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Critically assess Gramsci's concepts of 'hegemony' and 'civil society.'

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Introduction

Critically assess Gramsci's concepts of 'hegemony' and 'civil society.' Antonio Gramsci, author of the Prison Notebooks and 500 published letters that were written to friends and family, was born on January 22nd 1891 in Cagliari in Sardinia. He is arguably one of the most influential political philosophers in the field of Marxism since Karl Marx himself. Antonio Gramsci was the fourth of seven children and as a young child he was dropped from the arms of a servant and thus resulted in a hunchback and stunted growth, growing just under five feet in height. As a student he was a high achiever early on and after graduating from the Cagliari Lyceum he won a scholarship to the University of Turin, an award given to those students in severe financial need. There are a number of milestones in Gramsci's life that can be pointed out, such as his older brother introducing him to the PCI, living in Moscow as an Italian delegate for the PCI and marrying his wife and becoming the father of two sons. ...read more.

Middle

On top of this was the superstructure, which consisted of the political and legal society, which existed to enforce the economic base, the class structure and to create and to strengthen a "false consciousness." This was necessary to divert the proletariat away from forming a consciousness of their own that would challenge the bourgeoisie and their control. Marx claimed that with the rise of capitalism, class antagonisms would peak and the proletariat would become a "class for itself" from previously being a "class in itself," which would result in an inevitable revolution, replacing the bourgeoisie transforming the capitalist system into that of a socialist one. Much faith was placed in the inevitable systematic breakdown of capitalist power yet in Italy and many other European countries it did not arrive so readily other than Bolshevik Russia in 1917, and the people accepted Mussolini and fascism. Gramsci tried to explain why the revolution had not occurred. He stated that the bourgeoisie was able to exercise control in society because it had intellectual and moral leadership along with economic domination. ...read more.

Conclusion

The concept of "hegemony" is closely related to civil society. Gramsci proposed that the powers-that-be work to maintain the consent of the governed through hegemony, creation of a cultural milieu that defines "common sense". By influencing the institutions of civil society, the state creates a collective culture or common sense that lead the masses to accept the state and its authority to govern. To use an everyday example, by creating a stirring National Anthem, and making sure it is taught in all the schools at an early age, the state begins to create a cultural hegemony that leads to strong nationalistic feelings among the future working class. These nationalist feelings helps keep revolutionary fervor in check, and suppresses any sparks of Marxist worker revolts where politicians can state that these sorts of revolts are unpatriotic. There are many other mediums through which the dominant ideology can be practiced and spread so that it becomes to be understood as common sense. In America at the moment, Fox News journalists and newsreaders are seen more as political activists for the Republican Party and a megaphone for politicians who align themselves with that party, rather than simply reporters of the news. ...read more.

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