Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

There’s a lovely, reflective review by Michael Dirda of Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life on the Barnes & Noble Review site.

I was struck by this quotation from Hofstadter about the philistinism of 19th-century US business, and thinking that nothing much has changed in the last hundred years.

The more thoroughly business dominated American society, the less it felt the need to justify its existence by reference to values outside its own domain. In earlier days it had looked for sanction in the claim that the vigorous pursuit of trade served God, and later that it served character and culture. Although this argument did not disappear, it grew less conspicuous in the business rationale. As business became the dominant motif in American life and as a vast material empire rose in the New World, business increasingly looked for legitimation in a purely material and internal criterion — the wealth it produced. American business, once defended on the ground that it produced a high standard of culture, was now defended mainly on the ground that it produced a high standard of living.