Vocabulary for a New World: Organic Intellectual

As theorized by Gramsci, an Organic intellectual, unlike a traditional intellectual, is a bourgeoisie scholar who cultivates strong roots in his/her community, working to maintain links with local issues and struggles that connect to the people and their experiences. While traditional intellectuals imagine themselves as an autonomous group with an historical presence above and separate from political class struggle, they are in fact strongly allied with the dominant ideology and the ruling class. On the other hand, organic intellectuals openly recognize their location within the dominant ideology and their function in perpetuating it, and use their positionality to cultivate strategies for helping their communities to develop a self-inspired, organic consciousness. As an Italian Marxist interested in socialist Revolution, Antonio Gramsci privileged the role of education in building a counter hegemonic revolutionary class consciousness and emphasized the importance of the working class proletariat in creating its own insurgent movements. Recognizing the capacity of all humans to contribute to the intellectual pursuit, he reconceptualized the classically elitist “intellectual realm” as a fundamental part of everyday life, bringing it into the grasp of the average working class subject. Because he believed that ideological transformation was imperative before Revolution became possible, he wanted a revolutionary socialist consciousness to be generated organically within the communities that he saw leading the future Revolution. He called upon the working class to produce its own organic intellectuals as well as traditional intellectuals, and an accompanying class consciousness that would appreciate the local experiences of the people.

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