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This post-2006-election period may be an ideal time to rehabilitate Antonio Gramsci’s concept of a "war of position."  Until last year’s election, arguably, the "war of position" in American politics was the property of the Right, whose plans for extending what Gramsci called "hegemony" were well-organized.  The Left, on the other hand, felt obliged as a group to line up behind politicians who appealed to the "swing vote," thus conceding the war of position in order to gain political office.  After last-year’s election, I argue, a space within American politics has been opened for the Left to re-enter the "war of position."  Through Carl Davidson and Jerry Harris' piece on "Globalization, Theocracy, and the New Fascism" in Race & Class, I summarize Gramsci's position on how politics builds upward from philosophy and culture.  We ought to be following this strategy, I argue.

Who, you might ask, was Antonio Gramsci?

Well, Rush Limbaugh knew about Antonio Gramsci; in fact, Gramsci merited discussion in a couple of pages in Limbaugh’s (1994) book See, I Told You So.

Rush, of course, spins a fable about Gramsci; we are told that

...the name Gramsci is certainly not a household name, even among the most enlightened people on Earth – my readers.  But trust me when I tell you that his name and theories are well known and understood through intellectual leftist circles.  Leftist think tanks worship at Gramsci’s altar.

Gramsci succeeded in defining a strategy for waging cultural warfare – a tactic that has been adopted by the modern left, and which remains the last great hope for chronic America-bashers. (Limbaugh 98)

Of course, Limbaugh despises Gramsci as an "obscure Italian communist," so his theory is for "chronic America-bashers."  But in the end, he (Limbaugh) adopts Gramsci for the Right: "Why don’t we simply get in the game and start competing for control of those key cultural institutions?"

In Carl Davidson and Jerry Harris' Globalization, Theocracy, and the New Fascism: Taking the Right’s Rise to Power Seriously (to whom my interpretation of Limbaugh is indebted), the New Right’s strategy of "cultural warfare" is outlined.  It comes in seven parts: 1) identify the main enemy, which Davidson and Harris identify as "corporate ‘liberalism’" and the 1960s New Left, 2) build counter-theory, through right-wing think tanks, 3) build mass communications networks, such as the Christian Broadcasting Network (and FOX News, I might add), 4) build base communities, which in their case would center around the grassroots churches of the Christian Right, 5) build the counter-hegemonic bloc (the Christian Coalition, the Contract (on) With America), 6) take power in government (by taking over the GOP and purging the party of moderates, and 7) radically reconstructing society in the New Right’s image of it. (53-54)

Now, when Limbaugh refers to "cultural warfare," he’s appropriating what Gramsci called the "war of position."  To outline Gramsci’s full meaning here, I want to say a few things about who he was.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was an economically poor resident of Sardinia, rather short, with chronic health problems.  He nevertheless became one of the leading lights of the Italian Communist Party during the period of Mussolini’s rise to power.  Was arrested and imprisoned for what amounted to the rest of his life, during which he wrote the "Quaderni del Carcere" (Prison Notebooks).

Gramsci, then, was witness to one important war of position: the cultural struggle which aided Mussolini in his rise to power as Fascist dictator of Italy.  Davidson and Harris summarize Gramsci’s narrative of this rise as follows:

First, Gramsci speaks of fascism’s coming to power in what he terms a "passive revolution," meaning that it can happen in fits and starts over a long period; it can happen through a quick seizure of power, but he stresses its "war of position," of gradually accumulating forces in a counter-hegemonic bloc against the liberal bourgeoisie and the left.  At the final moment, it shifts to the "war of maneuver," or frontal assault, when its adversaries are weak and divided, rather than united and insurgent.  He also stresses the fascism as a social movement with allies in related social movements.  Finally, he advocates the reverse of this process for the left: the war of position to build up progressive strength and allies, growing counter-hegemonic institutions and centers of independent power, the formation of the multiclass historic bloc of all forces preparing to fight the fascist hegemony, break up its power and destroy its influence.  (10)

The above should give the reader an understanding of what the "war of position" is about.  The war of position is a war over "hegemony," the ideological formation that maintains the power of the few over the many.  The "passive revolution" is the worst of outcomes: in Gramsci's circumstances, that meant Mussolini and Fascism; in ours, George W. and endless war on the world.  Gramsci thought that everyone was a philosopher (Prison Notebooks, 324), and that everyone’s philosophy (what we call "common sense") counted; but that the relative social power of those who were politically organized would determine how "common sense" expressed itself ideologically.

Now, before the 2006 election, the strategy of the Right was to extend its political hegemony over American politics.  The limitation of this approach is in the basic incompatibility of right-wing ideology with the "common sense" realities of America today.  The Right pontificated against the cultural revolution of the 1960s a whole lot, in books such as Roger Kimball’s The Long March: but many of the gains of that earlier cultural revolution persist today because they have been solidly incorporated into "common sense."  The "War on Drugs" has not persuaded America that casual marijuana-smoking is harmful; abstinence-only sex education hasn’t achieved its goals; abortion is still legal in America; and environmentalism and gay rights did not "go away" like the Right wanted them to do.  The Right has, however, achieved political preeminence in America behind its deluded agendas.

