The democratic intellectual?
This paper revisits Davie’s (1961) notion of the democratic intellect. The role of the intellectual in society has become ever more specialist and bound up with income generation. Gone is the notion of the intellectual being someone who shares their knowledge with the wider public, but rather this is now with interested stakeholders. Yet as Yeo (1996) points out, the intellectual as a professional academic, is much more in the business of excluding rather than including others in the activities they engage as ‘intellectual work’. It is interesting that in Scotland there has been the beginnings of a debunking of the notion of the democratic intellect (Barr, 2006) but the myth of the academic as a servant of the public is still strongly held. Knowledge production from above rather than from below is still the dominant epistemological modus operandi. Even in areas such as sociology where it would reasonably be expected that a public sociology would deliver a much wider sense of gaining knowledge for outside the walls of academia, there not much in the way of a genuine two-way street between the public and intellectuals. This comes at as time when the public purse for higher education is open to intense scrutiny but the argument is advanced that perhaps the current financial woes can give a stimulus to intellectuals connecting with the public in a way that they have not had to.