The (un)intelligibility of academics and being ‘a mere journalist’


In many academic circles today anyone who tries to write in a widely intelligible way is liable to be condemned as a ‘mere literary man’ or, worse still, ‘a mere journalist.’ Perhaps you have already learned that these phrases, as commonly used, only indicate the spurious inference: superficial because readable. The academic man in America is trying to carry on a serious intellectual life in a context that often seems quite set against it. His prestige must make up for many of the dominant values he has sacrificed by choosing an academic career. His claims for prestige readily become tied to his self-image as a ‘scientist’. To be called a ‘mere journalist’ makes him feel undignified and shallow. It is this situation, I think, that is often at the bottom of the elaborate vocabulary and involved manner of speaking and writing. It is less difficult to learn this manner than not. It has become a convention – those who do not use it are subject to moral disapproval. It may be that it is the result of an academic closing of ranks on the part of the mediocre, who understandably wish to exclude those who win the attention of intelligent people, academic and otherwise.

C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Pg 218

Categories: C. Wright Mills

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5 replies »

  1. You should mention that this was published in 1959. I saw a link on Twitter and had never heard of the book or author.

  2. I have recently discovered The Soviological Imagination and the Appendix: On Intellectual Craftsmanship. All i can say it has made me see my whole world very differently

  3. Sorry that should have Sociological.
    Third time lucky

  4. Sorry that should have said Sociological.
    What is happening today?

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