The Left was consigned to a role in support of candidates who were "courting the swing vote."  To court the swing vote means, in Gramscian terms, making a series of concessions to the hegemonic power of one’s political opponent for the sake of getting elected.  This strategy hasn’t worked either; the "progressive wing" of the Democratic Party from the ‘70s onward has produced a trajectory from the 1972 nomination of George McGovern and the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter to Dennis Kucinich’s 2% showing in the 2004 Presidential primaries.  

All of this seemingly changed in 2006.  The Left has gone from discussions of electing anybody but Bush to discussions of impeaching Bush.  Ideas of a better world have gotten back into public circulation.

But if these ideas are to stay in circulation, the Left must continue to organize, politically, socially, and culturally, behind the implementation of its actual beliefs.  We will need leaders who do not "sell out" our agendas.  (We may support politicians who do so; they can’t, however, be our leaders.)  The idea of the "war of position" is to proclaim, and organize politically, behind one’s own political position, not someone else’s.

We need to subject our micro-institutions to scrutiny by setting up support groups for their victims.  Our public schools are little more than warehouses, teaching children conformity and prison etiquette while the teachers engage a futile attempt to save their careers under NCLB.  Our medical institutions are places for denying people health care.  Our financial system is so overburdened by debt (and locked into place by the new bankruptcy laws) that we can expect whole generations of Americans to work and live as permanent debt peons.  Our ecosystems are in catastrophic dieback.  We are divided against each other through systems that accord us unequal privileges by race, class, gender: women are victimized by sexism, brown-skinned people targeted as "illegal aliens" and "terrorists," the poor characterized as "welfare bums" and "trailer trash."

We can have a "big tent" political party -- but if the "big tent" means acquiescence in the rule of high-status employees of the transnational capitalist class, then we need other organizations specifically for the "war of position."  "Build(ing) up progressive strength and allies," in Davidson and Harris' terms, means preparing for a "radical reconstruction of society."

I have argued in a previous diary that the "radical reconstruction of society" that needs to happen involves the transition away from "capitalist discipline" and toward "ecological discipline."  The fourth report of the IPCC should have made it clear that human beings have already precipitated a vast transformation of the global ecosystem, and that survival in this transformed world will be problematic.  But I'm not sure that this previous diary of mine impressed upon people the full extent of what "capitalist discipline" has made of them.  

"Hegemony," in Gramsci's terms, is a "world view whose effect is to congeal the dominance of one economic class over another into cultural permanence" (quote taken from Robert Bocock's book Hegemony, p. 7) Capitalist discipline is a form of hegemony.  It keeps the capitalist class in power by molding us into good owners (or good slaves), good workers, and good consumers.  Our task for the future involves something unlike all that: we will all have to be part of an ecosystem with some degree of stability to it, and to do that we will have to learn what an ecosystem is and what our role within its workings can be.

Anyone who has studied the last six years of politics can tell you that America is quite close to being a dictatorship with rigged elections and a muzzled press --  or, given the hegemonic aims of those in power, a dictatorship of Jim Jones in our own nationwide Jonestown.  Kool-aid is on the menu.  The "war of position" awaits.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 09:37 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  omg, Gramsci (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poemworld, greenskeeper, dirkster42

    i haven't heard that name in ages

    recced just for that reference - now off to actually read it

    kos, my daughter keeps writing on the wall with crayons. I'm tired of it. Do something about it NOW, dammit. -MJB

    by cookiebear on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 09:43:53 AM PST

  •  You acceptance of the distinction between (10+ / 0-)

    leaders and politicians is very appealing to me. I have a sense that there is a growing sophistication in the democratic party that may make it possible to reconcile this tension, and thereby create a greater 'brand loyalty' for progressives. Perhaps it is just Gore's looming presence that makes this appealing. Just a thought.

    •  Distinguishing between leaders and politicians (8+ / 0-)

      this is a Really Good distinction and one that we need to keep in mind throughout this election cycle.  There are politicians who can win on our behalf, but they do not necessarily represent the policies we'd like.  In another diary, another author said "we don't new new politics, we need new policies".  He was complaining about the "bi-partisan" "make-nice" tone of some Democratic officials.  Totally right on.  But now we have a framework -- politicians versus leaders.  We need politicians to hold together the fabric of society by weaving positions that work for as many as possible.  And heaven knows, we need a lot of mending in this area.  But leaders?  That's another story, and we need leaders who will lead from conviction and strength, which is a different matter altogether.  I like this distinction a lot.

  •  Great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poemworld, dirkster42, Cassiodorus

    I still occasionally think about Gramsci, and it's been more than ten years since I read Prison Notebooks.

