A while ago I wrote something I tried to use a favourite Gramsci quote in, but the revision process made me take it out. So I tried to use it in something else, but it still wasn’t the right place. I copied it onto an electronic post it, just in case it came in useful for other than reminding myself what I’m doing when I write and try and help make a culture. I thought I might use it in a blog, but never seemed the right moment… until now.
Tom Shakespeare, who was my chair when I was at Arts Council England, North East, has just made a Radio 4 ‘Great Lives’ programme about Antonio Gramsci, the Italian communist and writer who I think about as one of the best left writers on culture. You can listen to Tom not quite persuading former Tory MP Matthew Parris here. You can also read a short biog on Tom’s excellent site our statures touch the skies, which features his short biographies of notable disabled people.
Anyway, here’s the quote, which when I read it made me think, yes, that’s one of the closest things I’ve read to how I think and feel about culture.
Culture is ‘organisation, discipline of one’s inner self, a coming to terms with one’s own personality; it is the attainment of a higher awareness, with the aid of which one succeeds in understanding one’s own historical value, one’s own function in life, one’s own rights and obligations’.
Maybe it’s me, but ‘coming to terms with one’s own personality’ feels far closer than some other ‘intrinsic’ descriptions for what reading and writing have helped me to do.
Anyway, now I can take down that post-it! (The Scritti Politti song above was my first introduction to Gramsci, to whom their name was a homage, and his key idea, hegemony. Oh the days when listening to John Peel and reading the NME was an intellectual education…)