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Information about the prison notebooks
On the publication of the “prison notebooks” in 2000. Very interesting!
Reviews of Gramsci’s Plan – Kant and the Enlightenment that have appeared in other media will be published here in the near future.
Individual reviews are welcome to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We reserve the right to publish them.
“Kant and the Enlightenment” is an interesting read even for philosophical laymen because …
– the philosophy of the Enlightenment is presented in comprehensible language and embedded in the 300-year struggle for liberation of the middle classes against feudalism,
– the importance of reason in our knowledge, in the sciences and in the democratic republic is elaborated on the basis of Kant’s writings,
– in times of threat with Kant’s philosophy a reassurance can be made regarding the foundations of the democratic republic and the worldwide spread of this form of government since the 1st French Republic,
– Kant’s “categorical imperative” must be reinterpreted as a fundamental political norm of the democratic republic, if his ethics is understood as a “German theory of the French Revolution” (Marx),
– countering the postmodern discrediting of the philosophy of history by placing the current struggle for the democratic republic in the context of Kant’s goal of history, which called for a democratically organized and federally unified humanity on the grounds of reason.
Reading sample: Gramsci’s Plan – Volume 1 – Kant and the Enlightenment 1500 to 1800
Volume 1 Chapter 1 “Gramsci’s Plan and the Legacy of Classical German Philosophy” is an introduction to the basic premises and issues of the “Prison Notebooks” and the author’s project. Chapter 2 “Kant and the Enlightenment 1500 to 1800” presents the struggle of the bourgeoisie against feudalism and, embedded in it, the development of Enlightenment philosophy from the Renaissance/Reformation to the French Revolution and Kant. The first volume is to be followed by others, the contents of which have been conceived and, on average, about 30 % of which have already been written. Volume 2 is 60% complete and, if the author’s working conditions remain the same, may be published in the third quarter of 2021. The preliminary planning is as follows:
Volume 1 (published)
Chapter 1 Gramsci’s Plan and the Legacy of German Classical Philosophy
Chapter 2 Kant and the Enlightenment 1500 to 1800 is published
Chapter 3 Hegel and the Dialectic 1800 to 1830
Chapter 4 Marx and the Upsetting of Hegelian Dialectics 1843 to 1883
Chapter 5 Marx and the Emancipation 1830 to 1848
Chapter 6 The Categorical Imperatives of Kant and Marx
Chapter 7 Marx, Engels and the Liberation of the Proletariat 1848 to 1883
Chapter 8 Darwin, Haeckel, Engels and the Dialectic 1850 to 1895
Chapter 9 Orthodox Marxism, Lenin and Materialism 1883 to 1914
Chapter 10 Lenin and the October Revolution in Russia 1917-1921
Chapter 11 Luxemburg and the November Revolution in Germany 1918-1921
Chapter 12 Gramsci and the Two Red Years in Italy 1919-1920
Chapter 13 Bukharin, Trotsky, Stalin and Lyssenko – Philosophy in the Soviet Union 1917−1938
Chapter 14 Gramsci and the Dialectic 1929 to 1935
Chapter 15 Gramsci and Bourgeois Hegemony 1929 to 1935
Chapter 16 The Everyday Mind and Dialectical Reason
Chapter 16 Gramsci’s Plan – What Should I Do?
Chapter 16 What Can I Hope For
“Gramsci’s Plan” will be understood as the philosophical effort that Gramsci undertook in prison. This comprises four parts:
- The Reconstruction of Marx’s Philosophy,
- the critique of Soviet philosophy and its precursors,
- the conceptual version of the hegemony of the bourgeois class as well as
- of the emancipation process of the subaltern classes within this hegemony.
The presentation of Gramsci’s thought along these four themes contains at the same time the core of his “philosophy of praxis”, which sees itself as a continuation of Marx’s philosophy in the 20th century and is opposed to the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism – more precisely: Stalinism – in every respect.
The reading of the relevant passages in Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks” revealed that Gramsci himself chose a classical order in the thematic arrangement of his philosophical thoughts. Gramsci took this order from the work of Immanuel Kant; it is formed by four questions. These questions are:
1. What can I know?
2. What should I do?
3. What can I hope for?
4. What is man?
Gramsci’s reflections in prison were ordered by his “plan” and these 4 questions. This creates a thread in the narrative that makes the unmanageably jagged philosophy, emptied of meaningful practice, accessible to lay people.
