Towards a Theory of the Integral State

In: Historical Materialism

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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  • De ÍpolaEmilio Althusser, el infinito adiós 2002 Buenos Aires Siglo Veintiuno

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  • LaclauErnesto Labastidadel Campo ‘Tesis acerca de la forma hegemónica de la política’ 1985 1985

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  • MunckRonaldo P. Rethinking Latin America: Development, Hegemony, and Social Transformation 2013 Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan

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  • ZermeñoSergio Labastidadel Campo ‘Los referentes históricos y sociológicos de la hegemonía’ 1985 1985

  • 1

    Thomas 2009, p. xix.

  • 2

    Thomas 2009, p. xxv.

  • 3

    Thomas 2009, p. 131.

  • 4

    Thomas 2009, p. 442.

  • 5

    Thomas 2009, p. 265.

  • 6

    Thomas 2009, pp. 25–6.

  • 7

    Thomas 2009, p. 69, n. 89.

  • 8

    Thomas 2009, p. 136.

  • 9

    Thomas 2009, p. 137.

  • 10

    Thomas 2009, pp. 143–4.

  • 11

    Thomas 2009, p. 167.

  • 12

    Thomas 2009, p. 175.

  • 13

    Thomas 2009, p. 176.

  • 14

    Thomas 2009, p. 180.

  • 16

    Thomas 2009, p. 170, n. 39.

  • 17

    Thomas 2009, p. 333.

  • 18

    Thomas 2009, p. 106, n. 53.

  • 19

    Thomas 2009, p. 45.

  • 20

    Thomas 2009, p. 57, n. 46.

  • 21

    Thomas 2009, p. 156, n. 59.

  • 22

    Thomas 2009, p. 15.

  • 23

    Thomas 2009, p. 15, n. 58.

  • 24

    Thomas 2009, p. 201.

  • 25

    Thomas 2009, p. 216.

  • 27

    See Anderson 2010. There exists at least one anthology that seeks to go in this direction, namely, The Postcolonial Gramsci, edited by Srivastava and Bhattacharya. For the case of Latin America, the voice representing Gramsci in this volume is that of Walter Mignolo, who quickly moulds Gramsci beyond recognition into a plea for his own decolonial agenda. For a discussion of the shortcomings of this collection, see the review forum in Postcolonial Studies 16.1 (2013).

  • 29

    See Aricó 1988. Burgos distinguishes three periods in the reception of Gramsci in Argentina: the period of the search for a militant alliance with the working class; the period of exile and self-criticism during the dictatorship; and the reconsideration of the link between socialism and democracy under Alfonsín. For the second of these periods, see also the analysis of the Mexican journal Controversia edited by several of the Argentine Gramscians, in Gago 2012. More recently, for the return to Gramsci in the context of Kirchnerism in Argentina, see Della Rocca 2013. See also the anthologies edited by Dora Kanoussi (Kanoussi 1998, 2004a and 2004b). Gramsci plays a pivotal role in Aricó’s posthumously published seminar on the relation of Marxist politics and economics. See ‘Gramsci y la teoría política’ in Aricó 2011, pp. 245–318. In English, see also the recent work of Ronaldo Munck, especially the chapter on ‘Hegemony Struggles’ in Munck 2013.

  • 30

    See Labastida and del Campo (eds.) 1985. Interestingly, this volume contains an early version of Ernesto Laclau’s hegemony theory as well as a detailed rebuttal by Sergio Zermeño. Shortly before the Morelia conference, another international Gramsci conference was held in Mexico with the participation of Buci-Glucksmann, Macciocchi and Portantiero, the proceedings of which are published in Sirvent (ed.) 1980.

  • 32

    Aricó 1988, pp. 16 and 63. Aricó believes that the label ‘Argentine Gramscians’ may have been the invention of Ernesto Laclau in an article for the journal Izquierda Nacional in 1963, titled ‘Gramsci y los gramscianos’ and signed with the pseudonym of Ricardo Videla. See Aricó 1988, p. 67.

  • 34

    See de Riz and De Ípola 1985, p. 66.

  • 35

    See Coutinho 1986, pp. 108–29.

  • 36

    See Tapia 2011. See also Coutinho 1986, p. 93. Already in 1988 Aricó observes that the list of works on ‘transformism’ and ‘passive revolution’ in Latin America is too long to enumerate. In English, see also the recent work of Adam David Morton (Morton 2007 and 2011).

  • 37

    See García Linera 2010, p. 13.

  • 39

    Thomas 2009, p. 289.

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