Politics of New Labour: A Gramscian Analysis

Politics of New Labour: A Gramscian Analysis

Politics of New Labour: A Gramscian Analysis

Politics of New Labour: A Gramscian Analysis

Excerpt

I'm not so bothered about hegemony,
I know that Gordon will look after me.

Model Worker, post-punk band Magazine

This book is both general exposition and local application of the thinking of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist philosopher and communist leader. In particular it is an attempt ‘to think in a Gramscian way’ – the injunction of the leading British cultural theorist Stuart Hall – about the curious political phenomenon of New Labour. There is an extra layer of purpose in this enterprise, because elements within New Labour have cited Gramsci as a source of inspiration for their own ‘project’. My central argument is that New Labour makes a far better object than agent of Gramscian analysis; specifically, as a ‘transformist adaptation’ of the far larger ideological force of Thatcherism. There is currently a pressing need to understand New Labour (even as it is being widely declared dead), and the ways in which it both fits into and diverges from the history of Labourism and the British left. Gramsci’s key concepts – hegemony and historical bloc, coercion and consent, subalternity and prefigurative struggle, war of position and war of manoeuvre, and, above all, passive revolution and transformism – can help us do that. As Labour retreats in electoral defeat to the places, people, institutions and ‘values’ of its heartlands, we need to salvage the Gramscian critique of Labourism that played some part in the formation of New Labour, and see what it says about the last sixty years of our history, and about the current parlous condition of the British left.

My opening chapters (1 and 2) outline the reception given to Gramsci’s thinking in Britain, with its undisputed highlight the publication in 1971 of Selections from Prison Notebooks, brilliantly . . .

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