Re: Anti-intellectualism

1

In religions with a strong, living tradition of scholarship, fundamentalism doesn't seem to correlate with anti-intellectualism at all. Think about all those conservative, yet scholarly rabbis and imams.

In fact, I think Protestantism is unusual for its anti-intellectual trends. For a lot of people breaking away from the Catholic church, rejecting authority and hierarchy also meant rejecting intellectualism.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 7:51 AM
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In fact, I think Protestantism is unusual for its anti-intellectual trends.

Perhaps maybe American Protestantism specifically? Anyway, Lutherans and whatnot don't seem particularly anti-intellectual. I've never heard of some of the more absurdly anti-intellectual Protestant ideas happen outside of the U.S. or a U.S.-based movement. To take an obvious example, arguing both that your beliefs are based solely on the Bible and that alcohol is forbidden takes some real talent for selective reading or you have to be divorced enough from any intellectual activity to believe that something as common as "wine" got mistranslated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:00 AM
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To expand on 1, I do think it comes out of Americans being at least partially cut off from older sources of authority for a very long time, and sort of doing their own thing. It goes hand in hand with American anti-authoritarianism (which isn't actually any such thing, but that's another comment.

This hypothesis would predict the tendency would be strongest toward the western frontier, and weakest in New England, and indeed I suspect that's the case.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:00 AM
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Steady on. A lot of Protestant denominations have a very strong pro-intellectual position. The Church of Scotland, the various Dissenter movements in 19th century England, the Quakers.
Conversely, a lot of those scholarly rabbis and imams (and monks) were operating very definitely within the limit of Acceptable Scholarship rather than just ranging wherever they liked. I don't think that anti-intellectuals have any problem with pointy-headed engineers building slightly better washing machines as long as they don't start thinking they're better than anyone else on anything crucial.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:02 AM
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In fact the whole origin of Protestantism was a highly intellectual endeavour. It was based on a huge long document that went into a lot of detail about church law and governance. Luther was a well-read guy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:03 AM
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Intellectual endeavor and throwing people out of windows.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:15 AM
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Not to mention that the concept of a priesthood of all believers led to massive efforts to teach people to read, which, in the case of the northern colonies, and especially in New England, yielded the highest literacy rates in the world (if I remember correctly).

All of which causes me to say that American anti-intellecualism, as in the case of most bad things in this country, had its roots in the South. What is slavery, Alex?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:16 AM
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I think that the North had an adult literacy rate of something like 90 percent at the beginning of the Civil War, whereas the number for the South was definitely* under 50 percent. And that latter number was by design rather than default, as the South rejected the Common School movement and had laws on the books that made it illegal for masters to teach their slaves how to read.

* As definite as anything that I conjure from the dusty recesses of my brain can be, that is.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:19 AM
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7.1: I don't think widespread literacy precludes anti-intellectualism by itself. "Intellectual" implies at least a degree of specialization and allowing that the specialist class of intellectuals is doing work that not everybody can fully participate in.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:21 AM
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7.2: Hackett Fisher claimed that the southerners were very interested in elite education, but not universal education. And that the Quakers were actually against building universities because I forget.

Maybe the root of American anti-intellectualism is that everybody thought the Puritans were annoying?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:21 AM
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9 was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:21 AM
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Semi-OT + carryover from some other recent thread. Source material to help *you* choose the right klan for *you*.

(Working title for my online matching service "Ok KKK".)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:32 AM
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whereas the number for the South was definitely* under 50 percent.

A number largely affected, no doubt, by having a huge class of people for whom teaching to read was illegal.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:34 AM
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I think 3 is in the right direction. It's also to do with democracy and self reliance and the interplay between them, in the period before, during and after the revolution, and during the great land grab. If I'm as good as the next man, then my ideas about the world are as valid as his, even if he went to some fancy college and I left school when I was 11 to help out on the farm. You see it in religion, but also in things like people's preference for books called "Every Man His Own Doctor" over people with a medical degree. Which is complicated by the fact that a lot of people probably couldn't find a man with a medical degree if they wanted to, and if they could, then he couldn't do a lot for them except hold their hands and say, "There, there, I'm so sorry. That'll be $10."

The paragraph above uses masculine pronouns throughout. On purpose.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:35 AM
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If you can include the anti-vaccine people, that's certainly something aside from religion. But, I'm not sure if that fits as "anti-intellectual." I suspect many of those parents might be better classified as people who understand the risk and the science but are deliberate free riders.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:35 AM
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From a blurb on Amazon, you can find it:

The rise of modern science is linked to the Protestant approach to texts, an approach that spelled an end to the symbolic world of the Middle Ages, and established the conditions for the scientific investigation and technological exploitation of nature.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:35 AM
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I tend to think of intellectuals as being something distinct from just 'technical specialists' or 'experts'. So, even very anti-intellectual movements/places/people don't tend to have that much of a problem with, say, mechanical engineers. Although there are, obviously places/movements/people that are agin both.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:36 AM
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I tend to think of intellectuals as being something distinct from just 'technical specialists' or 'experts'.

