After The Last Intellectual
Twenty years ago this fall, Russell Jacoby's The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe mourned the death of the freelance thinker and examined its fresh corpse. but did we misread Jacoby's autopsy?
The Last Intellectuals
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In 1997, writing in the journal Contemporary Sociology, Russell Jacoby passed along the pithy advice a literary agent once gave him. "Put 'Intellectuals' in your book title," he was told, "and kiss sales good-bye." Jacoby ignored the advice, or defied it, and wrote The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe, published twenty years ago this fall. The book did well, going into a second printing within weeks. It remains in print and continues to produce cultural effects—most of them indirect and densely mediated, for its argument has long since circulated much further than the book itself.
That is one way of putting it. Another would be to say that, after two decades, The Last Intellectuals is a classic: that is, a work more often cited than read. A thumbnail version of recent cultural history
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