Using Gramsci: A New Approach, translated by Patrick J. Barr, London: Pluto, 2016; 248 pp.: ISBN 0745335683, 14.99 [pounds sterling] (pbk)
Michele Filippini s book, Using Gramsci: A New Approach, translated by Patrick J. Barr, provides an intriguing reading of Gramscian thought. The author, former board member of the International Gramsci Society, and co-ordinator of the digital library gramsciproject.org, works on the history of political thought at the University of Bologna. Filippini sees contemporary society as subject to 'similar epochal changes' (p. 123) to those during Gramsci's lifetime. Hence, the author poses his book as a contribution to theory building in the social sciences, responding to increasing interest by scholars. Filippini understands Gramsci's writings as discourse rooted in the context of the political developments at his time, his imprisonment, his knowledge of theory and his readings of other scholars of early sociology. This contextualisation allows the author to make an account of Gramscian thought which can be used as a general, de-ideologised theoretical tool in the social sciences.
In 124 pages--plus 51 pages with notes, references and an index--Filippini reinterprets Gramsci by highlighting the implicit and explicit theoretical links to Gramsci's scholarly inspirations and contextualising it in Gramsci's personal and political experiences. This reinterpretation covers six themes (in six chapters) which the author identified as a common topic in contemporary social sciences and as a striking feature of Gramsci's work. The structure of the argument is well thought-through, with chapters building on each other and helpful cross-references guiding the reader. The chapters are in order of increasing complexity of argument: while the first chapter can be understood self-standing, subsequent chapters may be read individually by the knowledgeable scholar of Gramscian thought. However, they are not as easily digestible on their own, as terminology and concepts build up on previously discussed ideas.
The first chapter, Ideology, describes what may be considered the key elements of Gramscian thought: hegemony, philosophy, ideology and the historical bloc. It underlines the importance of historicity, complexity and truth in Gramsci's writings. The second chapter, titled The individual, assesses the individual in its structure, and the formation of both collective and individual identity in Gramscian thought is...