The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies

The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies

by Susan Jacoby


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The prescient and now-classic analysis of the forces of anti-intellectualism in contemporary American life—updated for the era of Trump, Twitter, Breitbart and fake news controversies.

The searing cultural history of the last half-century, The Age of American Unreason In A Culture of Lies focuses on the convergence of social forces—usually treated as separate entities—that has created a perfect storm of anti-rationalism. These include the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, with more political power today than ever before; the failure of public education to create an informed citizenry; the triumph of internet over print culture; and America's toxic addition to infotainment. Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation and sparing neither the right nor the left, Susan Jacoby asserts that Americans today have embraced "junk thought" that makes almost no effort to separate fact from opinion.

At today's critical political juncture, nothing could be more important than recognizing the crisis described in this impassioned, tough-minded book, which challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what the flights from reason has cost us as individuals and as a nation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525436522
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Edition description: New
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 509,463
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

SUSAN JACOBY is the author of twelve previous books, most recently Strange Gods, Never Say Die, The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought, The Age of American Unreason, Alger Hiss and the Battle for History, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, and Half-Jew: A Daughter's Search for Her Family's Buried Past. Her articles have appeared frequently in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and in forums that include The American Prospect, Dissent, and The Daily Beast.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Anti-Intellectualism on Steroids xi

1 The Way We Live Now: Just Us Folks 3

2 The Way We Lived Then: Intellect and Ignorance in a Young Nation 33

3 Social Pseudoscience in the Morning of America's Culture Wars 63

4 Reds, Pinkos, Fellow Travelers 84

5 Middlebrow Culture from Noon to Twilight 105

6 Blaming It on the Sixties 133

7 Legacies: Youth Culture and Celebrity Culture 165

8 The New Old-Time Religion 185

9 Junk Thought 212

10 The Culture of Distraction 244

11 Public Life: Defining Dumbness Downward 285

Conclusion: Cultural Conservation 307

Notes 327

Selected Bibliography 337

Acknowledgments 341

Index 343

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