Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Public Intellectuals, Tech Intellectuals and Evgeny Morozov

Henry Farrell, associate professor of political science at George Washington University, has just published an incisive article about tech intellectuals that is framed around Russell Jacoby's 80's lament about the decline of public intellectuals.  It's also an interesting (albeit somewhat one-sided) take-down of Evgeny Morozov.  There's a whole slew of interesting comments about the piece on the Crooked Timber blog from the likes of Steven Johnson, Nicholas Carr and Zeynep.  Here's my own comment:

Now that Evgeny Morozov is enrolled in grad school I wonder whether that indicates that he harbors some of the same doubts that you have about the quality of his work. And if I was one of the many authors he has trashed I’d probably be pretty sympathetic to the portrait you draw of him in your review: Perhaps he does unfairly skew the arguments of his opponents. Still, I wonder if all of that might be forgiven given the fact that your essay is inspired by Russell Jacoby’s laments about the decline of public intellectuals. Jacoby might have written his work in the 80′s but I doubt things have changed much in academe, or specifically in political science, since its publication. My bet is that the American Political Science Association and its associated journals are still producing desiccating works that are unreadable by anybody but the most dedicated wonks. Which is too bad because politics, and the politics of technology, should hardly be the province of political science alone. It may currently take the agonism (and imprecisions) of Morozov to spark a public conversation about power and how power is redistributed by technology. But that’s a better outcome than relegating those debates to professionals inside academe. (from: )