Gramscis Pathways

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Lets look at some of the passages on the state and civil society. Here, I overlook the important text of q4, 38 Gramsci , p. In continuing the note, Gramsci speaks of the crisis of bourgeois hegemony in terms of [the process of the] disintegration of the modern state. Later on he introduces a most interesting comparison between Croce and Gentile For Gentile all history is the history of the state; for Croce, instead, it is ethical-political that is, Croce wants to maintain a distinction between civil society and political society to which we will return.

I would here like to draw attention to the term hegemonic apparatus which appears in q6, , an expression which to me seems to be of fundamental importance, since it refers to the materiality of the processes of hegemony: it is not only a matter of a battle of ideas, but of true and proper apparatuses charged with the creation of consent. At the same time, here we can observe how distant Gramscis conception is from Althussers isa Ideological State Apparatuses , themselves probably derived from the Notebooks, even if in a distorted manner.

After all, Gramscis integral state is shot through Here he speaks of an identity between the state and civil society, with civil society undoubtedly to be understood in the Gramscian sense. The state is not only an instrument of a class but also a site of the struggle for hegemony and a process of the unification of the ruling classes. It is possible to set in motion moments of counter-hegemony; a class can and must lead even before assuming power; when it is in power it becomes dominant, but it also continues to lead. The state was only an outer ditch, behind which there stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks.

The corresponding text c q19, Gramsci , pp. We get an extreme form of political society: either to fight against the new and conserve the unstable, cementing it through coercion, or as the expression of the new for breaking the resistance it meets in its development, and so on.

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But the recourse to dictatorship a possibility that was necessarily very much on Gramscis mind does not exhaust the range of possibilities. The theme of the creation of a public opinion, for example, if no stranger to the totalitarianisms, also very much applied to the liberal-democratic states. Gramsci wrote, What is called public opinion is closely connected with political hegemony, and as such is the point of contact between civil society and political society, between consent and force. The state, when it wants to begin an activity of little popularity, creates the adequate public opinion in advance, that is, it organises and centralises certain elements of civil society.

Gramsci warned: there is a struggle for monopoly over the organs of public opinion newspapers, parties, parliament such that a single force might model national opinion and thus its political will, turning those who disagree into individual, inorganic dust. In this sense, the state is an educator see q8, 2 and q8, 62 ,69 and in this sense it is ethical:. Though it is essentially on economic forces that one operates one must not deduce as a consequence that superstructural factors should be abandoned to themselves, to their own spontaneous development, germinating sporadically and at random.

The state is a rationalisation in this field also: it is an instrument of acceleration and Taylorisation, operating according to a plan, pushing, encouraging, demanding and so on. This does not mean to forget that this being the integral state shot through by the struggle for hegemony the subaltern class which fights to become the state reacts and seeks to maintain its own autonomy this being something different, however, from the autonomy of civil society as commonly understood today and thus also to build its own hegemony, as an alternative to the dominant one.

In the eighth Notebook one of the periods of Gramscis sharpest dissent with the ussr some notes seem to refer, in a more or less veiled manner, to the Soviet Republic. I will limit myself to citing two such texts. The main one is q8, , entitled Encylopaedic notions and questions of culture. Following some comments on civil society and political society, Gramsci writes: 70 71 On the category conformism, see Chapter 6. For some social groups, which before their ascent to autonomous state life have not had a long independent period of cultural and moral development on their own a period of statolatry is necessary and indeed opportune.

This statolatry is nothing other than the normal form of state life, or at least of initiation to autonomous state life and to the creation of a civil society which it was not historically possible to create before the ascent to independent state life. From this emerged statolary, a totally uncritical attitude of identification with the state as a means of bridging the backwardness that resulted from the fact that the Revolution did not follow any enlightenment any construction of hegemony. Here come to mind the passages where Gramsci focuses on the difficulties that the new class has in creating its own organic intellectuals, a situation from which the limits of Soviet Marxism, as symbolised by Bukharin, derive.

But though Gramsci understood the origin of statolatry and understood well in another note of this same eighth Notebook that The superstructural elements will inevitably be few in number when passing through a phase of economic-corporate primitivism,74 this did not mean closing his eyes to the dangers of such a situation. Rather, he urged a conscious response to it: this kind of statolatry must not be abandoned to itself, must not, especially, become theoretical fanaticism or be conceived of as perpetual. It must be criticised, precisely in order to develop and produce new forms of state life, in which the initiative of individuals and groups will have a state character even if it is not due to the government of the functionaries 75 Gramsci perceived the full danger of degeneration in the situation in which the Soviet system found itself.

