Habitable Air

Gramsci at Sea: Navigating the Oceanic Mind of a Revolutionary

In a world grappling with unprecedented environmental challenges and the complexities of global capitalism, a new book, “Gramsci at Sea” by Sharad Chari (Senior Researcher – Habitable Air), offers a thought-provoking exploration of the renowned philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s ideas in the context of our oceanic present. While Gramsci is not typically associated with the sea, Chari reveals that his concepts and methods can be illuminating when applied to our contemporary planetary crises.


Navigating the Oceanic Mind of Antonio Gramsci


Antonio Gramsci’s life’s work was rooted in challenging the oppressive forces of his time, most notably the rise of fascism. Chari’s “Gramsci at Sea” introduces a unique perspective, suggesting that Gramsci’s ideas can help us analyse the current oceanic crisis, which is both planetary and imperialistic in nature.

Just as the oceans are interconnected and shape the planet’s ecosystems, so too do they reflect the waves of capital and imperialism that have shaped our history. Chari argues that understanding Gramsci’s work through an oceanic lens can provide fresh insights into contemporary issues, including capitalist critique, revolution, and representation in a world where the oceans are warming, and ecosystems are in peril.


The Oceanic Question and Extractivism


Chari’s book takes readers on a journey through four key chapters, each shedding light on different aspects of the oceanic perspective. The first chapter, “Gramsci and the Sea,” explores what Gramsci wrote about the sea and how his thoughts can be read oceanically.

The “Oceanic Question,” as discussed in chapter 2, connects Gramsci’s insights with contemporary issues such as oceanic capitalism, agrarian traditions, and the “blue economy.” This approach helps us understand how capitalism extends its reach into the oceans, affecting marine ecosystems and the people who depend on them.


The Persistent Waves of Imperial Power


Chapter 3 delves into the waves of imperial power that have shaped the deep ocean as a resource for corporate plunder. It highlights the ongoing struggles related to deep-sea mining and the exploitation of marine environments.


Resisting the Inevitable


The final chapter explores traditions and imaginations of resistance to these processes. It references Black Afrofuturist and aquafuturist artists, showing how waves of struggle continue to hold the potential to “storm” us on different shores. Chari argues that Gramsci’s attention to the sublation of prior struggles within hegemonic formations can help us understand the persistence of resistance and the potential for revolutionary change.


Implications for Our Planet


“Gramsci at Sea” challenges us to reconsider our relationship with the oceans and the environment. It emphasises the urgency of addressing the planetary crisis, particularly as we witness a new race to exploit outer-space resources while grappling with issues like ecocide and the commodification of nature.

Chari’s work invites us to imagine a world where solidarity and collective action can lead to a more sustainable future. It encourages us to embrace an “oceanic feeling,” a perspective that recognises the interconnectedness of all life on Earth and the need for radical change to protect our planet’s delicate ecosystems.


In an era defined by environmental threats and economic inequalities, “Gramsci at Sea” offers a unique and timely perspective that challenges our understanding of capitalism, imperialism, and the ongoing struggle for a more just and sustainable world. It reminds us that, even in the face of daunting challenges, there is hope for a future where the beauty and diversity of our oceans remain beyond the next wave, and where the oceans themselves can be a source of inspiration for transformative change.


You can read the open-access book here. You can also listen to a podcast where Chari discusses the book with other scholars.