In the 18th and 19th Century, philosophers and intellectuals were immersed in politics and popular culture.
In a recent article from the New Statesman, prompted by the death of philosopher Derek Parfit, journalist David Herman wonders what happened to the public intellectual. Where has philosophy disappeared to? In America, there has been much demand for a better, more competent press. So much so, that publications such as the New York Times claim they have the "truth" -- so you ought to subscribe! A good (and free) press is surely necessary, but is it really sufficient in this day and age?
In our focus on making a better press, have we forgotten about the need for public intellectuals to lead the charge? Recently, George Orwell's 1984 and Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism have become bestsellers again, which is by all means great. But why don't we have our own contemporary intellectuals with their own books responding to our specific historical situation? Where is our Orwell? Our Arendt?
Read the article here: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2017/01/whatever-happened-public-intellectual