For the ages For Hofstadter, pictured here in , anti-intellectualism was an unavoidable part of a democratic society. (Erich Hartmann / Magnum Photos). Anti-intellectualism in American Life was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Non- Fiction. It is a book which throws light on many features of the American. Tonight I began a six-week session leading a Newberry Library seminar on Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.
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Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter | : Books
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Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. It is a book which throws light on many features of the American character. Its concern is not merely to portray the scorners of intellect in American life, but to say something about what the intellectual is, and can be, as a force in a democratic society.
Hofstadter set out to trace the social movements that altered the role of intellect in American society from a virtue to a vice. In so doing, he explored questions regarding anti-intellsctualism purpose of education and whether the democratization of education altered that purpose and reshaped its form.
In considering the historic tension between access to education and excellence anti-intellectalism education, Hofstadter argued that both anti-intellectualism and utilitarianism were consequences, in part, of the democratization of knowledge.
Moreover, he saw these themes as historically embedded in America’s national fabric, an outcome of her colonial European and evangelical Protestant heritage. Anti-intellectualism and utilitarianism were functions of American cultural heritage, not necessarily of democracy.
PaperbackFirst Vintage Book paperbackpages. Published by Random House, Inc.
To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Anti-Intellectualism in American Lifeplease sign up. Reviewers claim that this book is strikingly relevant for anti-inteloectualism in our current society. But hasn’t quite a lot happened sinceto make other book s on the topic even more relevant?
Roy I actually think more recent books may be less relevant, because they are tied up in the issues of our time.
I think Hofstadter’s book holds up well, …more I actually think more recent books may be less relevant, because they are tied up in the issues of our time. I think Hofstadter’s book holds up well, because it shows how attitudes towards academic learning and expertise have evolved over American history. Most recent books seem anti-untellectualism treat this as a recent phenomenon, and often as only a function of something like stupidity. Hofstadter, who was writing in such a period in the s, not only embedded it in historical context, but showed how such attitudes are part of the dichotomies anti-intellectulaism the American experience and anti-intellectuaoism.
Although the book reads much more like an academic book than I expect from Pulitzer winners, it provides a context that is necessary to understand our current cycle of anti-expertise hofstadyer. See 1 question about Anti-Intellectualism in American Life…. Lists with This Book. Nov 12, Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing Shelves: This Pulitzer Prize winner had long been on my to-read list, but when Sarah Palin became a vice presidential candidate, I moved it to the short list and read it.
Now that Trump, that “stable genius,” is our president, perhaps I should read it again. What this book shows us is that anti-intellectualism in America has been around a long time.
A generation before the Revolution, American revivalist preachers were already denigrating the university-educated ministers of the New England mainstream as This Pulitzer Prize winner had long been on my to-read list, but when Sarah Palin became a vice presidential candidate, I moved it to the short list and read it. A generation before the Revolution, American revivalist preachers were already denigrating the university-educated ministers of the New England mainstream as over-intellectualized and therefore closed off to divine inspiration, and in politics the ridicule of the intellectual as too impractical a person to be trusted with the public good goes back to Jefferson at least.
The exultation of the common man “vote for the guy you’d like to have a beer with” got considerably worse with the Jackson presidency, and byduring William Henry Harrison’s “Log Cabin and Hard Cider” campaign, it officially became the keystone of a party’s election strategy. Hofstadter doesn’t stop there, but goes on to show how this bias against the intellectual is a strain going through every aspect of American life, including agriculture, business, labor organization and even education itself.
Hofstadter writes in a clear accessible style, and–although the book is more than forty-five years old–it still has a lot to say to us about politics today. Just ask Louie Gohmert. View all 45 comments. Sep 27, Max rated it it was amazing Shelves: Hofstadter explores the development of the American bias against intellectuals.
The intellectual is seen as wordy, conceited, pretentious, addled by over-examination of issues, contemptuous of practical men, a bleeding heart, and an outlier who defies faith, morality and egalitarianism. Hofstadter distinguishes between being intellectual and just being intelligent. Intelligent individuals place a higher value on useful and practical knowledge, they search for answers.
