A paper read at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held in New York, December 29, 1954. Published in the American Historical Review 60, no. 2 (Feb., 1955): 259–282

Intellectuals and Other People

More than a century ago Emerson called the scholar “the man of the ages.” But the scholar, Emerson went on, “must also, wish with other men to stand well with his contemporaries. … In this country the emphasis in conversation and of public opinion commends the practical man; and the solid portion of the community is named with significant respect in every circle.” He added that the American people take a low view of “ideologies” and regard ideas as “subversive of social order and comfort.”1 Both Europeans and Americans echoed this judgment. Certainly the scholar in America has traditionally held a lower place in common esteem than in Europe, even if a witty dean was guilty of exaggeration in remarking that in the Old World an ordinary mortal on seeing a professor tipped his hat while in America he tapped his head. In Emerson’s day professors and their fellow intellectuals had not come to be regarded as a special group; they were not then, nor have they ever come to be, looked up to, rewarded, and honored as in Europe.2

But Emerson saw only one side of the picture. At the very time that he ventured his opinion the lecture platform on which he earned his bread was receiving a good deal of popular support. Humble farmers and villagers were digging into their pockets to keep open the academies and colleges that enabled scholars to live and to train more of their kind. Popularly chosen governments were broadening the domain of knowledge through geological surveys, the Smithsonian Institution’s program, the exploring expeditions at home and overseas, and the publication of historical documents. The people were also extending and improving their schools. Such activities did not, of course, necessarily imply respect for ideas and thinkers. Parents then as now often wanted education for their children for reasons of social prestige and personal advancement or as an aid to earning a living. Still, since the man of ideas is found only where education is available, it is well to remind ourselves and those elsewhere who would understand us, that from the early years of the Republic education has enjoyed increasing support. In the last half century no country has promoted and applied so much knowledge so widely and so fast as the United States.3

This affirmative attitude toward knowledge was a treasured part of our intellectual heritage. In Europe our ancestors had absorbed the classical teaching that knowledge is virtue. They had been exposed to the doctrine, so clearly stated by Francis Bacon, that knowledge is power. And the Enlightenment brought to our shores a belief that was well suited to our needs and that was broadened in its application here—the belief that popular education is necessary both for social improvement and for self-government. Americans made much of the assumption that the average man is educable, and that, properly informed, he can make rational judgments on matters of public interest. In this connection it is worth noting that some cultural anthropologists include among American values “faith in the rational.”4

That Americans have had faith in the rational, but at the same time have tended to be suspicious of the life of reason, is a paradox that invites examination, and I shall keep it in mind in discussing the intellectual and other people. When Emerson used the word scholar he probably had in mind those now commonly referred to as intellectuals.5 This word was not much used in America before the opening decade of the twentieth century. At first the socialists used it to mean brainworkers in general.6 But nonsocialists also were soon referring to creative writers, literary critics, and journalists as intellectuals.7 The term thus came to include all of these, as well as scholars, who are dedicated to the pursuit of truth in some special field or to the advancement of learning in general. It is in this inclusive sense that I shall use the term intellectual. When I speak of anti-intellectualism I shall have in mind, unless I specify otherwise, suspicion of, opposition to, or derogation of intellectuals. Except in passing I shall not deal with intellectuals in other countries. I shall speak only of some of the problems of American intellectuals amidst the unease of the world today. Intellectuals need to ask the reasons for the lack of appreciation of their peculiar contributions. They might also examine their own attitudes toward the people as thinking citizens, and toward themselves.

A consideration of the historical bases of the American distrust of intellectuals takes us naturally to the Old World. Men of knowledge have apparently been disliked even in cultures in which their status was well defined. The Proverbs of Ptah-hotep, written about 2500 B.C., imply that such dislike existed in ancient Egypt, for the admonition is clearly set forth, “Be not arrogant because of thy knowledge, and be not puffed up for that thou art a learned man.”8 Plato’s Republic devotes many pages to an analysis of “the ill-will which the multitude bear to philosophy.” Many centuries later, only a few months before the Susan Constant lifted anchor in the Thames to found Jamestown, there appeared in London a notable book by a statesman and philosopher who expressed concern over the widespread indignities that learning suffered. These were all due, Francis Bacon believed, to one or another form of ignorance, appearing “sometimes in the zeal and jealousy of divines, sometimes in the severity and arrogance of politiques, and sometimes in the errors and imperfections of learned men themselves.”9 These attitudes toward learning migrated to American shores along with the Baconian confidence in man’s ability to manipulate nature for his own advantage.10

Bacon’s words remind us that factors associated with religion are an important source of popular suspicion of intellectuals. In the first place, some of the clergy themselves, as intellectuals, have throughout much of our history invited misunderstanding and even suspicion. In colonial America as in Europe the learned clergy were often so learned that ordinary people could not understand them and found them painfully dull. But the frequent failure of the pulpit to take into account the need of the rank and file for emotional religion was even more important in explaining popular distrust of the learning associated with the cloth.

The Great Awakening was the first widespread revolt of feeling against the intellect. In proclaiming the hostility of learning to faith, evangelists often cited the Bible. Hearers were reminded that the desire of Adam and Eve for knowledge had laid their children under a curse. The implication was that there is a vast unknown which man cannot and should not try to understand. Similar complaints about the learned clergy were heard in evangelical circles throughout much of the nineteenth century. Circuit riders both expressed and confirmed popular suspicion of learning. In the early 1820’s an Indiana backwoods preacher declared “thare’s some folks … howsomever, what thinks preachers must be high larn’d, afore they kin tell sinners as how they must be saved or be ‘tarnally lost; but it ain’t so I allow … no, no! this apostul of ourn what spoke the text, never rubbed his back agin a collige, nor toted about no sheepskins—no, never! … Oh worldlins! how you’d a perished in your sins if the fust preachrs had a stay’d till they got sheepskins.”11

There was also a feeling among many clergymen that scholarship somehow threatens religion. Even Jonathan Edwards, himself a profound scholar, took the colleges to task for failing to inculcate piety.12 The persistence of such a view is seen in the sustained effort of the nineteenth-century academic orators to refute the charge that learning and religion are at necessary odds. No note is more often struck than this in the hundreds of commencement orations and other academic addresses that I have had the somewhat doubtful pleasure of reading.13

The conflict between religion and learning was given special focus in the later warfare between theology and Darwinian science. The war continued into the twentieth century, as the anti-evolutionist laws sponsored by the fundamentalists demonstrated. Some of us recall how the high priest of fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, delighted his audiences when he declared, “If we have come to the stage at which we must decide between geology and Christianity, I think it is better to know the Rock of Ages than the age of rocks.” In any case, the Great Commoner added, “They cant make a monkey out of me.”14

There is no way of measuring the role of evangelical fundamentalism in shaping popular distrust of intellectuals. Fundamentalism still influences the attitudes of large numbers of Americans. Among the better educated who hold to more liberal tenets, and even among the best educated, there are varying degrees of hostility toward, and fear of, those intellectuals who “make a God of science.”15 But in view of the secularization of American culture, religion is probably no longer a major source of anti-intellectualism.

More important than religion in shaping popular anti-intellectualism are those aspects of American experience which have given to our culture a predominantly utilitarian cast. This utilitarianism is a natural reflection of our frontier experience. It is also what one would expect in a culture dominated to the extent that ours is by business enterprise.

