The strange afterlife of Antonio Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks”

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“FOR 20 years we must stop this brain from functioning,” intoned the prosecutor at Antonio Gramsci’s trial in 1926. Benito Mussolini’s nascent fascist regime (at that point only two years in power) had decided that Gramsci, a prolific journalist and high-ranking communist, was a danger to the state. Yet despite the courtroom declaration, Gramsci was allowed to write during his incarceration. The result was the “Prison Notebooks”, a wide-ranging collection of musings that have gone on to have a strikingly diverse and enduring influence. Their story is explored at the Italian Cultural Institute in London, which is putting the original notebooks on display for the first time outside of Italy.

Gramsci’s legacy is an unusual one for a Marxist political theorist, in that people of many different political stripes have made use of his writings in the years since his death in 1937. His ideas underpinned one of…Continue reading

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