ANTONIO FRANCESCO GRAMSCI (Italian: , listen (help ·info ); 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist theorist and politician. He wrote on political theory , sociology and linguistics . He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist . He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini 's Fascist regime.
He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His _ Prison Notebooks _ are considered a highly original contribution to 20th century political theory . Gramsci drew insights from varying sources – not only other Marxists but also thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli , Vilfredo Pareto , Georges Sorel and Benedetto Croce . The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism , the French Revolution , Fascism , Fordism , civil society , folklore , religion and high and popular culture .
Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony , which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie in Gramsci's view develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the "common sense " values of all and thus maintain the _status quo_. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure .
* 1 Life
* 2 Thought
* 3 Influence
* 3.1 In culture
* 4 Bibliography
* 4.1 Collections * 4.2 Essays
* 5 See also * 6 References * 7 Cited sources * 8 Further reading * 9 External links
Antonio Francesco Gramsci was born in Ales , on the island of
In 1898 Francesco was convicted of embezzlement and imprisoned,
reducing his family to destitution. The young Antonio had to abandon
schooling and work at various casual jobs until his father's release
in 1904. As a boy, Gramsci suffered from health problems,
particularly a malformation of the spine that stunted his growth (his
adult height was less than 5 feet) and left him seriously
hunchbacked. For decades, it was reported that his condition had been
due to a childhood accident—specifically, having been dropped by a
nanny—but more recently it has been suggested that it was due to
Gramsci completed secondary school in
University of Turin : the Rectorate
In 1911, Gramsci won a scholarship to study at the University of
Although showing talent for his studies, Gramsci had financial
problems and poor health. Together with his growing political
commitment, these led to his abandoning his education in early 1915.
By this time, he had acquired an extensive knowledge of history and
philosophy. At university, he had come into contact with the thought
Antonio Labriola ,
Rodolfo Mondolfo ,
From 1914 onward, Gramsci's writings for socialist newspapers such as _Il Grido del Popolo _ earned him a reputation as a notable journalist. In 1916, he became co-editor of the Piedmont edition of _Avanti! _, the Socialist Party official organ. An articulate and prolific writer of political theory, Gramsci proved a formidable commentator, writing on all aspects of Turin's social and political life.
Gramsci was, at this time, also involved in the education and
In April 1919, with Togliatti, Angelo Tasca and Umberto Terracini , Gramsci set up the weekly newspaper _L\'Ordine Nuovo _ (The New Order). In October the same year, despite being divided into various hostile factions, the Socialist Party moved by a large majority to join the Third International . The _L'Ordine Nuovo_ group was seen by Vladimir Lenin as closest in orientation to the Bolsheviks , and it received his backing against the anti-parliamentary programme of the left communist Amadeo Bordiga .
Among tactical debates within the party, Gramsci's group was mainly
distinguished by its advocacy of workers\' councils , which had come
into existence in
IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF ITALY
Julia Schucht with sons
The failure of the workers' councils to develop into a national
movement convinced Gramsci that a Communist Party in the Leninist
sense was needed. The group around _L'Ordine Nuovo_ declaimed
incessantly against the Italian Socialist Party's centrist leadership
and ultimately allied with Bordiga's far larger "abstentionist"
faction. On 21 January 1921, in the town of
Gramsci would be a leader of the party from its inception but was subordinate to Bordiga, whose emphasis on discipline, centralism and purity of principles dominated the party's programme until he lost the leadership in 1924.
In 1922, Gramsci travelled to Russia as a representative of the new party. Here, he met Julia Schucht, a young violinist whom he married in 1923 and by whom he had two sons, Delio (born 1924) and Giuliano (born 1926). Gramsci never saw his second son. Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque, Mokhovaya Street 16, Moscow. The inscription reads "In this building in 1922–1923 worked the eminent figure of international communism and the labor movement and founder of the Italian Communist Party ANTONIO GRAMSCI."
