What’s “New” about Public Intellectuals Today?

  • David Palumbo-Liu


There seems to be the assumption these days that, largely because of the explosion in social media and technological advances, there is quantitatively more “public” (in sheer number and reach, that is). My essay will not only revisit that assumption but also ask the question—does that mean that the nature of “the public intellectual” has changed, and if so, how? I’ll center on a small set of topics raised when we transpose certain standard questions regarding public intellectuals into the arena of the Internet. How do the conditions presented by and in the Internet enable new notions of “public,” of “intellectual,” of “communication”? How do new kinds of temporal, spatial, linguistic, and symbolic relations affect the assumed pedagogical intent of public intellectualism? In general, I argue that certain key contradictions abide that help us better understand longstanding issues regarding the work of public intellectuals, and also point to challenges we face with the new media that are in our hands. I’ll also be interested in seeing how these changes are occurring at the same time that the academy itself is undergoing significant change.


Symbolic Relation Public Intellectual Social Revolution Language Ideology Longstanding Issue 
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Copyright information

© David Palumbo-Liu 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Palumbo-Liu

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