We are here at the outset of what would later be called Stalinism, where statolatry was not only not resisted, but would be elevated into a whole system. Gramsci wrote this note in He already had behind him lest we forget the clash of , with the concerns he had. Statolatry, understandable from a historical point of view that is, from the conditions in which the Russian Revolution took place was neither theorised nor accepted without also pointing to the emergence of counter-tendencies that would soon mean being able to do without it.

But as we know, the Soviet Union did not follow this programme. For example, some puzzlement may result from the aforementioned statements telling us that police should not be taken to mean only the organised police force,76 or suggesting that every active citizen is a state functionary if they adhere to and elaborate the programme of the state. Namely, the Fascist state that held him prisoner, and the Soviet state in whose cause he recognised himself.

His reflection was, of course, interwoven with constant references to the historical experience of each of the two, such as he managed to understand it. Moreover as we have noted Gramsci was among the first to grasp the fact that in liberal-democratic states also there were new and significant phenomena of the organisation of the masses, of the regulation even forcibly so of their ways of living, in search of a new, deep-rooted conformism as was required by the development of the new Fordist production model.

As such, even with the limits imposed by the particular historical time in which he lived and developed his reflection, Gramsci was extremely attentive to the totalitarian drift of the twentieth-century states and the dangers inherent to this, first of all for the communist movement. The question of statolatry, at a theoretical level, takes us back to a passage to which we have already referred: does the identification of political society and civil society not pose the threat of totalitarianism?

If as we have seen these are one same thing;78 if in effective reality civil society and the state are identical;79 if civil society is also the state, or rather is the state itself These are, it is true, very strong statements as we have said, they are mistaken, if taken literally. We know that Gramsci wrote the Quaderni del carcere as notes, often warning the presumed future reader he would need to look at them again, examining and perhaps correcting them, and of the fact that it is necessary to search for the rhythm of [his] thought, [which is] more important than single, isolated quotations.

By this I do not mean to say that certain of Gramscis statements are somehow extraneous to his reflections, but rather that Gramsci through the brevity of his notes or on account of the ardour of his reaction, since here he was combatting the theories of those who promoted the ideology of the organic separation of state and civil society reacted with excessive claims.

In fact, for Gramsci this relation was a dialectical one, of mutual reference and influence. As all the quotes that we earlier cited already showed us, the state properly speaking and civil society are two distinct moments: they are not identical, but stand in dialectical relation and together constitute the extended state.

This was similarly made clear in his polemic against Ugo Spirito and his very Gentilian claims as to the identity of the individual and the state, which Gramsci rejected and attributed to the absence of a clear elaboration of the concept of the state, and of the distinction within it between civil society and political society, between dictatorship and hegemony, and so on. In several passages Gramsci passes very critical judgements on Gentile and followers of his Ugo Spirito and others who sought to use Gentile as the basis for a corporatist hypothesis working within the terms of Fascism and in polemic against liberals and free-traders.

Although Gramsci mocked their verbalism and their incompetent economics, he recognised that Gentiles conception of the state all cows are black at night, since for Gentile everything is the state did at least open the way to overcoming some of Croces one-sidedness, by which even Gramsci was inspired: For Gentile all history is the history of the state; for Croce, instead, it is ethical-political that is, Croce wants to maintain a distinction between civil society and political society.

We have repeatedly seen how in Gramsci there are both force and consent, not a reductio ad unum: moreover, nowhere in Gramsci is there the undialectical distinction that we find in Croces dialectic of the distinct. Between Croce and Gentile, Gramsci stands, we could say, for a third way: he values Croces ethical-political moment hegemony , the moment of civil society, but makes it part of the extended state. As such, we see the unity of, and distinction between, political and civil society. In q13, 17, dating from , Gramsci had written that the state is conceived of as a continuous process of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria on the juridical plane between the interests of the fundamental group and those of the subordinate groups.

This is not to say, however, that the apparatuses of which we spoke elsewhere are here any less present. In my view, subjects, processes and forms all have their place in Gramsci, in a constant cross-referencing of the subjective and objective that makes for a great part of the fascination and the difficulty of his work. Gramsci did not recant, even indirectly, the reflections on and definitions of the state that we have seen up to this point: rather, he re-proposed them, including in many of his last Notebooks, as second drafts.

But he put forward an interpretative model of the state that was ever more dynamic and processual.

Reminiscing Gramsci

Unstable equilibria is an expression that aptly conveys a sense of struggle and the important place of politics. The state is the terrain, means and process. For Gramsci, their becoming the state is an indispensible moment in the struggle for hegemony and so, too, is having a party that upholds a precise alternative conception of the world.

There is no place in Gramsci for any protagonism of intellectuals or of civil society; that is, there is no place for considering them in a manner uprooted from these basic co-ordinates. If we want to address the theme of civil society in Gramsci and the relations of contiguity and difference that it has with Marxs homonymous concept as well as with some of the commonplace interpretations of it, it is perhaps useful to begin always bearing in mind our first chapters considerations on the parent-concept, the extended state with a look at Norberto Bobbios particular reading of civil society in Gramsci.

