View Full Version : HEGEMONY: Antonio Gramsci

Ron Price
12-15-2010, 11:54 AM
Edward Said(1935-2003), University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, wrote that: "In any society that is not totalitarian certain cultural forms predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others. The form of this cultural leadership is what Antonio Gramsci(1891-1937), one of the 20th century’s leading Marxist interpreters, has identified as hegemony. Hegemony is an indispensable concept for any understanding of cultural life in the industrial West."1 It is an indispensable concept, therefore, for understanding the cultural life of any of its groups.

Hegemony, as Gramsci saw it, is always a process, a realized complex of experiences, relationships and activities, with specific and changing pressures and limits. Its internal structures are highly complex….It has continually to be renewed, recreated, defended and modified. It is also continually resisted, limited, altered, challenged by pressures not at all its own.2

Gramsci died the same year as his father! He died within days of the articulation of the first Baha’i Seven Year Plan(1937-1944). This Plan was about to be formulated in late April and early May of 1937 by the delegates to the National Convention in Chicago. The Baha’i community was itself being transformed while Gramsci was writings his Notebooks into a very different hegemony, process and complex of relationships. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Edward Said, Orientalism, Penguin Books, London, 2003(1978), p.7; and 2Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, Oxford UP, Oxford, 1977, p.112.

You died the same year as your father
after such a short life.1 Hunch-backed
and underdeveloped, family in poverty
and plagued by health problems your
entire life. But you read and read and
had that wonderful memory…....Your
writings have been published recently
especially your prison Notebooks and
their 3000 pages written during those
last eleven years of your life in prison.2

An informal network of pockets of small,
local, ingrown and amorphous groups
evolved at this time into a national unit
of a global, well-organized religion with
a national consciousness in world society.3
I found the events-interesting synchronicity.

1 Gramsci died at the age of 46.

2 Not published in English until the 1990s these Notebooks, these writings are the fruits, some say, of a genius. That being said, some also say, they are virtually impossible to understand. They are not cohesive in any sense of the word and offer no linear insight to tell the reader a story. They do, however, offer a great deal of insight into Gramsci's thoughts about virtually every topic from people he met to the thinkers of his days. His prose and poetry go to the heart of his thoughts, a heart which was politics. His work on hegemony, whenever it appears is brilliant and should be given apt time to study. These Notebooks are not for the casual reader. Readers need to have some background with Gramsci’s thought and the period in which he was writing. For serious scholars of Gramsci’s thoughts and works these Notebooks are a must have. Otherwise, I would recommend reading his collected works. In the edited volumes of his writings readers will find a more cohesive story presented. They will not get this in his Notebooks.

3 Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Some Aspects of the Development of the Baha’i Administrative Order in America: 1922-1936,” Studies in Babi & Baha’i History, Vol.1, ed. Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp. 255-300.

Ron Price
15 December 2010