Anti intellectualism in American Life was awarded thePulitzer Prize in Non Fiction 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 societyHofstadter 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 the purpose of education and whether the democratization of education altered that purpose and reshaped its formIn considering the historic tension between access to education and excellence in education, Hofstadter argued that both anti intellectualism and utilitarianism were consequences, in part, of the democratization of knowledgeMoreover, 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 This is an exceptional book First published in 1964, it is still very much worth reading as a primer on how America got to where it is today, with the President, his party, and almost half the country having enthusiastically embraced anti intellectual dumbassedness If there is any hopefulness to be found, it is that this is not a new condition All the way back to the colonial days, before the Revolution, anti intellectualism was already playing a large part in religious and political life, an This is an exceptional book First published in 1964, it is still very much worth reading as a primer on how America got to where it is today, with the President, his party, and almost half the country having enthusiastically embraced anti intellectual dumbassedness If there is any hopefulness to be found, it is that this is not a new condition All the way back to the colonial days, before the Revolution, anti intellectualism was already playing a large part in religious and political life, and over time that would extend to culture and education as well.The kind of anti intellectualism expressed in official circles during the 1950 s was mainly the traditional businessman s suspicion of experts working in any area outside his control, whether in scientific laboratories, universities, or diplomatic corps Faracute and sweeping was the hostility to intellectuals expressed on the far right wing, a categorical folkish dislike of the educated classes and of anything respectable, established, pedigreed, or cultivated.Many of the early arrivals to North America were fleeing the sanctioned discrimination of the hierarchical established Church, with its stultifying conformity and oppressive insistence on orthodoxy of interpretation and practice Instead, they embraced the Reformist idea that each person should be his own priest, following the interpretations and dictates of one s own soul This meant that class and education would play a large part in how religious sects developed.The style of a church or sect is to a great extent a function of social class, and the forms of worship and religious doctrine congenial to one social group may be uncongenial to another The possessing classes have usually shown much interest in rationalizing religion and in observing highly developed liturgical forms The disinherited classes, especially when unlettered, have beenmoved by emotional religion and emotional religion is at times animated by a revolt against the religious style, the liturgy, and the clergy of the upper class church, which is at the same time a revolt against aristocratic manners and morals.As the country developed and literacy increased,people lived in towns where they could discuss and share ideas, and the old style religion started to lose its hold, although it would not surrender its position without a fight.By the end of the 19th century it was painfully clear to fundamentalists that they were losing much of their influence and respectability One can now discern among them the emergence of a religious style shaped by a desire to strike back against everything modern the higher criticism, evolutionism, the social gospel, rational criticism of any kind As bad as it was that many of them saw their influence slipping away, even worse was the idea that their children might be infected by the ideas of modernism and stray from their family s beliefs When Clarence Darrow said at Scopes s trial that every child ought to beintelligent than his parents, he was raising the specter that frightened the fundamentalists most This was precisely what they did not want, if beingintelligent meant that children were expected to abandon parental ideas and desert parental ways The fight against new ideas spread beyond the sphere of religion and became a general distrust and anger at anything that challenged the old ways of thinking We can see striking examples of this in contemporary society.Religion, for many individuals or groups, may be an expression of serene belief, personal peace, and charity of mind But formilitant spirits it may also be a source or an outlet for animosities There is a militant type of mind to which the hostilities involved in any human situation seem to be its most interesting or valuable aspect some individuals live by hatred as a kind of creed, and we can follow their course through our own history in a variety of crank enthusiasms.There are many people who believe, passionately and whole heartedly, but possess only the most superficial understanding of what it is that they believe There has been a progressive attenuation of the components of religion Protestantism at an early point got rid of the bulk of religious ritual, and in the course of its development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries went very far to minimize doctrine The inspirational cult has completed this process, for it has largely eliminated doctrine at least it has eliminated most doctrine that could be called Christian Nothing, then, is left but the subjective experience of the individual.The lines had been drawn, between those who accepted compromise as essential to civilized society, and the growing intransigence of fundamentalist religion.Characteristically, the political intelligence, if it is to operate at all as a kind of civic force rather than as a mere set of maneuvers to advance this or that special interest, must have its own way of handling the facts of life and of forming strategies It accepts conflict as a central and enduring reality and understands human society as a form of equipoise based upon the continuing process of compromise It shuns ultimate showdowns and looks upon the ideal of total partisan victory as unattainable, as merely another variety of threat to the kind of balance with which it is familiar It is sensitive to nuances and sees things in degrees It is essentially relativist and skeptical, but at the same time circumspect and humane The fundamentalist mind will have nothing to do with all this it is essentially Manichean it looks upon the world as an arena for conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, and