Intellectuals and Society

Front Cover
Basic Books, 2009 - Social Science - 398 pages
6 Reviews
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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - lisacronista - LibraryThing

This is the book that introduced me to mid-20th century history. I had no understanding of why the U.S. annexed Puerto Rico, why we jumped into WWI, why Europe appeased Hitler, or why it took us way ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - WhitmelB - LibraryThing

Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite writers and he does not disappoint this time. Intellectuals influence policy makers in powerful ways and yet bear no responsibility for the outcomes of their influence. They traffic in ideas but not action. Read full review

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About the author (2009)

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.

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