Cory Leonard

Daniel W. Drezner Against Public Intellectuals in Decline

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Great discussion surrounding the bookTwilight of the Elites with David Brooks and Drezner going the rounds on whether our public intellectuals are as good as theirs (from the past.) Drezner opines:

Most of the obituaries for the public intellectual suffer from the cognitive bias that comes with comparing the annals of history to the present day. Over time, lesser intellectual lights tend to fade from view – only the canon remains. When one looks back at only the great thinkers, it is natural to presume that all of the writers from a bygone era are great. Even when looking at the intellectual giants of the past, current public commentary is more likely to gloss over past intellectual errors and instead focus on their greatest moments. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man might look wrong in retrospect, but it is not more wrong than Daniel Bell’s The End of Ideology.

Intellectuals like Sontag or Friedman occupy their exalted status in the present only because they survived the crucible of history. As Posner acknowledges, “One of the chief sources of cultural pessimism is the tendency to compare the best of the past with the average of the present, because the passage of time filters out the worst of the past.” It is riskier to assess the legacies of current public intellectuals – their ability to misstep or err remains.

via Daniel W. Drezner | FOREIGN POLICY.



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