GRAMSCI AMERICANISM AND FORDISM PDF

Yet, despite his isolation, he nevertheless succeeds in this essay in laying the ground work f or a persuasive analysis of trends in social and economic development which had passed by most of his active contemporaries and whose importance is only now becoming clear. The basic question Gramsci asks himself in Americanism and Fordism is this : were the changes taking place within the world of production at the time he was wTiting of such importance as to constitute the beginnings of a new historical epoch, or were they merely a con junction of events of no lasting significance? No definitive answer is off ered, nor could one be demanded, but it is rom the way he approaches the question, linking together clear f f eatures of the superstructures such as prohibition or the regulation of sexuality with changes in the socio-economic base, pro jecting each trend into the future as well as examining its roots in the past, that he regarded "Americanism" as a symptom of an historical development within the relations of production of the utmost importance, from which there could be no turning back. The f act that America had never known a feudal phase and was therefore free of parasitic residues of older modes of production has always intrigued European Marxists, ever since the days of Marx himself. In the early days of the S oviet Union much attention was paid to the American phenomenon, to the efficiency of American productive technique and even to the apparent democracy of American enterprise. For Grarnsci, the full-scale introduction of Americanism into Italy would have a different significance.

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Yet, despite his isolation, he nevertheless succeeds in this essay in laying the ground work f or a persuasive analysis of trends in social and economic development which had passed by most of his active contemporaries and whose importance is only now becoming clear.

The basic question Gramsci asks himself in Americanism and Fordism is this : were the changes taking place within the world of production at the time he was wTiting of such importance as to constitute the beginnings of a new historical epoch, or were they merely a con junction of events of no lasting significance?

No definitive answer is off ered, nor could one be demanded, but it is rom the way he approaches the question, linking together clear f f eatures of the superstructures such as prohibition or the regulation of sexuality with changes in the socio-economic base, pro jecting each trend into the future as well as examining its roots in the past, that he regarded "Americanism" as a symptom of an historical development within the relations of production of the utmost importance, from which there could be no turning back.

The f act that America had never known a feudal phase and was therefore free of parasitic residues of older modes of production has always intrigued European Marxists, ever since the days of Marx himself.

In the early days of the S oviet Union much attention was paid to the American phenomenon, to the efficiency of American productive technique and even to the apparent democracy of American enterprise. For Grarnsci, the full-scale introduction of Americanism into Italy would have a different significance.

It would represent a high point of capitalist development, the abolition of the last residues of feudalism. Opposition to Americanism, as he saw it, came mostly from back ward economic groups such as the "rural bourgeoisie" of petty landowners and their attendant parasites, but also from a reac tionary intelligentsia, stuffed with myths about its cultural heritage and unable to accept its own uselessness and impending super cession by more vital f orces.

The working class, by contrast, he saw as not opposed to Americanism as such, nor even to its attendant effects in social lif e, but rather to the specific f orm it would take in conditions of intensifed economic exploitation and authoritarian cultural repression. The victory of Americanism might also affect the political superstructures of fascism, now more and more embroiled since the Concordat with the Catholic Church, and increasingly tom between notions of a new order and a commitment to the most retrograde elements of culture and society.

An essential, though unspoken, premiss of Americanism and Fordism is that the revolutionary working-class movement was in a phase of retrenchment and defeat throughout the capitalist world.

In the absence of an antagonistic revolutionary f orce any changes taking place within the mode of production could at most constitute what Gramsci, here and elsewhere in the Quademi, terms a "passive revolution".

Changes would take place, leading to the suppression of certain contradictions. But new contradictions would appear in their place. Not the least of the merits of Americanism and Fordism lies in its recognition of the fluidity of the situation and the com plexity of the contradictions generated.

Although in general it f oresees a development, already prefigured in f ascist Italy, in the direction of a more achieved f orm of state monopoly capitalism, it emphatically rejects any undialectical pessimism and leaves open the question of how the contradictions that this new development of capitalism will bring about will themselves be contested in their tum.

A series of problems requires to be examined under the general and somewhat conventional heading "Americanism and Fordism". But first of all one should take account of the basic fact that s olutions to these problems must necessarily be put forward within the con tradictory conditions of modern society, which create complications, absurd positions, and moral and economic crises often tending towards catastrophe.

