Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Sowell, Yet Again. Because This Is Making Me Absolutely Nuts

with 6 comments

An addendum, actual post below.


       Okay–I’m going to try t his one more time.

        Mique say–

<<<Sowell is not talking about smart people. 

       I KNOW THAT.


       Sorry to shout, but I’ve got no idea why so many of you find this distinction so hard to understand.

       It doesn’t matter what Sowell is talking about.     
       It ONLY matter what people will THINK he’s talking about when they HAVEN’T read his book.

       I’m talking about the creation of a climate.

       Sowell adds to the GENERAL IMPRESSION that Republicans and conservaties hate smart people.

       IT DOESN’T MATTER that the  INSIDE of his book says something else–the people he gives this impression to by using the word “intellectual” in the way he does WON’T READ THE BOOK.

       I’m sorry to do all this shouting, but no matter how many times I try to make this point, people persist in discussing what Sowell actually says INSIDE the book.

       It literally DOESN’T MATTER what he says inside the book.

       All that matters is the  IMPRESSION the mere fact of the title gives people who WON’T read it.

Written by janeh

March 7th, 2010 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Sowell, Yet Again. Because This Is Making Me Absolutely Nuts'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Sowell, Yet Again. Because This Is Making Me Absolutely Nuts'.

  1. OK, but neither classical nor mythical Greece can evade multiple roles and conflicting duties. Antigone is a sister, yes, but she’s also a citizen of Thebes and a subject of the King of Thebes. Creon is king of Thebes, but he’s also a relative of both Antigone and the deceased.
    There are places in the world even yet where it would not occur to anyone that public duties like Creon’s ought to trump his familial obligations, and Sophocles would be performed to the edge of Roman territories where “the father weakens, but the judge is stern.”

    I’ll grant you that deciding which role has precedence is not the same as deciding which moral obligation has precedence, but I bet it feels similar.


    7 Mar 10 at 10:31 am

  2. I’m sorry–OK, first that I posted the above comment in the wrong space, and can’t remove it, but second because the Sowell critique makes no sense. As you say, the content of the book is reasonable–if not true, at least hard to refute. You said earlier was that your problem was the impression his title would have on those who didn’t actually read the book. Little Whosis will read the title, and decide conservatives are opposed to smart people.

    But the title is INTELLECTUALS AND SOCIETY. That will not normally be perceived as a “slam” by sane people. Not even by all the crazies. So we’re not talking about people who read the book, and know what Sowell is actually saying. We’re not talking about people who only know the title, because the title is neutral. We actually seem to be discussing people who read about the book in a source that doesn’t much care for Sowell or conservatives and reports the content inaccurately. (a) I don’t know what Sowell could have titled his book to avoid that, and (b) people who treat a GUARDIAN or NEW REPUBLIC book review as gospel are not good condidates for the conservative or libertarian causes anyway.

    We all have things we dislike about political movements. But books should be criticized for what the book itself gets wrong.


    7 Mar 10 at 10:50 am

  3. No, we’re talking about people who:

    1) Read enough books of ideas to know that Sowell is a
    conservative AND

    2) Have been in the US for the last twenty or thirty years and therefore witnessed the veritable waterfall of absue heaped by conservatives against “elites,” with “elites” defined as “people who like classical music and go to hot shot colleges and drive Volvos” AND

    3) Further witnessed the endless praise and adulation of “the folks” (defined as people who HAVEN’T gone to hot shot colleges, or ever college at all, and wouldn’t touch classical music with a ten foot pole becaue real Americans listen to Toby Keith), and would much rather spend the day at a NASCAR race than bother with crap like Shakespeare.

    Whether you like it or not, that HAS been the impression Republicans and conservatives in the US have been working damned near over time to give, not the least by their climbing into bed with Creationists and the odder of the conspiracy nuts (see Glenn Beck–who, by the way, manages to bash “elites” at the “Ivy League” when he himself went to Yale, although he didn’t finish).

    I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the majority of people in the US who read books of the nature and intellectual difficulty of this very Sowell volume already have the impression that Republicans and Conservatives are the enemies of any sort of higher learning, not just the left-wing kind.

    I never criticized Sowell’s book.

    I only criticized his use of the word “intellectual,” because his definition is tendentious and it does not follow the word’s established usage.

    The ordinary person on the street has no reason NOT to assume that Sowell is using “intellectual” in its dictionary definition.


    7 Mar 10 at 11:03 am

  4. ACK, yourself. Now you’ve undone all the good work you did in your email. :-)

    The only way that anyone could establish that Sowell’s definition is anything other than the dictionary definition or its established usage would be if they at least picked the book up and read the first few pages where he sets out quite clearly his definition for the purposes of the book.

    While I now understand what you were trying to get at, and agree that another title might have been less contentious and off-putting, I really cannot think of another word that he could have used to describe the sort of people he is quite reasonably criticising. Like it or not, they are intellectuals, certainly as defined in the fairly comprehensive discussion in the Wikipedia topic here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual.
    Very stupid intellectuals, but intellectuals none the less.

    And as for anti-intellectualism of the conservatives and Republicans in the US, all I can say is that if the situation there is anything like it is here, and anti-intellectualism thrives here at all levels and right across the political spectrum, it is the condescending behaviour and attitudes of so many prominent intellectuals themselves that has led to that situation – which seems to be the entire point of Sowell’s book.


    7 Mar 10 at 12:03 pm

  5. I think there is a certain kind of person who see condescension where none exists, and this is especially true of people who are insecure about their own intelligence and education. Being anywhere around somebody they consider possibly smarter than they are puts them on the defensive.

    Which is not to say that I haven’t seen my share of actual intellectuals who are condescending.

    It DOES say that being condescending isn’t part of the character of being an intellectual.

    And I have been accused often enough of being condescending, or snobbish, or any of the rest of it when I was being no such thing that I am ALWAYS skeptical when somebody tells me that so-and-so demanded “deference,” or any of the rest of it.

    Someday, when I get fed up enough, I’m going to answer that endless question–who do you think you are!–with the answer these people actually want to hear.

    Wikipedia, by the way, isn’t what I call a valid, or even vaguely reliable source of information. Try dictionary.com, or another actually dictionary.

    As for your not being able to see what other word Sowell could have used, maybe he should have invented one.

    Because what he’s done is the equivalent of making a study of the LeFebrve separtist movement and referring to its members as “Catholics,” as if part of the definition of what a “Catholic” is is to defy the Pope by attending Tridentine masses celebrated by clergy who, although ordained, have been excommunicated.

    And yet, the members of the Lebrve movement are indeed Catholics. It’s just that Catholics aren’t the Leferve movement.

    The people Sowell is talking about are (mostly) intellectuals, but intellectuals are not the people Sowell is talking about.

    Bill used to call the condescension thing “rubophobia,” the fear of being thought a rube. At the first sign that somebody else may think you’re ot up to snuff, you go off and on the attack.

    The word Sowell used is wrong. It is wrong as a matter of common English definition, it is wrong in its usage among the very sorts of people (college educated, interested in politics and ideas) his book is largely aimed at, and it is destructive because of the effects it has on the culture at large.


    7 Mar 10 at 12:18 pm

  6. This is the wrong place for this post but its more likely to be read.

    The NY Times has a report on a new TV series about the Pacific theater of WW2. Similar to Band of Brothers.


    Sounds interesting.


    7 Mar 10 at 4:31 pm

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Bad Behavior has blocked 240 access attempts in the last 7 days.