chapter  8
Gramsci in context
Pages 19

This chapter is intended to provide a brief introduction to the general character of Gramsci’s ideas on theory and practice and their place in the development of Marxist theory, prior to a closer scrutiny of his specific concepts, such as hegemony, later on. In this chapter, then, Gramsci’s characteristic concepts will be employed more or less un­ defined. I think it is fruitful to consider a thinker’s theoretical work dialogically, i.e. in relation to what positions he conceived himself as developing his theories, or as reacting against, agreeing with, extend­ ing or moving beyond. (It is a paradoxical result of Gramsci’s practical-critical perspective, as we shall see, that he objects to Bukharin elaborating an axiomatized position at all.) It is a common­ place that, like Lukacs and Korsch in the 1920s, Gramsci too can be seen from the standpoint of theory as reacting against orthodox, ‘vulgar’ materialist Marxism. A significant comparison that has not been made as far as I know in this historical theoretical configuration is that between Lukacs’s and Gramsci’s parallel criticisms of the theoretical framework of Bukharin as an exemplar of that orthodox tradition. Initially then we shall examine Gramsci’s perspective through the sharp focus of his specific criticisms of Nikolai Bukharin’s The Theory o f Historical Materialism: A Manual o f Popular Sociology, published in 19211 compared with Lukacs’s contemporary comments on the same book.2