The Future of Intellectuals

Alvin W. Gouldner


A frame of reference, theses, conjectures, arguments, and an historical perspective on the role of intellectuals and intelligentsia in the international class contest of the modern era (Seabury Press  (1979)

In all countries that have in the twentieth century become part of the emerging world socio-economic order, a New Class composed of intellectuals and technical intelligentsia – not the same – enter into contention with the groups already in control of the society’s economy, whether these are businessmen or party leaders. A new contest of classes and a new class system is slowly arising in the third world of developing nations, in the second world of the USSR and its client states, and in the first world of late capitalism of North America, Western Europe, and Japan.

The early historical evolution of the New Class in Western Europe, its emergence into the public sphere as a structurally differentiated and (relatively) autonomous social stratum, may be defined in terms of certain critical episodes. What follows is only a synoptic inventory of some episodes decisive in the formation of the New Class.

1. A process of secularization in which most intelligentsia are no longer trained by, living within, and subject to close supervision by a churchly organization, and thus separated from the everyday life of society.1

Secularization is important because it desacralizes authority-claims and facilitates challenges to definitions of social reality made by traditional authorities linked to the church. Secularization is important also because it is an infrastructure on which there develops the modern grammar of rationality, or culture of critical discourse, with its characteristic stress on self-groundedness—in Martin Heidegger’s sense of the “mathematical project.”2

2. A second episode in the emergence of the New Class is the rise of diverse vernacular languages, the corresponding decline of Latin as the language of intellectuals, and especially of their scholarly production. Latin becomes a ritual, rather than a technical language. This development further dissolves the membrane between everyday life and the intellectuals—whether clerical or secular.

3. There is a breakdown of the feudal and old regime system of personalized patronage relations between the old hegemonic elite and individual members of the New Class as cultural producers, and

4. A corresponding growth of an anonymous market for the products and services of the New Class, thus allowing them to make an independent living apart from close supervision and personalized controls by patrons. Along with secularization, this means that the residence and work of intellectuals are both now less closely supervised by others.

They may now more readily take personal initiatives in the public, political sphere, while also having a “private” life.

5. The character and development of the emerging New Class also depended importantly on the multi-national structure of European polities. That Europe was not a single empire with a central authority able to impose a single set of norms throughout its territory, but a system of competing and autonomous states with diverse cultures and religions, meant that dissenting intellectuals, scientists, and divines could and did protect their own intellectual innovations by migrating from their home country when conditions there grew insupportable and sojourning in foreign lands. Even the enforced travel of exiled intellectuals also enabled them to enter into a European-wide communication network. In an article (as yet unpublished), Robert Wuthnow has suggested that their often extensive travel led many intellectuals to share a cosmopolitan identity transcending national limits and enhancing their autonomy from local elites.

6. A sixth episode in the formation of the New Class is the waning of the extended, patriarchical family system and its replacement by the smaller, nuclear family. As middle class women become educated and emancipated, they may increasingly challenge paternal authority and side with their children in resisting it. With declining paternal authority and growing maternal influence, the autonomy strivings of children are now more difficult to repress, hostility and rebellion against paternal authority can become more overt. There is, correspondingly, increasing difficulty experienced by paternal authority in imposing and reproducing its social values and political ideologies in their children.

7. Following the French Revolution, there is in many parts of Europe, especially France and Germany, a profound reformation and extension of public, non-church controlled, (relatively more) multi class education, at the lower levels as well as at the college, polytechnical, and university levels. On the one hand, higher education in the public school becomes the institutional basis for the mass production of the New Class of intelligentsia and intellectuals. On the other hand, the expansion of primary and secondary public school teachers greatly increases the jobs available to the New Class.

As teachers, intellectuals come to be defined, and to define themselves, as responsible for and “representative” of society as a whole,3 rather than as having allegiance to the class interests of their students or their parents. As teachers, they are not defined as having an obligation to reproduce parental values in their children Public teachers supersede private tutors.

8. The new structurally differentiated educational system is increasingly insulated from the family system, becoming an important source of values among students divergent from those of their families. The socialization of the young by their families is now mediated by a semi autonomous group of teachers.

9. While growing public education limits family influence on education, it also increases the influence of the state on education. The public educational system thus becomes a major cosmopolitanizing influence on its students, with a corresponding distancing from Idealistic interests and values.

10. Again, the new school system becomes a major setting for the intensive linguistic conversion of students from casual to reflexive speech, or (in Basil Bernstein’s terms) from “restricted” linguistic codes to “elaborated” linguistic codes, to a culture of discourse in which claims and assertions may not be justified by reference to the speaker’s social status. This has the profound consequence of making all authority-referring claims potentially problematic.

