Faced with the geo-strategic tensions of the social and economic transition; what role for the intellectual and journalist in Algeria?

Because the world of digital audio-visual and communication is in an unprecedented upheaval, in a highly mediatised world, I would not separate the different role of the Intellectual and Journalist in Algeria.  I would then consider that the Role of the Intellectual and Journalist in Algeria or for that matter any organisation leader including government officials, etc. is to avoid both gloom, free denigration as source of collective neurosis and complacency, but to make their analyses and assessment according to their own vision of the world.  Productive debate, serene dialogue and symbiosis State/Citizen, are it seems to me, the sine-qua-non condition to establish both an objective assessment in order to correct errors instead of trying to haphazardly foresee the future prospects of the country.

In the era of the Internet, the world looks like a house in glass and it is a matter of avoiding any counterproductive misinformation.  Algeria needs above all a clear look, not rentier related courtiers, harmful to the future of the country.

The word intellectual comes from the Latin word intellectus, from intellegere, in the sense of establishing logical links, connections between things. The function of the intellectual is not strictly speaking recent because at the time of ancient Greece, charismatic leaders, who were the intellectual, found themselves at the front of social movements, like Gorgias or Protagoras who marked their era by passionate approaches of the mind.  In French literature, the birth of the word is attributed to Saint Simon in the early 19th century. The term was taken over by Clemenceau during the Dreyfus case: “intellectuals from all backgrounds to come together on an idea.”

Thus, the word “intellectual” is often used to designate someone who engages in the public sphere to defend certain values.  In Horizons and Debates, of June 26th, 2004 issue, the role of the intellectual in society, Joseph M. Kyalangilwa, defined as “intellectual” anyone, man or woman, who puts his intelligence at the service of the community.  According to historians Pascal Ory and Jean-François Sirinelli, an intellectual is “a man of cultural, a creator or a mediator, put in situation of man of politics, producer or consumer of ideology”.  Raymond Aron in the Opium of the intellectuals (1955), queries the question as to the role of the scientist in the City, the intellectual as a “creator of ideas” and who must be “an engaged spectator”.

For Pierre Bourdieu, in ‘Contre-Feux 2, Raisons d’agir, Paris 2001’, the intellectual may only be collective.  For Edward Said (Des intellectuels et du Pouvoir, Seuil, Paris 1996), the intellectual is not a peacemaker or a builder of consensus, but someone who is committed and who may risk his whole being as based on a constantly critical sense, someone who refuses whatever may be the price, easy formulas, ready-made ideas, complacent statements, confirmations and actions of people in power and other conventional minds.  For Albert Camus (speech of Sweden, Gallimard, 1958) for whom the writer “cannot put himself at the service of those who make history but he is rather at the service of those who suffer.”  But, he added, it should not be “expected of him ready-made solutions and beautiful morals.  The truth is mysterious, elusive, always to be conquered.  Freedom is dangerous, as hard to live as it is exhilarating.  “For Michel Foucault, (Dits et écrits II, 1976-1988, Gallimard, Paris   2001),”for a long time, the intellectual said to be of “the Left” has spoken and has been granted the right to speak as a master of truth and justice. We listened to him, or he pretended to be heard as a representative of the universal.  Being an intellectual, it was a little bit of everyone’s conscience of all. (…)  Well, there are years that we no longer asked the intellectual to play this role.  The intellectual, according to Noam Chomsky, is in a vision shared also with Normand Baillargeon or Jean Bricmont, unlike what often is written in the media, primarily in the service of the dominant ideology.

For Paul Valéry the role of the intellectual is merely to “stir all things under their signals, names or symbols without the counterweight of real actions.”

What are the links between culture, the role of intellectuals and journalists and development?

The intellectual and the journalist cannot live in a vacuum.  The methodology to produce is simple: to paraphrase the German philosopher Hegel, methodology adopted by Karl Marx in the Capital, he first observes the real concrete world; then he would make abstractions, scientists would call that, assumptions.  It would result in a concrete abstraction that is his work.  If the end result allows an understanding of the functioning of the real concrete world from the developed theoretical canvas, then his abstractions are good.  It is also the methodology used in Political Science to determine the level of governance say of the 80 / 20%.

