Responding to the public vs creating the public

January 27, 2016

While many PSE institutions might try to tailor their programming in response to public demand, they often do so under the mistaken assumption that the public is something that simply “exists,” writes American political theorist Corey Robin. Yet the public, he insists, is not something that is “there” for institutions to respond to; it is something that is endlessly created by a number of different influences. Among these influences, Robin notes, is the public intellectual—a figure who writes not for a public that already exists, but a public that the intellectual wants to bring into being. Yet the problem with public intellectuals today, the author argues, is that they have begun to follow the same demand-based logic as their institutions. “The problem,” he says, “is that they are writing for readers who already exist, as they exist.” Chronicle of Higher Education