CBR10Bingo for Award Winner – 1964 Pulitzer for General Non-Fiction
This is a strange kind of book. It’s part popular history and part political critique. It takes the question of “anti-intellectualism,” whether this means an espousal of non-intellectual or anti-intellectual beliefs and actions, broad trends in anti or non-intellectual moments and looks for causes and consequences. He defines intellectual as someone who puts an emphasis on thinking and a “life of the mind” into practice, whether in professional or personal life. So not just someone who is intelligent, as someone who is intelligent might not be particularly intellectual nor does he mean someone who is proficient either, for the same reasons. Instead, it’s the specific application of intellect (thinking, and thinking about thinking) into one’s personal life, say by the reading and writing about serious literature, or someone who applies intellect into one’s profession. So for example, a scientist might very well be a very good scientist without being an intellectual, but someone like Carl Sagan would be an intellectual.
Anyway, he then traces specific movements of either intellectuals or anti-intellectuals along specific historical moments or movements in American history. He jumps around quite a bit, but discusses the Puritans (as being a pro-intellectual society) dealing with more anti-rationalists like Anne Hutchinson or Thomas Jefferson (an intellectual) versus the anti-intellectual elements. And of course he lands on McCarthyism.
The book is best when it’s specific in its dissection of the hows and why, but worst when it tends to privilege one group over another. His lauding of Kennedy’s cabinet for example just simply does not hold up when the Vietnam War enters into the picture after the book’s publication. In addition, it includes a long section at the end analyze education theory and education practice and it’s hard to sort out what is and isn’t happening anymore.