Ireland becoming anti-intellectual, academic editor says
INTELLECTUALS HAVE been denigrated in recent years because of the increase in commercialisation and privatisation, an editor of a new book on the public intellectual in Irish society said yesterday.
A very well grounded “anti-intellectualism” in Irish society was identified in the book, said NUI Maynooth sociologist Prof Mary Corcoran yesterday.
However at a time of crisis Ireland relies on the critique and creativity that public intellectuals can offer, she writes in the introduction.
Prof Corcoran co-edited Reflections on Crisis: The Role of the Public Intellectual which was launched at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin last night.
The election of President Michael D Higgins opened up a space for, and was a role model for, “public intellectuals” because he spoke as one, Prof Corcoran said yesterday.
He showed that “you can speak about complex issues with passion and concern”, she said.
Spaces for public intellectuals were shrinking because of shortening attention spans and multiple platforms, Prof Corcoran added.
“Public intellectuals have to move with the times and get their message out there,” she said referring to the use of blogs such as IrishEconomy.ie.
It had become a term of abuse for a certain type of economist to describe themselves as a “media economist” or a “celebrity economist”, Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said as he launched the book last night.
In the context of crisis, a more appropriate term of abuse was to describe a person as “an acquiescent economist”.
“The boy who cried wolf too frequently lost his credibility but that hardly justifies the silence of those who . . . could scarcely have failed to notice wolf packs circling our economy,” he said.
The book also looks at the “chilling effect” in universities due to the increased emphasis on the utility of education, commercialisation and fund-raising, Prof Corcoran said.
This had meant “less space or time for people to think”, she added.
In one chapter, UCD emeritus professor of politics Tom Garvin writes that people running universities pretend to be “businessmen running efficient enterprises” and pretend their activities are “going to bring about greater economic growth”, but this is false, he concludes.