo- logical positions). Gramsci arrived at two broad conclusions. The second concerned the way in which those commitments undermined the Marxist project for socialist revolution (in part because most Marxists seemed unaware or uncritical of those commitments). He showed how the prevalent epistemological positions – empiricism.

62–106). They provided the concepts needed to make that break for Marxism. Buttigieg. Moreover. Amariglio 1987. Notes 1 A comparable denigration of Mao’s philosophical/epistemological contributions mars Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985. Louis Althusser elabo- rated the logic of Lenin’s. and Gramsci’s critiques of prevalent philosophies and epistemologies within Marxism into an explicit formulation of Marxist causality. 87–128. 161–86. Neither Lenin nor Lukács. Yet. Callari. We can appropriate their “incidental” philosophic remarks because Althusser’s work compels our recognition that they were not inci- dental at all. dialectics. and D. Lukács’s. theoretical zigs and zags. Amariglio. 2 See also Gramsci’s affirmation of the “epistemological value” of Marx’s famous . but they could not quite make it them- selves. Acknowledgments I wish to acknowledge useful criticisms of earlier drafts offered to me by J. positivism. including Gramsci’s. and epistemology (Althusser 1969. this extraction has been premised on the work of a later Marxist philosopher. Wolff Gramsci’s complex critiques of and borrowings from the idealism of Benedetto Croce. the work of Gramsci and those from whom Gramsci drew his inspiration. Gramsci nor Althusser were altogether successful in constructing a unique Marxist philosophy and epistemology. A. 64).188  Richard D. To appreciate Gramsci’s contributions to the development of a contemporary Marxist position in philosophy. Resnick and Wolff 1987. his serious interest in Hegel. These have been discussed in many works on Gramsci (Buttigieg 1987. J. it seemed appropriate to integrate something of the ensemble of the other contributions in relation to which Gramsci’s work takes on its powerful meaning. Ruccio. They took the diffi- cult first steps to break Marxism out of economic determinism and the old episte- mologies of empiricism. Perhaps this generation of Marxists can take the next step: to articulate and use strategically a distinctively Marxist philosophy and epistemology freed from the bourgeois theory out of which it grew and whose hegemony it challenges. Rather they bear a central importance for those aiming to refashion Marxism to meet its tasks in the current historical conjuncture. By making matters explicit around his particular concepts of “overdetermination” and contradiction. while Louis Althusser demonstrates the kind of critical appreciation of Mao which is needed in “On the Materialist Dialectic” (Althusser 1969. Mao’s. Althusser conserved. 1972. Mouffe 1979.9 The broad Marxist tradition has yet to come to terms with Althusser’s devel- opments (including critical departures) of Gramsci’s quest for a specifically Marxist philosophical and epistemological position. My purpose here has been different: to extract one particular line of thought from Gramsci’s complex work. Cammett 1967). Althusser’s contribution has begun to focus our attention upon the dissenting philosophical voices within Marxism. and his critical loyalty to the Marxist tradi- tion produced many hybrid formulations. even as he went another step beyond. 161–218). and rationalism.

18–19). Her concern was not. Thus dogmatism too contains its dialectical moments. 107–8). Jacques Texier.” and he celebrates Lenin and the Bolsheviks for converting their thought “into a meaningful historic force” (Buttigieg 1987. however. 6 In this he was influenced by the similar linkage of epistemological arguments to an attack on dogmatism present in the work of Lenin (1927. 9 Mouffe’s “Hegemony and Ideology in Gramsci” (1979) also emphasized the insights to be obtained through a rereading of Gramsci using Althusserian categories and theo- retical sensibilities. 5 See Gramsci’s approval of Antonio Labriola’s insistence that Marxism is an “inde- pendent and original philosophy” (Gramsci 1971. 407 and 437). Gramsci’s immediate responses to the 1917 revolution in Russia where he attacks the aspect of Marxism that was “contaminated by positivist and natu- ralistic encrustations. Gramsci. 133–7). 4 See. 3 The epistemological positions implicit in Marx and Engels and their relation to those which became dominant among Marxists in the twentieth century are explored in Resnick and Wolff (1987. 336). see also Mouffe (1979. 390). see also Leonardo Paggi’s “Gramsci’s General Theory of Marxism” in Mouffe (1979. 8 See the debates over Gramsci and last instance determinism in the essays by Norberto Bobbio. and Chantal Mouffe (Mouffe 1979). with epistemological issues and positions. See also Gramsci’s criticism of Nikolai Bukharin’s epistemological position as “vulgar materialist” and as “idealism upside down … speculative categories are replaced by empirical concepts and classifications which are no less abstract and anti-historical” (Gramsci 1971. 1–108). Gramsci is even careful not to be dogmatic about dogmatism when he notes how in certain historical moments dogmatic faith can sustain social movements (1971. for example. 428–9 and 170–1). 168–204). . 7 Gramsci’s critique of statistical analysis and prediction develops these ideas further (Gramsci 1971. 465). Marxism and philosophy  189 “Preface” to the Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy (Gramsci 1971.

this dimension has attracted the attention of others. As we know. has been the fact that this concept also functions as a point of connection between the author of the Prison Notebooks and two of the most significant paradigms of modern political philosophy: those of a “general will” and of a “social contract. if at times implicitly. Gramsci set out to explore a fundamental dimension of the historical materialist conception of political praxis that Marx and Engels had not always made evident: the character of political praxis as a privileged sphere of inter- subjective and consensual interaction. I do not approach the matter in the usual manner – that is. such as Hannah Arendt and Jürgen Habermas. however. Less noted. I undertake the different task of showing that. Hegel. but also. with other great names of modern political philosophy – Rousseau and Hegel in particular. In my opinion. 1244). and Gramsci Carlos Nelson Coutinho Translated by Antonio Callari This chapter discusses Gramsci’s relationship to the concept of democracy. who try to address it by means of their respective concepts of “action” and “communica- tive action” (Arendt 1958. Gramsci’s contribution to the theory of democracy is best captured by his concept of hegemony. in his inquiry into democracy and construction of the theory of hegemony.1 Rather. Habermas 1987).” or “the passage from a merely economic (or egoistic-passional) moment to an ethical-political moment” (1975. Gramsci’s more concrete vision in this respect was made possible by his dialogue with not only Marx but also with Rousseau and Hegel. which is indeed a central concept for his whole theoretical system.14 General will and democracy in Rousseau. this dimension – precisely because it was formulated from a historical materialist perspective – received a more concrete (or less utopian) treatment than in the work of Arendt and Habermas.” In this chapter. a passage. The priority of the public A basic thrust of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is captured by the idea that in a hegemonic relation. of public over private interest. that is. or Machiavelli (which is unequivocal). This much has been frequently noted. therefore. In the work of Gramsci. Gramsci defines politics as “catharsis. Gramsci was in dialogue not only with Marx and Lenin. there is always a profession of the priority of a general will over particular wills. however. to the sphere where universal (or universalizing) interest is given a clear priority over . by discussing the specifically Marxist roots of the concept of hegemony.

even if in a still rudimentary way. although called “corporations” by Hegel (using termi- nology of ancien régime derivation). One can notice in Rousseau’s work the presence of a fundamental concept. among others. in different spheres of social being: the “system of needs” in what he calls “economic society. and Gramsci  191 merely singular or corporative interest – where. economic relations) but.” in which Gramsci (1975. evidence of Hegel’s influence in the concepts of a “civil society” and of an “ethical state. distinguished between good and bad forms of government based on whether the ruler was guided by the public interest (the interest of the collectivity) or by his private interests.” Gramsci. the concept of “collective will. 371). this regime belonged to the past and could not possibly exist in the modern world. Montesquieu.” Certainly his concept is different from Hegel’s (to an even greater degree than he himself seems to believe in this note). only a concept of the “will of all” can be found in the liberal tradition. relations of hegemony effectively take place.”2 Even less arbitrary is to propose a link between Gramsci and Hegel. this priority has functioned as a criterion for the analysis of the political sphere for over two thousand years.” and the “administration of justice” and the “police” in “political society” (or the state strictu sensu). In the modern world the question reappears with. different from that frequently used by Marx. again. it also includes other spheres.” This is particularly the case with institutions which. in addition to other themes also present in Rousseau. we can notice the pres- ence of something akin to the concept of a “general will” – precisely. precisely that of a “general will” (volonté générale). Although Rousseau is seldom mentioned in the Notebooks. is alien to the liberal tradition. sometimes unequivocal. One concrete example among others is the note entitled “Hegel and Associationism. General will and democracy in Rousseau. places realms that in Hegel are part of burgerliche Gesellschaft. for instance. for the first time. But it is with Jean-Jacques Rousseau that the ques- tion becomes a focal point of contemporary interest and yields the ultimate criterion for the legitimacy of any sociopolitical order. in turn. In the history of political philosophy. Rousseau defines general will as something distinct from this “will of all. Gramsci’s selective return to . who considers the priority of the public over the private (“virtue”) the “principle of government” upon which the republican regime rests – even if for him. In Hegel. whose thinking. 56–7) expresses. it does not seem arbitrary to me to propose a relationship between him and Gramsci. civil society includes what Marx calls “structure” (that is. whose adequate form of government is instead a consti- tutional. and both their concepts are. as is known. his specific concept of “civil society. a precedence of the public over the private – occupies a central position as well in the political philosophy of Hegel.” the former expressing the public interest and the latter a mere sum of different private interests (1964b. too. that is. depict social structures that are in fact closer to modern trade unions than to medieval institutions. among which are those to which Gramsci refers as “associationism. “moderate” monarchy. which is not to be found in the liberal tradition before or after him. Aristotle. It is precisely this “associa- tionist” moment of Hegelian thought that Gramsci recaptures in his definition of “civil society. in contrast to Marx. whose thought is often discussed in the Notebooks: we can see clear. In Gramsci’s work. Hegel.” frequently used by Gramsci. in turn. I believe that the concept of general will – meaning.

Rousseau clearly anticipates Marx in revealing the class nature of the state. but in contrast to the liberal English philoso- pher who defends this kind of contract. precisely because it only intends to protect interests that are merely private. has the ultimate purpose of guaranteeing private property. For Rousseau.” Rousseau and the general will Starting from a nonliberal position.” Here. and to inequality. or popular sovereignty (three practically synonymous terms for him). although he does not have a precise concept of social class (he writes of “rich” and “poor”). the liberal contract favors owners of property. In the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. as described by John Locke in the Second Treatise of Government. through the spontaneous action of the market. dedicated to the study of a legitimate pact. It seems to me that this new text establishes the “pars construens” of Rousseau’s system that had had in the two Discourses its “pars destruens. Not satisfied with this critique of the economic mythology of liberalism.192  Carlos Nelson Coutinho Hegel thus focuses substantially on the “private apparatuses of hegemony” and constitutes them as the fundamental bases of his specific notion of “civil society. the “invisible hand” in the world of the market leads not to collective welfare but to the unrestrained Hobbesian war of all against all. Rousseau goes on to criticize the political illusions of liberal contract theory. whatever its form of government. the ensuing regime of private property. humans make a contract. a legitimate society. Rousseau tries to demonstrate that the roots of inequality are the division of labor. In the Second Discourse. In fact. Rousseau mercilessly underlines its lack of legitimacy: in truth. a few years after the Discourses he writes his masterpiece On the Social Contract (1964b). Rousseau shows that at a certain moment in their evolution toward civilization. It is obvious. highlighting its cruel contradictions and the stalemates that inevitably drive it to growing inequality and finally to despotism. by contrast. which he calls “société civile. that while he criticizes liberal contractualism. including the state founded by (and based on) a liberal kind of contract. can be legitimate only when grounded on a general will. however. The Genevan thinker is a harsh critic of liberalism. In this sense. the public interest. Rousseau was the first modern thinker to insist on the idea that society. Rousseau does not abandon contract theory. thus strength- ening social inequality and generating the political oppression of the “poor” by the “rich. to alienation. partic- ularly Adam Smith’s rendition of it which professes that the pursuit of private interest leads. but also of the whole liberal tradition of contract theory that begins with Locke.” and in which traces of the emerging mercantile bourgeois order are clearly recognizable. suitable to the potentialities of social . and the conflicts of interest and egoism that the market inevitably produces (1964a. Rousseau severely denounces the mythology of liberal political economy. describing the vicissitudes of the process of socialization. 109–237).” After severely criticizing the “civil society” of his time in these Discourses. the Second Discourse offers a devastating critique not only of bourgeois political economy. Jean-Jacques caustically attacks society based on private property. This contract. to collective welfare. Rousseau proposes another kind of society in the Contract. In the Second Discourse.

Jean-Jacques speaks of a legitimate society. in the Second Discourse. Moreover. Now. 391–2]). and Gramsci  193 man – and it must be emphasized that unlike the liberals. in spite of Rousseau’s extraordinary lucidity and farsightedness. and that in turn legitimates. whoever says contract also says consensus. This contract establishes a “people” as such. “economic-corporative” or “egoistic- passional” interests. ultimately carries within itself the idea of self-government.” says Rousseau – that is. nobody can be so poor as to be forced to sell himself (namely. which it must ultimately repress (men must be “forced to be free. acts according to public interest – which. but the common interest of the collectivity. But it is also fundamental to retain from Rousseau’s work the idea that there are different types of contract: the contract on which democracy is based is not (using Gramsci’s expression) one supported by. not coercion. not only of a legitimate government. and what moves this subject is precisely the general will – not the sum of individual or private interests. the contract proposed by Rousseau. This legitimate order also is based on a contract. Gramsci’s position is no different when. as we will see. Nonetheless. which result primarily from his specific historical conditions.” universality. based on general will and popular sovereignty. on free will. but is instead one that creates a space for a public sphere centered on the “ethico-political.” Rousseau’s legitimate social contract calls for the creation of a general will based on the collective interest and representing the subjective postulate of popular sovereignty. The pact of On the Social Contract does not aim to secure private property under the guise of protecting so-called “natural rights. had already described as responsible for a clearly iniquitous outcome. on the construction of a collective subject that. defining communism as a “regulated society. his thought is not without limitations and ambiguities. Both thinkers consider capitalism incompatible with the radical democratization of society: while Rousseau states that in the legitimate order he proposes. Gramsci is convinced that the “regulated society” can emerge only after the eradication of social classes. The principal limitation (which had in fact been pointed out by Marx in The Jewish Question [1974. in which there takes place a tacit polemic against Rousseau and his Jacobin disciples) is the fact that the author of On the Social Contract presupposes that the general will is radi- cally opposed to individual wills. Gramsci conceives hegemony as a relation built on consensus. What distinguishes Rousseau’s democratic standpoint is precisely this: the assertion that society can be legitimate only if founded on popular sovereignty. General will and democracy in Rousseau. for him means that it acts in opposition to private interests. to act according to the general will).” he says that in it the coercive apparatus of the state will be gradually assimilated by the consensual (or contractual) mechanisms of civil society. which thus emerges as a collective subject. collective interest. expressing the idea that individuals can organize themselves into collective subjects based on consensus. to become a wage worker [1964b. 45–88]. Hegel. I would therefore like to retain from Rousseau’s work the idea that democracy is organically linked with the concept of contract. . based on general will. but of a kind entirely different from that proposed by Locke and other liberals – different from the one that Rousseau. And here already it is possible to point out a first approximation between Rousseau’s legitimate contract and Gramsci’s concept of hegemony: as we know.

even if not capitalist.” is one of a repression of the latter by the former. Making a metaphorical use of a well-known Freudian concept.” still precapitalist. in the reproduction of their material life.)4 It . were seeing their ways of life being gradually destroyed by the impetuous development of the capitalist mode of production. now with terms familiar to the young Marx. understood as a rebel “unconscious. for Rousseau. the proletariat. this is only a necessary and not sufficient condition for the emergence of a general will): no one should own property excessively or. (It does not seem accidental. Rousseau’s democratic proposition is open to the same criticism that can be made of the Kantian ethics of “categorical impera- tives. even if it was a Rousseau deprived of his specifically democratic dimension. he does not transcend the horizon of private property: Rousseau’s point of view in attacking capitalism is not the same as that of the modern working class. it is impossible to prevent the transformation of a simple mercantile mode of production into a capitalist mode. to act according to interests contrary to those they have the duty to uphold as citizens in the public sphere. that Rousseau’s system – although it decidedly places the citoyen above the bourgeois – reaf- firms the laceration of men between these two roles as poles of an insurmount- able dichotomy. while he condemns capitalism and the inequality of property. the “repressed” returns and. to return to our Freudian metaphor. at the other extreme. it is as if the relation between general will. but they do introduce in his system the limitations and ambiguities we have mentioned: a mercantile society such as he proposes. leads to the maintenance and ultimately the strengthening of private interest. the fact is that this “repressed” sooner or later tends to return.3 In other words. but rather only its equal division (though it is true that. but just the opposite: individuals must put aside (or repress) their individual wills if they want to act effectively in agreement with the general will. could be called a “simple mercantile economy. understood as a “superego. for him. it emerges by means of a neurosis. be deprived of it. The socioeconomic base of the democratic order proposed by Rousseau thus does not include the socialization of property. The utopian features of the romantic anticapitalistic moment present in Rousseau do not undermine the greatness or modernity of his democratic proposal.” which radically counterposes reason (universal) and interest (individual). thus blocking the effective manifesta- tion of the general will or. Even as regards the citoyen “superego” in Rousseau’s legitimate order. Speaking less metaphori- cally we could say. That dichotomy is reproduced in Rousseau because. Nor should it be forgotten that after a certain expansion of market processes. hence in a mercantile economy – that which. But the fact remains that the legitimate society proposed by Rousseau still has its socioeconomic base in individual property. a fragmentation of personality. Therefore.194  Carlos Nelson Coutinho In other words. therefore. it forces members of the society. I would say that in Rousseau’s work. with Marx. But as Freud also says. that Kant was an admirer of Rousseau. but is the point of view of the independent peasants and artisans who.” and individual will. in Rousseau’s time. when it does. the general will is not a strengthening or deepening of individual wills. of the sound collec- tive “ego” of citizenship. who has the mission to repress the “unconscious” bourgeois moment of private interest.

by the emergence of a social sphere unknown in classical times. Hegel. Under the influ- ence of the renowned work of Adam Ferguson. to be precise. Hegel observed that while the irruption of particularity had brought about the destruction of the “beautiful communal ethical life” of the Greek world (as Plato had foreseen and lamented). the precedence of the public over the private. being marked by a centrality of the particularity or. the ethical life of modern times carried the full expression of this particularity at its very moment of inception and thus could not be dissociated from it. for instance. exist in great numbers. Rousseau’s faithful disciples. this greater range of action of particularity is one of the conditions . their corporative group wills). after all. Hegel proposed the restoration of a democratic community. Hegel and the determinations of will One proposal to overcome the limitations in Rousseau’s thought (even if. and demonstrates that attempting to place the citoyen above the bourgeois while at the same time preserving the condi- tions that reproduce the latter in real life leads to a deadlock. for him the actual reign of particularity. General will and democracy in Rousseau. however. The implication remains throughout the Contract that pluralism and diversity are ultimately inconsistent with the general will. in other words. after the triumph of the Thermidor reaction to the Jacobins. and ultimately to the triumph of bourgeois society and the resulting collapse of citizenship: a path that. Rousseau issues a warning that they should. “ethico-political” general will. as a remedy for the dissensions and alienations he observed in the modern world. that was also the paradigm adopted by Rousseau. as we know. while creating their own “general” will (or. which is reason enough to suppose that among them the same “Freudian” problems previously indicated in the relation between individual and general will would arise. as we know. to put it mildly. This. In fact. Hegel realized that the modern world differed from that of clas- sical Greece. or consensus. represents no solution since he does not discuss the means by which this multiplicity of group wills could be articulated into a general will. was clearly demonstrated in the course of the French Revolution. Hegel called this new sphere “civil society” (burgerliche Gesellschaft). this radical contrast between individual and general will leads Rousseau to pay insufficient attention. akin to that of the Greek model. it was accompanied by the loss of some of his major theoretical achieve- ments) appears in Hegel’s work. whose premise and whose results are a general or collective will or. categorically criticizes the presence of private associations within legitimate society: he supposes that such associations. at least. criticizes the utopia of the Jacobins. already in the writings of the Frankfurt period and even more in those of the Jena period. and Gramsci  195 is precisely in this sense that Marx. in The Jewish Question. more precisely. Moreover. obstruct the possibility of emergence of an effective. it is important to retain Rousseau’s fundamental insight that democracy is based on a contract. to the conditions of pluralism in modern society. however. the German philosopher was quite close to Rousseau’s problematic: in his writings of the Bern period. However. as we shall see. Forced to accept that such associations may be inevitable. Jean-Jacques. Despite these limi- tations. In his youth.

To give this tran- scendence a conceptual expression and. thus imparting a concrete meaning to individual choices which. the concept of Sittlichkeit. converging effectively with Rousseau – Hegel proposes the creation of universal- izing instances that dialectically overcome (eliminate at one level. general will is not the outcome . “Christian–Germanic” era. the moment of partic- ular will and individual interest. or as “govern- ment. for Hegel. For Hegel. at least be attenuated through the subordination of civil society to the state. In fact. Hegel realized that the repression of particularity had become unsuited to modernity’s Zeitgeist.”6 While in contrast to liberalism Hegel speaks of the structural contradictions of “civil society. at the same time. as antinomic. following Montesquieu. on the contrary. 55 ff. In opposition to Rousseau. However. but preserve at a higher level) the sphere of particularity. if not be resolved. this particularity is not sufficient: going beyond liberalism – and. Hegel produces a concept fundamental to the development of modern political philosophy.” those contradictions can. Revealing itself only and still in a natural way in the family. which can be translated as “ethical life” (1952a.). although it is a necessary condi- tion.196  Carlos Nelson Coutinho of that subjective universal freedom that. in other words. to legitimate the priority of the public (universal) over the private (particular). Hegel does not treat the positive role of particularity in the modern era as an end in itself. were they to remain in the sphere of morality. represents the attribute of the modern. Nevertheless.” but as the organic totality of the plural spheres of social life. in his political philosophy he attempts to reconcile the freedom of the particular with a priority of the public over the private or. Hegel tries to demonstrate that the general (universal) will is not the result of the action of single “virtuous” wills but. unlike liberal thinkers. On the contrary. but a transcendence (Aufhebung) of individual will (“civil society”) into universal will (the “state”). calls “virtue” – Rousseau’s general will is subject to the same criticism that Hegel addresses to the abstract formalism of Kantian ethics. human beings produce values and rules of behavior that regulate and organize their interactions. because it finds its presupposition exclu- sively in a subjective determination to put the public interest above the private – a condition that On the Social Contract. the reality that precedes and defines individual wills. Hegel wants to establish (give concrete dimen- sion to) the notion of general will that in Rousseau had remained abstract and formal precisely insofar as it had excluded. to reconcile (synthesize dialecti- cally) the modern expansion of particularity with the communitarian ideal of the Greek polis. and in an unconscious and merely embryonic way in civil society. ethical life finds in the state – understood not only as one particular sphere among others. Because they live in community.5 The maintenance of a sphere of individual freedom – be it at the objective level of abstract right or at the subjective level of morality. as the concrete manifestation of the “objective Spirit” – its effectively adequate figure. be it in the realm of “civil society” – appears to him a necessary condition for the full development of the potentialities of modernity. and in the vein of liberalism. Therefore. for him. for Hegel. in that way. With the concept of ethical life and with the assertion that values and rules arise objectively from interactive social life. mainly the instance of “civil society. With the concept of ethical life. would have only formal status. this subordination does not constitute a type of Freudian repression.

For the author of The Philosophy of Right. differently than in Rousseau. General will and democracy in Rousseau. each individual is in search of his own private interest. of history. in it. a product of the development of “Spirit” – that is. but a dialectical poten- tiation. This corporative system is an important moment of Hegelian “civil society. by conceiving a universal will which preserves (by transcending) singular and particular wills. in The Philosophy of Right. there is not an antinomic relation between singular and universal will. in which the second represses the first. we must remember the fundamental conception that the objective will is rationality implicit or in conception. the particular (but already held in common) will personified by a corporation appears as a conscious mediation between the two other levels of will (singular and universal). the corporation is one of the main media- tions through which Hegel attempts to determine the internal relation between the singular wills of the “atoms” of civil society and the universal will whose realiza- tion is the state. Hegel. Thus. whether it be recognized or not by individuals. for Hegel. as they had been in Rousseau. each branch develops its own particular interests. is anything but total- itarian: insofar as it is a concrete totality (that is. the individual can become a citizen of the state. In becoming a member of a corporation. therefore. on the contrary. formed by various particular spheres that. civil society is the “atomistic system”: although. transcended (Aufheben) – eliminated at one level but preserved nonetheless as it is lifted to a higher level – into the general will of the collectivity of the state. without having to abdicate his individual interest but nonetheless acknowl- edging that the satisfaction of his individual interests requires their articulation with the particular interests (of the corporation) and the universal interest (of the state). there is not a movement toward a repression of singular will by the universal (general) will. we could venture to think that we are facing for the first time a state where hegemony (the preponderance of universality or of the public) is organically linked with pluralism (the preservation and development of particularities and differences). though oriented by a totality. which is then what leads to the establishment of corporations that try to defend the common interest of their members. Hegel does not hesitate to write: “Confronted with the claims for the individual will. Moreover. objectively determined and that its determinations are largely settled at the level of “civil society. are nonetheless relatively autonomous) the Hegelian state is necessarily a pluralistic state. a dialectical relation in which the singular will of individuals is. This is why. 81). far from being an obstacle to the emergence of a general will. an immanent mediation within the field of will. In addition.7 Extending this farther. What Hegel means is that universal will is concretely.” so important in fact that he argued that it is through the corporation – a collective subject – that ethical life first penetrates civil society. the ensuing division of labor creates a “system” in which the satisfaction of each individual’s needs depends on the work of others. In Hegel. Therefore.” For Hegel. there is. in other words. the “private asso- ciations” – corporations – are. since production is divided into branches. but hopefully still remaining true to the spirit of Hegelian thought. whether their whims be deliberately for it or not” (1952a. . Hegel can imagine a state that. but an objective socio-ontological reality. and Gramsci  197 of a contract among individual wills. through the particular will of the corporations. a fundamental moment of the process of universalization of will. though they are articulated to each other.

11 Now. and not about the general interest. Hegel is well known as a harsh critic of contract theories of the state. formed of nobles and corporations. which seems absurd to Hegel – all the more so when we remember that for him. Since he equates state and society – the state is not a moment of social life.8 There are nonetheless significant points at which Hegel falls short of Rousseau regarding the question of democracy. they should do so only about particular questions directly related to them. thus. bicameral legislative chamber composed by the nobles and the corporations. elected by universal and equal suffrage of individual citizens (though that principle had already been affirmed by the French Revolution). whose reference at this point is the Greek polis and not modern liberalism. this Hegel knew all too well. Moreover. the state.9 It is more important for us to concentrate on one major question: in his important effort to overcome the level of abstraction and moralism present in Rousseau’s concept of general will and to give a concrete and objective density to universal will.198  Carlos Nelson Coutinho This Hegelian attempt to determine concretely the universal will is a step beyond Rousseau and a decisive contribution to the modern theory of democracy and the democratic state. society as a whole is not the product of a conscious collective action. in order to overcome the subjectivism that arises in the thought of Jean-Jacques. it is a gross error to use an instrument of private law – something subjective like a contract – to explain a public reality – objective and universal – such as the state. the dismissal of the contract as an explanation of the genesis of the state leads the German philosopher to be categorically opposed to the idea of popular sover- eignty and universal suffrage: although the citizens of a state can deliberate. Although it results from the multiple teleological positions of its members. but the organic totality that integrates all its moments – Hegel denies the possibility that the specific sphere of politics could be contractually (or consensually) founded. 153 ff. It is as if. through the conscious interaction of men. but by two chambers. For Hegel. even if he ascribed the role(s) of subject and telos of the global historical process to a mythical “Spirit” that used the actions of individuals “cunningly” to serve its own ends (1952b. Hegel falls into an equally unilateral objectivism.). Hegel is led to discard the contractualist dimension that lies at the center of Rousseau’s democratic proposal. pseudo-dialectic deduction of the neces- sity of a hereditary monarchy.10 Such a method would imply that individuals could cancel the contract and abolish the state. etc. as a totality. With him. precedes and is superior to the individuals who compose it. I do not intend to linger on the several points on which Hegel deviates explicitly from a democratic position (denial of popular sovereignty. the otherwise justifiable rejection of a unilateral individualist subjectivism turns into an equally unilateral objectivism in which freedom is nothing but “the conscience . omitting the intersubjective dimension of human praxis. individuals exist only in and through the state. It is for this reason that he proposes that the citizens be politically represented not by one legislative assembly.). for him. But this does not mean that no sphere of social life could be regulated through consensus. it seems to me that Hegel would have remained in the right if he had limited himself to stating that it is a mistake to consider society as a whole the product of a contract among individuals.

in his well- known defense of the Bolshevik Revolution from a presumed “positivism” of Marx himself. (1958. Before discussing this concept. the public space must be the product of a consensus emerging from the free and equal participation of all citizens. in the democratic. Gramsci formulated the question of “will” in the following way: The dominant factor in history [is] not raw economic facts but man. social will. and this is what allows us to place him. absorbs the more valid and lucid parts of the reflections of these two classic figures of modern polit- ical philosophy and. Early in his intellectual itinerary.” privileging the former. could consensually “invent” the contents of their ethical life. as he radically counterposed “will” to “objec- tive determination. 34–5) Although this might be pushing it a bit. Gramsci and hegemony as contract In the preceding schematic outline of the question of general will in Rousseau and Hegel. and Gramsci  199 of necessity. at least not consciously. 150. Hegel. it might be useful to remember that the question of “will” occupies a central place in Gramsci’s political philosophical reflections (as well as in Rousseau’s and Hegel’s) being present in the evolution of his thinking from his youth to the Prison Notebooks. Hegel’s critical stance toward contract theory is the product of his categorical assertion of the priority of the public over the private. on the other hand. for example. For Hegel. even if within the limits imposed by their natural and social objective determinations. General will and democracy in Rousseau. that as the foundation of a democratic political order. which lives and moves and comes to resemble a current of volcanic lava that can be channeled wherever and in whatever way men’s will determines. But at the same time.12 Thus. in a certain sense. though not liberal. developing through these contacts (civilization) a collective.” something ultimately post factum. this critical stance leads him to abandon the idea. judging them and adapting them to their will until this becomes the driving force of the economy and molds objective reality. we could say that at this stage of his evolution Gramsci was very close to the justly criticized subjectivist voluntarism . And this entails the denial of the sphere of the intersubjective in which subjects. Certainly. Hegel’s political philosophy seems to me in the end to contain an invitation to resignation and conformism. so splendidly expressed by Rousseau. develops fertile leads on ways to overcome the limits and aporias present in their work. These leads are contained mostly in the Gramscian concept of hegemony. men in relation to one another. stream of modern political philosophy. In 1917. men coming to understand economic facts. on the one hand. men in society. notwithstanding all its undeniable merits. however. reaching agreements with one another. English translation from Gramsci 1977. I have been suggesting that Gramsci. freedom is ultimately limited to a recognition and acceptance of necessity as if a singular will became effectively (not arbitrarily) free only when it recog- nized and accepted a universal will in the creation of which it did not itself take part. Gramsci’s concept of “will” contained visible idealistic traces.

