Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Constructive Responsibility of Intellectuals

Boston Review — Archon Fung: The Constructive Responsibility of Intellectuals:

The distinctive constructive contribution of intellectuals is to help gather and analyze information about what works and what doesn’t and to offer ideas for activists—and for the broader public—to consider. Intellectuals such as John Stuart Mill, perhaps most clearly in his writing on the status of women but also on democracy, are part of this tradition. Scholar-activists such as Gary Bellow helped to invent legal-reform strategies that focus on building power in popular organizations rather than merely appealing to judges. Jane Mansbridge, in her analysis of the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, suggests more promising strategies for subsequent reform movements. Though he was not a public intellectual, John Rawls developed a conception of justice that has helped many others to understand not just how their own society is unjust, but what moves toward justice look like. Philippe van Parijs is the most forceful proponent of the “universal basic income,” a proposal that has won the support of international civil society organizations and even policymakers in some countries. Joel Rogers has developed interesting projects to reconfigure labor unions in the United States in ways that make them more inclusive and successful as participants in economic-development projects.
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