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Dionisiaco e Apollineo. Lettera a un compagno di scuola. Croce Roma Gramsci (e gli antichi)

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[The songs below are from our school-days; sotto, alcune canzoni degli anni ’60]

ψ

Caro ****,

ti scrivo da un piccolo caffè da cui si intravede il Colosseo, tappando sullo smartphone. Qualche goccia d’acqua cade.

Outdoor cafe. Via dei Fori Imperiali. Colosseo

Outdoor cafe. Via dei Fori Imperiali, Colosseo

Pure tu se gajardo a more’ (che poi eri biondo), sennò te cassavo (come il mio povero papà ecc).

Bella scuola di vita, le difficoltà (sono ripetitivo).

ψ

Pensa che Benedetto Croce (Pescasseroli, 1866 – Napoli 1952) ….

[citato sempre da quella vecchia prof di filosofia coi senoni che se glieli fissavamo (specie tu, il più bello della scuola:  quando ti interrogava era turbata, era evidente) lei ti / ci dava un bel voto … ]

… Croce, dicevo, della haute abruzzese, perse 17enne i genitori e la sorella sola che aveva, morti il 28 luglio 1883 nel terremoto di Casamicciola nell’isola d’Ischia dove i Croce si trovavano in vacanza … la casa, sdraiata dal terremoto, lasciò quest’adolescente con le ossa rotte che lo credevano morto anche lui, e invece era vivo, per miracolo.

Sciroccato, il 17enne fu portato a riprendersi in campagna in una villa vicino a Salerno, di proprietà della facoltosa famiglia ormai sterminata.

Non ricordo bene – quello che dico di Croce è frutto della mente vagante -, ma ho l’immagine di lui che se ne sta forse anni sdraiato su una panchina sotto gli alberi, preso dal dolore e dall’angoscia.

Poi andò a vivere in un bel palazzo forse a Roma, dallo zio Silvio Spaventa (che diffuse Hegel in Italia ecc.)

ψ

Passò il tempo.

Il dolore rimaneva ma la casa di Spaventa a Roma era un via vai di intellettuali. Croce però non stava forse ancora bene. Provò con l’università, giurisprudenza, dove apprese un po’ di marxismo da Labriola, ma credo fallì, non volle laurearsi.

 

Si stabilì pertanto a Napoli, ricco e solo, comprando la casa di G.B. Vico (altro filosofo sempre citato dalla prof mentre, una carezza a noi qua, una là, incedeva per l’aula (1967?) con le mani dietro infilate sotto il cappottone, per cui – le zinne protuberanti e le mani sollevate dietro – sembrava (e forse era, nell’intimo del suo cuore, una gallina, poveretta).

Finalmente Benedetto un bel giorno, toltisi i rospi dal cuore, cominciò a riparlare con la gente, frequentò, uscì, rientrò.

Napoli era vivace, meravigliosa. La casa di Vico si trovava forse nei quartieri spagnoli e mi piace immaginarla con il giardino interno – tipo casa romana che era volta dentro e non fuori perché i tempi antichi erano pericolosi: e forse pure al tempo del giovane i quartieri spagnoli erano tosti, come lo sono oggi, ma lui era un signore intoccabile.

E allora Benedetto si mise a scrivere scrivere pensare inviare ricevere lettere.

Forse i servitori a dì:

“Che cazzo scrive sto tonto”.

Beh, non sapevano che era diventato Benedetto Croce, il più olimpico e armonioso dei filosofi di qui, la cui prosa e pensiero danno pace, incantano (e istruiscono, potentemente).

Pensatore non accademico

Non accademico, con contatti sempre più estesi, il suo pensiero pian piano si irrobustì e per gradi divenne il più grande pensatore italiano della prima metà del 900, filosofo di influenza abbastanza mondiale (scrisse per es la voce ‘Estetica’ della Britannica (poi pubblicata in italiano come Aesthetica in nuce; inglesi, americani francesi lo amavano; gli italiani pure; lui ha sempre però preferito la Kultur tedesca, e quella italiana, alla culture francese: vedi qui). Per Croce vedi anche qui.

[En passant, il suo allievo Antonio Gramsci – sardo, legato anche alla Francia e mentor spirituale di chi scrive – fu la stessa cosa: intellettuale cioè mondiale massimo nostro – più di Croce – nella 2a metà del 900 e ben oltre.

Le sue opere scritte negli anni ’30 furono rese note dal finto amico Togliatti nell’immediato dopoguerra e fermentano ancora oggi 2014 e vanno oltre.