The author of the Notebooks realized that in the more recent form of capitalism. create “private” hegemony apparatuses. as I noted above.” If Hegel realized that the “atomistic system” creates particular collective inter- ests which express themselves in “corporations. although it is historically deter- mined (as in Hegel) and “conforms to objective historical necessity. contractual adherence on the part . ex novo creation. And a definition must be given of collective will. particularly the collective will.200  Carlos Nelson Coutinho of Rousseau: the “collective or social will” still appears to him capable of being a “driving force of the economy” and of “molding objective reality. ex novo creation” (as in Rousseau) – even if this is so only “in some aspects. These apparatuses are private because they presuppose a voluntary. and of political will in general. It does not seem accidental that Gramsci first mentions what he would later call “civil society” in a reference.” However. not an arbitrary. he tells us clearly that will. One example. Nor does Gramsci identify civil society with the state strictu sensu.” Gramsci in turn realized that groups and social classes. which is realized in so far as it corresponds to objectivity historical necessities. that is. Gramsci achieved here a movement of dialectical transcendence.” is nonethe- less also an “original. is the following statement: To escape simultaneously from solipsism and from mechanistic conceptions … it is necessary to put the question in an “historicist” fashion. without denying the importance of will as a constitutive moment of what he had come to call the “philosophy of praxis. In the Notebooks. a new sphere of social being. not only with respect to the formulations of his early period but also in relation to the positions on “will” taken by Rousseau and Hegel. for Gramsci civil society does not denote the realm of social relations of produc- tion – the economic structure. will. In contrast to what it had meant to Marx. which he called “civil society. Gramscian civil society is produced by the intersec- tion of “private hegemony apparatuses” and has its genesis in the processes of socialization of politics. among others.” had arisen.” Gramsci adopted a much more mediated position. clarifying his project. 345) In another passage.” We can now return to the concept of “hegemony” and discuss briefly what Gramsci intended to express with it. (1971. to Hegel and “associationism.13 civil society is at the same time cause and effect of a growing complexity of the mechanisms of representation of interests and values (a complexity that ultimately results in an intensification of social stratification). in the modern sense: will as operative awareness of historical necessity. But it must be a rational. or in so far as it is universal history itself in the moment of its progressive actualization. and at the same time to put the “will” (which in the last analysis equals practical or political activity) at the base of philosophy. As we can see. in the mature reflections of the Notebooks. as protagonist of a real and effective historical drama” (130). in the process of organizing themselves and struggling for their own interests. Gramsci wrote: “The Modern Prince must have a part devoted to Jacobinism … as an exemplification of the concrete formation and operation of a collective will which at least in some aspects was an original.

had already realized that the modern state was fruit of a contract between rulers and ruled: “The German Empire. bureaucratic and repressive apparatuses. between the princes and the people” (Engels 1956. dictatorship. direction and consensus and. on the other hand. it is no longer possible for rulers to continue to rule without the consent of the ruled. first of a contract between the princes among themselves and. With the socialization of polit- ical participation. afterward. viewing participation in these hegemony apparatuses as consensual and defining the apparatuses as moments of an “enlarged” state. had been rejected by Hegel. and for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Hegel. as all modern states.” or “political society”. inspired above all by Perry Anderson (1976). the “Westernization” of societies. and coercion seems clear: the first three terms have their material bases in civil society. of intersubjectivity. By marking the presence of this new sphere of social being with his concept of “civil society. introduces a clearly contractual dimension in the core of the public sphere. takes from Hegel the idea that wills are concretely determined already at the level of material or economic interests. moved by a will that tends to universalize itself. that of consensus or legitimacy. at the center of his Marxist theory of the state and of politics.15 Therefore. as we have seen.16 that speaks of hegemony as a synthesis of coercion and consensus. in “private” hegemony appara- tuses. hegemony is for him the moment of consensus. by their actions. in 1895. on the one hand. Now insofar as for Gramsci. in general. as all little states and. hegemony. The contractualist dimension of politics finds in Gramsci its most explicit conceptual expression precisely in the concept of hegemony. it is possible to say that the author of the Notebooks introduced the question of contract.” “state in the strict sense. defining the way through which the public sphere of society establishes itself. the state is basically coercive – monopoly of violence at the service of the dominant economic class – for Gramsci it appears endowed also with a new and impor- tant dimension. already with Engels. they play an undeniable role in power relations. General will and democracy in Rousseau. Although there is a different reading of Gramsci. in communism – ”regulated society” – it assimilates the state into itself and eliminates its coercive mechanisms). the question of the contract had appeared at the core of the Marxist reflection. is the product of a contract. on the one hand. The Gramscian concept of . undergo a process of universalization – ”associationism” – that leads to the creation of collective subjects (“corporations” in Hegel. and Gramsci  201 of their members. on the other hand. Engels himself. after all. civil society (the material basis of consensus) plays a decisive role in the determination of the actions of the state (and beyond that. at least in the Communist Manifesto. consequently recapturing the basic idea of Rousseau that. domination. to me the distinction Gramsci made between.” Gramsci made possible an enlargement of the Marxist concept of the state: while for Marx and Engels. tending to go beyond merely “economic-corporative” interests and directing itself toward an “ethico-political” conscience. who are thus not taking part in what Gramsci called the “coer- cive state.14 such wills. Without a doubt. 121–2). But we can also say that Gramsci. So we can say that Gramsci. while the latter three have their material bases in the state strictu sensu – that is. in “Western” capitalist formations. in the body of their theoretical production. they are hegemonic because. “hegemony appara- tuses” in Gramsci).

But it also implies the need for forms of contract between rulers and ruled (between state and civil society) on the grounds that in these “Western” societies. as it is in “vulgar Marxism. as was the case with Hegel. an intersubjective interaction increasingly free of coercion. in his terms. In this last case.” Gramsci’s hegemony emerges precisely in the creation of this collective will. On the bases of the social ontology of Hegel and . Gramsci is fully conscious that in social life considered as a whole. a goal towards which we should always proceed. we are certainly not neglecting the fact that contracts frequently coexist (even if in a conflictual way) with the endurance of coercive forms. where a sound link between contract and general will is found. for the unconscious. in contrast to Hegel. however. to try progressively to build a consensual society. in which the “ethico-political” collective will preserves and at the same time lifts to a higher level the singular and particular interests of the various components of the “historical bloc.” Gramsci seems to be saying that. by rulers and ruled. a dialectical Aufhebung.” Because he takes from Hegel (and Marx) the notion that will is historically and economically determined and is thus permeated by social contradictions.17 and it should not be forgotten that such contracts are liable to permanent changes and revisions. is a regula- tive idea in the Kantian sense – that is. “ethico-political” conscience. Analogous to Freud’s suggestion that. political obligation is rooted in a consensual acceptance. social movements.) that have a very public. “state” dimension. etc.” in the direction of a “regulated” or communist society. to varying degrees. to society based on consensus. he at the same time takes from Rousseau the conception of politics as a contract. for Gramsci does not mean a repression of singular wills but.202  Carlos Nelson Coutinho hegemony implies a contract that takes place at the level of civil society. according to the variations of what Gramsci himself called “relations of force. in opposi- tion to coercion. as was the case with Rousseau. Now.” For Gramsci. parties. not every- thing is the result of a contract. This “cathartic” passage from particular to universal.” In this sense. therefore. in contrast with Rousseau. Gramsci’s approach to the idea of the contract or. both politics strictu sensu (the relation between rulers and ruled) and ethical life (the axiological sphere that confers concrete substance on the general or collective will) are the result of a contract. as an intersubjective formation of a volonté générale. in Gramsci as well there takes place a close articulation between hegemony and what he calls “national-popular collective will. neither is it. of a minimum of procedural rules and ethico- political values. by means of the “war of position. we must always try to substitute the “I. therefore generating collective subjects (trade unions. we should always try to enlarge the sphere of contract – that is. If Gramsci certainly takes from Hegel the notion of ethical life (which he names “hegemony” or the “ethico-political”). driving force of a “historical bloc” that combines into a whole of different social groups – each of which is capable of effecting. the “cathartic” moment of surpassing its merely “economic-corporative” interests – leading to the creation of a universalizing. which he names “national-popular collective will.” the mere “reflection” of “historical laws” based on economics and formulated in an ironlike and fetishistic way. therefore. “ethical life” (the “ethico-political”) is not the result of the fatalistic and impersonal movement of an “objective Spirit”. For the Italian thinker.

and is rooted rather in the public interest. 2 See. is able to build an ethico-political general will. precisely this possibility is at the root of Gramsci’s proposal for a “regulated society” (communism) in which the suppression of class antago- nisms would finally make possible the development of a public space founded on dialogue among and the consensus of “social individuals. the greater the range of freedom and autonomy of “social individuals” (Marx 1973. placing himself on the horizon of the bourgeoisie and seeing in the . unhindered by the need to conserve economic-corporative inter- ests. passim). if not everything in society derives from a contract. Gramsci knows that society is a specific and unique synthesis of causality and teleology. 1978. that the more social being “social- izes” itself the greater is the “retreat of the natural boundary” (Lukács. in Gramsci as in Rousseau. the legitimate social order presupposes a contract that. if Gramsci could surmount the antinomies of Rousseau. But Gramsci also knows. “putting on its feet” (transforming in a materialist sense) the still idealist and abstract vision with which the author of On the Social Contract approaches the question of general will and democracy. it is not possible appropriately to understand his thought if his link with the organic tradition initiated by Marx is denied. Moreover. and Gramsci  203 Marx. in other words. Nevertheless. but for him. General will and democracy in Rousseau. obviously. that I disagree with the notion that Gramsci is a Marxist. both thinkers believe that the full construction of a public democratic space is possible only within a social order beyond the framework of capitalism. Thus Gramsci aligned his reflection with the best traditions of modernity and became one of the foremost interlocutors of the democratic and socialistic culture of our times. but not in conditions of their own choosing: in addition to free teleological action there is also historical determina- tion. although created by human praxis. of determinism and freedom (Lukács 1976–81). for whom the social contract founds a people as such and society as a whole. men certainly make their own history. but only to individual interest. 45–6) or. 3629). Gramsci certainly takes his distances from Rousseau. following Marx. Notes 1 This does not mean. from the intersubjective action of free and conscious social individuals. preserving the republican ideal of prioritizing the public over the private.” 3 The concept of “romantic anticapitalism” is used here in the sense given to it by Lukács (1981). but the majority of his interpreters also consider him as such. frequently goes beyond the consciousness and will of individuals and social actors. his ability to do so was to a great extent the result of his taking (through the mediation of Marx. most importantly) what was positive in the Hegelian critique of contract theory. the passages where Gramsci refers to “collective will. in “Indice per Argomenti” (1975. again following Marx. there is a significant difference between Rousseau and Kant: the author of On the Social Contract insists that the general will is not opposed to interest in itself. 5 Hegel. Hegel. there are wide social spheres (the political sphere in particular) that can increasingly result from a contract – that is. an objective causality that. 4 Certainly.” Therefore. For him. Not only did he consider himself a Marxist.

He reproaches “many modern constitutional lawyers” (the liberals) for fostering confusion (1952a. too. the transition of particular interest into universal interest is not a conscious law of the State. Avineri (1972). but rather blind natural necessity governs? … Hegel wants always to present the State as the actualization of free mind. is not yet the state – namely. as we have seen. certainly surrendered to liberal ideology.). and relation- ships concerning private property generally.” so important for Italian Marxism. see Cerroni (1976. 49 ff. something which. one should not forget. 192). according to Hegel. whether the state is supposed to be a contract of all with all. 56–7) 13 For the concept of “socialization of politics. 12 The young Marx had already correctly criticized this “fatalistic” aspect of Hegel’s political philosophy: Is it the fact. attentive reader of Adam Smith (who provided the basis for his own specific understanding of “civil society”). but also and particularly from Marx who. 14 It might not be necessary to recall that Gramsci takes this idea not only from Hegel. the true dimension of universality. 1997). At this point Hegel. re vera he resolves all difficult conflicts through a natural necessity which is the antithesis of freedom. This is a formula that does not restrict itself to indicating a direction for the working class based on consensus: it is a formula that already alludes to a precise state and political form of consensus” (1977. but is mediated through chance and ratified contrary to consciousness. 15 It is interesting to note that this statement by the late Engels poses a marked contrast with Hegel’s position (stated in the quotation from The Philosophy of Right in note 10). did not occur with Rousseau. the existence of freedom.   9 The young Marx (1963a. among others.   8 It is a contribution as well to a socialist theory of democracy and the state. but see. or of all with the monarch and the government … The intrusion of this contractual relation. and Losurdo (1992. The battle for a working-class hegemony evolves within pluralism. transcends the Hegelian notion of burgerliche Gesellschaft. into the relations between the individual and the State has been productive of the greatest confusion in both constitutional law and public life” (Hegel 1952a.” the sphere of developed particu- larity. for example. in an absolutist Prussia that emphatically denied it (see Bedeschi 1997. Thus. the existence of self-conscious reason – not law. even if in anachronistic ways. but that is meant for the whole society in anticipation of the moments of crisis in command and direction. see Francioni (1984. 17 Gramsci. . (1963a. 10 “It is equally far from the truth to ground the nature of the State on the contractual relation.). also mentions the “state apparatus of coercion that ‘legally’ provides the discipline of these groups that do not ‘consent.204  Carlos Nelson Coutinho post-Napoleonic capitalist society the “end of history.   7 A competent critique of the positions that impute to Hegel a totalitarian conception of the state can be found in Marcuse (1954). 147 ff. Weil (1950). 13–142) noted several of these antidemocratic aspects in Hegel. in which consensus disappears” (1975. More precisely: hegemony of the working class within pluralism.” was excessively induced to identify the sphere of particularity and the expansion of individuality with the reign of capitalistic markets. 16 For a convincing refutation of Anderson’s positions. English translation from Marx 1970.   6 It should be mentioned that for Hegel. 240). 68–9. 32). in turn. Let us remember. 1519). that in the State – which. 11 But one should not forget that Hegel defended the principle of representation. however. 135).’ either actively nor passively. the words of the Gramscian Pietro Ingrao: “Today we speak of hegemony and pluralism. “civil society. then. is the highest exist- ence of freedom.

which has led toward regarding the processes of human history as absolutely objective ones. hidden during his lifetime even from his friend Friedrich Engels and now known as the Theses on Feuerbach. for any thinking human being. a fact which was never in fieri [in the process of becoming]. From this Marxism. designed to protect Gramsci from being condemned as an idealist deviant?1 It took some effort toward “liberating Gramsci” (Baratta 1987) to cut through this cacophony of voices and to understand the legitimacy of his term “philosophy of praxis. The concept itself is derived from those notes of Karl Marx. example.)2 While in prison. which understood itself as an exact science . imitation. puts an end to every form of idealism which regards the empirically existing things as reflex. Marxism had ossified as an “evolutionary doctrine. Gramsci immersed himself in this thought and reflected on it from every possible angle. The latter is no longer.” It was precisely this term that Lenin adopted to describe the dialectical method. (1976. but which was later to be canonized as Marxism–Leninism under Stalin. as the historical materialism. consequence (or whatever one may say) of a presupposed thought … in the same moment it is the end of naturalistic materialism … The intellectual revolution. from Gramsci to Marx Historical materialism and the philosophy of praxis Wolfgang Fritz Haug Was Gramsci’s term “philosophy of praxis” a camouflage. reproduction.” which condenses precisely into a thesis the Archimedean point of Marxian thinking.15 From Marx to Gramsci. taking account of the integral social and historical human being. a de-nomination in the sense that it un-named historical materialism? Or was speaking of camouflage itself an act of camouflage. 702f. finally. 60) who first spoke of a “philosophy of praxis” as the “nucleus of Historical Materialism”: Insofar. It was Antonio Labriola (1907. Gramsci’s not always fair polemic against Bukharin indicates that he saw this formation as representing a broader tendency. Taking the example of Nikolai Bukharin’s Theory of Historical Materialism: A Popular Manual of Marxist Sociology. or the philosophy of praxis. he had to struggle on two fronts: already under Kautsky. In doing so. Gramsci undertook the systematic critique of an ideological formation which was only then emerging. is simultaneously accompanied by that other intellectual revolution which succeeded in historicizing physical nature.

Underlying what seems at first glance to be a merely terminological difference. led him to start anew from Marx’s own point of departure. on the contrary. but also brought back into Marxism what Labriola had grasped as the “nucleus of Historical Materialism. while liberal and fascist branches of bourgeois philosophizing rejuvenated and redynamized themselves with it. Both came from Labriola (Croce more.4 As Gramsci wrote.” . Gramsci’s move was also a move away from Marx: in Marx and Engels’s own terms. Gentile less) and had taken his still genuine Marxist inheritance of a philosophy of praxis with them to the right – in much the same way that Martin Heidegger3 (and other philosophical bearers of Nazism. Notebook 16. the connection of the elements “division of labor” and “class rule.” Moreover. the Marxian spirit had disappeared. In its philosophical essence. through using this term he began to reclaim the field that Croce had occupied with his Filosofia della pratica and Gentile with his Filosofia del atto as original Marxist territory. concept and theory of the ideological are inscribed in the categorical center of historical materialism in that work which carries the term ideology in its title: the so-called German Ideology. and posed a political–epistemological as well as political–ethical obstacle to the unfolding of Marxist theory and practice. This ideology inevitably repelled (especially the more intelligent). §9). who had introduced this term. Rather. the opponents and dangers that Gramsci’s project had to face came from his own side. like today’s mainstream.206  Wolfgang Fritz Haug of history. Thus far. With the term “philosophy of praxis” Gramsci not only expressed exactly what he actually did as a theorist. such as Baeumler) did in Germany. Nor does he. “The laceration which happened to Hegelianism has reoccurred with the philosophy of praxis. like the later Engels. 396. On the side of bourgeois theory reigned the powerful Neoidealism of Benedetto Croce. from dialectical unity there has been a regress to philosophical materialism on the one hand. however. take it to mean all conceptual stances or systems of political thought. take it to mean false consciousness. For Marx. what Gramsci realized was that the vital source of Marxian thinking was forgotten or pushed aside by Marxism itself. it represented a divergence from the project of the Theses on Feuerbach and a return to the metaphysical and philosophical materialism Marx had rejected. 218. 1 And yet. does not yet. the Attualismo of Giovanni Gentile. while on the other hand modern idealist high culture has tried to incorporate that part of the philosophy of praxis which was needed in order for it to find a new elixir” (1971.5 In short. 53. 332) and then elaborated it together with Engels. That is to say. casually at first. is one of Marx’s three great theoretical critiques (Haug 1999c): that of ideology. at its side was its exalted offshoot. a “philosophy” was precisely what their theory had ceased to be (see Haug 1999b). chief ideologue of Italy’s fascism. into the modern language of theory (see Marx and Engels 1982. Marx. or even to mean class consciousness.6 While with some recipients of Gramsci the philosophy of praxis evaporates into post-Marxism (one has only to think of Ernesto Laclau) for Gramsci himself this line of thinking did not lead away from Marx but. at least in terminology.

He saw that historical materialism had become “the ‘sociology’ of metaphysical materialism” (437). in its pre-Marxist understanding as first philosophy: metaphysics.9 But why a philosophy of praxis and not just simply critical theory – as Max Horkheimer. thereby gaining a vantage point from which he is able to productively approach what he calls the “philosophy of the philosophers. as a propaedeutics: it is through this filter that Marxist thought must pass in order not to fall back behind Marx himself. the question did not arise in this way. “though a naïve one” (1971. which are formally independent of this narrowly defined state apparatus. rather than being “historical methodology. §14). already used the term “ideology” as self-evidently affirmative. philosophy is for Marx one of the ideological forms and it would not have occurred to him to classify his own thinking in this way. 436. philosophers. indeed in almost exactly the same words. this remarkable figure among the first generation of Italian Marxists. Marx’s critique of philosophy (in the context of his theory of ideology) is therefore no verdict on reflection – far from it. Judges. However. and similar figures (summarized as “ideological estates” in Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value)8 are seen as intervening in society in their respectively specific modes. At any rate. especially philosophers.7 These practices are located. as one can say schematically (and with all the danger attendant upon such abbreviation). if you like. as it were. also writing in the 1930s. that Gramsci’s great innovation lies. In Gramsci’s view. In a very similar way. priests.” the Soviet textbook practiced a metaphysics. within the sphere of the state but outside the administrative and in the last instance repressively functioning state in its narrower sense. Bukharin would have protested against such a critique. like Gramsci. assuring us that he in fact radically criticized metaphysics.” This is. Notebook 11. From Marx to Gramsci. expressed the position of Marx and Engels when he explained: “Our philosophy has once and for all overcome the perspective of ideology as such” (1908. The Second International. And. Antonio Labriola. what had reemerged was philosophy – albeit. entitled his Marxist thought? For Gramsci. as Gramsci sensed. philosophy from below. It is precisely here. He does not simply enter the tradition of all previous philosophy but rather reconstructs philosophy from outside its philo- sophical institutions. in the way that he applies Marx’s theory of philosophy. Self-reflective Marxist theorists. It is rather a rejec- tion of unreflected thinking in its framework of domination (Herrschaftsdenken). leads to the insti- tution of specialized normative and regulative practices. will never avoid Marx’s critique of philosophy but accept it. from Gramsci to Marx  207 together with the state-based reproduction of these conditions. Brecht reflects upon what the people mean when they attribute a philosophical attitude to someone. 106). of which the juridical apparatus becomes Marx’s paradigmatic example. particularly under the influence of Lenin. whose political stance and theory he had come to know as a young socialist. The German Ideology was still confined to the party archive and the tradition of the critical theory of ideology was lost. in the context of the Communist International. But Gramsci demonstrates that the Popular . Brecht does not stop there but commits himself to expanding and modifying this popular notion of philosophy. who was in turn influenced by Plekhanov.

a decision which. its application to history and society would give rise to historical materialism. which is not without traces of a strategic embracing. the implications of which. even among those seeking to continue the “line Luxemburg-Gramsci” (Weiss 1981. But it is still the notorious “fundamental question of philosophy” that primarily haunts Sève’s Introduction. §14). As Gramsci wrote.13 In retrospect. Notebook 11. an abso- lute humanism of history” (1971. at times comes close to a “passive revolution” in theory and is possibly the most solid achievement in this regard on the side of Marxism-Leninism. and what he demands of Gramsci is a direct recognition of the ontological primacy of matter. however. he had come from the frying pan into the fire. that in the case of a very common expression [historical materi- alism] one should put the accent on the first term – ‘historical’ – and not on the second. anyway. Because of the attacks leveled against it. Gramsci seems to sense that the “materialist resolution of philosophy’s fundamental ques- tion” is. The nonprimary acknowledges the primary. is precisely the concrete historicisation of philosophy and its identification with history” (1971. Sève’s “ferme affirmation” of the primacy of matter is. the second thesis on Feuerbach). absolute knowledge is absolute antihistoricism. Sève learns enough from Gramsci to understand that answering this question cannot be an extrahis- torical act. for all its apparent decisiveness and firmness. who in this respect thought exactly in the line of Marx. so-called “dialectical materialism. a subjective act. ipso facto. 465. understood that the presumption of a first. “this- sided” (diesseitig) thinking (see. and partly to criticize him from their position – not. The philosophy of praxis is absolute ‘historicism. whereas the great conquest in the history of modern thought. however. “Separated from the theory of history and politics philosophy cannot be other than metaphysics. represented by the philosophy of praxis. puts a consciousness or a subject in a decisive position in the double sense.’ the absolute secularization and this-sidedness of thought. 608) . written along Leninist lines. .15 Gramsci. would hardly have been content with this conces- sion. Its meaning however. yet the primacy of this act rests with the position of the renouncer because it renounces itself – and it does this but knows not what it does. n. Sève’s discussion of Gramsci. Gramsci replies to this self-renunciation of Marxism11 with the thesis of absolute historicism: “it has been forgotten. In contrast. in Marx’s terms. The extrahistorical. This is the decisionism of the ontological reflection theory. without conceding some points to Gramsci. 436. mistakenly identifies metaphysics only with idealism10 and that Bukharin did not realize that with materialist metaphysics or metaphysical materialism. 1).12 this thesis has often generated uneasiness. In this regard. supposedly eternal truth was the then canonized. In the end. Yet Gramsci. which is of metaphysical origin. this piece reads like a final attempt (at least in Europe)14 to reach a modernization of Marxism-Leninism: its aggior- namento. remain indiscernible. 2 Lucien Sève (1980) has tried partly to reconcile Gramsci with Engels and espe- cially with Lenin.208  Wolfgang Fritz Haug Manual. is simply that of a purely inner-worldly.” According to official ideology. in fact. for instance. §27. Notebook 11.

consciously acting being. he is quite right. 446. He does this because idealism conceives of the subject as active. he takes the experimental scientist to be the paradigmatic actor and the experiment the paradigmatic praxis-form which has work-form and from which experience stems. but the absence he criticizes is theoretically motivated and leads into the very center of Gramsci’s conception. before everything else. The specifically human which makes this. the “forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history of the world down to the present”)17 is not grasped from this perspective. Sève (1980) admits that the category praxis contains the unity between human beings and nature as well as the “practicité du savoir et du projet. calls “contemplative materialism. given the widespread exist- ence of such secular materialism in the bourgeoisie. slightly corrected).” favoring. 381). however. in the eighth thesis. it is the materialistic concept of nature that radically separates the bourgeois from the socialist worldview (384f. The mediation of this unity. from Gramsci to Marx  209 The self-declaration of philosophical materialism is thus plagued by the ironic dialectic of its carrying with it an aspect of both subjectivism and idealism. rather. which were kept secret in his lifetime and partly. Bertolt Brecht formulates this principle – in astonishing congeniality with Gramsci.) – a position that. as the guarantee of historical mate- rialism’s distinctiveness. For Gramsci. nature is exactly not a beyond for the practical–histor- ical reality of human beings. even idealism over this stance. whom he did not even know by name (nor Gramsci him) – in his philo- sophical notes. for another thirty years.16 When Sève establishes that “the category of reflection is the great Absent in Gramsci’s epistemology” (1980. With this he claims physiological – that is. nearly clerical) character. 45) – bewusst tätiges Sein. In so doing he follows Marx who. celui de l’objectivité de la connaissance. What at first sight is only a slight shift nevertheless turns out to make a categorical difference: although using . Philosophy of praxis signifies for him a “unitary process of reality”: a thinking of the “dialectical mediation between human beings and nature” (1971. can only become real through praxis. in the first thesis on Feuerbach. Gramsci does not take the natural sciences as the paradigm for reliable knowledge. discards and leaves behind the inner world/external world scheme of what he. despite all critique. Gramsci shifts this question to a different terrain where it loses its catechet- ical (indeed. From Marx to Gramsci. is more than a little curious.” And with Lukács’s (1968) self-critique of 1967. The new terrain Marx opens up is that of a practical materialism which sets out to think the materiality of praxis and the praxis-mediatedness of our reality. in contrast. a consciousness is “consciousness of existing practice” as Marx and Engels already had argued in the German Ideology (1976a. a human perception (according to Marx. Elle affaiblit l’autre aspect. de l’extériorité de la nature. More than a reflection of the process of knowing-through-changing. they utilize the fact that in German the term for consciousness (Bewusstsein) contains the term for being (Sein) [being conscious]. by his heirs: in the end we can know only what we can change. 381). Sève argues that reflection is “inseparably subjective and objective” (1980. In their argument. scientific – objectivity. Sève explains. albeit only cognitively and not mate- rially. The example he gives is sensualistic: a perception of color reflects at the same time objective wavelengths and the construction of our visual organ.

Through the figure of the experimental scientist. two epochs” and “initiates the process of dissolution of theology and metaphysics and the process of development of modern thought whose consummation is the philosophy of praxis” (1971. it is “the first paradigm” of a theoretically reflected mediation between man and nature. while putting himself by means of technology into relation with nature. 8). Marx famously says: “in bourgeois society the commodity-form of the product of labour – or the value-form of the commodity – is the economic cell- form” (1977. With these two key terms of Marxian reflection on research. 1995. parallel to the term “passive revolution. §12). yet he elaborated crucial points of orientation: • The development of a philosophical conception from below. formulated with less uncertainty: through the principle of the practical implication of the subject in every con- stituted objectivity.” could be called passive socialization (Vergesellschaftung). 90. In the preface to volume 1 of Capital. . Gramsci articulates the status of the experimental practice of research. cell. 446. And in the first sentence of chapter 1. 3 Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis is not fully carried through as a philosophy. grounded in the necessity of individuals working themselves out of a state that. • The materialistic historicization of language. the commodity is conceived of as the “elementary form” of bourgeois wealth. Notebook 11. There is.and elementary form. What is philosophical is first of all that Gramsci postulates the existence of such a philosophy. Gramsci articulates this starting point in the terms of epistemological reflection used by Marx in his Critique of Political Economy.210  Wolfgang Fritz Haug the “hardest” form of knowledge. knows it and dominates it”. • A view of the scientific experiment as the cell form of modern rationality. • The critique of objectivism through the principle of a “Marxist uncertainty relation. • The political-ethical dimension of all hegemony. which culminates in Marxism with its mediation of society and nature. relates to the specific fields and projects of Gramsci’s research. a philosophy that must be understood as the implicit philosophical dynamic. The question is now how this first complex. reflecting on his experiments theoretically.II. It is “the elementary historical cell through which man. where he announces the analysis of the value-form. Much of Gramsci’s work remains a sketch. the narrowly defined philosophy of praxis. §34. translation slightly corrected). Gramsci’s figure at the same time avoids the bad metaphysicism which normally accompanies the orientation toward natural scientific objectivism.18 • The constitution of the term hegemony as a “philosophical fact” (Notebook 10. as theory producing thinking in the strongest sense. or.” inspired by quantum physics. which separates “two historical worlds. the active element comes into play as the “histor- ical” arranger and interpreter.

the popular- national. and his research into the history of the intellectuals with its satirical supplement describing “Lorianism. his findings would collapse.). Rather. the Fordist state interventionism. The second field deals with historical and systematic studies of politics and its cultural foundations. sexuality. governing/governed. from Gramsci to Marx  211 second. From Marx to Gramsci. and actors. is a twin word for the supernatural – although not so easily recognized as such by modern reason (Sève 1980. demarcated like academic disciplines. Fourth. they do not lie next to one another. These four main fields are located at different levels and differ in their concrete- ness. From the vantage point of such philosophy. our . psychology. economic considerations on the current relevance of Marx’s law of the tendential fall of the average profit rate as well as the Fordist answer to this fall on the side of the innovative industrialists. circles largely around ques- tions of a popular-national literature. attempts in abstracto to reintroduce a dialectical approach to Marxist thinking. prepared and grounded through the differentiation and pluralization of what Marx addresses in the singular as “the superstructure” (der Überbau)19 (hegemony. 82). If one were to subtract the idea of the philosophy of praxis from what Gramsci has to say in these areas. stakes. The third deals above all with the role of literature in the forma- tion or prevention of a new culture and mode of life and of what Gramsci calls the “popular-national. The first field. the political-ethical momentum. etc.”21 The fourth field describes the concrete examination of the second and third theory level with regard to the case of the Fordist mode of production. Conversely. as it must prove itself in the three concrete fields. Is the philosophy of praxis therefore yet again a “first philosophy” in the sense in which dialectical Marxism à la Lenin was meant to be? No. particu- larly its dimension of civil society with all its forms. active and passive revolution. concerned with the philosophy of praxis in its narrow sense. In other words. the complex project of theorizing the vast “continent” of politics. wars of position and of movement. for a philosophy of praxis. religion and literature. precisely not. political ideology. particularly important complex of Gramsci’s analysis of Americanism and Fordism has to be mentioned. in which the concept “mode of production” gains life and contemporary relevance through analysis of the relationship between its then newly powerful “Fordist” formation and the political and cultural spheres (analyses of the changing mode of production and its consequence for everyday life. posi- tion and history of the subaltern. the quantitatively modest but actu- ally. forces. The first field develops Gramsci’s theoretical thinking as such in fluid form in critical debate with neo-idealism and mechanist Marxism. This is primarily the place of Gramsci’s studies on Machiavelli and on the Italian Risorgimento. fascism and bolshevism as diametrical projects of catching up to Fordism in the shadow of American competition). 49) once associ- ated with the concept of an ultima philosophia (see Haug 1994). intellectuals. It is the rejection of the myth of origin and of the ahistorical which. the philosophy of praxis would become an empty promise. it is akin to a “last philosophy” in the sense which Adorno (1956. the relationship between finance and industrial capital. whose crisis-ridden ascent constituted the structural gravitation center at that time. closely related to his political studies. without these three concrete investigations.”20 A third field is Gramsci’s extensive research into the politics of culture (see Haug 1989) which.

In this respect. then. and situated in history. History knows no beginning and no end. the postcommunist situation is characterized by the withering away of what until now was widely believed to be Marxism. to again turn toward Marx. The philosophy of praxis is therefore in its own terms the self-enlightenment of human reality which arises as a break with all ideology in order to look with sober eyes at the active positions of humans toward each other and toward nature. The reinterpretation of historical materialism in the light of Gramsci’s outline of a philosophy of praxis wipes out its fatalistic evolutionisms. objectivisms. We go back with criteria stemming from historical experience. which have residually afflicted Marxian thinking and which grew like mildew on the official Marxisms. With the help of criteria made sharper by Gramsci. does not mean to turn away from Gramsci. it is salutary to go. 47). In Europe and many other parts of the world. The “pessimism of reason” helps to overcome the naive beliefs of a philosophy of history. can we rest on those of Gramsci’s critique of Croce.22 but the “optimism of will” helps to reconnoiter the world with the eyes of “intervening thought” (eingreifenden Denkens) (Brecht. in its official forms. Rather. cf. we try to lay out Marx’s theoretical tools in readiness for the analysis of today’s world. however. Just as Gramsci’s steps beyond Marx were not a distancing from Marx (any more than any act of preserving the living ever is). those criteria make a difference already in Marx. no interest in “drawing the veil” over reality – an openness. Gramsci helps in distinguishing the dying Marxism from that which remains unexhausted in Marx and in the various Marxist traditions. with Gramsci in hand. to Marx whose theory provided no concepts with which to grasp his own role as an intellectual. Lenin’s revolutionary voluntarism – the complementary opposite of his philosophical materialism – only constituted an interruption. And however great the historical merits of Marx’s analysis of the capitalist. the philosophy of praxis comes to life in the class struggle. Just as little as we can rest on the laurels of Marx’s critique of Hegel. and the false guarantees of a philosophy of history. it was a Marxism with an anti-Marxist – because not historical- materialist – self-understanding. the point is to re-read Marx with an altered perspective. In a society characterized by class domination that relies predominantly on power over minds. 204). In our situation. 494) are. This is a deserved death insofar as.” as happened periodically in the history of Marxism. where we have to say goodbye to that which is dead in order to free that which continues to live. Ruoff Kramer 1997). To go back to Marx from Gramsci. or rather.23 To begin anew with Marx is. large-scale use of steam power and “tool machines” (Marx 1977. mediated through praxis. which disregarded the self-application rule. which is of course not achieved through inactivity or through one’s class position alone and which. so is the Gramscian re-beginning with Marx out of and in the name of a new epoch of capitalism a necessary task if Gramsci’s thought is to remain alive. can be found frag- mented across all classes as well as sprinkled throughout the ideologies as what Bloch terms their “surplus” (see Habermas 1963. to speak with Marx (1998. not yet another return to an “original truth. they long ago . in happier moments. more decisively than in earlier crises of Marxism. always in favor of that side which has.212  Wolfgang Fritz Haug thinking and doing are socially articulated.

from Gramsci to Marx  213 ceased to cope with the actual mode of production. Under given relations of production. a certain wealth of productive forces leads to a crisis. The assembly line means the never-ending multiplication of the automobile. become historical materialists in that they must endeavor to analyze the new materialities of the historical. we can compare Gramsci’s view with that of Brecht26 and. even a critique of that “crit- ical economy” which existed in Marx’s time (as it does again in ours) in the form of the “left Ricardians. the forms in which capitalist economy and its theorizing. what kind of analysis of Fordism is this which does not even address the assembly line and the conveyor belt as its basic equipment. at the same time. From Marx to Gramsci. they argued. 129) picked up from Léon Daudet: L’automobile. It is also around the assembly line that the Soviet Union rescued and reorganized itself in the struggle for survival against Nazi Germany’s war of conquest and annihilation. 103) of the economy. unfolds. The starting point must once again be the Critique of Political Economy – in a nonreductionist reading. Gramsci is wrong when he describes it as “critical economy. Therefore. Gramsci only mentions the “new methods of production and work. slightly differing. “Historical” means here: no longer historically actual and relevant. it grasps. one has to grant Lucien Sève’s claim that Gramsci disregards the productive forces25 – to name only one aspect which necessitates a renewed and renewing recourse to Marx.” Concerning Taylorism he is only interested in the intensification of labor force expenditure. it is nevertheless true that he did so only partially. extends Klausewitz and sees war “or also every other form of armed struggle” as “the most decisive and effec- tive form” of politics (Notebook 26. socioana- lytically. the Fordist mode of production that Gramsci analyzed becomes – by the day – part of a history that consumes its protagonists as Kronos did his children. of Benjamin. Particularly if one recognizes that Gramsci’s analysis of Fordism realized the historical-materialist concretization of Marxism. in a new way. in contrast. It is from the assembly line that Fordism’s war of masses and matériel was launched. dynamisms. that must not be left to the economists.political counterrevolution which. §5). Gramsci. While the recurring denial that Gramsci dealt with the economy is false (see Frosini 1999). and the critique of the value forms and the double character of labor in Capital – Gramsci elaborated the second like no . that is. revolutionized the material forms of production and life in the Soviet Union.and Hegel-transcending (and preserving- further developing) sense – critique of the economy. however. Indeed. through the economists. Finally. not in the Copernican turn which lets the worker stand still and the products in fieri turn around him. the assembly line demanded Stalin’s “patriotic”.27 Both understood war as one of the “forms of motion” (Marx 1977. Or. and certain productive forces can only be applied through war. and tendencies of the capitalist mode of production. In contrast. c’est la guerre. one only has to think of the sentence the fascinated Walter Benjamin (1964. the critique of objec- tivism in the Theses on Feuerbach.28 Of Karl Marx’s three critiques – the critique of ideology.”24 It is the comprehensive theory of the forms.” It is – in this profound. Gramscians must today. Similarly. Kant. or in which the electric motor and the automobile are not inves- tigated in their consequences? In Notebook 22.

