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Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

As a public intellectual and renowned scholar, Stuart Hall has had such an impact on British history and criticism that British historiography may need to be separated from Thatcherism.

It is worth noting that in same way, British historiography should be freed from Gramsci's other indirect category, all-powerful neo-liberal concept of long 1980s, based on his vision of Americanism and Fordist concepts.

Borrowing a Marxist background and moving away from discipline of history, Ernesto Laclau, in collaboration with Chantal Mouffe, uses Gramsci's ideas to purify any remaining essentialist concept of hegemony and establish hegemonic politics as a linear and ephemeral discursive achievement.

In first joint work of Laclou and Mouffe "Hegemony and Socialist Strategy", then in works of Laclau "On Populist Reason and Rhetorical Foundations of Society", Mouffe "On Politics" and "For Left Populism", hegemony is conceptualized as a network of discursive social relations, interconnected. set of equivalents.

There is an extensive critical literature on development of Laclos and Mouffe's theories of hegemony, attesting to central role of Gramsci's concepts in post-Marxist theoretical thinking.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

The post-structuralist interpretations of Laclau Mouffe have been accused of distorting "whole system" of social and political formations that Gramsci articulated by axiomatically applying his categories and promoting a non-historical, "disinfected" thinking, if not anti-historical. .

From a post-Marxist perspective, Gramsci's hegemony and class structures are clearly fragmented into a multitude of subjectivities restructured in a "general common sense" discourse in which ideas and demands appear discursively outside their specific temporality and historical context. production.

In Mouffe's first essay on Gramsci, Althusser's influence is very obvious to an English audience.

Althusser's critique of Gramsci's practical philosophy focuses on what he sees as a fundamental conceptual error: Gramsci is responsible for reorganizing Western Marxism by stripping it of revolutionary ideas.

This shift represents more than a clear watershed within Western Marxism, it links original influence of Gramsci's work to Togliatti's notions, with various "national" uses of his thoughts and abuses centered on Althusser's interpretation.

Besides, by referring Gramsci to realm of “right current”, while Georg Lukács is considered as left direction, Althusser, first of all, through a “less political” cultural prism for Gramsci's fusion creates space.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

Gramsci's critique of historicism focuses on philosophical connection between humanism and Marxism that entangles history in ideological conceptions of temporality and thus in a single and homogeneous present.

According to Panagiotis Sotiris, Althusser was not prepared to accept full complexity and power of Gramsci's formulation of practice, “as a theory outside of science. The theoretical form of dichotomy, as an actual historical materialism, a conceptual laboratory, to contemplate complex and overdetermined histories and histories that cross realm of social practice, must be conceptualized and at same time transformed.

And Althusser has no intention of accepting empirical goal laid out by Gramsci:Hegemony as a central organizational perspective condenses multiple historical epochs and levels of history, allowing them to be conceptualized and transformed.

Gramsci's theory of hegemony undoubtedly gave ideas and concepts a very prominent role, and his frequent references to Roman Catholicism show that he understood their potential autonomy in capitalist social and economic relations, but still in game of intellectual and political power.

In their description of intellectual origins of Gramsci's hegemony, Hobsbawm relates it to recognition of powerful presence of Church, while in their work, Laclau and Mouffe primarily refer to hegemony, seen as an underlying and temporary discursive construction of politics in which society and social identity precede political expressions among social actors.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

In other words, Laclos and Mouffe argue that social order is always determined by fact that hegemony has ability to shape political identity through what they call "expressive practices."

As emphasis on discursive practice and social practice increases, hegemony transforms into masses, and at further stages of its theoretical development into populism, their arguments are based on identification of politics and populism, hegemony and common sense above.

This process of displacement builds on idea of ​​ideology as a unifying discursive practice and ultimately separates it from any material context, which is exactly opposite of Gramsci's intentions when he used original content of Leninism "Hegemony" to develop his own concepts.

For Gramsci, temporal dimension of hegemony is characterized by an asymmetric dialectic between various strata of political and civil society, while in Laclau and Mouffe shift emphasis is on what is understood as political activity One-dimensional time of place.

The role of cultural dimension plays a decisive role in Gramsci's concept of hegemony, but hardly in formulations of Laclos and Mouffe.

