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Intellectuals in politics

Democracy needs critical intellectuals. But can they be both office-holders and mirror-holders at the same time?

When president Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University last autumn, he devoted his acceptance speech to the subject of the intellectual and politics, explaining that Oxford is the home and workplace of an intellectual “with whom I have been debating the subject for years.” He was referring to Timothy Garton Ash. Here we print lightly edited passages from the speech, and a response to continue the debate.

Vaclav Havel: “It is my conviction that the world requires truly enlightened politicians who are broad-minded enough to consider those things which lie beyond the…

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