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    This diary was written at the invitation of the Anti-Capitalist meetup, where most of the members are much more highly qualified to discuss the finer points of various Marxist philosophies and their derivatives than I am. However, I am also writing for anyone who might be interested in how academic theories can and do impact the culture in which our daily lives take place.
     For those of you who have a background in fields where Gramsci is considered part of the canon, the following could seem an oversimplification of a very complicated subject. However if you are unfamiliar with his work, join me below the decorative doodle, but be advised that the most interesting part of diaries such as this one are often the alternative interpretations, arguments and commentaries in the following thread.

    Who was Antonio Gramsci, and why should we care about his theories? He was an Italian Communist whose work in the early twentieth century elaborated on that of Marx through combining it with theories of the liberal Italian political philosopher, Benedetto Croce, as well as those of Machiavelli.  Because he was a Marxist, and his work was written in the early twentieth century when social conditions were much different, he is generally unknown in the US outside of some academic fields such as critical theory and economics. His reception outside of Italy has been sporadic but cumulative. The Russians published his writings after Stalinism became discredited in the late 1950s. He also became popular within the European left wing during the 1960s and 70s, and came to the attention of UK and American academics when Selections from the Prison Notebooks became available in English in 1971. His posthumous importance stems from two things: he explained why Marxism hadn’t been embraced in countries that seemingly would have benefitted from an overturn of the status quo, and his work can be loosely interpreted to inform critical analysis of everything from gender and minority studies to media theory
     This diary can only cover a tiny portion of Gramsci’s work, but some of his more important principles show how certain groups come to be dominant in a culture (hegemony) by influencing people’s innate understanding of themselves and the world around them (common sense) through a long process of dialogue between groups within a society (war of position).  A very similar method for changing cultural perspective was proposed by Joseph Overton of Overton Window fame for the right-wing Mackinak Center for Public Policy.  Changing public perception was considered dangerous enough that, in Gramsci’s own time, a prosecutor once said, “For twenty years we should keep this brain from working”. (Forgacs)     
     Marx had based his work on the economic self-interest of the working class, but outside of Russia other proletarian groups had been less successful at changing their own economic systems. Gramsci, questioned why radical reform of Italian society was inherently difficult:    
   

There was no adequate Marxist theory of the State or of what Gramsci called ‘the     sphere of the complex superstructures’: political, legal, cultural. In order to     conduct his analysis, therefore, Gramsci needed to make a theoretical critique of     mechanistic forms of historical materialism.” (Forgacs)
In contrast to both Marx, who thought that takeover of the means of production would produce political change, Gramsci believed that the base (economic structures) and the superstructure (culture, the law, and politics) were inherently interrelated and that change could be brought about by slowly changing the make-up of those who had hegemonic control from capitalists to the marginalised workers by changing people’s “common sense”, the way that they thought about themselves and their world, to reflect a different set of future possibilities.
    Common sense, in his sense of the term, was an amalgamation of different and sometimes conflicting beliefs that could be imposed from outside sources as well as from personal experience.
   
Many elements in popular common sense contribute to people’s subordination by making situations of inequality and oppression appear to them as natural and unchangeable. Nevertheless common sense must not be thought of as ‘false     consciousness”…it is contradictory- it contains elements of truth as well as elements of misrepresentation- and it is upon these contradictions that leverage may be obtained in a struggle of political hegemonies. (Forgacs)
    Gramsci’s definition of hegemony arose from the political commentary of the Russian Social Democracy, where it meant leadership of an alliance between the working class and land-based peasants. In the Prison Notebooks, Gramsci broadened the concept to describe historical rule by any group.  He also used it to mean cultural, moral and ideological leadership, which constantly changes and rebalances, eventually influencing who is in power and who reaps economic benefit. Overturning a dominant hegemony through changing people’s perception required mass education and encouraging intellectual activity, especially by those coming from the marginalised working class, a process which later theorists extended to women and minorities. This constant rebalancing and negotiation is part of what Gramsci called a “war of position” which he compares to a siege, as a long and arduous process. He felt this form of struggle was particularly necessary in Western countries, as their existing civil societies were particularly robust and resistant to change.  He contrasted this with the “war of manoeuvre”, a frontal attack on an existing government. He used the example the Russian revolution as a successful war of manoeuvre as both economic and civil systems there had been ripe for change.
    The war of position has a lot in common with the Overton Window, though as formerly unthinkable right-wing ideas and radical personalities become more accepted and then poular, we on the left fear the resulting change. Likewise, right-wing theorists, despite enthusiastic pushing of the Overton Window, express a fear of Gramsci’s influence. John Fonte, writing for the Hoover Institution, on “Why There is a Culture War: Gramsci and Tocqueville in America”(2000), blames the work of Neo-Gramscians for current corporate, political, and educational standards, a trend he truly believes threatens American culture :
   
