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Book: Public Intellectuals by Posner

Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline by Richard Posner, a conservative judge and, indeed, public intellectual, is an interesting book which I reccomend you read if you rely on "expert" opinions or commenatry. Since these experts fuel much of the national discussion in every op-ed page, every TV news show, magazine, and the like, we all are almost certainly absorbing the opinions of these commentators. Posner patiently explains that academics are increasingly very specialized. He writes, "Today, then, the typical public intellectual is a safe specialist, which is not the type of person well suited to play the public intellectual's most distinctive, though not only, role, that of critical commentator addressing a nonspecialist audience of matters of broad public concern."

The first part of this 400 page book is convincing and well written. I would breeze through the second half, in which Posner goes off on tangents like the Clinton impeachment. The number of public intellectuals who can comment accurately on broad societal issues is declining, and the number of "celebrity" public intellectuals who jump outside their realm of expertise and often offer false predictions and nutty anecdotes with no formal challenges or record to account for is increasing. This book sheds light on this interesting and not-often-talked-about issue.


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