Monday, January 24, 2011

Final Words on Socio-Political Change

Gramsci’s theory on socio-political change and the role of the political party during that process is an interesting contribution to political theory. It differs from the utopian or mechanistic understandings of the socialist thought, and tries to explain the steps of the framework of a realizable change, or how change can be brought into a society. In doing that Gramsci starts from an individual and connects the individual with the social class he/she is in.

He pays an attention to the collective will, and how it can be formed both through consent and coercion. In that regard, he gives special importance to the role of the Jacobin force in persuading, directing the passive and apolitical masses to become active and political individuals who will take part in the political party and in the process of political change. At that point, the organic intellectuals of the political party and class plays a crucial role in persuading the masses to take part in the process, but the role of the organic intellectuals, it can be argued, is related with the consent dimension of the process. However, Gramsci believes that there must also be a Jacobin force to direct people to that process. Here, it can be argued that this is a missing gap in his theory because nowhere in his writings he explains who that Jacobin force could be, and how and through what ways this coercive force can direct, by using force, the people, the masses toward a goal, to take part in the political party, or to become a part of the socio-political change.

Another problematic point in Gramsci’s theory is that he gives a very great importance to the role of the political party as an agent or instrument through which the whole process of socio-political change can be organized and pursued. It looks like the political party embraces or includes everything and anything that is related with its social class, the masses, the intellectuals, the leaders, etc. This means that Gramsci leaves little, or even no, space for the other actors which can also play roles during the socio-political change. That makes it look like the political party is the only possible instrument through which this socio-political change can be organized and pursued. However, this loads great responsibilities and duties on the political party which, in fact, can hardly be realized only through the political party. For instance, the aim of founding a new type of State, being the founder of a new culture, a new society, raising the people to a new type or level of civilization are all considered by Gramsci as the “normal” roles and functions of the political party; however, it would be difficult to argue that a political party can be the organizer and carrier of such a great change even it can succeed in organizing its social base, its organic intellectuals, the media, the newspapers close to it, etc. and even it can succeed in convincing other social classes and thus their political parties to take part in their project and manage to create a new historical bloc.

Finally, Gramsci’s theory, if not a grand theory, is at least a middle-range theory. As a result, Gramsci doesn’t concern himself with doing micro analyses almost nowhere in his writings. For instance, Gramsci creates new theoretical concepts, such as historical bloc; however, he does not explain in details how and through what ways a historical bloc can be built. Generally, historical bloc is understood as a broad political and economical alliance between different social classes and political parties; however, one could ask whether any kind of broad political and economical alliance between social classes can be considered as historical bloc as well? For instance, from time to time, different political parties come together and form alliances, but can these be called as historical bloc, or are they just simply political alliances? These points in Gramsci’s thought, it seems, are not very clear and detailed; thus further elaboration is needed, and further micro analyses would be useful in making these concepts clearer.


ClauseIV said...

When you intimate that he attaches too much significance to the political party, leaving little to no room for "other actors" I think you have to take into consideration the time that he lived in.I also had these misgivings when reading him but, when you consider that it was written before the political de alignment that we see today;and thus political parties were much more all encompassing it becomes much more understandable. Obviously, some tweaking needs to be made taking into account historical circumstances before his theory can be transposed to the modern day.

Feyzullah said...

ClauseIV: I think you are right about paying attention to the context as well. Thank you very much for your comment and contribution.