While economic Marxism appears to be dead, the Hegelian variety articulated by Gramsci and others has not only survived the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also gone on to challenge the American republic at the level of its most cherished ideas. For more than two centuries America has been an "exceptional" nation, one whose restless entrepreneurial dynamism has been tempered by patriotism and a strong religious-cultural core. The ultimate triumph of Gramscianism would mean the end of this very "exceptionalism." America would at last become Europeanized: statist, thoroughly secular, post-patriotic, and concerned with group hierarchies and group rights in which the idea of equality before the law as traditionally understood by Americans     would finally be abandoned. Beneath the surface of our seemingly placid times, the
ideological, political, and historical stakes are enormous. (Fonte 2000)
Fonte’s piece was quoted widely in other right-wing contexts from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to Free Republic, where a writer protests:
   
Why it is that we suffer a way of thinking that attempts to coerce us intellectually? Look around. How many times have you heard: You must not be "judgmental" or "intolerant." What does that mean in Gramscian terms? It means: You must accept our values and not argue. If you do not you are out the mainstream. Remember the Gramscian objective of turning their ideas into "common sense"?
I would argue that, despite obvious examples of racism such as the Trayvon Martin shooting and its justification on FOX and other right-wing outlets. The “common sense” which threatens the WSJ and Freepers is moving slowly in the direction of more inclusiveness and tolerance, and should be considered at least a partial success. Even in corporate culture, Fonte complains that private corporations are more supportive of gay rights than government agencies, a turn for the better even among entities that we on the left consider part of the dominant hegemony. Perhaps corporations have become convinced that inclusiveness works to their economic advantage, but a Gramscian war of position is a process of negotiation and considering the self-interest of the parties is part of that process. Neo-Gramscian Nicole Pratt says,
   
Democratization is not only about allowing multi-party elections or enabling the independence of the judiciary, but also about reconfiguring relations of power in order to open spaces for pluralism, diversity and inclusiveness. This necessarily     entails challenging monolithic representations of national culture that impose unity to the detriment of the rights of individual citizens. (2005, p.90)
However, while Pratt sees inclusion as upholding the rights of the individual, Fonte sees it as privileging groups of people (gays, minorities, women) over individuals, and it is here that we on the left need to complete our work toward shifting the national culture toward a more inclusive model and by doing so, eventually achieving economic parity for us all. Convincing the majority of the people that previously marginalised groups are comprised of individuals who have equal right to be part of the national culture is part of the process by which the accepted “common sense” in our culture will become open to the proposition that no one group of people has the automatic right to political or economic hegemony.
__________________________
Sources used aside from those linked:
Forgacs, David (2000) The Antonio Gramsci Reader, London: Routledge
Harris, David (1992) From Class Struggle to the Politics of Pleasure, London: Routledge
Jones, Steven (2006) Antonio Gramsci, London: Routledge

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you so much for this excellent introduction (20+ / 0-)

    to the work of Antonio Gramsci; so much of his ideas have been incorporated into discussions of the new left and the anti-stalinist left and many do not know where these ideas originated. I have really enjoyed the discussion and am looking forward to another diary on Gramsci and culture (with a small c). I cannot thank you enough for your work on the diary.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:11:33 PM PDT

    •  You're very kind. (7+ / 0-)

      I feel any number of you all would be better qualified, but am looking forward to the discussion.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:50:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I could not have written this or done (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MrJayTee, Siri, Justina, northsylvania, TomP, Nulwee

        justice to Gramsci; I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your doing this diary. You did a wonderful job Northsylvania!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:54:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent! (8+ / 0-)

      This is a really timely look at Gramsci and his theories of political dynamics.

