Una Blagojević: Intellectuals in Yugoslav Socialism – Critique and Philosophy


Participativna ljubljanska avtonomna cona (PLAC) – Ljubljana

Inštitut za delavske študije (IDŠ) – Institute for Labour Studies (ILS), an observer member in transform! network, organises a series of events around „intellectuals”, their functioning within the capitalist system, and their role in political projects, every Wednesday from March to June 2024 — in partnership with transform! europe. The following event is part of this series.

What was the position and social role of intellectuals in socialism, particularly in socialist Yugoslavia? How was the intelligentsia defined, and was it considered a distinct social class? What responsibilities did the intelligentsia have in shaping the cultural landscape of Yugoslavia? How should intellectuals approach political engagement, and what were their moral and social duties? These were some of the dilemmas that preoccupied intellectuals in Yugoslavia across various stages of Yugoslav socialism.

This discussion will delve into some of these debates, specifically concentrating on the intellectuals around the international philosophical journal Praxis, by focusing on their views on the role of philosophy (and philosophers), critique, and intellectuals in building Yugoslav socialism.

Practical information:

      • The lecture will be in English.
      • Venue & time: Participativna ljubljanska avtonomna cona (PLAC) at 19.00.
      • The lecture will be recorded and later published on ILS YouTube channel
      • You can also read about this event on Instagram and on the dedicated ILS web page
      • Next event (on May 8) will also be in English and will be announced here on transform! website. 
      • For more information on the whole event series, please read the description below.


The social division of labour between intellectual and manual labour, between the labour of the brain and the labour of the hands, represents one of the earliest and most enduring hierarchical divisions in the history of class societies. It persists even in the capitalist mode of production, where it has undergone intense transformations, especially because of the tendency towards the proletarianisation of intellectual production, which has led to a partial disenchantment of the intellect and the consequent partial recognition of intellectual labour as just one of many different forms of labour. Nor has intellectual production escaped the other socio-economic processes – quantification, mechanisation, and specialisation – which have generally characterised the transformation of labour under capitalism. Despite these changes, intellectual labour within capitalism retains a privileged status compared to physical (or merely « technical ») labour and continues to be tied to the elite institutions of the ideological superstructure, which raises questions about the functioning of a special stratum of « intellectuals » within the class structure.

Although the intellectual stratum is not necessarily tied to a single class, it is most often associated with the class position of the petty bourgeoisie, which in cultural, ideological, and scientific institutions seeks its own ways of climbing the social ladder through the accumulation of cultural, symbolic and social capital. Despite the lofty attitude that derives from the apparent exemption of this kind of ascendancy from the vulgar economic aspirations of the average worker and the bourgeoisie, the intellectual stratum nevertheless remains embedded in the workings of capitalism as well as in the material and ideological foment of class struggle. As many Marxist thinkers have recognised, intellectuals are also an active element in the development of class consciousness or rather in the maintenance of existing class hegemony.

To better understand the functioning of intellectuals within the capitalist system and their role in political projects, including the building and dismantling of socialism, this year ILS is organising a series of lectures on the problem of intellectuals, a problem that has accompanied and plagued the Marxist tradition since its earliest articulations in the works of Marx and Engels. The lectures take place every Wednesday at 19:00 on the premises of Participativna ljubljanska avtonomna cona (PLAC).

Read more about the whole event series (in Slovenian)

Inštitut za delavske študije
Jakšičeva ulica 8,
1000 Ljubljana