Afghanistan has gone through many periods of collapse, not just in the political sphere but also in social, economic, and cultural areas. This repeated downfall of the country reflects the failure of both the political leaders and the intellectual classes. Intellectuals are usually a driving force for progress and prosperity in a society, but in Afghanistan they have been so ineffective that it almost seems like there are no intellectuals present.
An intellectual is someone who brings hope and progress to society even in difficult times. Despite all the attempts to create a more enlightened society in Afghanistan, it has failed due to people pretending to be intellectuals and taking advantage of the situation. The biggest question now is, who has misused the concept of the intellectual in the past 20 years? Who have foreign entities been paying the allocated budgets to?
Many intellectuals and poets in Afghanistan died in poverty and misery without any active intellectual or cultural institutions offering them assistance until their deaths.
Enlightenment in Afghanistan with an Emphasis on Gramsci’s Theory
In modern capitalist societies, intellectuals have been the most influential in challenging the power of money and violence. They have educated the public, broken down barriers to progress, opposed monopolies, and led movements for justice. It is the intellectuals who have used their knowledge to benefit society and build strong nations.
Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist theorist, divided intellectuals into two categories: traditional intellectuals and organic intellectuals. Gramsci argued that traditional intellectuals advocate for the dominant classes, often flattering them in order to benefit from the relationship. They also work to make the thoughts, beliefs, decisions, and even injustices of the dominant classes seem correct, thus preventing the masses from being aware of the power and wealth of the ruling class. Data shows that Afghanistan has more cultural organizations that play the role of enlightenment than any other country, which has had a negative effect on the formation and activity of social–popular movements, making them ineffective.
Organic intellectuals are those who break away from the ruling class, join patriotic groups, and take on the responsibility of developing culture. Culture development is the process of transforming from an imperfect state to a perfect one, or from a primitive and chaotic society to a lawful, enlightened, civil, and prosperous society. These intellectuals act as the “locomotives“ of this process. In Afghanistan, however, despite 20 years of democratic government, such intellectuals have not emerged. Instead, inexperienced people have been used by the dominant class to justify their actions. Therefore, if Afghanistan lacks intellectual institutions or enlightened individuals today, it is due to the lack of culture–building institutions and organic and provident intellectuals in the past. If individuals remain in the chains of subordination and flattery, they will not only fail to create culture, but will also perpetuate the chains of captivity.
Gramsci believed that intellectuals should spread awareness among the masses. He proposed two types of intellectuals: traditional intellectuals, who spread the political ideas of the ruling class, and organic intellectuals, who are more effective in educating the masses. It is clear that Afghanistan has more traditional intellectuals than organic intellectuals, and so has not been as successful in educating the masses.