An Open Mind The making of a modern public intellectual.

An Open Mind The making of a modern public intellectual.

  • Words Rachel Connolly
  • Photograph Oliver Mayhall

Obvious self-promotion feels tawdry. This is especially true in the age of social media, when constantly marketing ourselves (to whom, exactly?) has become so easy, addictive and sophisticated. 

This is what makes the concept of a public intellectual contradictory. Too many TV and radio appearances; the churning pressure of a weekly column (bound to consist, partly, of mundane meditations); tweeting too much or in a way that tries too hard to be funny; going on a comedy quiz show. All of these things risk denigrating the standing of an intellectual and transforming them, in the public imagination, into the sort of person whose career has “pop” as its prefix. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

There has been a lot written about the decline of the public intellectual. But these pie...

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