Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wolfe TKO's Sowell

At TNR's The Book Alan Wolfe has a glorious takedown of Thomas Sowell's new screed, Intellectuals and Society. Here is the opening paragraph:

Let’s get my judgment of Thomas Sowell’s new book out of the way first. There is not a single interesting idea in its more than three-hundred pages. Purporting to deal with the role that intellectuals play in society, it offers no discussion of literature, music, and the arts. While containing copious references to Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, its index lacks references to Lionel Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow, Daniel Bell, Jürgen Habermas, Raymond Aron, Mary McCarthy, Michael Walzer, Amartya Sen, and countless others known to have put an interesting idea or two into circulation. It recycles ancient clichés about the academic world and never questions its author’s conviction that those who share his right-wing views are always right. Jonah Goldberg calls it “an instant classic.” Case closed.

The rest does not disappoint.

I love those who have made their way in American intellectual life who nonetheless make a career out of cracking wise about intellectuals (an issue that Wolfe mines to great effect). And I especially love those who have made their way in intellectual life cracking wise about academics. Very cute. In a self-parodic sort of way.

Update: Russell Jacoby is no kinder to Sowell's quite clearly bad book over at The Chronicle Review.

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