Summary of The Rise of the Thought Leader

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For several decades, pundits and academics in the United States have lamented the demise of the “public intellectual” – the well-respected thinker who keeps a mirror to society and informs the public debate. Doctoral student David Sessions, who draws heavily on the work of political scientist Daniel W. Drezner, argues that a new group of articulate and highly-paid “thought leaders” has filled the vacuum that these academically-minded intellectuals have left in their wake. But here is the catch: Instead of analyzing and criticizing society, this new generation of thought leaders mostly promotes the worldview and political agendas of the superrich. getAbstract recommends this sobering article on how America’s tiny new class of plutocrats is manipulating the public discourse and shaping public opinion to media professionals, social activists and concerned citizens. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • What distinguishes “thought leaders” from traditional “public intellectuals,”
  • How thought leaders cultivate a symbiotic relationship with the superrich and
  • How American corporations are using academic research to advance their own ends.

About the Author

David Sessions is a doctoral student in modern European history at Boston College.



In the 1930s, the Italian socialist intellectual Antonio Gramsci argued that whenever a new social class becomes dominant, a new set of thinkers emerges to provide an intellectual justification for the group’s newfound social status. Over the past few decades, the United States has seen the rapid rise of the superrich, a tiny yet powerful class of plutocrats making up less than 1% of American society. Political scientist Daniel W. Drezner refers to this new type of plutocrat-enabled thinkers as “thought...

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