Antonio Gramsci Biography

(Italian Philosopher Best Known for His Theory of 'Cultural Hegemony')

Birthday: January 22, 1891 (Aquarius)

Born In: Ales, Italy

Antonio Gramsci was as an Italian communist politician and Marxist philosopher. He is best remembered for his theory on cultural hegemony through which he described how the sociologically-defined capitalist class ‘bourgeoisie’ used cultural organizations to maintain its power. Regarded as a key neo-Marxist, he was a leader of the Communist Party of Italy and wrote over 30 notebooks covering topics such as Italian history and nationalism, fascism, and the French Revolution, to name a few. Born in Ales, Sardinia, as one of the seven sons to a low-level official, Gramsci abandoned schooling and took several casual jobs after the arrest of his father. As a boy, he suffered a malformation of the spine that contributed to his stunted growth. In 1911, he started studying literature and linguistics at the University of Turin. During World War I, Gramsci joined the Socialist Party and became a leading theoretician. He encouraged the formation of factory councils and later formed the Communist Party of Italy which led to his arrest in 1926 by Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime. However, Gramsci was later released in 1934 because of his deteriorating health. A combination of arteriosclerosis, angina, pulmonary tuberculosis, gout and acute gastric disorders eventually led to his death in 1937, at the age of 46.

Quick Facts

Italian Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Antonio Francesco Gramsci

Died At Age: 46


Spouse/Ex-: Julia Schucht (m. 1923)

father: Francesco Gramsci

mother: Giuseppina Marcias

Born Country: Italy

Linguists Journalists

Died on: April 27, 1937

place of death: Rome, Italy

Diseases & Disabilities: Gastric, High BP, Tuberculosis, Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Gout, Arteriosclerosis

Cause of Death: Detention

Ancestry: Albanian Italian

Ideology: Communists

Notable Alumni: University Of Turin

Founder/Co-Founder: Italian Communist Party

More Facts

education: University Of Turin

Childhood & Early Life
Antonio Gramsci was born on 22 January 1891, in Ales, Sardinia, Kingdom of Italy, to Francesco Gramsci and Giuseppina Marcias.
In 1898, his father was convicted of fraud and imprisoned. After this, Gramsci abandoned schooling and worked at casual jobs to support his family.
As a child, he suffered from many medical disorders that prevailed throughout his life. After his secondary school education in Cagliari, Gramsci enrolled at the University of Turin in 1911.
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Stint at the University of Turin
During Antonio Gramsci’s time at Turin, trade unions became established and the industrial social clashes began to emerge.
In 1913, Gramsci joined the Italian Socialist Party. At the age of 24, he abandoned his education. However, he had become extremely knowledgeable in matters of history and philosophy by this time.
His works for various socialist newspapers, including ‘Il Grido del Popolo,’ made him a notable journalist in the mid-1910s. In 1916, Gramsci became a co-editor of the newspaper ‘Avanti.’
In August 1917, he was elected to the social party's Provisional Committee and was also made an editor of ‘Il Grido del Popolo,’ thus making him one of Turin's leading socialists.
Gramsci founded the newspaper ‘L'Ordine Nuovo’ alongside Angelo Tasca, Umberto Terracini, and Palmiro Togliatti in 1919. During his time with the Socialist Party, he advocated workers' councils that were formed during the major strikes that occurred between 1919 and 1920.
Formation of the Communist Party of Italy
On 21 January 1921, Antonio Gramsci founded the Communist Party of Italy aka PCI after the workers' councils failed to develop into a national movement.
During his tenure with the party, he opposed left communist Amadeo Bordiga and supported the anti-fascist group Arditi del Popolo which struggled against the Blackshirts.
In late 1922 and early 1923, most of the PCI leaders, including Bordiga, were arrested by Benito Mussolini's government. During this time, Gramsci travelled to Vienna where he strived to re-establish a party torn by factional conflict.
In 1924, Gramsci, who was now recognized as the leader of the PCI, organized the launch of his party’s official newspaper ‘L'Unita.’
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Literary Works
From 1910 to 1926, Antonio Gramsci published several articles and essays including, 'Newspapers and the Workers', ‘The Revolution Against Capital', 'The Price of History', 'Workers and Peasants', and 'Revolutionaries and Elections.'
During his time in prison from 1929 to 1935, he wrote a series of essays titled ‘Prison Notebooks’ where he covered a wide range of topics like fascism, civil society, the French Revolution, and others. These notebooks were, however, not published until the 1950s.
Philosophical Works
Antonio Gramsci expanded the Marxist theory via the usage of the term “hegemony” and used it to describe how the bourgeoisie, the ruling capitalist class, establishes and maintains its power.
In his theory, he viewed the state as a tool of domination that symbolizes the interests of the capitalists and the ruling class. Gramsci critiqued the role of modern intellectuals who facilitated cultural hegemony through education and media.
He advocated the creation of a working-class culture that could develop working-class intellectuals who would revamp the existing intellectual activity of people and reflect their world views.
Additionally, Gramsci advocated for a “war of position” in order to have a victorious revolution without the danger of degeneration and counter-revolution.
He was an emphatic proponent of historicism and believed the worldly concepts do not derive from our relation to universal things but rather from the social associations between the bearers of the concepts.
Gramsci also critiqued economism by explaining how Italian trade unionists settled for a reformist approach and refused to struggle both on the political and economic fronts. He felt if the ruling class could foresee its own economic welfare in restructuring the forms of its hegemony, the labor class should also be able to present its own interests in accordance with the advancement of society.
Family & Personal Life
Antonio Gramsci had six brothers, including his elder brother Gennaro. He also had a few sisters, one of them being his younger sister Teresina.
In 1922, Gramsci travelled to Russia where he met Julia Schucht, a violinist, whom he married a year later. They had two sons, Delio and Giuliano. He never saw his younger son.
Imprisonment & Death
On 9 November 1926, Antonio Gramsci was arrested by the Fascist government during its operation of stamping out opposition politics. He eventually received a 20-year imprisonment.
After spending 11 years in jail, he was moved to a clinic at Formia due to his ill health. By the time of his release, he had developed high blood pressure, pulmonary tuberculosis, arteriosclerosis, and many other diseases.
Gramsci died on 27 April 1937, at the relatively young age of 46. His ashes are buried in the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome.

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