Richard Dawkins as a public intellectual after The God Delusion: A British study

Abstract

This article informs sociology of intellectuals through a case study of Richard Dawkins’ public reputation after the publication of The God Delusion. It uses positioning theory and cultural sociology’s distinction between traditional intellectuals and media intellectuals to argue that Dawkins’ self-positioning was inherently constrained by subsequent positioning by media intellectuals, and that the latter is more important than the former in setting Dawkins’ divisive reputation in public discourse. In particular, this article highlights five positioning techniques that are instrumental in constructing Dawkins’ reputation: (i) labeling and packaging of ‘militant atheism’ and ‘New Atheism’; (ii) positioning of allies and opponents; (iii) positioning with cultural values; (iv) positioning with the civil sphere; and (v) positioning of Dawkins’ intellectual authority. The article ends with questions and suggestions for pursuing a more culturally sensitive sociology of intellectuals.

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Ushiyama, R. Richard Dawkins as a public intellectual after The God Delusion: A British study. Am J Cult Sociol 2, 300–328 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/ajcs.2014.7

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Keywords

  • intellectuals
  • positioning theory
  • media
  • atheism
  • Richard Dawkins