Reddit Reddit reviews Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

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Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
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39 Reddit comments about Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:

u/__worldpeace · 100 pointsr/AskSocialScience

This is a great question that I have thought about a million times. I have actually spent a lot of time trying to find a book on it, but I have not come across one that is specifically about Sociology or Psychology.

I first started to think about this when I was getting my masters degree (in Sociology). Often times I was super excited to share the things I would learn with my family and friends, and how the things I was (and still am) learning are often in contradiction to the things I was told/learned growing up. For context, I'm a white girl who grew up in an upper-middle class politically conservative suburb in a large city with successful parents, and I was always given everything I wanted/needed. I considered myself a Christian and I told people that I was a republican (although I knew nothing about politics and was just identifying with my parents).

Then I started studying Soci and my entire perspective on the world changed. It opened my eyes and forced me to look beyond my tunnel vision of society. It was really hard at times to come to terms with things that I thought I already understood, especially social issues that I had never thought about before or issues that had always been presented to me in a one-sided, biased manner.

A good example of this is the trope of the Welfare Queen. I was told that poor people, esp. poor black people, were moochers and only wanted handouts because they were lazy and didn't want to get a job. Of course, I learned that the Welfare Queen (and welfare "fraud") is a myth that was promulgated by Ronald Regan in order to stigmatize people in poverty so that he could convince Americans that rolling back the social safety net was justified because it was only being used by poor black (read: undeserving) citizens. The truth is that most people on welfare do have jobs (i.e. the 'working poor'). Also, the welfare reforms of 1996 created a 5-year maximum lifetime cap on benefits so that welfare "cheaters" (which did not exist anywhere near the level that we're often told) were literally unable to collect benefits for life (also, contrary to popular opinion, women do not have more babies to get more benefits. In fact, if a woman has a child while receiving benefits, she and her family will be removed from the rolls). Welfare is probably one of the least understood/mischaracterized social issue in American society.

Science in general is often met with the sting of anti-intellectualism, which is part of the answer to your question. However, I think social science in particular gets it worse than the 'natural' sciences like Biology and Chemistry. I used to say that it was because people were generally more suspect of social sciences, but I think it's more than that. People like to dismiss facts about social issues that they don't agree with or have a different view on because it's much easier to disagree that we live in a post-racial society (we don't) than it is to disagree on the functions of bodily organs. People also tend to conflate their individual life experiences with overall reality (i.e. "well, i've never experienced [blank] so it must not be true or its exaggerated" or "well, I know someone who is [blank] but [blank] doesn't happen to them"). You get what I am saying here? Most people don't question or critically think about social norms or commonsense 'truths' because these 'truths' are so embedded in our milieu that its hard to imagine otherwise. So instead of thinking critically, people dismiss sociological knowledge as either "elitist" or "not real science" so that they can remain undisturbed in their own little worlds.

Once I saw a question on r/askreddit that asked what the slogan of your college major or job would be. I would say, "Sociology: reminding people of uncomfortable truths since 1838" or "Sociology: everything you were taught about society was a big lie" lol.

I'm sorry I can't find any literature for you, but I can recommend these instead:

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.

u/DonSoares · 71 pointsr/TrueReddit

Great read for those interested in a more historical look at the subject. Very well argued and interesting book, very eye opening in terms of the many different aspects of American society and how they developed over the last few hundred years.

u/AncientMarinade · 16 pointsr/politics

This is a consequence of many strands of American life dating back to the 1960s, but it has recently been embraced and furthered by the conservative backlash against public schools, environmentalism, 'liberal elites,' etc. It's so frustrating because in every other facet of life, you want someone who knows more than you to help you learn what they know; but somehow in politics those who know more than you are wrong and can't tell you want to do. It's insane-making

u/quantumcoffeemug · 11 pointsr/math

Anti-intellectualism has been a part of American culture from its foundation. Our culture has always prided itself on its practicality and industry, and derided intellect, basic research, and arts as irrelevant. Smart people are viewed as untrustworthy and arrogant, their expertise fundamentally anti-democratic. Or, as Asimov put it, in American culture "democracy means 'my ignorance is as good as your knowledge.'"

u/FormerDittoHead · 10 pointsr/EnoughTrumpSpam

How did we get here? Worth checking out if your library has a copy:

u/GraftonCountyGangsta · 9 pointsr/politics

This is frustrating. I agree with Maher on his point, but he really should have prepared himself to explain it. He just made a statement and didn't really bother to discuss it further... and in my opinion, that's probably part of the problem of American stupidity. Nobody has the patience to listen to further explanations or intellectual discussions.

