Intellectuals love writing about intellectuals, and I haven’t escaped the madness.  I have published essays about Sigmund Freud, Johann Sebastian Bach, Lynne Segal, Antonio Negri, Paulin Hountondji and Chilla Bulbeck, as well as critiques of schools of thought such as reproductionist sociology.  Southern Theory is largely made up of short essays about intellectuals around the world.  I’ve even written a couple of pieces trying to analyze my own intellectual practice.

As a supervisor of advanced students, I’ve also been concerned with the training of intellectuals – so far as that’s possible.  I have conducted, many times, a workshop called ‘Writing for Research’ that is based on a social analysis of writing practice. In 1985, looking back from the ripe age of forty-one, I wrote an essay ‘How to supervise a PhD’.  It was quite popular, I think because it reflected the participatory and experimental outlook of the Sociology group at Macquarie University.

That outlook certainly affected ‘Intellectuals and intellectual work’, the essay that rounded off my 1983 book Which Way is Up?  I had been teaching our Sociology of Knowledge course, but was also learning about industrial sociology from my colleagues Gerry Phelan and Rosemary Pringle.  So I became interested in the work that intellectuals did, and began to think of intellectuals as a certain kind of labour force.  That provided a basis for thinking how we might get a more participatory intellectual life.

It took a while for those ideas to become a research agenda.  In Teachers’ Work, and in research on the Disadvantaged Schools Programme, I had looked at the labour process of one group of intellectual workers.  These projects had their effect in the later 1990s, when I came back to Australia from a job in the United States and was making a fresh start.  I began to work seriously on an industrial sociology of intellectuals.

This involved classifying forms of intellectual labour, then looking at them empirically.  One study used the life-history method, another used computer-assisted telephone interviewing with a national sample.  I also began to do life-history interviews with intellectuals while travelling to other countries.

I worked on these projects with Julian Wood, who managed the fieldwork and did much of the interviewing, and June Crawford, who co-designed the questionnaires and did the statistical analysis.  In these studies we were able to map the intellectual labour process and the ways it differed between institutional sectors – showing that the private sector was not the leader it was supposed to be in technology or global connection.

We were able to trace international links, showing Australia’s orientation to the global metropole not to the region, a pattern I called ‘quasi-globalization’.  And we could explore the dilemmas faced by different groups of intellectuals as their workplaces were transformed by neoliberal managerialism.

This work converged with the rethinking of social science in Southern Theory (see theory).  I now find it hard to think about any theorist or school without thinking about the labour they undertake and the circumstances in which they do it.  But I also try to locate that labour in the global structures of power, wealth, and cultural change.  And of course, this has to apply to my own thought (click here) and my own discipline.  So I’ve spent some time considering the history of sociology, in a more global perspective.

I’ve also been involved in the current struggles in Australian universities, where a key part of the intellectual workforce has been subjected to an increasingly ruthless managerial regime, as the university system is increasingly privatised.  This has been happening, with different wrinkles, in many parts of the world, and it is resisted, in various ways, by higher education unions, student groups, and professional associations.  Welcome to the struggle!

2012 Lecture at University of Cape Town: Intellectuals in the 21st Century


Love, fear and learning in the market university. Australian Universities Review, vol. 56 no. 2, 2014, 56-63.

A public lecture, given during the 2013 strike at the University of Sydney, about the problems and resistance of intellectual workers under neoliberal management.

Connell, Raewyn. 2014. Setting sail: the making of sociology in Australia, 1955-75. Journal of Sociology, published online May 2014, DOI: 1177/1440783314532174,

An attempt at intellectual history: reconstructing from documentary evidence the circumstances in which a new discipline was set up in Australian universities, the collective project of the founders, and the contradictions and limits of that project.  This was a keynote address for the national conference of The Australian Sociological Association at its 50th anniversary.

Connell, Raewyn. 2011. Confronting Equality: Gender, Knowledge and Global Change.  Cambridge, Polity Press; Sydney, Allen & Unwin Australia.

Half the essays in this book deal with intellectuals.  There are chapters on Paulin Hountondji and Antonio Negri, on Australian intellectual workers, and on the global history of sociology.  There is a new look at the control of teachers’ work, and reflections on the Australian left.

Connell, Raewyn. 2010. Long marches across the landscape of gender: Chilla Bulbeck’s research and its Australian context. Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 25, no. 66, 379-389.

Attempts to understand intellectual production through the work of a notably original researcher, recognizing her creativity and also trying to see the collective context of the work.

Connell, Raewyn. 2009. Peripheral visions - beyond the metropole. Pp. 53-72 in Jane Kenway and Johanna Fahey, ed., Globalizing the Research Imagination, London, Routledge.

The biter bitten.  A long interview about my intellectual work, in the global perspective that I have been trying to apply to others.  Part of a fascinating collection of interviews about the possibilities of world perspectives in social science.

Is the picture similar in other countries?  Yes and no, of course.  The dramatic changes in recent South African history have intensely involved intellectuals and have shifted their relations with the wider world, but the consequences of democratic transition have been very mixed.

Connell, Raewyn. 2006. Core activity: reflexive intellectual workers and cultural crisis. Journal of Sociology, vol. 42 no. 1, 5-23.

Report from the life-history study of Australian intellectual workers, dealing with intellectual workers whose object of knowledge was knowledge itself.  This has poignant evidence on what happens in intellectual life as universities are transformed under neoliberalism.

Connell, Raewyn, Julian Wood and June Crawford. 2005. The global connections of intellectual workers: an Australian study. International Sociology, vol. 20 no. 1, 5-26.

Report from the quantitative study of Australian intellectual workers, documenting the different forms of international connection and their correlates by developing scales to measure them. Other papers from this project laid out the nuts and bolts of an industrial sociology of intellectuals: the work, its organizational context, its technology, and its social relations.

Connell, Raewyn. 1985. How to supervise a PhD. Vestes: Australian Universities Review, vol. 28 no. 2, 38-41.

This essay was enthusiastically read by PhD students, if not by supervisors, and was reprinted many times in guides to postgraduate study at Australian universities.

Connell, Raewyn. 1983. Intellectuals and intellectual work. Pp. 231-254 in Which Way is Up?, Sydney, Allen & Unwin.

My first sustained attempt to think about intellectuals as a social group, formulating the concept of an ‘intellectual labour process’ and connecting industrial issues to politics.
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