I suspect that for a lot of people an intellectual is simply "a technical specialist whom I disagree with". A climatologist is a technical specialist as long as he's looking at tree rings and ice cores, but when he starts talking about global warming he becomes a dangerous intellectual. If there was an anti-intellectual religious movement that thought Aristotlean physics was terribly important, then mechanical engineers would be suspicious intellectuals with all their crazy notions like "momentum" and "kinetic energy".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:46 AM
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But yeah, what ajay says in 4.

Scotland has (arguably) the oldest universal education system in the world, and by the 16th century had five universities. Despite being riddled with bible-bashing fire-and-brimstone Ministers and all things Calvinist. So I don't think religion per se is a core part of any explanation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:47 AM
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14 is a garbled memory of something by Lewis Thomas, fwiw.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:47 AM
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re: 18

Yeah, I suppose, with the caveat that for a lot of people there are entire fields in which any claim to technical specialism is seen as intrinsically suspect or illegitimate.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:49 AM
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17.1:Correct

Sontag:Intelligence alienates.

Absolutely and in proportion. The intellectual can be sociopathic and hide her alienation.

Democracy doesn't need, and shouldn't have any damn intellectuals. Athens was right, and Socrates knew it.

Wikipedia

Antonio Gramsci, a theorist on intellectuals, argued that 'intellectuals view themselves as autonomous from the ruling class'.

In a democracy, the ruling class is everybody, so no intellectuals.

One way to approach is to say the intellectual (part of being) is consciously opposed to the emotional and affective, cannot really acknowledge sovereignty or legitimacy, which are irrational.

Now we are all a mix, and rarely know what's what inside us, but to the extent we separate out what is specifically intellectual, that part does not and cannot love.

This Screameth Adrian Leverkuhn.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:55 AM
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The idea that "intellectuals" are somehow unrooted and non-authentic, and therefore potentially either sociopaths, traitors or mentally ill, is one with a rich but not very enviable intellectual history.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:08 AM
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/Godwin

Those damned rootless cosmopolitans have no spiritual affinity for the volk.

/Godwin


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:21 AM
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24: or indeed http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_11129.html#1288051


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:33 AM
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The idea that "intellectuals" are somehow unrooted... is one with a rich but not very enviable intellectual history.

Where do I start listing the freaking unenviable exiles and expatriates?

A is for Adorno, E for Einstein, J for Henry James, L for Lowry...

All those loosers.

A for Assange, S for Snowden,


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:34 AM
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I don't think Einstein and James had much in common at all, except for being hard to understand.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:40 AM
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Lowry? He was born in Manchester, he lived in Manchester, he painted Manchester. The man was as rooted as you can get!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:42 AM
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I don't think Einstein and James had much in common at all,

I suspect bob probably thinks that Henry James was Jewish.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:42 AM
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Also, what's unenviable about Einstein? The guy had a great life! Nobel Laureate, famous, universally respected, nice house, plenty of time to go sailing...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:44 AM
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28:Malcolm went to Mexico.

30:Hey you're the one who said the idea of unrooted intellectual had a not very enviable intellectual history.

I'll go with the uprooted, at least as equal to the bounded and committed. H is for Hemingway, I for Isadora, M is for Miller, T for Thucydides.

J is for Joseph, M is for Moses.

Alienation increases intellectuality.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 9:59 AM
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Still raises two questions about America:Are or were we historically (as individuals) a particularly deracinated "unrooted" nation?

Are we really "anti-intellectual?"

I know it would take a fuckton of intellectual work on my part to be a creationist or a homophobe.

Not being those seems absurdly easy. I don't think about it much at all.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:07 AM
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30: Plus, he got to marry his cousin without the world going all Jerry Lee Lewis on him.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:11 AM
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"Intellectual" implies at least a degree of specialization and allowing that the specialist class of intellectuals is doing work that not everybody can fully participate in.

That's true for professionalized intellectualism, but I think USian anti-intellectualism goes further than that. Anyone can have an intellectual habit towards life -- non-bookish intellectuals aren't uncommon, and the approach is even independent of whether you're smart. Heck, there's variation in thinky-tendency in crows and dogs and horses.

The anti-intellectualism that worries me is that we openly distrust thinking or planning in favor of feeling deeply about a crisis. Which not only doesn't work, but sets people up with the Just World fallacy.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:14 AM
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The US version of anti-intellectualism is strongest at the convergence of religious fundamentalism and political populism. Think of all the people who thought that Sarah Palin would make an excellent V.P., not in spite of her lack of knowledge about all sorts of stuff, but because of it.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:18 AM
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||
I'm in Davis for the rest of the month. Meetup? Picnic? Performing intellectuallism moodily in Mishka's, or cheerfully in the CoHo, or drunkenly in some bar?
|>


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:19 AM
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"I tend to think of intellectuals as being something distinct from just 'technical specialists' or 'experts'. So, even very anti-intellectual movements/places/people don't tend to have that much of a problem with, say, mechanical engineers. Although there are, obviously places/movements/people that are again both."

