Edited by Michael C. Desch
What is a public intellectual? Where are they to be found? What accounts for the lament today that public intellectuals are either few in number or, worse, irrelevant? While there is a small literature on the role of public intellectuals, it is organized around various thinkers rather than focusing on different countries or the unique opportunities and challenges inherent in varied disciplines or professions. In Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena, Michael C. Desch has gathered a group of contributors to offer a timely and far-reaching reassessment of the role of public intellectuals in a variety of Western and non-Western settings. The contributors delineate the centrality of historical consciousness, philosophical self-understanding, and ethical imperatives for any intelligentsia who presume to speak the truth to power.
The first section provides in-depth studies of the role of public intellectuals in a variety of countries or regions, including the United States, Latin America, China, and the Islamic world. The essays in the second section take up the question of why public intellectuals vary so widely across different disciplines. These chapters chronicle changes in the disciplines of philosophy and economics, changes that “have combined to dethrone the former and elevate the latter as the preeminent homes of public intellectuals in the academy.” Also included are chapters that consider the evolving roles of the natural scientist, the former diplomat, and the blogger as public intellectuals. The final section provides concluding perspectives about the duties of public intellectuals in the twenty-first century.
“This is a first-rate contribution to the growing body of research on the phenomenon of public intellectuals. It clearly ranks high in a cohort of edited volumes that include Public Intellectuals: An Endangered Species? and The Public Intellectual and the Culture of Hope. Beyond appealing to public intellectuals, these essays are a rich interdisciplinary mix that will be of interest to scholars across a wide variety of fields in the social sciences and humanities.” — Greg Russell, University of Oklahoma
“These essays from a stellar group of scholars in various disciplines collectively constitute an unmatched critical study of the public role of intellectuals in the United States. The chapters offer both historical and international comparisons. There is no better analysis of the complexity of the role of disciplined knowledge in contemporary public life.” — Thomas Bender, New York University
“If there is a single theme running through Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena: Professors or Pundits?, a new anthology edited by Michael C. Desch, it is a word of caution for those who would guide the public mind. . . . The diversity of commentators considered throughout [the book] looks toward a newly broadened understanding of the public intellectual as a person who makes accessible to a general audience both big ideas and specialized knowledge of politics, philosophy, science, art and, yes, religion. . . . For readers seeking a thoughtful interrogation of the present state and ongoing development of that role, Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena offers a useful and provoking read.” — The National Interest
“The diminishing of America’s once mighty class of opinion makers has become, in different circles, a matter of either public concern or celebration in the months since the presidential election. While brief takes on ‘fake news,’ ‘post-fact’ journalism, and the dominance of social media have justifiably become a mainstay on the pages of many periodicals, the Notre Dame political scientist Michael C. Desch deserves credit for presenting a longer view of the phenomenon in Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena.” — The New Criterion
“. . . many of the chapters are excellent. Mark Lilla revisits his seminal study of totalitarian thinkers, ‘The Reckless Mind’ (2001), and is as usual worth reading on what has gone awry with liberal democracy. . . . There is entertainment and enlightenment to be had, too, from Gilles Andréani on ‘Diplomats as Intellectuals’ in the French context; from Kenneth R. Miller and J. Bradford DeLong on the public role of scientists and economists respectively.” — The Wall Street Journal
“’The evolving edifice of public intellectualism,’ to use the term of Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena’s editor Michael C. Desch, rests on a foundation whose cement seems to be returning to sand. We have it on good information what comes next. . . . We citizens need a new core curriculum: that much this volume makes clear. . . . And we need the active presence of that ancient Augustinian city, portending a new one. We need a civil society founded upon the bedrock of institutions that store up treasure capital cannot see. And we need teachers—intellectuals, if you will—who can help us to see and seize that treasure. Now." — Commonweal