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Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible. Alternately, self-described intellectuals who are alleged to fail to adhere to strict standards of rigorous scholarship may be described as anti-intellectuals.
In public discourse, anti-intellectuals usually perceive and publicly present themselves as champions of the common folk – populists against political elitism and academic elitism – proposing that the educated are a social class detached from the everyday concerns of the majority, and that they dominate political discourse and higher education.
As a political adjective, anti-intellectual variously describes an education system emphasising minimal academic accomplishment, and a government who formulate public policy without the advice of academics and their scholarship. Because "anti-intellectual" can be a pejorative, defining specific cases of anti-intellectualism can be troublesome; one can object to specific facets of intellectualism or the application thereof without being dismissive of intellectual pursuits in general. Moreover, allegations of anti-intellectualism can constitute an appeal to authority or an appeal to ridicule that attempt to discredit an opponent rather than specifically addressing his or her arguments.
Anti-intellectualism usually is expressed through declarations of Otherness – the intellectual is –not one of us– and may be dangerous, due to having little empathy for the common folk. Historically, this resulted in portrayals of intellectuals as an arrogant class, whom rural communities viewed as –city slickers– indifferent to country ways; such communities tended to stereotype intellectuals as foreigners or as racial and ethnic minorities who –think differently– than the natives. Religious critics describe intellectuals as prone to mental instability, proposing an organic, causal connection between genius and madness; they are unlike regular people because of their assumed atheism, and are indecent given their sexual mores, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, or celibacy.
Economist Thomas Sowell argues for distinctions between unreasonable and reasonable wariness of intellectuals. Defining intellectuals as "people whose occupations deal primarily with ideas" as distinct from those who apply ideas practically, Sowell argues that there can be good cause for distrust of intellectuals. When working in their fields of expertise, intellectuals have increased knowledge. However, when compared to other careers, Sowell suggests intellectuals have few disincentives for speaking outside their expertise, and are less likely to face the consequences of their errors. For example, a physician is judged by effective treatment, yet might face malpractice lawsuits if he harms a patient. In contrast, a university professor with tenure is less likely to be judged by the effectiveness of his ideas and less likely to face repercussions for his errors:
Similar arguments have been made by others. Historian Paul Johnson argued that a close examination of 20th century history reveals that intellectuals have championed innumerable disastrous public policies, writing, "beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice." Journalist Tom Wolfe described an intellectual as "a person knowledgable in one field who speaks out only in others."
In Classical antiquity (ca. 8th c. BC–AD 600) and in the Modern era (ca. 1500), religion tended to anti-intellectual sentiment – usually among fundamentalists who perceived doctrinal contradictions allowing too much freedom. Yet, said sentiment was not universal, e.g. Judaism–s scholarly and theologic traditions, and the Western university system evolved from religious schools. Moreover, medival and modern philosophers – Thomas Aquinas, Ren Descartes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant – considered themselves religious without contradicting their intellectualism; see the Conflict Thesis for further discussion of religious anti-intellectualism.
When doctrine stipulates definitive statements about natural and human history to be the provenance of sacred texts, and other matters of faith, intellectuals usually propose that such claims be substantiated via external scholarship. Therefore, a claim about the authenticity of the medival Shroud of Turin (ca. 1260–1390) being a religious artefact from antiquity could be scientifically tested; and a theodicy could be logically examined for consistency – although the results might provoke intellectual and existential doubt either confirming or negating the faith of the believers. Furthermore, when bohemianism, avant-gardism, and romanticism became integral to the fine arts, religious anti-intellectuals perceived them as amoral, if not immoral – and demanded their censorship.[improper synthesis?] Historically, this remains thematically common to the socio-cultural trends in the Americas and in Europe, since the Protestant Reformation (1517).
Dictators, and their dictatorship supporters, use anti-intellectualism to gain popular support, by accusing intellectuals of being a socially detached, politically-dangerous class who question the extant social norms, who dissent from established opinion, and who reject nationalism, hence they are unpatriotic, and thus subversive of the nation. Violent anti-intellectualism is common to the rise and rule of authoritarian political movements, such as Italian Fascism, Stalinism in Russia, Nazism in Germany, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and Iranian theocracy.
In the 20th century, intellectuals were systematically demoted or expelled from the power structures, and, occasionally, assassinated. In Argentina in 1966, the economic liberal military dictatorship of Juan Carlos Ongana intervened and dislodged many faculties, leading to a massive brain drain in an event which was called The Night of the Long Police Batons. The biochemist Csar Milstein reports that when the military usurped Argentine government, they declared: –our country would be put in order, as soon as all the intellectuals who were meddling in the region were expelled–. In Brazil, the educator Paulo Freire was banished for being ignorant, according to the organizers of the coup d– tat of the moment.
