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Showing 11-20 of 147 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 196 reviews
on July 8, 2016
Five stars for content and two for the pros. Holy cow... I find myself having to read the same sentence over and over, rephrasing certain bits in my head, in order to extract the meaning from what he's saying. Example: "But only by assuming that everything that has not been done could have been done, disregarding costs and risks, can individuals or societies be blamed because the real world does not match some vision of an ideal society." Couldn't he have said "But only by assuming everything else has been tried, can we blame people for their failings." In other words, he's saying we livin a meritocracy, and that intellectuals look for every cause but the main one - that is, the failings of the person to succeed - for why a person isn't rich or successful. Talk about not written for the common man!
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on January 4, 2014
Mr Sowell is very smart. And I get his points but he has a habit of making really long sentences
that have too many coma's . When a sentence turns into a paragraph , I get lost in the words and
do not absorb the point or lose the point. So, if you are an intellectual, you probably would love the book
but if you are just a part of society, well...welcome to my club.
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on August 4, 2015
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on January 14, 2010
Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society is about the intellectuals, their pursuit of their vision, and how pervasive their vision was in society. This book analyzes the attitudes, behaviors, and the vision of the intellectuals. It is somewhat a historical book on the intellectuals and the direction they have taken for society.

I was going give a 4-star rating because it was a tough read. However, I was so ticked-off after reading this book, I gave it a 5-star. The first 100 pages were tough reading but the rest of the book got a little easier. It was sickening reading the devastations and failures society incurred by following the visions of the intellectuals. If you're a previous reader of Sowell's book, the intellectuals and the anointed are pretty much the same.

Here are the highlights and my takeaway:
- The distinction between the tragic vision and the anointed vision.
- The intelligentsia had put society in very precarious situations.
- Unlike those from hard sciences, the intelligentsia lives and breathes on unconstrained ideas without accountability. The intelligentsia places a lot of weight on their ideas regardless of the efficacy of those ideas: vision first, everything else second. Hence, the history of intellectualism is wrought with failure. Unfortunate for society: the invalidated ideas are cheap.
- Since WWI, one could say that dictators' best friends have been intellectuals.
- Members of the intelligentsia might be knowledgeable in their fields of expertise, but by no means experts in all fields. Yet, the intelligentsia is driven to chart the destinies of the populace by means of government regulation and directives.
- Intelligence is a subset of wisdom.
- Intellectuals are very good with verbal virtuosity. So much so that the intellectuals are wowed by their own brilliance and take their own verbal virtuosity as faith without having to validate their arguments. As a result, they believe in unproven and unsubstantiated notions.
- Intellectualism and free markets do not go together.
- Disagree with the right, the right might you are on left-base. Disagree with the left and the left might think you're sub-human. The intellectuals take their beliefs quite personally and their egos can be provoked by questioning the beliefs. Intellectuals seem to have a lot of skin in their beliefs. Competing ideas must fall within acceptable parameters of the collective vision, otherwise it will be dismissed regardless if the idea was beneficial to society or not.

In simple terms, the distinction between the right (conservatives) and the left (the intellectuals) is the difference between living based on individual interests, goals, and pursuits (the right) and living based on limits imposed by a small collective (the left). Attaining individual pursuits, by definition, does not require collective imposition.

This is probably why the right and the left are so polarizing. The fundamentals behind the visions of the left and right are polar opposites. It is like comparing apples and oranges. It is like trying to get polar bears and penguins to get along.

Intellectuals have little faith on the self-reliance of society; probably because of the perceived view that society lacks the cognitive faculties to appreciate intellectualism that the intellectuals endear. Thinking that there is a better world than what the unsophisticated society is currently living and believing that they know more than society, intellectuals try to steer society towards that better world.

Unfortunately, intellectuals mistake intellect for knowledge, and as a result intellectuals try to piece together a solution given the limited scope of their knowledge. This mistake leads intellectuals and society to dangerous times.

I used to think that having intellect requires logic and reason; hence intellectual thought would be full of logic and reason. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. The intellectual thought is a vision based on notions that are derived from a limited scope of knowledge.

After reading this book, I think I know why Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News have made an indelible mark on modern American society. It is because they are the antithesis of intellectualism, which have pervaded the media for about 80 years. They provide an alternative view which is without the intellectual vision and makes the point about flaws in the intellectual vision.

There was a lot more details that I could have added to this review, but I decided to limit the size of the review. I would recommend this book to anyone want to understand the history of intellectualism, their influence on global societies, and how pervasive intellectualism is and was. In a strange way, it is a good antithesis of conservatism.
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on July 23, 2013
The writing is too convoluted & heavy with flowery words & thoughts. I found it difficult to read, & I had to read certain sentences & paragraphs numerous times to grasp the writer's thoughts behind the words.
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on December 17, 2012
Thomas Sowell is a gifted applied economist with much of importance to say about the larger issues in social policy and government regulation of economic affairs. I have reviewed several of his books and recommend them to the reader.

