Antonio Gramsci

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Antonio Gramsci
Western Philosophy
20th-century philosophy

Antonio Gramsci
Full name Antonio Gramsci
Born January 22, 1891(1891-01-22)
Ales, Sardinia
Died April 27, 1937 (aged 46)
Rome, Italy
School/tradition Marxism
Main interests Politics, Ideology, Culture
Notable ideas Hegemony, Organic Intellectual, War of Position

Antonio Gramsci (Italian pronunciation: [ˈɡramʃi]) (January 22, 1891 – April 27, 1937) was an Italian philosopher, writer, politician and political theorist. A founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy, he was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. His writings are heavily concerned with the analysis of culture and political leadership and he is notable as a highly original thinker within the Marxist tradition. He is renowned for his concept of cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining the state in a capitalist society.



[edit] Life

[edit] Early life

Gramsci was born in Ales, Italy, on the island of Sardinia. He was the fourth of seven sons of Francesco Gramsci, a low-level official from Gaeta. He was of Albanian descent, his father's family was Arbëreshë and the family name was related to Gramsh, an Albanian town. Francesco's financial difficulties and troubles with the police forced the family to move about through several villages in Sardinia until they finally settled in Ghilarza.

In 1898 Francesco was convicted of embezzlement and imprisoned, reducing his family to destitution and forcing the young Antonio to abandon his schooling and work at various casual jobs until his father's release in 1904. The boy suffered from health problems: a malformation of the spine owing to a childhood accident left him hunch-backed and underdeveloped, while he was also plagued by various internal disorders throughout his life.

Gramsci completed secondary school in Cagliari, where he lodged with his elder brother Gennaro, a former soldier whose time on the mainland had made him a militant socialist. However, Gramsci's sympathies at the time did not lie with socialism, but rather with the grievances of impoverished Sardinian peasants and miners, who saw their neglect as a result of the privileges enjoyed by the rapidly industrialising North and who tended to turn to Sardinian nationalism as a response.

[edit] Turin

A brilliant student, in 1911 Gramsci won a scholarship that allowed him to study at the University of Turin, sitting the exam at the same time as future cohort Palmiro Togliatti. At Turin, he read literature and took a keen interest in linguistics, which he studied under Matteo Bartoli. Gramsci found the city at the time going through a process of industrialization, with the Fiat and Lancia factories recruiting workers from poorer regions. Trade unions became established, and the first industrial social conflicts started to emerge. Gramsci had a close involvement with these developments, frequenting socialist circles as well as associating with Sardinian emigrants, which gave him continuity with his native culture. His worldview shaped by both his earlier experiences in Sardinia and his environment on the mainland, Gramsci joined the Italian Socialist Party in late 1913.

Despite showing talent for his studies, Gramsci's financial problems and poor health, as well as his growing political commitment, forced him to abandon his education in early 1915. By this time, he had acquired an extensive knowledge of history and philosophy. At university, he had come into contact with the thought of Antonio Labriola, Rodolfo Mondolfo, Giovanni Gentile and, most importantly, Benedetto Croce, possibly the most widely respected Italian intellectual of his day. Such thinkers espoused a brand of Hegelian Marxism to which Labriola had given the name "philosophy of praxis". Though Gramsci would later use this phrase to escape the prison censors, his relationship with this current of thought was ambiguous throughout his career.

From 1914 onward Gramsci's writings for socialist newspapers such as Il Grido del Popolo earned him a reputation as a notable journalist, and in 1916 he became co-editor of the Piedmont edition of Avanti!, the Socialist Party official organ. An articulate and prolific writer of political theory, Gramsci proved a formidable commentator, writing on all aspects of Turin's social and political life.

Gramsci was, at this time, also involved in the education and organisation of Turin workers: he spoke in public for the first time in 1916 and gave talks on topics such as Romain Rolland, the French Revolution, the Paris Commune and the emancipation of women. In the wake of the arrest of Socialist Party leaders that followed the revolutionary riots of August 1917, Gramsci became one of Turin's leading socialists when he was both elected to the party's Provisional Committee and made editor of Il Grido del Popolo.

In April 1919 with Togliatti, Angelo Tasca and Umberto Terracini Gramsci set up the weekly newspaper L'Ordine Nuovo (The New Order). In October of the same year, despite being divided into various hostile factions, the Socialist Party moved by a large majority to join the Third International. The L'Ordine Nuovo group was seen by Vladimir Lenin as closest in orientation to the Bolsheviks, and it received his backing against the anti-parliamentary programme of the extreme left Amadeo Bordiga.

Amongst the various tactical debates that took place within the party, Gramsci's group was mainly distinguished by its advocacy of workers' councils, which had come into existence in Turin spontaneously during the large strikes of 1919 and 1920. For Gramsci these councils were the proper means of enabling workers to take control of the task of organising production. Although he believed his position at this time to be in keeping with Lenin's policy of "All power to the Soviets", his stance was attacked by Bordiga for betraying a syndicalist tendency influenced by the thought of Georges Sorel and Daniel DeLeon. By the time of the defeat of the Turin workers in spring 1920, Gramsci was almost alone in his defence of the councils.

[edit] In the PCI

The failure of the workers' councils to develop into a national movement led Gramsci to believe that a Communist Party in the Leninist sense was needed. The group around L'Ordine Nuovo declaimed incessantly against the PSI's centrist leadership and ultimately allied with Bordiga's far larger "abstentionist" faction. On January 21, 1921, in the town of Livorno, the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d'Italia – PCI) was founded. Gramsci supported against Bordiga the Arditi del Popolo, a militant anti-fascist group which struggled against the Blackshirts.

Gramsci would be a leader of the party from its inception but was subordinate to Bordiga, whose emphasis on discipline, centralism and purity of principles dominated the party's programme until the latter lost the leadership in 1924.

In 1922 Gramsci travelled to Russia as a representative of the new party. Here, he met Julia Schucht, a young violinist whom Gramsci later married and by whom he had two sons.[1]

Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque, Mokhovaya Street 16, Moscow

The Russian mission coincided with the advent of Fascism in Italy, and Gramsci returned with instructions to foster, against the wishes of the PCI leadership, a united front of leftist parties against fascism. Such a front would ideally have had the PCI at its centre, through which Moscow would have controlled all the leftist forces, but others disputed this potential supremacy: socialists did have a certain tradition in Italy too, while the communist party seemed relatively young and too radical. Many believed that an eventual coalition led by communists would have functioned too remotely from political debate, and thus would have run the risk of isolation.