Extreme ideological dictatorships, such as the Khmer Rouge regime in Kampuchea (1975–79), killed potential opponents with more than elementary education. In achieving their Year Zero social engineering of Cambodia, they assassinated anyone suspected of –involvement in free-market activities–. The suspected Cambodian populace included professionals and almost every educated man and woman, city-dwellers, and people with connections to foreign governments. Doctrinally, the Maoist Khmer Rouge designated the farmers as the true proletariat, as the true representatives of the working class, hence the anti-intellectual purge. (cf. Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966–76)
Governmental anti-intellectualism ranges from closing public libraries and public schools, to segregating intellectuals in an Ivory Tower ghetto, to official declarations that intellectuals tend to mental illness, thus facilitating psychiatric imprisonment, then scapegoating to divert popular discontent from the dictatorship (vide the USSR and Fascist Italy, cf. Antonio Gramsci).
Moreover, anti-intellectualism is neither always violent, nor oppressive, because most any social group can exercise contempt for intellect, intellectualism, and education. To wit, the Uruguayan writer Jorge Majfud said that –this contempt, that arises, from a power installed in the social institutions, and from the inferiority complex of its actors, is not a property of –underdeveloped– countries. In fact, it is always the critical intellectuals, writers, or artists who head the top-ten lists of –The Most Stupid of the Stupid– in the country.– 
Politics – When orthodox democratic politics fail, populism flourishes in the left-wing, the centre, and the right-wing of a nation–s political spectrum – each variety emphasising the virtues of the uncorrupt, unsophisticated –salt of the earth– folk against professional politicians and their intellectual helpers, public intellectuals, academics, think tanks.
In 19th-century Imperial Russia (1721–1917), the Narodniks believed that via the mir (peasant commune), Russia would avoid capitalism, and directly progress to socialism. In mid-20th century Argentina, the working class supported the corporatism of Peronism, but when its economic policies failed, he, as The Leader, failed, hence Peronism failed. In the US, liberal and conservative populisms demanded social change and the suppression of social change, e.g. the Progressive Party (1924–46) of Sen. Robert M. La Follette, Sr. (1906–25), and the sponsors of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (1947–57), each as a US Senator from Wisconsin.
Most forms of populism portray intellectuals as elitists possessed of rhetorical skills with which they deceive the common folk. In the US, former president George W. Bush (2001–09) used populism to regain support for his government; the Washington Post newspaper story –The President as Average Joe: Trying to Boost Support, Bush Brings Banter to the People– (2 April 2006), reported that: – "As he takes to the road to salvage his presidency, Bush is letting down his guard and playing up his anti-intellectual, regular-guy image. Where he spent last year  in rehearsed forums with select supporters, these days he is more frequently throwing aside the script and opening himself to questions from audiences that are not prescreened. These sessions have put a sometimes playful, sometimes awkward side back on display after years of trying to keep it under control to appear more presidential." 
Education – Populism also asserts that academic knowledge must be controlled, by –the people–, because educators must work within the politics of the interested parties, such as the government, nationally, and with parents– groups, regionally, in establishing the content of the school curriculum. In the US, the common populist action is religiously-supported education politics to introduce Protestant Christian religious interpretations of national history and natural science to school curricula – especially Creationism, or variant pseudosciences, such as Scientific Creationism and Intelligent Design, as factually-equal counters to evolution. (see: Discovery Institute)
Government Policy - In the USSR, in 1948, the Stalinist Central Committee officially imposed the Soviet (national) science of Lysenkoism upon agriculture. A concept developed by Agronomist Trofim Lysenko, Lysenkoism was promoted as the realization of Communist ideology: raised by farming parents and with limited formal education, he was lionized as the creator of innovative crop-growing methods based on the outdated concept of Lamarckian inheritance. Soviet government suppressed non-Lysenkoist biology, including the dismissal and assassination of scientists such as Nikolai Vavilov. Ultimately, Lysenkoism yielded poor agricultural results for the USSR. Moreover, because Lysenkoism was more political than scientific, its fortunes waxed and waned amid Russian Communist Party politics, ending as an officially discredited pseudoscience upon the fall of Nikita Krushchev, in 1964.
Education is often associated with charges of anti-intellectualism from a variety of critics who disagree over the meaning, goals and curricula of public education. Historically, such intellectual disagreements have manifested as Kulturkampf in Bismarck–s Germany and Culture Wars in the contemporary US.
