Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

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

6 [Ethico-Political History and Hegemony]

(Q10,Iž12), 1932-35

From everything that has been said previously it emerges that Croce’s historiographical conception of history as ethico-political history must not be judged as futile, as something to be rejected out of hand. On the contrary, it needs to be forcefully established that Croce’s historical thought, even in its most recent phase, must be studied and reflected upon with the greatest attention. Essentially it represents a reaction against ‘economism’ and fatalistic mechanicism, even though it is put forward as the destructive supersession of the philosophy of praxis. The criterion that a philosophical current must be criticized and evaluated not for what it professes to be but for what it really is and shows itself to be in concrete historical works applies to Croce’s thought too. For the philosophy of praxis the speculative method itself is not futile, but has generated ‘instrumental’ values of thought in the development of culture, instrumental values which the philosophy of praxis has incorporated (the dialectic, for example). Credit must therefore, at the very least, be given to Croce’s thought as an instrumental value, and in this respect it may be said that it has forcefully drawn attention to the importance of facts of culture and thought in the development of history, to the function of great intellectuals in the organic life of civil society and the state, to the moment of hegemony and consent as the necessary form of the concrete historical bloc. That this is not futile is demonstrated by the fact that, in the same period as Croce, the greatest modem theorist of the philosophy of praxis [Lenin] has – on the terrain of political struggle and organization, and with political terminology – in opposition to the various tendencies of ‘economism’, revalued the front of cultural struggle and constructed the doctrine of hegemony as a complement to the theory of the state-as-force and as a contemporary form of the 1848 doctrine of ‘permanent revolution’. [6] For the philosophy of praxis the conception of ethico-political history, in that it is independent of any realist conception, may be adopted as an ‘empirical tool’ of historical research, one which needs constantly to be borne in mind in examining and understanding historical development, if the aim is that of producing integral history and not partial and extrinsic history (history of economic forces as such etc.).