In late 1922 and early 1923, Benito Mussolini's government embarked on a campaign of repression against the opposition parties, arresting most of the PCI leadership, including Bordiga. At the end of 1923, Gramsci travelled from Moscow to Vienna, where he tried to revive a party torn by factional strife.

In 1924 Gramsci, now recognised as head of the PCI, gained election as a deputy for the Veneto. He started organising the launch of the official newspaper of the party, called L'Unità (Unity), living in Rome while his family stayed in Moscow. At its Lyons Congress in January 1926, Gramsci's theses calling for a united front to restore democracy to Italy were adopted by the party.

In 1926 Joseph Stalin's manoeuvres inside the Bolshevik party moved Gramsci to write a letter to the Comintern, in which he deplored opposition led by Leon Trotsky, but also underlined some presumed faults of the leader. Togliatti, in Moscow as a representative of the party, received the letter, opened it, read it, and decided not to deliver it. This caused a difficult conflict between Gramsci and Togliatti which they never completely resolved.

[edit] Imprisonment

Grave of Gramsci in Rome.

On November 9, 1926 the Fascist government enacted a new wave of emergency laws, taking as a pretext an alleged attempt on Mussolini's life that had occurred several days earlier. The fascist police arrested Gramsci, despite his parliamentary immunity, and brought him to Regina Coeli, the famous Roman prison. At his trial, Gramsci's prosecutor famously stated, "For twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning".[2] He received an immediate sentence of 5 years in confinement (on the remote island of Ustica); the following year he received a sentence of 20 years of prison (in Turi, near Bari). His condition caused him to suffer from constantly declining health, and he received an individual cell and little assistance. In 1932, a project for exchanging political prisoners (including Gramsci) between Italy and the Soviet Union failed. In 1934 his health deteriorated severely and he gained conditional freedom, after having already visited some hospitals in Civitavecchia, Formia and Rome. He died in Rome at the age of 46, shortly after being released from prison; he is buried in the Protestant Cemetery there.

In an interview with archbishop Luigi de Magistris, former head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, which deals with confessions and forgiveness of sins, he stated that during Gramsci's final illness, he "returned to the faith of his infancy" and "died taking the sacraments."[3] However Italian State documents on his death show that no religious official was sent for or received by Gramsci. Other witness accounts of his death also do not mention any conversion to Catholicism or renouncement by Gramsci of his socialist ideals.[4]

[edit] Thought

Gramsci is seen by many[who?] as one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the twentieth century, in particular as a key thinker in the development of Western Marxism. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. These writings, known as the Prison Notebooks, contain Gramsci's tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as well as some ideas in Marxist theory, critical theory and educational theory associated with his name, such as:

[edit] Hegemony

Hegemony was a concept previously used by Marxists such as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin to indicate the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution, but developed by Gramsci into an acute analysis to explain why the 'inevitable' socialist revolution predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. Capitalism, it seemed, was even more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the 'common sense' values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

The working class needed to develop a culture of its own, which would overthrow the notion that bourgeois values represented 'natural' or 'normal' values for society, and would attract the oppressed and intellectual classes to the cause of the proletariat. Lenin held that culture was 'ancillary' to political objectives but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that cultural hegemony be achieved first. In Gramsci's view, any class that wishes to dominate in modern conditions has to move beyond its own narrow ‘economic-corporate’ interests, to exert intellectual and moral leadership, and to make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces. Gramsci calls this union of social forces a ‘historic bloc’, taking a term from Georges Sorel. This bloc forms the basis of consent to a certain social order, which produces and re-produces the hegemony of the dominant class through a nexus of institutions, social relations and ideas. In this manner, Gramsci developed a theory that emphasized the importance of the superstructure in both maintaining and fracturing relations of the base.

Gramsci stated that, in the West, bourgeois cultural values were tied to religion, and therefore much of his polemic against hegemonic culture is aimed at religious norms and values. He was impressed by the power Roman Catholicism had over men's minds and the care the Church had taken to prevent an excessive gap developing between the religion of the learned and that of the less educated. Gramsci believed that it was Marxism's task to marry the purely intellectual critique of religion found in Renaissance humanism to the elements of the Reformation that had appealed to the masses. For Gramsci, Marxism could supersede religion only if it met people's spiritual needs, and to do so people would have to recognize it as an expression of their own experience.

For Gramsci, hegemonic dominance ultimately relied on coercion, and in a "crisis of authority" the "masks of consent" slip away, revealing the fist of force.

[edit] Intellectuals and education

Gramsci gave much thought to the question of the role of intellectuals in society. Famously, he stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He claimed that modern intellectuals were not simply talkers, but directors and organisers who helped build society and produce hegemony by means of ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a 'traditional' intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks 'organically'. Such 'organic' intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but rather articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci's call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, who would not simply introduce Marxist ideology from without the proletariat, but rather renovate and make critical of the status quo the already existing intellectual activity of the masses. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil, and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon. For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci an important voice to this day.

[edit] State and civil society

Gramsci's theory of hegemony is tied to his conception of the capitalist state, which he claims rules through force plus consent. The state is not to be understood in the narrow sense of the government; instead, Gramsci divides it between 'political society', which is the arena of political institutions and legal constitutional control, and 'civil society', which is commonly seen as the 'private' or 'non-state' sphere, including the economy. The former is the realm of force and the latter of consent. He stresses, however, that the division is purely conceptual and that the two, in reality, often overlap.

Gramsci claims that lies under modern capitalism and that the bourgeoisie can maintain its economic control by allowing certain demands made by trade unions and mass political parties within civil society to be met by the political sphere. Thus, the bourgeoisie engages in 'passive revolution' by going beyond its immediate economic interests and allowing the forms of its hegemony to change. Gramsci posits that movements such as reformism and fascism, as well as the 'scientific management' and assembly line methods of Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford respectively, are examples of this.

