Gramsci, Walzer and the Intellectual as Social Critic

Richard Bellamy

University College London - Department of Political Science; European University Institute

September 16, 2010

The Philosophical Forum, Vol. 29, pp. 138-59, 1998
INTELLECTUALS IN POLITICS, J. Jennings and A. Kemp-Welch, eds., pp. 25-44, Routledge, 1997

This comparison of the two thinkers focuses on three central and related aspects of their theories. The first section explores the epistemological theory underlying their conception of the intellectual, and questions the coherence of a view of immanent critique that eschews any teleology. The second section develops this criticism by examining the accompanying sociological account they give of the intellectual's social role and his or her relationship to the people. The third section turns to their views on the social and political context of intellectual activity. I argue that Gramsci's difficulties stem from the fact that within the Italy of his time he felt the intellectual had to engage in what Norberto Bobbio has called 'cultural politics' - the advocacy of a particular ideological position. However, this leads to all the difficulties typically associated with intellectuals who betray their integrity when involved in politics. The way to avoid them lies in intellectuals adopting what Bobbio terms the 'politics of culture'. In other words, they must militate for the conditions necessary for social criticism to occur, rather than arguing for a particular substantive view. The latter is something the intellectual may do as a citizen acting within a social and political system that allows us all to be to some degree intellectuals, the former represents a specific intellectual duty. Walzer's problem turns out to be that he assumes the appropriate social and political pre-conditions are always present.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Walzer, Garmsci, Intellectuals, Immanent Critique

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Date posted: September 17, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Bellamy, Richard, Gramsci, Walzer and the Intellectual as Social Critic (September 16, 2010). The Philosophical Forum, Vol. 29, pp. 138-59, 1998. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1677897

Contact Information

Richard Bellamy (Contact Author)
University College London - Department of Political Science ( email )
Gower Street
United Kingdom
020 7679 4980 (Phone)
020 7679 4969 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/people/richard-bellamy
European University Institute ( email )
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San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Tuscany 50014
HOME PAGE: http://www.eui.eu/ProgrammesAndFellowships/MaxWeberProgramme/People/RichardBellamywebpage.aspx
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