This was perhaps the interpretation, after Togliattis, that most influenced the reception of the Prison Notebooks author. Indeed, it was above all in the wake of the reading advanced by Bobbio in the mids that Gramsci became, for many, the theorist of civil society. His growing penetration into international philosophical and political-science debates has largely developed under this banner.

Tellingly, in the course of the s and s the theoretical rediscovery of civil society often pivoted on Gramscis thinking, indeed more or less consciously through the mediation of Bobbios interpretation. In the preface to his Stato, governo, societ. This came in the wake of the international Gramsci studies conference held in Cagliari on April , itself largely hegemonised to put it in Gramscian terms by Bobbios intervention on Gramsci and the conception.

And it was a reading of Gramsci that has rightly been judged to have influenced his reception more than any other. Both for Marx and Gramsci, he stated, civil society was the true theatre of all history as the German Ideology famously put it. Bobbio quite rightly highlights the difference between the concepts of civil society in Gramsci and in Marx: while Marx identifies civil society with the material base, with the economic infrastructure, Gramscis civil society does not belong to the structural moment, but to that of superstructure.

As such, Gramsci was effectively assimilated to the liberal tradition as Benedetto Croce had already hypothesised twenty years previously. No longer did there seem to be moments.

Bobbio republished this text in in a slender volume published by Feltrinelli in their series Opuscoli marxisti [Marxist pamphlets], edited by Pier Aldo Rovatti and then in a collection, produced by the same publisher in , of his Saggi su Gramsci [Essays on Gramsci]. Without doubt, Gramsci did place a premium on subjectivity, on politics, but in a different sense to how Bobbio categorises it: the Prison Notebooks attempt to build a theory of politics and of ideological forms always also operated on the basis of Marx.

Gramsci knew and wrote that the content of the political hegemony of the new social group which has founded the new type of state must be predominantly of an economic order. For Gramsci, the production and reproduction of material life continue to be the primary factor of historical development. And he knew that Structures and superstructures form an historical bloc. That is to say the complex, contradictory and discordant ensemble of the superstructures is the refection of the ensemble of the social relations of production.

He did so within the framework of a full acceptance of historical materialism, interpreted in the light of the novelties specific to the reality that he himself faced. Obviously, this does not mean that their two concepts of civil society were not different as Bobbio notes. So lets look first of all at how this concept was presented in the works of the founder of the philosophy of praxis. It is worth clearing the field of one preliminary problem.

Wolfgang Fritz Haug, in a most interesting intervention,12 tried to challenge Bobbios reading at its roots by maintaining that it is mistaken to translate the German expression brgerliche Gesellschaft with civil society, rather than the more literal bourgeois society. As is well-known, the German expression covers both, while almost all other languages distinguish between them.

Moreover, this semantic. Gramsci q8, Gramsci , p. Haug But what sense would it have to translate Marx in such a way as to make him say in the famous passage from the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy that both legal relations [and] political forms originate in the material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the example of English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century, embraces within the term bourgeois society 13 rather than using the term civil society, as in the usual translation?

Doesnt this following the example of English and French thinkers tell us that these words typical of Marxs exposition of his theoretical model are referring precisely to the more general even if not historically indeterminate use of the term, namely civil society as it was conceptualised in Britain and France to which he is explicitly referring? The words that come immediately afterwards in Marxs text stating that the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in political economy are, without doubt, more ambivalent in this regard, since here civil society could be substituted with bourgeois society.

But the usual translation works on the basis of the phrase that Marx had used immediately beforehand. Even Gramsci, as is well-known, faltered on this point: as a note in Valentino Gerratanas critical edition comments, in his prison-era works of translation Gramsci had initially rendered this text as embraced with the term bourgeois society; [but] the anatomy of bourgeois society has to be sought in political economy, before then striking out the word bourgeois and replacing it with civil. By bourgeois society we would understand both state relations and those outside of the state.

This is, therefore, not an adequate term for rendering the counterposition that Marx makes between the forms of the state and the other aspects of society in which these forms sink roots. The term civil society derived from the Latin societas civilis a medieval translation of the Greek koinonia politik has come through a long process of historical definition to mean societas civilis sine imperio, as distinct from cum imperio: the state.

As is well-known, the theme of civil society and the relationship between the state and civil society interested this author even at. In his Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Right, Marx following the course Feuerbach took in his critique of religion, overturning the relationship between subject and predicate stated that in Hegel the subject is the state and the predicate is civil society, whereas in reality the exact opposite is the case: the subject is to be found in civil society itself.

