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.
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
This author is intelligent and mission oriented. He has taken the liberal line and found many cogent attacks on its margins and fissures. His tone is condsending, and he can be quite harsh. However, if you are a liberal I recommend this book to understand the conservative line. If you are a conservative this book will fit very well into your worldview.
He makes so good point about how the liberal model, that we can do better, is often at variance with actual experience. Yet, a good innoculation to his retoric would be the books; The working poor, and The new Jim Crow. These books counter all of the arguments that are passionately offered in this work.
However, all in all, I found this book to be informative and interesting.
Wow! I have to admit this was a book that forced me to look up quite a few words, but it was worth it to figure out exactly what concept the author was trying to convey. This book has strong biases against "Intellectuals" as defined by the author, but he makes excellent points on how society is sometimes hindered by the elitist mentality that is becoming more prevalent in our higher education system graduates and government officials.
To sum up the author's concept as best I can: There is a select, but growing group of individuals who feel that society should be run by the smartest and most educated. That this group of select few will do a better job of running society and deciding what is best for the not-so-educated, not-so-smart masses.
He fundamentally believes that this approach is complete folly.
The author repeatedly challenges this concept and gives numerous examples (some good and some really biased) of how this method of leading society is flawed.
Well worth the read if only to challenge yourself to look at things differently.
I have to confess that I find Thomas Sowell fascinating. I read his book “Economic Facts and Fallacies” and I have read many more. I enjoy watching him one “Youtube.” The man has a fantastic mind, he is able to tie real problems and solutions to real outcomes. He does not need to invent, slander or use pejoratives to attach those that disagree. His logic, history, facts and reality prove him right over and over again
I love this book. I enjoyed every bit of it, and I love how Dr. Sowell ties every bit of the intelligentsia’s rhetoric back facts, numbers, reality, and history. The book follows Dr. Sowell’s thoughts on most of the materials I have read. There is nothing new here, except the ability to read Dr. Sowell’s thought. He is unapologetic, honest and forthright. Unlike the Intellectuals who will attack him personally, he has honor, and real intelligence. This work will never rise to fame, as he pulls the blinds open on the Intelligentsia, but it is a great read, even if you don’t care for Thomas Sowell.
I am a big fam of Thomas Sowell's writings and have been since I read Visions of the Annointed a few years ago. That said, having read the former, I was disappointed that this book was really little more than a re-warmed version of VOtA. If you have read VOtA, I would not suggest thsi book. If not, It is a worthy read and sheds light on the tricks played by intellectuals and the followers to skew reality to match their vision.
I've read many reviews of Dr. Sowell's books and I think it's a common occurrence that those who often review his books with a single star read a few summaries whereby they feel they have become knowledgeable enough to review his works. The reviewers on this page are doing a considerable disservice by writing politically charged reviews before they even read the book.
With that said, I agree with a previous reviewer that "Intellectuals and Society" is a rehashing of some of Dr. Sowell's previous works, but it is nevertheless an excellent account with contemporary additions of the history of intellectual influence on culture.
It's ironic that the reviewer who called Dr. Sowell "anti-intellectual" was actually contributing to the truth of his thesis that intellectuals are not in favor of intellectual history, they are only in favor of promoting their own particular world view.
The ideas have been hashed out in many of his previous works, but some of the contemporary additions are worth the buy. If you have never read Thomas Sowell, "Intellectuals and Society" is an excellent introduction as it is very accessible.
This book is a must read for everyone, both Right and Left. The Right will agree with almost everything in this book. The Left, well if you have an open mind, you might learn a thing or two.
A good companion to this book would be Hayek's "Intellectuals and Socialism" and Mises "Liberalism" and "Socialism." I'd r also recommend reading Conflict of Visions, before this book, since Dr. Sowell pulls a lot of material from it.
What an excellent book!
Our country is hemmed in by self described know it alls whose work is never tested and whose mistakes are always forgotten. The unholy trinity of education, mainstream media and government have a strangle hold on our nation. I fear this will only worsen as universities get more left wing and their products take their place in media and government.
Oddly enough, the only hope is the economic crash that I see coming as budget deficits cause massive debt leading to hyperinflation. Then we will be able to rebuild absent the heavy weight of government. People who can actually DO something will be valued in those times.
If you want to see the argument for my conclusions, read or listen to this book.
All Thomas Sowell books are written with truth as the foundation. The narrator was fantastic and well rehearsed. Highly recommended.
Every time his books can't get any better, I run across another, better, one. This one nails the "anointed" progressive thought processes and how they have brought our society and our country to the breaking point.
For definitions of the anointed and beknighted classes, and an earlier text on the subject of "progressive" destruction, read/listen to "The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy" first.
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 ".
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