This book argues for the continued significance of religious inheritance as a key aspect of European modernity, contending that public intellectuals need to be understood, in at least some respects, as moral critics of their society and that as such, a crucial dimension of their role is shaped by the particular patterns of religious inheritance that they possess whether directly as individuals, or, via the national society of which they consider themselves members and the particular history of its state formation. With an exploration of both their hidden and openly religious dimensions, The Public Intellectual as Moral Critic reveals the enduring and perhaps paradoxical influence of the great 19th century secular religions in contemporary social criticism by way of a case study of the work of Noam Chomsky, whose rationalism is contrasted with the more openly religious and poetic vision of Peter Dale Scott. Identifying the problematic nature of the modern social environment for radical critique and pointing, through the work of Marshall McLuhan and Regis Debray, to the continuing need for critical discourse, the author also discusses the importance of the thought of philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor in opening up space for genuine critique of the present in the face of the threats posed to it by modern mass media and the powerful forces of market-based institutions. A work of conceptual and historical sociology, including comparative and genealogical analyses, this volume will appeal to sociologists, social theorists and philosophers with interests in ethics, the sociology of religion and public intellectuals.
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