Reading the “Quaderni del carcere”: The political project of Antonio Gramsci
The present work provides an interpretative key with which to render a consistent approach to the mature politico-theoretical corpus of Antonio Gramsci, the Quaderni del carcere, composed from 1929 to 1935 while imprisoned under the fascist regime in Italy. My contention is that the concern over the relations between leaders and led, governing and governed, lies as a basic matrix underneath the different groups of thematic notes contained in his prison notebooks. Thus, in his notes regarding political matters the most important reflection concerns his notion of hegemony to describe the specificity of the modern state, which rests in the constant organization of the consent of the subjects and not in its coercive capacity. In his notes regarding philosophical matters, in interlocution with Benedetto Croce and N. Bukharin, Gramsci's thinking centers on the relationship of Marxism towards common sense and proposing a dialectical relationship between them. In his notes concerning literature, Gramsci's approach is equally political in that he reappraises the committed literary criticism of Francesco De Sanctis in the 19th Century for Marxism, and in addition critiques the lack a of a national-popular literature in Italy as well as the paternalistic attitude of some Italian literary figures. Finally, in his notes on language, he shows great interest in the relationship between dialects and unitary language surely out of the social and political problem of the 'language question' in Italy. Gramsci values the progressive effect of the unification of language under standard Italian for the purpose of international communication, but is extremely sensible to the dialectal reality of the different regions in the Italian peninsula. My work is both a theoretical and historico-critical reflection on Gramsci's intellectual enterprise while in prison. I have drawn my interpretations and conclusions from a close reading of the main texts in their original language and from a detailed analysis of the pertinent secondary literature.