The art of the possible

by CarlD

How to tell the leaders from the led in political discourse:

…[I]f the concrete political act, as Croce says, is made real in the person of the political leader, it should be observed that the characteristic of the leader as such is certainly not passionality, but rather cold, precise, objectively almost impersonal calculation of the forces in struggle and of their relationships…. The leader rouses and directs the passions, but he himself is ‘immune’ to them or dominates them [in himself] the better to unleash them, rein them in at the given moment, discipline them, etc. He must know them, as an objective element of fact, as force, more than ‘feel them’ immediately, he must know them and understand them, albeit with ‘great sympathy’ (and in such case passion assumes a superior form…).

— Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del carcere [Prison Notebooks], notebook 26, § 5, 2299, my translation. (In this note Gramsci goes on to discuss irony and sarcasm as political stances; sarcasm is both a form of advanced consciousness and a passional means of criticizing contradictions in order to elevate consciousness in others.)

As many others have noted, Newsweek is currently doing a smashing job of documenting exactly what this kind of leadership looks like in practice in a series of reports on the Obama campaign.


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