The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

by Tom Nichols


$15.55 $15.95 Save 3% Current price is $15.55, Original price is $15.95. You Save 3%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, June 21


Technology and increasing levels of education have exposed people to more information than ever before. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

Tom Nichols' The Death of Expertise shows how this rejection of experts has occurred: the openness of the internet, the emergence of a customer satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine, among other reasons. Paradoxically, the increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement. When ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy or, in the worst case, a combination of both. An update to the 2017breakout hit, the paperback edition of The Death of Expertise provides a new foreword to cover the alarming exacerbation of these trends in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election. Judging from events on the ground since it first published, The Death of Expertise issues a warning about the stability and survival of modern democracy in the Information Age that is even more important today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190865979
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 26,690
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School, and a former aide in the U.S. Senate. He is also the author of several works on foreign policy and international security affairs, including The Sacred Cause, No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security, Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War, and The Russian Presidency.

He is also a five-time undefeated Jeopardy! champion, and as one of the all-time top players of the game, he was invited back to play in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Nichols' website is and he can be found on Twitter at @RadioFreeTom.

Table of Contents

Introduction. The Death of Expertise
Chapter 1. Experts and Citizens
Chapter 2. How Conversation Became Exhausting
Chapter 3. Higher Education: The Customer Is Always Right
Chapter 4. Let Me Google That for You: How Unlimited Information Is Making Us Dumber
Chapter 5. The "New" New Journalism, and Lots of It
Chapter 6. When the Experts Are Wrong
Conclusion. Experts and Democracy

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The predictable effect of social media is well expressed in this book. When everyone has an opinion; where opinion is treated as fact; and anyone who challenges one's view is treated with disdain, or worse, then thoughtful, intelligent discussion is sacrificed. It is far easier to utter epithets or shout down adverse opinions than it is to actually read and digest information from multiple sources. But this is the way to educate, and the sad fact is too few are taking the time to engage in educational pursuits. They believe what they choose to believe and damn the facts. This is a message that resonates, and there are lessons to be learned here. This book contains those lessons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely worth a read. I bought a couple of extra books so I can share with friends.
Jason_A_Greer 10 months ago
Addressing fallacies, failures in education, inability to comprehend how knowledge and journalism are done and having a transactional view of information are all concerns of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College and Harvard, argues persuasively in this book's six chapters about the variety of ways that many people in the early 20th century are not much different from The Dude in the Big Lebowski, with his casual dismissals of "well, that's just, like, your opinion man." Nichols makes extensive use of showing how cognitive biases and sociological pressures influence many to avoid genuine expertise and to find conclusions that back up what they are most likely to agree with. The book is structured as six extended essays built around this common theme. He cites various reasons for this, including how modern communication tools, particularly unverified internet sources and social media usually gone bad, have flattened the levels between experts and amateurs. In education, particularly higher education, Nichols shows well, with well-known evidence, how transactional it all has become. Students (and their parents) expect to buy an education and schools have retooled to sell it that way, undercutting ultimately their very reason for being. A case can be made with this book that easy access to information has indeed made us dumber, because we are losing the ability to discern it well, and understand the, at times, laborious process of straining and refining knowledge into something useful and applicable. Nowhere is this more evident, Nichols argues than in how news media is consumed and produced. Consumers get used to living in their bubbles of easy, comforting facts and biases. Producers of the new, new journalism are happy to an extent to provide the click bait. And it can become a cycle that is very hard to break out of. This reader came away with having some biases confirmed about how information is comprehended, but challenged to see how not working on real discernment and developing genuine judicial skills can make it very easy to succumb to living in your own bubble, happy with your own biases and unable to understand and develop and apply knowledge and information well.
FireHorse 11 months ago
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Mr Nichols points out that the purpose of science is to explain, and has provided an excellent example of that definition in this book. He looks at the currently contentious issue of expertise in American culture from a variety of perspectives, and offers insights into the relationships between policy makers, experts, and the rest of American citizenry. He does not attempt to exonerate experts (or anyone else); rather, he highlights the roles and responsibilities (and occasionally failings) of all parties. An informative, thought-provoking read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the worst book I ever tried to read. Save your time and money. This guy's new name should be merry-go-round. He talks in nonsensical circles. If your considering buying this just run until your common sense kicks it. If you don't run, you can't say I didn't warn you.