Henry Giroux on Public Intellectuals and the Crisis of Language

Henry Giroux's recent article on truthout.org brings to light the importance of a public role for academics and intellectuals, and the tension that arises in accusations of elitism and convoluted discourse. Following are just a few excerpts we pulled out, but be sure to check out the whole thing here.

From the beginning:
"The presupposition that academics no longer function as critical public intellectuals willing to connect their knowledge and expertise to larger public issues is now pervasive. Many factors have contributed to this alleged withdrawal from speaking to public issues, ranging from the demands of academic professionalism and the suppression of dissent to a simple lack of time to address such work."
A breakdown of his argument:
"First, I argue that academics should assume the role of critical public intellectuals. Second, we must repudiate the popular assumption that clarity is the ultimate litmus test to gauge whether a writer has successfully engaged a general educated audience. In this regard, I insist that the appeal to clarity has become an ideological smokescreen for a notion of common sense and 'simplicity' that have become excuses for abusing language as a marker of the educated mind. Third, I argue that public intellectuals need to take matters of accessibility seriously in order to combine theoretical rigor with their efforts to communicate forcefully and intelligibly to a larger public about the most pressing matters of the day. In short, I want to scramble the opposition between the work of public intellectuals and the alleged simplicity of clarity."
Lastly, a very interesting take on the work language does:
"One of the things that I therefore see as an extraordinarily useful job is to make people sensitive to the uses of language, not as a kind of arcane classification of languages in let's say the jargon of mechanical engineering versus the jargon of political science, but rather the way in which language carries forward values, does work. It does actually work, it performs services of one sort or another and above all, how language can change perceptions and indeed in the end change the world in which we live. And unless we have a sense of the way in which language can in fact change reality, instead of the other way around, which we always assume, then I think we're committed to a use of language that is dead and passive."
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1 comment:

  1. dooglas1:34 PM

    Lots of talking about this issue here at the SfAA conference in Merida - and it's exactly why we do this blog.
    Nice and timely post!


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