Anti-intellectualism in American Life

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Anti-Intellectualism in American life
First edition
AuthorRichard Hofstadter
CountryUnited States
Publication date
AwardsPulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction (1964)

Anti-intellectualism in American Life is a book by Richard Hofstadter published in 1963 that won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.[1][2]


In this book, Hofstadter set out to trace the social movements that altered the role of intellect in American society.[3] In so doing, he explored questions regarding the purpose of education and whether the democratization of education altered that purpose and reshaped its form.[4]


In considering the historic tension between access to education and excellence in education, Hofstadter argued that both anti-intellectualism and utilitarianism were consequences, in part, of the democratization of knowledge. Moreover, he saw these themes as historically embedded in America's national fabric, resulting from its colonial European and evangelical Protestant heritage. He contended that evangelical American Protestantism's anti-intellectual tradition valued the spirit over intellectual rigor.[5]


Hofstadter described anti-intellectualism as “resentment of the life of the mind, and those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition to constantly minimize the value of that life.”[6]

Also, he described the term as a view that "intellectuals...are pretentious, conceited... and snobbish; and very likely immoral, dangerous, and subversive ... The plain sense of the common man is an altogether adequate substitute for, if not actually much superior to, formal knowledge and expertise."[7]


  1. ^ De Simone, Deborah M. "The Consequences of Democratizing Knowledge: Reconsidering Richard Hofstadter and the History of Education Archived 2019-07-29 at the Wayback Machine." The History Teacher. Vol. 34, No. 3 (May 2001).
  2. ^ Lemann, Nicholas. "The Tea Party is timeless Archived 2016-12-31 at the Wayback Machine." Columbia Journalism Review Online edition: September 2, 2014. — This story was published in the September/October 2014 issue of CJR with the headline, "The American way."
  3. ^ "Richard Hofstadter: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Uncollected Essays 1956-1965 | Library of America". Archived from the original on 2020-08-11. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  4. ^ Masciotra, David (May 30, 2020). "Anti-intellectualism is back — because it never went away. And it has killed 100,000 Americans". Salon. Archived from the original on August 18, 2020. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  5. ^ Shields, Jon A. (2009-02-02). The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right. ISBN 978-1400830107.
  6. ^ Masciotra, David (12 July 2017). "Richard Hofstadter and America's New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 13 August 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  7. ^ Merkley, Eric (19 March 2020). "Many Americans deeply distrust experts. So will they ignore the warnings about coronavirus?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.

External links[edit]