Gramsci's Civil Society and the Implicit Dimension of Politics. A case Study


Civil society actors' reduced ability to take political action and adopt critical positions towards public institutions is often ascribed to the "marketisation" of the local welfare systems in which non-profit and third-sector organizations operate. This reading of the depoliticisation of civil society is correct, but it has a number of shortcomings, including the assumption that civil society actors are passive agents that are overwhelmed by the depoliticisation mechanisms to which they are subjected. Instead, this paper ex-plores how civic organizations – albeit unintentionally – engender depoliticisation dynamics that shrink their critical strength. To do so, it draws on Gramscian arguments regarding civil society and politics and uses them to illuminate a case study of a local governance strategy (V'Arco Villoresi Green System), involv-ing both experts and civic groups. The main finding of the research is that civil society sustains what Gram-sci called "economism", i.e. a radical rejection of politics, which may be enacted by civil society both when non-critically adhering to governance arenas and when contesting them. The analysis undertaken contrib-utes to our understanding of the depoliticisation of civil society, shedding light, on the one hand, on how this process is not solely due to factors external to civil society and, on the other hand, on what the author calls the implicit dimension of politics.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v12i2p487

Keywords: Civil Society; Depoliticization; Governance; Gramsci; Participation


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