Indeed, 20% of well-targeted actions have an impact on 80% of an organisation; but 80% of messy actions veiled by a certain activism would only impact 20%.  Also the intellectual stands between the reality and the future of humanity should take into account the complexity of the society as always in motion hence the importance of the multidisciplinary approach and historical movements.  The intellectual and journalist provide culture which is not frozen, but strongly evolving as emphasised by the opening of society to the environment-wide values, myths, rites and is generally an essential constituent of the culture, that of the organisation and / or the enterprise where technology transfer in a way special that taking into account the role of the Internet and new technologies, are driving the world to become a house of glass, for all adaptation and dissemination of knowledge.

Japan, the Emerging Markets countries such as China, India and many others show that technology can be assimilated without renouncing one’s culture.  Besides, technology transfer is facilitated when there is a better understanding of convergent and divergent values between two groups and trying to impose its own values would only result in a relationship of domination that in anyway limit this transfer.  Also, the corporate culture is a by-product of the national culture and thus a set of values, myths, rites, taboos, and signs shared by the majority of employees and an essential element to explain the strategic choices by strengthening common values: example, behavioural guidelines, job descriptions, as well as rewards and sanctions systems for motivation purposeswith a view of identifying with one’s company and ownership of its history.

All this would facilitate the transfer of technology, which should not be limited to the technical aspects, but to also the managerial, organizational, commercial and cultural aspects.  In this 21st century, capital goes social in different techno – organizational dispositions influencing individuals in their relationship to work.  However surveys show clearly that this extension of social knowledge is accompanied by new forms of segmentation (qualified/not qualified; mobile/immobile; young/old; man/woman and a sharing of activities and services which become more and more merchandised (offshoring with computing to India, electronics to Japan, South Korea etc.).  It is the result of the new configuration of the international division of labour, product of the evolution of the development of capitalism that is today known as globalization.

This socio-cultural approach that reflects the complexity of our societies owes much to the important work in terms of the approach to the economic anthropology of the Indian economist, Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, whom devised that there cannot be sustainable development without the establishment of a State of Law and Democracy whilst taking into account of the cultural anthropology of each society which allows both tolerance, confrontation of contradictory ideas and thus development of creative energies.  This refers to the concept of rationality (see the important work of the great German philosopher Kant) which is relative and historically dated as shown in the important work of Malinovsky on the tribes of Australia.  It is not a matter of superimposing imported schematics upon rigid social structures with risks of rejection because of the fact that from Western experience, there is no universal model.

Thus, the intellectual cannot assimilate only to his qualifications but with to his cultural level. we would recall that Einstein postulating a theory that was non-conformist, was initially rejected by his peers from the University. It later on revolutionized the world, because it was not merely a bureaucratic – administrative evaluation.  And that is what made that journalists can sometimes play the role of intellectuals once reserved for scientists especially in hyper-mediatised societies.  In fact, it is up to anyone (man or woman) who, because of his or her social position, has a form of authority and uses it to persuade, propose, debate and allow the critical spirit of emancipate conventional social representations.  The intellectual and the journalist must constantly doubt and question themselves as always, according to the motto ‘the biggest ignorant is one who claims to know everything.

The history of the cycle of civilization, prosperity or decline, is intimately related to the consideration of knowledge in the broad sense of the term and that a society without intellectuals and journalists is like a body without soul.  The decline of Spain after the exhaustion of gold coming from America and certainly the decline of current societies that rely mainly on the rentier, living of the illusion from a fictitious monetary wealth not provided through intelligence and work.

In summary, I firmly believe that the only way to be able to hold on within a constantly changing economy, and therefore have an positive attitude as intellectual and journalist would be through having amongst many things a decent relationship with the national and international environment, i.e. establish gradually truly democratic mechanisms that have an impact on the accumulation of domestic knowledge.  The role of the intellectual and the journalist is not to praise in exchange for some gains, but have constructive ideas according to his of her own vision of the world, through a discourse of truth.  Apart from that, and for a sustainable development in Algeria, there is also need for the urgency of renewed governance through more morality, it’s imperative to rehabilitate the role of the journalist and the intellectual in society.

Written by Dr. Abderrahmane Mebtoul, University Professor, International Expert,

Translation from French by Microsoft / FaroL