Guarini Institute Book Presentation: The Ideas Industry
On Monday, October 23, 2017, the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs welcomed Daniel Drezner, Professor of International Politics at Tufts University, for the presentation of his book The Ideas Industry. The event, which was moderated by Professor Federigo Argentieri, was organized in collaboration with the International Festival of Diplomacy and also featured Armando Barucco – the Italian Ambassador to Sudan.
The Ideas Industry offers an inside look at the 21st century marketplace of ideas, explained Drezner. In the book, he makes a distinction between thought leaders and public intellectuals. As Barucco paraphrased it, thought leaders are usually experts in a certain field who gain fame as single-idea merchants, while public intellectuals are scholars who critically comment on a wide range of issues. According to Professor Drezner, former U.S. President Barack Obama can be considered a public intellectual. , while President Donald Trump is a thought leader, although he fails to attract efficient policy makers.
Barucco stressed that since social media enable anyone to express their opinions on any issue, the importance given to public intellectuals has declined. Drezner pointed out three other reasons why thought leaders are prospering and public intellectuals are losing ground. The first one is the erosion of trust in authorities and expertise, which has been especially evident after the 9/11 attacks. Since public intellectuals depend on expertise, people have started to disregard their opinions. Drezner argued that the same phenomenon is occurring in Europe, especially after the 2009 financial crisis. He said that the second reason is the rise of plutocrats, like Steve Jobs, who financed intellectuals to publicly support his ideas. The third reason is the rise of polarization – whereby intellectuals are more likely to be supported by those who share their ideology. Drezner remarked that this phenomenon is more present in the US than in Europe.
At the end of the lecture, Professor Argentieri and Armando Barucco commented on the role of public intellectuals, their prerogatives, and American politics.