Where Have All The Public Intellectuals Gone

Um, this is exactly the kind of stuff I’ve been thinking about over the past few months, but didn’t have the salt to put together in a post!

L.M. Sacasas

“Professors, we need you!” announces the title of a Nicholas Kristof op-ed in the NY Times . Kristof goes on to lament the dearth of public intellectuals actively informing American culture regarding “today’s great debates.” Kristof blames this regrettable state of affairs on a series of predictable culprits: tedious academic writing, pressure to publish arcane scholarship in obscure journals, and hyper-specialized areas of research with little bearing on public life.

The responses I’ve read to Kristof’s column tend to grant that Kristof, almost despite himself, has put his finger on something, but go on to explain why his analysis is mostly flawed. Take as one example Corey Robin’s lengthy response: “Look Who Nick Kristof’s Saving Now.”

Part, but only part, of Robin’s response is to point to a host of intellectuals that would very much like to be public intellectuals and certainly have what it takes to fill that role…

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