Sowell, however, has two failings. First, he has no heart for the plight of the poor, so his work in this area is illuminating for the false ideas he debunks, but does not contribute in any way to dealing with the problem of poverty. Second, he is a thorough-going right-wing ideologue, who is often cogent in his critique of liberal ideas, but is blind to similar, indeed often parallel, problems with conservative ideas. This book suffers especially from the second of these weaknesses. The book endlessly repeats the errors of left-wing intellectuals (especially in the Cold War era, when many embraced some form of socialism, with totalitarian forms of Communism heavily represented), but says nothing about the errors of right-wing intellectuals (many of whom embraced fascism and even Nazism, and argued in favor of tolerating racial segregation and gender discrimination, as well as the abolition of government regulation of food and drug quality).

Sowell's book adds fuel to a right vs. left dialog that is petty, vituperative, Manichean, and unilluminating. The social division between left and right persists throughout democratic societies and will doubtless continue to do so. The reason is that both types of political world-views have strong positive contributions to make, but both are deadly and destructive when pushed too far. Sowell encourages pushing the right too far by his lack of insight into the virtues of liberalism.

Sowell knows applied economic theory quite well, but he never presents the balanced model of government-market interaction that has been taught to graduate students of economics for half a century, and has no serious critiques in the professional literature. This is because this model of "public economics" does not fit the conservative free market ideology. This ideology has no scientific validity and cannot even be formulated in an intellectually rigorous form. It is simply wrong.
Sowell has no understanding of information economics. He follows Hayek on the distributed nature of information, but he never confronts the literature that deals with the transformation of private information into public information. The importance of public information, central for instance to Durkheim and Aumann, is completely ignored in his treatment of government regulation.

This book preachs to a right-wing choir, a wordy version of the radio talk-show hucksters I so regularly avoid. There are many factual gems and cogent insights in this book, but they are smothered in invective. If you want to be preached to, this is the book for you. If you want insight, look elsewhere.
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on April 25, 2010
For those fans of Sowell, you may not find much new content here.

For those new to Sowell, this book is a great introduction. Many of his theories, explanations, etc., are found summarized here. For example, A Conflict of Visions is neatly explained in just a few pages. Still, that excuses you not from reading his other works if you wish to fully understand the details and implications.

Regardless, this read skillfully attacks the premise of accepting subject matter experts' forays outside their fields of "expertise." Imagine the scorn Sowell would receive for his attempts at being a movie critic.

And yes, Dr. Sowell often veers into subjects outside his educational studies, too. In contrast, Dr. Sowell fully explains his analyses and forms conclusions based on clearly defined logic based on documented wisdom of his own and others.

Another hint to those new to Sowell. He is NOT an "easy" read for many; me included. Like deadlifts or squats, you must enjoy the strain.
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on February 3, 2013
This book explains how intellectuals take untested ideas that may sound good, gain consensus within their intellectual community, and then spread these ideas primarily through the college ranks and the media. He demonstrates how it is not necessary for them to demonstrate results, and, even if the idea proves later to not work, the originator's intellectual star-power does not diminish. This is in contrast to the non-intellectual world, where failed ideas do not lead to rewards and peer recognition.

Sowell is an original thinker, meaning he does not merely pass on things you have already read elsewhere. He offers insights into how decades of social engineering experiments have produced generations of Americans who don't feel particularly obligated to have to contribute much to our society but are well versed on what they think society owes them.

If you believe that everyone should at least try to pull their own weight, you will find a kindred spirit in Thomas Sowell. If you focus more on what society should be sure everyone is given, this book is a good way to see the other side of some of the arguments put forth by the intellectual community. It is important to see the other side if agreement can ever be reached between the sides.
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on December 1, 2013
As explained clearly and forcefully in the book, intellectuals pay very little price for being wrong, and in fact go through even more intellectual contortions when proven wrong, and those contortions tend to get them articles, tenure, and invited to "all the right parties." The rest of the world pays the price for trying to make their ideas work, communism being the example par excellence, if you want to count the corpses. But there are many other examples to be found in the pages. It's like the next level up from Heather MacDonald's "The Burden of Bad Ideas."
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on January 5, 2014
I've reached the point where Thomas Sowell so interests me that I buy everything he writes, which is a lot. He is a true intellectual with the ability to explain simply. "Intellectuals and Society" is far more interesting than the title suggests and can and should be read by everyone who is interested in the affect intellectuals have on us.
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