For the coffee shop company, see Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea.
The intelligentsia (from ancient Latin: intellegentia, via Italian: intelligenzia, also in Russian интеллигенция,Russian pronunciation: ɪntʲɪlʲɪˈɡʲentsɨjə and in Polish: inteligencja) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental labour aimed at disseminating culture. This therefore might include everyone from artists to school teachers and book readers. In pre-revolutionary Russia the term was first used to describe people possessing cultural and political initiative. But it was commonly used by those individuals themselves to create an apparent distance from the masses, and generally retained that narrow self-definition. More recently the term mass intelligentsia has been popularized to describe the intellectual effect of tertiary education upon a population. See the mass intelligentsia section below.
1 History of the notion,
2 Central Europe
3 Eastern Europe
3.1 Imperial Russia,
3.2 Russian Marxists' perspective,
3.3 Soviet Union,
4 Broader usage,
5 Mass intelligentsia,
6 See also,
History of the notion:
The notion of an intellectual elite as a distinguished social stratum can be traced far back in history. Examples are the philosopher-kings and guardians of Plato's Republic and monks in medieval Europe, who are now seen as custodians of history and culture.
Use of the term "intelligentsia" is first reported to have occurred in the Russian Empire in the first half of the 19th century. For example, the word was casually used in the diaries of Vasily Zhukovsky, dated to 1836. However it does not appear in the standard reference dictionary of the period, Vladimir Dal's Tolkoviy Slovar of 1866.
In the Polish language the term 'inteligencja' was popularised in a sense close to the present one by Polish philosopher Karol Libelt, and became widespread in Polish science after the publication of his O miłości ojczyzny (On Love of the Fatherland) in 1844. In this publication he defined "inteligencja" as well-educated members of the society who undertake to lead the people as scholars, teachers, clergy, engineers, and who guide for the reason of their higher enlightenment.
The term was also popularised by a Russian writer, Pyotr Boborykin, in the 1860s, who proclaimed himself the "godfather" of the notion in 1904. From there it came into English and several other languages.
In English this word is often applied to the "intelligentsia" in Central European (like Poland) and Eastern European countries (like Russia) in the 19th and 20th centuries.
A narrower term 'intellectuals', according to Pierre Bourdieu, can be applied to these members of intelligentsia who not only work using their intellect, but also create cultural wealth.
The emergence of elite classes of intellectuals or well-educated people had been observed in other European countries (e.g., "intellectuels" in France and "Gebildete" in Germany) as well.
From signs of intelligentsia by Dr. Vitaly Tepikin:
advanced for its time moral ideals, sensitiveness to fellow creature, tact in manifestations;,
active brain work and persistent self-education;,
patriotism, which is based on faith in its own people and whole-hearted, inexhaustible love to little and big Motherland;,
creative activity as a crucial part of intelligentsia lifestyle (this applies not only to artists, as many can consider, but also to scientists and engineers - ranging from creative approach to their main occupation to recreational culture, various hobbies and self-improvement practices, like sport and hiking);,
independence, aspiration to freedom of self-expression and finding of themselves in it.,
After the Partitions of Poland, Polish society remained divided into nobles--the surprisingly numerous class known as Szlachta (gentry) -- and peasants. The political and cultural influence of the cities was growing and so did the need for well-educated citizens. The need for educated specialists created a new class of educated people: hired professionals, such as physicians, teachers, artists, engineers and lawyers, and also clerks. They were recruited mainly from among impoverished nobles, but increasingly from the urbanized classes, rarely from peasantry.
The term intelligentsia was first used in Poland by Karol Libelt in 1844. The Polish intelligentsia specifically was considered the backbone of the modern Polish nation. Members of the intelligentsia were well aware of their social status and of their duties: educating the youth with the objective to restore the Republic of Poland, preserving the Polish language and patriotism were considered the most important. The main goals of positivist and modernist intelligentsia in Poland were:
organic work - helping the society work like a unified organism,
'work on the foundations'-advancement in technology and the society itself, education of the masses, increase of the economical potential of the Poles,
assimilation of the minorities into the Polish society,
emancipation of women,
A considerable part of the Polish intelligentsia were killed by the Nazis (see: Massacre of Lviv professors) and the Soviets during World War II (see: Katyn massacre), or sent to the concentration or death camps (see: Sonderaktion Krakau) during the Intelligenzaktion.
