Prison Notebooks: Is Anti-Systemic Global Culture Possible?


One of the main topics in Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks is how change can be attained. Based within a specific historical and social context, Gramsci makes an important distinction between a war of maneuver and a war of position when analyzing the causes of the failure of the proletarian revolution in Italy. While the former is a direct revolutionary struggle of the oppressed against the ruling class, the latter implies the creation of a counter-culture through the alliance of intellectuals, workers, and peasants. One is a military confrontation; the other is an intellectual combat. Winning a war of position is a pre-requisite for winning a war of maneuver.

When extrapolating the same framework both in the spacial (from national to global level) and temporal mode (from interwar period to the present times), a few interesting and important questions arise. First, is there a global hegemonic culture that legitimizes the existing economic relations, i.e. the capitalist mode of development in its neoliberal phase? If so, what would be the possible elements of a global counter-culture? Finally, who / what would be the global actors of change?

The answer to the first question is a ‘Yes’. Some channels of legitimizing the global hegemonic culture include: 1) via  mass media controlled by a limited number of transnational media holdings; 2) via education and socialization; 3) at the individual common-sensical level through “habits of thought”; 4) at the societal level through advertising and consumerism; 5) at the global governance level via such institutions as IMF, WTO, and World Bank.

The global war of position can thus include the following aspects: 1) developing alternative sources of media or occupying editorial positions in the mainstream ones; 2) promoting the alternative overall goal of education – educating creative and concerned citizens instead of consumers; 3) beoming aware how the taken for granted knowledge and reproduction of common-sensical practices legitimizes the existing global dominant structure; 4) striving for living in the “Be” mode vs. the “Have” one (Erich Fromm); 5) advocating for alternative institutions aimed at real sustainable development.

Finally, in my judgement the ultimate agents of change are self-organized network communities of mankind. Ironically, ‘community’ is a linguistic relative of ‘communism’. However, while Marxist and Gramscian communism envisaged the proletariat as the principal collectivity of change, in this case these are individuals united into collectives via networks that can act as the catalysts for transformation.


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