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Many academics continue to assume or actively advocate for the idea of the university as radically autonomous from both state and civil society. This view was articulated by nineteenth-century German idealists, and has remained influential, but the university it imagines has never existed, even in Germany. My argument is that we need to reconceive the humanities’ relation to the public. While we will want to continue to insist on a degree of autonomy greater than that enjoyed by most other American workers, we need to reconceive that autonomy as granted in the service of the public good, and we need to make the knowledge we produce available and accessible to those outside of academe.