An Intellectual in Public

Alan Wolfe
Unforgettable observations on key issues from a leading authority on contemporary American culture.


"The question of the public intellectual is very much in the air again," writes Alan Wolfe. As one of our eminent social commentators, Wolfe should know; he's been writing, with fierce intellectual independence, about American public and private life since the 1960s.

In this new collection of essays spanning seven years of contributions to The New Republic, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and other prominent publications, Wolfe displays the courage necessary to write honestly—yet free of ideology, cant, and piety—about the things Americans take very seriously.

Wolfe thinks big; indeed, the essays in An Intellectual in Public confront many of the most controversial issues of our time: country, God, race, sex, material consumption, and left and right. Beginning and ending the book are original essays describing the public intellectual's role, and how Wolfe believes that role ought to be filled.

An Intellectual in Public is not only a demonstration of Wolfe's pointed analytical skills but a testament to his belief that "severely ideological thinking" is inappropriate for some of our most difficult problems, and that "neither the right nor the left can speak for all of America."

Alan Wolfe is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life and also Professor of Political Science at Boston College. He is the author of over a dozen books, including One Nation After All: What Middle Class Americans Really Think About: God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, the Right, the Left and Each Other.

Praise / Awards

  • "Alan Wolfe is one of liberalism's last and most loyal sons. His mind is naturally decent and diversified; large enough and fair enough to contain both conviction and doubt. His profound respect for real people does not interfere with his profound respect for real thought. The criticism that he practices is, I fear, a dying art, but it is also one of the glories of American democracy."
    —Leon Wieseltier, New Republic
  • "Alan Wolfe is one of America's indispensable essayists. On a broad range of topics—race, religion, politics, the marketplace, the university, and more—he combines a scholar's erudition with a historian's feel for the past and a journalist's keen attunement to the shifting patters of the current scene. Above all he is a true writer, graceful but fearless, who ponders the deep questions so often ignored in the clamor of our ongoing civic conversation. Anyone who wonders what the term 'public intellectual' really means will find the answer—in fact many answers—in this scintillating collection."
    —Sam Tanenhaus, Vanity Fair
  • "Alan Wolfe is one of our nation's most insightful public intellectuals. His essays—thoughtfully encompassed in this collection—invite open, intelligent, and urgently needed discussion of quintessentially American concerns about our country, our faith, and ourselves. His writings unflinchingly examine the tensions between public and private lives, and paint a moving portrait of a country in which the humane values of morality and tolerance may yet transcend political and ideological divisions."
    —The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
  • "In our world of political correctness, sound bites for news, more opinion than facts on the front pages of our newspapers, it is a joy to read thoughtful writing on critical subjects. This book is recommended to all thoughtful people who care about our country and where it is going—it will make you think."
    Catholic Library World
  • ". . . Wolfe is proof that the spirit of the free-ranging public intellectual is still very much alive."
  • "This collection of 25 essays on American life, politics, religion, and ethics, race, education, and so forth, is valuable whether or not you agree with the author about any of the issues he takes on. Its main value lies in Mr. Wolfe's laser-like examination not just of the conclusions of the pundits and intellectuals he discusses, but their methods of inquiry. . . . He particularly enjoys debunking politically correct (and incorrect) studies, but he's not mean-spirited; he just wants to remove the filters that distort reality."
    Spirit & Life

Product Details

  • 336 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02427-8

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • $19.95 U.S.

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