The intellectual turns answ Hofstadter explores the development of the American bias against intellectuals. The intellectual turns answers into more questions.
The intelligent person has clear goals that can easily be appreciated by anyone. The intellectual is critical, creative and contemplative. He examines, ponders, wonders, imagines whereas the intelligent man grasps, manipulates and creates order. An animal can be intelligent, but intellect is human.
Hofstadter traces the evolution of this bias in four sources: America was populated by religious dissidents who rejected the oppressiveness and decadence of European society.
Escaping from aristocracy and a highly educated strictly structured clergy, evangelicals became firmly established in America. Primitivism, the favoring of intuition and faith over cultivated rationality, was seen as natural, intellectualism as artificial. The evangelical spirit embraced emotion, the heart over the mind, getting the Bible directly over stilted interpretations. The Great Awakening addressed this with revivalist preachers who emphasized the spirit over knowledge, the Bible over academic books.
Revivalists competed with the established clergy and questioned the need for education, except to teach their particular religion. The Great Awakening marked the end of the Puritan age and the beginning of the evangelical. German Pietism and English Methodism were similar movements overseas. This provided fertile ground for preachers to establish new denominations that appealed to simple folk.
Success depended on skilled recruiting and religion that was readily accessible. In early 19th century a second wave of evangelicalism changed Protestantism in America. At the time of the Revolution, most Protestants belonged to one of three established religions: Congregational, Presbyterian or Anglican.
The Methodists went from a few thousand American members in to more than a million and a half by becoming the largest single denomination. Methodist circuit riders took the word to the people and converted them. The Anti-intellrctualism less organized, less educated and somewhat less effective used similar tactics. With industrialization and urbanization, revivalist preachers refined their pitch for large crowds, filling auditoriums and playing up to prominent business leaders for recognition and financing.
Dwight Moody led this movement in the late 19th century and Billy Hofztadter in the early 20th. In politics egalitarianism worked to the detriment of intellectuals. From Washington through the John Quincy Adams administration, men of learning and accomplishment were sought for government work.
But with Jackson, such criteria were anathema. The common man was wanted with moral fiber being deemed more important than knowledge. In the minds of Jacksonians one excluded the other. Party and personal loyalty became the singular criterion. Congress became increasingly vitriolic and sharply divided. From humble origins as President he selected learned men for his cabinet and his advisers. After the war government quickly reverted to strict patronage. The cultured class was out. Intellectuals became reformers and as such were stigmatized as effeminate and incapable of dealing with the tough real world.
Not until TR would this image change. His persona empowered progressives. Thus he was popular and his reforms were taken seriously.
He brought in a host of talented educated men to his administration. Wilson was an academic but still grounded in the Gilded Age. As President he did not fully embrace progressive issues and their intellectual proponents. His objection to big business was more to help small business than the working man. However attacks on intellectuals steadily mounted through his administration anti-inteplectualism by WWII. Afterwards years of pent up resentment by the right wing exploded in the form of McCarthyism targeting not just communists and fellow travelers but all intellectuals, New Dealers and liberals.
The decisive defeat of Stevenson, a complete but likeable intellectual, and the election of Eisenhower, a connoisseur of Westerns, evidenced the change. Subsequently JFK would restore the validity of academia in government. This is where Hofstadter ends, his book published in The growth of business znti-intellectualism America diminished the anti-itnellectualism. As business became more powerful this perception gained strength. It resulted in an emphasis on practical education and applied science rather than philosophy, literature and basic science.
At the bottom is the idea that our needs are better met by increased consumption than a fully developed mind.
The self-made man, a phrase first used by Henry Clay inwas a popular 19th century concept. Rarely true hofstaster most successful people started with considerable advantages. This concept was a more reasonable notion when college education consisted of Greek, Latin and the classics and business practices were simple.