The Russian mission coincided with the advent of fascism in Italy, and Gramsci returned with instructions to foster, against the wishes of the PCI leadership, a united front of leftist parties against fascism. Such a front would ideally have had the PCI at its centre, through which Moscow would have controlled all the leftist forces, but others disputed this potential supremacy: socialists did have a certain tradition in Italy, too, while the Communist Party seemed relatively young and too radical. Many believed that an eventual coalition led by communists would have functioned too remotely from political debate, and thus would have run the risk of isolation.
In late 1922 and early 1923, Benito Mussolini's government embarked
on a campaign of repression against the opposition parties, arresting
most of the PCI leadership, including Bordiga. At the end of 1923,
Gramsci travelled from Moscow to
In 1924 Gramsci, now recognised as head of the PCI, gained election
as a deputy for the
In 1926, Joseph Stalin 's manoeuvres inside the Bolshevik party moved Gramsci to write a letter to the Comintern in which he deplored the opposition led by Leon Trotsky but also underlined some presumed faults of the leader. Togliatti, in Moscow as a representative of the party, received the letter, opened it, read it, and decided not to deliver it. This caused a difficult conflict between Gramsci and Togliatti which they never completely resolved.
IMPRISONMENT AND DEATH
Gramsci's grave at the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome
On 9 November 1926, the Fascist government enacted a new wave of emergency laws, taking as a pretext an alleged attempt on Mussolini's life several days earlier. The fascist police arrested Gramsci, despite his parliamentary immunity , and brought him to the Roman prison _Regina Coeli _.
At his trial, Gramsci's prosecutor stated, "For twenty years we must
stop this brain from functioning". He received an immediate sentence
of five years in confinement on the island of
Ustica and the following
year he received a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment in Turi , near
Over 11 years in prison, his health deteriorated: "His teeth fell out, his digestive system collapsed so that he could not eat solid food... he had convulsions when he vomited blood, and suffered headaches so violent that he beat his head against the walls of his cell."
An international campaign, organised by
Piero Sraffa at Cambridge
University and Gramsci's sister-in-law Tatiana, was mounted to demand
Gramsci's release. In 1933 he was moved from the prison at Turi to a
Formia , but was still being denied adequate medical
attention. Two years later he was moved to the "Quisisana" clinic in
Rome. He was due for release on 21 April 1937 and planned to retire to
Gramsci was one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century, and a particularly key thinker in the development of Western Marxism . He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. These writings, known as the _ Prison Notebooks _, contain Gramsci's tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as well as some ideas in Marxist theory , critical theory and educational theory associated with his name, such as:
* Cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining and legitimising the capitalist state; * The need for popular workers' education to encourage development of intellectuals from the working class; * An analysis of the modern capitalist state that distinguishes between political society, which dominates directly and coercively, and civil society , where leadership is constituted by means of consent; * "Absolute historicism "; * A critique of economic determinism that opposes fatalistic interpretations of Marxism; * A critique of pre-Marxist philosophical materialism .
For more details on this topic, see Cultural hegemony .
Hegemony was a term previously used by Marxists such as Vladimir Lenin to denote the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution. :15–17 Gramsci greatly expanded this concept, developing an acute analysis of how the ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – establishes and maintains its control. :20
Orthodox Marxism had predicted that socialist revolution was inevitable in capitalist societies. By the early 20th century, no such revolution had occurred in the most advanced nations. Capitalism, it seemed, was more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also through ideology . The bourgeoisie developed a hegemonic culture, which propagated its own values and norms so that they became the "common sense " values of all. People in the working-class (and other classes) identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the _status quo_ rather than revolting.
To counter the notion that bourgeois values represented "natural" or "normal" values for society, the working class needed to develop a culture of its own. Lenin held that culture was "ancillary" to political objectives, but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that _cultural hegemony _ be achieved first. In Gramsci's view, a class cannot dominate in modern conditions by merely advancing its own narrow economic interests; neither can it dominate purely through force and coercion. Rather, it must exert intellectual and moral leadership, and make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces. Gramsci calls this union of social forces a "historic bloc", taking a term from Georges Sorel . This bloc forms the basis of consent to a certain social order, which produces and re-produces the hegemony of the dominant class through a nexus of institutions, social relations , and ideas. In this way, Gramsci's theory emphasized the importance of the political and ideological superstructure in both maintaining and fracturing relations of the economic base.
