Rethinking hegemony as an educative-formative problem: Gramsci, post-Marxism, and radical democracy revisited
Hill, D. J. (2004). Rethinking hegemony as an educative-formative problem: Gramsci, post-Marxism, and radical democracy revisited (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13221
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13221
There has been a move in recent times to utilize Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony as a central feature of a revisionist movement known as 'post-Marxism'. Post-Marxism employs hegemony in support of its thesis of the impossibility of a homogeneous social order. It does this by interpreting the concept as one that encourages society to be viewed as a horizontal space within which is constituted a 'suturing' of various groupings connected agonistically though a shared allegiance to what post-Marxists now call the 'radical' principles of democracy. By their own assessment, the Gramscian concept has thus become fundamental to the theoretical dismissal of the historical aspirations of socialism, prompted no less by their anti-democratic interpretation of Marxist theory with its alleged modernist,essentialist focus. This thesis has been written in opposition to this displacement of hegemony from the historical materialist foundations that underpin Gramsci's own distinctive usage of the concept. My opposition centres particularly on the post-Marxist renunciation of the philosophical assumptions upon which socialism is founded, and upon the inevitable loss of the distinctive nuances of hegemony as a concept centring on the problem of the pathological reach of a capitalist epistemology and ontology upon human identity. As I argue within this thesis, it is precisely the impress of capitalism's economic and extra-economic aspect upon humanity's own cognitive and moral capacity - upon its relational and valuational capability – which Gramsci's writings attempted to articulate. In this respect, Gramsci differentiated himself in Marxist circles by the depth of his insights into Marx's historical materialist method and the practical reasoning ('praxis') that this methodology simultaneously engendered. Explaining this method, and the problem of education that this perspective further implies, is therefore the aim of this thesis. As I argue here, his entire written legacy reflects his historical materialist allegiance: the problem of 'education' as no less than the educative-formative problem of practical reasoning. In defending Gramsci's own historicist, dialectical and organic worldview, I argue here that the fullest extent of capitalism's sway, and its permeation into every aspect of cultural and social practice, remains seriously under-theorized within post-Marxist discourse: that, rather ironically, the very associational preferences sanctioned by post-Marxist adherents lend further weight to the merits of Gramsci's assessment of the normative power of existing forms of thought to distort mankind's own socio-human potential. As I endeavour to illustrate within this study, Gramsci conceived the problem of 'democracy' as essentially one of overcoming the cognitive and moral submissiveness that pervades our 'normal', everyday worldview. Insofar as this worldview is embedded into the deepest recesses of our language and psychology, Gramsci's historiographical method - that of mapping these multiple aspects of capitalist dominance and social containment and modelling the value of criticality in relation to one's historical and social insights - should be viewed simultaneously as his practice of a new, democratic politics. The work presented here is therefore a study that re-examines and re-clarifies the concept of hegemony in relation to this goal.
The University of Waikato
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