A Dialectical Pedagogy of Revolt

Gramsci, Vygotsky, and the Egyptian Revolution


In A Dialectical Pedagogy of RevoltBrecht De Smet offers an intellectual dialogue between the political theory of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and the cultural psychology of Soviet thinker Lev Vygotsky within the framework of the Egyptian 25 January Revolution. Their encounter affirms the enduring need for a coherent theory of the revolutionary subject in the era of global capitalism, based on a political pedagogy of subaltern hegemony, solidarity, and reciprocal education. Investigating the political and economic lineages and outcomes of the mass uprising of Tahrir Square, De Smet discusses the emancipatory achievements and hegemonic failures of the Egyptian workers’ and civil democratic movements from the perspective of their (in)ability to construct a genuine dialectical pedagogy.
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Biographical Note

Brecht De Smet, Ph.D. (2012), Ghent University, is a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer at that university. He has published on Gramsci, subject formation, and the Egyptian workers’ movement, including “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Egypt” ( Science & Society 78(1), 2014).

Table of contents

Foreword by Andy Blunden Preface Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction PART I: SUBJECT AND ACTIVITY 1. In Want of the People People and Population The People and the Régime 2. Individual and Collective Mind and Body Transcendental Subject Activity Collective Subjectivity 3. Concept of the Subject Gestalt, Bildung, Urphänomen Formation of Consciousness, Concept Practical-Critical Activity Social Formation, Cell-Form 4. Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Unit of Analysis Learning and Development Activity as Collaboration Conclusions PART II: SUBJECT AND STRUGGLE 5. Class as Subject Political and Human Emancipation The Proletariat as Subject Actual and Logical Development 6. The Modern Prince The Strike as Cell-Form Trade Unionism The Economic and the Political Demonstration and Party Proletarian Hegemony 7. A Pedagogy of Revolt Learning and Instruction Philosophy of Praxis Intellectuals and Assistance 8. Revolution Growth and Crisis Revolution The Mass Strike Movement, Position, Underground 9. Pathologies Iron Law of Oligarchy? Revolution-Restoration Inadequate Instruction Substitutionism PART III: HISTORICAL LINEAGES 10. Roots of the 25 January Uprising Surprised by the Expected Original Accumulation and Extended Reproduction Uneven and Combined Development Permanent Revolution 11. Colonial Subjects At the Doorstep of Capitalism A Colonial Historical Bloc Development of the Strike Revolution 12. Colonial Crisis Dependent Development The Road to Trade Unionism The Muslim Brotherhood The Second Wave of Communism Organic Crisis 13. Nasserism The Nasserist Intervention Escaping Colonialism Officers and Workers The Concept of Nasserism A Caesarist Pathology PART IV: NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM 14. Sadat’s Infitah Crisis of Nasserism Capitalist Offensive Strikes and Demonstrations Islamic Fascism? Crisis and Defeat 15. Mubarak’s Détente Politics of a Rentier Economy Absorption of the Brotherhood Absorption of the Left Absorption of the Workers 16. Neoliberal War of Movement Neoliberal Counter-Reform Subordinating the Subaltern Subordinating the Elites 17. The Civildemocratic Project Crisis of the ‘Legal Left’ A New Left Rise of Street Politics Brothers and Comrades The End of the Political Line PART V: THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT 18. The Mahalla Strikes Ghazl al-Mahalla On the Offensive Insurrection 19. Development of the Strike Systematization Interiorization Projection Mahalla’s Defeat The First Independent Trade Union Snowball Trade Unionism 20. The Strike’s Intellectuals Organic Intellectuals A Return to Class The Old Left The New Left Muslim Brothers Journalists Artists Human Rights Activists 21. Pedagogies of Revolt Forms of Assistance Modes of Assistance Colonization Commodification Solidarity Educating the Educators 22. Adequate Assistance Boundaries of Instruction Limits of the Economic Line Limits of the Political Line PART VI: TAHRIR 23. Story of an Uprising (I) The Tension Mounts Tunisian Prolepsis 25 January Keeping the Fire Going Friday of Anger 24. Story of an Uprising (II) Gaining Confidence Battle of the Camel Remaining Steadfast Day of Departure 25. The Activity of Tahrir Extended Reproduction Demonstration Occupation The Whip of Counterrevolution 26. the Organization of Tahrir Spontaneous Organization Technical Assistance Cultural Instruction Leadership Immanence and Teleology Projection 27. The Mass Strike Workers as National-Popular Actors Workers as Class Actors The Economic and the Political 28. Revolutionary Pathologies Lack of a Center Caesarism Again? The End of the People Soviets? 29. Revolution beyond Tahrir From Cell-Form to Symbol A Civil Counterrevolution Popular Uprising and Military Coup Many Princes Popular or Proletarian? CONCLUSIONS Permanent Deflections of Revolution Class Formation and Anti-Imperialism Independent Trade Unionism Nasserist Deflection Neoliberal War of Movement Uprising and Deflection A Pedagogy of Revolt Interiorization Forms and Modes of Assistance Zone of Proximal Development A Self-Reflecting Note References Interviews Literature Index


Political scientists, philosophers, activists, and post-graduate students interested in Gramsci or subject theory; area experts and post-graduate students concerned with contemporary Egypt; specialists in cultural studies, education, and activity theory engaged with Vygotsky; specialists in labour studies.