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Bleg: Suggestions Wanted For Anti-Intellectualism Research

November 14, 2016

I request your suggestions in answering a question related to my research. I’m looking for new lines of thought. The inquiry:

In your estimation, what are the signal events and figures in anti-intellectualism, broadly conceived, by decade in U.S. history?

I realize this involves a certain amount of perception and judgment in terms of politics and culture, hence this request. On those perceptions, for example, one could cite the following from the 20th century:

– McCarthyism in the 1950s
– Countercultural antics in the 1960s
– Various popular culture fads in the 1970s and 1980s (i.e. TV shows and films)
– Certain popular televangelists from the 1970s to the present
– Climate change denial in the 1990s
– The antivaccination movement in the 2000s
– The elevation of simplicity and the common man in politics (e.g. Bush 43)
– The notion of “low-information voters” in the 2000s

Please do feel free to make suggestions regarding the 1800s and 1700s. – TL

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4 Comments
  1. Chris Schaefer permalink

    If we’re talking about earlier American history, the first things that come to mind are inter-religious conflicts.

    Both of the Great Awakenings were anti-intellectual in the sense that they involved a repudiation of more established Christian practice. A move away from ritual, ceremony, and hierarchy implicitly means moving away from the Ivy League educated ministers and the authority that came with their education.

    Then in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, there was a similar rejection of scholars’ findings in favor of personal experience and the reading of the Bible.

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    • Thanks Chris! These things are covered in Hofstadter’s classic on the topic, but most likely need some updating, of course.

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  2. Joe Lanning permalink

    Tim, you mention McCarthyism, but would you consider the attacks on academics during the late 19th/early 20th century anti-intellectual as well? Those early firings and tenure denial that led to the formation of the AAUP, I mean. Distrust of outspoken leftist academics, universities controlling hiring practices over faculties, wealthy donors influencing academic pursuits/publications, and even religious criteria for applicants…

    I’m flipping through Novick’s That Noble Dream, pages 63-72.

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    • Joe: Thanks for the comment. On your question, yes. Those attacks matter (esp. Stanford). And thanks for the reminder about Novick’s contribution to this narrative. – TL

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