This Thursday night, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History is convening its annual conference in Washington, DC. I’ll be delivering the keynote address, which I’m really excited about. I’ll be talking about public intellectuals, a topic I’ve explored here before, as have many others on this blog. The full conference schedule is here; my talk is scheduled for Friday, October 16, at 2 pm, in the Hamilton Ballroom of the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel. If you’re in DC, stop by and say hello. The title of my talk is: “Publics That Don’t Exist and the Intellectuals Who Write For Them.” Here’s a preview:

The problem with our public intellectuals today—and here I’m going to address the work of two exemplary though quite different public intellectuals: Cass Sunstein and Ta-Nehisi Coates—has little to do with their style. It has little to do with their professional location, whether they write from academia or for the little magazines. It has little to do with the suburbs, bohemia, or tenure. The problem with our public intellectuals today is that they are writing for readers who already exist, as they exist.