Buttigieg (Columbia University Press. he remained a left Ricardian (see Pala 1998). held in Trieste on 20–21 March 1999. from his own rightist perspective. which was recommended by Lenin. For this Gramsci’s thought is destined. is entitled La filosofia della prassi (see the new edition: 1955. in cooperation with the International Gramsci Society and the Instituto Italiano di Studi Filosofici. It requires transcending. It was translated by Heiko Henkel and Tina Lupton. with its suggestive idea of unme- diated community. in his Filosofia di Marx of 1899. in this chapter we mostly quote from Gramsci (1971). law) and civil society. which contains the translation. 8 Marx wrote. Grandseigneur and Comrade. means the tendency to abolish mediating structures (market. has discussed such Marxist inoc- ulation of fascist philosophy. the various Marxisms that have succumbed occasion- ally to the danger of “immediatist” politics. 71). This chapter was first presented at the conference “Marx and Gramsci” of the Instituto Gramsci del Friuli-Venezia Giulia. 7 See my “Outlines for a theory of the ideological” and “Ideological powers and the antagonistic reclamation of community” (Haug 1987. Notes 1 This controversy is revisited in Haug (1995. even more so. he responded to the first one. following his friend Piero Sraffa. has been corrected by us (cf. however. Nevertheless. the limits of a left Ricardianism with its inability to think the structural origins of crisis. 68ff. 60). neither of which is noted in this edition. 2000). Gramsci’s philos- ophy of praxis may come to play a leading part. In addition to the page numbers. who wants to thank the translators and Karen Ruoff Kramer for their help. Gramsci’s contribution will be able to play this part and remain a historically potent force only so long as it does not close in upon itself but instead – rearticu- lating itself in the Marxian multiverse. 59–99). The third he hardly took into account. “Immediatism” in this sense. 125). 1996) was still at a beginning. The current crisis.29 of the three critiques – approaches the changing world of today. puts a far more radical dialectic on the agenda. Reconstructing the conception of philosophy from below. In the possible Renaissance of an integral Marxist theory. because it precludes the danger of “immediatism” – unlike in the case of Marx and. Acknowledgments For Giuseppe Petronio. parliament. 3 For Lucien Goldmann. See also Haug (1999a). in the steps of Marx. there is “no fundamental difference between Heidegger’s theses and the Theses on Feuerbach” (1975. it is as if. offers his own translation of the Theses on Feuerbach. 5 Since the great American edition of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks by Joseph A. we give the number of the Notebook and the paragraph (§). “[T]hat at the contradictions in material production make necessary a .214  Wolfgang Fritz Haug other. which is misleading. 2 Untermann’s translation. at present more accessible than ever. Gentile sees in the Theses on Feuerbach the foundation “di tutto un nuovo sitema speculativo” (1955. 4 Ernst Nolte (1988). Labriola 1907. 6 Giovanni Gentile (1899).). and revised by the author. The second part of the book.

rather it develops out of the proof of the alterability of the situation or person. experiencing. not only in terms of the previously accepted Marxist epistemology. 12 See Sève: “The hyper-historicising. that of speculative idealism. 1449). 13 On “passive revolution” or “revolution-restoration. 16 In Brecht’s thought. As I have argued in the . Truth. Buttigieg suggests “national-popular” (see Gramsci 1996. in which he criticizes Engels’s theory of the Dialectics of Nature “which is meant to prove that the dialectics is a cosmic law” and where Gramsci warns against assuming an “identity of the thought” of Marx and Engels (see also Gramsci 1975. “Metaphysics means for it [i. 124). 259). 18 See Gramsci’s note to Notebook 11. observing. communalistic aspect of Marx’s political thought. 133). as an abstract universal outside of time and space” (1971. Notebook 11. 10 Gramsci commented. hearing. §62). truth “is not ‘there in itself’ to be first discovered. From Marx to Gramsci. 73). 11 See Gramsci’s polemics against “vulgar materialism with its metaphysics of ‘matter’ which is necessarily eternal and absolute” (1971. from Gramsci to Marx  215 superstructure of ideological estates. c’est la ferme affirmation du primat de la matière au du rapport historique lui-même” (1980. Plekhanov’s manual] only a specific philosophical formulation. rather than any system- atic formulation that is put forward as an extra-historical truth. 19). is a question of praxis” (1992. irresponsibility toward the formation of the national culture). smelling. 7). Taking into account Marx’s analysis of the Commune. in 1998 a Chinese author could declare that through Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis – despite the justified critique of mechanistic materialism – “Marx’s philosoph- ical thought [would be] distorted into practicism” (Chongwen 1998. all the organs of his individual being … are … in their orientation to the object. The Collected Works translate “ideologische Stände” misleadingly as “ideological strata” (1968. §11. see Notebook 15. but also in relation to the entirety of Marxist philosophy … Dialectical and historical materi- alism … can thus be regarded as ‘practical materialism’” (Yuanliang 1998. 386).   9 I have elaborated on this point elsewhere and will not repeat it here (see Haug 1996). therefore. 299). See Rehmann (1998). whose activity – whether good or bad – is good. Marxism is “en toute rigeur … un a-humanisme et un a-historicisme” (1967. §17 (also 1971. 106–20). “Mais ce qui lui fait défaut.” 21 Like Smith and Hoare before him. because it is necessary” (1989. That this assessment was controversial can be seen in the following issue of the same journal: “It is now accepted that practice is the most fundamental and important concept in Marxist philosophy. 20 See Notebook 28: “under the comprehensive title of ‘Lorianism’” Gramsci describes “some deteriorated and bizarre aspects of the mentality of a group of Italian intellec- tuals and henceforth of the national culture (nonorganic character. in their translated Selections (see Gramsci 1971). but rather out of that to which truth can – from the perspective of the viewer-as-the-masses – be subjugated. feeling. 407.e. one could even ask whether Gramsci’s main strategic distinction between società civile and società politica helps to elaborate the not very developed.” in which it fights at the same time against bourgeois infection and its own bureaucratic ossification (1980. 184). 14 Still. 15 In Sève’s words. not reducible to mere physiological processes but is first of all “appropriation of human reality”: “seeing. tasting. 17 The practice of the senses is. wanting. the super-politicization of Marxism appears to be one of its childhood diseases. For Althusser. 58ff. 382). negligence in the practice of scientific activity … not adequately fought and rigorously hit: therefore.” one of Gramsci’s key concepts. the appropriation of the object” (1975. §14). acting. This was opposed in the same issue by He Zuorong: “It is not scientific to reduce Marxism to ‘practical-isms’” (1998. 19 This “revision” is in fact more a clarification of Marxian thinking where the plurality – indeed. loving – in short. absence of system- atic critical spirit. thinking. §34. this means not merely out of the alterability which is in itself given. 360. our translation). 437. the complementarity – of ideological forms is already sketched. according to Marx. Notebook 11.

. 28 That this sentence in its general form is at least misleading. Marx only seems to know (negatively assessed) ideologues and (positively assessed) scientists. under the world-dominating condi- tions of capitalism. could only be fully used and kept alive through activities of war – and the dismantling of the means of war” (1993. 241).” 23 Gramsci introduced to Marxism the theory (and thus the legitimacy) of the intellectual. “The Weimar Republic collapsed on the contradiction between the erection of a large.” misunderstood by Franck Bardacke (1995) as a kind of cowardice in the face of the enemy. 739). 307). 1989. This can be seen for example in the case of the Red Army Faction in Germany. 22 The “pessimism of reason. Although the German edition at first followed the same pattern as the English. and even internally eroded and consumed its original political character until the struggle became a mere end in itself. 234ff. who was largely dependent on the French edition (Costes). 29 What Gramsci. Gramsci introduces for this the term “organic intellectual. This point also was made by Stuart Hall (1983) when he sketched a “Marxism without guarantees. 379) deduces this from the fact that Gramsci would not duly recognize matter. demands a sober reading precisely because it discloses new possibilities of action. He lacks a concept for his own form of agency. 22. Sève (1980. the order of double adjectives must be inverted in translations from Romanic to Germanic languages (and vice versa): “aspetto nazionale-popolare” should be trans- lated as “popular-national aspect” (see Notebook 3. it then changed it. is proved by more than one contemporary war. 27 “Only war makes it possible to mobilize all of today’s technical resources” (Benjamin 1968a. struggle for the struggle’s sake. rationalized industry – which. as if it were an economic and not an epistemological category. 1216ff. a skewed analogue of “producing for production’s sake” (Marx 1977..). 70. Gramsci’s boldest wishes concerning a critical edition have today come true to a large extent. Experience has shown most forms of armed struggle to be an unin- tended antipolitics.216  Wolfgang Fritz Haug introduction to volume 6 of the German edition of the Prison Notebooks (Haug 1995. The popular articulation of the national can mean the left alternative to the national articulation of the popular. our translation). could know of Marx was only a fraction of what by now is available in the Marx-Engels-Werke (Collected works) and the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (the not-yet-finished complete works are until now unavailable in English). its armed struggle served to legitimize the police state of the nuclear security state. 25 Strangely enough. §154).” 24 Marx called those critics of the economy who operated “on the basis of Ricardian theory” the “Gegensätzler” (contradictors) (1968. 181. 26 As Brecht wrote.

385–6. however.16 Gramsci and the dialectic Resisting “enCrocement” Steven R. suppress the integral character of the relation between the soci- oeconomic and ethico-political spheres. 85). in which class identities have been articulated around a single and dichotomously divided political space (the relations of production). This principle of unfixity provides the basis for denying any underlying principle of subject position (1985. Just how to understand Gramsci’s theorization of this complex and fluid interrelationship is perhaps the overriding problem of Gramscian scholarship. that the logic of unfixity carries with it certain dangers that are symmetrically opposite to the dangers of the unifying and totalitarian threat. The opposite danger is taking deconstruction and dispersion so far that they lead to the unraveling of the social fabric and ultimately to social implosion. In addition to the class struggle. . are a concurrence of a number of different factors. Antonio Gramsci writes that he wants to recon- struct “authentic” Marxism (1971.” Gramsci argues. Although they lament the ultimate limitation of a “productivist essentialism” in Gramsci’s analysis. each having its own specific dyna- mism and “materiality. In a recent book Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe suggest that Gramsci’s concept of hegemony involves a logic that deconstructs the classical base-super- structure model of Marxism.2 Both Bukharin’s “mechanistic materialism” and Croce’s “speculative idealism. The political scene is thus not dichotomous but open to “differential articulations” (1985. 137–8). 106).” and therefore a certain degree of reciprocity is always present. They recognize. respectively. especially as advanced by Nikolai Bukharin and Benedetto Croce. These differential articula- tions produce a basic “unfixity” in which there is a “regularity in dispersion” (a phrase that they borrow from Foucault). he also recognizes that all historical phenomena. 85–8. especially expressions of power. For them. Laclau and Mouffe argue that the concept of hegemony rests on a logic of articulation and contingency that intro- duces particularity and difference (1985. Mansfield In his Quaderni del carcere. 1843–4). 69. Gramsci’s concept of hegemony opens up the possibility of constructing a general theory of the radical indeterminacy in which cultural and political identities are constituted or articu- lated by hegemonic “discourses” rather than assumed a priori to be determined by the economic structure. 1975.1 To accomplish this he engages in a dual critique of positivist and idealist interpretations of Marxism. While Gramsci is consistent about the fundamental explanatory significance of the economic class structure. they recognize a democratic struggle that occurs or can occur in various political spaces.

on the need to find some balance. Benedetto Croce himself declared Gramsci to be “one of us. I think. While no one would disagree. 1975. Gramsci seeks to understand the “abso- lute secularization and earthliness of thought” (1971. it has sometimes been argued that Gramsci’s philosophy is basically Crocean. Although Croce’s post-1924 work tempered this anal- ysis with an emphasis on the role of human will or human freedom in history. Whereas Croce conceives of history as the development of universal concepts. 119–20. 465. I will do so primarily by analyzing Gramsci’s critique of the methodology and philosophy of Benedetto Croce. A comparison of Gramsci’s and Croce’s methodological principles as they relate to the process of abstraction will raise some highly signif- icant questions. Croce’s ethical-political approach to history. This would include. for example. He raises fundamental objections to Croce’s idealistic view that universal predicates are the subject of history.” all the while relating particular concepts back to the larger and ongoing whole of history? We will. notwithstanding Croce’s claims of disin- terested neutrality. 188). 1437). 1975. such a contrast will enable us to establish Gramsci’s dialectic of identity and difference in its full configuration. in juxtaposition to Croce’s view. his antipositivism. as in the work of many liberals there is a definite aporia when it comes to analyzing fascism. 1973.4 Indeed. Gramsci even examines the vantage point and function of Croce’s general philosophy within its historical setting. what relation to history do Croce and Gramsci think concepts have? Moreover.3 I will therefore examine the dialectic of identity and difference as it is employed in both Gramsci’s analytic methodology and in his substantive theory. That is to say. Gramsci’s dialogue with Crocean philosophy is one of the most prominent features of the Quaderni. concepts and other abstractions must be understood as having historical origins and functions. after reading Gramsci’s Letter dal carcere. More than once Gramsci maintains that Croce is a “sort of lay Pope” whose philosophy provided the fascist regime with “an extremely efficient instrument of hegemony. 204). Gramsci argues that Croce’s thought had this result precisely because of its abstractness and its acceptance of the Hegelian identification of the actions that establish the “real” with “rational” developments of the Idea. and his antitranscendentalism. For example.218  Steven R.6 . it seems to me that Laclau and Mouffe exaggerate the extent of the essentialist logic and under-analyze the logic of difference in both Marx and Gramsci. see how Gramsci thinks that it is possible. Because Gramsci’s critique examines the relevance of Croce’s “dialectic of distincts” for Marxism. Yet Gramsci is also openly critical of the philosophical foundations of Croceanism. And because this dialogue helps to orient Gramsci’s critique of positivist versions of Marxism.” even if this was indirect and unintended (1971. is it possible to develop methodological principles that are consistent with an effort to understand the “absolute secularization and earthli- ness of thought. Mansfield Laclau and Mouffe suggest that between the logics of complete identity and pure difference there needs to be some balance (1985.”5 There is no doubt that Gramsci is strongly influenced by Croce and likewise no doubt that he regards some aspects of Croce’s philosophy as worthy of incorpo- ration into Marxism. 1228.

Hegel’s dialectic was “standing on its head” and the problem was to turn it right side up. 234). Although Gramsci was unable to undertake this project himself. Gramsci and the dialectic  219 A significant portion of Gramsci’s prison project is to develop a critique of Croceanism that will expose its limitations. The former. so the Crocean philosophy could be the premise of a revival of the philosophy of praxis in our time. and I was tenden- tially rather Crocean. even though Gramsci lacks full . for our genera- tion. 1240). because at that time the concept of a unity of theory and practice. 1233. A recent book by Maurice Finocchiaro compares the methodologies of Gramsci and Croce. he suggests that such an endeavor would be worthy of dedicating ten years of activity by an entire group of people. Gramsci notes that In February 1917 … I wrote that just as Hegelianism had been the premise of the philosophy of praxis [Marxism] in the nineteenth century. Despite Gramsci’s claims to the contrary. 239). he fails to transcend Croce’s method. his notes do provide us with outlines and sketches for his Anti-Croce. But now … I can rephrase my position and present it in a critically more developed way. since he was working alone and under prison conditions. With this in mind. Gramsci proposes to write “an Anti-Croce which in the modern cultural atmosphere would have the meaning and importance that Anti-Dühring had for the generation preceding the world war” (1975. and one of the origins of contemporary civilization. accompanied by very real Crocean commitments” (1988. Finocchiaro argues. Inasmuch as this would be a gargantuan project. although aware that he is specifically indebted to Croce.” The essence of the case made by Finocchiaro is this: there are two different conceptions or forms of the dialectic in Gramsci’s analysis: one cogni- tive. is primary. Reflecting back on the influence Croce had on his own intellectual development. the other historical. One of the most important passages describing the basic thrust of the Anti-Croce also contains an important autobiographical comment. in a primitive and certainly quite inadequate form. does not seem to be aware of his methodological dependence” (1988. the latter is merely paid lip service. That is to say: it is necessary to perform on Croce’s philosophical conception the same reduction that the first theorists of the philosophy of praxis performed on the Hegelian conception. 1234). was not clear to me. of philosophy and politics. Finocchiaro argues that Gramsci’s methodology suffers from several difficulties. emphasis added) For Marx and Engels. Gramsci titles one of his notes on Crocean philosophy: “The man who walks on his head” (1975. The question was then only hinted at. “how can we … make him walk with his legs and not with his head?” Gramsci believes that his own method transcends Croce much in the same way that Marx and Engels’s method transcended Hegel.7 In this note he asks. Among these is Gramsci’s failure to recognize his reliance on Crocean methodology: “Gramsci. sometimes referred to as a “dialectic of distincts. The cognitive dialectic. He has “the self-image and pretension of an anti-Croce. (1975. Among these commitments is a Croce-inspired dialectic of concepts. while at the same time absorbing certain of its positive aspects that can help revitalize the revolutionary character of Marxism.

there is a dialectic of the theory and practice of cognitive activities. Mansfield self-consciousness of its derivation from Croce. The other approach. 175). Because Gramsci’s method remains committed in this way to a Crocean position. a law of the inevitable and destructive clash of thesis and antith- esis. 180). 175) I will seek to defend Gramsci against both of Finocchiaro’s charges: (1) that Gramsci lacks full self-awareness concerning the relation of his methodology to that of Croce. Finocchiaro reaches the conclusion that Gramsci employs a Crocean dialectic of distincts. is a “judicious” mental process that seeks to avoid one-sidedness by “searching for differences underlying uniformities and for uniformities underlying differences” (1988. It is my contention that Gramsci actually accomplishes a reduction (or transformation) and transcendence of Crocean methodology. The long-standing view of most Gramsci scholars has been that Gramsci’s methodological transcendence of Croce is based on a theory of the unity of theory and practice. Finocchiaro finds that Gramsci believes that politics is both related to and distinct from each of the other activities. The whole system of relations is conceived abstractly. Instead of a dialectic of the theoretical and the historical. morality. that is. Each maintains its own integrity as a distinct activity while also being related to the others. sociology. A unity of these activi- ties. (1988. Finocchiaro is led to claim that Gramsci seems to be saying that the dialectic is useful only in theory but not in practice. as cognitive activities. Finocchiaro suggests. as being a system of the relations of cognitive expressions rather than as relations between concrete facts. and (2) that there are two inconsistent forms of the dialectic present in Gramsci’s thought. what is clearly at stake. Yet Finocchiaro argues that Gramsci fails to develop a coherent unity of theory and practice and thus does not really move beyond Croce. 242). of philosophy and politics. Indeed. where dialectics is limited to exploring tensions within cognitive activity. is Gramsci’s claim to transcend the philosophy of Croce. does not entail a reductive identity of cognitive and concrete activity. regards dialectics as a historically real process of social development that involves a law-governed process of contra- diction. In each case. In the wake of Finocchiaro’s argument. Gramsci argues that Croce’s methodology is symmetrically opposite to the reductivism and one-sidedness of positivist Marxism. This is an “extremist” and “mechanistic” version of the dialectic that “is best treated as an erroneous addition [by Gramsci] and best discarded” (1988. Since this dialectic is cognitive rather than real and historical. and economics (1988. We will see that Gramsci’s methodology. art. Finocchiaro discusses Gramsci’s views on the distinctness and relatedness of politics to philosophy. is possible through a cognitive method that “requires that various sides be distinguished and that they be united into a combination” (Finocchiaro 1988. We will examine how Gramsci contrasts Marxist and . or that the dialectical way of thinking … can be used only in the context of understanding and interpreting the world. both substan- tively and methodologically.220  Steven R. contrary to Finocchiaro. 133–41). not to criticize it or change it.

and the useful. or even all of these and others combined. as defini- tional judgments. Croce’s dialectic of distincts Like Hegel. Philosophy is thus history. of the universal in its concreteness. each form is a complete and concrete universal. we will see precisely what Finocchiaro denies: Gramsci’s methodology consistently functions both as a means of analyzing the interrelation of the various parts or aspects of human existence and also as a means of interpreting history. Such acts. (1960. or any other similar word – that is to say. we must briefly consider Croce’s contribution to dialectical theory and Gramsci’s evaluation of it. the Hegelian thesis of the imma- nent rationality of historical development. Finally. and as such. the good. The subject of history is not the specific actors or parties involved in the event but the universal concept itself. are philosophy par excellence. that is. but culture. self-conscious action.” is the self-consciousness of one’s connection to the universal. That is. Moreover. thus yielding a “two-fold relation of degree. As philosophy. Croce sees history as a universal that unfolds itself through indi- viduals. liberty. which Croce defines as “the story of liberty. 62–71). History is the pursuit of the ideal in each form. a universal. and while related to the others. each activity expresses the whole of reality under one of its aspects. In his Logic (1917). History is thus philosophy. Croce defines philosophy as the methodology of history. progress. History occurs in the realm of the pure concept (Croce 1966. especially in art) and ratiocinative cognition (formal philosophy). Gramsci and the dialectic  221 Crocean dialectics. History. Each activity is further subdivided according to the specificity or univer- sality of the object of the activity. the true. History can be subdivided into theoretical and practical activity. 60–1) Croce retains. Croce builds on the Kantian notion that history is a dialectic of distinct activities. each is autono- mous and unique. But before turning to an analysis of Gramsci’s theory of dialectics. France or Germany. The significance of actual events is the extent to which they incar- nate the universal concept. this methodology supports a strategic analysis that can justify radical political action. which develops and expresses itself as “free” action. These four distinct activities correspond to the pursuit of the beautiful. the historical act is a definitional act. even in his post-1924 writings. As Croce puts it: History is thought. thought of the universal. Within practical activity are moral acts (motivated by universal ends) and utilitarian acts (associ- ated with individual economic behavior).” Within theoretical activity are expressive cognition (associated with intuition. The four forms of theoretical and practical activity constitute a “circle of . and therefore always determined in a particular manner … the subject of social and political history [is not] Greece or Rome. We will see why Gramsci regards Croce’s speculative identity of theory and practice as ultimately tautological. civilization. Each form is a distinct aspect of the whole. a process of evolutionary refinement. As Croce conceives them.

Croce’s system cannot be truly dialectical since it reduces historical reality to the evolution of consciousness toward greater abstractness and universality of the four conceptual forms. For Gramsci. and assumes a priori the unity of these concepts. no less ludicrous and inconclusive than positivistic sociologism. Otherwise. which presupposes an abstract universal as the subject of history. the synthesis of the dialectical process itself. 136–52. history would become a formal history. if logically they can be distincts. that is. 1975. Gramsci says. Croce has fallen into a new and strange form of “idealistic” sociologism. that is. in the perennial flow of events.” and really amounts to nothing more than a smug elitism that one-sidedly and ideologically excludes or covers over the moment of social conflict (1971. 119. 1220). the whole of reality (Carr 1927. Hence Gramsci argues that Croce’s reduction of reality to conceptual categories produces merely verbal solu- tions to real problems: Since it is necessary. what happens to Croce would happen to us. He argues that despite the efforts to avoid metaphysics by focusing on human activity. 189–209).” . The view that the “good side” of every historical movement is preserved in the antithesis. those who personify the “catharsis” from the economic moment to the ethico-political moment. 1220–1). to establish some concepts without which reality could not be understood. Gramsci claims that the application of Croce’s system of conceptual categories yields an “anti-historicism”: “‘speculative idealism’ is the science of categories and of the a priori synthesis of the spirit. 1222) The dialectic of distincts. 437. it is also necessary and even indispensable to establish and to keep in mind that reality in move- ment and the concept of reality. is an ideological denial of negativity and difference. scarcely free from the grossest mythological exterior” (1975. who view themselves as the arbitrators and the mediators of real political conflicts. for Croce the same thing.e. Gramsci claims that both Croce and Proudhon develop a “degenerate and mutilated Hegelianism” (1975. a form of anti-historicist abstrac- tion” (1971.222  Steven R. Croce’s historicism and his “dialectic of distincts” remain meta- physical and apriorist. 1228). 1403. historically need to be thought of as an inseparable unity. The source of their theo- retical error lies in the fact that they “‘mechanically’ presuppose that the thesis must be ‘conserved’ by the antithesis in order not to destroy the historical process” (1975. (1975. and in the final analysis a history of intellectuals. that is. a history of concepts. synthesis which they “manipulate” speculatively in their minds. a history of gadflies. 1975. Croce’s philosophy is still “all transcendence and theology. Gramsci concludes that the assumption of a specula- tive essence exalts “classical serenity. is typical of the intellectuals. (1975. 1241) Croce’s transformation of the Hegelian dialectic is quite similar to the reform attempted by Proudhon. Mansfield the spirit” that includes the whole of the mind or. “In real history. i. 1225). 1462–3). even an autobiographic history of Croce’s thought.

Gramsci argues that terms like “East” and “West” are conventional and thus historical-cultural products. but no one can establish a priori what element of the thesis will be ‘conserved’ in the synthesis” (1975. Gramsci and the dialectic  223 Gramsci argues. development). Gramsci tells us that “the so-called dialectic of distincts … is a contradiction in terms since we have dialectic only of opposites” (1975. the act that can only be understood within the context of its relation to other social and historical factors. Linguistic inno- vations are created and take root because they suit historically laid realities and possibilities. when one factor within the historical and material context changes in a fundamental way the nature of related acts and things also changes. In a note that raises some objections to positivist empiricism.” Yet the terms are not purely conventional projections. For Gramsci. 1975. to understand the objectivity of the external world” (1971. 1316). Gramsci specifies . “these references are real. Thus the appearance and function of things may change sufficiently as to require them to be understood in quite different terms from before. in the most profane and worldly sense of the word. For Gramsci. 1226). but not of the “pure” act. Because of concrete interaction and the self-generation of human nature. Gramsci incorporates into his view of human nature and “organized matter” the capacity for interaction and change. the synthesis will be a transcendence. 1221). Philosophy of the act (praxis. and his failure to take into account historical change that takes place through the resolution of conflict. Because of the speculative character of Croce’s analytic distinctions. The relations of action and matter give rise to concepts and language that “organize” matter and action. 1420). 1975. indissolubly connected with a certain organized (historicized) “matter” and with the transformed nature of man. but rather of the real “impure” act. 1975. they correspond to real facts. 1492) The reference here to the “impure” act means the situated act. The very real relations associated with the two terms cannot exist outside of human history and cognition: “Outside of real history every point on the earth is East and West at the same time.9 Like Hegel and Marx. Drawing on an example produced by Bertrand Russell in defense of realism.” Such concepts enable action insofar as they allow us “to objectivize reality. that is in human activity (history-spirit) in the concrete.” it is essential to develop more appropriate concepts. these relations involve the identity of contraries in the concrete historical act. In order to understand reality and at the same time avoid Croce’s “ideal- istic sociologism. “the antithesis tends to destroy the thesis. the social processes involved in linguistic development (in both popular and specialized language) cannot be analyzed through a mechanical base/superstructure model that would reduce language to a passive reflection of class struggle or economics. rather. 448. Gramsci rejects the view of history as an unfolding totality in which mind seeks self-consciousness. 372.8 Gramsci’s historicism echoes Marx’s sixth Thesis on Feuerbach by defining human nature as the “ensemble of social relations in which real men move and work” (Gramsci. (1971.

It is. 111–12). 15). the elements and factors of life contain “in themselves. without bringing into relief the necessary and causal connections” (1975. (1971. Theoretical concepts are established and last so long as they are regarded as appropriate and adequate to their task of solving problems posed by the subject matter. changes rapidly and that adequate theoretical concepts emerge out of a complex history in which abstraction is based on evidence provided by both long.10 Ollman argues that change entails mutual dependence and an interactive system.and short-term historical experience (see Morera 1990. In general. the historical bloc is a real. especially social reality. The fact that theoretical concepts themselves have a temporal dimension does not prevent Gramsci from theorizing about historical reality. Mansfield that “an enquiry into a series of facts to discover the relations between them presupposes a ‘concept’ that permits one to distinguish that series from other possible series of facts” (1971. As we have already seen. Change and interac- tion are not external to things. The proper question should be: . To transform the external world. has by necessity a complex cultural history. they are part of their nature. is to potentiate oneself and to develop oneself. 1975. 1236). Gramsci goes on in this note to state that a theoretical concept. an important recogni- tion that reality. Gramsci denounces historical accounts that are only “externally descriptive. 1926). 1975. In the most general sense of the term. Gramsci describes human nature itself as a historical relation of subjective and material elements. 360.224  Steven R. The question of human nature should instead focus on the capacity of being a historical agent. Man is to be conceived as an historical bloc of purely individual and subjec- tive elements and of mass and objective or material elements with which the individual is in an active relationship. the philosophy of internal relations holds that the elements and factors that make up the condition of human life are not independent but integral to a whole or totality. as a criterion of distinction. 1338)11 In the Quaderni Gramsci raises the question of human nature not to discover the essential attributes of the individual qua individual. 461. as integral elements of what they are. The dialectics of internal relations Gramsci’s historicism has a character that is quite similar to what Bertell Ollman has called the “philosophy of internal relations” (1971). These individual elements and factors must be grasped as real historical relations rather than as “things” that have historical relations. these points have an obvious significance in our exami- nation of Gramsci’s analytical method. those parts with which we tend to see them externally tied” (1971. Insofar as his theoretical concepts are historical in nature. Gramsci calls this relation a histor- ical bloc. the general system of relations. Like Ollman. however. organic relation as opposed to a merely speculative relation. As Ollman puts it. rather.

the subject is present and self-constituting through its actions. 1985. In other words. structures.” can he create his own life? We maintain therefore that man is a process. he therefore retreats to a formalistic historicism that ideologically covers over conflict. 1975. can he “make himself. the fact that the human being is active in creating his or her own life opens the possibility of attaining knowledge of reality. as it does for Croce. In Gramsci’s view. and more exactly. Because identity is estab- lished through practice. 1975. is the most delicate. 417)12 . but rather constitutes a historical point of arrival. The first type of thinking about the dialectic sees it as a law-governed clash of thesis and antithesis. 1344) In this comment Gramsci tells us that in addition to being an ensemble of social relations. Because he fails to establish any causal connections or mediating links between the material socioeconomic and the spiritual ethical-political realms. it is “impure” practice. relations. Croce is unable to trace the origins of key moments in historical development. 351. and finding the substantial diversity beneath the apparent identity. human nature has both a historical and a systemic character. presented by Finocchiaro. and practices. The concordia discors of present human existence is rooted in real historical-social distinctions and differences embodied in various different social groupings. 1975. Even though practice is always specific and differentiating. Without such mediations. While human nature is ontologically in a process of becoming. can man dominate his own destiny. not a point of departure: “One cannot talk of the ‘spirit’ when society is divided into groups without necessarily concluding that this ‘spirit’ is just ‘esprit de corps’” (1971. is based to a very large extent on the contrast between two types of comments on the nature of dialectics. human existence takes place in a “concordia discors. 407. history is not philosophy or even “differential articulations”. Gramsci and the dialectic  225 What can man become? That is. Gramsci believes that the historical project of the human being is to become the fully “centered” subject. the process of his actions. which would provide a sense of the historically specific forms of institutions. 1490).” Indeed. the subject is not precluded from being centered in its “discourse. 885). Croce’s historiography is ironically like positivist versions of Marxism. Within history are contained the immanent “reasons for a possible [but not inevitable] unity” (1971. 2268. (1975. misunderstood and yet essential endowment of the critic of ideas and the historian of historical developments.” For Gramsci “man in general” does not serve as an analytical point of departure. until social unity is achieved. 356. Given these historical differences (many of which may be accurately described as systemic oppositions or contradictions) the unity of spirit presupposed by Croce is a historical point of arrival for humanity. human nature is also a process. The case for the incompatibility of Gramsci’s analytic and historical dialectics. (1971. An example of the second type is seen in a passage taken from a note dealing with journalism and various types of periodicals: Finding the real identity beneath the apparent contradiction and differentia- tion.