accordingly it scorns compromises who would compromise with Satan It was not just religion that was infected by the anti intellectual spirit The fundamentalism of the cross was now supplemented by a fundamentalism of the flag Since the 1930 s, fundamentalism has been a significant component in the extreme right in American politics, whose cast of thought often shows strong fundamentalist filiations Many people came to view pluralism as a form of weakness The ability to see multiple points of view and perform sophisticated analyses of complex situations was anathema to many Americans.As popular democracy gained strength and confidence, it reinforced the widespread belief in the superiority of inborn, intuitive, folkish wisdom over the cultivated, oversophisticated, and self interested knowledge of the literati and the well to do Just as the evangelicals repudiated a learned religion and a formally constituted clergy in favor of the wisdom of the heart and direct access to God, so did advocates of egalitarian politics propose to dispense with trained leadership in favor of the native practical sense of the ordinary man with its direct access to truth.These ancient animosities cast a long shadow over our current Red State Blue State divide, the heartland of America, filled with people who are often fundamentalist in religion, nativist in prejudice, isolationist in foreign policy, and conservative in economics, has constantly rumbled with an underground revolt against all these tormenting manifestations of our modern predicament Just as today s Congressmen are a sorry lot, they weren t exactly towering examples of statesmanship and probity back in the day The small town lawyers and businessmen who are elected to Congress cannot hope to expropriate the experts from their central advisory role, but they can achieve a kind of revenge through Congressional investigation and harassment, and, understandably, they carry on this task full of a sense of virtuous mission Sometimes politics is just politics, but sometimes it is a platform for display of vicious pathologies There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies Just as is the case with religion, politics is often seen as a zero sum game where allowing other ideas to percolate through the system risks loss of power and patronage, and electoral defeat To those who suspect that intellect is a subversive force in society, it will not do to reply that intellect is really a safe, bland, and emollient thing In a certain sense the suspicious Tories and militant philistines are right intellect is dangerous Left free, there is nothing it will not reconsider, analyze, throw into question Anti Intellectualism in American Life even contains what is perhaps a prescient comment on what future United States and Western elections will look like Andrew Jackson won the presidency on a furious populist platform that cast his opponents as unpatriotic, corrupt, and ineffectual sound familiar Having found that to be a winnable election strategy, it was not long before his opponents copied it for themselves.It was not merely Jacksonianism that was egalitarian it was the nation itself The competitive two party system guaranteed that an irresistible appeal to the voters would not long remain in the hands of one side, for it would be copied It was only a question of time before Jackson s opponents, however stunned by the tactics of his supporters in 1828, would swallow their distaste for democratic rhetoric and learn to use it Party leaders who could not or would not play the game would soon be driven off the field.Anti intellectualism has also played out in the field of public education, with surprising results In the nineteenth century, when the well to do sent their sons to college, it was a fair assumption that they were sending them not for vocational training but out of a regard both for intellectual discipline and for social advantages the two are not always easily distinguishable In the twentieth century, they may send them, rather, for the gains measurable in cold cash which are supposedly attainable through vocational training.There were furious debates over what should be taught, and since only a small percentage of the students would be going to college, the curriculum was changed to emphasize a good enough level of practical skills over any form of intellectual development.The older ideal of a classical liberal education, as expressed in nineteenth century America and elsewhere, had been based upon two assumptions The first was the so called faculty psychology In this psychology, the mind was believed to be a substantive entity composed of a number of parts or faculties such as reason, imagination, memory, and the like It was assumed that these faculties, like physical faculties, could be strengthened by exercise and in a liberal education, through constant mental discipline, they were gradually so strengthened The prevailing view came to be that education needed to have practical purposes, limited to preparing students for business and to fulfill their civil duties The high schools, they insisted, were meant to educate citizens in their public responsibilities and to train workers for industry, not to supply the colleges with freshmen The high schools should be looked upon as people s colleges and not as the colleges preparatory schools Many people were strongly opposed to publicly supported education which would, they believed, mainly benefit the upper classes.A particular hostility was expressed toward universities and colleges, as places where poor men s sons could never go and where millions are annually expended in teaching the sons of the wealthy some new brutality in football Quite understandably the labor editors feared that the universities would be bound by their endowments to teach that the status quo was beyond criticism, and that colleges and universities would become incubators for scabs and strikebreakers What could be expected to be taught at a university endowed by Rockefeller Would it be the rights of man or the superiority of the wealthy In the end, public schools and universities were created, but, since they were supported by tax dollars, funding was always a problem.something very important has been missing from the American passion for education A host of educational problems has arisen from indifference underpaid teachers, overcrowded classrooms, double schedule schools, broken down school buildings, inadequate facilities and a number of other failings that come from something else the cult of athleticism, marching bands, high school drum majorettes, ethnic ghetto schools, de intellectualized curricula, the failure