Discuss Gramsci’s notion of ‘organic intellectuals’.

The Concepts of Ideology, Hegemony, and Organic Intellectuals in Gramsci’s Marxism are important components of  “ philosophy  of praxis”

Gramsci gave much thought to the role of intellectuals in society.He stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He saw modern intellectuals not as talkers, but as practically-minded directors and organisers who produced hegemony through ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. They  help in manufacturing consent and construction of common sense.

Gramsci also classifies the intellectuals in two dimensions: the horizontal and the vertical dimensions.  On the horizontal dimension, Gramsci classifies intellectuals either as traditional intellectuals or as organic intellectuals. He distinguished between a “traditional” intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks “organically” as “every social group originates in the fulfilment of an essential task of economic production”. Hence OI are directly linked to the economic structure of society.

Such “organic” intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but instead articulate , through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves.Example  of OI- Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore  and Traditional – Amartya Sen , APJ Abdul Kalam.

Organic intellectuals are very instrumental in a class’ struggle for hegemony. “One of the most important characteristics of any group that is developing towards dominance is its struggle to assimilate and conquer ’ideologically’ the traditional intellectuals . In the struggle for social hegemony these organic intellectuals must reason with the masses and engage in a decisive ’war of position’ to consolidate the hegemonic status of the class the interests of which they share.

A major historical problem posed by Gramsci and of great practical relevance to the proletariat in advanced capitalist countries is the fact that “although every social group develops its own organic intellectuals, the industrial proletariat has relied mostly on ’assimilated’ traditional intellectuals for leadership.”  Gramsci wrote in the Prison Notebooks that the solution was to provide workers, directly in the shops, technical and industrial education as well as education in the humanities so that “from technical work worker arrives at technical science and historical humanistic views, without which he would remain ’a specialist’ and would not become a ’director’ ” (that is, a specialist and a politician). Clearly, only then could the working class develop a higher consciousness of itself and other social classes.

Class in itself + consciousness = Class for Itself .


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