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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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  •  
    Chlo-bell CLIFTON, VA, United States 12-05-12
    Chlo-bell CLIFTON, VA, United States 12-05-12 Member Since 2007

    Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.

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    "An efficient attack on liberal philosophy."

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin Columbia, PA, USA 05-06-10
    Justin Columbia, PA, USA 05-06-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Biased but good"

    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.

    23 of 30 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, USA 02-02-10
    Dennis Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, USA 02-02-10
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    "Very Good, But Re-warmed Visions of the Annointed"

    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.

    18 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer United States 08-17-13
    Amazon Customer United States 08-17-13 Member Since 2010

    Direct Feedback

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    "I find Thomas Sowell fascinating"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin San Marcos, CA, Virgin Islands, U.S. 02-10-10
    Benjamin San Marcos, CA, Virgin Islands, U.S. 02-10-10
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    "Ignore the Leftists who review based off Summaries"

    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.

    28 of 44 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin Little Rock, AR, USA 04-25-10
    Justin Little Rock, AR, USA 04-25-10
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    "A Must Read"

    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.

    14 of 24 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 2005

    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 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
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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
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