Gramsci stated that bourgeois cultural values were tied to folklore , popular culture and religion, and therefore much of his analysis of hegemonic culture is aimed at these. He was also impressed by the influence Roman Catholicism had and the care the Church had taken to prevent an excessive gap developing between the religion of the learned and that of the less educated. Gramsci saw Marxism as a marriage of the purely intellectual critique of religion found in Renaissance humanism and the elements of the Reformation that had appealed to the masses. For Gramsci, Marxism could supersede religion only if it met people's spiritual needs, and to do so people would have to think of it as an expression of their own experience.
For Gramsci, hegemonic dominance ultimately relied on a "consented" coercion, and in a "crisis of authority" the "masks of consent" slip away, revealing the fist of force.
INTELLECTUALS AND EDUCATION
Gramsci gave much thought to the role of intellectuals in society. Famously, he stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He saw modern intellectuals not as talkers, but as practically-minded directors and organisers who produced hegemony through ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a "traditional" intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks "organically". Such "organic" intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but instead articulate , through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. To Gramsci, it was the duty of organic intellectuals to speak to the obscured precepts of folk wisdom, or common sense (_senso comune_), of their respective politic spheres. These intellectuals would represent excluded social groups of a society, what Gramsci referred to as the subaltern .
The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci's call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, whose task was _not_ to introduce Marxist ideology into the consciousness of the proletariat as a set of foreign notions, but to renovate the existing intellectual activity of the masses and make it natively critical of the _status quo_. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil, and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon . For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci an important voice to this day.
STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Gramsci's theory of hegemony is tied to his conception of the capitalist state. Gramsci does not understand the 'state' in the narrow sense of the government. Instead, he divides it between 'political society' (the police, the army, legal system, etc.) – the arena of political institutions and legal constitutional control – and 'civil society ' (the family, the education system, trade unions, etc.) – commonly seen as the 'private' or 'non-state' sphere, mediating between the state and the economy. However, he stresses that the division is purely conceptual and that the two often overlap in reality. Gramsci claims the capitalist state rules through force plus consent: political society is the realm of force and civil society is the realm of consent.
Gramsci proffers that under modern capitalism, the bourgeoisie can maintain its economic control by allowing certain demands made by trade unions and mass political parties within civil society to be met by the political sphere. Thus, the bourgeoisie engages in passive revolution by going beyond its immediate economic interests and allowing the forms of its hegemony to change. Gramsci posits that movements such as reformism and fascism, as well as the 'scientific management ' and assembly line methods of Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford , respectively, are examples of this.
Drawing from Machiavelli , he argues that 'The Modern Prince' – the revolutionary party – is the force that will allow the working-class to develop organic intellectuals and an alternative hegemony within civil society. For Gramsci, the complex nature of modern civil society means that a 'war of position', carried out by revolutionaries through political agitation, the trade unions, advancement of proletarian culture , and other ways to create an opposing civil society was necessary alongside a 'war of manoeuvre' – a direct revolution – in order to have a successful revolution without a danger of a counter-revolution or degeneration.
Despite his claim that the lines between the two may be blurred, Gramsci rejects the state-worship that results from identifying political society with civil society, as was done by the Jacobins and Fascists. He believes the proletariat's historical task is to create a 'regulated society' and defines the 'withering away of the state ' as the full development of civil society's ability to regulate itself.
Gramsci, like the early Marx , was an emphatic proponent of historicism . In Gramsci's view, all meaning derives from the relation between human practical activity (or "praxis ") and the "objective" historical and social processes of which it is a part. Ideas cannot be understood outside their social and historical context, apart from their function and origin. The concepts by which we organise our knowledge of the world do not derive primarily from our relation to things (to an objective reality), but rather from the social relations (economic, for Marx) between the bearers of those concepts. As a result, there is no such thing as an unchanging "human nature ". Furthermore, philosophy and science do not "reflect" a reality independent of man. Rather, a theory can be said to be "true" when, in any given historical situation, it expresses the real developmental trend of that situation.
