Marxism and Philosophy: The Italian debate and its International Effects

a) The trajectory of Italian Marxism within the international Marxist discussion

The rethinking of the theoretical basis of “historical” Marxism is taking place today both through new critical ruptures and through the “molecular” reinterpretation of the most advanced areas of the past framework. But what are the main theoretical and practical problems that affected the Marxism of the twentieth century? The case of Italian Marxism, in all of its multiple and often contradictory branches, is particularly appropriate for understanding the nature of these problems. It reached its most relevant achievements when it approached the question of the relation with the “theoretical” and political universality as its most urgent and crucial question. In this regard, the Gramscian lesson was, of course, decisive, but if one examines the main currents of Italian Marxism it is easy to realise that Gramsci was not the only one to move along this direction. Operaismo, too, for example, because of the importance it attributed to the nature of the State and to the forms of the class subjectivity, can be located within this frame. Another index of this phenomenon is constituted by Italian Marxism’s ability to establish a dialogue with all the fundamental philosophical currents produced by bourgeois culture in the postwar period.

b) Philosophy and Marxism from the vantage point of the Italian Marxist research

One of the reasons for the dialogue in Italy between Marxism and bourgeois philosophy has been the research, also typical of other Marxist traditions, into the possibility of a “Marxist” philosophy. This is a crucial question even today, considering the impasse of the debate and the unsatisfactory character of those “solutions” which try to eliminate it altogether. On the other hand, it is necessary to underline that one cannot understand the history of Marxism, or of Marxisms, by putting aside the vicissitudes of the workers movement, of the so-called “Real Socialism” and of anti-colonial and liberation struggles This does not imply that “Marxist” philosophy, however understood, has been a mere “reflex” of political struggles. What is at stake is the re-articulation of the nexus between theory and praxis, philosophy and politics. But this task cannot be accomplished in an abstract and ahistorical way, outside the demands of the present. To talk about a “specificity” of Italian Marxism is therefore possible only by taking into consideration that there are or have been in Italy very differentiated political and theoretical perspectives, and it would be misleading to treat the question in “national” terms, without grasping the persistent interaction of the Italian Marxist debate with the European and international one.



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