‘Big-thinking theoretical brains can be the most treacherous’: Gitlin on Giddens and Libya

Todd Gitlin has a blog post on ‘the perils of public intellectualizing‘, taking as his case Anthony Giddens and his foray into Libyan affairs in the mid-2000s. Gitlin includes a link to two pieces from 2006 and 2007, which provide further context to the gobbet posted on Progressive Geographies the other day. Robert Putnam also has a piece, not quite a mea culpa, on his encounter with Gaddafi, which echoes Barber‘s sobering evaluation of the prospects for democracy in Libya.

Benjamin Barber on democracy in Libya

Is the more or less grudging involvement of social theorists with the Libyan regime in the 2000s now shown to be an index of naivety, or stupidity, or venality? The involvement of David Held and the LSE has been much discussed this week, via Saif Gaddafi’s PhD, and an optimistic  commentary by Anthony Giddens in 2007 unearthed. Rather more interesting perhaps is the democratic theorist Benjamin Barber, whose involvement with the Qadaffi Foundation is long-standing. Here is a comment by Barber in 2007 on the ‘normalisation’ of relations with Libya, around nuclear weapons and the ‘war on terror’ in particular. Barber has now resigned from this organisation, and this involvement is the basis of his rather sobering analysis of the prospects for democratization in Libya whatever the outcome of current events.