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Closing of the American Mind [Paperback]

Allan Bloom
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 1988
"The Closing of the American Mind, " a publishing phenomenon in hardcover, is now a paperback literary event. In this acclaimed number one national best-seller, one of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is essential to understanding America today. It has fired the imagination of a public ripe for change.

Product details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (1 April 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671657151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671657154
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 315,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Rich and absorbing. . . . A grand tour of the American mind."

--"The Washington Post Book World"

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I used to think that young Americans began whatever education they were to get at the age of eighteen, that their early lives were spiritually empty and that they arrived at the university clean slates unaware of their deeper selves and the world beyond their superficial experience. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Bloom begins with the problem of liberal education at the end of the 20th century - in a world where students are taught from childhood that "values" are relative and that tolerance is the first virtue, too many students arrive at college without knowing what it means to really believe in anything. They think they are open-minded but their minds are closed to the one thing that really matters: the possibility of absolute truth, of absolute right and wrong. In explaining where we are and how we got here, Bloom presents a devastating critique of modern American education and its students, an intellectual history of the United States and its unique foundation in Enlightenment philosophy, and an assesment of the project of liberal education.
Far from being just another critic of the latest postmodern fad or the ongoing excesses of academic relativism, Bloom has his eye on the ages - his subject is our place in history and our relationship to the canon of philosophy handed down to us over centuries. This book isn't about the last few decades of academic decline, it's about the last few centuries of philosophical upheaval and uncertainty.
Bloom's pessimism about the future prospects of liberal education (and Enlightenment liberalism generally) isn't entirely warranted, but then that's partially because so many of Bloom's readers have taken his warnings seriously and labored to reverse the academic trends he identified so clearly. If the light at the end of the tunnel is now dimly visible, in large part we have Bloom to thank for it.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Although a few years old, Bloom's _Closing of the American Mind_ is still a tour de force in assessing the state of American thought. Bloom contends that our society suffers from a neurotic open-ness to almost any opinion except the opinion that some positions have (innately) more merit than others. We are intolerant of the concepts of good and value in our thought life and in our spiritual world. Bloom recommends a rerurn (or progression, possibly) to a worldview that is at once more rigorous and ultimately more "open minded" in the truest sense.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By Aquinas
This book, written more than 20 years ago, remains extremely relevant for today. The basic thesis of the book is that what happened in the 60s to the cultural and educational landscape (particularly in the universities) and has since then gathered pace, has undermined the foundations of American civilisation (and I would add Western Civilisation). But what is the problem. For Bloom it is the ideology of relativism - where there were once share values and mores, the only thing now shared by all is that "there is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. But when there are no shared goals or visions of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?" Writing here from the UK, it is astonishing how successful the new ideology has been; thus here in the UK, all the major political parties (including the conservatives) buy into the ideology of the primacy of the individual's right to be whatever wants to be. Thus, all parties advance the most flaky notions of what the basic foundation stones of society are - the most obvious one is that the family has become well just whatever you want it to be, constituted by whoever, whether transient or permanent, who cares: lets call it family if the participants wish it to be so called. This is an excellent book and one wonders what additional barbs Bloom would have to make about the state of the culture more than 20 years. No doubt he would be as entertaining as ever.

What Bloom is really almost angry about is that the new relativism embracing an openness to all things inevitably leads to what the ancients called acidie - a kind of spiritual indifference to life or what Bloom refers to as listlessness or a deformity of the spirit.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Professor Bloom, in my opinion, generalizes a bit too much in describing the "modern" American student. One of those myself - a sophomore undergrad at the time of "Closings" publishing - I thought Bloom hit and miss when referring to the "average" American student.

However, he does an unbelievably good job in describing the ills in the "social sciences" and how we have arrived today at a place where graduate students study comic books and MTV is a weighty topic of intellectual speculation and where old masters like Aristotle are almost dissapeared (Does this reflect poorly on Aristotle or on ourselves?). For anyone who wonders at where we went wrong in the twentieth century, Bloom is like a breath of fresh air in the unwholesome swamp of the modern research university. Much of what I felt during years of instruction/indoctrination as a university student is plainly and eloquently laid out by Bloom - he seems to give voice to what was inchoate in my soul on this important issue.

It is not easy reading - even for the well educated. But nothing worth doing was ever easy, and if you want "fun" and "light" you can always open up a comic book again. On the other hand, if you really want to stretch your mind and engage certain "Big Questions" (whether you agree with Bloom or not), then read "The Closing of the American Mind."

It was the most important book I have read in years. Bloom may overstate his case at times, but there is the essential kernel of truth in what he says, in my opinion. Great intoduction also by Saul Bellows.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Completely changed the way I have looked at my schooling. Emancipating and refreshing. A healthy tonic to the trash of modern media and education. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Rumple
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
As the blurb says many times over this is a brilliant analysis of the state of the American Higher Education institutions. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Critic31
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly modern
Allan Bloom's thesis is that a University was historically a place where universal (hence the name) truths about human life were debated in the departments of humanities (hence the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Martin Ternouth
1.0 out of 5 stars A book that didn't start me up
Alan Bloom doesn't like Mick Jagger. He has a big problem with affirmative action. And he just can't understand why students no longer care about his idiosyncratic interpretations... Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2010 by Ashtar Command
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that hasn't aged
As any good book and despite treating the particular problems of a particular society at a given point in time, this book is still as illuminating as it was when was written. Read more
Published on 10 Sep 2010 by pedro brañas
4.0 out of 5 stars Arrived as expected
Ordered this book online, quality was perfectly as expected: used, but in good condition.

I'll order from here again...

Published on 21 April 2010 by Mr. J. D. White
2.0 out of 5 stars A demonstration of the neoconservative craft?
First - a confession: I have only read about two thirds of this book for reasons I will shortly make clear. Read more
Published on 20 Dec 2008 by G. J. Mcintyre
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dangers of Post Modernism
The theme of this book is about Post-Modernism, and its disastrous effects on modernity.

Post-modernism is essentially relativism, the strange belief that there are no... Read more
Published on 21 May 2007 by PJG
1.0 out of 5 stars How Not to..
This book is the disease for which it pretends to be the diagnosis (or even cure). Complaining of rampant anti-intellectualism and shabby reading skills, Bloom dismisses Foucault... Read more
Published on 10 April 2007 by Michael Morse
4.0 out of 5 stars The closing of the western mind
This book reflects a wider stagnation of intellect across the western world. It appears to be an anglo-saxon mental illness but it is more to do with wealth, prosperity and... Read more
Published on 31 July 2002 by clive
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