Richard Hofstadter’s famous Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, his tenth book, earned him the Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction (). This “personal book,”. For the ages For Hofstadter, pictured here in , anti-intellectualism was an By the time Anti-Intellectualism in American Life was published (), he was a . 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.
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Review: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life ()
Different moments that are chronicled in this exhibition point up the tensions and ambiguities that characterize the role of the intellectual in a democratic society. For instance, i s the American intellectual ultimately responsible to the public, or to the freedom of the intellect itself? Does the “engaged intellectual” risk sacrificing their independence? Conversely, does distance from “the people” necessarily imply a haughty – and anti -democratic – refusal to participate in the civic life of the community and the nofstadter He had never regarded the average citizen with disdain; indeed, as this exhibition demonstrateshe was quite willing to intervene in public debate and to engage a broad audience.
Hofstadter was nonetheless concerned with the degradation of the public sphere and with the growing contempt for reasoned debate during the McCarthy years.
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter
Hofstadter began by acknowledging that the intellectuals in midcentury American society enjoyed an unprecedented level of privilege and power. No longer confined to the university lecture hall or the bohemian fringe, academicians were now enmeshed in the workings of big business, military research, and government policy.
Perhaps nothing symbolized this more than the appointment of Hofstadter’s colleague, the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Paradoxically, Hofstadter argued, that coveted status was the very source of the intellectuals’ vulnerability: But Hofstadter did not only focus on the anti-intellectualism of the Right.
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
He dipped into his own past, albeit obliquely, with an examination of the ways in which the left-wing movements of the early twentieth century had exploited the guilt of sympathetic intellectuals, forced them to “declass themselves” and to abandon their “bourgeois” interests in literary humanism in deference to the crude ethic of ” proletarianism ” . Hofstadter’s book concludes with a somewhat controversial chapter, entitled “The Intellectual: Alienation and Conformity,” which takes aim at recent critics on the Left.
All had correctly recognized the incorporation of intellectuals into the mainstream of American society, Hofstadter insists, but they were wrong to believe that incorporation necessarily implies a loss of critical perspective.
To make a virtue of withdrawal in this manner, Hofstadter argues, is to oversimplify: Ultimately, to equate alienation with insight is to consign oneself to permanent irrelevance, to trap oneself in a cul-de-sac of self-imposed exile, all in order to maintain the illusion of moral purity.
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-Intellectualismentitled “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” .
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 hofstadtter 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 hofsfadter the “alienated” intellectuals – and his defense of the establishment intellectuals – came hogstadter as new social movements were emerging that would change the terms of the debate altogether.
The years following antii 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.
By the late s, radical critics whose influence had been limited – such as Mills, with his dark warnings of a ” power hofstaxter ” – now seemed prescient, for all their apparent Manichaean bluster.
By then, to many students and young activists, the equation of marginality with insight, which Hofstadter had found so irksome, had the ring of common sense. Page 1 of 2: Vann Woodwardwho offered sharp, if collegial, criticisms of the manuscript.
Hofstadter’s Authors Guild membership card, A letter from Hofstadter declaring his opposition to student loyalty oaths, The second page of Xnti review.