11. This new culture of discourse often diverges from assumptions fundamental to everyday life, tending to put them into question even when they are linked to the upper classes. These school-inculcated modes of speech are, also, (relatively) situation-free language variants. Their situation-freeness is further heightened by the “communications revolution” in general, and by the development of printing technology, in particular. With the spread of printed materials, definitions of social reality available to intellectuals may now derive increasingly from distant persons, from groups geographically, culturally, and historically distant and even from dead persons, and may therefore diverge greatly from any local environment in which they are received. Definitions of social reality made by local elites may now be invidiously contrasted (by intellectuals) with definitions made in other places and times.

12. With the spread of public schools, literacy spreads, humanistic intellectuals lose their exclusiveness and privileged market position, and now experience a status disparity between their ‘high” culture, as they see it, and their lower deference, repute, income and social power. The social position of humanistic intellectuals, particularly in a technocratic and industrial society, becomes more marginal and alienated than that of the technical intelligentsia The New Class becomes internally differentiated.

13. Finally, a major episode in the emergence of the modern intelligentsia is the changing form of the revolutionary organization. Revolution itself becomes a technology to be pursued with “instrumental rationality”. The revolutionary organization evolves from a ritualistic, oath-bound secret society into the modern “vanguard” party. When the Communist Manifesto remarks that Communists have nothing to hide,5 it is exactly a proposed emergence into public life which is implied  The Communist Manifesto was written by Marx and Engels for the “League of Communists,” which was born of the “League of the Just” which, in turn, was descended from the “League of Outlaws”. This latter group of German emigrants in Pans had a pyramidal structure, made a sharp distinction between upper and lower members, blindfolded members during initiation ceremonies, used recognition signs and passwords, and bound members by an oath.6 The vanguard organization, however, de-ritualizes participation and entails elements of both the ‘secret society’ and of the public political party. In the vanguard organization, public refers to the public availability of the doctrine rather than the availability of the organization or its membership to public scrutiny. Here, to be “public” entails the organization’s rejection of “secret doctrines” known only to an elite in the organization – as, for instance, Bakumn’s doctrine of an elite dictatorship of anarchists. 7 The modern vanguard structure is first clearly encoded in Lenin’s What Is to Be Done. Here it is plainly held that the proletariat cannot develop a socialist consciousness by itself, but must secure this from a scientific theory developed by the intelligentsia. 8 The “vanguard’ party expresses the modernizing and elite ambitions of the New Class as well as an effort to over come its political limitations  Lenin’s call for the development of “professional” revolutionaries, as the core of the vanguard, is a rhetoric carrying the tacit promise of a career-like life which invites young members of the New Class to “normalize” the revolutionary existence.

I shall return to and enlarge upon some of the critical episodes inventoried above. Above all, the attempt is to formulate a frame of reference within which the New Class can be situated, giving some indication of the intellectual work— theoretical and empirical—that needs to be done to understand the New Class as a world historical phenomenon Rather than viewing the New Class as if it were composed just of technicians or engineers, the effort that follows moves toward a general theory of the New Class as encompassing both technical intelligentsia and intellectuals. Rather than focusing in a parochial way on the United States alone, my interest is in the New Class in both late capitalism and in the authoritarian state socialism of the USSR, without arguing or implying any more general “convergence” thesis. I shall suggest that the two most important theoretical foundations needed for a general theory of the New Class will be, first, a theory of its distinctive language behavior, its distinctive culture of discourse and, secondly, a general theory of capital within which the New Class’s “human capital” or the old class’s moneyed capital will be special cases.

The analysis to follow is grounded in what I can only call my own version of a “neo-Hegelian” sociology, a neo-Hegehamsm which is a “left” but certainly not a “young” Hegelianism. It is leftHegelianism in that it holds that knowledge and knowledge systems are important in shaping social outcomes, but, far from seeing these as disembodied eternal essences, views them as the ideology of special social classes, and while ready to believe that knowledge is one of the best hopes we have for a humane social reconstruction, also sees our knowledge systems as historically shaped forces that embody limits and, indeed, pathologies.

Like any social object, the New Class can be defined in terms of both its imputed value or goodness and its imputed power.9 In most cultural grammars, a “normal” social world is supposed to be one in which the powerful are good and the bad, weak. The temptation to see the world in this manner, to normalize it, is difficult to resist and one sees it at work in conceptions of the New Class. Thus Noam Chomsky sees the New Class as cynically corrupt and as weak, pliable tools of others. Conversely, John Galbraith views the technical intelligentsia as productively benign and as already dominant. Such judgments bear the impress (albeit in different directions) of normalizing tendencies and ought to be routinely suspect.