“Gramsci’s Plan” is conceived from the outset as a series of books that build on each other chronologically and factually. The series is to be concluded with Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks” under the question “What should I do?
The project “Gramsci’s Plan” digs deep – guided by the 1300 pages Gramsci wrote in prison. The first volume is dedicated to Kant. Gramsci’s reflections begin historically with the epoch of the Enlightenment, stretching from the Renaissance/Reformation to the French Revolution. The next volume is dedicated to Hegel, as whose disciple Marx called himself throughout his life.
Classical German philosophy is presented according to Gramsci’s notes -integrated into the historical drama in which it emerged. This would be, first of all, only a contribution to the history of philosophy in an exciting package. But the overarching intention of “Gramsci’s Plan” is to bring philosophy out of its academic isolation and back into the public debate. Philosophy is the discussion of our conceptions of our lives and our world.
Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, vol. 6, issue 11, § 12, p. 1375
One must destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is something very difficult due to the fact that it is the specific intellectual activity of a certain category of specialized scientists or professional and systematic philosophers. It is therefore necessary to show in advance that all men are ‘philosophers’ by defining the limits and the essential features of this ‘spontaneous philosophy’ which is peculiar to ‘everyone’ …”
Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, vol. 6, issue 10 (part 2), § 44, p. 1335/6
Therefore, it can be said that the historical personality of an individual philosopher is also given by the active relationship between him and the cultural environment that he wants to change, an environment that acts back on the philosopher and, forcing him to continuous self-criticism, acts as a ‘teacher’. Thus it has come about that one of the main demands of the modern intellectual strata in the political field has been that of the so-called ‘freedom of thought and speech (press and assembly)’, for only where there is this political condition does the teacher-pupil relationship in the broadest sense mentioned above materialize, and in fact a new type of philosopher, which can be called ‘democratic philosopher’, is realized ‘historically’, namely the philosopher who is convinced that his personality is not limited to his own physical individual, but is an active social relation of the change of the cultural environment. If the ‘thinker’ is satisfied with his own ‘subjectively’ free, i.e. abstractly free thinking, he challenges ridicule nowadays: for the unity of science and life is an active unity, in which the freedom of thought is realized for the first time, it is a relation of teacher-pupil, philosopher-cultural milieu, in which to work, from which the problems to be necessarily posed and solved are to be taken, that is, it is the relation philosophy-history.
From the author’s preface:
Almost no month goes by without hundreds of thousands of people in some nation protesting against a repressive regime and demanding a democratic republic. In the past 12 months, these protests have taken place primarily in Sudan, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Belarus, Thailand, but also as Black Lives Matter in the United States and around the world. I would like to take this opportunity to express my solidarity with all those who are risking their freedom, their physical integrity and their lives in the struggle for the democratic republic.
Fascist moments were evident in Trump’s policies from the beginning
Fascist moments were evident in the policies of Trump, his party, and his movement from the beginning: the attacks on the institutions of the democratic republic, the targeting of the critical press as “enemies of the people,” the practical support for white supremacy ideology and structural racism in the U.S., and finally the attempt to implement a herd immunity strategy in the pandemic, which is also referred to as an acceptable “natural selection” at German regulars’ tables (in German: Stammtische).
A first culmination took place on January 6, 2021, with the storming of the Capitol
The fascist moment in Trump’s politics was further charged by the rejection of the November 3, 2020 election results. This led to an initial culmination on January 7, 2021, when several thousand Trump supporters attempted to storm the Capitol to prevent the two chambers of the U.S. Parliament – Congress – from certifying the election results in a ceremonial event. The Stop the Steal campaign, which has been going on for several months, reached its climax that day. These events demonstrate the fragility of parliamentary democracies even in nations where such events previously seemed unthinkable. The declaration of a state of emergency and a military coup in the U.S. would have been a historic catastrophe of incalculable proportions.
How did a Communist Party leader, imprisoned under Mussolini, come to engage with Immanuel Kant, one of the most important German “idealist” philosophers? Gramsci, in his prison notebooks, examined a thought by Hegel, who had pointed out that Kant (1724-1804) had given philosophical form to the demands of the French revolutionaries – liberty, equality, fraternity. Marx had written in 1842 that Kant’s philosophy must rightly be regarded as the “German theory of the French Revolution.” Kant is better known for heavy-handed philosophical constructions such as the thing-in-itself and the categorical imperative. In his “Prison Notebooks,” Gramsci pursued a track that runs counter to all of Marxism-Leninism, better Stalinist philosophy. He conceived of Marx’s philosophy as a reform, a reworking of Hegelianism. Hegel, however, is inconceivable without his great predecessor Kant. Consequently, Gramsci saw in Kant’s philosophy the first annual ring of a new philosophy, that is, as the beginning of the Kant-Hegel-Marx line of philosophical development. Gramsci recognized in Kant the theoretician of that form of state which first emerged in the course of the French Revolution and today characterizes the global world of states: The democratic republic with political freedom and universal suffrage.
