Who is a “Public Intellectual”

Interview with Sakamoto Yoshikazu (International House of Japan’s Bulletin, Volume 30, Number 1, 2010):

..But, with consultants and the like, who are marketing themselves to private companies, the principles of competition that we spoke about earlier apply. And when government councils and committees invte the opinions of experts, this is largely an internal government matter. All of these are what Edward Said would call “insider” intellectuals, not standard-bearers of the public interest.

Consultants and experts are certainly intellectuals, but they tend to be insiders.

It is the “outsiders,” the ones who stand apart from the state and its authority and from corporations, who I think we can refer to as “public intellectals.”

So I would translate the “public” of “public intellectuals” as “civic” or “civil” (shiminteki in Japanese) to convey the kind of solidarity among citizens that I referred to earlier. I understand public intellectual te mean an intellectual who takes the stance of a citizen capable of a solidarity transcending national boundaries and grounded in a mutual respect of human dignity.


In globalization, Dr.Sakamoto Yoshikazy sees two trends: the globalisation of competition, and the globalisation of solidarity. The role of public intellectuals is in promoting the globalisation of solidarity.

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