Professor Raewyn Connell: 2020 Cunningham Lecture

Anna Dennis
Academy Events and Fellowship Coordinator

Date & Time

October 27, 2020
12:00PM - 1:00PM



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2020 Cunningham Lecture:
‘Do We Need Intellectuals?’
Delivered by Professor Emerita Raewyn Connell FASSA

There is a sense of crisis in the university world, produced by the COVID-19 epidemic, the casualization and layoffs of academic and professional workers, and governments with little interest in truth, knowledge or education. In 2020 we must re-think familiar ideas. For most of the 20th century, intellectuals seemed to be important people – the rising class in post-colonial states and giant corporations, or the famous and vital dissidents of modern culture. Social-science research cooled down these ideas, producing a more realistic (and democratic) view of organized knowledge as the collective product of a complex workforce and an unequal global economy of knowledge. In Australia, with indigenous knowledge excluded from settler-colonial institutions, knowledge work has been powerfully shaped by dependence on the global North. Other possibilities appeared with the Chifley/Menzies/Whitlam agenda of development. Since the Keating/Howard market turn, however, a corporate economy led by mineral and agricultural exports has only a little need for applied natural science, and today’s right-wing populism has no use for the social sciences. The Tehan ‘job-ready graduates’ policy seems well suited to a future for Australia as a deeply dependent, fearful, neo-colonial society. The social sciences can help create better paths of development; but they require new generations of intellectual workers to flourish. Our responsibility in institutions like the Academy is not only the classic one of speaking truth to power. We also have a responsibility to sustain the wider knowledge workforce for the future.

This lecture was jointly hosted by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the University of Sydney.

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