The Modern Prince: And Other Writings

The Modern Prince: And Other Writings

The Modern Prince: And Other Writings

The Modern Prince: And Other Writings

Synopsis

Selections from the Italian philosopher and revolutionary.

Excerpt

Gramsci was born on January 23rd, 1891, in the village of Ales in Sardinia. Soon after his birth the family moved north to Ghilarza and it was here that Antonio spent his childhood. The family was poor and while still a schoolboy he had to work to help supplement the meagre income earned by his father, a minor employee at the local Registry Office. Life in Sardinia at that time was hard and the people, who had gained nothing from the industrial development of the mainland, were still living in the backwardness and poverty of past centuries. "I began work when I was eleven", Gramsci wrote later in his life, "earning nine lire a month (which meant one kilo of bread a day) for ten hours work a day, including Sundays, and I spent them in shifting registers weighing more than myself; many nights I cried secretly because my whole body was in pain." But somehow he managed to devote much time to study and soon distinguished himself as a scholar at the ginnasio in Santu Lussurgiu and later at the Liceo Carlo Dottori, of Cagliari.

In 1910 Gramsci left Sardinia after winning a scholarship and went to Turin where he enrolled himself at the University in the faculty of Letters. He specialised in linguistics and philology, and achieved such distinction that his Professor, Matteo Bartoli, was broken-hearted when Gramsci finally abandoned the academic life for politics.

The stages of Gramsci's life and the development of his thought during this period are difficult to document. We know that when he left Sardinia he was already a socialist, but this attitude, according to Togliatti who was his friend at the University, sprang more from the natural revolt of a humanitarian and an intellectual against the wretched conditions of his native land than from a fully coherent understanding of the theory of socialism. His spiritual guides in his early life at the University were the idealist philosophers, De Sanctis and Benedetto Croce, especially the latter. But before the end of the World War his intellectual position had undergone a profound development.

Soon after Gramsci arrived in Turin he began to interest himself in the working-class movement which at that time was rapidly increasing in strength and militancy. By 1917 he had risen to a position of responsibility and, as a result of his leadership during the anti-war insurrection at Turin in August of that year, was elected Secretary of the Socialist Section in the city. Parallel with this practical political activity, Gramsci devoted himself to a study of the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin, which led him to reject Crocian idealism . . .

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