The indifference to or suspicion of learning in the older sections of the country was heightened in the West.16 Most frontiersmen were content with whatever learning was clearly needed—a little “jografy,” the three R’s, and a dash of “surveyin.” One could cite endless examples of the scorn of specialized knowledge and of culture in pioneer areas. The whole folk tradition of frontier America disparaged learning and teaching and glorified such culture heroes as Mike Fink, Daniel Boone, and Paul Bunyan.17 It is not hard to understand the assumption that book learning is a worthless frill, altogether meaningless in the main job of building up the country. The intellectual represents specialization and reflection; the frontier cherished versatility and action.18

These frontier traits also characterized business, which likewise put a premium on getting things done, on quick and clear-cut decisions. Merchants and entrepreneurs had little patience with the tentativeness of the scholar or with the theoretical approach of the social critic. In this American businessmen were heirs of the Elizabethan middle-class zeal for the utilitarian test of knowledge. But in America business exerted even more influence than in the homeland. For, except in limited circles, Americans generally regarded business as respectable. There was no entrenched landed gentry to look down on trade. Given over to an almost unchecked utilitarianism, the rising business community saw little to applaud in traditional learning. The culture hero of our business civilization was the self-made man, a man of action, not one of trained intellect.19 Well might Emerson hold that property, by which he chiefly meant commerce and business, was a great deterrent to the realization of intellectual values.20

In the mid-nineteenth century Caleb S. Henry, who shared some of the interests of the Concord sage, wrote a thinly veiled satire on the self-made businessman’s disparagement of academic and literary culture. We are introduced to McCheese, the provision dealer, who started out barely able to write his name, who made his money, and who turned up his nose in contempt at the suggestion that he give his gold to make scholars—he had got along famously without schooling. We meet among others Quintus Squeeley, self-made editor, politician, and philanthropist, who praised common schools for the people while he denounced universities as pampering the pride of the rich and grinding the faces of the poor toiling farmers and sweating wage-earners. “Look at me,” he shouted. “No college made me. I made myself.”21 But it is not necessary to rely on satires. Collis P. Huntington’s feeling about intellectuals was common among the business leaders of his day. In explaining why young men should not go to college, the shrewd railway magnate spoke of the college as a wall “with good honest labor on one side and frivolous gentility on the other.” The implication was that he himself belonged on the side with “good honest labor.”22 How else indeed was his famous fortune made?

If countless Americans grumbled at much that the businessman did, the rank and file have come pretty much to accept his general outlook, including distrust of “impractical” knowledge. One trace of this distrust is the once common notion that culture is a woman’s affair, an idea related to the earlier impact of both business and the frontier. It is true that women helped plant the seeds of culture in the West and that they long supported it in the growing cities when their men paid little heed to it. After all, most school teachers, as time went on, were women, and the intellectual seemed, in terms of the lingering prestige of brawn, to be only half a man.23 Here is the key to the appeal of such comic strips as “Bringing up Father.” You recall Mrs. Jiggs dragging the old man off to lectures and concerts when he much preferred his poker and his pipe.24 Such attitudes also help explain many jokes about women’s clubs and about professors, as well as Hollywood’s condescension toward the academic man.

American respect for business, and the businessman’s inadequate appreciation of the intellectual, have by tradition been pretty generally taken for granted. One historian has gone so far as to say that whenever business sits in the driver’s seat, as it did in the 1920’s and as it does today, the distrust of the intellectual is both epidemic and dominant.25 Morris Cohen contended that “the same attitude which makes American business heap its main rewards on the promoter and salesman, rather than on the actual producer, makes the American public ignore intellectually productive minds in comparison with popularizers and administrators.”26

Such judgments have been questioned of late. Even businessmen who themselves belittled colleges often sent their sons to them, whether for social advantage or for other reasons. Moreover, since Carnegie’s time, there has been some shift in business attitudes toward the life of the mind.27 Industry and finance have increasingly supported not only practical education but the liberal arts and even basic research. To be sure, the interest in the latter reflected a utilitarian motive. And despite all the current talk about the desire for recruits of broad culture,28 the older utilitarianism still operates. It still reinforces the popular misunderstanding and distrust of intellectuals.

In view of the utilitarianism associated with the frontier and with American business, it is not hard to see why the intellectual has from the first occupied a less important place here, and a less honored one, than in Europe. Yet one might have expected that in the young Republic the scholar would be widely respected, since during the revolt against England learned men were leaders and since the ringing words of the Declaration were those of a scholar. Jefferson did indeed give the democratic movement an intellectual base that promised to reduce tension between intellectuals and nonintellectuals. Many assumed that the freedom of thought and expression which he favored and which the Constitution guaranteed would create an atmosphere favorable to the emergence of bold and original thinkers, and also breed a citizenry educated enough in the ways and needs of a democratic society to value the contributions of men of intellect and learning. But one could hardly expect ordinary citizens of that time to see that democracy was a dream, a grand reality as a dream, but one that could be realized in practice only partially and gradually, through the generations.

Thus it was that some of Jefferson’s followers bitterly resented the learning of the well-born and the well-to-do, which they linked with the privileges of class. This point is a highly important one and might be illustrated by countless examples. The case of the Massachusetts farmer, William Manning, is representative. This untutored democrat told off gentlemen for holding back cheap schools from the so-called “swinish multitude” in order that their own sons might learn in costly colleges how to live without work and to outwit the lowly poor.29 Thus, though their elected President was a scholar, suspicion of scholars was widespread among the people.

Democracy in its Jacksonian phase showed strikingly the contrast between theory and practice. Old Hickory as a matter of fact attracted able intellectuals to his camp, and these in turn got handsome rewards.30 One of them, George Bancroft, worked out the theory of the new movement, which left little place for intellectual experts. Democracy, he held, is the collective sense of the people, the necessary check on the insights of the individual. “If reason is a universal faculty,” wrote Bancroft in 1838, “the universal decision is the nearest criterion of truth.”31 Or, some years later: “The many are wiser than the few; the multitude than the philosopher; the race than the individual. …”32

At about the same time Tocqueville, who did not share Bancroft’s enthusiasm for democracy, made explicit some of its underlying assumptions. The French aristocrat pointed out that in a country where men live on an equal footing and where no one notes any signs of incontestable superiority in anyone else, it is natural for all men to be constantly “brought back to their own reason as the most obvious and proximate source of truth.” In denying that which they cannot understand, Tocqueville went on, the mass reveal a distrust of complex ideas and of those dedicated to their exposition.33

The new democracy’s political leaders bowed to the dogma that the people are the source of all reason. Precedents for a trained personnel in public service went by the board. The democratic faith further held that no special group might mediate between the common man and the truth, even though trained competence might make the difference between life and death. The licensing of physicians is a case in point. Western states, where the equalitarian distrust of experts knew almost no limits, so lowered professional standards that any Tom, Dick, or Harry could hang out his shingle and sell his pills.34 According to Daniel Drake, a Cincinnati physician and historian, the unscrupulous pseudo-doctor could in posing as “one of the people” accuse trained medical men of being “arrayed against the people” and bent on killing them off.35 In Trempealeau County on Wisconsin’s frontier a farmer’s lad was transformed into a doctor within a few short months. In the same community a practitioner who was hospitably welcomed turned out to be a complete fraud. He had even stolen his surgical instruments!36