For the majority of Marxists, truth was truth no matter when and where it is known, and scientific knowledge (which included Marxism) accumulated historically as the advance of truth in this everyday sense. In this view, Marxism (or the Marxist theory of history and economics) did not belong to the illusory realm of the superstructure because it is a science. In contrast, Gramsci believed Marxism was "true" in a socially pragmatic sense: by articulating the class consciousness of the proletariat , Marxism expressed the "truth" of its times better than any other theory. This anti-scientistic and anti-positivist stance was indebted to the influence of Benedetto Croce. However, it should be underlined that Gramsci's "absolute historicism" broke with Croce's tendency to secure a metaphysical synthesis in historical "destiny". Though Gramsci repudiates the charge, his historical account of truth has been criticised as a form of relativism .
CRITIQUE OF "ECONOMISM"
In a notable pre-prison article entitled "The Revolution against _Das Kapital _", Gramsci wrote that the October Revolution in Russia had invalidated the idea that socialist revolution had to await the full development of capitalist forces of production . This reflected his view that Marxism was not a determinist philosophy. The principle of the causal "primacy" of the forces of production was a misconception of Marxism. Both economic changes and cultural changes are expressions of a "basic historical process", and it is difficult to say which sphere has primacy over the other. The belief, widespread within the workers\' movement in its earliest years, that it would inevitably triumph due to "historical laws", was, in Gramsci's view, a product of the historical circumstances of an oppressed class restricted mainly to defensive action. This fatalistic doctrine was to be abandoned as a hindrance once the working-class became able to take the initiative. Because Marxism is a "philosophy of praxis", it cannot rely on unseen "historical laws" as the agents of social change. History is defined by human praxis and therefore includes human will. Nonetheless, will-power cannot achieve anything it likes in any given situation: when the consciousness of the working-class reaches the stage of development necessary for action, it will encounter historical circumstances that cannot be arbitrarily altered. However, it is not predetermined by historical inevitability or "destiny" as to which of several possible developments will take place as a result.
His critique of economism also extended to that practised by the syndicalists of the Italian trade unions. He believed that many trade unionists had settled for a reformist, gradualist approach in that they had refused to struggle on the political front in addition to the economic front. For Gramsci, much as the ruling class can look beyond its own immediate economic interests to reorganise the forms of its own hegemony, so must the working-class present its own interests as congruous with the universal advancement of society. While Gramsci envisioned the trade unions as one organ of a counter-hegemonic force in capitalist society, the trade union leaders simply saw these organizations as a means to improve conditions within the existing structure. Gramsci referred to the views of these trade unionists as "vulgar economism", which he equated to covert reformism and even liberalism.
CRITIQUE OF MATERIALISM
By virtue of his belief that human history and collective praxis determine whether any philosophical question is meaningful or not, Gramsci's views run contrary to the metaphysical materialism and 'copy' theory of perception advanced by Engels and Lenin, though he does not explicitly state this. For Gramsci, Marxism does not deal with a reality that exists in and for itself, independent of humanity. The concept of an objective universe outside of human history and human praxis was, in his view, analogous to belief in God. Gramsci defined objectivity in terms of a universal intersubjectivity to be established in a future communist society. Natural history was thus only meaningful in relation to human history. In his view philosophical materialism resulted from a lack of critical thought, and could not be said to oppose religious dogma and superstition. Despite this, Gramsci resigned himself to the existence of this arguably cruder form of Marxism. Marxism was a philosophy for the proletariat, a subaltern class, and thus could often only be expressed in the form of popular superstition and common sense. Nonetheless, it was necessary to effectively challenge the ideologies of the educated classes, and to do so Marxists must present their philosophy in a more sophisticated guise, and attempt to genuinely understand their opponents’ views.
