Who is an intellectual What should the role of intellectuals be in society?

The Responsibility of Intellectuals
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The US Government Printing Office is an endless source of insight into the moral and intellectual level of this expert advice. In its publications one can read, for example, the testimony of Professor David N. Professor Rowe proposes p. These are his words:. Mind you, I am not talking about this as a weapon against the Chinese people.


It will be. But that is only incidental. The weapon will be a weapon against the Government because the internal stability of that country cannot be sustained by an unfriendly Government in the face of general starvation. But, one may ask, why restrict ourselves to such indirect means as mass starvation? Why not bombing? No doubt this message is implicit in the remarks to the same committee of the Reverend R.

Why Public Intellectuals?

Of course, there must be those who support the Communists. But this is really a matter of small concern, as the Hon Walter Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs from , points out in his testimony before the same committee. In the face of such experts as these, the scientists and philosophers of whom Kristol speaks would clearly do well to continue to draw their circles in the sand. It must be the result of boredom, of too much security, or something of this sort. Other possibilities come to mind. These possibilities Kristol does not reject. They are simply unthinkable, unworthy of consideration.

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Who is an Intellectual and what should the Role of Intellectuals be in Society? - Christiane Landsiedel - Seminar Paper - Sociology - Political Sociology. The role of intellectuals in society is a complicated subject. No wonder, then, that Vietnamese word for intellectual, “trí thức”, is a combination else, they have their blind spots and should be willing to remain open-minded.

More accurately, these possibilities are inexpressible; the categories in which they are formulated honesty, indignation simply do not exist for the tough-minded social scientist. I do not doubt that these attitudes are in part a consequence of the desperate attempt of the social and behavioral sciences to imitate the surface features of sciences that really have significant intellectual content.

But they have other sources as well. Ergo, it is only problems of the latter sort that are important or real. At times this pseudo-scientific posing reaches levels that are almost pathological. Consider the phenomenon of Herman Kahn, for example. Kahn has been both denounced as immoral and lauded for his courage. Kahn proposes no theories, no explanations, no factual assumptions that can be tested against their consequences, as do the sciences he is attempting to mimic.

He simply suggests a terminology and provides a facade of rationality.

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When particular policy conclusions are drawn, they are supported only by ex cathedra remarks for which no support is even suggested e. A simple argument proves the opposite. Premise 1: American decision-makers think along the lines outlined by Herman Kahn. Premise 2 : Kahn thinks it would be better for everyone to be red than for everyone to be dead. Premise 3 : if the Americans were to respond to an all-out countervalue attack, then everyone would be dead.

Conclusion : the Americans will not respond to an all-out countervalue attack, and therefore it should be launched without delay. Of course, one can carry the argument a step further. Fact : the Russians have not carried out an all-out countervalue attack. It follows that they are not rational. What is remarkable is that serious people actually pay attention to these absurdities, no doubt because of the facade of tough-mindedness and pseudo-science. In the fall of , for example, there was an International Conference on Alternative Perspectives on Vietnam, which circulated a pamphlet to potential participants stating its assumptions.

In short, the experts on values i. The only debatable issue, it seems to me, is whether it is more ridiculous to turn to experts in social theory for general well-confirmed propositions, or to the specialists in the great religions and philosophical systems for insights into fundamental human values. There is much more that can be said about this topic, but, without continuing, I would simply like to emphasize that, as is no doubt obvious, the cult of the experts is both self-serving, for those who propound it, and fraudulent.

Obviously, one must learn from social and behavioral science whatever one can; obviously, these fields should be pursued as seriously as possible. But it will be quite unfortunate, and highly dangerous, if they are not accepted and judged on their merits and according to their actual, not pretended, accomplishments. In particular, if there is a body of theory, well-tested and verified, that applies to the conduct of foreign affairs or the resolution of domestic or international conflict, its existence has been kept a well-guarded secret. In the case of Vietnam, if those who feel themselves to be experts have access to principles or information that would justify what the American government is doing in that unfortunate country, they have been singularly ineffective in making this fact known.

Now that we have achieved the pluralistic society of the Welfare State, they see no further need for a radical transformation of society; we may tinker with our way of life here and there, but it would be wrong to try to modify it in any significant way. With this consensus of intellectuals, ideology is dead. First, he does not point out the extent to which this consensus of the intellectuals is self-serving. It seems fairly obvious that the classical problems are very much with us; one might plausibly argue that they have even been enhanced in severity and scale.

For example, the classical paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty is now an ever-increasing problem on an international scale. Whereas one might conceive, at least in principle, of a solution within national boundaries, a sensible idea of transforming international society to cope with vast and perhaps increasing human misery is hardly likely to develop within the framework of the intellectual consensus that Bell describes.

Having found his position of power, having achieved security and affluence, he has no further need for ideologies that look to radical change. It is conceivably true that the bourgeoisie was right in regarding the special conditions of its emancipation as the only general conditions by which modern society would be saved. In either case, an argument is in order, and skepticism is justified when none appears. Within the same framework of general utopianism, Bell goes on to pose the issue between Welfare State scholar-experts and third-world ideologists in a rather curious way.

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One may debate the question whether authoritarian control is necessary to permit capital accumulation in the underdeveloped world, but the Western model of development is hardly one that we can point to with any pride. Those who have a serious concern for the problems that face backward countries, and for the role that advanced industrial societies might, in principle, play in development and modernization, must use somewhat more care in interpreting the significance of the Western experience.