Drawing from Machiavelli, he argues that 'The Modern Prince' – the revolutionary party – is the force that will allow the working-class to develop organic intellectuals and an alternative hegemony within civil society. For Gramsci, the complex nature of modern civil society means that the only tactic capable of undermining bourgeois hegemony and leading to socialism is a 'war of position' (analogous to trench warfare); this war of position would then give way to a 'war of movement' (or frontal attack). Gramsci saw 'war of movement' as being exemplified by the storming of the Winter Palace during the Russian Revolution.

Despite his claim that the lines between the two may be blurred, Gramsci rejects the state-worship that results from identifying political society with civil society, as was done by the Jacobins and Fascists. He believes the proletariat's historical task is to create a 'regulated society' and defines the 'withering away of the state' as the full development of civil society's ability to regulate itself.

[edit] Historicism

Gramsci, like the early Marx, was an emphatic proponent of historicism. In Gramsci's view, all meaning derives from the relation between human practical activity (or "praxis") and the "objective" historical and social processes of which it is a part. Ideas cannot be understood outside their social and historical context, apart from their function and origin. The concepts by which we organise our knowledge of the world do not derive primarily from our relation to things, but rather from the social relations between the users of those concepts. As a result, there is no such thing as an unchanging "human nature", but only an idea of such which varies historically. Furthermore, philosophy and science do not "reflect" a reality independent of man, but rather are only "true" in that they express the real developmental trend of a given historical situation.

For the majority of Marxists, truth was truth no matter when and where it is known, and scientific knowledge (which included Marxism) accumulated historically as the advance of truth in this everyday sense. On this view, Marxism could not be said to not belong to the illusory realm of the superstructure because it is a science. In contrast, Gramsci believed Marxism was "true" in the socially pragmatic sense, in that by articulating the class consciousness of the proletariat, it expressed the "truth" of its times better than any other theory. This anti-scientistic and anti-positivist stance was indebted to the influence of Benedetto Croce. However, it should be underlined that Gramsci's was an "absolute historicism" that broke with the Hegelian and idealist tenor of Croce's thinking and its tendency to secure a metaphysical synthesis in historical "destiny". Though Gramsci repudiates the charge, his historical account of truth has been criticised as a form of relativism.

[edit] Critique of "economism"

In a famous pre-prison article entitled "The Revolution against Das Kapital", Gramsci claimed that the October Revolution in Russia had invalidated the idea that socialist revolution had to await the full development of capitalist forces of production. This reflected his view that Marxism was not a determinist philosophy. The principle of the causal "primacy" of the forces of production, he held, was a misconception of Marxism. Both economic changes and cultural changes are expressions of a "basic historical process", and it is difficult to say which sphere has primacy over the other. The fatalistic belief, widespread within the workers’ movement in its earliest years, that it would inevitably triumph due to "historical laws", was, in Gramsci's view, a product of the historical circumstances of an oppressed class restricted mainly to defensive action, and was to be abandoned as a hindrance once the working-class became able to take the initiative. Because Marxism is a "philosophy of praxis", it cannot rely on unseen "historical laws" as the agents of social change. History is defined by human praxis and therefore includes human will. Nonetheless, will-power cannot achieve anything it likes in any given situation: when the consciousness of the working-class reaches the stage of development necessary for action, historical circumstances will be encountered which cannot be arbitrarily altered. It is not, however, predetermined by historical inevitability as to which of several possible developments will take place as a result.

His critique of economism also extended to that practiced by the syndicalists of the Italian trade unions. He believed that many trade unionists had settled for a reformist, gradualist approach in that they had refused to struggle on the political front in addition to the economic front. While Gramsci envisioned the trade unions as one organ of a counter-hegemonic force in capitalist society, the trade union leaders simply saw these organizations as a means to improve conditions within the existing structure. Gramsci referred to the views of these trade unionists as "vulgar economism", which he equated to covert reformism and even liberalism.

[edit] Critique of Materialism

By virtue of his belief that human history and collective praxis determine whether any philosophical question is meaningful or not, Gramsci's views run contrary to the metaphysical materialism and 'copy' theory of perception advanced by Engels and Lenin, though he does not explicitly state this. For Gramsci, Marxism does not deal with a reality that exists in and for itself, independent of humanity. The concept of an objective universe outside of human history and human praxis was, in his view, analogous to belief in God; there could be no objectivity, but only a universal intersubjectivity to be established in a future communist society. Natural history was thus only meaningful in relation to human history. On his view philosophical materialism, like primitive common sense, resulted from a lack of critical thought, and could not, as Lenin[5] claimed, be said to oppose religious superstition. Despite this, Gramsci resigned himself to the existence of this arguably cruder form of Marxism: the proletariat's status as a dependent class meant that Marxism, as its philosophy, could often only be expressed in the form of popular superstition and common sense. Nonetheless, it was necessary to effectively challenge the ideologies of the educated classes, and to do so Marxists must present their philosophy in a more sophisticated guise, and attempt to genuinely understand their opponents’ views.

[edit] Influence

Although Gramsci's thought emanates from the organized left, he has also become an important figure in current academic discussions within cultural studies and critical theory. Political theorists from the center and the right have also found insight in his concepts; his idea of hegemony, for example, has become widely cited. His influence is particularly strong in contemporary political science, on the subject of the prevalence of neoliberal thinking among political elites, in the form of Neo-gramscianism. His work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies in whom many have found the potential for political or ideological resistance to dominant government and business interests.

His critics charge him with fostering a notion of power struggle through ideas. They find the Gramscian approach to philosophical analysis, reflected in current academic controversies, to be in conflict with open-ended, liberal inquiry grounded in apolitical readings of the classics of Western culture. To credit or blame Gramsci for the travails of current academic politics is an odd turn of history, since Gramsci himself was never an academic, and was in fact deeply intellectually engaged with Italian culture, history, and current liberal thought.

As a socialist, Gramsci's legacy has been disputed. Togliatti, who led the Party (renamed as Italian Communist Party, PCI) after World War II and whose gradualist approach was a forerunner to Eurocommunism, claimed that the PCI's practices during this period were congruent with Gramscian thought. Others, however, have argued that Gramsci was a Left Communist, who would likely have been expelled from his Party if prison had not prevented him from regular contact with Moscow during the leadership of Joseph Stalin.

