2 Comments

  1. Your mistake is to think that being an academic expert and being a public intellectual requires that the latter build on the former in some obvious way. The two activities are in fact orthogonal, and the people you call mere ‘social commentators’ are basically the public intellectuals who you don’t think have incorporated enough academic expertise in their commentary. At the end of the day, the epistemic authority of expertise reflects the state of academic knowledge, which has its own trajectory that may bear rather variously on specific policy concerns. This is why many — if not most — academics are reluctant to become public intellectuals: They can’t translate their knowledge out of their default research frameworks, even if the issues concerned seem quite similar to what’s being discussed publicly.

    1. “The two activities are in fact orthogonal, and the people you call mere ‘social commentators’ are basically the public intellectuals who you don’t think have incorporated enough academic expertise in their commentary.”

      I think that’s very true! And I see what you’re saying – I just can’t shake the sense that there has to be some mandate to speak routed in specialisation, otherwise it just becomes rhetorical strategies for competing in a marketplace of intellectual entertainment.

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