The Border Crosser: Ralf Dahrendorf as a Public Intellectual between Theory and Practice

Franziska Meifort


Dahrendorf was an intellectual whose influence crossed borders in a twofold sense. In one sense, he consistently bridged the boundaries of the academic, political and public spheres. In the other sense, he lived a German-British life, becoming a transnational intellectual. As a professor of sociology and as a journalist, Dahrendorf was influential in forwarding ideas pertinent to a liberal-democratic society. In line with his desire for the greatest intellectual impact possible, Dahrendorf time and again established close links with the political sphere and became a member of the executive branch in Germany and in the European Economic Community – a position which, however, conflicted with his role as an independent intellectual. Nonetheless, the numerous boundaries he bridged, and his various professional experiences and relationships were also beneficial for his position as a public intellectual. They allowed him both an inside view and an understanding of larger contexts.

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