This essay by Zena Hitz appears in the symposium 'Assault on Higher Education: Reports from the Front,' in the Summer 2017 issue of Modern Age.
"It was not long ago widely taken for granted that intellectual activity benefited ordinary people. A. G. Sertillanges's classic handbook The Intellectual Life (1921) offered to nonacademics with intellectual interests, people with day jobs, a wealth of practical advice for their intellectual work along with soaring rhetoric to inspire and encourage them. It seems he thought the benefit of intellectual work too obvious to dwell much upon. Sertillanges wrote as publishers brought forth a great flood of inexpensive classics for the ordinary reader. The early twentieth century had its powerful, hard-nosed advocates of practice over theory and its fantasy-driven evangelists of technology. Still, it seems evident that, in the age of Everyman’s Library and reading clubs at the Mechanics Institute, publishers, academics, and grassroots organizers built and defended forms of intellectual life that went deep to the bottom of things and reached out to the broadest of audiences. Even the activists of the early twentieth century did homage to the democracy of serious inquiry: Marxists went to the poorest areas and taught anyone who would listen intricacies of Hegel and Feuerbach that a modern-day professor would tremble to assign to undergraduates."
A scanned pdf version of Sertillanges's book is posted at Portal Conservador.