      We live in a time in America of increasing dissonance between the seemingly inexorable liberalization of cultural norms and the much noted rightward drift of the political center outside these "social" milieux.  Thus we see the increasing liberalization of culture: the breaking down of taboos against gay marriage, the marginalization of overt racism, the soon to be majority of Americans supporting rational cannabis policy, the ongoing relaxation of cultural norms proscribing sexual content in popular culture, American culture becoming more cosmopolitan and less insular etc. etc.  At the same time we see the political sphere becoming in many respects more conservative, extreme right wing memes being pushed into the center of American political discourse by a small but highly motivated and well financed, inordinately influential minority to the extent that even the putatively liberal party, the Democrats, embrace these extreme right wing memes: self-consciously religious rhetoric, the embrace of authoritarian modes of governance, the hagiographic worship of uniformed authority figures, the persecution of organized labor and political dissent, the increasing acceptance of overt corruption of the political process by a tiny economic elite, the irrational bedrock embrace of the concept of American Exceptionalism etc. etc.

      The nation is experiencing a seemingly accelerating descent into a sort of collective national cognitive dissonance, the Gramscian 'war of position' is becoming ripe for a 'war of manouver' as the opposing and contradictory trends destabilize the center.

      Forgive me the rhetorical flourish of a little Yeats here,

      Turning and turning in the widening gyre
          The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
          Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
          Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
          The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
          The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
          The best lack all conviction, while the worst
          Are full of passionate intensity.
      Yeats' perspective on cultural/political tipping points tends to the reactionary and apocalyptic but the language imparts a feeling of the chaotic dynamics in play as these tipping points approach.    

      Advisors for President-Elect Barack Obama feared the new administration would face a coup if it prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a new report out this morning.

      by Kurt Sperry on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:13:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anti-capitalist meet-up diary schedule (8+ / 0-)

    We are trying to compile the schedule for the anti-capitalist meet-up for the next few months (and beyond if possible). Our group is one of the few on dkos that puts forward analysis from the perspective of the various wings of the hard left. If you have time or want to write a diary, please let us know here, send a message to the group, send a message to Justina, T'Pau, NY brit expat or Geminijen or a message to our group email: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com! We need your participation to keep the group going and to provide as many divergent perspectives on the hard left that we can, please, we need your help. Here are the open dates below. If someone can do a diary for next Sunday, please let us know immediately! Thanks!

    April:
    22:
    29: free jazz at high noon
    May 1: we are hoping that people will commemorate May 1st by writing something and posting it in the anti-capitalist chat at a time that is convenient for them.

    May:

    6th:
    13th:
    20th:
    27th:

    June:

    3rd:
    10th:
    17th:
    24th: Isabelle Hayes

    July:

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:18:41 PM PDT

  •  northslvania: great piece here (13+ / 0-)

    A cogent and clear introduction to the Gramsci's work and ongoing influence - vis a vis hegemony, in particular.

    I will be posting a similar piece on Marxist/Situationist philosopher Henri Lefebvre in two weeks time; hopefully, my essay will be as clear as yours. His writings on spatiality are heady stuff.

    "Space Available" is the largest retail chain in the nation.

    by Free Jazz at High Noon on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:23:59 PM PDT

  •  I have one major question on the piece (8+ / 0-)

    How can someone count Machiavelli as an influence on Gramsci, or for that matter a liberal philosopher Bendetto Croce? Gramsci was a Marxist, his discussions of base and superstructure which form a normal part of Marxist dialogue are clearly based upon a Marxist analysis. Others, for example, Zinoviev addressed the influence of culture in detail and the importance of addressing the superstructure and its interrelationship to the base. How can this possibly be derived from Machiavelli who had a rather different perspective on maintaining power; yes, they both address power and hegemony but from rather different perspectives. Can you explain this in more detail? Thanks!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:25:10 PM PDT

    •  Good point. (6+ / 0-)

      Gramsci was indeed a Marxist, had lived in Russia, married a Russian wife, and returned to Italy at great personal danger to reinvigorate the somewhat moribund Italian Communist party. During his enforced time of contemplation while he was in prison, he hoped to develop a political theory that put Marxism into a historical context of all political theory, more especially Italian political theory. For this reason he built upon the work of Croce as well, who was a liberal but certainly not a Communist.
      I am currently reading a book by Benedetto Fontana who claims that few books about the relation of Machiavelli to Gramsci have been written in English, though there are many in Italian. From an initial skimming, my understanding is that he believes Gramsci was a humanist who had reservations about a purely mechanistic system, such as he (Fontana) believed Marx proposed.
      My personal take at this point is that people of varying personal philosophies would like to claim Gramsci as one of their own, a feeling with which I completely sympathise.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:11:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dang, we will need to get some translated it (6+ / 0-)