  •  Hegemony (17+ / 0-)

    My understanding of hegemony is pretty close to the wikipedia definition: the capacity of dominant classes to persuade subordinate ones to accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms.

    The right has been temporarily successful at this in some instances - the use of 9/11 to justify the Iraq invasion, for example. However, support on a single issue, even if it's sufficient to turn elections in 2002 and 2004, is a long way from wholesale acceptance of right-wing values and norms.

    Opinion polling shows that nearly every liberal position has  at least bare majority support (abortion, gay rights) and in some cases substantial support (health care, Social Security,    Clinton's approval during impeachment).

    In fact a lot of right-wing success seems to come from a pretend support of the accepted liberal position while attempting to subvert those positions or institutions while actually governing.

    The right hasn't succeeded in amending the Constitution to ban abortion or gay marriage, has no support in its quest to abolish Social Security (hence the attempt to destroy it by ostensibly saving it), and hasn't succeeded retaining majority support even on it's signature "war on terror" issue, which was the smokescreen behind which the right could retain power while behaving in a completely anti-majoritarian fashion.

    I have no doubt that goal of people like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, William Bennett, Michael Medved and others is the establishment of some sort of cultural hegemony, but while they succeed in agitating a small fraction of the the population, and while they have been part of the dominant class, I don't see where they've succeeded in getting subordinate classes (like most of us here) to "accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms".

    If anything, it seems to me that the hegemony of a more open and equitable society that arose in the 60s and 70s still prevails, despite over 25 years of right-wing culture war and political dominance.

    There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

    by badger on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:14:08 AM PST

    •  I think it's what we're not doing (14+ / 0-)

      I have no doubt that goal of people like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, William Bennett, Michael Medved and others is the establishment of some sort of cultural hegemony, but while they succeed in agitating a small fraction of the the population, and while they have been part of the dominant class, I don't see where they've succeeded in getting subordinate classes (like most of us here) to "accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms".

      I think the Right has succeeded in intimidating America away from questioning norms which have been in place for some time before they came into power.  The political practices of "courting the swing vote" and "voting for the lesser of two evils" are products of Right hegemony because they're motivated by fear of the Right's power.

      I also think the Right has succeeded in getting minority groups to oppress each other, although this is doubtless not directly attributable to the high-profile personalities you cite.  Last year, for instance, there was a race riot at Fontana High School, in an area dominated politically by the right to be sure.

      The Right has kept our definitions of "resistance" and "power" from spreading beyond that of building little groups for narrow, selfish interests, or of amassing individual power within the rigged game of a corporate or political hierarchy.  We are no longer allowed to think of coalitions across racial and class lines, or of grand-theoretical ideas such as socialism; instead, gaining power is a matter of building up a resume, or finding some legal way of stealing from doing business with people, or (at the lowest level) through gangs.

      reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 11:18:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I GOT THE POWER! (7+ / 0-)

        The Right has kept our definitions of "resistance" and "power" from spreading beyond that of building little groups for narrow, selfish interests, or of amassing individual power within the rigged game of a corporate or political hierarchy.  We are no longer allowed to think of coalitions across racial and class lines, or of grand-theoretical ideas such as socialism; instead, gaining power is a matter of building up a resume, or finding some legal way of stealing from doing business with people, or (at the lowest level) through gangs.

        In my union work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), I was taught that the minimal conditions for the existence of power are two people and one plan. Now, when you think about it, that's really powerful! [In those terms, the potential power in the US right now is huge and this also explains the enormous effort and expense to divert, distract, confuse and frighten the people expended by our natural superiors.] Relational organizing (vs. transactional organizing) and transformational unionism (vs. business unionism) are products of going back to the style of organizing that built the CIO of yore.

        We've got the tools, we've got the know-how, the only question is do we have the will? After November 7th, I believe we do. But it won't be easy and our opponents will look for every advantage or weakness. But so what, "eternal vigilence is the price of liberty," what else did you expect?

  •  Great diary indeed (9+ / 0-)

    Good comments, too.  I'm particularly impressed at how many people seem to have actually read Gramsci.  I always count on guys like Cassiodorus to explain it to me.  Then I pretend I read it and some people think I'm much smarter than I really am.  So far, it's worked out well.

    Honesty is the most subversive disguise - T Bone Burnett

    by houndcat on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:23:01 AM PST

  •  Recommended with reservation (4+ / 0-)

    I recommended because the diarist wrote so clearly about such an important topic... not because I agree. Gramsci is an undeniably significant theorist, and his conception of hegemony has enduring value, but I don't buy into the underlying historical materialism of the analysis.

    Yes, people respond to material interests, but one's ideology isn't simply a matter of relations to private property. People often act against their own material interests because of emotional presuppositions.

