The Organic Intellect and 21st Century Connective Intellectuals
Transforming the world will require new knowledge from both the horizontal and vertical knowledge-worlds. The popular production of knowledge from innovative horizontal practices will be assisted by new forms of lateral digital communication and exchange, whereby citizens can find things out for themselves and exchange experiences, thereby becoming more specialist. But the knowledge world cannot simply be transformed from below; it also requires progressive forms of specialisation from technical experts who are prepared to serve a universal and progressive cause because their vertical knowledge is informed by a horizontal dimension (Lawson, 2019).
Introducing the concept of the Organic Intellect
As the Neal Lawson quotation argues, the progressive transformation of society requires not only an advanced general consciousness, a form of societal, political, economic and ecological awareness, but also different types of expertise required to innovate and to run society in new ways. Interacting together, these two dimensions of thinking and knowledge can be seen to constitute what I have termed the Organic Intellect.
Gramsci’s concept of Organic Intellectuals, understood as political and ideological organisers required to establish a new social and political order, is a recognised as a major 20th Century contribution to how consensus is organised in society. Given the constraints under which he worked, however, he did not go as far as to develop the combinational concept of the Organic Intellect. Nevertheless, Gramsci did elaborate building important block concepts such as common sense, good sense, and the philosophy of praxis that are drawn into the new framework.
Horizontal and vertical dimensions
The Organic Intellect framework comprises two fundamental dimensions – the horizontal and the vertical. The horizontal is associated with civil society and lateral social sharing, whereas the vertical is an expression of the governmental state and hierarchical relations.
As part of the modern expanded state, these two dimensions are in a constant state of interaction and contemporary human thinking and activity always comprises different combinations of the horizontal and the vertical. These interactions are explored later in this piece.
Advanced versions of the horizontal and the vertical
This piece engages, therefore, with the concept of the general intellect and connective specialisation. This neo Gramscian concept builds on his 20th-century work on the role of education and ideology.
The General Intellect