As early summer approaches and my classes have come to an end, I have been debating on what to read. I contemplated Lionel Trilling’s Matthew Arnold, but then concluded it would be a bit much for an early summer read; it is a monster of a work. I will read it by the end of the summer, just not at the beginning. After talking to a friend about my struggles on what to read, I have concluded that I will revisit Richard Hofstadter and his Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. This work compliments my earlier reading of The Age of American Unreason, which I blogged about earlier.
Here is what Anti-Intellectualism in American Life is about:
In many ways, Anti-intellectualism in American Life was a commentary on the increasing influence of Protestant evangelicalism, political egalitarianism, and the rising cult of practicality as the new criteria for assessing the private and public worlds. Hofstadter accused religion, politics, and the public schools of fostering in common people a resentment and suspicion of intellect, of the life of the mind, and of those who devote their lives to it. He charged that local evangelical preachers and small town lawyers and businessmen masked their bias against intellect with the rhetoric of morality, democracy, utility, and practicality. Thus, as the twentieth century chipped away at village culture, it was regrettable though not surprising that common folk, made suspicious of urbanity and learning by community leaders, reacted with a “righteous” vengeance to change and those who celebrated it. However, though Hofstadter deplored the anti-intellectualism of village life, he sympathized with those whose way of life was being swept away by the rush of events in the latter half of the twentieth century. He noted the “patience and generosity” of the common American in the face of monumental change. He suggested that the animosity between intellectuals and the common people was not solely the fault of the commoner. He recognized that the life of the villager was at odds with the life of the mind. Where common folk lead hard, belabored lives, intellectuals lead more leisured ones — lives that involved extensive education and time to read, think, and write. Hofstadter also noted that intellectuals were often at odds with their fellow Americans, but perhaps more so with their democratic beliefs. (source for this)