There are parts of the analysis, concerning the regulation of the sexual instinct, which seem odd out of context, or perhaps even passe.
If no serious alternative is on the cards, is there any point in critiquing the way that capitalism functions?
Without contemporary answers to these questions, social democrats face continuing decline: Social democrats lack a politics that can simultaneously both act as a critique of capitalism and yet accept that it is the system in which they will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.
His concept of hegemony offers a way of thinking about creating the conditions for political change while recognising that there is little immediate chance of a major breakthrough.
Born in Sardinia, by the time of these events he was living in Turin, the centre of industrial activity in Italy, and a city where at first there appeared to be the chance for a Bolshevik-style popular uprising.
However after the defeat of the factory council movement and the rise of fascism, Gramsci sought to analyse how those in power continued to find new ways of maintaining their position.
While he was in prison — from towhen he died — he set himself the task of understanding the causes of the defeats suffered by the revolutionary left during the s, and of theorising an alternative path of action in Europe and America.
The key selection of these writings is Selections from the Prison Notebooks, translated and published in In his notions of a war of position, and the battle for hegemonic leadership, Gramsci speaks both to revolutionaries who long for change but recognise it is not on the horizon, and social democrats who reject oppositionalism but want to make headway against the political economic and cultural dominance of capital.
The idea of hegemonic rule helped to account for the difficulties that had been faced by socialist parties of all kinds in the s, but also, even more importantly, it opened up the possibility of thinking about ways in which socialists could try to develop counter-hegemonic strategies, to build alliances based on a different kind of common sense.
The working class needed to find a way of representing their interests in terms of ideas that would strike a chord across society, to show that they could represent the whole of society and not just their own sectional interest.
A contemporary example would be those working in corporate PR. Hegemony is never stable, and this means that, however strong it appears to be however much, for example, the market is presented as the only way of organising societyit is possible to intervene to disrupt that hegemony and put forward an alternative way of looking at the world, an alternative moral and political philosophy.
Gramsci understood that capitalism would always encounter crises of finance and production i. He saw that specific forms of hegemonic rule could be remade in such moments of crisis — so that either the existing dominant class would regroup to piece together a new hegemonic strategy, or a new challenge could be made to their whole way of thinking and doing.
Thus fascism represented a new configuration of alliances and ideology within Italy that allowed business interests to continue to predominate after the battles of the first world war. To be sure force was also involved, but the support of large sections of the population was secured through fascist rhetoric and social organisation, and a new articulation of different interests and ideas.
The concept of conjuncture was crucial in this analysis. A conjuncture is a coming together into a particular articulation of all the complex forces operating in a society during a given period, to form a settlement that is able hold for that period; and it can partly be characterised by the particular nature of the common sense ideas that help hold together its specific hegemonic alliance of dominant interests.
When a crisis disrupts such a settlement — such as the recent financial crisis — there may be an opportunity to intervene to put forward a whole new way of thinking about and organising society. That is clearly something that has not happened during the recent financial crisis — and one reason for this is the huge amount of work put in by organic intellectuals of the corporate world in support of their way of making sense of the world, and the lack of a parallel strategic vision by social democrats.
As he also argued: Political and ideological work is required to disarticulate old formations, and to rework their elements into new ones. As Hall points out, in his analysis Gramsci considers a broad range of issues, not only new forms of capitalist accumulation and industrial production, but also a very wide range of cultural issues, and a discussion about the kind of person this epoch might produce.
This is to miss the point of the analysis. In understanding how Thatcher was able to respond to the conjunctural crisis of the late s, we can see that Thatcherism was a political project that worked to secure consent of popular forces for its particular aims.
The lessons from this are, firstly that hegemony was actively constructed — it was not inevitable; and, secondly, that that the left could also set about constructing a project that tapped into popular thinking with a view to mobilising around a different set of aims.
It is important to note that this is not the same as listening to focus groups and reflecting their views. Since these writings of the late s and s, Hall has revisited these debates in terms of analysing Blairism and more recently Cameronism. He argues that both these later political formations did not represent new political conjunctures, but were phases within a wider settlement that can be characterised as neoliberal — the period of the resurgence of business and finance interests after their temporary slight taming after the second world war.
The common sense of this whole period has been dominated by the idea that there is no alternative to the market. Now, when you get to that point, the political forces associated with that project, and the philosophical propositions that have won their way into common sense, are very tough to dislodge.
It also alerts us to the need for intellectual work in countering the dominant current sense, but at the same time affirms to us that it is possible to do so. And, not least, it indicates that paying attention to cultural issues is a critical part of political life.Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet.
Gramsci's discussion of Fordism constitutes one of his rare extended interrogations of hegemony and historic blocs outside of Italy, dealing as it does with impact of US ascendancy and American production methods on post-WWI Europe.
In his essay ‘Americanism and Fordism’, Gramsci lays forth what he considers some of the most important and interesting problems of modern society, and second on the list is the ‘sexual question’.
3 AMERICANISM AND FORDISM INTRODUCTION is unique among Gramsci's prison writings, The problems it sets out to analyse were contemporary ones, brought into prominence by events that had taken place since his imprisonment-the development of the corporate (f ascist) economy, the depression, the first Soviet Five Year Plan.5/5(2).
Years before Antonio Gramsci wrote his seminal chapters on "Americanism and Fordism," the U.S. socialist author and orator Kate Richards O'Hare () published lengthy descriptions of the Ford system in the St. Louis-based mass circulation So- cialist monthly, The National Rip-Saw. The term gained prominence when it was used by Antonio Gramsci in in his essay "Americanism and Fordism" in his Prison Notebooks.
Since then, it has been used by a number of writers on economics and society, mainly but not exclusively in the Marxist tradition.