The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere


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For the cultural industry, the notion of "the public", with its contingent modes of access and articulation, is replaced by the notion of "the market", implying commodity-exchange and consumption as modes of access and interaction. This also means that the idea of the Enlightenment, rational-critical subjects and a disciplinary social order, is replaced by the notion of entertainment as communication, as the mechanism of social control and producer of subjectivity.

The classic bourgeois spaces of representation are likewise either replaced by markets, such as the mall replacing the public square, or transformed into a space of consumption and entertainment, as is the case in the current museum industry.

The New Public Intellectual | SpringerLink

As such, we then also have to reconfigure the role of the public intellectual as a rational-critical subject, a universal subject, not as a thoroughly particular subject, which - as I see it - would only be an affirmation of the consumer-group model, but rather as an involved instead of detached figure: at the same time as Benjamin's thesis dealing with the mode of address, Antonio Gramsci was defining a different model of the intellectual, the so-called "organic" intellectual, which was a figure that was involved not only in struggles, in causes, but also in production itself. As such, marketing and advertising men as well as journalists were the new organic intellectuals of capitalism, whereas teachers and priests could not be considered organic intellectuals, since they were repetitive.

Today, precarious workers could certainly be considered this kind of intellectual, although it remains to be discussed whether they are in the service of capital or the cultural industry or in its counter-movement, a struggle for the multitude. We must therefore begin to think of artists and intellectuals as not only engaged in the public, but as producing a public through the mode of address and the establishment of platforms or counter publics, something that has already existed in both the east and west, clandestinely and underground respectively, but in opposition to the reigning cultural and political hegemony of the specific society.

Counter-publics can be understood as particular parallel formations of a minor or even subordinate character where other or oppositional discourses and practices can be formulated and circulated. Where the classic bourgeois notion of the public sphere claimed universality and rationality, counter-publics often claim the opposite, and in concrete terms often entail a reversal of existing spaces into other identities and practices, most famously as in the employment of public parks as cruising areas in gay culture.

Here, the architectural framework, set up for certain types of behaviour, remains unchanged, whereas the usage of this framework is drastically altered: private acts are performed in public. In recent art history the notion of "self-organization", for example, is most often an oppositional term, and certainly a credible one, but it is not itself a counter-public. Rather, the counter-public is a conscious mirroring of the modalities and institutions of the normative public, but in effort to address other subjects and indeed other imaginaries:.

Intercultural Public Intellectual Engagement

Counterpublics are "counter" [only] to the extent that they try to supply different ways of imagining stranger sociability and its reflexivity; as publics, they remain oriented to stranger circulation in a way that is not just strategic but constitutive of membership and its affects. Here discourses are established and circulated not through a negation of publicness, but through a deliberate and tactical self-institutionalization.

Critique of Capitalism - Nancy Fraser

Societal machines for knowledge production become subjective ones - produced through identity rather than producing identity. As stated by one of these self-institutions:. Copenhagen Free University is one voice in a mumble of voices. We are not two or three individuals, we are an institution drifting through various social relations, in the process of being produced and producing. We are the people in the house.

This position establishes an ever-changing formation of new contexts, platforms, voices, actions but also by inactivity, refusals, evacuations, withdrawals, exodus. According to the situationist Asger Jorn, subjectivity is a point of view inside matter, "a sphere of interest", and not necessarily that, which is equitable with the individualized ego. Our scope is both local and global, looking for fellow travellers around the corner and around the world.

We are dealing here with a notion of the everyday, with an attempt to deal with living conditions within the knowledge economy of the post-fordist world, a tactic of double movement, both contestation and withdrawal. This entails, then, a different notion of "the political" that is not only about movement, but also moment, the here and now, as in the words of another author-producer Stephan Geene:.

Let me also offer another definition along the lines of counter-publics: what is at stake here is the articulation of experience. It is assemblage rather than performance.

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Where the institutions of the cultural industry only offer endless "new experiences", the production of self-institutionalized bodies notably tends to appear boring, unspectacular in the organizing of experience. In these times of an expansive global capitalism, corporatization of culture and criminalization of the critical left, it is not only appropriate, but indeed crucial to discuss and assess modes of critique, participation and resistance in the charged field between the cultural field and the political sphere.


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Or in other words, the charged field between political representation and representational politics, between presentation and participation. However, such a project requires thinking, analysis and, not least of all, a consideration of what these terms, politics and culture, implicate in the current situation. First of all, it is obvious that both arenas have been pluralized and fragmented, if not dispersed and dissolved throughout the current postmodern era.

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Both arenas imply a large subdivision of networks, agents and institutions. Giroux's "Writing the Public Good Back into Education: Reclaiming the Role of the Public Intellectual," which surveys the way in which neoliberal ideology and policy have actively undermined the role of the academic intellectual; Giroux argues that the space of higher education needs to be constituted as a democratic public sphere, a zone for intellectual inquiry and advocacy. Paul Allen Miller, a classicist, takes a somewhat different tack in "Teaching Literature, Teaching Commitment"; recognizing the unlikelihood if not impossibility of academic scholars making their work known to wide audiences of non-specialists, Miller contends that academics need to reach students precisely through their teaching and scholarship, thus influencing an audience that would probably not seek out the more overtly public productions Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere
    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere
    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere
    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere
    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere
    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere
    The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere

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