Volume 41, 1998
Maurice A. Finocchiaro
Rethinking Gramsci’s Political Philosophy
This paper is a clarification and partial justification of a novel approach to the interpretation of Gramsci. My approach aims to avoid reductionism, intellectualism, and one-sidedness, as well as the traditional practice of conflating his political thought with his active political life. I focus on the political theory of the Prison Notebooks and compare it with that of Gaetano Mosca. I regard Mosca as a classic exponent of democratic elitism, according to which elitism and democracy are not opposed to each other but are rather mutually interdependent. Placing Gramsci in the same tradition, my documentation involves four key points. First, the Notebooks contain an explicit discussion of Mosca's ideas such that when Gramsci objects to a theoretical concept or principle, he often presupposes a common methodological orientation, and when he objects to a particular method or approach, he often presupposes a common theoretical view. Second, Gramsci accepts and gives as much importance to Mosca's fundamental principle that in all societies organized elites rule over the popular masses. Third, Gramsci accepts Mosca's distinctive theory of democracy defined as a relationship betwen elites and masses such that the elites are open to the influx of members from the masses. Finally, there is an emblematic practical political convergence btween the two: in 1925, both opposed a Fascist bill against Freemasonry. Although their rhetoric was different, their speeches exhibit astonishing substantive, conceptual and logical similarties.