The Gramscian Moment

Philosophy, Hegemony and Marxism


Winner of the Premio internazionale Giuseppe Sormani 2011, awarded by the Fondazione Istituto Piemontese Antonio Gramsci in Turin for the best book/article on Gramsci in the period between 2007-2011 internationally.

Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks are today acknowledged as a classic of the human and social sciences in the twentieth century. The influence of his thought in numerous fields of scholarship is only exceeded by the diverse interpretations and readings to which it has been subjected, resulting in often contradictory 'images of Gramsci'. This book draws on the rich recent season of Gramscian philological studies in order to argue that the true significance of Gramsci's thought consists in its distinctive position in the development of the Marxist tradition. Providing a detailed reconsideration of Gramsci's theory of the state and concept of philosophy, The 'Gramscian moment' argues for the urgent necessity of taking up the challenge of developing a 'philosophy of praxis' as a vital element in the contemporary revitalisation of Marxism.

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Peter D. Thomas (Ph.D, 2008) studied at the University of Queensland, Freie Universität Berlin, L’Università “Federico II”, Naples, and the Universiteit van Amsterdam. He has published widely on Marxist political theory and philosophy. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory
"Just as Antonio Gramsci remarked that all scholars should study with ‘heroic fury’ any new theory with deep interest, then so too should all scholars study Peter Thomas’ The Gramscian Moment with the same ‘heroic fury’, while recognising the importance and significance of his marvelous contribution to shaping the terrain of contemporary Gramsci studies." - Adam David Morton, in: Progress in Political Economy (PPE), August 2014
"[...] Peter Thomas has managed to write a major and innovative interpretation of Antonio Gramsci. I am confident that this will and should become a “go-to” text for those interested in understanding the importance of Gramsci. I highly recommend this text, and adult educators wanting to draw on Gramscian concepts would ignore this text at their own peril." - John D. Holst, in: Adult Education Quarterly Vol. 62, No. 1 (February 2012), pp. 92-94
"[...] Thomas has written one of the finest treatments of Gramsci from a Marxist perspective. In terms of philosophical reflection, it is an amazing resource that will set the bar for any serious theoretical engagements with the Gramsci’s historicism for some time to come." - Harrison Fluss, in: Parrhesia, No. 14 (2012), pp. 71-76
"For anyone interested in Gramsci, Peter Thomas’ The Gramscian Moment is quickly becoming required reading given its exhaustive presentation of Gramsci’s thought and politics. [...] Bringing Thomas’ philosophical concerns to bear on Gramsci’s treatment of difference could potentially serve as an important rejoinder to post-Marxist readings of Gramsci." - Michael Ekers, in: Antipode, Vol. 44, No. 3 (June 2012), pp. 1034-1038
"Thomas single-handedly redefined and redesigned the research program on the very nature of the Prison Notebooks. [...] In time, researchers will take advantage of Thomas’s groundbreaking work. It should be read by everyone who is concerned about revitalizing Marxian thought. Intended for both graduate students and Gramsci scholars [...]." - Jelle Versieren, in: Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 44 No. 1 (March 2012), pp. 120
"Peter Thomas’ book is impressive in the scope and depth of its argument... [his] reading of Gramsci [...] helps us rethink the questions facing Marxist philosophy in a way that can include historicity and dialectics alongside immanence an radical contingency, thus avoiding the limits self-imposed upon a large part of current radical theorizing, without falling back into idealist speculation. Thomas’ call to re-introduce Gramsci at the center of Marxist philosophy needs to be heard." - Panagiotis Sotiris, in: Science and Society, Vol. 76, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 105–114
"Book has been awarded with the Premio internazionale Giuseppe Sormani 2011 by the Fondazione Istituto Piemontese Antonio Gramsci in Turin, Italy. The award justification reads: "Si tratta di un lavoro di eccellente qualità, che impressiona per la struttura equilibrata, l’ampiezza dei riferimenti alla bibliografia in varie lingue e la limpidezza dell’esposizione. […] Il libro si segnala così come una delle migliori monografie d’insieme sul pensiero di Gramsci che, collocato criticamente nel contesto europeo, emerge in tutta la sua penetrante modernità. [...] ciò che sorprende nella lettura di Thomas è la capacità di instaurare un dialogo costante tra Gramsci e Althusser – al di là degli schematismi dogmatici che hanno opposto i due autori negli anni’60 e’70 (storicismo contra strutturalismo, ermeneutica contra epistemologia) –sulla teoria dello Stato, sulla teoria dell’ideologia e sulla teoria della storia, pensata non nella forma intrinsecamente teleologica degli stadi di sviluppo, ma nella sua politicità, tutta immersa nei rapporti di forza e nei conflitti della congiuntura: in questo senso lo storicismo assoluto di Gramsci e la teoria del tempo storico althusseriano si incontrano, produttivamente, nel tentativo di costruire quello che potremmo definire un nuovo “materialismo della congiuntura." - Vittorio Morfino, in: Critica Marxista No. 1 (2011), pp. 48-55
"Peter D. Thomas’s fresh reassessment of the Prison Notebooks... serves as important corrective to this non-political, “cultural studies” Gramsci. Thomas’s intention to re-politicize and re-historicize Gramsci’s project within the context of the Communist International (Comintern) is...a singular achievement." - Adam Hilton, in: Socialist Studies, Vol. 7, No 1-2 (2011), pp. 341-346
"The Gramscian Moment is an astonishing work of scholarship and one which should become a Marxist classic. It is terrifyingly erudite, beautifully written, and compellingly argued." - Daniel Hartley, in: KULT Online, No 27 (2011)
"il libro dell’australiano Peter D. Thomas [...] è un grande libro, perché, con una maestria che spero venga universalmente apprezzata, riesce a sintetizzare e a mettere in equilibrio una doppia tensione, difficilissima da controllare: quella tra l’approccio diacronico ai Quaderni del carcere e la necessità di ricostruire un qualche ordine al loro interno; e quella tra approfondimento storico-filosofico e proposta teorica dentro la discussione filosofica marxista(e para-marxista) attuale." - Fabio Frosini, in: Critica Marxista, No. 3-4 (2010), pp. 73-77 "[...] el libro di Thomas – che considero il più importante lavoro sul pensiero di Gramsci pubblicato in lingua inglese nell’ultimo trentennio [...]" - Alastair Davidson, in: Critica Marxista, No. 3-4 (2010), pp. 55-57 "Peter Thomas n'a pas seulement écrit un livre épais, il a écrit un grand livre." - Jean-Jacques Lecercle, in: Actuel Marx No, 49
"[...] The Gramscian Moment has clearly establishd Thomas as one of the leading experts in the field, and the book will no doubt become essential reading for all serious students of Gramsci's book." - Mark McNally, in: Radical Philisophy No. 162 (July/August 2010)
"Peter Thomas has produced a fine book, which readers of this journal should beg, steal or borrow to obtain a copy, placing Gramsci firmly, not just in the revolutionary camp, but as a Leninist rooted in the early, revolutionary years of the Communist International." - Chris Bambery, in: International Socialism, A journal of socialist theory, No. 127, posted: 25 June 2010