to educate in serious subjects, the neglect of academically gifted children The democratic impulses that led to public education also embraced the idea that all children should be able to benefit from the experience, even if it meant the lowering of academic standards and limiting opportunities for those students who planned on going to college.Formerly, it had been held that a liberal academic education was good for all pupils Now it was argued that all pupils should in large measure get the kind of training originally conceived for the slow learner American utility and American democracy would now be realized in the education of all youth Anti intellectualism has played a big role in United States history, and its effects are plainly visible today in disbelief and strident opposition to evolution, global warming, vaccinations, and the multitude of positions based on a rejection of science and a firm embrace of emotion, the sense that no expert knowsthan an average person with a passionate belief No good will come of this, and political parties which encourage it do great harm to the country The aging Jefferson warned in 1816 If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be 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 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 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 by 1840, during 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 isthan forty five years old it still has a lot to say to us about politics today Just ask Louie Gohmert He ll tell you Piety and Playfulness Forbidden It is sometimes difficult to keep in mind that America was founded and organised by intellectuals For about a century, Puritan regard for scholarship and classical education dominated the colonial ethos Community leaders were primarily Oxford and Cambridge graduates who shared a vision of not just a theologically learned church but also a culturally and scientifically learned population Remarkably, only six years after the foundation of the Massachusetts Bay Co Piety and Playfulness Forbidden It is sometimes difficult to keep in mind that America was founded and organised by intellectuals For about a century, Puritan regard for scholarship and classical education dominated the colonial ethos Community leaders were primarily Oxford and Cambridge graduates who shared a vision of not just a theologically learned church but also a culturally and scientifically learned population Remarkably, only six years after the foundation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Harvard College had been established Shortly thereafter its degrees were considered to be equivalent to those in England by their former Oxbridge colleagues.Hofstadter gives Christianity its due in promoting the incipient American intellect But he also documents convincingly how, as American Christianity evolved, it smothered not just the germ of intellect but the reputation of thought itself The result has been aor less permanent national aversion to intellectual tradition in favour of professional commercialism and the cultivation of manipulative intelligence This aversion is demonstrated repeatedly from the mid eighteenth century First Great Awakening to the revivalist rallies of Donald Trump It is expressed persistently as a suspicion of reflective thought and resentment of those who practice it.Hofstadter s key distinction is that between intellect and intelligenceIntelligence will seize the immediate meaning in a situation and evaluate it Intellect evaluates evaluations, and looks for the meanings of situations as a whole Intelligence can be praised as a quality in animals intellect, being a unique manifestation of human dignity, is both praised and assailed as a quality in menThis distinction seems to capture exactly my own experience of the American mind in business and academia And it allows Hofstadter to conduct a profoundly revealing analysis of American society One has only to watch Trump in action and his audiences reactions to know Hofstadter has had a profound insight.The term intellectual originates in fin de si cle France and refers originally to the academic and literary defenders of Emil Dreyfus against his anti Semitic accusers So from its beginning the term has had a liberal or leftist political connotation And it still does A conservative thinker like William F Buckley would never have been referred to as an intellectual , but most likely as a conservative commentator Throughout the 20th century the term is used as one of opprobrium by right wing politicians, usually Republican, and evangelical Christians to suggest unAmerican, godless, and socially disruptive patterns of thought.And this intended slander is probably fairly accurate Intellectuals can appear to be unAmerican in the sense that their attitude toward knowledge and learning tends to bevocational in the religious sense and elitist rather than commercial and egalitarian They are also likely to question the historical validity and meaning of doctrinal religion And because they are usually not constrained by the thought limits imposed by faith or commercial necessity, they will not infrequently appear to stir up various simmering social pots Hofstadter identifies two characteristics which are typical of his idea of an intellectual piety and playfulness Piety demands a level of serious reverence and humility about one s intellectual endeavours Playfulness implies the urge to go beyond the solution to problems, in fact to search for the problems which solutions cause Both are somewhat seditious traits in American culture Anti Intellectualism in American Life, despite its obvious refinement and nuance in its historical interpretation, is of course a product of its time Originally published in 1963, much of it documents the effects of and the emergence from the intellectual persecution of the McCarthy era in the 1950 s But even the frequent references to McCarthy s tactics provide important insights that are relevant to understanding today s political situation For example, it is clear in Hofstadter s analysis that the focus of the Senator s efforts was not a grand Communist conspiracy, but the intellectual establishment itself Communism was a tool not a target of his and Richard Nixon s Congressional activities Just as religion has been a perennial tool not a social objective of American politicians throughout the country s history.In light of Hofstadter s analysis, political events today become muchcomprehensible For example, it is not simply Obama s race against which Americans reacted in their last elections it is just as likely to be an unfortunate legacy of his intellect Americans never have had much tolerance for reflective thought in their leaders Trump as the antithesis of the intellectual leader gives them respite They love his hip shooting, banal inanities and gaffes They want his ignorant, often patently incompetent political appointments They admire his intractability on factual matters like climate change and international tariffs It is both comforting and terrifying to realise how consistent American culture has been since the Revolution.Where Hofstadter got it wrong was in thinking, like many of us, that anti intellectualism was in decline in America, that Richard Nixon was a fallen star along with the entire constellation of evangelical Republicans, that the American educational system would re orient itself to promote greater intellectual competence rather than trade skills Nevertheless, even his mistaken presumptions about the future are enlightening I certainly feel less confused about American culture and politics than I did last week. 