ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Common Sense, Habitus, and Social Imaginary

A comparative perspective of pre-theoretical consciousness is presented here. By comparing Gramsci’s common sense (from the interwar period; 1999) with Bourdieu’s habitus (1977) and Taylor’s social imaginary (2004)—the two most influential post-war conceptualisations—the paper argues that the latter two conceptually enrich Gramsci’s common sense. However, both say that a theoretical system penetrates the non-intellectual (pre-theoretical) world from the outside and transforms it. In contrast, Gramsci claims that a theory constantly evolves in dialogue with the cognitive activities of the ordinary. The non-intellectual is a teacher, not simply a pupil waiting for transmission of philosophy from the above.

This paper probes into the nature of pre-theoretical consciousness as examined by Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002), and Charles Taylor (1931–present): three thinkers whose ideas have broad significance in the advance of humanity in general and the philosophical theories of human action in particular. Gramsci (1999) discusses “common sense” (especially of the subalterns) to point out how it must be grasped in connection with religion and philosophy. He identifies common sense as a potent terrain in which counter hegemonic forces could be identified and built. In a way, Bourdieu (1977) considers “habitus” to be a significant factor adding to social reproduction, since it is vital in producing and managing the practices that make up a social life and define collective memory. Habitus induces people to limit their aspirations following their existing conditions and not seek what is not accessible to them. Taylor (2004) adopts a hermeneutical approach to society’s study, insisting that the meanings which humans give to their everyday actions must be taken into account by the social sciences. This paper explores their common standpoints and differences by applying them to Indian case studies.

Gramsci follows a realist immanent method in contrast with Bourdieu’s subjective structuralism and Taylor’s idealist immanentism. It would be useful to examine and compare the metho­dological grids followed by three great minds of the 20th century. This paper will not be able to highlight their methodological differences in detail as it primarily seeks to discuss their conceptual grids dealing with pre-theoretical consciousness. The paper is divided into four sections. The following section entails a discussion on common sense, followed by one each on habitus, and social imaginaries. The final section shall compare their concepts and methods.

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Updated On : 6th Jul, 2021

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