Public Intellectuals

The death of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. led Ezra Klein to ask where the next generation of public intellectuals will be found. Mark Schmitt laments that there are few incentives these days for intellectuals -- particularly for intellectuals on the left -- to forgo the academic route.

Having done the academic route for a while, I can attest that there is at least something to that complaint. It's pretty tough to keep up with the demands of scholarship and teaching while still producing work for the general public, and I taught at an institution with relatively low demands for scholarship. At the Harvards and Chicagos of the world, the scholarship demands are huge, and, as Dan Drezner can probably attest, many older academics don't particularly appreciate contributions aimed at nonspecialists.

Still, it seems to me that there's no real reason for particular alarm on the public intellectual front. Last I checked, the folks at Crooked Timber were busy presenting arguments for public consumption while still keeping up with their academic careers. Glenn Reynolds seems to be doing okay, too. Andrew Sullivan and Eric Alterman both have a PhD. There's Judge Posner. And Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok.

There is, of course, a crucial difference here. Schlesinger went beyond punditry, taking positions as

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