March Through the Institutions

On Antonio Gramsci…

As an exercise in learning about multifarious schools of thought, I have paused the study of Stoicism to read letters and essays by Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was an incredibly influential member of the European Marxist movement, his works full of effusive praise for the Soviets and plans for overthrowing, undercutting, and remaking the society of his native Italy through institutional insurgency and cultural hegemony. As a writer, he comes across in translation as very succinct and clear in his ideas. It is easy to see the appeal he would have both among dogmatic Communists and among those already inclined towards his ideology. And, like most Marxists, he is often adroit at identifying a problem in the society around him, but instead of looking at it as a moral failure to correct, he seems to take many of them as an avenue for dismantling his existing civilization and substituting it with an Internationale/COMINTERN sort of anti-culture.

One thing that particularly stands out in his writing is that the class divisions and groups of people he takes for granted as extant in Italy and most of the West at the time are far diminished in number in today’s service economies. Marxism as a system is predictive and idealistic to its detriment, and seems, in hindsight, incredibly stagnant and conservative of a particular understanding of how economies and societies functioned in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. Even he also acknowledges, albeit with a completely different suggested impact, the fact that at no time has Communism or Marxian Socialism taken hold of a capitalist economy of the sort that Marx envisioned being necessary to achieve even the baseline centrally-managed economy of Socialism that would, with the hand-waved, anti-human nature magic of “revolution” lead to pure Communism.

Also of interest is his praise for the Futurists. As an artistic and intellectual movement, the Italian Futurists were in some ways anti-humanist and enamoured of a world built around industry and the machine, with the needs of he human scale much reduced to maintenance and engineering of ever-larger technological complexes and structures. I find it interesting especially because Gramsci defends much of his theory/theology of Marxism on the grounds of it being the most humanist and most caring of worldviews for the greatest portion of Italian society.