Latest Issue

How to be a public intellectual

The world's fifth best public intellectual on the uses and abuses of the term

Has anyone ever described themselves as an “intellectual,” or given it as the answer to the question, “And what do you do?” The very term “public intellectual” sometimes affects me like the expression “organic food.” After all, there can’t be any “inorganic” nourishment, and it’s difficult to conceive of an intellectual whose specialisation was privacy, at least since Immanuel Kant. However, we probably do need a term that expresses a difference between true intellectuals and the rival callings of “opinion maker” or “pundit,” especially as the last two are intimately bound up with the world of television. (I recently rewatched…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect