At the meeting in Lincoln I referred to in the last post I found myself thinking about and in terms that I am not particularly familiar with or, if I was, found the envelope of my understanding being’ ‘pushed’, as they say. ‘Resilience’ was one. Others were ideas about ‘the social mind’ and ‘mass intelllectuality’. One temptation, perhaps unavoidable, is to subsume new ideas into existing ways of understanding. You’ve got to start somewhere rather than nowhere. ‘Social mind’ immediately calls up Durkheim’s ideas on the ‘conscience collective’ for instance. ‘Mass intellectuality’ sounds like it might be an amalgam of Gramsci’s ideas on hegemony, commonsense and organic intellectuals coupled to various processes of socialisation and ‘interpellation’, a term used by Althusser to denote the process whereby individuals internalise identities, roles, ways of understanding (being knowledgeable?) and expectations through a process of being ‘addressed’ by society and culture. Then there are Marx’s ideas on how classes develop collective class consciousness, become a class ‘for itself’ rather than just an objectively existing class ‘in itself’. Class consciousness develops as individuals, in the company of others in the same position (so communication and discussion are important) are hit between the eyes by the objective exploitative features of their daily lives.
So I need to investigate mass intellectuality and the social mind in a ways that do not presupose my automatic categorisations or at leaset are aware of and if necessary critical of how this prior knowledge may be constrainign what it is I’m learning. This will require reading new ideas and new thinkers. One way to begin to think out of the box is to read writers that are already out of the box you are in. Of course there is always the possibility you discover that some of these new thinkers are not really that far out of the box as they seem and in fact are repackaging the older ways of thinking and understanding and what is new is the bottle they have put the old win into.
Towards this end I will be looking at the references I have been kindly in addtion to the about the work of the Italian Marxist philosopher Paolo Virno on notions of mass intellectuality and a number of critiques.