    My evidence is that the Republicans lost control of Congress (and their ability to control government largesse) because of their wacky adherence to good vs. evil religious-based Manicheism in their foreign policy. This war is costing them for the long run, as it is costing us now. War-profiteering is the icing on the cake walk, not the original driver of policy.

    I don't blame capitalism for Bush's mess.

    If you're rich you can afford to be stupid, but you won't be rich for long.

    by Flywheel on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 11:33:27 AM PST

    •  I'd argue.. (4+ / 0-)

      ....that people ignore their economic best interests when they're not given any real options. This allows them to say "they're all the same" and then make decisions based on their social prejudices. Now, of course, there are some people who are genuine single-issue voters (be that guns, gays, or abortion or what have you), but I think that the number of people who will always vote against their economic self-interest is not as high as we might think.

    •  Recommended with reservation back atcha... (5+ / 0-)

      People often act against their own material interests because of emotional presuppositions.

       Sure.  But how is this important in terms of hegemonic power?

      My evidence is that the Republicans lost control of Congress (and their ability to control government largesse) because of their wacky adherence to good vs. evil religious-based Manicheism in their foreign policy.

      So, if this is the case, why did "wacky adherence to good vs. evil religious-based Manicheism" work for the Republicans in 2002 and 2004?

      reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 12:20:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hegemony is the domain of values (7+ / 0-)

        Sure.  But how is this important in terms of hegemonic power?

        My point is that culture is an effect of multiple causes, multiple disciplines. To the extent we can speak of hegemony, it is simultaneously a dynamic medium and outcome of human choices.

        I spoke up because I believe it's important to challenge those who rank material factors as the most critical driver of human action. (Maybe you are, and maybe you aren't one of those, but I sense that you would pin our current dilemma on the pervasiveness of capitalist discipline, and that attitude hints of materialism). It seems to me that Marxists overstress materialism in a way that serves to excuse determinism while failing to stress the centrality of human freedom.

        So, if this is the case, why did "wacky adherence to good vs. evil religious-based Manicheism" work for the Republicans in 2002 and 2004?

        There are many reasons, of course, but the one that's interesting to me is the propensity of so many people to live by their excuses.  From Bush on down, people fooled themselves into thinking "they had no choice" other than war. My view is that people always have a choice. Choices make values. Our challenge is to awaken to the freedom we have to demand responsibility for our choices.

        If you're rich you can afford to be stupid, but you won't be rich for long.

        by Flywheel on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 06:47:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The dominant theme in this society now is wealth (7+ / 0-)

          If you want to describe the domain of values, then today that domain is material wealth.  It is billionaires, not millionaires.  It is hedge funds, not stock brokers.  It is the extraordinary accumulation of materials assets.  That is the core value in this society today.  It's why Bush could say after 9/11 "go out and shop".

          I like the diarist's idea that the new hegemony, the new domain of values, is ecologically centric.  Nothing can teach us more quickly that we all live together than an ecological disaster.  Ecological values are not necessarily capitalist or material.

          But I think it is perfectly fair to say that today's society is totally materialistic, dominated by those who seek every increasing material wealth for themselves.

        •  Sure, people are free (9+ / 0-)

          I was asking those questions, though, to suggest that the money thing is a very important locus of control.  To a certain extent, "freedom" in our society means freedom to reject the money-driven rat race and to choose a life that isn't a reflection of monetary values.

          The money thing, moreover, is how the political class is controlled.  Kees van der Pijl, one of my favorite theorists and the subject of one of my favorite diaries, has an excellent article on how this control has made establishment Left politics nearly irrelevant.

          When I lived in Santa Cruz, California in the mid-1980s, for a time I chose to exist in the forest behind the local University of California campus, because (among other things) it was beautiful there, but also because the primary alternative meant working way too hard for way too little money so I could pay rent to one of a number of landlords who were asking for way too much.  When the principle of freedom confronts the realities of everyday life, the first thing it sees is money as a locus of control.

          reduce, reuse, recycle

          by Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:21:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Freedom's just another word... (6+ / 0-)

            for nothing left to lose, according to Kris Kristofferson. I like your brief digression into freedom and I'd like to know what you think about this analysis (if you're willing):

            Approaching the idea of freedom, which has many interpretations, one may usefully begin by looking at its common sense negation, namely domination. Now, I can say with some confidence that domination is a form of human relationship, i.e. it's something people do to each other. Importing that insight back into our query into freedom and then one can assert that freedom is that set of human relationships observing two constraints -- 1. autonomy, meaning one is not dominating another; and 2. independence, meaning one is not being dominated by another. These are minimal conditions for freedom, necessary but probably not sufficient. Interestingly enough, I've located these two constraints in the Lord's Prayer. "Lead us not into temptation [to dominate] but deliver us from evil [domination]." In other words, "Lead us to autonomy and independence."

            I hope that's not too earnest.