Gramsci paradossalmente è esploso dopo la caduta del muro, quando si è detto:

Il comunismo è morto, A. Gramsci sarà pure un comunista ma in realtà è un liberale, come Croce, ed è utilissimo per gli strumenti di antropologia che offre.

Capire la destra e la sinistra anglo-sassoni

Per esempio A.G. è stato utilizzato (per capire)

a. la destra reaganiana, i neocons e i Tea Parties (destra religiosa e protestante – ora cambia: si volge a tutti, è più secolare, meno bianca, sennò scompare).

Come sarà andata? Magari per combattere questo comunista sempre più noto (opere integralmente tradotte in innumerevoli lingue) i repubblicani USA hanno giocato con G come avrebbe potuto fare la Chiesa con Giordano Bruno facendo la machiavellica (invece l’ha fatto fuori).

Cioè la destra USA ha scoperto suo malgrado che l’anti-Cristo Gramsci gli era entrato nel sangue;

b. la destra thatcheriana per capire e combattere l’egemonia culturale della sinistra nei rispettivi paesi

c. USA e UK insieme per – gli USA – leccarsi le ferite del Vietnam, e (both) per imporre la deregulation come pratica e ideologia economica del liberismo anglo-sassone

“Diamo al diavolo quel che è del diavolo: this Gramsci is a genius!”…

… ha forse detto un predicatore del sud USA (area Bible belt). Non mi ricordo chi era (I will check all this article) ma dà un’idea di quello che è successo nelle culture wars.

I digress, my friend.

Apollineo e dionisiaco:
Quale è meglio?

Vediamo meglio come Croce si risollevò, alla luce della sapienza dei millenni.

  1. Croce immagino si sollevò l’anima scegliendo la via apollinea (Orfeo  –>Pitagora—> Platone —>Hegel): liberarsi cioè dai travagli dell’anima attraverso la conoscenza-scienza (sofìa: wisdom: conoscenza sapienziale: intrisa di matematica & e musica: uno sballo mentale senza droga).
  2. L’altra via, quella dionisiaca, decantata da Nietzsche (che ha rovinato i tedeschi e l’Europa con essi) id est purificare i travagli dell’anima attraverso vino e sesso, misticismo privo di ragione, droghe ecc., densa di tragicità (legata probabilmente alla nascita della tragedia greca) ha anche il suo fascino e può avere i suoi vantaggi, non lo nego.

Ma alla lunga ti distrugge: i Romani, popolo saggio (non folle come i Greci) proibirono Bacco Dioniso – Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibusche dilagò comunque con la vittoria romana su Cartagine: i giovani reclamavano il piacere, il lusso dei greci.

Dioniso-Bacco è il più rappresentato degli dei: mosaici statue dipinti graffiti ecc. Uno sballo mistico non solo col vino e sesso di gruppo ma includente cose che oggi fanno un poco ribrezzo ma soprattutto lasciano stupefatti se consideriamo che si trattava di riti sacri: gli antichi erano veramente diversi da noi: più rigidi – rigidissimi – e più aperti, allo stesso tempo.

E Croce e la Prof?

Tornando a B. Croce, forse anche lui, prima di scegliere la via della Filo-Sofia, si congiunse alla Prof allora giovanissima, che magari (senza magari) era una gran fresca pugliaccona.

A me sembrava brutta, dai.

Una donna veramente bella la vedi anche da anziana, come tua madre, donna sublime e forte. Forse la prof aveva la bellezza del somaro, che è meglio comunque di niente … ;-)

Autocensura …

… i vasi raccoglitori delle donne, del resto, essendo 3: numero non per caso importante nella numerologia pitagorico platonica cristiana tomista dantesca hegeliana: il triangolo, la regola aurea … censura…, le terzine, le tre cantiche, la trinità cristiana pitagorica platonica, il trio Venere Urania – spirituale – Venere carnale o demotica e Amore.

Dunque … prima di purificarsi con σοφία … autocensura … la prof e poi Sofia, la prof e poi Sofia, infine solo Sofia, Venere spirituale di Plato e non più la Venere carnale.

O la Madonna, amore meraviglioso e sognante, solo spirituale: ha addirittura concepito vergine (vedi questa bella canzone dei bei tempi nostri, di Charles Aznavour).

O la donna angelicata del dolce Stil Novo di Dante: Beatrice. Gli occhi di Beatrice descritti centinaia di volte in modo diverso nella Commedia sono la cosa più bella e dolce di questo capolavoro.

