Gramsci is a theorist who worked closely using Marx’s paradigm. He has broadly expanded many features of that theoretical structure to make it more pertinent to the current social relations. His theoretical contribution deals with developing problems and theories that already exist.
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He was not just a general theorist, but he was knowledgeable politically and was a socialist activist. Development of his theoretical writing was due to the fact that he liked his own society and he was very determined to serve it and also intended to enlighten people on political practice. He was not a Marxist in any way but decided to develop the structure of Marx’s work theoretically by adding new ideas. So, his theoretical work was based on the framework of Marx’s structure.
He decided to supplement the concepts that were used by Marx with new ideas because he felt that Marx did not develop his ideas from the concrete level of history, rather, his ideas were developed at a very high level, for instance the idea of capital. In addition to that, the historical conditions of Gramsci’s writings differed from those that Marx had written, ‘’Gramsci had an acute sense of the historical conditions of theoretical production” (Hall 415).
Hall continues to say that, “Gramsci felt the need of new conceptualizations at precisely the levels at which Marx’s theoretical work was itself at its most sketchy and incomplete: that is, the levels of the analysis of specific historical conjunctures, or of the political and ideological aspects—the much neglected dimensions of the analysis of social formations in classical Marxism” (Hall 415).
Basically, his work was based on political and philosophical features of social developments. He contributed much on the issues of various political governments, cultural issues and the role of civil society.
Gramsci opposed ‘economism’ that was presented by Marx. Theoretically, he felt that Marx’s idea of economism reduced everything else including the social development to the economic level. Gramsci developed a theoretical argument that analyzed a specific historical conjuncture.
He replaced the reductionist approach because it would deter political and ideological formations from their economic goals. He says that, “immediate economic crises of themselves produce fundamental historical events” (Hall 419). This means that, for one to show that economic crisis has actually happened there has to be a relationship between the structure and the superstructure.
That is, the crisis develops through the varying associations in the balancing of social forces to calamities in the state and community that grows into ethical- political efforts forming political philosophies, stimulating the understanding of the people. According to Gramsci, hegemony and ‘relations of social forces’ were obstacles against economic reductionism in some of the Marxism’s work (Hall 419)
Gramsci argued that one has to comprehend the formation and the objective associations within the society or the extent of development by the productive forces. In his analysis, he also distinguished the historical movements that were meant to be long lasting in the society from those that were temporary or accidental. He says that crisis can be very long lasting because it is marked by many things such as arguments and constant movement.
It is very hard to predict the length and complexity of a crisis. Periodization is another main feature in his analysis because it is similar to historical specificity. “It is precisely the study of these “intervals” of varying frequency which enables one to reconstruct the relations, on the one hand, between structure and superstructure, and on the other between the development of organic movement and conjunctural movement in the structure.” (Hall 422).
He says that ‘relations of force’ are the greatest contributors of political as well as social efforts and development. ‘Relations of force’ can be distinguished because classes are also faced with conflicting interests especially when sharing familiar forms of existence. So, classes must be unified in a constructive manner for particular practices in economy, politics and ideology.
Hegemony is very specific and does not last for long in the society, so for it to be achieved, the society must set a new historical program that is controlled by the leadership of particular development of social forces.
Secondly, hegemony is multi-dimensional because for it to be successful many aspects must be incorporated. In addition to that, what leads during hegemony should not be called a ruling class but it should be referred to as a historic bloc. This implies that the main social or political force that makes decisions during a certain crisis should constitute people from different social groups.
Moreover unity should be based on alliances in every system. This is because; in many societies women have been neglected since men think that are a weaker sex.
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But according to Garland- Thomson, “without the female body to distinguish the body of the male, and without the pathological to give form to the normal, the taxonomies of bodily value that underlie political, social and economic arrangements would collapse” (Garland- Thomson 290). He also opposes the idea of relating women with disability as some of the communities did.