        seems. I would love to hear why they argue this; I admit to not being as knowledgeable on Machiavelli as I am on Hobbes, but this really seems to be a bit of a stretch. I think they are being unfair to Marx, but that is a common problem these days. He was not mechanistic, he understood the importance of subjective as well as objective forces for struggle and revolution; in fact, in his annoyance at the lack of British revolutionary zeal even with the highest level of exploitation he discussed this in detail. It was one reason behind the alteration in his perspective on the Irish national question in the hope that it would move the British workers' consciousness and make them realise the extent of their exploitation.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:26:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How Right You Are! (5+ / 0-)

          Marx looked to "subjectivity", i.e., the working class to not only physically "make" the revolution, but to produce the ideas to guide it.

          He never strayed from his roots in Hegel's dialectical method, but applied it to human beings being the motive force in making history, not mechanical stages of technological development.

          Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

          by Justina on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:24:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think the stages of objective development (3+ / 0-)

            are mechanistic at all - or ownly to those who do not deal with a real dialectical process which requires both objective (economic development) and subjective(how we apply uit and relate to it).  For example, the change from an industrial economy to one based on electronic communication has radically changed and globalizecd our struggle --whether we see this as a negative "New World Order" or as a positive chance for class struggle to organize across nation-state lines depends on our subjective component.  
            I know one of the problems in he 60s was a willfulness on the part of the student movement to think that the objective conditions were riper than they were --we relied too much on subjective volunterism -- and consequently may have let a critical moment pass in the early 70s (toward the end of the Vietnam war) because we failed to organize more deeply in the working class.  But we may never really know.

            •  "because we failed to organize more deeply (6+ / 0-)

              in the working class"

              that's a subject we should be looking closely at, if  political/social/cultural progress is to be made in the usa

              (i'm much of a beginner in the literature being cited, but very psyched to be getting my marxist education furthered)

              who is in that class today?

              the sole practitioners of a skill, people who haven't received a sufficient education to have a skill, the under/unemployed, managers, professionals, and so on

              there must be a way to provoke such culturally, intellectually, physically disparate groups into a sense of community

              having connected to this group i've found the milieu both satisfying and provocative of my need to fathom human history in order to help change it from inequity to equity

              thanks to you all

    •  The law and the beast: (4+ / 0-)

      “You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second…… it is necessary for a prince to know how to make use of both natures, and that one without the other is not durable. A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves.” (The Prince chapter XVIII)

      Where are we, now that we need us most?

      by Frank Knarf on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 07:50:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for (8+ / 0-)

    an education-expanding diary and the work on it. Had to skim just now, but will come back to read more thoroughly a bit later.

    When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. -- Socrates

    by Mnemosyne on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:27:25 PM PDT

  •  What I also find very interesting is the (13+ / 0-)

    right-wing's economistic, reductionist and inaccurate notion of Marxism and that a theory of the state has not been addressed before Gramsci; while he certainly contributed substantially to the discussion of the state and Culture, he was not the only person to try to fill the gap in Marx not finishing his discussion on the state and bourgeois Culture and Ideology. Perhaps we should give them copies of State and Revolution by Lenin, Luxemburg's Social Reform and Revolution where she destroys the reformist ideology arguing that socialism can be created through reform as opposed to revolution.

    Placing Gramsci as an "Hegelian" Marxist seems to be inaccurate to me. He has not placed the superstructure independently and prior to the base; it is the base that creates the need for ideologies to justify or normalise oppression. He does not say that simply changing ideas would be sufficient, but that it is an interrelated process and struggle.  I am glad that Gramsci has become a bogey-man to them, but they are of course putting the cart before the horse. I love the quote from Forgas as it is an excellent description of the ideology that neoliberals are using to justify austerity measures for example:

    Many elements in popular common sense contribute to people’s subordination by making situations of inequality and oppression appear to them as natural and unchangeable. Nevertheless common sense must not be thought of as ‘false     consciousness”…it is contradictory- it contains elements of truth as well as elements of misrepresentation- and it is upon these contradictions that leverage may be obtained in a struggle of political hegemonies. (Forgacs)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:39:11 PM PDT

    •  If you were saying all this to me in a coffee shop (7+ / 0-)

      I would be looking at you over my cup with big mooney eyes and there would be glitter-covered hearts floating over my head.

