Essay Archives

All Essays

August 5th, 2011

Redefining the Public University: Developing an Analytical Framework

Submitted by Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

The university is in crisis, almost everywhere. In the broadest terms, the university’s position as simultaneously inside and outside society, simultaneously participant in and observer of society – always precarious – has been eroded. With the exception of a few hold‐outs the ivory tower has gone. We can no longer hold a position of splendid [...]

July 21st, 2011

International Affairs and the Public Sphere

Submitted by Stephen M. Walt, Harvard University

Most social scientists would like to believe that their profession contributes to solving pressing global problems. Indeed, the United States and many other modern societies subsidize university-based research and teaching on the assumption that scholars will develop useful knowledge about today’s world, communicate that knowledge to their students and to the broader public, and, where [...]

March 31st, 2011

Why Are There Business Schools in Universities?

Submitted by Rakesh Khurana, Harvard University

In 2008, Harvard Business School celebrated its 100th birthday. Harvard’s year-long centennial culminated in a two-and–a-half-day global summit in which more than 2000 business leaders, alumni, academics and a select group of invited journalists from around the world gathered to discuss the School’s contributions to American business. Moreover, in recent years the school had broadened [...]

February 24th, 2011

The Arab Spring: Religion, Revolution and the Public Square

Submitted by Seyla Benhabib, Yale University

“Freedom is a great, great adventure, but it is not without risks… There are many unknowns.” Fathi Ben Haj Yathia (Tunisian author and former political prisoner), New York Times, February 21, 2011 The courageous crowds of the Arab world, from Tunis to Tahrir Square, from Yemen and Bahrain and now to Benghazi and Tripoli, have [...]

February 13th, 2011

Toward a Public Social Science

Submitted by Herbert J. Gans, Columbia University

The social sciences deal with humanity’s most pressing problems, but there are barriers between practitioners and the public. We must restructure these disciplines from the ground up. In times of economic and political distress, the social sciences must become more relevant and useful by devoting their attention to society’s major problems. Such calls to reform [...]

July 12th, 2010

Historians in Public

Submitted by Thomas Bender, New York University

[This is an older version. A completely revised and much extended version of this essay is posted here.] The experience of the past few decades has prompted the worry by many historians and social scientists that academic intellect has turned inward, cutting itself off from a role in public life. This is particularly significant for [...]

June 6th, 2010

A New Vision of the Public University

Submitted by Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

[This is an older version. A completely revised and much extended version of this essay is posted here.] The university is in crisis everywhere.[1] In the broadest terms, the university’s position as simultaneously inside and outside society, simultaneously participant in and observer of society, – always precarious – is being eroded. With the exception of [...]

May 30th, 2010

The Disintegration of the Public Sector: Recasting Public Conversation

Submitted by Tony Judt, New York University

One striking consequence of the disintegration of the public sector has been an increased difficulty in comprehending what we have in common with others. We are familiar with complaints about the ‘atomizing’ impact of the internet: if everyone selects gobbets of knowledge and information that interest them, but avoids exposure to anything else, we do [...]

March 30th, 2010

An Avantgardistic Instinct for Relevances: Intellectuals and their Public

Submitted by Jürgen Habermas, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

The roots of the egalitarian self-understanding of intellectuals in Germany extend back to the first generation after Goethe and Hegel. The restive literati and private lecturers from the circle of Young Germany and of the Left Hegelians nurtured both the image of free-floating, spontaneous, intensely polemi­cal, often maudlin, and unpredictable intellectuals and the prejudices against [...]

January 5th, 2010

Dissolution / Revolution: Uwe Tellkamp’s post-89 Novel Der Turm and the Peculiar Configuration of the Public Sphere in the Late GDR

Submitted by Julia Hell, University of Michigan

I. When asked to exhibit at the Musée du quai Branly in 2007, the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare chose the theme of Jardin de l’amour, creating installations that celebrate the French revolution and the revolutions to come. Recently named Member of the British Empire, Shonibare arranged his trademark wax figures in three scenes, inspired by [...]

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