Marxism and sociology – Gramsci critical of Bukharin

Image: Francesco Ungaro


The Italian thinker saw the dissemination of Bukharin's ideas as a danger to be fought

Bukharin was one of the main representatives of intelligentsia Russia who joined the revolutionary cause. A relatively backward country, since the second half of the XNUMXth century, it has coexisted with a tradition of great democratic intellectuals (Chernyshevsky, Dobroliubov, Herzen). Subsequently, the revolutionary process revealed a generation of political leaders formed by educated men. Thus, the prestige of Marxism, which until then was mainly concentrated in Germany, gradually shifted to Russia.

O Manual of Bukharin (the way in which Gramsci refers to the Treatise on Historical Materialism) was written in 1921, a time, it is good to remember, that some of the writings of Marx and Engels had not yet been published and their disciples sought to “complete” historical materialism with the most disparate theories. If Austro-Marxism had incorporated Kant into Marxist thought, in Russia the ideas of the physicist Mach were taken up by various intellectuals, such as the party leader Bogdanov, the target of Lenin's criticism in Materialism and Empiricism.

In order to didactically present the essence of Marx's thought and combat his distortions, Bukharin wrote his Manual, dedicated to “workers willing to be introduced to Marxist theories”. In it, he discusses a multitude of themes in which he contrasted Marx's doctrine with the social sciences of the time and, in particular, with sociology. A cultured and well-informed reader, he demonstrated surprising knowledge of authors such as Alfred and Max Weber, Durkheim, Sombart, Simmel, etc., opposing to all of them what he understood to be historical materialism without denying, however, the possibility of incorporating into Marx's doctrine concepts prepared by them.

Several thinkers committed to the revolutionary process recognized Bukharin's talent and culture, but did not fail to point out the precariousness of his knowledge of dialectics. Lenin, for example, in a text read by Gramsci and which became known as the testament of the Russian revolutionary, makes the following assessment: Bukharin is a valuable and outstanding theoretician of the party, and, moreover, he is deservedly considered as the favorite of the entire broken; “however, his theoretical conceptions can hardly be described as entirely Marxist, as there is something scholastic about him (he never studied and I believe he never completely understood dialectics)” (LENIN, V. I). Trotsky, for his part, criticized in 1928 the various attempts to update historical materialism that ended up mischaracterizing Marx's doctrine, including Bukharin's "scholasticism" and "eclectic system", stating that he "does not have the courage to recognize openly his intention to create a new historical-philosophical theory”, under “the ink of historical materialism” (TROTSKI).

Dialectics, as is known, was far from the theoreticians of the Second International. The project of rescuing it, however, was present in several authors who, enthusiastic about the October revolution, returned to philosophical questions to criticize those reformist conceptions, which, in the name of iron necessity, did not conceive of history as a process of ruptures but of peaceful evolution. Karl Korsch, in 1923, wrote Marxism and philosophy resorting to dialectics to understand Marxism as expression of the unity between theory and praxis, as self-awareness of the historical process. In 1924, Lukács published History and class consciousness, a book that many years later he came to consider ultra-Hegelian due, among other things, to having affirmed the imminence of the subject-object unit to be realized in the class consciousness of the proletariat. In Hegel, however, the conciliation would occur in the distant moment of the realization of the absolute Spirit.

After the October Revolution, the discussion of dialectics gained momentum in revolutionary Russia. The 20s witnessed a struggle between the “dialecticians”, led by Deborin, and the “mechanists”, represented by LI Akselrod. Deborin won the match, but that didn't stop him from launching a harsh criticism of History and class consciousness, by Lukács. His fidelity to orthodoxy, however, did him no good: in 1931 he was accused of being a "Menshevik ideologue". In the same year, Stalin instituted the diamond as official doctrine and, in 1938, published in the fourth chapter of History of the Communist Party of the USSR the famous text “Dialectical materialism and historical materialism”, putting an end to the discussion.

Gramsci followed the debate on dialectics in Russia and also the revision of Hegelianism proposed by Croce, an author with whom he identified in his formative period.