Why is a study of Kant and the foundations of the democratic republic important today? Because the last decade has seen a dramatic struggle for the democratic republic around the world, expressed in two opposing movements.
Over the past decade, political forces have been elected to office in democratic states in various nations, threatening democracy from within: Orban in Hungary in 2010, Erdogan in Turkey in 2014, Modi in India in 2014, Donald Trump in the U.S. in 2016, Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018. All 5 politicians are pursuing nationalistic policies against international cooperation externally and undermining democratic achievements in their respective nations internally. On top of that, Orban, Modi and the now voted out Trump have been agitating against refugees and using restrictive measures against people in need. Trump and Bolzonaro deny the climate crisis as well as the threat of the Covid 19 pandemic. All 5 government leaders rely significantly on certain religious milieus in their countries. A transition to fascist forms of rule cannot be ruled out. In February 2021, a military coup took place in Myanmar. The coup served the purpose of annulling the results of the November 2020 elections. The military’s representatives had performed very poorly in those elections. The coup, the bloody suppression of the opposition, and also the preceding persecution and expulsion of the Rohingya Muslim minority show how fragile the process of democratization can be.
The opposing movement began in 2011 with the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, the attempt to implement democracy and political freedom in the Arab states failed, with the exception of Tunisia. But even after the Arab Spring, almost not a month went by without hundreds of thousands of people in some nation around the world protesting against a repressive regime and demanding a democratic republic. In the past 12 months, these protests demanding “regime change” took place primarily in Sudan, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Belarus, and Thailand. In addition, there have been Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the U.S. and around the world, which at their core also call for a democratic republic, and one in which structural racism no longer exists.
Kant’s reason-law variant of the Enlightenment is unique in the history of philosophy. It is still so relevant today because, without religious and natural law additions, it justified the necessity of the democratic republic with the reason of all people. Its epistemology, its ethics and its philosophy of history are based on a central ability that is common to all human beings: the ability to use reason. According to Kant, and subsequently also in Hegel, reason forms the creative core of our intellectual activity, our world of thoughts, in which ideas arise. It enables us to transcend our previous thinking, to think new purposes, goals, relations and to invent means for their realization. It is expressed in the modern bourgeois sciences, in political self-determination in the democratic republic and in our everyday life, in our thinking and in our language.
Gramsci had the 300-year struggle of modern science against the dogmas of the Catholic Church begin in the “Prison Notebooks” during the Italian Renaissance. In particular, scientists in the Renaissance began to question the Roman Catholic Church’s scientific view of the world, in which the sun revolved around the earth. Kant, himself a scientist in the field of cosmology, was at the end of this development. He refuted all the proofs of the existence of God that were common at the time and outlined an epistemology based on reason and the doctrine of the concept. In times of the corona pandemic and the global climate crisis, we must rely more than ever on the sciences – or rather on the consensus reached in the sciences worldwide. Kant’s theory of the democratic republic is based on a central premise: the citizens of the republic must mutually recognize each other as rational beings. Reason is necessary to design laws in the democratic republic that regulate a being-ought. These laws determine the social norms and relations into the future. In making the laws, all ideas and opinions must be heard in a free debate and everyone participates with a voice in the democratic process. Humanity, according to Kant, should live under laws of its own making. More on this topic and on the ethical core of the democratic republic – the categorical imperative – in the book “Gramsci’s Plan – Kant and the Enlightenment”. Kant defended the 1st French Republic from 1792 to 1794 because it conformed to the principles he outlined. Fifty years later, Marx called democracy the solved riddle of all constitutions. In Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks,” Kant’s “German theory of the French Revolution” (Marx) becomes the basis for his theory of bourgeois hegemony in modern enlightened societies. Kant’s philosophical justification of the democratic republic is still the most appropriate today to ground the civil and human rights proclaimed before the French National Assembly in 1789, to provide society with a form of political development in which everyone has a voice and in which dissent is permanently enshrined as a principle of cognition.