We’re publishing an original essay today by Dr. Freddie Attenborough, a former academic and longtime contributor. This one, originally published on his Substack newsletter, is a corker. His question is this: Given the influential and widely-known work of Antonia Gramsci, which emphasis the importance of securing the consent of the masses to their exploitation by rapacious capitalits via soft cultural power, why have the Italian authorities done something – started to locking down the unvaccinated – that will almost certainly result in the alienation of vast swathes of the Italian population? Here is an extract:
It’s fair to say that Gramsci’s work – or at least, Gramsci’s style of thinking about the machinations of power – has proven enormously influential. In a sense, much of what now passes for social and political criticism is little more than a collective attempt to map the consequences of this form of cultural power to and for contemporary societies. We see the kernel of Gramsci’s idea, that same problematisation of culture, in Theodore Adorno’s work on the “culture industry”, Louis Althusser’s concept of “ideological state apparatuses”, Michel Foucault’s studies of “governmentality”, and Giles Deleuze’s thesis on “control societies”. In each case, we find the same conclusion, that to successfully govern complex, massified modern societies is not to thrash citizens to within an inch of their lives (the state riskily showing its hand), but, rather, to mould and shape those citizens into people who won’t ever need to be thrashed (the state remaining safely in the shadows).
It’s an idea that makes perfect sense, helping to explain a good deal about the way we live and, in particular, why it is that modern bureaucratic, rule-driven states have such unlikely, yet always intense, relationships with expressive, imagination-driven culture. Just stop and think for a moment about the gargantuan amount the Italian Government must surely spend each year on identifying, mentoring, supporting, funding, promoting, co-opting, subsidising, regulating, censoring and banning certain types of culture on the basis that each such cultural form might – or of course might not – help inculcate certain values, behaviours, habits, mores and beliefs within the hearts and minds of Italian citizens. Given everything you know about the type of person who tends to go into politics, the type of oddbod who ends up wheedling his way into positions of power, does it strike you as at all likely that that type of person would be doing any of this culture-work, going to all of this trouble, offering to help the creative and cultural industries, purely from the goodness of his proto-authoritarian little heart?
But now, of course, the Italian authorities have come up with their new ‘super green pass’. What exactly does it achieve? Effectively, to tell a goodish chunk of the Italian population – men, women, impressionable-and-as-yet-not-fully-socialised-children – to do what they want, fend for themselves, cry, and starve, because they’re filthy, they’re scum, and, frankly, they’re not wanted as active participants within mainstream state-sponsored Italian culture.
In light of what we know about Gramsci’s work, let’s just think about that for a moment, shall we? Disenfranchising people from their own national culture… alienating them from their friends, family and wider peer group… isolating them from society in general… and then telling them to go away and do whatever they want. Hmm.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I expect Mario Draghi or any of his technocractic, federal European fanatical ministers to sit around all day in oak-panelled seminar rooms sporting tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows, puffing on tobacco pipes and debating the finer points of post-structural philosophy’s uneasy relationship with Hegelian dialectics. It’s just that you’d like to think that someone, somewhere in the Italian government, might at some point during the design-phase of these green passes have queried whether a century’s worth of scholarly endeavour, in which the crucial role that inclusive, accessible, citizen-wide cultures have to play in stabilising advanced capitalist societies gets stressed repeatedly, should have been dismissed quite so casually as seems to have been the case.
Let’s not unfairly single out the Italian authorities, though. Their mistakes will no doubt soon be repeated by others – in Austria, for instance, or maybe in Germany or Greece or Australia or… well, everywhere in the end, one imagines. But if that is indeed the case, then in the years to come I fear for our relationship with those whom the authorities around the world are now starting to excommunicate from the sacraments and services of state-sanctioned, mainstream society. It is one of the more quixotic whims of the smug vaccinated classes to imagine that those whom they wish exiled from society, will simply lie down and cry themselves to death before the bin men come to take away their filthy, disease-ridden bodies and everyone can go back to living happily ever after. One suspects, very much to the contrary, that when the ex-communication happens, these people will know all too well what to do about it. New cultures will undoubtedly emerge; new forms of being, new ways of life… and, at the same time, of course, new forms of hatred.
This is very much worth reading in full.
And don’t forget to subscribe to Freddie’s Substack newsletter here.