This is what I think is going on. At certain points there was an accepted cannon of what everybody needed to know to be educated. There really isn't that type of thing anymore. You can learn about X but you don't have to learn about X to be considered educated.

The US isn't all that anti-intellectual. Basically the state of American elite culture is shown by the books in airport bookstores. lots of gladwellian non-fiction, non-horrible business strategy books and oprah-style well-reviewed fiction. Nothing to get worked up about.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:29 AM
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I'd say Australia is less religious than the US and just as or more anti-intellectual. Especially where intellectual means pursuing theory without immediate application.

There seems like a broad swathe of US society that understands the value of that, it s a much thinner current in Australia, maybe partly due to population. But there are much smaller countries with more respect for that endeavour, it seems to me.

Oz may be less extreme in this than it used to be but it's still a recognisable thread.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:30 AM
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37.last: And repurposed erotic fanfiction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:35 AM
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35.last: That's my cousins in a nutshell.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:38 AM
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37.3 doesn't make sense to me. All those genres are full of Blink!y arguments for feeling and instinct over reasoning.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:41 AM
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Semi-OT and carrying over from a different recent thread, guess the writer:

So as a science fiction writer and a student of history, allow me to spin a plausible scenario about how, like Augustus Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler and Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama could become lifetime dictator without any serious internal opposition.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:42 AM
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That would fit in three current threads, at least.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:46 AM
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Why does he spell Hitler's first name funny? Or is that just somebody's way of making it clear there was no editor involved.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:48 AM
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Hmm, is there another spelling than "Barack."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:51 AM
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Also, why dig up Gallipoli like that?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:54 AM
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Jesus, there's so much wrong in the linked article in 42, it's hard to know where to start. But this bit . . .

Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. He hates the very idea of compromise

I'm constantly amazed that this belief is so widely held among some people on the right, in the same universe where the criticism of Obama from the left is that he's so eager to reach a compromise on any given issue that he's willing to trade away everything the left holds dear in order to get it.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:56 AM
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For a lot of people breaking away from the Catholic church, rejecting authority and hierarchy also meant rejecting intellectualism.

Generally I agree with ajay at 4 but from a different angle, therefore will not invoke the "dammit" of pwnage.

A culture of rule-following with an exclusive hierarchy and large dollops of residual guilt does not necessarily tend to stimulate the intellect. I can easily imagine that breaking away from the Catholic church could be a way of embracing a more intellectual life. (I say this as someone who identifies as a dissenting/backsliding Catholic.)

A perennial question in 20th-century Catholic higher education was "Where are the Catholic Einsteins?" Of course there aren't too many Einsteins to begin with, but this is a question that many college-educated Catholics, including several of my friends, answer in all seriousness by saying "Why should we care?"

Having attended a Catholic college, it seemed far better at turning out marketers, accountants, and engineers for corporate America than promoting intellectual creativity. We had good sports teams too. And that's OK as far as it goes, but maybe there actually is more to life.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:56 AM
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47: It's called "projection."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:57 AM
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Via Paul Starr's book, the Popular Health Movement seems relevant to this -- of course the professional field of medicine was bollocks then.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 10:59 AM
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48: You left out lawyers. Lots and lots of lawyers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:08 AM
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I'd see modern Palin-style antiintellectualism growing out of a reaction to 1960s counterculture and civil rights. Previous generations of counterrevolutionaries have always been able to identify some class ("communists", "immigrants", "the poor", "labor unions") to label as the source of the thing you disagree with, because identity politics comes more naturally than issue-based arguments. In the 60s, the barrage of revolutionary messages (Burning bras! LSD! Draft cards! Civil rights!) must have sounded like it was coming from all sides, including lots of crosstalk---why are white antiwar youth also joining the civil rights marches?---that couldn't be blamed on self-interest. So "intellectuals" and "universities" became the identity-politics boogieman.


Posted by: Scomber mix | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:09 AM
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I'd see modern Palin-style antiintellectualism growing out of a reaction to 1960s counterculture and civil rights. Previous generations of counterrevolutionaries have always been able to identify some class ("communists", "immigrants", "the poor", "labor unions") to label as the source of the thing you disagree with, because identity politics comes more naturally than issue-based arguments. In the 60s, the barrage of revolutionary messages (Burning bras! LSD! Draft cards! Civil rights!) must have sounded like it was coming from all sides, including lots of crosstalk---why are white antiwar youth also joining the civil rights marches?---that couldn't be blamed on self-interest. So "intellectuals" and "universities" became the identity-politics boogieman.


Posted by: Scomber mix | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:09 AM
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We intellectuals love to hear ourselves talk. More LSD, anyone?


Posted by: Scomber mix | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:11 AM
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No thanks. Got plenty right now.


