A Double Reading of Gramsci: Beyond the Logic of Contingency

Abstract In criticising the Italian idealist philosopher Benedetto Croce ? described by Eric Hobsbawm as the first ?post?Marxist? ? Antonio Gramsci elaborated a distinct theory of history. For Gramsci, philosophers such as Croce developed a subjective account of history based on the progression of philosophical thought rather than problems posed by historical development. This essay develops a ?double reading? of Gramsci. First, it presents an overview of a dominant post?Marxist reading of Gramsci?s approach to historical materialism, which constructs a closed and particularistic understanding of his theory of history. Second, it offers a reading that exposes and unsettles problems within post?Marxism by demonstrating how Gramsci?s focus on changes in social relations threatens the assumptions about both traditional idealism and materialism. It is this theory of history that throws into relief certain features necessary to understanding history as more than just a completely contingent system of articulatory practices. The method of a double reading therefore affords insight into the internal tensions and questionable assumptions of history understood as an association of discourses (first reading). It also avoids developing an account that relies on an ?extrinsic history? of objective forces by combining an appreciation of ethico?political principles alongside economic factors within the struggle over hegemony relevant to contemporary global political economy (second reading)
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