Tag Archives: intellectuals

Antonio Gramsci: The New Hegemony

One of the most fascinating political writers of the early 20th century was Antonio Francesco Gramsci. Gramsci was born in 1891 in the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and died at only 46 in Rome in 1937. During such a short life, he was able to formulate possibly the most influential philosophy of our times – rule brought about not by violent force but by consent of the subjugated class. Some call Gramsci’s philosophy Neo-Marxism, since it aims to achieve similar results without the extreme authoritarianism of Traditional Marxism. Gramsci himself does not appear to have called his philosophy anything; he simply described and emphasized the plan’s components: hegemony, praxis, and civil society.

Gramsci’s writings, mostly essays, are divided into pre-prison time and prison time. Prison time, courtesy of Benito Mussolini’s anti-Marxist Fascist Italy, lasted six years, 1929-1935. According to those who study Gramsci’s work, the pre-prison essays (1910-1926) lean towards the politically specific, while the latter woks are more historical and theoretical. Interestingly, Gramsci’s socio-political theories provide insight into common strategies used by both capitalists and Marxists. Concepts of hegemony, praxis, and civil society are entirely adaptable.

Hegemony

The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci’s view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.  Wikipedia, Antonio Gramsci

The bourgeoisie indeed ruled, until it was officially challenged in the 1960s by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  During the last 50 years, the U.S. has experienced a gradual and relatively peaceful normalization of the socialist order. The newly- socialist-bent institutions of the superstructure (courts, universities, news media) provide support to the superstructure itself (today popularly alternately called the military-industrial complex, the deep state, or the central banks). Meanwhile “the capitalist order” has assumed the full mantle of crony capitalism and is busy normalizing its own crony newspeak (bailouts, affordable housing, industry tax breaks). Hegemony brought about by the consent of the subjugated (taxpayers, the working-poor dependent on public assistance, the priced out renter) is totally fungible.

Praxis

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. Praxis may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas … It has meaning in the political, educational, spiritual and medical realms.  Wikipedia, Praxis

In other words, praxis is the end result of observation, study, and thinking. It is doing.  It can be action oriented towards changing societal norms and values. Or it can be action to defend the status quo against factions desiring change.  Endless discussions on the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism are fine, but movement towards or against one or the other can only come about via mobilization of armies of volunteers, financial supporters, and strategists.  Praxis is exemplified by mobilizers such as the Tea Party or MoveOn and the Koch brothers or George Soros.

Civil Society

What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural “levels”: the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and “juridical” government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the sub-altern functions of social hegemony and political government.  Archive.org, Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

In summary, civil society lives by consent, while the State ensures by force the continuation of consent. Intellectuals function as the principal manufacturers of consent.  Academics are the foot soldiers that help either preserve the status quo or generate fresh value systems from which new hegemony arises.  Civil society is the battleground that gives rise to hegemony.

The International Gramsci Society, until recently presided by the late literary scholar Joseph Buttigieg (father of Rhodes-scholar and Mayor of South Bend, Peter Buttigieg, a presidential candidate in the 2020 U.S. elections), is one of many societies developing the socialist/Marxist consensual hegemony within today’s civil society.

Gransci meetingPictured lecturer:  Marcus E. Green, Phd, Pasadena City College, author of several Gramsci-related essays and secretary of the International Gramsci Society.

Gramsci’s Other Concepts

Antonio Gramsci discussed several other important concepts, many of which we can clearly see playing out today. Here are three:

Organic intellectuals: Scholars, artists, and functionaries (administrators, bureaucrats, industrial managers, and politicians) that identify with the economic structure of their society more than traditional intellectuals. Thus, organic intellectuals are more able to spread organic ideology, since their communication is with structures they identify as their own. Our representatives in the U.S. Congress are good examples of organic intellectuals; they identify with today’s penchant for kicking the can of the obviously unsustainable national debt down the road, and their ideological hegemony persists.

War of Position: Struggle against the existing hegemonic system is necessary for the establishment of a new system. The war to establish a dominant position must be waged on all three levels of society – economic, political and cultural. The current thrashing about between the administrative and legislative arms of our federal government should go down in history as a quintessential war of position.

Organic Crisis: Differs from ordinary financial, economic, or political crises. It encompasses an entire system that is no longer able to generate social consensus because the system’s ruling classes are unable to resolve conflicts. Organic crisis appears when, as Antonio Gramsci describes in his Prison Notebooks, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Has the U.S. reached that point yet?

Today’s Elite, Its Enablers, and Its Victims

The Just Vote No Blog is non-partisan and totally secular, but it is liberty-leaning in the manner Claude Frederic Bastiat or Thomas Jefferson. As such, we look for concrete and realistic steps to bring about, individually and collectively, freedom from public dependence. For clarification, here is an example of public dependence: Say you and your children would like to spend Thanksgiving with your Mom and Dad who live in another state, and to do that you need to take an airplane. In this scenario you are sufficiently dependent on the TSA to need to allow agents to forcefully touch your children.

