The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas.

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9780190264604: The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas.

The public intellectual, as a person and ideal, has a long and storied history. Writing in venues like the New Republic and Commentary, such intellectuals were always expected to opine on a broad array of topics, from foreign policy to literature to economics. Yet in recent years a new kind of thinker has supplanted that archetype: the thought leader. Equipped with one big idea, thought leaders focus their energies on TED talks rather than highbrow periodicals.
How did this shift happen? In The Ideas Industry, Daniel W. Drezner points to the roles of political polarization, heightened inequality, and eroding trust in authority as ushering in the change. In contrast to public intellectuals, thought leaders gain fame as single-idea merchants. Their ideas are often laudable and highly ambitious: ending global poverty by 2025, for example. But instead of a class composed of university professors and freelance intellectuals debating in highbrow magazines, thought leaders often work through institutions that are closed to the public. They are more immune to criticism--and in this century, the criticism of public intellectuals also counts for less.

Three equally important factors that have reshaped the world of ideas have been waning trust in expertise, increasing political polarization and plutocracy. The erosion of trust has lowered the barriers to entry in the marketplace of ideas. Thought leaders don't need doctorates or fellowships to advance their arguments. Polarization is hardly a new phenomenon in the world of ideas, but in contrast to their predecessors, today's intellectuals are more likely to enjoy the support of ideologically friendly private funders and be housed in ideologically-driven think tanks. Increasing inequality as a key driver of this shift: more than ever before, contemporary plutocrats fund intellectuals and idea factories that generate arguments that align with their own. But, while there are certainly some downsides to the contemporary ideas industry, Drezner argues that it is very good at broadcasting ideas widely and reaching large audiences of people hungry for new thinking. Both fair-minded and trenchant, The Ideas Industry will reshape our understanding of contemporary public intellectual life in America and the West.

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About the Author:


Daniel Drezner is Professor of International Politics at Tufts University and a regular contributor to the Washington Post. Along with having one of the most heavily trafficked blogs in the world of academia, he is also the author of The System Worked; Theories of International Relations and Zombies; All Politics is Global; and The Sanctions Paradox.

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"Drezner is a lively and engaging writer...Throughout the book he is balanced and measured, recognizing that the new era comes with benefits as well as drawbacks." -- Nikita Lalwani and Sam Winter-Levy, Times Literary Supplement


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Book Description Hardcover. Book Condition: New. The concept of the "public intellectual" has a rich and colorful history. It began in the early twentieth century, when the new mass media catapulted intellectuals who were able to write for the general public to semi-stardom. The first wave included figures like Walter Lippmann--who coined the term "stereotype" and is widely considered the founder of media studies--and by the 1950s, public intellectuals as a species had become a powerful and influential force in the American cultural landscape. By the 1970s, the standard definition of the public intellectual had solidified: a person (often university-affiliated, but not always) able to discuss and dispute any serious issue, typically in venues like The New York Review of Books, and occasionally influence politics. The traditional definition of the public intellectual remains with us, but as Daniel W. Drezner shows in The Ideas Industry, it has been gradually supplanted by a new model in recent years: the "thought leader." In contrast to public intellectuals, thought leaders gain fame as purveyors of a single big idea. Also, instead of battling it out with intellectual combatants in the pages of The Partisan Review, The Public Interest, and their descendants, they often work through institutions that are closed to the public and which release information selectively. Thought leaders and their associated ideas tend to become brands--hedgehogs to the public intellectual fox. They have also proven to be quite successful, as evidenced by TED, Aspen Ideas, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the like. Furthermore, they often align with one side of a politically polarized debate and enjoy the support of ideologically friendly private funders. Drezner identifies increasing inequality as a prime mover of this shift, contending that our present-day class of plutocrats not only wants to go back to school, it wants to force "schools"-in the form of intellectuals with elite affiliations-to come to them. And they have the money to make this happen. Drezner, however, does not see the phenomenon as necessarily negative. While there are certainly some downsides to the contemporary ideas industry, he argues that it is very good at broadcasting intellectual content widely and reaching large audiences of people hungry for new thinking. Both fair-minded and trenchant, The Ideas Industry will reshape our understanding of contemporary public intellectual life in America and the West. Bookseller Inventory # 5656314

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