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The backward countries have incredible, perhaps insurmountable problems, and few available options; the United States has a wide range of options, and has the economic and technological resources, though, evidently, neither the intellectual nor moral resources, to confront at least some of these problems. It is easy for an American intellectual to deliver homilies on the virtues of freedom and liberty, but if he is really concerned about, say, Chinese totalitarianism or the burdens imposed on the Chinese peasantry in forced industrialization, then he should face a task that is infinitely more important and challenging—the task of creating, in the United States, the intellectual and moral climate, as well as the social and economic conditions, that would permit this country to participate in modernization and development in a way commensurate with its material wealth and technical capacity.

Large capital gifts to Cuba and China might not succeed in alleviating the authoritarianism and terror that tend to accompany early stages of capital accumulation, but they are far more likely to have this effect than lectures on democratic values. But it is almost certain that capitalist encirclement itself, which all revolutionary movements now have to face, will guarantee this result. The lesson, for those who are concerned to strengthen the democratic, spontaneous, and popular elements in developing societies, is quite clear. It is also true that this consensus is most noticeable among the scholar-experts who are replacing the free-floating intellectuals of the past.

The analogy becomes clear when we look carefully at the ways in which this proposal is formulated. With his usual lucidity, Churchill outlined the general position in a remark to his colleague of the moment, Joseph Stalin, at Teheran in The government of the world must be entrusted to satisfied nations, who wished nothing more for themselves than what they had. If the world-government were in the hands of hungry nations there would always be danger. But none of us had any reason to seek for anything more…. Our power placed us above the rest. Firstly, it designates a discourse aimed at the public.

Secondly, it concerns thought carried out for the public , whose point of departure is the common good, rather than a personal position or individual interests. Lastly, it characterises the inclination for public affairs or major issues in society. These three levels of meaning contained in the notion of public commitment are closely bound to the conception intellectuals have of themselves. Now public commitment, which was initially one of the characteristics of intellectuals, is weakened today because of specialisation and the post-modernist movement.

How can this commitment be restored in a specialised, post-modern society? In the s, China experienced, as did Europe and the United States after the s, a specialisation of the system of knowledge and the appearance of the post-modernist cultural movement.

The Constructive Responsibility of Intellectuals

In this article I will firstly analyse the emergence of specialised intellectuals zhuanye zhishifenzi and of media intellectuals meiti zhishifenzi , two phenomena which are characteristic of China in the s. Then, based on several debates devoted to the reconstruction of commitment which have taken place in the Chinese intellectual world, I will advance three ideal types: the traditional intellectual, the organic intellectual, and the specific intellectual.

Lastly, drawing my inspiration from Pierre Bourdieu, I will analyse the possibility, in the era of specialisation, of constructing an ideal type of public intellectual, who, from the specific, aims at the universal.

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These intellectuals were writers, scientists, philosophers, researchers in the humanities, and even senior civil servants and ideologues of the system. The subjects they broached all had a public dimension and went beyond their spheres of specialisation, whether political life, the comparison of Chinese and Western cultures, or the scientific Enlightenment. They had become influential public figures. Economic development and transformation of human capital. What competences does China need today? How do individuals, as well as the training system, adapt to the new demands of companies and of the administration?

These were some of the questions asked and which the participants attempted to answer by exchanging their points of view on China, on Russia, another society and economy in transition, and on France; an approach based on the conviction that the social sciences can only be comparative. The focal point of this conference was a consideration of the elites, a highly sensitive subject in a neo-authoritarian or neo-totalitarian communist regime.

While certain actions of the new government team inaugurate a new phase in the policy of reform, which is more directed at those excluded from prosperity, does this really mean the beginning of a new practice of policy and of politics, which must necessarily include reflection on—if not a calling into question of—those who are at the top of the social ladder? The sessions were organised around three subjects: the economic, political and intellectual elites.

China, in integrating itself into the world system by its policy of reform and opening up, has joined the scientific and technical revolution, bringing about the necessary adaptation of the Chinese working population, that is to say its professionalisation. This is particularly the case of company managers, whose role has evolved in order to respond to the needs of the transition. Shen Ronghua 3 showed how the state enterprise managers, until then administrative cadres supervising production, have become real heads of enterprises, chosen according to criteria of professional experience and competences validated by diplomas.

It is not only enterprise managers who have to adapt to the new economic environment, but, to a large extent, all employees, of whom specific competences are now demanded.

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In reality, intellectuals, academics, think-tank experts and even wonky politicians play a crucial role in the political process, and on the whole are as in touch with reality as those who claim to be slaves to pragmatism and common sense. Intellectuals, experts and gurus perform several roles in the policymaking process. Firstly, they help politicians to make sense of the world.

They offer cause-effect explanations of political and economic phenomena, they offer diagnosis and occasionally prescriptions to policy puzzles.

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Feminist, civil rights , and colonialist and post-colonialist social movements that have arisen in opposition to Western conceptions of universality and modernity have striven to set precise goals for intellectuals. All intellectual actions, however great the genius of their performers, are shaped within a context of tradition. Prior to the growth of universities and organized research institutions, support from salary for intellectual work research, writing, and teaching was likewise rare; it was confined mainly to court intellectuals historians, astronomers, and astrologers. During the invasion of Kuwait, for example, public intellectuals played a major role in promoting the cause of liberation in the global media. They would not change their position much in a socialist society, so long as it met their conditions about freedom. Intellectuals such as John Stuart Mill, perhaps most clearly in his writing on the status of women but also on democracy, are part of this tradition. They can also exist relatively independently of each other.

At times of great political disruption, when old certainties about how the world works are questioned, this role is particularly important.