Marx writes: Family and civil society are the premises of the state; they are the genuinely active elements, but in speculative philosophy things are inverted. When the idea is made the subject, however, the real subjects, namely, civil society, family become unreal objective elements of the idea with a changed significance. I have already referred to the passage of the German Ideology that holds that civil society is the true theatre of all history18 and to the other, very well-known part of the Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy where Marx specifically addresses his youthful parting with Hegel in This somewhat different reading does not repudiate his overturning of Hegel.

However, it does seek to problematise both the concept of civil society and the content on which this concept feeds, and his entire evaluation of the separation between state and society. I use the term society here to briefly indicate a terminological question which seems to be of some significance: the fact that the mature Marx the Marx of great works of critique of political economy no longer used civil society, abandoning this term entirely in favour of society tout court.

As for the term civil society, Gerratana has already raised the point indeed, replying to Bobbio that it is not entirely true that the concept of civil society in Marx belongs solely to the structural moment. Bobbio , p. Gerratana , p. This secular conflict the relation between the political state and its preconditions, whether these are material elements, such as private property, etc. And again in the same work, further on, Marx points to on the one hand, the individuals; on the other hand, the material and spiritual elements, as the simple component parts of civil society.

More generally, to me it seems that the dichotomy in question is, for Marx, proper to modernity and to bourgeois society itself: parallel to or even possible to superimpose on the dichotomy between bourgeois and citoyen, which Marx criticises in the name of a higher synthesis and recomposition.

That is to say, Marx does not limit himself to overturning the relationship between state and society in Hegel, but rejects this counterposition, criticising the dichotomy between the public and private spheres. Moreover, he in some measure rejects the confinement of politics within the state and of the socio-economic within society, instead showing how both moments are shot through with power and politics.

It is this dialectical conception that maintains his connection to Hegel. It is this same dialectic that to an even greater degree marks Gramscis own perspective. In other words, we need to step away from a mechanical reading of the relation between base and superstructure. Conversely, Bobbio makes this reading his own. Its classic reference point is the above-cited Preface: a text that Gramsci, however, was able to reinterpret in an anti-deterministic sense.

We need to step back I repeat from a conception where the determining role. If we turn to the Quaderni del carcere, this discourse becomes further complicated. Or better, what becomes more complicated is any attempt to read the Notebooks in all their complexity and richness using the rigidly dichotomous categorial tools deployed by Bobbio. As Jacques Texier objected, in response to Bobbio, even at the Cagliari conference, Gramscis fundamental concept was not civil society, but rather the historical bloc.

To pick just one of them, lets look at q4, [Economism] speculates on the distinction between political society and civil society and maintains that economic activity belongs to civil society and that political society must not intervene in its regulation. But, in reality, the distinction is purely methodological and not organic; in concrete historical life, political society and civil society are a single entity. Moreover, laissez-faire liberalism, too, must be introduced by law, through the intervention of political power 26 Here, we have less of a rigid separation between economics, politics and society.

The state and civil society are not autonomous realities, and the liberal ideology that paints them as such is explicitly rebutted. From this emerges the concept, central to the Notebooks, of the extended state.

Antonio Gramsci - Ideology & Hegemony

Base and superstructure, economy, politics and culture are, for Gramsci, united and at the same time autonomous spheres of reality. And so there is little sense in counterposing Marxs civil society, principally a site of economic relations, to Gramscis civil society, principally a site of political-ideological rela-. Texier , p. Togliatti , p.

This is all the more true for Gramscis thought: when he emphasises certain aspects of civil society, he always does so starting out from Marx and his teachings. Gramsci assumes these as his basis and works to move forward from them as he inscribes in theory the novelties that have arisen in history.

One of the central points of Gramscis Marxism is, indeed, the fact that he does not separate out different aspects of reality the economy, society, the state, culture in a hypostatised manner. Is there something new in Gramsci, as compared to Marx? In part, yes: in terms of the role of the state and of politics. To summarise this very basically: Gramsci completely overcomes starting from Lenins teachings the reductive and instrumental reading of the state that makes for perhaps the very weakest point of Marxs political theory.

This means that while Marx considers the dialectical relationship between the state and society on the basis of society, Gramsci considers it on the basis of the state, also in the cause of correcting and rebalancing a prior interpretative imbalance. Marx and Gramsci, however, do agree on one essential point: even civil society is not an idyll, the result of consent and the triumph of democracy and citizenship, such as some commonplace representations would have it, with their tendency to counterpose this reality to the reality of politics, which is seen as more or less despotic and oppressive but always in a negative light.

As Joseph Buttigieg has stressed, for Gramsci the history of civil society is the history of the rule of certain social groups over others, hegemony always having been constituted by subordination, corruption, and exclusion from authority the history of class struggle. It could also be said that the novelty of Gramscis elaboration is most visible when it comes to the state.

