Most informed and interested observers of early-twentieth-century politics, regardless of their affiliations, noticed three salient trends. First, and most obvious, the state’s regulatory power and authority grew remarkably, whether under revolutionary or reformist or reactionary auspices, but the sources of its sovereignty became questions rather than premises, as the inherited liberal opposition between state and society stopped being self-evident, and with it the boundary between the public sphere and the private sector. Second, and almost as obvious, the atomic particles of politics became groups, associations, collectives –- in the US, corporations and labor unions, to be sure, but also cross-class organizations like the NAACP and the Women’s Trade Union League -– rather than unbound individuals, those self-contained, omnicompetent bourgeois citizens of nineteenth-century lore. Third, and nowhere near obvious, even as the state’s powers grew, so too did the capacities of these new groups, associations, and collectives to regulate or administer the market, and to shape civil society, in their own interests. Think of them as local precursors of NGOs, those transnational organizations without diplomatic standing or immunity which nonetheless have profound economic and political effects.
In Gramsci’s terms, revolution in the name of socialism was not something to be measured by Jacobin or Bolshevik standards, as a function of state-centered politics animated by mass movements and organized by disciplined parties. The transition from capitalism to socialism would be as prolonged, boring, and mundane as the transition from feudalism to capitalism. But its secret history would begin in the twentieth century.
Via GAIA: Global Alliance for Immediate Alteration