Journal of Romance Studies

The cultural and linguistic dimensions of hegemony: aspects of Gramsci’s debt to early Soviet cultural policy

Journal of Romance Studies (2012), 12, (3), 24–43.

Abstract

Gramsci spent almost two years living in Moscow in 1922–23 and 1925, where he was closely involved in the work of the Comintern as representative of the Italian Communist Party. While information on Gramsci’s time in Russia is still sketchy, we know that in addition to attending official events, he travelled to several Russian cities, including Petrograd, where he gave lectures. A trained linguist, Gramsci achieved a significant level of competence in Russian and was exposed to a wide range of political and intellectual debates where the cultural and linguistic dimensions of hegemony were central concerns. This pertained to questions of mass literacy, the standardization of languages and public discourse, the national question and questions of agitation and propaganda. The traces these debates left on Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks have not been subjected to adequate scrutiny. This article will discuss these points of contact and correspondence, delineating how Gramsci was able to preserve and develop some of the most important critical thinking on the question of hegemony in the 1930s, when in Russia this had been severely stifled by Stalinism.

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Brandist, Craig