The deliberations of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, have proved a durable and fruitful serpent of destruction. His central notion of cultural hegemony was originally crafted as part of his explanation for the failure of the proletariat rising up in revolt as propounded by the Marxist prophecy of increasing worker immiseration. Gramsci argued that the cultural beliefs, values and mores of the ruling class had become adopted by the “workers” and that this was not in the workers’ true class interests. So Gramsci’s proposal, to simplify somewhat, was to counter the ruling cultural values by theorizing their replacement with ‘proletarian’ values which would attain eventual supremacy over and through state institutions. Later followers, including the wretched moles of the Frankfurt School, refined this notion to argue for a soft, insidious revolution of radical ideas replacing the ‘bourgeois cultural hegemony’ through a gradual conquest of the educational, religious, legal, media and family structures; in short, an annexation of all the private associations of civil society that are independent of the state.
Come to think of it, perhaps I could have titled this article pertinently, but less delicately, ‘Gramsci’s Testicles.’ The two slight orthographic substitutions necessary neatly connote the fact that this man’s ideas have spread like the broadcast spawning of certain bony fish. But I digress.