The controversy against Manual of Bukharin bundles philosophical questions derived from discussions on dialectics, but whose main motivation has, as always, a political background.

Gramsci's critique is contemporary with his preoccupations with rebuilding Marx's legacy in the early 30s. The feverish activity of this period was expressed in reflections on Machiavelli, in the continuous resumption of the concept of hegemony, in reflections on war of movement and war. of position etc. At that moment of clarification and redefinition, Gramsci was bothered by the international dissemination of Bukharin's ideas and the prospect of them being adopted for the work of training militants. Interestingly, Gramsci himself had resorted to Manual in 1925 in his courses, translating chapters of that text that he then considered “a complete treatise” on historical materialism. The Russian revolutionary, at that time, enjoyed great prestige, having been promoted to the position of general secretary of the Communist International.

Gramsci's interpreters do not hide a certain perplexity in the face of the virulence of the attacks on the disgraced revolutionary who would soon be executed by Stalin in 1938. prison notebooks it must be located within the clashes that took place within the Russian Communist Party dealing with the directions to be taken by the revolution and its reflections among the leaders of the Italian party in the Turi prison where Gramsci was. In 1929, the International made the disastrous turn to the left, defending the thesis according to which social democracy and fascism were “twin brothers” and deriving, from there, the politics of class against class. Gramsci, therefore, saw his theoretical and practical conceptions (war of position, hegemony) being contradicted. Politically isolated, he began to defend the policy of a united front for carrying out intermediate stages and the need to fight for the convening of a Constituent Assembly. Such proposals, in turn, also led him to criticize Trotsky's theory of “permanent revolution”. Gramsci, therefore, turned with redoubled zeal to the project of reconstructing historical materialism.

The importance he accorded to hegemony, consequently, saw the dissemination of Bukharin's ideas as a danger to be fought. Gramsci was horrified by the understanding of Marxism as an extension of common sense – the Manual, with this assumption, intended to educate workers and bring them closer to Marxism. But such a conception, for Gramsci, does not replace the true work of forming the intellectual progress of the masses to carry out the cultural reform of humanity. Aldo Zanardo remarked on the matter: “For Bukharin, Marxism develops in continuity with common sense (…) it becomes a kind of systematization of common sense. (...). In the field of theory, it was necessary to have a set of ideas, formulas, relatively ordered, easy, adapted for dissemination; a simplified instrument, capable of quickly penetrating the great masses, of mobilizing them, enlightening them and getting cadres to emerge from them. (...). With a statement of this type, however, the problem of training senior political and intellectual cadres, the problem of permanent ideological education of the popular masses, the problem of the relationship between leaders and the masses, the problem of activity and cultural passivity and politics of these masses” (ZANARDO: 1989, p. 69). Transforming Marxism into a positivist sociology that only reproduces common sense in an allegedly scientific way, says Gramsci using an expression from Lenin to characterize the economicist phase of the labor movement, is to remain in the economic-corporate conception. It is therefore a question of overcoming this phase and moving on to the political moment: the struggle for hegemony. And here Gramsci emphasizes the role of intellectuals as “organizers of hegemony”, and the need for a revolutionary party to raise the common sense of the masses.

Reconstructing historical materialism, for Gramsci, meant conceiving Marx's work as a work in progress and not as a closed and concluded system that could be synthesized in a treatise, as Bukharin intended and, before him, the Anti-Duhring of Engels and the works of Plekhanov. Systematization, however, was officially effected by Stalin in 1938 in Dialectical materialism and historical materialism. Some time later, in 1969, echoes of this intent can be seen in the widely publicized manual by Marta Harnecker, The Elementary Concepts of Historical Materialism, a book committed to spreading Marx's legacy through an Althusserian lens.

Gramsci, in the opposite direction, saw Marxism as a product of history and culture, or rather, of a new culture in a latent state. “Is it possible to write an elementary book, a manual, a “popular essay” on a doctrine that is still in the discussion, polemic, elaboration phase? Gramsci raises the question and then responds by stating that any attempt to manualize historical materialism is doomed to failure and that Bukharin's attempt resulted in “a mechanical juxtaposition of disconnected elements” (Prison notebooks 1, 142, henceforth CC).

