Anti-Intellectualism

Eric S. Raymond has a good post on the categories of anti-intellectualism.

Of the five he lists, I’ll gladly cop to the first three (anti-intelligentsianism, traditionalism, and epistemic-skepticism).  What’s interesting, however, is the relative weightings of the first three.  Of these three, I’d say I fit mostly into the traditionalist school.  I adhere to the Chestertonian note that you should never attempt to change an institution you do not understand—if something seems silly, quaint, archaic, or vestigial to you, it is entirely possible that you simply don’t understand the problem well enough.  I would argue that this blends very easily into epistemic-skepticism, though I’d imagine that a strong enough anarcho-libertarian (like, say, Raymond) would want to keep them separated as much as possible (as he notes) as opposed to an Anglosphere conservative, who sees them as going hand-in-hand.  Hayek was an Old Whig, as the saying goes.  I was searching back through our archives for something else and found that I have brought this up in essay form before.  I have no beef today with what I wrote then.

The anti-intelligentsianism aspect is one I don’t think much about.  It’s not that I don’t believe it—after all, I’ve railed before about self-interested scientists writing papers for the money, or economists pretending to be soothsayers in order to boost their prestige and pad their pocketbooks.  It’s one of the weaker arguments in my mind, at least in comparison to the other two, but it’s still plenty strong.

One thought on “Anti-Intellectualism

  1. I’d have to call myself solidly epistemic-skeptical. The average American is most assuredly #5 — “I’ll have none of that there book-larnin’.”

    I ought to comment on intelligentsia here. The Marxist system admits only of two classes — bourgeois or proletariat. The author calls it an interest group; that’s what he ought to have stuck with. It’s not a separate class in the original Russian sense.

    Intelligentsia is also a much broader category than, I think, Americans mean by “intellectuals.” Intelligentsia could mean, and sometimes did, “every college educated individual”, partly because that was such a small group for a long time. Even after the college ranks got bigger, though, the definition is still different.

    The best example I can think of is engineers. Americans don’t think of them as intellectuals, unless they’re really, REALLY political. I can’t even think of a major US political figure with an engineering background.

    Contrast that with the USSR. Technocracy was much more popular in the Soviet Union than it ever was in the US. In a sense, they’re the uber-proletariat, and they tended to have an awful lot of weight in the Soviet Union. Brezhnev was an engineer; lots of other prominent Soviets were too. Even Stalin liked engineers, and Stalin didn’t like anybody.

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