Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
But where did THAT ideology come from ? Hofstadter tried to trace the origins of the anti-intellectualism which existed then - actually the 1950s - and (as I've noted before) locates the roots of the ideology before the establishment of the US in Puritanism. But then examines its development and the ways in which it became deeply rooted in American culture:

In his unsurpassed survey, Hofstadter described three pillars of anti-intellectualism -- evangelical religion, practical-minded business, and the populist political style. Religion was suspicious of modern relativism, business of regulatory expertise, populism of claims that specialized knowledge had its privileges. Those pillars stand. But, as Hofstadter recognized, something was changing in American life, and that was the uneasy apotheosis of technical intellect.

The force of Hofstadter's insight into persistent anti-intellectualism despite the rising legitimacy of technical experts would be clear five years after he published his book. George Wallace ran well in several Democratic Party primaries, and eventually, too, as a third-party candidate, while campaigning against "pointy-headed bureaucrats" -- precisely the classic identification of intellect with arbitrary power that Hofstadter had identified as the populist hallmark.

There was a left-wing version of this presupposition, too. A populist strain in the 60's student movement, identifying with the oppressed sharecroppers of the Mississippi Delta and the dispossessed miners of Appalachia, bent the principle "Let the people decide" into a suspicion of all those who were ostensibly knowledgeable. Under pressure of the Vietnam War, the steel-rimmed technocrat Robert S. McNamara came to personify the steel-trap mind untethered by insight, and countercultural currents came to disdain reason as a mask for imperial arrogance.

In his first gubernatorial campaign in 1966, Ronald Reagan deployed a classic anti-intellectual theme -- portraying students as riotous decadents. Real education was essentially a matter of training, and breaches of discipline resulted in nihilism and softness on communism. The Nixon-Agnew team proceeded to mobilize resentment against "nattering na-bobs of negativism," successfully mobilizing a "silent majority" against a verbose minority. That was to flower into a major neoconservative theme thereafter.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Nov 12th, 2008 at 02:23:33 PM EST
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