Paul Krugman Image via Wikipedia
In January 2008 I wrote a post on the decline of public intellectualism. The recent debt ceiling debate and the early start to 2012 U.S. presidential elections brings this theme to mind again. Many of the Republicans opt for reactionary commentary and President Obama is yet to frame a cogent argument on the economy. Many conservatives may dislike Paul Krugman, the economics Nobel Laureate, but his posts in the New York Times come as close as anybody to even handedly framing the issues. The absence of even handed, thoughtful commentary on economic, social and political issues is the reason that I find public intellectualism in decline and the U.S. outlook of such concern.
Jeffrey Kurtz, writing in the journal Logos about George Scialabba, helps us to better understand public intellectualism.
"Scialabba belongs to a tradition of generalist essay-writers and “citizen-critics” (his term) of the democratic left whose forebears include Randolph Bourne, Albert Camus, Nicola Chiaromonte, Irving Howe, Dwight Macdonald, George Orwell, and Ignazio Silone—"
Scialabba writing about these great writers of the past provides further insight.
They “wrote in the vernacular, with vigor and clarity, for the general, educated reader. Their topics were large, their interests wide; however small their actual, engaged audience, their writings opened out, and so helped sustain at least the idea and the hope of a public culture.”
And finally, Kurtz explains what is so often missing in today's commentary.
"To perceive as readily and pursue as energetically the difficulties of one’s own position as those of one’s opponents; to take pains to discover, and present fully, the genuine problems that one’s opponent is, however futilely, addressing—this is disinterestedness.."
This may be a bit of an academic way to make a point, but the U.S. needs, in part, a return to well thought out, balanced discussion of the issues facing the country. If you call that liberal, so be it.