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Engaging Gramsci: international relations theory and the new Gramscians

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 1998


The work of the Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci has had a significant impact upon the study of International Relations (IR) over the past fifteen years. Despite the emergence of a distinct 'Italian School' in IR, however, there have been few assessments of the utility of Gramsci's concepts in this area. Our purpose here is to engage with the work of the new Gramscians. We begin by specifying the theoretical attractions of using Gramsci in IR, and then subject the key foundational claims of the new Gramscians to critical analysis. Our principal conclusions are that the Italian school's appropriation of Gramsci is far more conceptually problematic than they acknowledge, and that their use of his framework is difficult to sustain with respect to the scholarship devoted to his ideas. If Gramsci is to be used effectively within IR, closer attention must be paid both to the historical meaning of his work and to the problems raised by it. In short, Gramsci and his ideas must be more thoroughly historicized if his work is to be used to comprehend the multiple dynamics of world order today.

Research Article
© 1998 Cambridge University Press

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