      At the risk of being judged unserious, I love me some Marx, but I love smart, informed marxists even more.

      Excellent comments and an excellent diary.

      [heart]

    •  Gramsci was indeed a revolutionary. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, Justina

      Unfortunately I have little grounding in classic Marxism, so I'm counting on the rest of you to both suggest further reading in that area and to clarify what Fontana might have meant by saying:

      He (Gramsci) believed that the historical subject is  and is no longer seen as an active agent, but rather as a passive object at the mercy of historical contingency and economic forces.
      So far so good, but then:
      In this respect, Gramsci attempted to rescue Marxism (emphasis mine) from the determinist and revisionist encrustations with which the Second International surrounded it. Thus his theoretical and political positions were developed and formulated in a reaction to Marxism he perceived to have lost its revolutionary and critical core.
      My question is, what was the substance of the Second International, and why would Gramsci have had cause to disagree with it?

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:28:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those sound almost contradictory if I (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justina, northsylvania

        am understanding what he is saying. If the historical subject is passive (and not an active agent) how can there be a subjective revolutionary agent aka as a politically conscious proletariat? Perhaps he was referring to Gramsci's view of the second international revisionists, but I cannot imagine that a revolutionary Marxist would maintain that argument. That may have been the argument of the revisionists of the second international, but Gramsci was not alone in this battle against revisionism and reformism (hence my comment above wrt Lenin, Luxemburg, and we can add the whole of the 3rd and 4th international to this discussion. I would never dispute Gramsci's contribution and analysis and his own political work itself; but that was a wide and active movement until Stalinism gained hegemony over the Communist International and bowed to revisionism.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:39:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My bad. The first quote (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, Justina

          should have read: "The historical subject is suppressed and is no longer seen as an active agent..."
          Bear in mind that Fontana is an American, and I would suspect there might be some cultural bias there.

          "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

          by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:57:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It doesn't surprise me at all (5+ / 0-)

      that the right wing, and liberals in both the American and European usage of the term, consider Marx to be reductionist. The reason for this is that, as apologists for the capitalist society, they are ideologically incapable of understanding dialectics, except perhaps so sort of world-turned-on-its-head Hegelianism.

      We cannot win a war crime - Dancewater, July 27, 2008

      by unclejohn on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:53:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great points - especially on the "hegelian" (3+ / 0-)

      separation of ideas frm the material -- Westerners just love to think in terms of dualistic dichotomies--especiall when the ethereal (idealistic one) becomes a cookie cutter ideal model for the real.  Guess it's their need for a perfect ideal -- oh yeah, isn't that supposed to be god?

  •  This is of course almost entirely over my head... (5+ / 0-)

    I look at this and think about the 14th Amendment. Here was an attempt to create egalitarianism in the US (treating all MEN equal under the law) that has been perverted to give corporations (the rich and entitled) more power. The 14th has actually be cited more for corporate personhood than for equal human rights.

    How would Gramsci analyses that perversion?

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:23:20 PM PDT

    •  Bending common sense. (6+ / 0-)

      I think if you had asked the infamous man on the street if a corporation was a person thirty years ago, they would have laughed in your face. After eight years of Reagan, that changed, and now not that many people seem to care as the concept is just part of the political landscape.
      Our job is to bend it back so eventually people will see the error of their foolish ways, or more likely forget they ever thought corporations were people to start with.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:39:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Changing attitudes is essentially (4+ / 0-)

        a long process, but sometimes force can be brought to bear. Ray Pensador's diary about challenging corporate support for ALEC shows how bringing facts to light, and then acting on them, can work. Unfortunately that particular example meant working with the corporations (people?) rather than organising a boycott of them, but it was also effective and involved a formerly marginalised segment of the population expressing their inherent power.

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:47:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Does he at some point give guidance about... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, Justina, northsylvania

          how to reframe our "common sense"? Are you going to discuss that some other time?

          De air is de air. What can be done?

          by TPau on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:56:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  He writes about it extensively, (4+ / 0-)

            using elements of people's "common sense" to encourage "good sense". The Occupy movement has been the most effective recent example of a game-changing shift, though as Justina says below, some are already trying to incorporate and subvert the message to other ends. Nonetheless, by stating the problem as one of the 99% versus the 1%, Occupy pointed out something that is blatantly obvious in a way that people could understand easily and at the same time elaborate on in their own way, no matter what their other religious or political beliefs. Notice that the protesters were eventually put down by force, something that hasn't happened as often since protesters have been excluded from anywhere they might be effective, such as political conventions and G-20 meetings.

