You are on page 1of 3

Antonio Gramsci -- The Formation of the Intellectuals, History of the Subaltern Classes, "Language," Languages and Common Sense,

The Concept of Ideology

Gramsci, Antonio. Antonio Gramsci. London, UK: ElecBook, the Electric Book, 1999. Print. The Formation of the Intellectuals: The thesis of The Formation of the Intellectuals is simply that each class produces its own intellectuals. Within the term intellectual Gramsci distinguishes two strata, organic and traditional which represent distinct origins of intellectuals. It is the intellectuals that emerge, organically, within a social group that give it homogeneity and a sense of awareness of function within society (economic, political, social). Organic intellectuals serve as a sort of chef within the group, such as his example of an lite entrepreneur who acts as an catalyst for economic development because he creates jobs and necessity. Gramsci writes, [i]t can be observed that the organic intellectual which every new class creates alongside itself and elaborates in the course of its development, are for the most part specializations of a partial aspects of the primitive activity of the new social type which the new class has brought into prominence (135). The emerging social group appropriates the intellectuals that already existed, those who had ties with the previous dominant group. The social group adopts the intellectuals that reflect the sociopolitico-economic beliefs. Traditional intellectuals are only considered as such due to their emergence within the historically traditional dominant class, the aristocracy. For Gramsci the ecclesiastics are the traditional intellectuals associated with aristocracy and as such they formed their own class within the aristocracy, la noblesse de robes. This in turned engendered a sense of independence and autonomy for the intellectual. Gramsci proposes that the criterion by which history defines an intellectual promotes problems because it assumes a distinct linear path of description and classification of an intellectual, i.e. the traditional intellectual: the scientist, the academic etc.. However, he claims, in any physical work . . . there exists a minimum of technical qualification, that is, a minimum of creative intellectual (140). Thus the classification of a person within society is more linked to their social function (profession) than their intrinsic, unique, humanity: All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals (140).[1] The newly emerged intellectual strata is then used as a foundation for a new conception of the world. However, it does not suffice for the new intellectual to maintain a passive role within the new class, but that he must active[ly] participate in practical life (142). In a sense, the intellectual must not only be the producer of ideology that a particular group then idealizes but that the intellectual must be active in the proliferation of this ideology and not just a simple orator (142). This is important because the emerging social group that is struggling against the dominant group must find a way to overcome the ideology of the dominant group; however with the formation of a groups organic intellectual, within the emerging class can facilitate more readily the conquering of the dominant ideology. Gramsci then goes on to establish a parallel correlation to the production of intellectuals via academic institutions to the economic productive capacities of a given particular state. The more efficient the productive capacities, the more a particular state will have to produce intellectuals. That is to say, that the industrialization of a state allows more people to differentiate or to specialize in something other than direct means of production. The intellectual then acts as an intermediary between the complex superstructures of society. Gramsci views the intellectual as a type of functionary whose goal is to diffuse the ideologies of the dominant class (or emergent class, in the case of a revolutionary party). He proposes two levels within the superstructure: civil society, i.e. private and political society, i.e. the State. [2] Within the two levels is a corresponding hegemony and direct domination, which organizes and connects society under the dominant groups ideology: The intellectuals are the dominant groups deputies exercising the subaltern functions of

