A Critical Study of the “End of Intellectuals” (1975–1985)

Engagements: 68, and What Next?
By Vincent Gayon

The end, the crisis, the decline, or the silence of intellectuals are some of the topics used in the 1970's and 1980's as an epilog to the history of French intellectuals. This paper questions the differentiated uses (journalistic, politics, academics) of this pessimistic point of agreement during a ten year period often considered as politically pivotal. The polemic on “the silence of left-wing intellectuals” in 1983 serves as the main entry point to an analysis of this heterogeneous “literature of the end”. It is informative of the various definition poles of “intellectual” and of the re-composition of the relationship between the intellectual, political and journalistic fields. This paper thus discusses the apparent eclipse of this social category as well as the conditions of its progressive and concurrent redefinitions.


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