Gramsci and Contemporary Politics: Beyond Pessimism of the Intellect

Gramsci and Contemporary Politics: Beyond Pessimism of the Intellect

Gramsci and Contemporary Politics: Beyond Pessimism of the Intellect

Gramsci and Contemporary Politics: Beyond Pessimism of the Intellect

Synopsis

Can politics now be both radical and realistic? Gramsci and Contemporary Politics is a collection of Anne Showstack Sassoon's writing which spans the major transitions from Thatcher and Reagan to Clinton and Blair; the collapse of communism to the regeneration of social democracy. Applying original interpretations of Antonio Gramsci's ideas on the intellectuals, political language, civil society and political leadership, she argues that drawing from the past, and broadening contemporary sources of political and academic knowledge can contribute to a grounded, radical hegemonic politics which can bring about change.

Excerpt

A collection of essays provides the occasion to revisit an intellectual and personal itinerary. Changes in political, social and economic contexts, and implicitly or explicitly the author’s own growth and development, all come into play. These pieces were written during major transitions spanning the Thatcher and Reagan governments, the collapse of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, attempts to regenerate social democracy, and the election of centre-left governments throughout Western Europe and in North America. They reflect my continuing interest in the work of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), in women’s changing socio-economic roles, and in projects to refashion left politics to take account of major socio-economic change, and are accompanied by a desire to demystify academic practices. Theoretical discussion is joined to political and personal reflection. The majority of the essays have been substantially revised for this book. All are explorations of themes of continuing contemporary relevance. They do not pretend to be definitive. They are often tentative and suggestive. The intention is to open up discussion rather than close it down.

THEMES AND CONJECTURES

As political and intellectual signposts change so dramatically, a rush to judgment is to be resisted. The dynamic of the tennis match of many academic and political debates, which simply bounce arguments back and forth, can detract from the need to confront significant questions. Above all, polarised positions often mean that the inconsistent and contradictory nature of social development is either considered a problem to be eliminated or becomes a rationale for abstaining from engagement. It is striking how rare it is to find work which draws out what could be useful from what appear to be otherwise contradictory positions, or, indeed, which makes an analysis that searches for the contradictions and inconsistencies in social development in order to learn from them. The definition of being analytical and critical is too often reduced to describing the negative aspects of reality

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