O Manual begins by talking about sociology and a theme dear to Gramsci: the forecast. Bourgeois sociology, according to the Manual, had not known how to foresee the Russian revolution. Sociology, it should be remembered, was born as a response to the challenges posed by the consolidation of the bourgeois order and the perplexity in the face of the disarrangements caused in social life (the “anoomies” of which Durkheim spoke) and the fear of the unpredictable future. Parallel to the formation of the first sociological theories, the natural sciences had known an astonishing progress and, little by little, came to know and control natural phenomena, while sociologists looked with perplexity at the unknown, and therefore uncontrollable, bourgeois society. Hence the claim to build a social science that, like the natural sciences, could know and control social phenomena, predicting their developments and interfering in their course. This same equivalence with the natural sciences is shared by Bukharin, who transferred it from sociology to Marxism, bringing into its interior the positivist conceptions that guided sociology in its origins, aiming, with them, to combat idealism and the remnants of teleology Hegelian that would be present in Marx.

The basic concept he incorporates from sociology is that of balance, a convenient concept for the cautious strategy of building socialism of a leadership in need of a “pause to breathe”. After the trauma of drastic ruptures, violent convulsions, dialectical “leaps”, society would tend, according to Bukharin, towards equilibrium, something analogous to adaptation in biology. In the words of biographer Stephen Cohen: “In his view, the first task of the Bolsheviks was to rebuild the social fabric of the country, torn and divided by the Revolution and civil war. Promoting social integration was synonymous with “normalizing” Soviet authority and making it accepted by as many sectors of the population as possible (…) a society at war with itself cannot be productive or prosperous” (COHEN: 1990, p. 142). ). Evidently, these ideas were first contested by the defenders of the “permanent revolution” and, in 1929, with the fall of Bukharin, by Stalinism which, in its wide smear campaign, associated “rightism” in politics with the deterministic conceptions of bourgeois sociology.

This is the context in which Gramsci, influenced by that campaign, launched his virulent attack on Manual. Above all, he was bothered by the mix between sociology and Marxism, since, thus, the philosophy of praxis would cease to be an original theory, to be just “the “sociology” of metaphysical materialism” (CC, 1, 120), a materialism which “divinizes matter”. (Prison notebooks, I, 451, henceforth Q).

The pursuit of prediction is a theme dear to both revolutionaries. In Bukharin, it walks along with the determinism that pursues the causes that generate development, but these always refer to a previous cause, thus being, in the words of Gramsci, one of the manifestations of “search for God. In this way, the search for the cause of causes, the first cause, proves the metaphysical conception of matter: the belief in a primeval cause prior to human history that, in an inaugural gesture, set the world in motion and retreated to the shadow of origins. Delivered to the successive movement of causes and effects, history would take effect mechanically without knowing ruptures and discontinuities: “the law of causality replaces the dialectic. (…) If “idealism” is a science of the a priori categories of the spirit, that is, a form of anti-historicist abstraction, this popular essay is idealism in reverse”. Empirical categories, that is, matter, are equally a priori and abstract and, from them, mechanically research “the laws of “regularity, normality, uniformity”, without overcoming, because the effect cannot be superior to the cause” (Q, II, 1054).

A recurring concern of Manual it is, therefore, to attribute to dialectical materialism the need to research the laws that govern the development of society. Gramsci says: “Since it “appears”, by a strange inversion of perspectives, that the natural sciences provide the ability to predict the evolution of natural processes, historical methodology was conceived as being “scientific” only if, insofar as, abstractly enables one to “foresee” the future of society” (CC, 1, 121).

But one can only predict something in history if “a voluntary effort is applied and, in this way, one concretely contributes to the “predicted” result”. Prediction, therefore, is not an act of knowledge, but a “practical act”, an expression of the collective will. (CC 1, 122).