In contrast to such normalizing tendencies, a left Hegelian sociology accepts dissonance as part of reality. It does not assume that the strong are good or the bad, weak. It accepts the possibility that those who are becoming stronger—such as the New Class—and to whom the future may belong, are not always the better and may, indeed, be morally ambiguous.

There are, then, several distinguishable conceptions of the New Class:

1. New Class as Benign Technocrats: Here the New Class is viewed as a new historical elite already entrenched in institutional influence which it uses in benign ways for society; it is more or less inevitable and trustworthy: e.g., Galbraith,’0 Bell,” Berle and Means.12

(Sed contra: This obscures the manner in which the New Class egoistically pursues its own special vested interests. Moreover, the power of the New Class today is scarcely entrenched. This view also ignores the limits on the rationality of the New Class.)

2. New Class as Master Class: Here the New Class is seen as another moment in a long-continuing circulation of historical elites, as a socialist intelligentsia that brings little new to the world and continues to exploit the rest of society as the old class had, but now uses education rather than money to exploit others: Bakunin,13 Machajski.14

(Sed contra: The New Class is more historically unique and discontinuous than this sees; while protecting its own special interests, it is not bound by the same limits as the old class and, at least transiently, contributes to collective needs.)

3. New Class as Old Class Ally: The New Class is here seen as a benign group of dedicated “professionals” who will uplift the old (moneyed) class from a venal group to a collectivity-oriented elite and who, fusing with it, will forge a new, genteel elite continuous with but better than the past: Talcott Parsons.”

(Sed contra: Neither group is an especially morally bound agent; the old class is constrained to protect its profits, the New Class is cashing in on its education. Immersed in the present, this view misses the fact that each is ready to exploit the other, if need be, and shows little understanding of the profound (if different) limits imposed on the rationality and morality of each of these groups, and of the important tensions between them.)

4. New Class as Servants of Power: Here the New Class is viewed as subservient to the old (moneyed) class which is held to retain power much as it always did, and is simply using the New Class to maintain its domination of society: Noam Chomsky16 and Maurice Zeitlin.17

(Sed contra: This ignores the revolutionary history of the twentieth century in which radicalized elements of the New Class played a major leadership role in the key revolutions of our time. It greatly overemphasizes the common interests binding the New and old class, systematically missing the tensions between them; it ignores the fact that elimination of the old class is an historical option open to the New Class. This static conception underestimates the growth in the numbers and influence of the New Class. The view is also unexpectedly Marcusean in overstressing the prospects of old class continuity; it really sees the old class as having no effective opponents, either in the New Class or in the old adversary class, the proletariat. It thus ends as seeing even less social change in prospect than the Parsonian view [#3 above].)

5. New Class as Flawed Universal Class (my own view): The New Class is elitist and self-seeking and uses its special knowledge to advance its own interests and power, and to control its own work situation. Yet the New Class may also be the best card that history has presently given us to play. The power of the New Class is growing. It is substantially more powerful and independent than Chomsky suggests, while still much less powerful than is suggested by Galbraith who seems to conflate present reality with future possibility. The power of this morally ambiguous New Class is on the ascendent and it holds a mortgage on at least one historical future.

In my own left Hegelian sociology, the New Class bearers of knowledge are seen as an embryonic new “universal class”—as the prefigured embodiment of such future as the working class still has. It is that part of the working class which will survive cybernation. At the same time, a left Hegelian sociology also insists that the New Class is profoundly flawed as a universal class. Moreover, the New Class is not some unified subject or a seamless whole; it, too, has its own internal contradictions. It is a class internally divided with tensions between (technical) intelligentsia and (humanistic) intellectuals. No celebration, mine is a critique of the New Class which does not view its growing power as inevitable, which sees it as morally ambivalent, embodying the collective interest but partially and transiently, while simultaneously cultivating its own guild advantage. …

The New Class as a Cultural Bourgeoisie

1. The New Class and the old class are at first un-differentiated; the New Class commonly originates in classes with property advantages, that is, in the old class, or is sponsored by them. The New Class of intellectuals and intelligentsia are the relatively more educated counterpart—often the brothers, sisters, or children—of the old moneyed class. Thus the New Class contest sometimes has the character of a civil war within the upper classes. It is the differentiation of the old class into contentious factions. To understand the New Class contest it is vital to understand how the privileged and advantaged, not simply the suffering, come to be alienated from the very system that privileges them.

