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Intellectuals and Society Audiobook

Intellectuals and Society

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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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  •  
    Joe Manich 12-24-12
    Joe Manich 12-24-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Thomas Sowell is an important thinker today"
    What did you love best about Intellectuals and Society?

    To be able to hear Thomas Sowell's idea. Tom Weiner made me believe that he was Sowell.


    Any additional comments?

    I really like the large variety that can be found in Audible. From light fiction, science fiction to serious non-fiction titles.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 07-02-12
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 07-02-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Lies, Flawed Logic, and Hypocrisy - laid bare"

    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.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kari Anchorage, AK, USA 02-03-10
    Kari Anchorage, AK, USA 02-03-10
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    "Just a bit to fast to enjoy well"

    I needed to slow the replay rate down. However, there was an annoying echo in the slower speed that wasn't noticeable in the normal playback. The information was rich and well sorted.

    8 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Robert BEHRMAN 04-08-10
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    "So?"

    If you want to listen to a book about bad things intellectuals say, this is for you. If you want to listen to a book about the effect of intellectuals on society, this is not for you.

    I picked this book up because my first reaction was "oh, they're not important," and the spine says he thinks they are. He then proceeds to critique intellectualism, rather than show its import.

    It's not really about "how" intellectuals influence society, it's about the annoying things lefties say and why they're annoying and why they've been wrong. Fine. So what?

    Nothing in this book says a thing about whether the bad influence of intellectuals is (1) abnormal, (2) solvable, (3) important, or (4) anything else. Nor does he show how his arguments are peculiar to intellectuals - for example, he points out that lots of intellectuals supported Hitler. This is true. How many? Were there more or fewer intellectuals among his supporters than non-intellectuals? That he critiques this intellectual lapse in others and then indulges in it undermines his credibility.

    When he defines intellectuals, he's very consistent (people who trade in ideas as an occupation), but he does not enforce that consistency throughout the book. You hear the definition at the beginning and end, and it's never mentioned in the middle. He has some strange lacunae in his thought regarding intellectuals - For example, he never says that economists are intellectuals, yet sometimes he says that intellectuals need to study more economics, and other times he calles Keynes and Galbraith (lefty economists) intellectuals. Similarly, it's very unclear whether he considers judges intellectuals.

    28 of 57 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adriana Manchester, CT, United States 09-19-10
    Adriana Manchester, CT, United States 09-19-10 Member Since 2017
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    "Silly me"

    Before I downloaded this book I read reviews from readers and thought they were biased. It should have been a clue that the only good reviews came from people that actually felt inspired to "look up words" as a result of this book.

    I wish I could say something good about it. Maybe, maybe, his analysis of the pre-war France has some redeeming value, but you can get that somewhere else without having to suffer through the rest of the book.

    The rest of the book is a long rant against 'the anointed," which would be all the leftist intellectuals that he does not agree with. He makes generalized assertions about what other people think and believe, why they believe it, without any supporting evidence. He talks at length about misinformation and evidence that is being ignored, forgetting to present much more than generalized ball-park statistics you'd get on Wikipedia. There was one instance of 'evidence' he presented in his book to show how the intellectuals misinform the public: he actually used national averages of crime rates to dismiss arguments based on local averages of crime rates. Hello, statistics 101: you can't do that! It's apples and oranges.

    Anyone with a college degree would be one of the anointed and very dangerous to all living things. Slavery, racism, domestic violence, the horrors of the Vietnam war (yes, he argues that the war should have been fought until victory was achieved, whatever that meant, and victory was possible - sound familiar?), poverty, all that are merely inventions of the anointed. They were not all that bad!

    It's rediculous that he does not even bother (probably because he has no clue) with the empirical branches of the disciplines he disparages. The validation of their theories do come from actual empirical evidence, which I wished the author knew how to interpret. I suppose theoretical physics and mathematics is similarly useless per his definition.

    22 of 45 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Chamblee, GA, United States 07-10-10
    John Chamblee, GA, United States 07-10-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Should Be Required Reading"

    Thomas Sowell is one of America's greatest thinkers and this book is a great achievement. Sowell makes the case that, throughout history, we have been led into disaster again and again by intellectuals who think that they know everything. Sowell makes the point that the smartest person in the world can know only a fraction of what there is to know about everything. Yet intellectuals believe that because of their ability to know one subject and their ability grasp basic concepts in others, combined with their "verbal virtuosity" (their ability to communicate in a glib manner better than those who really are experts about particular subjects), they should be able to tell the rest of us what to do. Sowell proves that, again and again, this approach has led to disaster after disaster. Sowell's observations are particularly apt in the age of the nanny state, when lifetime politicians in Washington -- with very little experience about anything in the real world -- are constantly forcing rules and policies down our throats. Although it is not a central theme for his book, Sowell really makes the case that "the government that governs least governs best." Anyone who would challenge Sowell's observations had better bring their "A game." This should be required reading for anyone who believes government knows best, or who would undertake to impose their views on others. We are living in very scary times, and this book illustrates in great detail why we all should be very afraid.

    9 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    More than disappointed 03-11-10 Member Since 2006
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    "Hidden agenda"

    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.

    16 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Boise, ID, USA 02-05-10
    Andrew Boise, ID, USA 02-05-10
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    "Couldn't finish"

    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".

    18 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Client Amazon Europe 06-04-11
    Client Amazon Europe 06-04-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Biased, dishonest"

    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.

    6 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    WILL LONE TREE, CO, United States 10-01-12
    WILL LONE TREE, CO, United States 10-01-12 Member Since 2017
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    "Very informative and eye opening."

    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.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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