  •  I think you're confusing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, kurt, jfm

    Social-Democrat progressivism with Gramsci's revolutionary Marxism. Gramsci's not interested in defending a position but in overtaking it despite its "entrenchment."

    You seem to be suggesting the "Left" [sic] build its institutions parallel to the institutions of the Right, not that the Left seek to weaken hegemonic institutions in anticipation of an assault. And guess what? That's what the entrenched "Left" has been doing for the past forty years. It's what the Social-Democrats and Communists were doing in Germany in the twenties. Look where it got them.

    •  I'm not sure what you're arguing (9+ / 0-)

      About your distinction between building parallel institutions and weakening hegemonic institutions: how is it relevant to your argument?  At the ground level, as Gramsci points out (on pages 180-183 of the Prison Notebooks), the Left must get working people to 1) identify with their self-interests, 2) with their interests as members of identity groups, 3) with their interests as a social class, and, finally, 4) with a Party which will defend those interests.  How, exactly, is this different for "Social-Democrat progressivism"?

      reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 12:57:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh. Okay. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, LightningMan

        I thought you were the one making the argument. Thanks for the clarification.

      •  good post... but... (6+ / 0-)

        IMHO, "Social-democratic progressivism" is NOT the answer for combating social conservative policies.  Gramsci, and critical humanist philosophy in general is useful for cultural analysis, but is an easy mark for the Right when used as a basis for policymaking.

        Good example:

        1990 Arizona Statute for Environmental Education instituted a statewide curricula - a subject matter-oriented disciplinary framework (ideas, values & attitudes)

        This policy/structure was the direct result of policymaking achieved through the process Gramsci outlines p.180-3.

        Dig this...

        Conservatives came back a couple years later after a bunch of work had been done and assailed this policy as "advocacy education."  An anti-advocacy discourse arose which ultimately argued that the 1990 law foisted erroneous values and attitudes upon youth in the state.  This law was annulled and in 1994, a new statute was enacted that sought to restrict and regulate environmental education in the state through a "balanced" approach achieved through the disciplines - i.e. subjects of science, social studies and economics (concepts, attitudes & habits).  You see, a subject-oriented disciplinary approach takes the learner out of their shoes (their interests) so that they can learn the ways experts think and talk about issues.

        Social democratic discourse ultimately results in policies structures (in education) that embody/set forth a set of preferred ideas, values and attitudes.  It's an easy mark for those whose interests it is to cry "Advocacy!!!"

        What happened in AZ was a severe set-back for the progressive education.  EE was obliterated because of a well-intended, but poorly conceived political strategy.  What the public/individuals need for deliberations and policymaking at the state-level is a political discourse & objective structure that is immune to this kind of conservative attack.

        ----
        Aside:

        Simple political distinctions that everybody should know, but many fail to fully consider:

        Bush, NCLB, social conservatives, neoliberals = communitarian, conservative-type politics.

        Gramsci, social democrats, marxists = communitarian, progressive-type politics.

        (Note: Gramsci on p.180-3 is promoting a communitarian philosophy!!!)

        ----

        But wait - there's another core philosophy:

        John Dewey, WEB Dubois, liberal democrats = liberal, progressive-type politics.

        A truly liberal discourse in education yields not a disciplinary structure (which communitarians of different stripes ultimately propose), but a participatory structure which actually places the interests of individuals - not classes! - on par with disciplinary practices.  That is to say, one's identity is not derivative of the disciplined group-think process (i.e. establishment of solidarity-resistance criterion) of critical humanists philosophies like Gramsci's.

        ----

        I'll stop here and check back.

        This is short explanation, but hopefully it provides a concrete example for consideration and further discussion.

        My basic argument is (at least for educational policymaking) that critical humanist philosophy is great for cultural analysis but can be limiting, and even harmful in creating/maintaining the objective structures of institutions that actually serve the interests of individuals living/working in those social institutions.

        •  If you develop this post a bunch (4+ / 0-)

          it could be a good diary...

          What I can't see in your analysis is this matter of why "critical humanist philosophy" has to be inherently "limiting" in terms of "objective structures of institutions."

          Are you proclaiming a "truth" about "critical humanist philosophy" that is (ostensibly) good for all times and places?  If so, you are on very dangerous philosophical ground.

          So, you say, "conservative" philosophy can successfully attack policies such as the 1990 Arizona Statute for Environmental Education (which would BTW have a thin connection to the "process Gramsci outlines p.180-3" at best -- public policy doesn't advocate allegiance to political parties!).  This would be true because (among other things) "conservative" philosophy can successfully manipulate the Arizona public's "common sense" in opposition to the 1990 Arizona Statute for Environmental Education.  (Such manipulation will at least make the anti-environment politicians look good.)  

          What is this "common sense" that is being manipulated?  It's not the same common sense in all times and places.  Moreover, the "objective structures of institutions" are not the same objective structures for all times and places.