2. The “non-negotiable” objectives of the old moneyed class are to reproduce their capital, at a minimum, but, preferably, to make it accumulate and to appropriate profit: M-C-M’, as Marx said. This is done within a structure in which all of them must compete with one another. This unrelenting competition exerts pressure to rationalize their productive and administrative efforts and unceasingly to heighten efficiency. (Marx called it, “revolutionizing” production.) But this rationalization is dependent increasingly on the efforts of the New Class intelligentsia and its expert skills. It is inherent in its structural situation, then, that the old class must bring the New Class into existence.

3. Much of the New Class is at first trained under the direct control of the old class’ firms or enterprises. Soon, however, the old class is separated from the reproduction of the New Class by the emergence and development of a public system of education whose costs are “socialized.”18

4. The more that the New Class’s reproduction derives from specialized systems of public education, the more the New Class develops an ideology that stresses its autonomy, its separation from and presumable independence of “business” or political interests. This autonomy is said to be grounded in the specialized knowledge or cultural capital transmitted by the educational system, along with an emphasis on the obligation of educated persons to attend to the welfare of the collectivity. In other words, the ideology of “professionalism” emerges.

5. Professionalism is one of the public ideologies of the New Class, and is the genteel subversion of the old class by the new. Professionalism is a phase in the historical development of the “collective consciousness” of the New Class. While not overtly a critique of the old class, professionalism is a tacit claim by the New Class to technical and moral superiority over the old class, implying that the latter lack technical credentials and are guided by motives of commercial venality. Professionalism silently installs the New Class as the paradigm of virtuous and legitimate authority, performing with technical skill and with dedicated concern for the society-at-large. Professionalism makes a focal claim for the legitimacy of the New Class which tacitly de-authorizes the old class.

On the one side, this is a bid for prestige within the established society; on the other, it tacitly presents the New Class as an alternative to the old. In asserting its own claims to authority, professionalism in effect devalues the authority of the old class.

6. The special privileges and powers of the New Class are grounded in their individual control of special cultures, languages, techniques, and of the skills resulting from these. The New Class is a cultural bourgeoisie who appropriates privately the advantages of an historically and collectively produced cultural capital. Let us be clear, then: the New Class is not just like the old class, its special culture is not just like capital No metaphor is intended. The special culture of the New Class (is a stock of capital that generates a stream of income (some of) which it appropriates privately.

7. The fundamental objectives of the New Class are to increase its own share of the national product, to produce and reproduce the special social conditions enabling them to appropriate privately larger shares of the incomes produced by the special cultures they possess, to control their work and their work settings, and to increase their political power partly in order to achieve the foregoing the struggle of the New Class is, therefore, to institutionalize a wage system, i. e., a social system with a distinct principle of distributive justice “from each according to his ability, to each ac cording to his work,” which is also the norm of “socialism”. Correspondingly, the New Class may oppose other social systems and their different systems of privilege, for example, systems that allocate privileges and incomes on the basis of con trolling stocks of money (i. e., old capital). The New Class, then, is prepared to be egalitarian so far as the privileges of the old class are concerned that is, under certain conditions it is prepared to remove or restrict the special incomes of the old class profits, rents, interest The New Class is anti-egalitarian, however, in that it seeks special guild advantages – political powers and incomes – on the basis of its possession of cultural capital.

The New Class as a Speech Community

1. The culture of critical discourse (CCD)19 is an historically evolved set of rules, a grammar of discourse, which (1) is concerned to justify its assertions, but (2) whose mode of justification does not proceed by invoking authorities, and (3) prefers to elicit the voluntary consent of those addressed solely on the basis of arguments adduced CCD is centered on a specific speech act justification It is a culture of discourse in which there is nothing that speakers will on principle permanently refuse to discuss or make problematic, indeed, they are even willing to talk about the value of talk itself and its possible inferiority to silence or to practice This grammar is the deep structure of the common ideology shared by the New Class. The shared ideology of the intellectuals and intelligentsia is thus an ideology about discourse. Apart from and underlying the various technical languages (or sociolects) spoken by specialized professions, intellectuals and intelligentsia are commonly committed to a culture of critical discourse (CCD) CCD is the latent but mobilizable infrastructure of modern “technical” languages.