Posted by: Opinionated Utahan with Dyslexia | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:18 AM
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"A perennial question in 20th-century Catholic higher education was "Where are the Catholic Einsteins?" Of course there aren't too many Einsteins to begin with, but this is a question that many college-educated Catholics, including several of my friends, answer in all seriousness by saying "Why should we care?"

Having attended a Catholic college, it seemed far better at turning out marketers, accountants, and engineers for corporate America than promoting intellectual creativity. We had good sports teams too. And that's OK as far as it goes, but maybe there actually is more to life. "

A lot of this is prompted by Joyce's Ulysess whose sub-theme is "Why can't Irish Catholics be more like the Jews?". I was raised Catholic but I think the honest answer to to the why not question has to due with some mixture of genetics/environment that catholics couldn't reproduce if they wanted to. And, they don't really want to.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:20 AM
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"Where are the Catholic Einsteins?"

I was thinking his first wife was, but I guess she was actually Orthodox. Surely someone in the family converted at some point? </missing the point>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:25 AM
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"Why can't Irish Catholics be more like the Jews?"

Ethanol.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:26 AM
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lots of gladwellian non-fiction, non-horrible business strategy books and oprah-style well-reviewed fiction

And this is evidence against anti-intellectualism? I don't know about you, but most of the Gladwellian and all the business/self-help crap makes me despair. It's deeply anti-intellectual. It's all get-rich/smart-quick crap.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:28 AM
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The other day at Fedex among the various self-help business books, there was one titled How To Work for an Idiot. For the first time ever, this made me want to be a boss, so I could give that book as a present to my subordinates.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:55 AM
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60: I believe that Jesus, CEO is the best business self-help title I've ever seen.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:58 AM
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The idea that Protestantism is inherently or eeven mostly anti-intellectual is patent nonsense, as helpfully explained above.

My theory is that "intellectualism" is basically a common language/necessary set of trainin prerequisites for elites focused on civil service in the state. It certainly has functioned that way in France, China, the British Empire, etc. One of the notable features of the United States is that we'be never had an much of an intellectual civil service tradition -- our state officials have always mostly been hacks and spoils-system yokels. The rise of the "intellectual" in the US in the 50s and 60s was closely linked to the perceived need for an elite Cold War bureaucratic state and contemporary US anti-intellectualism is basically a reaction (largely by other elites) against that cold-war-created elite and its descendants.

Note that I'm using the word "anti-intellectualism" in quotes. I don't think anywhere in the US is affirmatively opposed to education of all kinds, just the kind of core elite "liberal" education that's strongly associated with civil-service values.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 12:01 PM
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My other theory is that a lot is explained by the US basically being a Golgafrincham B-Ark.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 12:04 PM
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our state officials have always mostly been hacks and spoils-system yokels and telephone sanitizers


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 12:10 PM
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Anyway, what a less anti-intellectual society looks like is that there's an exam you take when you're in your late teens that is knowledge based and that dramatically affects your life outcomes, there's a lot of state support for the arts and high culture, and despite all of that people are roughly just as likely to be ignorant, resentful morons.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 12:36 PM
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I like a lot of self help books. Many of them are interesting, well written and helpful.


Posted by: Lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 12:42 PM
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||

Please, attention, book-loving Canadian friends and west coast US friends, esp. those in the Pacific Northwest: Orange post title. This is short notice.

If you have friends in B.C., particularly on Vancouver Island, could you please pass along the word of a Giant Benefit Book Sale taking place on Hornby Island this weekend.

My dear friend MJT, lifelong professional bookdealer, has nursed a 2-year-old daughter through brain cancer for the past year, and is now both raising funds and, frankly, cashing out.

If anyone has friends who might be inclined to make it to Hornby Island -- a ferry ride from the big island -- this weekend, it promises to be a tremendous offering of roughly 10,000 books, at $3 per hardcover, $2 or $1 per paperback.

If I weren't 3000 miles away, I'd call it a mustn't miss. These will be good books. I can provide more information if needed.

|>


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:06 PM
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67: Sorry to hear about your friend. From the description of his store:

Thompson Rare Books specializes in fine, rare and interesting books in many fields. Our specialties include literary first editions, fantasy, science fiction, occultism, mythology and folklore, detective fiction and mysteries, illustrated books, children's books, fine printing and bindings.

it sounds like I'd definitely want to be there if I weren't on the wrong side of the continent.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:16 PM
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My other theory is that a lot is explained by the US basically being a Golgafrincham B-Ark.

Random association this brings up: Has the rest of the western world heard of or adopted sanitizing wipes for shopping cart handles, helpfully dispensed at the entrance to the store? The degree of germ-phobia on display is quite something.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:17 PM
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If I weren't 3000 miles away, I'd call it a mustn't miss. These will be good books. I can provide more information if needed.

I will pass it along.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:21 PM
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65:Japan!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:31 PM
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69: Before I had a baby, I used to use the top basket on the cart for produce and other things I didn't want to get smashed. Now I don't put anything in there if I might eat it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:33 PM
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I suspect Halford's 62 is basically right.

