If you’re a regular reader of opinion columns you have probably encountered this chestnut, or some variant of it, from the Italian neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid phenomena.”

Gramsci wrote these words in jail, where he’d been put by Mussolini. They were not part of a fully fleshed out work and there has been a good deal of debate over precisely what he meant...

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