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 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 answers intoquestions 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 religion, politics, business and education RELIGION 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 By the 1720 s, traditional Congregational and Presbyterian religions were losing meaning for frontier people and the less educated 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.By the 1790 s Americans were widely dispersed and the vast majority did not belong to a church 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 By 1850 evangelical Baptists and Methodists accounted for 70% of Protestants The Methodists went from a few thousand American members in 1775 tothan a million and a half by 1855 becoming the largest single denomination Methodist circuit riders took the word to the people and converted them The Baptists 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 Sunday in the early 20th With modernism encroaching dramatically in the 1920 s the fundamentalist outcry went to new levels of passion The village Protestant individualist culture of the 19th century had to confront relativity in morals, open sexuality, racial equality, Darwinism, Freudianism, Marxism, and Keynesianism in the 20th POLITICS 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 deemedimportant 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 Lincoln s administration was a brief exception 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 Highly educated and intellectually accomplished, he also was a big game hunter, a Rough Rider, a rancher, a man s man Thus he was popular and his reforms were taken seriously He brought in a host of talented educated men to his administration His successor, Taft, quickly dropped TR s reforms Wilson was an academic but still grounded in the Gilded Age As President he did not fully embrace progressive issues and their intellectual proponents He was a colonialist, opposed to minority and women s rights His objection to big business wasto help small business than the working man The Great Depression empowered FDR to fully embrace academia to solve the nation s problems However attacks on intellectuals steadily mounted through his administration interrupted 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 1963 BUSINESS The growth of business in America diminished the intellectual It extolled the practical man who solves real problems, not the flighty one who doesn t have to meet a payroll As business becamepowerful 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 in 1832, was a popular 19th century concept Rarely true as most successful people started with considerable advantages This concept was areasonable notion when college education consisted of Greek, Latin and the classics and business practices were simple After America became industrialized and businesscomplex, higher education began offeringengineering, accounting and law Education became accepted as necessary for business, but traditional intellectual pursuits were still considered irrelevant EDUCATION Schools in America originally conformed to European standards as a way to prepare the upper classes for further academic studies But in early America ordinary citizens did not want to fund colleges for the rich Most communities would only pay the lowest possible salary for teachers for the most rudimentary education Through the 19th and into the 20th century schools became increasingly seen as a way to learn skills necessary to make a livelihood and participate in democracy, while support foracademic education continued to erode.By the end of WWII still only 4 in 10 graduated from high school Many education experts felt that 60% of students could not benefit from an academic or even a high level vocational education This was the advent of the Life adjustment movement among educators and saw the introduction of socially oriented classes aimed at everyday living activities Relying on interpretations of tests and IQ that were highly questionable, these educators determined that the minds of 60% of the people could not be developed beyond a minimal level The author attributes much of this movement to a bias against intellectualism, the perception that it was not egalitarian and thus un American, that somehow it was wrong for the average person to try to raise himself above his peers in intellectual pursuits In the 1950 s this movement lost steam as parents becamehighly educated themselves and wantedfor their children Parents saw the world demandingcomplex skills The Sputnik scare helped CONCLUSION Intellectualism declined sharply in stature after its heyday in the early American Republic The country s founders were largely well educated men of ideas that led the nation into its bold experiment After the 1820 s intellectuals lost power, became self absorbed and reverted to their traditional role in the leisure class engendering distrust by the general population Progressive politics in 1890 changed the intellectual They began espousing the democratic values that were the basis for their own disdain putting themselves in an awkward situation During times in the 20th century when intellectuals were accepted, at least tolerated, many felt uncomfortable at no longer being alienated Intellectuals are nonconformists often seen as aberrant as is the case of many great writers, scientists and artists But it is these exceptional minds that offer us unique perspectives Today, the discrediting of intellectuals by so many in America is everstrident Unfortunately this is at a time when we have never been inneed of the critical examination of thought and the new ideas that intellectuals provide