[edit] Selected Publications

[edit] Influences on Gramsci's thought

[edit] Later thinkers influenced by Gramsci

[edit] Gramsci's influence in popular culture



[edit] See also

[edit] Endnotes

  1. ^ Picture of Gramsci's wife and their two sons at the Italian-language Antonio Gramsci Website.
  2. ^ Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Lawrence and Wishart, 1971, ISBN 0-85315-280-2, p.lxxxix.
  3. ^ [1] Times Online
  4. ^ [2] National Catholic Reporter
  5. ^ Lenin: Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
  6. ^ Althusser, Louis (1977) [1971]. ""Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"". Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. translated by Ben Brewster (2nd edn ed.). London: New Left Books. pp. 136n. ISBN 902308-89-0. Retrieved 2008-09-27. "To my knowledge Gramsci is the only one who went any distance in the road I am taking." 
  7. ^ "In The Red Paper of Scotland in 1975, a youthful Gordon Brown outlined his vision. So what changed?" – Neal Ascherson, "Life on the ante-eurodiluvian Left", The Observer, 5 November 2000.
  8. ^ Stephen Gill, York University, was influenced by Gramsci and Cox in writing Power and Resistance in the New World Order. Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations, Cambridge UP 1993; American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission, Cambridge UP, 1991.
  9. ^ Said, Edward W. (2003) [1978]. "Introduction". Orientalism. London: Penguin Books. pp. 7. "In any society not totalitarian, then, certain cultural forms predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others; the form of this cultural leadership is what Gramsci has identified as hegemony, an indispensable concept for any understanding of cultural life in the industrial West." 
  10. ^ Barsamian, David. (2000). Eqbal Ahmad: Confronting Empire. South End Press. pp xxvii.

[edit] Sources

[edit] External links

Economic determinism's relation to Marxist philosophy

According to Marx, each social mode of production produces the material conditions of its reproduction, that is, ideology (which gathers all the political, law and cultural spheres). Thus, ideology permits the mode of production to reproduce itself. Furthermore, Marx and Engels are said to have believed[citation needed], should a revolutionary force change the mode of production, the dominant class will immediately set out to create a new society to protect this new economic order. In the modernity of their era, Marx and Engels felt the property class had essentially accomplished the establishment of a new societal and economic order, instinctively creating a society protective of their capitalist interests. They made this statement to the Bourgeoisie in the Communist Manifesto: "Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class, made into law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economic conditions of the existence of your class."[1] From this, it is argued (citation needed) that Marx and Engels did not believe men could arbitrarily choose any one of several forms of society, but only that one which promotes the prevailing mode of production. The very nature of man's materialistic make-up requires him to do this. The young Marx hence criticized man's alienation, a concept which he later replaced by the critique of commodity fetishism. "Vulgar Marxism" has considered that the relation between the economical infrastructure and the ideological superstructure was an unicausal one, and thus believed in economic determinism. This has been criticized by various Marxist theorists, who dismissed it as a form of economism or economic reductionism. They claimed the relationship is much more reciprocal and complex than unilateral determinism would have it.

[edit] Conclusion

Many Marxists[who?] claim that Marx and Engels viewed this law of 'economic determinism' as the creative force in human progress. Engels stated: "The final causes of all social changes and political revolution are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in man's insight into internal truth and justice... but in the economies of each epoch."[2] Therefore, Engels advocated a change in economic structure as the only valid way of improving society and refining the intellectual make-up of humanity.

[edit] Criticism of the concept

Other Marxists and Marx-scholars - including György Lukács, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Maurice Godelier, Franz Jakubowski, Edward P. Thompson and Michael Lowy - completely reject the interpretation of Marx and Engels as "economic determinists". They claim this idea is based on a poor and selective reading of Marx and Engels' work.

They argue that this interpretation originated in the early years of the Second International and was popularised by Karl Kautsky and Nikolai Bukharin, among many others. They refer to the disclaimers by Friedrich Engels (see historical materialism) to the effect that while Marx and himself had focused a lot on the economic aspects, they were very aware that this did not in fact constitute the totality of society or of social life. However, some have viewed such comments as Engels's attempt to extricate himself from an untenable position.

Non-Marxist scholars have also objected that economic determinism is overly generalized, insofar as any serious historical explanation of economic realities must always refer to non-economic realities. This became obvious when one had to specify exactly what the economic determinism precisely consisted of. In addition, a lot of confusion about "economic determinism" is due to the conflation of the "commercial" with the "economic". For Marx at least, these were very different concepts.

The dynamic of history according to Marx was shaped precisely by the clash of those interests (class struggle), and that clash could not be understood simply in terms of economic self-interest, because it also involved human needs, customs, traditions, morals and values encompassing a whole way of life. On the other hand, Lenin wrote that "an idea that captures the minds of the masses becomes a material force," meaning that the said needs, customs, traditions, morals and values can be equated to economic forces.

The end result of economic determinism in this view is both economism (a narrow focus on how people earn their livelihood) and economic reductionism (the attempt to reduce a complex social reality to one factor [the economic] such that this one factor causes all other aspects of society). This, according to some[who?] plays directly into the hands of the business class, and ultimately ends in an anti-working class position, whereby the allegiance of the working class is just a "tool" to be used by the political class to modernise an economy, with the aid of forced labour, if need be.

History of materialism

[edit] Axial Age

Materialism developed, possibly independently, in several geographically separated regions of Eurasia during the Axial Age.

In Ancient Indian philosophy, materialism developed around 600 BCE with the works of Ajita Kesakambali, Payasi, Kanada, and the proponents of the Cārvāka school of philosophy. Kanada was one of the early proponents of atomism. The Nyaya-Vaisesika school (600 BCE - 100 BCE) developed one of the earliest forms of atomism, though their proofs of God and positing that the consciousness was not material made them not to be materialists. The atomic tradition was carried forward by Buddhist atomism and the Jaina school.

Xun Zi developed a Confucian doctrine oriented on realism and materialism in Ancient China. Other notable Chinese materialists of this time include Yang Xiong and Wang Chong.

