Geography's new public intellectuals?



Publication Details

Castree, N. (2006). Geography's new public intellectuals?. Antipode: a radical journal of geography, 38 (2), 396-412.


What is a public intellectual? Does geography have any? And does it matter? These questions are all pertinent to the three books under review here. In A Brief History of Neoliberalism (by David Harvey), The Endgame of Globalization (by Neil Smith) and Afflicted Powers (by Retort, a quartet of Bay Area ''antagonists to capital and empire'' that includes Michael Watts) there is, I suggest, a deliberate attempt being made by the authors to position themselves as public intellectuals. Not that any of them would feel comfortable using the term as a self-descriptor: to lay claim to the signifier ''public intellectual'' runs the risk of sounding insufferably pompous while opening oneself to unfavourable comparison with the ''real'' public intellectuals of yesteryear like George Orwell or Jean-Paul Sartre. What's more, even geographers (never mind the wider ''public'') would find the idea that they now have several ''PIs'' in their number absurd: for surely the discipline remains far too marginal to produce figures with the self-confidence and the intellectual capital to intervene authoritatively in wider public debates (Ward forthcoming).

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