In philosophy it is praxis. But to the contrary. As a determinate system of social labor. 1443). the intervention of the State (centralized will) to educate the educator. the social environment in general. that is. 1448). The key issues are thus whether a dialectic that stresses interrela- tions is per se Crocean. the relationship between human will (superstructure) and economic structure. 1975. which Gramsci defines as “the science of dialectics or the theory of knowledge.” Gramsci provides a broad suggestion of how to conceive of the nature of the unity of the entire ensemble of social relations. Mansfield On the basis of this second and apparently different understanding of dialec- tics. although they are also reciprocally “determined. the effects of the economic structure. politics and economics are interwoven in an organic unity” (1971. The organic unity of internal relations In a fundamental statement of his dialectic of “internal relations. as well as the unity of the specific activities of economics. rather than being unaware of employing a dialectic of inter- relatedness. and whether Gramsci’s analytic dialectic is incompatible with his historical dialectic. 466. In politics it is the relationship between the State and civil society. In economics the unitary center is value.226  Steven R. philosophy. and politics: Unity in the Constituent Elements of Marxism. In this process. 1975. 431. Unity is given by the dialectical development of the contradictions between man and matter (nature – mate- rial forces of production). the structure not only sets limits to historical . 402–3. Gramsci quite consciously develops it as a means of analytically grasping the complexity and totality of political-economic and cultural-ideolog- ical relations. alias the relationship between the worker and the industrial productive forces (those who deny the theory fall into crass vulgar materialism by posing machines in themselves – as constant and technical capital – as producers of value independent of the man who runs them). (1971. The skeleton and anatomy (struc- ture) are not the only reality and the skin (superstructure) a mere appearance or illusion. Gramsci asserts the unity of opposites within each element and a unity of the constituent elements. within which the general concepts of history. The interrelatedness of the various forms of human activity is the subject of the philosophy of praxis proper. 1321. Finocchiaro argues that the analysis of identity and distinction amounts to a dialectic that is basically Crocean as opposed to Marxist. Gramsci frequently uses a metaphor of skeleton and skin to describe the relationship of structure and superstructure. In order to comprehend the real nature of an object or an activity we must try to see it as a complex set of relations and interconnections that develop historically through mutual determination. but the function of the skeleton (structure) should be given a greater value in analyzing the nature of the whole (1971. 868) In this note.” are at least easier to detect if not also greater in their effect on the overall direction of the whole social structure and on the other parts than they on it. 1975. that is.

philosophy must become political to become true and continue as philosophy.” but the contradictions within it are also a “point of reference for the new world in gestation” (1971. Gramsci and the dialectic  227 change but it also becomes the “instrument” and the motive force to create a new superstructure. 1975. Indeed. 139)14 Translatability is possible only within a materialist philosophy of internal relations. The structure. 863).” it is capable of actually producing translations among different cultures. 1611–12). and the three form a homo- geneous circle. It should there- fore be regarded as a key statement among the methodological principles under- lying Gramsci’s theory of praxis.403. (1971. and among . 1492. 242. there must neces- sarily be. 1468–73. therefore. Translatability is not limited to formal or theoretical languages but is based upon the interrelationship of the practices out of which languages develop: Philosophy – Politic – Economics. 1984. Because historical materialism views language as inseparable from other aspects of social reality. Gramsci credits Marx with the original development of a principle of reciprocal translatability. 1472. but it was also present in Hegel and constitutes one of the “sources” of Marxism: Hegel’s passage [on the relationship between French political practice and German philosophy] seems much more important as a “source” of the thought expressed in the Theses on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only explained the world and the point now is to change it. Gramsci elaborates this notion of the organic relation of base and superstruc- ture in his thesis of “reciprocal translatability” (1975.” That is. 366.” and thus sets parameters for the superstructure. Gramsci says. remains fundamental in the relationship insofar as it is “the least variable element in historical development. From these propositions (still in need of elaboration) there derive for the historian of culture and of ideas a number of research criteria and critical canons of great significance. that Gramsci conceives of this as a reciprocal organic relation. the notion of translatability is essential. in their theoretical principles. to understanding the historical genesis of the philosophy of praxis. a convertibility from one to the others and a reciprocal translation into the specific language proper to each constit- uent element.” It also is a source of the statement by Engels that classical German philosophy has the German people as its legitimate heir and ultimately as an element for the theory of the unity of theory and practice. 42. If these three activities are the necessary constituent elements of the same conception of the world. The “tranquil theory” must be “carried out practically” and made “effectual reality. not one of linear determination (1971. 1975. however. 136–40). 1975. 167–8. n. It should be empha- sized. It is not only the basis of the existing structure of “conformism. Any one is implicit in the others. and is itself consciously “adherent to reality. 1051–2. (1975. emphasis added)13 The principle of reciprocal translatability is fundamental to theorizing the organic unity of the constituent parts of the philosophy of praxis. 1984.

” to Hegel’s notion of an episteme. political. and the tendencies of its modification. The “critique” of political economy starts from the concept of the historical character of the “determined market” and of its “automatism. Marxism) the concept of a determined market is also abstract. or to Leibniz’s notion of an “expressive totality. it remains historically determinate and is therefore transitory. Translatability is not comparable to the “circle of the spirit. As Gramsci explains. Gramsci claims that trans- lations among civilizations are possible in their essential “foundations” (1975. but “pure” economy’s analysis of the determined market is arbitrary and ahistorical insofar as these elements are considered “eternal” and “natural. Critical economics analyzes the relation of the forces that form a determined market. evaluates the possibilities of modi- fication connected with the appearance and strengthening of new elements and puts forward the “transitory” and “replaceable” nature of the science being criticized. The methodology of the philosophy of praxis can produce “organic and profound” translations among the cultural expressions of determinate aspects of a partic- ular society or even among determinate “phases of civilization” (1975. 1468–73. let us examine for a moment Gramsci’s comments on the notion of determined abstractions.” While in “critical” economics (i.228  Steven R.” Classical political economy (or what Gramsci designates as “pure” economy. We are now beginning to get a very clear sense of what Gramsci means by his claim that Croce’s dialectic of distincts remains metaphysical and speculative. classical economists developed their hypotheses about economic activity.” These relations are guaranteed by a “determinate political. moral. 1984. Gramsci even goes so far as to suggest that Croce’s theory of distinct concepts is derived through Marx from Ricardo’s “determined abstractions” (1975. it analyses in depth their contradictions. In order to develop an even clearer sense of the claim being made against Croce. and others) defines a determined market as a “determinate relation of social forces in a determi- nate structure of the productive apparatus.e. and it puts forward . 138). Gramsci discusses a particular application of determined abstractions via the concept of a “determined market. 1354–5). and juridical superstructure. There is a definite contrast between the notion of translatability and the dialectic of distincts. Gramsci agrees that the concept of a determined market presents a certain automatism in society and therefore allows a measure of predict- ability.” … the critique analyses in a realistic way the relations of force determining the market. it studies it as life but also as death and finds at its heart the elements that will dissolve it and supersede it without fail. 1470.” On the basis of such methodological constructions. While no translation will ever be perfect in all its particulars. represented by Smith. Mansfield the philosophical. The accurate description and conceptualization of these forces and tendencies is crucial to the success of political activity that seeks to develop a counterhegemonic force. 136–40). Ricardo. The principle of translatability is fundamental to grasping Gramsci’s view of his methodological relation to Croce. 1984. and economic practices of a particular culture.” in which the whole is simply reflected in each part.

A class is formed on the basis of its position in the world of production: the development and the struggle for power and for the preservation of power create the superstructures that determine the forma- tion of a “special material structure” for their own diffusion. There are superstructures that have a material structure. Their development cannot be explained by the immanent development of their particular material structure. … Logically and also chronologically there is: social structure – superstructure – material structure of the superstructure. Gramsci advances a thesis of the materiality and efficacy of superstructures. that politi- cal activity is precisely the first moment or first level. translatability means the unification of theory and practice. the distinction will certainly not be between the moments of the absolute Spirit. 433–4) In this discussion we see that there is no “law-governed” clash of thesis and antithesis in which superstructures are reduced to epiphenomena. Gramsci and the dialectic  229 the “inheritor. We see also that Gramsci does not merely pay “lip service” to the historical dialectic while really relying on the cognitive dialectic of abstractions. 1478) In this nonreductive analysis of the relationship of base and superstructure. In a philosophy of praxis. Because this is such an important point. political activity. In making the argument that Gramsci’s analytic method amounts to a Crocean dialectic of distincts. their formation depends on the class struggle. etc. 411. (1971. confused and still at an elementary stage.” the heir presumptive who must yet give manifest proof of his vitality.” which detects abstract distinction and identification. For Gramsci. 1975. and on his affirmation of a moment of practice. translatability involves a political dimension in which “tranquil” theories are “carried out practi- cally. However. and other forms of activity.” Not only do theories find practical expression. but between the levels of the superstructure. Rather. it is necessary to quote the passage at length: Croce based himself on his distinction of the moments of the spirit. Gramsci argues that while superstructures have a material existence. (1975. The principle of translatability is not a cognitive “science of the dialectic. the moment in which the superstructure is still in the unmediated phase of mere wishful affirma- tion. One might say. but different activities are convertible via their theoretical expression. autonomous and independent though linked in a circle to all reality by the dialectic of distincts. of a practical spirit. . Finocchiaro also relies on a passage in which Gramsci discusses the relationship among political science. The problem will therefore be that of establishing the dialectical position of political activity (and of the corresponding science) as a particular level of the superstructure. but only by the material structure of society. This struggle is based on the class’s functional position within the relations of production. but their character remains superstructural. as a first schematic approximation.

Gramsci recognizes that one cannot speculatively determine the character of the relations among the different moments. in the system of social relations.” “class. distribution. 1975. and hence all of life with politics: How then could the whole system of superstructures be under- stood as distinctions within politics. morality.. In a revised draft of this note. in accordance with a preestab- lished plan. Can one introduce the criterion of distinction into the structure too? How is structure to be understood? How. Gramsci uses the criterion of distinction among elements of the structure in much the same vein as Marx’s comment. exchange and consumption are identical. it is the first moment of the superstructure. philosophy ‘serve’ politics. and how is the concept of a circle joining the levels of the superstructure to be understood? Concept of “historical bloc. 1568–9. that is. morality. and the introduction of the concept of distinction into a philosophy of praxis hence be justified? But can one really speak of a dialectic of distincts. Gramsci asserts both the primacy and identity of the political moment in relation to the other activities: “art.” “work. are implicated in politics. competing version of the dialectic. Indeed. get the sense that Gramsci accepts the dialectic of distincts as a separate. that: “The conclu- sion we reach is not that production. 99. when it is “imposed by force. understood in an historical and not in a metaphysical sense? (1971. may be reduced to a moment of it.e. emphasis added) As this passage makes plain. when between structure and superstructure there is homogeneity and the State has over- come its economic-corporative phase” (1975. distinctions within a unity” (1973. their character is determined and mediated by their mutual interaction and in a fundamental sense by economic and political events. 503). Mansfield In what sense can one identify politics with history. etc.” Yet. Clearly. unity between nature and spirit (structure and superstructure). however. but not vice versa” (1975. but that they all form the members of a totality. will one be able to distinguish the element “technique. made in the context of a discussion concerning the relations among various aspects of the economic process. emphasis added). that is. when the process is normal.” it “destroys art. Gramsci tells us that when economic-political passion is “exterior” to these other activities. unity of opposites and of distincts.” etc.230  Steven R. non-violent. 1316). 137. Gramsci’s concept of the historical bloc is the ground or precondition on which the “dialectic of distincts” can be incorporated into an analysis of the moments of the superstructure. . the references to distincts within the structure suggest that Gramsci employs the criterion of distinction as an analytical tool alongside that of opposition. Just how does Gramsci view the nature of the relationship of the various elements within a historical bloc? In the above quotation. politics can also become “implicit in art. Gramsci describes politics as implicit in each of the other superstructural activities and as having primacy within the superstructure. for Gramsci the elements of the superstructure do not possess the same degree of distinctness and autonomy as in Croce’s formulation of a dialectic of distincts. One does not. Rather. Just as Marx argued for the priority of production within the organic whole of economic activity. and philosophy.” i.

that Croce’s philosophy can be assimilated only because of its own instrumental relation to Marxist thought. formal logic and dialectic. positive demonstration and the destruction of the old. (1975. Rather. As Gramsci explains: It also appears from this point how Croce was able to profit a good deal from his study of the philosophy of praxis. 418) This passage and the one on journalism are both admonitions to forge organic links between the intellectual strata and the popular masses. is the problem of structuring a mass political movement. the problem that Gramsci is addressing in the note on journalism. he borrows some tools from Croce – tools that Croce was able to employ successfully because he had borrowed their essential elements from Marxism. Gramsci claims that his own methodology is neither dependent upon nor a development of Crocean principles. For example. the Crocean way. Gramsci accepts the distinctness of the different superstructural activities. cited above. that . identi- fication and distinction. This reasoning. it is clear that his methodology is designed to analyze the interaction of the different levels of activity within the superstructure as such. Gramsci says. And not in the abstract but in the concrete. Identification and distinction. to present the same problem posed by the theses on Feuerbach and confirmed by Engels in his pamphlet on Feuerbach? For Engels “history” is practice (experiment. 1985. for Croce History is still a speculative concept. Gramsci seeks to establish similarities and differences because of the substantive possibilities that are opened up by doing so. Gramsci and the dialectic  231 Praxis and dialectics From the writings of Gramsci that we have been discussing. on the basis of real and of actual experience. The viability of these distinctions depends not on their qualities as speculative entities but on their explanatory and problem-solving capabilities in a determinate social and struc- tural context. in which he discusses the significance of seeking diversity and identity through one’s reasoning. industry). must have as their frame of reference real historical experi- ence. as well as the other forms of reasoning mentioned. 2268. however. Moreover. Gramsci argues that in the attempt to develop a historically critical consciousness in the ordinary and nonspecialized reader. What actually is the Crocean thesis of the identity of philosophy and history if not a way. Gramsci makes an important proviso. and that reasoning seeks to grasp analytically. intellectuals must spell out the nature of their reasoning processes as well as make explicit the concrete premises for their reasoning. and hence between theory and practice. But such distinctions exist only as analytic moments or levels of the superstructure. It is in this vein that Gramsci adopts certain elements of Croceanism as a corrective to economistic versions of Marxism. This experience determines the nature and character of the relations that exist. requires a combination of deduction and induction. As we have seen.

not only grasps the contradic- tions. (1971. to be kept continually in mind while studying and analysing historical development. 1975. Croce has travelled backward – from speculative philosophy he arrived at a “concrete and historical” philosophy. if it is desired to arrive at an integral history and not one that is partial and extrinsic (history of economic forces as such. Gramsci argues that Croce’s view of the unity of theory and practice is developed in the idealistic sense that knowledge is a form of doing and that one knows that which one does. 5. 1487. (1971. It is a philosophy that has been liberated (or is attempting to liberate itself) from any unilateral and fanatical ideological elements. 1271) Gramsci’s corrective measure to economistic Marxism involves. 1975. the philosophy of praxis. (1971. understood both individually and as an entire social group. in which the philosopher himself. can be accepted as an “empirical canon” of historical research. The clearest expression of this argument comes up in the context of the analysis of Vico’s verum ipsum factum principle (“truth is what is done”). Croce’s ethical-political approach to history must serve as an investigative tool to enhance the philosophy of praxis: Croce’s thought must therefore. Croce’s speculative unity of spirit is based on a tautological identity of theory and practice. but posits himself as an element of the contradiction and elevates this element to a principle of knowledge and therefore of action. 1235)15 This assimilation of Croceanism is essential to counter positivist versions of Marxism. “To do” here has a particular meaning.). 1975. 404–5. Mansfield is. and (2) its inability to appreciate the histor- ical significance of social contradictions. But because of its presumption of a speculative unity of spirit. the conception of ethical-polit- ical history in as much as it is independent of any realistic conception.232  Steven R. so particular in fact that it finally means nothing more than “to know” and the phrase resolves itself into a tautology. emphasis added) . 1482)16 By being able to grasp the concordia discors of current practice. it is consciousness full of contradictions. 55–6. etc. the philosophy of praxis is the most complete and most conscious expression of social and histor- ical contradictions. and thus makes possible a nontautological unity of theory and practice. For example. among other things. at the very least be appreciated as an instru- mental value … For the philosophy of praxis. Croce has retranslated in speculative language the progressive acquisitions of the philosophy of praxis and this retranslation is the best of his thought. n. a transformative critique and assimilation of Croceanism. 364. two crucial limitations of Croceanism are (1) its inability to develop a theory of the unity of theory and concrete practice. (1975.

(2) structure and superstructure. Marx clearly accepts an analytic dialectic of unity and diversity as essential to his method of inquiry. like Marx. 1066). thought and action must be unified into a philosophy of praxis. Gramsci. 1379). During “normal times” a subordinate group verbally affirms the philosophy of dominant groups. 418.18 It is also plain that he regards “rubbing” conceptual blocks as essential to undermine or destroy petrified conceptions in common sense. 1975. is rubbing conceptual blocks to make fire. philosophy must become concrete and capable of accounting for the practical and subjective questions continually emerging from the interaction of human beings with nature and with each other. In order to do this it is necessary to raise common sense to “good sense” by means of philology and criticism (1971. in order to make “politics-history. if it is to continue to be philosophy: the source of the unity of theory and practice” (1975. “when its conduct is not independent and autonomous. but submissive and subordinate” (1971. expression in the language of Marx: It is characteristic of the entire crudeness of “common sense. practical. It is also apparent that Finocchiaro’s imputation of inconsistency between Gramsci’s analytical and historical dialectics rests on a grossly caricatured rendering of the historical dialectic. and where it sees a unity it fails to see a distinction.” unify theoretical consciousness with the passionate and practical consciousness of the masses (1971. if seem- ingly less sympathetic. 327. (Marx and Engels. With such an analytic method already developed and articulated by Marx. If “common sense” estab- lishes distinction determinations. 1975. . 325–43. In this context. 1505). Gramsci and the dialectic  233 This new philosopher suggested here is a “democratic philosopher. Gramsci expresses this in a plainly anti-Crocean way: “philosophy must become political. There exists in the practical activity of subordinate groups. an implicit and alternative world view. however. Gramsci surely does not have to be methodologically dependent on Croce in order to employ a dialectic of unity and diversity within internal relations. That is. as Gramsci specifies. A concomitant problem is to purge common sense of its folklore and superstitions.” which takes its rise from the “full life” and does not cripple its natural features by philosophy or other studies. 1975. and (3) state and civil society. By employing a theory of internal relations in which analytic translatability is possible. Gramsci discusses the hegemonic dominance that exists over subordinate social groups. 1378–96). This admonition to raise the level of common sense finds a parallel. that where it succeeds in seeing a distinction it fails to see a unity. In order to establish a new intellectual and cultural order based on this alternative world view. Gramsci argues that philosophy must become an instrument of intervention.” who must. they immediately petrify surreptitiously and it is considered the most reprehensible sophistry to rub together these conceptual blocks in such a way that they catch fire. Finocchiaro’s claim that Gramsci’s analytic dialectic is Crocean is therefore at best trivial. This conceptual rubbing is based on the actual friction that exists in what Gramsci describes (in a passage already cited above) as the “unitary centers” among (1) workers and productive forces. 1961. 339)17 Here.

145. It ought to be clear by now that the argument for a basic continuity of Crocean and Gramscian dialectics unfairly divests from Gramsci the force of his Anti-Croce. as Laclau and Mouffe put it. the concepts can be theorized. Gramsci tells us. 2342. 1428–9)19 As this statement makes clear. for even if the facts are always unique and changeable in the flux of movement of history. and one would fall back into a new form of nominalism. Experience is not contemplation.” (1975. 427. But they can be studied. not permanently fixed. 1984. Certainly the philosophy of praxis is realized through the concrete study of past history and through present activity to construct new history. the normativity of identity and difference is not an arbitrary matter but rather constitutes a “form of life. economics. Gramsci recognizes that While philology is the methodological expression of the importance of ascer- taining and specifying particular facts in their unique “individuality. (1971. the study of which can give rise to “philology” as a method of scholarship for ascertaining particular facts and to philosophy understood as a general methodology of history. art. 1433) Because of the flux of history. Otherwise one would not even be able to tell what movement is. 1975. 1429) What is the purpose of studying such historical tendencies? In the context of a discussion of linguistics.234  Steven R. like Wittgenstein.” (1971. rather. 180) Conclusion The foregoing discussion has focused on the Crocean side of Gramsci’s “dual critique” of revisionist interpretations of Marxist theory. The identities and distinctions of politics.” Norms are. philosophy. But a theory of history and politics can be made. they are characterized by “unfixity” and can become dislocated. and so on are established historically.” we cannot exclude the practical utility of identifying certain more general “laws of tendency. morality. sociology. Mansfield Gramsci’s dialectic of identity and difference does not abstract from situations and functions. or the dialectic. experience cannot be schema- tized. of course. and we must always understand that his general concepts and theories require an attention to detail to keep the meaning of those concepts and theories from becoming arbitrary and metaphysical. (1971. For Gramsci. Continuing the comment on philology. 428. 1975. Gramsci suggests that the purpose of studying the histor- ical fixity of norms is not merely “to record the history of an aspect of the civiliza- tion” but (contra Finocchiaro) “to modify it. 1975. it is history in its infinite variety and multiplicity. Gramsci is careful to relate the specific and the general. Although there are . 1985. 428.

and aided by the methodo- logical principle of translatability. This quality of dialectical unity is realized in the concept of the historical bloc. 365. seems to strike a balance between unity and dispersion much like that sought by Laclau and Mouffe. In concrete struggles. Without a will to express “the unity of the human spirit. antagonistic social unity. more coherent. real process of human action. “making ‘critical’ an already existing activity” (1971. Gramsci theorizes the existence of both social unity and disunity. 885). 1487). as Gramsci puts it. 1383). it is clear that Gramsci theorizes an asymmetry in this dialectic. along with the class struggle that determines it.” whereas Gramsci sees real unity as a potential result of the will to overcome the existing. In capitalist society the class structure of the historical bloc. and thus. the theorist needs to analyze how any particular reform may contribute to or detract from the revolutionary movement. Translatability is itself possible only because of the concrete interrela- tions that exist within the historic totality. Yet the dichotomous character of the class struggle does not .” people “would not act. to develop the potential to the maximum. 1975. Gramsci’s dialectic. Within the present disunity there exist “the reasons for a possible unity. as we have seen. For Gramsci. philosophy is fundamentally practical and political. philosophy is altogether abstract and mental. “rubbing conceptual blocs”). as a histor- ical solution that is always in the process of becoming (1971. 1975. This certainly involves searching for “differences underlying uniformities and for uniformities underlying differences” (i.e. For him the dialectic is both an analytical method for deriving theoretical principles and concepts of historical reality and a living. in other words. 355–6. plays a fundamental role in determining the direc- tion of history. he does so within a Marxist dialectic that views historical development as a process of the resolution of oppo- sitions. 1975. 1975. At the heart of their differ- ences is Croce’s presupposition of an eternal and spiritual unity of “man. As seen in the concept of the historical bloc. Dialectical unity is not a categorical or analytical point of departure. 1780). philoso- phies would not become ideologies and would not in practice assume the fanatical granite compactness of the ‘popular beliefs’” (1971. the “complex. rendering practice more homogeneous. But as Laclau and Mouffe note. Gramsci’s dialectic is clearly not just a cognitive method. historically produced. Although Gramsci develops criteria of distinction. not of the golden mean. Gramsci and the dialectic  235 certainly some similarities and linkages between Gramsci and Croce. 331. developing its potential to the maximum” (1971. For Croce. to “accelerate the historical process that is going on.” The role of the theorist is not merely to criticize but also to disclose potentiality. Translatability among the constituent elements of the philosophy of praxis enables the discovery of such potential. they would not create new history. but really of the politician who has a very precise line with a wide perspective of the future” (1975. that is. Gramsci employs the concept of dialectical unity in a historical-political sense. therefore. 404. contradictory and discordant ensemble” of the existing relations in the structure and the superstructure. more efficient in all its elements. As Gramsci writes: “knowing how to find each time the point of progressive equi- librium (in the sense of one’s own programme) is the art of the politician. in order. 1825). Gramsci’s dialectics is fundamentally different from Croce’s.

Buttigieg’s transla- tion of the Gerratana edition has been published. Alongside Gramsci’s most famous concepts like hegemony and the historical bloc. this dialectic is the essential methodological element for developing a system of what Gramsci calls a “living philology. 429. and its historical role. his recognition that the multiplicity of interests articulated through demo- cratic struggle opens up the “front of cultural struggle” is certainly one of his most significant contributions. counterhegemonic will.20 For Gramsci. can move together as ‘collective man’” (1971. To put it another way. 1975. This suggests that the class system of domination and alliance within the frame- work of the historical bloc is very significant in understanding the nature of the existing hegemonic system. 7 Gramsci later scratched out that title. thus redefines philos- ophy. He also recognizes that a stable hege- monic system relies on both force and consent to preserve contradictory unity. The dialectic of identity and difference on which this depends. and to keep plurality in check. the dialectical analysis of iden- tity and difference is essential in determining the framework and limits of the historical bloc. thus articulated. Notes 1 Where quoted passages are available in both Italian and English. 3 For such a critique of Laclau and Mouffe and a summary of a number of other critical responses. Donna Childers. however. share other judg- ments of Bellamy’s. While Gramsci may not go as far in developing a radical demo- cratic theory as Laclau and Mouffe would like. It is required to maintain the passivity of all marginal and subordinate groups in ways that at least partially satisfy their interests while at the same time preserving dominant interests. positivist approaches. . he does recognize the political importance of plurality and difference. as well as the possibility of alternatives. see Davidson (1972). 453). 1854–5) that the philosophy of praxis has undergone in reality a double revision by. philosophic method. Mansfield deny the existence and significance of interests that are articulated in the demo- cratic struggle. “the whole complex. A stable hegemony must prevent the formation of a collective.236  Steven R.” which results from the “active and conscious co-participation” between subordinate groups and the “democratic philosopher. 200–4). 4 For a brief history of the interpretation of Gramsci. Bertell Ollman. 6 For more detail on this point. 389. idealist currents and. on the other. 2 See Gramsci’s comment (1971. and which emerges from Gramsci’s Anti-Croce. and David Ruccio for their comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. on one hand. Maurice Finocchiaro. 5 Quoted in Davidson (1972.” According to Gramsci. popular. see Bellamy (1990). see Best and Kellner (1991. I do not. At the date of this writing only volume 1 of Joseph A. 1975. citations to both will be provided. 1430). once such a system has been formed. Acknowledgments I wish to express my thanks to Joseph Buttigieg.

1975. 101). see also Buci-Glucksmann (1980. see Golding (1988. Also of interest is a passage on the unity of the economic. what the former says in French. 14 See Marx. 1468–73. Marx’s comment that “The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations. See his comment that “Matter as such therefore is not our subject but how it is socially and historically organized for production. 287). 1975. Gramsci and the dialectic  237   8 Cf. 320) and in Marx (1926. 20 See Ellen Meiksins Wood (1986. 365–71) and Mansfield (1984. 465–6. 13 Cf. 399–402. 130–9) titled “The Pragmatalogical Dialectic.   9 See Walter Adamson’s elaboration of this point in the section of his book (1980. that is. 1984. political. in abstract thought. Gramsci’s comment that “historical unification takes place through the disappear- ance of the internal contradictions which tear apart human society” (1971. 445. 189. 11 We have also seen that Gramsci refers to “matter” as “historically organized” and hence also involving a relation. Leibniz. For discussions of the significance of Vico’s principle for Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis. 125–6). in the language of politics and of thoughtful observation. 19). critical comment no. 1246–8). The Holy Family. i. 16 See also the earlier draft of this point (1975. 543–63) and Mansfield (1983. 19 A number of commentators have discussed the significance of Gramsci’s comments on philological method. a human relation” (1971. See also Gramsci’s discussion of the “unitary moment of synthesis” (1971. written one and one-half years before Gramsci’s imprisonment (1978. and natural science should be seen correspondingly as essentially an historical category. 1975. One of the best discussions is the just published introduction by Joseph Buttigieg to Gramsci (1992). Other translations of this passage can be found in Marx and Engels (1976b. see Watkins (1986) and Kahn (1985).” See Gramsci’s discussion of the history of this notion (1975. 15 For an elaboration of Gramsci’s “use” of Croce. 138). 137–40). 1060). 4. 3447). 1442). 1975. ch. 4) for an incisive critique of Laclau and Mouffe on this point. hence unity of the diverse” (1973. 1635). 18 See Marx (1967. 1416). 17 As cited by Ollman (1990. 3: “If Herr Edgar compares French equality with German ‘self-consciousness’ for an instant. 44). Cf. Hegel. ch. 465). and Marx. Modern adher- ents include Spinoza.” 10 Ollman traces the philosophy of internal relations back to Parmenides. and ideological struggles. the earlier formulation of this idea (1975. he will see that the latter principle expresses in German.e. . 12 A similar formulation can be found in a note dealing with problems of bureaucracy and organizational principles of the political party (1971.

it might be supposed that Gramsci was the first postmodernist thinker in the Marxist tradition. we come to understand a Gramsci who was cautiously and critically modern. The Quaderni offer ample evidence that Gramsci was grappling with some of the same questions of cultural politics. or a form of disciplining. language and meaning. The postmodernist Gramsci In a passage critical of Bukharin’s arguments regarding the independent existence of the external world. However. Since all religions have taught that the world. Instead. the universe has been created by God before the creation of man and hence man has found it all ready and done. social diversity. Toward that end.17 Gramsci’s critical modernity Esteve Morera Given the central importance of the term “hegemony” in much social and polit- ical theory today. this belief has become an iron . power and truth. I want first to advance the thesis that Gramsci did indeed prefigure many current arguments and that he entertained thoughts that may be characterized as either explicitly or implicitly postmodern. and so forth. and truth is power. science and objectivity. even if those who accept it are religiously indifferent. having proven that these fundamentally postmodern theses can be found in Gramsci. But it is precisely here that the question arises: what is the origin of this “belief” and what critical value does it have “objectively”? In fact. Gramsci writes: The public “believes” that the external world is objectively real. that have become the focus of debate in social and political thought. the great thinkers of the Enlightenment were wrong in believing in the power of reason and managed only to further new myths in place of the old ones. I will make arguments purporting to prove that for Gramsci. nature. A good number of arguments can undoubtedly be developed in support of that thesis. myth and metanarratives ground what we mistakenly have thought to be objective knowledge. this belief is of reli- gious origin. catalogued and defined once and for all. though not a rationalist (in the narrow sense) or a positivist. In assessing Gramsci’s intellectual legacy. I then will seek to show that a more comprehensive reading of the Quaderni fails to corroborate the interpretation of his work as prefiguring postmodernism. the critique of the Enlightenment.

Although this was merely a germ. the bare beginnings of a new attitude toward the world. was moving away from the narrow realism of Marxism (and from its critique of religion as an ideological. in so doing. for instance. any empirical or transcendental (such as Roy Bhaskar’s [1979]. The Crocean language was merely a convenient device to explore some deep issues in episte- mology. it is not any general philosophical argument. its implications are far-reaching: they involve no less than deep skepticism toward the possibility of objectivity. of our approach to the so-called world. one can argue. which stood “truth on her head.” is the “denying of all perspective” and that “Christianity is Platonism for the masses”. further.1411–12)1 This passage is of great interest for many reasons. for instance. in religious narratives about the origins of things. one that he did not clearly recognize or develop and that. or any perceptual experience of those who entertain such beliefs that counts as their origin. 33–4). However. In claiming that the belief in the independent existence of the external world had its origins in religion. perhaps through the influence of Benedetto Croce (Finocchiaro 1979. a theory that was in some respects very close to Nietzsche’s views on truth and religion. 26) or some version of a phenomenological theory of the construction in thought of the real of Husserlian origins (Nemeth 1980. remained embedded in modern forms of thought. for it is itself . one can take the argument further and claim that this passage is indisputably a symptom of a postmodernist epistemology that was slowly emerging deep in Gramsci’s thought. xxiv). perhaps from a sociological perspective. Nietzsche (1990. The origin of beliefs. unscientific prejudice) toward a postmodern reevaluation of knowledge. Gramsci’s statements to some writings of the German philosopher. it could be argued that he was developing. a reeval- uation that could not but lead toward the current “incredulity toward metanar- ratives” (Lyotard 1984. and happiness (1968. never was able to do). Since the independent reality of the natural world cannot be taken as a founda- tion for knowledge in general or for natural science in particular. Q11§17. That his language is often that of Croce is not so much evidence of his accepting the metanarrative of Hegelian idealism as it is an indication that he had not yet developed a new language for the new concepts just beginning to surface (and. The merit of Gramsci’s writings is that they precisely uncover the narrative behind the belief in the reality of the external world and. That is. (1975. given his death. virtue. in consequence. It may serve as proof that Gramsci rejected a materialist realist epistemology and adopted an idealist one. 32) wrote. note his concerns about Socratic rationality and the Christian appropri- ation of the philosophy that links rationality. Gramsci. that Platonism. Gramsci’s critical modernity  239 fact of “common sense” and is alive with the same solidity even if religious sentiment is extinct and asleep. they do much more in that they uncover the discursive (or perhaps intradiscursive) nature of all belief. 13). an indispensable but unconscious form of existing and believing. or. Compare. perhaps) arguments for the existence of an independent world. Indeed. the argument runs. is to be found in a general discourse – in this case. The origin of particular beliefs about the world is to be found in general narratives that are diffused among the population and become second nature.