Unpublished endorsements
"Thomas’s intention to re-politicize and re-historicize Gramsci’s project within the context of the Communist international (Comintern) is the book’s singular achievement.[...] Thus one can only hope that Thomas’s book will reset the terms of debate for Gramsci scholars." - Adam Hilton, in: Socialist Studies 7 (2011) 329-346.
"This should become the standard text in English on Gramsci's thought. Acquainted with the latest wrinkle in the Italian debate, Thomas combines an unmatched philological research into the sources and a mastery of the ongoing debates about the sense we should make of key ideas like hegemony. He deftly overturns the received orthodoxy and the various abuses of the ideas of the Marxist militant, both restoring Gramsci's work to its true status and opening up fruitful possibilities for understanding his contribution to political theory more generally. The best book on Gramsci's political theory for three decades." - Alastair Davidson, Author of Antonio Gramsci: Towards an Intellectual Biography
"Thomas's Gramsci is the one we need in an era of economic and geopolitical crises that bears some resemblances to Gramsci's own time. This Gramsci is no incipient post-Marxist. Thomas's Gramsci, developed from rigorous critical study of the Prison Notebooks and of the now extensive scholarly literature, is a deeply consequent thinker intent on reconstructing revolutionary Marxism in opposition to the most advanced bourgeois thought of his day. This is also a Gramsci for whom political economy is of central methodological and substantive significance. Not content with scholarly interpretation, Thomas draws his Gramsci into dialogue with contemporary radical thought, illuminating both sides of the conversation. This is a book that will recast the understanding of Gramsci, especially but not exclusively in the Anglophone world." - Alex Callinicos, Professor of European Studies, Social Theory and International Political Economy, King's College, London
"What superlatives can I use to describe this book? Terms like ‘outstanding,’ ‘superb’ and ‘tour-de-force’ suggest themselves, but even these do not fully capture the extraordinary power of The Gramscian Moment. Thomas’s erudite and staggeringly sophisticated reading of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks completely overturns the dominant interpretations including those of Louis Althusser and Perry Anderson. Never again will we be able to read Gramsci solely through their lenses. Henceforth, Thomas’s magisterial exploration of Gramsci’s thought will become the critical point of reference for all serious work in the field. But Thomas does more than meticulous exegesis. He also insists on the actuality of Gramsci’s work, urging that we approach it in the spirit of “both continuation and transformation, fidelity and renewal. He succeeds brilliantly on all counts." - David McNally, Professor of Political Science, York University, Toronto
"The Gramscian Moment demonstrates the extent to which Gramsci’s thought represents a singular synthesis of virtually the entire tradition of Western political thought. This work succeeds in presenting Gramsci as a "living classic", an author central to our understanding of modernity. Given its scope, richness and originality, I have no doubt that this work will represent a milestone in Gramscian scholarship and an important contribution to contemporary debates in political theory and philosophy." - Stathis Kouvelakis, Author of Philosophy and Revolution and Co-editor of a Critical Companion to Contemporary Marxism
"The Gramscian Moment is the most thorough and illuminating philosophical study of Gramsci yet to appear in English. It sets a new standard for work not only on Gramsci himself but on the whole complex of issues associated with his legacy – on the mechanics and dimensions of hegemony, on the role and nature of the subject of political action, on the relation between theory and practice, and between civil society and the state. Thomas does more than any previous reader of Gramsci to demonstrate how his philosophy can fairly claim to meet Marx's famous prescription – not merely ‘to interpret the world but to change it’." - Peter Hallward, Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University, London
A Note on the Text