States should not just be for administrative purposes but they should be educative and formative to their citizens. Gramsci implies that every state should be ethical because it is a very crucial element and its main aim should be to raise its citizens to a specific cultural and moral level which relates to the requirements of industrious forces. Furthermore, political inequalities and all kinds of oppressions should not be based on sexuality. This is because in some of the historical periods, sexuality has been highly politicized. (Garland-Thomson 282)
Ideologically, Gramsci says that every individual is an intellectual as long as he or she is able to think. In addition, cultural beliefs should not be grounds of struggle because they are usually material forces. Therefore, a wide cultural and philosophical struggle is required to produce or generate ethnic as well as intellectual unity. Ideas do not move and neither do ideologies grow without direction.
On historical specificity, Gramsci emphasizes on the characteristics of racism. The characteristics can be changed by historical specificity so that they are active. He implies that racism does not occur in all sectors of social development and their effects are penetrative but unequal; the unevenness of effects can aid in deepening inconsistent sub divisional antagonisms.
Gramsci’s analysis supports the idea of combining different methods of formation within the same social development because it results to specificity in the region as well as various methods of combining sectors in the social system of capital. This implies that different particular forms should be combined consistently to discourage racism.
“Ethnic and racial difference can be constructed as a set of economic, political or ideological antagonisms, within a class which is subject to roughly similar forms of exploitation with respect to ownership of and expropriation from the means of production” (Hall 438).
He was trying to distinguish between the definitions that were made by Marx on class. Marx defined class as a stratification found in the community due to financial differences but Gramsci brings out the actual and real historic dynamic that exist between various parts and subdivisions within classes.
In his study of politics, in places where racism is rampant, he says that positive results can be obtained if his concepts are applied. The theoretical concepts include hegemony, historical bloc, change, inactive revolution and many others. This is because racism and discrimination has heightened in very many societies that almost lead to desperation.
For instance, in his book, Bederman wrote about a society that could not allow black and white men to do prize fighting competitions together. One white man said “when there are no white men left to fight, I will quit the business……..I am not determined to take a chance of losing my championship to a Negro” (Bederman 2). The white men always believed that they were better than the black men.
A state can transform its racial and ethnic practices if it has an educative and ideological role to its citizens. Besides, hegemonic methods must be incorporated in all sectors of the society “Schooling, cultural organizations, family and sexual life, the patterns and modes of civil association, churches and religions, communal or organizational forms, ethnically specific institutions, and many other such sites play an absolutely vital role in giving, sustaining and reproducing different societies in a racially structured form” (Hall 439).
This implies that there is no sector in the society that needs to be relegated. Gramsci used the term national popular to refer to his many questions that he put together. He knew that they were very essential since they contributed to popular hegemony. They were the main devices of political as well as ideological efforts and practices.
Gender philosophies were shaped by the domineering structures of race. This led to the invention of homosexuality especially in the United States because it occurred the same time when questions on race were being re-devised. Racism was clearly seen in the United States of America because even the Supreme Court could insist that the black and white races were different.
Sexuality and racism are interrelated and can be very productive (Somerville 38). Somerville continues to say that” ideologies of race, of course, shaped and reflected both popular and scientific understandings of gender” (Somerville 42). This means that races were not different from the sexual differences that exist between the blacks.
Americans related manhood with race; “Americans were obsessed with the connection between manhood and racial dominance. This obsession was expressed in a profusion of issues such as the concern about the white’s man imperialistic burden oversees” (Bederman 4).
Gramsci assists people in understanding racism concept because it is never dealt with seriously and also a more related kind of oppression and discrimination; gender inequality. Women should never be relegated because of their sex and the same case applies to the black people who should not be neglected by the whites due to their color.
Bederman, Gail. Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the
United States 1880-1917. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.
Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Feminist Theory, the Body and the Disabled Figure. The Disability Studies Reader, (1997): 279-292.
Hall, Stuart. Gramsci’s relevance to the study of race and ethnicity. In Stuart Hall: critical dialogues in cultural studies. NY/London: Routledge, 1996. Print.
Somerville, Siobhan. Scientific Racism and the invention of the homosexual body. North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2000. Print.