Inoltre, molte divinità antiche erano vergini, Diana, Minerva ecc ecc (qui espandi), ma Giunone no, amava molto, pur essendo gelosa di Giove, e aveva tanti amori unendosi a umani non umani.

Dal suo seno superabbondante – bellezza giunonica, si dice ancora – è nata la via Lattea, immagine poeticissima.

Dalla via Lattea noi proveniamo e poi ritorneremo. Vedi il Sogno di Scipione di Cicero.

Poesia amore sesso negli antichi vanno insieme in modo sublime: mi piace da morire il mondo antico.

[se vai qui e qui  esplori la knowledge base che sottende a tutta la e-mail]

ψ

Sto per smettere, ma prima …

Dobbiamo dedicarci all’apollineo (Ἀπόλλων), non al dionisiaco (Διόνυσος), il che implica un’etica, l’amore dedicato, non itinerante, per la nostra donna, l’amore disinteressato per i figli di sangue e non ecc., la conoscenza come gioco e passione visione scienza.

MA, siccome semel in anno licet in-savire [forse, oggi, bis, ter, quater in anno] un pizzico di dionisiaco ci può pure sta’, ma non più di tanto.

Tuo Jonny

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

La communication intérieure

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Man of Roma:

Elisabeth (tarotpsychologique) writes:

“Elly Roselle a développé des outils pour communiquer efficacement avec des facettes de notre personnalité qui s’opposent à ce que nous voulons de la vie, afin qu’elles deviennent une force qui contribuent à la réalisation de nos rêves et désirs”.

“Les recherches de Elly Roselle ont démontré que les messages conflictuels que nous recevons à l’intérieur de nous-mêmes qu’ils soient de nature psychosomatique, émotionnelle ou mentale, sont un reflet des croyances conscientes et inconscientes que nous transportons de génération en génération[les italiques sont de nous].

ψ

MoR: “Dear Elisabeth, I may be pulling Elly Roselle’s thought by the sleeve (and am in any case too wide-ranging) but I here see a link to a Gramsci’s notion I received via my Mentor (or Maestro.) which I later developed in my own free-wheeling way [see related post below.]

I’ll thus quote Antonio Gramsci directly:

“[People’s – not the pro philosophers’ – conception of the world may be strangely composite] : it contains – Gramsci argues – Stone Age elements and principles of a more advanced science, prejudices from all past phases of history [etc. ]

The starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ (1) as a product of the historical (2) process to date which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. The first thing to do is to make such an inventory [all italics is mine].”

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Notes.

(1) “Know thyself” [γνῶθι σεαυτόν, MoR] was the inscription written above the gate of the Oracle at Delphi, and became a principle of Socratic philosophy. [This note and Gramsci’s translation is from: Antonio Gramsci. Selection from the Prison Notebooks. Lawrence & Wishart. London, 1971; now freely available in PDF, said passage: pp. 627-628]
(2) I do not agree with the adjective historical, unless Gramsci – as I just suppose, I was studying Gramsci 42 years ago! –  makes evolution & history as one. I’ll think about it, although, his mentioning ‘Stone Age’ is revealing in some way.

ψ

Related post (with better-than-the-post discussion) :

Is the Human Mind like a Museum?

 

Originally posted on tarot psychologique:

La communication intérieure se manifeste par des messages que nous recevons de notre intérieur, sous forme de pensées, d’images, d’émotions et de sensations physiques. Voici quelques exemples : Vous est-il déjà arrivé de ne pas pouvoir dormir à cause de scénarios d’inquiétude qui trottaient sans arrêt dans votre tête ?

Vous est-il déjà arrivé de vouloir complimenter une personne que vous ne connaissez pas et soudainement bloquer votre élan lorsqu’une peur du rejet fait surface ? Vous est-il déjà arrivé de vous critiquer intérieurement parce que vous avez subi un échec ?

chat  lionNotre communication intérieure se reflète dans notre communication avec les autres. Les croyances et perceptions que nous avons et les émotions que nous ressentons se manifestent dans la tonalité de notre voix et dans notre langage verbal et corporel, cela est bien connu.

Les gens qui vous critiquent ont leur propre critiqueur interne. Les gens durs et intransigeants…

View original 1,366 more words

“History deals with living people: it can’t fail to please us. Besides, we are the result of what has happened in the past”

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Stonehenge

Stonehenge. Click to enlarge and for attribution. Wikipedia

I’d love to know
How things got to be
How they are.”

