ABSTRACT

The first stones of the new world, however coarse or unpolished they may be, are more beautiful than the sunset of a world in agony, and its swan songs.

Antonio Gramsci

INTRODUCTION

In this final chapter I seek to explore a series of more general reflections with respect to the legacy of Bakhtin and the Bakhtin Circle. Hopefully, such a strategy will avoid the banalities of a ‘balance-sheet’ type of appraisal, with a simple two-columned account of theoretical ‘credits’ and ‘debits’. Nevertheless, an evaluative survey of Bakhtin’s oeuvre can lead to a better comprehension of the Circle’s theoretical activities as a whole and also encourage a more informed and judicious assessment of Bakhtin’s potential contributions to a critical theory of ideology and culture. It is also necessary if one is to avoid hagiography, however sincere or heartfelt-which, it must be said, seems to be an occupational hazard of much Bakhtinian scholarship. I begin this chapter by examining his writings in relation to the traditions of modernism and romanticism, and consider the more negative aspects of his unfettered utopianism. I will then discuss the implications of his cultural politics and his characterization of ‘folkfestive culture’ in more detail, with particular reference to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. Finally, I conclude with a brief discussion of Bakhtin’s strengths and with how some of his insights may be appropriated by a radical cultural and social theory.