I hold Sowell in such high regard that I am loathe to criticize anything he has to say but I think the distinction must be underscored between the intellectual – of whom I consider Sowell to be one – the well credentialed idiot who is mistakenly called an intellectual [almost any “expert” appearing on national television will serve as a model] and the intelligentsia. This last category is a gelatinous blob of people who are recognized by their allegiance to the latest fad in thinking about everything, who have never had an original thought of their own and who, when forced to live by their wits – or worse yet by hard work, fail miserably and become the greatest burden a society can bear. The real problem they present is in demonstrating an ignorance so overwhelming that overcoming it is like fighting fog with hand grenades. This is a great and good book and we commend it to all except the intelligentsia whom it will only confuse.
Intellectuals and society New York : Basic Books, c 2009 Thomas Sowell Public opinion Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. ix, 398 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 319-376) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
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.