intellectuals

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intellectuals

persons, typically well-educated, who engage their intellect in work which they believe to be of cultural importance. In English, ‘intellectual’ as a noun first appeared in the early 19th century, and early usage was often pejorative. Sociological interest largely centres on intellectuals as a distinct social group (see INTELLIGENTSIA). In addition, three episodes in French social thought are worth noting. First, the social scientist Henri de SAINT-SIMON introduced the military concept of a vanguard, or avant-garde, to social thought in the early 19th century, although his reference was not to intellectuals as such, but rather to scientists, whose positive knowledge would enable them alone to direct the development of France and other industrial societies. Second, in 1896, the politician Georges Clemenceau labelled the defenders of Dreyfus as ‘intellectuals’ (see DREYFUS AFFAIR), so beginning modern usage. The label was promptly adopted as a badge of honour by DURKHEIM and others. Third, the philosopher Julien Benda condemned intellectuals for their readiness to serve particular social and political interests and to betray their true calling – the disinterested pursuit of universal truth and justice – in his La Trahison des Clercs (1927).

Intellectuals, interests and truth also figure in the writings of Antonio GRAMSCI between the wars. Gramsci notes the partiality of (communities of) intellectuals – producers and disseminators of knowledge – and their role in the generation of both hegemony and resistance. In particular, he distinguishes ‘traditional intellectuals ’ who, however self-deludingly, uphold the autonomy of intellectuals,from ‘organic intellectuals, including technical specialists, who acknowledge a functional relation, however nuanced, to dominant or oppositional classes and groups within a given socioeconomic formation.

Finally, the term ‘public intellectual ’ is increasingly used in America, and now Britain, to refer to intellectuals in the PUBLIC SPHERE who set agendas, inform debate and influence opinion. Anthony GIDDENS’ articulation of a ‘THIRD WAY’ politics beyond left and right provides an example. See also MANNHEIM.

References in classic literature ?
It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual health to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.
They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me.
While doing justice to the intellectual power with which a few Circles have for many generations maintained their supremacy over immense multitudes of their countrymen, he believes that the facts of Flatland, speaking for themselves without comment on his part, declare that Revolutions cannot always be suppressed by slaughter, and that Nature, in sentencing the Circles to infecundity, has condemned them to ultimate failure -- "and herein," he says, "I see a fulfilment of the great Law of all worlds, that while the wisdom of Man thinks it is working one thing, the wisdom of Nature constrains it to work another, and quite a different and far better thing.
As I went with them the memory of my confident anticipations of a profoundly grave and intellectual posterity came, with irresistible merriment, to my mind.
If such a creature were, by its own process of metabolism, to change much of its bulk for intellectual growth, we should at once arrive at a new class of creature--more dangerous, perhaps, than the world has ever had any experience of--a force which can think, which has no soul and no morals, and therefore no acceptance of responsibility.
You see, Monsieur, it's worth everything, isn't it, to keep one's intellectual liberty, not to enslave one's powers of appreciation, one's critical independence?
It is even worse in America, where, from the intellectual quickness of the race, the genius of the country is more splendid in its promise and more slight in its performance.
Lydgate did not mean to be one of those failures, and there was the better hope of him because his scientific interest soon took the form of a professional enthusiasm: he had a youthful belief in his bread-winning work, not to be stifled by that initiation in makeshift called his 'prentice days; and he carried to his studies in London, Edinburgh, and Paris, the conviction that the medical profession as it might be was the finest in the world; presenting the most perfect interchange between science and art; offering the most direct alliance between intellectual conquest and the social good.
Alfred Ainger has done such good service, the great and peculiar change which was begun at the end of the last century, and dominates our own; that sudden increase of the width, the depth, the complexity of intellectual interest, which has many times torn and distorted literary style, even with those best able to comprehend its laws.
Up above me, I knew, were unselfishnesses of the spirit, clean and noble thinking, keen intellectual living.
That girl was born to be a leader in social and intellectual circles, far away from Four Winds," she said to Gilbert as they walked home one night.
Already in fourteenth century Italy, therefore, the movement for a much fuller and freer intellectual life had begun, and we have seen that by Petrarch and Boccaccio something of this spirit was transmitted to Chaucer.