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Intellectual Narratives

Theory, History and Self-Characterization of Social Margins in Public Writings

Alex Ching-Shing Chan

This book aims to study the intellectual lives of three Hong Kong intellectuals by narrating their lives as self-reflections on theories related to social margins. Drawing on insights from Paul Ricoeur, Hannah Arendt and Zygmunt Bauman, the author analyses their narratives through in-depth interviews. Their stories point to an interpretative understanding of the works they had cursorily read when creating their historical narrations of Hong Kong from the 1970s to 2003. These stories of individual intellectuals, together with their interpretations of what they have individually read about various western theories, challenge theoretical prescriptions of historical contingent events in their narration. Such narration unfolds self-characterizations of intellectuals the author interviewed, and represents a neglected social marginal which demands that immediate attention in the public through their intellectual writings.

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8. Public Writings of Local Intellectuals – TheNarrative Completion 153

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153 CHAPTER 8 Public Writings of Local Intellectuals – The Narrative Completion Needless to say, the essayist is not a whit less than a professional, systematic scholar – perhaps, just the opposite! But he has no place at a university and would not do much good for the institution nor, what is more important, for himself. Max Weber, Letter to Georg Lukács, 14 August 19161 Public Writing as the Completion of Praxis – Narrating Historical Other(s) The above epigraph relates to Max Weber’s advice to his younger friend Georg Lukács. Lukács was at a crossroads of having to choose between an academic career or becoming a freelance essayist; the latter choice was not favoured by the tenured professors in Heidelberg. Weber implic- itly discouraged Lukács from applying for a Habilitation, not because Lukács did not ‘deserve’ it, but because of the implicit disadvantage in making such a choice for an ‘unsystematic’ essayist that might ruin his future career in formal academia, which prefers academic professionalism rather than partisan essayists.2 Lukács’ Habilitation application was later rejected by the old professors in Heidelberg. Max Weber’s position in giving this advice was seemingly ambivalent – he was a benefi ciary of the old and rigid Habilitation system in Prussian Germany, but he owed his insight to what he called intellectual creativity, and he was right: Georg Lukács published Geschichte und Klassebewüssen, the popular reception of which in twentieth-century sociological literature was no less than that given to Wirkschaft...

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