In generic terms one could say that Americanism and Fordism derive from an inherent necessity to achieve the organisation of a planned economy, and that the various problems examined here should be the links of the chain marking the passage from the old economic individualism to the planned economy. Problems arise f rom the various forms of resistance to this evolution encountered by the process of development, the source of the problems being difficulties inherent in both the societas rerum and the societas.

But resistance is also offered by certain sectors of the dominant forces, or at least by f orces which are allied to those which are dominant.

Prohibition, which in the United States was a necessary condition f or developing a new type of worker suitable to "Fordised" industry, has f ailed as a result of the opposition ofmarginal and still backward f orces and certainly not because of the opposition of either the industrialists or the workers etc.

A catalogue of some of the essentially most important or interest ing problems, even if at first sight they do not appear to be in the foref ront : I. The replacement of the present plutocratic stratum by a new mechanism of accumulation and distribution of finance capital based directly on industrial production.

The question of sex. The question of whether Americanism can constitute an historical "epoch", that is, whether it can determine a gradual evolution of the same type as the "passive revolution" examined 1. The question of the "rationalisation" of the demographic composition of Europe.

The question of whether this evolution must have its starting point within the industrial and productive world, or whether it can corne f rom the outside, through the cautious but massive construction of a formal juridical arm which can guide f rom the outside the necessary evolution of the productive apparatus. The question of the so-called "high wages" paid by Fordised and rationalised industry. Fordism as the ultimate stage in the process of progressive attempts by industry to overcome the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to f all.

Psychoanalysis and its enormous diffusion since the war, as the expression of the increased moral coercion exercised by the apparatus of State and society on single individuals, and of the pathological crisis determined by this coercion. Rotary Clubs and Free Masonry. In Europe the various attempts which have been made to introduce certain aspects of Americanism and Fordism have been due to the old plutocratic stratum which would like to reconcile what, until proved to the contrary, appear to be irreconcilables : on the one hand the old, anachronistic, demographic social structure of Europe, and on the other hand an ultra-modern f orm of production 2 "Passive revolution.

See Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Chaps. As the rate of exploitation rises the rate of proft tends to rise, but as the organic composition of capital rises the rate of proft tends to fall. In Capital, Vol. III, Marx argues that the long-run tendency of capitalist accumulation is to raise the organic composition of capital to such an extent that the rate of profit will fall even if the rate of exploitation is rising. Attempts to overcome the tendency require therefore a very considerable rise in the rate of exploitation, which Gramsci sees as happening through "Fordist" methods of intensification and rationalisation of labour.

For this reason, the introduction of Fordism encounters so much "intellectual" and "moral" resistance, and takes place in par ticularly brutal and insidious forms, and by means of the most extreme coercion. To put it crudely, Europe would like to have a f ull barrel and a drunken wife, to have all the benefi ts which Fordism brings to its competitive power while retaining its army of parasites who, by consuming vast sums of surplus value, aggravate initial costs and reduce competitive power on the international market.

The reaction of Europe to Americanism merits, therefore, close examination. From its analysis can be derived more than one element necessary for the understanding of the present situation of a number of states in the old world and the political events of the post-war period. Americanism, in its most developed form, requires a preliminary con dition which has not attracted the attention of the American writers who have treated the problems arising from it, since in America it exists quite "naturally".

This condition could be called "a rational demographic composition" and consists in the f act that there do not exist numerous classes with no essential f unction in the world of production, in other words classes which are purely parasitic.

European "tradition", European "civilisation", is, conversely, characterised precisely by the existence of such classes, created by the "richness" and " complexity" of past history. This past history has left behind a heap of passive sedimentations produced by the phenomenon of the saturation and fossilisation of civil-service personnel and intellectuals, of clergy and landowners, piratical commerce and the prof essional and later conscript, but f or the officers always professional army.

One could even say that the more historic a nation the more numerous and burdensome are these sedimentations of idle and useless masses living on "their ancestral patrimony", pensioners of economic history. Statistics of these economically passive elements in a social sense are very hard to work out because it is impossible to find a "heading" under which they can be defined for the purposes of immediate research.

But useful indications can be derived indirectly, f or example, from the existence of specific forms of national life. The considerable number of large, medium-sized or even small agglomerations of an urban type with no industry with no f actories is one such indication and one of the most significant. On the so-called "mystery of Naples" : it is worth recalling the. But the question consists in examining the actual result of their industry.

