Gender and Behaviour

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The relevance of antonio gramsci’s concept of hegemony to apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa

Pravina Pillay


This paper focuses on the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and the relevance of his concept of hegemony to South Africa. Gramsci’s writings have a strong Italian resonance. This paper emphasises parallels as well as differences between the Italian and South African contexts to demonstrate that his theory of hegemony can be successfully applied to apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa – even though this theory was originally designed to fit the turbulent Italy of Gramsci’s own time. The argument proceeds through a rigorous textual analysis of both Gramsci’s pre-prison and prison writings as well as the works of various commentators on Gramsci. Through interpreting, assessing and analysing Gramsci’s writings and those of commentators, it becomes evident that underpinning all of Gramsci’s activities and writings on hegemony is a vision for an improved society in Italy, a proletarian state in which the masses were no longer exploited by other social classes. This paper uses this vision to reflect on past and present South African political and social landscapes, exploring in the process how Gramsci’s thoughts on hegemony can be used both to illuminate the problems inherent in apartheid South Africa and to redress the growing inequities in post-apartheid South Africa. This paper contributes to the growing reputation of Gramsci’s works as textbooks for promoting and achieving a better society, free from all forms of exploitation

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