This essay argues that the term public intellectual is too narrow for historical research about the public influence of economists and economic expertise. We propose, instead, the concept of public interventions to inform a more comprehensive approach that broadens the analytical frame by multiplying the relevant actors, modes, and targets of intervention yet could still include within it research on public intellectuals narrowly construed. As an empirical example, we suggest that the design and diffusion of economic indicators—specifically, the GDP and the myriad indicators compiled in recent years as part of proposals to replace it with a better representation of human welfare—could be analyzed as a specific mode by which economists intervene in and shape the public sphere.

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