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3 The Relations of Forces Transcending the corporate phase A subordinate class can only become a hegemonic class by developing the capacity to win the support of other classes and social forces. It has to learn to go beyond sectional or corporate activities, when it is concerned only with its own immediate interests, and advance towards the hegemonic phase by taking into account the interests ofother classes and groups as well. The relation between two fundamental classes, feudal and capitalist, or capitalist and working class, has never been a simple one of opposition between two classes only, but a complex network of relations involving other classes, groups and social forces. Gramsci's principal note on the relations offorces (SPN 180-83) is one of the key passages in the Prison Notebooks. He begins with the proposition that the level ofdevelopment ofthe material forces of production provides the basis for the emergence of the various social classes, each one of which has a specific position within production itself. So far Gramsci is simply giving the classical Marxist definition of the emergence of a class. His distinctive contribution comes with his analysis of the relation of political forces. He takes the rise of the capitalist class as his example, and distinguishes between three phases in the development of collective political consciousness and organisation. The first two of these are economic-corporate (often shortened to corporate) while the third is hegemonic. 30 THE RELATIONS OF FORCES 1. The first and most elementary phase is when a tradesman feels obliged to stand by another tradesman, a manufacturer by another manufacturer, etc., but the tradesman does not yet feel solidarity with the manufacturer. The members of a professional group are conscious of their common interests and of the need to organise, but are not yet aware ofthe need to associate with other groups in the same class. 2. The second and more advanced phase is that in which consciousness is reached of the common interests of all the members of the class - but still purely in the economic field. Already at this juncture the problem of the state is posed, but only in terms of winning legal and political equality with the ruling group: 'the right is claimed to participate in legislation and administration, even to reform these - but within the existing fundamental structures.' 3. The third phase is that of hegemony, 'in which one becomes aware that one's own corporate interests, in their present and future development, transcend the corporate limits of the purely economic class, and can and must become the interests ofother subordinate groups too'. This is the most purely political phase. It is the phase in which previously germinated ideologies come into conflict until only one of them, or a combination of them, tends to prevail, bringing about a unity of economic, political, intellectual and moral aims, and 'posing all the questions around which the struggle rages not on a corporate but on a "universal" plane, and thus creating the hegemony of a fundamental social group over a series ofsubordinate groups: Gramsci illustrates the first two corporate phases from the experience of a rising capitalist class composed of traders and manufacturers. The development of the working class follows a similar path. The first and most elementary phase is the formation of trade unions to protect the economic interests of different groups and sections. The second phase is when consciousness is reached of the common interests ofall members of the working class, when the demand is made for legal and political equality, for legislation to protect trade union rights and 31 GRAMSCI'S POLITICAL THOUGHT. for the right to vote, but within the framework ofcapitalism. As the working class moves into the third, hegemonic phase in which it begins to challenge the hegemony ofthe capitalist class, more and more workers become aware of the need to take into account the interests ofother social groups and classes to find ways ofcombining their interests with those ofthe working class. They begin to develop a political consciousness in place ofa corporate consciousness (which Lenin called a 'trade-union consciousness'). In the passage just quoted, Gramsci places the emphasis on the role ofideological struggle - on intellectual and moral reform - in order to achieve a transformation ofthe outlook ofthe workers and also of the members of the other classes and groups whose allegiance is needed in order to build up the hegemony of the working class. Hence ideology acts as the 'cement' or cohesive force which...


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