            "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

            by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:48:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The attack on ALEC (4+ / 0-)

          is diabolical. The activists are not really working with corporations but embarassing the corporations into distancing themselves from a representative of their own interests.

          We cannot win a war crime - Dancewater, July 27, 2008

          by unclejohn on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 07:00:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  This is an excellent point as it can be addressed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northsylvania, Justina

      under Gramsci's framework; in fact, I would think that he would argue that this is exactly what the role of ideology is under the capitalist system and hegemony of the capitalist class. It is not over your head at all, you put your finger right on the heart of the matter.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:41:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good point - in the next week or two I'm writing (3+ / 0-)

      Citizens United which is certainly relevant to how we create our cultural perceptions (and who has the money and power to do so).

      •  Wonderful! (2+ / 0-)

        I'll look forward to reading that.

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 12:30:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  i've often wondered (5+ / 0-)

        why, as the left has the most creative, intelligent, and artistic minds,

        have we not been able to move the public to accept and promote a movement for change that benefits the many?

        •  I think most people like stability and are scared (4+ / 0-)

          We would rather have the devil we know than the unkonwn. And the powers that be in the dominant culture (used to be the church under feudalism, now mass communications under Capitalism) make sure that they keep us scared and believing that we cannot change.  And when people (us radicals, artists, etc.) try to point out the reality, people get angry because they don't want their security delusions disturbed.  Susan B. Anthony, in the 1800s wrote,
           "Those who are really in earnest [of bringing about reform]must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation and public and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates and bear the consequences."
          Unfortunately, even some who would like to see themselves as leftists get cautious and encourage our own movements toward caution because, in reality, they too are afraid of the change and don't need it bad enough to push us where we need to go.

          •  You make a good point. (2+ / 0-)

            Unfortunately, we will have to change soon or founder completely and regress to a contemporary form of medieval hierarchy with very few skilled workers or craftsmen needed, all upper level schooling taught long distance, farming done industrially, and the civil service gutted. In short the backbone of the middle class will be broken. Many of the proletariat are like lightbulb, working in jobs where they are isolated or put into competition with each other.
            Culturally, common sense is coming around to a more enlightened stance. However, economically, I don't think we can afford the time for a leisurely war of position, though it would certainly be the easiest and more popular route.

            "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

            by northsylvania on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:48:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary (4+ / 0-)

    I arrived at Gramsci via Jackson Lears' article, "The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities," The American Historical Review Vol. 90, No. 3 (Jun., 1985), pp. 567-593 (available through jstor if you have access to an academic library or a public library [like San Francisco] that subscribes to it).  Gramcsi provides an incredibly good lens through which to look at cultural history.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:53:27 PM PDT

  •  Thanks so Much, Northslyvania! (11+ / 0-)

    I haven't read Gramsci, but reading your post makes me want to start now.

    You write:  

    His posthumous importance stems from two things: he explained why Marxism hadn’t been embraced in countries that seemingly would have benefitted from an overturn of the status quo, .....
    Was Gramsci's explanation of the failure of the Western European workers to follow the actions of their Russian comrades because he believed that Europe's cultural superstructure was too effective and that stopped European workers from taking control of the means of production?  

    To what did he ascribe the betrayal of the workers and the socialist movement when German Social Democracy supported World I rather than following the lead of Rosa Luxemburg and repudiating the war?  Might it not have been the betrayal by the reformist social democratic leaders in Germany (and elsewhere in Europe)  rather than the capitalist hegemony that beheaded the German revolution?  

    Very similar suppression of real change can be seen in the actions of the reformist leaders of the U.S. labor movement in the 1950's and 60's.  Not only did they expell the most effective union organizers from their midst in the name of "anti-communism, but they suppressed the numerous wild cat strikes taking place.  The union leadership acted as policeman for the capitalist owners, while attempting to "buy off" their own workers with monetary concessions while refusing to address the conditions of work (assembly line-speed ups, forced over-time, unsafe conditions) that the workers were up in arms about and wildcatting to stop.

    I think that it is always been the counter-revolution (reformists) within the revolutionary movement itself that has stopped workers from taking over control of production, which is the one things that can radically change the power relations within the whole society, including its superstructure.