2. The culture of critical discourse is characterized by speech that is relatively more situation-free, more context or field “independent” This speech culture thus values expressly legislated meanings and devalues tacit, context-limited meanings Its ideal is “one word, one meaning”, for everyone and forever The New Class’s special speech variant also stresses the importance of particular modes of justification, using especially explicit and articulate rules, rather than diffuse precedents or tacit features of the speech context The culture of critical speech requires that the validity of claims be justified without reference to the speaker’s societal position or authority Here, good speech is speech that can make its own principles explicit and is oriented to conforming with them, rather than stressing context-sensitivity and context-variability Good speech here thus has theoreticity.20

Being pattern-and-principle-oriented, CCD implies that that which is said may not be correct, and may be wrong It recognizes that “What Is” may be mistaken or inadequate and is therefore open to alternatives CCD is also relatively more reflexive, self-monitoring, capable of more meta-communication, that is, of talk about talk, it is able to make its own speech problematic, and to edit it with respect to its lexical and grammatical features, as well as making problematic the validity of its assertions CCD thus requires considerable “expressive discipline,’ not to speak of “in structural renunciation”.

3. Most importantly, the culture of critical speech forbids reliance upon the speaker’s person, authority, or status in society to justify his claims As a result, CCD de-authorizes all speech grounded in traditional societal authority, while it authorizes itself, the elaborated speech variant of the culture of critical discourse, as the standard of all “serious” speech From now on, persons and their social positions must not be visible in their speech. Speech becomes impersonal Speakers hide behind their speech. Speech seems to be dis-embodied, de-contextualized and self-grounded (This is especially so for the speech of intellectuals and somewhat less so for technical intelligentsia who may not invoke CCD except when their paradigms break down). The New Class becomes the guild masters of an invisible pedagogy.

4. The culture of critical discourse is the common ideology shared by the New Class, although technical intelligentsia sometimes keep it in latency The skills and the social conditions required to reproduce it are among the common interests of the New Class Correspondingly, it is in the common interest of the New Class to prevent or oppose all censorship of its speech variety and to install it as the standard of good speech The New Class thus has both a common ideology in CCD and common interests in its cultural capital.

Intelligentsia and Intellectuals

1. There are at least two elites within the New Class, (1) intelligentsia whose intellectual interests are fundamentally “technical” and (2) intellectuals whose interests are primarily critical, emancipatory, hermeneutic and hence often political. Both elites utilize an elaborated linguistic variant and both are committed to the CCD. Both therefore resist the old class, although doing so in different ways in different settings and to different degrees.

While intellectuals often contribute to revolutionary leadership, they also serve to accommodate the future to the past and to reproduce the past in the future That’s what comes of the love of books While the technical intelligentsia often wish nothing more than to be allowed to enjoy their opiate obsessions with technical puzzles, it is their social mission to revolutionize technology continually and hence disrupt established social solidarities and cultural values by never contenting themselves with the status quo Revolutionary intellectuals are the medium of an ancient morality, accommodative intelligentsia are the medium of a new amorality Which is more revolutionary.7

2. The sociology and the social psychology of the occupational life of intellectuals and technical intelligentsia differ considerably, as do their cognitive procedures Thomas Kuhn’s notion of “normal science”21 is a key to the cognitive life of technical intelligentsia and of their differences from intellectuals A “normal science” is one whose members concentrate their efforts on solving the “puzzles” of “paradigms” on which normal science centers Technical intelligentsia concentrate on operations within the paradigm(s) of their discipline, exploring its inner symbolic space, extending its principles to new fields, fine tuning it Intellectuals, in contrast, are those whose fields of activity more commonly lack consensually validated paradigms, may have several competing paradigms, and they therefore do not take normal science with its single dominating paradigm as the usual case Intellectuals often transgress the boundaries of the conventional division of labor in intellectual life, they do not reject scholarship, however, but only the normalization of scholarship.

3. It would be tempting but far too simple to say, intellectuals produce the “lions” of the New Class, while the intelligentsia produce its “foxes ” Who is a lion and who a fox depends on whose way upward is being blocked Where recruitment of college teachers is under the close control of the national ministry, as for example in Israel, members of the Israeli Communist Party and any who seem well disposed toward it have little chance of being hired ” In parts of the Mid-East, then, it is often the case that teachers and other intellectuals are relatively prudent politically, while doctors, engineers, and lawyers – being “independent” – may be more openly radical Che Guevara, it will be remembered, was a doctor, as is George Ha-bash, Yasir Arafat was trained as an engineer.

Old Line Bureaucrats, New Staff Intelligentsia

1. With the growth of the technical intelligentsia, the functional autonomy of the old class wanes The intelligentsia of the New Class manage the new means of production and administration, they also acquire at-hand control over the new means of communication and of violence If we think of the state’s repressive apparatus within the framework of Marxism there is no way to explain the recent revolutions in Ethiopia and Portugal, where the military played a singular role In less developed countries, military intelligentsia are often the vanguard of the New Class.

