Antonio Gramsci he was one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party and one of the most eminent Marxist intellectuals of the last century.
His works and reflections are still the subject of study and debate, and his influence is still visible in political parties and cultural enterprises of all kinds.
In this article we will see a short biography of Antonio Gramsci, A brief description of his life and major works, as well as his contributions to Marxist theory.
Brief biography of Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was an Italian journalist and activist known and famous for develop the roles of culture and education in the economic, political and class theories of Marxism. Gramsci was born on the island of Sardinia in 1891 and grew up in poverty among the island’s farmers, and his experience of class differences between Italians and mainland Sardinians and the negative treatment of Sardinian peasants by mainlanders. He shaped his intellectual and political mentality.
In 1911 Gramsci left Sardinia to study at the University of Turin in northern Italy and lived there as the city industrialized. He spent his time in Turin among the socialists, the Sardinian immigrants and the workers recruited from the poor regions for the personnel of the urban factories.
In 1913, Gramsci joined the Italian Socialist Party. He did not complete formal education, but trained at the University as a Hegelian Marxist and intensely studied the interpretation of Karl Marx’s theory as a “philosophy of praxis” under Antonio Labriola. This Marxist approach focused on the development of class consciousness and the liberation of the working class through the process of struggle.
His life as a journalist, socialist activist and political prisoner
After leaving school, Antonio Gramsci wrote for socialist newspapers and rose through the ranks of the Socialist Party. Him and the Italian socialists they joined the ideas of Vladimir Lenin and the international communist organization known as the Third International. During this period of political activism, Gramsci advocated workers ‘councils and workers’ strikes as methods of taking control of the means of production, controlled by wealthy capitalists at the expense of the working classes.
Finally, he helped found the Italian Communist Party to mobilize workers for their rights. Gramsci traveled to Vienna in 1923 and met Georg Lukács, a prominent Hungarian Marxist thinker and philosopher, as well as other Marxist and Communist intellectuals and activists who would shape his intellectual work. In 1926, Gramsci, then leader of the Italian Communist Party, was imprisoned in Rome by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini during his powerful campaign to end opposition policies.
Gramsci he was sentenced to twenty years in prison but was released in 1934 due to poor health.. Most of his intellectual heritage was written in prison and is known as The Prison Notebooks, where he reflects on some central themes of Marxism, such as the relationship between structure and superstructure, between ideology and science, or between political thought. and action.
Gramsci’s contributions to Marxist theory
Antonio Gramsci’s main intellectual contribution to Marxist theory has been his elaboration of the social function of culture and its relation to politics and the economic system. While Marx briefly discussed these questions in his works, Gramsci he relied on the theoretical foundations of Marx to elaborate the fundamental role of political strategy in the challenge of the dominant relations of society, and the role of the state in the regulation of social life and the maintenance of the conditions necessary for capitalism.
Gramsci focused on understanding how culture and politics might inhibit or stimulate revolutionary changeIn other words, he focused on the political and cultural elements of power and domination (in addition to and with the economic element). As such, Gramsci’s work is a response to the false prediction of Marx’s theory that revolution was inevitable, given the contradictions inherent in the capitalist production system.
In his theory, Gramsci saw the state as an instrument of domination that represents the interests of capital and the ruling class. He developed the concept of “cultural hegemony” to explain how the state achieves it, arguing that domination is largely achieved by a dominant ideology expressed through social institutions that socialize people to consent to rule of law. dominant group.
Gramsci further postulated that hegemonic beliefs dampen critical thinking and are therefore barriers to revolution. For him, educational institutions were one of the fundamental elements of cultural hegemony in modern Western society and he developed this idea in some of his essays, such as in “The training of intellectuals”.
Although he was influenced by Marxist thought, Gramsci advocated in his works a phased and longer-term revolution than that envisioned by Marx. He was a proponent of cultivating “organic intellectuals” of all classes and lifestyles, who understood and reflected the worldviews of a diversity of people. Additionally, he criticized the role of “traditional intellectuals”, with work reflecting the worldview of the ruling class and thus facilitating cultural hegemony.
Gramsci advocated a “war of positions” in which the oppressed peoples will work to interrupt the hegemonic forces in the realm of politics and culture, while a simultaneous overthrow of power was carried out through various maneuvers, and with a broad participation of the masses in what would, inevitably, be a long, difficult road full of advances and setbacks, but after which, if the political and cultural victory is won, it will be decisive and stable.
- Bates, TR (1975). Gramsci and the theory of hegemony. Journal of the History of Ideas, 351-366.
- Femia, J. (1975). Hegemony and conscience in the thought of Antonio Gramsci. Political Studies, 23 (1), 29 – 48.
- Gramsci, A. (2003). Letters from prison. Era Editions.