In the 2004 New York Times newspaper article –When Every Child is Good Enough–, John Tierney reported that conservative parents believe that US primary and secondary schools over-emphasize equality of outcome to the detriment of their children's– individual (unequal) achievements. A literary example of that contention is the science fiction short story –Harrison Bergeron– (1961), by Kurt Vonnegut, wherein the government–s Handicapper General imposes equality upon the eponymous hero, lest his existence – as the smartest, handsomest, most athletic boy in the world – hurt the feelings of the mediocre popular majority, (viz. the over-simplification, the dumbing down, of curricula).
In the English-speaking world, especially in the US, critics like David Horowitz (viz. the David Horowitz Freedom Center), William Bennett, an ex-US secretary of education, and public intellectual Patrick Buchanan, criticize schools and universities as 'intellectualist' based on three sets of criteria:
In his book The Campus Wars about the widespread student protests of the late 1960s, philosopher John Searle wrote:
In 1972, sociologist Stanislav Andreski warned readers of academic works to be wary of appeals to authority when academics make questionable claims, writing, –do not be impressed by the imprint of a famous publishing house or the volume of an author–s publications. [–] Remember that the publishers want to keep the printing presses busy and do not object to nonsense if it can be sold.–
Critics have alleged that much of the prevailing philosophy in American academia (i.e., postmodernism, poststructuralism, relativism) are anti-intellectual: –The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is -- second only to American political campaigns -- the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.–
In the notorious Sokal Hoax of the 1990s, physicist Alan Sokal submitted a deliberately preposterous paper to Duke University's Social Texts journal to test if, as he later wrote, a leading "culture studies" periodical would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions." Social Texts published the paper, seemingly without noting any of the paper's abundant mathematical and scientific errors, leading Sokal to declare that "my little experiment demonstrate[s], at the very least, that some fashionable sectors of the American academic Left have been getting intellectually lazy."
In a 1995 interview, social critic Camille Paglia described academics (including herself) as "a parasitic class," arguing that during widespread social disruption "the only thing holding this culture together will be masculine men of the working class. The cultural elite--women and men--will be pleading for the plumbers and the construction workers."
Critics have suggested that contemporary youth culture is a commercial form of anti-intellectualism orienting adherents to consumerism. The Frontline public affairs television series documentary The Merchants of Cool(2001) describes how the advertising business transformed adolescents– language, thought, and action (cliques, fashion, fads) into commodities, and thus engendered a generation of intellectually disengaged Americans uninterested in progressing to adulthood.
The US youth subculture originated from the post – Second World War economic prosperity allowing adolescents to work and have a discretionary income – whilst still dependent upon parents. In turn, scholars argue that the newfound economic power of adolescents allowed business to sell them popularity – an identity as a young person – something that once was not for sale, but self-created; to wit, the British blog writer Paul Graham likened youth culture to an occupation permitting little time for education and intellectual interests.
In The Powring Out of the Seven Vials (1642), the Puritan John Cotton wrote that –the more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee. . . . Take off the fond doting . . . upon the learning of the Jesuites, and the glorie of the Episcopacy, and the brave estates of the Prelates. I say bee not deceived by these pompes, empty shewes, and faire representations of goodly condition before the eyes of flesh and blood, bee not taken with the applause of these persons.–  Not every Puritan concurred with Cotton's contempt for secular education; some founded universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth.
Economist Thomas Sowell argues that American anti-intellectualism can be traced to the early Colonial era, and that wariness of the educated upper-classes is understandable given that America was built, in large part, by people fleeing persecution and brutality at the hands of the educated upper classes. Additionally, rather few intellectuals possessed the practical hands-on skills required to survive in the New World, leading to a deeply-rooted suspicion of those who may appear to specialize in "verbal virtuosity" rather than tangible, measurable products or services:
In the history of American anti-intellectualism, modern scholars suggest that 19th century popular culture is important, because, when most of the populace lived a rural life of manual labour and agricultural work, a –bookish– education, concerned with the Grco-Roman classics, was perceived as of impractical value, ergo unprofitable – yet Americans, generally, were literate and read Shakespeare for pleasure – thus, the ideal "American" man was technically skilled and successful in his trade, ergo a productive member of society. Culturally, the ideal American was a self-made man whose knowledge derived from life-experience, not an intellectual man, whose knowledge derived from books, formal education, and academic study; thus, in The New Purchase, or Seven and a Half Years in the Far West (1843), the Reverend Bayard R. Hall, A.M., said about frontier Indiana:
–We always preferred an ignorant bad man to a talented one, and, hence, attempts were usually made to ruin the moral character of a smart candidate; since, unhappily, smartness and wickedness were supposed to be generally coupled, and [like-wise] incompetence and goodness."
