Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

  • by Richard Hofstadter
  • Narrated by Adam Verner
  • 16 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 1964 Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction.
This book 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.

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What the Critics Say

"As Mr. Hofstadter unfolds the fascinating story, it is no crude battle of eggheads and fatheads. It is a rich, complex, shifting picture of the life of the mind in a society dominated by the ideal of practical success." (Robert Peel, Christian Science Monitor)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Still Current, Without Opening Recent Wounds

A Timeless Book (so far)

In his intro, the author mentions that the current President welcomed intellectuals and experts with open arms, and I'm thinking, "OK, it was written during one of Obama's terms"... then near the end, he dwells on beatniks, which I thought was curious, but I think, "OK, maybe they were well analyzed"; then he moves on to hipsters, the recent teen fad, and I though, "OK, he's moved back to the present".

Half paying attention (I listen while driving and at work, both of which create distractions), I had no reason to think that the book wasn't written only a few years ago - everything he said is still being said today, right down to the idioms. Then, after it was over, I hear, "The original book copyrighted 1962".

Fifty-five years ago! Nothing had changed! All the same Left/Right catcalling... and the book even has sharper insights and better turns of phrases than I've seen of late ("where the youth issue forth from academia with pitchforks and cynicism to destroy civilization").


A Rare Book that Gets Better With Age

This is a rare book in that it actually gets better with age. One reason is that the author did not write in a period-affected style, which rendered his prose timeless (at least up until now).

It is 'better' as it ages for two reasons:

1.) because the examples he gives do not reopen recent wounds - instead of making his points by comparing Bush/Trump vs. Clinton/Obama, he used Eisenhower/Nixon vs. Stevenson/Kennedy, where nothing between them had changed.
(though, and this needs to be noted, neither Stevenson nor Kennedy were willing to destroy the well-worked-out cornerstones of this country just to win one election like Hillary had (twice) when she tried to overthrow the Electoral College when the Democrats lost an election, and where she was hypocritically silent about it when they won (meaning she had far less principles (and sense) than the politicians of the 1950's, which contributed to her loss in the end (who wants a nation-destroying party hack for President?).

2.) because the book was in closer touch with the American history that it traveled through as it covered America's anti-intellectualism in religion, then politics, then business, then education, and then the arts.


The Books Main Failure

The main failure of the book was that the author was 100% biased toward intellectualism, not pointing out its faults (other than in the context of the 'unfair ridicule' of anti-intellectuals, who actually had good points), which I thought was incredible so soon after the Second World War, where intellectualism failed to contain the aggressive backbone that started it, and where it took counter backbone to end it, which is why Eisenhower (the anti-intellectual) defeated Stephenson (the intellectual) in '52 (which the author laments).

So the author was not aware of the 'backbone/intellect dichotomy', which, he would have noted, was why Bush defeated Kerry (it was plain to me even then) - we had a choice between backbone or intellect (and this so soon after 9/11). Yes, it was sad that we did not have one candidate with both characteristics, it was, sadly, one or the other, and we picked the characteristic that we felt was still needed at the time. The author would have noted that in four more years we would give intellect a chance, backbone having run its course, then eight years later, a change, backbone being needed again in the face of Russian and Chinese aggression, meaning Trump's victory was not about gender or 'blacklash' (as the con artists would have you believe), it was the backbone/intellect dichotomy at work, and the electorate choosing whatever was more in need at the time, based on current events.


If the Author Had Been Writing the Book Today

I should add that if the author were writing this book today, he would note (if he managed to be unbiased) how a manipulating media was currently a disease of intellectualism (as opposed to the past's anti-intellectualism), and he would have noted how it worked against Hillary in the last Presidential election by being baldly biased toward the Democrat Party (in spite of all of its faults) which, as usual, it carefully hi,d while carefully focusing on the faults of the Republicans (and I'm an Independent, so I had an unbiased ringside seat, witnessing this for the past several elections), meaning nobody, from the Rustbelters to the Sunbelters, likes to be subjected to manipulation or baldface brainwashing (it wasn't even subliminal), by intelligentsia or otherwise, courtesy of an unprincipled media; and the author would have noted that the media has not learned its lesson - seeing it redouble its efforts since then, making itself even more irrelevant, and giving itself, journalism, and intellectualism an even blacker eye than it already had.

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- wbiro

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-18-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio