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Book Title: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life|
The author of the book: Richard Hofstadter
ISBN 13: 9780394415352
Edition: Alfred A. Knopf
Date of issue: May 12th 1963
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 348 KB
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Anti-intellectualism in American Life is a 1963 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Richard Hofstadter. In this book, Hofstadter set out to trace the social movements that altered the role of intellect in American society from a virtue to a vice. In so doing, he explored questions regarding the purpose of education and whether the democratization of education altered that purpose and reshaped its form. In considering the historic tension between access to education and excellence in education, Hofstadter argued that both anti-intellectualism and utilitarianism were consequences, in part, of the democratization of knowledge. Moreover, he saw these themes as historically embedded in America's national fabric, an outcome of her colonial European and evangelical Protestant heritage. Anti-intellectualism and utilitarianism were functions of American cultural heritage, not necessarily of democracy.
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Read information about the authorRichard Hofstadter was an American public intellectual, historian and DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University. In the course of his career, Hofstadter became the “iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus” whom twenty-first century scholars continue consulting, because his intellectually engaging books and essays continue to illuminate contemporary history.
His most important works are Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860–1915 (1944); The American Political Tradition (1948); The Age of Reform (1955); Anti-intellectualism in American Life (1963), and the essays collected in The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964). He was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize: in 1956 for The Age of Reform, an unsentimental analysis of the populism movement in the 1890s and the progressive movement of the early 20th century; and in 1964 for the cultural history, Anti-intellectualism in American Life.
Richard Hofstadter was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1916 to a German American Lutheran mother and a Polish Jewish father, who died when he was ten. He attended the City Honors School, then studied philosophy and history at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1933, under the diplomatic historian Julius Pratt. As he matured, he culturally identified himself primarily as a Jew, rather than as a Protestant Christian, a stance that eventually may have cost him professorships at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley, because of the institutional antisemitism of the 1940s.
As a man of his time, Richard Hofstadter was a Communist, and a member of the Young Communist League at university, and later progressed to Communist Party membership. In 1936, he entered the doctoral program in history at Columbia University, where Merle Curti was demonstrating how to synthesize intellectual, social, and political history based upon secondary sources rather than primary-source archival research. In 1938, he joined the Communist Party of the USA, yet realistically qualified his action: “I join without enthusiasm, but with a sense of obligation.... My fundamental reason for joining is that I don’t like capitalism and want to get rid of it. I am tired of talking.... The party is making a very profound contribution to the radicalization of the American people.... I prefer to go along with it now.” In late 1939, he ended the Communist stage of his life, because of the Soviet–Nazi alliance. He remained anti-capitalist: “I hate capitalism and everything that goes with it.”
In 1942, he earned his doctorate in history and in 1944 published his dissertation Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860–1915, a pithy and commercially successful (200,000 copies) critique of late 19th century American capitalism and those who espoused its ruthless “dog-eat-dog” economic competition and justified themselves by invoking the doctrine of as Social Darwinism, identified with William Graham Sumner. Conservative critics, such as Irwin G. Wylie and Robert C. Bannister, however, disagree with this interpretation.
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