the following write up on "History of the Subaltern Classes" "The Concept of Ideology" "Cultural Themes: Ideological Material" is by Josna Perumannil
The term subaltern is used in postcolonial theory. The exact meaning of the term in current philosophical and critical usage is disputed. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak use it in a more specific sense. She argues that subaltern is not just a classy word for oppressed, for Other, for somebody who's not getting a piece of the pie....In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern-—a space of difference. Now who would say that's just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It's not subaltern....Many people want to claim subalternity. Subaltern was first used in a non-military sense by Marxist Antonio Gramsci.
History of the Subaltern Classes
In the state there are two groups one is the ruling classes and the other is the subaltern classes. Ruling classes those who handling the State power. They are the dominating class. The Subaltern classes are part the ‘civil society’. They are intertwined with the civil society, and thereby with the history of the States and the groups of State.
Gramsci emphasizes the centrality of the State and State Power during a subaltern class struggle. He states that the possession of State Power is crucial to the Subaltern class struggle. Due to the complexity of formation of the Subaltern classes and diversity of subjects that constitute the Subaltern class it becomes very difficult for the Subaltern classes to unite and rise against ruling classes.
The history of the Subaltern groups is very complex. It must include all the repercussions of party activity, throughout the area of the subaltern groups themselves taken globally, and also upon the attitudes of the dominant groups. Among the subaltern groups, one will exercise hegemony through the mediation of a party; it must be established by studying the development of the all other parties too. The hegemony or the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as ‘domination’ and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’. The dominate group even uses armed force to subjugate the antagonistic group. In order to win the governmental power, they already exercise the ‘leadership’.
The Concept of ‘Ideology’ and Cultural Themes: Ideological Material
‘Ideology’ was an aspect of ‘sensationalism’. Different meanings of ‘ideology’ was ‘science of ideas’, ‘analysis of ideas’ and ‘investigation of the original ideas’. Ideas derived from sensations. In Marxist philosophy of praxis represents a distinct advance and historically is precisely in opposition to ideology. Ideology contains a negative value judgment in Marxist philosophy, the Ideology as the ‘Base’ and praxis as a superstructure.
The main elements of error in assessing the value of ideologies within Marxist philosophy are
1. The base always determines the super structure but the super structure cannot determine the base.
2. If any political solution is ideological, it is sidelined as being impractical and inferior.
3. Ideology is only superficial; it does not have any concrete effects.
Gramsci points out that there is always an opposition between ideology and praxis wherein ideology is assigned an inferior position. He explains the ideology and the ideological materials (materials through which ideology operates) are very crucial in understanding the methodological criterion to approach the subaltern class struggle.
Gramsci states that the print media is one of the ideological materials through which the dominant ideology is propagated. He even believes that the first step to stop being subalternized is by serious intellectual and moral activity and also the erasing the concept of ‘mass’. Through this essay Gramsci adds an new dimension to the domain of cultural studies.