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Gramsci and the Challenges for the Left: The Historical Bloc as a Strategic Concept

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Abstract

The historical bloc is one of the central concepts of Antonio Gramsci's theoretical elaboration in the Prison Notebooks. It is not a descriptive, nor an analytic, concept. It is a strategic concept. It does not refer to social alliances, but to the intersection between analysis and strategy, representing Gramsci's attempt to theorize the possibility of hegemony in its integral form, namely in the dialectical unity of structure and superstructures. Therefore, in terms of strategy, it implies that the struggle for hegemony is the struggle for a new historical bloc, namely an articulation of transition programs emanating from the collective struggle, ingenuity and experimentation of the subaltern classes, organizational forms, new political practices, and new political intellectualities. Consequently, it offers a way to rethink the strategic challenges that the left faces, in periods when questions of political power and hegemony are indeed becoming crucial.

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... I propose that the issue of hegemony should be seen as a complex intertwining of temporalities that cuts across individuals, social groups, and institutions, and is-according to Gramsci-multiple, stratified, and also affected by spatiality. This plural temporality is a process in which the ongoing results are not by accumulation but, on the contrary, by cross-negotiation with hegemonic apparatuses and intellectuals playing a pivotal role, and in which a "situated praxis" (Tosel, 2016) displays the dialectical drive toward "unity of the society," a critical and practical human activity (described by Gramsci as "the historical bloc"; see Sotiris, 2018). According to Anne Showstack Sassoon (2000), one of Gramsci's major contributions is the recognition of the importance of historical reflection as a precondition for expanding democracy and as the foundation for construction of a theoretical and political agenda, rather than using history merely to denounce the past. ...
... From this perspective hegemony, understood as a process, relates to history, understood as a form of situated praxis, and consists of a multiplicity of temporalities that are not deposited as successive stages of historical development but as a matrix of cultural and political cross-negotiations, in which hegemonic apparatuses and intellectuals play a dialectical role. The result of this activity is the "historical bloc" (Morfino, 2020;Sotiris, 2018). ...
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