In a sense. as Gramsci himself puts it. wholly dependent on the initial metanarrative. and so forth are language constructs. This is the basis for the view of the constitutive function of language – that is.240  Esteve Morera founded on a prior metanarrative. 139). for instance. his otherwise difficult argument does settle one very impor- tant question: Gramsci obviously did not think of abandoning universality despite practical and theoretical difficulties in securing it. “they have had a universal value in so far as they have become constitutive elements of European culture. the only one that is historically or concretely universal” (1975. Hence it is discursive practice that first gives us a world that constitutes an object of knowledge: not just any amorphous world. he contended that although other cultures have had some importance in the process of the unifi- cation of world civilization. the objectivity of science is founded upon a subjective element – namely. Some. or in what sense such a consensus could be called objective. We did not know. practices” (1993. which are the discursive elements in a discursive practice of long standing with important practical conse- quences. Consequently. the metanarrative of theological thought. Knowledge production is wholly dependent on the original metanarrative: it can only discover. “the object of knowledge is produced by theoretical practice itself … A theory is only false to the extent that it is inter- nally inconsistent” (1977. a concept for which he distinguished several senses (Morera 1990.” a concept that leaves many questions unanswered. In a similar vein. his hesitations exhibit considerable confusion on his part. Theology is a narrative constructed out of the interpretation of texts. might be inclined to argue that Gramsci’s universal consensus is nothing more than an illusion. he did not always succeed in keeping them within their contexts. Our knowledge production is. the world constructed by the metanarrative. speaks. In a revealing note. nature. Gramsci was grappling with the notion of objectivity. although perhaps not so much as one might suppose. that history. after this discourse-given world. methodologies. his consideration of some version of Kantian teleology as a useful device for political theory (as we shall see later) militates against the radical individualism of the superman. he did not go as far as Nietzsche for he did not kill God. and acts. but a Catholic world. there is no room for a correspondence theory of truth for truth cannot but be a form of coherence within a metanarrative or within the discursive practice in which one thinks. This. 60). while I concede that that . A critical reading of Gramsci ought to reject these aspects of his thought but. if not worse. 44–5). The relationship at issue is one between experience of the world … and systems of connected theories. As Laclau put it some years ago. what conditions would be necessary for taking such a universal consensus. 1825). or language/ world dichotomy here. an animistic world. His notion of humanity in the making. in her critique of classical epis- temology Nelson writes that she is “not endorsing a theory/world. However. many would argue. However. clearly shows that the universal humanity in the making is nothing more than code for the dominance of European culture or. a discur- sive construction of what counts as the object of knowledge. He argued that objective could only mean “universal subjective. Q15§61. There is much evidence that in the Quaderni. and so on. the “hegemony of Western culture over the entire world culture” (1825). however. or recover.

although he was to reject some fundamental aspects of Sorel’s thought. his theorization of politics and political action owes much to the French syndicalist’s writings on politics. Thus.’ that is. one may conclude. In short. that any attempt to construct one is a dangerous game that. Gramsci’s theory itself offers critical elements for rejecting the closure of discourse implied by Eurocentrism. Gramsci writes that “the myth is for Sorel the scientific principle of political science. he argues that Machiavelli’s Prince can be understood as a Sorelian myth for it is political ideology not as mere rational discourse. a multiplicity of narratives. and of metanarratives in general. of language games. one that was in process rather than already given from the start of history. This account of the importance of religion in particular. but embodied in a “fantasy” whose function is to create a collective will and arouse a people to action. fragmenting view of the subjective nature of the given real. Gramsci seemed to favor the universal subjectivity of a common humanity. The prince is the anthropomorphic representa- tion of such a collective will (1975. If the function of narratives is to produce a world and make its expe- rience possible. because the content of universal humanity is to be the result of a long historical process rather than its presumptive point of departure. In his notes on the modern prince. becomes possible. oppressive social formations. we begin to see the origins of a radical pluralism that results when the Catholic objectivity of vulgar materi- alism is confronted by a different. one could argue. would fail Gramsci’s notion of the method for defining humanity. it is Croce’s ‘passion’ studied in a more concrete manner. Rousseau as much as Genesis. 1308). Postmodernists may claim that the present historical conjunc- ture does not offer any evidence that such universal humanity is at all likely and. or of a lost paradise. Gramsci’s critical modernity  241 may lead to rethinking Gramsci’s theory as a whole. universalist discourse enforces a form of uniformity. But conscience is noto- riously fragmented whereas the objectivist. the latter seems far more likely. it is that which Croce calls ‘religion. In this reading of the Quaderni. In the absence of such objectivity. Given his conception of hegemony. a conception of the world with a corresponding ethics” (1975. In this. The Reformation introduced the discourse of relativity as conscience and the rejection of the objectivist discourse of Catholic narrative. might provide the grounds for a reevaluation of the influence of Sorel on Gramsci. he of course rejected any fictions of the state of nature. In his assessment of Croce’s critique of Sorel. Gramsci would have had to move toward either totalitarianism or post- modern attitude toward objectivity and discursive practice. Rather. Thus. that could serve as explanatory devices of a fundamental human nature or as an account of what had gone wrong. then political theory and action must take this fact into consid- eration. Q10II§41v. that made Gramsci aware of the importance of this issue and. the party is the modern prince for it equally must create a collective will and arouse a . Thus. I do not think it follows that universality must be rejected. can only lead to totalitarian. Hobbes as much as Locke. like all such games in the past. moreover. One can see that much of Gramsci’s critique of Catholicism can be understood as an application of these principles. Q13§1:1555). of which he might have been barely conscious. It was Georges Sorel’s theory of the myth.

In both notes. and referring to socialism as a religion. Gramsci seems to deny the existence of the pregiven object of theory (or the objectivist stance that has been given philosophical sanction by epistemological and ontolog- ical realism). Many of the important elements of such readings of Gramsci are certainly present in both his earlier writings and the Quaderni. When considered together. hence the modern prince is necessarily an organization (such as the party) rather than a virtuous individual. to the extent that it creates a new ideological terrain. The first was written between 1930 and 1932. Gramsci also seems to deny the primacy of rationality in human affairs. a philosophical fact” (Q10II§12. Q4§38. 69) but pointing to the political or discursive. religion because it has substi- tuted the faith in man and in his best energies as the only spiritual reality for the consciousness of the transcendental God of the Catholics” (1960. 1249–50.242  Esteve Morera people. Our starting point is found in a note on the relation between ideology and philosophy in which Gramsci discusses the epistemological value of the principle of hegemony. nature of class identities. determines a reform of consciousness and of the methods of knowing: it is a fact of knowledge. these arguments do seem to point to the postmodernism of Gramsci. in the language of Croce. in presenting the Sorelian myth as a social force not entirely accounted for by rational discourse. the successful introduction of a new . the prince now must be an organiza- tion that represents or embodies the new forms of cooperative activity created by the factory system. these arguments may not carry great weight. for “the realization of a new hegemonic apparatus. a concept that can now be seen as the culmination of a theory that was merely latent in. that the prin- ciple of hegemony also has an epistemological importance. 1249–50). he writes. or implied by. seem to rein- force the previous arguments about metanarratives and the discursive nature of the real. Laclau and Mouffe see this new theory embedded within the old “naturalist prejudice” (1985. the arguments so far reviewed. Religion in the sense that it too is a faith which has its mystics and its practices. 148). However. One can trace this way of thinking to Gramsci’s early writings. One could argue that in the same way that Croce saw European history as the struggle between different religions. From this it follows. There are two versions of this note. “The Philosophy of Benedetto Croce. it repeats some statements from the first version. they add strength to other arguments that can be derived from the concept of hegemony. an element that he would develop by using Sorel’s concept of the myth. The second appears in notebook 10.” written between 1932 and 1935. he contends that Marx’s view that “men become conscious of structural conflicts in the terrain of ideology has an epistemological value and not only a psychological or moral one” (1975. Further. Gramsci understood it as the process of myth formation and change. but adds an important thought. In seeming to emphasize the primacy of discourse over the real object of knowledge. however. 464–5). Writing of the myth as a “fantasy” that embodies an ideology and political will. In isolation. rather than economic. Already in 1916. Unlike Machiavelli’s era. The note ends with the assertion that. The Gramsci of the prison years seems to retain this important element from his earlier days. Q10II§12. Gramsci had written: “socialism is precisely the religion that must eliminate Christianity.

Q7§35. for how else could one engage in social critique if one did not assume that it is possible to produce a theory that better expresses the reality of the world and a practice that is more just. as Fontana argues. one such revision that seems to find in Gramsci its necessary evolutionary moment. Rather. Q10II§2. The origins of postmodern Marxism may have to be traced to a number of different revisions of the Marxian canon. 868–9). and so forth to hegemony and therefore to political discourse. 1242. a notion he would revise further in other notes. thus rational belief systems. between ideology and knowledge. ways of knowing. It would seem that for Marx. Gramsci “identifies history with politics and therefore ideology with philosophy” (Fontana 1993. 21). a new religion. Gramsci is questioning any distinction between the private and public realms of human endeavor as well as the view that any epistemologies. Above all. perhaps the more apt name of hegemony. as well as for Althusser. Thus. takes precedence over all the other arts and sciences. cautiously. etc. there is a clear distinction between ideology and science or.” (Q7§19. This moment concerns the nature of ideology. the philosopher. There is. one could conclude that Gramsci is making his general point about metanarratives more specific by relating general philosophical traditions. Gramsci was concerned with rejecting the pejorative connotations of the latter (illusion. With this theoretical move. or the activist from attempting to discern (tentatively. a pejorative one that he finds unhelpful: it does not permit us to distinguish between ideologies as arbitrary individual thinking (which may be of little importance) and ideologies as historically grounded. but courageously) the truths and virtues that one can justify and defend. struggle. quoted by Fontana 1993. But at the same time he is revising the notion of ideology. which may be believed to be a reworking of the concept of ideology. distortion of . more justifiable? That both what is just and what is true are difficult questions does not exempt the social critic. they organize human masses and form the terrain on which men move. methods. epiphenomenon. It is not merely an expression of a latent Aristotelianism according to which the science of politics. it is precisely this distinction that is the foundation of critique. Gramsci’s critical modernity  243 hegemonic apparatus is in fact the introduction of a new view of the world with its corresponding ethics – in short. His statement that “everything is politics. and we may have considerable trouble in identifying with clarity the line of demarcation between them. that distinction is important: it makes sense. as the science of the good life. the conception of religion – giving it a new. The latter “have a validity that is ‘psychological’. 22). 886) takes on new meaning. sciences. To the extent that ideologies form the terrain where human beings move. perhaps less scientistically. however. he writes that the Marxist conception of hegemony has a mainly negative sense. and so forth can be considered nonpolitical. but for Marx and Althusser. and it is necessary. It might seem that Gramsci is simply redefining. We may not always succeed in distinguishing the two. even philosophy or philosophies” (1975. In developing the concept of hegemony. The point seems to be well confirmed by Gramsci: “ideologies … are the ‘true’ philosophy” (Gramsci 1975. acquire consciousness of their position. or generalizing.

or so it seems.” clearly links hegemony and knowledge. one can begin to see a certain consistency in the rather chaotic Quaderni: earlier it was argued that his views on the independent nature of the external world pointed to the postmodernist conception of the dependence of knowledge on language games. some limiting subjective condition that is shot through with ideology. 66) calls “local determination” or the multi- plicity of language games. Hegemony is thus the power to determine that which can be said. Perhaps the most significant statement to be found in the Quaderni is that “the philosophy of praxis conceives the reality of human relations of knowing as an element of political ‘hegemony’” (Gramsci 1975. etc. and the like. Indeed. in the depths of Gramsci’s thought. for various epistemic communities whose social relations make them aware of problems largely invisible to or ignored by others. and clearly questions the notion of objectivity so central to classical or normative epistemology and to the distinction between science and ideology. In trying to distinguish a positive sense of “ideology. and so forth.” Gramsci opened the door to the complete revaluation and ultimate obliteration of the distinction between science or knowledge. it has given rise to the conception of epistemological . Thus. Through what Lyotard (1984. through making experience of that world possible and thus creating some language games and silencing others. The relation between the narratives that constitute our world and power is well estab- lished. which vary from those obtaining within specialized scientific communities to those obtaining within and between larger social groupings. much contemporary work on what has become the central issue in the sociology of knowledge – the political significance of epistemology – seems to favor arguments in support of the thesis that ideology and knowledge are indistinguishable as all knowledge is ultimately based on some subjective standpoint. Q10II§6. epistemology. hegemony exercises power through the constitution of a world. perpetuation of ruling-class power). 1245). tend to obscure important aspects of social life or distort our appre- ciation of others. and ideology on the other. disciplining through ridicule. 10) or the “unstable state and instant of language wherein something which must be able to be put into phrases cannot yet be” (13). in so doing. thought. the same conclusion can be reached by looking at what is perhaps the central concept of Gramsci’s political theory: hegemony. That insight is now part of much of the debate about science. or proved. ideas have a significance that is at once epistemological and political. which are dependent upon general cultural and political forms linked to structures of domination. Now. They are political because the general conditions of knowledge production. In this brief sketch. on the one hand. narratives.244  Esteve Morera reality. If so. Such conditions result in what Lyotard calls the “inability to prove” (1988.). it has helped make the thesis of the ideological character of science credible. He clearly seems to reject the pejorative connotations of “ideology. Study of the history of science has unearthed much evidence to support this view and has greatly contributed to dispelling the illusion of objectivity. The impor- tance of this text lies in the explicit recognition of the political significance of what may be called the relations of knowledge production. Moreover. Gramsci plays a pivotal role. which helps those in power to avoid some challenges to their position (by silencing the voices of others.

symptoms. indices. admittedly. As he puts it. The central issue in those arguments is that of power. some of them embedded in the relations among knowers. it controls. who will be well adapted to the very demanding. the transformation of “the terms of the debate from a preoccupation with the ambiguous concept of ideology and its effects to a consideration of the relations of ‘truth’ and ‘power’ which are constitutive of hegemony” (1986. “We believe … that the body obeys the exclusive laws of physiology and that it escapes the influence of history. Taylorized industrial system (Q4§52. Q1§158. Q4§55. including a natural one. but there are. which is indeed consistent with the view that it is narratives – regimes of truth – that give us a world. 500. 87–8). 2160. particularly those necessary for the creation of a type of worker. but this too is false. the tame gorilla. and the hegemonic relations among its members will count as evidence. not only because of what it reveals about his thought and his understanding of society. In her illuminating essay on this notion.” This seems to leave no doubt about the historical character of the body. Gramsci writes of the physical and psychological attitudes that the individual must acquire to be able to receive an education (1975. Gramsci. Nelson goes so far as to argue that since the facts are rarely if ever sufficient to determine or prove a theory. its organization. 1544). the function of the state is to create . Q22§11. 2165–6). Thus organizing principles (such as androcentrism and gynocentrism) are and should be taken as evidence for relevant scientific theories (Nelson 1993. 490–1. clues dispersed throughout this work. In this respect. but also because it seems to offer one more bit of evidence of the convergence between his thought and Gramsci’s. Q12§2. The view that structures of power penetrate the very identity of persons is perhaps best illustrated by what Foucault has to say about the body. as evidence for the theory. In a similar vein. Gramsci’s critical modernity  245 communities. it seems possible to relate Gramsci’s concept of hegemony to Foucault’s notion of the truth regime: their views of society and history may have more in common than has been suspected. Thus. 138). He further asserts that “nothing in man – not even his body – is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self-recognition or for understanding other men. its assumptions about the world. “The history of industrialism has always been (and today it becomes so in a stronger and more rigorous form) a continual struggle against the element of ‘animality’ in man” (Q22§10. Foucault writes. To the extent that the epis- temological subject is a community. did not develop his ideas to this conclusion. that such ideas were emerging and beginning to produce a break with modernism and Marxism. his conception of the “integral state” as power diffused in the sphere of private organizations points to such a view. Gramsci in many ways anticipates the now generally accepted view that the private is political. As Barry Smart points out. the kind of world it experiences. power is diffused through all social institutions to the extent that it invades individual identities themselves: it disciplines. one must take the background ideas of the time. The body is molded by a great many distinct regimes” (1984. These arguments inevitably lead to the question of the relationship between Gramsci and Foucault. it is to be found everywhere. one can see. In Foucault’s version. This is an interesting issue. 144). 161) is perhaps the key link between the two thinkers.

First. In this passage a clear link is made by Gramsci between power. History. to “elaborate even physically a new type of humanity” (Q13§7. Given this characterization. on the one hand. reproduction. Q11§67. In a short but significant passage. The last sentence. 73. and the identity of the person. it should integrate popular memories and erudition. change. For him. Perhaps equally telling are his remarks regarding the relation- ships among sexuality. It is. Genealogy. This fusion of experi- ence and the laws of history. Gramsci’s often repeated idea that human nature is the ensemble of social rela- tions and his historicist approach to most issues imply that the human body itself is pliable – that it can be subjected to social pressures and has a historical dimen- sion. and certainly between the Gramsci of the Quaderni and the generally postmodernist attitude toward history. historical materialism – itself a discourse that confronts established regimes of truth. characterizes current theoretical concerns as the emergence of local knowledges in opposition to grand narratives or “globalizing discourses” (Foucault 1980b. and the laws of history on the other (Gramsci 1975. local knowledges or “subjugated knowledges” (which are popular) may be characterized as antisciences and contrasted with “genealogy. of local memory and erudition. For Gramsci. and economics (Q1§62. Gramsci claims that the people understand and feel but often do not know whereas intellectuals know but fail to understand and in particular to feel. as much as Lyotard. Organic intel- lectuals or a progressive party are necessary to fuse together the experiences felt and understood by the masses. in the form of coercion. points to an important question: What is the nature of the “historical formation” of human identity? In particular. begin to appear. hence of dubious value for Foucault. thus reinforcing the view that his thought was in many ways close to that of Foucault. 1505).246  Esteve Morera the new human being. it could be said that Gramsci himself took the first steps toward the development of genealogy. conflict.” defined as “the union of erudite knowledge and local memories” (83). Q22§3. in their understanding of history that some important differences between them. 313–14). its effectiveness is linked to what he views as the function of .” Two things seem to be of particular interest in that theory. Let us look first at the points of convergence.” Foucault develops a general theory of what he calls “effective history. In the first place. but one that is nevertheless a globalizing discourse. In other words. and so forth in the historical process. In his “Nietzsche. 452–3. however. he writes that she is wrong – too metaphysical – in thinking that children will naturally develop their latent potential without any need for coercion. it raises the ques- tion of the roles of structure and contingency. Foucault. however. Gramsci’s theory of history can be related to Foucault’s in a number of respects. Instead. 83). 1565–6). of course. one could say. is indeed genealogy. In a particularly apposite passage found in a letter to his wife. 2148). Again. the globalizing theory that must integrate the materials provided by local experiences is. Gramsci thinks that “man is entirely a historical formation” (1965. power. Q4§24. Gramsci suggests that history should be written not simply from the point of view of some intellectual scheme but should express the experiences of the masses or. there seems to be some commonality of interests in how both Gramsci and Foucault approach the writing of history.

and so forth but the ruptures of the flow of language games – ruptures that most often come from the margins of history. not to understand (1984. often translated as historicism. and with it the function of intellectuals who produce it. insofar as he linked his thought to a revolutionary program designed to uproot the traditional foundations of his society. as I mentioned earlier. therefore.” This view of history may have some antecedents in the German historismus of the nineteenth century. To answer these questions is. he means uprooting traditional foundations. Foucault (1984. By cutting. Their difference lies in the fact that for the German histori- cists. would constitute a regime of truth and. Indeed. No doubt. as an important element in the political process of creating a new historical bloc. and both are concerned with freedom – the historicists on the grounds that history is about the decisions of free moral agents. which is to cut. In short. Whereas the German histor- ical school reached this view on the basis of a Kantian understanding of history as moral drama or as the realm of freedom. he seems to see the function of knowledge. no laws of history are possible. derives his historical method from what he believes to be the requirements of freedom. it would discipline or control individu- ality). told by a progressive group that is in the process of developing a new hegemony. would limit the possible experiences of individuals (i. Gramsci’s critical modernity  247 knowledge. both models of historical understanding seem to have much in common: both emphasize the particularity or uniqueness of events. Gramsci. however. he would reject many theses of the German historical school for he sees in events not the decisions made by historical agents. Foucault on the grounds that metanar- ratives or generalizations about history threaten freedom for they make rupture much more difficult.e. Foucault seems to link it to the view that the kind of knowledge that would offer generalizations. he contends that effective history “deals with events in terms of their most unique characteristics. 88) rejects the “rationalistic or theological” tradi- tion that views events as parts of a “teleological movement or a natural process. not from an ontology. like all such regimes.” Instead. In the end. the German historicists drew some conclu- sions about the writing of history from an ontology – from what they believed to be the real historical process. but it leaves open the question what is history – whether what it really is demands some methodology as well as some necessary ways of doing things. understood as a rupture in the flow of events. or general historical laws. For Foucault it is the primacy of freedom. Hence for Gramsci. effec- tive history would be a history told from the point of view of a possible future. that requires a certain way of writing history. Thus. for Foucault. there is much to be admired in his views for his insistence on writing about the history of marginalized groups (the silent voices of the past) is of considerable interests to Marxists and to many others. by contrast. the values that led to them. Its main thesis was precisely that historical events are unique and. 88). disciplining. Second. Foucault. could not entirely disagree. their most acute manifestations. This reflects the general postmodern skepticism about metanarratives. the historicists advanced a truth-claim. Foucault radicalizes the principle of the uniqueness of historical events by not only affirming that “[t]he forces operating in history are not controlled by destiny . the nature of the historical process itself demanded their views on unique- ness and freedom – that is.

Gramsci. There are many other ideas that suggest a rather extensive similarity between the writing in the Quaderni and various postmodern thinkers. These two grounds are the metanarrative foundation of all knowledge. where there is only ‘the iron hand of necessity shaking the dice-box of chance’” (89). who thought of it as one of the major metanarratives constituting modernity. Necessity crushes uniqueness. is quite interested in conflicts. It is not easy to understand fully these texts for their author seems to deny the existence of “regulative mechanisms” in history at the same time that he admits of the existence of the “iron hand of necessity” – a necessity. in history. he contends. of course. He does not. On the whole. Rather. is also a denial of the link between truth and liberation. for Foucault. which seems at times equivalent to contingency. one finds in Gramsci’s reflec- tions on the Risorgimento. it is not a structural effect of necessity. Nevertheless. see them as haphazard. but respond to haphazard conflicts” (1984. Hence Foucault’s quest for freedom. not a matter of truth or necessity. its power lies in its becoming the truth: the yoke that subjects uniqueness and contingency to necessity. and the intrinsic relationship between truth and power. by not distinguishing between fate or providence on the one hand and regulative mechanisms on the other. not of the great revolutions as. without providence or final cause. atheist view of the universe. it follows. on this understanding of history that Gramsci’s thought departs from Foucault’s. Science and religion. but also by affirming. However. the uniqueness of events – actions that disrupt the metanarratives. philosophy and ideology are merely metanarratives that discipline and constrain the haphazard uniqueness of individual experience. the continuities. this approach seems to generate a rather coherent . It is. We must now turn to the arguments that can be made to counter the postmodern interpretation of Gramsci so far suggested. 88). it is clear that Foucault privileges the “haphazard conflicts. but these seem to be mostly confirmations of the two main grounds. as I mentioned. must be a function of liberation or transgression. that the “world of effective history knows only one kingdom. Understanding history. 89). however. the confrontations with necessity. 51). The modernist Gramsci To recap. it may be interpreted as merely a materialist. they are constitutive of history: they are either part of the regulative mechanisms of history or are necessitated by such mechanisms. a denial also espoused by Lyotard (1984. It would seem that Foucault emphasizes the unique purely because it is contingent – that is. with a famous statement of Nietzsche’s. or between philosophy as a critical thought and ideology (a stance that also has been attributed to Gramsci). there seem to be two main grounds for arguing that Gramsci was implic- itly or latently a postmodernist thinker. Foucault seems to be making no distinction between religion and science.248  Esteve Morera or regulative mechanisms. and that the development of his theory would inevitably have led to a fusion with postmodernist interests and approaches. histo- rians should confirm (Foucault 1984. and the established language games. His is a theory of minirevolu- tions. for instance. This may appear merely as a denial of final causes in the universe and.” the transgressions.

which he sometimes called laws. elements of the historical process and the simple. 76). Gramsci’s critical modernity  249 view of Gramsci’s writings. As I mentioned above. and his possible linking of knowledge and power. it is in their thought about history that some important differences between Foucault or. One could argue that these abstractions are what Marx called concrete concepts. especially since. we may be able indi- rectly to assess the force and significance of what appear to be the two major grounds for the interpretation of Gramsci’s thought as postmodern – namely. 1287) – that is. “one could not even know what movement or dialectics is. From this one could conclude that Gramsci’s approach to history differs also from Foucault’s. the concepts can be theorized” (1975. whether they are evidence of a fundamentally different theoretical and philosophical approach to problems. Q4§13. By attempting to focus briefly on these differences. his views on the relation between religion and realism. The theoretical concepts of history and politics are the product of what he calls “determined abstractions” (Q10II§37. on the other. 435. and the relations between ideology and knowledge. as we have seen. The analysis of Gramsci’s views on history will raise the question whether they constitute merely evidence of old prejudices or residues of past thinking or. positivist conceptions of law as a conjunction of similar events and history as the linear progression of fixed forms. Gramsci’s historiography is best read as a response to several theories prevalent in his time. postmodernism and Gramsci appear. The views about the historicity of the body and of humanity led us to consider the nature of the historical process that so shapes body and humanity. 1433). or cultural/ mental. concrete because they are “the concentration of many determinations” and are the result of a “process of concentration” (Marx 1973. 1276–7). In contrast. his historiography attempted to avoid both the scientism of positivist sociology and the historicist emphasis on the uniqueness of historical events as well as the narrow materialism of economism and Croce’s idealist conception of the reli- gion of liberty. In general terms. on the one hand. rather. Gramsci contends. If this were not possible. thus eschewing both Wilhelm Dilthey’s emphasis on the unique internal. Gramsci writes that a theory of history and politics is possible for “although the facts are always individual and changeable in the flux of historical movement. Q11§26. from Croce’s absolute historicism through the historicism of the German histor- ical school to the economism of many contemporary Marxists. it will be neces- sary to see what Gramsci was trying to accomplish with his views about the rela- tionship between religion and belief in the independent existence of the world. and one would fall back into a new form . truth and power. though there are of course many passages that resist this interpretation – passages that could be ignored as evidence of the undevel- oped character of Gramsci’s ideas or as residues of old prejudices. more generally. If the latter. abstractions that are derived not from an ahistorical conception of human beings in general but from historically specific types of society (Q10II§32. For Gramsci that meant developing a theory of history that would preserve the concept of historical patterns. 101). the latter was preoccupied with recording the “singularity of events” and their recurrence without attempting “to trace their gradual curve of evolution” (Foucault 1984.

his overall approach to history is sensitive to the importance of historical elements that prove their vitality by their duration and long-lasting effects on historical development. These are elabo- rated over much of the Quaderni but can be said to find their clearest statement in two texts: that on the analysis of situations (Q4§38. for Gramsci the notion of the historical bloc serves as a methodological or guiding principle. In a theory reminiscent of Fernand Braudel’s thought. he is concerned with the diachronic aspects of history. 1443). 1051). Q7§21. 1580–1).250  Esteve Morera of nominalism” (1975. Q13§17.” The historical bloc is understood as a complex in which the “material forces are the content and ideologies the form. Q7§15. The two types of conception are closely connected. 1980). The study of the formation. First. Q13§17. 455–6.” which can be generally understood as the confluence of movements . it is above all politically important as confusing them may lead to unnecessary sacrifices and costly mistakes (Q4§38.” though this is a distinction of merely didactic value since one cannot conceive of one without the other (Gramsci 1975.” and that it can be of help in explaining the past (Q6§78. Q25§2. not as a definite empirical finding. 455. Q3§90. he is concerned with the synchronic aspects of history. 1579). 1579). and at times it is difficult to see whether some of the historical proc- esses he discusses are to be taken as temporal processes or as structural relations obtaining simultaneously. and transformation of historical blocs led Gramsci to propose the basic principles of integral history. and second. Q13§17. Q3§33. Q19§5. At times Gramsci uses the classical formulation of the unity of structure and superstructure in defining the bloc. The other important element in Gramsci’s historiography is the concept of “situation. 873. Although he does not fully develop these insights. For him. 45. 455–65.Q7§21. 310. and the methodological notes on the history of subaltern groups (Q3§14. Q7§24. Gramsci elaborates a conception of historiography that he sometimes called “inte- gral history” whose most important component is the concept of the “historical bloc. Q13§16. 869. 2283–94). leading to a conception of the structure of society and the function of particular elements of that structure. Thus. 869). Gramsci advances the suggestion that the material forces of production are the most stable element in history. Q11§30. 748. and that they can be precisely measured (Q4§25. 865. 1169. 1578– 89). he points out that the present “is in a sense the best document of the past. 299–300. These consider- ations lead to two general principles. for which he develops the rudiments of a theory of historical time. 372–3. evolution. To bring these various concerns together. 444. Second. 1433). Q11§26. The fundamental historical problem is seen as the study of how the complex ensemble of the superstructures originates in the structure (Q4§38. Gramsci distinguishes between organic or structural movements and conjunctural or occasional ones (Q4§38. Q9§106. it is intellectually important not to confuse these types of movement as their duration is evidence of their causal weight. adding that “the complex and conflicting ensemble of the superstructures is the reflection of the ensemble of social rela- tions of production” (Q8§182. Two types of philosophical consid- eration are the primary grounds of Gramsci’s historiography: first.

Gramsci recognizes that the study of history is motivated often by sectional interests (such as the geopolitical importance of a country or region of the world). Q13§17. Gramsci offers a synoptic account of what he believes to be the crucial moments or steps in the development of social groupings. 455. Above all. Hence the subject. but he argues that for the philosophy of praxis a much wider set of interests prevails. 457–9. Gramsci’s critical modernity  251 of different duration or as the balance of the various social forces that have devel- oped up to that point. 855. one that is anchored on the “objective fact” of its origin in economic relations (Q4§38. and eventual transformation. Integral history is not only the study of the historical movement as it originates in the structure and of the manifold relations that exist. This contrast is clearly shown by their respective guiding principles. a guiding principle to which he often refers in the Quaderni is Marx’s dictum that no society disappears before it has developed all the forms of life implicit in it (1975. 88). the emergence of the superstructure from the structure. not only nationally but also in the international hegemonic system. To the extent that the historiography of dominant groups does not very often deal with the history of subaltern groups. 1579. Gramsci’s integral history is not concerned with unique or merely individual characteristics. for Gramsci. is fundamentally different. is one clearly anticipated. thus a deviation from the principal task of genealogy which is. neither eliminates the subject nor concerns diverse subjects as such (i. This emergence is indeed a political and cultural process. it can be said to have a clear subject identification: it is the history of the dominant subject. although both Gramsci and Foucault are interested in the small dramas – the “capillary” (Foucault) or “molec- ular” (Gramsci) processes of power – each deals with them within a concept of history that. 1583) but that takes on a life of its own as the political process of the formation of unified groups. 457. those elements that help to explain their origin. evolution. although always under construction. Subaltern groups present special problems for historiography because they . the search for origins is equivalent to the search for essences. the recovery of the “most unique characteristics” of events (1984. Q14§63. 1722–3). for only then can the present be clearly understood and concrete political plans elaborated (1975. a multiplicity of decentered subjectivities). because it is attainable. 1774).Thus. however. It was in applying this method to those groups who did not leave any traces in history that Gramsci began to look at the margins of history – at what he called the subaltern social groups. In contrast to Foucault’s concept of genealogy. For Gramsci. for all its similarities. Q7§4. This is an indication of his attempt to deal with the problem outlined above – namely. a universal subjectivity that is presented both as a possibility and. Q13§17. Q15§17. Gramsci’s integral history. as we have seen. but only with those elements that shed light on the structure of historical blocs – that is. the subject of the historian is that of a possibility – the possibility of a unified culture. A whole historical process must be understood. Q4§38. also as an ethical obligation for human beings who must strive to achieve that form of social organization. Q13§17. 1583–6). Rather. For Foucault. from their objective emergence in the economic process through their formation as unified groups (which is an essentially political moment) to their final attempt to gain unity in a new state (Q4§38. it must involve the study of all social groupings.e.