Marxism misses the paradox that the old class can influence the state, or any other administrative system for that matter, only with the mediation of the New Class It is not simply a matter of the split between “management and ownership” within capitalism, first, because that split is no less true of “socialism,” and secondly, because the split is not confined to the production of commodities, but also includes the production of violence As the organizational units of the economy and state become larger and more bureaucratic, the survival and control of the old class becomes more attenuated, more indirect, ever more de pendent on the intelligentsia of the New Class.

2. The fundamental organizational instrument of our time, the bureaucratic organization, becomes increasingly scientized. The old bureaucratic officials at first provide a protective cover for the growth of the New Class But as the number and importance of technical experts operating with CCD increases, there is a growing split between the old line bureaucrats and the technical intelligentsia It becomes ever more difficult even for those managing the organization simply to understand the skills of the New Class, let alone to exert an ongoing, close control over them The bureaucratic organization, as the dominant organizational type of the modern era, is controlled by an uneasy coalition of three elements (i) top managing directors appointed from outside the bureaucracy and who do not usually control the technical expertise of the New Class or the complex details known to bureaucratic officials, (ii) New Class experts, and (iii) bureaucratic “line” officials whose modes of rationality differ.23

3. The cadre of the old bureaucratic structure are an officialdom, “bureaucrats”, who ground their orders in terms of their legal authority “do this because / say so, and I am authorized to say so “They are the older elite of the bureaucracy, the ‘bureaucrats” of legendary stigma, the “line” officials whose position depends simply on their rigorous conformity with organizational rules, obedience to their superiors’ orders, the legality of their appointment, and sheer seniority Their principal function is control over the behavior of those beneath them and those outside the organization They are rooted in the elemental impulse of domination In short, they are the organization’s old “snake brain”.

Having no reasons he can speak, the bureaucratic official does not justify his actions by arguing that they contribute to some desirable goal He simply says he is conforming with the rules which, as Max Weber noted, he treats as “a basis of action for their own sake”, in the sinister phrase, he is “following orders” Either way, he serves as a transmission belt He is passing on orders or policies that he is expected to obey what ever his personal feeling and whether or not he agrees with them

These orders or policies are, then, placed beyond the domain of the culture of critical discourse The old bureaucratic official was designed to be an “agent,” uncritically obedient to the organization’s top managers who, in turn, transmit the ideological and economic interests of social groups outside of the bureaucracy, and who are appointed because they can be relied upon to do just that Bureaucratic officials are the agents of an internal colonialism, the instruments of an Indirect Rule The bureaucratic officialdom are the brute part of bureaucracy, the barriers by which the technical intelligentsia are caged, and at the same time they are the protective covering for the New Class’s first growth within the bureaucracy.

4. Unlike the older bureaucrats, the new intelligentsia have extensive cultural capital which increases their mobility The old bureaucrat’s skills are often little more than being able to read, write, file, and are limited to their employing bureaucracy. The new intelligentsia’s greater cultural capital is, indeed, more productive of goods and services and they are, therefore, less concerned to vaunt their personal superiority or to extract deference from those below them As a result, the old bureaucrats and the new intelligentsia develop and reproduce different systems of social control Bureaucrats employ a control apparatus based on “ordering and forbidding,” threatening and punishing the disobedient or resistant The intelligentsia of the New Class, capable of increasing services and production, typically seek to control by rewarding persons for conformity to their expectations, by providing more material incentives and, also, by educational indoctrination The intelligentsia of the New Class is a task-centered and work-centered elite having considerable confidence in its own worth and its future and, correspondingly, has less status anxiety that they irrationally impose on others They are less overbearing and less punishment-prone They need not, moreover, seek status solely within their own organization and from its staff or clients Rather, they also seek status in professional associations, they wish the good regard of the knowledgeable.

5. The technical intelligentsia of the New Class is controlled by those incompetent to judge its performances and whose control, therefore, is experienced as irrational.24 The New Class intelligentsia, then, feel a certain contempt for their superiors, for they are not competent participants in the careful discourse concerning which technical decisions are made. The New Class’s intelligentsia are controlled by two echelons above them one, the bureaucratic officialdom, the “line officials,” directly above them, two, the political appointees managing the bureaucracy at its pinnacle, who are not appointed on the basis of their technical competence, but because they represent money capital or politically reliable “commissars” The fundamental structure within which most technical intelligentsia work, then, systematically generates tensions between them, on the one side, and the bureaucratic officials and managers, on the other It is within the bureaucratic structure that much of the technical intelligentsia of the New Class begins its struggle to rise It has one of its first muffled confrontations with the old class within the precincts of a specific organizational structure, the bureaucracy.