I t is not in itself productive, nor is it directed towards satisf ying the needs and demands of the productive classes. Naples is the city where the majority of Southern landowners, whether members of the rom their estates.

Around some nobility or not, spend the income f tens of thousands of these landowning families, of greater or lesser importance, together with their immediate retinues of servants and lackeys, is organised the practical life of a large part of the city, its artisanal industries, its itinerant trades and the incredible way in which the immediate supply of goods and services is split up among the multitude of layabouts who hang around the streets.

Another important part of the city is organised around transport and the wholesale trade, "Productive" industry, in the sense of one that creates and accumulates new goods, is relatively small despite the fact that in the official statistics Naples is classified as the fourth industrial city of Italy, after Milan, Turin and Genoa.

This socio-economic structure of Naples on which it is now possible to have reasonably exact information, thanks to the activi ties of the provincial councils of the corporate economy 6 explains a great deal of the history of the city of Naples, so full of apparent contradictions and thorny political problems.

The "conclusions" drawn by Giustino Fortunato 1 1 , a noted "meridionalist" intellectual and politician, are to be found in Fortunato's translation of the Neapolitan section Lettere da Napoli, di VolJ gango Goethe, tradotte da GF, Naples, 1 9 1 7. S Corporate here is more or less a synonym or euphemism f or fascist, the Italian economy having been organised f rom in "Corporations", including labour corporations which effectively took the place of the trade unions.

Needless to say the form the corporate economy took under Mussolini, particularly after , was not altogether that intended by the movement's non-fascist originators.

Naples is repeated on a large scale in Palermo and Rome, and also in a number of cities the f amous hundred cities 7 not only in Southern Italy and the islands, but in Central and even in Northern Italy Bologna, to a certain extent, Parma, Ferrara, etc.

For much of the population of cities of this type, one can recall the proverb : "Where a horse shits a hundred sparrows f eed.

This is the most hideous and unhealthy means of capital accumulation, because it is f ounded on the iniquitous usurial exploitation of a peasantry kept on the verge of malnutrition, and because it is inordinately expensive, since the small saving of capital is off set by the incredible expenditure which is often necessary to maintain a high standard of living f or such a great mass of absolute parasites.

The historical phenomenon whereby, in the Italian peninsula, since the fall of the mediaeval Communes and the decline of the spirit of capitalist initiative among the urban bourgeoisie, this abnormal and stagnation-creating situation has grown up, wave by wave, has been described by the historian Niccolo Rodolico as a. Another source of absolute parasitism has always been the State administration. Renato Spaventa has reckoned that in Italy one tenth of the population four million inhabitants live off the state budget.

Even today it happens that men who are still relatively young, not much above f orty, in excellent health and at the height of their physical and intellectual capacities, after twenty-five years of state service cease to devote themselves to any productive activity 7 "Hundred Cities". See note 61 on p. However, a worker can only enjoy his pension f rom the age of sixty-five, and for a peasant there is no limit to the age up to which he may continue to work.

One result of this is that the average Italian is surprised when he hears it said that an American mul ti-millionaire continues to be active right up to the last day of his conscious life. If in any f amily a priest becomes a canon, immediately, f or the entire clan, "manual labour" becomes a "disgrace" : the most one should do is to engage in commerce.

The composition had already been rendered "unhealthy" by long. The relationship between "poten tially" active and passve population was one of the most unfavour able in Europe. Endemic diseases malaria, etc.

The chronic state of malnutrition of many of the lower strata of the peasantry as documented in the researches of Professor Mario Camis published in La Riforma Sociale in 1 The endemic unemployment which exists in a number of agricultural regions and does not figure in official reports.

The really remarkable segment of the population which is absolutely parasitic and which requires f or its service the labour of another immense and indirectly parasitic mass ; and the semi parasitic segment, which is so because it multiplies to an abnormal and unhealthy degree subordinate economic activities like commerce and intermediary functions in general.

Camis, Intomo aUe condizioni economiche del popolo italiano. This situation is not unique to Italy ; to a greater or lesser extent it exists also in all countries of Old Europe and it exists in an even orm in India and China, which explains the historical worse f stagnation of those countries and their politico-military impo tence.

