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 tried to read this book because it is good mental hygiene to read authors you don't agree with, at least when their views are based on facts and sound reasoning. But this book is just pure ideology and the author does obviously not apply to himself the standards of verification and unbiased judgment that he exacts from the intellectual class at large.
Under the objetive sounding title of "intellectuals", the author specifically targets those one might label "liberal" or "leftist" and works up his annoying manifesto against them. Not a single example of those who may belong to the other end of the political spectrum, or any positive contributions of the targeted group is mentioned. One wonders whether many of the rights and privileges we enjoy would be available to us if it wasn't for those who shaped the public's opinion, the very group of people the author relentlessly and one-sidedly criticizes.
I felt the book was more interested in driving a political agenda rather than pursuing an objective research, was annoyed and couldn't wait for it to end.
Do not recommend at all.
While Sowell may be making good points, I thought his ideas hypocritical. He blasted academics and intellectuals as overstepping their expertise, but his opinions of historical outcomes obviously were overstepping his expertise as well. Unless he could actually be the "annoited one".
The scales have been removed from my eyes. I have never read anything from Thomas Sowell. I knew who he was and respected his views. Also enjoyed his articles, but this book is outstanding.
Somewhat boring and very biased. It is very interesting point of view, but the author is pushing his agenda so hard that I cannot trust that he is giving his honest opinion and not trying to indoctrinate me.
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.
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