Intellectual Poverty III - Innovation

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In ancient Greece, the ideas produced by philosophers supported democratic development. In modern democracies, philosophers who concern themselves with political thought are an exception. Social research is generally conducted by economists and political scientists, and it is rare for it to have a philosophical character.

Moreover, there is a tradition among political scientists, lawyers, economists, philosophers, humanists and other university researchers that they prefer to concern themselves only with issues of a descriptive nature; they are very reluctant to venture into normative issues. They therefore concentrate on examining, describing and interpreting the world as it is, instead of speculating about how it could or should be. It is a fine academic principle and that is how serious research ought to be

However, it means that no innovative thinking suggesting how society could be arranged emerges from the universities. Innovation comes almost exclusively from those politicians who want to be re-elected, from politically appointed commissions, from the business world and from interest organisations; that is, from actors who have vested interests in societal development, as well as from individuals concerned with the debate. Researchers who express themselves are expected to speak as individuals and not as the experts they are. This is partly why the existing democracies don't have an ongoing, critical assessment of the actual substance of democracy from a philosophical and academic viewpoint. Political life is not getting a challenging response from people who concern themselves on a deeper level with what it means to be human, and what values a society can be built on.

Next chapter: Intellectual Poverty IV - Disillusion