"Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements"

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husunzi's picture
Joined: 10-05-08
Dec 4 2009 07:56
"Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements"

Has anyone read this 2005 book by Richard Day?

I'm reading this now and find its attempt to move beyond Gramscian ideas of "hegemony" useful. I do foresee problems emerging in its celebration of lifestylism and its apparent blindspot to the ghettoization of radical subculture, but I'm not sure if that makes the book without value. Particularly to people like me who used to like Gramsci and post-Marxists like Laclau & Mouffe, and are looking for sophisticated critiques of those that are in tune with anarchism past and present. He also draws on autonomist Marxism.

The only mention I've seen on Libcom is EdmontonWobbly's dismissive comparison with David Graeber (of whom I'm also a big fan, so be nice): "compared to [richard] day [graeber's] positively down to earth."

Has anyone aught more substantial to say?

A pdf of the book can be downloaded here.

There's a pretty good review here.

888's picture
Joined: 30-09-03
Dec 4 2009 08:18

I don't see no PDF on that link

jura's picture
Joined: 25-07-08
Dec 4 2009 11:26

888, you have to register and log in first. To download the book then, click "Links" and choose one of the mirrors.

Boris Badenov
Joined: 25-08-08
Dec 4 2009 15:15

I haven't read the book (although I did see it at this year's bookfair), and I'm afraid I don't have time to right now, but what arguments does he make against Gramsci's notion of hegemony exactly (esp. since you say he celebrates lifestylism)?

husunzi's picture
Joined: 10-05-08
Dec 4 2009 18:36
what arguments does he make against Gramsci's notion of hegemony exactly

Basically that it's a logic of domination tied to the state or revolutionary proto-states. That much I agree with - the more difficult part is whether the alternative concept he proposes - affinity, or "affinity of affinities" - is a sufficient alternative logic of organization and struggle. I'm inclined to think it is, but his general academic postmodernism (despite his insistence to the contrary), including his treatment of "class" as just another vector of oppression like others (and by extension, his idea that class struggle should not be hegemonic over other forms of struggle), tend to put me off. On the other hand, he does emphasize that capital and the state are something like a common enemy.

Anyway, I recommend you skip the introduction - that seems to be the worst (most pomo) part so far. The historical parts - on the logic of hegemony and alternative logics in 19th to 21st century radical thought - are less annoying and more interesting.

smg's picture
Joined: 20-06-09
Dec 5 2009 14:45

I read it a few years ago when I was getting into activism--Food Not Bombs, HCAP, blah blah blah. I liked it at the time since it valourized those type of projects and it was better than what I was reading in grad school. A few years later in the here and now it would probably infuriate because of it's treatment of class and promotion of activism, life-style anarchy and the side show circus that is identity politics.

Joined: 25-11-06
Dec 5 2009 19:51

I've only skimmed the text.

However, as far as I can tell, Gramsci's ideas are the exact and complete opposite of a materialist analysis. Rather than people creating their ideas, good or ill, based on their material conditions, Hegemony implies that propagandists impose ideas upon people and those with the most effective propagandists win. This describes the strategic thinking of Western Capitalist and Stalinist in the mid twentieth century but I don't think it offers to much revolutionaries.

I know the text rejects Gramsci's exact concept of hegemony but it seems to retain the idea of struggle on the realm of culture rather than seeing a wider range of struggles as generally happening, one in which culture is, at best, only piece. Specifically, activists sadly aren't creating the nucleus of a new world by forming affinity groups at demonstrations. Such formations aren't a way for the proletariat to challenging the structure of daily life but rather remain as smg says, something of a "side-show".

This isn't saying that struggle on the level of culture should be abandoned but rather that one should not use the perspective of trying merely to convince enough people.

Joined: 20-10-11
Oct 20 2011 15:57

Here's a new link that works


R.R. Berkman's picture
R.R. Berkman
Joined: 27-03-07
Oct 21 2011 05:59

I've read the text, and know Richard quite well. He's a really nice guy. I think his work, however, is some mountains of crap, and I've told him so on various occasions. Basically, he argues that things like TAZ and arbitrarily founded social movements are decent, solid revolutionary organisations that can push for a better life, within a weak taxonomy of a very crude "intersectionality." He argues that "direct affinity" can be used to enact serious change, through "situations" (what I call the silly protest politics of the Id). He's in the "anti-class" camp of post-anarchist thinking, which is pretty easy to do while hauling a neat wage for teaching at Queen's. It doesn't work as well for me as a shop steward at the Post Office.

Needless to say, as someone with basically a Marxist analysis and an anarchist revolutionary perspective, I totally disagree with the vast majority of his points. Great gent to have a beer with though.