From the Sociology of Intellectuals to the Sociology of Interventions

Eyal, Gil; Buchholz, Larissa

This review suggests that the sociology of intellectuals is being converted into a sociology of interventions, i.e., instead of focusing on a certain social type, it analyzes the movement by which knowledge and expertise are mobilized to inform a value-laden intervention in the public sphere. We first demonstrate that the classical sociology of intellectuals was centered on a problematic of allegiance that no longer seems productive. In addition, we show that by focusing on a particular social type it remained limited to only one mode of intervention into the public sphere.We then review two literatures that distance themselves from the classical problematic and that could be integrated under the common rubric of a sociology of interventions: The first literature analyzes intellectual fields and markets. It moves away from the sociology of intellectuals by multiplying the relevant actors and depersonalizing the term “intellectual” so that it no longer stands for a social type but for the capacity to make a public intervention, a capacity to which many different actors lay claim. The second literature analyzes the public deployment of expertise. It multiplies not simply the actors laying claim to the mantle of the intellectual, but the formats and modes of intervention itself, i.e., the different ways in which knowledge and expertise can be inserted into the public sphere.


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Annual Review of Sociology

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January 21, 2022