It was natural for politicians to exploit the people’s distrust of the man of knowledge. Sometimes this exploitation was innocent enough.37 But politicians also sharply attacked their opponents as intellectuals, dishonest or dangerous or both—and attacks by sarcasm and innuendo were sometimes more deadly than straightforward thrusts. Jefferson’s foes in New England, including men of learning, denounced him as an atheistic theorist who had drunk too much at the trough of the French Revolution.38 Federalists generally held that the “delusions of democracy” could not be resisted by reason alone. Some urged the burning of such books as The Age of Reason in a “perpetual and vestal fire.” The Alien and Sedition Acts were to save the country by forcing it into an intellectual strait jacket. Harrison Gray Otis even wanted to invoke the Sedition Act against the Masonic Order.39

But the champions of law and order had no patent on demagogic appeals to popular suspicion of ideas and learning. The “severity and arrogance” of politicians, to use Bacon’s phrase again, was clearly shown in the congressional debates over the Smithsonian bequest to the federal government for the advancement and diffusion of learning. Jackson men appealed to mass prejudice when they jeered at the intellectual pretensions of the Whigs who wanted to use the fund for scholarship and research rather than for the application of knowledge at hand to the everyday problems of farmers and artisans.40

In our time exploitation by demagogues of popular prejudices against theory and specialized knowledge seems to have come chiefly from those opposing social and economic change. Popular distrust of new ideas was well illustrated when the Brain Trusters were damned as long-haired professors who in talking too much brought chaos into economics.41 A few years later, in 1942, anti-New Dealers attacked the Library of Congress. Representative Van Zandt brushed aside the evidence of its notable contributions to the war effort by declaring that if the Library needed to know about the Burma theater it could “ask the doughboys who will come back from that part of the world in a few years.” One congressman in voting against another wartime program of the Library admitted that he just distrusted the scholarly poet who headed the institution.42 In referring to the episode MacLeish noted with some feeling that only two newspapers had upheld the government’s most important agency of knowledge.43

When one considers such evidences of lack of faith in men of ideas among the common people, and thinks of the caliber of the demagogues elected to and retained in office by the people, it is natural to wonder whether the average man is educable, whether in fact he can be “properly informed.” One asks whether unreasonable suspicion of the intellectual is not inevitable in a democratic society.

The consideration of another factor in popular anti-intellectualism may help answer the question. Intellectuals have been blamed by their fellows as well as by ordinary people for being indifferent or hostile to the struggles of the common man for a greater measure of social justice. At about the very time that Horace Greeley made this point in an address in 1844 at Hamilton College,44 a Virginian speaking to Princeton alumni regretfully conceded that learned men as a body had never been distinguished among the Hampdens, the Sidneys, and the Patrick Henrys of mankind.45 After the Civil War the indictment of intellectuals continued.46 Wendell Phillips, in his Harvard Phi Beta Kappa address in 1881, maintained that scholars on the whole had dodged the challenge in five great chances to side with the forces of progress and humanity: the slavery controversy, penal reform, the temperance crusade, the woman’s movement, and the labor struggle.47

Although there was some point to this indictment, the critics forgot an important part of the record.48 Some intellectuals had indeed opposed the Revolution, but many valiantly justified the appeal to arms and worked shoulder to shoulder with other patriots for victory. So in the Civil War intellectuals fought with the sword as with the pen, and did not ask which was mightier.49 Many also gave themselves without stint to the very struggles that Phillips cited. In the later decades of the nineteenth century and in our own, intellectuals have taken an increasingly active part in democratic and humanitarian struggles. To take one example, the remarkable and heartening improvement in race relations, especially in the last generation, has come about with the active, persistent, and important help of intellectuals.

The role of the intellectual in democratic struggles needs further study. It is clear, however, that intellectuals as a group do not merit either blame or praise on this score—they have not been against the people or for the people; they have taken many positions, they have merely been people! And after all, no one knows how many of the plain people have blamed intellectuals for aloofness from their struggles. In any case the failure of intellectuals to take part in democratic movements has clearly not been an important factor in suspicion of the intellectual. In fact, in supporting humane but unpopular movements intellectuals have, especially of late, brought disapproval on themselves from the main body of the people. For example, the American peace movement and efforts to advance toward the long-cherished ideal of world brotherhood, have been and still are suspect in the minds of many people and in the files of many editorial offices.

Having considered various possible factors in popular anti-intellectualism we are left with the conclusion that probably only those associated with business and the frontier, and with the workings of American democracy, are really of weight. Although the distrust based on these factors is not justified and is due, as a modern Bacon might say, to ignorance of the true function of an intellectual, still it is here and must be reckoned with.

This lack of understanding is not merely a matter for casual historical comment. Too much reminds us of the serious present situation. It was one thing when rank and file merely regarded intellectuals who exerted their necessary critical functions as crackpots; it is another when, as in the Condon and Oppenheimer cases, they are smeared as subversive. The significant thing is, I think, that in the cold war the gulf has been dangerously widened between the masses and intellectuals as these carried on the essential functions of their craft—criticism, experimentation, and the effort to bridge different cultures of the world through understanding.50

What the people have thought about intellectuals cannot, of course, be separated from what the intellectuals have thought about the people. We could profitably discuss the attitudes of intellectuals toward various segments of the American population—toward farmers, laborers, businessmen, doctors, dancers, and teachers. One might be tempted to dismiss this important subject by referring to certain stereotypes prevalent in our society—to the notion, for example, that intellectuals have always been hostile to business. Actually American intellectuals have varied greatly in their attitudes toward business, although some sort of disapproval has probably predominated.51 Of late the tide seems to have changed, with historians too joining in the generally appreciative chorus. But whether this change reflects a new synthesis or is merely a new tune in a current hit parade, we do not know. The problem is complex, and calls for careful, objective study. Attitudes of intellectuals toward other groups and movements in American life have also varied greatly, and also call for study.

On this occasion I can only raise a question or two concerning the attitudes of intellectuals toward the American people in general. These have varied from the aristocratic condescension of a Hamilton or a Santayana to the romantic idealization of a Bancroft or a Whitman, with varying degrees of realism in between. Despite the faith in the reasoning power of men that was implied in the Declaration of Independence, we know that from the time of the founding fathers on, that faith has been much qualified and questioned.

For a time intellectuals thought that science had settled the issue of the common man’s ability to think, and that it was low indeed. Shortly after the First World War, certain psychologists announced that the average mental age of American adults was thirteen years. Papers bristling with statistics “proved” that colored people were hopelessly inferior in native ability to think—though they were fine at singing! Psychologists and popularizers of psychology cited overwhelming evidence, statistical of course, which indicated that the new immigration was of inferior intellectual stock.52 And a journalist sounded a clarion call to the intellectuals because the whole white world was threatened by a rising tide of color!

More cautious psychologists at the time pointed out that the mental tests were not yet adequately standardized and that test scores were affected by amount of education, language used in the home, and degree of familiarity with the materials used in the test.53 This patient correction of the early over-hasty work did not make the headlines, however. And Mencken and his many followers could feel smug and well supported by science as they ridiculed the boobocracy.

