Study Guide

Antonio Gramsci Biography

Basic Information

Name

Antonio Gramsci

Nickname

Toni G, Marxist Martyr, Freedom Fighter, Culture Warrior, The Hunchback of the Italian Left

Sex

Male

Home town

I was born on Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian), an island off the coast of Italy, and I kept it real throughout my career, representing my fellow sardi even after I'd made my way to Rome. I died in the clink in Rome, detained by Mussolini's goons. They couldn't keep me down, though, hard as they tried: I wrote my most important work, my Prison Notebooks, while locked up.

Work & Education

Occupation

A jack of many trades—labor activist, journalist, outspoken Marxist theorist—I am most widely recognized as the author of a series of posthumously published writings called the Prison Notebooks. I penned these wide-ranging, freeform texts while in jail, addressing everything from language and politics to literature and history.

These sprawling texts have since been compiled in many editions and countless translations, which means my ideas have traveled far and wide, influencing union leaders and office-holding politicians as well as academics and armchair philosophers.

Education

I was trained as a linguist in Sardinia before making waves in Italy's rapidly industrializing urban centers. I made the most of my long and painful imprisonment by continuing my lifelong education there, reading up on Italian history and European philosophy. This makes me an example to incarcerated autodidacts everywhere.

Beliefs

Political views

I make the American far left look positively conservative. That's because things were different when I was around: people still thought changing the world was possible, and not merely through Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Capitalism hadn't yet triumphed, and my socialist comrades and I worked together to bring it down. Even during the dark years of management-friendly Fascism in Italy, it was possible to seek and find alternatives to capitalist rule—alternatives like the Soviet Union, which in my day, believe it or not, represented a beacon of hope for all of us leftists. But there I go again, waxing nostalgic…

Religious views

Like all tried-and-true Marxists, I'm an atheist through and through. I mean, come on, people. Religion: the opium of the people.

That said, I'm more sympathetic to folklore than many more traditional, hardline Marxists, who rail against superstition as a form of "false consciousness." Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, though—I think that folk practices, including religious practices, are important expressions of popular sentiment.

Seriously, in our rush to rid ourselves of the oppressive strictures of organized religion, we shouldn't dismiss all the resources that may still be available in genuinely popular kinds of worship and communal life. There's a lot of wisdom there, and it comes from the people.

Activities & Interests

Likes

The Proletariat
Popular Culture (but not of the Miley Cyrus variety)
Prison Education
Staying in School
Marx
Machiavelli

Dislikes

Dropping Out
Being Reactionary
Resisiting Change
Benedetto Croce
Optimism of the Intellect

Interests

Writing Longhand
Jailhouse Philosophy
Fomenting Revolution
Counter-Hegemonic Ideological Production

Groups

Marxism
Rad Radical Teachers
Pedagogues of the Oppressed
Renegade Philologists' Collective
Proletarian Dictators and Other Inheritors of the Earth
Prison Writers