Marilyn Monroe

ψ

“Darling Delio, I am feeling a little tired and can’t write much. But please write to me all the same and tell me everything at school that interests you. I think you must like history, as I liked it when I was your age, because it deals with living people, and everything that concerns people, as many people as possible, all people in the world, in so far as they unite together in society and work and struggle and make a bid for a better life – all that can’t fail to please you more than anything else, isn’t that right?”

Antonio Gramsci, Letters from Prison

ψ

“History is interesting because the world today and we who live in it are the result of what has happened in the past, the result of history. If we know something about the past, it is easier to understand the present. It is not true that history repeats itself: no event is exactly the same as another. Yet if we know what happened in the past we can make a better guess at what is likely to happen in the future.”

Neil Grant, foreword to his Hamlyn Children’s history of Britain’, 1977

Man of Roma. Un bilancio (assessment)

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Man of Roma a piazza Navona

MoR in Piazza Navona. Click for a larger view. Pic taken by Devinder Singh with my brand new Galaxy Tablet. Dev, an Indian blogger, was in Rome last May. He had presented a short (and great) film at Cannes. See 2 links on Piazza Navona at the foot of the post

[Per i lettori italiani.

Un nuovo blog, Pagine del Man of Roma, in cui sto mettendo brani significativi del MoR in italiano.

La soap sull’antica Britannia la sto scrivendo anche in italiano]

ψ

Thus said, cercando di non fare i tronfioni e di essere obiettivi (English translation in progress) il 9 settembre 2007 cominciai un blog in inglese perché:

1) era difficile

2) dopo 16 anni di IT volevo riprendere gli studi umanistici

3) la lingua di Shakespeare, meravigliosa, speravo aprisse a una varietà di interlocutori eccitante

4) volevo praticare la dialettica, mito della mia generazione ma di valore universale

5) volevo focalizzare il lavoro sulla romanness, verificando eventuali nessi, di qualsiasi tipo, tra i romani dell’antichità e i romani – italiani (e oltre) – di oggi (la romanitas si dispiegò infatti su un impero vasto).

Piazza Navona today. Via Wikipedia. Click for a larger view

Piazza Navona, Rome, former Circus of Emperor Domitian located to the north of the Campus Martius. Via Wikipedia. Click for a larger view

Come è andata?

Io credo bene. In modo non sistematico:

214 scritti (non tantissimi forse nell’arco di quasi 4 anni ma molti sono saggi ben sudati), 5.281 commenti (tanti, molti dei quali più lunghi del post che li aveva stimolati). Praticamente, tra articoli e commenti, “un librone di diverse migliaia di pagine” in cui gli interventi (al 99% in inglese) sono spesso più elevati degli scritti stessi. Ci sono anche i miei commenti e, wel well, i miei lettori sanno che sono un bel chiacchierone (chatter-box).

Estrema varietà degli interlocutori. Eccitante dicevo. In ordine alfabetico:

America, Australia, Austria, Brasile, Canada, China, Francia, Germania, Gran Bretagna, India, Irlanda, Italia, Messico, Nuova Zelanda e Svezia.

Bust of Roman Emperor Domitian who reigned from 81 to 96 CE. Roma, Musei Capitolini

Viaggio di esplorazione. Questo per me e spero per i lettori è stato il Man of Roma:

Un girovagare imparando cose belle insieme, un dialogo continuo (estenuante a volte), uno studio tosto da parte di chi scrive (fa bene, ok, ma ‘na faticaccia …).
Nel fondo ero e rimango un insegnantefiero del mestiere che ho fatto per più di 30 anni, un dare e soprattutto un ricevere che riscalda il cuore prima della mente.

Verifica dello strumento dialettico. La tecnica dialettica – inventata forse da Socrate e Platone 2400 anni fa (ma esistono dialettiche orientali efficacissime, vedi il link subito sopra) – per come la vedo io è:

A. dialogo con noi stessi sui temi che ci appassionano

B. Dialogo con libri testi e pagine (anche web) validi (non si cresce senza dialogare con menti migliori della nostra).

Consiglio lo studio attento di scritti frammentari o zibaldoni (l’efficacia dell’esempio vivo!) poiché il pensiero in progress ci fa teste pensanti (thinking people) per naturale imitazione, piccole teste o grandi chissenefrega (who the hell cares),  l’importante è pensare con la nostra testa, diritto sancito da ogni costituzione democratica.

