Once upon a time, when a traffic offender said he was JNU professor…


A rally by intellectuals in Calcutta in 2012 (The Telegraph)

The economist Prabhat Patnaik has a fine piece in The Telegraph, Calcutta, on the growing anti-intellectualism in the world.

There was a time in Delhi when an absent-minded professor, like himself, would be pardoned for a minor traffic offence when the police learnt that he was from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Today, of course, he would be lucky if he is not lynched, or tied to a jeep and paraded, or….

Prof Patnaik cites three reasons why the gap between intellectuals and the masses is growing under literate but barely educated right-wing leaders like Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

  1. The distance between working people and intellectuals, who have participated in middle class prosperity, has increased in the neo-liberal age as the State recedes.
  2. The victims of globalisation see intellectuals as its cheerleader and beneficiary. The indirect link intellectuals had with the people via political parties has snapped.
  3. Globalisation has destroyed our education system by commoditising it. Critical thinking is discouraged. There is no market for positions taken by intellectuals.

Prof Patnaik concludes that the disconnect of the people from intellectuals, among whom there is usually a preponderance of opinion in favour of tolerance, secularism and the Welfare State, opens the way for fascist and divisive forces to thrive.

Read the full article: A growing chasm