Antonio Gramsci as an Italian Revolutionary: Gramsci's Marxism and the Crisis of Italian Democracy.

PhD thesis submitted to University College London


This thesis reappraises Gramsci’s thought. It notes a discrepancy between his analysis and proposed reforms of the Italian ruling class and his Marxist proposals for the social transformation. Gramsci aimed to remedy the Italian ‘crisis’ by incorporating the masses into the ruling class and responding to their demands that others had neglected. By contrast, Gramsci’s Marxism aimed to achieve a communist society by overriding the very political distinction between the ruling class and the ruled, upon which this programme was based. If the former signifies that ‘everybody can govern,’ the latter suggests that ‘everybody actually governs.’ Chapters 1-3 demonstrate how Gramsci consistently focused on the demands of the Southern peasants as the largest group among the Italian masses. He argued that their call for agrarian reform had not been represented since the Risorgimento, stifled by stigmatisation and common sense of a Catholic origin to uphold the status quo. Chapters 4-5 show how Gramsci’s reformist programme aimed at representing these demands and shaped his concepts of hegemony and the ethical state. However, he also elaborated these concepts in Marxist terms as a way of establishing a communist society. Gramsci’s reform sought to recruit the masses into the ruling class and recreate a stable and ‘hegemonic’ relation between the two. Doing so necessitated the ‘ethical state,’ which would narrow the educational gap between the two groups and enable the masses to acquire the intellectual resources needed for politics. However, this programme was incompatible with his Marxist notion of hegemony, which conceived the ‘Modern Prince’ as a totalitarian party capable of replacing parliamentarism, and of the ethical state as a ‘regulated society’ identical to the communist utopia. As Chapter 6 illustrates, by seeking a comprehensive transformation of capitalist and class-divided societies, his Marxism overrode the very distinction involved in his proposed political reform.


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