Domitian's Stadium, built in 86 CE conceived for Greek athletics that the Romans considered immoral (nakedness etc.). Later become 'Circus Agonalis' the population watched there agones (games, from αγών: any contest), whence 'agone', which possibly merged into 'navone' (big ship), whence Navona. Voilà, Piazza Navona! Click for credits

Personalmente ho imparato tantissimo dallo Zibaldone di Leopardi, dai saggi di Montaigne e soprattutto dai Quaderni del carcere di Antonio Gramsci, autore oggi riscoperto a livello globale (dalla destra e dalla sinistra americana, in India, in Inghilterra ecc.) non per il suo essere marxista (il marxismo è morto, pace all’anima sua) ma per il suo essere pensatore geniale, utilissimo.

Presto vorrei meglio approcciare gli essais (1rst & 2nd series) & lectures di Ralph Waldo Emerson, forse il più grande intellettuale americano che, for some weird reason, è a me molto affine.

[Anche la poesia, attenzione, di ogni genere e popolo, è strumento -cognitivo e artistico- micidiale]

C. Dialogo con gente in carne ed ossa, dovunque è possibile (amici, caffè, strada). I blog? Per loro natura dilatano il dialogo e naturalmente con l’uso di una lingua franca il livello di tale dilatazione è potenzialmente altissimo.

Piazza Navona, air view. Click for credits

Infine, ‘romanità’ ieri e oggi. E qui concludo perché credo che l’audience del blog (not too far from half a million hits, specie considerando argomenti non proprio semplici direi) sia dovuta proprio a questo:

al meraviglioso mondo di Roma raccontato da un ‘uomo medio’ in tutte le salse possibili. Da uno cioè nato e vissuto quaggiù, ie a witness from right there.

ψ

Ringrazio con affetto tutti quelli che mi hanno seguito e che ho seguito nei loro blog.

THIS IS NOT A FAREWELL, IT’S A NEW BEGINNING! [had to add this since a few readers were worried: see comments below].

That the journey continue! I do love you ALL (and you know it damn!)

Yours.

Man of Roma

Nota. Per piazza Navona vedi queste notizie storico-archeologiche in italiano e in inglese.

ψ

Post correlati (bilanci, audience e temi, man mano che il blog cresceva):

[Related posts (assessment, audience & themes as the blog progressed in time]

Are We Going Anywhere?

This Blog’s First Birthday

Post sul Metodo (see the English original of this, well, wild post)

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 1

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 2

Merry Saturnalia! And a Roman New Blog

Locking Horns with a Young Roman

Themes from Man of Roma: a site map

“America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci

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New York. Click for credits and to enlarge

While replying to Thomas Stazyk‘s comment on a post on Antonio Gramsci I realised it was more convenient to write a new blog post instead.

I usually reply to my readers one by one. Tomorrow it will be the others’ turn.

Explaining Paris Hilton

Thomas. Thank you for an interesting and insightful 795 words! For me, Gramsci adds the needed dimension to Marx that is required to understand/explain contemporary culture. I think his ideas of cultural domination and hegemony go far to explain everything from the Tea Party to Paris Hilton, and maybe Facebook and Twitter as well, but the whole technology thing needs more thought. I’m worried that saying that social media (and reality TV) are vehicles of cultural domination might sound too much like a conspiracy theory. But they certainly do support Gramsci’s view that hegemony is achieved and maintained by consent of the subordinate class.

MoR. “Gramsci adds the needed dimension to Marx that is required to understand/explain contemporary culture.”

You may refer to Gramsci’s study of Marx’s superstructure. Gramsci criticises the notion of a superstructure as simple ‘skin’ of a society, and of a socio-economic base, the ‘skeleton’, that is what really matters by determining the conscience etc.

“Women – Gramsci said – fall in love with the skin, not the skeleton”. Seduction, again, ie cultural hegemony.

[Update: ie people are ‘seduced’ by the ‘skin’ or cultural elements (superstructure) more than by the ‘skeleton’ – socio-economic class structure. It is a metaphorical way of stressing the importance of cultural hegemony, of men’s choices – free, non mechanically predetermined by the economical class structure – and of ‘intellectuals’ in history.]

I think his ideas of cultural domination and hegemony go far to explain everything from the Tea Party to Paris Hilton, and maybe Facebook and Twitter as well.

I’ll get to Facebook and Paris Hilton. But I’ve got to follow a long forgotten reasoning.

Since the core of Gramsci’s reflection is the superstructure – intellectuals being like the agents of it –, by analyzing both the high and the pop culture(s) of several countries he strongly advocates a blend of the two levels.

The intellectuals, he argues, should not be separated– as it always was the case of Italy – from the ‘elementary passions’ of the common people. A folk should be culturally united, as a tendency at least.