I suggest to anyone interested in this topic to read Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. It was written in 1964, and won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction that year... but it is still extremely relevant today.

u/TillmanResearch · 9 pointsr/AskTrumpSupporters

Great questions. I don't think there's an easy or foolproof answer to them.

>should lay people who have zero expertise in a field trust such general academic consensuses as being broadly correct?

Broadly correct? I would think that's a solid way to look at things. I'm in agreement with you.

>Are there good reasons for non-experts to be skeptical about the scientific consensus on vaccines, climate change or evolution?

"Good" reasons? Eh........I'll give a few scattered thoughts here:

  • Some people are just going to be contrarians. I don't have any sources to link at the moment, but I think we've all encountered this at some point.
  • Other people, often those who feel they have been marginalized by society (ex. white people who watched their friends go to college but couldn't go themselves—I'm referring to my own mother in this case), have a deep longing for "secret knowledge" and the sense of power it brings. Michael Barkun's A Culture of Conspiracy gives one of the breakdowns of this phenomenon while Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American History (1966) shows that none of this is new. For people who usually possess traits we associate with intelligence (they are intensely curious and often willing to reading extensively) but who feel like they have been unfairly excluded from the centers of intellectual life, the idea that that everyone but them has it wrong is a bit intoxicating. Especially when a small groups of other marginalized people begin listening to them. I am not justifying this phenomenon—it probably shares some of the same social DNA as the incel movement—but I am trying to humanize it.
  • In addition to these two groups (contrarians and the intellectually marginalized), we might also add those people who have been turned off by the fervency and (please, don't throw anything at me) fundamentalist fanaticism of some popular science devotees. While 99% of modern people simply go about their days with a fairly healthy view of science and knowledge, we are all aware of the loud fringe who wants to paint anyone who disagrees with them as a "science denier" and launch social media crusades against them. Again, I'm trying to use a scalpel here and not a broad brush—it's the militant defenders of Scientism who have (like their religious counterparts) managed to turn some people off.
  • Then there are what I like to "gut thinkers." These often genuinely good and kind-hearted people often make decisions (like whether to vaccinated their kids or not) based on emotion rather than strict reason. For them, there is nothing in the world more important than their child and the idea of their child being harmed by something they chose to do terrifies them. While they might not ever realize it, they operate in a similar fashion to those people in the "Trolley Problem" who refuse to pull the lever and save some lives because then someone would be dying as a direct result of their action. These people often hear conflicting stories (vaccines are safe vs vaccines cause illnesses) and it troubles their gut to the point where, rather than sitting down to rationalize a solution, they avoid the issue or default to whatever option requires the least amount of direct action.
  • Lastly we might add those people who would otherwise accept scientific findings but who have one or two core beliefs or predispositions that can complicate things. For example, while we commonly label American fundamentalists as "anti-science," anyone working in that field knows from the work of the eminent George Marsden that they are rather ardently pro-Baconian science—meaning that they absolutely love empirical, directly observable science based on inductive reasoning. What they reject is deductive science and its long-range projections both forwards and backwards in time. I can say from experience that understanding this and acknowledging it in discussions with these people does wonders for the conversation and really disarms a lot of suspicion.
  • I don't know that there is a perfect solution here, but one possible approach would be to start affirming "folk culture" within modern society. I'm literally just tossing this one out here and I expected it to be a bit controversial, but maybe it will stimulate some discussion. In essence, we (as modern, scientific Westerners) usually don't find it problematic to acknowledge, accommodate, and affirm indigenous forms of knowledge. In fact, we often condemn those who try to "Westernize" others for being colonial or destroying culture. For those who belong to tribes or ethnic enclaves, practicing non-scientific forms of knowledge is seen as a good thing by most of the intellectual elites in the West. But for those born into Western society, there is little socially-acceptable opportunity to seek out and develop alternative forms of knowledge. Perhaps creating a safe social arena for such a "folk culture" to re-emerge could give these above groups a healthy and socially legitimate avenue for exploring and fulfilling some of their deep unmet needs without the subversiveness that presently undermines a lot of the good work that science is doing.
u/Henry_K_Faber · 9 pointsr/TopMindsOfReddit

Here are a couple of books that will get you on the right track:

The Reactionary Mind and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.

u/Parivill501 · 8 pointsr/politics

For anyone interested in a historical study of this, frankly, uniquely American problem I highly recommend Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter. It pretty dated now (1968 I believe) but he does a remarkable job going through American history and examining the relationship between the experts (not merely academics) and the "common people."

u/Tripplite · 7 pointsr/pics

This comment is also available in convenient book form.

u/njndirish · 6 pointsr/EnoughTrumpSpam

While I rarely shill, I recommend to all the people of /r/EnoughTrumpSpam to read Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by renowned historian Richard Hofstadter. It reminds you that this is not a new line of thought in America, but rather one that predates the establishment of the country.

u/GunboatDiplomats · 5 pointsr/videos

I'm seriously in love with her now.

