Sunday, 14 June 2009

Gramsci on the (popular) university

"The directors of the Popular University know that the institution they run has to cater for a specific category of people who have not been able to follow regular studies at school. And that it all. They are not bothered about how these people might be drawn most effectively to the world of knowledge ... They do not consider that the state universities are a natural point of arrival of a whole activity of previous work; they do not consider that when a student arrives at university he [sic...and sic for all the ones hereafter] has passed through the experience of high school and this has disciplined his spirit of research...he has been through a process of becoming, he has been made alert gradually and gently, falling into error and pulling himself up, taking wrong turns and getting back on course. These directors do not understand that bits of knowledge, plucked out from all this previous activity of individual research, are nothing other than dogmas, absolute truths. Thy do not understand that the Popular University, as they run it, is reduced to a form of theological teaching ... where knowledge is presented as something definitive, self-evident and unquestionable.

Not even the universities are are like this. There is now a common conviction that a truth os fecund only when one has made an effort to master it, that it does not exist in and for itself but has been a conquest of the spirit, and that each individual must reproduce in himself that state of anxiety which the scholar passed through before arriving at it.


It [the history of their subject] forms the scholar, it gives his mind that elasticity or methodological doubt which makes an amateur into a serious person, which purifies curiosity (in the popular sense of the word) and turns it into healthy and fecund stimulus towards ever increasing and more perfect knowledge"

Antonio Gramsci, Avanti 29 Dec 1916, in Gramsci Reader pp. 65-66

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