Readings — From the July 2014 issue

Vulgar Materialism

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From an online petition submitted in April to Piero Fassino, the mayor of Turin, requesting that he persuade the Spanish multinational NH Hotels not to name its new four-star location in the city after Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist theoretician and co-founder of the Communist Party of Italy. The hotel is located in the palazzo in which Gramsci lived between 1919 and 1921. Translated from the Italian by Anthony Lydgate.

We can do nothing to prevent the march of progress from making a hotel out of what ought to be a place of collective memory. But we can speak out when a name — Antonio Gramsci — falls prey to the banality of marketing and is stripped of all meaning, like Napoleon-branded cognac. We cannot allow his intense, boyish eyes and generous head of hair to become the stylized lines of a logo on a pamphlet. We cannot allow his name to plunge from the heights of proud leftist debate to the depths of chatter about hydromassage and minibars common among those who frequent luxury hotels. Nothing justifies such commercialization, least of all a “library of complete works” and a few culturally themed cocktails.

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