Of late years intellectuals have had doubts not only about the thinking of the plain people but about their own. The last generation has seen so general a “retreat from reason” among intellectuals that we now have a vast literature on anti-intellectualism. This literature is not mainly about the popular anti-intellectualism which I have been discussing, the people’s distrust of the intellectual. Rather it deals with the limits of reason in human thinking, and in it the word anti-intellectualism is used in several different senses. First, early in the present century the word was used by left-wing radicals as Sorel used it in Europe, to denote opposition to extreme indulgence in merely abstract or verbal thinking. Instead, these radical writers stressed experience, common sense, and action.54 Second, in certain philosophical circles the term denotes the belief that such nonrational factors as instinct, intuition, and faith rank above reason in the pursuit of truth. Those holding to this general position I would say are indeed truly anti-intellectualists, although they of course are intellectuals. Bergson in Europe spoke for the scholars among these suspecters of reason, and William James in this country inclined toward this position at times.55 Of religious-minded intellectuals, Reinhold Niebuhr and Thomas Merton come to mind as men who belong here. So do some mystics and some writers who have reacted so strongly against reliance on reason that they might well be called irrationalists. Such American followers of D. H. Lawrence as Henry Miller are illustrations.

In the third place, the term anti-intellectualism has been widely applied to the effort to find out, through observation, experiment, and logical reasoning, just what role rational and nonrational factors play in thinking.56 In this effort people of such different views as Freud and Dewey have been prominent. Indeed, the group of intellectuals who believe in trying through reason to define the place of reason in human life probably includes the great majority of American intellectuals. I do not like to call them anti-intellectualists, for they are not opposed to reliance on reason as are those in our second group. Actually they are trying to think straighter, to reason better, and to encourage a rational attack on the problems of life that call for clear thinking.

Intellectuals who belong in one or another of these three groups differ very widely in attitude toward the use of reason, but one sees the common factor which has caused them all, by one writer or another, to be labeled “anti-intellectualists.” This common factor is what may be called a critical attitude toward the role of reason in human nature, an attitude which of course has a very long history but which since Darwin’s time has become so dominant that the phrase “retreat from reason” seems an apt characterization of the present intellectual climate.57

The two towering figures who have examined the role of reason in the last century, Marx and Freud, are anti-intellectualists only under the last definition. They both were trying to contribute to a clearer understanding of rational and nonrational forces in individual and social life, and in my view are not really anti-intellectualists.

The father of modern socialism contributed to a clearer understanding of human nature and the social process by showing that much so-called objective thinking reflects class bias. His emphasis on these forces and on such nonrational motivating factors as modes of production and drives for power has proved very stimulating to intellectuals in many fields.58 It is only when these theories have been accepted as gospel and become part of a religion, that they have been really anti-intellectual in the sense of militating against the use of reason in human thinking. In so far as Marxian doctrines have been uncritically accepted there is no doubt that they have contributed to the distrust of reason, among intellectuals as among the common people who have been converted. Certainly wherever communism rules, there is regimentation of thought which is anti-intellectualism to the nth degree.

Neither was Sigmund Freud a thoroughgoing anti-intellectualist. He made great contributions to a clearer understanding of the nonrational forces in human nature. But some intellectuals influenced by Freud were truly anti-intellectualist. And some of Freud’s followers have been notoriously uncritical. One thinks of the psychiatrist, for instance, who, in a paper on the death wish in animals, attributed suicidal desires to cats because so many of them are killed in running across the road! The Freudian emphasis in much of our drama and fiction detracts from the belief that human rationality, to borrow the words of Joseph Wood Krutch, is the most important realm in which man can fruitfully live.59 Add to this the role of Freudianism in making much contemporary art and literature unintelligible to all but the initiate, and its anti-intellectualist implications are the more apparent.60 In so far as the masses have absorbed the Freudian theses there must be among them less willingness to respect the role of intellectuals as disinterested guardians of reason and as having a special authority or a special contribution to make. The whole subject needs careful study.

It is now common to insist that instrumentalism and progressive education are major factors in contemporary anti-intellectualism, considered as “the retreat of learning and reason.”61 Dewey’s instrumentalism certainly challenged the traditional dualists who gave primacy to reason and ideas. It is true that Dewey showed the weakness in the old-fashioned mental discipline and emphasized problem-solving activities. But it is unfair to identify instrumentalism and progressive education with the current distrust of intellectual values. In the first place, there is very little progressive education in this country. Second, much that is called progressive education is a shocking perversion of Dewey’s teaching and example. In the third place, the criticisms overlook his emphasis on the great importance of critically reliving and reconstructing experiences in terms of new situations. Dewey did not reject reason: he tried to improve reasoning. Nevertheless many tenaciously hold that his theories have subtracted intellectual values from public school education. They fail to see that these have been deleted largely because of an expanding population and the vocationalism demanded by a business-minded people.

Both popular distrust of the intellectual and anti-intellectualism among the intellectuals seem to have waxed stronger than ever in recent years. One might have expected popular anti-intellectualism to lessen in the present century, with Jacksonian democracy far in the past, the frontier a memory, and education and research supported as never before. But, despite a few dissenting voices,62 most observers who have written on the theme agree that popular suspicion of the critical role of intellectuals has increased, that it has become more intense, and that demagogues are exploiting it as never before in our history.63 The official sanctions given to the attacks on intellectuals and on the reasoning process have disturbed not only secular-minded liberals but prominent Catholics as well.64 Not only the distrust of intellectuals but actual interference with rational inquiry and fact-finding procedures, as in the Bureau of Standards case, have deeply troubled scholars and citizens alike. Anti-intellectualism has also evoked sustained comment in journals of opinion at home and abroad.65 McCarthyism, a particularly virulent form of anti-intellectualism in the popular sense, has become an international issue. And we recall the attacks on Adlai Stevenson and the scholars and writers who worked for him in 1952.Our common speech in that year took on as a term of opprobrium the curious word egg-head—the overtones of meaning ranged from scrambled to soft-boiled! The memory of the California oath is still fresh. So is the attack the staff of the Reece committee has lately made on die foundations and on a Commission of our own American Historical Association.

The most common, the most obvious, and perhaps the soundest explanation for such a situation is, of course, the climate of opinion created by the cold war in general and the revelation of certain cases of disloyalty in the intellectual community in particular. But our fellows in the social sciences have argued that increase in anti-intellectualism is the product of profound social and cultural changes which have long been under way and have only been accelerated of late. Specialization of functions has, it is said, increased the social distance between intellectuals and the rest of the community to such an extent that viable relations have become all but impossible. How can there be understanding in view of the depersonalized relations between intellectuals and nonintellectuals in the anonymous community of our time?66

Still other social scientists contend that the changing American culture favors those who make slogans and write advertisements, who rationalize the interests of government and business, rather than those who inquire and debate.67 Many, perhaps most who engage in these activities, do not stop to consider that their own thinking is bound to be affected, yes, debased, by the evasions and half-truths that they turn out as information. But this only makes the surrender to anti-intellectualism the more insidious. In short, the intellectual tends to become a mere bureaucrat, a powerless figure, unable to defend reason and the freedom of the mind, perhaps seeing no necessity of so defending it, however formidable the assaults to which these are subjected in our “age of unreason and anxiety.”68

Related to the tendency of many intellectuals to become mere technicians is the contention that the changing American culture also sets high value on the ability to get along with the group and to take cues from it.69 This is stifling to independent thought and it has promoted a climate in which it is easy to identify nonconformity with subversion and in which it is not easy to think critically. So run the arguments of many of our colleagues in other social disciplines.

