Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

Antonio Gramsci ( 1891-1937) was born in Sardinia. He studied at the University of Turin, where he became active in the Italian Socialist Party. By 1924 he became a founder and leader of the Italian Communist Party. Gramsci's literary, journalistic, and political activities eventually led to his arrest in 1926. He spent most of the balance of his life in prison, where he wrote his famous Prison Notebooks, from which the following selections are taken. Gramsci greatly broadened Marxist thinking on the role of intellectuals in the political process and the social hegemony, both of which would influence later social and cultural theory.


Intellectuals and Hegemony

Antonio Gramsci ( 1929-1936)

All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.*

When one distinguishes between intellectuals and non-intellectuals, one is referring in reality only to the immediate social function of the professional category of the intellectuals, that is, one has in mind the direction in which their specific professional activity is weighted, whether towards intellectual elaboration or towards muscularnervous effort. This means that, although one can speak of intellectuals, one cannot speak of non-intellectuals, because non-intellectuals do not exist. But even the relationship between efforts of intellectual-cerebral elaboration and muscular-nervous effort is not always the same, so that there are varying degrees of specific intellectual activity. There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded: homo faber cannot be separated from homo sapiens. Each man, finally, outside his professional activity, carries on some form of intellectual activity, that is, he is a "philosopher", an artist, a man of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought. . . .

It is worth noting that the elaboration of intellectual strata in concrete reality does not take place on the terrain of abstract democracy but in accordance with very concrete traditional historical processes. Strata have grown up which traditionally "produce" intellectuals and these strata coincide with those which have specialised in "saving", i.e. the petty and middle landed bourgeoisie and certain strata of the petty and middle urban bourgeoisie. The varying distribution of different types of school (classical and professional) over the "economic" territory and the varying aspirations of different categories within these strata determine, or give form to, the production of various branches of intellectual specialisation. Thus in Italy the rural bourgeoisie produces in particular state functionaries and professional people, whereas the urban bourgeoisie produces technicians for industry. Consequently it is largely northern Italy which produces technicians and the South which produces functionaries and professional men.

____________________
Excerpt from Selections from the Prison Notebooks ( New York: International Publishers Co., 1971). Copyright © 1971. Reprinted with permission from International Publishers Co.
*
Thus, because it can happen that everyone at some time fries a couple of eggs or sews up a tear in a jacket, we do not necessarily say that everyone is a cook or a tailor.

-259-

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