In the examination of this problem, what is immediately in question is not the form of economico-social organisation, but the rationality of the proportional relationships between the various sectors of the population in the existing social system.

Every system has its own law of fixed proportions 9 in its demographic composition, its own "optimum" equilibrium and forms of disequilibrium which, if not redressed, by appropriate legislation, can be catastrophic in themselves in that, apart f rom any other disintegrative element, they dry up the sources of economic life. America does not have "great historical and cultural traditions" ; but neither does it have this leaden burden to support.

This is one of the main reasons and certainly more important than its so-called natural wealth for its formidable accumulation of capital which has taken place in spite of the superior living standard enjoyed by the popular classes compared with Europe.

The non-existence of viscous parasitic sedimentations left behind by past phases of history has allowed industry, and commerce in particular, to develop on a sound basis. It also allows a continual reduction of the economic f unction of transport and trade to the level of a genuinely subaltern activity of production. Indeed, it has led to the attempt to absorb these activities into productive activity itself. Recall here the experiments conducted by Ford and to the economies made by his frm through direct management of transport and distribution of the product.

These economies affected production costs and per mitted higher wages and lower selling prices. Since these pre liminary conditions existed, already rendered rational by historical evolution, it was relatively easy to rationalise production and labour by a skilful combination of force destruction of working class trade unionism on a territorial basis and persuasion high wages, various social benefits, extremely subtle ideological and political propaganda and thus succeed in making the whole life of the nation revolve around production.

Hegemony here is born in the f actory and requires for its exercise only a minute quantity of professional political and ideological intermediaries. The pheno menon of the "masses" which so struck Romier10 is nothing but 8 "Fixed proportions. Rotary Clubs and Free Masonry: Rotary is a Free Masonry without the petits bourgeois and without the petit-bourgois mentality.

Attempts to introduce the YMCA into Italy ; help given by Italian industry to these attempts financial aid f rom Agnelli and the violent reactions of the Catholics ; Agnelli's attempts to absorb the Ordine Nuovo groupll which upheld its own type of "Americanism" in a form acceptable to the workers. In America rationalisation has determined the need to elaborate a new type of man suited to the new type of work and productive process. This elaboration is still only in its initial phase and therefore apparently still idyllic.

It is still at the stage of psycho-physical adaptation to the new industrial structure, aimed f or through high wages. Up to the present until the 1 9 2 9 crash there has not been, except perhaps sporadically, any flowering of the "superstructure".

In other words, the fundamental question of hegemony has not yet been posed.

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Gramsci Americanism and Fordism

Fordism is the basis of modern economic and social systems in industrialized, standardized mass production and mass consumption. The concept is named for Henry Ford. It is used in social , economic , and management theory about production , working conditions , consumption , and related phenomena, especially regarding the 20th century. Fordism is "the eponymous manufacturing system designed to spew out standardized, low-cost goods and afford its workers decent enough wages to buy them. Major success stemmed from three major principles:. The principles, coupled with a technological revolution during Henry Ford's time, allowed for his revolutionary form of labor to flourish.

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Gramsci's discussion of Fordism constitutes one of his rare extended interrogations of hegemony and historic blocs outside of Italy, dealing as it does with impact of US ascendancy and American production methods on post-WWI Europe. There are parts of the analysis, concerning the regulation of the sexual instinct, which seem odd out of context, or perhaps even passe. But, though it would seem to have only conjunctural relevance, dealing with America's move toward a planned economy during the Great Depression, several aspects of the analysis are of enduring significance, not least because of the methodology they imply. The basis of Gramsci's analysis was that Fordism represented potentially a new industrial-productive historical bloc. As an attempt to rationalise production and resolve the dilemmas of capitalism particularly its crisis-prone nature within the constraints of capitalism itself, it potentially represented a 'passive revolution' that would usher in modernization without violent social struggles.

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Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Sign me up! In , while imprisoned by the Italian fascist government, Antonio Gramsci began to write about the nature of Americanism and Fordism and its potential future in Italy. Reduced to a 10th of their former number, Mirafiori workers voted percent early this year to forsake some of their most sacred benefits. Ten-minute breaks were carved back from four a day to three, for instance, and management got the right to impose overtime whenever it wants.

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