The historian might well give serious attention to such analyses as these. It also seems to me highly important to explore the impact of the military on the life of intellectuals. What has been the influence of the habit of obedience and command on the free and inquiring mind? What about psychological warfare? A writer in the London Economist thinks it is bad for those who wage it. “On both sides of the iron curtain,” he says, “there must be many thousands of unhappy psychological warriors who know, if they ever stop to think, that they are being corrupted by their own daily work.”70

The arguments of the social scientists have not been sufficiently tested to satisfy the historian. Indeed, they have been challenged by those who hold that the intellectual in contemporary America is no more isolated or frustrated than intellectuals have always been, that the professor now actually rates high on the scale of the public opinion poll, and that the middlebrow has appeared to mediate between lowbrow and highbrow to the advantage of each.71 The historian might well bring his talents to bear in helping to test these conflicting ideas. In so doing he can and should make use of objective measures of social change such as repeated attitude and public opinion studies, carefully handled according to the newer and more critical statistical methods.

But we do not need to use refined statistical methods to know that fear is abroad in our country and that those who live by ideas are especially subject to hysterical and unwarranted attack. Civil liberties won through centuries of struggle are in danger. Many of us believe that the contemporary attack on reason endangers not only the intellectual life but American civilization itself. Believing this despite the assurance from certain quarters that all is well, we are obliged, as intellectuals, not only to promote researches which may further illuminate the problem but also to search for possible alleviations of today’s critical tensions.

From at least the mid-nineteenth century to our own day proposals have been made for the recognition of a cultural elite as one way of strengthening the position of the intellectual. These proposals have sometimes been launched with a kind of pride, approaching snobbishness, that Bacon would have called arrogance. The evidence for such “arrogance” is likely to be indirect. It is found, for example, in commencement orations of a hundred years ago which often admonished graduating classes to avoid giving offense by assuming airs.72 With the spread of college education it is probable that such admonitions came to be less needed. Some intellectuals, however, have continued to invite resentment by the way in which they hold their learning. Somehow the impression is conveyed that they feel a moral superiority to the hillbillies, the masses of common people, because they know that El Greco is better than Gainsborough, Emily Dickinson than James Whitcomb Riley. Psychologists keep telling their fellow intellectuals that high intellectual capacity is not a personal achievement but a gift of nature, widely distributed among all classes. Yet there is a temptation for the “happy few” to be patronizing toward those whose children will some day sit at their desks and speak from their platforms. Sometimes we forget that it was a boy born in a crude log cabin who grew up to write the Gettysburg address, that a humble Massachusetts fish peddler wrote letters that will be long remembered, that the great religious leader of the Western world was a carpenter.

Although the idea of a cultural elite is undeniably attractive today, it is without substantive precedent in this country unless one goes back to the Puritan clergy or, possibly, to Jefferson’s University of Virginia. It also defies our democratic tradition of the dignity of all work and the worth of each human being. It is consistent with our democratic institutions to hold that some will be better at certain kinds of work than others, and to respect the methods and honor the achievements of specially gifted or specially trained people. But for any group consciously to set itself up, because of its abilities and training, as superior to other groups in society is inconsistent with democracy. Thus the elitism implicit or explicit in the writings of Santayana, Babbitt, Mencken, and Hutchins is unrealistic.73

The old notion of the scholar as belonging to a class apart from and above the people is also, it seems to me, related to a dualistic tradition that has little place in the world today. We see this dualism reflected in Plato’s arguments for the philosopher king, in medieval scholasticism, in the rationalism of many philosophers, and in the faculty psychology of the last century, repudiated by scientific psychologists but still influential. In so far as reason its regarded as “pure” and in so far as it is assumed that thinking can operate without reference to consequences, this dualistic tradition of mind and body, Of materialism and idealism, fits in with and reinforces the too-sharp distinction between the man of thought and the man of action.

I am not certain when the first formal rejection of this time-honored position was made. I do know that the academic addresses of a century ago clearly point to such a rejection. For example, a spokesman in a small Ohio college in 1843 maintained that misunderstanding and antagonism on the part of the producing classes and the intellectuals toward each other was neither necessary nor desirable. It was, he urged, rooted in an Old World tradition that drew a curtain between the philosophers who isolated themselves from that useful, everyday knowledge the people possessed; and the producing classes who, destitute of intellectual culture and unable to grasp the relation and meaning of what they saw, failed to contribute to society what they might otherwise have given.74

It remained, however, for a philosopher in our time to probe into the traditional dualism between thought and action. John Dewey has given us the fullest and most thoughtful statement of this approach. He maintained that the distrust of intellectuals by the common man and the reservations many intellectuals have about the plain people, are related to the Old World heritage that originated and flourished in class societies.75

Dewey’s association of dualism with class societies has been questioned and many competent philosophers detect flaws in the instrumentalism that he has offered in place of the doctrines he criticized.76 I leave to philosophers the task of unraveling the more technical aspects of the controversy. But I know that the physiologists and experimental psychologists support Dewey’s basic theory that thinking is not sharply set off from action. Thinking indeed is activity, symbolic activity, and an idea is an embryonic act. It is true that when theory is too quickly applied in practice, harm or even disaster may result. But to avoid reference to the problems of the day and association with ordinary people, deprives intellectuals of valuable tests for their theories, as well as of stimulating contact with American experience. The ivory tower can become a pretty dull place, and rather unproductive, too.

The historian can call attention to a body of American experience that is in line with Dewey’s general position. Benjamin Franklin operated effectively on the assumption that there is no necessary dichotomy between theory and practice. Leading founders of the Republic, notably the framers of the Constitution, were men of action, and also educated men with great respect for learning. I may also refer again to the fairly successful co-operation between intellectuals and people in the great crises of our history, and to the shoulder-to-shoulder partnership intellectuals entered into with farmers and other humble folk for a greater measure of social and economic justice.

The role of intellectuals in the labor movement, a subject that needs further investigation, is illuminating in this connection. In general labor did not ask for guidance77 though many wage-earners did read Looking Backward, Progress and Poverty, and the Haldeman-Julius distillations of socialist theory. Even wage-earners who at first pinned much hope to the new interest of the intellectuals in their movement were disillusioned when they found that some brainworkers were patronizing and that others were prone to lead the rank and file into what labor leaders looked on as wild goose chases. In turn, many intellectuals were also disillusioned when they found that trade unions did not always observe the canons of democracy, that the movement was spotted with intra-power struggles, and that it was more concerned with wages than with social justice in the broad sense. In time the intellectuals who stuck with the movement either ceased being intellectuals or learned the folly of trying to lead it too quickly or too far from its mooring, learned to respect “the tough fabric of custom and behavior” which at first they had misunderstood or challenged.78

One might also consider the successful experiences of experts in economics, political science, and law at the University of Wisconsin in serving the progressive movement by blueprinting social legislation and by staffing the state commissions.79 Other examples will come to mind, such as the pioneer work of Thomas Davidson, William Allan Neilson, and Morris Cohen at Breadwinners College and of Charles Beard at Ruskin Hall and, years later, in the Bureau of Municipal Research. In the 1930’s this approach received wide implementation in the Federal Arts Projects and in the Tennessee Valley Authority.

One cannot claim that all these experiments were entirely successful. I know that many competent authorities take a less cheerful view than many of us do, and tend rather to agree with an earlier president of this Association who spoke from experience as well as scholarship. Woodrow Wilson maintained that the conflict in America between the man who thinks and the man who does is inevitable.80 One must admit that his own effort to do both lent a tragic tension to his whole work. But in my view the total record is impressive. Today the intellectual, living in an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, is tempted, especially if he works in the field of the humanities or the social sciences, to seek safety in narrow specialization. But consideration of experiences such as those I have called to mind might well encourage him instead to turn his back on the ivory tower. For they have shown that intellectuals and other people can work together, can understand each other.

