First published in 1948, Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks is an important Marxist work that says we must understand societies both in terms of their economic relationships and their cultural beliefs.
Gramsci wanted to explore why Russia had undergone a socialist revolution in 1917 while other European countries had not. So he developed the concept of hegemony, which is the idea that those who hold power in a society can maintain and use that power because of their own grip on cultural values and economic relationships. Using a combination of force and manipulation, they are able to convince most people that the existing social arrangement is logical and in their best interests. Gramsci says that for a society to truly be transformed, workers need to rise up against two things—the unfair economic system and the ideas and political institutions that sustain it.
Gramsci’s analysis of capitalism, economics, and culture has helped explain current historical developments, such as the recent financial crisis that started in 2007.