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Antonio Francesco Gramsci (UK: /ˈɡræmʃi/, US: /ˈɡrɑːmʃi/, Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo franˈtʃesko ˈɡramʃi] (listen); 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini‘s Fascist regime.
Gramsci wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His Prison Notebooks are considered a highly original contribution to 20th century political theory. Gramsci drew insights from varying sources – not only other Marxists but also thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Georges Sorel and Benedetto Croce. The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism, the French Revolution, fascism, Fordism, civil society, folklore, religion and high and popular culture.
Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci’s view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.