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Intellectuals and Society [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Sowell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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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Review

"Sowell is wryly persuasive in his discussion of the structural incentives that encourage ("intellectuals") to say `sweeping, reckless or even foolish things"... (he) intelligently demonstrates the way inferences can be skewed by varying interpretations of statistics."

--The Guardian, 24th April 2010

About the Author

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 US.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1070 KB
  • Print Length: 680 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (6 Mar. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0077BONEY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #278,763 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece 27 Mar. 2011
Format:Hardcover
In "Intellectuals and Society", Sowell analyzes the nature of intellectuals (a term clearly defined in the introduction of the book, Sowell generally uses the term to refer to people whose trade is the generation of ideas), their motivations and their influence on society. Sowell is very critical of the role of this particular class of people, and argues for their detrimental influence in a variety of fields, notably economics, the structure of society and war.

The intellectuals whom Sowell refers to are generally left-wing thinkers and politicians, and Sowell makes little attempt to hide his right-wing opinions, particularly noticeable in the chapter on economics, where he appears to show a level of faith in the ability of economic markets to regulate themselves that is somewhat surprising given that this book was in fact published after the onset of the current financial crisis.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that some, including myself, may find Sowells implicit political opinions somewhat rigid, his arguments for the detrimental effects of intellectuals are throughout the vast majority of the book very sound. He particularly points out that these intellectuals often show surprisingly bad track records in terms of empirical results, and that they fail to adjust their opinions accordingly. Amongst the examples given are pacifism and appeasement politics, market regulation, military deterrence, crime reduction et al.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking 16 July 2010
By Tayles
Format:Hardcover
For years I've often found myself at odds with the ideas espoused by journalists, commentators and public figures. These ideas are held to be the only respectable ones to hold among right-minded people, and yet they seemed to fly in the face of reason and experience; they appeared to be motivated more by a desire to appear good than to do good.

Many books I've read have touched on these ideas and pointed out their stupidity, but few have really burrowed inside the mind of those who propose them. Thomas Sowell's brilliant book does precisely that, and much more besides. He analyses the reasoning (or lack of) behind the views of liberal intellectuals, and explains their motivations and aims. More importantly, he exposes the liberal-left worldview as a pretext for creating in world in which they play a more influential role, and which allows them to showcase their moral, intellectual and emotional superiority.

Sowell's arguments, backed by detailed evidence and historical references, are so clear and convincing that all but the most blinkered leftist could fail to read it without reflecting on the ingenuous, self-serving and destructive nature of his beliefs.

Sadly, as Sowell points out, the liberal intelligentsia tend to dispense with facts and opinions that don't endorse their own version of how the world works, so they are unlikely to risk reading this book. If they do, it will be with a determination to ignore or refute everything Sowell has to say. However, for anyone with an interest in the mindset of those who presume to tell us how to live, this is essential reading.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual read for non-intellectuals 6 Jan. 2011
By Den
Format:Hardcover
For years now I have felt Like I was swimming against the tide of the intelligentsia or the intellectual elite, a club which seemed to me an invite only closed doors policy club where only the creme of the intellectual superiority wre allowed access; this book has shown me to be correct.

Exposing intellectuals both public and non for the hypocritical, wrong headed, fools that not only do not seek emoiric evidence but seem to enjoy going against the evidence, it seems that they gain more popularity the more they are wrong in the public eye.

These intellectuals can usually be found in the halls of academia, although admittedly not always, where they have a captive, rather than captivated, body of students in the lecture halls. They sneak out of their PhD's and attack various topics and ideas of which they have little to no knowledge. Some pass commentary on the state of the economy and the poor situation, having never picked up an economic textbook nor attended one class. Others such as Dawkins, no doubt brilliant in his field of Biology has never the less decided to write books on religion, documentaries on religion, of which he has very little knowledge and his research is extremely tardy when held against that of religious scholars!

I loved this book, not because it took intellectuals and shook them by the throat, but rather it showed me these intellectuals really aren't all that intellectual once we strip away the verbiage. It also showed me I can follow intellectual pursuits, my way, the right way, with solid research, empiric evidence to support my claims and to follow intellectualism as apassion for the truth, not a short cut to fame.

I would recommend this to anyone, except maybe an intellectual, I fear their inflated ego's could not bear the intellectual drubbing it will suffer!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid exposition on the insidious vanities of some intellectuals who...
A superb book. Lucid and engaging. Compassionate yet forthright in highlighting the vanities of the 'anointed ones' and the many great harms they have helped cause. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Occasional Thinker
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book by a great philosopher
Great book by a great philosopher. Dr. Sowell is the one of the two great philosophers of our time (the other, naturally, being Roger Scruton) and this book demonstrates his clear... Read more
Published 3 months ago by JMJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
ok
Published 5 months ago by Fred
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing writing skills
What can I say? Facts, amazing writing skills, and to the point, with references a plenty. Finest book tof prove just how bad the left is with running society, with their ego... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lior Dagan
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book
This book presents a credible explanation for much that has gone wrong in western society in recent decades. It does so without conspiracy theories or allegations of malice. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Steven Shone
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Factual
This is a very impressive book. The empiricism applied on every sentence does ring a bell to very well know facts. Read more
Published 16 months ago by claudiomsjunior
5.0 out of 5 stars Flight of the intellectuals
Nothing hurts "intellectuals" like the truth that is not cherished by themselves. And hardly anyone has done more than Thomas Sowell to reveal the final destination of the... Read more
Published on 20 Dec. 2012 by Per Harbo
1.0 out of 5 stars Glorification of Stupidity
On the very first page Mr Sowell reveals his agenda:

"Karl Marx's Capital was a classic example of an intellectually masterful elaboration of a fundamental... Read more
Published on 14 May 2011 by G. J. Mcintyre
4.0 out of 5 stars the epitome of a life's work
sowell is not 80 and this a perhaps going to be his last book. it contains little new research that cannot also be found in many of his other books and articles, and as such it is... Read more
Published on 2 Sept. 2010 by sanyata
4.0 out of 5 stars Those Who Work with Ideas Should Check Out Their Ideas and Stick to...
"Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'Look, He is there!' do not believe it. Read more
Published on 2 April 2010 by Donald Mitchell
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