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Intelligentsia - Intelligentsia And Society, Definitions, Challenges To Traditional Discourse, Response To Orthodoxy, Bibliography

intellectuals revolution activity intellectual

An abundance of studies on the subject of intellectuals has focused on societal differences and disparate issues, and featured a wide array of eras, cultures, and practices. A comparison by Raymond Williams between the French tradition of the intellectual engaged in public issues and the more reserved role ascribed to his or her English counterpart attests to this difference among societies. It has become customary to associate intellectual activity with the ideas of modernity and universality that arose during the Enlightenment. However, the nature, configuration, and functions of that activity have evolved considerably since the eighteenth century, covering a range of subjects that are as diverse as the intelligentsia's areas of influence, forms of expression, and objects and goals. As the scholar and critic Edward Said (1935–2003) observed:

The proliferation of intellectuals has extended even into the very large number of fields in which intellectuals—possibly following on [Antonio] Gramsci's pioneering suggestions in The Prison Notebooks, which almost for the first time saw intellectuals, and not social classes, as pivotal to the working of modern society—have become the object of study.… There are thousands of different histories and sociologies of intellectuals available, as well as endless accounts of intellectuals and nationalism, and power, and tradition, and revolution, and on and on. Each region of the world has produced its intellectuals and each of those formations is debated and argued over with fiery passion. There has been no major revolution in modern history without intellectuals; conversely, there has been no major counter-revolution without intellectuals. (p. 8)

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