Guide Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

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Hofstadter seems to have been peeved by the moralism of these critics much more than he was concerned by their withdrawal from American life. After all, part of his work in the book had been to show that freedom of the intellect depended to a certain degree on independence from social commitments.

In one chapter of Anti-Intellectualism , entitled "The Child and the World," he criticized John Dewey's collectivist theory of progressive education as leaving little room for the individual to develop apart from his or her social group. As never before, he is welcomed in industry and in government" [].

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A Look at Anti-Intellectualism in American Life | Island Ashley

Embraced by readers across the nation and securely ensconced at one of the world's most prestigious universities, Hofstadter certainly was a privileged member of an elite group, as he himself would have acknowledged. But his point was not simply that intellectuals were in danger of being persecuted; instead, he sought to explore the dilemmas of the individual who pursues the life of the mind in a culture overwhelmingly devoted to practical, business-oriented pursuits. Hofstadter flew to Montgomery, at the end of the march, to support those who had walked the entire way from Selma.

But his critique of the "alienated" intellectuals - and his defense of the establishment intellectuals - came just as new social movements were emerging that would change the terms of the debate altogether.

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The years following the book's publication saw the stable postwar consensus split apart. In this shifting context, Hofstadter found himself increasingly, and often reluctantly, drawn back into political controversy. Our anti-Establishment tendencies have sometimes made life difficult for writers, but they have also helped open audiences for their new ideas. Chris Mooney, writing recently in the Washington Post, gives a more nuanced account of American's relationship with intellectual authority.

The people who question the scientific majority on issues like climate change actually tend to be better educated than average.

A Selection From "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life"

He cites a Pew Research Center report revealing that 70 percent of the public believe scientists contribute "a lot" to societies well-being; members of the clergy scored only 40 percent, and business executives a mere 21 percent. And this attitude is visible in the marketplace.

A Look at Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

Richard Feynman's QED , a popularly written but challenging book, has sold about , copies. I'm happy to disclose I was the acquiring editor.


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Feynman's anti-authoritarian stance is a better model for scientists, and writers, than others' laments for insufficient respect. Close Cookie Notice.

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