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Intellectuals and Society | [Thomas Sowell]

Intellectuals and Society

This is a study of how intellectuals as a class affect modern societies by shaping the climate of opinion in which official policies develop, on issues ranging from economics to law to war and peace. You will hear a withering and clear-eyed critique about (but not for) intellectuals that explores their impact on public opinion, policy, and society at large.
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Publisher's Summary

This is a study of how intellectuals as a class affect modern societies by shaping the climate of opinion in which official policies develop, on issues ranging from economics to law to war and peace.

The thesis of Intellectuals and Society is that the influence of intellectuals is not only greater than in previous eras but also takes a very different form from that envisioned by those like Machiavelli and others who have wanted to directly influence rulers. It has not been by shaping the opinions or directing the actions of the holders of power that modern intellectuals have most influenced the course of events, but by shaping public opinion in ways that affect the actions of power holders in democratic societies, whether or not those power holders accept the general vision or the particular policies favored by intellectuals. Even government leaders with disdain or contempt for intellectuals have had to bend to the climate of opinion shaped by those intellectuals.

Intellectuals and Society not only examines the track record of intellectuals in the things they have advocated but also analyzes the incentives and constraints under which their views and visions have emerged. One of the most surprising aspects of this study is how often intellectuals have been proved not only wrong, but grossly and disastrously wrong in their prescriptions for the ills of society-- and how little their views have changed in response to empirical evidence of the disasters entailed by those views.

©2009 Thomas Sowell; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

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  •  
    Larry 12-19-14
    Larry 12-19-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Intellectuals : all arogance,no sense"

    I found this book to be an amazing listen , and the narrator captured the flavor of the written words perfectly.
    Just as Dr. Sowell says, there are two basic types of intellectuals. Those that actually do useful work, and so gain much needed understanding of the real world, and then there are the " Others". Dr. Sowell focuses on this 2nd type , and does an excellent job ,dare I say, skewering them.
    Too bad they are too arrogant to learn a little History, or learn from from their own mistakes , and mistaken assumptions.
    Unfortunely, it is we common folks who must pay the price, over and over again.
    Perhaps what Billy was really talking about was this 2nd group of intellectuals . If so, I would say his sentiments were spot on !
    Give the book a listen. You will not be disappointed , unless, of course , you consider yourself an " Intellectual Thinker ".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith Jones UK 05-07-14
    Keith Jones UK 05-07-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Boring"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The boring narration. It was almost painful to listen to.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Thomas Sowell again?

    Yes, with a different narrator


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment and frustration


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William KEARNEY, NE, United States 04-23-14
    William KEARNEY, NE, United States 04-23-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Disappointed"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who like to hear political agenda specific rants


    What was most disappointing about Thomas Sowell’s story?

    There was no story - and even though I am a political conservative, I don't care to hear conservative rants that are not well backed up... or interesting


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    Disliked most everything about it.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Intellectuals and Society?

    Everything after the first three chapters


    Any additional comments?

    mind numbing - simply the worst!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Levi C. Kruse 04-19-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Intelligent"
    Would you listen to Intellectuals and Society again? Why?

    Yes, I would listen to it again. this book seems to be the collection of years worth of research to back up a well observed phenomenon. Any student of history will know that intelligent people have created some of the best disasters but this book opens up the motives and thought that made it all possible. There was too much to remember from a single read.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Intellectuals and Society?

    For me the most memorable part of the book was when the author explained how numbers on statistics are manipulated to paint a desired picture, like counting the poor for decades while never counting how many people in the poor have moved to higher classes while the people who occupy the highest classes fall to lower ones at the same time. It opened my eyes to consider people as people as apposed to fixed classes that don't or can't change.


    What about Tom Weiner’s performance did you like?

    I enjoy listening to Tom Weiner on this book as he sounds somewhat like Thomas Sowell and his voice is easy to listen to as well as understand.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This book is a little to long to listen to all at once but the information that was received made me not want to shut it off.


    Any additional comments?

    Great book, if all of Thomas Sowell's books are as good as this one I will be listening to and reading more!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike McDonnell Highland Mills, NY USA 04-09-14
    Mike McDonnell Highland Mills, NY USA 04-09-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Thomas Sowell's clarity of thought is a gift"
    What did you love best about Intellectuals and Society?

