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Antonio Gramsci's Political Theories on Capitalism & Democracy

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According to Gramsci the free market/civil society do not maximize human freedom, they constrain it. Explain Gramsci's critique of the free market and civil society.

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Solution Summary

Gramsci, an Italian thinker in the Marxist tradition proposed that free market constrains human freedom. This solution explores his ideas.

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There is significant debate in regards to the role of the free market in civil society. On the one hand (for example) Wanderly-Reis (1986) minimizes the "supposed incompatibility" of civil society and the free market by emphasizing the "socially democratizing character of capitalism."

The modern definition of the term 'civil society' (which typically includes a range of relationships and institutions, including, trade unions, voluntary associations, churches and sometimes the free market) usually ignores or mis-uses Gramsci's understanding of the term.

What Gramsci recognized - and what makes his understanding compelling - is that the 'free' market is not a freely formed association like any other: participation is mandatory on the terms required by the system. Thus, use of 'civil society' that equates the term with the free market (or freedom in the marketplace) is misleading because it fails to account for the ...

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