Concrete and realistic steps intended to rid ourselves of public dependence require hard looks at economic, cultural, psychological and other human factors. Hard looks mean taking an idea – any idea — say the non-aggression principle, and looking for real-life instances where that idea has thrived. If the idea is not thriving, then either the idea is faulty or its advocates are ineffective.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe – Ignoring the Labels

Hard looks at possibly relevant variables also mean listening, without immediately ascribing labels. And that brings this rant to its purpose, the mention of a provocative talk by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, titled Libertarianism and the Alt-Right, at the 12th Annual Conference of the Property and Freedom Society, September 2017.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is probably best known for his position of Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute, right along with Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, Andrew Napolitano, Walter Block and other luminaries of the pro-liberty, pro-free market movement. However, the mere mention of Hans-Hermann Hoppe often temps labeling: Austrian School economist, libertarian anarcho-capitalist, alt-right, nationalist, homophobe, racist. As he says in his talk, the only label that seems not to stick is “self-hating Jewish Nazi.”

Now, let’s for the moment ignore the labels, even the labels of libertarian and alt-right, and focus on a few points in Mr. Hoppe’s speech. These points are presented here without opinions pro or con because the ideas are interesting and worth understanding.

Identifying and Understanding Conflict

* Scarcity is at the core of conflict. Conflict avoidance provides a good path to peace and prosperity. If there is respect for ownership of resources as the property of those that acquire it in a voluntary exchange, there is no conflict. If you say there are things to which you are entitled but did not acquire in a voluntary exchange, then there will be conflict. Examples of conflict-producing acquisitions: taxpayer-funded subsidies, invaded territory, rights other than property rights (in this context, your body/life is your property).

* In order to move from scarcity and conflict to peace and prosperity, human nature needs to be acknowledged. Human nature cannot be separated from culture, ability, or psychology. Force can try to obliterate the yearning for freedom of association, but often unsuccessfully.  Example of failure: today’s neighborhoods are as segregated as ever, with unfortunate pockets of no-go areas that live by their own rules of force.

* Once force is identified as an element of conflict, the next step is to identify the enablers of force, and remove their sustenance.

The Enablers of Force

* The top enabler is the Ruling Elite:  Military, Central Bankers, Big Corporations. The military possesses the power to acquire territory by force. Central bankers have the power to generate debt and dependence. Big corporations possess significant means of production that allow them to buy their political preferences, and thus impose their will on the populace.

* Intellectuals that populate the education/indoctrination systems. Today, the higher the level of one’s education the more extensive is one’s adherence to wealth redistribution, egalitarianism, and multiculturalism – all of which possible only via the force of legislation. Grants, student loans, free tuition render the intellectual class dependent on the state, and obliged to perpetuate the state’s objectives.

* Main-stream media, that serves as soft propaganda. The products of the education/indoctrination intellectual class move on to the professions, including journalism. They have been taught to believe, repeat, and proceed in the path of least intellectual vigor. If government says war is good, they repeat that endlessly. If government says the force of law is needed to bring about social justice and equity, they repeat that endlessly also.

Neutralizing the Enablers of Force

* Stop bombing other people. Such interventionist foreign policy benefits only the Ruling Elite. Victims of bombings die, and perpetrators of bombings suffer blowback.

* Withdraw from supra-national organizations. What a country, state, or city finds beneficial to their residents they can do without the interference of supra-national organizations such as the United Nations.

* Stop funding the higher ups that feed the central banks; who in turn facilitate war, debt, interest rate manipulation, and wealth redistribution. Fund your city and local institutions instead.

* Oppose the ongoing destruction of private initiative and the resulting dependence on government. As family and other social and cultural private support structures are destroyed, public assistance steps in with ineffective replacements. As tranquility is shattered by crime, unrest, cultural clashes and terror, public force steps in to provide marginal security.

* Understand real objectives of education that does not translated into good earnings in the workplace, generous public assistance programs, proliferation of protected classes, mass immigration, creation of civil rights concurrently with curtailment of individual and property rights. The objective is permanent poverty and eternal dependence. Get the state out of education; encourage youth to learn useful trades. Support immigration by invitation only; make sponsors – not taxpayers – responsible for new arrivals. Defund all strategies that lead to poverty and dependence. Prioritize funding and other support of your local jurisdictions and institutions.

* Do not put your trust in politics or political parties. Focus your efforts in arousing public anger at strategies that are not beneficial to anyone but the Ruling Elite.

* Learn to recognize political balderdash, and say “No, Hell, No!” when it is foisted upon you.

Addendum

Although no opinion on the above discussion is offered here, it is tempting to offer an observation. What has the Just Vote No Blog been saying all along? If something is being pushed on you, it is probably something that will not be to your benefit. When in doubt Just Vote No! Vote No, Hell No!