Positioning Theory and Intellectual Interventions



This article sets out the basic principles of a new theory of intellectual interventions centred round the notion of positioning. Intellectual interventions are seen as ways in which intellectuals locate themselves in the socio-political and intellectual field, thereby also positioning others. The existing contributions to the study of intellectuals often take the self-concepts or dispositions of intellectuals to be fixed, and they tend to focus on the causes and motivations behind intellectual interventions. Challenging this perspective, the theory proposed substitutes a vocabulary of effects for the existing vocabulary of intentions and causes: rather than speculating on the sociological determinants or purposes that underlie an intellectual intervention, this theory explores its effects for the symbolic and institutional recognition of the author(s) and for the diffusion of the ideas propagated.