Yet, the egghead–s worldly redemption was possible if he embraced mainstream mores; thus, in the fiction of O. Henry, a character noted that once an East Coast university graduate –gets over– his intellectual vanity – no longer thinks himself better than others – he makes just as good a cowboy as any other young man, despite his counterpart being the slow-witted naf of good heart, a pop culture stereotype from stage shows.
Charges of anti-intellectualism have been made against a variety of movements and schools of thought.
Anti-war protests – The 1960s–70s anti-war movement protesting the ten-year US–Vietnam War (1963–1973), not revealed in The Pentagon Papers (1971), manifested its pro-intellectualism against US defense secretary Robert McNamara, whose business school intellectualism manifested itself in that war–s published body counts, a feature of attrition warfare, a military strategy applied when conquest is infeasible. Marxist intellectual Theodor Adorno criticised such left-wing anti-intellectualism as "actionism" – philosophically-baseless action for its own sake, meant to effect people and animals in politically changing areas of the planet.
Cultural – American leftist anti-intellectualism allowed non-conformist students to romanticize the poor people of Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, as an ideal wherein illiteracy was freedom from the suburban conformism of post–Second World War US society.
Feminist – In Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture (2001), the Canadian religious studies academics Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young propose that "ideological feminism" – akin to the gender feminism, a term proposed by critic Christina Hoff Summers – is "profoundly anti-intellectual" due to its blanket rejection of information that contradicts its precepts.
Political – The writer Robert Warshow proposed that the Communist Party of the USA was central to US intellectual life during the 1930s:
A contemporary philosophic descendant of Warshow is David Horowitz, an ex-Marxist advocating an –academic freedom– movement, via the David Horowitz Freedom Center (1988), proposing that identity politics and left-wing academics indoctrinate university students with anti-Americanism.
Public intellectuals, such as linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky, argue that the news media uses low-quality intellectual content as a form of "bread and circuses" spectacle in service to commerce (viewers ratings) promoting Establishment perspectives with manufactured consent. Moreover, in the US presidential election of 2000, the mass communications media, especially television comedians, portrayed the Democratic Party candidate Al Gore as a boring –brainiac– (a portmanteau word of brain + maniac) who spoke in a monotone about abstruse facts and figures incomprehensible to hoi polloi. Gore's reported claim to –have invented the Internet–  was especially ridiculed by anti-intellectuals, thus stereotypically portraying him as an intellectual detached from the common folk.
Like-wise, conservative political commentators, such as Ann Coulter (an attorney), Bill O–Reilly (MA, public administration), and radio personality Rush Limbaugh, argue that the news media betray left-wing intellectual snobbery when they portray right-wing politicians, such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin, as illiterate incompetents. In particular, O–Reilly, a Harvard Adult School alumnus, is known for hostility towards the East Coast –liberal Ivy League elites–.[by whom?]
In the Roman Republic (509–27 BC), the public career of the statesman Cato the Elder displayed traits that some modern observers argue would be considered anti-intellectual in the contemporary world. He vehemently opposed the introduction of Greek culture to the Roman republic, believing them subversive of traditional Roman military values and plain-spokenness. In 186 BC, he convinced the Senate to decree against the Bacchanalia, then a recently imported mystery religion, they agreed with him via the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus. He urged the deportation of three Athenian philosophers, Carneades, Diogenes the Stoic, and Critolaus, in Rome as Athenian ambassadors, because he believed their opinions dangerous to the Republic.
In the first decade after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks suspected the Tsarist intelligentsia as potentially traitorous of the proletariat, thus, the initial Soviet government comprised men and women without much formal education. Lenin derided the old intelligentsia with the expression (roughly translated): –We ain–t completed no academies– (ñ ñ»). Moreover, the deposed propertied classes were termed Lishentsy (–the disenfranchised–), whose children were excluded from education; eventually, some 200 Tsarist intellectuals were deported to Germany on Philosophers' ships in 1922; others were deported to Latvia and to Turkey in 1923.
During the revolutionary period, the pragmatic Bolsheviks employed –bourgeois experts– to manage the economy, industry, and agriculture, and so learn from them. After the Russian Civil War (1917–23), to achieve Socialism, the USSR (1922–91) emphasised literacy and education in service to modernising the country via an educated working class intelligentsia, rather than an Ivory Tower intelligentsia. During the 1930s and the 1950s, Stalin replaced Lenin–s intelligentsia with a Communist intelligentsia, loyal to him and with a specifically Soviet world view, thereby producing the most egregious examples of Soviet anti-intellectualism – the pseudoscientific theories of Lysenkoism and Japhetic theory, most damaging to biology and linguistics in that country, by subordinating science to a fundamentalist interpretation of Marxism.