Black or white, the distain for education, learning, and "professionalism" is deep seated in our country. This.

u/kanooker · 3 pointsr/Economics

If you watch Jersey shore then it's probably still for fags. It's been around far longer then mass media though. Check out

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

u/fourcrew · 3 pointsr/askphilosophy

I don't think this is exclusively an American phenomenon. However you may be onto something given how anti-intellectual American discourse can be and how averse Americans seem to be towards disciplines that they don't see as practical. A whole conversation on American anti-intellectualism seems to be what you're looking for.

u/PerNihilAdNihil · 3 pointsr/books

it's not 'taking over'

anti-intellectualism has been a 'thing' in mrrka for many years

hell, this pulitzer-prize winning book dealt with this very issue in the 1960s

u/pizzashill · 3 pointsr/politics

>> Charter schools yes, creationism no. The GOP have the means, through the Common Core, to completely dismantle the public K12 system and likely will. Pushing creationism means another Scopes Trial which Republicans don't want, as it would force the SCOTUS to decide on the science and the GOP aren't gamblers.

Lol, you realize this is already happening, right?

Look at Texas.

>> States openly suggesting armed secession and moving to arm their own militaries to fight the Federal government. Y'know, like last time.

That's not all it requires, threating to disband NATO, not honor NATO, default on our debt stuff like that can easily make us unstable.

>> But neither are "anti-intellectual", as intellectualism is not inherently tied to schools as they are libraries or the Internet. Books matter more than tenured professors, and books the GOP cannot regulate per the First Amendment.

By anti-intellectualism I mean the disdain rural people have for anyone with an education, they run attack ads on people for going to college out there.

This country has a long history of this, good book on it:

u/wermbo · 2 pointsr/education
u/x2601 · 2 pointsr/politics

> the alarming rise of Anti-Intellectualism

We've been dealing with it for a while in the US

u/fatedplace · 1 pointr/religion

With "anti-intellectualism" I'm referring specifically to the work of R. Hofstadter. See ("Anti-Intellectualism in American Life)[Anti-Intellectualism in American Life]. He argues this is a widespread, particularly American approach to knowledge. In that sense, he'd probably agree wth your assessment of leadership but suggest that you've over-read the power of leaders to convince their followers of their beliefs. That's why charismatic cult leaders are notable, right? Not just anyone can pull it off, and not just anyone is susceptible. But the mindset of Americans has been, for a long time, not really been seriously on the issue of thinking for thinking's sake. If Hofstadter is to be believed, it's downright discouraged. The question as an American is not "what do you think" but "what do you believe?" Different stuff right?

u/Aytenlol · 1 pointr/AskReddit

Yes I agree. People interested in this topic might want to read this book. It was written in 1966, but many of the things it says are still true today.

u/TreeFan · 1 pointr/AskReddit

For those too lazy to check themselves, here are some of the best books on the subject that this thread deals with:

This guy saw it starting long ago...
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life - Richard Hofstadter:

another (old) book by the same guy, equally prophetic:
The Paranoid Style in American Politics:

The Age of American Unreason - Susan Jacoby:

Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and The Triumph of Ignorance - Alexander Zaitchik:

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free - Charles P. Pierce:

u/klaproth · 1 pointr/politics

I'm afraid it's nothing new, though I'd agree it's getting worse over time. I recently read this book, "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life", which won a Pulitzer in 1964. Worth a read if you're interested in the subject.

u/CarrionComfort · 1 pointr/AskAnAmerican

This has been written about, even as far back as 1966. I imagine it has only gotten worse.

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

u/perogne · 1 pointr/noveltranslations

It's interesting how exposure influences perception of language. I found that word as a young child because I read books for teenagers, I think it was in a British novel from a few decades ago. Maybe CS Lewis, Narnia and such. It would've been from that generation and it had to be fiction.

On the one hand you've got someone that thinks it sounds derogatory and the other hand I think that sounds a bit silly. But it's down to experience and familiarity. Relative stuff. It doesn't make them dumb, it merely displays their thought process.

Yesterday I found someone that thought something was being falsely wordy and just throwing a thesaurus at a paragraph. It was actually a very specific and efficient description of a programming library and the environment/data it was designed for. It made sense to me apart from some terms relating to neural networks, it didn't even use many complex words, but he just thought it was someone being disingenuous.

That perception issue is a large driving force behind anti-intellectualism. Perceiving intelligent or complicated things as negative, bad, or of ill intent/purpose. Through the right light even this comment could find issue with someone due to the verbosity in the midst of the thread. But it's just late and I blab when I'm tired!

