I was most pleased to see our special issue of Thesis Eleven — On ‘heroic fury’ and Antonio Gramsci — published this week. Edited by Ihab Shalbak and myself, it has articles by Peter Thomas, Phil Roberts, Andreas Bieler, Adam Morton, as well as ourselves. This volume has had a long gestation and I’m particularly indebted to Adam for helping me to convene a workshop on Gramsci during my PhD, in 2015, at which a number of papers that appear in the special issue were workshopped. Thank you to the University of Sydney School of Social and Political Science for financial support for the original workshop, and to Peter Bielharz and and Julian J Potter from Thesis Eleven in assisting us to bring about the special issue. My thanks to my colleagues Bruce Johnson, Devleena Ghosh and Chris Ho for feedback on my paper at the UTS School of Communication research retreat in 2016.
On ‘heroic fury’ and questions of method in Antonio Gramsci: Elizabeth Humphrys, Ihab Shalbak
In note Q16 §2, Antonio Gramsci introduces us to truth-seeking as eroico furore (heroic fury), an active striving not simply to attain a particular form of knowledge but to form a conception of the world. Eroico furore, for Gramsci, is about the development of a sensibility and the forming of personality. As Gramsci puts it, ‘any new theory studied with “heroic fury” [eroico furore] (that is, studied not out of mere external curiosity but for reasons of deep interest) for a certain period, especially if one is young, attracts the student of its own accord and takes possession of his whole personality’ (Gramsci, 1971: 383; Q 16, §2). For Gramsci, this deeply rooted drive in one’s own biography sustains intellectual undertaking ‘until such a time as a critical equilibrium is created and one learns to study deeply but without succumbing to the fascination of the system and the author under study’ (1971: 383; Q 16, §2). Eroico furore , then, denotes a dialectical movement, a scholarly journey and a transformation that yields an individuated and unique beginning. This beginning, as a point of departure, incorporates the particular and the immediate while aspiring to rise beyond them in its striving to form its own adequate conception of the world. Defying established authorities and existing systems of thought is an intrinsic feature of this form of endeavour
Interlocutions with passive revolution: Andreas Bieler, Adam David Morton
This article critically engages with debates on uneven and combined development and particularly the lack of attention given in this literature to accounts of spatial diversity in capitalism’s outward expansion as well as issues of Eurocentrism. Through interlocutions with Antonio Gramsci on his theorising of state formation and capitalist modernity and the notion of passive revolution, we draw out the internal relationship between the structuring condition of uneven and combined development and the class agency of passive revolution. Interlocuting with passive revolution places Antonio Gramsci firmly within a stream of classic social theory shaping considerations of capitalist modernity. As a result, by building on cognate theorising elsewhere, passive revolution can then be established as a lateral field of causality that necessarily grasps spatio-temporal dynamics linked to both state and subaltern class practices of transformation in social property relations, situated within the structuring conditions of uneven and combined development.
Anti-politics, the early Marx and Gramsci’s ‘integral state’: Elizabeth Humphrys
This article traces a line of theorisation regarding the state-civil society relationship, from Marx’s early writings to Gramsci’s conception of the integral state. The article argues that Marx developed, through his critique of Hegel, a valuable understanding of the state-civil society connection that emphasised the antagonism between them in capitalist societies. Alternatively, Gramsci’s conception of the ‘integral state’ posits an interconnection and dialectical unity of the state and civil society, where the latter is integrated under the leadership of the former. The article argues that while Marx and Gramsci’s positions are, at first, seemingly incongruous ideas – as to the ‘separation’ in Marx and ‘integration’ in Gramsci – this tension can be bridged when the integral state is understood as being always necessarily unstable. The article argues that this framework can help us understand the contemporary breakdown of political rule in the phenomenon known as ‘anti-politics’.
Hegemony thinking: A detour through Gramsci: Ihab Shalbak
This paper is concerned with the deployment and the transformation of Gramsci’s notion of hegemony and the purpose it serves. I argue that, in its travel from Rome to London, this notion acquired something like a truth-value. In London the notion yielded what I call ‘hegemony thinking’: a distinctive style of thinking that focused on strategy to carry out effective political interventions. To demonstrate my claim I trace the Marxism Today discussion on the crisis of the Left and strategy in the UK. In particular, I look at the engagements of the late historian Eric Hobsbawm and the cultural theorist Stuart Hall with Gramsci’s work, and examine the appropriation of the coordinates of hegemony by the entrepreneur and Blair policy advisor Geoff Mulgan.
Gramsci in Brazil: From the PCB to the MST: Philip Roberts
This article examines the specific case of Brazil as an area in which Gramscian analysis has been put to practical use. It examines the application of Gramsci’s work to Brazilian reality in three different ways. First, the introduction of concepts derived from the Prison Notebooks in order to understand the development of capitalism in Brazil. This aspect deals in particular with the concept of ‘passive revolution’, and the relationship between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ social formations in Gramsci’s analysis. Second, the role of Gramscian thought for political parties, particularly the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) and later the Workers Party (PT), in particular the novel formulations of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony that appear during the PT presidencies. Third, the varied appropriation of Gramscian analysis by the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (MST), situated in an appreciation of Gramsci’s concept of the ‘Modern Prince’. The purpose of the article is to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of translating Gramsci’s thought to new contexts, and how new developments may or may not maintain the leitmotif of his thought.
This article explores the ways in which Gramsci’s engagement with Machiavelli and The Prince in particular result in three significant developments in the Prison Notebooks. First, I analyse how the ‘heroic fury’ of Gramsci’s lifelong interest in Machiavelli’s thought develops, during the composition of his carceral writings, into a novel approach to the reading of The Prince, giving rise to the famous notion of the ‘modern Prince’. Second, I argue that the modern Prince should not be regarded merely as a distinctive (individual or collective) figure, but rather should be understood as a dramatic development that unfolds throughout ‘the discourse itself’ of the Prison Notebooks, particularly in the crucial phase of reorganisation in the ‘special notebooks’ composed from 1932 onwards. Third and finally, I suggest that the combination of the two preceding themes is decisive for understanding the modern Prince as a distinctive form of political organisation. Rather than equated with a generic conception of the ‘(communist) political party’, this notion was developed as a part of Gramsci’s larger argument regarding the necessity for anti-Fascist political forces in Italy in the early 1930s to grow into an antagonistic collective body guided by principles of ‘living philology’.