Collectives of intellectuals: Their cohesiveness, accountability, and who can speak on their behalf

As of late, the sociology of intellectuals has made important inroads into its object of study. Much of this has been achieved by problematizing the modes of engagement intellectuals undertake and multiplying the types of actors that can be considered to have intellectual authority, going beyond the traditional mold of the ‘authoritative’ public intellectual. However, relatively few have theorized how intellectuals associate themselves in groups: how collectives, whether in the form of institutions or not, negotiate their public interventions and position themselves as a group in the public debate. This article delves into this issue, with an emphasis on how ‘intellectual collectives’ reach a common identity and decide who can intervene ‘on their behalf’ – what we call prosopopoeia. Informed by positioning theory, and based on two variables (presence of a single organizational basis and purported intellectual cohesiveness), this article contributes to current debates on the sociology of intellectuals by analyzing how collectives of intellectuals intervene in the public debate, reach some form of coordination with their peers, police the boundaries of their collective identity, and, in the process, attain a common position across audiences.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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