          For example: in my discussion of "capitalist discipline," I discuss the history of capitalist discipline.  My objection to capitalist discipline is not that capitalist discipline is "bad" for all times and places.  Capitalist discipline had its time and place; this is why ostensibly "anticapitalist" regimes such as the Soviet Union developed in the authoritarian way they did.  As contender regimes, they had to compete with the industrial might of the First World, and they did so in an authoritarian way because they had to "catch up" technologically and socially.  The Soviet Union existed in a world in which "capitalist discipline" was the worldwide standard, and the Soviets had to meet that standard.

          My philosophy, far from arguing "objectively" against capitalist discipline, instead projects a future historical time in which capitalist discipline will no longer be appropriate because global/ local ecosystems will have had enough of it.

          I want to end by revisiting your post.  A philosophy that discusses the limitations of "critical humanist philosophy" would be a good thing.  But if you want to be serious in designing such a thing, you must be specific about the historical and cultural background into which philosophy intervenes.  "Critical humanist philosophy" gets us certain things here and now, which will not be the same things it gets us elsewhere and elsewhen.

          reduce, reuse, recycle

          by Cassiodorus on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 06:54:17 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Conservative Manipulations (0+ / 0-)

            Are you proclaiming a "truth" about "critical humanist philosophy" that is (ostensibly) good for all times and places?

            Gosh no.  Just offering a case example to think through where/what critical theory gets us in the end.  Let's say, I'm exploring a hypothesis.

            which would BTW have a thin connection to the "process Gramsci outlines p.180-3" at best -- public policy doesn't advocate allegiance to political parties

            Disagree.  Policy proposals (of political groups/parties) typically embody positions in the field of opinion (and their common sense assumptions about the way the world should be).  This seems basic and concordant with the analytical concept of hegemony.

            What is this "common sense" that is being manipulated?  It's not the same common sense in all times and places.  Moreover, the "objective structures of institutions" are not the same objective structures for all times and places.

            Interested in discussing further the significance of "common sense in all times and places."  Reference?

            In the case of AZ, I suggest that the common sense being manipulated are the communitarian assumptions that both orthodox and heterodox positions project about youth and the function of pubic schooling.  It's how the conservative side was able to make its case to the public, e.g. youth are not experienced enough to be critical or resist being manipulated by the erroneous values and attitudes of others.  The "progressive side" - because they shared these communitarian assumptions - melted away.  This is a good example of how conservatives can manipulate Far Left politics.  And this is the limitation that I think is worth consideration.

            My philosophy, far from arguing "objectively" against capitalist discipline, instead projects a future historical time in which capitalist discipline will no longer be appropriate because global/ local ecosystems will have had enough of it.

            Earlier, you mentioned "ecological discipline".  Really interested to know more!  Please expand this idea.  Will read through other postings.

  •  As the proprietor (6+ / 0-)

    of ProgressiveHistorians, a community site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

  •  Carl Davidson (5+ / 0-)

    I hadn't heard that name in over 30 years.  Then a couple weeks ago I found Carl Davidson's blog, and now this.  It's time for such voices to move back to the fore, they've been silenced far too long in this country.

    •  Hear, hear. (5+ / 0-)

      And thanks for the link.

      Davidson, for those who don't know, was one of those SDS leaders who became Maoists during the 1970s.

      While there is much to criticize in that legacy, the revolutionaries of that time were absolutely dedicated to developing an anti-racist, anti-militarist critique of American society and a strategy for attaining  a postcapitalist future.

      All those damned study group sessions had to pay off eventually, and it's good to see Davidson still using his analytical skills.

  •  Great diary! (6+ / 0-)

    Interesting subject, well-written. I didn't know anything about Gramsci. Thsnks! recommended

    "Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind." John F. Kennedy

    by vcmvo2 on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 09:30:49 PM PST

  •  Recommended [n/t] (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poemworld, dirkster42

    The meaning of life is LOVE (-5.13, -5.95) 1st-Gore 2nd-Clark

    by B12love on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:29:41 PM PST

  •  The Iraq War has led to... (6+ / 0-)

    ...a passive revolution in the United States.

    It has led to people realizing that this bunch of Republicans can't govern.  It has taken the image of the Republican as a tight-fisted controller of the public purse and pulverized it, with the pieces gone missing like bricks of $100 bills in Iraq, or washed away like southern Lousiana and Mississippi in Katrina.

    This is especially compared to Bill Clinton's presidency, where the government ran surpluses, thanks in part to the tax increase on the rich, which conservative Chicken Littles said would doom the economy.

    Instead we got the go-go dot-com boom.  

    Time has winnowed out the 60s radicals, either by conforming them to the mainstream (like Bernardine Dohrn, Weatherperson turned big-firm lawyer and law professor) or discarding the true crap the perpetually aghast Right (D'Souza, Bork, Bloom, Kimball) rail against.  