Oh, and hey, if you're feeling too enthusiastic about whose side the Democratic establishment is fundamentally on, maybe this will help fix that.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:33 PM
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70: Thanks, Nick. Many thanks to any others who have friends in that area as well.

68: Yeah.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:39 PM
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Anyway, what a less anti-intellectual society looks like is that there's an exam you take when you're in your late teens that is knowledge memorization based and that dramatically affects your life outcomes,


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 1:48 PM
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67: Sorry to hear about your friend's struggle. I've passed the word on as well.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 2:15 PM
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76: Thank you.

I know it's a trip to get to Hornby, but it's so delightful once there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 2:28 PM
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Damned if I know whether Americans on average really are more anti-intellectual than people in other countries. But I will observe that my own personal intellectual decline correlates well with a decline in true leisure time. And that probably crosses the line into anti-intellectualism on occasion when some well-read layabout makes me feel bad for how little attention I actually pay to world affairs or the arts or really much of anything beyond TeenNick and Facebook. And then I found $5.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 5:25 PM
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They say the Australians don't like intellectuals either but I've never been. It has to do with lopping off tall poppies or somesuch.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 8:00 PM
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I'd say Australia is less religious than the US and just as or more anti-intellectual. Especially where intellectual means pursuing theory without immediate application.

At one point when I was living in Australia, two Australian doctors won a prestigious international award for inventing some groundbreaking medical technology/treatment. I remember being in the car listening to public radio, and some man was whingeing that it wasn't fair for doctors to win awards when waiting tables is also challenging, and why wasn't there a prestigious international award for waiters too? My experience, given roughly equivalent class & education circles, Australians are more anti-intellectual. Also, in casual communication, I found many well-educated Australians seem to feel grammar and spelling are optional. I guess I have to respect people who don't mind appearing mostly illiterate to their peers?

But anyways, it's very interesting living in a country which is highly respectful of intellectuals. Unlike in the US, in China being a PhD student conveys high status. Also, lots of people well below the elite circles are familiar with US and world college rankings. I spend a lot of time on the street with people who are quite poor. Not absolute poverty poor, but not that far above it. One day my friend's kindergarten-age daughter came home with poor marks in her workbook, having written the character for "ear" wrong multiple times. The mother, enraged, began to beat her daughter with the book, hitting her on the ears and face, all while shouting to her daughter that she was careless and would learn how to write "ear," even if she had to beat it into her. I was thinking how this contrasted with working class parenting styles in the US, where I doubt many children are being beaten over doing poorly on their kindergarten homework.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:31 PM
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I'd say Australia is less religious than the US and just as or more anti-intellectual. Especially where intellectual means pursuing theory without immediate application.

At one point when I was living in Australia, two Australian doctors won a prestigious international award for inventing some groundbreaking medical technology/treatment. I remember being in the car listening to public radio, and some man was whingeing that it wasn't fair for doctors to win awards when waiting tables is also challenging, and why wasn't there a prestigious international award for waiters too? My experience, given roughly equivalent class & education circles, Australians are more anti-intellectual. Also, in casual communication, I found many well-educated Australians seem to feel grammar and spelling are optional. I guess I have to respect people who don't mind appearing mostly illiterate to their peers?

But anyways, it's very interesting living in a country which is highly respectful of intellectuals. Unlike in the US, in China being a PhD student conveys high status. Also, lots of people well below the elite circles are familiar with US and world college rankings. I spend a lot of time on the street with people who are quite poor. Not absolute poverty poor, but not that far above it. One day my friend's kindergarten-age daughter came home with poor marks in her workbook, having written the character for "ear" wrong multiple times. The mother, enraged, began to beat her daughter with the book, hitting her on the ears and face, all while shouting to her daughter that she was careless and would learn how to write "ear," even if she had to beat it into her. I was thinking how this contrasted with working class parenting styles in the US, where I doubt many children are being beaten over doing poorly on their kindergarten homework.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:31 PM
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I was thinking how this contrasted with working class parenting styles in the US, where I doubt many children are being beaten over doing poorly on their kindergarten homework.

And yet more likely there than in upper-middle class US households, I imagine.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-14-13 11:40 PM
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Yes, corporal punishment is no longer practiced by UMC parents in the US and is becoming increasingly stigmatized in China as well. However, I find the mixture of 'Tiger Mother' parenting with working class parenting styles very interesting. Certainly this combination not unique to China at all, but I would argue the pervasiveness of it is, as is the incredible social pressure to be a Tiger Parent. Another friend of mine, also of a working class background, lamented that she was permanently handicapping her 4 year old daughter's chances in life by only signing her up for singing and dance classes outside of full day kindergarten, as she couldn't afford any other activities. Raising an UM/UMC Chinese child usually requires four adult salaries. People routinely spend the equivalent of 2 or 3 people's salaries on their child's enrichment, living off the remaining one. If a child is not a stellar student, UMC or UC parents will try to send the kid abroad to an English speaking country for HS or college, but even for the relatively wealthy this involves a sacrifice such as spending 90-95% of annual income on school fees and/or selling one's house. Probably the only people who aren't stressed about child rearing are the very wealthy and/or children of high ranking officials, as their children will be fine no matter what.

