Public Intellectuals and Think Tanks: A Free Market in Ideas?

  • Barbara A. MisztalEmail author


The paper critically evaluates the thesis of the interchangeability between the think-tank public intellectual and the academic public intellectual. It suggests that this thesis, while endorsing the rise of the think-tank public intellectual, pronounces the salience of the intellectual-social critic and undermines the authority of academic public intellectuals. It is argued that the think-tank expert doubling as the public intellectuals could limit the political relevance of the academic public intellectual and that the think-tank expert’s monopolization of the public forum could present a threat to the quality of public debates. While recognizing that there are many contradictions inherent in the role of intellectual and that there are now numerous factors that hinder the abilities of academics to act as public intellectuals, the paper emphasizes public academic intellectuals’ contribution to the dynamics of public opinion and the quality of democratic standards. In today’s context, with the omnipresent of media, the new conditions of knowledge production, the neo-liberal ethos and the social prominence of think-tank experts, the sources of the academic public intellectual authority are in a continuous need for reinvestment.


Public intellectuals Academics Think tanks Experts Democracy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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