THE LAST INTELLECTUALS: American Culture in the Age of Academe by Russell Jacoby

THE LAST INTELLECTUALS: American Culture in the Age of Academe

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Why North America lost a generation of intellectuals, and where they're all hiding. Jacoby presents something of a Before and After picture. In the past, North America succeeded in generating clusters of outspoken cultural commentators who wrote for large segments of the educated population. Today, while the number of individuals capable of addressing an educated audience has probably increased, the willingness and means to do so have decreased. In the ""Before"" frame are figures such as Edmund Wilson, Lewis Mumford, and John Kenneth Galbraith; in the ""After"" shot are the thousands of highly specialized, mostly unread, and generally invisible academics addressing an increasingly diminishing circle of readership. What happened? Jacoby focuses on two main causes, both coming into play in the late 50's and early 60's and continuing through to the present: the absorption of the best and brightest into the groves of academe; and the inhospitality of modern cities to bohemian neighborhoods, forcing a breakdown and eventual dispersal of intellectual circles that depend heavily on close personal contacts. Though German intellectuals sometimes refer to the radical presence in academe as ""the long march through the institutions,"" Jacoby believes that the leftist who came of age in the 60's, and is now tucked away in a comfy tubby hole protected by tenure, lacks any meaningful audience, and has by and large been co-opted by the social structure he once sought to change. As with his past work (Social Amnesia, The Repression of Psychoanalysis), Jacoby unfortunately fails to sustain a convincing argument throughout, and the project ultimately flounders on overstatement and strained evidence.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1987
Publisher: Basic Books