This isn't to say that there aren't children whose parents don't or can't support their education, but this is seen as a major social ill in need of urgent intervention. The state run news is filled with stories of how children raised by peasant grandparents turn to crime and prostitution, and in 2011 the government has started major after school and summer programs for rural children being raised by their grandparents. Again, this isn't a unique narrative, but the threshold of neglectful parenting is much lower here. In the US there is not the same sense that parents/grandparents who make sure that kids get basic education but not a whole lot more are producing an underclass of hoodlums.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 12:08 AM
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1) I'm not sure that beating your children when they fail to learn to read is a sign that you respect intellectuals or that you don't respect children.

2) I would be very hesitant to say that intellectuals are highly valued in China. Education is highly valued. But, in a lot of cases, this seems to be because education is seen as a fairly certain route to money and power. These parents aren't making all those sacrifices so their sons can become junior professors of theoretical physics.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 1:26 AM
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Catching up on the thread, I want to retract 1 and endorse 62.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 5:22 AM
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||

Finishing up Guy Standing's Precariat, he ends with an extended discussion of, among other things, a Basic Income Guarantee.

OK fine. Why not. But this must be addition to basic services of housing, food, and healthcare etc rather than as a substitute for it. No one starves in the street. Period. (Unless they want to.)

Guy Standing is opposed to any conditionality. Me too. The woman who spends her BIG check on lottery tickets on the 1st of month gets another next month, and in the meantime receives basic care.

Part of what helps me is my understanding of Keynesian/Kaleckian/MMT economics. Consumption pays for itself. What matters is not any sense of efficiency or productivity, but pure churn and money velocity. Money created does not disappear if spent, but does if saved. I don't much care where the money goes, as long as it is spent.

Lottery tickets bought create jobs. Those workers buy Ipods and hamburgers and create more jobs. Wisdom of crowds says few will spend their entire income on lottery tickets. As long as money is kept in motion it will work out. Prosperity only costs courage (and energy and molybdenum)

Tax, spend, distribute, print, tax, spend, distribute, print. Taxation is mainly to fight inflation.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 5:26 AM
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||

Banks, savings, stocks, bonds, reserves, we don't need no sticking finance or intangible assets. Or property.

Turn this 15 trillion dollar economy into a 100 trillion dollar economy and a million people can build a factory with their March BIG checks. Better than losing it to taxes.

Way oversimplified, but the right direction.

Too much economics is about rewarding risk.

Keynes (and Minsky) wanted to eliminate risk.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 5:41 AM
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corporal punishment is no longer practiced by UMC parents in the US

This news will come as quite a surprise to the UMC kid who explained the word "spank" to Rory in 3rd grade. Or to my friend's first grader. If by corporal punishment, you just mean beating kids to a pulp, you're probably right that the practice has largely been abandoned. But routine use of milder corporal punishment like spanking appears to be alive and well, even in the enlightened UMC, from what I've seen.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 6:33 AM
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I'd be curious how often and how hard one has to smash a book into the head and face of a four-year-old girl for it to be considered unacceptably brutal, rather than simply a bracing reminder of the superiority of one's cultural attitudes towards education.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 6:49 AM
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Harder than if it was a Kindle.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 6:51 AM
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. In the US there is not the same sense that parents/grandparents who make sure that kids get basic education but not a whole lot more are producing an underclass of hoodlums.

No, we don't have that belief in social mobility. Our sense is that the new underclass of hoodlums will be sired by the current underclass of hoodlums.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 6:55 AM
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Our sense is that the new underclass of hoodlums will be sired by the current underclass of hoodlums adjuncts.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 6:59 AM
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Heh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:00 AM
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90: I'm also pretty sure that the answer to "how hard and often would a friend of mine have to smash a book into the face and head of her four-year-old daughter before I a) stopped her and b) stopped thinking of her as a friend" is "not very hard or often at all". But I hope I never have to find out.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:09 AM
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I can't say that I'm fond the idea either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:14 AM
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88

Interesting. Spanking is universally frowned on among the people I know. Though, when I say corporal punishment, I'm talking about hitting a kid with an object besides the hand on a place besides the butt, which I'm pretty sure is frowned upon even by parents who do spank. Beating your child with a chair for doing poorly on a test would probably get the authorities called on you in the US, but 20 years ago was standard parenting in China. There's been a sustained anti-corporal punishment campaign in the past 20 years, so it's becoming more stigmatized.

84

Money and power are highly desirable and education is definitely seen as a means to that end, but intellectuals in and of themselves are also respected much more in China than the US. Being an 'intellectual' conveys a whole range of very positive qualities desired both by people and promoted in government campaigns.* Conversely, not 'having culture' is highly undesirable and seen as a huge national problem by both those who self-identify as having culture and those who self-identify as being without. I would guess the average Chinese parent would be happier for their child to become a junior professor of theoretical physics than the average American parent. Being a professor carries a considerable amount of prestige, far more than a lawyer or a doctor, and what translates as "lady-scholar" (nĂ¼shi) is the highest prestige form of address for a woman in China.

