The Two Revolutions: Antonio Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism

The Two Revolutions: Antonio Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism

The Two Revolutions: Antonio Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism

The Two Revolutions: Antonio Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism

Synopsis

A political and theoretical assessment of the life and work of Antonio Gramsci, the revolutionary socialist who opened the areas of culture and ethics to political struggle, and who promoted a daring new conception of the relations between politics, economics, ideology and society.

Excerpt

Anyone familiar with Antonio Gramsci's writings will know that the inspiration for the title of this book came from one of Gramsci's most important early essays, "Two Revolutions," which appeared in the journal Ordine Nuovo in July 1920. The message of this brief article was that the transition to socialism must occur on two distinct but interwoven terrains—the state and the economy. Gramsci's point was that a good part of what we call revolution actually precedes the conquest of political power, and it is this prefigurative dimension of politics that shapes the conflict of regimes, armies, organizations, and leaders. It is not enough for movements to simply overthrow the existing state machinery, or destroy the old institutions, or even to bring into power leaders calling themselves "communists." Beneath the level of insurrection and statecraft there must be a gradual conquest of social power, initiated by popular subversive forces emerging from within the very heart of capitalist society.

Yet if "Two Revolutions" presented a vision of change rooted in the dialectic of politics and economics, it further anticipated a much broader and more novel dualism in the Prison Notebooks, where the conquest of social power came to signify more than transforming the means of production: it meant a general reconstruction of civil society, extending beyond the factory into every sphere of community life. Socialist politics, in other words, would have to be completely redefined to meet the new challenges of advanced capitalism: it would have to pass through the multi‐ layered reality of daily existence, through the realms of culture, social relations, and the family as well as work—into the deepest recesses of popular consciousness. The theoretical and political implications for Marxism of such an innovative framework were and still are enormous. Above all, it pointed to a complex strategy grounded in a consensual, democratic process in which the great mass of people actively participate in overturning the multiple structures of domination. These ideas represented a bold departure within Marxism insofar as they affirmed the principle of a non‐ economistic, non-vanguardist mode of socialist transformation. As a kind of metaphor for Gramsci's theory, then, the phrase "Two Revolutions" can be seen as the unifying thread of this study.

The present volume is the culmination of several earlier projects on the topics of Gramsci, European Communism, and Western Marxism in general. A previous book, Gramsci's Marxism (Pluto Press, 1976), was written essentially as a brief introduction to Gramsci's ideas at a time when concise, sympathetic English-

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