Finally, intellectuals must surely give more thought to popular education, both to adult education and to the teaching of the young. Something has been painfully lacking in the education of the American people, something above and beyond the overemphasis on vocationalism. It is clear that Americans have not been taught to understand what critical thinking is. I realize of course that education cannot easily rise above the prevailing cultural level which sets the problems and prescribes much that is done. But in our culture it is possible to teach children as well as adults to avoid falling into the trap of what has been called the undistributed middle—of hearing that X is a communist, knowing that X is an intellectual, and concluding that all intellectuals are communists. We have lately heard a spirited appeal to resist the vocationalism in our schools. To my mind it is much more important for crusaders to bring home to educators the tragic consequences of assuming that vague ideals, indoctrination of moral and political values, or even the discipline of the basic school subjects, are sufficient to develop an ability to resist the emotional appeal of the demagogue.

I said that adults can be taught, too, and modern psychologists assure us that learning is possible at any age. Most people have the ability to understand why it is important, in a democratic and changing society, not to be afraid of new ideas. And intellectuals need not always talk down. As Theodore Parker said, the scholar is “to think with the sage and saint, but talk with common men.”

I cannot forbear making explicit some of the implications of my analysis for the historian. As historians we have an important part to play in the educational reform I have just mentioned. We ought not, moreover, to dismiss lightly the fact that intellectuals have contributed to anti-intellectualism, considered both as the subordination of reason to emotion and as popular antagonism to scholars and social critics. I have noted elsewhere signs that our circle has been subtly influenced by anti‑intellectualism.81 I have in mind the danger that in trying to correct yesterday’s historians of business and wars, we may without realizing it become filiopietistic. For as Cassirer has reminded us, in times of crisis intellectuals like other people tend to fall back on feeling and myth.82 While appraising all aspects of the past, including myths, we must at the same time uphold the critical function that is the basis of all scholarship, indeed, of civilization itself. For this we also need to recognize clearly the sources of irrationality in history, in our culture, in ourselves.

The historian needs courage, for the forest is dark and it is still easy to stumble. Courage is needed to uphold the integrity of the truth-seeking process against the attacks it has lately met, whether these have issued, as Bacon suggested, from the arrogance of demagogues or from the imperfections of intellectuals themselves, or whether they are to be laid chiefly at the door of American democratic values and practices. In exercising our functions as scholars we must resist strong pressures and face severe tests, for we do not want to fail our country in a time of great crisis, as the German intellectuals failed theirs. Orwell’s 1984 no longer seems the far-fetched fantasy it did when first published. It is not easy publicly to defend the chief value to which historical scholarship, all scholarship, is committed, that is, freedom of thought and expression in its widest scope. It needs defense, and in. that defense we can as historians appeal to a tradition that both includes and transcends the American past. This tradition of intellectual freedom has had vitality here not merely because of intelligent leadership but because, when understood, it has also enlisted the support of the American people. The intellectual is only “Man Thinking.” And he needs today to keep firmly before him Emerson’s words, “March without the people, and you march into the night.”

Merle Curti was one of the last great exemplars of the Progressive school of American history, based through much of the century at the University of Wisconsin. His The Growth of American Thought (3rd ed., 1964) was considered one of the fullest expressions of the Progressive School in the field of intellectual history. His other notable works include Peace or War: The American Struggle, 1636-1936 (1936), Roots of American Loyalty (1946), and The Making of an American Community: A Case Study in a Frontier County (1959).



