Beyond the Ivory Tower. The Public Role of the Intellectual Today.
SourcePhronimon, 9, 2, (2008), pp. 73-91
Article / Letter to editor
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Leerstoel Fundamentele filosofie
SubjectThe Project of a Hermeneutic Philosophy
In this essay, I attempt to contextualise the question regarding the public role of the academic as intellectual in terms of the present, global, neo-liberal “govern-mentality”. With the aid of thinkers such as Bourdieu, Foucault, Sennett, Arendt, but also social geographer, David Harvey, it becomes clear that neo-liberalism radically attenuates the individual’s capacity to enter the public sphere. This incapacitation leads to the inevitable depoliticisation of intellectual labour through the increasing individualisation of the self, on the one hand, and the rampant privatisation of the public, on the other hand. This is explained by laying bare the corrosive impact and pervasive nature of neo-liberalism. Foucault and Bourdieu nevertheless believe in the possibility of resistance, which they locate in the individual and in his/her capacity as politicised intellectual. However, the repoliticisation of intellectuals and their role in the political sphere presupposes a more fundamental recovery of the public sphere. The tactical question regarding the possibilities of and means to resistance is therefore rooted in the ontological question regarding the freedom of the self that comes into being in the social space between the self and the other. In the final analysis, the thought of Levinas is used to argue that fidelity to the self is not realised through the pursuit of limitless freedom (although our freedom is undeniably at stake), but in the social dimension, which enables the self – via the other – to re-enter the public and eventually the political sphere.
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