6. By comparison with line bureaucrats, the technical intelligentsia of the New Class are veritable philosophers By comparison with the intellectuals, the intelligentsia may seem idiots savants In contrast to the bureaucrats, however, the intelligentsia seeks nothing for its own sake, gives reasons without invoking authority, and regards nothing as settled once for all To them, nothing is exempt from re-examination Unlike the bureaucrats, intelligentsia are not “ritualists” pursuing something without regard to its effectiveness.

7. At the same time, however, nothing is sacred to them, their primary concern is with the technical effectiveness of their means rather than its moral propriety They are pragmatic nihilists They are capable of emancipating men from old shibboleths, but they are emancipators who know no limits Their emancipation has a side effect cultural destructiveness, anomie The cultural dissolution they bring is precisely that always entailed by the culture of critical discourse, which commonly alienates persons from tradition. 25 In short, like intellectuals, the intelligentsia, too, are a revolutionary force But the revolutionary power of the technical intelligentsia of the New Class is dammed-up by the bureaucratic barrier and the old form of property.

8.  If the technical sub-elite of the New Class have the makings of a “benign” elite, they nonetheless remain an elite They have no intention of instituting a social order in which all are equalregardless of their cultural capital They do not think of themselves as an “intellectual proletariat,” let alone as an ordinary proletariat Contributing to the increase of the social surplus by the increased productivity of their cultural capital, they will benignly increase the funds available for welfare, may even accept worker participation in setting incentives, increase consumerism, even increasing job security Although seeking it for themselves, they do not tolerate “workers’ control” and they do not believe in equality.26 Talk of “workers’ control” is for the most part produced by a different sector of the New Class, by radicalized intellectuals, and not the technical intelligentsia.

9. Maoism was essentially an effort to avoid the resurgence of the old line bureaucratic officials and of the technical intelligentsia of the New Class But the intelligentsia is the more rational elite, increasing both social productivity and social understanding, and now China is liquidating the “cultural revolution” and opting for the New Class. 27 Distilled to essentials, Maoism was an effort to strengthen the bargaining position of the working class (including the peasantry) in its inescapable, forthcoming negotiations with the New Class For its part, and unlike Maoism, Stalinism was a profoundly regressive force because it sought to subordinate the technical intelligentsia to the most archaic sector, the old bureaucratic officialdom. 28

As the old class deteriorates and loses control, especially with the rise of state socialism, the real choices are between the new technical intelligentsia and the old line bureaucrats And it is a real choice The rule of the bureaucratic officialdom is callous and authoritarian, while the rule of the new cultural elite, able to increase the level of productivity, can rely more on rewards than punishment and on the demystified performance of tasks without the mystique of authority or the extortion of personal deference.

The Flawed Universal Class

1. The New Class is the most progressive force in modern society and is a center of whatever human emancipation is possible in the foreseeable future It has no motives to curtail the forces of production and no wish to develop them solely m terms of their profitability. The New Class possesses the scientific knowledge and technical skills on which the future of modern forces of production depend. At the same time, members of the New Class also manifest increasing sensitivity to the ecological “side effects” or distant diseconomies of continuing technical development. The New Class, further, is a center of opposition to almost all forms of censorship, thus embodying a universal societal interest in a kind of rationality broader than that invested in technology. Although the New Class is at the center of nationalist movements throughout the world, after that phase is secured, the New Class is also the most internationalist and most universalist of all social strata, it is the most cosmopolitan of all elites Its control over ordinary “foreign’ languages, as well as of technical socioiects, enable it to communicate with other nationalities and it is often a member of a technical guild of international scope.

2. For all that, however, the New Class is hardly the end of domination. While its ultimate significance is the end of the old moneyed class s domination, the New Class is also the nucleus of a newhierarchy and the elite of a new form of cultural capital.

The historical limits of the New Class are inherent in both the nature of its own characteristic rationality, and in its ambitions as a cultural bourgeoisie. Its culture of critical discourse fosters a purely “theoretical” attitude toward the world. Speakers are held competent to the degree that they know and can say the rules, rather than just happening to follow them. The culture of critical discourse thus values the very theoreticity that the “common sense” long suspected was characteristic of intellectuals.

Intellectuals have long believed that those who know the rule, who know the theory by which they act, are superior because they lead an “examined” life. They thus exalt theory over practice, and are concerned less with the success of a practice than that the practice should have submitted itself to a reasonable rule. Since intellectuals and intelligentsia are concerned with doing things in the right way and for the right reason—in other words, since they value doctrinal conformity for its own sake—they (we) have a native tendency toward ritualism and sectarianism.