Author's comments: This interpretation is heavily criticized from more traditional Gramsci perspective. First, by downplaying Gramsci's construction, Laclau and Mouffe not only leave field of Marxism, more importantly, they fail to appreciate novelty of his thought, which sees hegemony as a spatio-temporal process of qualitatively different forms of hegemonic power. exercise.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

Gramsci believes that hegemony is most profound way to understand "democracy" because it is what allows "mass" to become "politics" and not vice versa.

Secondly, in dehistoricization of Gramsci's concepts, hegemony and common sense seem to become very "voluntaristic" tendencies against which he warns.

Gramsci Laclau and Mouffe are considered forerunners of radical democratic politics, in which hegemony essentially coincides with new "populist" common sense, and collectivist element is central to Gramsci's theory of hegemony. An important part, but at risk of being gradually eliminated by a series of partial reorganizations of Gramsci's theoretical apparatus.

This is finally made clear when Laclau uses another tool of Gramsci to give content to nonjudgmental aspects of his populism and "inject Caesarism into hegemonic politics".

Arguing that choice of a strong leader is superior to Gramsci's "collective intellectual" concept in building a "new monarch", Laclau finally frees hegemony from its temporal hierarchical map. Although Gramsci often discussed "il popolo" ("the people") in his pre-prison notes, he rarely used word on its own in his notebooks, and it was more often associated with him when discussing culture and role of intellectuals. "Nazione" (nation) are linked together as "popolo-nazione" ("people and country").

In combination with concept of historical groups, he needed to find a new expression to emphasize a new political subjectivity, which he believed was formation of several layers of history in process of Italian unification and state building, which is analogous to Italian "people" comparison of concepts.

Gramsci uses word "populism" in popular literature only three times in Populism and never in 1971 translation, meaning "andare verso il popolo" ("to people ").

Author's point of view: In Gramsci's theoretical system, one of main examples of multiple temporalities that contribute to formation of historical blocks is language.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

The concept of hegemony is a theoretical tool for reconstruction within historical blocks of multiplicity of time and consequences of these cyclic processes of precipitation, and given complexity of Gramsci's thought, considering hegemony as an entity that can be re-symbolized "in field of political consensus, despite certain layers of historical temporality , sees hegemony as a field that can be re-symbolized to achieve political consensus ; more importantly, it can be useless.

Recovering "true" meaning of Gramsci, despite its linguistic importance, is not my epistemological goal, and in my view it will not improve method of historical analysis.

The repeated transformation of concept of hegemony in theories of these scientists and elimination of "key determinants" in theoretical and historical reflections in Gramsci's thought.

The continuum between hegemony and populism introduced by Hall certainly became a strong theoretical construct in concept of Laclos and Mouffe, but at same time distanced itself from original ideas of Gramsci, as a result of which post-hegemonic discourse is built on their basis. work on basis of transforming its categories into pure "consensus systems".

Some scholars are likely to accept this oversimplified statement: "For Gramsci, consent is basis of power, force is only secondary, coercion supplements consent, and vice versa.

Author's point of view. According to Gramsci, hegemony is cornerstone of social order.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

Gramsci focuses on role of intellectuals in formation of historical blocs, a concept already discussed in his treatment of Southern Question and providing basis for development of his theory of hegemony.

Although question of power has always been present in Gramsci's work, in this case it does not form basis of his thinking. Interestingly, relationship between intellectuals and world of production, constantly mediated by entire social structure, was for Gramsci a hegemonic function, but has been transformed by recent post-hegemonic theories into a duality of consent or direct domination. referring to paradigm of liberal democracy versus dictatorship of proletariat.

The decisive importance of history in Gramsci's workshop, to use Francioni's expression to express his theoretical arsenal, was not main thing that he applied in English Gramsciism, one of aspects.

The "British" reception at a critical moment in publication of Prison Notebooks in 1971 explores three modes of interpretation, emphasizing that each mode of perception portends a different application of Gramsci's ideas: Revolutionary Strategies in Perry Anderson Appropriation, Cultural Transformation in translation of Stuart Hall and populist displacement in works of Ernesto Laclos and Chantal Mouffe.

The underlying notion of hegemony underpins these reflections, from Anderson's ahistorical appropriation of Gramsci's concepts to Hall's prioritization of elements of his own culture, through lens through which he examines Thatcherism in The Lark. separation of discourses of Law and Muff.

The author's point of view: dialectical and asymmetrical clash of different 'epochs' in hegemonic politics, innovative aspect of Gramsci's reflections on 'production of past in present', but increasingly marginalized, in Laclau and Ying Mouf. From a widely discussed theoretical point of view, hegemony is understood as a process of symmetrical association of many subjects, meaning that since this process can be replaced and rearranged to achieve different results, hegemony can be used by any institution for any political purposes.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

Gramsci has repeatedly stated that he intends to write "history and historiographical theory", considering himself a "historian of historical development". Of course, historical reconstruction as an epistemological goal is not at center of his interests is "evolutionary logic of historical process."

Gramsci's reflections were put on paper in an epochal transitional period, characterized by challenges of mass society, new forms of capitalism and threats to democracy, to which he turned to develop methodological field of individualistic criticism. and embraces new realities by refining and "translating" their own analytical tools, reusing vocabulary from different theoretical traditions.

Gramsci's complex argument for fusion of philosophy and history in hegemonic politics is seen not as a hierarchical process, but rather in terms of a dialectical relationship between temporality, for that matter, translatability and practice. about political intervention and strategy.

Gramsci's historicity lies in development of a "historical and political theory", main task of which is analysis of a set of events and processes that can provide a basis for understanding "political conditions".

This "evolutionary logic" focuses on dynamics of popular, economic and political movements, which can be changed and institutionalized through intellectual development. From this point of view, hegemony is understood as a process related to historical relations, understood as a form of practice made up of multiple temporalities, laid aside not as successive stages of historical development, but as a matrix of cultural and political cross-negotiations in which hegemonic machines and intellectuals play a dialectical role. , result of this activity is a "historical group".

From this perspective, understanding hegemony as a map of "historical levels" and "many times" of conflict offers a theoretical and methodological perspective that could potentially open up a new set of broader research questions.

Because of dominance of English language, their appropriation of Gramsci's thought puts it on a trajectory that takes precedence over individual aspects and which ultimately obscures complex interrelationships of all its constituent elements.

Here, however, goal of restoring Gramsci's historicity is not to ignore techniques created by his legacy, but to restore full complexity of his ideas to their working capacity.

Ernesto Laclau: Gramsci's influence on British history

The author's point of view: hegemony is a temporal weave that creates a theoretical space and allows practice of transformative "conjunctive" politics, Gramsci's formulation of hegemony, rather than "using" history to understand contradictions and condemnations of past, is projected onto specific "political situations" ”, including timing and means of alternative political intervention.

Gramsci's historicity lies in theoretical process of historicization of "political masses" and "national masses", which is an important tool for making political activity meaningful and effective.

Obviously, this point of view should be understood in context of his "political" interest in history: his goal is to unravel origins of fascism in Italy and understand why left in country was unable to resist it.

Reading a cognitive map of history of hegemony may raise broader questions about Gramsci's ideas about state and democracy, especially in light of function of political parties: in this interpretation, democracy, realm of modern politics, is characterized by an irresistible tension between popular basis of political power and political practices that it is regulated.

Renewed attention to hegemony as a temporally asymmetric interpenetration may re-engage Gramsci and historiography and raise new questions about dissemination and reception of Gramsci's ideas, especially in response to recent "transnational turn" that has brought challenges.

It is worth noting Gramsci's appropriation of "prehistory" by British cultural Marxism and implications of this appropriation for origins of British Marxist historiography and "history from below".

In this respect, new research into origins of Anglo-Marxism can be fruitful, and concepts such as Gramsci's "historical bloc" allow us to strategically rethink radical politics and rethink intellectual history associated with it.


Busher. Circle of Ideology: Criticism of Laclos and Mouffe, Butler and Zizek

Buttigieg. Linguistics and Politics: Returning to Texts of Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebook

Buttigieg, Gramsci English, Gramsci International Magazine

Kalinikos, Limits of Passive Revolution. Capital and class

Bellamy, Gramsci: writings before prison

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