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On (Non)Separation of Academic and Public Spheres

Richard Javad Heydarian

This is a circumferential argument on a certain text from Richard Javad Heydarian’s Facebook wall. Heydarian is a political analyst and assistant professor in De La Salle University.

Heydarian’s text conceives a separatist relation between intellectual and public wherein the academic ‘tends to annihilate common sense by boiling down to the most arcane’ and the public ‘tends to boil down to semantics’ and refuse to engage with ‘evidence-driven, systematic analysis.’ What Heydarian renders legible is an unstable binary relation between academic and public. It is a ‘versus’ relation of an allegedly two separate spheres, each sphere described at their disadvantage, particularly their tendencies to ‘boil down’ the productive potential of their debates. Of what particular debate? We are not entirely sure. But Heydarian’s involvement with the foreign policy dispute may give us a context of where this is coming from – a comparison between intellectuals debating with each other and public officials arguing on semantics related to resolving a foreign policy dispute. Heydarian insists that in order to resolve the disadvantaged positions of both the intellectual and public debates, a public intellectual must emerge in-between (maybe as an arbiter?) and whose primary job is to ‘bridge the gaps in both spheres’. This writing does not directly invalidate Heydarian’s positions and arguments raised in the text, but moves in circumferential direction, as an appendage, a preface or a postface, or a note of a note. Consider this a dissemination in Heydarian’s text. By lifting the binary that Heydarian conspired, this text seeks to problematize the binary relation between academic vs. public and propose a new configuration of their relation.

The separation between academic and public has to end. Why? Because it is impractical to continue thinking that the academic and public inhabit two separate worlds. In affirming Alain Badiou’s platonism, there is only One world and we, including non-human animals and objects, all live in it. Each is a parasite and a host to one another. It is only the relations we humans invent that created these hierarchies and division among people, objects and things. In other words, we created the ‘walls’ that divide people from people and objects from things, all for the dissemination of our self-interest. We created the logic of stratification for the class system, the nation-state, the linguistic divide, the institutional divide, the private/public divide. We even created a machine that generates infinite walls based on juridical provisions of the state apparatus – the bureaucracy.

Is the intellectual within the public sphere? Yes, she IS in the public sphere even if she denies it, unless of course if she chooses to be hermetic for the rest of her life. There is no ‘ivory tower’ for academics because these academics live with us. They shape and influence the public sphere more than how the public sphere shapes itself. They are our teachers, Facebook friends, colleagues, government officials, people in the media, etc. They are our lawmakers and justices/judges in the judicial sector. They are our engineers and scientists. They compose the Left, the Center, and the Right flank of the ideological divides, which also includes the apologist, the reactionary, and the apolitical. They are our financial experts who embody all the necessary tenets of neoliberalism and Ayn Rand’s objectivisim, because like any hospitable intellectual, a ‘progress’-ive intellectual can be a host to neoliberal ideas.

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