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8 Ideology The materiality ofideology The term ideology has often been used to mean simply a system of ideas, as for instance when people refer to liberal or conservative or socialist ideology. For Gramsci, ideology was more than a system of ideas. He distinguishes between the arbitrary systems worked out by particular intellectuals or philosophers, and historically organic ideologies, that is, those which are necessary to a given social formation: 'To the extent that ideologies are historically necessary they have a validity which is psychological; they "organise" human masses, and create the terrain on which men move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc.' (SPN 367). Ideologies are not individual fancies, but are embodied in collective and communal modes of living. And Gramsci refers to the affirmation made by Marx about the 'solidity ofpopular beliefs'. Ideology is therefore not something which, as it were, floats in the air high above the political and other practical activities of men and women. On the contrary, it has a material existence in these practical activities. It provides people with rules of practical conduct and moral behaviour, and is equivalent to 'a religion understood in the secular sense of a unity of faith between a conception of the world and a corresponding norm of conduct' (SPN326). Gramsci points out that there is often a contradiction between the philosophy, or conception of the world, or religion which a 59 GRAMscrs POLmCAL THOUGHT person consciously believes, and one's mode of conduct, and he asks 'which therefore is one's real conception of the world - that which is logically affirmed as an intellectual choice, or that which emerges from the real activity of each person and which is implicit in his or her mode of action?' (SPN 326) The necessary transformation ofpolitical consciousness required for the advance to socialism has to be moral as well as intellectual and that is why Gramsci calls for a 'moral and intellectual' reform as an essential element ofthe hegemony ofthe working class. In reading the Prison Notebooks it is helpful to bear in mind that Gramsci uses a variety of terms which for him are broadly equivalent to ideology, such as culture, philosophy, world outlook, or conception of the world, as well as the phrase 'moral and intellectual reform' when he is dealing with the transformation of consciousness required for the advance to socialism. There is another important aspect of the material nature of ideology. Ideological practice possesses its own agents in the shape of intellectuals who specialise in the elaboration oforganic ideologies and in the task ofmoral and intellectual reform. In his note on the Risorgimento Gramsci shows how the leaders of the Moderate Party successfully carried out this task for the Italian bourgeoisie through building an ideological bloc which exercised a powerful attraction throughout the country. They acted as the 'organic intellectuals' of the Italian bourgeoisie because they performed this vital function for it. So he argues that every fundamental class 'creates one or more strata ofintellectuals who give it homogeneity and an awareness ofits own function not only in the economic but also in the political and social fields' (SPN 5). Thus the working class must also create its own organic intellectuals if it is to succeed in becoming hegemonic. The vital role of intellectuals and of a revolutionary party as a 'collective intellectual' is further discussed in Chapters 12 and 14. To sum up the argument so far, ideologies have a material existence in the sense that they are embodied in the social practices of individuals and in the institutions and organisations 60 IDEOLOGY within which these social practices take place. These organisations include the political parties, trade unions and other organisations forming part of civil society; the various apparatuses of the state; and economic organisations such as industrial and commercial companies and financial institutions. All these bodies playa part in elaborating, sustaining and spreading ideologies; or in other words, they have ideological effects. It is important to recognise that this applies to state apparatuses as well as to the organisations ofcivil society; for example, the ideological effects ofthe law and the legal system are very inOuential; the law does not only have a coercive effect. Lastly, it must be stressed that ideologies are not to be reduced to social practices; they not only have a material existence, but they also exist in and through ideas, through the relations ofconcepts and propositions. Ideology lUI cement Gramsci considers that an ideology is not to be judged by...


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