    The challenge is for the right to jettison the true crap of their movement (anti-abortion terrorists, William Donohue, thuggish and bigoted talk show hosts like O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck, and wingnut pundits like Malkin, Coulter, etc.)  The crap has taken over the mainstream of conservativism, and for each liberal blogger they take down, dozens more will expose mainstream conservatives as radical extremists.

    9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

    by varro on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:33:05 PM PST

  •  What I say may smack of timidity here, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, mem, poemworld

    especially among all of this sureness,
    but I caution that we must keep thinking all
    way and take the long view. Otherwise on the left,
    burdened now with our own hubris and overreaching,
    we have too many of our own Terry Schiavo episodes.
    We then lose the majority of the American public like
    the Right quickly did, and we'll be right back into
    our marginalized state. Smartly picking our battles as
    we go, we need to slowly and surely
    gather allies and build solid long-term institutions.

  •  Excellent diary. Recommended. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, Tuba Les, dirkster42

    My lifelong next door neighbor would give his life to save mine, and yet can't stand the taste of me being a Democrat. Thanks Bush.

    by niteskolar on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 11:05:30 PM PST

  •  ironically enough (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, dirkster42, Cassiodorus, jfm

    I picked up on Gramsci from Pat Buchanan, who really goes on at length about him in the otherwise unreadably bad The Death of the West.

    My view is what the Right did during its era of dominance, 1968-2004/5, was keep things stagnant at For all the militancy, they couldn't roll things back beyond that point.  After all, for better or worse we're connected to the rest of the world, and falling back further than that would involve social and economic collapse.  Much as the Right wants to live in the past, it really doesn't want to be victimized as weak and poor.

    The pattern in American history is that permanent economic change follows on permanent social change.  There were wealthy slaves, but all was taken from them when the Civil War broke out.  Our present economic system will change when we finish off our caste system.

    The Democratic resurgence has been slow to build, but the breakthrough to national majority last year was pretty dramatic.   For 55% of the national vote we got 55% of state legislators, 55%ish  of the governors, 53% of the US House Reps, and 51% of the US Senators.   There are two institutions left to wrest away from the Right, the ones hardest to obtain and with the fewest members, the Supreme Court and the Presidency.

    Of course, the solutions we need and the present Democratic Party are not well matched with each other.  My view is to expend the willing elements of the Party on reform of the social laws and cleanup after the Bush idiocies.  The next big push will be about incrementally creating social democratic institutions.  (I wish it could all be done at the same time, or in the opposite order, but it can't be.)  The present Democratic show seems to be a rather closed shop of Boomer liberals at this point.  But in the next phase Left action and involvement is the center of everything.

    Renewal, not mere Reform.

    by killjoy on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 12:16:28 AM PST

  •  Excellent post... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, dannyinla, dirkster42

    Interesting to see that the "left wing" of the Democratic party has been right (per Gramsci).

    -6.5, -7.59. All good that a person does to another returns three fold in this life; harm is also returned three fold.

    by DrWolfy on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 03:16:28 AM PST

  •  It seems to me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, cookiebear, dirkster42

    that the organizing now going on in the netroots is an essential part of re-organizing the political landscape.

    With the right it really began on radio, which was the important medium at the time. Although small initially, it grew to be the predominant way for people to get news (talk radio).

    We have seen already that the netroots can, and will be, intrumental in forging the new politic. An example would be Senator Tester of Montana.

    Of course, I could be entirely wrong in my assessment of the future (I'm a horrible gambler), but it certainly appears to be a trend, to me.

    Common Sense is not Common

    by RustyBrown on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 05:09:35 AM PST

  •  Superb (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, dirkster42, Cassiodorus

    Thank you, Cassiodorus!

  •  It bears repeating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie

    People who make shrill accusations are usually saying things that apply to themselves. So when I hear people on the far right talk about a Liberal Agenda in the media what they're really saying is that campaigning for one of their own.

    Let's hope the bulk of this nonsense is first decade of new century (and millenium to boot) nutiness. If it is then the whole "Culture War" may quiet down over the next few years as cooler heads prevail.

    I take issue with your closing comments about a need to rethink capitalism in the light of Global Warming. Capitalism didn't cause global warming, greenhouse gases do. We started burning fossil fuels a thousand years ago long before the word even exsisted. I'm confident that Capitalism can solve the AGW problem we simply have to see to it that people who burn fossil fuels pay the full cost of doing so. All we really need to do is finance the cost of remediation efforts and developing alternative energy with a Carbon Tax. Price the resource accordingly and the market will take care of the rest.

    We are evolving new market models (open source, relationship economy) and these kinds of things will undoubtedly play a larger role in the future.

    •  It's a matter of scale (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear, mem, Tuba Les

      Your "taking issue" would benefit from a thorough engagement with current realities.

      Capitalism didn't cause global warming, greenhouse gases do. We started burning fossil fuels a thousand years ago long before the word even exsisted.