Chapter One The Moment of Reading ‘Capital’
1.1. ‘I can only think of Gramsci…’
1.2. Reading ‘Capital’ in its moment
1.3. ‘The last great theoretical debate of Marxism’
1.4. Marxist philosophy
1.5. The Althusserian and Gramscian moments
1.6. Philosophy, hegemony and the state: ‘metaphysical event’ and ‘philosophical fact’

Chapter Two Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci?
2.1. Incompletion and reconstruction
2.2. A theoretical toolbox?
2.3. ‘Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci’
2.4. 1+1=3
2.5. Detours via detours
2.6. The emergence of hegemony…
2.7. …and its deformation
2.8. Three versions of hegemony in the West
2.9. Political society + civil society = state
2.10. Shadows of Croce
2.11. East and West, past and present
2.12. Antinomies of the united front
2.13. The spectre of Kautsky
2.14. A labyrinth within a labyrinth?

Chapter Three ‘A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery inside an Enigma’? On the Literary Form of the Prison Notebooks
3.1. Traces of the past
3.2. Code language
3.3. Hieroglyphs
3.3.1. ‘Für ewig’
3.4. Incompletion: a work in progress
3.5. An unfinished dialogue
3.6. An Ariadne’s thread

Chapter Four Contra the Passive Revolution
4.1. The ‘integral state’
4.2. The long nineteenth century
4.3. The birth of civil society
4.4. Passive revolution
4.5. War of position
4.6. ‘War of position’ versus ‘war of movement’
4.7. Two phases of passive revolution
4.8. Duration versus historical epoch
4.9. Crisis of authority
4.10. Modernity as passive revolution?

Chapter Five Civil and Political Hegemony
5.1. Consent versus coercion
5.1.1. ‘Political leadership becomes an aspect of domination’
5.1.2. The ‘dual perspective’
5.2. Civil society versus the state

Chapter Six ‘The Realisation of Hegemony’
6.1. West versus East
6.2. Hegemony, bourgeois and proletarian
6.3. Actuality of the united front

Chapter Seven ‘The Philosophy of Praxis is the Absolute “Historicism”’
7.1. ‘The absolute “historicism”’
7.2. Two critiques: liquidation and dilution
7.3. Ideology sive philosophy
7.4. Towards a philosophy of praxis

Chapter Eight ‘The Absolute Secularisation and Earthliness of Thought’
8.1. Althusserian science
8.2. Traces of immanence
8.3. Gramsci: linguist
8.4. Why immanence?
8.5. Gramsci: economist
8.6. Immanence = theory
8.7. The identity of theory and practice

Chapter Nine ‘An Absolute Humanism of History’
9.1. The humanist controversy
9.2. Humanism, hegemony and intellectuals
9.3. Organic and traditional intellectuals
9.4. Renaissance humanism
9.5. Philosophos sive politicus
9.6. The ‘modern Prince’ and apparatus of proletarian hegemony as ‘philosophical fact’

Chapter Ten Marxism and Philosophy: Today

All those interested in Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, Marxist theory, political science, sociology and international relations, as well as the history of ideas, modern philosophy and contemporary political movements and radical thought.
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