Intellectuals and Intelligentsia
Characterizations of the teaching staff in higher education have been so varied over the full range, from (self-) adulation to public distrust, that they have generated a rich lexicon of terms. "Professors," "scholars," and "academics" were once standard, but now compete with "professionals," "researchers," and "intellectuals" (in several compounds). To apply the term "intellectuals," as I too have done, necessarily compounds the category problem, for the concept is one of those called (by the philosopher W. B. Gallie) "essentially contested": made up of all the uses it has been put to by several hands. Yet the changes that have taken place in English over the last generation warrant the use of terms that highlight the salient features of its leading figures and broader membership.
A further crux arises with the term "intelligentsia," for it has distinct historical applications (in nineteenth-century Russia and, more generally, contemporary Eastern Europe), yet has been bandied about with some flair in recent discourse. The mixture of denotative and connotative usages need not preclude its application to the American scene, if it can be refined. I propose using the pair, "intellectuals and intelligentsia," not by themselves but diacritically: to mark off groupings of knowledge workers by their relation to each other. In such an accounting, it is the signs of interaction that figure most tellingly, and I shall suggest a few that aspire to be discriminating in the better sense, without snobbism.
Intellectuals have been defined in so many ways that a method of categorizing the definitions themselves would come as a relief. The most elaborate of