Ancient Greek philosophers like Thales, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Epicurus and Democritus prefigure later materialists. The poem De Rerum Natura by Lucretius recounts the mechanistic philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus. According to this view, all that exists is matter and void, and all phenomena are the result of different motions and conglomerations of base material particles called "atoms." De Rerum Natura provides mechanistic explanations for phenomena such as erosion, evaporation, wind, and sound. Famous principles like "nothing can come from nothing" and "nothing can touch body but body" first appeared in the works of Lucretius.

[edit] Common Era

Later Indian materialist Jayaraashi Bhatta (6th century CE) in his work Tattvopaplavasimha ("the Upsetting of all principles") refuted the Nyaya Sutra epistemology. The materialistic Cārvāka philosophy appears to have died out some time after 1400 CE.

In early 12th-century al-Andalus, the Arabian philosopher, Ibn Tufail (Abubacer), wrote discussions on materialism in his philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan (Philosophus Autodidactus), while vaguely foreshadowing the idea of a historical materialism.[2]

[edit] European Enlightenment

Later on, Thomas Hobbes and Pierre Gassendi represent the materialist tradition, in opposition to René Descartes' attempts to provide the natural sciences with dualist foundations. They were followed by athiestic materalists Jean Meslier, Julien Offroy de La Mettrie, Paul-Henri Thiry Baron d'Holbach, Denis Diderot and other minor French enlightenment thinkers, as well as Ludwig Feuerbach, and, in England, the pedestrian traveller John "Walking" Stewart, whose insistence that all matter is endowed with a moral dimension had a major impact on the philosophical poetry of William Wordsworth.

Schopenhauer wrote that "...materialism is the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself."[3] He claimed that an observing subject can only know material objects through the mediation of the brain and its particular organization. The way that the brain knows determines the way that material objects are experienced. "Everything objective, extended, active, and hence everything material, is regarded by materialism as so solid a basis for its explanations that a reduction to this (especially if it should ultimately result in thrust and counter-thrust) can leave nothing to be desired. But all this is something that is given only very indirectly and conditionally, and is therefore only relatively present, for it has passed through the machinery and fabrication of the brain, and hence has entered the forms of time, space, and causality, by virtue of which it is first of all presented as extended in space and operating in time."[4]

[edit] Marx's social materialism

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, turning the idealist dialectics of Georg Hegel upside down, came up with dialectical materialism and a materialist account of the course of history known as historical materialism.[5] For Marx, the base material of the world is social relations (and mainly class relations, e.g, between serfs and lord, or today, between employees and employer). As an expression of these basic social relations, all other ideologies form, including those of science, economics, law, morality, etc.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the term to refer to a theoretical perspective that holds the satisfaction of everyday economic needs is the primary reality in every epoch of history. Opposed to German idealist philosophy, materialism takes the position that society and reality originate from a set of simple economic acts which human beings carry out in order to provide the material necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. Materialism takes as its starting point that before anything else, human beings must produce their everyday economic needs through their physical labor and practical productive activity. This single economic act, Marx believed, gives rise to a system of social relations which include political, legal and religious structures of society.

Critical pedagogy

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Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach grounded in critical theory. Critical pedagogy attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. Critical pedagogue Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as

"Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse." (Empowering Education, 129)

Critical pedagogy includes relationships between teaching and learning. It is a continuous process of unlearning, learning and relearning, reflection, evaluation and the impact that these actions have on the students, in particular students who have been historically and continue to be disenfranchised by traditional schooling.



[edit] Central tenets

In his book, Critical Pedagogy (2008, second edition), Joe L. Kincheloe describes the basic tenets:

"Advocates of critical pedagogy are aware that every minute of every hour that teachers teach, they are faced with complex decisions concerning justice, democracy, and competing ethical claims. While they have to make individual determinations of what to do in these particular circumstances, they must concurrently deal with what John Goodlad (1994) calls the surrounding institutional morality. A central tenet of critical pedagogy maintains that the classroom, curricular, school structures teachers enter are not neutral sites waiting to be shaped by educational professionals. While such professionals do possess agency, this prerogative is not completely free and independent of decisions made previously by people operating with different values and shaped by the ideologies and cultural assumptions of their historical contexts. These contexts are shaped in the same ways language and knowledge are constructed, as historical power makes particular practices seem natural—as if they could have been constructed in no other way." (Chapter 1).

Later in this same work Kincheloe lists the basic concerns of critical pedagogy:

[edit] Background

Critical pedagogy was heavily influenced by the works of Paulo Freire, arguably the most celebrated critical educator. According to his writings, Freire heavily endorses students’ ability to think critically about their education situation; this way of thinking allows them to "recognize connections between their individual problems and experiences and the social contexts in which they are embedded."[1] Realizing one’s consciousness ("conscientization") is a needed first step of "praxis," which is defined as the power and know-how to take action against oppression while stressing the importance of liberating education. "Praxis involves engaging in a cycle of theory, application, evaluation, reflection, and then back to theory. Social transformation is the product of praxis at the collective level."[1]

Postmodern, anti-racist, feminist, postcolonial, and queer theories all play a role in further explaining Freire’s ideas of critical pedagogy, shifting its main focus on social class to include issues pertaining to religion, military identification, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, and age. Many contemporary critical pedagogues have embraced postmodern, anti-essentialist perspectives of the individual, of language, and of power, "while at the same time retaining the Freirean emphasis on critique, disrupting oppressive regimes of power/knowledge, and social change."[1] Contemporary critical educators, such as bell hooks appropriated by Peter McLaren, discuss in their criticisms the influence of many varied concerns, institutions, and social structures, "including globalization, the mass media, and race/spiritual relations," while citing reasons for resisting the possibilities to change.[1]

Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg have created the Paulo and Nita Freire Project for International Critical Pedagogy at McGill University [2]. In line with Kincheloe and Steinberg's contributions to critical pedagogy, the project attempts to move the field to the next phase of its evolution. In this second phase critical pedagogy seeks to truly become a worldwide, decolonizing movement dedicated to listening to and learning from diverse discourses from peoples around the planet. Kincheloe and Steinberg are intent on not allowing critical pedagogy to become merely a North American phenomenon or a patriarchal one. In this listening and introspective phase critical pedagogy becomes better equipped to engage diverse peoples facing different forms of oppression in emancipatory experiences. Taking a cue from Sandy Grande and her discussion in Red Pedagogy of the fruitful negotiation between indigenous peoples and critical pedagogy, Kincheloe and Steinberg envision such dialogue with peoples around the world.

