By Stefan Collini

A richly textured paintings of historical past and a strong contribution to modern cultural debate, Absent Minds presents the 1st full-length account of "he query of intellectuals" n twentieth-century Britain--have such figures ever existed, have they regularly been extra admired or influential in different places, and are they near to turning into extinct this present day?

Recovering ignored or misunderstood traditions of mirrored image and debate from the overdue 19th century via to the current, Stefan Collini demanding situations the generic cliché that there aren't any "real" intellectuals in Britain. The publication deals a persuasive research of the concept that of 'the highbrow' and an intensive comparative account of the way this question has been visible within the united states, France, and in other places in Europe. There are specific discussions of influential or revealing figures equivalent to Julien Benda, T. S. Eliot, George Orwell, and Edward acknowledged, in addition to trenchant evaluations of present assumptions in regards to the effect of specialization and megastar. all through, realization is paid to the a number of senses of the time period "intellectuals" and to the nice range of appropriate genres and media wherein they've got communicated their principles, from pamphlets and periodical essays to public lectures and radio talks.

Elegantly written and conscientiously argued, Absent Minds is a tremendous, long-awaited paintings by means of a number one highbrow historian and cultural commentator, ranging around the traditional divides among educational disciplines and mixing insightful pics of people with sharp-edged cultural analysis.

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In fact, the noun itself appears only once in the text of Russell’s pamphlet, when he casually refers to ‘philosophers, professors, and intellectuals generally’; more often he speaks of ‘scholars’ or ‘men of learning’, and sometimes of ‘literary men’. ⁴¹ Over the course of several decades, these two senses interacted with the newer or imported uses to produce several subtly different shades of meaning, and since, as I remarked The History of a Word 29 earlier, there is still a widespread prejudice that a word always has a clear and stable meaning, it may be helpful simply to illustrate a little of the variety of this usage.

Something similar is at work in the affectionate terms in which John Betjeman, already heavily invested in not being rationalist and progressive, tried to explain to his friend, the economist Roy Harrod, the differences in their attitudes towards religion: I feel this will shock you, you dear Liberal intellectual old thing. And for every book you can produce which disproves the existence of the spirit, I can produce one which proves it. It boils down to the alternative, materialist or Christian.

E. ⁵¹ The suggestion of remoteness is, of course, present here, but the term appears to indicate more respect than hostility. ⁵² Here, as in most of the examples so far quoted from this decade, there seems to be no implication at all of a public or political role. In the early decades of the century, a rather different usage of the plural seems to have become fairly common, at least in Socialist circles, to designate a social stratum or class. The class-analysis that was part of the legacy of European Marxism played an important part here, drawing attention to that stratum of ‘brain-workers’ who helped to furnish the proletariat with ideas and leadership.

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Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain by Stefan Collini


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