Friday, October 14, 2005

What comes around--goes around. The recurrence of themes

From Gramsci's Prison Notebooks 1933-34. What comes around--goes around. The recurrence of themes.
“Tendency to conformism in the contemporary world, more widespread and deeper than in the past: the standardization of thought and action assumes national or even continental proportions. The economic basis of the ‘collective man’: big factories, Taylorisation, rationalization, etc . . ., On social ‘conformism’, it should be stressed that the problems is not a new one, and that the alarm expressed by certain intellectuals is merely comic. Conformism has always existed: what is involved today is a struggle between ‘two conformisms’, i.e. a struggle for hegemony, a crisis of civil society. The old intellectual and moral leaders of society feel the ground slipping from under their feet; they perceive that their ‘sermons’ have become precisely mere ‘sermons’, i.e., external to reality, pure form without any content, shades without a spirit. This is the reason for their reactionary and conservative tendencies; for the particular form of civilization, culture and morality which they represent is decomposing, and they loudly proclaim the death of all civilization, all culture, all morality; they call for repressive measures by the State, and constitute resistance groups cut off from the real historical process, thus prolonging the crisis, since the eclipse of a way of living and thinking cannot take place without a crisis. The representatives of the new order in gestation, on the other hand, inspired by ‘rationalist’ hatred for the old, propagate utopias and fanciful schemes. What is the point of reference for the new world in gestation? The world of production; work. The greatest utilitarianism must got to found any analysis of the moral and intellectual institutions to be created and of the principles to be propagated. Collective and individual life must be organized with a view to the maximum yield of the productive apparatus. The development of economic forces on new bases and the progressive installation of he new structure will heal the contradictions which cannot fail to exist, and when they have created a new ‘conformism’ from below, will permit new possibilities for self-discipline, i.e. for freedom, including that of the individual.” (Gramsci: Prison Notebooks 242)

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