[edit] Examples

[edit] History

During South African apartheid, legal racialization implemented by the regime drove members of the radical leftist Teachers' League of South Africa to employ critical pedagogy with a focus on nonracialism in Cape Town schools and prisons. Teachers collaborated loosely to subvert the racist curriculum and encourage critical examination of religious, military, political, and social circumstances in terms of spirit-friendly, humanist, and democratic ideologies. The efforts of such teachers are credited with having bolstered student resistance and activism.[3]

[edit] Literature

Authors of critical pedagogy texts not only include Paulo Freire, as mentioned above, but also Michael Apple, Henry Giroux, Peter McLaren, Joe L. Kincheloe, Howard Zinn, Suresh Canagarajah, Alastair Pennycook, Graham Crookes and others. Educationalists including Jonathan Kozol and Parker Palmer are sometimes included in this category. Other critical pedagogues more known for their anti-schooling, unschooling, or deschooling perspectives include Ivan Illich, John Holt, dead prez, Ira Shor, John Taylor Gatto, Matt Hern, and Carlo Ricci.

Much of the work draws on anarchism, feminism, Marxism, György Lukács, Wilhelm Reich, Khen Lampert, postcolonialism, and the discourse theories of Edward Said, Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault. Radical Teacher is a magazine dedicated to critical pedagogy and issues of interest to critical educators. The Rouge Forum is an online organization led by people involved with critical pedagogy.

Popular education

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Popular education is at the crossroads between politics and pedagogy, and strongly relies on the democratic ideal of the Enlightenment, which considered public education as a main tool of individual and collective emancipation, and thus the necessary conditions of autonomy, in accordance to Immanuel Kant's Was Ist Aufklärung? (What is Enlightenment?), published five years before the 1789 French Revolution, during which the Condorcet report established public instruction in France. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's L'Emile: Or, On Education (1762) was another obvious theoretical influence, as well as the works of Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783 - 1872), at the origins of the Nordic movement of folk high schools. During the 19th century, popular education movements were involved, in particular in France, in the Republican and Socialist movement. A main component of the workers' movement, popular education was also strongly influenced by positivist, materialist and laicite, if not anti-clerical, ideas.

Popular education may be defined as an educational technique designed to raise the consciousness of its participants and allow them to become more aware of how an individual's personal experiences are connected to larger societal problems. Participants are empowered to act to effect change on the problems that affect them.



[edit] Popular education in the 19th century

One of the roots of popular education was the Condorcet report during the 1789 French Revolution. These ideas became an important component of the Republican and Socialist movement. Following the split of the First International at the 1872 Hague Congress between the "anti-authoritarian socialists" (anarchists) and the Marxists, popular education remained an important part of the workers' movement, in particular in the anarcho-syndicalist movement, strong in France, Spain and Italy. It was one of the important theme treated during the 1907 International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam.

[edit] In France

During the Second Empire, Jean Macé founded the Ligue de l'enseignement (Teaching League) in 1866; during the Lille Congress in 1885, Macé reaffirmed the masonic inspiration of this league devoted to popular instruction. Following the 1872 Hague Congress and the split between Marxists and anarchists, Fernand Pelloutier set up in France various Bourses du travail centres, where workers gathered and discussed politics and sciences.

The Jules Ferry laws in the 1880s, establishing free, laic, mandatory and public education, were one of the founding stones of the Third Republic (1871-1940), set up in the aftermaths of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune.

Furthermore, most of the teachers, who were throughout one of the main support of the Third Republic, so much that it has been called the République des instituteurs ("Republic of Teachers"), while the teachers themselves were called, because of their Republican anti-clericalism, the hussards noirs de la République, supported Alfred Dreyfus against the conservatives during the Dreyfus Affair. One of its consequences was for them to set up free educational lectures of humanist topics for adults in order to struggle against the spread of anti-semitism, which was not limited to the far-right but also affected the workers' movement.

Paul Robin's work at the orphanage in Cempuis was the model for Francisco Ferrer's Modern School in Spain. Robin taught atheism and internationalism, and broke new ground with co-ed schooling, and teaching orphans with the same respect given to other children. He taught that the individual should develop in harmony with the world, on the physical, moral, and intellectual planes.

[edit] 20th century

Popular education continued to be an important field of socialist politics, reemerging in particular during the Popular Front in 1936-38, while autogestion (self-management), a main tenet of the anarcho-syndicalist movement, became a popular slogan following the May '68 revolt.

[edit] The Escuela Moderna (1901-1907)

The Escuela Moderna (Modern School) was founded in 1901 in Barcelona by free-thinker Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, and became a leading inspiration of many various movements[1]. The school's stated goal was to "educate the working class in a rational, secular and non-coercive setting". In practice, high tuition fees restricted attendance at the school to wealthier middle class students. It was privately hoped that when the time was ripe for revolutionary action, these students would be motivated to lead the working classes. It closed in 1906. The Escuela Moderna, and Ferrer's ideas generally, formed the inspiration for a series of Modern Schools in the United States[1], Cuba, South America and London. The first of these was started in New York City in 1911. It also inspired the Italian newspaper Università popolare, founded in 1901.

[edit] France

List of lectures, Université populaire - town of Villeurbanne - 1936.

Following the 1981 presidential election which brought to power the Socialist Party (PS)'s candidate, François Mitterrand, his Minister of Education, Alain Savary, supported Jean Lévi's initiative to create a public high school, delivering the baccalauréat, but organized on the principles of autogestion (or self-management): this high school took the name of Lycée autogéré de Paris (LAP)[2]. The LAP explicitly inspired itself by the Oslo Experimental High School, opened in 1967 in Norway, as well as the Saint-Nazaire Experimental High School, opened six months before the LAP. Furthermore, the secondary school Vitruve was another source of inspiration (it opened in 1962 in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, and is still active). Theoretical references include Célestin Freinet and his comrades from the I.C.E.M., as well as Raymond Fonvieille, Fernand Oury,and others theoreticians of "institutional pedagogy," as well as those coming from the institutional analysis movement, in particular René Lourau, as well as members of the institutional psychotherapeutic movement, which were a main component in the 1970s of the anti-psychiatric movement (of which Félix Guattari was an important member). Since 2005, the LAP has created contact with others self-managed firms, in the REPAS network (Réseau d'échanges et de pratiques alternatives et solidaires, Network of Exchange of Solidarity and Alternative Practices").