The idealist philosopher Giovanni Gentile established the intellectual basis of Fascist ideology with the autoctisi (self-realisation) via concrete thinking that distinguished between the good (active) intellectual and the bad (passive) intellectual:
|–||Fascism combats . . . not intelligence, but intellectualism . . . which is . . . a sickness of the intellect . . . not a consequence of its abuse, because the intellect cannot be used too much . . . it derives from the false belief that one can segregate oneself from life. . . .||–|
– Giovanni Gentile, addressing a Congress of Fascist Culture, Bologna, 30 March 1925
To counter the –passive intellectual– who used his or her intellect abstractly, and therefore was –decadent–, he proposed the –concrete thinking– of the active intellectual who applied intellect as praxis – a –Man of Action–, like Fascist Benito Mussolini, versus the decadent Communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci. The passive intellectual stagnates intellect by objectifying ideas, thus establishing them as objects – hence the Fascist rejection of logic – because it relies upon a priori and a posteriori facts that hold principles (external to the matter-in-hand) as considerable in effecting an action or not.
In the praxis of Gentile's concrete thinking criteria, such consideration of the a priori constitutes impractical, decadent intellectualism. Moreover, this fascist philosophy occurred parallel to Actual Idealism, his philosophic system; he opposed intellectualism for its being disconnected from the active intelligence that gets things done, i.e. thought is killed when its constituent parts are labelled, and thus rendered as discrete entities.
Related to this, is the confrontation between the Spanish franquist General, Mill¡n Astray, and the writer Miguel de Unamuno during the Dia de la Raza celebration at the University of Salamanca, in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. The General exclaimed: –¡Muera la inteligencia! –¡Viva la Muerte! ("Death to intelligence! Long live death!"); the Falangists applauded. Sensing personal danger, the franquist writer Jos Mara Pem¡n, modified the anti-intellectual proclamation with: –¡Non! –¡Viva la inteligencia! –¡Mueran los malos intelectuales! ("No! Long live intelligence! Death to the bad intellectuals!").
Imperial China – The Tao Te Ching (ca. 6th c. BC) advises emperors to keep their subjects occupied and content with a –full belly and an empty mind–, and that for a people, –ignorance is better than knowledge–. Qin Shi Huang (246–21 BC), the first Emperor of unified China, consolidated political thought, and power, by suppressing freedom of speech at the suggestion of Chancellor Li Ssu, who justified such anti-intellectualism by accusing the intelligentsia of falsely praising the emperor, and of dissenting through libel. From 213 to 206 BC, the works of the Hundred Schools of Thought were incinerated, especially the Shi Jing (Classic of Poetry, ca. 1000 BC) and the Shujing (Classic of History, ca. 6th c. BC). The exceptions were books by Qin historians, and books of Legalism, an early type of totalitarianism – and the Chancellor–s philosophic school, (see the Burning of books and burying of scholars).
People–s Republic of China – The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a politically-violent decade (1966–76) of wide-ranging social engineering of the People–s Republic of China by its leader Chairman Mao. After several national policy failures, Mao, to regain public prestige and control of the Communist Party of China (CCP), on 16 May, announced that the Party and Chinese society were permeated with liberal bourgeois elements who meant to restore capitalism to China, and that said people could only be removed with post–Revolutionary class struggle. To that effect, China–s youth nationally organised into Red Guards, paramilitaries hunting the liberal bourgeois elements subverting the CCP and Chinese society. The Red Guards acted nationally, purging the country, the military, urban workers, and the leaders of the CCP, until there remained no one politically dangerous to Mao. Three years later, in 1969, Mao declared the Cultural Revolution ended; yet the political intrigues continued until 1976, concluding with the arrests of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, the de facto end of the Cultural Revolution.
When the Communist Party of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge (1951–81), established their regime as Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1979) in Cambodia, their anti-intellectualism idealised the country and demonised the cities to establish agrarian socialism, thus, they emptied cities to purge the Khmer nation of every traitor, enemy of the state, and intellectual, often symbolised by eyeglasses. (see the Killing Fields)
The Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic regime established in 1979, effected its anti-intellectualism by replacing secular law with religion, thereby provoking the brain drain-emigration of most of Iran–s Western-educated and -trained intelligentsia. In 1980, the government closed the country–s universities until the curricula were –purified– of the Pahlavi Dynasty (1925–1979) corruption. The assassination of the poet Sad Soltanpour, in 1981, was the theocracy–s most notorious anti-intellectual suppression; and secular education remained proscribed until 1982.
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