*Yes, obviously there's the issue that certain forms of intellectual thought are not encouraged, and one might claim that the government doesn't promote intellectualism as the free exchange of ideas, but I would say that's more of an argument about what intellectualism is, not whether people respect what they consider to be intellectualism.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:17 AM
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So the Chinese people I work with don't respect me because I'm not an actual professor. That's a rationalization I can use.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:31 AM
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Can anybody help me rationalize my German problems?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:32 AM
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98

The Germans are very into having PhDs as well. Maybe you should plagiarize a dissertation?


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:49 AM
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Catching up on the thread, I want to retract 1 and endorse 62.

1 and 62 are the two best comments in the thread and don't contradict each other at all -- in traditional religions, rabbis, imams, and priests *are* the civil service, and have significant roles in running the community.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:52 AM
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Good idea. I'll see if Liu can find me something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:53 AM
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101 to 99.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:54 AM
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Before I had a baby, I used to use the top basket on the cart for produce and other things I didn't want to get smashed. Now I don't put anything in there if I might eat it.

I can't work out whether or not this means Moby eats babies habitually, or is just worried that he might do so during a momentary lapse of attention.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:55 AM
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I was just thinking of the amount of feces that must get rubbed against that part of the grocery cart.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:56 AM
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These parents aren't making all those sacrifices so their sons can become junior professors of theoretical physics.

Physics culture in China has a fairly strong bias toward things with potential commercial applications. If their sons or daughters are becoming junior professors of theoretical physics, I think they're more likely than not to be doing so by moving to the US. To the extent that people do theoretical physics there, it's very trend-driven and mostly seems to center around the whims of a few important older bigshots. So at least in this one little corner of academia, US culture is much more open to exploring new ideas.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 7:58 AM
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The Germans are very into having PhDs as well.

Or even Habilitations.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:00 AM
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Habilitations are dying out in Germany, I'm told. As is beer-drinking. They still have dirndls as Ocktoberfest, though.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:07 AM
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You cannot separate U.S. anti-intellectualism from bourgeois ideology. Crudely summarized in such sayings as 'if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?', commercial values make an uneasy fit with intellectual work. Even bourgeois intellectuals tend to be anti-intellectual, valorizing market outcomes over theory-guided social action (of course markets themselves are theory-guided social constructs but they don't get talked about that way). British empiricism was a very fruitful intellectual movement but probably has something to do with this show-me attitude of the rising middle classes.

Capitalism in practice tends to be dominated by giant corporations who need their own 'civil service' managerial class, and are a major force for a certain kind of rationalization of social arrangements. But the legitimating myth and ideology is the small businessman.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:08 AM
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Crudely summarized in such sayings as 'if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?'

Or the converse. Some of the vitriol directed at Alon Levy in comments on this post for daring to criticize Elon Musk is fascinating. It seems like there are lots of Americans who will rush to defend rich, iconoclastic self-proclaimed geniuses from criticism. Lots of argument of the form "you're just saying that because you're jealous of Musk's money".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:14 AM
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I realize that this thread has moved on, but re 67: a massive sale of rare books with occult books specifically mentioned, combined with the fact that you have to take a boat to a small island to attend, really does seem to be the perfect set up for some sort of Lovecraft themed mystery novel.

I'm sure this observation can be linked to anti-intellectualism somehow.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:18 AM
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81.1: Yep.

The casual communication thing might be related to anti-intellectualism, but its also a historical class marker I think. British Received Pronunciation used to be fairly common among the Australian middle class but people who can't switch it on and off at will are seen as out of touch toffs nowadays. Eg Alexander Downer the former foreign minister. Rightly or wrongly it is easier to build credibility with a broad lay audience if talking in the bluntest language possible, even in an area of technical expertise.

People who do this successfully can be fantastic communicators though - there's an entomologist I know who can zip you through the paleontology of dragonflies and why they could be huge in the past in much the same voice as a down to earth cricket commentator.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:34 AM
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110: "Dear God, Professor - Her Excellency has literally been torn apart by the contradictions of late industrial capitalism!"

One by one, everyone in the room slowly settled their eyes on the book on the table, ghe one brought by Doctor Farning.

Being and Nothingness. An essay on phenomenological ontology. Jean-Paul Sartre.

The lights flickered, and went out.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:42 AM
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People who do this successfully can be fantastic communicators though - there's an entomologist I know who can zip you through the paleontology of dragonflies and why they could be huge in the past in much the same voice as a down to earth cricket commentator.

