Gramsci, Walzer and the Intellectual as Social Critic
University College London - Department of Political Science
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
Date posted: September 17, 2010
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