Across Gramscis entire thought, his reflection on the nation-state was of central importance; and it was also linked to the question of hegemony. This was the moment when the primacy of politics began to take its mature form, gradually subsuming his prior Sorelian influences and lead-. Gramscis reflection pivots even more on the state in his Notebooks: it is on this point, indeed, that Gramsci makes his most important contribution to the definition of a Marxist theory of politics, the integral state as an extension of the concept of the state.

In Gramscis thought, the state is configured as the site of a class hegemony, a moment of which as I have already recalled, there is a continuous process of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria on the juridical plane between the interests of the fundamental group and those of the subordinate groups equilibria in which the interests of the dominant group prevail, but only up to a certain point. Bolshevism, fascism, Keynesianism, and the welfare state were all examples albeit with obvious differences of this new relationship between economics and politics emerging after the First World War as was lucidly grasped by Walter Rathenau in Germany and also debated among social-democratic and communist circles.

All this made for a highly novel situation as compared to the capitalism of Marxs day. This was a novelty that Bobbio failed to grasp, due to the idealistic formalisation of his discourse: always moving from theory to theory, without the history of events. See Chapter 1. Buci-Glucksmann , p. Yet from the end of the nineteenth century, and increasingly so during the twentieth, economics and not only that was ever more invaded by politics.

As Marco Aurelio Nogueira has written, politics overflowed, flooding many different spaces. The politicisation of the social was followed by the socialisation of politics. Would what we have said up until now take us to the point of saying that Gramsci was a theorist of the autonomy of the political? I do not believe so. I cannot agree with the readings that, giving excessive emphasis to Gramscis youthful Sorelianism, run the risk of making him a theorist of the autonomy of the social. But the dialectical character of his thought as well as his whole human and political biography also guard against the opposite error.

The modernity of Gramscis thought consists in the fact that the state life and politics portrayed in his conception include society, even in the sense that they feed on society, as opposed to negating it or separating themselves from it. His notes on the subaltern classes, on folklore, on the struggle for hegemony, and so, too, his youthful spirit of cleavage, refer back to an extended conception of politics, as well as of the state.

Whoever divides society from the state, politics from economics, or society from politics, and sets off in whatever other direction, is no longer in the groove of his thought.

For the author of the Notebooks, then, civil society is a moment of the extended state, a space in which power relations are determined, even if this is a space that enjoys a certain autonomy with respect to political society; meaning, the coercive state. Therefore, Gramsci does not accept a dualistic, Manichean position that counterposes civil society to the state conceived as intrinsically coercive : civil society is not homogeneous, but rather is one of the principal theatres of the struggle between classes, and intense social contradictions are manifest within it.


And civil society is a moment of the political-ideological superstructure, conditioned in the last instance by the material base of society; and, as such, it is not at all a sphere beyond the market and the state, as has been claimed in recent years. From Bobbio onwards, many interpreters have formulated a reading of civil society in Gramsci that attributes it a strongly anti-statist stamp. An important example of this tendency was on display in , a Gramscian year in the pattern of scholarly conferences organised by the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci upon each ten-year anniversary of the great Sardinian thinkers death.

The materials arising from the conference were published in with the title Gramsci e il Novecento [Gramsci and the Twentieth Century],35 offering a telling panorama on how the concept of civil society is today internationally above all, but not only, in the us and uk mainly inflected with what we could call a liberal-democratic slant. Cohen, Stephen Gill and Anne Showstack Sassoon were present in Cagliari 37 principally draw on Gramscis concepts of international hegemony and civil society.

These are inserted into a reading of the prevalent political framework that takes as a given the tendency towards the weakening of the political-state moment in the face of economic globalisation. These two phenomena which are real, although often highly exaggerated 38 are accepted as positive, as a new opportunity for liberation. And the reflection in the Notebooks is also subsumed into this framework.

This risks two errors. On the theoretical level, it runs the risk of a mistaken reading of Gramsci, undervaluing his concept of the extended state. And on the political level, there is the risk of too-quickly renouncing the very political and state tools that thus far have proven the only instruments that it is possible to deploy as an alternative to the logic of the market. It was unsurprising that he drew on Bobbios reading and compared Gramsci with Tocqueville. Cox admit-. Vacca ed. The contribution in Vacca ed.

See Coutinho See Cox and Showstack Sassoon for the Anglophone bibliography on this topic. See Chapter 3. See Nogueira Though specifically referring to the Brazilian situation, the essay in question is rich in more general theoretical and political insights. Namely, to relaunch the subaltern layers complex of autonomous collective activities. On this basis, the author hopes for a new participatory democracy and a global civil society, the basis for an alternative world order.

