The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Introduction to the Organic Intellectual

This first post, I hope, will provide a brief introduction to the aspirations and desires I have for it.

The Organic Intellectual is meant to be, first and foremost, a place where radical discourse is available to everyone hoping to challenge the legitimacy of the ruling ideas in society.

The choice of the title, The Organic Intellectual, is not meant in any way to signify that I am an intellectual with the solutions and answers to the problems we face individually as activists or collectively as society. Rather, it is an attempt to express my conviction that working-class people must organize not only ourselves, but our thoughts and ideas, in order to alter the course of history in any meaningful way. On the other hand, our inaction will inevitably lead to significant change as well, since the peculiar sort of capitalism under which we struggle daily is extremely dynamic. This latter option, however, will not be to our liking nor our interests.

The inspiration for the title was derived from the ideas of Antonio Gramsci, whose famous quote concerning men (people, humankind, not simply males) as intellectuals graces the top of the blog as well. His conception of the organic intellectual was, essentially, that all classes in society develop intellectuals within their own ranks who have the dual function of describing social reality as that class perceives it but also articulating the desires and needs of their own class. He argued vehemently that we, as working-class people, the majority, should reject the ideas of the other classes, such as the perception of social mobility ("I'll be rich someday!"), and develop our own working class intellectuals who are neither co-opted by the ruling class nor simply passive consumers of elite ideology.

Therefore, it is my hope that this blog serves, as it's primary function, to help widen the debate in society of what is possible, of what can be done, and what we as as collective entity can accomplish. To do this, it is essential that we develop a culture of critique, a culture of resistance, and a culture of democratic debate. Developing this culture, a grassroots, working-class culture that incorporates all oppressed groups in society, will allow us to engage in discourse which sharpens our political weaponry and mentally prepares us for encounters with the ideological onslaught of the corporate world. It will help shape our ideas, our strategies, our tactics. It is what sparring would be to the fighter, what weight-lifting is to the bodybuilder. It is, however, only one aspect in the struggle.

That is where the second section of the title, Combating Cultural Hegemony, comes in. Another idea borrowed from Gramsci, cultural hegemony is something that we should strive for, that we should fight for. Rather than a discourse of entrepreneurship, upward mobility, business-friendly, incentive-laced rhetoric lavishing praise on the free-market, we should be developing our own discourse on working-class resistance, self-organization and emancipation, autonomy, and collective, democratic control over society by the majority. I would argue, in other words, that OUR cultural discourse should not only struggle against the dominant one, but have the potential to transcend it, to open up space for dialogue concerning how society could be.

For this to be accomplished though, it takes more than academic papers with excessive verbiage and lofty rhetoric. Instead, it takes political organization, agitation, and collective struggle; all things we should be willing to engage in. If the ideas in peoples heads are those of the oppressors, we will remain oppressed and downtrodden. If we view ourselves simply as purchasers rather than workers, as consumers rather than producers, our understanding of social relations and our own power becomes diluted.

Thus, when I say combating cultural hegemony, I mean combating the dominant ideology with our own, grassroots, democratic cultural development. We should not only combat the cultural hegemony of the oppressors, we must seek to make our discourse dominant.

I would like that this blog becomes somewhat of a forum for this sort of discussion to take place, among all those who consider themselves concerned with social justice and radical change. A forum open to all currents: Socialist, Anarchist, Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyist, Progressive, whoever would like to engage in the debate for our future. My own convictions are, perhaps, not confined to a particular individual thinker. I am an internationalist, I am a socialist, I support the idea that the most conscious among us should organize ourselves, agitate around issues that affect our lives, and attempt to articulate ideas that benefit the majority of the people. Make of that what you will, but my political ideology undoubtedly reflect various tendencies: Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Freire, Newton, Chomsky, and a host of others.

More than anything, however, I hope to fulfill my vocation, as I see it, as one voice among many who struggle relentlessly against the dominant culture transmitted to us from above, in sincere hope that my nominal contribution will help develop our own culture of resistance from below.

When Gramsci says that all men are intellectuals, I believe him. If Paulo Freire is correct when he exclaims that the greatest humanistic task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves, then so be it. Let all of us strive for our potential to be organic intellectuals who can articulate our own interests, our own desires, and our own collective aspirations.

Let us be the ones who change the world, our world.

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This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Derek Ide ( Anything on this blog may be used, circulated, disseminated, by readers in any setting except where profit it to be made from it. Feel free to use the work presented here in educational settings, activist work, etc. All I ask is that the blog be cited. I write for my own purposes. This writings presented here will be influenced by my background, occupation, and political affiliation or other experiences.

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