Q25§4. but it will suffice to indicate whether their tendencies . can be used only with the greatest caution (Q25§4. however. 2290). He proposes to look at them as having a tendency toward unification in a new state (Q3§14. particularly historical novels such as Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed. a crucial problem is the political process of overcoming the fragmentation that defines them. 2283). (One may dispute Gramsci’s view in this regard. itself an effect of their subordination. he nevertheless saw similarities between women’s social position and that of subaltern groups (Q3§18. which raises the question whether the new approaches are consistent with the original Gramscian project. and women (Q3§18.) Gramsci’s methodological criteria for the study of subaltern groups are quite consistent with. 302. It is interesting to note that in writing about the subaltern social groups. by extrapolating conclusions from known cases to new ones or to cases for which there is little evidence. Q25§7. the problem is posed in terms of the emergence of a superstructure from the structure. and aims they preserve for some time” (Q25§5. 2286). 299. contemporary developments in feminist theory have done much to bring to light both the economic and political importance of women’s subalternity. Gramsci mentioned two important ones: races that are marginalized as inferior. It would seem. ideology. Q25§2. 1696). this method. 302. 328. However. 1696. as indirect sources of possible traces (Q14§39. a fundamentally political development. Q25§4. Again. The first step in tracing the history of social groups at the margins is to ascertain their “objective formation … in the developments and upheavals that take place in the world of economic production. 2288). often they have looked at subaltern groups within theoretical models influenced by Foucault and Derrida. Manzoni’s work provides much interesting material that can help in forming an idea of the life conditions of the Italian peasantry. 2283) and they encounter great difficulties in organizing effectively and leaving their imprint on history. Once this is done. thus. Q25§2. his analysis of the situation of forces.252  Esteve Morera leave few documentary traces of their lives (Q3§48. Gramsci’s historiography (and in particular his notes on subaltern social groups) has been a major source of inspiration to the Subaltern Studies Project. then. Because of the scarcity of documentary evidence about subaltern social groups. that for Gramsci the greatest difficulty in the study of subaltern social groups is the scarcity of documentary evidence. It is not possible to give a full account and evaluation of the work of so diverse and prolific a group as Subaltern Studies. their quantitative diffusion and their origin in pre-existing social groups whose mentality. 2286). which has produced a number of papers and books on Indian history and society and that has been echoed by Latin American historians as well. among others. and in many respects similar to. Their history is “necessarily fragmented and episodic” (Q3§14. Q14§39. 2286–7). Gramsci notes that any such traces would be helpful. 299. Further indications can be obtained by using the method of analogy – that is. Though he did not consider women a subaltern group (mainly because he did not view their social condition as having originated in the relations of production). the study of such groups is understood as the study of attempts at unification and impediments to achieving it. In this regard he consults literary works.

the existence of more evidence. She argues that the first issues of Subaltern Studies were clearly Gramscian whereas later volumes clearly evidence the influence of Foucault and Derrida (223). 2166). changes in empirical finding are not sufficient to claim that a new general approach to knowledge and reality has developed. First. and so forth begin to have a decisive appearance in his essay. or a new set of issues may result in empirical findings or even theoretical developments that Gramsci did not anticipate but that are elaborated within the general theoretical framework he established. write on the construction of subject positions or the power of a body of knowledge to assign subject positions. Q22§11. for much of what is said there regarding the interest of employers in the private lives and behavior of workers was anticipated by Gramsci in his notes on Fordism (Q4§52. although he refers to a body of knowledge about jute workers in Calcutta. silence. Gramsci’s critical modernity  253 toward postmodern themes and approaches signify a broadening of a fundamen- tally Gramscian approach or a deeper change in approach and attitude toward knowledge involving a radical shift in general philosophical assumptions. it may be that the manner in which history itself is approached. perhaps because of a choice of issues that blends easily with Foucault’s discussions of power. The signs of a shift in the program so far identified may indeed signify more than it would appear. among which the thought of Gramsci and Foucault are “the two most consistently significant and recurring ones” (1995. There is evidence in later issues of Subaltern Studies that at least some members of the group moved much closer to an approach at odds with . one that may even be incompatible with the first. Currie singles out the 1983 essays by Chakrabarty (1983) and Chatterjee (1983) as the turning point from a Gramscian approach to the clear influence of Derrida and Foucault (1995. he does not venture into the notion of subjectivity that is so characteristic of postmodern approaches. Although in Chakrabarty’s essay there is indeed evidence of a shift of emphasis toward postmodern themes as key terms such as discipline. 490–1. a different culture from that studied by Gramsci. Second. the epistemological and ontological assumptions at work – have been transformed to such an extent that we are indeed faced with a new theory. The shift is indeed not very great. 223). He does not. rather than on the construction of events and subjectivities by the colonial employers’ narrative. the members of Subaltern Studies have worked under the influence of a variety of intellectual currents. This. would be of little importance in gauging the degree of departure from Gramsci’s approach. There seem to be two possibilities. For instance. in itself. his approach does not yet seem to make some of the funda- mental shifts that are characteristic of Foucault. who certainly was interested in modes of power and devoted much of his work to understanding power. there also is much continuity with Gramsci. It will therefore be prudent to look at the transition from one approach to the other in order to see how deep the transformation was. Chatterjee’s article may seem to be more of a departure from Gramsci’s approach. for instance. However. the attitude toward knowing – in other words. 221). much of the essay remains focused on what the events and the subjects involved in them might have been. According to Currie. Although Chakrabarty begins to develop what on the surface looks like a Foucauldian analysis.

However. no referent exists outside the history texts themselves” (Berkhofer 1988. claiming “that every object is constituted as an object of discourse” (1985. A few examples will suffice. it has been applied by many to the study of society and history. writing from the perspective of Indian culture.254  Esteve Morera Gramsci’s general philosophical assumptions.” One possible interpretation is that discur- sive practice itself produces particular arrangements of otherwise unknown and unknowable things. Regardless what the author may have intended. One could also interpret Laclau and Mouffe as meaning that reality behaves in the same way as discourse. This is a crucial issue that divides most modern positions from postmodern culture in general. Nandy. Although this statement is somewhat ambiguous. for instance. 11). “postmod- ernism supplants … the discourse of representation characteristic of the long and productive era that produced historical thinking” (1992. The above quotations come mostly from authors who are not Marxists. 66). Spivak begins by making a philosophical claim that seems to be central to postmodern culture. In short. This essay is important in many ways. It will suffice to look at a single entry: Spivak’s “A Literary Representation of the Subaltern: Mahasweta Devi’s ‘Stanadayini’” (1987b). for their Hegemony and Socialist Strategy bears the influence of post- modern approaches. writes about the linguistic constitution of subjects and objects. but mostly because it looks at a form of subalternity that had not been central to the group – namely. For Ermarth. Some of the best statements of the linguistic turn are perhaps found in those theorists who claim to be following Derrida’s dictum that there is nothing beyond text. not only because she focuses on women as a subaltern group but also because of the linguistic approach she adopts. as are its referent and its sense” (1988. She quotes from Laclau and Mouffe to support her contention that “it is no longer too avant-garde to suspect or admit that ‘events’ are never not discursively constituted and that the language of historiography is also a language” (Spivak 1987b. Berkhofer challenges histories that attempt to give an account of what really happened by claiming that that is part of a Western way of ordering “the past for the sake of authority and therefore power over its audience” (1988. their approach to understanding reality is shared by some Marxists. it is this linguistic turn that seems most incompatible with Gramsci’s approach. all is text: “The signified (the past) is naught but the signifier (history). Spivak’s quotation from Laclau and Mouffe is telling. 92). Their criticism of Foucault’s distinction between discursive and nondiscursive practices (107). In her article. some of them authorities on Gramsci. seem to favor this interpretation. 449). hence the principles of discursive reality would apply . 5). contending that “addressor [sic] and addressee are instances … presented by phrases … They are situated in the universe the phrase presents. and their insistence that this view has nothing to do with whether there is an external world (108). 107). seems to deny the very possibility of history as “the present and the future also shape the past” (1995. Hence a new set of problems – an expansion of horizons – might very well result in a novel approach. Spivak may indeed signal the important turning point. who is interested in challenging the hegemony of history. 447). the subordination of women – and had not been dealt with very well by Gramsci. Lyotard. its force hangs on what is meant by “constitute.

after all. then. Gramsci was clearly aware of the reality that language is not an entirely neutral instrument (Q11§12. are not constitutive. but we do not take this to mean that nature has changed (1975. it does not follow that in all important respects the two systems – a systems of signs and a social system – behave simi- larly. That does not mean that whatever is true of one language is also true of the others. one could define the word “event” such that it meant something like “facts as reported. However. before their being constituted as events in a discursive field – the facts of the real world would not be events. failing to develop “any methodology intrinsic to the facts”. However. is obviously true. that the language of historiography is also a language. it must report the facts as they are. Q11§30. then the whole intellectual enterprise is no more than a war of words. Finally. or any other. as are traffic signs. Q10II§40. This would be a bold claim for. The danger of this. Whether that belief is avant- garde would have little significance. If that is what the concept of “discursive practices” is about. on the events as constituted . even if one were able to establish similarities. 1375). Before their being reported – that is. 436). Gramsci’s charge that sociology produces abstract schemata that do not correspond to concrete facts can be restated as the failure of sociology to meet the criterion of adequate description of social facts. the first point made by Spivak and similar to Laclau and Mouffe’s would no doubt draw some response from Gramsci. the discursive system that is called “natural science” has changed considerably over time.2 Of course. whatever is. 238). An axiomatic- deductive system is also a language. patient and often not too glamorous work of historical and philological methods to the sweeping and often baffling assertions of avant-garde positions. However. The very notion of vanguardism would not sit well with Gramsci who. though we also know that this is hardly ever the case and that the act of reporting often also involves the production of a certain view of the world and an evaluation of what is being reported. among other things. 1445). if our theories cannot be brought into confrontation with language-independent facts and can only be compared with other language games. If we put these texts together with his programmatic statement that the philosophy of praxis retains the philosophical realism of French materialism (Q10II§13. Spivak’s statement. both intellectual and practical.” On this defi- nition. the possibility of critical thought depends on rejecting Laclau and Mouffe’s theory for. 1290. is that if we focus on the system of signs. particularly the language of historiography. If the reporting is to have any relevance. Spivak’s contention would of course be true. his work is flawed by “the pure descriptive character and external classification of the old positivist sociology” (Q2§75. This may be said to be merely a side philosophical issue of little consequence. is not constituted by its insertion in a discursive system of signs. reality. As Gramsci noted. his theory of language suggests that concep- tual frameworks. Thus he criticizes the sociology of Michels for. he contends that it is the facts that produce ideology. preferred the serious. not the other way around (Q4§15. Gramsci’s critical modernity  255 to social and even perhaps to natural reality. we can conclude that he would certainly reject any theory that posits language as the element that constitutes social. Gramsci would question this theory on the same methodological ground on which he questioned the simplistic naturalism of positivist sociologists. 1250). However.

he was merely responsible for his rather paternalistic. whereas Spivak holds to the narrative constitution of subject posi- tions. her “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography” (1985b) represents a clear effort to emphasize the antihumanist. As such it is a propaedeutic to the study of history. the nature of the relations among thinking. it must not be confused with the study of the subaltern: it is the study of the language and of the attitudes. it becomes readily apparent how different their assumptions are about texts. As he puts it. although not consistent. Q8§9. not unlike the critique of documents that Leopold von Ranke and the German historical school developed but having reached a deeper understanding of the forms of power embedded in texts. and a postmodern one that appears to be incompatible with Gramsci’s approach. and so forth present in that language. If we compare Gramsci’s approach to Manzoni’s work with Spivak’s study of Devi’s narrative. whether constituted by language or not). is evident. the discard of the subject. Q7§12. and so on. but his hints are extremely inter- esting for they come to confirm other texts regarding the theory of the language of historiography. it is their iron hand of necessity. Gramsci is above all concerned with mass politics and with the masses. The focus on textuality. Later work by Spivak confirms this. The study of texts. In particular. Their conflict is profound. however. an attitude whose histor- ical reference is Catholicism (1975. 943). are really effective in history. then we may easily forget those elements that. is also a struggle between two kinds of conformism (1975. and the discursive theory of events and subjects may ultimately eliminate the critical edge that Gramsci brought to what is surely a limited program for the study of subaltern groups. or in which such lives are described. a collective human being. the Subaltern Studies Project seems to have been clearly divided into two different approaches: one in which Gramsci’s influence. whether historical or fictional. for theirs is the life of necessity. This is why Gramsci is concerned with hegemony as a form of conformism. Both seek to learn something about the subaltern groups of interest to them by analyzing narrative texts about subaltern lives. condescending attitude.256  Esteve Morera by language. To under- stand this. knowledge. it is necessary to accept that events are indeed not constituted by language and that subject positions are not a discursive phenomenon. Society is always a kind of conformism. insofar as it is a struggle between two forms of civilization. . modes of understanding. Manzoni did not determine the subaltern characters. is certainly an important task. a hegemonic struggle. postmodernist aspects of the project. Nevertheless. of those who produced the text under scrutiny. Gramsci did not produce a sustained analysis of The Betrothed. language. and reality. However. but one that can be expanded without abandoning the healthy realism that characterizes his writings on history and politics. It is quite interesting to observe that Gramsci himself proposed to study narratives such as Manzoni’s The Betrothed in order to find in them traces of the lives of subaltern groups. and with the reaction of a new hegemony as the process of the crea- tion of a new conformism. With Spivak’s essay. and reality. whether reported or not (that is. Of course. Gramsci’s rather critical notes on Manzoni take the narrative as evidence of events and subjects that are independent of any narrative. structural.

It would seem that Gramsci was endeavoring to develop a general outline (of which he provided few details) of a theory of freedom as self-discipline (Q7§12. . on the rational adequacy of means and ends in solving the problems of a given society – is an acceptable conformism. 1376) attempts to provide some classi- fication of forms of conformism and to provide a general sense of the conditions under which it would be acceptable. Gramsci views history as a process of structural change where necessity is engendered by the form society takes. as “consciousness of freely accepted necessity” (Q15§74. conformism is not contrary to individual liberty (Q7§12. Full explanation of this theory would require a lengthy and difficult explora- tion of Gramsci’s writings. Gramsci’s critical modernity  257 862–3). is of little or no significance. in a critical manner.’ of any ‘social conformism. rather than imposed on. He dismisses the merely individual. must involve the democratic resolution of the fundamental problems of communal life. a conformism based on the understanding of necessity. In sum. Gramsci’s stress on the structural. 863). It is in the relationship between single events and the historical movement (the dialectic as he sometimes calls it) that the nature and significance of events are found. a new type of humanity. however. without unleashing any sort of fanaticism. the power of the social – a power that. arbitrary forms of ideology because they have little or no historical significance: they produce no historical effects. For this reason. In short. Gramsci (1975. It is important.’ of any level of civilization. whereas the former is interested in the uniqueness of events. Hence an event or idea that is purely indi- vidual. 17). to be acceptable Gramsci. especially in those classes that ‘fanatically’ make a ‘religion. Q10II§12. the masses (Q8§119. 1246). In his notes on conformism. and is best left for another occasion. he sees as an important problem for progressive movements the creation of a new conformism. 1833–4). which breaks with necessity but which is itself unconnected to a new conformism. In general. he asserts. there seems to be a great gap between Foucault and Gramsci for. of the new type of man to attain” can have morbid consequences. a new social structure. 863) or as consciousness of necessity in the solution of social problems (Q10II§8. to stress the point that conformism might be taken to be. Gramsci’s views on ideology discussed earlier point to another difference between his thought and that of Foucault. 1110–11) – that is. in their transgressive qualities.’ a mystique. he saw the rise of psychoanalysis as a response to the stress produced by the new rationalization of life under modern industrial societies. They failed to see the conformism that was present in the conditions of life of the masses in the world that was coming to an end with the new mass parties and a broader franchise. without taboos. Gramsci’s argument seems to be directed against those European intellectuals. In this sense. They saw the threat to the “multitude of European modes” posed by the triumph over the whole continent of “a form of homogeneity that threatens to consume” European pluralism (Ortega y Gasset 1964. a conformism that is proposed by. and his dismissal of the merely individual do not mean that he was unaware of the negative impact that conformism can have on the individual. Indeed. He clearly understood that “any construction of a ‘collective man. who witnessed the new conformism with fear. the general. in Foucault’s terms. Gramsci focuses on structural determinants and sees the merely unique traits of events. such as Ortega y Gasset.

1246). Q10II§54. I will not belabor the point but will simply point to the discussion on individuality in the Quaderni where Gramsci distinguishes three elements of personality: nature. for instance. Further.” which for him finds its counterpart in metaphysical mate- rialism. they do show the need for a far more cautious approach to the study of Gramsci’s philosophical anthropology. Given that he does not believe that nature changes with our changing philosophical and scientific views about it (Q10II§40. Q10II§8. Although in general he seems to emphasize the macroanalysis of society and history. Gramsci seems to subscribe to the view that biology does have a certain political importance. which suggests that nature is instead characterized by proc- esses of very long duration. is somewhat independent of history. in depressed circumstances (of which his youth in Sardinia and sojourn in Italian prisons gave him a clear idea). However. There is one final point. as a natural organism. On the body and human nature. It concerns the rejection of teleology by Foucault and its guarded acceptance by Gramsci. present. which led him to make rather boldly historicist state- ments regarding human nature. In history one needs to explain both the molecular process. 87–8). To the extent that societies can create the conditions where needs are adequately met. the natural impulses that have always been there become active again. Teleology is itself a complex concept. natural impulse will not come to disturb communal relations. Suffice it to say that for Gramsci. ambiguous to the extent that it concerns several views on the relationship between past. 1345). biology (or the body) is not so easily buried under the view that all in human nature is historical. he did not entirely deny the role of nature in the human constitution. Although the arguments in defense of such an interpretation may not be fully convincing. of the formation of structures and the large- scale. as insignificant unless they are part of the historical movement. doubt has been cast on whether Gramsci really espoused a theory of human nature as the ensemble of social relations (Moss 1990). Thus he wrote that “[a]ll that is elemental and survives in modern man irresistibly resurfaces: these pulverized molecules regroup according to principles that correspond to that which existed and which still exists in the most sunken popular strata” (1965. long-term process of social transformation. Although Gramsci was concerned about naturalism. are somewhat limited by statements that would lead us to believe he would have rejected Foucault’s assertion that “nothing in man – not even his body – is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self- recognition or for understanding other men” (1984. 1280–1). and further statements regarding the phys- ical elaboration of new human beings. he is also interested in microanalysis and in the relation between the two forms of historical inquiry. does express a democratic sentiment that views the sameness of bodies as a source of moral equality (Q10II§35. and future states of the world. and purely individual traits (1975. The popular saying “we are all born naked. Gramsci’s rather bold statement that the whole development of the individual is social. as he calls it (Q8§195. whose importance cannot be exaggerated. it would seem that the body. society. that the end state of the world makes all of . 21). concerning the gulf between Gramsci and Foucault that by now seems obvious. These passages stand in need of careful analysis. 1290–1). 1058. Regarding human nature.258  Esteve Morera the pattern-breaking events. Some may argue.

a unity that may emerge only at the end of a long and difficult process. for many of these links have involved domination. take this evidence as an indication that the unity of the human species is possible. that the end in some way causes all that happened prior to its own realization. It signifies a commitment to strive for a humanity with a “human face” (Sekyi-Otu 1996. 1456) was as much concerned about empiricism as religious transcendence. one must begin by posing the problems that Gramsci was dealing with. Furthermore. It will suffice to point out what seem to be two important features of Gramsci’s Kantian view of teleology. one may want to elucidate the question whether Gramsci’s views on hegemony. is the “condition for the appearance of the structure at the same time that it indi- cates its final destination” (1971. 332). A postmodern reading of that passage would have to assume that there is in fact no difference between the . the superstructure. As we have seen. 240). this concept can be justified by the philosophy of praxis (1975. “Is there not a general historical process which tends continually to unify the whole human genre?” (1965. but he thought that religion and empiricism were not incompatible.” However. 894. such as are sometimes found in the concept of a “historical mission. however. and precisely what their intent and scope amounted to. and knowledge. Q7§46. First. he argues that understood in a Kantian manner. First. etc. Far from it: the simplicity of the givenness of the former made the latter so much more credible. Q11§13. he writes that the relation between the structure and the superstructure can best be understood as a dialectic relation between quantity and quality in which the moment of quality. the question that Gramsci asks about the relation between materialism and religion is not about the truth or lightness of realism but about its origins. as Kant did. or his views regarding the relationship between religion and objectivity. 501). The foregoing reflections cast some doubt on the position that finds important similarities between Gramsci’s and Foucault’s views on society. the view that teleology is immanent in the historical process itself. Nardone seems to interpret Gramsci as an exponent of this type of teleological historical theory. Gramsci poses the rhetorical question.). that need not involve a belief that that end is inevitable or immanent in the human essence or that it produces the march of history. 1426). This is the telos of history – one. Those doubts raise further questions: in particular. He rejects what he sees as mystical forms of teleology. He suggests that Croce’s critique of Marxism may be based on the existence of “many so-called theoreticians of historical materialism [who] have fallen into a philosophical position that is similar to that of medieval teleological thinking” (1965. should be interpreted as harbin- gers of postmodernism. Second. we need to know what led Gramsci to the views that we have encountered. links between human groups have grown both in quantity and in quality (not that this has been an easy process. To find out. 1397. we can. in a letter to his sister- in-law. taken as a whole. for that matter. ideology. The import of that view is not explanatory but ethical. Gramsci (1975. It is doubtful that Gramsci would have accepted this view of teleology or. Gramsci’s critical modernity  259 history a necessary process. Second. there is considerable evidence that. Q11§23. Q11§37. abuse. this is the same principle that guides Gramsci’s understanding of the dynamics of fragmentation and unification of subaltern groups. 384).

In a very telling passage on the concept of matter. It is. and the social relations within which objects are embedded. that in claiming that a theory that suggests that the observed reality does not exist independently of the observer is not science but witchcraft (Q11§36. however. 1443–4). 1454). some of which have already been noted. on the one hand. on the other.” particularly as it affects systems of production. and their becoming objects for human beings. construct the world. does not adhere to the thesis of the identity of history and nature. Whatever else one may make of this passage.” that is. postmodern culture involves the view.260  Esteve Morera historical origin of theories and their truth-value. or historically active. Gramsci. suggesting that the world remains the same even though our understanding of it changes with the great revolutions in thinking that occur from time to time (Q10II§40. it is clear that he does not confuse the historical assessment of theories with their objectivity or lightness. Q11§18. as he sometimes puts it. that the legitimation of science is part “of the vaster political problem of the legitimation of the whole social order” and. electricity is of no concern to the historical materialist. states. Two intersecting characteristics of postmod- ernism are that of the problem of the legitimation of science and the crisis of representation. As he put it. on the one hand. and by contending that knowledge must fit reality rather than the other way around (Q3§48. or narratives. as seems to follow from Laclau and Mouffe’s epistemology. electricity is important only to the extent that it has social effects or becomes “historically active. which is always critical of those Marxists who make reality fit the theory. then. Suffice it to say. and that one should not confuse the historical with the physical or metaphysical senses in which objects are “active. Gramsci denies that theories. however. It would seem. a view that may be suggested by Gramsci’s insistence on historicism or. Gramsci also rejects the view that the historical condi- tions of theory are identical with its truth conditions. or the thesis that nature is socially constructed. perhaps even trivially true. It is true. to begin with. Gramsci in reality rejected the view that it is a metanarra- tive that gives us a word or that the truth conditions of any theory are either the historical conditions of its production or the general features of the metanarrative. the judgment that past philosophical systems deserved to fall is not a judgment about their moral value or their truth “but a historico-dialectic one” (Q8§219. absolute histori- cism. But this is not the case. a view the linguistic turn has transformed into the discursive construc- tion of the real. 1417). the so-called “crisis of representation. on the other. he argues that for historical materialism. the crisis of the “realist epistemology which conceives . that societies. As Jameson puts it. 1290–1). Several reasons can be given for this claim. 332). and so forth are socially constructed. not the least of which is his whole approach to history. another thing to make that construc- tion discursive – that is. We can now reach some general conclusions in this regard. 1079.” Thus. a distinction can be made between the existence and natural properties of objects. He makes it perfectly clear that there are two different kinds of questions one could ask. narrative-dependent. although it certainly existed as a natural force (Q11§30. The above considerations have important implications for Gramsci’s views on science. before that point. that Gramsci rejects some aspects of the social construction of reality.

to the general framework of regimes of truth. that is an ambig- uous statement. A problématique is characterized not only by the concepts that are made possible by it but also by those that are made invisible. Gramsci’s critical modernity  261 of representation as the reproduction. on the one hand. 1258–9) as well as the translatability of national cultures (Q10II§208. 1066). that the objects of thought change with the conceptual frameworks within which one operates. should have been impossible objects of thought. and the truth-value of scientific theories. Gramsci (1975. 1245. viii). In this respect. It would seem that the basis for this new epistemology is to be found in the idea of a problématique. or thought to be false by Gramsci. After all. Q11§17. If by objects of thought one means the objects as conceived by the thinkers involved. Gramsci subscribed to a theory of the translatability of languages (1975. Although his writings on epistemology are contra- dictory and full of fallacies. both natural and social. science may change over the centuries. he made the objectivity of science dependent on the cultural unification of humanity as a whole. This would imply. This seems hardly to be the case as both Marx and Gramsci could engage in acute critical discussions of what. Indeed. makes objects impossible for thought when we adopt a different language game. Q10II§6. His critique of positivism was a critique of the simplistic and often bizarre uses of scientific-sounding hypotheses used for interpreting social reality as. Q4§42.3 the new epistemology. and what any particular community (be it a class. by absence as much as by presence. 1416) was certainly aware of the political and ideo- logical characteristics of scientific practice. the overall character of his writing (as well as many particular notes) clearly puts him in the modernist camp – that is. he did not lose sight of the crucial distinction between the social function of science. According to this new epistemology. However. he did not reduce science to power. Apart from the fact that the questions the two sorts of epistemology raise are different and perhaps not directly comparable. to them. The implication of this new epistemology is that “[t]he objects conceived in traditional epistemology are impossible for Marx since he conceives all objects as overdetermined by the totality of social proc- esses” (56). or physicists) may think. histo- rians. for subjectivity. for . For him. of an objectivity that lies outside it” (1984. in the case of nature or the past. but it always attempts to reflect an unchanging reality (Q11§30. ideology. Together these two ideas link the sciences. Q10II§20. Above all. or narrative. which stands in need of legitimation. “Knowledge cannot be conceived in the traditional epistemological terms of independent subjects seeking knowl- edge of independent objects” (56). Gramsci’s views seem to be in contrast with those of some post- modern Marxists such as Resnick and Wolff. to particular forms of power – that is. which is independent of legitimation. who hold that Marxism in general is based on a new epistemology that rejects what they call “traditional epistemology” (1987. However. it seems. then of course it is true. But if it means the real objects – those that for Gramsci are. on the other. 1445). 467–9. as developed by Althusser and Balibar in Reading Capital (1970). so easily connected to postmodern culture. constant and independent of the observer – then the statement is false. in the camp of epistemological realism. It is the implicit acceptance of representation that is the basis for a distinction between society and nature. 29).

Catholicism) so well promoted. and perhaps of other religions as well. his critique of posi- tivism was not a critique of realism as such or of objectivity. Q10II§13. including nature. The real problem. on the other. It seems clear. It maintains. his criticism of Lorianism shows (Q1§25. it is this power that establishes the nature of all material and social entities and their mutual relations. only succeeded in reinforcing the conservative culture that religion (in particular. and culture of the Catholic Church. 826. however. it should not base its research on extraneous methods (Q4§13. Q6§180. or a narrative that contains two key elements. it does not even deny that one should attempt to alleviate the suffering and poverty of those at the bottom of the social ladder. linguistics. 1432). One may see in this narrative the power of an institution with the power of some social group. is the product of social rela- tions or of the power of social elements. Gramsci in fact argues that Bukharin. he claims that the philosophy of praxis retains the philosophical realism of vulgar materialism (1975. he showed a great interest in understanding the function. he seems to argue that reality. that he rejects . In a nutshell. however. seems to be based on a particular understanding of objectivity. the very first note of the Quaderni is about the Church and the Christian duty of charity – a duty that implied the permanence of poverty. This interpretation of Gramsci’s thought seems to shed some light on what appear to be inconsistent statements in the Quaderni. This morality does not deny the exist- ence of inequalities. whether the knower is an individual or a community. including their status in a hierarchical order. precisely one of the issues that most concerned him (Q1§1. 2325–6). The practical side of such a world view is a social conservatism. but a rejection of simplistic views that have important practical implications. for charity is a duty. A rejection of the manner in which the question was posed is not the same as a rejection of the notion of the independence of the world from the knower. Hence attempts to change the world are not only foolish but sinful. that this must be done without changing the estab- lished order. The second element in this narrative is the conception of divine will: the will that creates the objective world of natural and social relations also wills their permanence. This may be thought to be an inconsistency produced by his attempt to counter forms of naturalism that would have made it impossible even to think of human-led social change. Q28§1. the world is created by a being with great power. or the narrative of the vulgar materialism of religion. On the one hand. Q11§26. 1250). 6). Furthermore. is produced by history. Hence belief in the fixity of the natural world. What prompted Gramsci to wonder about the origin of objectivity? Throughout the Quaderni. be they those of natural science or. modes of organization. but that of questionable naturalism. while adhering to a materialist realism according to which the real world is independent of the knowing subject. a morality that expresses the power of the social. is not that of the independence of the real world. then. by raising the question of the independent existence of the external world in the manner in which he did so. First. his critique is based on the principle that the study of society should not look for models outside its own materials – that is.262  Esteve Morera instance. 434. The general philosophical position of the Church. 22. Indeed. for that matter.

Thinking of the possibility of such conditions. however. he distinguishes common sense from good sense. It is beyond doubt that Gramsci links the conservative ideology of the Church. The fusion of ideology and truth. for him hegemony is also creative. to the extent that truth consists in more than internal consistency or coherence within a metanarra- tive but is viewed as in some ways fitting an independently given reality. he did not argue that hegemony is merely domination. such as the rules of logic. This is for two reasons. can be used as instruments of power. ethics. thus not always the same as efficiency or efficient ideology. including that of religions that failed adequately to distin- guish between the natural and the social world. 826) thought of some fundamental meth- odological concepts. it would be illusory to pretend that truth would simply shine forth and persuade all people at once. and ideology on the other. and their capacity to repre- sent a world as it exists and point to other possible forms of organizing social life. 1254). to power. crucial to both his theory and his practice. it seems that the notion of the identity of truth and power is equally to be rejected for the metanarrative theory is a necessary component of the unity of science or philosophy. on the one hand. it does not show that Gramsci saw an identity of truth and power. The first is the view that truth is an independent criterion for the soundness of theories. he is committed to philosophical realism and. This distinction. they are scientific tools refined through the history of philosophy and culture. together with its simplistic empiricist materialism. To expect “that the old Homo oeconomicus disappear without being buried with all the honours it deserves is a form of economic rhetoric. and progressive even if it involves power for. which may indeed be linked to power. for he saw also a positive or civilizing function of hegemony. For this reason. . and perhaps even truth. This is indeed what Gramsci (Q6§180. he draws a distinction between the historicity of ideas and their truth – between their function. is part of a commit- ment to work to bring them about. but it implies that ideas. Furthermore. That is. Truth. If this component is denied. Historicity accounts for the efficacy of ideas. a new form of vacuous and inconclusive economic moralism” (Q10II§15. is a matter for crit- ical consciousness. in a world where relations of domination are so deeply embedded. which is the hallmark of postmodern episte- mology. The second reason is that to the extent that ideology and knowledge are not identical. As we saw earlier. If the metanarrative origin of realism is disputed as not being in any way Gramsci’s theory. the rela- tion between truth and power is severed. one can begin to think of theories as genuine acquisitions regardless of their origins in class or some standpoint. Does this imply the truth is power? It does not. although not always successfully or forcefully enough. it is also true that his concept of hegemony is an attempt to theorize the relationship between concep- tions of the world. or the force of received ideas from critical consciousness. is not fully accepted by Gramsci. Gramsci’s critical modernity  263 reductive naturalism. The armor of coercion – the state – is necessary so long as the conditions for the dissolution of political society into civil society are not present. necessitates the clear separation of truth and ideology or. as we saw in the analysis of Gramsci’s conception of teleology. That is. ethical. then it is much harder to argue a simple relationship between truth and power. and power.

for it is better to think critically than merely to accept the philosophy inherited by the use of language. but without the globalizing discourse – that is. both clearly stated by Gramsci as well as implied by some of his notes (Q8§27. That he saw ideologies as having an episte- mological significance only adds to the confusion. but . as Foucault has shown. rooted in the movement of history – they bring experience into conscious- ness. Discourses can be and often are. Coherence is the result of critique. but they must be critically approached. Gramsci is attempting to develop a critique of the view that ideology is merely an epiphenomenon of no great consequence. 1063. 1325–6). The epistemological significance of ideologies must therefore be seen within the limited context in which Gramsci saw the positive elements in ideology. Granted. 1071. thus dismissing their function in bringing to consciousness or elaborating in thought the experiences of a histor- ical period. One may need to ask: What problem led Gramsci to distinguish between ideolo- gies with no significance and positive ideologies with an epistemological import? It would seem that he was concerned with the dismissal of the prevalent ideas of an epoch as false emanations from the structure. Q11§12. Here. requires a process of critique. as a coherent one. This means that the globalizing discourses matter. 1080). establishing the first elements of knowledge. ideology and science. though in ideal conditions they might coincide. In other words. or good sense. Q8§220. 1375–6). It also necessitates the negation of the principle that science is a form of ideology or that the latter can be the foundation for the former. he is not clear in dealing with any of these issues. Local memory and experience may give us the materials for recon- structing that experience. not power – and politically. hence it is possible to interpret him in many different ways. a form of power presented as truth. This implies that ideologies are to be taken seriously. perhaps not coherently or critically. and to the extent that they are rational – that is. Their elaboration into philosophy. As such. Gramsci’s understanding of local and popular memories.264  Esteve Morera as he puts it in his criticism of some historicist tendencies. Ideologies express historical experiences: they are the first. Their epistemological import is limited to that of filters of our experience. Furthermore. or into good sense. local and global knowledges complement one another. their function. Their validation as knowledge and the legiti- mation of their function are separate issues. Both depend on a reality that is extradiscursive: the natural world and historical reality. For Gramsci. by the general taste of a society. without the attempt to understand that experience in the larger context of historical devel- opment – local knowledge is both intellectually one-sided and politically inef- fective in the long run. for ultimately they must come to be the expressions of one historical experience. Hence Gramsci sees common sense as a loose and contradictory collection of ideas and philosophy. neither local nor scientific knowledge is autonomous. “mechanically ‘imposed’ by the external environ- ment” (Q8§204. immediate intellectual elaboration of those experiences. the structure of an age. both intellectually – as a matter of truth. for he knew that in fact ideology mediates action and that it often expresses. and their connection to science – while at one level pointing to a need for revital- izing them – also differs from Foucault’s. 958. Q10II§41xiv. a process of refining and histori- cally testing the first ideological steps (Q8§213.

