Gramsci's Common Sense: Inequality and Its Narratives
This chapter explores Gramsci’s understanding of the nature and role of intellectuals. It explains his distinction between organic and traditional intellectuals, noting that Gramsci’s primary concern is not the individual thinker, but the social processes by which knowledge is produced and distributed. Intellectuals in the notebooks are defined not by a particular quality of mind, but by their location within a society’s institutions and practices of knowledge production. As such, they are always embedded within the power structures of their society. To help the reader grasp how radically Gramsci departs from conventional definitions, Gramsci’s understanding of intellectuals is contrasted with Edward Said’s quintessentially individualistic characterization of the true intellectual as the independent and fearless individual prepared to speak truth to power. The dialogic nature of the relationship between the feeling of the popular masses and the knowledge of intellectuals is explored. The chapter ends with their author’s concept of the historical bloc, and the role of intellectuals in bringing about social transformation.