Antonio Gramsci - Various Extracts

See also Chris Barker, 'Questions of culture and ideology: Gramsci, ideology and hegemony’, Foundations of Cultural Studies, London: Sage 2000, p.59ff., in “Classroom / Postcolonial Fiction”, infra.

The status of folklore as unofficial rather than élite or official discourse, and its centrality to Antonio Gramsci’s Marxist philosophy, has led to a third association of folklore with subalternity that has been very influential in cultural studies. According to Gramsci, folklore is not picturesque, but instead comprises the anachronistic and fossilised ‘conceptions of the world and life’ that keep subaltern or subordinate groups subordinate. The often fatalistic, and frequently melodramatic, folkloric worldview lacks critical coherence because subalterns ‘cannot possess conceptions which are elaborated, systematic, politically organised, and centralised in their albeit contradictory developments’. (Antonio Gramsci, Antonio Gramsci: Selections from Cultural Writings, Harvard UP 1985, p.189; cited by Laura O’Connor in the ‘War of the Womb’: Folklore and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’, contrib. to PGLIB Conf. 1998.)

"The normal exercise of hegemony on the classical terrain of the parliamentary regime is characterised by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally without force predominating excessively over consent. Indeed, the attempt is always to ensure that force would appear to be based on the consent of the majority expressed by the so-called organs of public-opinion, newspapers and associations." (Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. Q. Hoare & G. Nowell-Smith, London; Lawrence & Wishart 1971, p.80; quoted in Chris Barker, 'Questions of culture and ideology: Gramsci, ideology and hegemony’, Foundations of Cultural Studies, London: Sage 2000, p.59ff.)

"Every philosophical current leaves behind it a sediment of "common sense"; this is the document of its historical effectiveness. Common sense is not rigid and immobile but is continually transforming itself, enriching itself with scientific ideas and with philosophical opinions which have entered ordinary life. Common sense creates the folklore of the future, that is as a relatively rigid phase of popular knowledge at a give place and time. (1971, p.362; in Barker, op. cit., p.60.)

[Note: Tony Bennett ( Culture: A Reformer’s Science , 1998) critiques Gramsci on the basis that his hankering after 'organic intellectuals’ functioning as 'leaders’ is contrary to the dominant mode of ideological transmission in contemporary culture, which is entailed in the notion of 'govvernmentality’ and shares more in Michel Foucault’s conception of the 'discourse’ as a configuration of 'knowledge/power’ - given that for Foucault there is not an orginatory source of power but rather, that power is dispersed in a 'region’ of culture and the particular technologies pertaining to it. See Barker, pp.366ff.]


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