Though recognising for example that ngos are in reality ever more bankrolled by state subsidies hence a function of public spending and thus rendered ever more conformist, the author sees the possibility of a global alternative to capitalism in this heterogeneous voluntary and non-economic mix. Here what we have is a disarticulation of Gramscis own theoretical approach pivoted on the dialectical unity of state and society and an anti-institutional conception of politics that we could define as Sorelian.

While Gramsci in the first place, the Gramsci of the Notebooks profoundly redefined the Marxist conception of the state, he never ceased to consider the political-state moment as a lever for the redistribution of power and resources. The extended state, of which civil society is part, therefore does not escape class contradictions, but rather is the very site in which they play out. Jean L. Cohen also promotes the redefinition of civil society as the whole set of voluntary associations.

Again, here, we lose the dialectical vision with which Gramsci held together state and society. The author is explicit about her points of reference: her sympathies lie with a certain kind of sociology Touraine, Melucci that has exalted pre-political or pre-state voluntary activity. An interesting and very well-known perspective; but whats important for our discourse, here, is that such an outlook is improperly extended to Gramsci, who is quite mistakenly converted into an author of reference or elder statesman for the tendency to counterpose civil society to the state.

Similarly, albeit with more radical political tones, Stephen Gill entrusts intellectuals the task of bringing about an alternative collective consciousness. Some Italian scholars have also shifted in a direction that converges with these authors in certain aspects. In his intervention at the conference Il giovane Gramsci e la Torino dinizio secolo [The Young Gramsci and EarlyTwentieth-Century Turin], Giuseppe Vacca spoke of a new season of Gramsci studies and of scholars contributing to the renewal of the interpretations of Gramscis thought, a renewal characterised by the elaboration of new interpretations of the Quaderni del carcere.

The anchor of Vaccas discourse is Gramsci-as-theorist of a new conception of politics, which seems to situate him in a horizon of thought far from that of the communist tradition. To return to the Cagliari conference, Marcello Montanari was there in agreement with Vaccas framework. He held that Gramsci was above all the theorist of the crisis of the state, having grasped the exhaustion of the progressive role historically played by nation-states, even to the point of reaching the conclusion that the modern idea of democracy transcends the nation-state form.

To these theses we could also add the position Mario Tel expressed in Cagliari, stating that doubt as to the possibility of the state serving as a lever of modernisation runs throughout Gramscis prison notes, but it seems that he ultimately leaned towards critical acceptance [of this possibility]. Vacca , p. Vacca , pp. Montanari , pp. Tel , p. According to Tel, though Gramsci laid down his theoretical roots in the pan-statist thought of the s, he managed to transcend this by having his sights on the long term: thus he could ultimately see only the liberal state as the institutional form adequate to the type of economic-political modernisation and internationalisation coming into view.

On the one hand, this author is very attentive in reconstructing accurately the positions of the Sardinian thinker and his reflection on the expansion of the state sphere from the First World War onwards. And she seeks to bring into focus the changes that have taken place since. For example, according to Showstack Sassoon, volunteering, non-profits, ngos and the third sector constitute the new weft of relations that link the state to the individual.

That is, they are not civil society liberated by the retreat of the state, but rather part of the extended state, albeit a redefined one. They are a means of reclassifying the tasks and roles of welfare in supporting the capitalist market, though this latter will disappoint a great number of needs if it is left to its own devices. Other interventions at Cagliari appeared to be marked by a partially or entirely different tone.

For the American Benedetto Fontana, for example, the current usage of the term civil society in political-cultural debate, whether in the Gramscian, Hegelian or liberal sense, is nothing but the reflection of the gradual embourgeoisement of the world, of globalisation and of the spread of economic forces within the markets, as well as the proliferation of private bodies and associations ever more concentrated upon single interests. It designated a situation that did not correspond to the distinctions of the liberal state. Racinaro also made explicit reference to the conference that the Istituto Gramsci had staged in Florence in December The Cagliari conference of some of whose significant aspects we have recalled here seemed poles apart from this event, almost as if connecting up again with the Cagliari conference and Bobbios famous intervention on Gramsci and Civil Society.

The intention, here, is not to stick some label on all the contributors to either one of these assemblies, but only to bring to light their most characteristic themes. In the question of the working class becoming the state the Communist Party in search of a third way had led to a reading of the Notebooks in some aspects exaggeratedly crushed into the framework of politics, but at least it was precise in clarifying fundamental categories like the extended state and passive revolution. In , in a different socio-political and cultural climate, it was no chance thing that civil society made a major comeback from Cagliari to Cagliari, that is.

