Gramsci And Contemporary Politics: Beyond Pessimism Of The Intellect, by Anne Showstack Sassoon
If you are viewing Gramsci as a positive influence in your political thinking, I don’t really want anything to do with you. That said, it is still worthwhile to examine what Gramsci thought, and perhaps more importantly, how it is that contemporary leftists seek to use Gramsci as a support for their own desire to screw up the world in the image of a sort of socialism that isn’t totalitarian like those bad Soviets but that is definitely way more progressive than Tony Blair and his idea for a third way between socialism and capitalism. If I found very little about this book that was worth enjoying, this is certainly the sort of work that is very educational as to the problems of contemporary socialism and even “mainstream” left-of-center parties in the English speaking world. And since we have to deal with people who think of Gramsci as an inspiration rather than someone who richly earned his prison sentence, it is worthwhile to at least read the sort of thinker that inspires the evils of social justice and leftist doubletalk and the gradual but extreme “democratic socialism” that is so popular among the future martyrs of the contemporary left.
This book is a bit more than 100 pages long and is thankfully short. The author begins the book by trying to face the future and evaluate the past (1). This leads to some theoretical foundations (I), including Gramsci’s challenge to traditional intellectuals in matters of specialization, organization and leadership (2), the politics of “organic” intellectuals (3), and Gramsci’s attempt to subvert the language of politics by twisting the meaning of words (4). After that the author discusses various political matters (II), including ideas on the concept of citizenship (5), the resurrection of civil society from the despair of workers (6), agendas for social justice and change (7) that inspire optimism, and the tension between realism and creativity in the politics of the left for moderates like Blair (8). The third part of the book offers reflections and explorations (III), including a rethinking of socialism to make it both more extreme and supposedly less authoritarian (9), a discussion of “dear parent” writings and the lack of trust that the English have in government-sponsored child care (10), and various explorations in authenticity, cultural politics, and collective and individual projects (11), after which the book ends with notes and an index.
In looking at this book, it is striking that the author has much less to say about Gramsci himself as a thinker, and more of how Gramsci inspires contemporary leftist thinkers to seek a non-Soviet extremist leftist view of society. Viewing intellectuals as being of the utmost importance in establishing democracy certainly explains the appeal of this sort of thinking to many contemporaries who fancy themselves to be thinkers without having a firm understanding of morality or economics that make things realistic. Indeed, this book attacks such realism as being pessimistic and cynical. The author, rather predictably, shows an interest in social justice themes, especially feminism, which is not surprising at all, and seems to anticipate the leftward turn that the Labour party has taken after Blair’s departure. The thinking in this book is no more logically coherent than one should expect from leftism, but if this book does not present wisdom as far as politics is concerned, it does allow the reader to understand the incoherence that leftists have when they push intellectuals with a passion for justice as being the key to a hegemonic democracy. When people don’t know what the words they use mean and contradict themselves completely in the attempt to dominate society but in a way that avoids the crimes against humanity that we had in Stalinism, we get ideas like this book has.