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Antonio Gramsci
Hegemony, Intellectuals and the State


I. His position in Marxist tradition:
Developing Marxist view of ideology (after Marx, Lenin and Lukacs)
(Ransom 126-27) From Marx via Lenin and Lukacs, the concept of ideology partially loses its exclusively pejorative and negative meaning and becomes instead a positive concept.
With Lenin, the significance of the struggle within the political sphere between alternative ideologies becomes a crucial determinant of successful revolutionary practice.  
With Lukacs, false consciousness which arises when the proletariat absorbs elements of bourgeois ideology is recognized as one of the forces which is most likely to jeopardize the revolution.  As a solution to the difficulties thus perceived, Lenin advocates the need for an intellectual vanguard elite who will bring the working classes a suitable ideological and political framework within which to develop the ideas they need in preparing for the crucial moment of revolution.  


Re-Discovered by British New Left: "In Britain, interest in Gramsci's work coincided with a number of important and interconnected trends in the Marxist perspective more generally." (Ransom 12 -16 )
  1. a strong interest in the social history of the working class.
  2. the emergence of a strongly 'humanist' and 'culturalist' current in the writings of Raymond Williams.  
  3. critique of "laborism" (an economist perspective that limit the goal to gaining relatively superficial concessions from the ruling classes); breaking the 'wretched cultural provincialism" by introducing some theoretical currents in Europe.
  4. the emergence of Eurocommunist perspective--its need to create alliances between different groups.

II. The State: State Society vs. Civil Society; Coersive control and hegemony (consensual control) (text 218-)
school: a positive educative function; the court, repressive negative educative function (219-20)
1. functions:
2. practice:
Used as a concept of ideology, the term hegemony emerges as a way of describing the world-view which any social group must have if it is to gain power and hold on to it.  The development of coherent and legitimate world-view, in other words, becomes a prerequisite for successful revolution.  (R  128)
"A class dominants in two ways, i.e. 'leading' and 'dominant.'  It leads the classes which are its allies, and dominate those which are its enemies.  . . . when it is in power it becomes dominant, but continues to lead as well. .  .(text 215)
A synthesis of force and consent (text 215; Ransome 26);
both economic and political levels: ". . . though hegemony is ethical-political, it must also be economic, must necessarily be based on the decisive nucleus of economic activity" (text 216)
formation of homogeniety and solidarity:

first in the economic-corporate level (among people of the same job),
then among people of the same class, and
third, for one to be aware of "one's corporate interest"  "This is the most  purely political phase, and marks the decisive passage from the structure to the sphere of the complex superstructure; it is the phase in which previously germinated ideologies become 'party'." (text 216)
1. Organic --
2. the agents of hegemony are conscious and reflective human agents.
3. A form of praxis. A process of conscious intellectual reflection and synthesis, which leads

1. to a greater understanding of material reality,
2. to the development of a new form of political strategy and action. (R 132-33)
Hegemony = dominant ideology Historically organic ideology vs. arbitrary ideology(SPN 376-77)
 historically organic ideologies arbitrary ideology
"those, . . . which are necessary to a given structure"; "they organize human masses" (SPN 326) arbitrary, rationalistic, or "willed."” 
. . . They “organize” human masses, and create the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc.
they only create individual “movements”, polemics and so on.  (377)
III. Intellectuals --traditional and organic intellectual

-->  a new way of grouping which is not limited to class structure.
"Every social group . . . creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeniety and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic but also in the social and political fields.  The capitalist entrepreneur creates alongside himself the industrail technician, the specialist in political economy, the organisers of a new culture, of a new legal system, . . . " (text 217)
"All men are intellectuals. . . but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals."  ". . . in any physical work, even the most degraded and mechanical, there exists a minimum of technical qualification, that is, a minimum of creative intellectual activity.  (text 217-18)
Organic vs. Traditional intellectuals: "One of the most important characteristics of any group that is developing toward dominance is its struggle to assimilate and to conquer 'ideologically' the traditional intellectuals. .  .(218)
examples of land-owning aristocracy as 'traditional intellectuals' which still hold power.  219


  1. TEXT: Gramsci, Antonio.  "Hegemony, Intellectuals and the State."  Storey, John, ed.  Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader.  NY: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994: 215-21.
  2. Gramsci, Antonio.  Selection from the Prison Notebooks.  Ed. & Trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Noewll Smith.  NY: International Publisher, 1971. 
  3. Ransome, Paul.  Antonio Gramsci: A New Introduction.   NY: Harvester Wheatseaf, 1992.