Gramsci's Common Sense: Inequality and Its Narratives
Common Sense, Good Sense, and Occupy
This case study chapter looks at Occupy Wall Street (OWS), another contemporary social movement but one emerging from the left rather than the right. It, too, seemed to erupt out of nowhere. And like the Tea Party, it was concerned with establishing a persuasive commonsense narrative. The OWS narrative is that we live in a grossly unequal world in which the richest one percent are rewarded at the expense of everyone else, and that unrestrained market-forces marginalize and exclude ever-greater numbers of people, condemning them to subalternity. The chapter examines the origins of OWS, and its effects. While the Tea Party can be seen as having shifted the Republican Party to the right, OWS succeeded in changing the political conversation, compelling politicians of many different stripes to acknowledge inequality as a problem. In Gramscian terms, OWS might be seen as one moment in what he referred to as the war of position. The new focus on inequality can be seen as an acknowledgement, even if only an implicit one, of the reality of class. The chapter asks the question whether or not we might see the slogan “We are the 99%” as a form of subaltern good sense, the good sense on which Gramsci believed any political narrative had to be based if it were to offer an effective challenge to the dominant capitalist hegemony.