What is the role of the intellectual? And what is the relationship between culture, society and power? This essay attempts to answer these key questions by starting from the ideas that Norberto Bobbio had given us after World War II in the pages of his book Politica e cultura (Politics and Culture ), in which he sketched a figure of the intellectual that was neither partisan nor Olympian, yet vaguely evocative of that Weberian wertfreiheit that already seemed a very problematic concept at the time. Bobbio’s words, which already testified to the crisis of modern public reason, had to be set against the postmodern atmosphere and its effects, its critics and its advocates. Did postmodernism authorise disengagement, inviting us to cultiver notre jardin? Should it be discarded in order to recover a ‘romantic’ image of the engaged intellectual, a sort of ‘Green Beret’ of culture? The proposal of this essay is that the intellectual should play the role of saboteur, only to find himself rummaging through the rubble of History that he himself has contributed to disseminating.