Towards a Theory of the Integral State

In: Historical Materialism
Bruno Bosteels Cornell University

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This review assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Peter Thomas’s long-awaited study of The Prison Notebooks, based on his extensive research and philological reconstruction of the critical edition. I distinguish three senses in which the ‘moment’ in the book’s title can be understood: as the historical moment around 1932 in which Gramsci proposed the outline of his distinct brand of the philosophy of praxis; as the moment or momentum that still lies in wait for a future research programme in Marxist philosophy; and as a methodological principle for understanding the dialectic as a theory in which entities such as state and civil society, but also coercion and consent, far from allowing the kind of Eurocommunist or post-Marxist instrumentalisations in which they are seen as part of a chain of binaries, are actually moments of a unified larger structure that in Gramsci’s work comes to be associated with the idea of the integral state. This impressive reconstruction of Gramsci’s notebooks, however, also reveals some major lacunae, above all, in terms of the lack of attention given to Gramscian developments in the non-European world, in places such as India or Latin America. This omission is all the more surprising given the longstanding tradition, particularly in Latin America, of viewing Gramsci as a theorist of the integral state more so than of hegemony.

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