Antonio Gramsci’s Theory of the Civil Society

  • Andrea Mubi Brighenti
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer Reference Sozialwissenschaften book series (SRS)


This article focuses on one relatively under-researched notion in Gramsci’s cultural theory, namely the notion of civil society. Civil society is a direct expression of hegemony, which Gramsci famously theorised as a pattern of established power relations among social groups in a given historical political situation. In Gramsci’s view, hegemony is not simply a matter of domination because it also requires “direction”, that is, headship or consensual leadership. With Gramsci, hegemony stretches beyond the pure “economic-corporative” level, being supplemented by a veritable “ethical-political” layer. In this context, the civil society features simultaneously an object of conquest, a battlefield among different social and political groups, and the outcome of a given configuration of forces in a specific historic context. Civil society is also intimately linked to the production, circulation and consumption of discourses and myths; its constitution, in other words, is ideological. Gramsci took ideology seriously arguing that, to become operative, critical ideas must make their way into in people’s everyday existence. As a consequence, common sense – the domain of ideas and discourses as they exist in the everyday – emerges as the real battlefield for any political project.


Civil Society Hegemony Corporatism Ideology Culture Intellectuals Common Sense Liberalism Neoliberalism Voluntarism VS Determinism 


  1. Arendt, Hannah. 1970. On violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.Google Scholar
  2. Foucault, Michel. 2004. Naissance de la biopolitique. Cours au Collège de France 1978–1979. Paris: EHESS/Gallimard/Seuil.Google Scholar
  3. Foucault, M. 2012. Du Gouvernement des vivants. Cours au Collège de France 1979–1980. Paris: EHESS/Gallimard/Seuil.Google Scholar
  4. Gramsci, A. 1961 [1923–26]. La costruzione del Partito comunista. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  5. Gramsci, A. 1965 [1926–37]. Lettere dal carcere, ed. Sergio Caprioglio and Elsa Fubini. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  6. Gramsci, A. 1966 [1921–22]. Socialismo e fascismo. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  7. Gramsci, A. 1967–73 [1916–26]. Scritti politici, 3 Vols. Roma: Editori riuniti.Google Scholar
  8. Gramsci, A. 1975 [1929–35]. Quaderni del carcere, 4 Vols, ed. Valentino Gerratana. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  9. Gramsci, A. 1980 [1913–17]. Cronache torinesi, ed. Sergio Caprioglio. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  10. Gramsci, A. 1982 [1917–18]. La città futura, ed. Sergio Caprioglio. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  11. Gramsci, A. 1984 [1918–19]. Il nostro Marx, ed. Sergio Caprioglio. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  12. Gramsci, A. 1987 [1919–20]. L’Ordine nuovo, ed. Valentino Gerratana and Antonio Santucci. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  13. Gramsci, A. 1992 [1908–1926]. Lettere, ed Antonio A. Santucci. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca SocialeUniversità di TrentoTrentoItalien

Personalised recommendations