Theoretical criticism unfolds into politics, as positivist evolutionism ignores this “disturbing” element that intervenes in history to subvert linear development. In dialectics, the rupture is expressed in the passage from quantity to quality; in history, through the irruption of human praxis. In the Brazilian edition of prison notebooks, there is important information about the Gramscian translation of praxis: “Subversion of praxis [rovesciamento della praxis] is the formula as it became known in Italy, from a not very happy translation by Gentile, the expression “unwälzende praxis”, present in the Engelsian version of Marx’s III Thesis on Feuerbach, which would be better translated as “subverting praxis”. (In Marx's original it is simply "revolutionaries and praxis, or “revolutionary praxis”.). When translating this text, Gramsci follows Gentile and also uses “rovesciamento dela praxis” (CC, 1, 461). Rodolfo Mondolfo, by the way, made the following clarification: “But to the translation “praxis that subverts itself” [umwalzend praxis] it has been objected that it would be more faithful to translate: “praxis that subverts” or revolutionary subversive praxis. The difference between the two is evident. In one, human activity is assigned the task of subverting and transforming itself; in the other, to objective external conditions. The truth is that the second expression translates better, but the concept is not exactly given” (MONDOLFO:1967, p. 13) .

“Praxis that subverts itself” or “subverting praxis” points to the core of young Marx's criticism of Feuerbach, who, in his passive materialism, conceived only individual beings and thought. Although he had not yet elaborated the category mode of production, Marx already presupposed the existence of a dynamic social totality formed by a group of beings that are grouped not by the action of conscience, as Feuerbach wanted, but thanks to a material mediation, the work . Praxis, therefore, is understood as dialectical mediation: it subverts opposites and subverts itself in its incessant activity.

The same spirit guides Gramsci's thought when he criticizes Bukharin for not knowing the dialectic and belittling, with his positivist scientism, the disturbing role of the will – which should not be confused with capricious voluntarism or an abstract must-be moved by the ethical imperative. It, on the contrary, is guided by the “objective conditions posed by historical reality” – it presupposes, therefore, a “rational” and “concrete” core. Or as Gramsci says: “the will as an active awareness of historical necessity, as the protagonist of a real and effective historical drama”. (CC, 3, 17).

As can be seen, Gramsci's focus seeks to connect not only individuals with each other but also individuals with the “historical need for a real and effective drama”. There is a clear movement of transcendence: going beyond the present moment, refusing the shackles of iron necessity and, also, charging the desire for universalization, for overcoming mere individuality, because in this we are restricted to the “will of all”, that is, to the sum of private interests. In the “national-popular collective will”, there is, on the contrary, an overcoming of the private sphere, of economic-corporate interests, giving birth to an ethical-political conscience. Individuals, then, fully manifest their sociability: they are “social individuals”.

Gramsci resumes this universalization movement when he writes about “the individual man and the mass man”. A multitude of individuals, he says, “dominated by immediate interests or taken by the passion aroused by momentary impressions […] unite in the worst collective decision…”; in these crowds, “individualism is not only not overcome, but it is exasperated…”. In a situation of assembly, on the contrary, “the disorderly and undisciplined elements” are unified “around decisions superior to the individual average: quantity becomes quality”.

In the past, says Gramsci, the collective man existed in the form of charismatic leadership. Through this, “a collective will was realized under the impulse and immediate suggestion of a “hero”, of a representative man; but this collective will was due to extrinsic factors, continually compounding and breaking down. The collective man of today, on the contrary, is formed essentially from the bottom up, based on the position occupied by the collectivity in the world of production – “What is the point of reference for the new world in gestation? The world of production, work” (CC, 3, 263).

In addition to clarifying the general orientation of Marxism, Gramsci also criticizes positivism and the so-called sociological laws that “are nothing more than a duplication of the observed fact” (CC 1, 151), and this resignation of theory to reality makes it impossible to criticize reality. Some time later, the same idea reappeared in Adorno in his polemic with American empirical sociology. But what moves Adorno is the critique of the identity between subject and object and the conviction that thought must preserve its irreducible distance from the object – the alienated world. Gramsci, on the contrary, defends the unity between theory and practice and wants thought to be realized in contact with reality, to be effective in the revolutionary transformation of the world.

