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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Intelligent individuals place a higher value on useful and practical knowledge, they search for answers.

In one of his final chapters, Hofstadter takes on John Dewey’s philosophy of education, anatomizing his progressivism to expose its inconsistencies and subsequent distortions. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean to make those equivalencies, but it’s sort of a problem with the project. I do not find the closing analysis a persuasive explanation for his subject in the later twentieth century. It is hard to explain.

He is hopeful that liberal culture will endure despite various anti-intellectual viruses attacking it. Somehow the notion that somebody might just be better than somebody else at something, without it being a result of identity categories and power imbalances, the idea that somebody wrote a better paper because they are smarter, harder working, or just temperamentally more suited to the discipline is now anathema.

Harvard – Juris Doctor J.

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life | work by Hofstadter |

Intellectualism declined sharply in stature after its heyday in the early American Republic. Intellectuals, argues Hofstadter, are not merely or necessarily highly educated, nor are they merely or necessarily experts. The fact that the word intellectual is still a dirty word here in this amti-intellectualism is very telling. Every thinker puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril, and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place.

While not opposed to knowledge or science, business interests lie in the practical application of technology and its commercial viability in the marketplace. This belief, that religion should be a personal experience uofstadter which everyone should have unmediated access, was of course an outgrowth of Protestantism in many ways, and became strongly linked in the late 19th Century with the rise in populist democratic sentiment. To our ears, a number of Hofstadter’s statements now sound remarkably naive.


As the official blog of the Society of US Intellectual History, we hope to foster a diverse community of scholars and readers who engage with one another in discussions of US intellectual history, broadly understood. Tim Lacy December 7, Apr 29, Andrew added it Shelves: It must be noted that elitism by Hofstadter and in his work is a fine angle through which to criticize Anti-Intellectualism. It traces periods of intellectual flourishing as well as the reactions against them, from the deeply intellectual Founding Fathers hkfstadter the incoherent and incandescent anti-intellectual aggression of the McCarthy era.

Teacher education program personnel, Hofstadter suggests, are often anti-intellectual, their protestations notwithstanding. Here the evidence suggests that anti-intellectualism has risen steadily since Hofstadter’s time.

USA students usually rank below the top ten, and sometimes far below. Years ago, Murray Sperber, in Beer and Circus: I think one could believe books to fade in and out of relevance without being an adherent to cyclical history theories. For fundamentalists, there is no room for microclimatic changes or ice ages. Unfortunately this is at a time when we have never been in more need of the critical examination of thought and the new ideas that intellectuals provide.

I am surveying his survey, comparing his conclusions with conditions for intellectuals now insofar as I understand them.

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

The cultured class was out. Tocqueville saw that the life of constant action and decision which was enabled by the democratic and business-like character of American life put a premium upon rough and ready habits of mind, quick decisions and the prompt seizure of opportunities and all these activities were not propitious for deliberation, elaboration or precision in thought.


Hofstadter explores the development of the American bias against intellectuals.

Entertainment as defined by the former has swept away a far older, contrary notion of reading as entertainment cf. Jul hofstqdter, Robert Owen rated it it was amazing. The larger goal aside, my findings most definitely undermined a great deal of my original enthusiasm for the book.

Hofstadter closes his introduction with a naive footnote that glosses the supposedly “back-handed tribute democracy pays to the importance of intellect”:.

Jun 01, Ci rated it it was hotstadter Shelves: An animal can be intelligent, but intellect is human. And it turns out they had more than a few hofsgadter.

And people who believe that faith and spirit are all you need to understand God’s will, and in fact, that any study intended to instruct one in historical context will actually detract from faith antl-intellectualism spirit. These relationships may begin in enthusiasm, or even ardor, but are always contingent on new readings and new perspectives.

Among the intellectuals this rather simple view of things was turned upside down: Richard Hofstadter’s masterwork reminds us that these are enduring though, happily, not always dominant themes in our political discourse. He highlights a thread of “resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it” and traces that thread from early American history to the period in which he was writing.

Anti-intellectuwlism of these stories have been told before he wrote this book and after he wrote this book. The reviewers were harsh. Our last child, finishing middle school, rarely brings home any homework and when he does, it takes fifteen minutes.