He bit his knees off

Antonio GramsciIn my extremely vague self-guided research (read, Wikipedia at work) around human geography, I stumbled on Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony. I love Wikipedia, you know. While it is an, at best, questionable source of facts, still it’s become so vast an enterprise that it is very nearly completely successful at self-moderation (just read the ‘talk’ sections on any article). It whiles away great tracts of prime work-avoidance time and it enables me to talk about things like Gramsci and hegemony without sounding like a complete plebeian.

Thus I can say that I agree with the lovable Italian Marxist, named after a dog on Spaced, at least to some extent. He set his mind to working out why, actually, Marx’s grand theories of communism and workers’ revolutions had not come to pass as so faithfully predicted. The result was cultural hegemony, the concept of a state or system’s influence on those within the nation or surrounding. Thusly, in Gramsci’s day, the workers had not united and revolted because they were so deeply ingrained with the idea of their place in society (a cultural setting) and even the idea of betterment (certainly a basic tenet of capitalism). Communism then did not take root outside of the Soviet Union, not because the workers were better off or the overarching systems more just, but that the cultural expectations of a capitalist society built on the race for colonialism, the whisper of the promise of rising in social standing, all this precluded a workers’ revolution because the workers thought they could do better how they were.

All a bit of a vain hope, really. The vast swathes of socially-immobile classes from time immemorial can attest that social mobility has always been a bit of a pipe dream, and Gramsci starts to look a bit correct. I can see it now with America’s global, cultural dominance but am cheered to remember that these things move in waves, and we might yet see Antonio’s theories of how to overcome this cultural impasse.

Not that I’m in entire agreement with AG, or Marxism in general. The more I put my mind to it, the more centre-socialist I get – Communism didn’t work, it didn’t make people happy, extreme politics never do. But I’m definitely left of any major party in this country, and while I don’t think it’s necessary to wage a “war of position” to beat down capitalism, I still don’t like the idea of the leadership of this country represented by an elite which with whom I have no part.

So I’m all for workers’ rights and freedom of trade, nationalisation of services and promotion of democracy. Just don’t ask me to like Boris.

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