Intellectuals and Politics

Michael Ignatieff and Ruud Lubbers

There hads always existed a tension between the world of ideas and that of concrete action, between the world of thinkers and that of decision makers, between the world view of the intellectual and that of the politician. The intellectuals’ desire to influence society and politics has also always existed. It is a desire even Plato couldn’t resist.

But what is the real responsibility of intellectuals? And to what extent is this a political responsibility? Do intellectuals belong in the world of (party) politics, or should they away from it and maintain their independence? Or should intellectuals, in our post-ideological age where political parties cannot say clearly what they stand for any longer, trying to hold on to their own power base, feel the need more than ever to return ideals and intelligence to a world which seems to have forgotten to ask questions such as: what is a good society? What holds a society together? How do we handle the challenges of the 21st century? These questions fuelled a debate between Michael Ignatieff and Ruud Lubbers on intellectuals and politics.