Greek Tragedy & Shakespeare

Such culture [update: of a high level, where the ‘intellectuals’ and the common people interact in a two way process] he calls ‘national-popular’ (complex notion to say the truth.) Among the best examples of it Gramsci indicates the Greek tragedy and the Elizabethan theatre, where the majority of the people were involved in a great experience. To him the only Italian example of such ‘artistic unity’ of the people [update: high-low interaction] is the Italian opera (I may possibly add, since I saw it with my eyes, the ‘popular’ love for Dante one can still experience in many parts of Tuscany and elsewhere.)

The Italian Renaissance to him, though sublime, was too elitist [update: ie no participation of the populace, no high-low interaction] and one cause in the end of the Italian decline. The protestant Reformation saw instead great popular participation (Renaissance-Reformation are to Gramsci also dialectic metaphors – in the Hegelian sense of thesis and antithesis – that he uses abstractly.)

Even if at first the Reformation – Gramsci argues – was like a return to the dark ages, it later liberated people’s energies by reaching higher levels of culture and contributing to the construction, among the rest, of the American nation.

US Cultural Hegemony

San Francisco Fire Department Engine 22 (1893). Click for credits and to enlarge

The first British immigrants to the New World were in fact an intellectual and especially moral elite – Gramsci argues. Defeated religiously in their fatherland but not humiliated, they brought to the New World great will, moral energy and “a certain stage of European historical evolution, which when transplanted by such men into the virgin soil of America, developed – and continues to develop – the forces implicit in its nature but with an incomparably more rapid rhythm than Old Europe”, where the relics of the past generated opposition giving to every initiative the equilibrium of mediocrity …

We all know what happened, how Europe went down and how the US have become the dominant power.

Following Gramsci’s reasoning, the United States exert yet today a cultural hegemony over the world, at both a high and a popular level of culture. Their universities are excellent in all fields (they even have among the best Dante’s specialists!) etc., intellectuals are not that detached from the people (they tend to ‘disseminate’ knowledge in their books, not like here in Italy although things are changing a bit – while France, a not at all bad ‘national-popular’ place in the 19th century – see 19th-century French literature! – is nowadays possibly even more elitist than we are, but I’m not sure.)

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Not concluded. Tomorrow, Thomas and you folks. I am European, not American. And my dog Lilla is recovering but she is 15 years old.

ψ

See next installment:

Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

More on Antonio Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought

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Andreas Kluth, the Hannibal man, asked me to write something about Gramsci in 300 words. I failed. These are 795 words.

ψ

I studied Gramsci in my twenties and he surely helped me greatly. I think important to say his thought to be:

1) in progress, more formative to me than any sedentary conclusions, building up upon a list of themes & reflecting on them in fragmentary notes from thousands of different viewpoints and within a dreadful context – fascism arising, jail isolation, uncertainty for his own life. All so compelling and mind expanding;

2) dialogic and dialectic.

Dialogic.
G’s ideas bounce on one another also in relation to other authors’ even-opposite ideas – Gramsci ‘discusses with the enemy’ so to say. A solitary dialogue though, since jail solitude brought him to solipsism, which creates like a tragic, bewitching (and a bit claustrophobic) atmosphere.

The many ‘tools’ he created such as ‘cultural hegemony’ (close to ‘seduction’), or his notion of ‘intellectuals’, stem from such inner dialogue, which can be baffling to people used to clear definitions – I well understand – but, such brain storming is contagious and the attentive reader is taught to form his / her mental dialogues on anything he / she researches.

Dialectic. It refers to Heraclitus & Hegel, implying that all in history is ‘becoming’ & a contradictory process with actions, reactions, conciliations etc. Gramsci’s dialectic is concrete, anti-idealistic. For example, the Rousseauesque pedagogy – the ‘laissez-faire’ of ‘active’ schools – was seen by him as a reaction to the coercive Jesuitical schools, so not good or bad ‘per se’. But he tried to favour an education where both the elements of discipline and fascination were present.

Antonio Gramsci’s ashes in the Protestant ‘Cimitero degli Inglesi’ in Rome

Any idea had to be seen in its historical context and was hence transient (Marxism included.) When the Russian revolution burst he wrote it was a revolution ‘against the Capital’ (ie against Marx’s theories,) a scandal within the Comintern.

