Sunday, 29 January 2012

Oh my Gramsci!

Antonio Gramsci.

If that name is not familiar, then you better clear out your brain because I'm going to give a bit of my two cents on this bad-ass Marxist-influenced philosopher/International Relations theorist. It would totally help if you read this with the voice in your head is narrating all epic like with some suave voice because it would really help enhance the experience. For the next few paragraphs I will now attempt to do the following:

  1. Inform you who Antonio Gramsci is
  2. Give you a damn good reason why you should give a damn
Without further ado, here's Gramsci,

Look at this suave motherfucker right here.

I got into Antonio Gramsci because of my thesis. Before you start thinking, "Oh shit, you're probably just blogging about Gramsci because you're going to copy-paste your thesis blah and it'll be an easy instant blog entry", let me just say that isn't at all what this post is about. See, I actually like my thesis and am genuinely interested and enthralled by it. My thesis by the way focuses on art and revolutions. Gramsci's theory that I'm using for my theoretical framework is pretty much the only thing tying my thesis down to the course I'm taking (which is International Studies for those wondering). Naturally, I made it a point to be 110% that Gramsci was the right fit for my thesis, and he was.

Before I go on, you may also be thinking, "You're supposed to be blogging about stuff related to GLOBDEV. Y'know, current issues, globalization stuff, what the hell does Gramcracker here have to do with anything?". Well actually we did mention Gramsci and he was mentioned in one of the readings for class, so therefore, Gramsci is related to GLOBDEV. Now let's move on, shall we?

Who the hell is Antonio Gramsci?

Antonio Gramsci is a political philosopher/critical theorist. He also has Marxist roots. This is basic knowledge that you should know. I won't even go into detail about his life because what made Gramsci were his ideas. His ideas about the perfect society, about the perfect structure, the perfect system were what created his identity and the reason as to why I love his brain despite it being dust. What I know Gramsci for is his theory of cultural hegemony. In this theory, he argues that society is dominated by this mass dogma/culture which is ruled by the hegemon which is usually the ruling elites (Marxism showing, yet?). The hegemon cultivates this culture which allows for the masses to be oppressed, this culture is the societal norm, this culture is the hegemonic culture that the masses follow yet is dictated by the ruling class. Gramsci proposed that in order to turn-over the hegemonic culture, what was needed was a counter-culture, or a counter-hegemonic culture, to cultivate and disperse. This counter-culture is against the current culture, it would be for the masses, and it would surpass the hegemonic culture.

The long story short: Gramsci believed that society's norms created the shit and problems that the impoverished and the masses are enduring and that we can fix this by thinking outside and against these norms.
(Mind you, this is just the basic idea of Gramsci's theory and shouldn't be taken too critically.)

Rambles about Ideas, Power, Society, and Gramsci

Now, during one of the GLOBDEV master lectures, the concept of power was discussed. Gramsci's War of Position was mentioned. Mr. Domingo put the idea of power from ideas/beliefs/way of thinking in relation to the war of position by asking "What is your position, what is your belief, and can you defend this?". I'm assuming that Gramsci's war of position was a supplement food-for-thought in relation to the creation of counter-hegemonic culture. As in, anyone can think against societal norms, anyone has the capacity to go against hegemonic culture, but the question remains, can we defend ourselves when we do that?

As a kid I've been taught that people make a difference, that a single person can induce change in the world. Movies and mass media has reinforced this ideal only to have it torn down in college and pragmatism seep into your brain. I'm not being pessimistic or dramatic by stating that, I'm just trying to illustrate how it happened with me. Society's pretty fucked up, then again, so are a lot of things in this world. Nowadays I see most of the silver linings and things to be glad for, but if you asked me if there was something wrong with society I'd say, "Of course, there is." Whenever someone says change starts from within, I agree wholeheartedly. In order for change to happen within a society, people need to start realizing that society's pretty fucked up and that they have the capacity and capability to fix it. All we need to do is start believing in something, sticking with it, and defending it like it was our life on the line. When you think about, aren't our beliefs and our ideas a significant part of our lives?

Gramsci gave us an option that if we wanted to fix society we didn't have to think within its norms and cultures. Gramsci broadened our scope and pushed our thought limits. We can now think outside and opposed to society because perhaps sometimes we need something completely different to change the world. I do believe just by the realization that we are limitless, we are powerful. I suppose that's why the USA is such a superpower as is China. When you think of the two countries, anything and everything seems possible. On one hand, USA is seen as the land of the free, whilst China is where everything and anything could be made. Limitless. Power. Break the boundaries and you have your revolution.

Why give a damn about Gramsci and all this?

Mr. Domingo gave the hypothetical question, "How can you make a difference? How can you make a change in society?".

F. Sionil Jose made a pretty good essay as to why the youth of today are shallow. We are indifferent. We are passive. We are complacent. "It is what it is." Well I get as to why we're like that but I don't want to be like that. Do you? I really don't want to be known for living in an era well all most people cared about were creature comforts, luxury items, and first-world problems. It's either that or discontentment with society and/or the government and yet inaction to do anything. I'm not saying that I want to do something radical to start a revolution, but I do want some revolution to happen.

I don't know what I really want though. All I know is that I believe in Gramsci's point that we are powerful when we think differently from others. It is in the difference that we create something new and we start a revolution. I am my own revolution as are other people who think they are limitless and without bounds. We are not necessarily radical, but we do believe that hegemonic culture needs an enemy to defend itself against.

Life as I see it is in a War of Position. Wherein people have a position and they defend it.


  1. Have I mentioned how much I love your wonderful mind?

    I love it so much, along with the rest of your wonderfulness too. :D

    1. Aww. Thanks, Eri. :D
      You will forever be one of the few people who will get the IS-part of my brain. TUVALU!!