Intellectuals and Society

Intellectuals and Society

Book - 2009
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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.
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, c2009
ISBN: 9780465019489
Branch Call Number: 305.55 Sowell
Characteristics: ix, 398 p. ; 25 cm


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EuSei Feb 25, 2013

(This has been censored and I never even got an email notification of the censoring.) Dr. Sowell (not taken out of context that is) explains that: “When both special knowledge and mundane knowledge are encompassed within the concept of knowledge, it is doubtful the most knowledgeable person on earth has even 1 percent of the total knowledge on earth, or even 1 percent of the consequential knowledge in a given society.” The “99 percent” quote (again, in context) is: “For broader social decision-making, however, experts are no substitute for systemic processes which engage innumerous factors on which no given individual can possibly be an expert and engage the 99 percent of consequential knowledge.” There is no claim anywhere that he possesses the whole of knowledge. In the real context, Dr. Sowell was referring to Einstein theory of relativity when he wrote: “Not only were other physicists skeptical, Einstein himself urged that his theories not be accepted until they could be verified empirically.” Interestingly—and unlike Liberal authors—Dr. Sowell’s book got a scathingly raging, negative “Description,” that also comes without the author’s signature… Very unbecoming of a public library, yet tells a lot of librarians’ beliefs! So, and although Dr. Sowell does not have (nor claim) to have the monopoly on knowledge, I’d rather not rely upon a couple of examples (taken out of context); I’d rather read the whole book, analyze his conclusions and decide for myself, than agree with the vagaries of disgruntled individuals. (Originally posted on 2/11/13)

arborhill Feb 13, 2013

I spent many years in library collection development. The reviewing journals and other resources used to choose materials are heavily weighted to the Left, as is the entire profession. The reviewing media act as a filter to keep out (or in this case, poison the well) opposing views. Because this is the very air librarians breathe, they rarely view themselves as biased arbiters.

This aspect of librarian culture reminds me of liberal film critic Pauline Kael's historic remark after Nixon's 1972 election landslide, "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them."

tripkennedy Mar 13, 2012

Libertarian screed; pure sophistry. One example should suffice. He expalins his point of vies as being "claims of truth should be objectively tested and verified." He then offers the interesting notion (pg. 15) " is doubtful whether the most knowledgeable person on earth has even ... one percent of the consequential knowledge in a given society." Throughout the book (pg. 24, and numerous other places), he rests further arguments on the fact that "... 99 percent of consequential knowledge (is) scattered in fragments among the population at large...." The objective proof that "99 percent of consequential knowledge (is) scattered...." is nowhere to be found.


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