social hegemony and political government (145). This function gives rise to division of labor, and as such this division of labor pertains also to the stratification of the intellectual at the highest level would be the creators of the various sciences, philosophy, art, etc., at the lowest the most humble administrators, and divulgators of preexisting, traditional, accumulated wealth (146). In a sense, the formation of the civic society is not just constrained to the formation of the worker but also the intellectual. History of the Subaltern Classes: History results from the interaction and relation between the State and civic society (Gramsci 202). The subaltern class can only unify under a State. He goes on to site 6 points of study with regard to the subaltern class: 1) Formation via sphere of economic production. 2) Active or passive affiliation to the dominant political forms. 3) Birth of new parties within the dominant group to control them. 4) Formations produced by the subaltern groups. 5) New formations profess autonomy of the subaltern groups, within the old structure (he uses the word framework). 6) These formations assert the integral autonomy of the subaltern groups (203). These points can be broken down further into phases, such as intermediate phases and a combination of several phases. The Sorelian spirit of cleavage, may refer to the heroic figure of Julien Sorel in Stendhals Le Rouge et le noir, in which Sorel moves vertically within society via distinct phases of social climbing. He is concerned with the history of the subaltern groups and it cannot be viewed as simple, but it must include all the repercussions of party activity [within the subaltern groups globally speaking] and also upon the attitudes of the dominant group (203). In other words, it must regard the positions of both the subaltern as well as the dominant group and their relational cause and effect/affect concerning class interaction. Again, the unity of subaltern groups depends on the formation of a state, which is only possible if the state they are replacing is subdued via active or passive assent of the dominant group (the signing of a peace treaty or removal of oppositional forces from a region, for example) (203). Due to the fragmentary nature of subaltern groups, the history is therefore fragmented and complex. One key thing to keep in mind is that despite the unification of subaltern groups to form a state, there will always be a dominant group within the state, and therefore the group will always be subjected to the ruling group/s. Language, Languages and Common Sense: Common sense exalted in the 17 th and 18th century due to the appeal of enlightenment and the humanistic approach that man has the answers within himself. Philosophy ought not solely be considered as individual but also universal, i.e. in terms of a cultural battle to transform the popular mentality and to diffuse the philosophical innovations which will demonstrate themselves to be historically true, i.e. universal for all (663). In this sense, Gramsci goes on to explain a binary role of languageit is at once individual and universal. Language not only represents the individual within a culture, but the culture itself, thus a multiplicity is centralized in language. He develops the concept of cultural aspect into the idea that [a]n historical act can only be performed by collective man which essentially transforms the individual into a representative universal by which a historical act can then be recorded. Gramsci then goes on to develop this ideal of universal, collective man into a singular cultural climate. This single cultural climate is achieved through pedagogy, which undoubtedly is disseminated according to the cultural values/norms of the dominant class. The ideal relationship of pedagogy is reciprocal for both the pupil and the teacher, but this is not just limited to the scholastic field, Gramsci theorizes, but it is in play between each and every individual. A historical personality is thus the relation that a person has with his or her individual cultural environment (667). Freedom of thought or expression is important because it represents the pedagogical method of culture, i.e. culture is the instructor and the person expressing ideas, etc., is the pupil. He goes on to theorize that the master-pupil relationship is one between the philosopher and the cultural environment in which he as to work . . . it is the relationship between philosophy and history (667). The Concept of Ideology:

The evolution of the meaning of ideology is only possible to trace via a historical lens. Ideology within Marxist philosophy, Gramsci writes, implicitly contains a negative value judgment and excludes the possibility that for its founders the origin of ideas should be sought for in sensations, and therefore, in the last analysis, in physiology (706). This in turn allows Gramsci to analyze ideology via a biological framework, more specifically the philosophy of praxis, as a superstructure (706). The negative aspect of philosophy comes into play because ideology is derived from both a person and a particular structure (i.e. a dominant group). As a result Gramsci suggests a distinction between ideologies that are historically related and emerging from structures, and the arbitrary ones from a particular person. Ideologies act like herding pens for the human masses, and create the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc. (707). Most important of all, he takes a page from Marx in understanding the voice of the populous has a type of energy which is equivalent to material force (707). He theorizes that this material force represents content whereas ideology, form. However force can exist without form, he writes material forces would be inconceivable historically without form and the ideologies would be individual fancies without the material forces (707). This can be interpreted that the populous can be directed without ideology, that it can exist without ideologybut that it is not dependent on ideology to partake in the means of production.

[1] Here I would like to note how The Author as Producer seems to support this thesis. One of the main points of The Author as Producer is that the author produces producers, i.e. the person reading the newspaper will have, by his own volition an intellectual reaction to a paper. He will then interact with the newspaper and will then, himself, produce or manifest this idea. In the Soviet State (if I am correct) the worker will then part take in the production of intellect by submitting pieces to a newspaper or cooperating with the production of it in some manner. [2] The Formation of the Intellectual, 145. Posted 23rd October 2012 by Todd Labels: Class Formation Gramsci Hegemony History Ideology Intellectual Marxism Marxist Subaltern