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Left Intellectuals and Desperate Search for Respectability

The left intellectuals' search for bourgeois prestige, recognition, institutional affiliations and certification imply a de facto embrace of the values associated with them. The overt embrace of these values and practices plays an important role in perpetuating bourgeois hegemony, despite the left intellectuals' protestations and counter-hegemonic rhetoric. The fact is students, workers and in general the popular classes follow what the left intellectuals do and not what they say, and the institutional identification and the symbolic awards they pursue in their careers and everyday life speak eloquently for what they really value.

When George Soros, one of the biggest and most rapacious speculators in the world, published a book calling into question some of the most destructive aspects of speculative capital, left intellectuals raced reproduce his quotes as evidence that indeed ‘global capital’ was a threat to humanity. The curious part of this scenario is that Soros got free publicity, increasing his royalties, a raise in political and intellectual stature, while continuing to profit from his management of speculative investment funds. This is not an isolated case: more often than not, leftist intellectuals seek out ‘respectable’ sources to bolster their arguments, citing them as ‘impeccable’ or as ‘without a hint of leftist sympathies’ as if leftist research and scholarship is less reliable or less likely to convince. The leftist search for bourgeois respectability has profound implications in discussing the problem of bourgeois hegemony over popular classes and the growth of an alternative political-intellectual culture.

One of the striking aspects of contemporary politics is the gap between the declining objective conditions of the working class and rural labour and the subjective responses, which are diffuse, fragmented and frequently under the tutelage of neo-liberal parties. This contrast is most glaring in the third world, but is also present in the advanced capitalist countries.

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