  1. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston and New York, 1883), IV, 253. []
  2. This point is argued and illustrated in a vast body of literature, representative examples being Logan Wilson, The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession (New York, 1942); Claude C. Bowman, The College Professor in America (Philadelphia, 1938); Richard H. Shryock, “The Academic Profession in the United States,” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, XXXVIII (Spring, 1952), 32–70; John Hicks, “The American Professor in Europe,” Pacific Spectator, VI (Autumn, 1952), 428–41; and William MacDonald, The Intellectual and His Work (New York, 1924), p. 160. []
  3. Today a third of all the foreigners who study away from home come to our research centers, New York Times, June 7, 1954. []
  4. Clyde Kluckhohn, Mirror for Man (New York, 1949), p. 232. []
  5. For definitions of the term intellectual see Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York, 1930), VIII, 118–24; Florian Znaniecki, The Social Role of the Man of Knowledge (New York, 1940); Richard Hofstadter, “Democracy and Anti-Intellectualism in America,” Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, LIX (Aug. 8, 1953), 282–84; Jacques Barzun, God’s Country and Mine (Boston 1954); Granville Hicks, Small Town (New York, 1946), pp. 266 ff.; Franklin Baumer, “Intellectual History and Its Problems,” Journal of Modern History, XXI(September, 1949), 191–203; J. F. Wolpert, “Notes on the American Intelligentsia,” Partisan Review, XIV (1947), 472–85; and Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York, 1942), pp. 145–54. For usage of “highbrow,” see Henry L. Mencken, The American Language, Supplement I (New York, 1945), 325, and The American Language (4th ed.; New York, 1936), p. 186. []
  6. Paul LaFargue, Socialism and the Intellectuals (Chicago, 1900); William J. Ghent, Socialism and Success: Some Uninvited Messages (New York, 1910), pp. 129–76. []
  7. Van Wyck Brooks, America’s Coming of Age (New York, 1930), p. 7; Randolph Bourne, Untimely Papers (New York, 1919) and History of a Literary Radical (New York, 1920); Harold Stearns, America and the Young Intellectual (New York, 1921), p. 9. []
  8. T. Eric Peet, A Comparative Study of the Literatures of Egypt, Palestine, and Mesopotamia (London, 1931), p. 101. []
  9. The Essays of Francis Bacon, ed. Richard Foster Jones (New York, 1937), p. 174. []
  10. For Bacon’s influence in America see Bernard Baum, “The Baconian Mind in Early Nineteenth Century America,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1942. []
  11. Bayard Rush Hall, The New Purchase, or Seven and a Half Years in the Far West (Princeton, 1916), p. 172. []
  12. The Works of President Edwards (New York, 1830), IV, 264–65. []
  13. Representative examples are Rev. E. Greenwald, Address delivered before the Students of Carrollton Academy … (Carrollton, Ohio, 1845), pp. 5–6; Edward Hitchcock, Religious Truth, Illustrated from Science, in Addresses and Sermons (Boston, 1857), pp. 43 ff., and R. C. Smith, A Defence of Denominational Education (Milledgeville, Ga., 1854). []
  14. Norman F. Furniss, The Fundamentalist Controversy, 1918–1931 (New Haven, 1954), pp. 6 ff.; Maynard Shipley, The War on Modern Science (New York, 1927), pp. 7 ff. []
  15. Thus it is true that Reinhold Niebuhr, himself a distinguished scholar and intellectual, expounds and publicizes a theology that subordinates reason to faith. See L. Harold De Wolf, The Religious Revolt against Reason (New York, 1949). []
  16. For discussions of frontier attitudes toward book learning see Harold Dugger, “Reading Interests and the Book Trade in Frontier Missouri,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Missouri, 1952; R. Carlyle Buley, The Old Northwest: The Pioneer Period, 1815–1840 (Indianapolis, 1950), II, 329–30. []
  17. Benjamin A. Botkin, Treasury of American Folklore (New York, 1944), pp. 396–97, 455–56, 797. []
  18. There is abundant evidence of the frontier farmer’s distrust of scientific agriculture, an attitude that lingered after the passing of the frontier. For examples see Albert L. Demaree, The American Agricultural Press, 1819–1860 (New York, 1941), pp. 250–51, and Vernon L. Carstensen, “The Land Policy of Northern Wisconsin,” to be published. []
  19. For a discussion of the self-made man see Irvin Wyllie, “The Cult of the Self-Made Man in America, 1830–1910,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1949. []
  20. The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston and New York, 1909–14), IV, 89. []
  21. Caleb S. Henry, The True Idea of the University (New York, 1853), pp. 20–23. []
  22. Quoted in H. S. Pritchett, “The Relation of Educated Men to the State,” Science, n.s. XII (Nov. 2, 1900), 662. []
  23. Harold E. Stearns, ed., Civilization in the United States (New York, 1922), p. 135. []
  24. For the attitude of the comic strips toward learning and the intellectuals see Coulton Waugh, The Comics (New York, 1947), pp. 226–27. []
  25. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “Highbrow in American Politics,” Partisan Review, XX (March, 1953), 158, 161. []
  26. Morris R. Cohen, American Thought: A Critical Sketch (Glencoe, Ill., 1954), pp. 26, 28. []
  27. Walter P. Metzger has explored one aspect of this subject in his doctoral dissertation, “College Professors and Big Business Men: A Study of American Ideologies, 1880–1915,” State University of Iowa, 1950. []
  28. Fortune, XLIV (August, 1951), 89–92; XLVII (April, 1953), 113–14. See also Clarence B. Randall, Freedom’s Faith (Boston, 1953), p. 85. []
  29. William Manning, The Key of Libberty, ed. Samuel E. Morison (Billerica, Mass., 1922), pp. 20–21. []
  30. The group included George Evans, Fanny Wright, Robert Dale Owen, Abner Kneeland, Dr. Charles Knowlton, John L. O’Sullivan, Hawthorne, Whitman, Bryant, Paulding, Horatio Greenough, and Edwin Forest. For an interesting discussion see Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson (Boston, 1945), p. 370. []
  31. George Bancroft, “The Office of the People in Art, Government, and Religion,” in Literary and Historical Miscellanies (New York, 1857), p. 415. []
  32. George Bancroft, The Necessity, the Reality, and the Promise of the Human Race (New York, 1854), p. 10. []
  33. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Phillips Bradley (New York, 1945), II, 4–5. []
  34. See Richard H. Shryock, “Public Relations of the Medical Profession in Great Britain and the United States: 1600–1870,” Annals of Medical History, n.s., II (May, 1930), 308–39. []
  35. Quoted in James Harvey Young, “Patent Medicines: The Early Frontier Phase,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, XLVI (Autumn, 1953), 256. []
  36. Merle Curti and others, “Democracy on the Wisconsin Frontier. A Case Study: Trempealeau County,” unpublished manuscript in the authors’ possession. []
  37. Thus John Reynolds, an early Illinois governor, read the classics secretly and hid his scholarly bent when running for office. John Reynolds, My Own Times (Belleville, Ill., 1855), p. 284. Orators also recalled that in time of crisis leadership came not from the formally educated but from a practical man like Washington or from a man of the people like Lincoln. Examples are Wilberforce Nevin, Unlettered Learning, or a Plea for the Study of Things. An Address before the Alumni Association of Franklin and Marshall College July 25, 1860 (Lancaster, Pa., n.d.), pp. 14–16, and Hon. Samuel W. McCall, “The Scholar in Politics as Conservative,” Phi Beta Kappa Address at Tufts College, Tufts College Graduate, I (July, 1903), 33. []
  38. The Diary of William Bentley D.D. (Salem, Mass., 1904–14), II, 423, III, 208; William Robinson, Jeffersonian Democracy in New England (New Haven, 1916), pp. 23, 69–70, 110. []
  39. Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, ed. Anne Cary Morris (New York, 1888), I, 338. See also John C. Miller, Crisis in Freedom (Boston, 1951), pp. 74–75, 186–87. []
  40. David Lowenthal, “George Perkins Marsh,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1953, pp. 171 ff. []
  41. Saturday Evening Post, CCVI (Sept. 2, 1933), 7; Congressional Record, LXXVIII, Pt. II , 73 Congress, 2 session, 1934, p. 11455 (June 14, 1934). Paul Bixler has argued that some of the public criticism of the Brain Trusters is to be laid at their own door for having often acted too hastily and for having by-passed democratic procedure and even fair play, “Anti-Intellectualism in California,” Antioch Review, X (December, 1950), 542. []
  42. Congressional Record, LXXXVIII, Pt. 2, 77 Congress, 2 sess., pp. 2675–76 (Mar. 18, 1942). []
  43. New York Times, Mar. 26, 1942; Archibald MacLeish, “The Attack on the Scholar’s World,” Saturday Review of Literature, XXV (July 18, 1942), 3–6. []
  44. Horace Greeley, An Address before the Literary Societies of Hamilton College (New York, 1844), passim. []
  45. James M’Dowell, Esq., An Address delivered before the Alumni Association of the College of New Jersey (Princeton, 1838), p. 35. []
  46. For example, Whitelaw Reid, in an address at Dartmouth in 1873, urged scholars to provide radical leadership. Scribner’s Monthly, VI (September, 1873), 614. []
