Subalternity and Common Sense
This chapter examines certain trends in contemporary political thought through an analysis of Antonio Gramsci's work. Three components of his work have spearheaded a recent resurgence in Gramscian studies: (1) his examination of how cultural representations and institutions of civil society shape social realities; (2) his formulation of the “subaltern”; and (3) his notion of the “organic intellectual”. His work demonstrates that when culture emerges from a civil society that is a reflection of the state, it often produces oppressive hierarchies through its representations, creating actual material realities. It also demonstrates that these hierarchies can be “deconstructed” because they are cultural constructs rather than truths, and that novel understandings of the social, through the inventions of the organic intellectual, or through ones that are emitted from a subaltern space, are possible, and already operative as forces that upset the neoliberal consensus.
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