Gramsci′s Common Sense

Inequality and Its Narratives

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 6 photographs Published: October 2016

Author: Kate Crehan

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

Acknowledged as one of the classics of twentieth-century Marxism, Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks contains a rich and nuanced theorization of class that provides insights that extend far beyond economic inequality. In Gramsci's Common Sense Kate Crehan offers new ways to understand the many forms that structural inequality can take, including in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Presupposing no previous knowledge of Gramsci on the part of the reader, she introduces the Prison Notebooks and provides an overview of Gramsci’s notions of subalternity, intellectuals, and common sense, putting them in relation to the work of thinkers such as Bourdieu, Arendt, Spivak, and Said. In the case studies of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, Crehan theorizes the complex relationships between the experience of inequality, exploitation, and oppression, as well as the construction of political narratives. Gramsci's Common Sense is an accessible and concise introduction to a key Marxist thinker whose works illuminate the increasing inequality in the twenty-first century.


"Kate Crehan’s new book on Antonio Gramsci’s work is an astute and accessible text that attempts to connect his ideas to current events in the United States. Staying true to the Gramscian spirit, Crehan spends the first four chapters contextualizing both his life and his work in order to show how his ideas evolved. Crehan then spends several chapters showing why these ideas remain useful in today’s world; as Gramsci would have wanted, knowledge should be used for social change, not for the sake of knowing alone. What is most striking about the book is the lucid and engaging way in which Crehan writes." — Sara Salem, Antipode

"[Crehan] offers a clear path for thinking about political world views on the American Left and Right that seem at odds with each other and with rational expectations. . . . Though providing a detailed interrogation of the historiography of Marxism and culture is not Crehan's main goal, her book is an excellent pathway into this rich scholarly tradition that brings into focus the intellectual underpinnings of the modern US 'moment of danger.' Recommended." — K. Killian, Choice

"Crehan has produced a felicitous and profound intervention that could inform our understanding of both intellectual and political change. In 2016, as a new senso comune begins to develop in an age of ‘post-truth’ politics, Gramsci’s ideas are more timely than ever." — Marcos González Hernando, LSE US Centre Blog

"Gramsci’s Common Sense: Inequality and Its Narratives, through its analysis of class, subalternity and intellectuals, extensively engages with the Prison Notebooks, offering new ways to describe the different practices that structural inequality can assume through race, gender, sexual orientation and religion in our globalised-capitalist society." — Mauro Di Lullo, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"It is because Crehan’s book is that good: that prescient, that well written, and that strong of an interpretation of Gramsci’s relevance for our times that it should be read across disciplines, by activists, politically engaged artists, filmmakers, and any cultural worker, critic, or analyst who finds themselves feeling cut off from the world at this point in our current conjuncture." — Robert Carley, Lateral

"An elegantly written and accessible examination of the meaning of concepts within Gramsci's notebooks." — Max Shock, Political Studies Review

"Crehan shows at every turn the interpretative, intellectual, and political relevance of Gramsci’s ideas to an understanding of the contemporary moment in and beyond the US." — Claudio Sopranzetti, Anthropological Quarterly

"The most positive aspect of [Crehan's] critical assessment of this rather difficult-to-understand author, especially for those reading him in English translation, is the lucidity of her text and her ability to make the reader understand even complex ideas in a direct fashion. . . . An important book for all who are attempting to understand inequality as a social phenomenon."  — Subhadra Mitra Channa, Anthropological Notebooks

"A welcome addition to the existing body of knowledge on the question of inequality and the experience of subaltern sections of the contemporary globalised world. . . . A must read reference for scholars and students of anthropology, sociology, tribal/indigenous studies, area studies and development studies." — Kasi Eswarappa, Capital & Class

"A remarkable contribution to the literature dedicated to the study of Antonio Gramsci’s theorization of subaltern classes and hegemony. . . . The book’s major achievement is to produce a political economy of class narratives depicted as contentious nexuses of political interest, popular knowledge, and civilian action. This work reiterates her position as an important authority within anthropology of Gramsci’s political and theoretical legacy and a critical scholarly interrogator of conjunctural and current modes of consent in the North Atlantic." — Christian Pacheco Gómez, Dialectical Anthropology

"This volume urges us to see an updated Gramsci as indispensable for anthropologists and a contemporary ethnography—that is, if the former want to struggle for transformation and if the latter aspires to become the main science for predicting the shape of the future. I highly recommend this book to anthropologists and social scientists, but also to those people who need new critical tools in order to deal with and to change unfair realities." — Giovanni Pizza, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Kate Crehan brings into bold relief the 'rich and nuanced approach to inequality' Antonio Gramsci developed in his Prison Notebooks. This, in turn, permits her to provide new and powerful insights into popular movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street and to demonstrate how and why inequality is much more than an economic phenomenon. Scholars have often turned to Gramsci to better understand mechanisms of power; Crehan now turns to Gramsci to illuminate how the dynamics of popular opinion and the movements they spawn may pose a threat to the established political order." — Joseph A. Buttigieg, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, University of Notre Dame

"With conceptual precision and sophistication, Kate Crehan's examination of subalternity, intellectuals, and common sense brings into focus the complex ways in which class inequality manifests itself in social life and everyday practices. An essential text in Gramscian studies, Gramsci's Common Sense will generate transdisciplinary interest across the humanities and social sciences and is of particular interest to Gramsci specialists across the globe." — Marcus E. Green, editor of Rethinking Gramsci


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kate Crehan is Professor Emerita, College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and the author of Community Art: An Anthropological Perspective and Gramsci, Culture, and Anthropology.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix

Abbreviations  xv

Part I. Subalternity, Intellectuals, and Common Sense

1. Subalternity  3

2. Intellectuals  18

3. Common Sense  43

4. What Subalterns Know  59

Part II. Case Studies

5. Adam Smith: A Bourgeois, Organic Intellectual?  81

6. The Common Sense of the Tea Party  118

7. Common Sense, Good Sense, and Occupy  146

Conclusion. Reading Gramsci in the Twenty-First Century  184

Bibliography  199

Index  207
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Winner, 2017 Giuseppe Sormani Prize, presented by The Fondazione Istituto Piemontese Antonio Gramsci

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6239-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6219-7
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