Certainly, hegemony is in the last analysis defined on the terrain of the relations of force, of actual political struggle, whether in grand or small politics. However, as Gramsci knew well when he insisted on the solidity of popular beliefs, one must not underestimate the role of the battle of ideas in defining the relations of force. In this sense, redeeming the full meaning of Gramscis concept of civil society in order to counterpose it to apolitical versions of this term is no abstract question. In fact, in Gramscis view, as we have seen, civil society is a privileged arena of the struggle between classes, a sphere of social being where there is an intense struggle for hegemony; and for precisely that reason, it is not the other of the state, but rather together with political society the coercive state one of its indispensible constitutive moments.

For Gramsci, not everything that makes up part of civil society is good after all, doesnt the law of the jungle prevail, here? From the viewpoint of the subaltern classes, which were always Gramscis reference point, only a concrete historical analysis of the relations of force present at any given moment can define the function and positive or negative potential of either civil society or the state. Without doubt, in order to drive forward this redemption of Gramscis concept of civil society, accurately understood, we need not only the theoretical acumen and philological rigour to reconstruct the rich and complex categorial weft elaborated in the Notebooks, but also to investigate the work of his principal interlocutors.

And, above all, to remember that Gramsci was Gramsci precisely because he dialectically surpassed the concepts of his creators and constructed a most original notion of civil society: the scaffolding of a new Marxist theory of the state. The correct definition of the theoretical status of civil society and the state is one of the most important themes of the ideological-political debate of our time. The debate surrounding globalisation has been central to the cultural and political panorama of the last few years.

It is widely felt that we are living in the age of globalisation. For some, given this new discursive order, it is necessary to profoundly rethink strategies and philosophies. The question that we must try to answer, therefore, is the following one: how can Gramscis thought be situated in relation to the socio-economic phenomena that are today most debated globalisation and post-Fordism first among them? First off, what do we mean by globalisation? What definition, even if a very general one, can we offer, before we attempt to inflect it in relation to Gramscis thought?

It seems to me that we can define globalisation as a hypothesis on the contemporary modality of capitalism or of modernity according to which the relation between economics and space, politics and territory has radically changed. From this, another question immediately emerges: is globalisation a series of quantitative changes which do not change the substance of the capitalist model we have in front of us, or the substance of its laws of functioning or is it a qualitative leap, comparable to the passage from laissez-faire to organised Fordist and Keynesian capitalism?

Some students, above all Anglophone ones, have insisted on the rupture, the element of discontinuity. Others, instead, reject the term globalisation, preferring to speak of mundialisation. This slight difference results from the hypothesis that since industrialised economies were already integrated and internationalised in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the acceleration of trade that can today be observed at various levels financial, productive and consumer goods is taking place above all within macro-regional spheres and not homogeneously at a global scale.

Scholars such as tienne Balibar and Serge Latouche often repeat that capitalism has always been global. Others recall how even Marx always observed capital as a global phenomenon. We could add what Gramsci himself wrote in the notebooks: The whole economic activity of a country can only be judged in relation to the international market, it exists and is to be evaluated insofar as it is inserted into an international unity there is no purely national balance.

We need to deploy analytical tools that allow us to read the changes with which we are faced. This is what, for example, the two English authors Hirst and Thompson have sought to do, elaborating two different models relating to an international and to a global economy respectively.

Hirst and Thompson do not, then, refuse to note and to emphasise the great changes that have taken place in the world economy in recent decades, but they do maintain that a world economy characterised by a high and rising level of trade and international investment is not necessarily a globalised economy. In their work, the point of contrast between the partisans of the term mundialisation and those who choose globalisation is clearly apparent. The stakes of this semantic difference is the national state. While many3 claim that, faced with processes of socio-economic globalisation, the function of the national state is becoming superfluous, according to these authors multinational corporations still rely on their home base as the centre for their economic activities, despite all the speculation about globalization.

Following Hirst and Thompson, we can say that the state and states continue to play a front-rank role in the current inter-national economy, by way of the indispensible legal framework that they provide. I have elsewhere made the argument that what we today face, therefore, is a process of redefinition and evolution of the state,5 and not its disappearance, as some have even tried to claim.

The terms of social reproduction have changed, but the image advanced by some of the most ardent upholders of the idea of globalisation of the mass of people defining themselves individually and collectively with reference to some transnational corporation, rather than to a nationality and a state, seems for now to be nothing more than 1 2 3 4 5. See Hirst and Thompson Hirst and Thompson , p. I will take the liberty of referring the reader to two of my texts: Fine o Metamorfosi dello Stato-nazione? This is not to ignore the processes of internationalisation that today exist and the growing strength of supranational powers, but rather to try to make out to what extent the myth of globalisation corresponds to real processes and how much of it is an ideological excess corresponding to the interests and axioms of neoliberal policies.