    The shame of having such a well thought out defense of the right - the common sense REQUIREMENT - of people to control their own destinies is that the ones who need to read it, the intellectuals, will certainly not.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    This, and all Thomas Sowell's work, uses scholarship and logic to blast through the constant emotional, seductive bombast from the big government and elitists who want to impose their brilliance upon us.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Manich 12-24-12
    Joe Manich 12-24-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Thomas Sowell is an important thinker today"
    What did you love best about Intellectuals and Society?

    To be able to hear Thomas Sowell's idea. Tom Weiner made me believe that he was Sowell.


    Any additional comments?

    I really like the large variety that can be found in Audible. From light fiction, science fiction to serious non-fiction titles.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rasheed Cole Alexandria, VA 11-28-12
    Rasheed Cole Alexandria, VA 11-28-12 Member Since 2015
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    "The ideas will make you think although very slante"
    Would you try another book from Thomas Sowell and/or Tom Weiner?

    I may to try to broaden my stances but this book for my liking wasn't what I was looking for.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The most interesting thing and the least interesting thing end up being the same because the same thing he is saying intellectuals do, he is doing himself.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes it did.


    Any additional comments?

    The book isn't bad although a very rightly slanted view.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 10-23-11
    Shawn Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 10-23-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Pro-intellectual"

    I listened to Intellectuals and Society after Economic Fallacies and was not disappointed. It should be noted that the book is not anti-intellectual. Rather, it argues that membership in the intelligentsia does not render one immune to group think and confirmation bias. Sowell gives historical examples of intellectuals promoting ideology that flies in the face of the facts. His readers are encouraged to be accountable for what they accept as true.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    The Lifelong Learner Santa Monica 01-30-11
    The Lifelong Learner Santa Monica 01-30-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Flawed thinking creates flawed social experiments"

    This book shows the folly of what happens when it's easier to concentrate power than knowledge -- social engineering that backfires.

    "Intellectuals" "who romanticize cultures which leave the world in poverty, disease and chaos, trash cultures that lead the world in prosperity, medical advances and law and order." They look the other way when masses flee societies they romanticize. They look away when tough stances against aggression may nip war in the bud and wait until the bombs are falling on them to act. They encourage the poor to blame poverty on the rich, a tragically detrimental view that discourages the self-examination that might lead them to make fundamental changes in their own lives instead.

    The group he focuses on are the people whose narrow view is limited to the wrongs they see around them and attribute to some evil in the American system. Yet they ignore the broad perspective of human behavior and cultures in their context. This leads to seriously flawed thinking and social experiments we're better off without.

    Well supported and thoughtfully presented.

    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adriana Manchester, CT, United States 09-19-10
    Adriana Manchester, CT, United States 09-19-10
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    "Silly me"

    Before I downloaded this book I read reviews from readers and thought they were biased. It should have been a clue that the only good reviews came from people that actually felt inspired to "look up words" as a result of this book.

    I wish I could say something good about it. Maybe, maybe, his analysis of the pre-war France has some redeeming value, but you can get that somewhere else without having to suffer through the rest of the book.

    The rest of the book is a long rant against 'the anointed," which would be all the leftist intellectuals that he does not agree with. He makes generalized assertions about what other people think and believe, why they believe it, without any supporting evidence. He talks at length about misinformation and evidence that is being ignored, forgetting to present much more than generalized ball-park statistics you'd get on Wikipedia. There was one instance of 'evidence' he presented in his book to show how the intellectuals misinform the public: he actually used national averages of crime rates to dismiss arguments based on local averages of crime rates. Hello, statistics 101: you can't do that! It's apples and oranges.

    Anyone with a college degree would be one of the anointed and very dangerous to all living things. Slavery, racism, domestic violence, the horrors of the Vietnam war (yes, he argues that the war should have been fought until victory was achieved, whatever that meant, and victory was possible - sound familiar?), poverty, all that are merely inventions of the anointed. They were not all that bad!

    It's rediculous that he does not even bother (probably because he has no clue) with the empirical branches of the disciplines he disparages. The validation of their theories do come from actual empirical evidence, which I wished the author knew how to interpret. I suppose theoretical physics and mathematics is similarly useless per his definition.

    18 of 36 people found this review helpful

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