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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.

©1963 Richard Hofstadter (P)2017 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"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)

What listeners say about Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

excellent narration and content

This book clearly exposes American society in its moments of anti-intellectual bias and outright hostility. I learned more than I bargained for and, equally, more than I expected! Highly recommended!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fifty years later, still valid today

Soon after graduation from Columbia I had the opportunity to read this seminal work which helped me better understand my sense of alienation from US society, following the McCarthy era and the Eisenhower years. Now, almost in my dotage I have listened to Verner's excellent reading of Hofstadter and realized that his observations about the state of anti-intellectualism are, if anything, more cogent today. Trump's election broadly supported by what H.L.Mencken might have called the " Booboisie" has provided clear evidence that intellect and thoughtful intelligence continue to be held in disregard.
Of course, the irony is that only readers who see themselves as intellectuals will want to obtain copies of this fine audiobook.

David Evan Glasser

10 people found this helpful

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A must-read, especially for immigrants

I live in the US for 20 years. This book finally explained some strange differences to my native Germany that I could never clearly understand or define. Highly recommended!!

1 person found this helpful

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Still Current, Without Opening Recent Wounds

A Timeless Book (so far) on a topic that still generates thought (at least by those who can, and are free to, think).

Now for some thoughts:
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 other 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 it worked for her party (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 period that it traveled through as it covered America's anti-intellectualism in religion, then politics, then business, then education, and then the arts, and it remained broad enough to still apply today.

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 Nazis that started it, the vindictive loses that caused such a backlash, and where it took counter non-intellectual backbone to end it, which is why Eisenhower (the anti-intellectual with backbone) defeated Stephenson (the intellectual without one) in '52 (which the author laments, but no one who knew what the world was still like back then would have).

So the author was not aware of the 'backbone/intellect dichotomy' going on even in his time, or he was being intellectually dishonest (I think the latter, since such things are glaringly obvious).

He would have noted, if he were intellectually honest, that that dichotomy was why Bush defeated Kerry - 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 one or the other, and we picked the characteristic that we felt was more 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 world events, no, make that Major Media aggression (with Leftist propaganda), meaning Trump's victory was not about gender or any kind of 'blacklash' other than against a manipulating media, where it was now the voters who had to show backbone in voting against such manipulation.

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 being a disease of 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 hid (such as Obama's middle name and his smoking) while carefully focusing on the faults of the Republicans (and I'm an Independent, so I had an unbiased ringside seat to this circus, and having witnessed this from the media for the past several elections), meaning nobody, no one from the Rustbelters to the Sunbelters, likes to be subjected to obvious manipulation attempts or baldface brainwashing attempts (it wasn't even clever or subliminal, it was crude), by intelligentsia or otherwise, courtesy of an unprincipled media; and today the author would have noted that the media has not learned its lesson - seeing it redouble its efforts in bias since then, making itself even more irrelevant to those brave enough to think independently, and giving itself, journalism, and intellectualism an even blacker eye than it already had.

Postscript: though its efforts a distorting the truth did win them the subsequent election, so I will not expect journalism to improve any time soon, not with such a large, gullible audience tempting them. Plato would be turning in his grave, telling us he told us so about Democracies two thousand five hundred hears ago, and we've learned nothing.

18 people found this helpful

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Very Well Written

I love the way this book is laid out. Extremely well organized and reads very easy.

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Rediscovery

This book was a cornerstone of my intellectual development; hearing it here on Audible was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. Of course, the book isn't perfect; Hofstadter did wander a bit, and the Conclusion seems to be an effort to make a grand final statement. Still, it was wonderful to hear this book narrated, and narrated so well. Kudos to all involved.

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It’s like trying to listen to a textbook

Learned some new concepts so wasn’t totally lost on me but it’s definitely not one to listen to on a road trip, it’s difficult to follow.

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Outdated

So much has happened in the past 50 years that this is like an historical relic.

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Wanders a bit

Not as good as the title would suggest. I was impatient towards the end. Did not care for narrator.

2 people found this helpful

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Not for me

How do I send this back? This book is for someone "more intellectual" than I.

1 person found this helpful