As public intellectuals academics formulate specialized knowledge to become understandable and relevant for people outside of the specialty. There are two main forms of such intellectual activity: dissemination and debating. Scientific knowledge is a cultural value in its own right and also of importance in public discourse. Due to the complexity of the challenges facing modern societies the intellectual role of individual academics and scholarly institutions is increasingly important with mass education and new media techniques expanding the public sphere. It has become more important that specialists popularize also for specialists in other fields. Challenges such as climate change or social integration requires knowledgeable citizens and broad public discourses integrating specialized knowledge from several disciplines.
Contemporary challenges in Western Europe, Scandinavia and the US are discussed. The historical perspectives are followed back to early Modernity. The cases include contributions on Holberg, the Myrdals and Boas. There are contributions on the recent transformations "East of the Elbe" and the challenges facing scholars in Turkey and India. The main focus of the book is on social scientists but the issues discussed are of general interest for all kinds of academics and for people interested in the cultural and political relevance of science.