Bildung, intellectuals and experts

Originally posted on The Gramsci Blog:

Gramsci is known for the quote “everybody is an intellectual”. By this he naturally does not imply that everybody has the role in society as an intellectual, but simply that there are some subjects about which everybody has an opinion.

In an often used quote (at least by me), Gramsci states how a person who only knew his regional Italian dialect and was asked to translate a Chinese text, might think he was being made fun of and punch you, while he on the other hand would have no hesitation speaking his mind on a range of matters about society of which he had not much more training than in Chinese.

I believe these latter subjects perhaps are best described by the phrase “worldview”, and it is in the sense that everybody has a worldview, that we are all intellectuals.

This connects us, I believe, to the German term “bildung”. It is perhaps testament to a domineering technical/usefulness-approach to education in the anglo-american cultural sphere, that this term is also used in english. The similar Swedish term is the related “bildning”, while the Norwegian “dannelse”, can be translated by “formation”, but then in the formation of a human being into a person fully capable of being a contributing member of society at large, and not simply a skilled professional.

The subjects that bring about this, is I believe, to a large degree overlapping with the worldview-subjects Gramsci alludes to.

This came to my mind, when i recently came across a facebook post on a page I follow, satirizing a number of ideas often promoted by alternative medicine, conspiracist and other forms of “alternative” milieu, by fantasizing what it would look like if these ideas were connected to automobiles. This was done by creating a frontpage of an imagined Alternative Automobile magazine, with headers like “Several chain collisions revealed as false flags” and “My car has electromagnetic hypersensitivity” and on and on – it presents an absurd picture.

But it raises the question. Why are such claims so much more absurd? Why does nobody try to develop homeopathic gasoline to prevent climate change? Why not send the car to a healer instead of a garage?

In this area we all trust the experts. My preliminary answer is because auto mechanics falls outside the area of “worldview”. And this “worldview” is not limited to questions about society, it definitely also relates to nature. While nobody thinks cars run by magic, some people do believe the earth is flat.

The shape of our universe definitely connects to worldview, as does our place within it, including bort certain questions about health and medicine and our place in society. All questions prone to different pseudoscientific an conspiratorial beliefs. All questions relevant in understanding both recent US elections, and the role of internet media platforms.

Yet again, Gramsci’s observations have a lasting relevance in interpreting our current situation.

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