His is a crucially different approach for it avoids. Enlightenment. If irony is the central intellectual virtue of postmodernity. is not to be undertaken without the critical warning he offers in his writings on folklore: it is necessary to study folklore not as a pictur- esque element but as a conception of life and the world. fail to show that he abandoned the old realist epistemology or that he accepted postmodern positions. science and religion or magic. the absence of a globalizing discourse may itself be the most insidious form of power. For this reason he explored such theories as that of the Sorelian myth. and the metanar- rative origin of the objects of knowledge. on the one hand. Gramsci’s critical modernity  265 the difference needs to be maintained. because of their historical conditions. In short. when considered in the light of the problems Gramsci was facing and in the context of the Quaderni as a whole. Those texts that suggest such a move. the fusion of ideology and knowledge. they nevertheless were rooted in sentiments of the masses (Q13§37. Gramsci remained a modern thinker. It is this critical and cautious modernity that makes Gramsci such an intriguing thinker. The foregoing reflections force upon us the reevaluation of Smart’s point that Gramsci changed the terms of debate from a preoccupation with the ambiguous concept of ideology and its effects to a consideration of the relations of “truth” and “power” that are central to the concept of hegemony. and other fundamentally postmodern positions. but he did not speak of it as a relation between truth and power. systematic and politically organized and centralized conception of their own” (Q27§1. they do show that he was aware of many of the problems of culture. it is clear that Gramsci was not moving toward that model of social and political thought or toward that epistemology. conceptions of life that are present in common sense. Hence he reasoned that even if the Enlightenment created a series of popular myths linked to millenarian aspirations. 1643). see also Q1§89. however. while certainly supported by Gramsci’s own interest in subaltern history. 89). Nevertheless. “cannot have an elab- orate. a thinker who was in the middle of a process of self-clarification and intel- lectual growth. on the other. as such. Critical thought must be capable of sepa- rating the two. 2312–13. If one takes as the philosophical positions central to the postmodern project the identification of truth and power. he did . It is a difference both about epistemology in general and about the nature and function of intellectuals. together with the various epistemological claims such as the coherentist theory of truth. and even if such aspirations were tied to Christianity. and Marxism. the ensemble of subaltern groups. in folklore. not so much to break with reason. and so on are important in that they express a historical experience. the roots of the aspirations and the form they take because of historical conditions are not necessarily identical. In this regard. and politics that have led to the development of postmodernism. as I have attempted to show. but rather to develop a cautious and critical approach to the reality of human existence – one that seeks to find what is there but which is also aware of the distortions introduced in thought by metanarratives based on power. they must be the starting point for the critical elaboration of a coherent world view (Q3§48. Gramsci certainly focused on the relation between moral and intellectual leadership and power. In short. However. 331). the attempt to liberate suppressed voices. philosophy.

the same one advanced by Laclau and Mouffe and repeated by Spivak. however. Notes 1 All translations of Gramsci are my own.” This may not be a major problem. 3 A problem with the implied comparison of the two epistemologies. The correct translation of épistémologie is “philosophy of science. and skeptical dilettante.” The exact equivalent of epistemology is “gnoséologie. The word épisté- mologie used in the French original. is not the same as the English “epistemology. on the other. vision takes the place of language. as are those of Nardone and Ortega y Gasset. Some of the ideas behind the new linguistic approach to events go at least as far back as the second century ad In his report on knowledge. espe- cially in the modern age. perhaps one too fond of the illusions of the superman. but it is hardly new. old and new.” liberally used in the English translation. in his skeptical arguments.” The essential idealism and confusion is the same in both arguments. as most French dictionaries of philosophy warn. 2 The theory that events are constituted by language may have been avant-garde not too long ago. 2299–2300) favored passionate sarcasm. is that the French equivalent of the word “epistemology. In Berkeley.” . we could translate “to be is to be perceived” into “to be an event is to be named. is not found anywhere in Lire le Capital. however. on the one hand. 45).266  Esteve Morera not embrace it. and what is out there. which is the form of distance and under- standing characteristic of historico-political action. maintained that “we do not indicate to our neighbours the existing things but speech” (Empiricus 1967. The dilemma of the difference between what we know or think we know. tired. Thus. has worried many philosophers. It was Berkeley who confronted this dilemma by developing an argument that is. traditional and Althusserian. he dismissed irony as an approach of the individual intel- lectual whom he characterized as a disillusioned. Instead. in essence. comparing the two forms of epistemology is not a very simple matter for they are theories that address different questions. Gramsci (Q26§5. Sextus Empiricus tells of a Gorgias of Leontini who. Rather.

Part IV On Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks .


and intellectuals.” the “politicking. expressed sympathies for monarchism. corrupt. I often think of my grandfather. My first encounter with Gramsci’s unfinished notes “On Some Aspects of the Southern Question” helped me to understand the conditions that. he voted Democratic in the United States (the result of being victimized by nativist prejudice and “schooled” in factory life) and.18 Unfinished business Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks David F. disintegrated mass of the peasantry. and faithless” layer of Southern intellectuals. their role in mediating the relations between big land- owners and the peasantry. But for all their richness concerning the issues of culture. particularly those from the south of Italy. I imagine. the discovery of a new Gramsci – at each turn of the page. Far from it. for others. Gramsci pushes Marxian theory forward. I was struck by Gramsci’s “sympathy” for the south (he was born and raised in Sardinia. Ruccio Reading Joseph Buttigieg’s edition of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks represents for me and. The connections I am drawn to make between my grandfather and Gramsci are of a different order. my own series of visits to the ancestral village beginning in the 1970s have confirmed their continued validity. one of the traditional areas of Marxism – political economy – appears to be largely overlooked in the Notebooks. in addition to the immigrant experience itself. Even before I arrived in the village that my maternal grandparents were forced to have the freedom to abandon. In thinking about the significance of the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. Mussolini. at the same time. having had the opportunity to learn about . and the text of the Notebooks allows us to do the same with Gramsci’s work. before leaving for the continent) and his decidedly unsentimental analysis – of “the great amorphous.” While Gramsci made these observations in 1926 (just before being sentenced to incarceration by the fascist regime).” the coexistence in the South of “great accumulations of culture and intelligence” and a lack of “any organization of middle culture. and the fascist-era colonial adventures of his country of origin. the three groups forming a “monstrous agrarian bloc” whose “single aim is to the preserve the status quo. either stumbling upon themes and concerns of which we had been largely unaware or encountering familiar concepts in an entirely different context. And I consider myself fortunate to have had my grandfather around for as long as I did (he died at the age of 101). produced the contours and horizons of my Italian family’s world view. Not because my ancestor was a socialist or communist. especially his Prison Notebooks. Like many in his immigrant generation of the first quarter of the twentieth century. politics.

while the third should appear soon. What is the significance of this enterprise – of making available to an inter- national readership (to the extent that English has become the world language) the text of all twenty-nine notebooks (along with the critical apparatus originally supplied by the late Italian editor Valentino Gerratana. and who. as secretary for the International Gramsci Society.2 In my case (since you already know the intimate details of my family). either stumbling upon themes and concerns of which I had been largely unaware or encountering familiar concepts in an entirely different context. that mythical historical figure! This natal coincidence just shows that the lives of many of us (of a certain age) could have overlapped with that of Gramsci. A good example of what I’m referring to is a pair of notes in the first volume: notes 43 and 44 to Notebook 1. in English. The first two volumes of a projected six have already been published. which included the combination of praise and critique aimed at Gramsci’s contributions to Marxian philosophy in Althusser’s essay “Marxism Is Not a Historicism” (1970a). in article or book form. those who are approaching Gramsci for the first time will probably start elsewhere (perhaps. and subaltern groups) that one generally picks up in Western Marxist intellectual circles. Our generation could have conversed with him directly. Letters. passive revolution. Ruccio both the “old country” and immigrant life in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century.3 Note 43 starts out in a relatively innocuous fashion.270  David F. one or another recent synthesis of Gramsci’s work. Joseph Buttigieg – whose insightful commentaries on various aspects of Gramsci’s work have already raised the standard for Gramscian scholarship (especially. 1987. or even with one of the growing list of websites that focus on Gramsci). my grandfather was born one year before Gramsci. corrected and supplemented by Buttigieg’s own meticulous notes)? As Buttigieg makes clear in his introduc- tory essay to the first volume (comprising notebooks 1 and 2). has worked with a close-knit group of international Gramscian intellectuals. reading Buttigieg’s edition of the Notebooks therefore repre- sented the discovery of a new Gramsci – at each turn of the page. But. with the Selections. Until recently. For me. it is unlikely that readers of the complete Prison Notebooks will approach them without some prior acquaintance with or knowledge of Gramsci’s contributions to Marxist theory. now that the political party he founded has been summarily undone. all those of us in the English-speaking world had access to were the Hoare and Smith Selections. What we are left with. That is. None is more powerful than the Prison Notebooks. for the English-speaking world. due to his own ill health and the punishing conditions of fascist prisons. 1994. and 1995). or Reader. various selective readings of the Selections. is a distant memory and a set of remarkable writings. with the continuation (from notes 35 and 38) of Gramsci’s ruminations on . 1990. Now. many of whom have published essays in Rethinking Marxism. As it turns out. Gramsci died in 1937.1 to expand access to both Gramsci’s texts and the interpretive work that has been carried out – has embarked on an ambitious and carefully rendered project of making the entire set of notebooks available in English for the first time. Buttigieg 1983. and a familiarity with certain basic concepts closely associated with Gramsci (such as hegemony. I opened the first volume of the Prison Notebooks with limited exposure.

whether it be in the field of production. Unfinished business: Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks  271 “different types of periodicals” and then opens up a discussion of the relationship between different cultural movements and the North/South divide in Italy. must be created – before assuming power. but gener- ally the whole social mass that exercises an organizational function in the broad sense. with the methods of professional intellectuals” [128]). per se. He writes. every political movement creates a language of its own” [126]) and the existence of different kinds of cultures (“A very common error is that of thinking that every social stratum elaborates its consciousness and culture in the same way. for Gramsci. And. As is almost always the case in the Prison Notebooks. However. Hegemony represents a combi- nation of leadership (of allied forces) and dominance (over opposing forces). one can find all the major elements of what Gramsci will continue to elaborate in the remainder of the Notebooks. from memory or an item he picked up in one of the books or journals he managed to procure while in prison) and then produces the appropriate concepts. through culture and the work of intellectuals. he notes that “historically. Gramsci’s analysis of the different political currents in the Risorgimento spills over into note 44. through “passive revolution. one must understand not [only] those ranks commonly referred to by this term. its hegemony is maintained not solely by “material force” but. finally focusing his attention on the roles of the main political parties in the Risorgimento. and in order to exercise political leadership or hegemony one must not count solely on the power and material force that is given by government” (137). This can be seen in the coverage of many events. “There can and there must be a ‘political hegemony’ even before assuming government power. The first concerns what I consider to be a disturbing tendency within the current antiglobalization or “global justice” movement to focus on the coercive exercise of power. or political administra- tion” (133).” which leads him to make a distinction between the role of a class in “leading” and being “dominant” and to create for the first time his notion of hegemony. I would like to mention only two. that is. once a group is in power. attract the nonspecialist. various aspects of Gramsci’s notion of hegemony can be utilized to illuminate contemporary issues and problems. These are not topics that. the Action Party was led by the Moderates. To wit. including the documentary produced and disseminated by the video team of the Independent Media Center in the wake of the anti-FTAA protests in Quebec City in April 2001. and to produce the first version of his distinctive treatment of intellectuals. Even in this embryonic form. with the same methods. which will be codi- fied by later scholars as his theory of hegemony. It is created – it can and. presumably (as he alludes to in the previous note). Gramsci begins with a concrete case (in history or the current conjuncture. In this case. or culture. Trading Freedom: The Secret Life of the FTAA. in condensed form. where readers will now be on more familiar terrain. Here. Gramsci is drawn to make thought-provoking comments concerning the relation- ship between language and politics (“In reality. along the way. Given the limita- tions of time. “By intellectuals.” an important term that he simply adds at a later date in the margin. while downplaying the other dimensions of hegemony.4 I agree that it is important to record instances of police brutality and limitations placed on .

national defense planning (culmi- nating in the formation of the Project for the New American Century in 1997). Strategically. note 64. one would have to analyze the changes that have taken place over the course of the past twenty years in economic thought and policy (from which the likes of Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz have now chosen to defect). would yield the “correct results” than an orientation and set of research criteria offered by the method of concretely determining the condi- tions within which one movement is successful in “establishing the apparatus of their political leadership” (137). it romanticizes violent confrontation. In the remainder of note 44. But it does offer an indication of the wealth of contributions to Marxian theory that can be found in working one’s way through the Prison Notebooks. the powerful concepts). the roles played by the broad group of intel- lectuals and cultures distinct from that of the intellectuals (what Gramsci will later. that would only be the start. in Notebook 1.5 Of course. through a long and patient preparation. an exaggerated interest in the creation and maintenance of hegemony through coercion has two negative consequences: one tactical. the right wing was in the position to assume and maintain power. Gramsci provides an example of the kind of concrete investigation that might be carried out in order to understand the ways in which. a neoconservative hegemony was established such that. We might then conduct research on specific intellectuals as well as larger intellectual movements. on the other hand. on the failures of liberal and radical thought as well as the ability of right-wing intellectuals to create “such a power of attraction” for others (137). The benefits consist.272  David F. In terms of tactics. in the aftermath of the 2000 election and the events of 9/11. refer to as common sense) in creating the conditions whereby the current hegemony of neoliberalism is produced and reproduced over time and.” However. The second example is the sequence of events that brought Bush and the rest of his administration to power in the United States. on one hand. perhaps even more significant. thereby leading to one-sided conceptions of and preparations for antiglobalization activities and. in its application. While much of the liberal media has centered attention on the machinations that took place during the 2000 voting (especially in Florida) or the role of neoconservative figures within the adminis- tration after the election (especially after 9/11) or the role of “values” in the 2004 campaign and ultimate reelection of Bush. and much more. the tendency to forget about the other dimensions of hegemony overlooks. the Left is in the position to conduct a great deal more analysis of the right wing’s creation of “political hegemony” even before it assumed government power. What we can retrieve from Gramsci is less an overarching theory that. Ruccio free speech and freedom of assembly – what the videographers refer to as the “state repression of dissent. political theory (especially around the figure of Leo Strauss). the cracks and fissures in that hegemony (along with the existence of alternative notions of global justice) that can be marshaled for the “passive revolution” whereby neoliberalism (both at home and abroad) can be successfully opposed. in capturing and utilizing the results (the suggestive observations. but what . In the case of the United States. on sources of financing and influential organizations (from obscure think tanks to radio talk shows). the other strategic. the alienation of potential allies. partly.

Gramsci was drawn to the concerns raised in some Marxist texts and not others. Not to consider the fragments of his discourse as cards to be infinitely reshuf- fled at will but. 117–18) Gramsci pushes Marxian theory forward – and the text of the Notebooks allows us to do the same with Gramsci’s work. limits. the appropriation of surplus-value. hegemony. nonetheless. in my remarks above. appears to be largely overlooked. However. (Balibar 1995. note 44). changing class structures and class groupings . and the state and not on other questions. politics. while Gramsci opens up and adds to one wing of the Marxian tradition.6 The fact that he focused his attention on questions of ideology. what appears to be missing in the Prison Notebooks. by virtue of a specific combination of his intellectual training and political sensibilities. the sequence of notes on Americanism. We seem to be more inclined to name and to focus our more on such phenomena as the neoconservative shift within the Bush administration or neoliberal policies or imperialist wars and occupations than on “allied classes. much work remains to be done to integrate his insights into other wings of that tradition. But for all their richness concerning the issues of culture. And that is precisely because the Notebooks remain unfinished. on one hand. the step-by-step generation of new insights and theoretical categories. and the accumulation of capital. I glossed over the fact that. to take a foothold in his “problematics” and “axiomatics” – in other words. is a set of concepts and conceptual strategies that allows us to draw the connections between. political economy. and so on). and elaborating the concrete modalities of fundamental and subsumed class processes (stemming from the work of Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff). But it appears that.” or a “historically progressive class” (Notebook 1. at least when conducting more conjunctural analyses of political events and projects. It’s not that Gramsci was uninterested in economics. One of the topics that cut across these various lines of thought is class. Etienne Balibar’s remarks concerning Marx’s “incomplete work” would thus seem to apply equally to Gramsci’s: We have the right then to interpret the implications of what Marx wrote. as in contemporary Marxian thought. forces us to recognize that.” “opposing classes. a process of intellectual production. While we now have a rich tradition of deconstructing the Marxian class categories that have been handed down to us. in the note in which he intro- duces the concept of hegemony. beginning with Notebook 1. one of the traditional areas of Marxism. and intellectuals.g. indicate that he had more than a passing interest in and knowledge of economic matters. not to mention his relationship with the famous Cambridge University economist Piero Sraffa. Gramsci refers not just to political or social forces but also to dominant and leading classes. and openings to which they lead). note 61. such as those suggested by commodity fetishism. Indeed. Various passages (e. note 6. in much of contempo- rary leftist thought. references to class have virtually disappeared. Unfinished business: Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks  273 one also has the opportunity to see is a method of working. his observations on the “problemi finanziari” of the Italian state in Notebook 2. in his “philosophies” – and push these to their conclusions (to find the contradictions.

6 It would be a fascinating study.html (accessed 18 October 2003).org/) maintains an updated list of publications on Gramsci. 24. however. Buttigieg’s magnificent edition of the Prison Notebooks. neither of these notes is reprinted in any of the three major anthologies. from Notebook 19. Green’s concordance tables.internationalgramscisociety. in order to pursue the projects that fall to us. 2 The International Gramsci Society (www. the kinds of cultural and political events and movements to which Gramsci devoted so much of his work. Ruccio and. Notes 1 See the list of texts in the Appendix and the insightful review essay by Jonathan Diskin (1993). in Notebooks 20. 5 A good example is the pro-war stance of liberal intellectuals such as Michael Walzer. if one does not yet exist. and 19 while a version of number 44 can be found in Notebook 19. to determine which texts of Marx and Engels that Gramsci had an interest in and access to and which he did not. now. Fortunately. and Paul Berman.internationalgramscisociety. are included in the Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Christopher Hitchens. available online at www. It also has links to other online Gramsci bibliographies. although in a different context and order. Michael Ignatieff. Their later versions. According to Marcus E.274  David (accessed 18 October 2003). number 43 This is only to say that our work is as unfinished as Gramsci’s. 3 As is easy to determine from Buttigieg’s notation at the end of each note. . 4 The video was available for downloading at http://tacticalmedia. on the other hand. in modified form.mine. we have Gramsci’s legacy and. a website that also contains details about the making of the video and the growth of the Independent Media Center project.

who have come to terms with insistent forms of poststructuralist thought via a thorough grounding in leftist materialist philosophies. and Gadamer that I began to realize my abiding interest in Marx and his interlocutors. Unlike many Marxist theorists. beckoning and exotic. et alia not forget the political implications of their theories while. in separate but equally important intellectual spheres. as it were. as a literary critic and theorist. Derrida. my exposure to Gramsci’s thought came to me second hand. he helped to formulate conceptions of oppo- sitional criticism that had a place in the world as much as in the academy. I owe to the influence of two exemplary critics. The first is Raymond Williams. and the second is Edward Said. Heidegger. seemed always to stop just short of Marxism and remain a well-intentioned and valuable socialist-humanist critique. who was my teacher and my friend. whom I never met but came to know through my engagement with his prolific and committed writings. dwelling. at the same time. always a bit mysterious.19 Of Prison Notebooks and the restoration of an archive Joseph W. Unlike my colleague David Ruccio. has remained a foreign country. his central concepts. it was only after several breathless tours of works by thinkers like Derrida. of the continual play of signification. insisting that Foucault. and his importance to the development of Western Marxism. I also perceived them to be far apart. As . and especially his intimate connections to the Italian cultural turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s. I must confess myself something of an impostor. Although the connections between the two thinkers were always clear to me (especially Williams’s influence on Said). Conversely. and ready to acknowledge the radical break between my own historicity and that of the objects of my study. I had my first brush with Gramsci. though heavily influenced by a Marxist analytic. welcoming my explorations and wanderings yet steadfastly refusing my attempts to become completely comfortable and familiar there. Williams’s work. Childers As I comment on Joseph Buttigieg’s contribution to Gramsci studies. Already thinking of the fluidity of the subject. whose facility with the Romance languages is impressive – even when he is not swearing – my own knowledge of Italian is no better than several years of now largely forgotten undergraduate Latin. Said thrived in the midst of the poststructuralist moment. It did not help that. For me Gramsci’s work. filtered through the work of others from whom I imbibed much of my own early notions of what it means to do cultural criticism and what shape such critique can take. Whatever understanding I may have of Gramsci.

37) even to the extent that it “constitutes the substance and limit of common sense for most people under its sway” (38). the force of hegemony is inseparable from the notion of a fluid. hegemony seems nearly Althusserian. and in order to do that some aspect of agency must be retained. Gramsci says. Williams. each would). that do indeed hold us in thrall.” comprising “a sense of reality beyond which it is very difficult for most members of society to move in most areas of their lives” (1980. ubiq- uitous. This is what Gramsci has bequeathed to us. I came to realize that what bound these two thinkers to each other. and most important as we return to Gramsci’s own work. creating alternatives to the habits of thinking. Culture is productive. And. 23). ones that intertwine with those in the socioeconomic sphere and that finally bear on the State as a State. speaking. much more important is the way in which each reaches back to Gramsci in search of an explanation of practices. and persuasive. was a concern with both the larger structural role of what Said would call orthodox habits of mind as well as with the possibility of resistance and change through culture itself. not because it represses and coerces but because it is affirma- tive. but also at establishing a new hegemony which does not have to rely on physical coercion for its perpetuation” (1982–3. First. everyday connotations. nor is it “culture” in the liberal Arnoldian sense of the “best that has been thought and known. this is precisely the “culture” that Gramsci. that hold sway and reproduce themselves in our daily lives. (1983. it prefigures the conception of power that characterizes what has come to be known as the “carceral” Foucault. indeed of being. in its more ordinary.” writes Said. the insist- ence. a productive culture. is the desire both to explain and to instigate change. but not in perpetuity. Said. beliefs. “Gramsci considered cultural transformation an indispensable part of any revolution aimed not only at liberating the masses from the dominance of the ruling classes. the activity of criticism opens up the possibilities of gaining a foothold against a dominant hege- monic class. For all these critics. is the way in which Said and Williams recognize the force. “Well before Foucault. For Said. difficult for the revolutionary to conquer … We must be able to see culture as historical force possessing its own configu- rations. knowing. positive. and others allude to in their . Gramsci had grasped the idea that culture serves authority. In Williams’s work. inevitably. of hegemony. understandings. and to Gramsci.276  Joseph W. It does not matter here whether Said or Williams would claim it for the sovereign self (my instinct is that. As Buttigieg points out. for these critics. utterances. like the lived imaginary relation to the real it is a coales- cence of beliefs. and ultimately the national State. practices “deeply saturating the consciousness of a society.” Nevertheless.” At bottom. 171) A number of issues emerge from such characterizations of hegemony – and the culture in which it functions. as Said contends. finally. and. and this – much more than the monopoly of coercion held by the State – is what makes a national Western society strong. Childers time went by. Of course this is not “culture” in the strict anthropological sense of the term. but also ultimately refuse it the kind of strong determinism that is often associated with Althusser’s use of “ideology” or Foucault’s “power.

We also get to see the cul-de-sacs. that preserves the solidity of Gramsci’s work. at least in the way one might ordinarily understand a system. Gramsci’s method was not systematic (1992. it is a means of engagement. He begins by pointing out the distinction between the “philanthropy” of the bourgeoisie who have “come up with the idea of providing popular universities for the proletariat” and the “solidarity and organization” of the socialist agenda. the ideas that fall by the wayside. and in the face of enormously oppressive material circumstances. he uses contrast. For me to go on at length about Gramsci is to preach to the choir. whatever one does” (1992. and all are in some way both responsible for and to. it is not a mere appendage to economic and industrial struggles. By solidity. instead. and this I think is where the elegance of Buttigieg’s editing is most evident. He makes the case in an early statement about the training of the intellectual. but his intellectual curiosity was immense and his determination to join in as many of the important cultural and political conver- sations of his time as he possibly could means that the Notebooks themselves take on more of the nuances and rhythms of Gramsci’s mind than they might if they were ordered in some more conventionally systematic way. and in which everybody is simultaneously teacher and student. As Buttigieg points out in his magisterial introduction to the first volume. when he writes. to underscore a moment of positive possibility. it is “good thinking. I mean that unlike the other Gramsci readers that are avail- able in English. Highlighting activity against passive acceptance of the bour- geoisie’s “help. or more accurately an archive. Of Prison Notebooks and the restoration of an archive  277 work: those practices and habits of mind that exist epiphenomenally.” Gramsci writes that it is socialist organization and solidarity that supply “the means which good will requires if it is not to remain sterile and fruit- less. for Gramsci “culture … is not something a socialist may choose to acquire or to ignore.” It is not “knowing a little some- thing about everything”. and we get an intimate picture of the quality of the mind that is producing it. something in which one participates. a negation if you will. as Buttigieg states in his intro- duction to the first volume of the Prison Notebooks. “One should not attach importance to lectures but rather to the detailed work of discussion and the investigation of problems in which everybody participates. What we have. the positions that are oppugned and then simply forgotten or put by to make room for more compelling issues. Joseph Buttigieg’s undertaking allows us to see how intimately connected Gramsci’s notes are – how his ideas develop and change over time. is a document. We get to see the archive taking shape. yet which structure our ways of being in the world. and indeed it is neither my task nor my intention to attempt to teach so many who are experts. 27). everybody contributes. and therefore it is to perform well.”1 One of the most fascinating aspects of the Prison Notebooks is how completely this concept of a conversation in which all participate structures Gramsci’s own studies. Further. 19). As is often typical. Culture thus is proactive. Gramsci emphasizes this when he writes about universities as sites where the formation of culture takes place. these activities generate a possibility of culture that is not exclusive or bound to elitist – and thereby nonhistorical – standards: a culture in which all take part.” Furthermore. whatever one thinks about. . a dynamic and intellectual rela- tionship to the world.

Indeed. are discussions that are now sixty. more recently. tracing out Gramsci’s references with a quality of dedication and a thoroughness that is seldom encountered.278  Joseph W. As I have insisted from the very begin- ning of these remarks. arranged to have them . he not only had to become intimately familiar with Gramsci’s thought. his predilections. would be absolutely adrift in this unfamiliar context. his idiosyncra- sies. Hoare and Smith provided the “essential” Prison Notebooks pieces. The effect of this gargantuan task is twofold. Without the back matter. and Buttigieg. the informational notes. most readers. I want to draw attention to the mission of translating and making acces- sible the work of this formative thinker. Buttigieg’s work is an important move toward making Gramsci’s most significant writings available to all. But when I delve into the critical apparatus that surrounds the Columbia University Press edition of the English translation of the Prison Notebooks. Like so many non-Italian readers. Childers Rather. Buttigieg has fearlessly waded into this morass of context. David Forgacs’s Gramsci Reader (Gramsci 1988). and many of the statements to which Gramsci felt compelled to respond. the “worldliness” of any text – is absolutely vital if part of the project at hand is also to engage it politically. revivifying these engagements to bring the readers of the Prison Notebooks a sense of the topicality and the intellectual urgency that underpin Gramsci’s project. Buttigieg has entered into the conversations that defined Gramsci’s participation in culture. In this undertaking. thus opening up discussion and debate in ways that might otherwise be repressed. but he also had to become a part of that milieu.or seventy- five years old. I am amazed. In a sense. have now either fallen into the dustbin of history or have been so often rearticulated by commentators that it is unclear whether we are familiar with the texts and the arguments themselves or the midrash that surrounds them. and I count myself among that majority. the importance of the cultural – as Said. Buttigieg’s Prison Notebooks project is every bit as liberating as those actions taken after Gramsci’s death when Tatiana Schucht moved quickly to secure the notebooks and. and. my direct contact with Gramsci had come primarily through my somewhat idiosyncratic sampling of the Hoare and Smith collection (Gramsci 1971). But these. In bringing Gramsci to an English-speaking and -reading audience that was otherwise reduced to relying on fragments of a collection of texts that is itself ultimately fragmentary. This leads us to the second effect of Buttigieg’s strategy of re-presenting the Notebooks. in which we are all teacher and student – that Gramsci saw as funda- mental for the process of democratization and the inhibition of a specialized elite of intellectuals. before sitting down to read the first two volumes of Prison Notebooks. and as the mental work itself that leads to precisely those broader discussions. of course. might say. and Forgacs’s reader pulls together under topic head- ings many of the key passages from Gramsci’s writing. it follows a strategy that Gramsci himself would have approved: that of placing the object under scrutiny within its ensemble of social relations. Buttigieg performs the intellectual – both as the figure around whom group social awareness can coalesce. First. not to mention the pointers to other notes in other notebooks (some of which are yet to come). with the advice of Piero Sraffa. In order to do this. I do not want to take away from the importance of either of these works.

who poses but does not answer the question: Is Islam as a religion compatible with modern progress. so that their fine distinctions are played out in his own critiques. available primarily as “selected” by others or to those who devote themselves to gaining proficiency in the language and the historical moment of his work. why should one deny that Islam will necessarily evolve? Can it remain as it is? No. and it has done so in small steps. Instead. if Buttigieg does not pursue this project. we have the opportunity to engage fully with the most important of Gramsci’s work. in the end. by this diffusion of modern phenomena). World War I]. Gramsci would have been remembered largely as a legend. Can it collapse suddenly? Absurd. Then the theme of a return to “origins” will arise in exactly the same way as in Christianity. authored by an anglophile Afghan diplomat. its interactions with Islam and the speed of modernization in many pockets of Islam with which the West. Of Prison Notebooks and the restoration of an archive  279 hidden from the fascists and sent to Moscow. Michelangelo Guidi. and thus capable of evolution? Gramsci’s insight here is quite remark- able and bears quoting. Now. under the irresistible insistence of capitalism. But in fact. As Valentino Gerratana writes. it reacts just like Christianity: the great heresy from which the real heresies will arise is the “national sentiment” against theocratic cosmopoli- tanism. those notes where concepts such as “passive revolutions. my mind moves back across nearly six decades of American foreign policy in the Middle East. just as . the feudal lords are not materialists!!) is brought into contact much too abruptly with a frenzied civilization which has already entered its phase of decomposition.” “historical blocs. The note itself has no title. the most tragic problem of Islam arises from the fact that a society numbed by centuries of isolation and by a corrupt feudal regime (natu- rally.” and “hegemony” get a much more thorough treat- ment as concepts in and of themselves. If one were to accept the fact that modern civilization in its industrial-econom- ic-political form will. lurking at the edge of Marxist discourses. a return to the “purity of the earliest religious texts as opposed to the corruption of the official hierarchy. and. Can it be replaced by a Christian religion? Absurd when one thinks of the masses … In reality. We also have access to those moments of worldliness and prescience that might otherwise be lost to most. is introduced by the Italian scholar.” (1992. etc.: Islam is forced into a headlong rush. moments such as note 90 in the second notebook. then Gramsci remains a much more shadowy and liminal figure. 333–4) In the space of this quotation. moreover these discussions on Islam are the result of a crisis caused precisely. we get to see how these ideas become part of the way in which Gramsci thought and wrote about the world. Christianity has taken nine centuries to evolve and to adapt. “if these manuscripts had not been saved. has been preoccupied. triumph in the Orient (and everything proves that this is taking place and that. already it is no longer what it was before the war [i. which he refers to as a “mediocre” article. more significantly.” The piece.e.”2 Similarly. perhaps. but begins with the title of an article Gramsci had read in Nuova antologia of 1 October 1928: “The New Evolution of Islam.

“will Islam evolve. 2 “Introduction” to Quaderni del carcere. 4). As David Ruccio so rightly notes. 519. but through his example and through the efforts of scholars like Joseph Buttigieg. Notes 1 La Città futura: 1917–1918. and the effect that the West hoped for – of drawing the nations of Islam into modernity in subaltern relation to Western political/ economic interests – is hampered by the return to prominence of the very residual cultures it had wished to repress. remains unfinished.280  Joseph W. “will it in fact be allowed to?” Such moments in the Prison Notebooks remind us of the validity of Gramsci’s project and the importance of his insights. the return to fundamentalism has gained considerable purchase throughout the Muslim world. .” but rather. S. Capriogili (Turin: Einaudi. Without the meticulous work and commitment of Joseph Buttigieg. the question is not. like Gramsci’s. quoted in Buttigieg (1992. And in those conversations. our own work. we can effect the material and epis- temic change that defines our intellectual lives and which makes what we do so necessary. Childers Gramsci foresaw. quoted in Buttigieg (1992. 19). we can continue to join in conversations where we are both teachers and students. the experience of that insight and the magnitude of Gramsci’s work would be lost to many of us. 1982). As Gramsci so astutely suggests. ed. and that would otherwise be closed to us.

