Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci Reader: VI Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc

8 Ideologies

SPN, 376-7 (Q719), 1930-32

It seems to me that an element of error in assessing the value of ideologies is due to the fact (by no means casual) that the name ideology is given both to the necessary superstructure of a particular structure and to the arbitrary elucubrations of particular individuals. The bad sense of the word has become widespread, with the effect that the theoretical analysis of the concept of ideology has been modified and denatured. The process leading up to this error can be easily reconstructed:

1. ideology is identified as distinct from the structure, and it is asserted that it is not ideology that changes the structures but vice versa;

2. it is asserted that a given political solution is ‘ideological’, i.e. that it is insufficient for changing the structure, although it thinks that it can do so; it is asserted that it is useless, stupid, etc.;

3. one then passes to the assertion that every ideology is ‘pure’ appearance, useless, stupid, etc.

One must therefore distinguish between historically organic ideologies, those, that is, which are necessary to a given structure, and ideologies that are arbitrary, rationalistic, ‘willed’. To the extent that ideologies are historically necessary they have a validity which is ‘psychological'; they ‘organize’ human masses, they form the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc. To the extent that they are ‘arbitrary’ they only create individual ‘movements’, polemics and so on (though even these are not completely useless, since they function like an error which by contrasting with truth, demonstrates it).