Synopses & Reviews
This much revised and reorganized edition of Intellectuals and Society is more than half again larger than the first edition. Four new chapters have been added on intellectuals and race, including a chapter on race and intelligence.
These new chapters show the radically different views of race prevailing among the intelligentsia at the beginning of the twentieth century and at the end-- and yet how each of these opposite views of race had the same dogmatic quality and the same refusal to countenance differing opinions among their contemporaries, much less engage dissenting opinions in serious debate. Moreover, each of these very different views of race produced flourishes of rhetoric and travesties of logic, leading to dire social consequences, though of very different sorts in the two eras. Other additions to this edition include a critique of John Rawls' conception or justice and a re-examination of the so-called "trickle-down theory" behind "tax cuts for the rich." There are other revisions, from the preface to the final chapter, the latter being extensively rewritten to bring together and highlight the themes of the other chapters, and to make unmistakably clear what Intellectuals and Society is, and is not, seeking to do.
Sowell unravels the world of intellectuals in order to illustrate an important social phenomenon: how the thinkers of a society mold that society, leaving an impact on people in every walk of life, even if these thinkers are basically unknown to the world at large.
The influence of intellectuals is not only greater than in previous eras but also takes a very different form from that envisioned by those like Machiavelli and others who have wanted to directly influence rulers. It has not been by shaping the opinions or directing the actions of the holders of power that modern intellectuals have most influenced the course of events, but by shaping public opinion in ways that affect the actions of power holders in democratic societies, whether or not those power holders accept the general vision or the particular policies favored by intellectuals. Even government leaders with disdain or contempt for intellectuals have had to bend to the climate of opinion shaped by those intellectuals.
Intellectuals and Society not only examines the track record of intellectuals in the things they have advocated but also analyzes the incentives and constraints under which their views and visions have emerged. One of the most surprising aspects of this study is how often intellectuals have been proved not only wrong, but grossly and disastrously wrong in their prescriptions for the ills of society—and how little their views have changed in response to empirical evidence of the disasters entailed by those views.
How intellectuals as a class affect modern societies by shaping the climate of opinion in which official policies developon issues ranging from economics to law to war and peace
About the Author
Thomas Sowell has taught economics at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst, and other academic institutions, and his Basic Economics has been translated into six languages. He is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has published in both academic journals and in such popular media as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, and Fortune, and he writes a syndicated column that appears in newspapers across the country.