  47. Wendell Phillips, Speeches, Addresses, and Lectures. Second Series (Boston, 1891), pp. 338–39. []
  48. E. A. Ross discussed the initiative intellectuals took in certain reforms, such as civil service, scientific charity, and public health, measures often opposed by the rank and file. Edward A. Ross, The Principles of Sociology (rev. ed., New York, 1930), pp. 584–85. []
  49. Merle Curti, “The American Scholar in Three Wars,” Journal of the History of ideas, III (June, 1942), 241–64. []
  50. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (6 vols., Oxford, 1934–39), V, 55–56. []
  51. The subject needs exploration, but Barbara Chartier has made a start in “Social Role of the Literary Elite,” Social Forces, XXIX (December, 1950), 179–86. See Dwight MacDonald, “A Theory of Mass Culture,” Diogenes, no. 3 (Summer, 1953), 1–17; Gilbert Seldes, The Great Audience (New York, 1950); Edmund Wilson, The Shores of Light (New York, 1952), pp. 16 ff.; and Leo Gurko, Heroes, Highbrows and the Popular Mind (Indianapolis, 1953). See also Peter Viereck, The Shame and Glory of the Intellectuals (Boston, 1953). []
  52. The basis for such arguments was “Psychological Examining in the United States Army.” Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, XV (1921). []
  53. For a brief, informative account see Barbara Schieffelin and Gladys Schwesinger, Mental Tests and Heredity (New York, 1930). See also Melville Herskovits, The Negro and the Intelligence Tests (Minneapolis, 1927) and Otto Klineberg, Race Differences (New York, 1935) and Characteristics of the American Negro (New York, 1944). []
  54. John Spargo, “Anti-Intellectualism in the Socialist Movement: A Historical Survey,” in Sidelights on Contemporary Socialism (New York, 1911), pp. 67–106; Ghent, Socialism and Success, pp. 129–76; and William E. Walling, Progressivism and After (New York, 1914), pp. 240 ff. For the European background see Richard D. Humphrey, Georges Sorel: Prophet without Honor (Cambridge, Mass., 1951). []
  55. The background of this was, of course, certain currents in the Romantic movement. See Walter E. Houghton, “Victorian Anti-Intellectualism,” Journal of the History of Ideas, XIII (June, 1952), 291–313. Early philosophical discussions of this movement include Gustav Spiller, “Voluntarism and Intellectualism,” Philosophical Review, XIII (July, 1904), 420–28; Frank Thilly, “Romanticism and Rationalism,” ibid., XXII (March, 1913), 107–32, and A History of Philosophy, revised by Ledger Wood (New York, 1951), pp. 569 ff. See also Bertrand Russell, “The Revolt against Reason,” Atlantic Monthly, CLV (February, 1935), 223–32. []
  56. Graham Wallas was in one sense a pioneer in this approach. See The Great Society (New York, 1914), pp. 41 ff., 217 ff. For recent discussions, see Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action (New York, 1937), pp. 67 ff., 111 ff., 219 ff., 491 ff., and Crane Brinton, Ideas and Men (New York, 1950), pp. 503 ff. []
  57. Eric R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley, 1951). See also Ralph Turner, The Great Cultural Traditions (New York, 1941), I, 318 ff., II, 832. []
  58. The classic statement in Marx’s writings on the relation of knowledge to the social structure is in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York, 1904), p. 11. For discussions of the nonrational and rational components of Marxism consult Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action, pp. 491 ff., and Reinhard Bendix, Social Science and the Distrust of Reason (Berkeley, 1951), pp. 9 ff. See also Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station (New York, 1940). []
  59. Joseph Wood Krutch, “Modernism” in Modern Drama (Ithaca, N. Y., 1953), p. 131. []
  60. Discriminating treatments of the theme can be found in Frederick Hoffman, Freudianism and the Literary Mind (Baton Rouge, 1945) and Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (New York, 1950), pp. 34–58. []
  61. The relation is discussed with qualifications in Arthur E. Bestor, Educational Wastelands: The Retreat from Learning in Our Public Schools (Urbana, Ill., 1953), pp. 51 ff. []
  62. For example, David Riesman, “Some Observations on Intellectual Freedom,” American Scholar, XXIII (Winter, 1953–54), 9–26, and Eugene Lyons, “What Reign of Terror Petrifies the Intellectuals?” Saturday Evening Post, CCXVI (May 1, 1954), 10. []
  63. Aaron Levenstein, “The Demagogue and the Intellectual,” Antioch Review, XIII (Sept., 1953), 259–74; Marya Mannes, “Any Resemblance . . .,” The Reporter, VIII (June 23, 1953), 34; the remarks of Senator J. W. Fulbright, Feb. 2, 1954, Congressional Record, C (Feb. 2, 1954), 1105–1106. Two examples of anti-intellectualism in more or less formal exposition are William F. Buckley, Jr., God and Man at Yale (Chicago,1951), and Paul Harvey, Autumn of Liberty (Garden City, N. Y., 1954). []
  64. Commonweal, LVII (Nov. 28, 1952), 218, and LIX (Jan. 15, 1954), 380. []
  65. The report in the London Economist, CLXVI (Mar. 21, 1953), 802–803, is representative. []
  66. Baker Brownell, The Human Community (New York, 1950), pp. 20 ff., 219 ff.; C. Wright Mills, White Collar (New York, 1951), pp. 142–60. []
  67. Eric A. Havelock, The Crucifixion of Intellectual Man (Boston, 1950), pp. 74 ff. []
  68. C. Wright Mills argues this point tellingly in more or less these words in White Collar, chap. 7, and elsewhere. It is interesting to note that when the New York edition of Julien Benda’s Treason of the Intellectuals (New York, 1928) appeared, many reviewers did not seem to attach much importance to Benda’s indictment of the intellectuals for their “surrender” to “utilitarianism” and to “power struggles.” See, for example, Nation, CXXVIII (Jan. 2, 1929), 23–24; New Republic, LVII (Dec. 12, 1928), 105–107; and Saturday Review of Literature, V (Oct. 27, 1928), 289–90. []
  69. David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd (New Haven, 1950), passim. []
  70. London Economist, CLXXII (Aug. 14, 1954), 498–99. []
  71. Barzun, God’s Country and Mine; Russell Lynes, “Highbrow, Lowbrow, and Middlebrow,” Harper’s Magazine, CXCVIII (February, 1949), 19–28; Life, XXVI (Apr. 11, 1949), 99–102. []
  72. Examples are Harvey Curtis, D.D., Inaugural Address delivered at the Annual Commencement at Knox College (Chicago, 1858), pp. 6 ff.; John Holmes, An Address delivered at Waterville, before the Associated Alumni of Waterville College . . . (Portland, 1831), pp. 21–22; Philip Lindsley, Speech about Colleges, delivered in Nashville, on Commencement Day . . . (Nashville, 1848), pp. 24 ff.; L. Carroll Judson, The Probe . . . (Philadelphia, 1846), pp. 43–44; Henry Ward Beecher, Man and His Institutions (New York, 1856), pp. 9 ff.; Rev. R. H. Bishop, Address at Miami, Sept. 30, 1830 (Miami, 1830), pp. 46 ff.; and Theodore Parker, The American Scholar, ed. George W. Cooke (Boston, 1907), pp. 1 ff. []
  73. David Spitz in Patterns of Anti-Democratic Thought (New York, 1949) gives an informative treatment of the general idea of an elite. []
  74. Rev. Sherman Canfield, An Address on the Power and Progressiveness of Knowledge, delivered at the Commencement of Willoughby University, Feb. 22, 1843 (Painesville, Ohio, 1843), pp. 18 ff. Canfield was a Presbyterian minister who, after a residence in Ohio City, was pastor of the First Church in Syracuse from 1854 to 1870. []
  75. Dewey developed these ideas in many books and articles, especially in Experience and Nature (Chicago, 1925), pp. 21, 37, Freedom and Culture (New York, 1939), Reconstruction in Philosophy (New York, 1920), and The Public and Its Problem (Chicago, 1946), p. 138. []
  76. For example, Arthur E. Murphy, The Uses of Reason (New York, 1943), pp. 85–95; Max Horkeimer, Eclipse of Reason (New York, 1947), pp. 54 ff.; Morris R. Cohen, American Thought, pp. 290 ff.; John U. Nef, The United States and Civilization (Chicago, 1942), p. 210. []
  77. Selig Perlman, Theory of the Labor Movement (New York, 1928), pp. 5–9, 41–42, 68. Cf. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, IV (July, 1951), 489–94 and American Federationist XXIII (March, 1916), 198–99, and XXIX (March, 1922), 212–15. []
  78. This account is much indebted to George Soule’s The Intellectual and the Labor Movement, League for Industrial Democracy Pamphlets (New York, 1923). See also Herbert E. Cory, The Intellectuals and the Wage Earners (New York, 1919). C. Wright Mills has brilliantly discussed the contemporary aspects of the problem in The New Men of Power (New York, 1948), pp. 281 ff. []
  79. Charles McCarthy, The Wisconsin Idea (New York, 1912) and Merle Curti and Vernon Carstensen, The University of Wisconsin: A History (Madison, 1949–50), II, 3, 109–11, 132–33, 441. []
  80. Woodrow Wilson, Leaders of Men, ed. T. H. Vail Motter (Princeton, 1952), pp. 8 ff. []
  81. Merle Curti, “The Democratic Theme in American Historical Literature,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXXIX (June, 1952), 26. See also Samuel E. Morison, “The Faith of a Historian,” American Historical Review, LVI (January, 1951), 266–67, 270–71. []
  82. Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven, 1946), pp. 295–98. []