Dialectics, unlike positivism, speaks of trends and not petrified laws. Therefore, political action, exploiting social contradictions, “destroys the laws of large numbers” (CC 1, 147-8). The cult of numbers and the consequent replacement of theory by statistics, will guide empirical sociology from the 40s onwards, especially in the United States, as well portrayed by Wright Mills, in the sociological imagination. A true research industry uniting the University with large corporations consolidated what Adorno called “administrative research”, aimed at knowing and manipulating opinions – either to induce consumption or to guide voting. Sociological investigation thus conducted has produced a flood of behavioral research using the technique of surveys: the collection of random samples from a population, from a certain percentage of individuals drawn at random and interviewed individually, would be representative of that population as a whole. Gramsci, attentive to the developments of positivism, anticipated the criticism of the theoretical foundations underlying future opinion polls: “The law of “large numbers” can be applied to history and politics only as long as the large masses remain passive (...) or it is assumed to remain passive (…). Political action tends precisely to bring large crowds out of passivity, that is, to destroy the “law” of large numbers.. (Q, II, 856-7)

Submission to the inexorable nature of laws presupposes passivity in the political sphere, as it leads to conformism, fatalism and defeat. Added to this is the belief in progress, in natural evolution and in stages of the historical process. Gramsci contrasts this positivist notion of progress with the dialectical notion of becoming: “progress is an ideology, becoming is a historical conception”. Initially, the ideology of progress played a democratic and progressive role, encouraging men to control nature, thus freeing them from the domination of natural forces, which ceased to be seen as fatality. On the political level, the ideology of progress served as a reference for the formation of modern constitutional states. Today, says Gramsci, it has lost this progressive aspect, becoming a resigned ideology. O becoming, on the contrary, breaks with mechanical evolutionism by introducing negativity, rupture and leaps produced by the “disturbing” human will into history (CC, 1, pp. 403-5).

The root of Bukharin's mistakes, says Gramsci, comes from his lack of knowledge of the dialectic responsible, among other things, for the division of the philosophy of praxis into two disciplines: on the one hand, an evolutionary sociology (historical materialism), on the other, a philosophy transformed in a closed, ready and finished system (dialectical materialism). By doing so, a logical body (the dialectic and its laws) outside the historical process is created. The division of Marxism into two disciplines, however, would end up sanctioned by Stalin and reproduced by the “Marxism-Leninism” manuals that began to guide the formation of communist militants worldwide.

Going against the current, Gramsci observed that in the expression “historical materialism” “greater weight was given to the first member, when it should have been given to the second: Marx is essentially a “historicist””. (CC, 6, 359). As for materialism, Gramsci recalls that in Marx this word had a negative connotation when used to criticize the materialist philosophers of the XNUMXth century and that he preferred to speak of “rational dialectic” as opposed to “speculative” and not materialist dialectic.

Gramsci, therefore, considered the division of Marxism into two disciplines an error, since such a procedure makes philosophy (dialectical materialism) an external body to the historical process conceived as an extension of the natural sciences and erected as a method applicable to any reality, as if it wanted to “put the whole story in your pocket”. For Gramsci there is no method in general because, as the Marxian ontology wants, “the method was developed and elaborated jointly with the development and elaboration of that determined investigation and science, forming with it a unique whole. To believe that one can advance a scientific investigation by applying a typical method, chosen because it gave good results in another investigation to which it was related, is a strange misconception that has nothing in common with science” (CC 1, 122-3).

In another passage, in the so-called “miscellaneous notebooks”, Gramsci returns to the theme making a vigorous ontological inflection by emphasizing that the method does not construct the object. He, on the contrary, is subordinated to the object, recognizing its ontological priority: “there is no method par excellence, “a method in itself”. Every scientific research creates for itself its own method, its own logic, whose generality and universality consists only in being “conforming to the end”” (CC 1, 324-5).