      Indeed this is true.  The problem with capitalism and global warming is one of scale.  Capitalism has accelerated to the point where it burns 85 million barrels of oil every day and can't stop.  This will create, as the fourth report of the IPCC pointed out, a roaring global warming effect.  For more on this problem of scale, see my diary on Teresa Brennan; also see the discussion of "abrupt climate change" in the Monthly Review.

      Moreover,

      I'm confident that Capitalism can solve the AGW problem we simply have to see to it that people who burn fossil fuels pay the full cost of doing so.

       I see.  And when, thirty years on, extreme weather events cause widespread famine around the world, how are we going to estimate the "full cost of doing so" and charge it to the "people who burn fossil fuels"?

      reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 08:27:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Rec'ced (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckhorn okie, Tuba Les

    With one quibble.

    we can expect whole generations of Americans to work and live as permanent debt peons

    Why? Personal debt, thank God, is not something passed from generation to generation. I would guess that people who refuse to watch TV are less likely to have large amounts of debt. Now the national debt... not even that's insurmountable. In 1968, Nixon fought the Vietnam war, NASA had the moon shots well under way, and the government ran a surplus — we also had a maximum income tax bracket of 70%, which put the brakes on excessive incomes like we see today.

    If we have the guts to do a CEO Smackdown — restore the 70% bracket for, say, incomes over $5million — we could erase the deficit and put a big dent in the total debt before businesses started actually re-investing their wealth. That could lead to some serious economic growth right there.

    But it all starts, as you say, with staking out a dad-gum position and fighting like hell for it. The RW noise machine will blow gaskets trying to drown it out, but there's more of us than them.

    Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15)
    You can take a break from politics, but life just keeps a-comin’.

    by dirtroad on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 07:46:25 AM PST

    •  Permanent debt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiebear, mem, jfm

      Personal debt, thank God, is not something passed from generation to generation.

      It's already become a prerequisite of the American Way of Life; I'm sure that, with the creditors getting their way in DC with the new bankruptcy laws, we will at some point start to see the living paying the debts of the dead...

      reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 08:29:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  To a degree it does (0+ / 0-)

      Any outstanding personal debt that a person dies with is required to be paid off before distribution of assets from an estate.  In the case of many middle-class and working class families, this means that when a parent dies with outstanding personal debt, the family home must be sold to pay off those debts rather than get passed on in the family.

  •  Nicely Done (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, dannyinla, Cassiodorus, jfm

    Rush's use of Gramsci is so utterly typical of both his shameless appropriation and his out-of-control projection.  It makes an excellent point of departure.

    Being an obsessive, I'm working on an entire, somewhat related series, "Hegemony is the Enemy," which I starteed, but then decided to hold back on publishing until I had backlogged enough to know I could keep up the pace.

    The installments so far:

    And, somewhat related: "Obama, MLK and Hegemony (A Departure From My Ongoing Series)".  Then the long hiatus.

    I take a somewhat looser and broader approach (heck, I've got one installement looking at realigning elections and party systems from the 1790s to today), but I hope you'll check in when I start up again.  I'll make sure to link back to this diary at some point.

  •  Hedgemony, domination, empire, The Great Turning (0+ / 0-)

    Excelent Diary, Thanks for helping to fill out our strategic and historical vision.  While the strategy is clear, I feel many people don't have the philosophical framework to even begin to challenge hedgemony.  Recently, I read David C. Korten's The Great Turning, and it's really opened my eyes to how many people are working to bring us together to resist and replace institutions of oppression. It is easily read and understood and presents an underpinning for understaning hedgemony (what Korten probably deems 'empire' in this context.)

  •  De-linking to the Future (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    Well done. I have used Gramsci in some of my own work, especially the concept of the "organic intellectual." It seems that what is a key part of a developing Leftist "war of position" is the gradual movement away from hegemonic instititions and systems. I have been paying attention to the small steps populations in develping nations have been taking to create their own systems of support and care. Borrowing the Egyptian economist Samir Amin's idea of "de-linking," much like the poor Indian communities that develop local banks for low interest loans, Senegalese workers that create their own health care co-ops or Ugandan and Rawandan peasants that have used their indigenous cultural traditions to deal with human rights violators, I see de-linking as the crafting of localized extra institutional institutions and policies that while meeting the needs of those who can and will not participate in the hegemonic system, also begin to build the alternative systems that can be used as models or better yet implemented when the Left's "war of maneuver" is realized.

    There is room for all at the rendezvous of victory

    by Sansouci on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 07:30:43 PM PST

  •  I am truly shocked! (0+ / 0-)

    I had no idea that gasbag Limbaugh had the intellectual capacity to read Gramsci. I would think the National Enquirer would be more his cup of tea.

    Good read, thanks.

  •  The amazing American academic machine: (0+ / 0-)

    Goes in "Prison Notebooks" and comes out "The Greening of America."

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