Anthonio Gramsci (1891-1937) – Part-3

From the last article we considered about Anthoniyo’s history of life in a nutshell. Now let’s have a look at his powerful arguments.

  Actually, Anthonio Gramsci was able to build his argument on the basis of traditional marxist ideas, but his most important contribution in his concept is the “Hegemony” is now commonly used in current politics. So it’s better to learn what this word really means. The word of “Hegemony” means the dominance of one group over another, often supported by legitimating norms and ideas.This is what “Britannica” explains. If we go further, the Hegemony word is from Greek language. The preliminary definition they used it as the political, economic or military dominance or control over one state over the other. (At the earliest stage, over the other cities etc… ). In the 6th Century in Greece, hegemony was to be explained as political and military dominance of a city-based state. For the time being, in the 19th century, the Hegemony word became the use of social and cultural predominance by one group to another. But the “Hegemony” used for the geopolitical and the cultural predominance by one country over the other, such as European Hegemony over Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Anyway, the word “Hegemon” of Greek Language is used for guide, leader, ruler and “Hegemonia” means rule or leadership. But in Ancient Greek usage, “Hegemon” means leader of the military forces.

In his work in the prison, called “Prison Notebooks”, Gramsci indicated that the ruling class not only rule other classes by coercive force but also using the other classes’ consents too. These consent and coercive forces are interrelated. Antonio Gramsci argued that although it may not seem that the capitalist class is manipulating the force to maintain its dominance, nevertheless force underwrites the appearance of consent. In most cases, the above force is interchangeable with consent; one does not exist without the other.

       In simple words, the capitalist class rules us with our support most of the time. Even though we think that the ruling class exploiting the working class, the working class silently and unconsciously approve of the way the capitalist class rule over them. Therefore, the ruling class only uses the power upon the working class, when the working class starts to show resistance against the capitalist class. That is why Anthonio Gramsci argued that the consent and coercive force are interrelated and interchangeable.

In his theory, Anthonio Gramsci tried to explain how the ruling class obtained domination over the working class by manipulating language, culture, morality, and common sense. These are the kinds of tools the ruling class uses to achieve domination over the other classes. Let’s have a look at these tools one by one how he explained them.

Common Sense                                

Common Sense means (According to his concept) just the way things are…, the way the things have always been.these are the things, the way they should be. That may not go against the status quo, but embraces it just as common sense. If this is explained by examples this would be easier to understand.

     In Sri Lanka, people used to go to the hospital to get medicine, they had to wait in the queue for ages, perhaps with their Dad or Mum. So we saw that this was the way to go get the Doctor. The same way we had to wait for ages for a bus or a train. We had to get into the train or bus by pushing through others to get in. Sometimes we had to go on the roof of the trains to get to work. We may have experienced these since our childhood so we unconsciously think this is the way it should be. This is the way things have always been. Therefore we think of it as common sense. Then we do not think that the ruling class should supply enough facilities for the public transports, for the health, for the education etc… or we do not think that the ruling class enjoy luxury lives by using our taxes without giving us enough facilities.Therefore these types of commonsensical things do not challenge the status quo, because the individuals look into common sense to guide them in their immediate private concern. In another word, individuals looking for these sorts of common sense to gain or succeed their own achievements despite what they commonly have to bear the adversities or the damage to be done for posterity. The same way the parents exercise to find proper schools for their kids. They exactly know what they go through the unbearable financial burdens in which they should not have to go under the free education or any other fair circumstances but for their own individual concern they go for it. they bribe the authority, they change the documents to get their kids into the entrance lists in the popular schools instead of fighting together for their rights to get their kids for better schools. Even in the workers strikes, some workers may be sceptical to participate for the strikes because of their upcoming promotions or they do not want to be antipathetic with their bosses as they are capable of cancelling their promotions or pay rises or any other possible facilities. After all, for all of these commonsensical projects (the most of them are obscure) are thoroughly helpful in manipulating the individuals to their local existence but not challenging the status quo or not helping for the class struggle or to change the hegemonic power of the ruling class etc …. 

(To write this section, the writer referred the book of Prison Notebook,wikipedia,Britannica and the Matcat Analysis of Anthonio Gramsci)

To be continued.

Ranjana Senanayake.(23/01/2021)