Gramsci's thought emanates from the organized left, but he has also become an important figure in current academic discussions within cultural studies and critical theory . Political theorists from the center and the right have also found insight in his concepts; his idea of hegemony, for example, has become widely cited. His influence is particularly strong in contemporary political science (see Neo-gramscianism ). His work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies in which many have found the potential for political or ideological resistance to dominant government and business interests.
His critics charge him with fostering a notion of power struggle through ideas. They find the Gramscian approach to philosophical analysis, reflected in current academic controversies, to be in conflict with open-ended, liberal inquiry grounded in apolitical readings of the classics of Western culture. Gramscians would counter that thoughts of "liberal inquiry" and "apolitical reading" are utterly naive; for the Gramscians, these are intellectual devices used to maintain the hegemony of the capitalist class. To credit or blame Gramsci for the travails of current academic politics is an odd turn of history, since Gramsci himself was never an academic, and was in fact deeply intellectually engaged with Italian culture, history, and current liberal thought.
As a socialist, Gramsci's legacy has been disputed. :6–7 Togliatti, who led the Party (renamed as Italian Communist Party , PCI) after World War II and whose gradualist approach was a forerunner to Eurocommunism , claimed that the PCI's practices during this period were congruent with Gramscian thought. Others, however, have argued that Gramsci was a Left Communist . It is speculated that he would likely have been expelled from his Party if his true views had been known, particularly his growing hostility to Stalin .
* _Occupations_ – Gramsci is a central character in Trevor
Griffiths 's 1970 play _Occupations_ about workers taking over car
* _Pre-Prison Writings_ (Cambridge University Press) * _The Prison Notebooks _ (three volumes) (Columbia University Press) * _Selections from the Prison Notebooks_ (International Publishers)
* _Newspapers and the Workers_ (1916) * _Men or machines?_ (1916) * _One Year of History_ (1918)
* ^ Haralambos, Michael and Holborn, Martin (2013). _Sociology
Themes and Perspectives_. 8th Ed. pp. 597–598. Collins. ISBN
* ^ Atto di nascita di Gramsci Antonio Francesco Archived 9
November 2016 at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ "IGSN 9 – Nuove notizie sulla famiglia paterna di Gramsci".
_www.internationalgramscisociety.org_. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
* ^ Pipa, Arshi (1989). _The politics of language in socialist
Albania_. Boulder: East European Monographs. p. 234. ISBN
978-0-88033-168-5 . "I myself have no race. My father is of recent
Albanian origin. The family escaped from Epirus after or during the
1821 wars and Italianized itself rapidly." _Lettere dal carcere_
(Letters from Prison), ed. S. Capriogloi & E Fubini (Einaudi, Turin,
1965), pp. 507–08."
* ^ Dante L. Germino (1990). _Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New
Politics_. Louisiana Press University. p. 157. ISBN 0-8071-1553-3 .
* ^ Gramsci 1971 , p. xviii.
* ^ Gramsci 1971 , pp. xviii–xix.
* ^ Crehan, Kate (2002). _Gramsci, Culture, and Anthropology_.
University of California Press. p. 14. ISBN 0520236025 .
* ^ Markowicz, Daniel M. (2011) "Gramsci, Antonio," in _The
Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory_, ed. Michael Ryan, ISBN
* ^ Gramsci 1971 , p. xix.
* ^ Antonio Gramsci, Dizionario di Storia Treccani. Treccani.it (8
November 1926). Retrieved on 2017-04-24.
* ^ _
* Gramsci, Antonio (1971). "Introduction". In Hoare, Quentin and Smith, Geoffrey Nowell. _Selections from the Prison Notebooks_. New York: International Publishers. pp. xvii–xcvi. ISBN 0-85315-280-2 . CS1 maint: Multiple names: editors list (link ) * Gramsci, Antonio (1982). _Selections from the Prison Books_. Lawrence and Wishart. ISBN 0-85315-280-2 .
* Anderson, Perry (November–December 1976). "The Antinomies of
Antonio Gramsci". _
New Left Review