Gramsci's Common Sense: Inequality and Its Narratives
This chapter begins with an exploration of the difference between the English term common sense and the Italian senso commune, which lacks the strong positive connotations of the English term. The decision to use the English term is explained. Common sense in the notebooks is seen as confused and incoherent, but as also containing within its confusion valuable nuggets of what Gramsci terms buon senso (good sense). This good sense represents the raw beginnings of subaltern political narratives with the potential to challenge the existing hegemony. Such raw beginnings, however, need to be developed and made coherent by the organic intellectuals a subaltern group brings into being as it emerges from subalternity. The notebooks’ rejection of any romanticism of common sense, and their author’s insistence on the need for a critical evaluation of common sense is stressed. Gramsci’s attitude to common sense is contrasted with that of Hannah Arendt, for whom common sense should be the ultimate touchstone for intellectuals. For Gramsci, conversely, common sense is a shifting, unreliable guide, the product of history, and a terrain of political struggle. The relationship between the concepts of common sense and culture in the notebooks offers us an approach to the analysis of everyday life that encompasses its givenness but that also acknowledges the contradictions, fluidity, and flexibility of that givenness.