Friday, December 2, 2011

Further Clarifications about the Last Entry (Was Gramsci a Marxist?)

After the last entry, I received some criticisms and questions via facebook. Therefore, I think, further clarifications would be useful for all of us.

Following the question, Was Gramsci a Marxist?, Ibrahim Efe asked whether or not Marx himself was a Marxist. As far as I know, Marx is believed to have said that "if anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist." However, perhaps my formulation of the question was not very correct. Actually, what I was trying to ask was whether or not Gramsci was successful in overcoming the liberal-idealist philosophy of Benedetto Croce - the idealist philosopher who had a significant influence on Gramsci's early thinking, that is, before he came into contact with Marxism. I was interested in that question because to a certain extent, I think, this is a common problem for many thinkers/intellectuals/philosophers.

Then Alphan joined the discussion and said: "To utilise Cox's words: the pertinent question is not: Is Gramsci a marxist, rather it is: do the inferences which he has drawn from Marx help towards understanding the historical phenomenon that was the very object of his inquiry. Surely he differed from the historical economists and had a tendency towards the historical materialist elements in Marx's work."

Then I answered as follows: "Yes, but to what extent was it the inferences he has drawn from Croce, or to what extent from Marx help towards understanding the historical phenomenon that was the very object of his inquiry? Sometimes, we think that we are utilizing the ideas, concepts of a certain philosopher, a certain philosophical system, and criticizing others, but rarely do we realize that we actually in a way reproduce the philosophical system or the philosopher we criticize. In some ways, I know that perhaps it is not a very important question because in the final analysis you're right. Probably what matters more is whether or not it helps us toward understanding (and maybe also changing) the social/political phenomena that is the object of our inquiry. But also, sometimes the boundaries or the border lines between different theories, different philosophers and philosophical systems get blurred so considerably, it even becomes meaningless to continue speaking with the old concepts, such as marxist, idealist, materialist, etc. I think I saw this problem in Carl Schmitt's critique of liberal democracy as well. When you read Carl Schmitt's criticisms, and then see how he tries to differentiate his approach, you see that he cannot really succeed in that; he cannot escape liberal democracy. Also, like Jürgen Habermas continues to call himself a Marxist. Zizek calls himself a Marxist as well. But then, what is the limit of Marxism? Can you deny everything, change or ignore many essential core elements of Marxism, and still consider yourself a marxist? I mean, perhaps you still can, but what is the purpose anyway? Why would you bother about that?"

And I added: "Furthermore, I think it's also about being fair to the philosophers whom we criticize. I think it's not just/fair that we give a lot of credits to Marx in influencing Gramsci's thought, but not Croce."

Alphan: "I dont kow Feyzullah. Gramsci is a very complex personality as far as I understood. Of course he had ties with Croce, for example the concept of passive revolution is directly taken from his writings. I guess Gramsci was busy in moving beyond Marxist orthodoxy by opening new paths. And I think in this way he also tried to integrate Croce to his writings. I said he is a complex human being, for example he had Sorel in mind whilst writing about the "historic bloc", but Sorel only touches the topic of "social myths" that move history like the trade union activism or the general strike."

"Furthermore, if my memory is not misleading me, Gramsci also knew well Croce's interest in Vico and I even remmember that Pareto helped Gramsci while he was in prison by sending money. So at the final analysis I agree with you that in understanding and explaining the development of a philosophers thought we should try to 'phantasise' as Vico puts his life and the influences which had an impact on his writings. In this respect, i do think that Croce had a profound impact on his personal and philosophical development and singling out Marx as the only "mentor" is a misleading idea."


detoe said...

I'm constructing a graduate course on Gramscian and Neo-Gramscian literature. Could you suggests some "must read" books? My list so far has "Selections from the Prison Notebooks", "Production, Power and World Order", "Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations", "American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission." and" Power and Resistance in the New World Order". I would like to add to the list other scholars, besides Gill and Cox. Anyway recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the blog.

Feyzullah said...

Hello there. Thanks to you for visiting the blog. :) I hope I can be of help. Well, I dont know if you added two seminal articles of Robert Cox, but if you havent, I think they would be a must read.

1) Robert Cox, Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory, in Millennium 10 (1981)

2) Robert Cox, Gramsci, Hegemony and International Relations: An Essay in Method, published in Millennium 12 (1983)

Other than these, I can suggest the writings of Adam David Morton and Andreas Bieler. Bieler focuses more on the European Union, European integration and the counter-hegemonic struggles of various social forces in that process. Morton focuses on Latin America - like Mexico. They have an article which provides something like a critical summary of the ideas of Robert Cox. You may find it repetitive, but it would be a good introduction perhaps.


You can look at the first two chapters of this book as well.

4) Andreas Bieler and Adam David Morton, Social Forces in the Making of the New Europe: The Restructuring of European Social Relations in the Global Political Economy

In addition, I could suggest the writings of Mark Rupert, Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Anne Showstack Sassoon.

5) Mark Rupert, Producing Hegemony: The Politics of Mass Production and American Global Power

6) Mark Rupert, Ideologies of Globalization: Contending Visions of a New World Order

7) Mustapha Kamal Pasha focuses more on Islam, Islamic world, etc.

8) Anne Showstack Sassoon writes about Gramscis political theory - not so much international relations theory.

9) Adrian Budd, Robert Cox and Neo-Gramscian International Relations Theory: A Critical Appraisal

I havent read this myself, but it may again be a good introductory book on Cox and the application of the ideas of Gramsci on international relations.

Perhaps you would like to add some critique as well. As far as I know Alison Ayers' book is something along these lines.

10) Alison Ayers, Gramsci, Political Economy and International Relations Theory: Modern Princes and Naked Emperors

There are so many sources on internet, new books, articles etc. and these are some of them that come to my mind at the moment. Unfortunately I dont know the scope of your course whether it will be an introduction, or whether you will focus on certain issues, areas, or problems, etc. Maybe then it would be possible to suggest certain more specific studies. Also, may I ask where you are going to teach that course?

Best Regards,

detoe said...

Thank you for the resources. The class will be for the Spring of 2012. The more specific theme of the class will be to look at the makings of a transnational capitalist class, and its implications on international policy. Thank you again.

Feyzullah said...

Then maybe you can also check the writings of William I. Robinson who has various books and articles on transnational capitalism.



detoe said...

thank you!

Christopher Hamilton said...

Great references Feyzullah! I just finished writing a research paper focusing on Gramsci and International Organizations and utilized many of these same works (producing Hegemony, Gill, Cox articles). It's great to know I was on the right track!

In regards to this posting, I understand some basic differences between Gramsci's work and Marxian ideology - but my understanding of communist theory is admittedly limited. Can you recommend any articles that further expand on this topic?



Feyzullah said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the nice comment. Actually, I can't think of another article right now that critically evaluates Gramsci's Marxism, but if I come across anything, I will write here.

As for your paper, were you able to look at some other articles that analyze certain international organizations through neogramscian perspectives? If you haven't, maybe you can check these, perhaps they could be of some help as well.

1) Sadik Unay, "Hegemony, Aid and Power: A Neo-Gramscian Analysis of the World Bank"

2) Susan Engel, "The World Bank and Neo-Liberal Hegemony in Vietnam”

3) Natalie Peters, "The Role of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the Construction and Maintenance of Global Neoliberal Hegemony"

You can download the 1st and 3rd articles from the right side of the blog. As for the 2nd one, you can find it in this book:

Richard Howson and Kylie Smith, "Hegemony: Studies in Consensus and Coercion", Routledge, 2008.