Perry Anderson’s realism

Bruce Robbins at The Nation:

One might have expected that in his criticisms of Gramsci and the Gramscians, a Marxist like Anderson would have shifted the emphasis back from the cultural superstructure to the economic base. But that’s not what happens. What both books set against culture and ideology is not economics but physical coercion: military force as a—perhaps even the—decisive component of power, hence as perhaps the determining factor in history. Questions of how glaring a deviation this is from Marxist orthodoxy (if such a thing still exists) will certainly be of interest to those who look up to Anderson as a Marxist guru. But these questions are finally less interesting than Anderson’s impenitent insistence that coercion, not class or modes of production, is the heart of history. Getting away from an emphasis on coercion—call it dictatorship of the proletariat, or think of the barricades—is usually seen as Gramsci’s most salient accomplishment in reinterpreting the concept of hegemony. The major intention behind both of Anderson’s books is getting back to it.

more here.