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9 Characteristics of the Intelligentsia

The intelligentsia is a social class that are highly educated and productive that hold relatively little capital. That is to say that a highly educated person with capital would be considered bourgeoisie or upper class. The following are the common characteristics of the intelligentsia.


The intelligentsia are highly educated with advanced degrees or equivalent academic experience.


In order to be considered intelligentsia, one must remain intellectually productive. The intelligentsia need not be employed or attached to institutions but need to keep working until a reasonable retirement age. Simply obtaining an advanced degree without a career related to academic pursuits doesn't qualify an individual to be considered intelligentsia.


Professions that are highly expressive and creative such as writers, artists and architects are considered members of the intelligentsia.


The intelligentsia range from below middle class to upper middle class in terms of income and capital. In many cases, the vast majority of the intelligentsia struggle financially while a select few will thrive with relatively high income. This is due to significant competition for positions at universities and other academic institutions and the extremely competitive nature of markets for work products of the intelligentsia such as literature and art.

Cultural Capital

The intelligentsia have unique cultural capital such that it is not easy to pretend to be intelligentsia when you haven't been immersed in this culture. The culture of intelligentsia is mostly related to universities but has a number of offshoots of specialized cultural capital such as the "art world."

Social Status

The intelligentsia consider themselves to be an elite and are attached to high status institutions, particularly universities. Social status based on signals of intelligence is broadly recognized alongside other types of social status such as wealth, power, coolness, connectedness and youth.


The intelligentsia are intellectually diverse as individuals but as a class have definite ideological tendencies. For example, dominant approaches in the social sciences such as relativism and critical theory resemble ideologies. Academic institutions and fields may suffer from groupthink whereby acceptance of certain ideologies may be required to thrive in academic circles.

Ivory Tower

Broadly speaking, the intelligentsia have a reputation for being aloof and detached from practical realities. This is not always the case as many intelligentsia are engaged with industry and government or grounded enough to be highly regarded in these spheres. Academic institutions aren't intended to solve concrete, practical problems so this criticism isn't always fair. However, it is also true that the intelligentsia may make statements that don't ring true to those with much real world experience in relevant domains. For example, a sociology professor who makes statements about how companies are commonly directed and controlled that would be viewed as naive by actual executive managers.

Class Consciousness

The intelligentsia have high class consciousness and view themselves as an elite. As a class with high intelligence but modest capital, the intelligentsia may tend to be hostile to capitalism.
Overview: Intelligentsia
A social class that are highly educated and productive that hold relatively little capital.
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Social Class

This is the complete list of articles we have written about social class.
Ascribed Status
Class Consciousness
Class System
Creative Class
Cultural Capital
Discretionary Income
Income Inequality
Knowledge Economy
Middle Class
Quality Of Life
Relational Capital
Shared Experiences
Social Analysis
Social Hierarchy
Social Location
Social Norms
Social Status
Socioeconomic Factors
Socioeconomic Status
Status Groups
Upper Class
Upward Mobility
White Collar
Working Conditions
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