Scialabba does not simply repeat standard complaints about the decline of free-range public intellectuals and the rise of transgressive professorial jargonization. (That is a familiar story, even perhaps too familiar.) Scialabba points, rather, to the role played by a “new variety or mutation” of thinker in the “modern, efficient machinery of persuasion” necessary to hold highly developed societies together. Scialabba calls this type “the anti-public intellectual, whose function is not criticism, not defense of the public against private or state power, but the opposite.… As a result of the intellectuals’ incorporation en masse into the ‘power elite,’ it now requires far more training, leisure, and resources to penetrate the screen of corporate or government propaganda….”Reading McLemee always winds up adding to the stack of books I hope to read while on sabbatical next year.
And so the critic must redouble his efforts at challenging the arts of public manipulation, however Sisyphean those effort may be. The boulder will crash through the screen every so often, with enough luck and a good aim.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Crashing boulders through the screen
Scott McLemee's always worth reading over at Inside Higher Ed. In today's discussion of the work of Isaac Rosenfield, he notes Scialabba's "What are intellectuals good for?"