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Political Sense and Sensibility

Gramsci to Bourdieu
  • Patrick McGee
Chapter
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Abstract

In many ways, the idea for this project comes from the forty-eighth note in Antonio Gramsci’s third prison notebook, which was written in 1930.1 Under the heading “Spontaneity and Conscious Leadership,” eventually the note was published in a collection of notes titled The Modern Prince.2 In it, Gramsci associates spontaneity with feeling shaped by common sense, and he attributes such feeling to the masses. Feeling is spontaneous only in the sense that it has not been produced by a systematic educational process and does not express itself through a specialized language. Gramsci defines common sense as the popular understanding of the world, though he insists that such an understanding should not be confused with a concept like instinct. In this note, Gramsci poses the question of whether theory and common sense are in opposition to one another. By implication, though he never formulates the problem in exactly these terms, he poses the same question about the relation between abstract meaning and feeling, or between sense and sensibility. He understands the spontaneous feelings of the masses to be the direct expression of common sense, but since no feeling can be known or communicated without the use of language (or without some kind of verbal or physical gesture, which is its own kind of language), then the real distinction here must be between a use of language that is specialized and abstract and a use of language that is ordinary and saturated with feeling.

Keywords

Common Sense Cultural Capital Good Sense Ordinary Language Academic Field 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, vol. 2, ed. and trans. Joseph A. Buttigieg (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 48–52.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971), 196–200.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 108–14; 128–35.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, Search for a Method, trans. Hazel Barnes (New York: Vintage, 1968), 97–98.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Josè Nun, “Elements for a Theory of Democracy: Gramsci and Common Sense,” boundary 2 14.3 (1986): 197–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 8.
    Marcia Landy, “Cultural Politics and Common Sense,” in Film, Politics, and Gramsci (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 73–98.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 1, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Verso, 2004). See, in particular, chapter 2 of book I and chapters 1–3 of book II.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 1984. See, in particular, chapter 2.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Pierre Bourdieu, The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, trans. Peter Collier (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Pierre Bourdieu, The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power, trans. Lauretta C. Clough (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998).Google Scholar

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© Patrick McGee 2009

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  • Patrick McGee

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