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.
I wish I could absorb and retain all the great arguments and clear analysis in this book. It captures all of the nonsense you hear on the news, that falls out of the mouths of politicians, activists, and pundits - and explains quickly and clearly why they are wrong. A very entertaining and enlightening read.
There are very few facts here and condradiction after contradiction leaves your mind spinning. The writer uses so many critical points of argument that sometimes only paragraphs later he is doing the exact same thing. Statements like, "Intellectuals never even bother to look into why China and India are successful.." then "Intellectuals make broad statements about catagories of people and what they do."
The first part of this book mislead me into thinking that it would be an actual analysis of the role of intellectualism in contemporary culture. It turns out it is just an apologetic blather for anti-intellectual sentiment of the "populist" politics ilk that give us figures like Palin. The book accuses "intellectuals" in political power of making uninformed assertions, and seems to claim that it is better for anti-intellectuals to rule by making uniformed assertions. One of the few books that I just couldn't take after a few hours.
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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.
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!
Reading is a great source for an old guy trying to reinvent himself
Fox News addicts
No. It is not what it purports to be.
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.
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.
Nerd. Kindle author. Nerd!!
yes, easier to digest while doing other things. (drive, yardwork, etc.)
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.
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.
No leftist intellectual's belief system will survive an honest, curious reading of this book.
On par to past social media junkets of mainstream, profound and right on point!
I'll need to listen again for clarity.
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.
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