3. The culture of the New Class exacts still other costs since its discourse emphasizes the importance of carefully edited speech, this has the vices of its virtues in its virtuous aspect, self-editing implies a commendable circumspection, carefulness, self-discipline and “seriousness”. In its negative modality, however, self-editing also disposes toward an unhealthy self-consciousness, toward stilted convoluted speech, an inhibition of play, imagination and passion, and continual pressure for expressive discipline. The new rationality thus becomes the source of a new alienation.

Calling for watchfulness and self discipline, CCD is productive of intellectual reflexivity and the loss of warmth and spontaneity Moreover, that very reflexivity stresses the importance of adjusting action to some pattern of propriety There is, therefore, a structured inflexibility when facing changing situations, there is a certain disregard of the differences in situations, and an insistence on hewing to the required rule. This inflexibility and insensitivity to the force of differing contexts, this inclination to impose one set of rules on different cases also goes by the ancient name of “dogmatism ” Set in the context of human relationships, the vulnerability of the New Class to dogmatism along with its very task centeredness, imply a certain insensitivity to persons, to their feelings and reactions, and open the way to the disruption of human solidarity Political brutality, then, finds a grounding in the culture of critical discourse, the new rationality may paradoxically allow a new darkness at noon.

4. The paradox of the New Class is that it is both emancipatory and elitist It subverts all establishments, social limits, and privileges, including its own. The New Class bears a culture of critical and careful discourse which is an historically emancipatory rationality. The new discourse (CCD) is the grounding for a critique of established forms of domination and provides an escape from tradition, but it also bears the seeds of a new domination. Its discourse is a lumbering machinery of argumentation that can wither imagination, discourage play, and curb expressivity. The culture of discourse of the New Class seeks to control everything, its topic and itself, believing that such domination is the only road to truth. The New Class begins by monopolizing truth and by making itself its guardian. It thereby makes even the claims of the old class dependent on it. The New Class sets itself above others, holding that its speech is better than theirs, that the examined life (theirexamination) is better than the unexamined life which, it says, is sleep and no better than death. Even as it subverts old inequities, the New Class silently inaugurates a new hierarchy of the knowing, the knowledgeable, the reflexive and insightful. Those who talk well, it is held, excel those who talk poorly or not at all. It is now no longer enough simply to be good. Now, one has to explain it The New Class is the universal class in embryo, but badly flawed.


1.  It is not my intention to suggest that modern intellectuals are merely the secular counterpart of clericals.  Indeed, my own stress (as distinct, say, from Edward Shils who does appear to view intellectuals as priests manques) is on the discontinuity of the two.

2. For full development of this, see chapter 2, especially p 42, of my Dialectic of Ideology and Technology (New York, 1976).

3.  Doubtless some will insist this is a  “false consciousness”.  But this misses the point. My concern here is with their own definitions of their social role, precisely because these influence the manner in which they perform their roles   As W. I. Thomas and Florian Znanecki long ago (and correctly) insisted, a thing de fined as real is real in its consequences Moreover, the state who employs most of these teachers is itself interested in having teachers consolidate the tie between students and it itself, rather than with the students parents.

4. See Basil Bernstein, Class, Codes and Control, vol. 1, Theoretical Studies Towards a Sociology of Language (London, 1971), vol. 2, Applied Studies Towards a Sociology of Language (London, 1973), vol. 3, Towards a Theory of Educational Transmission (London, 1975). Bernstein’s theory is used here in a critical appropriation facilitated by the work of Dell Hymes and William Labov. My own critique of Bernstein emerges, at least tacitly, in the discussion of [the “Flawed Universal Class”] in the text. It is developed explicitly in my Dialectic of Ideology and Technology, pp 58-66. While Labov has sharply criticized Bernstein, he himself also stresses the general importance of self-monitored speech and of speech reflexivity in general (i. e., not only of careful pronunciation) thus converging with Bernstein’s focus on reflexivity as characterizing the elaborated linguistic variant and distinguishing it from the restricted variant See William Labov, Sociolinguistic Patterns (Philadelphia, 1972), p 208.

5. For example “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare..” (Communist Manifesto [Chicago, 1888], authorized English edition edited by Engels, p 58).

6. See E Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (Manchester, 1959), p. 167 ff.

7. A secret doctrine is one which, because it is re served only for the organization elite, can be made known only after persons join organizations and reach a certain membership position in it.  A secret doctrine thus is never one which can have been a motive for joining the organization in the first instance.

8. Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? was originally published in 1902.

A response to Gouldner can be found ‘Guardianship: The Utopia of the new class’ in the covertly funded magazine Quadrant (1983)

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