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Gramsci and Ancient Philosophy: Prelude to a Study.

Horky, Phillip Sidney (2021) 'Gramsci and Ancient Philosophy: Prelude to a Study.', in Antonio Gramsci and the Ancient World. London: Routledge, pp. 86-100. Routledge Monographs Classical Studies.


This chapter investigates the precise ways in which Antonio Gramsci engaged with ancient philosophy. A brief examination of the longest discussion in the Prison Notebooks of any ancient philosopher or text, Plato's Republic (Q8§22), raises many questions about Gramsci's approach to ancient philosophy. These questions motivate an investigation into Gramsci's surprisingly minimal discussion of ancient philosophy and philosophers, which is best explained in the light of his theoretical commitments to his distinctive species of historical materialism. Rather than responding to specific critical insights advanced about politics or human nature by ancient philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, Gramsci is shown to appropriate ancient philosophy into a broad-spectrum project of the history of philosophy, which interrogates the specific conditions under which historical epochs and the philosophical ideas that characterise them emerge. Tracking the conditions and characteristic ideas is revealed to be the project of the ‘specialist philosopher’, who must grasp both general methodological principles and particular historical examples. Gramsci's treatment of ancient philosophy reveals more about his universal theories of history, and his engagement with the ideas of his contemporaries (including Benedetto Croce), than a special concern with ancient philosophy itself.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 15 December 2022.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Antonio Gramsci and the Ancient World on June 15 2021, available online:
Date accepted:20 April 2021
Date deposited:21 April 2021
Date of first online publication:15 June 2021
Date first made open access:15 December 2022

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