By Josh Parsons
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist, active in the 1910s and 20s before his imprisonment by the Italian state under Mussolini. It was while he was imprisoned that Gramsci made his most well-known contributions to Marxist theory, including the key concept of hegemony.
Gramsci’s contributions are valuable not only theoretically, but for the many practical lessons that can be drawn from his life and writings.
Hegemony, the most well-known of Gramsci’s contributions, is at its essence the idea that the ruling classes are dominant in more than a purely economic sense. Not only do the classes at the top control vast amounts of wealth and the power of the state, but the ideas, theories, and values that come to be accepted by all as ‘common sense’ and ‘normal’. Through everyday life in the capitalist system – working for a wage, paying for one’s necessities, competing with fellow workers or businesses – and through the constant barrage of capitalist economics and theories in our schools and media, the capitalist system becomes naturalised. It is assumed that competition, individualism and economism are values shared by all, and that this is simply the way things are. This, in short, is the capitalist hegemony. [Read more…]