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by Richard Hofstadter

Pub Date: May 20th, 1963
ISBN: 0394703170
Publisher: Knopf

Thanks to Columbia University's Richard Hofstadter we have at last a fresh, forceful, fluent look from "the nether end" at various aspects of anti-intellectualism in America, past and present, and although it is self-styled a fragmentary rather than a formal study, the work is far-ranging, artfully approached and filled with a spirited, sensibility, without pedantry or polemic. It presents both the historical and socio-psychological aspects of its theme, pinpointing the middle-and-low-brow responses via our go-getter economy, the common man's traditional resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind, and the cyclical ambivalence which seems always to have greeted the scholar or expert when venturing into a democratic culture. For although the Founding Fathers, were a worldly elite, starting with Jefferson, too-much-book-larnin' soon became a political black mark. The catalogue covers, among other things, the patrician "who can write" and Jackson "who can fight"; the uritan pieties of grass-roots evangelicalism; parochial prejudices and the old ioneer stock vs the mongrelized liberals; tough, tart Billy Sunday shouting "When the word of God says one thing and scholarship says another, scholarship can go to hell"; Darwinism, the Scopes trial and the revolt against modernity; the Gilded Age reformers dubbed "long haired men and short haired women"; the business man as ulture-hero and the anti-academician folklore of labor; mass education and utiliarian values with the resultant twin cults of alienation and conformity; the egg-head as scapegoat during McCarthyism; and finally the rapprochements between the intellectual and the public as reflected through the Progressive era, the New Deal and currently the Harvard crowd of the Kennedy administration.