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Anti-Intellectualism


Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible. Alternatively, self-described intellectuals who are alleged to fail to adhere to rigorous standards of scholarship may be described as anti-intellectuals, although pseudo-intellectualism is a more commonly, and perhaps more accurately, used description for this phenomenon.

In public discourse, anti-intellectuals are usually perceived and publicly present themselves as champions of the common folk—populists against political elitism and academic elitism—proposing that the educated are a social class detached from the everyday concerns of the majority, and that they dominate political discourse and higher education.

Because "anti-intellectual" can be pejorative, defining specific cases of anti-intellectualism can be troublesome; one can object to specific facets of intellectualism or the application thereof without being dismissive of intellectual pursuits in general. Moreover, allegations of anti-intellectualism can constitute an appeal to authority or an appeal to ridicule that attempts to discredit an opponent rather than specifically addressing his or her arguments.

Anti-intellectualism has been used by totalitarian dictatorships to oppress political dissent. Perhaps its most extreme political form was during the 1970s in Cambodia under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, when people were killed for being academics or even for merely wearing eyeglasses (as it suggested literacy) in the Killing Fields.



the two most salient traits of the radical movement are its anti-intellectualism and its hostility to the university as an institution. [...] Intellectuals by definition are people who take ideas seriously for their own sake. Whether or not a theory is true or false is important to them independently of any practical applications it may have. [Intellectuals] have, as Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, an attitude to ideas that is at once playful and pious. But in the radical movement, the intellectual ideal of knowledge for its own sake is rejected. Knowledge is seen as valuable only as a basis for action, and it is not even very valuable there. Far more important than what one knows is how one feels.
  • Dane S. Claussen (2004). Anti-Intellectualism in American Media. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN . 
  • Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood, and Christian Parenti, "'Action Will be Taken': Left Anti-Intellectualism and its Discontents," Left Business Observer.
  • William Hinton, Hundred Day War: The Cultural Revolution at Tsinghua University. New York: New York University Press, 1972.
  • Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.
  • Aaron Lecklider (2013). Inventing the Egghead: The Battle over Brainpower in American Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN . 
  • Elvin T. Lim (2008). The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN . 
  • "Anti-Intellectualism and the "Dumbing Down" of America". psychology today. 2014. There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility. 
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