    (And thus we have Van Jones and "Spring 99"  working to divert the Occupy movement into Democratic Party re-election of Obama goals, rather than deepening the generalized revolt again the whole wicked system.)

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

    by Justina on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 04:57:12 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. (3+ / 0-)
      I think that it is always been the counter-revolution (reformists) within the revolutionary movement itself that has stopped workers from taking over control of production, which is the one things that can radically change the power relations within the whole society, including its superstructure.
      Gramsci had a lot to say about this and, while he was influenced by Croce, he also blamed him for helping to maintain hegemony of Italy's then ruling group. One of the processes by which a group maintains power is to incorporate intellectuals from groups that oppose them, as in your very good examples.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:12:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Boy are you right about this one -we still have (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northsylvania, chipmo, NY brit expat

      that problem today with the old CP always undermining grassroots movement and rechaneling it into the Democratic Party and a safe, respectable form of change. Their trying to do it with OWS too (too successfully for my taste but we'll seewho influences who more)

    •  went to a spring99 yesterday (4+ / 0-)

      moveon was part of the production

      there was absolutely nothing about the election, or the dem party

      it was a primer on how to participate in direct nonviolent actions against corporate hegemony, racism, etc.

      it went very well, there were about twenty people, not bad for a rural area, and we'll be, i think, a good cadre to attract others

      otherwise, justina, your comment was great

  •  I Have to Wonder if the Manipulation of Common (7+ / 0-)

    sense he's talking about is that of the upper & leadership classes, scholars, punditry and such.

    There's been intense manipulation of the common sense of the masses of course, but to my eye in a much simpler and more straightforward way.

    Reagan with his references to frontier animal herdsmen is the personification of rightwing common sense manipulation as it applies to popularly understood economics. It's quite simple, it consists of confining the people to the common sense of the tiniest possible simple economies and person-to-person interactions, and confining the framing of issues of the most complex modern world in those simplistic and primitive ideas.

    And that helps them win support to keep governance, which is naturally always behind the economy's latest innovations in economic behavior, as far behind as possible.

    Our own conservative Democratic Party is doing it right now with the theme of tax "fairness" which of course is judged by most people according to the effects such a policy change would have on those within our scales of income. On the scale of a nation and the top percent and fewer, of course, the implications are vastly different, and of course beyond common sense.

    I'm sure the thought of Democratic conservatives is that the people will be placated by the increased "fairness" all the while the party can retain the support of those same now-"fairly" taxed rich because we'll continue transferring the nation's treasure to them.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:01:23 PM PDT

  •  Reagan was an effective actor (in the stage sense) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes, NY brit expat

    He had been the host on (Wagon Train?) for years so he was already a brand or icon. People were preprogrammed to receive his version of rugged individualism.
    However, I think though that Conservatives honestly tend to see things from a very different point of view. Fonte compares Gramscian collective action with the individualism of de Tocqueville:

    What was particularly exceptional for Tocqueville (and contemporary Tocquevillians) is the singular American path to modernity. Unlike other modernists, Americans combined strong religious and patriotic beliefs with dynamic, restless entrepreneurial energy that emphasized equality of individual opportunity and eschewed hierarchical and ascriptive group affiliations.
    Unfortunately that world view only reinforces the hegemony of a particular group of corporate and political actors (and not the stage variety).

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:26:02 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this. Gramsci was a favorite... (11+ / 0-)

    ...of many members of the New American Movement, a 1971 socialist-feminist spin-off of Students for a Democratic Society, both of which I was a member of. Barbara Ehrenreich was once a NAM member, too. The organization ultimately merged in 1982 with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to become Democratic Socialists of America.  

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 05:56:34 PM PDT

  •  Nicely done (6+ / 0-)

    I like thinking that DK serves as a platform for the "organic intellectual"

    His posthumous importance stems from two things: he explained why Marxism hadn’t been embraced in countries that seemingly would have benefitted from an overturn of the status quo, and his work can be loosely interpreted to inform critical analysis of everything from gender and minority studies to media theory
    He claimed that modern intellectuals were not simply talkers, but practically-minded directors and organisers who helped to produce hegemony by means of 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 rather articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci's call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, who would not simply introduce Marxist ideology from without the proletariat, but rather renovate and make critical of the status quo the already existing intellectual activity of the masses.

    slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

    by annieli on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:07:49 PM PDT

  •  Nicely done. (4+ / 0-)

    On Fonte's point that "the idea of equality before the law as traditionally understood by Americans would finally be abandoned" due to Gramscian processes of ideological inculcation, it must be said that the 1% and the Rehnquist & Roberts Supreme Courts have done a damned fine job all on their own of giving Americans reasons to mock bitterly the idea of equality before the law. What equality?