Vulgar materialism, positivism, method fetishism, evolutionism – all these characteristics of Bukharin's thought converge in a determinism that disregards the disturbing role of human action in history. This is evident in the mechanical and de-storized view of the relationship between infrastructure and superstructure, as well as the understanding of these two spheres. For Bukharin, the productive forces are reduced to technique and this is erected in principle, in the first and only cause leading both the development of science and that of society as a whole. On the pages of Manual several passages can be read in this sense: "we arrive at the conclusion that the combinations of instruments of work and social technique always determine the combinations and relations of men, that is, the social economy". Or else: “In general, the development of “superstructures” is a function of social technique” (BUKHÁRIN: 1968, pp. 158 and 219).

Considering technique as a “basic determinant” is a thesis foreign to Marxism that fueled the criticism of Gramsci and, before him, that of Lukács in a respectful article on Bukharin dedicated to pointing out his weak points: the intended autonomization of technique, its centrality in the interior of the economic structure, the pretense of predicting the historical course.

Lukács's diplomatic criticism seems to suggest that Bukharin correct his mistakes; Gramsci, on the contrary, affirms that it is necessary to destroy that concept of science taken from the natural sciences and to distance from Marxism the determinist vision that sees social development governed by the metamorphosis of the technical instrument. On this last point, Gramsci observed that the philosophy of praxis studies a machine not in order to know its structures and properties, but “insofar as it is a moment of the material forces of production, while it is the object of property of certain social forces, while it expresses a social relationship and it corresponds to a certain historical period”. (CC, 1, 161).

More than pointing out flaws, Gramsci's commitment will focus on the need to reconstruct historical materialism according to his own vision. Perhaps for this reason, he did not bother to point out the theoretical hesitations and confusions present in the Manual, which often led the author to contradict his own theses.

Bukharin's excessive encyclopedic ambition resulted in a sprawling narrative that wanted to explain everything, but, amid so many digressions, unwittingly corrected ideas that had been unequivocally stated before.

Thus, after concluding statements, Bukharin insisted on highlighting “the question of the “return influence” of the superstructures on the economic base and on the productive forces of society”, as well as their “regulating role” of the whole of social life, for without them “society will cease to exist and fall into decomposition”. And this is not a merely theoretical issue: the Bolshevik leader was, in his daily practice, using the state apparatus to interfere in the material base and thus make the transition to socialism possible.

Equally important is the assertion of the materiality of superstructures, as they include “men and things”. Reinforcing this assertion, Bukharin added: “We have seen that the immense “superstructure” laid out above the economic base of society is itself quite complex in its inner “structure”. It contains material objects (utensils, instruments, etc.)”. Therefore, its internal organization is organized along the lines of material work: “In capitalist society, for example, a large technical laboratory is internally organized like an industrial company. The organization of a theater, with the owner, the director, the artists, the extras, the technicians, the employees, the workers, is similarly similar to that of a factory”. Another cited example is that of religion, probably inspired by the reading of The elementary forms of life Durkheim's religion: “Religion is a superstructure consisting not only of a system of concordant ideas; it also has an appropriate organization of men (ecclesiastical organization, according to the current expression), as well as a system of rules and ways of worshiping the deity” (BUKHÁRIN: 1968, pp. 269, 267, 254, 243, 256, 202 ).

The materiality of structures, which are no longer conceived as mere ethereal, disembodied reflections, is an idea that will be resumed, developed and refined by Gramsci and, from him, influenced the works of Raymond Williams on the organization of culture and of Althusser on the ideological apparatuses of the state. One of the first interpreters to draw attention to this point was Christinne Buci-Gluckmann, a disciple of Althusser, in a dense book about the Sardinian thinker in which, in a tour de force, sought to reconcile the two authors. According to this author, Bukharin carried out “a true revaluation of superstructures” BUCI-GLUKMANN: 1980, 322).

