Gramsci’s Critique of Civil Society
Towards a New Concept of Hegemony
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist thinker whose radical ideas on how to build an alternative world from below remain vigorously relevant today. Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis critically dissects the institutions of modern liberal democracy to reveal what is perhaps its deepest secret: it is the most successful political system in modernity at preserving an objective condition of domination while transforming it into a subjective conviction of freedom.
Based on a careful reading of Gramsci's The Prison Notebooks, Marco Fonseca shows hegemony as more than leadership of elites over subaltern majorities based on "consent". Following Gramsci’s critique of citizenship, civil society and democracy, including the current project of neoliberal "democracy promotion" particularly in the Global South, he discloses a hidden process of hegemony that generates the preconditions for consent and, thus, successful domination.
As the struggles from Zapatismo to Chavismo and from the Arab Springs to Spain’s Podemos show, liberation is not possible without counter-hegemony. This book will be of interest to activist scholars engaged in the study of Marxism, Gramsci, political philosophy, and contemporary debates about the renewal of Marxist thought and the relevance of revolution and Communism for the twenty-first century.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1. Rethinking Structures and Superstructures 2. On Moral and Intellectual Reform 3. The Process of Hegemony 4. A Critique of Civil Society 5. War of Position as Counter-Hegemony 6. The Modern Prince: Refounding the State Conclusion: Towards a New Concept of Hegemony
Marco Fonseca is an instructor in the Department of International Studies at Glendon College, York University. His current research involves a reconsideration of Hegel’s and Gramsci’s critiques of civil society.
'For more than thirty years, celebration of 'civil society' (as the apparent champion of freedom, pluralism, inclusion, democracy, human rights, etc.) has served as one of the most fruitful mechanisms of neo-liberal ideology, and it has masked the consolidation of new forms of oligarchic power across Latin America and the world as a whole. Fonseca's valuable book helps to explode the conceptual basis of this charade, and goes a long way towards explaining what must be done to relaunch emancipatory political action on a more resolute, more decisive, and more lucid basis. Debunking one-sided readings of Gramsci that have sought to align him with the demobilising thematics of civil society and postmodern fragmentation, Fonseca's searching and detailed reinterpretation reconstructs the underlying unity of Gramsci's philosophy of praxis as a forceful articulation of grassroots popular engagement on the one hand with disciplined and coordinated organisation on the other.'
Peter Hallward, Kingston University London, UK
'Fonseca’s book is well written and gives us very useful insights on reading Gramsci. One of the great advantages of this book is its clear structure and the way it provides detailed information on The Prison Notebooks, which makes it very valuable to anyone who is interested in Gramsci.'
Ecem Karlidag, Political Studies Review