A second generation for such folk high school meant to educate the people and the masses spread in the society (mainly for workers) just before the French Front populaire experience, as a reaction among teachers and intellectuals following the February 6, 1934 riots organized by far-right leagues. Issues devoted to free-thinking such as workers' self-management were thought and taught during that time, since the majority of attendants were proletarians interested in politics. Hence, some received the name of Université prolétarienne (Proletarian University) instead of Université populaire (Popular University)[3] in some cities around the country. The reactionary Vichy regime put an end to such tentatives during World War II. That tendency continued in the post-war period, yet topical lectures turned to be more practical and focused on daily life matters. Nowadays, the largest remnant is located in Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin départements (see external links).

Following World War II, popular teaching attempts were initiated mainly by the anarchist movement. Already in 1943, Joffre Dumazedier, Bénigno Cacérès, Paul Lengrand, Joseph Rovan and others founded the Peuple et Culture (People and Culture) network, aimed at democratization of culture. Joffre Dumazedier conceptualized, at the Liberation, the concept of "cultural development" to oppose the concept of "economic development", thus foreshading the current Human Development Index. Historian Jean Maitron, for example, was director of the Apremont school in Vendée from 1950 to 1955.

Such popular educations were also a major feature of May '68 and of the following decenie, leading in particular to the establishment of the University of Paris VIII - Vincennes in Paris, in 1969. The Vincennes University (today located in Saint-Denis) was first a "Experimental University Center," with an interest in reshaping relations between students and teachers (so-called "mandarins", in reference to the bureaucrats of Imperial China, for their authority and classic, Third Republic pedagogy) as well as between the University itself and society. Thus, Vincennes was largely opened to those who did not have their baccalauréat diploma, as well as to foreigners. Its courses were focused on Freudo-Marxism, psychoanalysis, Marxist theory, cinema, theater, urbanism or artificial intelligence. Famous intellectuals such as Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and others held seminars there, in full classrooms where no seats could be found. The assistance was very heterogeneous. For instance, musicians such as Richard Pinhas assisted at Deleuze's courses, and after having written the Anti-Oedipus (1972) with Félix Guattari, Deleuze used to say that non-specialists had best understood their work. Furthermore, Vincennes had no amphitheatres, representatives of the mandarin teacher facing and dominating by his position several hundreds students silenciously taking notes. It also enforced a strict equality between professors and teaching assistants. The Student Revolt continued through-out the 1970s in both Vincennes and the University of Paris X: Nanterre, created in 1964. In 1980, the Minister of Education Alice Saunier-Seité imposed the transfer of Vincennes' University to Saint-Denis. Although education has been normalized in the 1980s, during the Mitterrand era, in both Saint-Denis and Vincennes, these universities have retained a less traditional outlook than the classic Sorbonne, where courses tend to be more conservative and sociological composition more middle-upper class.

Another attempt in popular education, specifically targeted towards the question of philosophy (France being one of the rare country where this discipline is taught in terminale, the last year of high school which culminate in the baccalauréat degree) was the creation, in 1983, of the open university named Collège international de philosophie (International Philosophy College, or Ciph), by Jacques Derrida, François Châtelet, Jean-Pierre Faye and Dominique Lecourt, in an attempt to re-think the teaching of philosophy in France, and to liberate it from any institutional authority (most of all from the University). As the ancient Collège de France, created by Francis I, it is free and open to everyone. The Ciph was first directed by Derrida, then by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and has had as teaching members Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Sidi Mohamed Barkat, Geoffrey Bennington, François Châtelet, José Gil, Olivier LeCour Grandmaison, Antonio Negri, etc. The Ciph is still active.

In 2002, philosopher Michel Onfray initiated Université populaire de Caen[4] in his hometown and starting a long seminar dealing with hedonistic philosophy from ancient times to May'68 events in French society, for at least ten years, currently year 8 will start[5]. His very topical subject in this seminar keeps going with a free-thinking spirit, since people are invited on the whole to rethink History of ideas to get rid of any Christian influence. Despite the same name of Université populaire, it is not linked to the European federation of associations inherited from the second generation. In 2004, Michel Onfray expanded the experience[6] to other cities such as Arras, Lyon, Narbonne, Avignon, and Mons (in Belgium) ; each with various lectures and teachers joining his idea. Last but not least of those Universités populaires is the one that opened in Argentan : Its focus is meant to deliver a culture of culinary tastes to workless people, through lectures and practises of famous chefs[7].

[edit] See also

Theoretical contributions

"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the ‘practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."
Jane Thompson, drawing on Paulo Freire, [2]

Paulo Freire contributed a philosophy of education that came not only from the more classical approaches stemming from Plato, but also from modern Marxist and anti-colonialist thinkers. In fact, in many ways his Pedagogy of the Oppressed may be best read as an extension of, or reply to, Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, which emphasized the need to provide native populations with an education which was simultaneously new and modern (rather than traditional) and anti-colonial (not simply an extension of the culture of the colonizer).

Freire is best-known for his attack on what he called the "banking" concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. The basic critique was not new — Rousseau's conception of the child as an active learner was already a step away from tabula rasa (which is basically the same as the "banking concept"), and thinkers like John Dewey were strongly critical of the transmission of mere "facts" as the goal of education. Freire's work, however, updated the concept and placed it in context with current theories and practices of education, laying the foundation for what is now called critical pedagogy.

More challenging is Freire's strong aversion to the teacher-student dichotomy. This dichotomy is admitted in Rousseau and constrained in Dewey, but Freire comes close to insisting that it should be completely abolished. This is hard to imagine in absolute terms, since there must be some enactment of the teacher-student relationship in the parent-child relationship, but what Freire suggests is that a deep reciprocity be inserted into our notions of teacher and student. Freire wants us to think in terms of teacher-student and student-teacher - that is, a teacher who learns and a learner who teaches - as the basic roles of classroom participation. Freire however insists that educator and student, though sharing democratic social relations of education, are not on an equal footing, but the educator must be humble enough to be disposed to relearn that which he/she already thinks she knows, through interaction with the learner. The authority which the educator enjoys must not be allowed to degenerate into authoritarianism.

