Gramsci: The Understanding of HistoricityJune 26, 2021
Gramsci, like his early Marx, was a strong proponent of historiography. In his view, all meaning stemmed from the relationship between man’s practical activity (‘praxis’) and the ‘objective’ historical and social processes of which he was a part. Ideas cannot be understood apart from their functions and origins, apart from their social and historical content.
The concepts by which we organize our knowledge of the world are not fundamentally shaped by our relations with things, but rather by the social relations of those who use these concepts. After all, there is no such thing as ‘human nature’ that is unchanging, whereas there is such a historically changing notion. Moreover, philosophy and science do not ‘reflect’ a reality independent of man, but are ‘correct’ only to the extent that they actually express the true trend of development of a given historical situation.
The vast majority of Marxists believe in common that truth is true whenever and wherever it is known, and scientific knowledge (including Marxism) proliferates historically with the actual advancement of truth, and therefore they do not belong in the illusory realm of the superstructure. On the other hand, according to Gramsci, Marxism is “true” in the social pragmatic sense, that is, by vocalizing the class consciousness of the proletariat, it expressed the “truth” of its time much better than other theories.
This anti-scientific and anti-positivist stance was due to the influence of Benedetto Croce. However, Gramsci was a proponent of “absolute historiography”; this was a departure from the Hegelian and Croce’s tendency to make a metaphysical synthesis of idealistic thinking and historical ‘destiny’. Gramsci rejected accusations that the historical interpretation of truth is a form of relativism.