Networks and Institutions
  Home > Public Intellectuals > Networks and Institutions

  Stefan Auer (Politics and Dublin European Institute, UCD)
Political Folly & Political Prudence: How East European Intellectuals Contributed to `The End of Idiocy on a Planetary ScaleŽ

One would think that intellectuals are ideally suited to make a valuable contribution to the political life of their societies. However, more often than not, even the wisest amongst them have failed dismally. Intellectual sophistication offered no reliable protection against political idiocy. The contention of my presentation is that dissident intellectuals in Central and Eastern Europe proved to be more prudent in their political judgments about important issues of their time than their Western counterparts. This is, of course, a vast generalization. To give substance to this argument, I will restrict my presentation to a couple of representative figures (Czeslaw Milosz, Jan Patocka, Václav Havel contra Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Slavoj Zizek) and some key issues, such as their views on power and violence. I will use Hannah Arendt as a moderator in this fictional debate.

Mary Evans (WomenŽs Studies, Kent)
Can There be Women Intellectuals?

The questions which I want to raise in this talk revolve around those issues raised by Virginia Woolf in Three Guineas : questions about the degree to which women can maintain for themselves independence from those institutions which have been instrumental in maintaining male dominance. Woolf was writing at a time when women were fighting to obtain access to higher education and the professions; but she realised that the cost of achieving this access was collusion with the values of those institutions. But this paper is not primarily concerned with the dominance of one gender in institutional contexts, it is about the gendered dynamic of intellectual life. The 'discovery' of sex differences in the eighteenth century in one sense enlarged the world for women since it allowed us to claim a particular space, yet at the same time it arguably established a pattern in which women have been confined either to the articulation or the defence of women's particularity. When we consider the past two hundred years of intellectual life we can now perhaps look back on it and see not the emancipation of women - and certainly not the intellectual emancipation of women - but a much more complex process in which the qualities of masculinity and femininity have become reified into intellectual standards and expectations, leaving little space for that openness of thought and imagination which Woolf wished to defend. The heroine of my paper is not, however, Virginia Woolf, but Fanny Price in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. A heroine because, almost uniquely in the history of English fiction, Miss Price was willing to accept the responsibilities of rationality.

Tom Garvin (Head Department of Politics, UCD)
Imaginary Jew, Imaginary Cassandra: Conor Cruise OŽBrien as a Public Intellectual in Ireland

This paper portrays OŽBrien as a brave critic of many Irish popular and public attitudes toward the national question and, above all, the tragedy of Northern Ireland. It argues that OŽBrienŽs social background, intelligence and somewhat unorthodox education equipped him for such a role in advance. It also argues that his impact on Irish political culture and nationalist thought has been disproportionately large. It is further argued that his warning that an aggressive irredentism towards the North on the part of Irish governments has been heeded.

Stina Lyon (Sociology, London South Bank University)
What Influence?: Public Intellectuals, the State and Civil Society

This paper addresses issues in understanding the relationship between public intellectuals, the state and civil society and the production and interpretations of "social knowledge". Sociologists have since the inception of the discipline been influential agents in the public domain beyond academe in a variety of ways: as politicians, government advisors, social researchers on government funded projects, critical writers and paradigm shifters, public orators, propagandists for social movements and voluntary organisations, teachers and activists.  The paper starts from the assumption that what constitutes "social knowledge" in the public domain has over time, and place, been a contested issue with power over its collection, interpretation and dissemination shifting between the state, civil society and the public each variably receptive to and supportive of exposure, criticism or advocacy by public intellectuals.  It will then outline some of the different types of public "connectivity" that create public platforms and their implications for sociological influence in these different domains. The oft lamented demise of the "public intellectual", the "man of knowledge" as understood in the past, can from within such a framework be seen as less of an interesting question for sociologists than attempts to articulate what kinds of sociological intellectuals are needed in the public sphere at present, and how and why they should be supported.


  » Home | » About | » Imprint | Site done by Internetagentur