Nowadays this term is loosely applied to any educated stratum of society-normally including intellectuals and managers-which has an interest in ideas. Historically, the use of the term has been more restricted, and although its origins are contested they are usually sought in early nineteenth-century Russian and Polish usage. However, as a social category it differed in the two countries, for obvious historical reasons.
Formed from the déclassé elements of major estates in nineteenth-century Russia, the intelligentsia were at first marginally located, between Tsarist autocracy and the peasant masses. Their procedures of inclusion (see closure ) nevertheless borrowed from gentry manners, and later added the imprimatur of educational qualifications, which were superseding military and other credentials. Both attributes tended to cut the stratum off from the bulk of society, towards which they none the less felt they had a mission of responsibility. In the Polish case, it was the maintenance of the national spirit, its intelligens or self-consciousness, during the century of partition where Polish nationhood survived with only a rump state to bolster it, that explains the emergence of this group.
In the absence of an indigenous bourgeoisie in Eastern Europe, and given the role of the state and foreign capital, there emerged complex intelligentsia ethos: of nationalism coupled with a Western orientation, anti-industrialism and emphasis upon cultural and humanistic values, criticism of the state, adherence to the gentry style of life, and criteria of good breeding demanded of the intelligentsia proper. These represented, in the words of one commentator, the ‘universal concomitant of the confrontation of a traditional society with a modern West’. After the advent of communism it was easy to see how, as some commentators have observed, the intelligentsia in its anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist ethos was compatible with Marxism. However, in the dominated countries of the Soviet bloc, that other feature of the intelligentsia-its sense of mission as a vehicle of national values-served to undermine the communist order.
It is a moot question whether, with the advent of market economies, capitalism will finally transform parts of the intelligentsia into its Western equivalent; namely, a loose category of intellectuals, rather than a solid social stratum. In the West, some critics have argued that the modern salariat or service class , if it tends to closure through self-recruitment and various forms of credentialism , could create a Western intelligentsia, distinguished-by its style of life, sense of status honour, and patterns of intermarriage-from the mass of post-industrial , late-capitalist society.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • intelligentsia — n. an educated and intellectual[2] elite; intellectuals, collectively or considered as a class. [WordNet 1.5 +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intelligentsia — the intellectual class collectively, 1905, from Rus. intelligyentsia, from L. intelligentia (see INTELLIGENCE (Cf. intelligence)). Perhaps via It. intelligenzia …   Etymology dictionary

  • intelligentsia — is a singular noun meaning ‘the class of intellectuals regarded as possessing culture and political initiative’. The form of the word is Russian, and it was originally applied disparagingly in pre revolutionary Russia. In a weakened sense, it… …   Modern English usage

  • intelligentsia — ► NOUN (treated as sing. or pl. ) ▪ intellectuals or highly educated people, regarded as possessing culture and political influence …   English terms dictionary

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