According to the us economist Susan George who, not by chance, prefers the term mundialisation this is also a function of ideological lobbying: Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in order to produce and spread neoliberal ideology. Thousands of intellectuals and dozens of think tanks, periodicals, newspapers, radio and tv programmes and so on receive enormous sums of private money in order to develop the ideological infrastructure that underpins mundialisation.

It is above all thanks to them that There Is No Alternative has triumphed. In reality, though, the new actors need rules to govern mundialisation. They simply seek to establish ones more advantageous to themselves. Technological developments and related changes in class composition have made a bloc together with cultural changes and subjective actions such as those mentioned above.

Georges observations do, however, introduce a theme that is decisive for explaining the current triumph of the myth of globalisation this being situated entirely within the terms of the neoliberal revolution, which has at its ideological core the end of ideologies, the return to laissez-faire, and the demand that the state be abruptly brought down to size. Globalisation is, then, perhaps a mundialisation enriched by an ideological surfeit, proper to neoliberalism.

All this is connected to a contiguous idea of the triumph of civil society, or what some call international civil society. Now, though, faced with the radical reduction of the state by the ideology of globalisation, we surely find ourselves on a horizon of political thought rather different from that of the Notebooks. Beyond the processes of globalisation, the crisis of the Fordist model has according to some heavily reduced the importance of the state and of national states.

This is said to have been to the advantage of civil society and the economic forces or, in any case, pre- or non-state forces that operate within it, and which seem to have taken on fresh centrality, above all since the collapse of actually-existing socialism and the various Keynesian-type models of welfare. Various different political hypotheses can take their lead from this assumption, such as those contained in La sinistra sociale by Marco Revelli, or Bruno Trentins La citt del lavoro.

As well as noting this fundamental divergence, it is, however, also possible to see some ways in which the two converge: both authors agree on the fact that the Left must radically rethink itself, starting from the critique-overcoming of what has been its attitude towards politics and the state up until now. What interests me in particular, here, is to follow the thread of Trentins reasoning, because it is in large part grounded on the authors theoretical engagement with Antonio Gramsci. Although Trentin offers a sympathetic reading of various authors who were historically in the minority in the twentieth-century socialist tradition, from Luxemburg and Korsch to Bauer and Weil all having in common a marked anti-state and antiinstitutional instinct he engages most deeply and broadly with the author of the Notebooks, by way of a complex reading rich in both light and shadow.

Trentin uses Gramsci, in this book, in two ways one more obvious, the other less so. In the first case, I am referring to the second part of his book entitled Gramsci e la sinistra europea di fronte al fordismo nel primo dopoguerra [Gramsci and the European Left faced with post-wwi Fordism ].

The other concerns a more discrete yet equally important use of Gramsci and perhaps this is even more important to the overall discourse of his book that links Gramsci to the concept of civil society, which is central throughout the whole volume. The Gramsci that Trentin sets his target on in the second part of his book is the Gramsci of both LOrdine Nuovo and Americanism and Fordism, the Gramsci the author stresses who apparently assumed as rational, and thus.

That is, he claims that Gramsci remained wholly within the culture of the Third International and not only that in which the production process and the scientific organisation of labour were ferried across from capitalism to socialism without being subjected to almost any critique. This is the Gramsci of LOrdine Nuovo, who exhorted the workers to substitute themselves for the bosses, but without overturning the factory before and together with society and the state. Is Trentins critique of Gramsci, here, a fair one? To me, it seems, it is not without foundation: even in LOrdine Nuovo there appeared the theme widely prevalent in the communist culture of the time of the priority and need to preserve and increase labour discipline and production after the revolution, with the workers weak productivity being blamed only on the presence of capitalists.

From this followed the claim that once the capitalist was eliminated, so, too, would this problem be resolved: The world needs a multiplied production, intense and feverish labour; the workers and peasants will rediscover their capacity and will to work only when the person of the capitalist is eliminated from industry, when the producer has won his economic autonomy in the factories and fields and his political autonomy in the state of councils of workers and peasants delegates.

Trentin , p.

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See, for example, Asor Rosa ; Revelli ed. It should be remembered how Gramsci saw and in some measure, experienced the ensemble of producers, workers and technicians, as a community, a collective body, which also has implications in the sense of giving new appreciation to the worker-subject, not considering it only in the purely quantitative aspect, which Trentin rightly stigmatises.

This is a theme that also speaks to our theoretical-political present, as we lament the fact that the horizon of citizenship stops short at the factory gates. But to me it seems that this is a threshold it cannot cross, because it is a category constitutively alien to any discourse of classes and the division of society into classes, which is most demonstrably on display precisely in the factory. Dubla , p. On this point, I refer the reader to Trentin As history teaches us, when the relations of force change, presumed rights fall apart.

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