Gramsci as a Spatial Theorist

Bob Jessop
2005 Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy  
A BSTRACT Antonio Gramsci's philosophy of praxis is characterised by the spatialisation as well as historicisation of its analytical categories. These theoretical practices are deeply intertwined in his 'absolute historicism'. Highlighting the spatiality of Gramsci's analysis not only enables us to recover the many geographical themes in his work but also provides a useful counterweight to the emphasis on the historical dimensions of his historicism. In addition to obvious references to
more » ... ferences to Gramsci's use of spatial metaphors and his discussion of the Southern Question, it is shown that many of his key concepts are best interpreted from a spatio-temporal as well as social and material perspective. After introducing the concepts of space, place and scale, the essay shows that all three are relevant to Gramsci's analyses of issues such as language, the historical significance of the Catholic Church, the role of intellectuals, cosmopolitanism, class and class struggle, Americanism and Fordism, the nature of the Italian state, the social bases of state power, Jacobinism, passive revolution and hegemony. The essay concludes that Gramsci's interest in place, space and scale was not merely academic but had to do with his analysis of revolutionary conjunctures. K EY W ORDS : Gramsci, space, place, scale, absolute historicism, International Relations, state power This essay argues that Gramsci's philosophy of praxis involves not only the historicisation but also the spatialisation of its analytical categories. These theoretical practices are deeply intertwined in his 'absolute historicism'. This argument is useful not only because Gramsci regularly explores geographical themes but also because 'bending the stick in the other direction' enriches our understanding of his overall approach. I do not claim that Gramsci was a geographer manqué or was more a geographer than historian. These are disciplinary questions inappropriate to the pre-disciplinary traditions of Italian philosophy and historical materialism and to the political agenda of Italian state formation. Conversely, while it is certainly appropriate to consider, like Said (2001), 1 the import of Gramsci's familiar spatial metaphors, it would be misleading to focus exclusively on these here. For this would divert attention from Gramsci's less obvious but more significant analyses of the inherent spatiality as well as temporality of social relations. This approach has
doi:10.1080/13698230500204931 fatcat:cztkalgfr5g5viv7jawe67odtm