The German Intelligentsia was used by Karl Kautsky, Karl Marx, Hugo Ball (Kritik der deutschen Intelligenz) and Adolf Hitler.
Russian intelligentsia had a similar mixture of messianism and intellectual elitism.
Nicholas II hated the intelligentsia so much he wanted the word removed from the Russian language
"How repulsive I find that word".
Originally, intelligentsia meant well educated public figures, by the 1890s only those who worked against the regime qualified. The first known Russian 'intelligent' was the early 17th century Prince Khvorostinin, denounced for having Latin books, calling the tsar a despot and trying to flee to Lithuania. He was exiled to a monastery. By the 18th century, nobles had increasing free time for cultural pursuits like literature, especially after compulsory state service was abolished in 1762. In 1769 the first Russian periodical Vsyakaya vsyachina (a bit of everything) appeared. Published titles increased 5 times 1762-72. After the French revolution Catherine the Great panicked and exiled the 2 leading intelligents: the conservative Nikolai Novikov and the radical Alexander Radishchev.
After the Decembrist revolt, Idealist philosophy came into fashion, especially Hegel and Schelling, for their emphasis on the mind's creative potential and on systems constantly evolving towards an end goal. In 1836 Peter Chaadaev wrote an essay condemning Russia as a country with no history or achievements. This provoked a split between Slavophiles and reformers. Slavophiles wanted Russia to return to its pre Petrine roots. They blamed Peter the Great for introducing German bureaucratic government, they wanted an English style unwritten constitution. They were essentially conservative anarchists. They wanted no parliament, constitution or bureaucracy.
In 1860 there were 20,000 Russian professionals, 85,000 by 1900. Originally composed of nobles, the intelligentsia came to be dominated by classless people (raznochintsy) after 1861. In 1833 78.9% of secondary school pupils were sons of nobles and bureaucrats, by 1885 they were 49.1%. The proportion of commoners rose from 19-43.8% (the rest were priests' sons).Nicholas I kept the number of university students at 3,000 per year, fearing a large intellectual proletariat. By 1894 there were 25,000 students. Similarly the number of periodicals increased from 15 in 1855 to 140 30 years later. The 'third element ' were professionals hired by zemstva. By 1900 there were 47,000 of them, most were 'liberal - radicals'. Revolutionaries avoided zemstva on principle.
Russian Marxists' perspective:
In the ideology of Bolsheviks, intelligentsia is not a real class; its status is described by the Russian word "prosloyka", which is normally translated as "stratum," but in this context has a negative connotation, meaning "liner" or "separating layer". In other words, intelligentsia does not have a "real" place in the structure of the society: it is a midlayer between "toilers" and "exploiters".
Intelligentsia grows by means of "recruiting" from among the people of labor, but its produce, i.e., the produce of its intellectual labor is just a sort of goods ordered and paid by the exploiter class. Hence its independence is a mere ideological illusion, and in fact intelligentsia is by large a class of "lackeys" of bourgeoisie and landowners. While de facto being an exploited category, en masse it lacks the revolutionary drive. Ironically, this theory was put forth by the representatives of intelligentsia itself, notably Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky among many others. In particular, Lenin is famous for his caustic remark that "the intelligentsia is not the 'brain of the nation', it is the 'feces of the nation'".
Ironically, the fervent drive for professional education gave birth to new Soviet intelligentsia, which gave the current meaning to the term. This new class wasn't clearly defined; instead, the labor of skilled professionals, scientists and artists was likened to proletarian labor in the different field. These professionals were officially unified under institutions similar to workmen unions (for examples, the Writer's Union) and given strict standards for evaluating their work, enforced by the corresponding expert boards.