If you find perception at all interesting in this context I highly recommend the classic 'Anti-intellectualism in American Life' (wikipedia, Amazon) for an observation of political and social thought up to the 1950s. A really novel bit of nonfiction. Today the idea is still alive and well, but you may know of it now from mainstream media as a "Cult of Ignorance".

I'd like to also CYA because /u/CAPS_IS_LOCKED is definitely not related to that. It was just tangentially related to the initial view of something. I don't want people thinking I think this is actually about them!

u/jacklandenw · 1 pointr/books

Here's an excellent read on anti-intellectualism in America.

u/bookbindr · 1 pointr/politics

Added this to my Amazon reading list.

u/IniNew · 1 pointr/technology

He just described America in general. Intellectualism is frowned upon in every facet of life save for other intellectuals.

u/JoeBourgeois · 1 pointr/AskReddit

I don't think he/she's speaking in social terms (or I hope not).

The classic treatment of this issue is Hofstadter, but it badly needs an update.

u/josefjohann · 1 pointr/technology

Classical liberalism isn't the only ism concerned with evidence and reasoning, but since it's apparently one of the reference points you happen to be familiar with you're just assuming that must be what I mean. Instead, I'm talking about the kind of modern liberalism described books such as Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson. You seem to be talking about the caricature of modern liberalism typically advanced by the likes of Jonah Goldberg which tends to be laughed out of the room by serious historians.

Modern liberalism is what we got with Roosevelt's reimagining of the role and purpose of government in managing civil society as he dealt with the after effects of the Great Depression and a World War, and the post Roosevelt task of establishing the post-world War II order. In Roosevelt's time liberal democracies were in competition with ascendant autocratic and authoritarian regimes around the world, and there was very much a sentiment among public intellectuals that democracy might not be able to compete with these other forms of governance. This liberalism uses institutions to effectively deal with large-scale demographic and economic trends, effectively support integrate technology into the modern world, and carefully manage international norms.

All of which requires careful, nuanced engagement with empirical realities and academic research, and requires fostering an environment respectful of the rule of law. And you can see expressions of this liberalism in the post-world War II order we helped establish in democracies in Western Europe, often cited as ideals by liberals that we should move toward. In short, it's a bit more nuanced than regulation loving terrorist sympathizers.

Meanwhile, during the same time conservative Democrats in the South were happy to make common cause with Roosevelt because New Deal programs meant the transfer of resources from wealthy Northeastern states to the South, which is fine with them so long as it could be executed in a way that didn't interfere with the prevailing racial order, which is why states rights was such a point of emphasis. Any federal administration of programs brought with it the possibility of sharing economic opportunities not just with poor white people but also poor black people. Once it became clear that the Democratic party was aligning itself with the civil rights movement, conservatives rebelled and embraced the Republican Party and gradually rolled back the New Deal and crushed the labor movement, allowing a constantly evolving structure of business and industry groups to become the animating forces of politics, especially on the Republican side.

The various forces of racial identity politics and business interests consolidated over a gradual process that spanned decades and culminated in the election of Reagan and the emergence of anti-intellectualism. The business-friendly nature of the party has made conservatives disdainful of research showing the hazards of smoking, and later dismissive of empirical research about the dangers of climate change or the truth of evolution.

And conservative leaders whipped up the passions of their base by stirring up animosity toward immigrants, foreigners, poor people who aren't white (eg welfare queens), and playing up fears for political advantage during the Cold War and War on Terror. The obsession with security, fear of some sort of apocalypse or world war or terrorist attack always on the verge of happening has indicated a desire for strong leaders, a strong sense of tribal patriotism, and a worship of strength and especially military leaders. Or authoritarian tough guy leaders in general such as Trump.

In a superficial sense it's true that anyone of any ideology could hypothetically be sympathetic toward authoritarianism. But it also ignores the facts on the ground about the dominant political passions that animate the two ideologies in the United States at the moment, which clearly indicate a strong desire for authoritarianism on the side of conservatives which simply isn't matched even remotely on the liberal side.

Further reading:

u/SentientTorus · -1 pointsr/todayilearned

>Seeing as how a bunch of people are putting forth the effort to COMMENT on the (ir)relevance of your links,

You mean like 3?

>I kinda think they're willing to make the effort to also downvote you.

Alright, 3 downvotes explained. Would you like to conjecture on the remainder?

I mean, it's not complex. Reddit is basically just a small sampling of America at this point, and America has a long, proud tradition of being staunchly anti-intellectual (fun book on the subject, if you're curious). Combine that with a thread title that is likely to invite viewing by the precise people I am disparaging, and bingo-dingo we have an explanation. It's nothing to sweat over.