I'm surprised by how often I encounter appeals to our guts. The instructor in my yoga class repeatedly invokes intuition, guts, a knowledge deeper and truer than reflection. A group of women yesterday (celebrating a daughter's onset of menses) frequently appealed to something like a body truth, again, a knowledge surpassing the intellect.
These local appeals to the gut resonate with a strong theme on the contemporary right: the grizzly mama's who know it in their gut, George W. Bush's similar gut knowledge. The latter instance, in particular, exemplifies the potential for the gut to err. But such gut mistakes are rarely acknowledged. What we know with our gut, perhaps like earlier epoch's common sense, is supposedly the truth that can counter, correct, and guide our mistaken intellects.
In the 70s, appeals to embodied feeling, a truth beyond the intellect, were important for feminist critiques of the academy. They exposed (while reinforcing) the operation of the binary of thinking and feeling in so-called Western thought. Of course, feminists weren't the only ones to engage in this critique of the intellectuals; movements against racism and class-based elitism also rightly brought out not only the privileged position of intellectuals but the way this privileged produced site-specific thinking, speaking, and understanding.
I think that in our current setting the gut is appealing as a source of truth because of the decline of symbolic efficiency. From the massive distrust of financial, governmental, and media institutions, to the uncertainty regarding meaning, fact, and resonance in multiple contexts, most of us are uncertain about what to think--is our food laced with chemicals that are killing us? is the planet facing changes that will radically alter human life? Unclear about meaning, folks look for what is real and they locate what is real in their guts.
A challenge for communists is finding ways to validate some gut feelings while at the same time providing techniques for critically assessing these feelings without asserting intellectual superiority. In our hypermediated environments, our enclaves, our malls, our desperation, in these setting our guts can go wrong (no wonder we are obese). Just like overdosing on sugar and fat can distort our guts, so can overdosing on ideology distort our perception (case in point, my unfortunate repetition of drug war rhetoric here). Guts can be wrong.