27 October 2006

Gramsci (inadvertently) on America

Actually, he was writing while imprisoned by the Italian Fascists in the 1930s. But his comments ring so true today with regard to how public opinion is manufactured by those in power, so that people living in an apparently democratic society can be easily (self-)controlled:
An organic crisis is manifested as a crisis of hegemony, in which the people cease to believe the words of the national leaders, and begin to abandon the traditional parties. The precipitating factor in such a crisis is frequently the failure of the ruling class in some large undertaking, such as war, for which it demanded the consent and sacrifices of the people. The crisis may last a long time, for, as Gramsci wrily observed, "no social form is ever willing to confess that it has been superseded." In combatting the crisis, the intellectuals of the ruling class may resort to all sorts of mystification, blaming the failure of the state on an opposition party or on ethnic and racial minorities, and conducting nationalist campaigns based on irrational appeals to patriotic sentiment. This is a very dangerous moment in civic life, for if the efforts of the mandarins fail, and if the progressive forces still fail to impose their own solution, the old ruling class may seek salvation in a "divine leader." This "Caesar" may give the old order a "breathing spell" by exterminating the opposing elite and terrorizing its mass support. Or the contending forces may destroy each other, leaving a foreign power to preside over the "peace of the graveyard." (from Bates, T. R. (1975). Gramsci and the Theory of Hegemony. Journal of the History of Ideas, 36(2), 351-366.)

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1 comment:

Tim said...

It's funny that Gramsci is still relevant. You would think that Fascist style methods would not be so prevalent when there are alternatives to hub-and-spoke communication.