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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.

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  •  
    RS on Amazon 06-27-12 Member Since 2013

    RS on Amazon

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the WORST books I've tried to listen to...."

    I toughed it through almost two hours of this book before I nearly dropped my listening device from a 27th floor window.

    The book begins under the pretense of being vaguely critical of "intellectuals" and their role/position in society. The reality feels more as if this writer had too many times been denied the very status he was criticizing, and felt that in writing a snooze inducing critique of the "elite", he would somehow rise in personal stature and get a second shot at the title.

    Every minute of this book felt like it was torn from a low quality thesis written by a self aggrandizing graduate student. I have never so vehemently disliked an audio book before. Nearly two hours in, I decided that silence was more intellectually stimulating than letting this book play for another moment.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 09-25-10
    Michael 09-25-10
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    "Great Book!! Must Read!"

    I really enjoyed this book. It captures and expresses many ideas that our society needs to understand if we are to avoid an economic and moral meltdown. I can't recommend it enough.

    Sowell destroys the idea that all will be good in govt (and in this country) if we just get enough "smart" people into position to make decision for the rest of us. But "smart" people making decisions from DC can't know what's best for us. I'd prefer to make my own decisions and keep govt out of my life!

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kendall United States Minor Outlying Islands 05-08-14
    Kendall United States Minor Outlying Islands 05-08-14 Member Since 2014

    Reading is a great source for an old guy trying to reinvent himself

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    "Disguised right-wing screed"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Fox News addicts


    Has Intellectuals and Society turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No. It is not what it purports to be.


    Any additional comments?

    A very disappointing and misleading book. Without close examination, it looks like a serious study of the role of intellectuals. It isn't. It is a screed. First promoting various notions which have seized Right Wing America, then showing how, through history, the same impulse has destroyed just about everything it touches. There are interesting ideas in the book, but the interesting ones are old. Where ideas are new, they're tendentious or selective or straw men.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew 08-24-13
    Andrew 08-24-13

    A. Keahiolalo

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    "A waste of time."

    His thesis is that 'intellectuals' are controlling the media and politics and spinning stories to support their own agenda. Three issues:

    1. He never defines who the 'intellectuals' actually are, only who they are not. We are then left alone with that, poised to direct the angst that is spawned by his accusations to a group of people inferred to be simply 'everyone else but the reader'.

    2. He denounces liberals for their fallacious methods of debate, as if liberals are the only population to do so.

    3. Clearly, he is one of the very intellectuals he burns at the stake, even down to the spinning of events and the fallacious arguments he hates so much.

    So, with no real target, no unique crime committed by that target, and a hypocritical disposition; this book is nothing more than a firework targeted to the gullible by sensationalizing events in the past that are easily sniped with 20/20 vision, and blaming those outcomes on a group with values different from the author's while using the very methods of argument he denounces in the next sentence.

    I have not read anything else from this author. I am hesitant to do so again, but I would give him one more chance, in the interest of fairness, to do something actually useful...but after this book, would not be expecting much.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee Doty Seattle, USA 12-15-12
    Lee Doty Seattle, USA 12-15-12 Member Since 2014

    Nerd. Kindle author. Nerd.

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    "Focus + Truth = Clarity"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Intellectuals and Society to be better than the print version?

    yes, easier to digest while doing other things. (drive, yardwork, etc.)


    What did you like best about this story?

    Sowell's plain, focused wisdom. His ability to communicate fairly complex ideas without the need to clutter the experience with jargon. His ability to distill simple truths from storms of confusion and irrelevancy, then write only those distilled truths.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Too many to list. Best summary of the important issues relating to WWII I've ever read. Best dissection of the forces/incentives that drive public intellectuals.


    Any additional comments?

    No leftist intellectual's belief system will survive an honest, curious reading of this book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    realgood Atlanta 10-22-12
    realgood Atlanta 10-22-12 Listener Since 2004

    realgood

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    "A real up-to-date expose' on liberals!"
    Where does Intellectuals and Society rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

    On par to past social media junkets of mainstream, profound and right on point!


    Any additional comments?

    I'll need to listen again for clarity.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Spring Lake, MI, USA 07-14-10
    William Spring Lake, MI, USA 07-14-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Thoroughgoing Analysis"

    Does an excellent job of exposing how intellectuals function on plane they imagine to be higher to that on which ordinary people function. Author exposes how intellectuals employ verbal virtuosity to win arguments that nonetheless lack grounding in evidence or even common sense.

    3 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Stuart, United States Minor Outlying Islands 03-09-10
    Thomas Stuart, United States Minor Outlying Islands 03-09-10 Member Since 2014
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    "Thanks for another great journey Dr. Sowell"

    My favorite philosopher: always an expanding experience.

    4 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Weiss 04-20-10
    Karen Weiss 04-20-10 Member Since 2009
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    "must read"

    This is such a great book. It puts alot of things in perspective.If you want to know whats gone wrong in society don't pass this one up.

    3 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Oak Park, IL, United States 04-02-10
    John Oak Park, IL, United States 04-02-10 Member Since 2008
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    "smart author"

    very smart author who understands what goes on in the world

    3 of 11 people found this review helpful
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