Organic intellectuals of Pakistan

February 5, 2017

Looking at the perilous consequences of the popularity of opinion makers and comparing them with Gramsci’s organic intellectuals

Organic intellectuals of Pakistan

Organic intellectuals, according to Italian Marxist theorist and politician Antonio Francesco Gramsci, were connected to classes that used them to organise interests, gain more power and control. Public opinion in Pakistan too is controlled by these organic intellectuals who are actually senior journalists, column writers of Urdu and English newspapers and TV anchors. One can observe these organic intellectuals appearing on mainstream media to debate politics, economics, religion and social issues of Pakistan.

Gramsci believed that organic intellectuals are actively involved in society, that is they constantly struggle to change minds to develop certain opinion about politics, economic and social issues of the society.

In media industry, the production and distribution of information is being controlled by these media personnel and they are presented by (themselves) media outlets as intellectuals. These organic intellectuals are either political or defence analysts and have become public opinion leaders in Pakistan. More or less, the same analysts are appearing on all news channels in the day-to-day transmissions and then publishing in newspapers.

Professors of public and private varsities have less representation on TV channels as public opinion leaders; therefore, professors who are specialists in particular subjects are not popular and are not considered reliable. However, media personalities are considered reliable and authentic.

Since organic intellectuals are opinion leaders, so the ruling parties consider them an important organ of the society and have started to invest on them. These visible and invisible investments vary from intellectual to intellectual. However, the main target remains constant and that is to ensure a favourable opinion of public mind through them. The ruling class of Pakistan is the main beneficiary of this state of intellectuals which helps them strengthen their stranglehold on power.

Edward Said, Julian Benda and Gramsci present teachers as traditional intellectuals who are not influential in comparison to organic intellectuals.

Since organic intellectuals are opinion leaders, so the ruling parties consider them an important organ of the society and have started to invest on them. These visible and invisible investments vary from intellectual to intellectual.

Gramsci explains that traditional intellectuals continue to do the same thing from generation to generation. However, the Pakistani media industry is growing rapidly and has become industry of information that produces intellectuals.

French philosopher Michel Foucault says the so-called universal intellectual has had his or her place taken by the "specific" intellectual, someone who works inside a discipline but is able to use his expertise anyway. Foucault also says there has been no revolution in modern history without intellectuals; conversely, there has been no major counter revolutionary movement without intellectuals. Intellectuals have been the fathers and mothers of movements, and of course sons and daughters, even nephews and nieces.

There has been proliferation of organic intellectuals in Pakistan and these are not actually representing the social strata of our society.

What are the consequences of the popularity of these organic intellectuals? This is the most serious issue in the contemporary world. There are more than 180 institutions of higher education in Pakistan and more than 20 of them have a large number of social science professors who are specialists in their subjects. But, unfortunately those professors are not given due representation on current affairs issues and this is directly affecting national interests.

Pakistani media is no more interested in doing news stories, packages, and interviews of those professors who have produced impact factor research papers and even who have conducted advanced research in science and technology. This is how our media ignores our academia at the cost of a huge price.

Politicians are given representation on TV channels in prime time bulletins/talk shows. This is again a denial of specialised expertise, knowledge and importance of professors of politics, history, international relations and religious studies who have good reputation in academia. Media is not enabling the national academia to debate national and international issues which are directly co-related with our society.

In fact, media is playing smart to develop public opinion. There is a very popular technique of propaganda through which plain folks are convinced that a prominent person’s ideas are "of the people". Another phenomenon is ‘unwarranted extrapolation’, in which organic intellectuals make predictions about the future on the basis of a few small facts.

Organic intellectuals of Pakistan