In many respects he considered America much more progressive than Stalin’s Russia;

3) polymathic. Gramsci is wide-ranging, like the men of the Renaissance. Besides there are similarities between his ideas and Leonardo da Vinci’s, and their writing styles too;

4) anti-platonic. Nature is ruled by blind forces, with no intelligent design. He follows the Italian tradition of Lucretius, Vico, Leonardo, Machiavelli, Leopardi, in contrast with the Platonic (and hegemonic) tendency expressed during the Renaissance by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola;

5) anti-élite. Anti-chic, and certainly not the ‘smoking Gitanes and wearing black turtlenecks’ type of intellectual – to quote Andreas -, to him knowledge & refinement are not classy and must be spread to everyone. Born to a backward Sardinian peasant milieu he had succeeded in becoming a great European intellectual, which made him believe that everyone could be a philosopher at various degrees, and that a solid education of the working class was possible;

6) greatly written. Croce, Gramsci, Gobetti, Gentile were all great writers, like Hegel and Marx were. G’s texts are like permeated by a Hölderlin’s Heilige Nüchternheit (sacred sobriety.) As Giorgio Baratta observes, “his style, sober and exact, opens wide spaces that make the reader fly, but the flight is not grandiloquent.” His works have been recognized since they were first published as masterpieces of our language and literature. His Prison Letters have the depth of Tolstoy, an author close to him in many respects;

7) historic. Italian, European and world history are considered, from the end of the ancient Roman Republic onwards, and innumerable aspects are analysed. For a young Italian like me it meant an invaluable know-yourself experience. What I had passively learned at school could finally bear some fruit, also the teachings of my father, that I could fully appreciate only after reading Gramsci.

Gramsci’s history is as close to us as family’s history can be. It’s his magic. It touches the soul deeply.

It is also the concrete history of ideas circulating in the various socio-economic groups at a given time, with catalogues of magazines, newspapers, movements, intellectuals (often categorized with humorous nicks: it’s his peasant culture showing now and then), with the aim of understanding the currents and exact mechanisms of cultural hegemony.

He does that as for Italy, other European and non European countries. He analyses the elements that, in his view, make the United States the ‘hegemonic force’ in the world and also identifies like some cracks in this hegemonic structure, in their being too virgin and too young as a nation, with a melting pot of too many cultures.

Too long a story. Americanism in Gramsci is so crucial I’m thinking of a post where, in a dialogue occurred in the 30s, a few fictional European characters try to explain to readers their view of America, ie Gramsci’s view.

The United States – as Gramsci put it – are “the greatest collective effort ever existed to create with unheard of rapidity and a consciousness of purpose never seen in history a new type of worker and man.”

Note. An inspired introduction to Gramsci is Giuseppe Fiori’s Antonio Gramsci: Life of a Revolutionary (1970).

PS. Gramsci and Croce are well known in the English-speaking countries. The British ex prime minister Gordon Brown said Gramsci was one of his mentors. No idea if this is complimenting Gramsci or not… :-)

ψ

More on Antonio Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
“America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci
Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci

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Our conversations take us wherever they like so before talking about my instructional experience in Russia I’ll present a few passages by Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937) written in the 1930s while he was in prison.

Gramsci is considered the father of democratic communism [a thing, to say the truth, that remained in his mind and was never realised.]

All his works, and notably his Prison Letters and Prison Notebooks, are not only amazingly valuable for their intellectual & moral depth – acute analyses of Italian & European history, literature, theatre, philosophy, linguistics, political strategy etc. -, they have also been recognized since their appearance in 1947 as masterpieces of our language and literature.

His powerful brain was feared by both the Fascists and the Russians, and it pained me so much to learn that his Russian wife Julka or Julia Schucht (see her below with their sons, Delio and Giuliano,) together with her sister Tatiana Schucht, were probably spies for the Gpu (Kgb.) [Also a few of Gramsci’s and Julka’s descendants confirmed that.]

[Magister and Gramsci were the mentors who saved me from being a savage – although I am still a bit: you migh read here]

I was surprised to find the words – Gramsci’s words -, that to me best describe the importance of classical education in our country – ie the connection to our roots, this blog’s theme -, in the inspiring web pages of a certain Max Gabrielson, a Latin & Greek teacher at the Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut, considered one of Connecticut top performer schools according to the Wikipedia.

With such words from his Prison Notebooks Gramsci refers to the classical education delivered in the Italian Ginnasio and Liceo that, compared to his school days, had been changed a bit by the first important reform of Italian education (Gentile‘s & Croce‘s, 1923) after the unification of Italy 60 years earlier (1860-70.)

