November 16, 2012
Daily Read: Stanley Aronowitz on C. Wrights Mills on Political Intellectuals
What is the work of political intellectuals, public intellectuals, or even, constitutional law professors?
Stanley Aronowitz, who participated in a public conversation about such topics this morning, is the author most recently of Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals. Mills, who died in 1962 and was once widely known, is undergoing a bit of a resurgence; Aronowitz' "intellectual biography" of Mills contributes to this trend.
Aronowitz describes Mills' critiques of academics as knowledge workers; observations that are especially relevant in our post-election assessments and the role of constitutional commentators:
[Their] Knowledge is dedicated to assisting the state to regulate, in the first place, the poor. Having forsaken theoretical explorations aimed at explaining social events, the disciplines of economics and political science have, with the exception of a small minority of practitioners, become policy sciences. Economists advise and assist governments and corporations to anticipate and regulate the “market,” raise and spend tax revenues, and help direct investments abroad as well as at home. Political science has virtually become an adjunct to the political parties and to the foreign policy establishment; its polling apparatuses are guides to candidates on how to shape their message and to whom to target their appeals.
But Aronowitz suggests that the work of C. Wright Mills is important because Mills’s questions of "what a new society based on principles of economic and social equality would look like" continues to endure "as an unfinished and neglected series of tasks."
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Given my status as constitutional law pipsqueak (or subpipsqueak), I do not regard my job as serving the political or economic establishment as policy advisor/facilitator. My aim is to inculcate in my students understanding of and support for the rule of law, to introduce concepts of constitutional interpretation, and to foster knowledge of constitutional law doctrine so that they can become and function as attorneys. I have also recently been tasked with contributing to constitutional law scholarship. Operating so far below the radar of public intellectuals like Mr. Aronowitz (and yourselves), one is free from the temptations of power, prestige, and influence. Thank goodness.
Posted by: Jeffrey G. Purvis | Nov 17, 2012 9:57:19 AM