The approach to intelligentsia was varying: for example, scientists were kept in check by ideological sections of their universities, and, if doing sensitive research, were restricted both territorially and socially to so called "closed institutes" with top secret clearance or even "closed cities" that gathered such scientists in remote research and development campuses. Artists, on the other hand, weren't contained physically, but any release, publication or performance needed to go through Union evaluation; their "means of production" (from printing presses to film labs) were strictly regulated and centralized. Therefore, Soviet Union was able to let the natural creative process crucial for nation's survival continue, but at the same time didn't allow for any official and ideological authority for the intellectual class on its own, as a social class.
The Russian Revolution polarized the Russian intelligentsia, together with all other strata of the society. Some of them emigrated, some joined the White movement, some joined the Bolsheviks (and some were Bolsheviks from the very beginning), some tried to oppose Bolsheviks within the political framework of Soviet Union, some remained passive. Eventually the Bolsheviks got rid of all opponents by various means, ranging from forced deportation to execution. The remaining intelligentsia were supposed to serve "the cause of working class". While the importance of this class was not underestimated, it was treated with reservation.
In the late Soviet Union the term "intelligentsia" acquired a formal definition of mental and cultural workers. More specifically, there were categories of "scientific-technical intelligentsia" (научно-техническая интеллигенция) and "creative intelligentsia" (творческая интеллигенция). Teachers and lawyers were considered "intelligentsia" as well, but the corresponding adjectives to the word "intelligentsia" were used rarely.
In the post-Soviet period, the members of the former Soviet intelligentsia have displayed diverging attitudes towards the communist regime. While the older generation of intelligentsia has attempted to frame themselves as victims, the younger generation, who was in their 30s when the Soviet Union collapsed, has not allocated so much space for the repressive experience in their self-narratives. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the popularity and influence of the intelligentsia has significantly declined, therefore it is typical for the post-Soviet intelligentsia to feel nostalgic for the last years of the Soviet Union (perestroika), which they often regard as the golden age of the intelligentsia.
Some authors use the term "intelligentsia" in reference to intellectuals and certain upper middle class professionals, whose main task is to create and distribute knowledge.
Max Weber considered intelligentsia to be a major category essentially distinct from other social categories, both in terms of attributes and interests. In his major work, Economy and Society he used this term in arbitrary chronological and geographical frames, e.g., he wrote that "this Christian preoccupation with the formulation of dogmas was in Antiquity particularly influenced by the distinctive character of 'intelligentsia', which was the product of Greek education" When formulating major social classes of his time, Weber combines intelligentsia with other social categories, e.g., he defines a major class consisting of "the propertyless intelligentsia and specialists (technicians, various kinds of white-collar employees, civil servants - possible with considerable social differences depending on the cost of their training)" and yet other "classes privileged through property and education".
The term mass intelligentsia describes the 20th century expansion of tertiary education to a saturation never seen before in history, and the resulting increase in moneyed adults curious about subjects, scientific, philosophic and humanitarian, beyond their own square on the chessboard. The term has been used regularly by sociologists but was widely popularised in the 2010s by English broadcaster and writer Melvyn Bragg. Bragg says it explains the popularity of book clubs and literary festivals that would historically have commanded little interest from the mass of middle- and working-class people.
One author who has explored expressions of the rising mass intelligentsia is British writer Jules Evans. He takes it to include informal learning, espoused by novel teachers such as celebrity chefs and members of an internet forum for new mothers.
American sociologist Richard Flacks defines mass intelligentsia thus:
What Marx could not anticipate ... was that the antibourgeois intellectuals of his day were the first representatives of what has become in our time a mass intelligentsia, a group possessing many of the cultural and political characteristics of a class in Marx's sense. By intelligentsia I mean those engaged vocationally in the production, distribution, interpretation, criticism and inculcation of cultural values.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license