[An education that didn’t change much even until my days and my daughters’ days. No change at all? Well, it progressively became comprehensive mass education (with its pros and cons) so that its solidity, like a merum from the ancients, was diluted in the years – the wine being still there, but its inebriating effects having almost dissolved]

Let us listen to Antonio Gramsci describing the deep meaning of such education:

“In the old school the grammatical study of Latin and Greek, together with the study of their respective literatures and political histories, was an educational principlefor the humanistic ideal, symbolized by Athens and Rome, was diffused throughout society, and was an essential element of national life and culture. Even the mechanical character of the study of grammar [criticised by Croce and Gentile, MoR] was enlivened by this cultural perspective. Individual facts were not learned for an immediate practical or professional end. The end seemed disinterested, because the real interest was the interior development of personality, the formation of character by the absorption and assimilation of the whole cultural past of modern European civilization […] Pupils learned Greek and Latin in order to know at first hand the civilization of Greece and Rome — a civilization that was a necessary precondition to our modern civilization: in other words, they learnt them in order to be themselves and know themselves consciously.

‘In order to be themselves, to know themselves consciously …”

ψ

Gramsci criticises in 1932 the multiplication of vocational schools that in his view aimed at perpetuating social differences. Moreover, a true democracy needed adequate people:

“The labourer can become a skilled worker, for instance, the peasant a surveyor or petty agronomist. But democracy, by definition, cannot mean merely that an unskilled worker can become skilled. It must mean that every ‘citizen’ can ‘govern’ and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this. Political democracy tends towards a coincidence of the rulers and the ruled (in the sense of government with the consent of the governed) …”

As for K-12 education we see today a tendency to focus on 3-4 subjects only in countries such as Great Britain with students aged 15, a big mistake in my view especially now that we have to compete with lands that do most of the basic manufacturing to the extent that we need extra added-value creativity in our products.

Gramsci would certainly have agreed. Born to a backward Sardinian peasant milieu, with big family and health problems, his intellectual success influenced his view that a more comprehensive education of the working class was possible.

He was in fact irritated by his wife’s inclination to guess specialised interests in their 2 very young sons (one time she thought Delio could become an engineer, another time a poet etc.)

Gramsci’s wife, Jiulia Schucht, with the 2 sons, Delio (on the right) and Giuliano. She was – hideous detail – a spy for the Gpu (Kgb). Amazing how Giuliano resembles his father.

Gramsci wrote to her from his cell:

“To say the truth, I don’t much believe in such precocious display of tendencies and I haven’t much faith in your capability of discerning what professional aptitudes they might have. I should think that in both our sons, as in all children, there are likely to be found all sort of inclinations – the practical side, the theory and the imagination, and that it would consequently be more appropriate to guide them towards a more harmonious blend of all intellectual and practical faculties, since the time will come when specialisation in one or the other of these will occur on the basis of a personality vigorously formed and totally integrated.”

Gramsci then continues, expressing to her his humanistic faith in human possibilities and his 1930s ideal of the fully developed man:

“Modern man should be a synthesis of the qualities which are traditionally embodied in these national characters: the American engineer, the German philosopher and the French politician, thus recreating so to speak the Italian man of the Renaissance, the modern Leonardo da Vinci become ‘mass man’ and ‘collective man’ without sacrificing his own strong personality and individual originality.”

Post Scriptum. Gramsci reflected on many aspects of the American society (his notes on Americanism and Fordism are crucial) while he was quite worried about what was happening in the Soviet Union after 1930.

Differently from his mentor, Neapolitan Benedetto Croce, basically Hegelian, Gramsci was very much connected not only to German Kultur (he was into Hegel too and had a perfect knowledge of German – plus French, English, Russian, Latin and possibly other languages) but also to French culture: thanks to ascholarship won in 1911 he had studied in Piedmont at the University of Turin.

In 1921 he co-founded the Italian Communist Party. He then spent 2 years in the Soviet Union where in a sanatorium (his health was precarious) he ‘strangely’ met a beautiful woman, Jiulia (Julka) Schucht, who will become his wife. Back to Italy in 1924 he became head of the party. Being no orator but making use of a one-by-one-persuasion strategy he had won the majority of party delegates by totally fascinating them.

In the same year he was elected at the Italian Parliament. In the Fall of 1926, at the age of 35, he was arrested at 10:30 pm in his home located outside Porta Pia, a nice Roman area efficaciously depicted by the Italian poet Grabriele D’Annunzio. He will die at 46 after 11 years of prison.

Soon after the arrest he wrote to his wife:

“I am sure you will be strong and courageous, as you have always been. Now you will have to be even more than in the past, so that our sons may grow well and be in all worthy of you [italic is mine, MoR.]”

More on Antonio Gramsci:

Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought
America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci
Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

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