Isolated and cut off from his family. 69) The image of Antonio Gramsci sitting in a fascist prison writing furiously is a powerful one. Reality will never conform to an abstract theme. and therefore this conception is nothing but an expression of passivity. his Prison Notebooks were an essential vehicle for his sheer effort and determination to continue his life’s struggle against subordination and oppression. He must have held some hope. this hope has been fulfilled tenfold.20 The mammoth task of translating Gramsci Peter Ives But reality is teeming with the most bizarre coincidences. and friends. and it is the theoreti- cian’s task to find in this bizarreness new evidence for his theory. but not vice versa. “We must prevent this brain from functioning for twenty years. making reality to conform to an abstract scheme. and its need . history. His writ- ings on hegemony and civil society have been very influential and inspirational throughout the world and in a wide array of fields from postcolonial and cultural studies to international relations. Gramsci provides a vocabulary and framework that enriches Marxist analyses of power relation- ships within mass democratic societies where the organization of consent is fundamental but intricately intertwined with coercion. and mentally. ultimately leading to his death. that one day his efforts would have an impact on the world outside his cell – that he was writing for more than just himself. Fordism. he is attempting to keep his mind active. Walter Benjamin (1968b. domination. His insights into what was a relatively new phenomenon.” In addition to the letters that he wrote while in prison. something inessential. and violence. emotionally. Gramsci repeatedly comments on the tentative nature of his writings and the necessity to check his work rigorously when he has better access to research resources. This is the hallmark of bad translations. to “translate” the elements of historical life into theoretical language. 52) Yet any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot trans- mit anything but information – hence. In some ways. Antonio Gramsci (1996. including the fascist prison conditions that tortured him physically. to struggle against his prosecutor’s declara- tion. politics. and literature. comrades. however faint. even if the revolution he envisaged against capitalism seems as far off as ever.

including sections that Gramsci crossed out and rewrote. and for revolution itself.282  Peter Ives for moral and social regulation of “Americanism. His need to attempt to understand the fail- ures of his own political activity and that of his comrades as well as the strength of fascism and capitalism guided all his writings and led him to investigate many mundane and seemingly nonpolitical topics. weblike research project that constitutes his Prison Notebooks. the conditions of their production and their history. There . The first two (of six) volumes have already illustrated their paramount impor- tance. Just as one might initially want to separate Gramsci’s writings on literature or popular culture from his political analysis. It also contains a crucial argument about Gramsci’s own method and the importance of not attempting to overcome the fragmentary and weblike nature of the Notebooks. less “political topics” (Dante’s Divine Comedy. popular “serial” novels. to provide purpose to his prison life. for reading Marx. have not been available to those who do not read Italian has been a serious impediment. Until now. reorganized and edited for specific reasons from various points of view. at least superficially. however. the immediate aim was to exercise his mind. While we often speak of Gramsci’s twenty-nine prison notebooks. Some of Gramsci’s most insightful contributions are made through his insistence that human consciousness and political actions are formed in everyday cultural and social life. The fact that the contents of the actual note- books.” the role of intellectuals and culture within politics. more arcane aspects of Italian philosophy) are actually of great political import. We are often reminded that his writings about what may seem to be. he actually began a total of thirty-three notebooks. But Gramsci’s interest in and practice of translation should not be separated from the rest of his research project. and his reading of Italian history. Buttigieg’s insightful preface and introduction provide excellent background on Gramsci and the notebooks themselves. So. The four notebooks that are rarely given much atten- tion are those that Gramsci devoted to translation exercises. folklore. their publication and translations. As with his other writings. especially concerning the “South. Buttigieg urges us to utilize these unique attributes that are essential qualities of the Notebooks. although he only partially filled many and others he had barely begun. with his translations and writings on translation. Buttigieg’s meticulous effort is based on the Italian critical edition of Valentino Gerratana published in 1975 and includes copious explanatory notes. Gramsci’s impact in the English-speaking world has relied almost exclusively on anthologies of selections. It is in this light that I want to reflect on the broad significance and poten- tial of Joseph Buttigieg’s momentous project of translating Gramsci’s twenty- nine Prison Notebooks into English.” have all created a lasting legacy. His higher goal. was to contribute to the struggle against fascism and capitalism. All the diverse topics that Gramsci wrote about in prison were in some manner related in the vast. He argued that translation is an important activity that necessarily involves cultural analysis and can have serious political implications. it also seems clear enough why these four notebooks are deemed to be of a totally different ilk than the twenty-nine “substantive” ones. He also used “translation” as a central metaphor for political and cultural analysis. too.

used in more than just the traditional way of meaning “influence or authority especially of one nation over another. Gramsci held a higher ambition for translation. . “hegemony” is used very often now in vague and sometimes meaningless ways. A translator must also be able to perform cultural analysis and compar- ison. introduction. then developed it into a theoretical concept intricately related to his entire thought. However. Yet it still requires a collective effort for the translation to meet Gramsci’s criteria of producing change in both the languages involved (English and Italian) and encouraging critical thinking and acting. As Marcus Green (2002) has illustrated. Buttigieg’s considerate translation along with his preface. Indeed. Green shows how in the absence of access to the complete version of the Notebooks. Gramsci’s work has been insufficiently trans- lated. I could provide many more such examples from a wide variety of contexts. German. he noted that “a quali- fied translator should be able not only to translate literally but also to translate conceptual terms of a specific national culture into the terms of another national culture. the very prevalence of the term. the very way of thinking. On 5 September 1932. The mammoth task of translating Gramsci  283 have been French. and common sense. hegemony. that is. Gramsci’s actual insight) has been lost. as Gramsci understood “translation. altering a part of the English vocabulary but without successfully encour- aging more critical modes of thinking and acting. ultimately.” the goal is to alter the very vocabulary and language. and explanatory notes illustrate this. Rather. Adam David Morton has noted that neo-Gramscian debates in international relations require a closer look at and (re)engagement with Gramsci’s actual writings (2003d. for Gramsci translation is more than just a tech- nical process of rendering a text originally written in one language into a different language. Similarly. of those who speak both the target (the language of the translation) and the source (or original) language.” one must see how he used it initially in a conventional sense of military terminology. 170–2). In order to grasp the significance of Gramsci’s use of “subalternity. or erroneous understandings of Gramsci and his main concepts. Instead. partial. and Spanish translations of the complete Notebooks. anglophone scholars have been very much at the mercy of partial and filtered versions of Gramsci’s ideas. In this context. including his notions of hegemony. civil society. This has contrib- uted to the many superficial. to translate Gramsci’s Notebooks into English requires more than making them accessible to an anglophone audi- ence (as if that were not important and difficult enough). But before Buttigieg’s volumes. Thus. 207). To this extent. I will turn to what I see as the wider implications of Buttigieg’s transla- tion of Gramsci’s writings because.” shows a degree of how translations of Gramsci (although only partial) have changed the English language. his wife. such a translator should have a critical knowledge of two civiliza- tions and be able to acquaint one with the other by using the historically deter- mined language of the civilization to which he supplies the informative material” (Gramsci 1994a. Buttigieg’s work is an undeniably central element to this more adequate translation. it is important to place Gramsci’s individual concepts or arguments within the larger structure of the Notebooks. Gramsci wrote a letter to Julia. the concept of the “subaltern” has been misunderstood or its specificity (that is. suggesting that she become an Italian–Russian translator.

the fall of the Soviet Union and. In the next paragraph. He argues that the entire structure of both the source language and the target language must be taken into account by translation. 384–5. the end of Marxism. the time lapse and change in historical context between the writing of the original and the translation itself render impossible the mere pres- entation of the original in a different language (1968b. The very meaning of Gramsci’s work in our world. The language exercises that one does in the grammar school make it apparent after a time that in Latin–Italian and Greek–Italian translations there is never identity between the terms of the languages placed side by side. describing this “translation” between politics and philosophy as the fundamental point behind Marx’s Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach: “philos- ophers have explained the world and the point is now to change it” (Gramsci 1995. in the form of English translation. he returns to Marx’s comparison between Proudhon and Hegel. As Walter Benjamin notes. and political function of allowing the coming together of diverse cultures and societies. Indeed. moves increasingly away from the mathematical scheme and arrives at a historical judgement. This leads him to a rich and provocative description of translation: “the real progress of civilization comes about through the collaboration of all peoples. social. Q16§21) The task of translation requires an analysis of both languages and societies involved. culminating in historical judgment (see Boothman 1988). his development of “translation” goes even further. is shaped by Buttigieg and Columbia University Press’s commitment to such a formidable project after the collapse of the Italian Communist Party. through national ‘thrusts. Such a position would neglect the contexts of translation and the reasons guiding it. Translation requires normative judgment that makes the translation a historical act. Gramsci describes how such “translations” are never perfect and always require an assessment of the ideas involved. Gramsci understood this aspect of translation. (1985. 309. This translation is not just an English version of an original text written between 1929 and 1935 or the edition published in Italian in 1975. In Notebook 11. Q11§48).’ but such thrusts are almost always in respect to given cultural activities or groups of problems” (1995. finding that transla- tion performs an important cultural. 73). Gramsci relates Marx’s comparison (translation) to Luigi Einaudi’s discussion of translating geomet- rical into algebraic language and hedonism into Kantian ethics and economics. he extends his use of “trans- lation” to address Marx’s comparison in The Holy Family between Proudhon’s French political language (especially “equality”) and the language of classical German philosophy (especially “self-consciousness”). as the capitalist world heralds it. 311. Q11§49). It would deny both the institu- tions and individuals who make it possible and its potentially productive capacity and political effect. This explains why Gramsci introduces this whole discussion .284  Peter Ives Gramsci takes this notion in the other direction as well. or at least that what identity there seemed to be at the beginning of the exercise (Italian “rosa” = Latin “rosa”) becomes increasingly complicated as the “apprentice- ship” progresses.

but rather. Elsewhere I have detailed the substantial agree- ment between Gramsci and Walter Benjamin on translation. organic intellectual. of that revolution. however. as it were. something inessential” . 18). the “guiding principle of this translation. He addressed and rethought this question through the concept of translation. especially during the Biennio Rosso when the slogan “We must do the same as in Russia” spread through the factories (Buci-Glucksmann 1980. in dealing with organizational questions. His expansion and exploration of translation and his use of it to relate disparate parts of his research project resemble his development of concepts that we have come to know as “Gramscian” such as hegemony. does not signify for Gramsci a content that can be transmitted into a different context. however. This is very useful practical infor- mation. 123. This should not. 430–2). Buttigieg alludes to some of these discussions in his preface. Q7§2).” especially as events unfolded. the content or data. 306. The project of the Communist party and the International was not the repetition of an event. he relates these various parts of his research project to the political project of revolution. has different parameters. Fiction. cultural. But Gramsci was highly aware of the complexity and ambiguity of “the same as in Russia. Lenin actually wrote what is translated as “we have not learnt how to present our experi- ence to foreigners” (1966. a different society. The notion that the Russian Revolution was to be a model for an Italian revolu- tion was commonplace. Ravera 1973. Using translation as the link. Lenin did not actually write about translation to describe his dissatisfaction with the resolution passed by the Third Congress of the International in 1921 to which Gramsci alludes. for example. Many translations are based on other principles.” then. as do editions of scholarly texts meant primarily for students. or theory.” He explains that while he kept this in mind. xvii). of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. “Revolution. Such a reenactment would be just a theatrical event. He also tells us that the main purpose of his translations is to “make available to anglophone readers as fully as possible and in accessible form the contents of the notebooks” (xix). lead us to presume that these translations will be effective if all they do is transmit the Italian original. a dynamic relation among elements within a society. Gramsci was not thinking that the October Revolution itself should reoccur in Italy or anywhere else. from one context to another. blueprint. “any translation which intends to perform a transmitting func- tion cannot transmit anything but information – hence. and civil society. The mammoth task of translating Gramsci  285 of “translation” and “translatability” with a (mis)translation of Lenin. state. It is itself a relational concept. “In 1921 Vilich [Lenin]. idea. for different reasons. has been to remain as close as possible to the original” (Buttigieg 1992. see also the A-text. including Benjamin’s famous statement. ideological and hermeneutical aspects of translation. Q11§46. wrote and said (more or less) this: we have not been able to ‘translate’ our language into those of Europe” (Gramsci 1995. Gramsci introduces the concept of translation in order to explain how the “presentation” of “our experience” – that of revolution – requires “translation” and not the mere transmission or re-presentation. or a “farce” (as Marx writes in the famous opening to Eighteenth Brumaire) and not a revolution that could completely alter the power structure of Italian society. He notes Gramsci’s interest in “various linguistic. Its referent is not a static object.

Gramsci respected and worked with liberals such as Piero Gobetti. Golding 1992). Just as Buttigieg asks us not to try to overcome the fragmentary nature of the Notebooks themselves. and action that the original text was unable to inspire. that transla- tion must be productive of something new. As is well known. One could respond in defense of Gramsci by highlighting how and where he does address concrete connections between class structure and groupings (including the material conditions of class conscious- ness) and cultural and political movements. As David Ruccio has already noted. Bellamy and Schecter 1993. and many others associ- ated with Rethinking Marxism into Gramscian language and vice versa. including those who introduce Gramsci to the uninitiated or “nonexperts. Such work would be much more difficult and perhaps impossible to sustain in the absence of Buttigieg’s translations of the full Prison Notebooks. while maintaining a staunch critique of liberalism. Alas. Wolff. Benjamin insists.286  Peter Ives (1968b. see Ives 2004a. surplus value. He suggests an absence in Gramsci’s writings concerning concep- tual strategies for relating changing class structures to cultural or political events and analysis. with Gramsci. Gramsci’s understanding of “translation” may also help in the essential polit- ical task of engaging liberalism. the concepts of commodity fetishism. 69. He notes that Gramsci does not employ precisely the set of Marx’s concepts that is central to the project initiated by Resnick and Wolff and central to Rethinking Marxism – notably. Culture and Anthropology (2002) was the first of this series. But it has not been met by an effective . is to ask about the possibility of translating the conceptual language of Resnick. allowing a critical assessment of both. and the accumulation of capital. Language and Hegemony in Gramsci (Ives 2004b). Kate Crehan’s provocative and enlightening book Gramsci. Benedetto Fontana and Adam David Morton are working on volumes on Gramsci and the state and international relations. that would not provide us with answers or even a comprehensive theory of such connections in our day and age. respectively. A more appropriate response. I would argue. This engagement is one-sided in that it provides a liberal critique of Gramsci yet takes his ideas seriously and borrows from him. which also includes my own introduction to Gramsci through the lens of language and linguistics. It must enable meaning. for whom he did not hold the scorn that he did for many socialists and communists. David Ruccio signals another possible element of this wider notion of trans- lating Gramsci. These volumes will thus serve as “translations” in the Gramscian sense in their central role within a community of intellectuals. Much of the current dialogue between Gramscian perspectives and liberalism comes in the form of liberals who have been influenced by Gramsci like Richard Bellamy or post-Marxists like Sue Golding and others inspired by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe who adopt many of the tenets of liberal traditions (see Bellamy 2000. Benjamin and Gramsci insist that we maximize the effects of the differences between the languages involved and their historical contexts. Buttigieg does not expect these volumes of the Notebooks to be the ones that will introduce new readers to Gramsci. Buttigieg is also the series editor of one such endeavor by Pluto Press called Reading Gramsci.” Such work is necessary if Gramsci is truly to be “translated” in his sense of the term. 97–133). thought.

. I make such admittedly vague proposals in order to emphasize that Buttigieg’s achieve- ment is highly commendable (and will be even more so with the future volumes). but requires collective efforts for such a translation to have its desired. The mammoth task of translating Gramsci  287 Gramscian response. Gramscian effect. What is needed is a Gramscian analysis of liberalism and its attraction (and hegemony) through translating it into Gramscian Marxism.

and. and domesticated dynamics of culture to its unhoused. between homes and between languages. Spanos [I]t is not exaggeration to say that liberation as an intellectual mission.21 Cuvier’s little bone Joseph Buttigieg’s English edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks William V. strange. to me. Prior to Buttigieg’s edition. it is also and.” Buttigieg’s edition – his translation. and exilic energies. Said called “traveling theory. the political figure between domains. spare. as I will suggest. his chronology. have a Gramsci who is tethered to the violent historical world in which he lived. decentered. his meticulous scholarly commentary and historical notes. rather. his commentary. From this perspective then all things are indeed counter. was a more or less abstracted Gramsci. the structural prin- ciple. and whose consciousness is that of the intellectual and artist in exile.” It renders Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. the Gramsci that was made available to the Anglophone world by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith’s Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Gramsci 1971). It is. thought. so far as I can tell. between forms. acted. but also a free-floating Gramsci who could all too easily be appropriated by what the late Edward W. for the first time.” But it is not this more or less obvious virtue of Buttigieg’s editing that I want to focus on. above all a very important – indeed. energies whose incarnation today is the migrant. however useful. again in Said’s phrase. established. not least. by which I do not simply mean an essential Gramsci selected from the Protean body of his work. all too easily overlooked by those critics and scholars in the Anglophone world (and.1 Thanks to his careful translation of Gramsci’s Italian text into English and judicious arrange- ment of Gramsci’s fragmentary writing and. Said. not least his voluminous and carefully articulated historical notes – brings Gramsci down into the geographical/cultural/political space that precipitated his engaged thinking: capitalist/fascist Italy and its Stalinist “opposite. even in Europe) who have been influenced by . a “worldly text” or. we now. original. major – contribution to Gramsci scholarship and criticism. born in the resistance and opposition to the confinements and ravages of imperialism. Culture and Imperialism Joseph Buttigieg’s Columbia University Press edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks is not simply a very much welcomed scholarly contribution to the Anglo-American archive. From this perspective also. a “secular text. has now shifted from the settled. more precisely. one can see the complete consort together contrapuntally. and wrote.

imposes a principle of presence on a thinking that is funda- mentally decentered. As Raymond Williams. and which determines his own schol- arly/critical project. as if there were no substantive connection between them. I mean the very principle of inquiry that was as important to Gramsci as the actual knowledge about the world he produced. a ground. More important. the effort to systematize Gramsci’s “fragmen- tary” legacy on the unexamined assumption that he had a telos in mind or would have discovered one had he world enough and time to work out his differential and scattered jottings. And the consequence of this wish has been either a Stoic acknowledgment of the fragmentariness of the Prison Notebooks or an obsessive will to fill and close the abyssal gaps between the “multiplicity” and “contradictions” of the fragments that constitute the Notebooks. Cuvier’s little bone  289 Gramsci: a principle Buttigieg has inferred from his close sympathetic reading of Gramsci’s fragmentary Prison Notebooks. of the proletarian class.) as the universal precipitate of History.” 1 It has been too easily forgotten in the wake of the emergence to institutional authority of “cultural criticism” that one of the most significant contributions Gramsci made to the discourse of modernity and. In sum. and occasion) to complete the intellectual/ political task that the brutally constraining circumstances of his incarceration by the Fascist government denied him. the historical. of capital. to the Marxist (not necessarily Marx’s) representation of modernity was his recognition that the base/superstructure model that Marxism universalized was a construction and. More specifically. a principle of presence. place. a center elsewhere. the second. I suggest. that determined the “shape” (I empha- size the spatialization or reification of lived processes) of other indissolubly related sites on the continuum of being. he realized or intuited. the cultural. I will return to this crucial problem of Gramscian scholar- ship later. by his time. One of the most often expressed or implied regrets of Gramscian scholars and of social-political and cultural critics has to do with the fragmentary character of the Notebooks. in other words. etc. The first option has produced disciplinary interpretations of Gramsci writing – on the intellectual. he realized that this interpretation was one that represented the historical overdetermination of the economics of the industrial revolution in the middle of the nineteenth century (the triumph of the bourgeoisie and the rise of the factory system. these regrets amount to a wish that Gramsci could have had the opportunity (the time. in a fundamental and disa- bling way. a base. thus rendering them superstructural and epiphenomenal. one of the most responsible Anglophone . Proleptically attuned to the emergence at the beginning of the twentieth century to an enabling prominence of cultural produc- tion. and the political – that are various and often incom- mensurable with one another. has produced a “Gramsci” that. a historical anachronism. runs counter to the paradoxical “essence” of his fragmentary discourse – that. that the Marxist (and capitalist) privileging of the economic site of the indissoluble continuum of being was a serious and disabling misreading and distortion of history. after I have established a context that will explain the nature of this paradoxical “essence. more specifically.

which even Williams does not mark. rooted in the popularity of the terms.” The serious practical problems of method. I think. culture. which the original words had indicated. I suggest. on the other. into the anachronicity and thus the illegitimacy of the Marxist base/superstructure as a model for the interpretation of lived social relations. in the relative enclosure of categories or areas expressed as the “base. as such. constitutes Joseph Buttigieg’s major contribution to Gramsci studies – enabled him.” (1977. 77–8. then politics and culture) or in effect. As poststructuralists would put it. liberal democratic capitalist modernity by so diverse a group of poststructuralist thinkers as Louis Althusser. then forms of consciousness. politics – that had been hitherto compartmentalized and hierarchized as epiphenomenal disciplines by this metaphysical base/super- structure model that privileged the economy. on the one hand. the words used in the original argu- ments were projected. not only reductive but also deterministic. These were then correlated either temporally (first material production. The main sense of the words in the original arguments had been relational. as if they were precise concepts. economics. It was. however uneven at any historically specific conjuncture. Michel Foucault. were then usually in effect bypassed by methods derived from a confidence. Spanos readers of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. to think the be-ing of being in all its manifestations from a decentered perspective. especially in the revolutionary emphasis he gave to intellectual and cultural production. . It also – and this.” “the superstructure. is ultimately what Gramsci means by his much abused concept of hegemony: the concept that in so many fundamental ways was picked up and utilized in the critiques of bourgeois. as if they were descriptive term for observable “areas” of social life. and then in the development of expository and didactic formulations. to perceive modern capitalism as an indissoluble relay. and second. spatially invisible and distinguish- able “levels” or “layers” – politics and culture. forcing the metaphor. manifest everywhere in the Prison Notebooks. Gramsci’s historical insight. the subject. puts this reductive Marxist construction of being: In the transition from Marx to Marxism. of representations that ranged from the ontological through the cultural to the economic and the political rather than as a representation restricted to the disciplinary site of economics.290  William V. I submit. but the popu- larity of the terms tended to indicate either (a) relatively enclosed categories or (b) relatively enclosed areas of activity. This. this Marxist (and capitalist) base/superstructure model is informed by the imperial will to power over the be-ing of being that ends in the reification or the spatializa- tion – the reduction to narrative – of its temporal errancy. is that it is a metaphysical interpretation of being: the perception of the relationality of the various “sites” of being meta ta physica (from after or above the differential dynamics of temporality) and. first. and. then consciousness. my emphasis) What is crucially significant about this orthodox Marxist construction. that enabled him not only to collapse its hierarchized structure and to retrieve the indissoluble relationality of the “fields” of knowledge production – being. and so on down to “the base.

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. in beginning with an (unexamined) end in mind. But it does not equate these with consciousness. and cultural system seem to most of us the pressures and limits of simple experience and common sense. but of the whole substance of lived identities and relation- ships. and thus Certainty over doubt. cultural production). It is also a way of thinking/representation. Williams’s analysis of the indissoluble relay of “lived forces” to include the site of ontology. in practice. Again I will rely on Raymond Williams. in their forms as practical consciousness. or rather it does not reduce consciousness to them. it is a positivist and instrumentalist or. History over historicity. that is. in other words. and Edward Said. is not only a relay of practices. the age that has overdetermined information (i. to such a depth that the pressure and limits of what can ultimately be seen as a specific economic. To be more specific. I think. nor only of manifest social activity. whose “definition” of hegemony is. a sense of absolute because experienced reality beyond which it is very difficult for most members of the society to move. It thus constitutes a sense of reality for most people in the society. It is a way of thinking/representation that privileges the One over the many. as in effect a saturation of the whole process of living – not only of political and economic activity. The concept of hegemony often. the Transcendental over the Immanent.” It of course does not exclude the articulate and formal meanings. coerces the historicity of the differential phenomena of being into a quantified identical Totality. as I think he does not quite. (1977. Closure over openness. our shaping perceptions of ourselves and our world. rather. It is. in Heidegger’s terms.e. the Answer over the question: in short.” but a culture which has also to be seen as the lived dominance and subordination of particular classes. in most areas of their lives. in the strongest sense a “culture. Hegemony is then not only the articulate upper level of “ideology. Instead it sees the relations of domination and subordination. Cuvier’s little bone  291 Raymond Williams. a “calculative” way of thinking that.” nor are the forms of control only those ordinarily seen as “manipulation” or “indoctrination. 109–10)2 Liberal democratic capitalism. resembles these definitions [of ideology] but it is distinct in its refusal to equate consciousness with the artic- ulate formal system which can be and ordinarily is abstracted as “ideology. political. the Book over . that is to say. the most true to Gramsci’s essential contribution to the diagnosis of the postmodern age. we under- stand. values and beliefs which a dominant class develops and propagates. It is a lived system of meanings and values – constitutive and constituting – which as they are experienced as practices appear as recipro- cally confirming.” It is a whole body of practices and expectations. over the whole of living: our senses and assignments of energy. and to the urgent task of rethinking Marx in the postmodern age – if. the (meta)Narrative over the episodic. a way of thinking/representation that is itself a practice indissolubly related to the more obvious relay of practices that metaphysical thinking in its modern empiricist mode has privileged. or. as Williams’s Gramscian emphasis on its “constitutive and constituting” essence makes clear.

European bourgeois capi- talist modernity. his affirmation of a way of thinking that was commensurate with the concrete historical conditions of Italian and. Far from being an irrelevant and easily marginalizable detail in Gramsci’s notebooks. but also. to the inexorable historicity of history.” 2 It is. Cuvier. an internalized transcendental Logos in its critique of capitalist power relations. is a synecdoche of Gramsci’s errant project: not simply his negative critique of the dominant Italian intellectual discourse. the repeated reference to the French scientific naturalist (1769–1832). In short. Buffon. Gramsci privileged a concept of secular or immanent culture that he understood.292  William V. to the relation between Cuvier and a certain “progressive” (and/or Marxist) strain of Italian intellectuals such as Cesare Lombroso. as always. 26: “Cuvier’s little bone. whereas the dominant Marxism privileged the site of economics. It was. The Lombroso case. Spanos the fragment. but in terms of the discourse and practice of hegemony: “the truth. pay inordinate attention to. This is borne witness to by his brilliant elaboration of Gramsci’s otherwise easily passed over and enigmatic references to “Cuvier’s little bone. Gramsci addressed these power relations from an ungrounded or decentered perspective that understood being as an indissoluble. I cannot here do justice to Buttigieg’s brilliant argument (and the raison d’être of his editorial decisions). primarily Joseph Buttigieg’s overdetermination of Gramsci’s onto- logical insight into and critique of the complicity of Italian and Soviet Marxist thinking with Western liberal democratic capitalism and fascism that distin- guishes both his commentary on the Prison Notebooks and his editorial perspec- tive on their “fragmentary” nature from earlier interpretations of the content and structure of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. not in terms of ideology.3 Buttigieg shows. whose “scientific research in criminology” contributed to the “improvement” of the convict’s lot (47). the ocularcentric and microcosmic classificatory tables of Linnaeus.” (116). when. as Foucault has shown. if implicitly. I suggest. and to the question of cultural production at a time when History deter- mined the thinking of Italian and European Marxists. What specifically distin- guished Gramsci’s Marxist effort to think the sociopolitical power relations of capitalist modernity from that of the Marxism of his day was this: Whereas the latter used the metaphysically grounded base/superstructure model that demanded a foundational and disciplinary mode of inquiry into sociopolitical power rela- tions. indeed. this ontological insight into modern capitalism. From the little bone of a mouse sometimes a sea serpent was reconstructed. or. and other naturalists of the . the practice of intellectuals (thinkers). but a brief summary that reconstellates the Italian occa- sion of Gramsci’s references to Cuvier’s scientific method into the post-Enlight- enment context. An observation links to the preceding note.” the first of which appears almost casually in Notebook 1. rather. I submit. the result of attending to what Said (1983) calls “secular history” – and the blindness of Italian and Soviet Marxists to its implications for critique and positive practice – that compelled Gramsci in the Notebooks to focus on. however uneven continuum and demanded a transdisciplinary mode of inquiry.

where he expresses doubts about the truth of “Cuvier’s principle” and about its applicability to sociology. the structure of which has no “logic. moreover. One should examine whether. he implies. What interests Gramsci about Cuvier. one should recall the duckbilled platypus. it is.). was harnessed by bourgeois social reformers to the production of the “regime of truth” and the disciplinary society. quoting Gramsci. It is not necessary to check whether in biology the principle can be said to be completely valid. this does not seem possible (for example. one should care- fully re-examine Cuvier’s doctrine in order to expound his thought accu- rately – should certainly be included within the tradition of French thought. as the last sentence of the above quotation suggests. metaphor aside. It is.” etc. it assumes that the answer informs the original question that is asked about uncertain differential phenomena. orthodox Marxists like Bukharin. a problematic (in Althusser’s sense). to which I will return. As Buttigieg. discusses the complicity of Lorianism with Cuvier’s method. as his synecdochical reference to the necessary relationship between a small anatomical detail and the unknown but predictable whole clearly suggests. according to which one can reconstruct the whole body from one of its particles (provided that it is complete in itself) – still. fit them into their proper place in the homogeneous whole. aberrant phenomenon and that the analysis of his idiosyncra- sies could be fruitfully extended to include many other intellectuals: . This positivist problematic of modernity. Like that of Michel Foucault’s genealogy of the disciplinary society. 29.4 that begins inquiry from the end (or above: meta). an ocularcentric truth discourse. willfully reduce the radically different – any evidence that contradicts the preconceived and desired end – to the same. which Buttigieg quotes. is the naturalist scientist’s mode of inquiry. 29)5 But. at the same time. and. that is. the modern Italian intellectuals (“progressives” and Marxist sympathizers) and. it is not Cuvier’s paleontological method per se that is the target of Gramsci’s corrosive criticism. Cuvier’s little bone  293 period. differentiate (classify) the living phenomenon. within French “logic” and should be linked to the animal-machine principle. (14. who appropriated the positivist mode of inquiry that Cuvier’s naturalist problematic represents for their “reformist” social projects: what Gramsci metonymically calls “Lorianism” after the promi- nent Italian economist. as Gramsci’s carnivalization of the result of Cuvier’s paleontological narrative – “From the little bone of the mouse sometimes a sea serpent was reconstructed” – makes clear. correct and fruitful in sociology. Cuvier’s principle of the correlation of the individual organic parts of a body. enabled by the triumph of positivist science. The note [25] concludes with the observation that Loria should not be consid- ered a unique. may suggest its rich and compelling force. it must. That this is precisely Gramsci’s point about Cuvier’s ocularcentric meth- odology is made clear in Notebook 14. must of necessity reify. the modern instru- mentalist allotrope of metaphysical inquiry. To put it alternatively. of course. Achille Loria. the principle of correlation is useful.

In it. in its earliest formulation. then. However. the latter is. albeit cryptically. Prezzolini’s Voce. a disciplinary discursive practice. educational. in fact. or surpassing Marxism … In general terms. The effect of this calculative thinking is the production of a damaging monstrosity. that pseudo-scientific Lorianism leads to conclusions as bizarre as those produced by the misap- plication of scientific methods.” to relate it once again. arbitrary and ‘bizarre’ generali- zations are much more possible (and more harmful to practical life)” (28. Then.” (44) In other words. far from being progressive and eman- cipatory. Gramsci’s identification of “Lorianism” with Cuvier’s methodology is intended to demonstrate that. a metaphysically grounded sociology which is informed by the will to power over being and whose panoptic gaze structures and differentiates in order to better dedifferentiate – make docile and useful – the differential force of the “practical life” of living human beings. in a provocative extended elaboration of the connection between Cuvier and Lorianism. That this is precisely Gramsci’s point. Lorianism is characteristic of a certain type of literary and scientific produc- tion in our country (it is amply documented in Croce’s Critica. detailed and scathing critique of Bukharin’s Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology. more or less. Buttigieg goes on to show that it is precisely the latter’s privileging of a “sociology” based on the ontological determinism of the base/ . one of the most fundamental errors of “sociology” consists in its wholesale and uncritical adoption of a methodology borrowed directly from the natural sciences. and ‘sociology. Spanos “Loria is not a terratological individual case: he is the most complete and perfect exemplar of a series of representatives of a certain stratum of intel- lectuals from a certain period. cannot be compared to the natural sciences. Buttigieg writes of this note: In one respect this version of the note makes explicit what was already hinted. that they are deepening. but now unequivocally. in Salvemini’s Unitra) and is related to the poor organization of culture and. 52–3). there is also another point being made here which does not appear (at least not explicitly) in the earlier evoca- tion of Cuvier’s principle but which is expressed repeatedly in numerous variations throughout the notebook – that is. Invoking Gramsci’s numerous indictments in the Notebooks of Bukharin’s positivist problematic. hence. which draws the base/superstructure model of orthodox Marxism into its philological net.’ in particular. like Foucault’s identification of the discourse of the bourgeois penal. and Cuvier and nosologists like Boisier de Sauvages. of those positivist intellectuals who deal with the questions of workers and who believe. to “sociology”: “Cuvier’s little bone. and social reformers of the Enlightenment with the positivist methodology of natural scientists like Linneaus. The overwhelming importance of this point would be evident to the reader who has attended seri- ously to the extensive.294  William V. in general. Buttigieg make resonantly clear when he invokes Gramsci’s next reference to “Cuvier’s little bone. Exposition of Cuvier’s principle.3. But not everyone is Cuvier. correcting. to the absence of restraint and criticism. namely. Buffon.

the “sociologists” approach history in the way Cuvier approaches a single bone. Buttigieg quotes a