This is one of the few attempts anywhere to implement something like democracy as an educational method and not merely a goal of democratic education. Even Dewey, for whom democracy was a touchstone, did not integrate democratic practices fully into his methods, though this was in part a function of Dewey's attitudes toward individuality. In its strongest early form this kind of classroom has been criticized on the grounds that it can mask rather than overcome the teacher's authority.

Freire's work has also been subject to criticism. Rich Gibson[3] has critiqued his work as a cul-de-sac, a combination of old-style socialism (wherever Freire was not) and liberal reformism (wherever Freire was). Paul V. Taylor, in his "Texts of Paulo Freire," comes close to calling Freire a plagiarist, while Gibson notes Freire borrows heavily from Hegel's "Phenomenology." Gibson's dissertation which examines Freire's theory, practice, and history in a Marxist context is the sharpest critique of Freire to date.

[edit] Global impact

Freire's major exponents in North America are Peter McLaren, Donaldo Macedo, Joe L. Kincheloe, Ira Shor, and Henry Giroux. One of McLaren's edited texts, Paulo Freire: A Critical Encounter, expounds upon Freire's impact in the field of critical education. McLaren has also provided a comparative study concerning Paulo Freire and the Argentinian revolutionary icon, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, a book which has recently also been translated into Italian.

In 1991, the Paulo Freire Institute was established in São Paulo to extend and elaborate upon his theories of popular education. The Institute now has projects in many countries and is currently headquartered at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies where it actively maintains the Freire archives. The director is Dr. Carlos Torres, a UCLA professor and author of Freirean books including La praxis educativa de Paulo Freire (1978).

The Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference is held each spring and is guided by the theory and practice of these two liberatory practitioners. The Conference networks a wide variety of people with interests in Freire and Augusto Boal—liberatory education and theatre, community organizing, community-based analysis, TIE, race/gender/class/sexual orientation/geography analysis, performance/performance art, comparative education models, etc.

The Paulo and Nita Freire Project for International Critical Pedagogy has been founded at McGill University. Here Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg have worked to create a dialogical forum for critical scholars around the world to promote research and re-create a Freirean pedagogy in a multinational domain.

Paulo Freire's work also had a profound impact on Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa[citation needed].

At his death, Freire was working on a book of Ecopedagogy, a platform of work carried on by many of the Freire Institutes and Freirean Associations around the world today. It has been influential in helping to develop planetary education projects such as the Earth Charter as well as countless international grassroots campaigns per the spirit of Freirean popular education generally.

Frantz Fanon

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Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon on the cover of an English translation of Les damnés de la terre
Born July 20, 1925 (1925-07-20)
Died December 6, 1961 (1961-12-07)
Citizenship French

Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961) was a psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and author from Martinique. He was influential in the field of post-colonial studies and was perhaps the pre-eminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization.[1] His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.[2]




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Intersubjectivity is something which is shared by two or more subjects.



[edit] Definition

Intersubjectivity is "The sharing of subjective states by two or more individuals." [1]

The term is used in three ways:

  1. Firstly, in its weakest sense it is used to refer to agreement. There is said to be intersubjectivity between people if they agree on a given set of meanings or definition of the situation.
  2. Secondly, and somewhat more subtly it has been used to refer to the "common-sense," shared meanings constructed by people in their interactions with each other and used as an everyday resource to interpret the meaning of elements of social and cultural life. If people share common sense, then they share a definition of the situation. [2]
  3. Thirdly, the term has been used to refer to shared (or partially shared) divergences of meaning. Self-presentation, lying, practical jokes, and social emotions, for example, all entail not a shared definition of the situation, but partially shared divergences of meaning. Someone who is telling a lie is engaged in an intersubjective act because they are working with two different definitions of the situation. Lying is thus genuinely inter-subjective (in the sense of operating between two subjective definitions of reality).

Intersubjectivity emphasizes that shared cognition and consensus is essential in the shaping of our ideas and relations. Language is viewed as communal rather than private. Hence it is problematic to view the individual as partaking in a private world, which is once and for all defined.

Intersubjectivity is today an important concept in modern schools of psychoanalysis, where it has found application to the theory of the interrelations between analyst and analysand.

[edit] Intersubjectivity in psychoanalysis

Among the early authors who use in psychoanalysis this conception, in explicit or implicit way, we can mention Heinz Kohut, Robert Stolorow, George E. Atwood, Jessica Benjamin in United States and Silvia Montefoschi in Italy. Adopting an intersubjective perspective in psychoanalysis means, above all, to give up what Robert Stolorow defines “the myth of isolated mind”.

Since the late 1980s, a direction in psychoanalysis often referred to as relational psychoanalysis or just relational theory has developed. A central person is Daniel Stern [3]. Empirically, the intersubjective school is inspired by research on the non-verbal communication of infants [4]. A main issue is how central relational issues are communicated at a very fast pace in a non-verbal fashion. They also stress the importance of real relationships with two equivalent partners. The journal Psychoanalytic Dialogues is devoted to relational psychoanalysis.

[edit] Intersubjectivity in philosophy

[edit] Phenomenology

In phenomenology, intersubjectivity performs many functions. It is available to us through empathy, which in phenomenology involves experiencing another body as another subject, and not just an object among objects. In doing so, one also experiences oneself as seen by the Other, and the world in general as a shared world instead of one that is only available to oneself.

Early studies on the phenomenology of intersubjectivity were done by Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. However, it was his student, Edith Stein, who studied its basis in empathy thoroughly in her 1917 doctoral dissertation On the Problem of Empathy (Zum Problem der Einfuhlung).

Through intersubjectivity one thus experiences oneself as different from the Other and at the same time available to him. This is a key component in the constitution of one's own existence as objectively existing subjectivity. What has already been implied is how intersubjectivity also helps in the constitution of objectivity: In the experience of the world as available not only to oneself, but also to the Other, the constitution of the world and its objects as objectively existing objects is constituted. This also includes the existence of Others, although they are constituted, much in the way oneself is constituted, as objectively existing subjectivities.

[edit] See also

Intersubjectivity and philosophy:

Intersubjectivity in psychoanalysis: