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A Hundred Scarequotes Feed

§(61) Americanism. Could Americanism be an intermediate phase of the current historical crisis? Could the conglomeration of plutocratic forces give rise to a new phase of European industrialism on the model of American industry? The attempt will probably be made (rationalization, Bedaux system, Taylorism, etc.). But can it succeed? Europe reacts, setting its cultural traditions against “virgin” America. This reaction is interesting not because a so-called cultural tradition could prevent a revolution in industrial organization, but because it is the reaction of the European “situation” to the American “situation.” In reality, Americanism, in its most advanced form, requires a preliminary condition: “the rationalization of the population”; that is, that there do not exist numerous classes without a function in the world of production, in other words, absolutely parasitic classes. The European “tradition,” by contrast, is characterized precisely by the existence of these classes, created by the following social elements: state administration, clergy and intellectuals, landed property, commerce. The older the history of a country, the more have these elements left, over the centuries, sedimentations of lazy people who live on the “pension” left by their “ancestors.” It is extremely difficult to have statistics of these social elements because it is very hard to find the “category” that could encompass them. The existence of certain forms of life provides some indications. The considerable number of large and medium-sized urban clusters without industries is one of these indications, perhaps the most important one. […] Goethe was right to reject the myth of the organic “lazzaronismo” of the Neapolitans and to point out that they are, rather, very active and industrious. The question, however, consists in finding out the real results of this industriousness: it is not productive, and it is not aimed at satisfying the needs of productive classes. Naples is a city where the southern landowners spend the income from their agrarian property; a large part of the city, with its artisanal industries, its peddling trades, the incredible partitioning of the immediate supply of goods or services among the loafers who roam the streets, is structured around tens of thousands of these landowning families, of greater or lesser economic importance, with their retinues of personal servants and lackeys. Another important part is made up of wholesale trade and transportation. “Productive” industry constitutes a relatively small part.


The phenomenon of Naples is repeated in Palermo and in a whole series of medium-sized and small cities, not only in the South and the Islands but also in Central Italy (Tuscany, Umbria, Rome) and even in Northern Italy (Bologna, to some extent, Parma, Ferrara, etc.). (When a horse shits, a hundred sparrows feed.)

—Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Volume 1 (emphasis mine)
via Anthony [Timesflow]

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