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The Age of American Unreason

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The Age of American Unreason Cover

ISBN13: 9780375423741
ISBN10: 0375423745
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a new American cultural phenomenon--one that is at odds with our heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern, secular knowledge and science. With mordant wit, she surveys an anti-rationalist landscape extending from pop culture to a pseudo-intellectual universe of "junk thought." Disdain for logic and evidence defines a pervasive malaise fostered by the mass media, triumphalist religious fundamentalism, mediocre public education, a dearth of fair-minded public intellectuals on the right and the left, and, above all, a lazy and credulous public.

Jacoby offers an unsparing indictment of the American addiction to infotainment--from television to the Web--and cites this toxic dependency as the major element distinguishing our current age of unreason from earlier outbreaks of American anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism. With reading on the decline and scientific and historical illiteracy on the rise, an increasingly ignorant public square is dominated by debased media-driven language and received opinion.

At this critical political juncture, nothing could be more important than recognizing the "overarching crisis of memory and knowledge" described in this impassioned, tough-minded book, which challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what the flights from reason has cost us as individuals and as a nation.

Review:

"Inspired by Richard Hofstadter's trenchant 1963 cultural analysis Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism) has produced an engaging, updated and meticulously thought-out continuation of her academic idol's research. Dismayed by the average U.S. citizen's political and social apathy and the overall 'crisis of memory and knowledge involving everything about the way we learn and think,' Jacoby passionately argues that the nation's current cult of unreason has deadly and destructive consequences (the war in Iraq, for one) and traces the seeds of current anti-intellectualism (and its partner in crime, antirationalism) back to post-WWII society. Unafraid of pointing fingers, she singles out mass media and the resurgence of fundamentalist religion as the primary 'vectors' of anti-intellectualism, while also having harsh words for pseudoscientists. Through historical research, Jacoby breaks down popular beliefs that the 1950s were a cultural wasteland and the 1960s were solely a breeding ground for liberals. Though sometimes partial to inflated prose ('America's endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been grievously exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism'), Jacoby has assembled an erudite mix of personal anecdotes, cultural history and social commentary to decry America's retreat into 'junk thought.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

About the Author

Susan Jacoby is the author of seven previous books, most recently Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, which was named a Notable Book of 2004 by The Washington Post Book World and The Times Literary Supplement. She lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

lisa_emily, June 12, 2008 (view all comments by lisa_emily)
Jacoby was inspired, or rather compelled to write this book after hearing a conversation on 9/11/2001- according to The New York Times (2/14/2008), it went something like this: “This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said. The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?” “That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied. At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

After reading this article and few more reviews, and after seeing Ms Jacoby give a book reading in San Francisco, I became inspired to read it. I mostly wanted to see how if I was as ignorant and uninformed as the rest of America; and I also have a deep curiosity to understand the strange history of America's intellectuals.

After reading this, I am curious to see how Jacoby's book departs or expands upon Richard Hofstadter's book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I think Jacoby does present some of the challenges Americans face in issues of education and critical thinking. Religious fundamentalism and video media are the main culprits to intellectual downfall, according to Jacoby, and I agree. However, I am more concerned of how Americans lost a respect and desire for knowledge and rational understanding. We had a trajectory for such values, but what happened? Where do we fall to the wayside? Jacoby's book excellently diagrams how we have gone awry and what are culprits, but I perhaps I wanted to dig a little deeper into the murk.
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aeduston, May 4, 2008 (view all comments by aeduston)
A great, literary and eye-opening look at American education, popular culture and politics. Critical and fascinating - one of my best reads in years!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375423741
Author:
Jacoby, Susan
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
Mass media
Subject:
Popular Culture
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
History & Surveys - General
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Popular Culture - General
Subject:
Media Studies
Subject:
National characteristics, american
Subject:
Popular culture -- United States.
Subject:
US History-General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20080212
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9.43x6.56x1.29 in. 1.59 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » US History » General

The Age of American Unreason Used Hardcover
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Product details 384 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780375423741 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Inspired by Richard Hofstadter's trenchant 1963 cultural analysis Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism) has produced an engaging, updated and meticulously thought-out continuation of her academic idol's research. Dismayed by the average U.S. citizen's political and social apathy and the overall 'crisis of memory and knowledge involving everything about the way we learn and think,' Jacoby passionately argues that the nation's current cult of unreason has deadly and destructive consequences (the war in Iraq, for one) and traces the seeds of current anti-intellectualism (and its partner in crime, antirationalism) back to post-WWII society. Unafraid of pointing fingers, she singles out mass media and the resurgence of fundamentalist religion as the primary 'vectors' of anti-intellectualism, while also having harsh words for pseudoscientists. Through historical research, Jacoby breaks down popular beliefs that the 1950s were a cultural wasteland and the 1960s were solely a breeding ground for liberals. Though sometimes partial to inflated prose ('America's endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been grievously exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism'), Jacoby has assembled an erudite mix of personal anecdotes, cultural history and social commentary to decry America's retreat into 'junk thought.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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