Well, sure, but wouldn't you expect that? Crickets and dragonflies might be in different orders, but they're both still insects.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:48 AM
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I think you're misunderstanding. It's in the voice of a commentator who is a cricket. You know, like Jiminy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 8:52 AM
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Little known manifestations of intellectualism in China include the one child policy. In the 1970s, a nuclear physicist read the literature from the newly formed discipline of ecology about the negative effects overpopulation, and calculated that at current birth rates vs. crop production, China would be facing massive famines and starvation by the 1990s/2000s. He reported his calculations to the government, who took him seriously, and implemented a plan to get China's population to 700 million by 2030, or something like that (date might be a little off, but too lazy to double check), which was calculated to be the equilibrium population. That led to the brief 2-child policy, which quickly became a one-child policy, and is now slowly turning back into a 2-child policy.

Valuing intelligence in addition to nepotism is, IMO, one reason why the CCP has maintained power relatively easily for the past 30 years and seems likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, while lots of other authoritarian states have collapsed or are dealing with violent rebellions.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 9:11 AM
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The post linked in 109 is fantastic, by which I mean it validates all my previously-held beliefs and resentments.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 9:18 AM
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109,116: He had me going up until he claimed in comments that regenerative braking recovers only 20% of energy. That's some shitty-ass regenerative braking IMO. For a ground based system the number ought to be close to 80% if not better.

Musk's idea may be wacky and all manner of dumb, but the guy's track record with SpaceX is incredible, so I tend to cut him some slack. I don't personally like the hyperloop idea both for technical reasons and nontechnical ones (it's got shitty capacity, for one), but suggesting Musk is a fraud is a bit much.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 9:26 AM
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80%, really?

This manual suggestions the Nissan Leaf just gets 39% of the energy back in regenerative breaking.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 9:31 AM
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What is incredible about SpaceX? I don't know anything about it.

It's fine if Musk thinks he can build certain structures for lower cost than is normal, or achieve better safety, but he should at least mention how. Instead, we get "it is expected" and "targeted" language. On Wikipedia, it would get hammered with "citation needed" and "avoid weasel words."
The worst is the cost of the civil infrastructure, the dominant term in any major transportation project's cost. Hundreds of years of incrementally-built expertise in bridge building is brushed aside with the following passage...

Look, Elon Musk is an ideas guy. Big ideas. Who's afraid of the big bad idea?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 9:36 AM
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Musk seems to be a classic case of the person who thinks he's so smart he doesn't have to bother understanding how anything actually works, and that if he vaguely gestures in the direction of something he thinks is interesting all the "lesser" minds out there should go fill in the details for him while he takes all the credit. See also Stephen Wolfram and the people who will decide to deny me tenure at some point in the future.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 9:46 AM
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117: this is the bit that caught my attention:

"HSR, where high-speed derailments are zero-fatality if the system has appropriate safeguards"

Really, Alon Levy? Really? I bow to no one in my love of trains, and I'm sure they are remarkably safe by the standards of pretty much any method of transport, but I'm pretty sure that if one of them comes off the track at 150 mph plus, then it will not be an entirely safe place to be. They just buried 79 people in Spain who were killed when their HST derailed.



Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 10:35 AM
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I have to admire Musk for trying to realize Futurama.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 10:39 AM
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Musk seems to be a classic case of the person who thinks he's so smart he doesn't have to bother understanding how anything actually works

Musk deserves, I would say, a lot of credit for SpaceX and Tesla, and it's notable that in both cases he tried to do something that the established players had tried and failed to do - or at least to do nearly as well, cheaply or efficiently as he did; reusable spaceflight and electric cars. Given that, it feels instinctively dangerous to bet against him being able to do something just because the established players say that it can't be done, or at least can't be done as cheaply as he says it can.

Trouble is that Musk is surrounded by people who think that way, and probably is one himself...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 10:42 AM
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Speaking of exciting technology, hey, Halford, your dreams of grenade-carrying drones just became terrifyingly real.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 10:52 AM
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What is incredible about SpaceX? I don't know anything about it.

In ten years, SpaceX designed, developed, tested and flew:

Two new launch vehicles
Three new engines
One new unmanned spacecraft

... for a total investment of about $1 billion. That, in aerospace terms, is pretty incredible.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 10:58 AM
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110: Clark Ashton Smith, more like. AcademicLurker, if you'd be interested in following up with MJT to buy some stuff long distance after the fire sale on Hornby, let me know. You don't have a contact link connected with your comments, so I can't contact you.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-15-13 6:31 PM
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118: Cars are limited by the need to keep weight down. For decelerating the train-thing you put the regeneration equipment on the ground, eliminating weight and size constraints. That allows you to build something very efficient. One of the things about the hyperloop vehicle that isn't obvious and may help bend the cost curve is that the propulsion (and hence regeneration) system is built into the track rather than being carried with the pod-thing.

I think it's a bad idea, but not as obviously bad as Levy does. His points about the pylons and so forth are spot on. Also there will be issues with keeping the pressure down in something that long. There will inevitably be little leaks at expansion joints, for example.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-16-13 6:54 AM
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There will inevitably be little leaks at expansion joints, for example.

Laydeez!?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-16-13 6:56 AM
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