Intellectuals love writing about intellectuals – look at the review pages – and I certainly 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 essays trying to analyze my own experience and intellectual trajectory.
As a supervisor of honours, masters and doctoral students, I’ve also been concerned with the training of intellectuals – so far as that’s possible at all. In 1985 I wrote an essay ‘How to supervise a PhD’, a partly light-hearted, partly serious attempt to get Australian colleagues to lift their game. It was quite popular for a while, I think because it reflected the participatory and experimental outlook of the Sociology group at Macquarie University in the 1970s and 1980s.
That outlook certainly affected the essay called ‘Intellectuals and intellectual work’ 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. I therefore became interested in the work that intellectuals did, and began to think of intellectuals as a certain kind of workforce. That provided a basis, in the final section (called ‘Preaching what you hope to practice’), for thinking how we might get a more participatory intellectual life. It still seems to me, nearly thirty years later, an important goal.
It took a while for those ideas to become a research agenda. In Teachers’ Work I had focussed on the labour process of a specific group of intellectual workers, and a few years later was able to launch a sample survey of teachers across a whole public school system. The survey considered teachers explicitly as a workforce engaged in intellectual labour, and it was supplemented by some marvellous oral-history data. But that project was still-born, because of political changes.
However these projects had their effects 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. I first built a framework that classified forms of intellectual labour, then designed the fieldwork. One study used the life-history method I had found so fruitful in gender and educational research, another used computer-assisted telephone interviewing with a much larger sample. The methods produced such rich material 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, and the teamwork was very effective. A stream of papers from these projects followed, the last one published in 2010.
In these studies we were able to map the intellectual labour process and the ways it differed between institutional sectors – incidentally 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. And we could explore the dilemmas faced by different groups of intellectuals as their workplaces were transformed by neoliberal managerialism and other changes.
This work inexorably converged with the rethinking of the content of social science in Southern Theory (see the theory section of this website). I now find it hard to think about any theorist, or any school of thought, without thinking about the work they do and the circumstances in which they do it. But I also find myself, almost as a reflex, trying to locate all that in the global structures of power, wealth, and cultural change. And of course, this has to apply to my own thought. For my own political writing, as an illustration, click here.
Welcome to the struggle!
2012 Lecture at University of Cape Town: Intellectuals in the 21st Century
A SELECTION OF TEN
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 issues about intellectuals: there are chapters on Paulin Hountondji and Antonio Negri, Australian intellectual workers, and 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.
One of my attempts to understand intellectual production through the work of a particular thinker, recognizing creativity but also trying to see the collective context of the work.
Connell, Raewyn. 2010. Antipodes: Australian sociology's struggles with place, memory and neoliberalism. Pp. 211-227 in Michael Burawoy, Mau-kuei Chang and Michelle Fei-yu Hsieh, ed., Facing an Unequal World: Challenges for a Global Sociology, Volume Two: Asia. Taipei, Academia Sinica.
An essay on the development of Australian sociology, not in the European style but in the context of a global sociology of knowledge. It was written for a conference of national sociological associations that helped to crystallize the critique of Eurocentrism in the discipline.
Connell, Raewyn. 2007. The heart of the problem: South African intellectual workers, globalization and social change. Sociology, vol. 41 no. 1, 11-28.
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 and June Crawford. 2007. Mapping the intellectual labour process. Journal of Sociology, vo. 43 no. 2, 187-205.
The nuts and bolts of an industrial sociology of intellectuals: the work, its organizational context, its technology, and its social relations.
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.
Connell, Raewyn. 1997. Long and winding road. In Barbara Laslett and Barrie Thorne, ed., Feminist Sociology: Life Histories of a Movement, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 151-164.
Autoethnography? A discontinuous narrative of my engagement with feminist sociology in the United States, reflecting on the circumstances of this kind of intellectual work.
Connell, Raewyn. 1991. The workforce of reform: teachers in the Disadvantaged Schools Program. Australian Journal of Education, vol. 35 no. 3, 229-245.
A quantitative study of public school teachers in one Australian state, undertaken in the course of research on disadvantaged schools, but actually extending across the whole system.
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.