Baloch Students Action Committee Karachi University (BSAC-KU) held its weekly lecture on the topic entitled ‘Cultural Hegemony’; the speaker was Shadad Baloch (M.phil student at Quaid Azam University Islamabad).
He started with the introduction of the notion of Cultural Hegemony and the political life of Italian neo-Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci and his masterpiece work ‘Prison Notebooks’ that he wrote while he was in prison.
Shading light on the political life of Gramsci who was one of the founders of Communist Party of Italy and its general secretary; the time he was prisoned he elaborated that political prisoners like Gramsci are unlike Nelson Mandela who had an happy ending but Gramsci did not. Gramsi might not have reached to the conclusion in his notebooks if he wasn’t prisoned. He had the chance to leave Italy when the fascist regime took power in Italy but he chose to be in prison where he contemplated the failure of Marxist revolutionaries in Italy and else where in Europe.
While discussing his concept of Hegemony the speaker argued that force is not the sole form to rule over masses, there is another way to control and rule over masses that is through creating hegemony- to control the ideas of the masses. The human actions are the reflection of ideas and the beliefs men hold. To control the ideas is to control the actions. And that control is maintained through creating hegemony in the sphere of ‘civil society’ that contains private organizations like schools, churches, or mosques, journals, and parties.
Gramsci’s arguments break down the super structure into two floors of action ‘Civil Society’ and ‘Political Society’. Civil society is the market place of ideas where ‘intellectuals’ act as salesmen of contending ideas while ‘Political Society’ is the coercive apparatus of state that includes army, police and courts. Power is exerted on both floors but with different methods.
Gramsci’s search for the role of ‘intellectuals’ in a society led him to the conclusion of his notion of hegemony which he points out is established through intellectuals that are the deputies of the state. He groups intellectuals in two categories ‘organic intellectuals’ and ‘traditional intellectuals’. The interest of the first group are identical with the interests of ruling class who belong to a particular class and prepare men for the ‘political society’ of state. While ‘traditional intellectuals’ have no specific class and political ideology but contribute to the creation of hegemony in ‘civil society’ consciously or unconsciously.
Further the speaker elaborated that the working class should produce its own intellectuals to give a counter narrative to the hegemonic culture. For goal of any social change three areas that need to be given alternatives; the intellectuals, the education and the philosophy of society that gives direction to political action. The hegemon maintains its hegemony by controlling the three areas.
He pointed out that unless you shift the perspectives, the change is hard to occur in a society. Masses cannot only be subordinated to the force but also to the world view and the ideas of the ruling class. This hegemon struggle requires the leadership of intellectuals who organize the society, without organizing itself the human mass cannot be independent and there is no organization without intellectuals.
Furthermore, he explains that public opinion is linked to political hegemon and ‘public opinion’ is shaped through mass media as well. To accept the status quo and the order of the land is to reinforce the hegemonic rule of the ruling class that is giving the free consent to rule intentionally or unintentionally. At last, he argued through common sense that the consent is produced from population who start accepting the things the way they are. There is no natural political and social situation in any corner of the world.
In concluding remarks he thanked BSAC for inviting him and holding academic debates weekly in the university.
Baloch Students Action Committee Karachi University (BSAC-KU)