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Lecture 9

SOC203H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Antonio Gramsci, The German Ideology, Civil Society

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SOC203: Lecture 9 March 11/2013
‘Politics as a Vocation’: True or False?
According to Weber:
1. The state is an association that claims sovereignty over a territory. (p 78)
2. Authority is legitimate domination (p 78-79)
3. Charisma is the authority of ‘the eternal yesterday’ (p 78-79)
4. In domination by virtue of legality, obedience is expected by virtue of
devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of
individual leadership (p 79)
5. Organized domination calls for control of a staff and of material means of
administration (p 80)
6. States vary depending on whether those who govern own the administrative
means (p 81)
7. The feudal vassal paid out of his own pocket for the administration of his
fiefdom (p81)
8. The development of the modern state involves the expropriation of the
autonomous and ‘private’ bearers of power (p 82)
Society can be ruled besides a monarch (i.e. think from last lecture, parliament in
the middle and part of the public realm/state and private realm/civil society)
Civil society as a realm for ideological struggle
Marx and Gramsci on Ideology
A. Marx on ideas dismissive about the importance of revolutionary, to struggle
combat ideas
1. Two examples:
o Why do they exist? Because the oppressed balm for their souls
o Marx religion is the symptom of exploitation
o They’re trying to fuse themselves with religious beliefs
o The task of a revolutionary was to get at the cause of religious belief
(to get at the cause of exploitation) so to deal with social classes
(into a classless society)
o Once a classless society is achieved, the motivation for religious
beliefs will evaporate
o Religious beliefs (found in civil society) are a problem but he also
believed that it was misplaced to attack religious beliefs through
contrasting ideas and the task of the revolutionary was to get at he
root cause of religious belief.
The State
o The state is an epiphenomenon (unwanted by product of class
exploitation the belief and authority is epiphenomenon. The state
exists to uphold the system of exploitation into which the bourgeoisie
exploits the proletariat)

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o The task of a revolutionary then is not so much to topple the state but
to do away the system of inequality to usher in a classless society; the
need for the state disappears of its own accord
o Marx criticizes religion (anti religious ideas by doing away the
conditions to do away with religion so exploitation) same sort of logic
for state. Because he sees it as an instrument of class domination
2. Ideology= inverted ideas
Inverted ideas to function, to conceal the class divisions of society (i.e.
smoke which blurs the true intent and what’s really going on)
Ideology represents distorted thinking (ex. Religion, the laws issued by the
state) distorted thinking = state because we are persuaded by state because
the laws are there for all when the domination of one class is always in place.
The class which exploits proletariat also has the means of throwing
smoke/sand in the eyes of proletariat
3. An overlooked part of The German Ideology
The best known strands of Marxist thought (the previous examples)
In revolutionary processes not always one class overturning another class.
Rather than being one subordinate class overturning another class, there is
an alliance of classes. What does one do with such an idea? Marx says that
when one looks at those ideas of subordinate classes and looks at the
relationships between them, what one sees is that there is a dominant
element in that subordinate alliance which is able to present its own interest
as the interests of everyone in alliance
Ex. French Revolution conducted by members of bourgeoisie in alliance
with intellectual, peasants, students, etc. In other words, there are many
elements in the French society to overthrow old regime. This does not mean
that there is free play of ideas between subordinate elements. But there is a
dominance element and that is that of the bourgeoisie. In the sense that they
were able to make their own interest seem like it was the interest of all the
others (the intellectuals, the urban poor, the proletariats)
Quote 1 (p 80) “each new class.. represent its interests as…”
Marx provided some insight on authoritative ideas present among
subordinate classes there’s only one element that has more authority than
other elements. But his insights stop there. leads to Gramsci
B. Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) (From Sardina? Island near Italy; very
agriculture society. He takes the boat to Tourane for university); sympathetic to
plights of peasant
1. Italian context:
Late unification
North-south economic differences
o Industry was concentrated in North of Italy
o South was primarily agricultural
The Church

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o Wouldn’t use the word totalitarianism to Italy (implies one party
state, and which that one party state has the significant ability to get
rid of all sorts of countering influences in society) But the Italian
Church did not disappear because of that
o Controlled the education system
o Had strong local/neighbourhood presence
o The Church urged Catholics at the end of 1800s to not engage in
2. Gramsci’s life
Lived stark contrast of agricultural Italy and Industrial Italy
By 1913, was a member of socialist party (left wing working class party)
Started writing for socialist newspapers
How can socialist revolution be achieved in Italy? How can we achieve
classless society
In 1921, he was one of the co-founders of Italian Communist Party
1922 takeover by Mussolini
1926 Communist sentenced him to 20 years (a lot of his work in jail)
1937 died in jail
3. Making revolution: Russia vs. Italy
1917 Russian revolution
Gramsci travels to Russia as rep for communist party after revolution
Does the Russian revolution provide a model for how revolutionary should
be encouraged for us in our own countries
Should we go back to our home countries (France, Italy, Germany) and try to
implement the same kind of strategy which worked in case of Russia (to
overthrow state and communist regime)
Gramsci conclusion can’t implement same strategy in Italy that it worked
in Russian. Because the relationship between state, capitalism and civil
society. They different fundamentally from Russia and Italy
In Russia State existed separately from civil society, the economy, beliefs
from Church
This meant that communists nearly had to attack state (and once toppled),
can be sure that they can control rest of society
In Italy state has stronger relations between state and civil society and
What if Canada? The Churches might be against it, the military might not
follow, people won’t follow. Outside the State, can find all sorts of other
supporters for status quo. This contrasts the situation in Russia where
capitalism was not well developed (there were no backers), the Church was
not a strong backer of state, the elements of society weren’t (esp peasants)
Gramsci Italy was like Canada
If these fundamental differences between Russia and West exist, there are
strategic differences. TI would be foolish for a Russian communist to try and
change Italy, too different, must have a different strategy.
Gramsci believes hegemony
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