Gramsci recognizes and passant his debt, even asking himself in the face of Bukharin's observations: “are libraries a structure or a superstructure? What about the experimental laboratories of scientists? What about the musical instruments of an orchestra? (...). In reality, certain forms of technical instrument have a double phenomenology: they are structure and superstructure: the printing industry itself (…) participates in this double nature. It is an object of property, therefore of class division and struggle, but it is also an inseparable element of an ideological fact or several ideological facts: science, literature, religion, politics, etc. (CC 6, 359). Returning to the theme, however, Gramsci curbed his enthusiasm considering that “this way of posing the question makes things unnecessarily complicated”, being only “a baroque way of thinking” (CC. 1, 159). In any case, considerations about the materiality of superstructures, as stated by Bukharin, were translated and incorporated into Gramscian thought.

The question was raised and Gramsci, in his meticulous analyses, was attentive to the different levels present in the superstructural spheres, seeing in them not only the action of return and its materiality, but, mainly, the battlefield in which the fight for hegemony. But, for that, it was necessary to initially overcome the determinist conception of social relations, as these are articulated in the mechanical antagonism between productive forces and relations of production, conceived in an ahistorical way. In Bukharin, society was seen in a mechanical way, as if it were a system (a concept that would later guide functionalist sociology). Gramsci's historicism thus anticipates the criticism of these attempts to empty the historicity of social life, as well as anticipates the critique of the ontologization of structure, as will occur in classical structuralism (Saussure), which identifies it with language, or with culture and its invariant exchanges (L. Strauss' “structural anthropology”), or with the unconscious (Lacan), or like Althusser, in his conception of ideology as an ahistorical phenomenon that contaminates everything. The active and contradictory role of the superstructure as a place of dispute over the interpretation of reality indicates that in the Gramscian lexicon there is no place for standardizing expressions such as “cultural industry”, “cultural dominant”, “habitus”, etc.

Against the rigidity of structures, Gramsci always invokes the “disturbing element”, the will. In the recurring reference to the 1857 Preface of the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Gramsci insists that the apparent solidity of the mode of production contains within it the ideological sphere – the one where men become aware of social conflicts and can act to resolve them: “the structure, of external force that crushes man, assimilating it and making it passive, it becomes a means of freedom, an instrument to create a new ethical-political form” (CC, 1, 314).

Gramsci uses the word catharsis, taken and translated from Aristotle's aesthetics to, with it, name that moment of suspension in which the passage from the objective to the subjective, from necessity to freedom, from the economic-corporate to the ethical-political takes place.

*Celso Frederico is a retired senior professor at ECA-USP. Author, among other books, of Sociology of Culture: Lucien Goldmann and the Debates of the XNUMXth Century (Cortez).


AUSILIO, Manuela. “La volontà colectiva nazionale-popolare: Rousseau, Hegel and Gramsci in confrontation”, in Marxist Criticism, number 6, 2007.

BUCI-GLUCKSMANN, Christinne. Gramsci and the State (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1980).

BUKHARIN, Treatise on Historical Materialism (Lisbon-Porto-Luanda: Brazilian Book Center, s/d).

COUTINHO, Carlos Nelson. “General will and democracy in Rousseau, Hegel and Gramsci” in Marxism and Politics. The Dual Powers and Other Essays (São Paulo: Cortez, 1994).

DEBORIN, A. “Lukács and his critique of Marxism” in BLOCH, E, DEBORIN, REVAI, A, and RUDAS, L. Intellectuali and class consciousness. Il debattito su Lukács 1923-4 (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1977).

GRAMSCI, Antonio. prison notebooks (Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1999-2002, 6 volumes).

GRAMSCI, Antonio. prison letters (Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization …. 2 volumes).

LENIN, VI Letter to the Congress (Lenin's Political Testament), in Marxists Internet Archive.

LUKÁCS, G. “Technology, and social relationships, in BERTELLI, Antonio Roberto (org.). Bukharin, Marxist theorist (Belo Horizonte: Book Workshop, 1989).

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TRÓTSKI, L. “The philosophical tendencies of bureaucratism”, in CEIP Leon Trotsky.

ZANARDO, Aldo. "O Manual of Bukharin seen by the German communists and by Gramsci”, in BERTELLI, Antonio Roberto (org.). Bukharin, Marxist theorist (Belo Horizonte: Oficina de Livros, 1989).


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  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table