    "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." George Carlin

    by psnyder on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:55:30 PM PDT

  •  Great piece on an important but frequently (9+ / 0-)

    overlooked thinker.  Gramsci, of course, wrote in a time period when mass literacy was far poorer than today (and probably far poorer than in other European countries at the time).  Also I suspect that mass knowledge of and interest in super-wealthy entertainment/sports celebrities is more extensive today than it was then.  

    Both of these factors have to be considered carefully in modern application of Gramsci's thought.  That is to say, given widespread literacy, what are the implications of people's continuing fascination with super-wealthy entertainment/sports celebrities (to the exclusion, or at least diminution) of historical and political knowledge or interest).

    -6.38 -5.33 "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." - Emiliano Zapata

    by electionlawyer on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 07:00:42 PM PDT

  •  A very small point (6+ / 0-)

    but it doesn't exactly seem to me to be the case that, "he is generally unknown in the US outside of some academic fields such as critical theory and economics." Or, if that's true, then he has fallen into obscurity from the '70s and '80s, when Gramsci was all the rage in graduate political science circles. Certainly many political scientists now in their 50s or 60s would likely have run across at least something of his work.

    •  Quite a bit of the literature (3+ / 0-)

      was written back then, so you are undoubtedly correct. One of the handicaps I have was growing up in Texas during the McCarthy era in what used to be a hotbed of Wobblie activity. Marx was one of those names that was never mentioned in any kind of positive or even intellectual context. When I first went to college, I took anthropology rather than poli sci, and even though the school was close enough to DC for some of us to cut class to go to Vietnam protests frequently enough to get called into the deans office, we were protesting the war itself rather than class oppression. I didn't run into Marx until I took art criticism in the '90s, and Gramsci in the last few years.
      I am in the position of any adolescent who reads Camus, falls in love, and then runs around wearing a beret and smoking Gauloises. A lot of the context is missing, which is why the Anti-Capitalist meet up has been so valuable. People here not only have a deep knowledge, but many have put it into practice.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 01:00:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent introduction. I have a Ph.D. and read (3+ / 0-)

    lots of theory--- and it beats me why it's rare in most critical theory intros. for one to find things explained as simply as you do here.  Thank you for this great work.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 09:07:46 PM PDT

  •  identity politics is a trap (5+ / 0-)

    that's the first thing that pops into my mind
    this foolish idea that there are women's rights, and LGBT rights, and rights for various races, disability, etc, instead of recognizing that the vast majority of these are just artificial divisions of humanity that have been created to keep us fighting each other; so the only sensible thing to do is to transcend the classifications entirely.

    •  yes, but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe wobblie, chipmo, Geminijen

      that would come naturally, once a person becomes radicalized

    •  Best way to transcend the classifications is to (3+ / 0-)

      look at them, instead of denying them, and then get the dominant culture which perpetuates them exposed  so we can end racisim, sexism, etc. and get down to the class struggle.  (i.e., can't really see the class divisions in racie very well until we have enough people of color in the establishment (same for women).

      •  thank you geminijen, you took the words right (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aufklaerer, WB Reeves

        out of my mouth. These classifications may be totally invented by the dominant culture, but many of them actually transcend the capitalist economic system. Sexism for example, is transhistorical and takes some different forms between economic systems, but is essentially tied to the specific role of social reproduction that women play.

        Identity politics can be looked at from a revolutionary perspective, not only from the perspective of the upper classes. It is necessary for the most oppressed and exploited sectors to be leading the movement and linking it to radical and revolutionary transformation. Denying the historical legacy of racism and sexism does not eliminate them and we face the danger of their continuation if they are not directly and forcefully countered. Achieving socialism without addressing compensation for wrongs will keep these things in place. We know from historical experience that sexism and racism is not eliminated on the Left; that requires constant vigilance.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 11:10:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Congratulations (2+ / 0-)

    for a great article and for being selected for Community Spotlight.  I think you just moved the DKos Window slightly to the left!

    Just waitin' around for the new Amy Winehouse album

    by jarbyus on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 07:56:25 PM PDT

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